Family Portraits- tougher than I thought.

Discussion in 'People Photography' started by Tony123, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. Tony123

    Tony123 TPF Noob!

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    We had all grandparents here, so we decided on the spur of the moment to take a stab at doing some family portraits. We've only had a DSLR for about a month and this is our first ever attempt at portraits.

    I'll start by giving due respect to anyone that has ever gotten that perfect family shot. I didn't give it nearly the credit that it deserves. Between the adults thinking we were goofballs, the kids acting like kids, the bugs, the heat, passer byers....and on and on. It was tough and trying of my patience.

    In the end, it lasted about 2 hours and we got right at 300 shots total. It was a great learning experience, and I feel we got at least a few shots that were average to slightly above.

    I'm in the post production process now, and have a couple ready to post here. I'll post more as they are prepared.

    With all the chaos that is a photo shoot, I ended up letting the camera take over most of the control. This ended up being unfortunate, as most of the shots used a completely open aperature and I could have benefited with a narrower DOF. I also underestimated the hot spots that would be created from the dappled sunlight.

    I was using the D60, mostly in portrait mode with the 55mm-200mm VR kit lens. I was on a tripod setup around 50' from the subjects. I thought this would give everyone a comfort that the lens wasn't right in there face. We did the shoot from about 6pm until about 7:30 or 8pm at sunset. Wasted half the time at a second location that turned out to be terrible lighting. Not much to salvage from the second location.

    C&C is welcome. Realize you're commented on a complete novices work. But I want to improve, so please offer anything constructive that comes to mind.

    Pictures to follow over the next few days.
     
  2. Tony123

    Tony123 TPF Noob!

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    I didn't care for the symmetry of this one, and don't like having Dad squared off to the camera.

    [​IMG]

    I was satisfied with this one
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  3. B Kennedy

    B Kennedy TPF Noob!

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    I kinda feel like you will always have that joking and bs when you are related to the subject you're photographing. It might have been different if you were a hired photographer coming to take photographs, that the scene might be a little less comical and joking around (definitely not 300 pics worth!). This doesn't mean that there wouldn't be any fun or laughing, etc. But my guess is that if there was someone hired and for a certain time period, they would have been...how do you say....a bit more cooperative;)

    Nice pics, I like the composure. Personally they seem a tad soft and be careful with framing your shots as you cut off some shoulders! Which could lead to some framing issues of more getting cut off.
     
  4. Big Mike

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

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    Shooting at 50' away? Wow, that's a long ways. It does give you nice, out of focus backgrounds, but you would have to shout directions to them. Ideally, you do usually want to shoot people at longer focal lengths, but it's a balance between that and being too far away from them.

    You've got the wardrobe's coordinated nicely, that's a good first step.

    The first one has some hot spots (looks like maybe you tried to fix them) on a couple faces. This is certainly something to watch for. The light looks great on the other people, so maybe it's just a matter of skin tones or angle to the light. When shooting groups, it's fairly important that you get even lighting on the faces.
    It's cropped a little too close for my comfort, you would have trouble making an 8x10 of this, for example.
    To me, symmetry is OK for a shot like this, but what I'm not fond of, is the arrangement of the subjects. I find is useful to imagine a group shot as an arrangement of heads/faces. In this shot, they are all on a horizontal line, and there are three crowded in the middle with two out on the ends. If the two boys had been in front, with their faces mid way between the adults and lower, I think it would have been a more pleasing composition. When posing groups, think of triangles...you want the visual elements to form triangles rather than lines.

    The 2nd & third images have a more artistic composition, with the subjects off to the side...which is OK. But personally, I think these shots are about the people, a lot more than they are about the park, so I would try to fill the frame a little more, with the people, at least for some of the shots.

    One thing that stands out to me, is the placement of people's hands. Hands are often a pain in group shots because they usually don't add anything to the images but they can be distracting. For example, I always remind my subjects to pull their hands back so that there are not 'disembodied' fingers on other people's shoulders. (boys on Grandpa).
    Also, you don't want them to look too posed, or too casual...you want the hands to look natural and not to draw attention them themselves. Although, you can use them in a positive way. In your last shot, I like how the lady behind has her front hand on the older ladies (mom's?) arm. It shows an extra connection between them...but the fingers on the other side don't help in that same way.

    Lastly, all of these shots have cut off feet and two of them have a lot of room above the subject's heads. While it can be OK to crop out people's feet (especially if it doesn't add to the image)...you probably want to avoid leaving too much room (negative space) when doing it. The first image is a good example where you could have lowered the camera angle a little bit, and captured the whole group in the frame. The 2nd shot is a good example of where there is a nice balance, so it's looks much better without the lower legs in the shot.
     
  5. Tony123

    Tony123 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the feedback guys!

    Managing the people took precident over managing the camera. And, well, the results showed it.

    I wonder if being in portrait mode is what gave them the soft look? I was on a tripod. Maybe the combination of the mode and being further away?

    Big Mike, point well taken. The drawback to being so far away was control. I had none. The kids didn't stay still longer than 2 seconds, and only one of those were looking at the camera. I'll definetely get closer next time. I was literally loosing my cool. Noone was taking it serious.

    I tried to fix the hotspots. I've got CS2. Used some techniques found on a google search. It helped. Hopefully only obvious to critics and not the casual looker.

    You're right on the cropping of the first one. I thought about maybe cropping it into a wide ratio shot, like 4x10. It would lend itself to the linear composition.

    I should have gotten in on the subjects a little tighter, but it's hard to resist when you've got so much beauty around. This was on the campus of Furman University, a beautiful place. I need to decide what I'm taking a photo of though.

    The comments on hands make sense. They didn't bother me until you said something. :) Particularly the ones of the boys on grandpa's shoulders. I really had NO control over the kids hands. I could have tried grandpa holding their hand or something.

    One reason for cutoff feet is that grandma had a cast on. But number one would have been more grounded with some grass and feet in front of them.

    Thanks again, and more feedback can only help! :)
     
  6. Big Mike

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

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    Just a thought...but did you turn of the VR while you were shooting on a tripod? The stabilization function can actually cause blur when the camera is perfectly stable...I think some lenses (or cameras) are smart enough to realize this, but I don't know which ones.
     
  7. Anubis

    Anubis TPF Noob!

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    Love the 3rd image! Any family would be happy to hang a shot like that with pride of place above the mantle peice.

    Well done!
     
  8. Tony123

    Tony123 TPF Noob!

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    Mike, I did not turn the VR off, but will keep in mind. So you don't think portrait mode itself is inherently softer?

    Thanks Anubus. Building the confidence is never a bad thing. ;)

    Enjoyed your website.
     
  9. Big Mike

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

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    Shouldn't matter at all (although I don't know all the ins & outs of all these crazy camera modes). As far as I know, portrait mode just makes it a priority to use a wide aperture (shallower DOF).

    Personally, I suggest avoiding the 'picture modes' and keep with the 4 main modes; P, A, T and M. There really isn't anything that theses modes can't do, that the others ones do....you just have to know how to use them.
     
  10. Tony123

    Tony123 TPF Noob!

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    I'm confident I could have gotten the right shots in Manual mode. However, doing it with the craziness surrounding me got me flustered. So I had to take something off my plate, and that's where I sacrificed.

    As Kennedy was saying, having willing (or even paying) subjects can really change the atmosphere. Your subjects have to have at least an equal interest in getting the shot.
     
  11. Tony123

    Tony123 TPF Noob!

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    Here's another from the set. Again, seems a bit soft. But likely a better composition based on varying head placements?

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Big Mike

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

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    This one is certainly a little soft. Could be a couple issue for this...First thing I'm looking at, is to see if anything in front of them is sharper than the faces. If so, your camera/lens might be front focusing...it isn't all that uncommon for cameras/lenses to be slightly out of alignment in terms of focus.
    Another thing could be the quality of the lens itself. The 55-200mm isn't a pro level lens, and lenses like this typical tend to be a little soft when used at their maximum zoom and at their maximum aperture. I see that you weren't quite at 200mm but were at F5.6.
    And of course, the VR might have hurt the sharpness if the camera was still for the shot.
     

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