Hey everyone. I had some great feedback from last week’s post so I’m back with another “The Story Behind the Photo” post. This time around I’ve got a photo of my cute little niece, Ella. I think the story offers a lot of insight for anyone wanting to take photos of kids. But first…

The Story Behind, The Story Behind the Photo
A while back, Scott Sheppard interviewed me over on Nik Radio. It was basically a 30-40 minute interview on how I got into photography and Photoshop, what inspires me and a bunch of other things. Here’s the link in case you missed it. Well, toward the end of the interview, we started talking about how the story behind the photo is sometimes as captivating or interesting as the photo itself. So it got me thinking about a possible series of posts here on the blog. Let’s get started:

The Photo
(click for a larger version)

Location: Kelby Media Group Photo Studio in Tampa, FL. We have a nice sweep wall painted white, which makes it easy to do portraits of kids since we don’t have to mess with seamless paper wrinkling, tearing or the child running too far off the background.

Date: January, 2011

The Gear

  • Camera: Nikon D3
  • Lens: Nikon 70-200mm (my typical go to lens in the studio)
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Shutter Speed: 1/160 second
  • ISO: 200
  • No tripod and no filters
  • Lighting: Elinchrom BXRI 500 with a Large Octa Softbox

How I Got the Shot
This was a fun one. Basically, whenever you’re shooting kids (sorry, photographing kids 😉 ), there’s a lot of trial and error involved. I think for just about every baby photo I’ve taken and shown to some one or put in my portfolio, I’ve got 100 bad photos that’ll never see the light of day.

I always start off with a warm up. I usually just the let the child do whatever they want in front of the camera for a few minutes, just to warm them up and get used to strobes flashing if I happen to be using them. Here’s the thing though… I try to make sure I don’t overextend this time because sometimes you only have a limited amount of time with little ones until they melt down. So my plan was to get her into the outfit that her mom wanted quickly, and get those shots done with. Anything else after that was icing on the cake.

My next plan was to get everyone else away. Lots of well-meaning family members often jump in and try to get the child’s attention. Sisters and brothers are always doing it too. My general rule is that only 1 person is allowed to be around (usually mom) when I’m taking photos. I broke my rule at first because my older niece wanted to help (and apparently Uncle Matt can’t say no), so I let her and this is what I got. Cute, but not what I was trying for.

Next, I made sure to get Ella’s mom behind me. I was laying on the floor with my 70-200mm lens here and her mom was pretty much sitting on top of my back so that Ella was looking right at the camera. It helps if you have a little toy on a stick that mom can jump in, tickle her with, and then jump out quickly while she’s still smiling. This part was really important though because if you don’t get the attention-getter right near where the lens is, then the child doesn’t look right at the camera and you can see something is just off.

Sometimes you need a helper. Ella was too young to leave alone on her on on the pillow we placed her on, so we had a helper. But that person needs to remain totally quiet and fairly out of view or this happens.

All the Planning in the World Won’t Stop Bad Photos From Happening
Just so you know, all the planning, preparation and help in the world won’t stop a bunch of bad photos from happening. Here’s a little slideshow for your enjoyment that is sadly only a fraction of the total photos taken that day. I’m actually quite proud of my ability to capture the crying, the drool, the attempted escape from the pillow, the SUPER BABY! pose, the black photo where the flash didn’t fire, the “I just did a poopy” face, and even the one where she looks like she’s falling asleep 😉

Post Processing
Post processing was pretty simple on this one since it was in the studio and the lighting was controlled. I processed the photo in Lightroom, used the adjustment brush to brighten the face just a little bit. Then I jumped into Photoshop, brightened the eyes and did a some retouching on some dark circles under her eyes. I also duplicated the layer, applied the Unsharp Mask filter and used a layer mask to paint it away from just about all the areas except for her eyes to add some extra sparkle. Finally, I applied Nik Software’s Glamour Glow filter from Color Efex Pro 4 to soften the whole feeling of the photo. All-in-all, the post work took about 5 minutes.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day! 🙂


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