With the recent dump of snow, I thought I’d resurrect this how-to for all those parents taking pics in the snow! These shots were taken a few years ago prior to all this social distancing bs.
I love just getting out with my camera and taking pics of our kids having fun. I grew up taking lots of photos in order to capture those memories and I want to make sure my kids have the same (plus I have a yearbook project that needs stuff!).
So, whenever kids gather (usually in my yard) I’m out there with my camera, in the mix, taking photos. I always post and share and always inevitably get questions on “how did you do that?”! My first answer is almost always “practice”. I’m out all the time trying new things to get the shot. But with that there are some principles that I’m happy to share so you can try on your own.
1. The Lens. All of these photos were taking with a lens that has a range of 24mm (pretty wide) to 70mm (moderately zoomed in). It gives me flexibility to take in the whole scene (by using the 24mm side of the spectrum) or zooming in on kids faces (moving towards the 70mm side of the range).
You can certainly do this with your phone now a days too. Find the action mode on your phone camera so that it freezes the action and shoot in burst mode (where it takes a bunch of pictures all at once)
2. Shutter Speed. For kids in motion you need to make sure the shutter is opening and closing very quickly. For dSLR camera this is directly controllable via buttons and settings. For non SLR’s you will likely find something in your sports mode (the little man running on your camera dial). The goal here is to try to freeze the action which means a pretty high shutter speed (more than 1/600th of a second). There are some cases where I like to “drag” so you can see some of the blur around the kids but that one takes quite a bit of practice to get right (I’m only partially successful in doing that one.)
For many of these I was also using a rapid shutter meaning that I was taking 4 or 5 images in very quick succession (like 2 every second). All dSLR’s have this function and some point and shoots do. If you’re using your iPhone or Android there is also a setting for this (my Android has a “best shot” mode that functions similar to this).
3. Positioning. For these I was down in the mix with the kids. On my knees, in the snow, right at the end of their ramp. It’s not a safe place to be but the place where you get the best shots. I was also right down at the ground so many times I was looking up at them or nearly level with them. The perspective really matters with these types of shots – standing up at the top of the hill shooting down would have missed all of their amazing expressions. The only way to get those was to be in front of them.
4. Post Processing. With snow especially, post processing is a must. I was fighting a few things here – changing light conditions and the snow. Snow is awful for a camera to read. It often times ends up blue or purple and totally underexposed (dark). Practice has taught me that I need to over expose and post processing allows me to make the white actually white vs. blue (there are some other tricks to get it right in the camera but with the changing light that was not going to work for me).
There are a bunch of programs for post processing. Being a professional, I use Adobe products (Light Room and Photoshop) but there are products out there for normal every day folks that can help. Even some of the filters on your phone will help combat the underexposed blue.
5. Patience The last of these tips is patience. I think I took over 500 images over the course of a few hours. Many because I was using the rapid shutter. When trying to catch action and fun you have to be prepared to sit and hangout and kind on anticipate the moments. Plus, I didn’t want to actually miss the fun so I stepped out from behind the camera and was just present in the moment and enjoying the joy of the kids.
But even with all these the best way to get the shot is to get out there and just try. Practice makes better and better. Photography is the type of skill where you’re constantly learning something new. Every time I get out and shoot I learn a new way to do something or tweak something I’ve already been doing.
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