You’ve bought a DSLR camera, you’ve got the lens on, you’ve switched it to Auto and got some great pictures — and some not-so-great ones. You’ve chased the kids around the yard and they’re all blurry. You’re probably frustrated right now, so this is what you can do to get good clear pictures of your children worthy of the walls.
While Auto will work in most situations, it can’t always detect what you’re trying to do. Some cameras come with a Sports Mode or Scene Selection, which typically will have a sports setting. This can help in most situations. However, if you’re still having problems there is more you can do before admitting defeat.
For the more experienced user, Manual mode can certainly solve most situations. You control everything. That said, even as an avid photographer I usually rely on the shutter speed mode for pictures of my children. Depending on your camera model, it can appear as an ‘S’ or ‘Tv’. In this mode, you can change the shutter speed (how fast the camera takes a photo) and the ISO (how sensitive your camera is to light).
To take a step backwards, your camera needs light to produce an image. The faster you want to take a picture to prevent blurring, the less light you let into the camera. So you need to get your light from other sources. This can be from your ISO (too high an ISO can lead to grainy pictures) or from your aperture, which narrows your depth of field — that is, how much of the picture is in focus. This is the balancing act of a photographer. Of course, if you have good sunlight or a flash, this can help to get more light in the camera for sharper pictures.
Kids are fast, so your camera needs to be faster. Try turning the switch to ‘Tv’ or ‘S’ and start at 1/400s for kids playing casually. In comparison, for birds in flight it’s usually recommended to use 1/1250s. So if your kids bounce around as much as mine do, you might want to aim for a faster setting. On overcast days or inside, you will notice your pictures will become quite grainy with Auto-ISO. Sometimes it is just the trade-off you need to make for sharper pictures. However, if you are able to keep your ISO setting at 800 or less, you won’t have that grainy, pixeled look.
Your focus setting is also important. Make sure you change your focus to Auto-Servo so it tracks your kids as they move. Otherwise they will be out of focus before you get a chance to take the photo.
So to get those little mischief-makers in focus, try the Sports setting, or ‘Tv’/’S’ mode, and experiment between 1/400-1/1000s with Auto-ISO to start with. If you find your pictures are too grainy, then try to keep your ISO under 800. You may need to turn on some lights, use a flash or get out in the sunshine.
You can follow me on Facebook @laurenicolephotographs and Instagram @thephotographymum