By Roger (28 September 2014)
Savor the days when everything comes out exactly as your client wants it. They don't happen all the time. You know those days when the birds are singing like Mary Poppins is at the window. When you get nothing but green lights on the road. I don't get whole, entire days like that, but, I recently had a perfect photo session.
I'm a big proponent for thinking out your photo shoot when possible. For this shoot, the client was my family. When you get it right for them, they're all amazed that you didn't screw it up. ;-)
We have a family event coming up this week, so most of the family is here. This caused my grandson to miss school on the day they were making the yearbook photos. (The boy won't be three until January – do they really make yearbooks for pre-schoolers?!) So, we decided to make one here.
We've all seen the cliché yearbook photos, with the kid on a small bench, in front of a blurred background. This type of photo used to be standard fare for studios. This is what my daughter-in-law wanted. Just like the old days.
The studios used these kinds of sets because they are quick and easy to set up. When you're facing an entire school of kids, you don't want anything to slow you down. The formula for the set-up was foolproof enough that you just put the subject on the stool and anyone could push the shutter button. I never shoot this kind of photo. I like to catch children out running around, having fun, unposed and unrefined.
So, when the request was made, I started thinking about how to give the DIL what she wanted. When you break down this type of photo to its basic components, it isn't hard. Anyone can pull it off. Your main requirement is speed because a child this young isn't going to cooperate very long in this environment.
Studios had semi-permanent sets, with a bunch of painted backdrops for the blurred background. Nature seemed to be a favorite backdrop. I don't have a studio or painted backdrops. I do, however, have a big line of bushes that would suffice. The sun is coming through them, late in the day, to give that dappled light look we all remember. A wide open aperture would give the appropriate bokeh.
Lighting was easy in the studio because they never moved it. I decided to use one flash, with a shoot through umbrella, mounted on a portable light stand. The umbrella gave me a soft, even light and added some dimension to his face, which I needed because the open shade was flat and totally lacking in character.
While Dodge was taking his nap, I grabbed his older cousin to check everything out. (She's much better at taking directions and loves to pose.) I used manual mode on both the camera and flash to keep the exposures consistent. I made a measly four test shots, and we were ready.
As soon as he woke up, we got him ready and promised a nice bribe if he managed to behave. Wonder of wonders, he did. His mom had him make some faces, and we were done. Ten shots in 10 minutes, with no tears (from either of us). There was no need to shoot more.
Sure these are formula shots, guaranteed to drive me insane if I spent every day putting them together. You won't ever see these photos hanging in the Louvre, but they will be displayed on a more humble wall. More importantly, these are the photos my DIL wanted. And, as long as the client is happy, you've done your job.
The lesson for today is when you're prepared for your shoot, and you're lucky, you get to be super photoman, every now and then. Enjoy it and move on like it always happens that way. We high-fived each other and went in for some brownies and ice cream.
Tomorrow, I'll probably get hit by a bus! ;-) Hope your weekend was happy, too.
Don't forget to sign up for the 11 October Worldwide Photowalk. You can join Mark and I, in Harpers Ferry, WV, at 0930, beginning at the Amtrak station. You can sign up for our walk here. We hope to see you there. If you can't come to Harpers Ferry, you can join one of the other photowalks, in a location near you. Look on the official Worldwide Photowalk page here.