OK, so FEAR might be too strong of a word. However, I did avoid the idea of Lifestyle photography for too long. What was holding me back? Well, loss of control I guess. I would not be able to control the temperature, the light, the color of the walls, the placement of furniture, the music, EVERYTHING!
Go exploring. When you are entering your clients home you have no idea what the light is going to be like unless you have been there before. This is why a Maternity/Newborn session is a great place to start your adventure into Lifestyle photography. A Maternity session is much less pressure and your subject will actually do what you tell her! You also have a chance to walk around the house, check out the light. Don’t forget to note the color of the walls. A room with all red walls is probably not the best place to shoot. Most people however do have a neutral room in their house, even if it is the kitchen. When you return for the newborn session make sure to come back a the same time so you know what to expect from the light.
Get creative. I like shooting in my little natural light studio because I know what to expect and I know where everything is. I have everything set up very conveniently. However, when shooting in someone else’s home you will have to be creative. You might have to use your clips to clip your blanket to the front of the crib or drape your blanket over the side of the tub because the bathroom has the most amazing light in the house. Use the hallway, foyer, and stairs (to stand on and shoot down for a new perspective).
Get comfortable. Because you are shooting in a clients house they are naturally going to be more comfortable. Let them settle down in a natural place. Let them relax and then move round them looking for obstacles. You may have to move a baby monitor or a stack of laundry but you will get a comfortable, authentic moment of mom and baby. You can simply move smaller items out of your way. If you can not move something then get in close for those detail shots.
One more thing, you need to really know how your ISO will preform. Most likely you are going to have to bump the ISO up to get enough light. Know ahead of time how high you can go.
I hope this helps you overcome any hesitations you had about lifestyle sessions.
Tricia Schumacher is the owner of Wigglebug Photography in DeKalb, IL.
She works with Children, Newborns, Families and Seniors. Tricia also teaches Photography, Photoshop, and Ceramics at DeKalb High School.
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You plan out the details and flow of your session. You have visions of how the images will turn out and are giddy with anticipation. As we all know, sometimes things don’t go according to our plan or vision, especially when shooting children. Don’t you hate it when you catch a perfectly natural smile or expression from one child but the setting is all wrong? It looks like a snapshot and not anything you’d want to include in a client’s gallery or if it’s of your own children, not something you’d be likely to hang in your house. Don’t be so quick to toss images that, at first glance, don’t measure up to your high standards. Creatively cropping an image can help you save what looks like a boring snapshot and turn it into a wall-worthy image. This applies to shots of clients and also your own children, which are the examples I’ve used here.
Below, this shot of my son was snapped in our family room. He was sitting behind the couch and I was pulling out all my fun tricks to get him to smile. But all he wanted to do was play peek-a-boo with his ball. When I first saw this image, I was a little sad, because even though he had great eye contact with the camera, the big orange ball was obscuring his face. But I loved the way his blue eyes were so pronounced and sharp, so with a little creative cropping and a small amount of easy cloning, I was able to salvage the image and it’s become one of my favorites of him. My baby playing peek-a-boo.
This next image is a classic example of Murphy’s Law when photographing children. At least my children. One will be engaged and happy while the other is oblivious to the photo bomb they’re creating. My 4 year old, the son who’s the most challenging to photograph, looks amazing and happy, but my oldest son off to the side totally ruins the shot for me. Fortunately this one was also salvageable with a little cropping. And just like that, it’s one of my favorite shots of my 4 year old I’ve ever taken.
And one more example, is this great shot of my husband holding our youngest. The light was so beautiful and yummy, but it was such a catch-it-on-the-fly shot (on our way out the door to run errands), that it has a car in the background, which is totally distracting. I absolutely loved it because it showcased my son’s giant cheeks (which I adore) and his attachment to his daddy (who he’s obsessed with), but I really didn’t like the background. Every time I saw this picture I’d think, “Man, I wish that car wasn’t there.” Fixing this image didn’t work cropping with a traditional photo ratio, so I utilized a square crop to remove the car from the background. It’s still vaguely distracting, but in a less-obvious way. While I might not recommend a square crop for client work, as a mom, I’m perfectly happy with a square image.
If you can train your eyes to see beyond the initial impression, you may find that using some creative cropping can turn boring snapshots into some of your favorite portraits.
Marissa Gifford is a natural light, on-location photographer serving the Portland, OR / Vancouver, WA metro area and specializes in newborn, maternity, family and senior photography. She’s been married to her husband for 9 years and is mother to 3 boys. In her spare time Marissa likes to read, cook, spend time with her family, watch football and learn foreign languages. She’s a big fan of Diet Coke and black licorice.
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