Photographing children

Author: Vicki Uthe


I have been volunteering with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops for about 18 months and have had the pleasure of working several photo 101 and 102 classes. I love these workshops because the room is filled with people new to photography. And if they are not new then they are at a point in their journey where they want to find out more about what the camera can do. As we move through the room and introduce ourselves a question that is often asked is: What do you like to shoot? Several answers seem to emerge. It seems to be either flowers and landscapes, I don’t know yet or GRANDCHILDREN! This posting is about how to capture the spirit of the child.

I graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1986 with a degree in Krauss_visit_July_2015-7191Photojournalism where I spent three and a half years shooting sporting events for the NAU Athletic program. Back then it was all film and mistakes were made. Nowadays you can take a few frames, adjust and keep on shooting! Pixels are FREE! The more you shoot the better your chances of catching that priceless expression. Here are some things to consider:

For best results shoot outdoors where flash is not an issue. The lighting will be better for stopping the movement of the kids. Set the ISO at 400 for starters. Set the shutter speed (shutter priority) to at least 1/250 (of a second) but that depends on how long your lens is. As a rule, set your shutter speed to AT LEAST the fraction of a second of your focal length. For example, if you are shooting with a 70-300 you’ll want to set your shutter speed at 1/300 to prevent blurry pictures due to camera shake. The aperture should set itself in shutter priority mode. Okay, now you’re set. Of course you will adjust as necessary.

I prefer shooting with a longer lens to take myself out of the mix. Candid images are my favorite portraits. I believe these images were all shot with over a 100 mm focal length.

An important thing to remember with children is to get low. Get at their level. If crouching is difficult then set yourself up in a chair with a long enough lens that you have a clear view of the play area. If your camera gets heavy, put it on a monopod. Keep your eye in the viewfinder, set your camera for rear button focus, set your shooting to AI Servo (Canon) so the focus is continuous on the subject and shoot away! Burst mode helps. I like the fast burst. I anticipate action, push down the shutter and see what I get later. Once I toss out all the shots with weird faces and closed eyes there is usually a keeper among them.


The biggest thing to remember is to have your camera close by…always. Whether it’s a point and shoot or a DSLR remember, it’s just a tool. Once you learn how to operate your tool you will get spectacular shots. Don’t be scared. Again, pixels are free.   Don’t be scared to get out there and push that shutter release.

Vicki Uthe is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.