Category Archives: child portrait

Portrait Photography Tips – How to Prepare for Your Portrait Session

 

Portrait Photography Tips

Portrait Photography is a team effort. You might have searched long and hard for a portrait photographer, and might love his work, but there are still things you can do as a client that will make sure your photographs as good as they possibly can be. These simple portrait photography tips will help you get the most out of your photographer. When I take a booking from clients, I like to go through this simple check list with them that ensures they arrive looking great, feeling fresh and are ready to shoot!

Scheduling the Portrait Session.

One of the most critical things to ensuring a portrait session runs smoothly is making sure it is scheduled at a time where your children are well rested and fed and if we’re shooting outdoors, that the light is good. The best light for photographs is in the morning or afternoon, generally it is best to avoid the harsh light in the middle of the day. For small children morning is usually better. If you want to shoot outdoors I normally confirm everything a few days before, if the weather is not looking good I try to reschedule a date within two weeks of the original one. In cases of illness, it’s usually best to reschedule too unless it is a family get together that can’t easily be repeated.

How to Dress

I don’t like to have too many firm rules about how to dress for a portrait sitting, but these are some guidelines that can help. It’s a good idea to wear solid colours and to make sure everyone co-ordinates but doesn’t match too closely, if it is overdone it can look a bit false, like a cross between a catalogue and a religious cult!

Avoid patterned clothes like narrowly striped shirts or herringbone patterns as they can cause funny optical effects at certain print sizes. Logos have a tendency to date quickly so it’s wise to be cautious with them. If you are buying new outfits for your children check that they are comfortable in them beforehand, and that shoes don’t rub. This is particularly important with small children who won’t able to soldier through a shoot, they’ll be unhappy and they’ll let everyone know in no uncertain terms!

If possible keep some changes of clothes handy just in case, and remember to dress for the weather, don’t wear clothes that will make you sweat in the summer, or freeze half to death in the winter. Make sure that if you shooting in cooler weather you have enough clothes to keep warm while setting up or between shots. It can often be cooler than you think in exposed areas, and if you’re just waiting for the light to change or moving to a new location, the cold can quickly catch up with you.

Remember – if it looks a bit creased in the mirror, it will look very creased in a photograph, make sure your clothes are well ironed and sit well on your frame.

Grooming and Make up

If you want to get your hair cut for the shoot, it’s best to do it a week before the shoot date, the same for any beauty treatments liable to leave you looking blotchy. Natural make up is best, remember that photography tends to enhance colour and contrast so heavy make up is best avoided and spray tans need time to fade a little. Small blemishes, cuts or spots are easily removed in photoshop, so if a pimple appears on the morning of the shoot don’t panic! As a portrait photographer I prefer the more natural look. Family portraits could well be up on your wall for many years to come so it is best to be slightly conservative in how they are styled.

Drinks and Snacks

It’s a good idea to have a supply of drinks and snacks for younger children, it keeps them happy and can be used as bribes if need be! Remember not to bring anything too messy that could bring the session a sudden halt.

Have Fun!

If small children are involved make sure you tell them how much fun you’re going to have and what a treat it will be. Children pick up on things quickly and if you issue dire warnings about bad behaviour or offer them bribes for being good beforehand, they will think of a photo shoot the same way they think of a trip to the dentist. Emphasise that the shoot will a fun experience, that they can play and run around, and that there is no pressure to pose and stay stock still. I try not to shoot children’s portraits under time pressure, so there is plenty of time for young ones to warm up during a portrait session. I’ve shot enough portraits to know not to panic if I don’t get a great shot straight away, sometimes everyone has to work your their way into the shoot. It’s important that children don’t feel pressured into performing, as it can really knock their confidence and makes them uncomfortable. Better to just be patient. The great shots will come with time.

Follow these simple tips and you will get photos that you’ll really love and your family will enjoy the experience too!

I have a dedicated portrait photography site with lots of great examples of portrait photography I’ve shot around Chichester and West Sussex.

 

 

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Top tips for shooting on the Beach

10 Top Tips for Shooting on a Sandy Beach

 

I always love shooting at the beach, I think it brings out a bit of summer holiday spirit in everyone.  West Wittering near Chichester where I live, is probably the best beach within easy reach of London, being golden sand instead of the more usual pebbles on the south coast. It also has good toilet facilities and and a cafe, important if you want to keep young (or indeed older) children happy.  These are my top tips for shooting on West Wittering or indeed any other sandy beach.

1. Safety.

Safety should always be your number one priority.  Always make sure you are aware of any potential dangers before you start shooting. If you are anything like me, once you start shooting you’ll be concentrating on the next shot and not the environment around you. For example, the beach at West Wittering has a safe bathing area marked by flags and patrolled by life guards, further down towards East Head there are strong currents and bathing is not recommended. Whichever beach you are at make sure you are aware of any potential hazards associated with it.

2. Take care of your camera equipment.

Obvious really but it’s important to do all you can to keep sand out of your camera.  Normally I set up my camera before I get on the the beach, so I don’t have to change lenses or memory cards in a sandy environment.  The areas that are worst for drifting sand are above the high water mark, where the wind will tend to blow sand everywhere, if you have to change lenses either go down onto the wet sand  or return to your car . If you want to shoot in dry sand East Head at the far end of the beach is better as  it’s much more sheltered.

Another top tip is to bag up your more expensive equipment with sealable food bags that you can get from the supermarket.  That way if you take your bag onto the beach you have a second line of defence – Sand WILL get into your camera bag.

3. Keep an eye on the weather.

I find the easiest weather for shooting on the beach is bright but overcast weather, it’s flattering, you can shoot in any direction without your subject squinting and the beach will be less busy. Sunny days are also great but it’s important you pick either early in the morning or late afternoon to get the best light.   Also it’s important to to make sure your subject isn’t looking into the sun and squinting, and that there isn’t any harsh shadows falling across their face.

One thing to remember is to not just look at the cloud conditions but also make note of the wind speed.  I lived only a mile or two from the beach and it’s amazing how much stronger the wind is on the beach compare to even a little way inland.  As a rule of thumb an indicated wind speed of 20 mph. will seem very strong in a beach setting and will severely impede you.  If it is very windy you can get some respite sheltering in the dunes, but you may want to admit defeat and visit another day.

Another tip is top keep an eye on the cloud formations to the west of you (or wherever the prevailing wind is where you live) .  If rain is coming this is where it will come from, and on the coast you can see it coming 10-20 minutes before it arrives.  I’ve done many a shoot where I’ve able to shoot between rain showers in this way.

4. Think wide – think details

Beaches are a great place for environmental portraits. Use a moderate wide angle to really pull in the surroundings around your subject.  Alternatively little ones love picking up shells and stones focussing in close to their hands give another great picture option.

5. Don’t forget the Sunblock

If you’re busy shooting you won’t feel the sun until it’s too late. Be warned

6. Time of Day

You can shoot successfully on the beach at anytime of day if you are careful, but the light is definitely best early in the morning or in the evening.  It is also quieter then which is an added advantage.

7. Tides

On beaches like the Witterings there is a big difference between high and low tide,  bear that in mind when you plan a shoot and plan accordingly.  There’s no point turning up to shoot on the sand flats when the sea is lapping around the top of the beach, if you wanted to shoot waves or surfers they are only around at the high tide.  The sea also comes in fast, often moving 10 or 20 yards up the beach before you’ve realised, there’s not much danger of getting cut off on this particular beach, but you could easily ruin anything you left on the sand while you were working. Make sure you know whether tide is moving in or out.

8. Light Modifiers

Reflectors are useful but vulnerable to the wind so you’d need an assistant rather than relying on a stand. Off camera flash in an umbrella would also be asking for trouble on a breezy day unless the stand was held down by a sandbag  or willing helper.  Remember some light modifiers are less likely to blow over than others and small flash units are easier to weigh down. Speedlights  offer less power than a studio light and battery pack but are more weather sealed.

9. Filters

I know filters are one of those issues that split photographers. Some insist on having one permanently on very lens they own whilst others fret that a filter would rob their lens of precious sharpness. On the beach you have the delightful combination of damp salty air and abrasive blowing sand to contend with. Sand in particular is hazardous not so much when it lands on a lens but when you try to get it off. Never try to clean the lens at the beach with anything other than a rocket air blower  unless you are certain it is totally sure it is sand free.  Personally I think a filter is the best compromise, especially if you are using expensive lenses. A simple UV filter is the best insurance against damaging a lens.  If you do scratch a lens don’t despair, small scatches do almost nothing to affect optical quality, but they do have an impact on the resale value.

10. Home Again

I have a set routine that I follow when returning from a day’s shooting at the beach.  The first thing I do is remove everything from the camera bag and then hoover the bag out. There is always a good teaspoon of sand hiding in the bottom of it, no matter how careful I think I’ve been.  Second I do a visual check for sand on my lenses and cameras, using a rocket air blower to remove any that I find, remembering to check the back of lens caps – the spring catches are a good trap for sand. Next I try the focusing rings for any sand in them, I’ve found that if you can’t blow the sand out, a piece of photocopy paper can remove sand from any joints, I don’t know if this is the best solution but it is surely better than leaving sand to wear away at mechanical components.

 

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