Photographing Your Vacation | How to Take Pictures that Tell a Story

Earlier this summer, we had an epic vacation - two weeks traveling from our home in Northern Virginia to Texas, New Mexico, and Montana to celebrate two beautiful nieces' high school graduations and spend time with grandparents and extended family. It was wonderful and I have a ton of photos to prove it.

Now that I'm home, I'm working to put the images together into a photobook that we can share with family.  While I likely won't get around to actually making the book until it's time to order for Christmas gifts (!), I have been thinking about how best to put the images together.  And that thinking actually started while I was shooting the images on vacation.

At it's heart, documentary photography strives to tell a story and a family vacation is a wonderful story to tell. Moments with loved ones, details of fun activities, and scene-setting panoramas all make up the story of time spent outside our daily lives.  

Here are some of my recent vacation favorites and a few tips for capturing your next adventure - whether it's a multi-state road trip or a quick day trip to a state park.

1. Capture the journey.  Every good story has a beginning, middle, and end.  Think about those elements of your story when you pick up your camera.  I usually try to capture travel details, especially plane rides, but you might also feature details like packing your kids' clothes and activities or the 4am alarm call for your early flight.

2. Don't forget the details.  Not every picture needs to feature a family member to be part of the story.  While on our vacation, I couldn't help but notice the beautiful flowers each place we visited, so I decided to incorporate them as a bit of a theme to provide context to our story. Now seeing them will always remind me of the time of year that we visited these places - how we went from almost summer weather in Texas / New Mexico, back to early spring weather in Montana.

And, of course, get in close for the little things like dirty hands and messy faces. 

3. Set the scene.  Provide some context to the activities you're capturing, whether indoor or out.  Close ups and details are great, but these wider images capture the broader environment and help set the scene for the whole story.

4. Don't discount the in-between.  These pictures (and the couch image above) were taken on a restful afternoon between activities.  Nothing much was happening, but I kept my camera out anyway.  And I'm so glad I was able to document my mother-in-law making tortillas - a delicious family tradition.

5. Have fun (and maybe let the rules slide a bit)!  Vacation is the perfect time to let loose, try new things, and let rules slide a bit.  Jumping on the hotel bed?  Sure, get that energy out! Sitting in the dirt to get a fun angle?  Why not? Staying up way past bedtime to keep the fun going (and take advantage of that beautiful golden light)?  We can just sleep in tomorrow!

6.  Finally, as always, get in the frame!  Because you were part of your vacation too!  Happy summer!