It is valuable for me to know as little about who I am photographing before I meet them. I want to know as much as I can about interests, loves and personalities before I photograph anyone. While it isn’t a recipe for guaranteed success in a session, it certainly helps to establish an initial connection. This connection is imperative to creating any portrait-whether this portrait is of a 6-year-old girl, a 10-year-old poodle, or a 78-year-old man. I’d love to share a little more from my session with the three siblings here in Austin, Texas. The mother from my previous posting, “Back in Your Own Backyard Part 1” wanted photographs that had a casual, playful feel. She wanted something that told the story of her children at this special time in their lives. She expressed that her daughter had recently lost her two front teeth and that she wanted to capture her adorable smile and lively character. She talked about her sweet boys and that her middle child didn’t like to be photographed very much, but that he was just such a darling child with tremendous personality. I asked about oldest and Sandra painted a lovely picture of a helpful and adoring boy who I was very excited to meet.
When I am choosing a time to photograph children it most often revolves around when the children are the happiest and have the most energy. Of course, lighting is a vital part to creating strong imagery, but it doesn’t matter how gorgeous the light is if you’ve got a miserable child in front of your lens. Sandra and I decided to schedule the session for the morning hours after the children had rested and been fed their breakfast. The light in the backyard was dappled-meaning that spots of light were coming in through the trees. This can be difficult light to work with, but not impossible. With three children, I had to find ways to keep them from having large spots of light on their faces and bodies especially while photographing them together as Sandra had wanted. One of the ways to work in this light was that Sandra cheerfully stepped in as my assistant and held a light diffuser to help with the spotty light.
When I had walked around the backyard with Sandra a week earlier I visualized some areas where I had wanted to photograph the children together. I thought the hammock would be really fun but on the day of the session realized it was difficult to get the children to stay focused as they tipped and turned in the hammock. I tried sitting on it with two of the kids and agreed with them that it was hard! They had a good laugh at me then. The ground below the hammock was muddy and their feet were quickly a nice shade of dark brown. After one round of unsuccessfully cleaning I thought, “let’s just embrace this mud,” and I asked the children to lift up their legs in the hammock as I clicked my shutter.
During most of my sessions I start with a vision or a few ideas. That vision and those ideas change and morph organically during the actual session. This happens for several reasons. Sometimes there are aspects of a location I couldn’t have anticipated, the light changes, the weather changes, or a child or pet isn’t in the mood for being photographed a certain way or in a specific location. Although I sometimes think it would be fantastic if all of my plans and visions were easily realized (why not?), I’m most often thankful for the need to be adaptable because other opportunities and visions arise.
Hopefully these images remind you of the warmth, inhibition and play of childhood. Perhaps it reminds you of your own “backyard” and of the unique memories that were created there by you and your family.
I’m happy to share some of the images that arose from this unique trio of children as they expressed their distinctive personalities, in their own backyard.