with Courtney Slazinik
How You Should be Freezing motion in Your Photos
Manual Mode
How You Should be Freezing motion in Your Photos

When photographing children we often struggle with freezing the motion. Children especially toddlers don’t stand still. How do we do that? Which setting do we need to keep an eye on?

What is freeze motion?

Have you taken a photo and when reviewing it, you notice there is motion blur? Maybe your subjects hand is blurry or their face isn’t as sharp as you would like. This happens when you are not able to freeze the motion you are trying to capture in the image.

Freeze motion is using your settings on your camera to stop the movement that is happening in your photo. As the photographer you want to get your shutter speed & aperture to work together to create a sharp photo, freezing the motion of your subject.

Read more: Complete Guide to Understanding the Exposure Triangle

Like many photographers, I invested in a camera when my son was born so I could capture every stage as he grew. Once he started crawling, I quickly discovered I needed to learn how to take photos of moving subjects.

Now my favorite pictures are the ones where he is running and jumping because it truly captures his adventurous personality.

Similar to how a caricature highlights distinguishing characteristics and features of someone, capturing motion using back button focus can have a similar effect. It adds another element to a photograph and it can be very challenging at first. Like anything else, practice helps improve the product. It’s incredibly rewarding when you capture that perfect moment!

Read more: Make Your Blurry Photos Tack Sharp with 6 Simple Tips

freezing motion of child jumping off chair

Use a fast shutter speed

I always try to shoot at 1/400 or higher to get a sharp photo even if my subject isn’t moving a lot. I don’t have a steady hand with some of my heavier lenses so a higher shutter speed helps to offset that.

If I have a lot of light to work with I will push my shutter speed as high as I can go without underexposing my subject too much. If my subject is jumping or twirling my ideal shutter speed would be 1/1250 or higher.

With a high shutter speed, I can focus and then take multiple images very quickly.

Child throwing sand on beach and freezing the motion

Read more: How to use Kelvin for White Balance

Increase Your ISO to Bring in More Light

Don’t be afraid to increase the ISO in order to achieve a higher shutter speed. When I shoot moving subjects indoors sometimes my ISO is as high as 2000. Then, I will decrease the amount of noise in Lightroom with the luminance slider. I personally do not mind a little grain in my action shots.

Read more: 6 Reasons Why You Have Blurry Photos

Download this FREE manual mode cheat sheet!

Creating motion with your subject

Creating motion is easy when you’re taking photos of kids! Telling your subject to jump, run, or twirl allows them to have fun and keeps them engaged in the photo session. Count to three and then have your subject do the preferred action.

This gives some structure to the playful session and allows you to be ready to hit the shutter. I take lots of shots very quickly. I will do this a few times to make sure I got THE shot.

Read more: How to Shoot in Manual Mode

A fun tip to give your photos a little extra energy is to have the child jump and throw something in the air at the same time. This helps the child to stretch upwards which makes for cool photos.

I also love to incorporate natural elements such as wind and water to portray energy and motion!

Read more: 5 Ways to Create Catchlights

Keep an eye on your apeture

It’s easier to get your entire moving subject in focus when using higher apertures. If I am outside with plenty of light I will start around f3.5.

When I am indoors and need more light I will try to get my aperture closer to f2.8. Once you get really good at using high shutter speeds you can try using wider apertures to get that creamy bokeh while maintaining a sharp moving subject.

Read more: Basic Photography Tips

Experiment with freezing motion

The best thing about photography is that there is no right or wrong way to capture your subject. So much of photography is about interpretation. I never start and finish a session on the same settings.

I will take a few pictures and then look at my view finder to determine if I like what I’m seeing. Then I will adjust accordingly. I’ll be the first to admit that not all of my “motion” images are in focus.

However, I take lots of photos very quickly which maximizes the chances for that inspiring capture! For me, a picture that successfully conveys energy and emotion always trumps a technically perfect photo.

Read more: Changing Your Focal Point

I love how much movement she's able to capture. Must read if you want to photograph active children! Read - "5 Tips for Freezing Motion in Photographs"

Read more about freezing motion in photographs:

5 Ways to Elevate Your Photography by Capturing Movement
7 Tips to Show Movement with Slow Shutter Speed
5 Pet Photography Action Shots and How to Nail Them

Free Lightroom Presets
  • Brenda Trinidad
    March 9, 2017 at 11:57 PM

    I just learned lots of good stuff. Thank you for sharing. Im gonna play with my camera now. :)

  • Debbie
    April 5, 2017 at 12:12 PM

    You have captured some beautiful moments. Very inspiring post. Thank you.

  • Alli
    April 5, 2017 at 2:13 PM

    Thank you for all the tips! How are you loving focus on a moving subject? Do you Back Button Focus, manually focusing, continuous focus, or whatever kind of focus? When my little ones are moving I have the hardest time getting them in focus and not the wall they were just at a split second ago!

    • Alli
      April 5, 2017 at 2:14 PM

      *locking focus not loving😉

  • Tressa Maciag
    April 5, 2017 at 2:22 PM

    This was super helpful! Thank you so much!

  • Lorri
    April 5, 2017 at 5:06 PM

    What lens did you shoot with? Your pictures are beautiful. Was there any post editing done? Thanks for the information, it’s very helpful.

  • Tammy
    April 6, 2017 at 11:34 PM

    Your pictures are wonderfully inspiring. Thank you for the helpful and informative tips. Looking forward to putting your tips to good use.

  • Dee
    April 30, 2017 at 10:37 AM

    Thank you so much for the tips, most times I worry so much about getting well exposed pictures only to discover afterwards that some of the pictures where the subject moved are blurry, for example moving hands. Hoping to practice these tips to get a better result. Thank you so much.

  • August 29, 2017 at 4:39 PM

    […] keep the shutter speed at a minimum of 1/150. However, you’ll also want to consider your need to freeze motion. If you are taking photos of moving subjects like kids or sports, you’ll want your shutter speed […]

  • James Aston
    May 20, 2019 at 2:18 PM

    Those are some amazing shots. Are you using any additional lighting like flashes or strobes?

  • […] 5 Tips for Freezing Motion in Photographs […]

  • Nikki B
    February 23, 2020 at 8:04 PM

    thank you for sharing

  • Lourdes
    March 29, 2020 at 8:52 PM

    Great tips!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Jemma Pollari
    April 11, 2020 at 11:05 PM

    Stunning photographs and wonderful tips for photographing little ones. I love the action and motion you can capture when shooting like this.

  • Robson Mattjie
    February 17, 2022 at 11:29 AM

    Amazing! This website is sooo good.
    Thanks for sharing everything with us ;)

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