jump, jump!

by Lisa Tichané

Whether in my personal or client images, there is nothing I enjoy more than capturing happy, funny, true-to-life moments. And one of my favorite trick to get big smiles and belly laughs during a kids photo shoot is definitely the jumping-on-the-bed one.

Let’s be honest: I actually love to jump on beds. I know, I’m 37, it should be a habit from the past, but hey… it’s fun. So if I’m breaking the rule myself, I cannot possibly forbid my boys to do it, right? But on the other hand, you cannot let a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old jump on beds all day long. So I created a ‘Momtographer’ rule for my house: kids are allowed to jump on the bed ONLY when Mom is taking pictures. It’s the perfect win-win situation; they are happy to be in front of the camera and I get images that I love.  I dare you to try it!

It’s actually the same strategy during a client shoot for my lifestyle family sessions at home. I always check beforehand with the parents to be sure that they are okay with a little rule-breaking, and they usually are. During the session I keep the jumping-on-bed trick under my belt until the perfect moment: it can be at the very beginning of the session to warm up a shy child (works wonders!) or when the child is getting tired of the camera and ready to call it off since it helps renew the interest in the session.

But getting the perfect image of a kid jumping on a bed can be quite challenging. Here are a few tips to make your life easier.

Safety first

This is probably the most important element. Jumping can be risky, and the last thing you want is to end up going to the ER because of a photo shoot that was supposed to be fun and ended up being a nightmare.  Here a few things you might want to consider:

  • No item on the bed while the kid is jumping (like a toy he or she might fall on).
  • Always position the kid on the middle of the bed, never on the sides.
  • Make sure that the parents are close to the sides of the bed, ready to stop the action if anything looks remotely dangerous.
  • If the kid gets too excited and beyond control, be ready to stop. No image is worth an accident.
  • You can also add pillows or blankets on the floor around the bed, just in case the previous precautions weren’t enough to prevent a fall.

Shutter speed is key

Now that the set up is safe, let’s have fun. If you’re like me and love to have as much clarity on your images as possible, be prepared to use a very high shutter speed.  Jumping creates very fast movement, especially on hands and feet. If you want to freeze that movement, you need a shutter speed above 1/500s.  With a very energetic kid, you might even get a bit of motion blur at 1/500s, so 1/800s would be safer.

jump, jump! photo
In this image taken at 1/500s, you can see the motion blur on my youngest son’s feet.

Crank that ISO

The consequence of Tip#2 is that you need LOTS of light to get perfect exposure at 1/800s. But not all of us are fortunate enough to have a bedroom flooded with daylight. If you’re like me and have an averagely lit house (not a cave, but not exactly a natural light studio either), you will need to use your camera’s ISO capabilities.
Don’t be afraid to bump that ISO number! To me, grain is a lesser evil than motion blur. I want to see every detail of the kid’s face when he’s grinning from ear to ear, so I need a sharp image.

The family image shown below were taken at 5000 ISO. I slightly overexposed my image to minimize the noise in camera, and used Lightroom’s noise-reduction tool during my post-treatment and I’m very happy with the result.  I have to admit that this image was taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, which is just fabulous at high ISO. The result wouldn’t be the same with an entry-price DSLR but I used to get great jumping shots with my faithful little Rebel, years ago!

If your bedroom is really a cave, or just not suitable for a photoshoot, don’t give up! You can make it work anyway, jumping on the couch is a great option, too!

jump, jump! photo

Focusing tips

Getting perfect focus on a jumping image can be a challenge, for two reasons.  First, because the child is moving fast, so the risk of missing focus is high.  Second, because even if you bump your ISO number, you might also need to open up your aperture quite wide in order to get enough light for keeping a high shutter speed. And the wider you shoot, the shallower your depth of field is, increasing even more risk of missed focus.

In order to reduce that risk and nail my focus almost every single time, I use a combination of 3 factors: selecting a dynamic AF mode to follow the movement (Ai Servo in my case, since I’m a Canon user), choosing my focal point and placing it on the face of my subject (I make sure that I follow the movement with my active focal point), and using back button focusing because it’s more reliable when capturing movement.

Don’t forget that if you shoot 2 or more subjects at a time and need to use a wide aperture to keep your shutter speed as high as necessary, it will be difficult to get both subjects in sharp focus. In that case, make sure that you focus on the subject that is closest to your lens. Our eyes are trained to look at the foreground first; if the first plane is sharp we get an impression of sharpness, even if the subject in the background is actually out of focus.

jump, jump! photo

One more thing, once I have chosen my settings to make sure that my image will be sharp, my only priority is nailing my focus. Which means that I won’t pay as much attention to composition as I would on a static portrait. I usually frame my shot a little wider than what I need for the final image which leaves me some room to re-crop and achieve a pleasing composition after the fact. Sometimes you just can’t get everything perfect in camera and have to give up on something and with a jumping shot focus should be very high on your priority list!

Step back, go wide

Don’t underestimate how high your subject can jump. If you have some room around the bed, step back as much as you can and/or use a wide angle lens. Make sure you frame your shot as wide as possible otherwise you’ll end up with a frustrating head chop as in the example below.

jump, jump! photo

And yes, this is me, making a total fool of myself. Can you believe how far I’m ready to go to make sure that others won’t repeat my mistakes? You are totally allowed to laugh, I do find myself pretty ridiculous too. Not everybody is an expert of graceful jumping…sorry.

Get low

This is a simple but very effective tip. If you choose a low vantage point, you exaggerate the distance between you and the jumper, making the jump look higher than it is in real life. The visual impact is more powerful.

jump, jump! photo

Before and after

Freezing the kid in mid-air with a joyful expression is definitely one of the pleasures of the jumping exercise but it’s not the only one. Another fun thing about jumping is falling on the bed. Or lying flat on the bed with a big smile, totally exhausted after several minutes of intense jumping. This is what you want to capture: the jumping moment, but also the various emotions and expressions before and after the moment itself.

jump, jump! photo

jump, jump! photo

By the way, the exhaustion that follows the effort is a perfect moment to catch quiet but happy portraits on the bed. This is very helpful with energetic kids that won’t stay still otherwise!

Create some contrast

If you include several subjects in your shot, it can be fun to underline the energy of the movement by creating some contrast with a still subject. It makes the jumping action stand out even more.

jump, jump! photo

jump, jump! photo

Younger kids can play too

When kids are too young to jump on their own or if you are worried about their safety, invite their parents too! A dancing contest on the bed is fun for the whole family.

jump, jump! photo

Feeling playful?

Now that you are a master of those jumping on the bed images you might want to spice it up a little bit.
Here was one of my recent challenges: nailing my shots with a Lensbaby. Yes, you got that right: MANUAL focusing on a jumping kid. Haha! That was pretty interesting.

jump, jump! photo

In the past months I also tried to include some jumping into my self-portrait project, which was quite a challenge too (you’ve seen two examples in this article, one success and one failure!).

There are dozens of ways to renew the exercise, just be creative and don’t forget to come back to share the results with us!

jump, jump! photoLisa Tichané, France
CM Mentor
Website | Blog | Facebook | Pinterest | Mentoring | Ask a Pro
Maybe it’s because she’s “a bit silly” or maybe it has to do with her being “a child at heart” but Lisa has an incredible talent for photographing babies and children in her fun, clean and playful style with her Canon 5d mark ii, 50 f/1.4, 24-70L and 135L. Marseille, France is the place she calls home along with her two boys where they love to play in the countryside treasure hunting and inventing goofy games. She does enjoy some quiet once in a while where she can browse the web with her coffee and chocolate. Laughter is a must have, though, as she states, “a day without a good laugh is definitely a lost one for me.”

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25 Responses to “jump, jump!”

  1. Jul 30 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Love your jumping shots, Lisa! <3 Those Lensbaby ones are awesome– and look so challenging!

  2. Jana O'Flaherty
    Jul 30 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Amazing tips and thank you so much for sharing! I LOVE your jumping shots and am inspired to give it a go with my own kids.

  3. Jul 30 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    Love them Lisa! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jul 30 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Thank you ladies!! I can’t wait to see your images :)

  5. Erin W.
    Jul 30 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    Love this – thank you! I tried some jumping shots about a month ago and it was an utter failure, so I’m excited to try again with these new tips.

  6. Jul 30 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    fun tutorial!!

  7. Faune
    Jul 30 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Love this! Thank you so much for sharing! Can’t wait to try this with my kiddos:)

  8. Veronica
    Jul 30 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Love these! Great tips Lisa! Can’t wait to try it!

  9. Jul 30 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Thank you so much everyone for your sweet comments!!

  10. Carrie
    Jul 30 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing your information and these photos. So fun to see and very helpful and informative. I am new to Lightroom and was wondering where the noise reduction tool is that you mentioned or where I might go read and learn more about that. Thanks again!

    • Jul 31 2013 at 5:02 am #

      Hi Carrie! Noise reduction is very easy to use in LR, you can find 2 sliders (one for color and one for luminance noise) in the bottom part of the develop module :)

  11. Kristen Ryan
    Jul 30 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Love this article Lisa!! Thanks for sharing your tips :)

  12. Bree H
    Jul 30 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    I always love your work, Lisa, and now I’m excited to (hopefully) get some better-focused bed jumping shots!!

  13. Julie
    Jul 30 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Love, love, love this article. Such great tips and beautiful photos. I really think your work is wonderful, Lisa! Thank you!

  14. Jul 30 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    love these lisa! I just bought kids new pjs to try this out..(I can justify just about any purchase if it leads to cute pictures! ;)

  15. Kristin Dokoza
    Jul 31 2013 at 1:00 am #

    great tips! I love letting my boys jump on the bed, haven’t thought ever to join them. Hmmmm ;)

  16. Jul 31 2013 at 2:26 am #

    Wow i like to see your jumping shoot very much !!

  17. Jul 31 2013 at 4:16 am #

    Thank you all! You are making my day :)

  18. Melina
    Jul 31 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Love love love these!! Must give it a shot!! Thank you for the excellent tips! <3

  19. Jul 31 2013 at 8:37 am #

    It’s very interesting and you look so crazy Lisa I love it !! Crazy but beautiful jump ;-)

  20. Jul 31 2013 at 11:44 am #

    I now can’t wait til my 21 month old is a little older for bed jumping!!! These are such fun shots!!

  21. Jennifer
    Aug 01 2013 at 1:48 am #

    This is so great! I totally let my kids jump on the bed, on the couches, etc… creates a real challenge when we’re at other people’s homes and the rules change! I LOVE your Momtographer rule — we’ll have to try that here!

  22. Aug 01 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Your comments make me so happy ladies! Thank you <3

  23. Hali
    Aug 19 2013 at 10:31 pm #

    Excellent post– Creative and Educational! I am so excited to try this! I’ve been having some issues with focusing. I’m assuming it will come along with practice. Do you have any tutorials on the AF BB & the 9 Focus Points?

  24. hamza
    Oct 08 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    My 10 year old daughter cannot jump but can do other activities (running, walking, etc.). Can someone suggest how I can help? Shoudl I take her to a therapist?

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