About to shoot first kid portraits - Need advice on equip & location

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by keith204, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. keith204

    keith204 No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    May 20, 2007
    Messages:
    1,643
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Bolivar, MO
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Some friends have asked me to take their kid portraits. Both boys, 3 year old and a 5 month old.

    Location
    Currently I am planning on doing this in their house. Is this generally acceptable? What are some things you'd look around for in the house, when doing the preview before the shoot? Do people have reasonable success with in-house shots, or should I go to the park like everybody else? Maybe both... Would it realllly help to have a backdrop handy?

    Equip
    My lighting equip collection needs some help. All I have is a 430EX speedlite, and a little know-how. Sometime I am planning on getting a 580EXII speedlite...maybe now would be the time. ?

    Questionnaire for parents
    I plan to send out a questionnaire to the parents a week before, so that I can get answers to questions like: "What makes these kids laugh, not laugh?" and "What do these kids enjoy" etc. What are some good questions to ask?

    Props
    Dress the 3-year-old in Dad's clothes, have him wear sunglasses, hold a football while wearing a jersey..I'm totally new at this, any ideas for good props?
     
  2. Bifurcator

    Bifurcator TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2008
    Messages:
    3,312
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Japan
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    I never did this. But I lived in a family that had it done twice a year - even though my father was into photography. :p I think he used the opportunity for tips. :D

    Anyway I paid attention and here are some constants:

    Always at least two light sources 3 to 6 meters apart. Sometimes the guy would have a tripod for each, or a tripod flash and a reflector panel, camera bracketed flash and panel or tripod flash, etc.

    It was always done inside our house. But our house was pretty massive too (24,000 square feet) so I dunno if they were inside for every different house or not. They always asked for a smallish semi-enclosed area - I guess they wanted the bounce and diffusion off the nearby walls.

    They always had a backdrop - usually pastel muraly predominantly blue with pinks and yellows - one year it was gold & silver - we liked that, it was different. Sometimes it was a selection of materials my Mom chose from. Other times it unfolded and rolled out like a projector screen. Once it was a telescoping shower curtain rod type set-up. Mom didn't like that as it placed a small mark on the wall which she took pride in being able to point out occasionally when in an odd mood, until we repainted. :)

    For us it was always a serious family portrait so it was very stiff no-nonsense, no props, etc.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2003
    Messages:
    33,822
    Likes Received:
    1,811
    Location:
    Edmonton
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    It shouldn't matter where you take the shots, but there are pros and cons either way.

    In their house is fine, but make sure to avoid distracting backgrounds. In my experience, a house with a 3 year old and a 5 month old, will probably be cluttered with toys etc. Kid shots with cluttered backgrounds will often look like snap shots rather than portraits. One way around this is to use a backdrop but if you can find an area that isn't cluttered, then that can be just as good or better.
    Shooting outdoors can make lighting easier but it can also make kids uncomfortable. With kids that age, you have to have them somewhat comfortable or there is little chance of success. That's a big point, kids that age need to have naps at certain times and be fed at certain times...so you would do well to work around their schedules. When I get a call about baby portraits, one of my first questions is "when would be the best time for them?". It's usually 10:00-11:00 am, after they have had a nap and been fed.

    Props can be good, but IMO, the most important thing is getting a good expression. The lighting need not be dramatic, kids move around and turn in all directions anyway, so have your light fairly even and work on getting a good expression. Getting their attention is a big thing. Try to have only one parent present and have them as close to you/camera as possible (if you want the kids to look at the camera).

    If you do want to use props, try to make sure that the kid is still the obvious subject of the shot.
     
  4. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2007
    Messages:
    5,327
    Likes Received:
    264
    Location:
    The Upper West Side of Mississippi (you have no i
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Do it early (so the kid will be in a better mood), light the heck out of it (so that you can get a higher shutter speed for moving kids) and find out what kinds of bribes you can use (some parents don't allow sugar, some kids have allergies).

    Remember that if you aren't in a good mood the kid won't be either so have fun!!!
     
  5. Neuner

    Neuner TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2007
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    In my home.
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I have 3 kids ages 3 & under and I take their portraits at our home. My experience is minimal but I hope these help! -

    - Time of day is huge! Just as stated, ask when they are in their best moods. After a nap or meal is not always best. Some wake up in terrible moods (my oldest) & some are very messy eaters & hate baths (my second oldest).
    - I think outdoors is too much of a distraction & they can get messy quickly. Plus the lighting can be difficult to work with especially since you have to work with the kids time of day, and not when the sunlight is the best.
    - Use the parent the kids go to the most to keep them their happiest. My wife is the favorite so she stands behind me to get their attention and make them smile. Use the other parent to help keep the kid in place.
    - I prefer very minimalistic props. Half the time I need at least one to keep their attention & keep them from wandering off. Books & balls have worked well for me.
    - I like working with backdrops the most but they love to grab and pull at them. If you have a decent enough setting without using a backdrop, then go for it but keep it extremely simple.
    - For portraits in general, I prefer for them to be setup a good distance from the wall or background so that it is blurred and much less distracting.
    - Keep the DOF deep enough to have all of them in focus because they move around a lot. I found f4 on my 50mm to works the best. It has enough DOF to keep all of them sharp while the background is more blurred.
    - I have better luck if they are sitting on a bench, chair or bean bag so that I'm not shooting down on them, plus it helps keeping them in place.
    - Probably the most important is to let the kids be themselves and not force them into a pose or position they don't want to be in. You can try a little initially, but if it isn't working, let it go. It will only aggravate and frustrate everyone involved. They are happiest doing what they want to do and it will show. Even though it won't be the best, their personalities will shine through and I think the parents will be happiest with those photos. Move around, adjusting to their movements and fire off as many shots as quickly as your flashes will allow.

    I have examples I can show you if you are interested.

    Hope this helps!
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008
  6. rubbertree

    rubbertree TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2007
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Canada
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    IMO, ditch the props. It puts the focus on the prop (which often comes out looking cheesy) and not on the kids. Plus, it's that much more to have to fuss with. Are they holding it so you can see it right, is it even appropriate? Is the 3 year old a die hard football fan? If not, what is the point in this? The only time I use props is if it is something very special to the child that actually means something and will be appreciated for years to come.
    If you are doing it in the house, be very mindful of the background. A nice shot with tonnes of toys in the background will only end up looking like a snapshot.
     
  7. joecoulsonphotography

    joecoulsonphotography TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2008
    Messages:
    146
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    GA - USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I do all my work with kids outdoors now. They just tend to respond better to an open environment rather than a studio. Mornings when the sun gives much softer light, parks with either playgrounds and walkways (so they can loosen up first and then get out on a walkway for good bokeh) or a nice natural setting (definitely check out the scene before hand to avoid shadows and check the suns direction. I hate to deal with kids in a studio setting because they inevitably become restless and their expressions show it. That's just me though, lots of photographers get amazing shots from their studios (which also maybe a testament to their studio space).
     

Share This Page