When you have children, leaving the house can seem daunting. But our family of 6 has committed to being adventurers.

Along the way, we have learned a few tricks to help prevent the crises that make outings feel stressful. We pack three times as much food as we think we need. We bring plenty of extra layers and change of clothes.

Sure, there might be tears or whining at some point. But in the end, our adventures are more than worth it. The kids are always asking when we can go again!

One of the best parts of our adventures for me is using my camera to document them. Just like I have learned how to keep everyone happy throughout our trips, I have also learned several tricks to documenting our adventurous days in the Pacific Northwest landscape of trails, rivers, and lakes.

Wherever your family adventures take you, these lessons I have learned can come in handy for you too!

Pick one lens for the day

By sticking with one lens for the day, you lighten your load and simplify the process of photo taking. You won’t have to worry about choosing the perfect focal length, changing lenses, or storing those extra lenses while you are out and about. By having just one lens, you can wear your camera without extra bags or gear to carry.

One of my favorite lenses for outdoor adventures with the kids is the 35mm. This length allows me to get a good variety of images, all without having to be too far from the family. Plus, if we are in tight quarters that require me to stay close, I can still get the shot.

Does just one focal length feel limiting? You may find yourself wishing you had your full bag of options for a particular moment.

However, I encourage you to trust in having one lens. Try to push your creativity by limiting your options.

You can even try out different lenses for different adventures. For instance, if my family is headed to the beach or the river, where there’s a little more open space, I will grab my 50mm lens instead of the 35mm. You may find yourself loving a little-used lens by forcing yourself to work with it!

Shoot with intention

Of course we always want to be intentional rather than haphazard with our photography. However, this is especially important when you are out with your family. You want to be able to enjoy your time and, not just be the photographer for the day. You also do not want to come home and have thousands of images to cull through and edit.

While you are on your way to your destination, begin to think about those things you will want to capture. Imagine how you can tell the story of the place to which you are going.

Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_2 father and two children wlaking across bridge

There is this hike that my family does often. Near the beginning of the hike there is a gorgeous bridge that I always want to photograph. Since I know it will be there waiting for us, I will sometimes run ahead to capture my kids and husband crossing the bridge.

Another time, though, when I was 9.5 months pregnant with my youngest and too slow to run ahead, I decided to stay back and capture them from behind. Because I had spent time thinking about how to photograph our adventure, I was ready for the moment. I was able to capture one of my favorite scenes from a new perspective.

Choose one kind of lighting

Our young kids have early bedtimes. This means our adventures don’t often happen around the glorious golden hour. Instead, we are out when the sun is high. If I put my camera away because the light isn’t ideal, I would miss a lot of our adventures during this stage of our family.

Shooting in midday sun can feel tricky. And when you add busy kids to the mix it can be downright exhausting.

As you are outside your kids will be moving into and out of the shadows quickly. If you are switching your settings back and forth trying to capture every moment, you will probably miss more than you get.

Instead, decide if you will shoot when they are in the shadows or in the sunlight. Get your settings dialed in and wait for them to move into the light you’d like.

You can always choose later to shoot in the sun or shadows instead. But not changing your settings over and over in the same scene allows you to watch and wait for that magical moment to happen when they step right into the light!

must haves

OUR ADVENTURE PHOTOGRAPHY ESSENTIALS

35mm lens

This lens is perfect for adventures because it is so versatile. Wide enough to get a lot of environmental context but it doesn’t create too much distortion for portraits.

Mint_Yellow_Blocks_Camera_Scarf_Strap_Camera_Coats__69285.1508462561

A comfy camera strap

When you are on an adventure, the last thing you need is a sore back. We love these comfy scarf camera straps as they can distribute the weight nicely and are adorable to boot!

rocket blaster dust removal tool

A dust removal tool

Sand, dust, and dirt all happen on an adventure. This little tool lets you remove it all gently (and is fun for the kids to play with should they need a distraction!).

In the image below, my kids were out exploring the rocks by the river, finding the right one to toss into the water. The sun was high and only slightly behind them, but I loved how it created a nice rim light. I placed the kids between me and the sun and photographed them as they moved along the rocks.

Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_4 children walking along rocks by water

Capture the setting

Use the trees, coastline, river’s edge, or even buildings (on those urban adventures) to show where your adventure took place. Just like any story you read to your kids, the story of your day needs a setting. Where did you go?

While it is obvious to take the widest image possible of the setting, think of ways you can show where you are more creatively. Take time to look around and see what you want to include that shows off where you are.

Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_5 small children on hiking path in woods

In the hustle and bustle of the day to day, our kids feel like they are growing so fast and getting so “big.” I love using our outdoor adventures as a way to remind me how little my kids still are right now. I often use the setting photo to show how small they are in this big, big world.

Photograph the details

When you are out with your family it can be easy to forget about the details. It’s easy for me to get in the “shooting wide” mind frame and forget the little things that make our time together extra special.

I know you want to remember the way your little girl grabs her daddy’s hand. And you might forget those sandy little feet at the beach. And someday he might not collect little treasures along the way. These details are the things that make each age and stage special and can bring back important memories of your adventures as a family.

Of course, details are often impromptu. You cannot really plan ahead for them. So be on the lookout for little moments so that when they happen you will know to take the picture.

Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_6 young child in boots and diaper outside on river bank

One fall evening, my family made a trip to the river. The kids spent hours tossing rocks into the water and playing with their boats. At one point, my youngest daughter fell in and got her outfit completely soaked.

It didn’t faze her a bit as we striped her down to her diaper and boots. She kept right on playing! This was the perfect detail to capture as it represented her at this stage.

Capture the conflict

You probably just read that title and thought, “What?! I do not want pictures of my kids fighting!” And I don’t blame you.

But if you go on enough family adventures, you know that everything does not go smoothly at all times. However, the hunger meltdowns and bickering over the sand shovel is not what I mean by capturing the conflict. Instead, I want you to seek out the moments that move your adventure stories forward.

In storytelling, conflict is anything that propels the narrative. For your outdoor adventure it could be a struggle, action, or even emotion. The face your son makes as he works to dig the biggest hole he can, their laughter as they rush into the waves, or even the joy on his face as your toddler walks proudly along with the family as you hike.

Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_7 small girl running along path behind father and siblings

On a recent family hike, my 4-year old was getting tired and started whining to be carried. We made a game of it and said we’d race her to the car. She raced to catch up with her dad and siblings as fast as her legs would take her.

The way she pumped her fists and her hair flew behind her were all showing her desire to catch up. I photographed her running and without seeing her face, you can feel the “conflict,” or her struggle and wanting to get ahead.

Get in the frame, too!

You are part of your family’s adventures and you should be documented! It is so easy to get into the photographer mindset and forget to hand the camera off. Don’t fall into that trap!

Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_8 woman wearing infant walking on hiking path
Outdoor_adventures_Neyssa_Lee_9 baby in infant carrier from mother's perspective

Instead, get your settings dialed in and pass your camera to your partner or a friendly stranger. I like to be interacting with the kids so that there is less pressure for my hubby to capture a formal portrait.

If you are out with just the kids, try different angles and get creative. While baby wearing, I’ve held the camera high to capture my sweet babe looking up at me. When hiking with the kids, my daughter came to grab my hand. So I got a shot of her with my arm. They may not show my face but they show that I was there too.

Put the camera away

You should not be photographing your adventure the entire time. You should be participating in the adventures alongside your family!

I give you full permission to set the camera down and enjoy time with your family. No pressure. While I love capturing my family adventures, it keeps me refreshed not feeling like I need to be pushing the shutter the entire time.

This not only means you can allow your creative juices recharge, but it also means that you won’t have so many photos of the adventure that you won’t want to tackle editing them. Too much of a good thing is too much!

When I’m out with my family, I either set a time limit or will use parts of the adventure to put the camera down. For instance, I may photograph the way out on our hike (when spirits are generally high) and take a break for the way back. If we are at the lake, I may use a meal time to stop and then go play.

Of course, you can always pick the camera back up again if you feel inspired. But take some of the pressure away from documenting every minute and allow yourself to be present, too.

Documenting your family adventures doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With these tips, you will be set for success to capture the memories and tell the story of your own adventurous family.