If you ever want an honest conversation with someone, look no further than a five-year old. Spend some time with miss Layla and while your eyes are doting on the most adorable face-on-a-tiny-body ever seen, your wheels will be turning nonstop to answer her “why?” questions, your heart will skip when she spontaneously tells you, “I love you. I really do!”, and your ego might bruise a little when she asks you if you are your daughter’s grandfather, as Victor can attest to. But what can you do when that face lights up into a smile and those little arms wrap around your neck? You take it all: the honesty, the affection, the sincerity, and maybe a couple of aspirin for those questions. Love my little miss Layla!
Katie and Matt’s beautiful March wedding at Rose Briar Place reminded me of why I love first dances so much. While some couples take the opportunity to get creative and show off their graceful skills or sense of humor by entertaining their guests, others enjoy it as the first still moment of the day when the can close their eyes and just be present. Tense muscles finally relax and tears of relief and joy appear. I know it’s the making of a Hallmark card commercial, but in this brief moment when new couples are lost in their own bliss and fathers sway the daughters they once rocked, I pull out the tissue from my pocket, blink hard so my eyes still focus through the lens, and ultimately feel so grateful to be in the presence of Love.
Just completed a collaborative project with thirty-seven photographers around the world that culminated in a set of brilliant images ranging from festive dancing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, street walking in Beijing, beach skipping in Mozambique, to neon lights in Austin and a floating stainless steel sphere in the U.K., all taken on the first day of spring. What impresses me about the post is how incredibly well the sets of photos go with each other despite the fact that none of the photographers knew what the others were shooting. A stunning glimpse of how various corners of the world ushered in a new season, a new year, and a new day.
Despite the fact that these five cousins have roots from the same tiny village near the Caspian sea, they were born in four different countries, spanning three continents. Much to their pleasure (and their parents’) they now live a relative stone’s throw from each other and spend their time together exploring, learning, laughing and, as cliche as it sounds, creating memories that will last the rest of their lives. Luckily for them, their camera-happy parents will fill in the gaps with photos where any memory should fail.
Since this blog is intended to also serve as a resource to individuals wanting to improve their photography skills, I’m adding a feature called “Why It Works” where I will point out photography techniques that I deliberately employed to create a particular image. No doubt you’ve already heard of them or just know them as common sense, but sometimes seeing ideas directly applied helps bring them to mind when you’re looking through your own lens. Read on below this photo to see why I think it works.
Why It Works (not so much a how to but more of a this is what happens when you...)
Fill the frame – Often, particularly with photos of children, the subject is a dot in a sea of irrelevant distractions. Don’t hesitate to move in and fill as much of the frame as you can with your subject. When the environment is relevant, adds balance or frames the subject conceptually or compositionally, consider it part of your subject and let it fill the frame.
Shoot low – By shooting at about waist-high, I avoided tilting the camera up or down and creating distortion. Here, their heads are in proportion with their feet.
Hug to hold – Rather than placing the squirmy one who likes to escape on the side the group, we put him between the two girls who could hold him in place with their hugs. This also works in close-ups with little ones in the arms of their parents whose sandwiching cheeks can keep a baby’s head from turning away.
Simple background – With few objects and structures in the background, the eye can easily rest on the subject without being constantly pulled away.
Don’t wait for smiles – Smiles will be a whole other blog post, but for this photo, I’ll just point out that the two younger boys who are not smiling show the natural curiosity they exhibit at this age. In fact, a typical scenario with these five is the older kids playing a game and laughing while the younger two watch and try to learn. Where my attention goes is to the eyes, rather than the smiles. In this case, a viewer feels a connection with the subjects through eye contact. Whatever expression that child is making simply communicates a quality of his/her personality.
Overcast sky – Last but definitely not least, don’t wait for a sunny day to take photos. Grab your camera when it’s cloudy and the whole sky is basically a giant version of those umbrellas you see in portrait studios. Overcast skies diffuse the light so it gently and evenly illuminates your subject and eliminates those harsh shadows that break up a face into really bright spots next to really dark shadows. There will be more posts about outdoor light, the sun, the shade and avoiding shadows, but in the meantime, take full advantage of the spring showers (or fall drizzles for readers in the southern hemisphere) season and discover yet another reason to love cloud-filled skies.
I adore spring and all it entails: dotted colors in fields of green grass, open windows, bare feet and gauzy summer dresses, new scents, new beginnings, and for Iranians and Baha’is around the world, a new year. The four tiny flowers my husband and my daughter planted in the backyard yesterday couldn’t be more representative of the springtime of our life back in Oklahoma as we place our own roots here and witness new opportunities flourish.