*Originally published in the Vacation Rental Travels Magazine, Spring 2014 issue (beginning on page 22).

5 Tips to Keep Mom in the PictureMom is missing…again.
It happens every stinking time.

On the last one, we thought it was better. But as soon as we were on the airplane home, we realized that mom was missing, yet again.

Retrace our steps?
We are out of time.

Call the authorities?
They can’t do anything about it.

Get mad?
Don’t waste your energy.

We flipped through the photos on the back of the camera. Mom was nowhere to be found.

So if mom is missing, was she even really there in the first place? If the photographs documenting the family vacation don’t have mom in them, where was mom?

Mom was behind the camera, creating the pictures. And sometimes Dad or another family member will go missing from a family vacation as well.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. No one needs to be missing from their family vacation photos. Here are five ways to make sure Mom doesn’t disappear from the family vacation again.

1. Take turns.
Assign each person a turn with the camera.

The first person I always hand my camera off to is my husband. On this occasion, he captured a high five between our youngest son and I on the mini golf course.

Tip 1 - Assign the Camera

Tip 1 – Assign the Camera

This winter I took my boys to an indoor rope climbing facility. I joined in on the fun and wanted proof that I actually climbed, so I handed my iPhone to my 10 year old. He wasn’t too concerned with getting a shot and decided to just take 200 photos and hope that mom likes one of them.

After deleting 199 blurry photos, we had this one of me flying through the air on my way down from ringing the bell at the top. Yep, I’m a super mom.

Tip 1 - Assign the Camera

Tip 1 – Assign the Camera

2. Ask a stranger.
This one may be difficult if you’re a compositional freak like me.

The average person will automatically center the group of people in the photo, and then fill the frame with the bodies. This means that the photo usually lacks the surrounding background.

But it’s an easy fix. Simply set your shot up, adjust your focus point to where your head will be, and wait for the next stranger to walk by.

Then, explain that you want the focus point on your face and to shoot a few frames. Most people are happy to oblige to specific instructions, knowing that you will end up with the photograph you requested.

Obviously that is not always possible. So the next best thing is to work with what you get.

The first thing is to always make sure you know where you want the stranger to stand when he snaps the photo. Whether you stand in that spot and wait for someone to walk by or if you make a mental note and then lead the person to the spot, just having the location of the camera set up will make a huge difference in the resulting photo.

Tip 2 - Compose and Hand to Stranger

Tip 2 – Compose and Hand to Stranger

So after the stranger completely ignored that you want the group in the bottom third of the photo, you look at the result and see that you are centered in the picture.

Tip 2 - Compose and Hand to Stranger (and maybe fix it afterwards)

Tip 2 – Compose and Hand to Stranger (and maybe fix it afterwards)

Easy fix. Open your favorite editing program, do a little crop and zoom, add your favorite filter, and share to Instagram.

Tip 2 - Compose and Hand to Stranger (and maybe fix it afterwards)

Tip 2 – Compose and Hand to Stranger (and maybe fix it afterwards)

3. Take some selfies.
Turn the camera around and smile. But remember to also include some of the background in the photo so that you can see where you were.

One of the reasons you snap a photo is to help you remember where you were and what you were doing at the time. If you completely fill in the frame with just faces, you lose part of the story.

My oldest son and I toured Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, and here we are standing inside the Cardinals’ locker room.

Tip 3 - Take a Selfie

Tip 3 – Take a Selfie

On the second photo, my youngest son and I are at a baseball game, and you can see from the other fans in the background, our Cardinals were playing the Atlanta Braves.

Tip 3 - Take a Selfie

Tip 3 – Take a Selfie

4. Use a remote shutter release or a timer.
Nearly every camera has a timer to delay the shutter button, or you can use a remote shutter release if you have one handy.

If you are using your smartphone, there are several apps that have a built in timer as well. My favorite app for a delayed shutter is the free version of Top Camera.

Have you ever been on a romantic walk on a deserted beach at sunset with your loved one and wished you had a photo of it? Simply find a solid spot to rest your camera and start shooting with the timer or remote shutter.

Tip 4 - Use a remote shutter release

Tip 4 – Use a remote shutter release

On a Michigan vacation, our family found a deserted spot overlooking Lake Michigan and decided it would be a great place for a few family photos. We spent nearly 30 minutes hitting the timer on the camera and coming up with fun poses.

Tip 4 - Use a remote shutter release

Tip 4 – Use a remote shutter release

We may or may not have shots of us mooning the camera…

5. Splurge on the touristy photos.
Yes, these photos are expensive, but it isn’t necessary to purchase every single forced photo at an attraction.

These photos do succeed on capturing some fun emotions when they are snapped at precise moments, like the big, scary drop on a roller coaster ride. Figure one of these into your budget, and then secure your camera before buckling up for a thrill ride.

It will take a group effort to get Mom back into the vacation photos, but it is possible. #bringmomback

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Tyann Marcink
Marcink Designs