I am just starting out with my Nikon D3100 and taking pictures of my kids who never seem to sit still. I thought that Child mode would be the most appropriate mode to do this with but I seem to be getting slower shutter speeds than I would have expected and consequently the pictures come out blurry when inside with available light. The settings I have are:

  • Child Mode
  • Flash disabled - because I only have the built in flash and it seems to really blow out the kids faces when it's on.
  • Aperture automatically set to largest value (in this case, f2.8)
  • ISO automatically set to 400.
  • Shutter speed automatically set to 1/20.

My thought was in Child mode I would have expected there to be a lower bound on shutter speed, say 1/50 or so, and let the camera bump up the auto ISO to 1600. Then, if the camera hit the ISO limit, it could start backing down the shutter speed to get the correct exposure, but that doesn't seem to be what is happening to me.

  • A question, since I don't have a Nikon camera to experiment on: if you set the Min. shutter spd in the ISO sensitivity camera menu to 1/50th of a second, does the Child mode respect that?
    – mattdm
    Dec 15 '11 at 3:53
  • a shutter speed of 1/20th will be blurry, if you are not using a rest of sorts. Dec 15 '11 at 11:07
  • mattdm - I had the min shutter speed set to 1/30 and max iso set to 1600 but it just seems to ignore that and go with reducing the shutter.
    – Joe Solano
    Dec 15 '11 at 12:11
  • 2
    Forget a rest for the camera! 1/20th will be blurry unless you've given your child sedatives.
    – mattdm
    Dec 15 '11 at 12:28

The manual describes child mode like this:

Use for snapshots of children. Clothing and background details are vividly rendered, while skin tones remain soft and natural.

So, while it probably affects the exposure program as well, from Nikon's own words the main concern seems to be with color rendering. Whatever effect this might have have on the automatically-selected shutter and aperture speed is "inside the black box". This is one reason I'm not fond of scene modes for learning. They're for people who want to avoid thinking about photography and just take some pictures. This doesn't really help ease you in to advanced knowledge in any way — it just gets annoying.

Since you're clearly thinking about how you want the shutter speed to be, I think it's time to abandon "child mode".

  • I agree. Once the process of thinking about shutter speeds, aperture, etc. happens, then the scene modes should go away.
    – Joanne C
    Dec 15 '11 at 3:28
  • "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away child mode." — 1st Corinthians 13:11. (Approximate translation....) And the next verse, in its famous King James translation, is about exposure too. :)
    – mattdm
    Dec 15 '11 at 4:08
  • Thanks I guess that is what I was thinking in the back of my mind, I was just still a little afraid to go there. So in this case I would probably go with shutter priority mode and set it to 1/50 or faster.
    – Joe Solano
    Dec 15 '11 at 12:09
  • Answers here might help: How can I get good pictures of a fast-moving child without high FPS? and on a more general level How do I manage good photos of babies and kids?
    – mattdm
    Dec 15 '11 at 13:06

I have Nikon D3100 and this camera seems to always choose reducing shutter speed over increasing ISO in automatic modes. That is why I would manually set the ISO to what is appropriate in the available light and then shoot in shutter speed priority mode.

  • Thanks good to know it is not just me, I am going to go with shutter priority mode for now and try that.
    – Joe Solano
    Dec 15 '11 at 12:12

In addition to the good advice above, I would also suggest you use the flash, but turn flash compensation down ( start with minus 1.3 ). Should kick in some extra light without washing everything out. I think that's going to be a better option than 1/20th or ISO 800+ with moving children. Or get an SB-400 and bounce off the ceiling (or purchase a contraption for your built-in flash to allow bounce)

  • I think this is also great advice, believe it or not I just ordered the SB-400 to try that too.
    – Joe Solano
    Dec 15 '11 at 12:13
  • :) Just remember, if you were to not use it you can get by. So you can give it minimum power (flash compensation at the maximum minus value) then work up from there. Make sure to use flash compensation, not overall exposure compensation - refer to the manual, or ask if you can't figure it out.
    – MikeW
    Dec 15 '11 at 17:53

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