With love on Father’s Day

A week before Father’s Day I started to think of some ideas for a photo session for my son.

I thought about finding an item of my husband’s clothing for my son to wear. A tie was the perfect size, it worked pretty well and he enjoyed playing with it during the shoot so that kept him entertained. I chose this tie as there’s some history behind it. It’s my husband’s Vincent’s Club tie so I was sure he’d love an image of our son wearing it.

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I just love panoramics and have used them on a few occasions. The rule of thirds doesn’t quite apply here but the panoramic is a clear favourite of mine.

I rarely use a black backdrop for young children but I took some time to experiment and see how effective it could be. I had the time available and then quickly hid all the evidence before my husband came home. I was surprisingly pleased with the results however I wouldn’t use such a dark background for clients as they tend to want something more vibrant and lively.

There were no distracting clothes, patterns or colours and the most important aspects were highlighted, my son and the tie’s motifs.

 

I loved these images so much I couldn’t resist showing my husband that evening. I’m just useless at surprises. I had to come up with another idea and quickly.

In my treasure trove of props I had some wooden letters to spell ‘dad’. I had planned to stand the letters in front of him but they kept falling over. To overcome this I had him hold each letter and then merge the three images together. The letters kept him occupied which was perfect at keeping him in one place.

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I realised that a special, meaningful image for a parent can be for any day of the year, not just Mother or Father’s Day.

Lesson 4 – Do it your way

I’m new to photography and I have so much to learn. I listen intently to recommendations from other photographers, watch training videos, read articles online and most importantly learn from my own experience.

Lighting has been the one area in which I have read about most. Subjects could be lit too much, too little, create undesirable shadows and so much more. Early on I experienced many failures with this however as a result have learned a great deal.

I started off with very simple kit which included continuous lighting in the form of two soft boxes. Over a period of time I encountered numerous issues and realised they just weren’t for me.

  • The soft boxes were a source of constant heat. From the moment the photo session started to the minute it ended these light sources were on. As you can imagine the huge bulbs heat up pretty well and in a small room can cause some warmth.
  • With two soft boxes I required two convenient electrical sockets or had to take an extension cable with me
  • Two electrical cables also meant two safety hazards not only for us adults but especially where children are concerned, especially if they decided to veer off set…which was quite often the case
  • These soft boxes didn’t have varying output which could be adjusted to suit the ambience of the photo shoot
I considered investing more money on additional/better/different kit as an alternative lighting solution. I spent a few nights online to see how other studio photographers managed their lighting and what they suggested was the better option.
Studio lighting obviously depends on what results you’re looking for but my goal was ultimately to eliminate the disadvantages I had encountered above.
One tutorial suggested a set up similar to mine with additional lights illuminating the backdrop. This just wouldn’t work for me as I was aiming to reduce the number of cables, heat and create a safer environment for children.
Another tutorial suggested reducing the lighting and incorporating a reflector. This seemed a logical solution but which toddler sits still long enough for a reflector to be positioned correctly? The alternative was a parent chasing their child around the set with the reflector.
Some photographers have the luxury of a dedicated studio where equipment remains in place twenty four hours a day. So their suggestions of white walls and ceilings or 12ft white panels are valid enough but they weren’t going to be an option for me. I have to fit my kit into the car if shooting at a clients’ house or taking it up and down in my own house.
I decided to create my own lighting solution by taking ideas from a variety of professionals and articles. I was a little nervous at the next photo shoot but I was ecstatic at the results, the reduced cables and cooler temperature of the room.
So although I’ve changed some of my kit and altered the set up slightly I’ll continue to use my old soft boxes for new born sessions. The number of cables won’t be an issue, the softer lighting will be more appropriate and I’ll not need to move them once they’re positioned. So they’ve not been retired completely.
Since researching how other photographers work I’ve realised even all the professionals have their own way of working, there isn’t only one rule. What works for some doesn’t always work for others. Listen to the advice and guidance, research alternatives and apply where you can but remember just because your way is different that doesn’t mean it’s wrong!

Lesson 2 – Use mums and dads to your advantage

Parents are a great resource on set, use them to your advantage!

I’ve noticed on numerous occasions parents so desperate for their little one to smile, laugh and giggle on demand that they’ll jump up and down, sing and make faces on the sideline. But that’s exactly where they are, the sideline. While they have the child’s attention they’re not looking at the camera. But how do you address this without discouraging them from getting involved?

At first I felt uncomfortable but if I didn’t nip it in the bud I could just render all the images useless at the end of the session. I just tried ‘That’s great. Now let’s try something different. How about….?’ And that seemed to work pretty well. You’re not criticising what they’re doing but indicating that you’ve got what you need on that shot and to move on.

It doesn’t always have to be songs and silly noises, although they are pretty effective. Shiny or sparkly toys works really well for smaller children and babies. Attach them to a make shift fishing rod so the parent can dangle it just above the lens. That way parents are able to get the baby looking in the right direction without them invading your personal space or you trip over them. A good game of peek-a-boo behind the camera works a treat……not so much for teenagers. Although it’d certainly get their attention!

Parents are also very handy on set for wiping noses/faces. Well that is a parent’s job after all, isn’t it? 😉 As a result of one photo session where this didn’t happen I spent far too much of my time editing out dribble. Save yourself some unnecessary editing time and keep those wipes handy.

If the child has numerous outfits leave the parents to be the hair, make up and wardrobe department for the whole session. Feel free to make suggestions on what you think works well and what doesn’t. This downtime will allow you to take another sip of your much needed coffee which has been cooling steadily.

If you need a reflector of some form held in position parents are great for this too. This has much better results than if you attempt to hold it and take pictures at the same time, trust me. It’s also a lot less cumbersome than having it on a stand which would just be yet another obstacle for you to hurdle and the little one to trip over.

Just consider, both you and the parents want the same thing, fantastic results. So in most cases you’ll find the parents will be willing in anyway they can to achieve this. So just ask!

Lesson 1 – Be prepared for anything

When working with children be prepared for anything!

You’d think wearing a pair of jeans and flats are preparation enough, wouldn’t you? Jeans for rolling around the floor assuming a variety of yoga positions to get that crucial shot. Flats for jumping and running around after these energetic little creatures. However I hadn’t thought about wellie boots for jumping in muddy puddles.

During one of my portfolio building photo sessions I had the privilege of a lively three year old who was shy at first but it turns out an absolute natural in front of the camera. We spent a little time on set but while the sun was out so we took advantage of the local parkland and had a lot of fun. Some of the route was what can only be described as sludge. As I sashayed around puddles and tiptoed through the mud trying not to sink I remember thinking ‘if you’re going to fall, sacrifice your dignity, land on your bottom and save the camera’!

After plenty of running and playing ball we made our way back to the house with a full memory card, but not before making the most of the biggest, wettest, muddiest puddle!

Next time I’ll take more suitable footwear…….and maybe a spare pair of trousers just in case.

I’ll do anything for Art, but I won’t do that!

We’ve all seen those ‘arty’ black and white images with an item remaining in vibrant colour, haven’t we? Well I wanted to experiment and learn how to do it and just had to think of an image on which it would work. Then I thought of my nieces and their array of coloured karate belts.

I hadn’t considered that the older of the two nieces is a black belt and asking her to demote herself by wearing a coloured belt would result in laughter and a very final ‘no’. The younger of the two it is then.

I borrowed the younger niece for half an hour for some quick images which I could play around with. She wore her yellow belt with pride and this was the result.

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Not only did I achieve the look I wanted but I got a smiley face too, whoop!

I experimented with the image in Photoshop without researching the other possible methods beforehand. I took the original coloured image, placed a black and white layer over the top and used the background eraser tool to reveal the colour on the layer below. All pretty simple and effective.

The only element of the photo shoot I would change next time would be to use a continuous white backdrop. A plain white backdrop and floor would certainly prevent any distraction from the subject. Lesson learned.

Bunny ears and feather boas

This week has been an absolute dream. I’ve had two gorgeous girls in for photo sessions and they had amazing wardrobes.

On the morning of the photo sessions I squeezed as many props and accessories into the car as possible only to realise the mums were just as excited as me and had already organised a collection of outfits with matching hairbands, tights and shoes. It’s fantastic having such involved mums and even better when they co-ordinate and accessorize well.

The sessions resulted in images with hues of pink and purple, lots of fun and a great insight into the world of daughters.

This image sums up one of the sessions so well. An absolute angel in bunny ears and a feather boa. She enjoyed every minute in front of the camera and took the photo shoot in her stride. A model in the making.

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As I packed up my kit and left a trail of feathers and sparkle behind me I looked forward to my next session.

Black backdrop for a black belt

I rarely use anything other than a plain white backdrop for children but it worked quite well for my niece’s karate session.

A plain white backing is light hearted and bright, drawing the viewers eyes to the subject and can sometimes create great contrast. I tend to only use dark blues and blacks for corporate shots or images requiring a formal look.

I had considered that with my niece’s karate gi being white the probability of it being lost was pretty high. Adjusting the backdrop to a shade of grey wouldn’t give the image the striking impact I wanted. Black not only provided the drama but from an artistic perspective allowed the achievement of a dan grade to flow from the belt throughout the portrait.

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The percentage of black in the frame, the stance and the serious expression completely represents how seriously my niece takes her martial arts.

She takes it seriously but has a lot of fun too!

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