Timing is everything when it comes to capturing the perfect picture of your family at these popular travel sites.
If posed photos in your backyard and gray-scale backdrops aren’t doing much for expressing your family’s adventurous personality, a bit of planning and a little lesson in angles could help you score a great family photo from your next vacation. Grab your smartphone, selfie stick, drone, tripod, or, better yet, hire a professional Flytographer, and head to one of these stunning locations for the ultimate backdrop for your next family photo shoot.
The French Lavender Fields
WHERE: Provence, France
Between mid-June and mid-July, the fields of Provence are engulfed in purple swaths of fragrant blooms that extend in long rows over the hills and into the sunset each night. The lavender fields in bloom in the South of France are one of the most sought after images for photographers, and they make a gorgeous backdrop for a family photo. To get the shot, it helps to have a car so you can find the perfect field (devoid of crowds) for your family. The Valensole plateau, near Digne-les-Bains and the Verdon gorges that sit south of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence are particularly photogenic. Time your visit between 6 pm and 9 pm to take advantage of the magical light that occurs right before the setting sun.
The Dutch Tulip Fields
WHERE: Noordoostpolder, Holland
Springtime in Holland is one of the most exciting times to visit the country. The locals are buzzing with the excitement of the new season, the cheese markets are open and already selling delicious varieties of Beemster Graskaas (a rare spring cow’s milk cheese aged for one month), and, of course, rows of bulb flowers line the fields along the coast of The Hague to Alkmaar between mid-March and mid-May. Although other bulb flowers will bloom earlier in the season, the colorful tulips don’t typically make their appearances until mid-April through the first week of May. To catch the flowers at peak bloom (best for a colorful backdrop), time your visit close to the opening of Keukenhof and head to the flower fields of the Noordoostpolder to avoid the crowds. White clothing will photograph well against these vibrant blooms, especially as the sun begins to set around 8:30 pm.
The Eiffel Tower
WHERE: Paris, France
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world, but that fact doesn’t make it any less desirable as the background for a family photo for the mantle or a holiday card. Avoid the rookie mistake of trying to take a selfie at the base of the monument (too many chins, not enough tower) and head across the river to the Place du Trocadéro. There’s a set of stairs in the garden at Trocadéro that create the perfect platform for capturing the entire family and the entire Eiffel Tower in the background. Aim for doing the photo shoot in the early morning before the crowds when the lighting is most flattering.
The Stegastein Lookout
WHERE: Aurland, Norway
Drones or a tripod with a timer are the best bet for capturing the entire scene at this stunning lookout point. The Stegastein Lookout hangs more than 2,100 feet above the Aurlandsfjord, one of the most picturesque fjords in all of Norway. The platform extends nearly 100 feet past the mountain’s edge to offer panoramic views of the scenic fjord. Although the lighting may be better in the morning, cruise crowds fill the lookout point until early afternoon, so you’ll have to choose between flattering lighting and a crowd-free photography session.
The Blue Domed Churches of Santorini
WHERE: Santorini, Greece
The picturesque village of Oia is best known for its pristine white washed buildings carved into the cliffs of Santorini, but this popular tourist spot is not the only town worthy of becoming the backdrop for your next family photo. The villages of Imerovigli and Firostefani feature the same white buildings with blue caps and maybe a fraction of the crowds (important for avoiding that rogue photobomber on your family’s holiday card). Dress in bold colors and wear comfy shoes for traversing this hilly landscape to capture your photo (best shot by drone or with a professional photographer) right before the sun sets in the evening.
Great Wall of China
WHERE: Huairou, China
Capturing a great family photo on the Great Wall of China is equally about avoiding crowds as much as possible and working angles to get as much of the wall in the shot as you can. The Mutianyu Great Wall is one of the best spots for families to see since it is less visited than the popular Badaling section of the wall, but is still easily accessible (about 45 miles north of central Beijing). Mutianyu is the longest fully-restored section of the wall currently open for visitors and features 23 Ming-era guard towers. Spring or autumn offer stunning foliage and low tourist traffic, and it helps to take the cable car to the top to avoid getting sweaty, especially if you plan to carry that tripod the whole way.
WHERE: Page, Arizona
Navigating this narrow slot canyon is not for the faint of heart, which is why the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department requires every person to enter with a licensed tour guide. Once inside, the wave-like walls and spectacular lighting make for an amazing photo opportunity for capturing your adventurous family inside the canyon. Complete with a staircase leading downward, Lower Antelope Canyon is a great option for families. Ken’s Tours Deluxe Tour of Lower Antelope Canyon is a great way to bring the entire family down for a private trip into the canyon for up to four people. Along with a brief history of the canyon, families will have plenty of time to explore the narrow passageways and even snap a photo while meandering through the orange and tan surroundings. Try for a time slot between 11 am and 1 pm to get the best lighting.
WHERE: Pitumarca, Peru
The trip to Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain, is not an easy one, but the sights you’ll see and the photos you’ll return home with will make the trek to this Peruvian spot worth it. The trip is not ideal for smaller children (mainly due to the long hours spent in the car), but families with tweens or teens will be able to enjoy the journey to this natural phenomenon. Although group tours leave Cusco every day around 3 am, it’s just as easy (and often equally affordable) to simply rent a car for the day or hire a taxi to make sure you arrive without a slew of other tourists. The drive is stunning and takes about three hours from Cusco to the base of the trailhead, where a worn path leads six miles (roughly two to three hours of hiking) up to the lookout over Rainbow Mountain. The colors are spectacular on a sunny day, so aim for arriving at the trailhead around 10:30 am to avoid the crowds and catch the colors in all their glory.
WHERE: La Spezia, Italy
The five towns that comprise Cinque Terre are marked by colorful houses and lush vineyards that cling to the cliffs and terraces overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Each town offers its own unique landscape, but the small, colorful town of Manarola is home to one of the most impressive backdrops. A short hike up to the restaurant Nessun Dorma is all it takes to capture the entire rainbow village from an ideal vantage point. Book a pesto-making class at this famous restaurant before heading to the terrace just before sunset with a selfie stick or a tripod to capture your family in front of Manarola above the bright blue Mediterranean Sea.
Pyramids of Giza
WHERE: Cairo, Egypt
These ancient monoliths are some of the most popular of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and their facades have stood the test of time since they were built around 2500 B.C. To capture all three of Giza’s pyramids, drive or walk to the Camel Riding area near the Pyramids of Queens and head to the edge of the marketplace to find a panoramic viewpoint of the pyramids. The area is windy, so family members with longer hair may want to plan ahead with ponytail holders or hats. Not interested in trudging around in the sand? The Marriott Mena House is located at the base of the pyramids, and offers stunning views from the Pyramid Facing Rooms or even from the outdoor terrace at the Restaurant 139 where you can enjoy breakfast while staring up at the pyramids.
The Blue Lagoon
WHERE: Grindavik, Iceland
A waterproof camera is a must when visiting Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Aside from the watery environment, Iceland’s unpredictable weather means your camera or smartphone will be exposed to the often-misty elements surrounding the lagoon. Free lockers nearby make it easy to store your camera or phone once you’re done taking pictures so you can soak freely without worrying about damaging or losing your device. The smart bet would be to use a waterproof GoPro or smartphone in a waterproof case with a selfie stick to capture your family’s moment in the water, but you’ll likely see a few brave souls setting up tripods with a DSLR camera outside the water’s edge. Keep in mind that children need to be 2 years or older to enter the lagoon, and any child younger than 8 will need to wear floaties (complimentary at the entrance) before entering. The best time to go to avoid crowds is right when the lagoon opens at 8 am; reservations are mandatory.
WHERE: Kathmandu, Nepal
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest stupas on earth, standing tall at nearly 120 feet with more than 108 images of the Buddha and four sets of eyes, each looking out over the four cardinal directions. The stupa’s mandala design makes it easy to find a spot away from the crowds, and a wide-angle lens will help do this magnificent structure justice in your family photo. The stupa is an important pilgrimage for many Buddhists, so, although it is perfectly fine to take pictures in front of it, be respectful of the monks and other visitors. Oh, and if your family plans to circle the stupa, make sure to walk clockwise around the structure.
The Taj Mahal
WHERE: Agra, India
Drones are not allowed past the entrance to the Taj Mahal and tripods are subject to a “personal fee,” so it’s best to stick with a smartphone or small camera for your family’s shot in front of this impressive backdrop. Tour guides, like the ones with Intrepid Travel Urban Adventures, know the best spots to capture the perfect photo of your family with the Taj Mahal in the background and will often take the photo for you at no extra charge (although tipping is always appreciated). The edge of the reflecting pool in the early morning hours is the best chance to grab the “classic” shot everyone wants, but be prepared to wait your turn as it’s the coveted spot for a reason.
The Cherry Blossoms
WHERE: Washington, D.C.
Early April offers the best chance to seeing the nation’s capital in bloom with thousands of vibrant, pink cherry blossoms. Once the blossoms reach full bloom, they typically last four to seven days before fading; this website gives an educated update on the expected arrival of the blooms each year. Most of the blossoms are found at the Tidal Basin, but this popular location fills up quickly with other photographers, so try for a less crowded spot to capture your family’s moment, like the Dumbarton Oaks campus in Georgetown or inside the smaller grove of cherry trees at the National Mall. Drones are prohibited, but there are countless local photographers that offer their services for visiting families. Make sure to book early as these sessions are in high demand.
The Giant’s Causeway
WHERE: Bushmills, Northern Ireland
The sight of more than 40,000 hexagonal columns dripping into the sea was enough to earn the Giant’s Causeway a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and it’s enough to earn this landscape a spot behind your family in your next family photo shoot. A tripod and a sturdy pair of shoes will get your family far in the Causeway, and the small admission to the park allows for access to numerous trails and chances to explore. Spring and autumn are ideal for capturing the Causeway’s golden hue, which is most photogenic during the two hours leading up to sunset.