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top 5 tips for photographing your family vacation

June 28, 2022

Hi, I'm cilla!
I am a loved, incredibly imperfect, storyteller of life, love, and joy. Photographer to some of the most genuine and beauty-filled people in KY.
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Let’s make family photo sessions a little bit easier. Just a small portion of the Lifestyle Session Guide all of my family’s receive.

father son playing in Gulf at Honeymoon Island Florida

It’s that time of year again. The time when sand is going into all the places, my hair is styled by the salt water of the Gulf, my toes are digging deep into the wet sand at the shore line, and, most importantly, I’m enjoying uninterrupted time with my family in one of our favorite places. It’s the place where some of my favorite memories are held. The baby and toddler naps that went on for hours on the beach, our vow renewal, so many sand castles, watching his tiny little hands play with trucks and superhero toys in the sand, swimming in the rain, finding the most beautiful seashells we can, having our family photos made, and sharing our special place with some of our favorite people. I think it probably goes without saying that the photos we take on our beach vacations are some of my most prized possessions. They grace our walls, my computer screen, our albums, and sometimes even our Christmas cards. I have so many tips and tricks I could share about our trips, but I think the thing I most want to share is how you can photograph your beach vacation to truly capture the feeling…to hold onto all of those sweet memories. The little things you want to remember. Because those truly are the big things.

Here are my top 5 tips for photographing your family on your next beach vacation…

#1: Let go of perfection and have fun.

There’s this one shot I try for every July 4th. We love to watch fireworks from the Dunedin Causeway. There are fireworks going off all around us, but you don’t really know when and where they’re going to come from. You can also see all the city fireworks in the distance from all these surrounding cities. Steff loves to sit on the car, eat shaved ice, and watch the fireworks. I love the silhouette he makes against the fireworks. But every single year, I try for this one perfect shot I see in my mind and I just haven’t gotten it yet. I look back at those photos…the imperfect ones…the almost shots…and I adore them. It may not look the way I saw it in my mind, but the main goal was obtained. I photographed exactly what I wanted to remember. I know when I run across these imperfect images in our albums in twenty years, I will remember everything about how this felt.

It’s all so messy and beautiful and imperfect. Just have fun with your family while you’re capturing it. Remember your goal. To photograph this in a way that the memories will flood back so vividly you will be able to feel it all over again.

#2: Photograph your family doing what they’re doing and join in.

Don’t worry about stopping everyone during each little thing to grab a looking at the camera shot. There’s definitely a time for those, but be very selective about the times you pull out the “everyone look here and smile” card. Instead, just photograph your family playing…building a sand castle…looking for seashells…swimming in the water…reading…napping…playing ball. Whatever it is that your family does on vacation. All the little things you want to remember. Trust me, it will be so much better to catch them in action. Remember, we want to capture that feeling.

Now…here’s the key…grab a few pictures and then put away your camera and JOIN IN. Everyone will be a little more tolerant of all the picture-taking if there’s even more of you having fun WITH them.

#3: Get low, get high, get close, get far.

Get on their level. Get low. Then photograph how it all looks from above or from different angles. Get super close up to get all those sweet little details. Then back up and photograph the whole scene.

#4: Photograph the little details.

The sand that covers their hands…feet…back. The little toys they play with. The seashells they picked just for you. It all tells a story. The more details, the better. You may not get these images printed big to put on your wall (hey…it would be totally cool if you did though), but they make a beautiful addition to any album.

#5: Be in the photos.

If you’re reading this, you are likely the one who has unofficially been designated the photo taker…the keeper of the memories. The problem with that is how often you are left out of the story. Remember, what is going to matter in twenty years? You being in some of these photos, that’s going to matter. Take all the selfies, give the camera over to your significant other for a bit, prop the camera in a safe spot and set the timer, ask a stranger to capture a photo of everyone together, and, consider hiring a photographer for the day or a couple of hours. I cannot stress this enough. Get…in…the….photos. No matter how you’re feeling about how you look in the moment, let it all go and just get in there. Whatever you have to to make it happen. Of course, I love the idea of hiring a photographer to capture a couple of hours of your family on the beach. Look for someone who does documentary or lifestyle photography to capture the feeling (and…of course…I offer beach photography a couple of weeks out of the summer on Honeymoon Island and am also available for travel throughout the year). But a photographer can’t be with you every day (though…that would be totally cool if we could). Do whatever you gotta do to be in those photos. Trust me, you will not regret it in twenty years. I know I keep going back to that. It’s truly what all of this is about.

Bonus tip:

Buy a waterproof case for your phone.

Okay…I am going to say to follow this tip at your own risk. Some of my favorite images from our trips come from me taking my phone into the water with us. Eek…I know…I know. Each year I buy a brand new lifeproof case for my iPhone. I make sure to follow the instructions thoroughly to lower the risk of water ruining my phone. Then, I take that bad boy in the water with us and photograph all the fun we are having. It is a bit of a pain in the butt because I mostly try not to submerge the phone (though I have briefly for some underwater shots), so I have to hold it up when I’m not using it. So, bring it into the water, take some shots of what you want to remember, and then take it back and put it in a safe place so you can enjoy your family without worrying about holding your phone out of the water.

You’ve got this! Go out…enjoy your vacation…capture as much as you can…and soak…it…all…in.

So much love,


P.S. Remember to always capture the beautiful, perfectly imperfect, love-filled life you have. Not for now, but for twenty years from now. Not just for you, but for your babies…and their babies. If you need help getting in the picture, I’m up for travel and usually offer a few Signature Sessions while we are on our own vacation at Honeymoon Island, Florida…near Clearwater…typically at the end of June and beginning of July. Click HERE to message me and get started reserving your love-filled family session.

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I'm Cilla and I'm so happy you're here! You'll find bits of writing about this beautiful, messy, joyful, love-filled life...both mine and the families I get to photograph year after year. 

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