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Summertime Series #1 - Photographing Kids and 4th of July Fireworks

kids jumping

“School’s out…for the summer!” Yes fellow photographers, it is that time of year again! School is over for a few months, the sun shines hotter and longer than any other season, and everywhere you look, children are experiencing some of the great summertime traditions: sports, the pool, ice cream trucks, parties, camp, and fireworks! Summertime truly has a magical appeal to a child; a lifetime of memories can be created in a single day. Think back to your own childhood memories. Most of them probably involve the summer season – vacations, holidays, friends, and a carefree outlook on life. This summer, be sure to capture a child’s wild innocence in your photos so they may look back in the years to come and relive that magical summertime feeling again and again. Here are a few tips for photographing children this summer, as well as some bonus tips for taking excellent Fourth of July fireworks photos. Grab your camera and some sunscreen and make this a summer to remember!

kids playing with water hose

Children at play make excellent candid shots. Initiate a fun activity with your child and his or her friends, and capture the experience with candid shots of the children at play. Do something you used to love to do as a child. Here are a few examples:

  • Turn on the sprinkler, sit back, and zoom in. The long zoom feature on your camera keeps you dry and less intrusive to the children. Make sure to get close-ups of their faces, as well as wider shots to show who was there. Try the same thing at the pool. Children love water activities on a hot day!

kids posing with dog
  • There is a special connection between a child and his or her pet. Try to capture the unconditional bond in a photograph; the pet will keep the child engaged (and vice-versa) so you can really get an excellent candid shot. Just try to keep the sun at their backs to avoid squinting and hard shadows!
  • Have a party! Kids love parties, especially costume parties. One afternoon this summer, throw some fun clothes together for your child and some friends and put together a picnic or snack (don’t forget the Kool-Aid). The kids will do the rest – make sure you are there to supervise and photograph the event!
kids playing soccer

Photograph your child’s sporting events. Never miss the opportunity to capture an image of your child immersed in their sports glory! Whether it's baseball, tee-ball, soccer, or an informal kickball game at the park, kids really show their true character when playing sports. Here are a few tips for photographing a child’s sporting event:

  • Use your long zoom – it keeps the subjects sharp and lets the background go soft. This is the same method used by professional sports photographers, so it works!

kids playing baseball
  • Take a knee. This technique was mentioned a few emails back, and now is the time to use it! Your subject will appear larger than life and you will avoid unwanted clutter in the background.
  • Do not use split lighting; keep the sun either completely in back or in front of the action. Split lighting does not look as good because there are two extreme light ranges in the same shot.
girl in swing
Take portraits. By portraits, we do not mean the head and shoulders shots they take at the beginning of each school year. Instead, take a portrait that really captures who the child is at this particular time in his or her life. Include props and have fun scouting the location by picking a place they love to hang out at on a summer day. Here are a few examples:
girl at pool
  • The Skateboarder. Go to the skateboard park and photograph your child dressed in pads and a helmet holding the board. Ask him or her to talk to you about why they love skateboarding; their face will light up talking about something they have passion for. Include the setting in the shots, and don’t force them to smile!
  • The Swimmer. Go to the pool and have your subject sit on the end of the diving board. Get up on the ladder behind the board and shoot down at the child. The depth and color contrast of the cool blue water will create a great photo!

Bonus Tip: Take better fireworks pictures! Because the Fourth of July is right around the corner, we thought you may enjoy a few quick tips about shooting fireworks displays:

  • Bring a tripod and a flashlight. Because it’s dark, you’ll need longer exposures, so use the tripod to avoid blurry photos. The flashlight will help you adjust your camera settings in the dark.
  • Set your camera on either Fireworks mode or Manual mode. In Fireworks mode, the camera will take care of the settings. In Manual mode, set your camera to ISO 200, aperture f/8, and shutter speed between 5 and 15 seconds. Take a look at the first few shots to see how they are turning out and adjust accordingly.


  • Include a landmark in the photo. As the fireworks explode, they will light up a statue, stadium, park, lake, or whatever the surrounding area includes.
  • Take a lot of frames! You can take 100 photos and only keep 2 great ones. Be a ruthless editor; you only need one or a few shots to frame and share!
Well, that does it for this edition. We will continue to provide summertime photography tips over the next few emails. Have fun with your families this summer, and don’t forget your camera!

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