A convenience of suburban life is the prevalence of playgrounds. We try to take a stroll every evening around the neighborhood, and along the way we pass two playgrounds and a park. So I get a lot of practice taking photos on playgrounds, which is great, because I feel like these colorful, busy, crowded environments can make it quite challenging to get an interesting shot.
Mrs. A has probably posted a couple of these already however in the next few photos, I share a few tips I’ve discovered from experimenting with different techniques.
Lighting – Backlighting during late evening or early morning can add a bit of whimsy.
Monochrome – Converting photos to black and white helps reduce the dizzying effect caused by all the colors.
Simplicity – Less is more. It’s tough to cut out the noise at a playground, but sometimes you can find perspectives to reduce the elements to the bare minimum.
Timing – Kids are pretty predictable sometimes. Mine will turn away if they see me aiming a camera at them. Try waiting for them to be in the middle of an action, or at the pinnacle of an achievement and yell suddenly. If you’re ready, you’ll have a split second to grab the shot. It helps to anticipate where they’ll be and pre-focus, or at least have your composition already set.
Artificial Lighting – Experiment with artificial lighting. The on-board flash usually doesn’t create a great effect, but you can find off camera flashes or strobes at very affordable prices. With practice, you can add a little drama, or fight off harsh sunlight.
Wide Angle – I like to experiment with wide angle lenses from time to time. I like to be able to capture two activities in one scene, or just look at things from a different perspective.
Engage – If you hang back and stay out of the action, you’ll find it harder to capture something more than a chaotic scene of screaming kids and loud colors. Instead, be a kid again and join in the fun! Being a part of the adventure brings the fantasy back into childhood.
Perspective – Too often I see parents with big DSLRs shooting while standing upright. The perspective of an adult is boring. Drop down and join in the fun, or if you must photograph from above, take it to the extreme, near vertical. A different perspective adds drama and reduces boredom.
Artsy – Playgrounds are built with lines, curves, shapes and colors in every direction. Have some fun with it, find different perspectives, up the saturation and contrast, find complementary colors or shapes and create some suburban art.
Action – It’s hard not to capture kids in action at a playground, so this one is pretty easy. Children at play reminds us of happy moments.
Create Moments – Imagine yourself as a kid, what achievements on a playground would make you proud enough to yell out, “Mommy, look at me!”. Create those moments for your kids. In this scene, I asked Ian to fly the spaceship to Jupiter. I was surprised to see he knew exactly which one. So we both had a sense of pride in that accomplishment!