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06-01-2008, 08:05 PM   #1
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Tips for semi-formal kid photos

I take a lot of photos. I take a lot of photos of my kids. Some of them are crap, many of them are fine, and some are phenomenal. I consider myself to be a good photographer, but maybe not great. I know all the rules, and I tend to know when to break them, and blah blah blah.

Anyhow, I love all the candids I have of my kids playing, painting, swimming, etc. But my wife wants some formal, posed stuff. (When I say 'formal,' I don't mean black tie, just nice clothes.) Sometime soon, we're going to go someplace nice (our university has some great scenery, and it's deserted on the weekends) and take some nice pictures. I'm sure I'll do fine, but since I've never really done this before, I'm looking for some tips.

I'm planning to use my K10D/FA50 combo exclusively. Well, if I see the opportunity for some wide-angle closeups, I may mount the kit lens for a few shots. I have a tripod and both types of remotes. I'll have access to assistants if necessary. I'll probably pick up a ghetto reflector (the auto-sun-shade variety). I have a Sunpak 383 if needed for fill-in, but I'm not fond of the fill flash look, so it'll probably stay in the bag.

So I do have some specific questions... Obviously, near-sunset is the best time for this sort of thing. But what if, for some reason, I have to go at noon? I have a 45" shoot-through umbrella that I could diffuse some sunlight with if needed. Also, there'll be plenty of shade. What if it's overcast? I've gotten some crappy, low-contrast garbage when it was overcast, but some say it's great light to shoot in, so I don't know.

Do I use the tripod/remote combo? Or do I take advantage of the mobility of the camera alone? I have a quick-release, so I guess I can do both. I'll probably let the kids take a few toys, both as props and to keep their attention off the fact that they're being models. We may do multiple outfits, depending on their moods. I've also heard that throwing a few silly-face photos in keeps the mood nice.

So any tips or advice you have for me will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
Joe

06-01-2008, 08:19 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by joefru Quote
What if it's overcast? I've gotten some crappy, low-contrast garbage when it was overcast, but some say it's great light to shoot in, so I don't know.
The reason that overcast sky is a good thing is because the light becomes very soft and diffuse. It's like having the entire sky as a softbox. Harsh shadows are mostly eliminated.

QuoteQuote:
I have a Sunpak 383 if needed for fill-in, but I'm not fond of the fill flash look, so it'll probably stay in the bag.
Check out the Strobist blog, lighting 101 for tutorials for balancing strobes with ambient light. It doesn't need to be harsh and flat, especially since you already have an off camera flash.
06-01-2008, 08:58 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by alohadave Quote
The reason that overcast sky is a good thing is because the light becomes very soft and diffuse. It's like having the entire sky as a softbox. Harsh shadows are mostly eliminated.
Right. I get the idea behind it, I'm just never happy with the results I get.

QuoteOriginally posted by alohadave Quote
Check out the Strobist blog, lighting 101 for tutorials for balancing strobes with ambient light. It doesn't need to be harsh and flat, especially since you already have an off camera flash.
I was fortunate to discover Strobist early on. I don't have an off-camera flash, though. I keep meaning to throw $20 at a radio popper, but I never do it.
06-02-2008, 01:05 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by joefru Quote
What if it's overcast? I've gotten some crappy, low-contrast garbage when it was overcast, but some say it's great light to shoot in, so I don't know.
Like somebody before me mentioned, overcast is a natural diffusor. While it is a lot better than direct sun, you should avoid including a lot of sky in your photos. The big gray area over your subject's head is not something that will add value to the photo.

And do not worry too much about perfect setup. It all can be corrected in Photoshop

Just my 2 cents.

06-02-2008, 01:29 PM   #5
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I have extremely limited portrait experience, but here are my two cents:

1) It sounds like your children are at least old enough to pose? (For example my daughter is only two...she will not sit still).

If your children will hold still, then the tripod may be an unneeded thing. I greatly prefer mobility and being able to quickly change angles over using a tripod...plus, your children may tire of waiting for you to fiddle with it.

2) Overcast lack of contrast - Too easy to fix using post processing...I wouldn't consider it a problem and the diffused lighting is awesome.

3) Bright day - If you're having to shoot midday and it's very bright, the shade may be your friend. I recently took some shots in a shady area while the sunlight itself was very bright, and I liked the results. And I didn't have to use fill flash. As long as you avoid very heavy shade, you should be fine.


4) With the sunpak, I'm not sure if that rotates / swivels? If so, and you need fill flash with an off-camera effect, you could simply rotate the flash to the side while someone holds a reflector pointing to the children.

I've never tried it, but I see no reason it wouldn't work, assuming you and the assisant stay out of the flash path. That might be too tricky to pull off, though. (dunno, just thought of doing this...I've never read of anyone doing that with on-camera flash)

5) Have fun And try to get the "having fun" shots. Your children should enjoy the shoot more, and some of best children pictures are of them horseplaying, exploring, etc. Them doing so in nice clothing just makes it that much cooler!

Keep us updated!
06-02-2008, 08:15 PM   #6
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One of my favorite books is Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Book. (I picked mine up for about $7 at Half-Price Books.) He has lots and lots of tips dealing with situations just like this one. You may want to bring along a reflector instead of a flash to fill in when shooting in the shade.
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