How to Get the Perfect Group Photo on Tour

Group leaders have a number of things on their checklist to prepare their students for travel: what to pack, what to expect, how to behave, etc… but as the leader of fairly large groups, there’s a specific item that I always prioritize. Getting my travelers organized for quality group photos has proven to be well worth the time spent for each of my trips! 

When traveling with a group (especially over a hundred students!), it can be time consuming on the trip to organize excited kids into a workable pose to clearly see everyone’s faces.  So much time that you would typically do only once!  

As a result of having my group organized in rows prior to the trip, we are able to take group photos at unexpected times in a matter of a minute!  With the efficiency of being able to create a quality pose quickly, we always have numerous group photos with our entire travel group to take home as memories. Creating a group photo can be done in different ways, but here’s my suggestion so that you can give it a try: 

Plan an “activity day” or set aside some time during your pre-trip meeting to practice so that you can “Photo Up!” or “Chaperone Up!” quickly on tour. 

In terms of location, I use the gymnasium so I have plenty of space and the bleachers can act as steps, but outside works just as well.  First, have the students arrange themselves from the tallest to the shortest, and decide, depending on the number of travelers, how many rows you will need.  For example, with one hundred travelers, I make 5 rows of 20.  Arrange one row at a time; having the tallest 20 go to the bleachers first, and placing the tallest student in the middle and filling both the right and left side one student at a time to create the back row.  Once the back row is satisfactory, I have them sit down and ask the next 20 to go to the bleachers and use the same process.  Once that second row is completed, I have both rows stand up together.  This is an important step; explain to the students how to “find the window.” If you’re not familiar, have the back row stand so that their face is between the two people standing in the row in front of them. This usually requires some group leader shifting.  Many times I will take a photo on my phone to show the kids an example.  Every row will need to “find the window,” other than the very first row of the last students. This process continues until all rows are completed one at a time.  

Once all of the rows are formed, be sure to have the students memorize who they are standing next to, in front of, behind, etc. This will prove to be helpful on the trip, as kids will be calling each others’ names to get into their spots quickly! Once everyone is settled, I take a photo of this so kids can be reminded of where they stand if needed.  This can be a time consuming process, but is much better done beforehand when kids aren’t distracted by their surroundings on the trip!  

One last step I include on this activity day is to have my students walk a couple of laps around the gym in a 2 x 2 format.  This is good practice for this trip expectation. Then I unexpectedly call out, “Chaperone Up!” and they need to quickly create their chaperone groups around the gym.  They have fun with this!  And lastly, I ask them to “Photo Up!” and they go to the bleachers and again form their group photo.  You’ll quickly find out if they need more practice doing this or not.  Oftentimes we’ll “Chaperone Up” and “Photo Up” a couple of times during this session!  Prior to departing from the airport the morning of the trip, I have the kids “Photo Up” for a picture!  Hopefully, it will be the first of a number of wonderful photo opportunities for your entire travel group. On our last trip, we had group photos on the steps of Lincoln Memorial,  Iwo Jima, Jefferson Memorial, Capitol Building, Mount Vernon, Times Square, and the airport before and after. We all know that candid photographs are always priceless moments of the trip, but group photos captured in these iconic places will be treasured by all of the travelers for years to come! 

On a side note:  When steps aren’t an option for a group photo, the same rows work with adaptations (This is what we do at the airport!):  First row sit, second row kneel, third row squat, fourth row stand, last row stand and find a window. 

We hope that this tried and true group photo hack helps you quickly and easily get excellent group shots on your next trip!


Jenna Allie taught 7th grade geography in Billings, Montana, and began traveling with student groups with GTA in 2009. She led the student travel program at Ben Steele Middle School for 5 years. When she recently retired after 35 years of teaching, she was thrilled to become an Ambassador for Global Travel Alliance by leading the area’s enrollment and pre-trip meetings and serving on the Teacher Advisory Board.


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