Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Swing, Swing

(C) Copyright Amanda Stratton, 2009 - Waterloo Children Photographer

Most children love to swing, and younger ones especially have some of their best, heartiest, straight-from-the-belly laughs while they're on the swings. And the biggest, happiest smiles. So, naturally, parents want to capture some of those moments to preserve the sheer joy of swinging!

The trouble is that those big huge pushes that make kids squeal with delight also make them move pretty fast, backward and forward. I've been lucky enough to get a few awesome pics of kids on swings, and I took some of my girls just the other day, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to share some pointers on how to accomplish the task :)

First of all, you won't be using auto-focus. So check your manual to see how you can either disable it, or avoid triggering it. If you're using a Canon DSLR, I so strongly recommend using custom functions to move your auto-focus to the * button (you can reassign exposure lock to the shutter if you like).

Secondly, this is going to work better with an SLR camera than most non-SLR cameras because they tend not to take the photo immediately when you press the shutter button. But give it a try even if you're not sure about yours :)

Thirdly, give yourself some wiggle room by starting off with a broad depth of field. Use a narrow aperture (which means bigger f-numbers: f10 instead of f2), start with wider shots (that means 10mm instead of 70mm), and back up a bit from your subject. All of these things will result in a broader depth of field, which means that you can get a foot or two, instead of an inch or two, in focus at once.

So, here's what you do:

#1 - Find a good angle and watch your child on the swing for a moment. Pick a spot, or general area, on the swing's path where you want to take the photo--one that will give you the photo you want and a nice view of a smiling kid!

#2 - Allow a couple passes of the swing to use either auto-focus or manual focus to get the focus hitting in the right spot. You will have a bit of leeway if you've chosen a spot where you have a couple feet in which to get the shot. Once you've got your focus set somewhere in that area, don't touch your focus again.

#3 - Wait. Keep your eye to the viewfinder (or just watch the screen) and your shutter finger ready. When your child comes into focus, hit the shutter WITHOUT hitting the auto-focus. If you have a camera capable of "rapid fire" continuous shooting you might try that, but I honestly think that your odds of getting the shot are just as good doing it yourself unless you have a really high end camera that can shoot upwards of 10 frames per second. With a bit of practice, you will get used to the timing of your camera... unless it's a totally unpredictable camera.

#4 - Push. Shoot. Repeat. You will have some out of focus shots. In fact, at first, you'll probably have mostly out of focus shots. Keep trying and you'll also get some truly awesome in-focus treasures! The beauty of the swing is that kids are usually happy to be subjected to one more try!

The skills you're developing by doing this will translate well to a lot of other fast-action shooting. You could shoot cars on a track, moving animals, running athletes, and I'm sure much more with the same technique. If what you're shooting doesn't follow a repeating path allowing for a chance at focusing and catching it next time, use your manual focus to set the focus ahead of the subject's current position. When the subject moves into focus, snap the shot.

And if you just can't get it, just capture the moment. The photos below are so far from perfect, but as a series, I love them. I'm pretty sure I'm going to put the three of these in a frame, just like they are here. When I look at them, it just makes me smile. And, really, that's what photos are for, right?

(C) Copyright Amanda Stratton, 2009 - Waterloo Children Photographer

So, play lots, have fun, and don't forget to put the camera down and have a swing yourself once in a while!


Chrystal said...

Thank You Soooo Much Amanda for the pointers. I was wondering if it would be possible for you to assist me in 'understanding' how to better use my camera. I absolutely LOVE taking pictures but feel that the typical point & shoot just isnt sedating my urge to produce something memorable. That being said would it be possible to have you 'dumb down' how to change settings & better use my camera ?? I do realize this is a lot to ask of you considering I am sure you are busy with your own life but I truly would appreciate it. Message me on facebook or email me anytime .. Thanks again but most of all THANK YOU for allowing me (and others) to view the magic you capture !!! xOxO Chrystal

Tracey said...

So, are you saying my "point, click & hope for the best" method is not a good one?!?! Who knew there were better ways of doing things! ;)

Chrystal said...

Tracey You Are My Hero !!! That is typically how I do the whole capture the magic but I am wondering what other magical tricks I could do with my camera... **BUT** we both know that the true magic happens no matter WHAT technique or trick we do ;) xOxO C.

Melissa E Earle said...

What an amazing post! Such great pointers and really fun photos to demonstrate your points! Well said!!
I really hope more people will read this post!
-Melissa E Earle