Tips for Capturing Great Spring Break and Vacation Photos

We are just a few weeks away from our Spring Break and by the looks of my Facebook feed, there are a lot of families already enjoying theirs right now!  Seeing everyone’s photos is so fun and generates a ton of wanderlust!

How to Take better spring break and vacation photos

For me, because photography is my job and picking up the camera at home isn’t always at the top of my list of things to do, our vacations are when I do the most photographing of my own family.

We all really love to travel and when we’re away, we’re (mostly) relaxed and happy. These are the moments I love to document!   When my kids are older,  my hope is that the photos I take match up with the memories they have.

Plus, I have the time and mental space to really focus on using photography to capture and document little slices of life.  (Thankfully, Instagram helps keep the other 98% of our lives documented as well!)

tips for amazing spring break photos

Before we get into the fun stuff, I want to share the first thing I do before every trip.  I create a note on my phone with my contact information and then use my DSLR to take a photo of the note, so that if the memory card is found my someone else, the first image they’ll see is this one, and they’ll know how to get it back to me.

take better spring break and vacation photos

On to the fun stuff!

Document the Travel Process

Don’t underestimate much future you will appreciate remembering the travel process.  The kids carrying suitcases bigger than they are through the airport.  The minivan packed with suitcases, pillows, toys they can’t possibly live without for ten whole days.  I make a point of taking a “car shot” at the beginning of every road trip we take and they’re so fun to look back upon.

Local Surroundings

Make a point of taking photos of the local scene.  From the terrain to the local coffee shop, these photos will bring back great memories when you look at them later.   It’s easy to just focus on the kids and realize later that we don’t have any photos of areas we actually visited.

how to take better vacation photos

We found this view (somewhere in the Southwest) by accident after pulling over so the kids could get their wiggles out!

fun vacation photos

Cadillac Ranch, somewhere in Texas.  Discovered only when our original road trip route to Utah was detoured due to snow in April.


Don’t forget to photograph the details.  These shots rarely make it into a frame but are my favorite to look back upon.  We want to remember more than just the sights, right?  These little details bring back the small, lovely moments that we tend to forget.

take better vacation photos

Knees full of bruises and toes in the sand. Need I say more?

take better spring break photos

When I started looking through my personal photos for images for this post, I found this one and realized I had completely forgotten about the incident with the “temporary” hair dye! It never went away so we had to cut off those pink curls before school started.  I’m so happy I have this photo!

Get the Kids Involved

I encourage my kids to document the trips from their perspectives, either with their phones or a point-n-shoot camera.   They end up with a lot of photos of their foods and random items they find, but it’s so fun to see what appeals to them, and it promotes creativity!

I will also ask them if they want me to take any particular photos of them (it’s their vacation, too!), which increases their willingness to be photographed by 1000%, and I end up with super fun shots like this one, which I would have never thought to take on my own!

fun vacation photos

A shutter speed of 1/1000 will freeze the motion in a shot like this.

The Golden Hour

The hour or two before sunset is widely known as the ‘golden hour,’ and it’s hands down my favorite time of day to take photos.   The light is stunning, the shadows are long and everything has a certain glow to it.

During real life, the golden hour often overlaps with the witching hour, which is filled with homework, dinner prep, activities and general crankiness.  Vacation is the perfect time to take advantage of this time of day!

golden hour photography

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you’re heading out for a more relaxing trip where you’ll be in the same general area without much of an agenda, then use this time to practice taking your camera off of auto mode!  Download my guide to help you get started with learning the Creative Modes and check out my post on Composition to help with framing your shots.

Happy shooting!