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Welcome to my blog, where I share highlights of everything from my client's wedding days and portrait sessions, to recent features and our adventures around the world. 

Hi, I'm Alicia.

Having Strangers take DSLR Family Pictures on Vacation

May 29, 2014


You probably know the feeling… you hand over your camera to a stranger and they start twisting the lens round and round trying to get it to focus, staring at the LCD screen telling you they can’t see anything. All the while, you are smiling (full of anxiety) and thinking, “Why are they doing that? Did they see it in a movie?!”

While DSLRs are incredibly popular these days, the thought of handling one still intimidates many which is why it can be hard to get a nice family picture taken while away on vacation. Sure, you value all the images you took, but sometimes you just want 1-2 good pictures of you and your significant other to remember, ‘oh yeah, we were on the trip too!’ In order to combat the fear of handing over your DSLR to a stranger, I’ve put together a couple tips for a smoother experience:

Prepare your settings.

The first thing I do is switch the camera to aperture priority mode — this will allow you to set the aperture and ISO, leaving the camera to scan the scene for exposure. I usually do a test or two on someone else who is with me before handing over the camera. Most importantly — you should be shooting in RAW! This will make it much easier to “save” anything that is off in the exposure in post processing.


– Be patient selecting.  

Take your time picking out the right person! Scan the crowd for someone else with a DSLR who might be more familiar with the settings. Or try a family who might take a lot of pictures of their kids! As sweet as they may be, an older grandma who has never touched a DSLR might not be your best choice here; although I have heard that it is simply best to pick someone you can outrun… :)


– Give pointers. 

Let them know to look through the viewfinder since the LCD screen won’t be on. Also point out what button to press before stepping into position. I also always mention that they should place the “red dot” (the focus) on one of our faces — This will ensure a better read for the exposure as well as a clearer image, of course.


– Say thank you! Then double check their picture… 

This one is huge! Make sure you are grateful for their time, but then take a minute to review their picture after they have stepped away. I wouldn’t recommend checking in front of them and then asking for another picture. However, you never know when you will be in paradise again, so if it’s important to you, feel free to ask someone different.

Truth be told, it still might end up being a cruddy picture. If all this fails, try getting a wireless remote and taking your own images! Fellow photographer Abby Grace has already created an awesome post on DSLR “selfies”, so check it out here.


Just for fun, here are a couple images we had taken by others on vacation…


These I included to show what can go wrong. The left one we are completely out of focus — I should’ve either moved the dot or set it on auto select. The right one was not the fault of the shooter — I should have tested the settings beforehand to ensure the exposure was fast enough as there is some slight blur. 


Again, slight out of focus — if you are in control, auto select focus is never a good choice! But sometimes with others it might give you a better shot at getting a good picture. 
These four all turned out great! Of course, not perfect, but pretty close for picking random strangers.
The one on the right is flawless — I think as I improve, I can explain to others easier as well. 


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