How to Photograph Kids on Outdoor Adventures

The moments of early adventure are fleeting. To help you get a handle on capturing creative photos of your little adventure buddy, try a few of the tips below:

Don’t get hung up on a pose

How to Photograph Kids on Outdoor AdventuresYou might think it’s the perfect shot, but if your kid isn’t having it, it’s better to let it go. Remember, a tear-stained face isn’t the look you’re going for in photos and a meltdown is not a memory you want to create in their early adventures.

With that in mind:

Let them guide you

Maybe you’ve looked at too many Insta-star baby photos and are now hoping to capture a replica for yourself. While having a plan in mind is a good thing, keep in mind that your little one is their own person. Let them be your guide. When they choose how to explore the world—tucked safely in a parent’s arms, running wild through a meadow, or staring intently at a bug—their unique personality shines through.

A bonus is seeing the trail or campsite through their eyes, which brings us to the next tip:

Get on their level

How to Photograph Kids on Outdoor AdventuresTaking photos from your adult-sized eye-level churns out pretty standard photos. But if you position yourself so the camera is at your little buddy’s height, you’ll get photos that tell their story of the adventure.

You can break this rule if you want to emphasize their tiny size in a landscape (e.g., getting overhead and shooting down at them), or give them the role of Godzilla conquering the mountains by getting on the ground and shooting up at them.

Capture details

Those tiny boots. Those mini mittens. The details of pint-sized gear are irresistible and perfect for macro shots or portrait moments.

In addition to pint-sized gear, don’t forget the details of the outing. Capture your little one’s eyes while mesmerized by the campfire, or studying a snowflake on their gloves. Get the folds of their fingers wrapped around a striated rock they just pulled out of the stream. Catch them in a quiet, still moment while looking at clouds, or in a highly-energized display of splashing in the lake.

How to Photograph Kids on Outdoor AdventuresTo help you make sure you don’t miss the shot:

Shoot in burst mode (multi-shot)

Kids move fast, change expressions quickly, and get distracted easily. To make sure you’re not missing any of the action—expected or unexpected—shoot in burst mode.

Burst mode fires off a series of photos while you hold down the shutter-release button. This will help ensure you capture all stages of motion and expression, not only in your kid, but in the falling of leaves or droplets of splashing water. If you time it right, you might even get a batch of photos that look great in series—perfect for printing and hanging on the wall when you get back home.

Think about shutter speed

Are they mobile? They may run (or are already!), so dial up the shutter speed to capture their motion in crisp detail.  Tip:  Make sure you know how shutter speed, available light, and ISO settings work together so you don’t miss fast-action in the field.

Is it near nap time? Lower energy means you can get more creative. Try playing with the depth of field (the amount the background is blurred) by putting your camera into aperture-priority mode and playing with the settings. You may capture a mood that you can play with from different angles.  

Going back to the point of available light:

Avoid direct sun

How to Photograph Kids on Outdoor AdventuresYou want to see their eyes. While the go-to might seem like putting a baseball cap on their noggins, be aware that the brim will likely cast a distracting shadow over their eyes and nose.  

Instead, to keep your little ones from squinting on a sunny day, let the sun backlight them or place them in a shady area. For example, if your little one is not crawling yet (or is old enough/distracted enough to stay in one area), you can put them on the shaded side of a tent or have an adult strategically placed just out of the shot and holding a rain fly up to shelter the little one from the sun.

But most importantly:

Be relaxed & have fun!

Kids will respond to the way you feel, so if you keep things stress-free and fun, they’ll more likely be themselves. Since the point of family time outdoors is to help your little ones associate outdoors with fun, don’t stress the social-perfect photo—or even taking photos at all, if it takes away from the ultimate purpose: being part of their memories.

New to photography? Check out my  foundational photo series  to help you get comfortable with your camera and thinking outside the box.

About the Author


Gina Begin

Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. Over the years, she has been consumed with skiing, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and getting lost on back roads. When she's not playing the part of a photojournalist, Gina can be found collaborating with women worldwide through her nonprofit, Outdoor Women's Alliance, and working to improve her outdoor skills and wilderness safety certifications.