19 September 2019

Tips to Photographing Very, Very, Very Active Kids

It’s every portrait photographer’s nightmare.  That assignment to shoot active children, or a family with active children, in a studio portrait setting.   There is a reason school pictures and formal family portraits tend to look unnatural – it’s because they are.   The next time you’re trying to capture pictures of active kids, try these techniques for better results.

Photo © Olesia Bilkei

Shoot outdoors


Didn’t your mother always tell you to go outside as a kid?  There is a reason for that, there are fewer obstacles and breakable things outdoors than there are indoors, and that makes a great backdrop for photographing photos of children.   It doesn’t matter if that means a backyard, a playground, or a park; photographing outdoors will give you more variety and creativity than a studio setting without having to worry about the complete and utter destruction of your studio in the process.  It is also a more natural setting for kids and they will act more naturally in it.

Photo © Yiting Liu

Shoot Freely


I am a big fan of using my heavy dSLR with its heft anchored to a tripod when photographing in the studio, but it is impossible to use such a rigid set-up when you’re chasing an active child.  Unhook your camera, and if possible loose the heavy equipment as well.  If you have a mirrorless camera now is the time to pull it out.   While it is not impossible to use your heavy-duty camera, just be prepared for a work-out in the process.  Today’s point and shoot cameras have enough manual setting to allow you to shoot professionally with much lighter gear and provides an other great option.  

Camera setting


About those setting, photographing a rapidly moving subject requires a different camera set up than studio shots.  There is no way to shoot on Manual mode and still get the variety of shots you will want with a youngster on the move.  photographing shutter priority enables you to set a fast enough shutter to freeze the frenetic action – you will need at least 1/250th to 1/500th second, or faster, to keep the subject of all your pictures from becoming just a blur.  I recommend photographing the fastest setting you can dependent on your light and checking your results often to see if you need to adjust.

Photo © Boaz Yunior Wibowo

But sometimes a more creative alternative is to shoot with a slower speed and pan the camera, that is move the camera at the same speed of the moving child.  This has the effect of keeping the child in focus while blurring out the background giving a real sense of motion in your shot.  You’ll want to shoot around 1/30th of a second for this option.  Again, shoot and check results often to see if you have the correct settings.

Regardless of if you are using the freeze action or panning options, shoot on burst mode.  This will give you lots of chances to capture just the frame you are looking for since you won’t have the time to professional compose frame of high paced action.

Get down to their level


In addition to chasing the action, you want to position yourself closer to their eye level for more engaging results.  Introduce lots of props, toys, or games for them to interact with for more natural expressions and reactions.  If you are feeling brave, add a couple of siblings, friends, or their favorite pets to include more of their personality and natural behaviors.

Photo © Sergey Novikov

The best advice for photographing very active kids is to let them be themselves, and adjust your photographing style to keep up with them.  The results will be authentic and heartwarming, and you won’t have to go to the gym later.

Stock photos provided by Dreamstime.com

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