Priya - and family

What a great model 18month old Priya turned out to be!

Priya  - the assignment brief

Proud parents Greg and Anita approached me whilst vacationing in Baja California and requested a family portrait session.

Being several months pregnant with their second child, Greg and Anita set the following brief for the assignment

  1. Casual family group portraits of the existing family.
  2. Individual shots of 18 month old daughter Priya whilst at play
  3. Pregnancy portrait shots of Anita - to show off her "bump!"

The approach to the assignment

The family gave me full control over the assignment and set no restrictions upon the timing or duration of the shoot.

This gave me free reign to take the following factors into consideration,

  1. Given that a small child was involved I first checked what times of day were likely to be most suited to when "Priya" would be playful (i.e. I wanted to avoid traditional mealtimes and rest times)
  2. I also wanted to make use of the east coast of Baja's late afternoon light - this occurs daily just after the sun dips behind a distant mountain ridge (around 30mins before sunset) thus avoiding harsh shadows or squinting and gives a beautiful, warm and soft, natural light - which is in perfect harmony with the beach setting.
  3. As the family group are not "professional" models (although it turned out Priya was naturally gifted in front of the camera!) I scheduled in at least half an hour of extra time PRIOR to beginning the shoot - to get to know the family and ensure everyone felt at ease, relaxed and comfortable around me. 

Set up and equipment

For the initial shots on the beach (whilst the ambient light was perfect) I set up with a 70-200mm 2.8 image stabilised lens. 

I asked the family to choose dark or brightly coloured clothing that would contrast well with the beach colours of sand and sea yet fit with the casual setting.

I made sure there were some props available  - such as a bucket and spade and the little basket - these were to add compositional interest and context to the shots , as well as provide playthings for Priya to help her "pose" in a relaxed and natural manner

I made sure to take some wider angle shots as I wanted to clearly show the scale of just how small a child Priya is.

As the light started to fade I moved the family to the garden outside their apartment which i had previously scoped out looking for some locations with some colourful and interesting backdrops whilst being close to walls which I could use to "bounce" my speed light flash off.

As space was a little tight I switched to my 50mm prime lens and opted to grab some more "formal" family portrait shots. I wanted to use the lens almost wide open at F2 to get a shallow depth of field thus retaining the interest of the colours from the garden backdrop but without being in sharp focus  and thus detract from the primary subject i.e. the family group.

When shooting group shoots like this at wide apertures it is imperative to pose the models so that their faces are a equidistant from the lens to ensure all the subjects eyes are in sharp focus. I also find that people are naturally inclined to leave too much space between their faces when posing - so don't be afraid to encourage them to really put their heads close together (as in the shot below)

What I actually did was let them pose "normally" took a shot and then reposed them with their heads very close together - then I showed them the comparison on the lcd screen between the two poses - after which they realised the benefit of the "unnatural"  pose and in subsequent shots were more inclined to get their heads close together.  The message here is that it is important for the photographer to communicate with and direct his models / subjects

happy family - Greg, Anita and Priya

I deliberately saved the pregnancy "bump" shots for last for two reasons - firstly because I suspected that young Priya's patience would eventually wear thin - so it was important to get the shots of her done and dusted asap - and secondly because I had an idea to use off camera direct flash (i.e. no bounce flash or soft box) to give a very "hard" side lighting for this part of the assignment.

Normally I would try and avoid harsh, direct side lighting for portraits as it does not give the most flattering look! However for this shot the idea was to emphasise the pregnancy "bump" so this type of lighting along with asking Anita to pose slightly side on whilst supporting the "bump" with her hands, resulted in the shot I was looking for.

Finally I added a shot of Priya with Grandad Rod, that I had actually captured on a different occasion. I particularly like the interaction between Rod and his Granddaughter which is captured in this image

Many thanks to Greg, Anita and of course Priya for not only inviting me to photograph them but also for agreeing to allow me to utilise their photos on my website

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