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 Badass Travel Photos of Kids
Choose the right location
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
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
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
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)
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!
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.
You can be candid.
Either way, get in the picture. No regrets, y’all.