how to turn kids snaps to portraits?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by samal, Oct 26, 2008.

  1. samal

    samal TPF Noob!

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    I think I somewhat got landscapes - about 20% of my exposures are not being deleted right a way, but my portraits are still an occasional hit in the sea of misses.
    I am shooting my kids mostly and have no lighting or any other setup, but I was lucky to capture some good expressions of my daughter. Now if only I knew what to do with them now so they won't look like snaps, but more refined. 2 of them are taken with a point and shoot, last one is fresh with my xSi and 50mm/f1.8

    I realize that inside with no lights and handheld camera chasing my restless kids I have not many chances of getting good focus, but I am still frustrated that most pics are out of focus - I have to go to high ISO to get faster shutter speeds, but that creates lots of noise. Are there any good reads about portraiture?



    Please butcher me with C&C.

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    3.
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  2. nyamy

    nyamy TPF Noob!

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    I feel your pain. I'm also running after my kids with no lighting, hoping to get a decent shot. for now, I wait until we're outside or in a room well lit by lots of sunlight coming in through the windows. I find that if the kids are busy and I set up the camera, focus, take aim and wait, I can usually get a couple of keeper shots. or fire away and keep the one shot out of 50.

    I like that last one you posted. cute kid & she's got great eyes
     
  3. elemental

    elemental TPF Noob!

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    There are many good books on portraiture, but I haven't read them. I know others have and will suggest them.

    As far as what I think makes the difference, the first things that come to mind are:

    1. Focus/control of depth of field. Nothing ruins a portrait like out of focus eyes, and a careful photographer leaves enough depth to keep the features in focus (tip of the nose) but still emphasize the subject and de-emphasize the background, which leads into

    2. Attention to background. Is the background sharp and distracting? Are there items "growing" out of the subject's head?

    3. Lighting. Is the lighting on the face even (or intentionally balanced)? Is the light from a pop-up flash or an off-camera strobe setup? Is the natural light well controlled by the photographer?

    This said, I think #3 is a beautiful portrait. Face and eyes appear sharp (hard to tell at this size on a monitor, but focus looks good), lighting emphasizes face, pose is perfect. However, her fingers are cut off (crop a little closer in that corner to remedy this), her shirt blends in with the background, and the bacground itself could be brighter to better emphasize the subject (going to require some careful off-camera flash work for this setup or some post-processing).

    I really do like #3.
     
  4. samal

    samal TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for your comments. number 3 is a first really intentional attempt of a portrait - I used Canon 380EX flash (430ex is on order) and used a 50mm lens that I got specifically for that purpose. ISO was set to 1600 even with the flash so I had to use Lightroom (just got it 2 days ago and still don't know how to use) to get my white balance fixed somewhat and reduce noise.

    later this week I plan Halloween costume shoot - will see what comes out of that
     
  5. tsaraleksi

    tsaraleksi TPF Noob!

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    I shoot pictures of kids maybe twice a year when I am home from school on breaks and shoot some pictures of my mother's students for her. The best advice I can give you is to find moments of interaction, and at the same time, look for expressions and glances that are really strong. I'll post a couple of my favorites:

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    [​IMG]

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    I would suggest that your home probably has some really nice light at some parts of the day, and you would do well to find it-- and perhaps steer your kids into those areas. Make sure to keep the apertures open to keep distracting backgrounds out, and wait for interesting moments and expressions. Your last image is doing great in this vein, keep working at it and I'm sure it will come together.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008
  6. PictureThis

    PictureThis TPF Noob!

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    I love the last shot! What was the look on her face in regards too?
     
  7. DRoberts

    DRoberts TPF Noob!

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    Very good advice from the previous post. I would reiterate focus and lighting.
    Focus should always be on the eyes. Well focused eyes are what gives a good portrait "pop".
    Lighting should be equal and illuminate all the features of the face. Cross shadows or half shadowed faces are very much distracters.
    Another issue will be your post processing. I don't know what you are using, but I recomend Photoshop CS3 or CS4. these are expensive but if you want to do serious portraits you will need good editing software.

    I played alittle with the last shot to try and give it the portrait look...
    If I had more time I would have smoothed out the cheeks.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. rufus5150

    rufus5150 TPF Noob!

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    I think you may have overdone it a tad on the eyes. And by 'tad' I mean, the eyes should generally look like they belong in the head in which they sit.
     
  9. cherry30

    cherry30 TPF Noob!

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    I love the third picture. I think you captured it at the right moment. I wish I could do that too with my daughter.
     
  10. samal

    samal TPF Noob!

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    I am not sure exactly - I was looking through the viewfinder taking picture after picture - but my wife was in that direction, talking to her all this time - so that got to be it. Thanks for your comments
     
  11. RebelTasha

    RebelTasha TPF Noob!

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    Last shot is wonderful..
    The others the backgrounds are too busy and distracting and look too 'taken in the living room while watching tv' kind of thing...
    Watch your fingers in #3 though maybe a crop like in the redone version above did...
     
  12. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    In addition to whate everyone has already said...

    I think an additional part of the difference between a "snap" and a "portrait" in a couple of your shots is the use of the on-camera flash, or any flash pointed directly at your daughter. (The first two of these being prime examples) Head-on flash creates harsh shadows and reflections and does horrible things with skin and skin tones.

    tsara's advice was also spot-on, IMO. I also find that angle has a lot to do with it. Kids are all about life and soaking up every damned ounce of it. They run around, crash into their friends and their environment, make nasty scowly faces at each other, and then fall down laughing in absolute hysterics 3 seconds later. Their interactions with their environment and each other are what makes them so fascinating to watch, and also what makes the best pictures of them.

    Something else to consider is angle of the shot... I have found that the best pics of kids are ones taken from their level or lower. From up above, the kid looks like some giant man with a camera towered over them and subjected them to a shoot. From down low, you almost feel like you're another kid seeing their world again through the eyes of someone 4' tall (or less). It really adds a lot of emotion to the shot. Obviously, sometimes you want from up above... but I just find that overall you're better off taking the shot from down low. It connects more emotionally I think.

    Here are a few examples of my eldest daughter. With her (Emma), it's all about laughter and high emotion. She's a child who goes through life (for better or for worse) being noticed by every single soul within hearing and visual range of her. I'll warn you that I don't consider these "my best shots", but they are ones where I feel the real emotion of the moment was conveyed, and frankly every single one of these shots brings a smile to my face and makes me laugh. To me, an image that does that, is a good image of any child.

    [pics deleted because they were awful] :lol:

    Back to you...

    As everyone said... your shot #3 is amazing. I actually woudln't crop it as VI did either. I like it just the way you had it.

    Thanks for asking this, btw. It was a really interesting question.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2008

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