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Girl on the Swing

By heyitshenry
Hello there,
I took these today (around 3:30pm, Overcast) and I was working with Aperture Priority Mode as has been recommended before. I was wondering what are some good things to look out for when shooting types of playground movement pictures like this one? Is the Composition good?

Henry FGrin

Tags: Black and white Playground Swing Portraits and people

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dudler Plus
18 1.8k 1892 England
17 Jun 2019 3:23PM
I'll come to the composition later.

Two thoughts on exposure. First, you have spot metering enabled. Not a great idea until you've mastered exposure thoroughly, and understand where to take the reading from: for the moment, I strongly suggest matrix metering.

Second, the EXIF is showing that you had -1 exposure compensation set, which will darken the image. As you already have a bright background (and occupying the middle of the frame because of the unconventional composition), this has given a fair degree of underexposure. I'd try +2/3 with the sky dominating the picture.

There's a hefty contrast range, and that means that you are struggling to get tone in both the shadows and hte extreme highlights. Shooting RAW files and processing them carefully will help with this, as RAW images contain far more data, and can be adjusted much more extensively than JPGs.

Composition: as you present it, I don't think it quite works, because of the darkness of the girl's face. My mod alters this quite a lot though, with a change to exposure, shadows and highlights in Adobe Camera Raw, and some localised zapping up (you could do this by dodging highlights gently, but I used Vivenza, one of the components of the Nik Efex plug-in software).

Then, there's a sense of the fleetingness of enjoyment (and indeed youth), of the sheer joy of simple pastimes, and the sheer fun of being a teenager. Disappearing out of the frame conveys this, to me.

The big, pretty blank sky is a problem, and I can't think of a solution, immediately. Using fill flash would spoil the atmosphere. I wonder if anyone else has a suggestion?

Overall, your school series has reminded me of my teens, when I was exploring photography for the first time: the technology was very different, as were the resources: the joy, I think, was the same.

Can I suggest a very retro approach? Buy a book, and read the technical stuff thoroughly. I started with the Ilford Manual of Photography, which you may find in a secondhand bookshop, or a charity shop. For a less heavily-technical read, but with a lot of insight and accuracy, either Michaelf Freeman's series of books on various aspects of photography, or one of Tom Ang's excellent guides will be helpful.

As I write, my manual (inscribed as the IVa Form Prize, and dated 7th November 1968) is at hand.

The technicalities will come relatively easily if you're doing physics and chemistry, and set you in good stead for a lifetime of photographic enjoyment.
mrswoolybill Plus
15 3.1k 2475 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2019 7:23PM
Excellent advice from John above. I'll just add one thought.

This is an activity with regular, predictable movement. The swing is only going to move along one trajectory... So watch carefully through the lens, moving around, backwards and forwards, and see where you will get the best angle and placement for the moment when she reaches maximum height.

Then it's down to timing. Something to bear in mind is that at the highest point there is momentary pause in the movement, just a fraction of a second, between rising and falling back. Try to exploit that.
pamelajean Plus
15 1.7k 2242 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2019 7:58PM
John has covered the exposure. You say it was overcast, and together with that fact and the amount of sky in the frame, you needed some positive exposure compensation.
Exposure compensation is a function that lets you override the camera's automatic exposure control to lighten or darken a photo or elements in the photo. You use it when you know that you need to override the camera.

When the sky represents a large percentage of the image, it has a major influence on the camera’s metering system, and being a lot brighter than your subject, the shot will often underexpose.
It may appear to be counter-intuitive, adding exposure compensation to a bright image, but you are anticipating that the camera will underexpose and compensating for that.

As to composition, I have been looking at this for some time, trying to appreciate the cut-off head of the girl, the lack of legs and feet, and the inclusion of the rucksack.
The swing's chains and sky background immediately tell the viewer that the girl is swinging high up in the air. Her smile says that she is having fun. So I have come to the conclusion that there's nothing wrong with the "clipping" of head, feet and legs. It may be something that you did unintentionally, simply because the girl is moving with the swing and you couldn't quickly and easily compose the shot perfectly. Or, it may be that you wanted it this way.

I think that the removal of the rucksack would help me appreciate the image, too.
I have removed it in my modification, so you can see what I mean. The girl's outline looks so much better. When I first viewed this, I couldn't immediately make out where that big bump came fromSmile.

My modification also has a big chunk cropped off the right side, which eliminates the bars bottom right, which are a distraction. I removed the bits of trees from the base of the image, then added more sky to the bottom, which I feel adds to the sense of height. I ended up with a square format. I then brightened the image, lifted shadows to get some light on the girl, increased highlights in order to lighten the background, and sharpened. I darkened the side of the swing seat a bit because it blended too well into the background and it looked as if the girl was cut in halfSad.

paulbroad Plus
14 131 1293 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2019 7:59PM
I agree almost totally with John. I think you have just missed out technically and compositionally, but only just and that will come. I find her hand the strongest part of the image, and my eyes are drawn to that.

What I do like is your willingness to experiment. keep it up! So many shots look the same, but you are trying to be that bit different. good stuff.
dark_lord Plus
17 2.9k 793 England
17 Jun 2019 9:30PM
Superb detailed advice and suggestions above.
I do like the low angle (either by choice or situation). I'd second Paul's comment about experimentation. Not everything works first time, the thing is to identify why something has 'just missed' the mark, make a small change in your approach (for example don't have negative exposure compensation set) and have another go.
Even so, your images will still bring back memories years later.
18 Jun 2019 8:05AM
Thank you very much everyone,
As said about the spot metering, that was merely a mistake, I had accidentally turned it on. At the time I had been playing around with the Exposure Compensation with the lower sun not helping. I am going to try get my hands on a Manual soon. And with the School Series you have brought up I am going to create an album with just school pictures. In editing I am hopefully soon going to get Affinity Photo to edit my photos because currently my computer have does not have any adobe software and I just change what I can in the Apple Photo.

Thank you all again for the critiquing.
Henry FGrin
dark_lord Plus
17 2.9k 793 England
18 Jun 2019 8:19PM
You'll find Affinity Photo very good Henry.
dudler Plus
18 1.8k 1892 England
19 Jun 2019 11:08AM
You should be able to download a manual free from the Nikon website, HERE.

Most manufacturers have their manuals available on the web: even for very old film caemras, you can still find them, for instance on Mike Butkus's excellent website.

Because of my interest in older film caemras, I've been there quite a lot: he asks for a donation of a couple of dollars, which is a very reasonable price for the wisdom to avoid wrecking my latest eBay gem!

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