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.
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.
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.
Like many others I was a tourist with a camera, so why do I only have a couple of landscape images from a week in Cornwall?
I stand in awe of a great scene as long as the next person but I’m no landscape photographer. I stop and appreciate the land form, the colours and the history but I know the images will be archived and never viewed by me again. The other two hundred images I took will however be viewed with great nostalgia and memories as they include my husband and my son.
My passion for capturing life is heightened for my own family and I reminisce quite often. My little one is only twenty months old and growing up at an amazing rate so I love looking back to see how much he’s changed. I also like to keep photo year books and scrap books of the things we’ve done and places we’ve visited. Looking at my hard drive he’s been a very busy boy 🙂
Don’t get me wrong I’ll include some of the landscape in my images (sometimes, maybe) but I’m sticking to what I do best.
I’ve always placed a large amount of pressure on myself to achieve in whatever I’m doing. At this point in my life, alongside being a mum I’m putting immense pressure on myself with photography, both technically and composition.
My sense of achievement is fulfilled by an image that I’d quite happily display on a wall at home or a shot at which I’ve taken numerous attempts until I feel a sense of satisfaction.
There’s a temptation to take as many photographs as you can during a photo session in the hope to capture ‘the one’. I know I’ve done it.
It took a while for me to realise how counter productive this actually is. After settling down in the evening with a cuppa and the plan to start editing I find myself with hundreds of images to sort through. This is not only due to shooting in RAW + JPEG and in continuous mode but also being ‘clicky happy’. I’ve ended up with at least six of the same image and in the worst scenario six of the same unfocused image!
I’ve since learned that the best approach is to move or direct your subjects until you’re satisfied with the composition (if you have to), focus, shoot once and check. This limits the number of files and flashes.
Also remember that your camera is portable so move yourself too! You don’t have to remain static throughout the session. Shooting from a variety of angles can give you some fantastic perspectives and something slightly different.
Stop rushing, take your finger of the shutter button and take your time.
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!
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.
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.
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.
If I was going to put this passion into practice I had better start practicing and build a portfolio along the way.
My little man is my muse, my model and so much more but there’s only so many images of him I could use. I needed different faces. I needed different ages. I needed volunteers! I was astounded by how many parents were interested in volunteering their children for an hour or so in return for a free set of images. I scheduled as many photo sessions as I could, leaped onto that steep learning curve and haven’t looked back.
The very first session was full of challenges and enough to make me question my new adventure. I spent the journey home thinking ‘What on earth am I doing? I’m an accountant. Just stick to what you know’. But looking at the positives I enjoyed every minute of it, the children and the parents were lovely and I took away ideas to prevent some of the hiccups from happening again.
On to the next session wiser, more prepared…and with a wipe clean backdrop.