Nothing, but nothing says Joy in photography to me quite like capturing someone on the move.
Have you ever watched children play? They are never ever still. Even when they do sit in one place, they are never completely still. Even when they're doing virtually nothing - they are in motion. Twirling in place, climbing on stuff, little hands and feet always occupied.
But watch a child on the go - running, jumping, playing on the swings - you can immediately see what visceral joy, absolute pleasure they get from the simple act of propelling their body through the air! movement breeds energy and energy breeds joy!
To me, capturing kids on the move IS capturing joy - it's what they're made for! It's how they express life! watching a child lose themselves in the pleasure of being swung high on the swings you don't have to see their face to know they're having fun - their bodies do the talking!
YOUR TASK FOR TODAY
Get your kids moving and capture a joyful image focusing on their body language - if you're up for it, try capturing images that are faceless - where, me, the viewer only had their body language to go by. If you struggle with that - just aim for joyful photos on the move.
At the bottom of the page you'll find suggestions for activities that can get your kids going - but go with what YOUR kids are likely to love
REMEMBER - I want to see the body langugae in action - NOT just the smiles
Let's talk about body language for a bit. Children are by and large open books as far as body language is concerned - there is no filter between their emotions and how they manifest themselves on their faces, in their posture, in the way their carry themselves. It's easy to see when they're happy and full of energy and when their little batteries are running low.
Joyful body lanague is all about open posture
- head tilts up and even a little to the back
- chests go forward
- arms and legs flying outwards and upwards
- eyes closed in pleasure
Capturing movement can be tricky, no less so because sometimes the camera will have a hard time keeping up with their speed, So we're going to get a tiny bit technical here.
Set your camera up for speed:
You don't want to be fumbling with your settings when your kids get going, so let's get this out of the way first. It will apply to most kinds of movement we're covering here, and where adjustments are necessary, I'll point it out in the individual sections.
You have to make your camera FAST to capture them SHARP - that means - fast-fast shutter speed.
Luckily for us, fast movement activities usually occur outdoors, so you will be having plenty of light ( worth remembering - poor light slows your camera down which is why indoor photos often come out blurry) and can afford to push your camera's speed quite a bit. Here are things to pay attention to:
a) Shutter speed - how fast your camera can take a photo
if you're shooting on manual or semi auto ( priority) modes - go to your shutter speed settings and male sure they're at least 1/500s
If you're shooting on auto or with a point and shoot - switch to a sports setting - it will help keep the speed up
b) Burst mode : multiple shots in one go
Burst / Drive mode - this is a setting which allows you to take multiple shots with a single press to the shutter button. Simply hold it down longer when taking a photo and your camera will fire off multiple shots. By using it, you are increasing your chances of capturing movementat the best moment ( so when your kids are up in the air on the trampoline and not just landing) and is also a fun way of capturing a sequence of images. If you have one, turn it on - on most cameras it is listed as a multiple squares one on top of another symbol. If you're not sure how to find it on your camera, give us a shout on the Facebook group and we'll help.
c) Focus - the one for movement
Did you know your camera (most likely) has a dedicated focus mode designed for capturing movement? It's usually called Continuous focus, AF-C, AI-Serv, Tracking Mode - different manufacturers have different names for it so you will need to dive into your camera manual to find yours - if you're struggling, give us a shout on Facebook. When you use on of these modes, for as long as you're holding your shutter button half pressed, it'll keep tracking your subject, making it more likely that as they move from point a to b you can still capture them sharp
Composing for movement
Movement is not really designed for a static art such as photography. MOvement is normally experienced in 3D - when we can better appreciate the speed, velocity and distance. That's why taking care to compose well for movement is so crucial. I don;t have the space to go into composition in much detail here - you could spend weeks on that alone - as we do focus on it in a lot of detail in our full courses - but we'll give you a few golden rules for capturing movement in general and then specific pointers for different types of motion.
Give it space
My rule number one when photographing movement is to give yourself a good amount of space. Following a moving child means you have to be fast with your reactions and composing carefully often goes out of the window, but if you build some space around your child in your photo, the're less likely to literally 'run out of' the frame.
Pay attention to direction of movement
Another rule, a little less absolute one, but it can help is to give your subject space in front of them - so that mentally, when you look at the photo, you can see more space in front of them ( in the direction they're moving) than behind them so it feels like they have somewhere to move into.
The closer you are to the movement with your camera, the more sensitive to it your camera is going to be and the faster shutter speed it'll require. So if you want to capture that movement sharp, getting a little bit away from your kids will help ( we're not talking hige distances, just enough not to be in their face. Usually once you're able to fit all of their body in the frame, you're safe.
Blur is not all bad.
Yes, I know I spent all this timetelling you about how to keep things sharp, but sometimes, that bit of blur is what you want to really highlight and amplify the speed. To achieve some intentional blur, you need to slow your shutter speed down - sorry - if you're on auto, you're unlikely to be able to do it, but if you're shooting in semi auto or manual, it can be a fun thing to try. We play with blur quite a bit in our courses - it can have a brilliant expressive quality!
GET THEM MOVING!
Yesterday, we were focusing on capturing joy on your children's faces, today, we're going larger and focusing on body language. So let's talk about the different kinds of movement that can be your kids happy place.
A simple game of chase, tag or or a race to get to that tree and back will often be all that's needed to get your kids excited and happy. Make it extra fun by incorporating fun commands - 'run like a velociraprtor! Run while patting your head! When I yell reverse - ran backwards!
Vary your composition - have your kids run across your field of vision ( from left to right or vice versa) or have them run towards you ( burst mode will come in useful here)
Go low with your camera angle to picture them against the sky for greater contrast
Shoot with the light behind them to get a more intersting and energising backlit look ( we'll be talking more about it in one of our next lessons)
Get them dressed up as superheros for an extra fun twist.
What child doesn't love to leap in the air and for a milisecond feel like they're flying! Whether they're leaping high on the trampoline, flying off the sofa or bouncing on Mum and Dad's bed - it's all almost flying as far as kids are concerned!
With this kind of movement, the important thing as far as photos are concerned is to show the gap between your child and the ground - they have to actually look like they're up in the air and the best way to achieve it is to go low with your camera angle and shoot upwards. When you shoot pointing down ( from a comfortable adult height) your camera will grab more of the ground than the air and the highest jump will look a bit meh.
If you're capturing kids on the trampoline, use the shortest zoom you possibly can - you have limited space to work with and this will help greatly in extending the space and making it seem larger ( and with that the height of the jump!)
Burst mode is your friend here too - you can catch them on the up as well as landing and you stand the best chance of getting the best body positioning that way too. Leaps don't last long so you have a tiny window of opportunity here.
If you're capturing jumps indoors, you may be struggling to get your camera fast enough - that's because there simply isn't as much light inside and poor light slows your camera down. This is where using flash can actually help freeze that movement. And yes, your pop up flash will take some of the ambiance away, but you're far more likely to capture a movement sharp and in this particuar scenario it's not a bad thing
My kids favourite swing game is called - 'screem if you wanna go higher' and I refuse to push them higher until they oblige. Sometimes, just for fun, I throw in funny noises they're meant to do to make me work harder, all of which helps bring out the wide grins and excited body language. When they were younger we played - 'let me steal that foot' - which lead to similar hilarity.
Not that they need a lot to be excited about swings...
OK, so a few tips here - again, it helps to go low, and I mean sometimes super low. I've stopped being embarassed about lying down on the ground, under the swing, risking a kick to the head LOOONG ago. Now other parents at my local playground just smile politely when they see me on the ground and no longer ask if I'm alright.
Focus is likely to be a challenge so if you only can, try to get that continuous focus / servo going - it will help.
If you're used to shooting at really wide apertures ( that's one for manual / priority modes shooters) consider narrowing it down a little to give yourself a better chance of capturing the kids sharp by creating a larger area of sharp focus . I'm not talking loads, but you'll see a difference between going F1.8 and F4.5
Something about the dizziness that the roundabouts/merry go rounds instigate, the sense of speed and feeling your body weight shift as you're turned round and round and round that makes my kids love them ( and makes me mildly nausious). But they can be great for photos.
And here is a fun technique for you if you can swlow your camera shutter down:
Sit yourself and your child in a roundabout facing each other. Bring your shutter down to 1/30s. Have someone push the roundabout to make it turn. Focus the camera on your child and keep it as steady as you can while taking photos. What you should be able to capture is your child sharp, but the background looking like it's on the move - we call this technique 'panning'
A delight for all ages - I ALWAYS have some mini bubbles in my camera bag because they are a perfect ice breaker for shy kids. Kids love popping them, chasing them, making them, watching them. Frankly, I do too.
My tip when it comes to capturing bubbles is to pay attention to your background. You'll get a much clearre picture of the bubbles when the background is something darker - it's really hard photographing bubbles against a blue ( or grey, let's be real) sky - there is just not enough contrast to make them stand out well without a bit of post editing magic.
I know that this one may need to be filed away till the summer, but it's so fabulous for bringing the smiles out, I could not miss it. Waterslides, sprinklers, water trays, paddling pools - you name it - they are all brilliant!
My one big tip whan it comes to anything water related is to pay attention to light. If you position yourself and the camera in such a way that the light is behind the water ( in front of you) , you will get a much better photo of it as the light will turn the droplets into little shining sparkles. If the light is falling on the water from behind you, it will be a much flatter photo.
There is of course so much more that kids like to get into, movement wise - I could be here for days. But hoepfully these examples give you a god jump of point for the different techniques that can be used to capture them well.
I can't wait to see your photos!