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January 15 , 2009

The Right Light

Photographing Children and Families Using Natural Light


The key to being a successful portrait photographer is choosing a style of photography you are passionate about. While many photographers work in multiple areas to fill the off season or offer a variety of options, most photographers focus on one style of photography. Oftentimes, the photographers’ location will dictate their style. For author Krista Smith, the sunny beaches of Florida are her inspiration to shoot primarily natural light portraits, and she applies that to capturing authentic and joyful family portraits. Whether photographing entire families, kids, babies or all of the above, Smith brings an ease and comfort to the shoots that is immediately evident in her pictures. And shows you how to create the same look in your environment or clients’ homes.
While passion plays a key role in creating memorable portraits, employing the right techniques is essential for consistently getting those perfect shots. Smith begins by detailing what equipment you’ll need to get started and gives some insight on how and what to use. She emphasizes taking the time to figure out and hone a personal style of shooting. The book lists a number of tips for finding a style that fits, including taking inspiration from other photographers you admire, and deciding what kind of feeling you want to present. Once you start to find your style it’s important to build your portfolio. Organizing shoots with friends and family and offering free shoots to aspiring models is a great place to start.
Outdoor shoots are the most ideal settings when using natural light as your primary light source. The author lays out the shoot requirements and gives tips for scouting the best locations. To create a photo that stands out, it’s important to be versatile. While a sweeping vista covered in flowers or grand mansion may be preferred as backdrops, these are often not an option for many. A city street with multiple building textures or a small field can be used from a variety of angles to create the feel of something grander.
From there the author moves onto the basics of lighting in an outdoor setting. By explaining the fundamentals of the direction and quality of light and the use of reflectors, it allows the reader to prepare for any outdoor scenario. An entire chapter of the book dedicated to shooting strategies over the course of twelve hours. There are different requirements for shooting at different times of the day. The reader will learn how to make the most of the “golden hour” and adjust for problematic midday lighting. Adapting your approach for morning, evening and sunset sessions is also covered.
Sometimes weather does not cooperate for an outdoor shoot. Luckily, there are plenty of options for using natural and available light indoors. Shooting in a client’s house provides a comfortable setting for the family and this ease can come across in the photos. Window light is a powerful tool to have an understanding of for these shoots. It is possible to get a variety of shots from one window. Being able to see beautiful light in all kinds of locations opens up countless shooting opportunities.
While lighting is essential, thoughtful posing plays many important roles. In a well-done family portrait, the models look relaxed and natural. Some people look this way naturally, others need assistance. And posing isn't always a static thing; it can be more like orchestrating, grouping people together and getting them to move around in just the right way. It can also be used to help distract from physical problem areas, and bring added style to a photo. In addition, pointers are given on how to relax anxious children, organize families for group shots and encourage spontaneous moments.
Finally, Smith discusses the business side of portrait photography. As she states in the closing chapter, there is more to the business than taking amazing photos. Without a stable financial and marketing plan it is difficult to stay competitive and possibly, stay in business. Realistic pricing packages are key. Pricing competitively is good, but it’s important to consider all of your expenses when deciding how much to charge. Marketing is imperative to the success of any business and social media can play a large role in that. Tips for using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogging are given to help keep a business current and their clientele updated. An equally important part of marketing is branding. Establishing a brand helps you stand out from all of the other portrait photographers out there. Putting your style and passion out front helps clients know who to choose for their portrait needs. And pointers are given for customer interaction both over the phone and in person.
This book provides a comprehensive overview of each aspect of professional family portrait photography. Smith takes the passion she has for creating beautiful, natural light portraits and lays out the steps for the reader to capture memorable shots on their own. Readers are also guided through what is involved with establishing a successful and vibrant portrait business. Drawing from her own experiences starting a portrait business from the ground up and providing indispensable tips for almost any shooting scenario, Smith has created an essential guide for natural light portraiture.
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