How to Take Amazing Travel Photos of Kids

Posted in Parenting, Travel

We are almost to summer, a season that I enjoy for one reason and one reason alone: road trips. (And more appropriate weather for sipping on cold brew, so maybe two reasons. But that’s it. Team Fall all the way.)

Road trips are our family’s thing.

They were my thing before I met Dave. Then they defined the early years of our relationship. And now that we have successfully managed to raise road trip kids (so far, at least), they are what we look forward to more than anything else during the year. We. Love. Road trips. 

One of the best things about living in the United States is the roadtrip options you have to choose from. The landscape of this country is so different from region to region, and is truly filled with adventure at every turn.

While the adventures themselves are amazing, one of my favorites parts of roadtrip is looking at all the great pictures when you’re back at home.

Confession: I used to be absolutely terrible at taking pictures while road tripping.

There are so many adventures that I’ve taken that I didn’t bother to document. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate for not going too crazy with the picture-taking, and for soaking in the moment, and for truly being present in the now. However, after countless road trips, I’ve found that taking the time to capture a bit of the journey in a meaningful way can really help you remember your adventures in greater detail.

If you travel a lot, sometimes the places can start to get jumbled together and you can’t remember what you did where and when you did it. Documenting helps.

That being said, when you throw young kids into the mix, things can get crazy.

Taking badass travel photos can be super challenging, but is by no means an impossible task.

We’ve managed to capture quite a few really great photos of our little ones on road trips.

If you’re road tripping over the summer (or whenever), here are a few tips for capturing really great photos of your little ones—even if they’re super active (like ours), and even if they pick the most inconvenient times to completely stop listening to everything you say (LIKE OURS EVERY TIME).

How to take great travel pictures of kids

How to Take Badass Travel Photos of Kids

Choose the right location

Baby at Griffith park observatory in Los Angeles California

This is absolutely essential to getting a great shot.

When choosing a location to take travel pictures of your kids, you’ll want to look for a place that:

  • Is safe!!! More important than any perfect shot is the safety of your little ones. Use your instinct and common sense here. Don’t put your kids on top of a ledge. Don’t let them run around near a road. Don’t let them roll around in a field of poppies that attracts rattlesnakes (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles parents). Safety first always.
  • Looks like where you are. Are you visiting Arizona? Don’t take your travel photo of your kids in front of a palm tree or sitting in the grass (both of which exist in Arizona, surprisingly enough); go for a cactus or desert landscape instead.
  • Is outside or well-lit. Unless you’re planning on setting up your own lighting equipment or have some legitimate photo editing skills, do yourself a favor by taking advantage of natural light. You may see something cool in a museum or a restaurant, but the dim lighting often means lower quality photos. Get outside for your photos.
  • Has space for the kids to roam a bit. We like to look for spaces where the kids have a bit of freedom to safely wander around—ideally in front of a really cool background. This allows them to be a bit more natural, and keeps you from having to hover right over them to make sure they’re safe.

Choose the right time

Mom and daughter sunset in Texas road trip

This means you’ll want to pick a time that…

1. Works for the photos

You’ll generally get better quality of pictures when you pick a time that is:

  • Not nighttime
  • Not right in the middle of the day (super harsh sunlight around noon isn’t your friend for pictures)

We like taking photos in the morning or evening whenever possible.

2. Works for your kids

Don’t drag your kids out to take pictures during what is normally their nap time. Don’t try to squeeze the photos in before a meal if your kids are hungry.

When possible, we try to take photos earlier in the day, before any activities. This way the kids outfits are less food-covered and they are typically in better spirits.

I’ve also found that getting photos done earlier in the day also crosses it off your mental “to-do” list and allows you to more thoroughly enjoy the day with your family, knowing that you have some great photos squared away.

Be prepared to get silly

Baby in Tennessee by river

When you go to a beautiful new place for the first time, what do you do? Typically, you’ll look around and take it all in.

Now put yourself in your kids’ shoes for a moment and imagine how they are probably feeling in a new environment. Not only will they want to take it all in, but they’ll probably want to explore a bit, too. Whether it’s by quietly looking around from the safety of a parent’s arms or by running around in circles, there’s a lot for them to see.

With that in mind, be prepared to be patient…and also to get a bit silly with them to encourage posing and looking at the camera. 

Sometimes it will pay off, sometimes it won’t. If you’re interested in saving your sanity…just roll with it.

When the silliness doesn’t work…

Candid is your friend

Girl running in Griffith Park Los Angeles ca

Sometimes candid shots are the best shots. This is why picking the right location is so critical to getting a good picture. When you’re in a safe location with space for the kids to move about freely that’s in front of a great backdrop that is a great representation of the place you’re visiting, you can let them play and just take the pictures.

Don’t be afraid to take shots from further away when you’re going candid to capture more of the background.

Give them a prop (one that makes sense)

Kid in front of mountain in Tucson Arizona cactus road trip

We don’t do this all the time, but sometimes if the kids are a little grumpier than usual, we will give them a prop from the location to play with/hold.

For example, in the picture above, our girl was less-than-thrilled to be taking photos until we gave her a rock to hold. Loved it. She spent some time playing with the rock before looking up at the camera, and we were able to capture this badass shot in Tucson, Arizona.

As always, safety first. Make sure you don’t give your child a prop that they could hurt themselves with.

For example, we decided against handing our daughter a live rattlesnake to play with in the picture above. We went with a small rock instead. While both are “deserty” and would fit into the Arizona theme, the rock was the safer option in this case. Always use your best judgement. 😉

Get in the picture!

Mom and daughter in North Carolina mountains on road teip

While it’s awesome to have pictures of your kids on their own, when they just aren’t having it…get in there with them!

You can be posed.

Mom and daughter in Oklahoma

You can be candid.

Mom and kid big bear lake california

Either way, get in the picture. No regrets, y’all.

Happy exploring!


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12 Comments

  • Reply Becky

    Thank you for these trips. We let be to go on adventures, walking, camping, driving around to see what we can find. I will put some of these to good use this summer

    June 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm
    • Reply Kaity

      You’re so welcome, Becky! I hope you get some great pictures of your family. 🙂

      June 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm
  • Reply Betty Boiron

    Taking pictures of kids is super hard since they are moving all the time. Thanks for the wonderful tips! Giving them props is probably key for me because it helps them stop moving around so much for at least a few seconds.

    June 13, 2017 at 2:33 pm
    • Reply Kaity

      It’s SO hard. The prop definitely helps! And if it’s a prop that works for the location (e.g. A seashell at the beach), it can actually make the picture even cuter. 🙂 Good luck snapping pictures!

      June 13, 2017 at 2:40 pm
  • Reply Brittany Richmond

    Great ideas!! I am always trying to figure out how to get good pic of my little guy because he just WONT STAY STILL! lol I will definitely be trying the prop idea!

    June 13, 2017 at 3:30 pm
    • Reply Kaity

      It’s such a struggle! Blurry pictures can be cute every now and then, but most of the time you want to actually see your dang kid! 😉 We use the prop technique all. the. time. and almost always get something decent. Hope you can snap some cute summer shots of your little love!

      June 13, 2017 at 4:47 pm
  • Reply Kristen | Kandy Apple Mama

    I LOVE THIS! Granted, I’m the mom that’s ALWAYS taking pictures. My little one has learned to roll her eyes because of how often I photograph our trips together. I’ll definitely use your advice and work to get the BEST pictures instead of ALL OF the pictures 🙂 Thanks for sharing photos of your adorable little girl!

    June 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm
    • Reply Kaity

      Bahahaha! I feel like my oldest is a few months away from mastering the “I’m over this, mom” eyeroll. Hope the tips help you get a some shots that you love—and save you some storage on your camera/phone. 😉

      June 13, 2017 at 4:52 pm
  • Reply Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms

    These are such great ideas! I love taking candid shots. I think they are sometimes the best ones!

    June 13, 2017 at 7:27 pm
    • Reply Kaity

      Absolutely! Candids are usually my favorite, too. 🙂

      June 13, 2017 at 7:33 pm
  • Reply Jenn

    Great suggestions! I need to learn to accept the candid shots. They are much more genuine!

    June 14, 2017 at 2:50 am
    • Reply Kaity

      Absolutely! When they aren’t ridiculously blurry. 😉

      June 14, 2017 at 11:19 am

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