Your children aren’t really cooperating when you ask them to sit down and smile at the camera, are they? I’ll tell you a secret… None of them are!

Taking a (sharp) portrait of children looking and smiling at the camera is REALLY HARD. The more children you have, the harder it gets. Bribes work quite well, but even then, I’m not sure how natural their smiles are.

The next option you have is to take photographs of your children while they’re on the move. Playing, jumping on the bed, running after each other.

BUT. Everything single one of them is a blur. Even when they’re not moving that much, it’s a real struggle to get a sharp photograph. WHY?

Personal photos of my daughter

iPhone photo taken by my husband

Why Are Your Photographs Blurry?

First of all, there are 2 types of blur: Out-of-focus blur (the focus of the photograph isn’t on your subject) and Motion blur (which is usually what happens when photographing children). If you are struggling with focusing on your subject (whether on phone or DSLR), you need to practice this skill. If you’re struggling with Motion blur, keep reading…

There are a few factors that will contribute to the quality and sharpness of a photograph:

  • Light
  • Movement of the subject (children & pets especially)
  • Movement of the photographer
  • Quality of the camera (phone, DSLR…)
  • Camera settings (The exposure triangle = ISO, aperture and shutter speed)

Let’s consider the worst-case scenario:  you are trying to photograph a moving child in a poorly lit room with a phone camera. I have been in this situation and there is no way I am going to get a sharp image!

Personal photos of my daughter

What Can You do to Take Better Photographs?

The good news is that you do not need to get a professional camera to take sharp photographs. Of course, if you have been hired to photograph a wedding, it’s important to have the right camera and lenses for the job. Photographing the bride coming down the aisle in a dark church require proper equipment.

However, you can keep photographing your children with your phone or entry-level DSLR and get good results.

The tips below are simple ways you can improve your photographs and have a higher rate of sharp photographs vs blurry ones. You can obviously combine all the tips!

  1. Get more light. The more light you have available, the more chances you have to get a sharp photograph. Outdoor is best, but you can also photograph your children by a window at home. Even with a phone camera and a moving child, you should be able to get sharp photographs if the amount of light is good.
  2. Use flash. Flash is a great way to get sharp photographs indoor. However, the result isn’t always pretty (white faces, red eyes, change of atmosphere…).
  3. Wait until the subject is still. Depending on what you are trying to capture, you can wait until your subject is still to take the photo.
  4. Don’t move. If you are moving while trying to take a photograph, this will also result in motion blur.
  5. Buy a better camera. If you like to photograph the everyday moments of your children inside your home, chances are that the light won’t always be enough for your phone. If you tried all the other tips and still can’t get sharp images, it might be time to upgrade your gear to the next level.
  6. Learn to use your camera. Maybe you already have a good camera but never got around to learning the settings. You can choose to use the AUTO mode, but knowing how ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed affect your photographs will help you take better photographs.

Extra tip 1: now, when I have the worst case scenario (phone – low light – moving child), I take a video!

Extra tip 2: When motion blur is used intentionally, it’s not a “bad” thing. It can show movement and create a dynamic image.

Dublin Documentary Family Photographer

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20 Photographs Your Children Will Thank You For Twenty years from now

Download this 10 page PDF with prompts and photo examples of what your children will find really meaningful someday.

Some you may have already thought about… and some you may not :)

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