Cheryl Machat Dorskind
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Six Tips For Photographing Children Naturally
© 2012 Cheryl Machat Dorskind
“Like the people you shoot and let them know it”
I recently photographed a twelve year old boy at the beach and wanted to share some tips.
A consultation begins the process. At the meeting, learn the expectations. For example will the client want an 8×10” print or a wall sized canvass? Determining the output size in advance is important for pre-visualization. Compose with size in mind. Additionally, larger output size requires large files sizes.
Plan the wardrobe and pay attention to winning color combinations. Children’s swimwear often features bold saturated colors. Finding clothes with minimum or no logos is tough. For this session we chose a gray shirt to balance the highly saturated colors of the swim trunks and board).
To help break-the-ice with twelve-year-old Justin, we walked together down the beach and chatted. I did not want Justin to perform; I wanted him to be himself.
I did not use an assistant because adding someone to hold my flash or reflector would break the bond Justin and I had formed. Luckily the overcast sky and time of day did not require supplement. The beautiful Hampton sunlight was shining its magic. (A surfer even stopped and commented on the gorgeous light.) Instead, my assistant shot some video that I uploaded below.
Determine Your Camera Settings Before You Begin
Preplan your camera settings. Select an exposure mode, focus and drive mode, ISO, aperture, and shutter settings that make most sense for your session before you begin so you are not fiddling with the camera. I used continuous drive mode and AI Servo (AF Mode).
I was working an hour before sunset and the sun was weaving in and out of clouds. Knowing I can use a high ISO on my camera, I set it to 640, enabling flexibility in terms of shutter and aperture selection. Since the sunlight was changing rapidly, I used aperture priority exposure mode and kept my eye on the shutter to make sure it did not dip too low to cause camera shake.
From time to time, check your camera settings. Sometimes in the midst of a shoot, you will inadvertently move the exposure or your exposure mode dial (consider taping the function drive in place). Check that your shutter is fast enough to avoid camera shake (1/focal length of the lens) and that the appropriate focus tracking is set.
Beforehand, I decided to use a 70-200 mm lens providing ample space between Justin and I. This distance enabled Justin to relax. (At the beach you do not want to be changing lenses).
Keep the pose natural
Patience+rapport = natural poses. Let the natural body language be your guide and then tweak. Set up a scene, and then let the action occur. Be ready to capture the moment. The “right” smile is often right after the child smiles.
Shoot at the child’s level
Children will react better and your images will improve if you meet the child at their eye level. This often means you will find yourself on the ground.
Know when you are done.
Personally, it is a feeling I get. I feel done. “I got it.” Be sensitive to the fact that most children do not want to have their picture taken. Learn to sense enough is enough. Quickly scroll through the thumbnails to see if you have a few winners.
Join Cheryl for one of her online photography classes. New sessions begin this weekend (October 7-9) and November 5, 2012.
All About Color
More About Color
Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge
Friday Quote: “All the wonderful accidents that happen to you as an actor”
This line caught my ear while driving the other day and listening to Frank Langella’s interview with Dave Davies for NPR’s Fresh Air (August 16, 2012). I later listened to Langella reminisce about how hard it was to portray President Nixon.
“Well, I was at the Museum of Radio and Television. I asked the lady there if she’d be good enough to give me some tapes on him. And she said how many do you want? I’ve got thousands and thousands. And she brought in a big wagon and I got a sandwich and an iced tea, and sat and plugged in the Watergate shows and watch him. And then I got up to go to the bathroom and I pressed the button and when I came back I pressed slow motion as a, in an accident, really. All the wonderful accidents that happen to you as an actor, and that was one of the great ones for me. And I watched his eyes and the way his mouth moved and his hand gestures in slow motion. And suddenly I began to see what he was hiding. I began to notice the ticks much more vividly than I had normally, because we had all seen so much of him that you grew used to it. But when you watch him in slow – when you watch anything in slow motion you’re going to see something a little waiver in the eyes, a little strange smile, whatever. And that’s when his heart, when the soul of the man, as I perceived him, began to take shape for me and then I began to think well, maybe, maybe I can find a way to do him.”
Hearing others I admire respectfully admit mistakes encourages hard work, bravery and a willingness to experiment. Langella struggled, watching thousands of videos to find his Nixon voice, he researched, contemplated and then accidentally found the answer. Mistakes can be fortuitous seeds for brilliance.
Labor Day marks the celebration of American workers and the beginning of the school calendar. And as I begin teaching my fall semester classes at the local community college in an economic environment that does not scream for more photographers, I encourage you to work hard at your passion, listen, experiment, make mistakes, and celebrate.
Happy Friday and a Happy Labor Day weekend to all my American friends,