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Practical Photography Column – October 2015

During the last month I have had to fit a house and office move into my summer schedule – not really advisable during wedding season but we all do what we have to do! Oh – I also turned 40 and had a week off with my kids – so I will be honest and say that I haven’t been shooting quite as much as I would do normally.

What I have been doing a lot of is training – quite a few classroom sessions and seminars with the Nikon School in London but also one of my most popular courses which is all about gaining confidence in photographing kids on location.

When I am training I spend a lot of time telling aspiring lifestyle photographers that I think what we do is hard – each location shoot delivers many challenges but particularly weather and light related ones when you are a UK based image maker. I think taking the time to discuss metering, lens choice, composition, location, wardrobe etc in the classroom is essential but it is also brilliant to then go out and put the theory into practice.

The practical part of the day is incredibly real – I have rarely met the children that I will be photographing and I give the parents the usual brief about wardrobe but I don’t know what they will actually bring with them. And of course I can’t predict the weather! So whilst these images are technically ‘training’ images, to me they are just like any other portrait shoot – if not harder because I have 8 photographers surrounding me when I am trying to get the best out of the children.

Gabriel (7) and Etienne (5) are the gorgeous boys of Caroline – a make up artist who I work with for wedding and boudoir shoots. She made a huge effort with clothes and props for the boys – it was amazing and actually made it really difficult to select only a few outfits to work with. This isn’t necessarily typical of all of my clients – many just want very classical, natural portraits whilst others are keen to embrace a more editorial or styled approach to the shoot. I certainly have a preference for making more effort with wardrobe and props but at the end of the day it is important for me to deliver a product that is right for the client in question.

I was also delighted that the sun was shining during the afternoon of the location seminar – these conditions provide much more opportunity for me to teach a variety of lighting scenarios and particularly to master the subtle use of fill flash to enhance back lit portraits. We were able to explore open shade, top shade, the use of reflectors and flash and I also demonstrated how it is possible to use direct sun light for certain types of images.

For some of the shots I asked Caroline to jump in with the boys and encouraged her to just interact naturally with them rather than the images being direct ‘to camera’. I have learnt from having photos with my own children that these kind of shots feel much more authentic and represent individual relationships in a much more effective way. The boys were incredibly patient and really enjoyed the attention and chance to actually play with each other rather than just be asked to sit and smile.

You can see from this small selection of images that it is possible to achieve quite a variety in a single session. On every shoot I work hard to deliver different lighting scenarios and I also think carefully about balancing striking headshots with larger environmental portraits that help to set the scene.

Once the shoot was over I brought the boys an ice cream and took the delegates back to the classroom to talk about workflow and post production because as we all know the adventure doesn’t end when we put the cameras down!

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