Don’t let another action shot slip away when you use these simple candid child photography tips.

Posed portraits are beautiful keepsakes, but there’s something truly special about candid child photography. Candid photos capture the essence of childhood in a way posed portraits simply can’t. They can also spark cherished memories even after your children are grown and have left the nest. Whether they’re on the sports field or tinkering in the tree house, taking candid portraits is all about having the right camera in hand and strategy in mind. Here are a few of my best tips to help you make the most of your camera, kids, and all their energy.

Freeze-motion photo of little boy jumping on the bed.


Adjust your shutter speed 

Sometimes it seems like kids travel at the speed of light. As a parent photographer you’ve got to pick up your game if you don’t want to be left in a blur. Continuous shooting mode can capture all that split-second magic of a candid child photo. Don’t be afraid of taking too many! That’s the beauty of digital photography.

Little girl playing with flower petals outside her home in Chevy Chase, MD outside for candid kid photography

Get close

Young children in particular don’t have the barriers to personal space that we adults do. Get up close and crouch down to your kid’s level. And don’t distract them from whatever is capturing their attention. They DO NOT need to make eye contact with the camera for the image to work. Instead, focus in on their pudgy cheeks, muddy hands, and bashful expressions as they show you their world. Getting up close also adds intimacy, depth, and unique detail to every candid child photo.

 Photo of toddler boy crouching to touch fallen leaves on the ground for candid kids photography in Washington, DC.

Go into stealth mode for the best candid child photography

If your kids tend to get distracted by the presence of your camera, you’ll need to sneakily desensitize them. Keep it nearby, in your hand, and turned on at all times. That way, when they get “in the zone” while playing in the yard, they’ll hardly notice the subtle sound of your camera’s shutter as it clicks away. If your subjects are particularly finicky, you may even have to remain out of sight, otherwise known as photographer “stealth mode.”

 Two sisters dancing is an example of candid photography, kids don't need to stop the fun.

Make a move

Children live in constant motion and as a photographer, you can learn a thing or two from their example. Snap then step to the side, crouch down, or move to an angle with better lighting. Keep shooting as you search for the right position and edit out what didn’t work. Keep in mind that the light should be behind you, the action should be slightly off center, and the perspective should be level with your child.

Example of shallow depth-of-field as a way to isolate the subject of the photo.g

Use a shallow depth-of-field

In photographer lingo, this is known as “shooting wide open.” It means shooting with a low aperture (anything between f/1.2 — f/2.8). It takes some practice and some fidgeting with your camera’s settings, but when you nail it, you’ll know. The background will be softly blurred and your child’s delicate features will shine through in the foreground.


Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.About the Photographer and Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!

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