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4 no-fail techniques to take great pictures on a family trip - The Photography Express

4 no-fail techniques to take great pictures on a family trip

Take great pictures on a family trip

Hello photo geeks! In this post I’m going to show you 4 no-fail techniques to take great pictures on a family trip. No matter you are going out on a short hiking trip with your love ones, having a picnic at a nearby park with your kids, or camping outdoor with family these tips are for you.

Here, you are about to learn my step-by-step approach to get your best photographs out on location. I’ll walk you through from researching the location, getting inspire from other photographers, bringing the right equipment, to giving you tips on what to do while you are on location.

My main purpose is to let you enjoy your time with your families/friends and also use this opportunity to let you do the thing that you love, which is photography. I also want to you take great pictures that you are going to treasure forever and that you feel proud to share around. So without further interruption let’s jump into today’s topic.

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1) Plan your trip well

I know you heard this thousand of times but I am going to repeat. PLAN YOUR TRIP WELL if you want great photographs. Nobody can (sometimes you can get lucky) take an awesome photograph without proper planning. You need to plan what type of shoot you want, and what time of the day they should go. Without doing the homework you are most likely going to take a standard snapshot that anyone can do. So how can you stand out? Where should you start? Here are my steps:

a) Pinterest – The very first thing you should go is to train your photography eyes and Pinterest is the perfect way to do it. Pick 10 pictures that you like the most then filter them down to 5 (you can do 6 then pick the best 3 etc). The secret of using Pinterest is that you can drill down to the owner’s blog post easily. Read the entire blog or website carefully to find where/how they took the photograph. If you cannot find anything, write some notes down on what you think this photograph is so great and where is the best location to take the shot.

b) 500 px – This is my second most favorite place to get photography inspirations. If you cannot find the image of the location that you’re going try in Pinterest, use this website and give it a shot.

c)  Website of the location – Are you going to a state park? A popular tourist spot or other famous locations? Visit the official website for more inspirations and the best location to shoot at. Similar to using Pinterest and 500px, get as much information as you can about the photography location.

d) Determine the time of day to visit – If you are doing landscape photography, visiting there in the middle of the day wont do you any good. The harsh light during noon time is the worst time you can go. Instead go there early in the morning before the sun comes up, or visit there in the late evening for a sunset shot. Color is one of the most important elements so choose your time wisely and be sure to include beautiful colors in your shot.

My example:

Recently I did a short trip with my wife (back then my girlfriend) at Lookout Mountain at TN. I first planned what I am going to shoot by looking in Pinterest. I typed “Lookout mountain” and chose a few of the best pictures.

I immediately notice that there is a waterfall near the edge of a mountain. It seems to be towards the left hand side of a rock. Therefore, I knew that I’ll be doing some waterfall photography. I brought my tripod and remote trigger with me in case I need them when I arrive. In addition, I checked the Lookout mountain website and saw similar pictures. All these ideas were flowing in my head before I even head on my trip!

2) Spark your photography eye

a) Check for consistency – What techniques makes this photograph so great? Is it leading lines? composition? From the 5 pictures you selected take a deep dive to understand what the photographer was trying to capture. What you discovered will be what you’ll be implementing in your shot on location.

b) Avoid unforeseen circumstance – Do a quick brainstorm on chances of unforeseen situations. The thing is most of the time it is as simple as whether or not you are going on a public holiday. Back in this post I was at Times Square NYC and I couldn’t believe I could’t even find a place to stand still to take pictures. Don’t let this happen to you.

c) Walk through the whole trip in your mind – I know I’m getting to hypothetical here. But for myself, one of the best strategies of taking great pictures is to think through the whole trip ahead of time. Do a mental walkthrough in your head and figure out what type of photography are you trying to achieve here.

My example:

From the 3 pictures I got from Pinterest, they all involved with a waterfall and mountain overlooking a green field. By doing a simple google search, I made sure the sun wont be directly behind the waterfall to spoil my photographs that day. I was then able to determine that going at 3pm is ok for the shot. At the end, I did a mental walkthrough in my mind of what I’ll be encountering that day.

3) Gather your equipment

a) Travel light – The more equipment you bring doesn’t necessary means you are going to take better pictures. When you are going on a family trip you must bring as little gears as possible especially if you are brining your kids. Avoid bringing too many lenses and flashes because most of the time you don’t even have time to use them. If you have a zoom lens, I highly recommend using zoom lens when traveling.

b) Tripod and remote triggers are you best friend – I remember I said it once here but I just want to reiterate that having a tripod and remote trigger is very important for your photography. Even in some cases you wont even them, bring them anyway and put them in the trunk of your car. You never know what is going happen at the location.

My equipments:

After some thoughts, I only decided to bring 3 things.

Canon 5D MKII

Canon 24-105L

Yongnuo 560 III

I kept got my tripod and remote trigger in the trunk of my car in case I need them.

4) At the location

a) Implement what you learn – Now the steps are getting easier. When you are on the location just implement what you have planned before and go with the flow. One of the best tips I want to give you is to take candid shots of your family and don’t just focus on the landscape.

b) Have a great time – Last but not least, have fun with your family! This is the reason why you are going on the trip and love photography so much.

Final product

This is the shot I took at the end at lookout mountain, TN.

Lookout mountain

I hope you learned a lot from the above tips I share with you today. These are all general trips but they can affect your photography dearly.

Do you want a tutorial on how I did the post processing of the above picture? If enough people are asking I’ll work on a video tutorial this weekend. In the meantime, keep your photography passion flowing photographers!

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About Gary

A passionate photographer with goals to fulfill your photography passion and motivate you to take pictures even when life is busy!


  1. These are great tips that anyone can use, well said Gary!

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