May 27, 2008

Finding Shelter

Family Portrait

I shot this photo at my son’s baptism (with Grandma and Grandpa). It was a very sunny day and Malakhi’s white outfit was peaking in nearly every image. I needed another location. Here’s what I looked for…a shady location with a fair bit of distance between where the subjects would stand and the background elements. Using a 50mm, 1.8 blurred the background while the diffuse lighting created rich tones. Getting Malakhi to look at the camera didn’t quite work out but Grandma and Grandpa were quite happy…and that’s all that counts, right? The upshot is that in every location, there will be good places and bad places to take photos. Following the action is one part of the process but also look for places that will make your job easier. In this case, I was looking for diffuse lighting and blurred backgrounds. When you know the elements you are looking for, it’s easier to find. The more you shoot consciously, the more these elements will present themselves to you.

Join the conversation! 31 Comments

  1. Wonderful detail in the white outfit. At risk of sounding less manly, Malakhi looks friggin adorable.

    -C

  2. Wonderful detail in the white outfit. At risk of sounding less manly, Malakhi looks friggin adorable.

    -C

  3. This is one of the best tips. I have seen folks shooting with subjects squinting, and it drives me batty. Good job.

  4. This is one of the best tips. I have seen folks shooting with subjects squinting, and it drives me batty. Good job.

  5. I think your comment about the subjects being a fair distance from the background is key. You certainly need that extra distance so that you can blur the background enough to make your subjects the stars of the show.

  6. I think your comment about the subjects being a fair distance from the background is key. You certainly need that extra distance so that you can blur the background enough to make your subjects the stars of the show.

  7. Thanks! And thanks for the comment on Malakhi :) Lot’s more here…

    http://web.mac.com/alexlindsay (there’s an updating gallery there).

    Yes, paying attention to the background (and it’s distance) is super important. In general, you need to slowly train your eye to pay attention to everything in the frame…and look for that framing even when you’re not shooting.

  8. Thanks! And thanks for the comment on Malakhi :) Lot’s more here…

    http://web.mac.com/alexlindsay (there’s an updating gallery there).

    Yes, paying attention to the background (and it’s distance) is super important. In general, you need to slowly train your eye to pay attention to everything in the frame…and look for that framing even when you’re not shooting.

  9. was that the $100 canon 50mm ? What are you thoughts on that lens?

  10. was that the $100 canon 50mm ? What are you thoughts on that lens?

  11. Wow! It’s easy to see that the grandparents are proud! Great photo.

  12. Wow! It’s easy to see that the grandparents are proud! Great photo.

  13. Very nice picture. And good point about visualizing backgrounds wherever you are.

    The only criticism I can make of the photo itself (which, I know, is not the point here … sorry) is that the framing seems a bit off … too much room on the sides and/or not enough head room for your father-in-law. Seems like a more square aspect ratio for the print would do this portrait some good. Makes shopping for a frame a major pain, but might be worth it.

    Question: how many takes did you sit through to get this one? There’s little more difficult in photography than catching a small child’s attention and smile on film (er, electrons?) at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking a fine line between getting a memorable photograph and making the photo session memorably painful to everyone else who has to stand there trying to look natural while I make goofy noises and movements for the benefit of the smallest.

  14. Very nice picture. And good point about visualizing backgrounds wherever you are.

    The only criticism I can make of the photo itself (which, I know, is not the point here … sorry) is that the framing seems a bit off … too much room on the sides and/or not enough head room for your father-in-law. Seems like a more square aspect ratio for the print would do this portrait some good. Makes shopping for a frame a major pain, but might be worth it.

    Question: how many takes did you sit through to get this one? There’s little more difficult in photography than catching a small child’s attention and smile on film (er, electrons?) at the same time. Sometimes I feel like I’m walking a fine line between getting a memorable photograph and making the photo session memorably painful to everyone else who has to stand there trying to look natural while I make goofy noises and movements for the benefit of the smallest.

  15. Alex… Malakhi is absolutely adorable. Great photo.

  16. Alex… Malakhi is absolutely adorable. Great photo.

  17. When it is very sunny, sometimes it’s difficult to open the aperture that wide, even in the shade. How did you cope with this? P.S. getting the baby to look at the camera is probably at least a year away.

  18. When it is very sunny, sometimes it’s difficult to open the aperture that wide, even in the shade. How did you cope with this? P.S. getting the baby to look at the camera is probably at least a year away.

  19. Alex – Thanks for this post. I really appreciate the way you talked through the “step-by-step” way you made your decisions and pointed out all of the factors you took into account. This single post will make me a better photographer and I really appreciate it.

  20. Alex – Thanks for this post. I really appreciate the way you talked through the “step-by-step” way you made your decisions and pointed out all of the factors you took into account. This single post will make me a better photographer and I really appreciate it.

  21. Thanks everyone! Few things… $100 50mm is fine if you are getting started (you NEED to have a fast 50mm). I should have bought the 1.4. I’m still on the fence about Nikon vs Canon so I’m spending on glass right now. Framing – This was a single take with impatient grandparents and impatient son. He is usually _very_ good at looking at the camera…check my gallery for examples…but there were alot of people there and I was further away. As far as the space…given Malakhi’s position, John’s head, and a 2×3 aspect…that was what I thought was the best option. As far as coping with wide apertures, I tend to shoot less when I can’t open up (if it’s people), or I find shade, or I use a zoom and step back/zoom in. I think sharp backgrounds look like snapshots.

  22. Thanks everyone! Few things… $100 50mm is fine if you are getting started (you NEED to have a fast 50mm). I should have bought the 1.4. I’m still on the fence about Nikon vs Canon so I’m spending on glass right now. Framing – This was a single take with impatient grandparents and impatient son. He is usually _very_ good at looking at the camera…check my gallery for examples…but there were alot of people there and I was further away. As far as the space…given Malakhi’s position, John’s head, and a 2×3 aspect…that was what I thought was the best option. As far as coping with wide apertures, I tend to shoot less when I can’t open up (if it’s people), or I find shade, or I use a zoom and step back/zoom in. I think sharp backgrounds look like snapshots.

  23. Alex, I agree. But, I’m the snapshot king.

  24. Alex, I agree. But, I’m the snapshot king.

  25. Alex,
    Wow that is a great shot. I need to to get me a 50mm and do more snapshots.

  26. I have a that 50mm on my camera set to 1.8 about 80% of the time. I occasionally close down a few stops to get someone’s whole head…but not often.

    I do think the 1.4 is much better on many levels.

  27. I have a that 50mm on my camera set to 1.8 about 80% of the time. I occasionally close down a few stops to get someone’s whole head…but not often.

    I do think the 1.4 is much better on many levels.

  28. The 1.4 would have improved the bokeh immensely.

  29. The 1.4 would have improved the bokeh immensely.

  30. Now that’s thinking like a photographer… Outstanding result!

  31. Now that’s thinking like a photographer… Outstanding result!

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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