Robert is Three Months Old

July 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Our son just turned three months old recently and I wanted an image that represented a milestone that happened this week. He is now able to roll over onto his stomach. While my wife was at work, I spent the time he was napping to set up the shot. I pulled my background stands out and used gaffer tape to secure this piece of brown quilt to it and draped the rest over our bed. I am using the Canon 200mm f/2.8 L ii lens which I absolutely love for portraiture work. The reason is that Robert's foot in the background looks normal in size comparatively to the rest of his body. Had I used a wide angle lens, his head would look abnormally huge compared to his feet. I also like telephotos simply to eliminate the background and focus on the subject. 

However, with long lenses, it becomes more difficult to work with your subject because the distance becomes a factor. And with Robert, he isn't as engaged with me unless I'm really close. And in this image, I am really close, but just out of frame. To do this, I had to use a radio remote to send a signal to my camera to trip the shutter. This allowed me to just be below the frame. I would pop up and get my son to laugh and smile and would remotely trigger the camera. Since I am limited on radio transmitters, I had to trip the strobe with its optical slave by placing a speed light on the Canon 5D and turning down the power as to not add light to the image. I used a 60 inch Westcott umbrella. While I shot through the translucent umbrella material, I kept the black cover over the top half to reduce scattering light from hitting the ceiling and walls. I also considered getting some window light involved to highlight the back of his head by slowing the shutter speed down to 1/100 second and boosting the ISO speed to 200 instead of 100. This adds just a little rim of light to help separate him from the background. 

Overall, a simple portrait that takes a lot of work. But most importantly, is the relationship between the subject and the person taking the photograph. Recently, I've noticed some professional photographers who have very little interaction with their clients and it shows. One particular photographer shot a bride who seemed to be very self-concious of her picture being taken. Her eyes gave this notion away. Her eyes appeared like the victim of a horror movie that just discovered the ax wielding murder is right behind the door she just opened. I looked through his photo stream and she was not the only one. Another bride is seen smiling, but her eyes show a nervousness that seems she is well aware of this guy with a huge camera in her face that makes her feel uncomfortable. It seemed that more often or not that the subjects were not comfortable with him taking their photograph. 

Some people can really get the technical stuff down. They know f/stops, shutter speed and the inverse square law, but without being able to draw the human element of emotion, personality and gesture from your subjects, the picture just becomes a snapshot. And it isn't easy. It took me a while to learn as Rick Sammon says, "The camera looks both ways," meaning that the portrait isn't just about the subject, but the relationship between the person behind the lens and the one in front of it. It takes an investment in time and putting yourself out there. Some times, I can get right down silly when trying to get my subject to react as is in the case of this image of Robert. Don't be afraid to look foolish. Your job is to get the shot and by any means necessary. 



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