If your spring is anything like mine, the kids are dragging you to the park every afternoon to take advantage of the warmer weather.
I love the energy, colors, play and laughter at the park but, after a while, that once exciting setting can lead to images that feel repetitive and dull.
Because we are there so often, I’ve challenged myself to find new ways to capture my kids as they swing, balance, run and hang at their favorite place.
1. Utilizing the geometry of the park
Parks are full of shapes and designs that are great for creating strong compositions. Look for visual interest in the repetition of the equipment and search for framing opportunities as the kids crawl and explore. Combining bright or primary colors with the shapes of the park helps support the childhood theme of play.
2. Showing them conquering their fears or facing a challenge
Although the park is a place of play, it’s also a place where kids face fears and conquer challenges. Play with angle and creative post processing to enhance the scale of the challenge or the root of the fear.
For example, if they’re scared of heights, get down low and shoot up at them to emphasize how high up they are on the toys. The radial filter in ACR and Lightroom is awesome for emphasizing balance or height fears, but a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly!
3. Embracing the changing light at the park
Park play doesn’t always happen during the golden hour, so you will need to embrace the idea of shooting in all types of light there. In full sun, look for fun shadow play for creating dramatic black and whites or position yourself to take advantage of the vast blue skies.
When the sun sets on your playtime, backlight those recognizable shapes of the park to create beautiful silhouettes by exposing for the background and letting the park details fall into the shadows.
4. Conquering the sameness by shooting a series
So you drag your camera to the park and your kid stays on the same equipment the entire time? If you’ve exhausted every possible angle (front, behind, above, below, from the side), embrace the consistency and shoot a photo series! Playgrounds are a place of movement and energy, and a series is a great way to tell that part of the story.
5. Stepping outside the park
Look around the outskirts of the park for more photo opportunities. Look for urban-feel settings like basketball courts or hopscotches and also natural settings like tree lines or grassy areas. And don’t forget to document the walk or ride there – some of my favorite images were taken during trips to and from the playground!
6. Realizing it doesn’t have to be all fun and games
As much as I love the energy of the park, some of my favorite images are those that embrace the quieter, more reflective times in between the play. The stillness and reflection is as much a part of the experience as the running and climbing.
Shooting in public can feel intimidating at first, especially in a place with so many people in a small space.
One of the great things about a playground is that there is so much activity that few people will even notice that you are on your back shooting up at the swings or climbing to the top of the monkey bars to get your perfect shot!