Top Tips for Taking Actions Shots of Kids Outside

Here’s a handy post for parents who’d like to improve their photographic skills.

Kristy of Kristy Mannix photography specialises in taking pictures of infants and children and she’s listed here her advice on taking action shots.

If your kids play sport and you’d love to catch them in action with a crisp shot, or you’d like to freeze the action of your toddlers and preschoolers, here are Kristy’s thoughts and tips.

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Top Tips for Taking Actions Shots of Kids Outside

By Kristy Mannix

Formal portraits are a nice memento of a child’s formative years but if you want pictures to look back on that capture the sheer joy and exuberant behaviour of your child’s youth, action shots are very difficult to beat.

The problem with such shots and one of the reasons that many parents give up trying to take them is that they require a degree of skill that only comes with practice

This is something that many mums and dads find it difficult to commit to on a regular basis.

However, if you put in a little time and effort now, you will find that you are soon able to take fantastic action shots of your children: pictures that you are sure to cherish for a lifetime.

How to Take Great Action Shots of Your Children

Whether you are a keen photographer with a substantial amount of experience or you are in the process of learning how to use the first new camera that you have bought in many years, the tips below will help you to learn the necessary skills to take superb action shots of your son or daughter as they grow up.

  • Always Have a Camera to Hand – This is the sort of tip that makes people laugh as it is so obvious but you would be surprised at the amount of great shots parents miss simply because they forgot to take a camera with them when they were heading out for the day.
  • Get into the habit of picking your camera up on the way out the front door every time you leave home and you will never miss the opportunity for a great action shot again.
  • If you find that your primary camera is a little too large to lug around in some circumstances, consider investing in a high-quality compact model so that you always have something better than your smartphone to hand.

NB Once you have got lovely photos of your babies, toddlers and preschoolers, you will need to think about making a beautiful phtoto book, try Mixbook.

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  • Increase Shutter Speed – If you are using the manual mode on your camera, make sure that you choose a shutter speed above 1/200 when taking action shots of your children.
  • Failure to do so will result in lots of pictures featuring a colourful blur!
  • The more light available, the higher you can raise your shutter speed without fear of underexposure: if you are watching your son or daughter play sport outside on a sunny summer afternoon, you could go as high as 1/1000 or more.
  • The higher the better when it comes to capturing a fast moving subject but only if you have enough light.
  • You are sure to make mistakes when manually setting the shutter speed at first but with practice, you will find it much easier to judge whether there is enough light available to use a certain speed.
  • As you will see in the next point, aperture can also affect the amount of light that hits your camera sensor so this setting should always be considered at the same time as shutter speed when making manual adjustments.
  • Aperture – Larger aperture settings can really help to isolate the subject of your photos from the background against which you are taking your shots and they also allow more light to reach the sensor, which makes it possible for you to use faster shutter speeds.
  • However, it is easier to ensure your subject is in focus when you use a smaller aperture setting and hence have a greater depth of field so this is another area that requires some patience and practice on your part.
  • As a rough guideline, an aperture setting of 5.6 or less is a good place to start your experiments, increasing this setting only as you become more proficient.
  • If you are taking photographs of a team sport such as football and you wish to ensure that all of the participants are in focus, you will have to use a smaller aperture setting and adjust your shutter speed accordingly.
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  • Use Continuous Shooting Mode – Most professional photographers advise against using this mode when learning how to take quality pictures as it can encourage a haphazard approach that relies on one or more shots turning out well through little more than blind luck. However, it can help a lot too.
  • Almost all modern cameras feature this mode so you should be able to take advantage of this tip no matter what make or model you happen to be using at the moment.
  • Use Centre AF Point When Learning – While settings such as focus and recompose can come in very handy when you have a little more experience of taking action shots, using the centre AF point will provide more reliable results when first starting out.
  • Some people are tempted to use facial recognition settings when taking action shots of their children but this is nearly always a bad idea as unless the children in question are moving slowly and facing directly at the camera, the resulting pictures will often be out of focus.
  • The more facility you gain in taking pictures of fast-moving subjects, the more you will be able to experiment with different manual and autofocus settings but to start with, keeping the centre focal point on the subject’s face is the simplest and most reliable approach.

We hope that you have a great deal of fun learning how to take action shots of your children and that you are able to capture some great memories for both you and your kids to look back on in the years to come.

In the meantime, if you want to make sure that you get some great pictures of your children at a forthcoming event, consider hiring a professional photographer who specialises in this field.

Thank you Kristy, photography can be a terrific hobby for parents to explore. We always have a lot of opportunities to take photos of the kids.

I find it really enjoyable to have something more technical and challenging to think about, especially when I’m watching mine play sport. Again… and again… taking the camera and pushing myself to learn more and experiment is great.

Kristy lives and works in Perth, WA.  Do check out Kristy’s beautiful website Kristy Mannix Photography , her photos of children are really special. 


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