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Photography Tips for Hiking Parents

Posted by Kdooley at Oct 01, 2014 03:25 PM |

Whether you're trying to capture family memories of your outdoor adventures or help inspire other Washington families by entering WTA's Northwest Exposure Photo Contest, our tips will help you take better pictures of your kids on trail.

Kid running up Lake Dorothy Trail
Photographer Jake Johnson snapped this great dynamic wait up guys shot on the Lake Dorothy Trail.

Whether you're trying to capture family memories of your outdoor adventures or help inspire other Washington families by entering WTA's Northwest Exposure Photo Contest, capturing images of your kids on trail isn't always easy. Below are a few tips, as well as advice from last year's winners to help you capture the joy, beauty and spirit of your family outings.

6 tips for taking great photos of your kids on trail (or in camp)


Take lots (and lots) of photos. There are plenty of reasons for snapping lots of shots, from capturing surprise moments to getting your family used to having the camera pointed at them. Especially if you are just getting familiar with outdoor photography, take lots of photos. When you review them back at home, you might be surprised at the winner among them.


Capture kids and teens being themselves. If your child is camera-shy, try letting him or her become engrossed in what they are doing. Let them relax and just be themselves. You'll have better luck when you photograph them in ways that don't make them self-conscious.


Be ready for action. One of the best things about kids is how dynamic they are, especially when they're on trail. Action shots usually end up being more interesting photographs than posed or static shots, so experiment with capturing your kids in motion on trails or in camp. Play around with the action settings (like burst mode) on your camera, and see what turns up. 

camera_girl_buff black.jpg
Capturing action like this (using burst mode) can bring the viewer into the photo with the subject. Photo by Buff Black.


See the world from a kid's eye-view. Play around with the height and angle of your family photos. Do you always shoot your kids looking down at them? Try squatting or even laying down to capture the world from their perspective.


Subjects are stories. And the best stories show relationships—between your kids and the natural world, or between the members of your family. When you've got multiple subjects (siblings, friends or families), try to capture the photo that tells the story of their relationship.


Hand over control to the non-professionals. If your kids are tired of being your subjects, let them turn the tables. Give your kids the camera once in a while, and encourage them to take photos of whatever captures their interest along a trail. Seeing what they choose focus on may shake up your perspective, and may earn you a little more of their patience.

Photo by Tom Fladland. 

Advice from Northwest Exposure winners

Being ready is more important than expensive equipment

"I saw the scene in my backpack mirror, how we'd be able to capture our whole family—and couldn't resist. I just used the iPhone and tried to keep my hand mostly out of the photo, letting the beauty of the surroundings be subject and frame for the reflection of our family in the baby backpack mirror."
-- Shannon Huffman Polson, 3rd place, Offbeat Outdoors 2015

"I love great lighting, I love my special lenses, and I love having time to capture just the right shot. However, I had none of these things when I took this picture. I simply grabbed my point and shoot, the only camera I had with me, and snapped away, hoping to capture even a snippet of what I was seeing,"
-- Kristin Elwell, Grand Prize winner 2015. (Her subject was a mountain goat, not a family, but the advice is sound).

"Develop a system to keep your camera accessible when hiking (i.e. not in your pack). I suspend a lowepro bag between my shoulder straps, over my chest, or hang it from my waist belt when climbing. Anything that will allow quick access will enable quick shots when a subject/composition presents itself."
-- Andrew Monks, 3rd place, Families Go Hiking category 

Slow down and remember to put the camera down occasionally


    "When you are outdoors with a camera, put down the camera every so often and take the time to observe what's around you. You may find things to photograph that you hadn't seen before. Photography, and kids, have taught me that beauty exists in the entire journey, not just the destination."
    -- Tushar Sharma, 2nd place, Families Go Hiking 2015

    "Don't forget to take the time to appreciate the amazing places these trails take us to. I often get so focused on photographing a beautiful scene that I forget to step back and simply take in the view. Photography is a great way to document your experiences in the outdoors and share them with others, but it is important to not let the camera come between you and the things that led you to be there in the first place. This will benefit your photography too—I’ve found that if I first slow down and take some time to soak it all in, I am better able to notice small details and nuances of light, which helps me make stronger images."
    -- Eric Mickelson, 3rd place Hikers in Action

    Share your tips for taking great outdoor shots of families on trail

    Share your trail-tested wisdom? What has made taking great photos of your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews easier?


    Ryan Ojerio on Photography Tips for Hiking Parents

    Lola gets annoyed with Papa "Paparazzi" sometimes. So I give her the camera and we take turns taking pictures of each other.

    Posted by:

    Ryan Ojerio on Oct 02, 2014 09:05 AM