The fact that I take a lot of photographs of my children means that I have become reasonable at *capturing moments*. I have also become quite ruthless at deleting photos that I'm not happy with so as not to clog up my harddrive. However this has not always been the case. What must seem like basic photography skill to many, was not obvious to me when I started taking family snaps of my little newborn! I'd often have 10-15 of exactly the same shot with minuscule differences and only one that I was happy with. I've now got that down to about 3 or 4, I'm not sure if I'll ever get it down to first time!
One of the hardest things to capture is a child while playing, especially if doing physical activities! They move too much, they rarely perform for the camera when you want them to and even if they do the shot has a slightly unnatural look about it. Add to that the varying lighting conditions, the fact that you need to get your camera out in time, focus and frame it well and take it at the exact moment, the chances are that you will end up with something you're slightly less than satisfied with.
The trick that works for me is to get myself in a position where it's easy to frame and capture the child's face, without them noticing too much, so usually crouched down a few metres away and using a zoom. I frame the shot so that it's close enough to appreciate their expression but with a fair amount of background so you can see what they're doing and put them into context. Then I focus it on their face or head (if they're turned away) and wait until they look up or smile or do *something* that I want to capture. If they're on a swing, like in this shot, you have to time it so it's more about them swinging into focus and *click*!
A huge benefit of digital cameras is that you can edit the photo afterwards. So whilst your lighting and composition may not be perfect, the thing to concentrate on is having it in focus and timing it right. As long as the point that matters most is clear and you wait for that moment that you want to grasp you can crop it down a little and alter the colouring slightly later as I did here.