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Shoot Better | How to take unposed photos of kids (part 1)

This post is part of Shoot Better, a series about improving your photography skills without buying new equipment.   Because, you know, frugality.   😉

4 Ways to take Better Candid Kid Photos

Unposed photos of kids are my favorite!   Capturing children as they play, read, swim, dance, fight, laugh, cry…it’s just the best.

Unposed photos do present some challenges, though.

For instance, when you’re posing people, you can usually put them in places where the light and background is nicely set up.

how to take unposed photos of kids

But when you’re wanting to take pictures of kids as they exist in their natural state, it’s a little trickier to take a great photo.

how to take better unposed photos of kids

I’ve been busy shooting unposed photos of my kids for years, and in this post and the next, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about taking good (and interesting) candid pictures of kids.

Keep your camera handy.

I’ll probably say this multiple times over the course of the series, but boy, it’s super important for candid photos.

how to take better candid kid shots

If your camera is safely ensconced in a bullet-proof camera case, it won’t ever get messed up, but it’ll also likely never get used.

So keep it out!   Carry it with you! Use it!

That’s what cameras are for.

take better unposed photos of kids

I mean, certainly be sensible….store it on a highish shelf to keep it safe when you’re not using it (and never let the strap dangle because that is just ASKING for trouble).

But do make sure it’s in a spot where you can easily grab it.

Otherwise, cute moments will pass before you’ve extracted your camera from the case.


Watch for good light.

This is part of being a light detective.   The more you practice photography, the more you’ll perk up and notice when the light is good.

look for good light

If your kids happen to be playing in open shade or near a nice window or outside during the golden hour (the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset), grab your camera and start shooting.

Set them up for play in good light.

If there’s a side of your table that has better light, set the play-doh up there.   If there’s a shady spot for your summer picnic, set it up there rather than in the bright sunlight.

Zoe in limeapple

Obviously, I’d never recommend that you prioritize lighting over your children’s fun.

But if all things are equal (does it matter which side of the table you use for play-doh??   Does your baby care where you put the exersaucer?), opt for the choice that has better light.

set kids up in good light

This might feel slightly silly or over the top, but it does help to make photos better, and it really doesn’t have to interfere with your kids’ play.

Wait in the good light.

Kids sometimes move between good lighting and bad (between bright sunlight and open shade) so I often position myself in a spot to catch the good lighting spots and I shoot when they happen to be there.

For example, I might wait at the shady spot in the pool or at the shady spot in the road while my kids are biking.   Once they reach the spot with good light, I snap away.

wait in the good light

Or if it’s a golden hour, I position myself for a backlit shot and wait for one of them to be in the right spot.


Alrighty!   That’s probably enough tips for you to digest in one sitting.   Give some of these ideas a try and let me know how they work for you.

(I’d love to see how you’re using these tips, so feel free to email me a photo if you’d like!)

And of course, let me know if you have questions.


Want more candid photo tips?   Here’s part 2: Five more tips for taking great candid kid photos

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Meredith P.

Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

This post just caused me to successfully snap some breathtaking shots this weekend. I made sure to have my camera in the car with me, and when the light shifted right before dusk everyone thought I was crazy! I ran to the car like a mad woman to grab that camera!!! I didn't get the kids this time because they weren't where the action was this time. There was just an amazing series of shots available of the sunset over the water with clouds rolling and shifting...and wow. Thanks for making me more aware of these huge little things. :)


Wednesday 3rd of June 2015

Yay! I'm so delighted to heard that this helped you.


Sunday 17th of May 2015

To be honest, I've been trying to ignore all these posts about photography. I'm well versed in all of it (photography classes in high school and college), but most often use my phone because it's what's on me. Well, you've inspired me lady (no surprise there, you inspire me pretty frequently). I'm getting out my DSLR today and vowing to get it out more often. :-D


Sunday 17th of May 2015

I'm so glad to have inspired you! But please know that I'm not at all saying an SLR is all you should shoot's totally ok to use a phone too.

(Although since you do already own an SLR, I'm pleased at the thought that it will get dusted off and used!)


Friday 15th of May 2015

I always like your photos so much, and these shots are wonderful. I remember your Short & Tall shot from awhile ago - love it :)

Hannah @ Eat, Drink and Save Money

Friday 15th of May 2015

Great tips! I'm like you, I prefer candid shots. I've never been a fan of the posed family pictures, they look too stuffy for me.

I'm loving this series!

Liz Bishop

Friday 15th of May 2015

Thank you for this.....I admit, basically ALL of my candid (or any) photos are taken with my phone, and I have taken some candids of my son that I love. My camera is just a regular "point and shoot" digital camera that I never use - but it does take better photos than my camera. Hubby has a DLSR that he keeps hidden away - no way to catch candids like that, as you mention. Eventually, I'd like to learn more about taking really good photos (with a really good camera), so this is a good start.


Friday 15th of May 2015

I think that's fine! The whole point of this series, really, is to help you take better pictures with whatever camera you currently own (phone, point and shoot, SLR, whatever.) Good photography technique can improve your pictures no matter what you shoot with.

If I were in a bossy mood, I would tell your hubby to take that SLR out and shoot, shoot, shoot until it dies! A great camera that sits in a closet is doing no one any good. My SLR is probably gonna bite the dust at some point, but I won't mind because it's taken thousands of photos for me. I'd rather have a dead camera that took a zillion photos than a perfect one in a closet that takes almost no photos.

So, my camera is always out on a shelf, I take it to the beach, I take it to the park, I've worn it while rollerblading (!)...I try to be responsible and careful, but not to the point where the camera collects dust.

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