Family portraits in the summer

July 16, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Yuppa Family in 90-degree heat with a very active 2-year-old!

We visited our family in Ohio last week, it was a great time! Our daughter asked if we would update their family portrait while we were there, and of course, we said yes. Call me sentimental, but the idea that our grandchildren will have family portrait memories that their grandparents took for them makes me happy! Not to mention that Grandma is the best at getting everyone to look their best. 

We tried to get out before it got too hot, but it was still oppressive even in the early morning. The next best thing was to find a somewhat shaded spot to pose the family. Once we found that it was a matter of getting everyone posed, happy, and smiling.  

When one of the subjects is a very active and animated two-year-old you have to work quickly! Their attention span is short and they are easily distracted. (I may have just described myself!)

There are a couple of different ways to approach a shoot like this. Some believe this is an "available light" session, no need to supplement it at all. If you were to do that, you would expose for the shadows where they are standing and the background would be "blown out" white! If you are old enough to remember the TV show, "Touched by an Angel" you know what I'm talking about. You can almost make it look like a high key portrait except for the distraction of faded white/green grass and trees. If that's your style, who am I to judge?

My thoughts on "available light" photography: When someone defines themselves as this type of photographer, I immediately wonder: If there is no light available, or the light isn't flattering at that exact moment in time or location, are you still a photographer? I think the answer is obvious, so I will resist typing the two letter response. Seriously, there aren't many locations or times of day that you can predict the light to be perfect. Most situations will benefit from skilfully adding or subtracting light. I know, lights are expensive. Lights are inconvenient. Lights require math to make sure the balance is correct. All valid thoughts. I would rather have homemade bread that takes time to make, than grabbing a loaf at the store. If there's an option to eat it warm right from the oven with real butter, no contest. You get my point, it takes time but worth the extra effort.

Correct Balance? I feel adding light outdoors is like a recipe when you are cooking. I think of a recipe as a starting point to get close. Once that is done I taste it and then add whatever it takes to make it taste good to me. It's the tasting and adding that makes the dish stand out. Our tastes may not be the same, and that's perfectly fine. As long as we all have enough people that like the way we prepare the dish we will both do great. For me, my outdoors fill flash I target the strobe exposure to be between 30-40% of what the ambient light level is. Higher than that and it is no longer "fill flash", it has become your primary light or at least equal to your surroundings and it will make the photograph appear flat. I use a Sekonic L-858-D-U flash meter because it is the only meter that will give you both readings at the same time! They make several models that will do it, and they are worth the investment! Here is a link to the model I use. I'll be glad to help you get one from Roberts, just give me a call.

I decided to use the incredible Fuji GFX 50S medium format camera for the session. She told me it would be printed larger than 16x20 and I have the camera, it just made sense! I selected the GF32-64 f4 zoom and if anyone thinks by owning a zoom lens you give up sharpness, I would offer this image as "Exhibit A" to say that's not my experience at all. My preferred lighting brand is Profoto. I own Profoto B10's and they are the bomb! Small, light, travel well, lots of power and most importantly, they are consistent in output and color. I switched several years ago and couldn't be happier! I know, there are many less expensive brands out there. But, lighting is everything! An inconsistent light is worthless. If it's not consistent, then you are stuck in front of your computer tweaking every single frame. In this session, I shot over 100 files because of the "variables." (read small children) I also did smaller groups of us with the kids. Adjusting 100 files to get close enough so they can pick what they want? No, thank you! That is a huge time savings and time is money!



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