I’ve put up a few posts on portraiture, partly because this is an area I’m trying to improve in my photography, and partly because in the absence of exciting overseas travel, I’ve been trying to take more shots of people and keep my skills up. It’s been fun, frequently challenging, and often rewarding.
Probably my favourite subjects to take photographs of are children. Partly for the process, and partly for the end result. Admittedly I don’t have to work with them in a studio or anything like that, and I realise that if your job is taking family portraits it’s probably a different game altogether. The times I’ve been doing it has been on my own time, and usually under fun circumstances.
Kids respond differently to the lens. Some get shy or suspicious. Some are indifferent. Some get really excited- especially in third world countries. And some play to it. There’s fun to be had with all types- although if a camera is upsetting a child I put it away. As with all of my portrait shots, what I really love is capturing an expression or a spontaneous moment, rather than a carefully posed image.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to take photos of various friends’ children while out and about socially. I enjoy how the different characters come through the lens. The first one was at a good friend’s 25th. This little one, who I’d never spoken to before that day, saw the camera and immediately started playing to the lens. I was snapping with my 16-35mm, which isn’t a great portrait lens unless zoomed all the way to 35, as the wide-angle distorts the face, making it bulbous and unflatteringly misshapen. However she was completely unfazed by the glass and generally tried to get her face as close to it as she could, without the slightest shred of self-conciousness. Precocious might be the best word to describe.
I really like this second shot for her thoroughly natural and comfortable smile. A natural born performer…
Overseas, and I spent some time with a good friend and his family. They have three children, L., G. and C.. L. and G. didn’t pay a lot of attention to the camera and allowed me to get some nice candid shots. Here was I shooting on my 400D with a 60mm f/2.8 Macro. Although f/2.8 isn’t super sharp, the detail and clarity I’ve always gotten off this lens astound me (you can see more detail by clicking the pictures below), and it remains my favourite of the EF-S range. Many of my favourite overseas portraits have been taken with it. In this shot, L. is sitting on the side of a speedboat, about to do his first water-skiing lesson, contemplating the breeze on his face.
While L. was learning to ski, G. stayed in the boat and watched her brother with considerable attention. G. is six but wishes she was actually nine, and generally tries to keep up or outdo her brother on any given chance. I got to spend a bit of time while I was overseas playing with both kids, and I had a lot of fun with them. They were [exhaustingly] energetic, sweet and good-natured. G. is looking particularly contemplative in this shot.
Here’s another shot of G., taken a couple of weeks later having her own go at learning how to water-ski while Dad fixes up the life-vest. The discoloration on her forehead is a bruise she got a day or two earlier after running her face into something, in true six-year-old style. Love that big unselfconcious front-tooth grin.
Meanwhile, C. is still learning about the world, and not at all sure she is always that happy with what she finds when it doesn’t suit her. For a good little while she was pretty scared by my beard, and despite numerous attempts by myself and her parents, we couldn’t coax her into actually touching it. It became the defining feature of our relationship, and I was known to her as “Baba Chin”. She started her life in West Africa and was now in yet another country foreign to that of her parents, so she was still learning how to string sentences together, with an odd little mix of English, French, and a lot of happy babbling which took some work to decipher. When she gets the hang of words she’s going to be unstoppable. However she was none too sure she liked the camera pointed at her:
Another of my favourite little friends at the moment is M., the daughter of a friend of mine here in Australia. The other week a few of us ended up on a beach on midwinter’s day, and while the light was a little patchy, it was actually pretty good for portraiture, with soft filtered sunlight that didn’t threaten to burn out features. M. is entirely non-self-concious in front of the camera, and most other places too once she’s warmed up. Full of energy and positive attitude, she’s a fun little thing to have around. Like a lot of children her age, she basically has two buttons: Stop, and Go Really Fast, and spent most of the time on the beach clambering up rocks, then getting stuck and calling out for mum to come and get her down again. I took this picture of her while atop one such rock during a brief pause, and liked the way it framed her against the sky (again, for best viewing click to see the shot a little larger).
(This photo of M. was taken with my 5D using the 85mm portrait lens. On the full-frame sensor it is almost identical in reach to the 60mm on the 1.6x cropped sensor of the 400D, but the glasswork is exquisite, and that f/1.8 aperture makes for wonderful sharpness.)
Of course, kids being kids, I couldn’t finish off without at least one obligatory face-pull. Which of course comes courtesy of Mum’s Little Princess. I’m sure mum is really thrilled. But I personally reckon that as gurneys go, this is a grand one.
Thanks guys. Love you all.