Buying a Digital Camera: How to Choose

Choosing a Digital Camera for Photos of Children or Pets

Expert (97 Recommendations and 21 Compliments)

While the requirements for a good portrait camera aren’t all that demanding, buying a camera for portraits of young children and pets presents a few unique challenges, namely the quickness and unpredictability of your subjects!

Far from the ideal portrait subject, children and pets will rarely hold still for a photo, and even when they do you might have a scant second before they change up their pose or expression, or simply run off again. Because of this, a portrait camera for kids and pets needs to be quick and responsive to capture fast-moving subjects and catch-it-or-miss-it moments.

Some features that’ll help:

Short shutter lag: All digital cameras have what’s known as “shutter lag” - a delay between pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the photo. For kids and pets that are running in and out of your picture, or for spur-of-the-moment shots, a short shutter lag makes the difference between getting the perfect shot or missing it completely. While there’s no standard way to measure it, look for recommendations or reviews that point out a camera’s shutter lag or responsiveness.

Shutter lag comparison

High ISO capability: While typical portrait subjects might hold still for a photo, photographers of kids and pets have no such luxury, and trying to photograph them in indoor or night situations often just results in a blurry mess. While one might be tempted to use flash, firing off bright lights at a young toddler or easily-frightened pet is probably the last thing you want to do. To get rid of the motion blur, especially in indoor environments, a good high ISO that can freeze motion without introducing too much noise is ideal.

Low ISO, 1/13s High ISO, 1/80s

Midrange zoom: There are all sorts of different angles and perspectives to take portraits with, from up-close with a wide-angle to far-away with a telephoto lens. Clasically, the best portraits are taken in the 100-200mm range (about 3x-6x zoom), since this a longer zoom eliminates distortion of the subject’s facial or body features. A midrange zoom lens that’s 6x zoom or more will allow you to shoot from afar, and also give you the versatility to experiment with different angles.

Portrait: 50mm Portrait: 124mm


Because children and pets tend to be so fidgety, the top two features you want are a short shutter lag to react to spur-of-the-moment shots and good high ISO to avoid blur. Beyond this, a good kids/pets camera has much the same requirements as a regular portrait camera - medium range zoom for versatility, and the rest is mostly down to creativity and technique.

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