Our photographer Jessica, better known by her Photocase username riskiers, wrote an article about her children’s portraits for the German photography blog kwerfeldein (link to the original blog post). We are very happy to present you an English version of her article today in form of this guest post. Thanks, Jessica! This way to here user profile.
Children are heartening. They are full of curiosity, dreams and enjoyment of life. Their world is colourful, without worries and full of fantasy. They live the moment, without thinking about tomorrow or what once was. This happy period of childhood passes by so quickly and memories start to fade to soon. That’s why it is important to me, to accompany my children along their journey of discovery and to capture those happy moments of their childhood.
Who doesn’t know this “hatching something shortly before dinner starts”? And who doesn’t like to remember those adventures of days long gone? I was lucky to grow up as a child close to nature, always in quest of new adventures. Building a hatch with the neighbor’s kids, playing in wild gardens, nursing injured birds, speaking to my friends through tin cans on a rope – it was never boring. Unfortunately, I have only very few images from that time and I’m happy that my kids won’t have the same problem later.
I want my kids to have a childhood in close touch with nature. Especially today, where media and digital technologies play a big role, even at an early age, free play and activities outside are super important. Open spaces inspire and foster creativity and give children the opportunity to gain practical experiences. That’s why we often go out into the woods, kite flying on the meadows or hiding in the fields.
It doesn’t always have to be big trips that take long drives. Often it’s the little things in the near, that create the biggest excitement. I always have my camera with me then, because when the small ones can be just “kids”, that’s when they experience exciting things and the most natural and beautiful children’s portraits come about.
Especially my twins are often so lost in their play, that they don’t realize that they are being photographed. As long as they feel the presence of the other around them, they feel save and totally forget the world around them. The strong bound between them is something very special and it is my goal to make this deep congeniality visible in my photos.
My son is already at a age, in which he perceives being photographed. That’s why natural snapshots are harder to come by, but not impossible. If the trip is fun, he forgets pretty quickly that going for a walk is uncool. The path should be adventurous and offer opportunities to climb or caves to hide. Sometimes he comes up with a photo idea and we head out together. In those moments, he enjoys the attention, as you can see in the balloons series. The sun is not the only one shining on that photos.
Sometimes friends come up to me and ask me to take photos of their kids. Because my studio equipment is quite negligible and because I would have to rearrange our dining room to set up a screen, I often arrange shootings outside. For the kids it’s more like a fun trip, the parents are relaxed and the photos look authentic and cheerful.
The recipe for my children’s portraits is not a secret. My photos live on the uniqueness of my small models and the beauty of nature. With the following ingredients, everyone can enhance their children’s snapshots:
You need a good location
I explore my shooting locations mostly alone roaming through the nearby woods or parks. Because I love taking photos of landscapes, I spend a lot of time outside in the nature and therefore know, where it’s worth going with the kids. Wether a colourful fall forest full of moss, mushrooms and small crawlies, a wavy grain field or a sunflower maze – you only have to look around. There are great opportunities everywhere.
Light is very important
I love it, when photos glow. It emphasized the joy of live, especially with the small ones. That’s why I’m often under way in the late afternoon, when the sun stands low, the shadows grow longer and the light gets caught in the grass. To capture the glow, I often photograph against the light and am delighted about every light reflex in the picture. Backlight is addicting!
You need good glass
Maximum aperture is also addictive. Preferably, I take photos with my wide-aperture, fixed focal length lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or wider. Once you start, you just can’t stop. You can get wide-aperture, fixed focal length lenses for only 100 € and they increase the creative potential of a entry-level DSLR enormously. I like the selective sharpness and the creamy Bokeh.
I often use branches or flowers and hold them directly in front of the lens, let them blur in unsharpness, to give the motive more depth or frame it. I only have my “foot” zoom but that makes me think more about the motif. Less and less often, I have to crop my images later, because the composition is just right.
Make your composition exciting
When looking through the viewfinder, I intuitively apply artistic rules of photography but break them consciously. To make the composition more exciting, I often use things on site. Fences, paths, steps, branches or similar things that give the image depth, in room and substance.
Give your photo some spice
I put the final touches to my photos in Photoshop. I take all photos in RAW format and firstly edit them in the RAW converter. I adjust basic settings like lightening, contrast, saturation, color temperature and test how the photo would look in black and white. Where applicable, I add a vignette or remove disturbing aberrations.
Afterwards, I open the photo in Photoshop and apply the following steps:
To increase the contrast, I use the gradation curve. In order not to change the original, I always duplicate the photo and edit the copy. If certain parts are too dark or too light, I use the layer mask, paint the affected parts with the paint brush and set the opacity.
Usually, I adjust the color balance a little and, if necessary, correct certain color shades with the selective color matching.
You don’t have to do a lot of skin and face retouching with children’s photos. I highlight bright children’s eyes by lightening the parts with the dodge tool or using the layer mask. Finally, I remove disturbing elements with the clone stamp. I’m sure, there are lots of other possibilities that lead to an even better result. I’m always open and thankful for any tips but I also don’t want to sit in front of the photo for ours and totally alienate it from the original. I want my photos to emphasize children’s naturalness.
And last but not least, a grain of luck is not to be sniffed at. 🙂
I would have never thought, that such love of photograpy would grow out of my early children’s snapshots. It’s much more than a hobby.