Part 1: How to take great photos and capture travel memories with your kids in tow
“Blink and you’ll miss it”
So many people told us this upon the arrival of our first bundle of joy; many sleepless nights, ferocious tantrums and epic meltdowns later – we knew these moments won’t last forever. Soon all we’ll have left are the (mostly) amazing memories of our offspring’s childhoods, and importantly for me are my family photos. Even when I can’t remember the specifics of a day or event on the road, they are fantastic memory joggers for the story that took place behind them.
I love taking photos as well as looking back on them. Digital photography has really revolutionized the way we can capture these memories. But how on earth do you get nice photos when you’re travelling with your kids? I am lucky enough to have a single hand free let alone hold a camera up, line up that epic shot and keep my hand steady.
So how have we filled our Instagram feed with family travel goodness? How are they are they all posing so perfectly? They even look well behaved! And there are some beautiful scenery shots in there too…..
I’ll let you in on a secret, well quite a few actually. It’s not trick photography (much), and it’s nothing you can’t easily do too…
Here are my top 10 tips for taking great travel photos with kids
1. Point and Shoot
Let’s face it, in all likelihood you will only have one hand free; therefore there’s no shame in using a point and shoot camera – or even your smartphone. Wear something with good pockets or a shoulder bag you can easily grab into and don’t hang around waiting for that perfect moment or it will go! GRAB. POINT. SHOT.
2. Take a lot of pictures
Referring to point 1 above, just keep clicking. Sure you’ll have a bit of editing work to do later (when they’re sleeping at some point, right?) iPhones, as well as most point and shoot cameras, now come with a burst mode which is great for capturing moving objects – particularly children and animals! You’d rather have hundreds to choose from than missing the moment completely.
3. Take on a new angel
Get down with them (or up!), and see the world the way they’re looking at it. Sure it’s fun capturing those cliché landmark shots (don’t worry we have them too), but look at things a new way. The favourite spots for taking travel photos are probably also the most crowded and worth avoiding anyway.
Adding your kids to any shot can put a brand new angle on it and bring out your family’s personality.
Followers of our Instagram account will know I love a good silhouette! Perfect for capturing their size in relation to the background.
4. Time it right
You will never get the best photos in bright light with screwed up faces. Mornings and evening are the best to get that warm glow, everything will look more golden and memorable at this time – yes I know this can be witching hour too; bring snacks, bring patience and you’ll get some amazingly better results.
5. Learn your camera’s functions
It might sound obvious, but learn how to use your camera before you go! Even if you’re using a point and shoot style camera, rather than just using “auto” mode, check what scenery settings are available. If it’s going to be a bright sunny day or you know you’ll be indoors and possibly need flash lighting, test which functions will work best and have your camera ready to go when you arrive to save fiddling about time.
6. Give the kids their own camera
Not only will this give them a little feeling of independence and save your good items from being broken, but you will also get an amazing new perspective on travel from their point of view too. (My daughter has an extraordinary collection of feet photos, mostly in the car…). You never know, you might get a treasured family memory – or even yourself – in there if you’re lucky!
7. Use post-editing software
Now you don’t need to get overly fancy, there are plenty of free tools to do this. I like PicMonkey on the desktop, and I’m actually quite partial to the editing tools within Instagram (yes you can use this to edit but not actually post to your Instagram feed – here’s how).
Fiddle with the Instagram settings manually though, I don’t like the basic filters they offer. Many bloggers and professional photographers are fans of Abode Lightroom which is a paid product but the results are amazing – you can use it on your desktop or sync with mobile devices to use on the move. I’m a fan of the free Google app Snapseed.
The absolute most simple edits I wish more people would use is rotate or alignment. Just having your pictures straight looks so much better! And putting a gentle filter on especially for those bright daylight shots that can be overexposed will massively improve your images.
8. Accept the good with the bad
Stop waiting for that perfect moment and capture the reality of your travels. Our lives aren’t filled with perfect moments (despite what social media might tell you – that’s an article for another day!) I assure you only a fraction of what I shoot goes on to Instagram or our blog. Now I’m not saying share all that ‘bad’ all over the Internet – not because I think we should all portray these Instagram perfect families – but because let’s be honest, who wants their darker side shared? I think this is especially unfair to kids if it could embarrass them later in life.
But they are still memories, to be kept intimately for you and your family. If you delete every one that still has a story and a memory behind them, you’d never be able to look back and laugh at those moments you made it through. My personal favourite is one of Mr Globetrotter sitting on the floor of a shower rinsing out the demise of a poo-xplosion one day at a beach resort, even he can giggle about it now too! (Not for public sharing that one!)
9. Ask someone to take it for you
I’ve toyed with the idea of a selfie-stick and I just can’t do it. I’ve even been gifted one but I just can’t. I know some people swear by them, but – you know what I’m still a fan of just asking someone to take our family photo (maybe not my mum then…). I’ve made it in to a grand sum of 10 family travel photos I think in 6 years, mostly when I have travelled with my parents who have the snap-happy gene too! I’ve long since established it’s a gene my husband, unfortunately, does not have judging by chopped off body parts or important historic landmarks completely missed out, so I now happily ask strangers for help.
At the extreme end of this, hire someone. If you are going on the epic trip of a lifetime, why not hire a professional photographer locally to capture that perfect moment for you? (importantly who has worked with kids before and knows the best photo spots about town).
I must give a massive plug here to my oldest friend in the world Amber and her business Deray & Simcoe in Perth, Western Australia. If you are ever passing through, please look this multi-award winning duo up! They have worked with overseas clients before and know all the best photo spots in Perth! Having young kids themselves too they know exactly how to capture those fleeting moments.
10. Keep it simple
Don’t take a big heavy DSLR or mirrorless camera unless you know what you’re doing and REALLY going to use it I love my Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera but even after some playing with it, understanding how the touchscreen menus and lenses work, I become guilty of reverting to “Intelligent Auto” – only for the time it still takes me to set it right I lose the moment and it ends up looking better on my very much lighter and easy to snap iPhone.
Since first publishing this post I have completed the Launchpad Beginners photography course with Club Lilypad and my outlook on this has changed! Check it out below
I assure you the vast majority of the traveling folk out there taking those amazing captures do not have a baby hanging off their back AND a toddler determined to jump off the side of a cliff; some spend hours waiting for that perfect moment. Us mere mortal family travellers are unlikely to have this luxury. Only take a big camera if
(1). you know for sure you can safely carry it, and
(2). You have the time to use it properly.
Want to know more about taking perfect shots with your kids? Determined to learn how to use your camera properly in manual?
Head over to part 2 in this series – 10 Ways to photograph your kids like a Pro. In this post, we introduce Lisa Ivandich from Lilypad Photography. An award-winning professional family photographer from Australia who runs online courses on how to photograph your children!
She will walk us through some more technical pointers for capturing that perfect shot with kids whether you are at home or on the move (and maybe even get ME out of auto?!)
Final words of advice on travel photography (without your kids in the picture!)
If you were a keen photographer pre-kids, do remember A LOT changes! And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security during those first few months when basically all the baby does is eat, shit and sleep.
Taking a moving object out of their element can be exciting but cumbersome and exhausting at the same time. If you want to take some truly serious photographs, you will need some help – agreeing with someone to hold the child(ren) while you set yourself up properly, or even better agree a period of time you can head out on your own with the camera.
If the kids are supposed to be part of that holiday memory though, don’t get so encapsulated in capturing the picture perfect moment or you will find yourself with a far less happy story happening behind the lens. There are some brilliant travel photographers out there who are also parents – but I can guarantee you they have support!
Just remember a picture tells a thousand word’s but maybe not the full story. With a little planning and a few tricks up your sleeve, we can certainly help you create a beautiful Instagram feed to show off your family travel snaps (I can’t always help you with those epic meltdowns and tantrums on the road, but at least you should have a prettier backdrop).
Have you been successful in capturing your family travel memories? What advice would you give to new family travellers looking to capture those magic moments still?
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