Photography and Kids – 10 Steps to Family Travel And Photography Harmony

Photography and kids is never a good combination and if you want a photography holiday in the best locations then you are best going on holiday on your own. If, like me this isn’t an option then these 10 easy steps will help you to merge a family holiday with photography. It isn’t the best solution and my experience is that I never get my best shots on a family trip but it is a whole lot better than nothing. Whatever you do a family travel photography adventure will require planning, patience and low expectations.

photography with family

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Travel, Landscape and Nature Photography as a Parent

So, this is confession time and a bit of a rant from me! Landscape and travel photography is not really compatible with family life. Family life needs your attention at certain times of the day; feeding and bedtime for kids corresponds directly with the golden hour in most places. Holidays are full on beach time or visiting busy attractions neither of which work with photography. As a parent photography needs to take a back seat on family trips and become a personal indulgence when the time is right. This is really hard if you are visiting somewhere amazing so hopefully the tips below will help with merging the two.
If you see someone who is out all the time taking wildlife, landscape or travel photographs that are more than snaps then I will guarantee they do not have young children or have a very understanding partner. Once this realisation happens you will be content to focus on your kids and develop your photography slowly so that when they are older and independent you can be ready to make the most of your freedom.

10 Steps to Merging Family and Photography Holidays

  1. Book accommodation where there are easy opportunities for photography close by
  2. Slip out before anyone is awake or after bedtime
  3. Find locations that have some form of family entertainment
  4. Play or explore as a family while you scout the location
  5. Once you have found where you want to photograph set up an activity close by
  6. Set up and take photographs as efficiently as possible
  7. Step away every so often and help with the activity
  8. Quit while you are ahead
  9. Allow them to take photographs at the same time
  10. Use the family holiday as a planning exercise for your own return trip

Book accommodation where there are easy opportunities for photography

aurora borealis over a small cottage
A cottage in the north with a clear horizon meant aurora borealis photography while the kids were asleep

This is the easy option and can have fantastic results especially if you are wanting to photograph the night sky or sunrise and sunset at a specific location. Read the accommodation details and work out where it is from google earth, the direction it faces and what your view will be like. Taking time to find somewhere with photography on the doorstep will reward you well once you are away.

Slip out before anyone is awake or after bedtime

If you want valuable photography time and can escape without causing upset to other family members the slipping out while everyone else is still sleeping will reward you well. There will be no kids to get into your shot or start getting bored and nagging and you can be home in time for breakfast and family duties. You do need to be aware of the time. There is nothing worse than returning from a great session to death stares and arguments.

Find locations that have some form of family entertainment

This can be harder than you think in some places. Family entertainment usually means other people which is something as photographers we do not always want. When trying to photograph with kids in tow the best options are beaches and woodlands where they can explore within a clearly defined area while you take your photographs. More commercial locations are more difficult as the desire to jump from one area to the next is too great for many excited children.

Play or explore as a family while you scout the location

When out on a photography shoot you will never turn up and start setting up straight away and photography with kids in tow will be no different. Rather than wandering on your own take a walk as a family, look at options and work out what you want to do as you explore or play. This is valuable preparation that does not really count towards the ticking clock of photography time.

Once you have found where you want to photograph set up an activity close by

photography with kids

Once you have worked out the best location for your photography find an activity to keep the family occupied. This may be a stream to dam, sand dunes to play in or even a nearby park or ride. Whatever it may be spend a little time getting everyone settled and happy. The chances are you won’t get long alone but if they are settled and calm before you start you are increasing your chances.

Be as efficient as possible

This is a skill that parents are very good at. Your time is limited and you have to maximise the moment. There is no time for messing around in this situation. Get set up, get organised and get the shot you have in your mind!

Step away From the Camera

If you are waiting for the light to change or the tide to come in a little, step away from the camera and join in the activity. If you have got things organised you can play with the kids while watching the light and your set up. It is amazing how quickly 20minutes can pass building sandcastles while you wait for the perfect moment.

Quit while you are ahead

This one is so hard! You are having a great time getting the shots you want, the kids are playing beautifully and all is calm. Now is the time to walk away. Why push your luck and end up with bad memories, miserable kids and arguments. Keep an eye on the time and leave while everyone is happy and content. This will mean the next time you want photography time everyone will be willing to cooperate.

Allow them to take photographs at the same time

kids and photography

This is quickly becoming my favourite way to get more photography time. From a young age my kids have had cameras and as they get older they are wanting to go out with them and learn how to use them properly. This means that time at a location is split between getting my shots and teaching the kids how to get a similar shot or just allowing them to wander with their own cameras. They don’t have to have a fancy camera, even a cheap point and shoot or phone can give them the freedom to explore and give you camera time.

Use the family holiday as a planning exercise for your own return trip

This has happened to me more than once and I now have a long list of locations I want to return to. A family holiday has turned into an extended scouting opportunity with locations, parking and perspectives all worked out while having family time. When I return I won’t be wasting time looking for suitable shots. I know exactly what I want. It is frustrating at the time when you can see the light is perfect but being able to return without distraction is worth the wait.

READ MORE: PLANNING AN AMAZING PHOTOGRAPHY ROAD TRIP