I am absolutely thrilled to bring you today’s guest post from Kristie of L Photographie on how to take amazing sprinkler photos of your kids this summer. Kristie is a great friend, a former sorority sister and my family’s personal photographer. She’s also a wonderful teacher and has become one of my go-to resources for all things photography-related. Since it’s a million degrees outside, I though this would be the perfect time to share this post with you. Kristie’s sharing some really great tips and advice on things you can do to capture some truly adorable and classic summer fun of your kids running, jumping and dancing through the sprinkler. Give it a read, then set up that sprinkler in your yard, grab your camera and let the kids run wild!
If you have the chance to shoot closer to sunset, do! The sun sets late in summer, which can be difficult with many kids’ bedtimes, but even two hours before the sun set is going to give you much better results than the harsh midday sun. Plan a post-dinner run around the yard for the kids (consider it their bath!). You’ll want to take a few minutes to get everything set up before the kids are running laps around you screaming for the sprinkler to be on (at least that’s what happens at my house), so plan accordingly.
Set up the sprinkler where you can “backlight” your subject – this means you want the sun hitting your subject’s back. You and your camera should face the sun. If you’re in the shade, look for little streaks of light hitting the ground – that’s where you’ll want to place your sprinkler – right in the sunlight. You’ll get some amazing light hitting the water that will help bring your photo to life! If you and your camera can be in a spot where your camera is in shade, even better – you’ll avoid lens flair and get better contrast in your image.
Keep an eye on what is in your background of your photos. Although you want to generally point your camera West, towards the sun, you can cheat a bit and go at an angle to get the best background with the fewest distractions. With water being a big part of your image, you’ll want to find a darker background (dark trees, bushes, a fence, dark color house). If the sky is your background, the water flying around will blend right into it and go unnoticed.
3) Lens choice
Choose the longest lens and focal length you have and scoot waaaaay back! This will help for two reasons: (i) A longer focal length will compress your photo and help the background blur out, so that the water and your kiddos are the focus; and (ii) you won’t get wet! Well, no promises on that one! I like to shoot with my Canon 135mm lens for sprinkler action.
4) Shutter speed choice
This is a big one! Especially because of those fast kids you’re about to capture! For running through water, I would suggest keeping your shutter speed around 1/1000 or higher to freeze the action. Once you start to dip down into those 100s, you won’t be able to stay as tact sharp and may end up with blurry photos. If you’re not yet shooting in Manual Mode, you can switch to “shutter speed priority” mode – which will read “TV” on your camera dial. Make sure to also choose a higher ISO (to let more light into your camera, as the high shutter speed will take light away).
1/1250 sec, f/3.2 135mm, ISO 800
1/5000 sec, f/2.2 135mm, ISO 1000
1/500 sec, f/3.5 135mm, ISO 1600
Then, if you would like to play with some creative blurry water, you can dip your shutter speed to a very low number. I’d suggest not hand holding the camera – set it on a table or lawn chair (or a tripod, if you’re feeling fancy) – then capture your kiddos from behind. Since they will be moving, their faces will not be sharp, which is a distraction in your final image. If you capture them running away from you, it can be a fun creative blur with your water.
1/8 sec, f/13 135mm, ISO 250
5) Shoot through for sharp photos
Of course, with kids running excited through water, they are going to be moving FAST. Even with a quick shutter speed to freeze the action, you might have trouble nailing the focus with lightening fast kids. If you’re having issues finding that exact focus sweet spot as they run around, try to “shoot through” the action. Here’s a quick explanation of how to do that to get the sharpest results.
Switch your lens to manual focus and set your focus on the center of the sprinkler stream. Wait for your kiddo to come close to running through and press and hold your shutter to take multiple shots. Make sure your camera is on it’s continuous shooting mode, so you can fire off more than one shot. At some point during that run through the sprinkler, your kiddo will run right into your perfect focus! Yes, you’ll end up with a lot of out-of-focus photos to dump in that series, but it is worth a few rounds of trying this if your Auto Focus finger isn’t keeping up with your kid.
6) Enjoy the fun!
Give the kids some distance and just observe the fun! Kids are naturally going to be silly and active and smile when the water excitement starts. Nothing is worse than trying to play while your parents bark orders at you of how to do it. (Am I right?) Just pick the best spot for you and your lens and wait. Watch how their little personalities just shine! Be patient and enjoy!
Kristie Cromie is the owner and portrait side of L Photographie, a fine art boutique photography studio in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri consisting of four amazing photographers. Kristie has a background in journalism and graphic design, specializes in family and newborn sessions, helps run the business and teaches a Camera Love class for parents that want to take better photos of their children. When she’s not behind the camera or computer, she’s chasing her two-year-old daughter, keeping up with her seven-year-old son, plus renovating a house from the seventies that was covered in blue shag carpet.
You can find Kristie and the rest of the L Photographie crew around the web at the following spots:
Now please tell me you’ll set up the sprinkler in the yard this weekend and capture some fun shots of the kids! And if you do, please post them and tag us on Instagram (use our hashtag #runwildmychild) to be featured on our page. If you have any questions about camera settings, equipment or anything else, please leave a comment below and Kristie will be happy to answer your questions.