A few years ago, a colleague of mine was showing us photos from their trip. Everything was so beautiful, the landscapes, buildings, museums they had documented it all. Then, a chat toworker chimed in “ok, but were you actually there?” He had come home without a single photo of himself on vacation. As a new mom, I was having a similar problem. My babies had photos for days of their adventures but really I have no proof they weren’t just exploring without me. I wanted to show them that I was there too so I learned how to get out from behind the camera and into the frame with them. Here are 5 ways for you to do the same.
First option: Asking a traveling companion to take your photo…. we are starting with the simplest one. If I’m not traveling alone, I am constantly asking my husband to take my photo with the kids. Of course, I’m always sneaking photos of him too.
Pros: You trust the person using your phone/camera, they probably already know how to use it, convenience. Cons: you can’t get everyone in the photo, your traveling partner might get annoyed (my husband is super supportive… of ME behind the camera).
Option two: Ask a stranger. Even though it remains my least favorite option, we’ve had some nice photos taken by strangers. Look for someone carrying a camera. Even if you are using your phone, someone carrying a camera probably has more experience composing a good photo. They’re also pretty unlikely to run off with your camera since they already have one around their necks. Other people unlikely to run off with your phone are parents traveling with children, it’s not like they’re going to leave their kids behind for a $500 phone. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel super awkward asking someone to take our photo. Sometimes I offer to take a couples/families photo first before asking them to take ours. Ask them to take 3 or 4 photos for greater odds of getting a keeper. Explain how to use your camera, where to stand (you’ll need to frame the shot yourself first) and ask them to get low and angle the camera up slightly.
Pros: Everyone can get in the photo, fast and convenient, great for crowded areas. Cons: You have to talk to people – ugh, handing expensive things to strangers, sometimes ALL the photos end up blurry or they’re not perfectly framed. For example the photo above would have been improved by a step to the right (that’s my fault for forgetting to tell them where to stand) and the camera being angled up a bit more to get the top of the building. I’m probably getting into perfectionist territory here because it’s a great photo. Thank you stranger.
Option three: DIY with timers and remotes. Remotes are my favorite way to get family photos. Use a standard or flexible tripod to set up your device or find a safe spot to set your camera down. I use JOBY GorillaPod 3K Kit. Compact Tripod 3K Stand and Ballhead 3K for Compact Mirrorless Cameras or devices up to 3K (6.6lbs). Black/Charcoal.
more affordable ones are available for lighter cameras. It’s best to buy one model up though. I also use AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag.
The ground is an often overlooked option. If you go that route, prop the lens up – so camera is angled upward with something – sunglasses work great. In crowded areas, it’s best to stick with a tripod that will be clearly visible to passerby’s. Once you have the camera all set up you can either set the timer or use your remote trigger. The remote usually gets you better shots but you need a compatible camera, need to be somewhat close in and sometimes the remote shows in the photo. Remotes are a fun way for kids to get involved as well.
Some cameras have Bluetooth compatibility and corresponding apps. That means you can use your phone as a live view remote. Perfect for making sure your not blocking the scenery. It’s pretty awesome and gives you the most control over the shot but does have drawbacks which is why I always travel with my handy remote.
Timers are nice because there isn’t a range, you have both hands free, you can stand anywhere and can go places where you can’t take a remote – like into a pool or ocean. It’s nice to be able to to just set it and forget it it and play around with your kids, you can get great photos with authentic interactions. With timers though, sometimes I don’t get a single good shot – often because my kids try to steal the camera. Case in point:
If you are new to using timers or remotes, there might be a learning curve. I suggest buying the remote a week or so before your trip and practicing at home. A convenient place is in a bedroom, most people have a dresser across from the bed so you can set your camera on that while you read stories or jump on the bed with your kids. After you have that mastered head outside to learn about camera placement, tripod setup, remote range, etc.
Pros: Self-reliant, can get the whole travel squad in the frame, the most control over the photo. Cons: takes time to set up, not great for crowded areas, extra equipment required.
Option 4: Hire a pro. Everyone is photographer these days, but not everyone is a great photographer. If you want truly great vacation photos and don’t have the time or energy to practice and learn, a professional is the way to go. Even if you do take amazing photos there are still advantages to hiring it out. Resorts often have someone on staff and can arrange it all for you. If you have the time however you’ll often get better rates with someone local.
Pros: Professional, display worthy photos, local photographers usually know the best spots. Cons: Added Expense
There is a fifth option which is of course, selfies – but most of you already already know all about those. I was in Paris admiring the Arc Di Triomphe when I spotted a fellow tourist painfully struggling to get himself and the whole structure in the frame. I walked over and offered to take a photo of him. He replied “oh no, I’m doing selfies.” Hey, if selfies are your jam then you’re already covered, but if you were wanting to know some alternative ways to preserve your travel memories, I hope you have enough to get you started. What do you think of these tips? I love to read your comments!
Bonus composition tip: I have a friend who picked up her life, moved to Switzerland and became a day trader just like that. She goes on amazing adventures all over Europe but her photos used to all look the same. Why? In every photo she would stand in the center of the frame, close to the camera, and smile directly into the lens. Don’t do that, at least not ALL the time. For starters, it usually blocks the monument or whatever view your trying to showcase. Take a few steps back (or use a wide angle lens) so that it looks like you’re in the scene instead of overshadowing it. Photos are often more pleasing when the subject occupies a third of the photo. You can read more about the rule of thirds here. In any case, photo variety is always a good thing. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks to getting the most out of your vacation photos! Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss it!
Remember to bring your camera along for the little moments on your trip too! Vacations are as much about quality family time as they are about amazing experiences. By the way, this is the remote I keep raving about: AmazonBasics Wireless Remote Control for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
Cheaper than you thought right? Just be sure it’s compatible with your camera before purchasing.
This article contains affiliate links. All photos copyrighted Dana Sikand 2017 All Rights Reserved