Point & Shoot: Photographing Fun

Summer fun on a water slide! If you're taking pictures around water, be sure and protect your camera. Photo by Jeff R. Warner


Amusement park rides are good subjects for fun photos. Photo by Randall Spotts


Our eyes are drawn to this child's joyful face as she makes snow angels. Photo by Lori Decker


A young motorboat rider enjoying the wind on her face. Photo by Deborah McGee


Generally, the muddier kids are, the more fun they're having. Photo by Melanie Nabersching
Beyond simply shooting someone's portrait, taking a picture of a concept like "fun" can be a real challenge. A photograph that makes a statement like this must make its point immediately—the viewer should get the message at first glance, and not have to guess at what you're trying to say.

The most obvious way to convey this message is to show people enjoying themselves in your pictures. A look of joy on a child's face while riding on a swing, or the gleeful look on someone's face as they play a practical joke says volumes about the fun he/she is having. And this idea isn't only restricted to children. Some of the most fun people pictures are those in which adults are caught off-guard, just being themselves.

There are always times when we step away from our controlled adult ways and behave in silly ways. We make faces in the mirror, wrestle with the dog, and play with our kids. We can relate to the spontaneity and good times people are having in these photos—the challenge is in successfully capturing the moment.

More opportunities to photograph people having fun occur during leisure-time activities and sports. Much like freezing action at a decisive moment, getting a great image of a contestant's face is a matter of timing and paying attention. When trying to capture the spirit of an event like this, you must work quickly.

Photographing someone winning a sport—such as a runner reaching the finish line first—can yield some jubilant facial expressions. Some ordinary sports pictures can become very compelling if the athlete's face reflects their enjoyment of the event. You might also take pictures of winning teams, like a group of Little League baseball players with their trophy. Encourage them to wave and shout, which will translate into exuberant team spirit in your photos.

One of the keys to documenting fun, candid moments is getting your friends and family used to being photographed—not only on holidays or family get-togethers—but most of the time. This way, they'll view the camera as a normal part of everyday life, and you'll feel more comfortable about pointing it at them. But be prudent when photographing people's activities. You don't want angry people who won't allow you to take pictures of them in the future.

To capture spontaneous moments when shooting film, it's best to shoot with fast film; ISO 400 or greater. You'll also need quick reflexes, and to constantly look through your camera's viewfinder so you won't miss anything. If your camera has a sports mode, you can use it to be more spontaneous. If your compact camera has a zoom lens, set it on a telephoto setting to allow you to work at a distance from your subjects. A fairly long lens will also enable you to isolate a subject in a crowd.

Although faces are usually key in conveying the idea of fun, you can move back and use your lens on a wide-angle setting to reveal the sport or activity in which your subject is participating.

If your photo session involves being around water, snow, or mud, you'll need to protect your camera. If there's a lot of splashing going on, keep your point-and-shoot camera inside a plastic bag and bring it out only when you're ready to shoot. If you get water on the outside of your camera, wipe it off immediately with a soft cloth, and be careful not to scratch your lens or the finish on the camera.

And finally, don't restrict your "fun" photo project to only taking pictures of people. Amusement park rides, funny signs, and comical pet behavior can all be good subjects for fun photos.