Outdoor First Communion Portrait - Walk-by Shooting

Joined
Apr 30, 2005
Messages
109
Location
Glorious, Sunny New Jersey, USA
Was over at my local gorgeous flowers arboretum (Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit, NJ) shooting daffodils when I heard the sounds of a family in conflict. They'd brought their daughter to the arboretum after first communion for pictures with the pretty flowers in the background. Unfortunately, they were letting her brother run the show (teeny digital point and shoot on a big tripod, but even bigger voice ordering his sister around, and finally with Mom's permission.)

'Twas awful. They had daughter facing into the sun, and ten minutes into it, budding photographer son had taken maybe two pictures and everybody hated both of them. The noise and bad karma flying around was driving me insane, so I picked up my gear and went over and offered a lesson to sonny. In less than two minutes I banged off 14 shots, talking the whole time to sonny about what I was looking for, why I was placing her the way I was and framing the images the way I was, and why I was asking her to do the things I was (I didn't tell him this, but it was mostly to distract her so she'd be less grumpy looking...) I showed him in the LCD what I was getting. Promised Mom that she could have whatever image they wanted, printed up nicely, so they could go home. Got my silence back a few minutes later so I could concentrate again. Worth every second.

The only portrait-y lens I had in my bag was the 70-300ED (non-G) which is a pretty good lens, my humble opinion. Used the SB80DX for front-lighting, sun behind her to light the veil and reduce the hot red spots developing on her face from sun exposure. Also for nice catchlights in her eyes. Diffuser on, although really dancing the edge of the flash's range that way. I happen to like shooting pictures like this underexposed and then pulling up the midrange exposure so that I have white daffodils in the background when I'm done instead of white splotches.

First, the straight "here's what Mommy had in mind" shot.

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Second, a picture I thought the little girl would appreciate when she grew up, looking smart, sophisticated, and a bit sassy. Stage direction: I'll bet you know a secret about your brother that nobody else knows...do you?

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Another straight shot, trying to catch the essence of what first communion means - she's growing up, not just little girl anymore but a young member of the adult community she's being raised in. Stage direction: OK, be serious, show me how you stood while you were waiting for your first communion. Wow, what a big girl!

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Now, I have a rule, which is don't stop shooting just because something you want to happen isn't happening. The little girl had had enough, and turned sideways to get something off her arm that had fallen there, and stood for a few seconds with her eyes closed before turning back towards me. I kept shooting, and got this - which is nothing I'd typically want, except that as soon as I saw it on the screen, I saw...

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...this, which is a style I've been playing with. No stage direction at all, she was taking a break, and I was just shooting because I've always found that breaks often produce the most interesting images.

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Comments welcome. Wish I'd have had 20 minutes to shoot, and my usual lenses, but feel pretty good with what I got. (And Mom now wants me to shoot portraits of the whole family, individually and a group family portrait. I'll enjoy the first, but boy do I hate group shots...so hard to catch everyone with a good expression.)
 
Joined
Mar 22, 2005
Messages
763
Location
Davis / Bay Area
Like your model direction. I agree with the unplanned part, best pics usually come from having people just act natural. White in direct sunlight is tough though, got some harsh highlights.
 
Joined
Feb 19, 2005
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8,677
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Alabama
Great job! I am sure the mother was very pleased! How nice of you to assist total strangers.
 
Joined
Feb 1, 2005
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4,741
Location
SE Florida
You did a good turn Ed!

Love the poses on the 2nd and last shots, and what you've done with the last one. #'s 2&3 could use a bit more contrast, don't you think? They're a little pale, while the 1st shot is very contrasty. Nice job and what a good turn you did for them. Hopefully "junior" learned something about photography too.
 
Joined
Apr 30, 2005
Messages
109
Location
Glorious, Sunny New Jersey, USA
Steve, I agree a bit about contrast, but...

I actually took the contrast down quite a bit in the images you mention. The little girl was verging on heat stroke, or at least she looked that way, nearly beet red. But by her hair and arms, I saw that she was really a lovely milk-skin girl. I went for that as a feeling instead of the reality (which was also pretty blotchy from the heat...poor kid) which was on the dreamy side of things, and for the symbolism of first communion - purity, chasteness, and all the symbolic things you can come up with about little girls at this transition in life. The first picture is a lot more like what the original contrast was. It just didn't feel like it communicated about the event and its symbolism. They print up lovely on Arches Infinity textured, in a white mat she looks angelic.

And to Leigh - trust me on this, it was all self interest. The kid was getting really annoying because she was really annoyed, and things were getting louder and louder. I do outdoor macro work for the peace, quiet, and meditative feeling. That was going away rapidly. Once I did this, they were talking nicely among themselves and left, so that I could go back to concentrating and enjoying the quiet in my favorite garden. Purely curmudgeonly instincts.
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2005
Messages
159
How very nice sir and I dont believe for a minute your statement that it was all self-intrest I that you are just a generally nice guy who enjoys what you do. The last one is my favorite would you share how you got that effect.
Richard
 
Joined
Apr 30, 2005
Messages
109
Location
Glorious, Sunny New Jersey, USA
I'll detail the effect process, but separate posting here

It was not a simple task, it involved black and white layers over color images, gaussian blurs and fiddled curves, photofilters, and the history brush. I wrote much of it down (I suffer from not thinking I'll ever want to repeat something, until I realize I want to repeat it and then can't...) so I should be able to do some explaining.
 

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