Whether you’re a practiced photographer or new to taking great travel photos, capturing kids during a vacation or family trip can be daunting. I’m not a professional photographer, but I’ve been traveling with kids (and taking thousands of photos of them en route) for over 13 years. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to take pictures of kids while traveling in 10 easy photo tips.
1. Get down to their level
I love to take photos of my kids learning something or viewing something meaningful to them while traveling. To do that, I often need to bend down to ‘see’ what they see through their eyes. Only then can my camera capture the angel fish in the aquarium or the scope of the Lincoln Monument from their perspective. Sometimes this takes effort (and risks attracting a few stares) but sitting down on the floor or getting onto my knees for the best shot is worth it!
2. Use sports mode
Of course, it’s great to have an ideal camera for travel, but it’s not crucial. Even if you can’t change the shutter speed on your point-and-shoot camera, you likely have a “sports” or a “kids and pets” setting. This allows your camera to catch action in a way that won’t translate to blurry photos when you finally download them. And if your travels are anything like ours, they’re filled with action!
3. Get those iconic shots, but in a natural way
Instead of posing everyone in front of the London Eye, grab a shot of your child on tip-toe, trying to see the city through one of the coin-operated view-finders. Or bypass the ‘photo op’ line in front of the Roman Coliseum in favor of a close-up of your child touching the crumbling rock wall of one arch. One of our favorite shots of our family ‘in front’ of the Statue of Liberty was actually taken in-motion on a New York water taxi. We never thought it would turn out!
4. Capture the less ‘important’ moments.
Everyone remembers to get their camera out at the big sights, but some of our favorite travel moments with kids occur between the ‘biggies’: playing on the steps of the Louvre, perhaps, or polishing off that ice cream sundae at Ghiradelli Square. Those photos will elicit stronger memories later (or better yet, prompt them). To be successful in capturing these everyday moments, you’ll need to have your camera always at the ready — and don’t be afraid to use your smart phone camera as well. Below is one of my favorite photos of the light changing as we relaxed on a B.C., Canada ferry at the end of a busy summer travel day.
5. Shoot video as well as stills
Even if you don’t think you’ll need video of your trip (and yes, you do!), video can capture moments that happen too quickly to get as still shots. Once the videos are downloaded, it’s fairly easy to isolate frames and change them to still shots with almost all video editing software. This is especially useful for photographing toddlers and preschoolers who are always on the go.
6. Hand the camera off to your child
Try to get yourself in some photos too! A great way to do this is to hand the camera to your child. Mine love to be in charge of documenting our trip for a few minutes, and I end up with many shots of myself (not all flattering, but still precious).
7. Keep backgrounds simple
Parents try too hard to capture the location in the background of their family shots. Instead, let the subject of your photo be your child’s enjoyment of the destination instead of the destination itself. On the shores of Nantucket, our 10-year-old son spent hours combing the shallow bay for shells. When we wanted to remember how small he looked in the wide sea, we didn’t need signage or buildings behind him to remember where he was.
8. Get eating shots
Everyone hates it when the camera comes out at mealtimes, but aside from funny faces made mid-bite, food shots can bring back great trip memories. Get a shot of the clam chowder everyone loved at the pier, or the Mickey bar your toddler mostly wore on her face at Disneyland.
9. Take photos of your child experiencing an attraction, not the attraction itself
Some of my favorite family vacation photos are of my kids’ backs, as the camera lens follows their engagement in a sight or attraction. This is another way to capture a kids’ perspective: what did they see, what were they interacting with? For example, this photo of Manhattan barely shows the scenery, but focuses instead on my six-year-old’s study of the view.
10. Embrace tradition
If you return to the same beach cottage or mountain lodge every summer, document this in photos with an annual family portrait. We like to write the year in the sand in front of the kids. Watching your family grow in a cherished vacation spot is well-worth the time it takes to take a photo in the same place every year.
Do you have travel photo tips? How do you capture those vacation memories with your kids?