A friend of mine from high school is visiting Northern Michigan during the Independence Day holiday. She lives in Atlanta and doesn’t find her way up here very often, and this was to be her two year old son’s first venture this far north. Ami (my high school friend) hired me to more or less document the trip. I’m not quite done shooting yet, but this photograph is the creme of crop thus far…at least to my mind.
Ami & her husband Eric asked me to join them in Harbor Springs and shoot some photographs along the waterfront. This one was taken on one of the piers directly behind the Pointer Room (hoighty toighty fine dinning. Well worth the bucks, just make sure you bring enough of them). They walked up and down the pier enjoying the scenery whilst I created photographs. Bennett, being just two years of age, has yet to grasp the notion of private property, and was pretty insistent that he be permitted to board each vessel moored. Much to his chagrin, no acts of piracy took place.
A couple months before I moved back to Northern Michigan (during my last semester of college) I began making regular trips up north. It was during these trips that I decided that “I missed it up here,” and began looking for a place to make a nest. I had been beckoned back up by a former high school classmate that wanted me to come up and shoot a set of family portraits. Word spread and soon I was making a trip north every other week and was dragging my entire studio set up from home to home creating portraits for friends, and then it spread to the friends of friends, then to strangers.
This photograph was created during that first trip last October. This brood is the Cleven Family. Kenda & Brian did not want traditional family portraits. I thought about it a bit and remembered an assignment given my photography professor (Ryan Flathau).
In class had previously discussed Henri Bresson’s idea of the Decisive Moment, that exact moment where everything within the camera’s frame was perfect. It was a fleeting moment that, if not captured in that instant, was gone forever. Being a studio photographer (and an infinite control freak) Bresson’s notion garnered little interest with me. But, I’ve learned that even in the studio, there are those moments that slip away and cannot be recreated, especially with children. The assignment Flathau gave to his students was called the Indecisive Moment, or a greater collection of several decisive moments.
As soon as the idea popped into my head, the refinements and changes flowed like a river and I had every shot planned well prior to my arrival. The set up was pretty simple. I placed the camera on a tripod, set up my lights as desired and took an overall photograph of the empty room. Then I proceeded to take another sixty three photographs of that room with the occupants doing various things. The idea was to combine the best images to tell a story and show the passage of time with a single frame. Brian & Kenda appear only once in the image, but each of their two children appear five times each for a total of ten children doing nothing that they are supposed to be doing.
The photograph is still an untitled piece, but I still enjoy it. Kenda has a print of this image that gets paraded about whenever someone new comes around that has not seen it. That is really all a photographer can ask for.
I never considered myself a “baby photographer” But I have shot quite a few of them since opening my studio, and I am satisfied that I seem to be doing it pretty well. I never imagined while I was in college that I would photograph a lot of children or babies, but I there goes that soul selling compromise I mentioned in an earlier post. But it isn’t really a sell, or a compromise, I’ve found that I enjoy it…even though I’ve had three babies poop in the studio.
Sunny: cheery and very active
Makayla: a carbon copy of her Daddy
Gavin: quiet observer.
Moya: Iron lungs…destined for a career in opera.
…much less two of ’em.
I loved this set. I have dozens of top shelf portraits of these two young ladies and their little brother. This was towards the end of the shoot and they were just about “pictured out.”
It only took two tries for this one.
(click on the image for a larger version)
Moya is the 4th newborn I’ve shot since opening my studio, and the 3rd to poo when undiapered. She is crowned with the distinction of being the least cooperative of all of them thus far. She had absolutely zero interest in being photographed and did not take kindly to the strobes. Eventually, I just turned off the flashes and used the modeling lights on the strobes. Even though this little princess has achieved Diva Status by the age of 14 days, I still managed to get plenty of good photographs for her mother to select.
This particular image was shot with the modeling lights only. I don’t remember the aperture offhand, but it is obviously large, probably somewhere between 2.5 & 4. I do remember pushing the ISO to 800 in an effort to get the shutter speed up high enough to catch the little wiggle worm. In post processing, I did add “film grain” to mask the color noise produced by the higher ISO.
Been a while since my last update…
Since my last update, I have finished college (in December) and have moved away from Battle Creek. I returned to my native stomping grounds in Northern Michigan (just north of Petoskey).
I’ve opened a portrait studio in my home town. Things are going reasonably well. Business is picking up steam and I am gaining a steady client base. The downside is that I have had precious little time to create any art for the sake of art. But I have been able to create some beautiful and artful portraits for clients…which is most likely what I’ll share here most often.
I have had a couple of opportunities to photograph my own vision specifically for myself, and am making a point to find the time to do so. Shooting for other people is rewarding, and I do put my own vision into the work, but the truth is, the needs and desires of the client do put some limitations on said vision.
This photograph I shot for a solider that is about to deploy overseas. This is her second deployment to a combat zone. As it turns out, she and I were in Iraq at the same time in 2003.
She wanted photos of herself and her children before she left. The idea for the shot just popped in my head as we discussed her session, and she was all for it. I think it turned out well…I wanted a “Norman Rockwell” feel for this image and I think the post processing made it work out as I envisioned.
I was speaking recently, with an old classmate. I had been browsing photos of her children. She remarked that her son was very photogenic, but that her daughter didn’t like having her picture taken. But the truth is that both of her children are very photogenic…one of them just happens to be a ham and makes it easy for the photographer.
Photographing children can be difficult sometimes. I’ve found that the best kid photographs are the ones where you didn’t try to pose the child, but rather the ones where you just let the kids be kids and create their own moments for you to capture.
This is especially true when photographing children you don’t know. Kids have been drilled and drilled about “stranger danger” as well they should, but it does make a photographer’s task tricky. As I’ve mentioned before, child portraits aren’t my favorite thing, but if the money is green, it still puts food on my table just the same…so ya do what you do and you do it the best you can. The first trick is to try to establish a connection with the kids. This can be hard to do when you only have a brief period with the kids to photograph them, but you do what you can. An outwardly friendly relationship with mom and dad in the children’s presence helps. I tend to be pretty rough around the edges and children to do not naturally take a liking to me. So if you’re like me, then you gotta ham it up a bit. It might feel phony and ridiculous, but the younger the child, the more likely they are to buy it. Just don’t do anything lame like rub their heads or call them “slugger” They are people…just smaller. Treat them accordingly.
An uncooperative child does not mean you will not get good photographs. Just look at the work of Jill Greenberg and you will see what I mean. She intentionally made children cry for her work called “End Times.”
Let the child do what the child wants to do, and don’t try to compete for their attention too much. If you can get the child to look at the camera from time to time, great, if not, great.
The biggest thing to remember is that you have to work fast. Think like a sports photographer. Those moments are fleeting, so shoot shoot shoot. You’ll probably dump about 80% of what you capture, but you should be able to pull out some real gold.
Also, kids have short attention spans. Don’t keep the kid in the studio or in front of the camera all friggin afternoon. Even the biggest little ham will tire of it on short order. 30-40 minutes is probably pushing it with most kids.