Portrait Help


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Dec 17, 2007
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My photography teacher has chosen me, to become her 'official intern' for the school year of '08.
First, she wants me to get a full body portrait of a child 1-10 years old. So I have decided to use my 5 year old cousin(girl).

I have an amazing spot in mind, I just need help on a pose, and what she should wear. Here is the setup:
It is in my churches sanctuary (but there is tons of natural light, and some artificial light (main light source is natural). There is a huge white sheet hanging, it folds down on the ground and on it is a white bench, next to it is a fake white light post and a fake white Christmas tree, along with other matching Christmas decor.
Lighting is not an issue, I really need to know what I should have her wear, and how I should have her pose.
She has dark brown or black hair, brown eyes, and she tan skin (She is half Hispanic)
I was thinking maybe wearing all white, but that might be too much, and may not look good with her skin\hair\eye color.
I also need suggestions on some poses, I have some in mind already but would really like to try everything I can.
I want this to look as professional as possible!
(I will be using my XTi with 50mm. On board flash if needed(95% chance it will not be used)
1 more thing... should I use auto? Or not, what setting should I use(just to make it easier)
I am fine with manual...

What is a good aperture to use? I want\need her whole body in focus, and I want the background a tad blurred out...
i would suggest having her stand as far from the background as you can then and go with around F8-F11 to keep her entire body in focus.

im sure others will help out though
Thanks for that....

You know anything that I should have her wear??
After looking at some shots close to this, white with broun eyes\hair and tan skin looks pretty good (have only seen people that look like my cousin wearing white on a solid white background)
So do you think her wearing white would look good? Maybe white shirt and blue jeans? Or white shirt black pants?

Also... how bout some poses?
I am thinking I will have her lay across the bench, with her head up on her hand, maybe a few of her at one end of the bench, looking in the distance, smiling, not smiling, ect.

My biggest problem is what should she wear!
All white may look good, but not sure she owns white pants lol... (I am doing this, this Sunday)
All black could look good, but I am not sure if it would make her face look too dark...
In general, she should wear something that does not have a big print, cutesy cartoon character, or anything else distracting. You (as the photographer with the assignment to complete) and her mother should probably work together to figure out the specifics. In general, you will get a much, MUCH better portrait if the 5-year-old is comfortable in her clothes.

Since it sounds like the majority of your scene will be white; AUTO mode will want to underexpose your photo. If you are comfortable using manual, DO IT!! Your aperture will depend in part on how much space you have between you, your subject and background. My guess is you will need AT LEAST f5.6 to get her whole body in focus. You can always bracket to be sure you have the shot you are looking for.
Thanks for the help!
How about color for her to wear? Doesn't really matter? Just as long as it matches? lol

Thanks again
Since your scene is primarily white, my personal preference would be for her to wear a light color (white, light blue, light pink, khaki, etc). White shirt with jeans would be fine. I would NOT want her to wear a white shirt and black pants if the pants would be the only dark bit in the photo. If everything in the scene is light except for her pants, then the viewer will likely notice her dark pants before her face and that is never a good thing.

BUT... this is all *my* personal preference. It really comes down to your goals for this. Have you talked to your photography teacher about your questions?
With the white background and natural lighting, this will be a high-key portrait, so do not have her dressed in black. There will be too much contrast and it will be distracting. Light colors/pastels and khakis would be good. Most girls that age love to wear full skirts/dresses that they can twirl about in. This could make for some cute natural poses. With kids that age, don't get hung up on stiff, forced poses. Child photography has come a long way, and stilted, unnatural posing and cheesy fake smiles are definitely OUT. Check out the websites of some of the best children's photographers on our forum: JodieO, EJBPhotography, and allsmiles (don't remember the numbers with her name-sorry!), for great inspiration on setting up "unposed" natural shots. Good luck!
i would suggest having her stand as far from the background as you can then and go with around F8-F11 to keep her entire body in focus.

Sorry, but I don't understand that logic. By having the subject "stand as far from the background as you can" would lend itself that the tog is trying to isolate the subject from the background, blurred, bokehed. This would seem to be more inclined for a larger aperture, depending on lens max capabilities, somewhere between f/2.0 to f/5.6. At f/8 to f/11 pretty much everything will be in focus, meaning the subject could be flat against a wall and no difference. This BTW, is generally the sweetspot for most lenses, so if you want everything to be in focus, this would be a good start.

As others have mentioned, light colors will be a first choice for clothing.
The white in the background is a problem and white clothes would only compound it. In auto mode the camera will want to make the white into grey. If you work manually, you also risk blowing out the detail or texture in white areas by minor but visible over-exposure.

In clothes I would go for something pale and keep in mind that the colour from the clothes can reflect on and create an incorrect tint on the skin.
Cream or a light beige colour would be the easiest to work with colour-wise but yellow would be effective and give the image some punch too.

You are going to have to set your exposure for the skin colour, otherwise you will have the white background exposed perfectly and the skin way too dark. You will also need to pay attention to the eyes to make sure that in the photo we see the difference between the brown part of the eye and the black pupil.

If you bracket the exposure you will notice the different skin colours that result. You will need to visually determine which is most accurate.

Thanks for all the help, I have asked her to wear light colors, such as pink, blue or red light meaning faded into almost white.
If the all white setup does not work, I have a back u spot...
Upstairs there is a very nice red sofa, (with very high up arm rests.. almost like something out of willie wonka)
So I can have her go there... There isn't as much natural light in there, but there is definetely enough to go without flash. And there the windows are directly in front of the sofa (so me, looking at the sofa, the windows are behind me)

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