Child photography: a lesson in chaos

The second law of thermodynamics states (loosely) that entropy in an isolated system will increase over time.

This can be demonstrated practically by taking a group of children to a location to be photographed. As soon as the children are released, chaos ensues and photography becomes a trial… If this sounds familiar, here are some tips to help capture some usable images.

Tips for family photography, west London
  • Use the fastest shutter speed you can - if you get over 1/1000s, you have a pretty good chance of freezing a moving child. Of course, this assumes you can focus fast enough - and that their expression isn’t as crazy as their movement
  • If you can, decreasing your aperture (increasing your f-stop) will provide you with more in focus area - which if children are moving quickly will increase the chance that they are in the focus area when you click the shutter. If you are using a small aperture and a fast shutter, you might need to increase your ISO to compensate (unless, and this is unlikely in this British summer, it’s a bright sunny day).
  • Shooting in burst mode will give you a choice of terrible expressions from which you might be able to extract one photograph (just try not to use this in every situation to compensate for poor photography!)
  • And if you think that shooting burst mode is cheating, many modern cameras (especially those with 4K video) allow you to extract individual frames from a film. I’m sure I’m supposed to shake my head at what the world is coming to, but if you can do this you have both a video and a photograph. Double bonus! (Of course, you have to go through every frame - which at 25fps will become tedious with more than a couple of seconds of video - to find one you like. But you can do it at your leisure.)
  • If all that seems too much, you could use a lower shutter speed and freeze the action with flash (even in daylight). This won’t solve the expression problem, but even with an iPhone or point-and-shoot (or if you can’t control your shutter speed and aperture manually) you should be able to do this
  • Finally, and more creatively, why not embrace the blur? You have two options, both with a relatively low shutter speed (1/60s or slower): hold the camera still as a child zooms past, and have a blur of movement across your image (make sure you have an interesting background, and you’ll get a photo of a child in their natural state - gone - against your chosen backdrop); or, pan the camera with the movement of the subject (difficult if they are randomly changing direction), and you’ll get a nice image showing motion, with a blurred background and - with practise - a child relatively in focus.

As ever, experiment, and hopefully the above will help you capture what you need without having to resort to supergluing the little darlings’ feet to the floor.

(Note: DKClarke Photography does not condone the supergluing of children’s - or anyone’s - feet to the floor to capture better photographs…)

Headshot session at The Barley Mow Centre, Chiswick

The last testimonial in this batch