5 Beginners’ Tips for Taking Better Photos of Kids at Play

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My husband and I are totally those parents. We take an embarrassing amount of pictures of our kids. Everyone joked after our second was born that we would start slacking off on all the stuff we did with the first—updating the baby book, taking photos and so forth. Though the baby book prediction held true, we seem to take even more pictures now.

Trying to get two squirmy kids in one picture, in focus, with no blurry appendages is challenging, and digital photography makes 50 re-dos economical, if not successful.

So what can you do when you want to get awesome shots of kids at play, in sports, running in the backyard, or playing on the playground? Here are a few tips from pros.

 Tip: Spend just a few minutes experimenting and learning to use a couple features on your camera, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your photos improve.

 

1. Raise your Shutterspeed

In an article for the New York Institute of Photography, Drew Bittel recommends raising your shutterspeed when you’re photographing people in motion. If you’re thinking right now, But wait! My camera doesn’t have those fancy features!, check your manual. You’d be surprised how even the most basic “point-and-shoot” cameras these days have extra features that allow you to alter the way the camera behaves.  Bittel says to set your shutterspeed at a minimum of 1/200. If you’re shooting sports outdoors with lots of light, go for 1/1000 or higher.

 

2. Pan the Action

In an article for DigitalTrends.com, Bill Schiffner recommends “panning the action.” This technique won’t yield crisp photos, instead creating streaks around the subject that convey motion and speed. Here’s how he says to do it: Depress your shutter button halfway while tracking your subject—don’t let them out of the viewfinder. When the moment is right, fully depress the button. Have your kids race back and forth across the backyard so you can practice this technique.

(MORE: Why Backyard Sports are Dying—And What’s Really At Stake)

 

3. Fill the Frame

A tip from Nikon’s website is to fill the frame. Instead of taking a shot of your kid on the swing where you can see the entire swing set, zoom in close on his face and his hands holding the ropes, while his torso angles across the frame. Similar to how one might edit a piece of writing to include only the important things, the idea is to compose the frame only with what is important to your shot.

4. Use Natural Light

In an article for Adorama’s website, children’s photographer Sabra Krock recommends using natural light as much as possible. Using the natural light coming in from the window as your child plays with blocks on the floor will produce a much more pleasing effect than a flash, which provides harsh light that tends to flatten the image. If you’re used to shooting in automatic mode, you may need to manually turn off your flash depending on how much light is in the room. If the pictures are too dark, try bumping up your ISO. (Again, check your manual. Your camera may have this feature even if it’s not an SLR—aka, Big Fat Fancy Camera.)

 

5. Get on the Ground

In an article for PetaPixel.com, Frank McKenna gives us this tip—put yourself on their level. As adults, we don’t see the world the way kids do, unless we get down on their level. If you want your pictures of kids to truly have a childlike perspective, kneel or sit on the ground while you photograph them walking through the snow.

(MORE: The Art of Saying Yes to Your Kids)

 

While not all of these techniques, several of them require you know a bit more about how to use your camera than simply pointing and shooting. If you take a few minutes to experiment, you’ll be surprised to find out how vastly you can improve your shots with just a little effort.

Share your thoughts: What techniques do you use to get awesome shots of your kids at play?

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