Vacations Call for Photography Moderation or You're Doomed

Vacations Call for Photography Moderation or You're Doomed

Have the questions your family ask you like “are we there yet?” been replaced with “how much camera stuff do you really need?” And “why do I have to carry this camera lightbulb thing in my suitcase?” Read on and the following tips just might save your family from a horrible vacation.

Last year I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Ireland for a week. A whole week of traveling across that beautiful Irish countryside. Photographing and visiting all those great pubs along the way. This was turning out to be a dream trip. Just think of all those once in lifetime photos I was going to come back to show my family. Wait, family, oh yeah they were coming too. It wasn’t a photography job I was doing in Ireland, all five of us were going to Ireland for a family wedding and also making a vacation out of it. I knew I had to play it cool with the family or it was going to get ugly fast on this trip. First, there was some grumbling about limited suitcases. This wasn’t because of the airline fees, ok part of it was, but really it was because of the size of the vehicle we rented. A large Irish vehicle is at best a medium U.S. vehicle, so space was limited. Also, the family isn’t small anymore. It is really 4 adults — me, my wife and twin 21-year-olds plus a 14-year old that gets taken as a 17-year-old. So camera gear was going to need to be strategically picked if it was going to make the trip across the pond.

Tip Number 1 

This is the most important rule of them all. This rule was taught to me by my brother-in-law Pete when I was a teenager. He said, “Remember you can do anything you want on vacation as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s vacation.” Now some 40 years later I still live by this rule and have taught my family the same rule. When it comes to photography while on vacation I try my best to schedule times I want to dedicate to photographing like early in the morning when everyone is still sleeping. Remember I’m dealing with young adults and a teenager, so morning easily goes until 10:00 AM. Or when they are off doing their own things that don’t involve me.  But when it is time to spend time with them, and I do enjoy spending time with them, the photographer in me takes a rest. Sure I photograph when I’m around them, but I’ll get to that next.

Tip Number 2 

Don’t forget the family. Don’t forget that photographs or pictures of the family on vacation are very important. I use the term pictures when I’m just documenting our trip. You know, those types of pictures that are capturing the moments of the vacation and our time together. I still use my DSLR for some of these, but lots of times it’s the cell phone camera that is doing the heavy lifting here. The phone is always with me, is easy to get to, plus when I get the inevitable “can you send that to me,” I’m just a few taps away from sending it to them. Last Christmas my wife and I were given a photo book of our trip to Ireland by our kids and some of those “can you send that to me” photos ended up in the book.

Tip Number 3 

Plan what gear you genuinely need. Think of what you want to shot on vacation and just take the necessary gear for that. While you might not be able to take all of your equipment you will find most of the time you can get away with a small amount. I knew I wanted to shoot some landscapes that would require a tripod. There was no way my regular tripod was making the trip with us, so I went out a purchased a little travel tripod that folded up to a size that would fit in my suitcase.  Sure that meant cutting down on the amount of underwear, but hey they do have sinks in Ireland. See it is all about planning, plus I just used that tripod on a trip to Spain. So figure out what you really need and leave the rest at home.

Tip Number 4 

Is to communicate with your family about what is essential to you photography wise on the trip. Let them know that on a particular day or at a specific time you want to photograph, Again I use the words photograph and pictures differently. My family has come to understand that when I say photograph that means something that I’m attempting to create, which means time and dedication. They know that this means it will take either some time or effort or both. I’ve found that if you give them a heads up about your desire to photograph they are cool with it and actually encourage it. Just don’t take advantage of their goodwill. If the photograph is going to involve the family, again communicate this with the family ahead of time. Let them know what you are trying to do and what is expected of them. For example, how should they dress and how long do you expect it to take. Be honest because if you tell them it will only take 10 minutes and you know it is really going to take more like 40 minutes, the rest of the day is not going to be nice for you.

Tip Number 5

Remember it’s a vacation so have some fun and do things with your family. They will appreciate you putting down the camera and spending time with them. And I’m sure your spouse or partner will appreciate it too by letting them go off and do their vacation thing.

Do you have any vacations stories that either helped to make the vacation a success or perhaps some stories that killed the vacation? If so share those stories and don't forget to include some photographs or pictures.

Douglas Turney's picture

Doug Turney is a Connecticut based photographer who specializes in non-ball sport types of photography such as motocross, sailing, and cycling. But that doesn’t stop him from shooting other types of photography too. Doug believes photography is photography and doesn’t like to be typecast. Doug loves to travel and often shoots when traveling.

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Good tips! For me it's either a family vacation or a photographic trip. I find I can't properly give my attention to both in the one trip.

I went on a photographic trip to Southern Africa last year, and I took the big DSLR, big lenses, second camera, third backup, the whole works. It was great to really focus on photography throughout.

This year I went again to Southern Africa, but on a family vacation. I took only one little APS-C mirrorless and two small lenses. I only took candid shots of my family (almost exclusively with one lens) and the odd bit of scenery; 99% of the time I was interacting with my family.

So now I have a bunch of nice Africa photos for the walls at home, and I also had a great African family adventure with some pictures to remember it by.

This is why I travel alone :) No one else to worry about, no schedule but my own.

Thank you Captain Obvious or is it Captain Oblivious

I take it you didn't enjoy the article. Are there any tips or information that you think should be added to the article to make it better? I attempt to write articles that are interesting and beneficial to the readers of Fstoppers. I'm always open to suggestions for improving. It appears you may have some ideas on the subject. Oh yeah you are welcome.

I was speaking about Alex’s obvious solution which is not to travel with family which is ignorant to some of us that need to strike compromise and balance with loved ones. Your article was fantastic.

You know Kent after I posted I started to think that perhaps the comment was to Alex and not me. Sorry about that and thank you for the compliment on the article. I guess I need to improve my reading skills.