A Definitively Unprofessional Guide to Hula-Hoop Photography

When I find myself with a camera at summer parades, festival and walk-abouts, there’s typically a hula-hooper that finds their way to the receiving end of my camera lens. But what makes for a good hula-hooper photo? It’s not as easy as it sounds. I don’t have the answer, but that won’t stop me from making something up. All photos are my own and taken between 2010 and 2016.

If pressed to answer this question I’d come up with a few quick rules, or at least things I instinctively think about when shooting the subject.

  1. The face should the the focal point, and any movement/blur should be with the hoop itself, or the body.
  2. The entirety of the the hoop should be in frame.
  3. The photo should be landscape/horizontal when possible.
  4. The eyes should either be showing, in sunglasses, or clearly looking a certain direction, but the subject shouldn’t be looking at the camera. Basically no mid-blinking shots .

In reality I would never follow those rules, especially since the window of opportunity may be relatively small to take the shot.

To start, here are some shots the follow the 4 rules:



By following all of these rules the photos tend to be boring, or amateurish, so some of these rules can be broken to give the photo bit more life. My problem with the above photos is that there’s too much non-hooper space. The hooper is clearly the focus, but since I went out of my way to shoot horizontally, and capture the entire hoop, there’s a lot of background space. The depth-of-field is too large to blur out the background.

A horizontal photo can fix some of that, so let’s break rule #3. Warning; you’ll need to scroll more this time because the photos are longer. Take a break in the middle if your finger gets tired.


I like those better already, but the background activities can be distracting.

Let’s try breaking the hula-hoop.

Not what I meant kid. Bring that hula-hoop back to your parents and have them duct tape it back together, or just have them get you a new one.

I meant let’s allow the hoop to leave the frame. Like this:


I like those photos, but they don’t really feel like hula-hooping photos any longer.

Sometimes the best hula-hoop photos are accidental. The hula-hoop frames something unintentionally during the shoot. Or the hula-hoop is simply present in a photo telling a completely different story.


Maybe hula-hoops make cool photography subjects on their own without the challenge of the active performer?

Nope.

Maybe hang them up?

Nope.

Maybe stick a kid in the middle and create a Superman II jail type of scene.

Nope.

Is there a conclusion to this, or did I simply decide to put all of my favorite hula-hoop photos in one blog and realize I had little to say about it?

The latter.

All photos by Jason McGorty. This entry is one of a larger set of Definitively Unprofessional Guides to niche photography subjects

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. There are no actual rules of hula hoop photography. There are rules of hula-hooping. Gravity, for example, is a factor.

What makes a good photograph is completely subjective and the views expressed in this guide are that of the author only.

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