Being a Better Parent-Tographer - One Easy Tip / by Tom Kise

One Easy Tip On Taking Better Pictures of Your Kids Playing… And A Few Ideas You May Want To Try.

 

 This was one of my very first digital pictures.  

This was one of my very first digital pictures.  

One Easy Tip On Taking Better Pictures of Your Kids Playing… and a few ideas you may want to try.

I started taking photos again when I got my first digital camera.  For the first few years I was like so many other people, I put the camera into some kin

 

d of auto mode and snapped away.  

I would get some really great shots and I would have no idea why after the fact.  For the most part, I took pictures of children.  First, I took pictures of the neighborhood—our newfound family in Sacramento, CA.  Then I had the privilege of taking more pictures with my own little guys.  I started out this way because this is what I knew and this was what was in front of me.  And I loved and still do love taking pictures of kids when they are playing--you never know what is going to happen.

And do not be fooled this is not easy.  Kids move fast and predicting what they will do next is never guaranteed.  If you can take consistently, good pictures of running children you are on your way of becoming a good photographer.


Here are a few things I have learned along the way.

 

 To get this shot and some other solid images, I sat on the ground for 25min and let the kids play around me. 

To get this shot and some other solid images, I sat on the ground for 25min and let the kids play around me. 

One Easy Tip on taking better pictures of your kids.  

Don't be afraid to get dirty.  

Seriously—you will get dirty.  When taking pictures of kids you need to get down to their level.  

They are low to the ground so you need to get low to the ground.  By being at their level, you are close to the action and they take up the whole or most of the picture.  When you do this kids tend to look larger than life.   

If you do this one thing I guarantee you, your pictures will take on a whole new dimension.  

 

 

A few other things you may want to try.

If you want to get a picture of your kids playing and running, and you are not looking to learn a whole lot of new camera techniques or technical jargon, do a little creative directing of your kids.

1)  Find a place where they will be playing that is not too big.  You want the kids to be playing all around you: a smallish playground, a semi constrained open space, anything can work so be creative.  

2)  Set your camera to sports mode or better yet try shutter priority--the S on the big dial that changes your modes.  Set your shutter speed to around 500th of a second or faster. This will mean the number will get bigger on the display screen.

3)  Have a seat right in the center of the action and watch.  Kids, if you are lucky, will start to run around in patterns.  They will go from place to place in a semi predictable path.  Once you have that figured out, sit along that path and fire away.  You will want make sure you are aiming your shot directly at them and follow through as you are shooting.  

Two advanced ideas for anyone looking to go even farther:

1)  When taking pictures lighting is KING; this does not mean brightness.  It means the quality of light.  You want to try to take your pictures either right after sunrise - I know this is a tough one--or right around sunset - a little bit easier.  These are the ideal times of day.  

Another option is trying it on gray and overcast days.  This is another great time to take pictures.  You want to avoid the bright sunny days around noon.  This is the worst time to make great photographs.  If you want to know why -- I am happy to tell you-- but trust me for now.  

2) Try panning.  This means you will have your subject, the running, biking, scootering child, (It works better when they are on a bike or a scooter - anything with wheels really) in focus, and what is behind and around them blurry and streaky.   

To do this I recommend that you put the camera in Shutter Priority again the big S on your dial, and start by setting it for 30th of a second, that will look like a 30.   

You can play around with this setting.  The higher the number the faster the shutter goes and the lower the number the slower the shutter goes.  The shutter speed is dependent on how fast your kid is moving i.e. -- the faster the speed the faster the shutter, the slower the speed the slower the shutter.  As a general rule of thumb, you will not want to go faster than 50th of a second.  Now this is not easy and it something that I practice ALL THE TIME and by no means am I a master.  But, I think it looks interesting and is not something you see a lot on family pictures.  It will make your pictures stand out in a crowd.

 

    Quick Example:  When I took this shot at a NASCAR race I was at 1/250 of a second.  It all depends on how fast they are going. 

Quick Example:  When I took this shot at a NASCAR race I was at 1/250 of a second.  It all depends on how fast they are going. 

Then as your kid is moving by you, left to right, or right to left, you snap away while moving (panning) the camera along with them.  

You are going to want to turn at your waist for this, not the shoulders, it works better.   

NOTE:  This will not work if they are moving towards or away from you.  It only works with the lateral motions.  

If you want to get really fancy, you should set your camera to its continuous focus mode that is, AI Servo AF for Canon, or AF-C for Nikon.  If this seems like a bit much just leave it in auto and give it a try.  Its not like you're wasting any film.

Bottom line here is have fun and enjoy it.

Please let me know if you like these tips, and share some photos and lets see how it works for you.

More parent tips to come soon!