When we travel somewhere new for a family vacation (in Ireland or anywhere in the world), we tend to photograph the new, shiny things. When traveling with children, we are also going to take photographs of them in different locations to record where we have been, what we have done, what we saw.

However, we might come back home with a SD Card full of postcard photographs, that will act as reminders, but will be missing some important ingredients.

Graphic with an image of a family traveling to Dublin, Ireland, saying How To Photograph the Story of Your Family Vacation

Capture the full story of your family vacation, not just the postcard version.

Let’s imagine you are coming to Ireland for your family vacation.

Your family vacation in Ireland will likely involve beautiful landscapes, music, rain, sunshine, rainbows, sheep, Guinness, great food, friendly people, sea, and mountains. Your camera (or phone) will naturally be directed at all of these things that you can’t find at home.

If you’re travelling somewhere else, I’ll let you use your imagination :D

While it’s totally normal to take lots of photos of the landscapes, landmarks, new foods, streets and all the wonderful places you will come across, it’s important not to come back with 100% of the photographs being an advertisement for Tourism Ireland.

No matter where you go, your vacation can never be reduced to a postcard.

A family vacation is an experience.

You are not “watching” your vacation, you are living it.

YOU are going to visit Ireland. You, as in: people, with unique personalities and relationships. Not two families will experience the same vacation in the same way.

What To Focus On When Taking Photos on a Family Vacation

1. The ordinary, everyday moments, vacation ‘routine’ and transitions

While a LOT of things will be different on your vacation (and that’s the reason we’re travelling, right?), travelling with children means you will pack a bit of your “life at home” in your suitcases.

Your family will be going through some hours of traveling, excitement, but also crankiness or even tears (long-haul flights with toddlers are no fun).

Once you settle, you will go through some everyday routines such as getting up, having breakfast, dressing up, getting ready to leave, stopping for lunch, feeling tired, complaining.

Even family vacations on the other side of the world will have ordinary everyday family moments

Those everyday moments are often the kind of moments we forget to capture, and yet, they will bring back the feeling of your vacation like no others.

(On a separate note, having some sort of plan or routine was the hardest thing for me to accept on our first family vacation. The days of planning absolutely nothing and just taking each day as it came were over. Traveling with a small child was definitely an adjustment. Food, naps, and bedtime HAD TO be planned a little bit, or else nobody would have fun.)

2. Shared moments between family members

On your family vacation, you will bring your family dynamics and interact with each other, the same way you do at home, but also in a very different way. Because you’re not home, because you’re not usually spending that much time together.

Try to keep an eye out for moments of connection, play, touch. Between your children but also parent-child. These don’t have to extraordinary moments, or “loud”. It could be reading a story at bedtime, or sitting beside each other watching TV.

3. A wide range of moments and emotions

The range of moments and emotions. Highs and lows. Positive, negative, and in-between. ALL OF IT make your vacation in Ireland, yours and yours only.

The photographs you bring back shouldn’t be all about the things you saw, because, well… these are the same as everyone else’s. They are only a small part of your experience, so I would encourage you to photograph all the less obvious “picture-perfect” moments that will bring back the actual feeling of being there.

Remember that these photographs are for YOU first and foremost. You don’t have to share them all with your family and friends (they can get the highlights version).

For example, I encourage you to capture the chaos of the hotel room, the tired looks, and include yourself in the frame.

4. Connect with your feelings

This one might be a little trickier if you haven’t practiced this at home.

I always encourage my students to connect with their feelings and take a snapshop of a detail that will encapsulate that feeling.

How does it work? When you feel happy, try to anchor yourself in the moment for a few second and take a photo of something that will remind you of that feeling. It could be a flower, a cup of coffee, a ray of sunshine falling in a room, or the hand of a child on your knee.

Ok, but I don’t want to spend my entire time behind a camera when I’m on vacation with my family.

Yep. I know. Me neither.

How to spend less time behind the phone or camera on vacation?

  1. Be aware. Knowing that you don’t want to live your vacation behind the lens is a great first step.
  2. Try to leave the camera/phone behind during some outings to just be a parent enjoying precious moments with your family. Yes, you will be missing moments/photos. But it’s ok.
  3. Be more intentional with what you capture, but don’t try to capture everything.
  4. Pick just ONE day to capture a “Day-in-the-life” and keep photos to a minimum on the other days.
  5. Ask someone else in the family to take photos one day (bonus: you’ll be in the frame too).
  6. Let go of perfection. You don’t need perfect photos, you need photos that will help you remember this time together.

And finally, if you can afford to hire a vacation photographer (which is the perfect way to just relax and stay present rather than spend too much time behind the camera), then I’d encourage you to pick someone with a “hands-off” style, or documentary style, like me. The reason being that they will capture more than picture-perfect photos.

Finally, let me show you an example of a vacation family photography session I did back in Summer 2019.

A Beach + City Dublin Summer Vacation Family Photoshoot

Little did we know how lucky we were back then, to be able to travel.

I started by photographing this family in their AirBnb in the morning, having breakfast, taking a walk on the nearby beach at low tide (in their PJs), getting dressed, catching a bus to Dublin City, visiting the Leprechaun Museum, having lunch at The Church.

Can you see that the photographs are about their experience? About the ordinary, the connections, the faces the kids make when they play UNO? Or the parents sharing a laugh?

I love how this first photo could have been taken at home. Blankets and tablets and sleepy eyes. But… the objects on the table aren’t their memories. It fascinates me.

Have a scroll, enjoy, and get in touch if you’re visiting Ireland and would love similar photos for your family.

Children waking up in their AirBnb in Dublin on their family vacation
On vacations, we also need time to wake up in the morning.
Mother and father enjoying the fresh sea air on their family vacation in Dublin, Ireland
A mother and son playing on the couch on their vacation in Dublin Ireland
On vacations, we play and we tickle…
A boy in a green tshirt laughing while being tickled by his mother
A girl, daughter, reading a book on her tablet on her family vacation
On vacations, we also bring our books (and tablets make it easy to bring more!)
A mother on vacation enjoying the view
Back home in New York, this family’s view would be very different.
Siblings playing and fighting over a game on the tablet
Sibling relationships on vacation are still sibling relationships.
A mother bringing breakfast for her children to eat outside in the garden
A family from New York visiting Dublin with their children
A few too many bees :( And their bare feet don’t like stony terrace
A mum and son enjoying their breakfast on the garden step
So two settle inside and two on the step.
A boy ducking his fresh pain au chocolat in milk
Ducking your pain au chocolat in your milk may result in drips and drops
A father checking his son's face for chocolate
“How come you have chocolate on your ear?”
A daughter and mother sharing a funny moment on their vacation.
My biggest joy as a photographer: capturing personalities and connections.
A photo of the whole family, showing their natural expressions
Not your “standard” family portrait. I LOVE it.
Photo showing the mess left in the room by a child after they selected something to wear.
Messy child at home. Messy child on vacation.
Children waiting outside in their PJs for their parents to go on the beach.
Patiently waiting for the grown ups to get ready too. The beach is waiting!
Siblings walking to the beach with funny body language.
Body language can say SO much!
Mother and photographer taking photos of her children on the beach.
Having a photographer doesn’t mean you can’t also take some photos :)
View of the whole family together on the beach.
It’s low tide on Bull Island and the sand is slimy. Desiree stands back with her camera.
Children playing on beach at low tide on their vacation in Dublin
Siblings getting their PJs wet while playing with water on the beach in Dublin
Daughter with long hair wipes her eye from splashed water.
Feet of a child who has just written her name in the slimy sand in Dublin.
Writing your name in slimy sand.
Black and white portrait of a son and his curly hair flying in the wind.
Girls super long hair nearly touches the sand while she searches for a stone in a puddle.
When you’ve lost your stone and your hair is getting in the way…
Mother searching for a stone in a slimy sand while her children watch.
And your mammy volunteers to get it for you, even though she doesn’t do “slimy”.
Three red boats on the dry beach at low tide on Bull Island.
A quiet moment of a girl walking back to the house with the pink wall.
Girl washing her feet off the tap in the garden, above a sink.
Time to wash off the sand of your feet.
Wet foot steps on the tiles.
Children getting ready. Mother brushing hair.
Father and son moment.
Son lying on top of his dad looking for socks in the suitcase.
Trying to look for socks.
Son doing a funny face while his father puts on his socks.
Son putting toothpaste on his tooth brush with great concentration.
Mother putting colourful socks on.
Children messing with their dad.
Family getting ready to leave, on their vacation.
Family walking on the Bull Wall street to the bus stop.
Family pointing at birds in front of the view of Dublin chimneys
Family stepping in Dublin bus in Clontarf on their vacation
Children having fun in Dublin bus on their way into town
Mother looking at her children having fun in Dublin bus on their way into city centre.
Hands of child having fun in Dublin Bus
Parents sharing a laugh together in Dublin Bus
View of a Dog walker and six dogs from Dublin Bus
View of family upstairs in Dublin Bus arriving into city centre. Dad is yawning.
Family stepping out in Dublin streets and getting their bearings
Family crossing O'Connell Street in Dublin City Centre on their vacation
Daughter and mother holding hands and daughter laughing.
Quick hug from mother to daughter while walking in Dublin streets. Father and son holding hands in the background.
Siblings messing by the mirror of the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin
Siblings begging for a coin at the National Leprechaun Museum
Mother pinching her laughing daughter's nose at the National Leprechaun Museum
Boy pressing his cheek on a window inside the National Leprechaun Museum.
Family listening to the guide's story inside the National Leprechaun Museum
Family listening to the guide's story inside the National Leprechaun Museum
Siblings listening to the tales being told inside the Natiornal Leprechaun Museum
A family's funny faces framed at the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin
Blue sky outside the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin
Family checking souvenirs at the gift shop of the National Leprechaun Museum
A family playing board game in a pub restaurant in Dublin
A family playing board game in a pub restaurant in Dublin
A mother and father clinking pint glasses in the pub in Dublin
Siblings playing UNO in a restaurant in Dublin
A father takes a photo on his phone of his daughter in front of her meal in Dublin
Funny face of a boy eating is fried chicken in Dublin
A family from New York visiting Dublin with their children
Funny expression of daughter looking at her cards of UNO
A family playing board games in Dublin's restaurant
More funny faces of siblings playing UNO
Father and son fist bumping after a game of UNO in Dublin restaurant
Boy playing with his coin from the National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin
Coming out of the restaurant, the son expresses his disappointment at having to walk
Sweet moment between mother and son holding hands
Sweet moment between father and daughter holding hands
A last family portrait while walking in the busy Henry Street in Dublin

Visiting Ireland for a Family Vacation?

Would love professional photos of this time together?

Check out this page and get in touch to discuss your vision.


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