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Photo Opportunities on Your Wood Swing Sets
As a parent, I treasure the photos I have that depict my son growing up. This generation is so lucky. Nearly everybody has access to a digital camera on their phone, with photography enthusiasts being able to buy comparatively inexpensive high-quality digital photographic equipment. The current generation of kids must be the most photographed ever, and they will certainly have many vivid memories permanently recorded, which they will be able to regularly relive as they age.
If you are lucky enough to have a wood swing set in your backyard, you have an amazing backdrop for action pictures of your children. It gives you huge potential for creative framing in your photographs - no boring head and shoulder shots here! Your kids are playing, yet at the same time they are unconsciously posing for your photographs. There are always interesting shapes that can add interest and flair to a shot.
Just one word of caution before you bring your digital or smartphone camera out and start snapping. Many parents are wary of people taking photos of their kids. There have been quite a few photographers who have been attacked by outraged parents when they have tried to take photographs in public playgrounds. These parents obviously questioned the photographers’ motives. Now if you are taking photographs on your own wood swing set on your own property, this should be less of an issue, particularly if the subjects are your own kids. However, I would still get permission from the parents of other children before I took the camera out and started taking snaps that included shots of their kids.
If the kids are young, I would suggest that you leave your photography sessions until you have at least some other adult present to supervise the kids. This is particularly important if you have more than one kid present. If you are concentrating on trying to get that perfect shot of young Emma mid-air on a swing, you are unlikely to be able to keep your eye on young Mikey climbing across the monkey bars. For that matter, if your youngster is an extrovert, you may need to ensure that they don’t try something too adventurous for the sake of a photo. That mid-air leap from the tower may make a great picture, but it is probably not great for the health of your child.
You can take some truly awesome photos on a swing set. One of the reasons for this is that there are so many varied textures and shapes that give an interesting counterpoint to your child in a picture. Don’t be afraid to use these textures and shapes to your advantage. Perhaps you could photograph your child through the window in their clubhouse, or looking up at them from the bottom of the slide. Maybe you could frame your photo through the rungs of a ladder, or from ground level in the sandbox.
Keep a constant lookout for any oddball or funny things that your kids do. They will make good images, even if your kids may feel embarrassed to see them by the time they are teenagers.
When you are taking photos of your kids near ground level, it is a good idea to drop down to their level to take your photos. Taking photos from above tends to distort things, and give the illusion of people having big heads and small feet. Unless you have bred a tribe of Willy Wonka’s Oompa Loompas, this is unlikely to be the look you are aiming for!
Taking photographs from ground level emphasises faces, which is probably what you want to do in your shoot. In some ways, it also makes it appear that you are part of the scene, i.e. that you are another child on the swing set who just happens to be taking the photograph.
Now kids are kids, and it is extremely unlikely that your children will slow down to pose for a photo. And the real benefit of a playset shoot is that you can take action shots in a fun setting. If you are using a decent camera that allows you to adjust your shutter speed, you should increase it to a higher than average level, perhaps 300 or more. With a fast shutter speed, you can be sure to catch that toddler rushing around the playset, pushing off from the swing and shooting out of the turbo slide.
As you become more comfortable with finding photo opportunities on your play set, you might want to experiment with ways to make your shots more interesting. As these are candid action shots, you don’t want things too formal. Try to avoid nicely centered photos. Off-center compositions look much more natural. Find moments where your child is displaying emotion - even if it’s when they are crying and having a tantrum - that is one of the reasons you need somebody else doing the supervision duties.
Lighting makes a huge difference with photography. It is a common misconception that sunny days are good for photos. In reality, sunny days are a photographer’s nightmare, as they lead to a harsh glare which saturates photographs. You will get a far better look if you take your pictures on a cloudy overcast day.
The time of day can also make a huge difference to the nature of the photos you take. Again, harsh sun leads to bad shadows and glare, with the middle of the day giving the worst results. The high sun casts harsh shadows. You will probably get your best pictures if you follow the kids onto the playset in the late afternoon or evening. By then the sun is low, and you will have far fewer issues with glare, shadows and washed out colors.
Hopefully, you will take some truly memorable shots of your kids on their wood swing set. In this era of social media, I’m sure that you will have plenty of pictures to show off your kids in action enjoying themselves, to all of your friends and family. When the kids get older, they will be able to look back at these photographs and remember the happy times of their childhood, too. Just remember to keep those embarrassing pictures you can bring out at their 21st birthday parties.