5+ Secrets for Better Pictures at the Playground

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I have this horrible, dirty mom secret. I hate the playground–  like for real hate it. I am sure when all of my kids are a little older I won’t hate it so much, but for now, I hate it.

Right now, half of you are gasping and shocked that I have bad-mouthed your beloved playground, and the others are nodding in agreement. Calm down …I promise, I am just being a little harsh.

Anyhow, while we were visiting family in Florida, wild thing #4 begged and pleaded to go to the playground. I’m not even sure why or how she knew there was a nearby playground.  It’s not like we had driven passed it, or even driven passed another playground that I had noticed. She had it in her head though that we needed a trip to the playground, and I decided I would suck it up being the good mom that i am (yep, that was me shamelessly tooting my own horn for taking my kid to the park). Plus, it was a nice time for pictures! 

Here are 5+ secrets for better pictures at the playground

1. Use a fast shutter speed or the burst mode. Let’s face it, kids are moving fast at the playground, and the only way to freeze those moving shapes is with a super fast shutter speed. My camera typically stays well above 1/250 at the playground. I love these images of my wild things, and in this case, the images just wouldn’t be the same if they were blurry figures.

2. Take pictures early in the morning or late in the evening. I realize those times might not always be ideal, but it really does make a difference. The shadows aren’t as harsh, the kids are as hot. The playground may even be less crowded! We were so lucky with this playground since it had this really awesome sun shade! So cool, and the playground equipment wasn’t dangerously hot!

3. Shoot from above. Shooting from above allows you to focus on your subject and hopefully avoid getting some of the strangers that may be sharing the playground with your wild thing in the pictures. It can also help you to eliminate cars that may be in your background, or the trash can, etc. I love using this trick when there are things in the background that I would rather not focus on.

4. Don’t forget the details. I may be a broken record but I am all about capturing the details of childhood. The playground is a perfect place to capture those details. Your kids aren’t going to want to stop and pose the entire time they’re at the playground. If your wild thing is turning his head every time you try to snap a picture (happens to me all the time…), why not spend a little time on the details? I have this obsession with dimpled knuckles…

5. Try a wide shot. It’s fun to be able to see what your kids are accomplishing. Take a wide shot here and there showcasing what new piece of playground equipment your wild thing has mastered, or just plain loves right now!

6. Shoot through playground equipment. This is one of my favorite techniques to use at the playground, or really anywhere…  take your image through playground equipment to add more interest to your images. It frames your subject and draws them in, and it adds some dimension to your images.

7. Use lines in your enviroment to direct the viewer to your subject. The playground is full of these lines which can point the viewer right to your subject. Take advantage of them!

You can try most of these techniques with any camera: the camera on your phone, a DSLR, a point and shoot- go get some pictures of your kids just playing!

What are your favorite tips for taking pictures at the playground?

as a working mother of 4, i know about the rushed lives most of us live. i have photographed families all over the east coast, and teach parents to capture their everyday.  i believe photography makes it possible to find the beauty in the messy, imperfect madness that is life with kids.

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