Active kids. Priceless details. No blur: How to photograph kids in motion

Lately I feel like I haven’t had much time to get out and take photos with the kids “just because.”

I’ve been in a whirlwind with the end of summer, start of the school year, work and whatnot. Crazy how life has picked up speed and doesn’t seem to slow down.

Like life, my son is all over the place. It’s hard to get him to sit still, much less for a photo. Photographing active kids isn’t easy, but I’ve learned a few tricks along the way and thought I’d share some on my blog today so you can lear how to photograph kids in motion and make your active-toddler (and even athletic teen) moments to cherish forever.

how to photograph active kids

1. Take A LOT of photos. A huge perk of digital photography these days is the chance to keep snapping and delete the outtakes. Don’t feel like you need to take one perfect picture and be done with it. Set your shooting mode to continuous and hold that shutter button down to take a burst. Later you can go back and delete the blinking and blurry pictures, but you’re more likely to capture a good one amongst many. This photo of my kids playing in the water fountain is one of several I took in a burst.

2. Use aperture priority mode (could also be portrait mode): If you aren’t comfortable shooting in manual yet, or find it difficult to have to continuously change your settings as your toddler runs from shade to sun and all over the place, try using aperture priority or AV mode. This allows you to change your f-stop (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.

how to photograph active kids

3. 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. I like to have a great zoom lens on hand when capturing my active kids so I have the option of zooming with my feet, or my lens if I’m confined to the stands. The Canon 24-70mm lens is a great option for this.

4. Use a higher shutter speed: If you’re noticing a lot of your photos are coming out blurry, check your shutter speed. This will help you freeze the scene as your child is in motion. I try to keep my shutter speed above 500 when I’m trying to photograph my active kids. This may mean raising my ISO to compromise and give myself more flexibility, especially when I’m shooting indoors.

how to photograph kids in motion: photographing active kids flying a kite

5. Get creative and silly: What makes your child laugh? Your singing? Dancing? Pretending to tickle him? A natural laugh will come across much better than a forced smile. And there’s a good chance if you’re being silly, he may stand still to watch long enough for you to snap a picture.

6. Get down on their level: 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 Rebel t6i for this because it has a flip screen and 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.

how to photograph kids in motion: photographing active kids

7. Pay attention to the background: It can give context or be distracting. It’s so frustrating when I get a great picture of my kids but there’s a bunch of junk behind them. Out it out of focus or move to get a better angle. To make it out of focus in your shot, try lowering your f-stop number and/or zoom in more with your lens. This will cause your background to go out of focus or out of the frame.

8. Follow them in action: If you run at their speed and snap the photo you can freeze them in motion while blurring what’s going on behind them, making for a fun action shot. You’ll want your shutter speed to be around 1/50 to 1/80 to achieve this. 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 Al-Servo Mode for continuous focus.

how to photograph kids in motion: photographing active kids running

9. Use Al-Servo focusing mode: It keeps tracking the moving subject versus focusing once when you hold the button halfway down. This will make catching a clear shot of your moving target a little easier.

10. Be patient: 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.

Good luck and have fun making memories with your little active ones. Let me know if you have any other questions and comment with links to some of your favorite photos! And check out more photos of my kids on the move over on my Tampico is color photo blog.

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

how to photograph kids in motion: photographing active kids flying a kite

Tags: ,

Sonia says:

Thank you!!! I needed these tips. Now that I’ll have 2 kids in school I want to start using my DSLR again and I need help. I also loved your Periscope tips too. Will you be uploading those to YouTube?

Yay! So happy you found it helpful Sonia! yes, having more time to practice makes all the difference. I’m glad you enjoyed my periscope tips. I DO want to put them on Youtube but I just can’t get with the vertical format. haha. So I’m probably going to re-film some of the tips… Or at least edit it before putting them on youtube. I don’t know… Maybe I should just whip it up there in a Periscope category? haha, we’ll see!

Leah Sannar says:

Oh a Periscope category is a good idea. Then everyone will know what the deal is. I love all these tips. I’m definitely going to use the Aperture Priority mode you mentioned… I think it is called Portrait on my camera, but I didn’t realize what it did. Also, I’d love to hear more about that Al-Servo mode. 🙂 I’ve never heard of it and wouldn’t know how to find it on my camera. If only I could unpack everything and find my stupid DSLR manual. 🙂

Iiona V says:

I was so going to ask what is this Al-servo mode you speak of, my youngest is in gymnastics and I am using the first two meets as practice and then hoping to get some real good shots at the last 4-5 gymnastics meets.

Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users would really benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks!

Allowing kid to play is the best way to shoot kid photography. I like your suggestions and will use high shutter speed to do so in future for my photography.

Jennifer says:

So glad you found them helpful!

Melbourne wedding photo booth says:

I need to learn that trick. You’ve got amazing shots there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.

follow @jenniferborget on