Four Girls at Home (again)

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I don’t know if this speaks to my complete lack of creativity or not, but I managed to come up with the exact same title for this blog post as I did a year ago! I made this family’s portraits last year and called the post “Four Girls at Home“. Brilliant writer that I am, I came up with the amazingly unoriginal title again for my second session with this family. But hey, I’ve added the “(again)”, so all is redeemed.

I love working with families over time, as I mentioned in a recent post about another family. It’s a comfortable way to shoot, and I get to see the kids grow up, and I get to see old friends again. And so it was again, with this family of four girls.

[click “continue reading” below for moreā€¦]

Last year the youngest was only a few weeks old, so that was the most dramatic change. Now she’s sitting on her own, all smiles and personality. The twins and the eldest daughter have grown too of course. Such beautiful girls!

This family had moved to a new house since last year. So while the images were made at home, it was a completely different home. My job was made much easier and more pleasant by the large garden that surrounded the house. I had more than a few choices of locations, and had to decide on just two.

I also finally got to meet dad, as he was out of town the last time around. Mom and dad joined the group for a full family portrait, just as the sun was starting to set over the hill. It was really a nice, easy family portrait sessionā€¦couldn’t ask for more. Oh wait, beautiful images, I could ask for that. I think I got that too!

Mom wants black and white of each girl for their hallway, so here are some individual images. More text below, including lighting comments.

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And a final image of the whole family, below.

Lighting was very simple on all of this. 43″ shoot through umbrella with Metz Mecablitz 60 as the main light, and an SB-28 with Lumiquest Softbox III as fill. CyberSync triggers to fire the flashes remotely. The key light was camera right on all of these images, with the fill camera left. I built up the light the way I usually do, but I knew I had to be subtle here. All the images were made in the shade, so I needed enough fill from the ambient light that my background didn’t go black. Instead I set the meter so it was just slightly underexposed. I shoot a frame, then add the fill light and check the image. I want to see just a slight increase of light on my subject, barely noticeable in fact. Then I add the main light and adjust accordingly. For the color images in this series, I did darken the background quite a bit for dramatic effect, but at least I had the detail there to begin with in the raw image. I couldn’t have regained detail if I’d lost it to underexposure during the shoot.

In the image below, the sun plays a very mild part on the subject lighting. You can see an edge light on the side of dad’s face, camera left. That’s the sun slanting through the trees. Everyone else is complete shade. I also added a 1/4 CTO gel to the main light, to warm it up and make it more closely match the ambient. I didn’t bother gelling the fill light because it was at a low level compared to the main.

Oh and I used a tripod on all the group images! This is pretty much standard procedure for me with groups, in case I need to substitute a face from one image into another (which I did in the lead image, but which wasn’t necessary below). Also a tripod allows me to interact with my subjects better, and to watch their expressions more closely. Also in low light situations, I don’t have to bump my ISO and lose quality. Instead I can bring my shutter speed down to speeds I couldn’t reliably use hand-held. The individual images above were shot hand-held, and I was very careful to hold steady: my shutter speed was around 1/80, with a long-ish lens of 150 or so. The flash helped freeze the motion too of course.

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