Most of my portrait work is all about photographing young children and their families. In most cases I have been working with these families for years. This session I’m about to share with you is one of my most recent.
Whether the age group of the children is between 3-5, or a more adult family like these three children ages 10-17 with their dogs, it’s always a challenge to come up with new ideas and expressions that tell some kind of story and reflect where they are in their lives. Most of my sessions are about documenting a certain time in my client’s life. With this family, Charlotte, who is now 17 is a senior in High School. My task is to create a senior portrait for her along with photographing the whole family and each individual child.
I have been working with this family for 9 years and they are as familiar with me as I am with them, one of the many reasons why I love what I do. Miles, who is now 10 years old, was only 6 months old when we started. I love watching these children grow up and change both physically and emotionally. Being apart of their childhood memories is such a joy for me.
The very first thing I do when arriving at a location is to check out the lighting. Being an available light photographer has its advantages as well as its disadvantages. I am a slave to the time of day I shoot in and also to the direction of the light. I have photographed many times in this location and know that the sun will set in their front yard where my client wants to have the family portrait taken. At this point I am working on the side of the house where I have some beautiful open shaded areas and can also use the same light to back light my subjects. Once I have selected the location for some of the portraits I will be creating, my next decision is what lens to use and what my settings will be. As always, I’m using my 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM for the wide-angle shots and the 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM for close ups. I also brought my 35mm F1.4 DG HSM just in case I decided to photograph inside the house and need the extra low 1.4 aperture to capture some interesting light.
It was about 4:00pm when I started my session and I had a lot of sunlight for these portraits. My settings were f 4.5, 1/160sec, ISO 100. It was not my intention to include the dogs in the image, but they were so cute and obedient that I just couldn’t resist. I have learned from experience that you must be flexible when it comes to the family animals. They sometimes end up in the large wall portrait.
Since the lighting was working so well for me, I decided to move on to the Family portrait and wait until the end to photograph all the separate portraits. Depending on my schedule or the client’s schedule, I may photograph the family first and then the individuals. If there is a plan to go out to Dinner or a movie, then I will try and accommodate everyone’s schedule accordingly. With adult children this is fairly easy. With younger children, I’m very much aware of when I may have reached the limits of a child’s attention. When designing large wall portraits it’s important to remember that you must move away from your subjects and include some scenery. When the image is sized about 24×30 it will look better this way.
For additional sales I will include a cropped version of the family portrait for 8×10’s and smaller prints to give as gifts to relatives.
I think the Family Portrait is the hardest of all the portraits I create. Some people will compare it to having a root canal. Getting everyone together, making sure their clothes are coordinated, the colors have to be right for everyone and finding a venue that everyone likes can be challenging. Once that part of the session has been completed, I can breathe a sigh of relief and start working on the individual ones which are my favorites.
When designing these portraits, I took into consideration the three images would need to work together. The backgrounds don’t have to be the same, but it would be nice for all three to have similar backdrops. The front and backyard of this home is filled with rich mature plants making that easy for me. Charlotte and Miles were both photographed in the front yard, while the portrait of Ryan was photographed in the backyard. The lighting for all three portraits was a nice soft light allowing me to use a fairly wide variety of angles.
The session took about three hours from start to finish. Once all the portraits have been taken, I then download and edit the images and within about 15 minutes I am ready to sit down with my client and review all the work for the day. It is extremely important to be able to create my portraits as perfect as they can be in the camera. I can’t stress enough how using the correct lenses and settings make all the difference in the world. I travel for a living and when I’m working with my clients, the expectation is they will see the images right after I have photographed them. Most of the time I will still need to do some processing while reviewing the images, but for the most part, they look pretty good. Thanks to Sigma I have great lenses to work with.