By PF Staff in Favorite Photos on Dec 13, 2012
Back in May 2011, my wife gave birth to our firstborn, Vincent. He arrived in the world six weeks too early and, because of this, he had to stay in the hospital for many weeks to grow some more. He had to learn to breathe alone, feed by mouth, and his heart had to become strong enough to support him all day long. Even when he was released from the hospital, he was a very small thing, needing all the care of a newborn and the extra attentions of a premature.
My wife and I wanted to capture the emotions associated with sheltering and caring for such a tiny marvel. I decided to use a classic composition that would emphasize the small size and fragility of our boy. The result is the picture below. In this article I will describe how I captured this image. I will describe the equipment used, how the scene was set up, and what post-processing was used.
Equipment and settings used
- Pentax K20D on a tripod
- Sigma 17-70 f2.8-4.5 DC macro (at 58mm)
- Sigma flash EF-530 DG ST
- Shutter speed : 1/80 s
- Aperture : f/5
- ISO : 160
- Shooting mode : P (spot metering, MTF priority)
- File format : JPEG
- Software : ACDSee 10
Capturing the image
I set the camera on a tripod, in front of a greenish uniform wall. I positioned my wife, with Vincent in her arms, at a reasonable distance from the wall, and framed roughly by zooming the lens. With this lens, an intermediate focal length delivers the best results. Since I could not control the exposure, being part of the shot, I selected P mode and spot metered on where I thought Vincent would be placed in the frame. I boosted the ISO a bit from its basic value, up to 160, to give a bit of leeway in exposure. I believe any ISO setting between 100 and 400 would have delivered acceptable results.
I set up a simple light set up. Considering that I was under a low white ceiling, I directed the flash up to bounce on the ceiling, at a 75° angle. A shaded window on the left provided some fill light.
I adjusted the camera to take several shots separated by a few seconds to let the flash recharge. I joined my wife, and we held out boy in our hands in front of the camera. I selected my favourite image for post-processing.
I started with the image below. The right side is pretty well framed, but the left side includes too much of my wife’s arms, and we see part of her shirt. The lens creates some vignetting, pleasing to the eyes in this case, but it will be partially lost by cropping.
The bounced flash creates nice shadows under the arms of the parents and the body of Vincent. I’ll work with that. The fill light from the window ensures that Vincent’s face is well lit. The outstretched arm of our baby tricked the AF system and Vincent’s face is a bit soft, but this will contribute to the mood of the final image.
I used ACDSee 10 to edit the image. I started by cropping the left side to get Vincent well centered. I removed part of the top so that the arms and baby would be well centered vertically. The V-shape creates an impression of space above Vincent, as if he were falling and we caught him.
I then converted the image to black and white. The result lacked contrast, so using the histogram I adjusted the curve of the image to increase the shadows under the arms. The main light source coming from above becomes more obvious.
Last, I added a small amount of vignetting but quickly realized I was better to go lightly with this. A minimum amount was used.
The ending result is exactly what my wife and I had in mind. I believe it catches the mood we were in. The picture made it on our wall and in Pentax’s Photo Gallery. Today, Vincent is 17 months old, is growing splendidly and retains no trace of his premature birth.
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