Shooting the Grandchildren – Top Tips for Great Holiday Photos

Senior Travel Expert Photo Editor, John Esser, gives advice on photographing the grandchildren, illustrated with photos from a recent weekend trip to London.

Grandchildren: Pic 1 - Low viewpoint and back-light setting
Pic 1 – Low viewpoint and back-light setting

For various reasons, not least increased longevity and socio-economic change, many Seniors nowadays are spending a lot more time with their grandchildren than was the case in the past. At tourist attractions, both in this country and abroad, it is not uncommon to see young children with their grandparents in tow.

Whilst this is not a development that has been universally welcomed by Grumpy Grandads (see: How to Enjoy Travelling with Grandchildren), it does offer benefits in keeping us active and on the ball – both figuratively and actually!

As an experienced grandparent (number eight arrived just before Christmas) and a keen photographer, I take full advantage of our outings together to indulge my hobby. Photographing children is both challenging and immensely rewarding, not least because your pictures will usually have an appreciative audience; even the less than technically perfect, blurred ones will attract favourable comments.

Pic 2 - Bribery
Pic 2 – Bribery usually works

If the truth be known, it is pictures of themselves and their nearest and dearest that people are most interested in – which is more that can be said for my splendid travel images of exotic locations and tropical sunsets.

So, how do I go about taking memorable snaps of the little ones?

Choice of Camera

First, keep things simple on the equipment side. Most importantly, to avoid missing those fleeting, magic moments, familiarise yourself with your camera’s controls so that its operation becomes second nature.  A compact camera, fitted with a zoom lens, say 6 x, should more than suffice. Some ‘travel’ compacts come fitted with lenses that boast 30 x zooms. I’m not convinced of the desirability of such reach as, in my experience, it is nigh on impossible to avoid camera shake when hand holding a camera with the lens set at extreme focal length lengths.

Pic 3 - Sense of Place
Pic 3 – Sense of Place

I have also heard that some travel compacts find it difficult to focus at longer focal lengths. It is not without good reason that manufacturers of premium compact cameras, intended for photographers whose first priority is image quality, stick to modest zoom ranges. If any travel compact manufacturers would like to convince me otherwise I would be more than happy to test their wares in the field.

Of course you can always use your mobile phone and some, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and K Zoom, have good quality zoom lenses built in.

Taking the Pictures

As for taking the actual pictures, my advice is to go with the flow. In the absence of the promise of a substantial reward, kids usually have far too much energy and too little patience to put up with posing for the camera. The “look at the camera and say cheese” approach seldom works; far better to step back and let them get on with it and photograph them doing the things they enjoy.

Hip replacement permitting, a final tip is to crouch down and try to take pictures of the kids at eye level, rather than pointing the lens downwards towards them.

Pic 4 - Natural History Museum
Pic 4 – Portrait setting taken at eye level

Camera Pre-Set

One of the joys of modern cameras is that the pre-set ‘scene’ settings, or modes, usually work brilliantly, allowing you to focus on capturing the action.

I find the ‘sports’ setting works best for snapping children at play and the ‘portrait’ setting is great for capturing their more reflective moments. The ‘back-light’ setting is particularly useful on the beach to avoid the kids being silhouetted against a bright background.

Most mobile phone cameras also have pre-set modes, but it can be quite fiddly to select them.

Some Examples of Grandchildren Pics

To illustrate this article I’ve selected a few photos from a recent weekend trip to London with the grandchildren – an experience that is not for the faint-hearted.

Pic 1 – Taking this photo  from a low viewpoint allowed me to keep the crowd out of shot, whilst at the same time retaining a sense of place. The ‘back-light’ setting prevented the bright sky from reducing the rest of the photo to a silhouette.

Pic 2 – Bribery usually works in persuading children to pose (after a fashion) for the camera.

Pic 5 - Birthday Treat
Pic 5 – Low light, anti-motion blur

Pic 3 – Another photo that clearly establishes a sense of place. To keep other tourists out of shot I had to work quickly, simply leaving the camera set to program mode.

Pic 4 – The Natural History Museum went down well with the grandchildren. Setting the camera to ‘portrait’ mode and taking the photo at eye level have worked well in this case.

Pic 5 – A birthday treat was a meal at the Rainforest Café. The ambient lighting was challenging, but simply setting the camera to ‘low light, anti-motion blur’ has resulted in an atmospheric photo that is free of camera shake.

By keeping things simple I have achieved my aim of providing the family with a record of the grandkids experience of enjoying a holiday break in London with minimal stress on my part!


Relax, make the whole experience enjoyable for both you and the kids, take plenty of snaps (accept that most will be rubbish) and you will come up with some brilliant pictures that the family will be proud to post on FaceBook  – sometimes even acknowledging they were taken by you.

POSTED 6th FEBRUARY 2016 by JOHN ESSER. Check here for his previous photographic articles.