1. Be Ready!
Have all the settings – iso, exposure compensation, mode, flash – fixed and tested BEFORE you start shooting. Stopping the flow of natural moments not only inhibits your creative juices but chances are you’re missing great moments while fiddling to adjust settings. Double check all the “technical stuff” well before you need to shoot, especially the histogram. The less gear, the better!
2. Soft Even Light
This mom & son are much easier to capture in the shade of a large tree rather than in the nasty mid-day sun – which leads to hot spots and raccoon eyes. “Open shade” by the side of a building, under a porch, inside facing a large open window, any of these “locations” can help you concentrate less on dealing with lighting problems and more on the “moment” – again leading to better captured expressions.
Mom & son were impromptu – luck really. I was teaching a 1-1 lesson at Evendale and they were on the playground. I asked if they wouldn’t mind helping us out. They were fabulous of course! I never purposefully schedule midday (read ‘horrible light’) photo shoots – this just ‘happened’ – so I asked them to stand under a large tree…
3. Continuous Drive
Kids move fast, even when held, and expressions change in a split second. Keep shooting with continuous drive to capture the best of those fleeting expressions. (If needed, use a large flash the same brand as your camera if possible. This doesn’t really work with the small built-in flash).
4. Back Up, Zoom In
My favorite lens for portraits is a telephoto, something in the 200mm range. If you back up and zoom in, you get less “background” and more blur, like these. Even zooming in to 55mm with the little 18-55 kit lens included with most DSLR cameras can look so much better than using the wide end of the zoom!
Natural expressions instead of “cheese” smiles are the absolute best. The less “posing” the better in my opinion. It doesn’t matter if the child is quiet and contemplative or running around and be silly, their natural personality is what I’m trying to capture when I’m shooting.
Being a photojournalist, of course I want to capture an image that speaks to their spirit, not something fake or phony. I hear so often when folks look at my images, “that’s really (insert name here).” I want the gestures and mood of the image to reflect them at that moment, not some “pose”. I’m not saying poses are never cute, I just prefer a real connection to happen when someone looks at the image. I want them to SEE the person in it – their spirit, their uniqueness, no matter their age.
Want to learn more?
Join me March 16 for a portrait workshop with real people for ‘models’ at Evendale Cultural Arts Center. 10a-1p. $179. Small class size. Class size will be kept VERY small for this special workshop. Be sure to register right away!