A close friend of ours came down for a family shoot a few weekends ago. I didn't guarantee any good results since I don't shoot a ton of portraits (I tend to shoot things that don't move or bite). But, it's free and they can always toss 'em! This was a huge lesson in portrait photography for me, especially with a baby, who we will anonymously call "Baby J". I've left out the family photos since I want them to remain anonymous.
Not really knowing what to expect, I prepared ahead of time. Two minutes before the shoot I switched out from my normal zoom and decided to shoot with a long lens. This seems to be a preferred method for portraits, to allow isolation of subjects and produce a pleasing bokeh of the background that is "compressed" into the composition. I knew I had to shoot fast, to minimize movements so to gain speed I maximized my aperture, shooting primarily around 4.5-5.6. Lastly, and most importantly, II had to consider lighting. It would have been ideal to shoot early in the morning, but they didn't arrive until mid-afternoon. This is probably the worst time you can shoot as lighting can be harsh. Luckily it was overcast that day - big ol' clouds to create a softer, gentler kind of lighting. Unluckily, the sun decided to come out as we were shooting.
What a day! Not only did my on-camera flash die this morning, but I'm about to venture into an unfamiliar area of photography that I've never really cared for much anyways.... cheezy, composed, portraits... ugh. However, I'll have to admit it was fun, and I might even consider doing it again. If I get a bottle of scotch out of it. In order to prevent the reader from barfing, I've left out the portrait or posed shots, and stuck mainly with my favorite shooting style - candids. Here goes nothing....
Luckily we live near a park. I didn't even decide to shoot there until the very last minute. Once we were there, I tried to find props, and things for Baby J to play on. This large rock seemed suitable, and she certainly seemed to have a good time. A couple test shots in manual determined I needed to overexpose to get her skin to look right. The rock served as a my initial source to meter from since it is mid-gray. Then, I just held my breath and, wait for it..... *snap*
Next, we moved on to a nice wood path. Props are good. Very good. Especially when babies eat them. This is Keiko. Baby J loves him so much, she has 3 Keikos!
I found this log sitting in a nice shaded area that seemed to soften the sun that was starting to peer out. The background was still nicely lit, and produced a nice blur of autumn colors. I set myself down low, and composed the shot even before Baby J was placed into the photo, making sure the log didn't take up too much of the frame, and that enough of the background trees would be captured above her head and not around her face. The rest was a waiting game - as soon as Baby J picked up this twig I fired away continuously. This is one of my favorites from this shoot.
Crouching Baby, Hidden Monkey ("Where's Keiko?" - smile). Light conditions were changing fast. The lighting in the background is getting harsh, so I continued to shoot in the shade. Unfortunately, Baby J is underexposed here somewhat. The variations in shade and light in forests had me on my toes the entire time, tweaking my exposure back and forth. I didn't have much time here as Baby J decided the forest soil was tasty. This was taken just before she gobbled some of that tasty soil up.
O.K. odd composition right? This just cracks me up for some reason, and wasn't intended to necessarily be a great portrait. Meet Rocky, by the way.
Well, the next day we had some decent morning light in the house. We let Baby J play around the screen door, which gave us plenty of light. She had on a cute white dress that made her look like a little angel. So, naturally I overexposed the heck out of everything to get that soft, white look. I probably took it a little too far here, as her dress is starting to clip. Technicality aside, I still like the shot as a whole.
Switch to 50mm, keep shooting. Baby J quickly made her way to the blinds, and this is when the shots got really exciting. The biggest problem here was the harsh shadows the blinds were creating on her face. To correct this, I bounced flash behind my left shoulder, off of the wood siding on our bar to "fill" those shadows, and keep her face nice and bright.
Hmm.. where else is there good indoor lighting.. The bathtub! This served as a great "lightbox" in itself. A bright window from behind floods the tub which reflects nice white light everywhere! Naturally, there are some good props to play with here too - "What's that handle do?" "Does it open the gateway to Inferno?" Flash was bounced behind me off of our bathroom mirrors.
My absolute favorite from the entire shoot. Soft, white, glowy! I love the flare in her eyes created by the reflection off the white shampoo bottle cap.