"Working With A Pro"
Today I thought I'd discuss something I hear frequently from other photographers. And I would be in the same boat as them when they say, "My family just HATES having their photos taken!" It's that whole "set up the seamless, point the big intimidating lights" feeling, or even just the deer in the headlights look everyone gets after dad yells "hey everyone, look over here and say cheese!"
I had to work hard around this the other day for a personal project I'm beginning, and wanted to ensure that my family wouldn't run screaming from the camera or look stiff and uncomfortable once they stepped into a shot. So here's some tips on what I did to get the moment above of father and son looking relaxed and having fun without it looking staged.
The Most Comfortable Place
When is your spouse, child, or subject most in their element? The place or spot that they're the most involved in, most proud of, most comfortable in. For my husband (and it's a tie between the him and the dog for who hates the camera most) that's his workshop. All his tools familiar to him where there, on-going projects he's excited about are there, and he proudly renovated it himself. It is the quintessential comfortable space for him. So the first thing we did was hang out in the workshop.
Find That Light
I don't mean that "inner" light either... that's later. I mean now that we were out in the workshop to photograph the father and son moment I wanted, I took a real hard look at this familiar space and had to decide where the good light was. Workshops are notoriously dusty, or have industrial type lighting everywhere. We tried opening up the big door, with all the lights on but in the end the only good light, very soft and full, was coming in a window from the south west. The windows are covered in an opaque white film for privacy and were the perfect foil for the late afternoon sun. So I backed up into the corner and had them stay in front of the window to work on their project together. If you look closely you can see the back of my husbands head still has definition in the shadows... that's from the big door we kept open for added light. That's using the ol' noodle eh???
Use The Best Gear
I could have fooled around with my flash, my reflector or additional lights, and my different lenses. However, all of those things are time consuming, and start to make your subject feel more self conscious as time goes on. And you can loose momentum. So after looking at the small area they'd start working in, I decided the best lens would be my wide angle for such a small tight space, and I'd use my tripod in case the exposure wouldn't work out for handholding the camera. I spot metered my subjects, okay with the corners or background having some shadow and that was that. After a minute they forgot I was there.
Don't Just Stand There... Do Something.
Because they were in a comfortable place, doing something they're familiar with, the last thing I wanted to do was then say "now both of you look at me!" and press the shutter. If they love the camera, not a problem. But in this instance I needed them to just interact the way they always do. So they started DOING something. They were measuring to make a cut for some trim, a simple action but enough that their focus didn't drift to me right away and I got some shots off before they realized. The fact that they got chuckling about something my hubby was trying to teach my son says that they were still comfortable and had forgotten about me for a second. And I love the expressions. I got a great "guys" moment that really represents them.
These are just my own tips, but they seem crucial to every "stolen moment" photo I take, no matter what the variables are. I'm sure you could add to the list. And I hope this helps someone longing for better family photos that go beyond the family portrait of pasted fake smiles, dress clothes you only wear at Easter or weddings, and odd poses.
Thanks for the ramble! Have a great Monday and let's get some fabulous family photos!