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Guest Post by the Happy Film Company for Marcie in Mommyland

When traveling with kids there’s a big pressure to come home with gorgeous photos but my oh my is it stressful to keep smiles on those little faces. At the Happy Film Company, we specialize in keeping kids happy in front of the camera. These are our top tips for capturing happy vacation memories with beautiful photography.

Pike Place Market in Seattle

By focusing on our family, the Happy Film Company avoided a lot of the crowd (and boy was it crowded that day!) Photo courtesy of the Happy Film Company.

#1 Crowds 

Learn to Avoid to people in your pictures by squatting down low, climbing up high or tilting your camera at an angle. Change the angle of your photo can creatively crop out the people and put the focus just on your kids and the cool background you want to capture. You can also use the crowds to your advantage and use people’s bodies to redirect the focus of the photo on your kids. You can shoot through gaps in the crowd to create a frame around your kids/family. You can also shoot behind/over people’s shoulders so a portion of your photo is blurry (creating ‘negative space’) so the other half of the photo is just featuring the kids.

Rachel the piggybank at Pike Place Market in Seattle

My toddler Owen was obsessed with Rachel the Piggybank and had a blast hearing the money clink and we loved that the money is used for social services at the Market. Photo courtesy of the Happy Film Company.

#2 Kids are Squirmy and Not Smiling

When kids are traveling and they feel tired and grumpy, their smiles disappear and they lose interest in the camera, looking or running away. Instead of pouring energy into forcing them to smile, focus on helping them have fun. The smiles come naturally when they’re having a good time. When you force them to smile at the camera they probably feel like you’re not listening to them and what they feel like doing. We always let kids take the lead. Try asking your kids which pictures they would like to take, which backgrounds they think are they coolest, what kind of pose they think would look best. Get them involved in the creative process behind taking photos. You know how powerful your child’s creative imagination is – let THEM help you take better pictures.


After exploring the Market, Owen really just wanted to run around in the big grassy area outside! Photo courtesy of the Happy Film Company.

#3 Photos are Becoming Stressful & Boring

If your kids are bored being photographed, you’re probably taking boring pictures. Remember, you’re adventuring through the world to create happy memories NOT to create happy-looking photos of stressful memories (that’s just silly!). Let go of the belief that you need to smile perfectly in every photo and welcome in the possibility that photography might be the most powerful tool for boosting up the level of fun that your family has when travel! I recommend playing photography games and having photography themes and challenges when you travel. This will turn your vacation into a photography project that keeps everyone interested (even the people back home who will look at your photos). These are my 3 favorite family photography games:

Have your kids choose a different animal they want to be at each attraction. The whole time you’re exploring that monument they get to pretend to be that animal and when you take pictures they can pose like the animal and make the animal sounds. When you get home, you’ll have a photo book full of the cool tourist attractions featuring all your little animals.

Where’s Waldo
Take pictures from far away (with lots of scenery and people) and have your kids go hide somewhere in the photo so people will have to search for them. Of course, play safe – make sure you can see them or have one parent hiding with the kids. 

How Many Faces
Challenge your kids to do a different face at every location. It’s like playing the license plate game when you’re on a road trip. How many different states license plates can you count? How many different faces can you collect and bring home?

Pike Place Market in Seattle

We were so lucky to get this shot in between tourists walking in this very busy area. Photo courtesy of the Happy Film Company.

#4 Hire a Local Professional Photographer

When traveling, take some pressure off your shoulders and get a pro to follow you around for a couple hours so you can be totally present and have fun with your family, all the while knowing that your memories are being captured in a gorgeous way!

Pike Place Market in Seattle

Doing a professional photo shoot was a great way to get photos of Grandma who was visiting from Kauai! Photo courtesy of the Happy Film Company.
The Happy Film Company is a Pacific Northwest family portrait photography and videography business located in Seattle, but happily working with families across the Pacific Northwest and down the West Coast. Our studio is located in Renton, WA and we love photographing and filming families all across Washington, sometimes even venturing to Oregon, California and Hawaii. Our goal is to create bright natural photos and videos that capture each family’s love and celebrate the happiness they’re feeling at this moment in their lives. Whether we’re behind the computers in our studio, wandering with our cameras through the streets of Seattle, or out exploring in the wilderness of the Washington, we are a playful down-to-earth team of creative women who love connecting with people, playing with kids, and creating meaningful artwork that brings a smile to people’s faces. Click here to book your shoot with us!
How to take great photos at tourist attractions

Marcie writes the family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. When she's not traveling the world, she's home in Seattle with her husband and two little boys.


  1. I follow most of these tips, while taking my kids photo, mostly I take shots in beautiful lanscape.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Landscape shots are nice, too! We try to get both when we are on trips!

  2. Marcie in Mommyland Reply

    That’s great! Kids can be tricky when it comes to taking photos, so the more tricks you have the better!

  3. These are awesome tips- thanks for sharing! We will be using them, it’s so hard to get good photos!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      I know, right? We take so many extra photos to get the good shots!

  4. I’ll have to try the angleing tips a I love the idea of using people as negative space

  5. Denver Andrews-Long Reply

    So many good tips on here thank you for sharing! Will definitely have to put to use with my first trip with my baby boy!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Congrats on your baby! Boys are so fun! Yes, take lots and lots of photos of his first trip!

  6. Lovely article – lots of helpful tips. I especially loved the picture of the piggy bank, it was an excellent way to avoid the crowd and still get an amazingly intimate picture.

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      I love that photo so much! Hoping to remember these techniques for future trips!

  7. Great tips! I do a lot of photo shoots with the little one. I always try to stop and respect her though if she doesn’t want to take photos anymore as it won’t come out good anyways if she’s not into it! A good tip is to let kids take a break in between shots so it’s like play for them!

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      Yes, taking breaks helps so much! I have been known to bribe my son with treats if the sun is going down and we just need a couple of good ones. He’s usually extra smiley then!

  8. maria criselda maquiling Reply

    I agree with letting the children take photos and letting them be involved in the process. we went to sigiriya mountains in sri lanka and my son was not agreeable to make the climb up. But letting him be involved in the photography process convinced him to go up and we made it all the way up

    • Marcie in Mommyland Reply

      What a lovely story! I’m slowly learning that involving kids will actually save you time and stress.

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