Taking adventure self-portraits with your kids isn’t just an art; it’s a testament to the importance of capturing the moments and preserving the beauty of family bonds and adventures together. These photographs tell stories that words alone can’t convey. They freeze moments in time, allowing us to revisit and relive them as often as we desire. Today, Washington mama of two, Teri Walzenbach, shares her tips and advice for taking amazing adventure self-portraiture with your children. Teri explores the art of capturing the essence of these extraordinary moments while explaining why doing so is so profoundly meaningful.

Adventure self-portraits

As a mama, I have thousands (okay, okay, more like tens of thousands) of photographs of my kids out on adventures. As a parent, you probably do too!  It is also likely that you are the one usually behind the lens, capturing all the milestones, moments, and fun you guys are having while you are out and about.

But, how many of these precious memories include you in the frame? You were there, too! 

If you aren’t in the frame, you are missing an important opportunity to create lasting memories with your children and show them how many adventures you were on together! But, how do you get yourself in the frame when you’re the one taking the photos? Well, you create what I call “adventure self-portraits.” In this post, I will explain my process for taking adventure self-portraits and share how I ensure I show up in our photos. With the right equipment, approach, and mindset, it can be so easy!

Why is it important to be in the photo with your kids?

Being in the picture with your kids is not only fun but also beneficial for their emotional development and self-esteem. It shows them that you’re proud of them and that you enjoy spending time with them. When you pose for a photo with your kids, you’re sending them a message that they’re important to you and that you value their presence. You’re also showing them that you’re happy and confident in yourself and in your role as a parent.

Getting mama in the frame also helps your kids feel connected to you and to their family history. Photos are a great way to preserve your family’s stories and traditions. When you’re in the frame with your kids, you’re creating a visual record of your family’s life and culture. You’re also giving your kids a sense of belonging and identity, as they can see themselves as part of a larger family unit.

Kids learn a lot from their parents, including how to view themselves and their bodies. When you’re in the picture with your kids, you’re modeling a positive attitude towards yourself and your appearance. You’re also showing them they’re beautiful and worthy of being seen and celebrated.

Creating childhood memories through photos

Photos are more than just images; they’re also emotions, experiences, and relationships. When you’re in the picture with your kids, you’re capturing moments that will become part of their childhood memories and that they can look back on when they grow up. You’re also giving yourself a chance to relive those moments and to appreciate the joys of parenthood.

Photos give kids a healthy booster of memories, emotions, and lessons that were created in the original experience. It makes their memories of the experience, trip or adventure come back to life. It sparks curiosity and triggers emotions. Imagine retelling a story through your images – it’s like they’re reliving that experience. Children can process it over and over again. Photos are magical in that way!

Getting Mama in the Frame, Outdoor Adventure Self Portraits

What equipment do you get yourself in the frame?

To start, let’s chat about the equipment needed in order to take a great adventure self-portrait.


You can get yourself in the frame using either a camera with a remote trigger, an interval timer, or even the timer on your phone. Any of these will work. They say, “The best camera is the one you have on you!” and I agree. Start with what you have before moving on to something fancier or more expensive. Learn how it works, start using it. Pure practice is the best way to figure it out! 


To have the most success, I have found that investing in a tripod is worth its weight in gold. Although, you can use rocks or logs to prop up your phone or camera, it doesn’t really compare to a tripod. Plus, the easier things are, the more likely you are to try and continue taking self-portraits. 

If you are a hiker or backpacker like me, I recommend a lightweight carbon fiber tripod.  Here is the one I personally use and love: Sirui A1205 Carbon Fiber Tripod.

If you want to use your phone, I also recommend getting a phone mount to attach it to your tripod. They come at several different price points. You can also set up the frame and create videos with you and your kids this way. Capture the action live!

how to take better adventure self-portraits with your kids while adventuring

Self-timer function for taking self-portraits

The simplest way to get mama in the frame is to take your adventure self-portraits with a timer. You can use your phone or camera’s self-timer function. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Place your camera or phone on a stable surface or tripod.
  2. Set the self-timer/ interval timer function to the desired time (usually 10 seconds).
  3. Press the shutter button and move into position.
  4. Wait for the timer to count down and take the photo.

You can run in and out of the frame, creating fun moments with your kids. It really is that easy to jump right into the frame! 

Using an interval timer 

If you are like me and want to take more candid moments that unfold over time, I suggest using your camera’s interval timer. This means that your camera will take a number of photos over a specified interval of time. You can set the time between shots and the number of shots the camera will take.

For example, when capturing snuggle time with my kids in a tent, I set up my tripod and camera and set the interval timer to be 10 seconds between clicks and to take around 50 images. This allows me to crawl into the tent with my kiddos, focus on snuggling and cuddling them, and let the camera do the rest!

I find using the interval timer to be the most authentic way to get myself in the frame because it’s less rushed, and I can take my time. The camera will capture any number of shots, so I can choose my favorites from the set. You can use an interval timer in almost any scenario. It offers the time you need to let those intimate moments happen. 

self portraits, getting in the frame, portraits with your kids

How to use a remote trigger for self-portraits

remote trigger is a device that allows you to take photos without physically touching your camera or phone. 

If you’re using a camera to take the photo, you can choose to use a remote (or intervalometer) to trigger the shutter. 

There are two types of remote triggers: wired and wireless. For self-portraits, you would want to use a wireless trigger. To use a wireless remote trigger, first ensure that your camera or phone is compatible with the type of wireless remote trigger you have. Then, connect the receiver unit to your camera or phone via a cable, and hold the transmitter unit in your hand. Then when you are ready to take the photo, press the button on the transmitter unit. 

This allows a similar experience to the interval timer but allows for a little bit more control because you choose when to snap the photo using the remote. If you like a moment that is happening, you can remotely trigger the camera to capture it with the push of a button! 

Some cameras have a built-in Wi-Fi feature that allows you to control the camera remotely using your phone. In addition, if you’re using an iPhone, you can also use your Apple Watch as a remote to trigger your phone to take the photo! 

Get creative with your adventure self-portraits

When you’re out adventuring with the kids and want to take a self-portrait, start looking for scenic backgrounds that complement your outdoor adventure or tell the story about where you are. Give yourself enough space and set the camera back far enough to capture the whole scene. Try to incorporate the natural surroundings, like leading lines, framing elements, or interesting textures, into your photos.

The rule of thirds can also help create more dynamic compositions if you’re looking to really up your game. By that, I mean to place your subject (you and the kids) in the left or right third of an image. leaving the other two-thirds more open for scenery.  Also, try shooting from different angles, including eye-level shots and shots from above or below. Experimenting with angles can add variety to your adventure photos.

How to nail the focus in your self-portraits

Nailing the focus can be one of the hardest parts of taking self-portraits. When setting your camera up, set your camera’s focus point to where you will be in the frame. Put the kids there and focus on them before you jump in (and then try not to move too far from that spot).

Many modern cameras and smartphones have advanced autofocus systems that include face detection. This feature can help ensure that your face (and your child’s face if they’re in the photo) is in sharp focus. You can enable the face detection mode in your camera settings, and the camera will prioritize focusing on the faces in the frame, so that they’re in focus. 

If you have trouble with focus, consider using manual focus or a focus lock feature. Use a single autofocus point or a small focus area to pinpoint where you want the camera to focus. In self-portraits, it’s usually best to place the focus point on your eyes, as they are the most critical part of the image for sharpness. Half-press the shutter button to lock focus on eyes before taking the shot.

A few words of advice to get yourself in the frame

The best piece of advice I can give you is for taking your adventure self-portraits is to KEEP AT IT. Keep getting in the frame. Keep taking the photos. Progress over perfection, always. 

It isn’t easy to capture a great shot when you’re in front of the camera, instead of behind it. And at the beginning, it will feel awkward. However, over time with lots of practice, you will learn poses and certain movements that work for you. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts don’t turn out as expected. Photography, like any skill, takes practice. The more you practice, the better your self-portraits will become.

I find the more distracted I am, and the more I move around, the better the picture. The photos feel more authentic and less posed. So, maybe don’t try as hard to get it perfect, and you could be pleasantly surprised with how well the images turn out!

Also, let go of the worry of what anyone else thinks. These photos are for me and my family, nobody else. It does get easier each time you try it, I promise. And it is so rewarding! For both you and your kids! 

Additional photography resources

If you’re interested in photography, check out some of our other photography-related posts for outdoor adventurers:

About the author

Teri is the mama of 2 adventurous kiddos (ages 7 and 9), living in Washington State. She loves to explore the outdoors, and her kids often tell her she has a “crush” on the mountains (she agrees). Teri is an avid hiker and backpacker, who enjoys getting out on solo trips as well as trips with her kids. She has been taking her kids camping, hiking, and backpacking since before they could walk. Teri loves to unplug with them, be fully present, and immerse themselves in the outdoors. She has traveled a lot of the world with her kids, they lived in China for a while, but she keeps finding herself most excited about her own backyard. Teri is passionate about inspiring other families and moms to get outside and explore the outdoors with and without their kids.

You can find more from Teri online in the following locations:
Instagram: @the.trekking.mama
Website: www.thetrekkingmama.com
RWMC posts: Teri Walzenbach