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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Where and When To Shoot

Happy Tuesday everyone and Happy Spring! Do you have Spring Fever yet, because we sure do in our house! And for me, Spring Fever means getting outdoors with my camera and my kids. After a long and dreary winter indoors, there is nothing like getting out into God's beautiful creation to photograph the beauty in nature and of course, in my own children!

Now before we all go grabbing our cameras and kidnapping our own children (which is what it feels like in my house- they really don't like having their pictures taken!) we need to prepare and plan a little bit. And so that's why this week's lesson is about where (and when) to shoot. After all, some of the most obvious and gorgeous locations you THINK are great shooting locations are actually the worst possible choices for photographing people.

For this reason, it is crucial for us to take a step back and consider the LIGHT above the "beauty of the location". For example, this past week I took Brady out for a girls' day out, complete with new clothes, amazingly yummy cookies, and photos. I immediately thought of one of the most beautiful locations in our area- St. Peter's Village. We went down to where the river runs through and tried to shoot on the gorgeous boulders. It was mid-afternoon and the light was harsh. Despite the beauty around us, the photos were less than ideal- as you can see the light was hitting her rather harshly.

Brady was squinting terribly, and complaining that the sun was in her eyes. So rather than get frustrated (which I tend to do rather quickly), we simply walked around until we found a large boulder that would shade her from the harsh light. There was still plenty of great light, but now she was comfortable and free to OPEN HER EYES! These two photos were taken less than 15 yards from each other, but you can see the difference. Lesson? Take the time to scope out some open shade so you can still get great light, but not have your subject's eyes disappear in squints.

Open shade is a great way to get directional light outdoors but not be hit hard by the sun directly overhead. One great place to get open shade is under a tree, but be careful for what's called "dappled light"- when the light comes through the leaves creating spots of light and shadow on your subject's face. This shot of Brady girl was taken almost 3 years ago (WOW, how time flies!), and despite that it's still one of my favorite shots of her, I wish I had found some better shade. I refer to this as my "Dappled Brady" shot. Look at your subject's face while you are shooting- if you see this, move her somewhere else.

Or simply wait until later in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky. I shot this image very close to sunset and even though we were in the woods, surrounded by trees and lots of dappled light, the image turned out great with no spots on his adorable little face. This is an example of WHEN taking priority over WHERE. Try not to shoot when the sun is high in the sky. Shoot early in the morning (and I mean EARLY- like just after sunrise) or later in the evening, just before sunset.

Another great example of a gorgeous location gone wrong. When we think gorgeous summer photos we immediately think THE BEACH! But be careful! The beach is gorgeous but there is rarely open shade there which almost always results in squinty faces, like the ones here. Poor kids, they are so adorable, and yet the shot leaves a lot to be desired as they are squinting and uncomfortable.

Solution for a situation like this? Turn them from the sun and shoot from a different perspective. Sure, we can no longer fully see Krista's beautiful face, but she's comfortable and natural and we get the beautiful beach view and her beautiful image. Always be aware of your subject's face while shooting and keep moving until you find the light.

Another solution is in the WHEN. This shot is at the very same beach, just taken the night before. The two images above were taken at 9am on a June morning, a little late to be shooting on the beach during summer months. But here, we shot at sunset, so even having the kids look up at me produced natural smiles instead of painful squints. Sometimes the solution is in the WHEN, not the WHERE.

And if you must shoot at the beach at 9am (like we did here), then go looking for open shade. Here I shot Hannah at the cabana off the beach. Sure there is no ocean, no sand, no gorgeous sky view. But there's a gorgeous face with gorgeous light and no squinty faces. After all, it's the subject you really want to capture isn't it? Not necessarily the location.

Sometimes you might be at a specific location (like here when I photographed Katie at The Hill School) and have certain expectations as to where to shoot. The location might be known for it's gorgeous pond, or beautiful buildings, or lush gardens, but when you get there, the light in those areas is horrible. Don't get frustrated, but instead just go looking for the light. This shot was taken along a walkway on campus. It does not scream "The Hill School" but it is a gorgeous shot of the Hill senior. The sun was shaded by one of the large buildings off to her left and the brick walkway below her blurred to a gorgeous background when I shot her using a shallow depth of field (remember that lesson in aperature?).

If you take the time to plan your shots, taking note of WHEN you are shooting, and WHERE (and how) the light is falling on your subjects, then you cannot go wrong. Don't be seduced by the beauty of a certain location. Look for the light, not the flowers! Who wants pictures of pretty geraniums next to a washed out, or squinty little toddler? Open shade, low sun, and a constant awareness of your subject's face(s) are three ingredients to better portraits outside.

So get outside with your camera and your family and enjoy your Spring Fever!

Your homework this week is twofold!

1. The obvious- get outside and put this to the test. Look for open shade and directional light and shoot. Send me your images- I LOVE seeing your work!

2. Help! If you are enjoying these Cawfee Tawk lessons, then please leave me a comment on some topics you'd like to see here. I'm beginning to run out of topics myself! I'd love to continue sharing with you, but want to know what you want to hear about! Please leave me some comments so I can be sure that I'm sharing lessons you want to learn.

Thanks and happy shooting!

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