10 Tested Ways to Get Epic Action Shots of Your Kids

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It’s my mission this year to help you become a better photographer for your family. You deserve to have great photos to look back on and cherish as your family grows up. I’m teaming up with Canon again to teach you everything I know–Or close to it. So if there’s something you have a question about ask and I’ll be sure to address it in an upcoming post!

So you’ve upgraded to a DSLR because you want to take pictures of your kids. But your kids are…well, kids. And they don’t sit still. If you’re having a tough time getting a decent focused photo of your kids, I’ve got you covered.

Also, in November I’m teaching a Canon Live Learning course here in Austin called Capturing the Essence of Childhood. So come see me and learn all this stuff in person! Or if you can’t make it, check out my online course: Child’s Play: Simple Tips for Photographing Children.

Today I’m going to break down my 10 best tips for photographing your active kids. Just in time for fall sports, and all the fun you’re going to be having through the end of the year.

Use a higher shutter speed

If you’re noticing a lot of your photos are coming out blurry, check your shutter speed. The faster the shutter speed, the less motion blur you’ll get. I try to keep my shutter speed above 500 when I’m photographing active kids. This may mean raising my ISO to compensate and give myself more flexibility, especially when I’m shooting indoors.

how to photograph kids photographing active kids

This photo I took of my kids playing in a water fountain was using a higher shutter speed to capture more of the water droplets and my son’s expression as the water hit his face. My camera settings were: ISO/200 F/1.8 Shutter Speed 1/8000.

Use continuous shooting mode

Helping your child follow their passions. Parenting an all-star youth cheerleader level 1.

Setting your shooting mode to continuous will allow you to hold that shutter button down to take a burst of photos at once. You can always go back and delete the outtakes later, but you’re more likely to capture a good one among many, or a shot right at the peak of the action. I like to use high speed continuous shooting when my daughter is practicing her cheer jumps. I’m able to snap a burst of photos of her jumping up and down, but save the jump at her highest point.

Bring a zoom lens

10 helpful tips to help you photograph your kids on the move.

I find it really beneficial to have a zoom lens when I’m out photographing my kids especially if we are someplace like a big park where they could be all over the place. When they’re further away I can zoom in, and when they’re running around closer to me, I can zoom out. I have another post where I go over my favorite lenses and how to choose the best one. But for photographing active kids, I think a zoom is a great way to go. Something like the EF-S 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 IS USM is a great option and one of my favorites on my EOS 80D and EOS Rebel T7i.

Try aperture priority mode

If you aren’t comfortable shooting in manual yet, or find it difficult to have to continuously change your settings as your kid runs from shade to sun and all over the place, try using aperture priority or AV mode (I break down 5 great camera modes in this post). This allows you to change your f-stop and adjust your depth of field. (The lower the number the more “blur” you’ll achieve around your subject). My lenses go as low as 2.8 and 1.4. Don’t go too low and too close or their whole face won’t be in focus. You can set your lens to the f-stop your want, focus on your child, then let your camera do the rest.

Use AI-Servo focusing mode

Swinging son active biracial boy

Switching to AI-Servo focusing mode on your camera allows you to track moving subjects changing their distance from you. Instead of focusing once when you hold the button halfway down, and waiting for the beep, this way you can press and hold the focusing button on the back of your camera to lock the focus on whatever is moving. It makes capturing a moving target much easier. I like to use this mode when my kids are swinging, or running towards me.

Play with panning

10 helpful tips to help you photograph your kids on the move.

Another fun way to capture your child in motion is to use a technique called panning. For this you’ll want to lower your shutter speed to about 1/50 or 1/60. If you turn your camera and follow their action at their same pace and snap the picture in the middle of it, you’ll can freeze them in motion while blurring what’s going on behind them, making for a fun action shot. It can be tricky to achieve this but practice makes perfect. I usually raise my f-stop over f4 to give myself some leeway if I miss the focus, and use AI-Servo Mode for continuous focus.

10 helpful tips to help you photograph your kids on the move.

Don’t stop to check the every photo

10 helpful tips to help you photograph your kids on the move.

A mistake a lot of people make when doing photo shoots is stopping to see how the picture looks between each photo. When you do that you risk missing an even better photo op. I like to take a quick peep after a few photos to make sure my settings are the way I want them and the photo looks ok and properly exposed. But other than that I try to take the photos and then look at them later.

Flip your screen around and try something new

how to photograph active kids

Break out of shooting just from above. Get down on their level and change the perspective. Even getting some shots from the ground level can be fun. Or from up above. I love using my EOS 80D and Rebel t7i for this because they both have a flip screen. It’s easier for me to use if I’m trying to get a shot from way up high. I can put my camera in live screen mode and flip the screen down so I can still see how my shot is composed without looking through the viewfinder.

Be patient

10 helpful tips to help you photograph your kids on the move.

It’s rare that the very first picture I take is the one I want to keep, blow up and frame. If they did something cute, they’ll likely do it again with a little encouragement or patience. Let them play! Don’t feel the need to stifle your child into a pose. Just let him do what he loves and be nearby to capture that. Sit back for a moment and watch and see what she’s doing. Does she scream and laugh every time they go down the slide? Or giggle as you push her on the swings? Don’t be stressed if you missed it the first time. Chances are they’re going to do it again. Have your camera ready to her when she comes around again.

Join in the fun

10 helpful tips to help you photograph your kids on the move.

My favorite photos of my kids running and playing are pictures I took while I was right in the middle of the fun. Lifting my son up on my feet, chasing them around the park, spinning, dancing, and laughing along with them. When the photographer is having fun everyone can loosen up a little bit. And when mom is the one holding the camera, even better.

You’ll be making memories while capturing the moment which is a win-win in my book.

What busy activities would you like to capture your active kiddos doing?

From birthdays to family vacations, to holidays and more, I’ve teamed up with Canon again this year to share how we capture the moments we cherish most. I’m also dishing out tips to help you better photograph your special moments with your family. Shout out to my favorite camera brand for sponsoring this series.

10 tips to help you photograph your active kids

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  1. Great pictures! I wish my digital camera didn’t have so many auto features, every time I turn it on it defaults to auto, and I have to manually set everything. Maybe it’s time to get a more advanced camera. Thanks for writing!

    1. Thank you! What kind of digital camera are you using right now? It’s definitely nice having more control but there are some days when I really enjoy how quick and easy (and light) it is with a point and shoot 🙂

  2. Great read! I got a new DSLR for my birthday last year and I’m so scared to really dig in. I’ve taken several good shots but I’m still working on it. And congrats on your photography recognition!

    On another note…My hubby was in Austin last weekend for the Univ of TX and Maryland game (he’s a Terp) and he absolutely raved about how beautiful the city was. I hope to one day make a family trip there. (We live in NC)

    Thanks again for sharing!

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