Many times in my career I’ve had to work in locations I’ve never seen before. During that time I’ve had maybe 20 minutes to figure out where I’m going to set up my session. Whether I’m teaching a workshop/seminar or even with my new clients, it certainly gets my adrenaline working. This article is about the steps I take to make this successful.
First and foremost, the placement of my subjects has to do with the light as always. I’m driven by the quality of light available to me as well as the direction and location of where the light is coming from. Sometimes I will actually test out the light before photographing if possible so that I can see for myself what it looks like on the subject. I’m always looking for the light that will be the most pleasing for my client.
The next step, once I’m happy with the light, is the location. They both are extremely important when setting up the scene and I place equal value to them when designing and telling my story. There is a lot of planning when setting up a session and not always a lot of time. It’s also important to understand that all of these elements help to create the story you’re trying to tell. How the light illuminates the location and the subject is all a part of my story.
Depending on what time of day I’m photographing, and what lens I’m using, I will select my settings by determining what ISO I want to use first. For this session, I was using Sigma’s 24-70mm F 2.8 IF EX DG HSM. I’m using this lens because it gives me some flexibility with the focal length for both the landscape and the subject in terms of space. It also focuses extremely fast which is an element I depend on. Next, I choose ISO 160 because I had plenty of light. I prefer the lower ISO settings when I have a sunny day even when photographing in open shade because there will be less grain/or pixel data in the shadow areas. Since these images were created on a very bright day and because my subject was constantly moving, I set my shutter speed to s 1/640 to stop the action and control the amount of light coming into the camera and then compensated for the balance of the exposure with an aperture setting of f/3.2 Luckily for me there was also some cloud coverage giving me some much needed diffused light.
Once my camera is set up and ready to go, I will photograph the location and test the exposure before placing my subject where I want him. If I need to perfect the settings once again, this would be the time to do it. Once I place my subject, a two-year old, on these steps, I’m photographing very fast and won’t have much time to adjust the settings again without the chance of missing a moment of importance.
At this point I’m capturing all the movement that comes with photographing a two-year-old boy.
The flowers have been placed on the steps strategically so that he has something to do and will at least keep him in one spot long enough for me to capture him in his glory as he discovers each little yellow treasure.
When he stopped long enough to smell the flowers, I must admit it was hard for me to keep photographing without laughing. We never asked him to do that, it was one of those magic moments.
As he relaxes and enjoys his freedom of discovery, I am able to zoom in with the 24-70mm F 2.8 IF EX DG HSM and at a focal length of 58mm capture the essence of boyhood for his mother who is standing behind me laughing with tears in her eyes as her son playfully talks to his flowers.