Perhaps one of your children is in a sports team, your toddler just won't stay still, or your happy baby keeps waving their arms and legs about when you're trying to take a photo! Whatever the reason, knowing how to capture sharp, crisp action shots when your children are on the move is a useful skill for parents. This post covers the three things you need to know to capture sharp images of your moving child.
1. Use a fast shutter speed
The most important thing you can do when photographing any moving object is to use a fast shutter speed. (If you’re not sure what shutter speed is reading this will help.) The faster your shutter speed, the better chance you have of capturing a sharp photo of your moving child. The slower it is, the more likely the photo is to be blurry.
So what does this mean in terms of camera settings? If you’re comfortable shooting in manual or shutter priority modes then aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/500. If you can go above 1/1000 even better. The photos below (which I also shared in this post) illustrate this nicely. The first was taken with a slower shutter speed of 1/100 and the second was taken with a faster shutter speed of 1/500. You can see the difference - the faster shutter speed 'freezes' the action giving a nice, sharp shot.
If you’d prefer to use the pre-programmed modes on your camera turn the dial to the picture of the running man. Your camera will automatically prioritise a fast shutter speed for you. Finally, if you’re shooting on your phone then use burst mode (find out more about this below or in this tutorial.)
2. Make sure you have lots of light
When you use a faster shutter speed less light will reach your camera's sensor, so it’s important to maximise the amount of available light to compensate.
If you’re outdoors during the day this shouldn’t be a problem - there will be plenty of light available. But what happens if it’s dark, or you're indoors with not much light available? It’s unlikely that you can achieve the fast shutter speeds I mentioned above indoors unless you change some other settings.
If you’re shooting in manual mode you can adjust your ISO and aperture to compensate. Both of these have pros and cons. Choosing a wider aperture will let more light into the lens, but you’ll have a smaller depth of field, and it will be harder to ensure that your child is in focus. If you raise your ISO your camera's sensor will be more sensitive to the light, but you may end up with a more grainy image.
If you're using your camera's pre-programmed modes your camera will likely adjust ISO and aperture itself, but this may cause you to run into the same problems - a blurry or grainy image.
Another option is to use a flash. A flash can really help when you are in a low light situation by providing the extra light that you need to achieve a fast shutter speed. However, if you’re using your camera or phone’s in-built flash there are some drawbacks - these flashes only have a short range, so if your child isn’t close to you then it’s unlikely to illuminate them. The other limitation of direct flash is that it the resulting pictures a can appear less natural. However, if it’s a choice between a blurry photo or using the flash, I recommend giving it a try.
3. Shoot in bursts or continuous shooting mode
When you’re photographing someone who’s moving you want to maximise your chances of getting the shot. Continuous shooting or burst modes can really help with this. As the names suggest when you use these modes your camera takes multiple photographs in one go - this means you’ll capture a good variety of action, and also maximises your chances of capturing the shot you want.
Most DSLRs will have a continuous shooting mode where they’ll capture X number of frames in a second. I recommend checking your camera’s manual to find out how to turn this on on your camera. If you’re using your phone to take the photograph, this tutorial explains more about burst mode.
Over to you
I'd love to hear how you get on with this tips - let me know how it goes in the comments below, and don't forget to sign up for regular photography tips below.