Do you ever watch children play? How they get totally engrossed in the action, oblivious to the rest of the world, creating one of their own? How the How their capacity of joy is simply unexhaustable?
This week, we are going to be dedicating to focusing on capturing our children play outside, specifically focusing on the opportunitoes provided by playgrpunds, playground equipment and ANY structures that our children may use to play or interact with.
And while we're doing that, we'll be exploring a few different composition principles and pay attention to our shutters ( to make sure we catpture them nice and sharp)
But before we dive in, here is a question I am often asked in the context of children's photography:
Can I take photos of my children at playground, and have other kids in the photo?
I can see where the question may be coming from - we are all very protective of our kids, we are vigilant to any untowards actions by strangers, and we want to award the same curtesy to other people's kids.
Many people believe that you will need their consent before capturing or publishing a photograph containing their likeness or that of their children. That's not the case.
What does the law say?
When you take photos of your kids, other things and people who are occupying the same public space as you can be legally photographed. There are no laws preventing photography of people, children, buildings, objects or anything else in a public place, or in any place open to the public where photography is not expressly prohibited. There is no expectation of privacy in a public place. There are no separate laws for minors even though some venues, schools and childrens’ sports centres may choose to restrict photography at some events.
Just to be clear, this relates to the laws of the UK, if you're reading it elsewhere in the world, other laws may apply.
What cannot you do?
The key word here is Public - people in public can be photographed because being out in public makes theire presence, well, public. As long as you don't harrass anybody or attemp to take photos of kids or other people in private ( which I don't expect you do!) or in any situatins that may be considered indecent ( and I absolutely hope that would never be the case for you!) , you are within your rights to take the photos.
You also don't technically need anybody's permission to publish said photos - on social media or otherwise, although if you want to sell them, many places like Gettys Images or Shutterstock will require a Modele release from any person prominently featured in your image.
So that's the law, but then there are laws of simple politeness and conduct - and these would dictate that if you are taking photographs at a playground, you should stick to making your own kids the focus of a photograph. If confronted by another parent concerned about their child being in the photographs, I would always comply with their requests to remove a photogragraph while at the same time making it clear that I am doing so out of politeness and not a legal requirement.
I hope that clarifies some of the many myths and confusion around photos and the public domain. Now that we've cleared all that up, let's think about what you might actyally want to photograph!
Kids at a playground - gravity and speed
My daughter's most favourite thing in the world is being on the swings. Soemthing about testing her own gravitational pull as what seems like a break neck speed appears to be all that is needed for pure happiness.
So when you photograph your kids on any of the moving playground equipment, speed is the key word for you.
More specifically - your Shutter speed.
If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's essentially the time it takes your camera to fill its sensor with light and take the photo. Fast shutter speed means you take the photo faster, the camera most likely to freeze the movent. This is what you want when it comes to catching your child run, jump, twirl, scoot etc really sharp - freezing them in motion.
We would class fast shutter speed as being usually above 1/250s ( that's fractions of a second) but higher is even better for capturing movement - most cameras will go as fast as 1/2000s or even 1/4000s. A word of warning though - unless you are out in super bright sun, don't push it quite as high or you're struggle with light. Usually 1/500s or 1/800s will be perfectly fast for what you want ( that's being outside, indoors, with limited light, you will need to slow your camera down considerably)
Slow shutter speeds have a different effect on your water - with slow shutter speed, the camera takes longer to record a photograph, so it also records any movement that occurs in that time. There will be one exercise on the next page which relies on slower shutter.
But the difficulty with capturing movement is not only about doing it fast enough. Ats also about having your camera focus at speed in the right place.
Focus for MovementMost, if not all cameras these days have a dynamic focus mode which is capable of tracking your subject movement. It will come under different names - typically AI-Servo ( Canons) , AF-C or Continuous, or Tracking on other camera brands. There is not enough space here tofully explore it ( we dedicate a good chunk of our paying Fundamentals course to explore and practice focus) but just know this - by setting your focus on that setting, you will be telling the camera to 'attach' itself to your subject and follow its movement, thus giving you more opportunity to actually capture your child in motion SHARP. It is not foolproof - if your subject is moving fast or you're too close, or the movement is not predicatable - your camera may still struggle. When it comes to focus, not all cameras are created equal - in order to acquire focus, and then track it, your camera is being a little computer, performing complicated algorithm calculations go get you there. And as with 'proper' computers - some will be better and faster at it, and some not so much.
Let's talk composition
Playgrounds provide ample opportunities to get creative with your composition. While we don't have space here to address Composition as a full topic here ( we do spend a lot of time on it in our full courses) I just wanted to talk to you about two composition prompts which you'll find aplenty on a playground.
1. Frame within the frame
The premise for this is super simple - find or create something that will encircle ( en-square? en-triangle?) your subject to draw the viewers eye to it. Think of it as putting a highlighter circle around a word in text - the eye goes straight there, doesn't in? And with playgrounds and numerous things there that kids can go grough ( like tunnels) , peep through or simply be framed by, the opportunitoes are endless.
2. Leading lines
Us humans, we're suckers for being told what to do. That includes our eyes. We just can't resist being directed places and thesre is no better way to do so than by following a line.
And with playground, lines are aplenty and you can use them to strengthen your comosition and draw the eye directly to your subject.