How to Capture the Perfect Swing Image

May 12, 2020

The days are now noticeably longer, and spring is definitely in the air. That means a lot more outdoor playtime. I know that makes me, my children and our puppy very happy. With more time spent outdoors, there's bound to be trips to the park. I don't know about you, but my favourite piece of equipment at any park is the swing. I still like to hop on pushing myself up high into the sky. Oh, what a joyous feeling that is! These moments of flight are always freeing. I'm sure you agree. My children adore a swing too, even my teenager, and over the years, I've had lots of practice photographing my children on swings. I love the movement and laughter in every swing shot. Today I'm sharing my thoughts on how to go about capturing the perfect swing image. 

1. Use a fast shutter speed

Swings are in motion, and it's vital that you choose a fast shutter speed, or your joyful little subject is going to be a blurry mess in camera. Of course, your shutter speed will depend on how fast and strong your subject is, but overall I recommend as high as a shutter speed as possible. I suggest a shutter speed of at least 1/800 and, in many cases, higher. A fast shutter speed will freeze the movement and capture the laughter at the perfect moment.

ISO 400, 35mm, f3.5, 1/2000SS

2. Close down your aperture

I hope your playground playtime is on a warm, sun-filled day. If it is, you likely have some nice bright light, which will be perfect for faster shutter speeds and a smaller aperture. Smaller apertures are best because this will allow for a greater depth of field or area of focus. Your little flying subject is moving fast, and a larger focal plane will help keep the important elements of your frame in focus, like those beaming smiles. 

ISO 400, 140mm, f4.5, 1/800SS

3. Focus in on details

Always take the time to capture details because they are beautiful. Some of my favourite images of childhood focus in on a single detail. When my children are swinging, I think it's a great time to focus in on a childhood feature. Give it a try! You can even try shooting with a wide aperture or freelensing. This will result in an image with a narrow depth of field and will highlight detail.

ISO 250, 105mm, f3.2, 1/1600SS

4. Try varying your perspective

While your little subject is mostly staying put for a few moments, capture him or her from different angles. When children are stationary or semi-stationary, it's a great time to experiment with perspective. Try shooting straight on, from below and if you can from above. You can capture some fun variety this way!

ISO 250, 105, f3.2, 1/1600SS

5. Shoot up at your subject to accentuate the height

An absolute must perspective for photographing swing images is to shoot up at your subject. Shooting up at a swinging subject has risks, so make sure you will not be in a collision path. Sometimes swings are high enough off the ground that shooting up is easy to accomplish. Other times you may need to lay a bit back from the swing and shoot up but also at an angle. A wide-angle lens is best when you are shooting up at your subject. This perspective is worth the effort as it's a beautiful way to accentuate movement and height as your little subject flies away so high that their feet touch the sky! 

ISO 200, 105mm, f3.2, 1/500SS

6. Look for swings in front of densely treed backgrounds

There's a couple of reasons I like to look for treed backgrounds behind swings. Often swings are at the perfect distance from a background for which to produce beautiful background bokeh. I adore it when light filters in through the tree branches sparkling up a playful scene. The second reason is that a treed background allows for detail within your image. If your subject is flying up high into that sky and you are exposing for your subject, then it's likely your background will be white and blown out. A tall forest of trees will prevent too much blown out sky.  

ISO 200, 105mm, f3.2, 1/500SS

7. Capture the fun in childhood

My youngest has the best expressions! It's hard to not laugh and giggle when you're flying through the sky. I adore these moments and I love to come away with smiling and goofy expressions.

ISO 320, 70mm, f2.8, 1/800SS

Remember these tips the next time you run off to the park to play! I do hope you'll be able to head to fun soon. Enjoy capturing these simple yet beautiful moments of childhood. 

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