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Most built-in flashes are only effective for a distance of about ten feet away. If you are photographing someone in a low-lit room, and they are a fair distance away, the flash may illuminate them, but the light will quickly fall off after that, giving the appearance of a very dark background in contrast to your lit subject.
There are a few things to consider when trying to freeze fast-moving subjects. If you’re shooting in one of the program auto modes of your point & shoot or digital SLR, utilize the Action mode. If you want to shoot in a manual mode with your SLR, recognize that in normal daylight, a combination of higher shutter speed (which better freezes action) and smaller aperture (which is actually a higher f stop number!) will allow you to capture more of your subject in focus.
One thing that good professional photographers pay a lot of attention to is foreground and background. Consider where you are photographing your children. If you are looking to achieve more of a professional portrait look, then shoot in an uncluttered space, so that the focus is very much on your subject. Most environments that look relatively put together and organized in real life can still look like “a lot going on” in imagery because an active background can compete with the viewer’s focus on the subject.
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