Little Angels: a A Child Life Portrait

I photographed two absolute angels this month.  It was a perfect Saturday morning in the most beautiful little grove of trees in Gilbert, Arizona.  The trees had lost a few leaves which had turned a wonderful orange-yellow.  The weather was perfect and the girls were as cute as they could be.  The slide show presents the photos in full color, but I thought I would show my favorite images from this portrait shoot in a muted film style.  I was inspired to present them in this style by the first image in the series.  It just begged to be shown this way, so who am I to argue with an image’s wishes.

Princess dresses, magic wands and pink cowboy boots.  You can’t ask for a better morning than this…

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The girls had a lot of fun playing in the leaves and running back and forth in their little princess dresses.  There is a lot of joy in those little girls.

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This is the moment we live for.

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One of my absolute favorites in the entire set.  I think it is absolutely beautiful and so peaceful.

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 But while her sister was falling to sleep, big sister was full of life and energy.  I think princess outfits are like sugar to a little girl.  Put them on and they become full of life and energy.

Autumn Children's portrait in grove of trees in Gilbert Arizona (7)

Family Portrait Location: Gilbert Arizona

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Slideshow music by Mindy Gledhill, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

The Miller Family Portrait

 

We shot the Miller’s family portraits in and around my new studio space in Chandler, Arizona.  The downtown area is full of great locations for photos and my studio is a great space for both working, meeting clients and shooting.  Come check it out sometime.  I’ll post a blog about it soon.

There is not a lot that needs to be said about these photos.  They are just super cute and were a lot of fun to take.  One thing that I was talking about with my client was the tendency for parents to think that “we got nothing” from that shoot because the kids are being too fidgety or too rambunctious.  But in the end, parents are always surprised by how many great images we got out of the shoot…  Here are just a few of my favorites.  There are a ton of them.

The slide show above is an uncommon one for me, because I typically don’t show a lot of multiple images from the same vantage point and situation back to back.  But this shoot was full of hilarious iterations on a theme.  So I went with it.

This first one starts the ball rolling right.

 

 

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography.

Slideshow music by Mindy Gledhill, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.

Family portrait location: Chandler, Arizona

A Peppermint Tea Party

What did you do on New Years Day?  It is hard to believe that anyone felt more important than these five little girls this New Years Day.  It was about the cutest event I have ever seen.  My wife is an amazing event designer (although she doesn’t do it professionally).  The amount of love that goes into this kind of a party is off the charts, and the girls felt it.  There’s nothing like seeing a little girl turn into a real princess for a morning.
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 Party Design by Danielle Platt

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Slideshow Music by Mindy Gledhill, courtesy of TripleScoopMusic

Photo of the Day: Sunlight and Sunshine

documentary photograph of a child at dinner taken with the Leica M

 

I spent a week in Greer photographing collateral images for Hidden Meadow Ranch (one of my favorite places in the West).  I am working on some of them now and came across this fun little shot at the dinner table full of sunlight and sunshine.

I had a number of cameras with me on this job.  Dinner time was the one moment of the day I wasn’t shooting or planning a shot, so it was my time to enjoy and to play with some of the cameras I had at my disposal.  This shot was taken with the Leica M rangefinder camera and adjusted in Lightroom.  More images from this shoot are forth coming.  Lot’s of cool cowboys, horses, etc…

An Afternoon Portrait in the Park with the Flamino Family

I photographed the Flamino family at a park in Scottsdale, Arizona.  The afternoon was full of fun and energy and snacks and running and more running.  Getting either of the kids to sit was a rare occasion, so when they did, I took advantage of the moment.

Child portrait by Jared Platt (2)

Child portrait by Jared Platt (3)

 This was my favorite image from the afternoon and not because of the composition or the light… I just know that’s the moment that matters to me as a father.

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Child portrait by Jared Platt (5)

 She has such beautiful curly hair.  She was so much fun to photograph.

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Child portrait by Jared Platt (7)

 The afternoon ended with fun on the swings.

Focusing on a swinging child is impossible because by the time you get focus, they are on their way out of it.  Instead of trying to get the camera to follow them automatically, I simply set a focus distance and waited until the child entered into my area of focus.

Child portrait by Jared Platt (8)

Child portrait by Jared Platt (9)

 Children’s Portraits by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Location: Park in Scottsdale, Arizona

Baby Finn’s Infant Portrait Session

 

This is Finn.  He’s a big baby and pretty strong.  He’s like a little superman.  He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, or more accurately, he can hold his head up.  So, this was a fun shoot.  Usually infants don’t have much strength for their first portrait session, but because of Finn’s super natural strength, we were able to take some great infant portraits.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the portrait session.

This first shot makes me laugh.  The infant is one cool cat.

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While Finn was grabbing a bite to eat in his trailer, we were setting the lights for his next portrait.  So Rex (dad) became his stand in.

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Finn already plays a little football.  And although he is a bit wobbly, with a little help, he can also sit up.  So Casey and Rex (mom and dad) kept a hand on him to help stabilize him.  I loved the hands in the shot, so I told them not to worry about getting rid of their hands, the shot was so cute with their hands.

Don’t think of this as weakness.  He was practicing getting through the line.  He’s very serious about football.

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He’s very serious.  Even when he is wearing a giant sock.

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Congratulations Rex and Kacey and welcome to the world Finn.  You’re already a star!

Infant portrait by Jared Platt, Platt Photography.

Slideshow music by Sparrow, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.

 

Sunsets and Dandelions: A Family Portrait in Chandler, Arizona

We spent the afternoon with the Morris family at Tumbleweed park in Chandler, Arizona and one of their many dogs.  Josephine rescues dogs, so she has a lot of them, but we only photographed with one.  Jason and Josephine’s daughter is very expressive and a lot of fun.  I think one of the reasons I love photographing children so much is that they are so much more expressive than adults.  So when you want adults to be expressive, bring along a child that they love and get them paying attention to their child.  Suddenly, everyone is expressive and having fun.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the photo shoot…

I think she is saluting me.  Maybe she’s just pointing to her head saying I don’t have any hair.

 

How cute it this little look on her face?  Now, we are photographing her in open shade, so there is no absolute need for a flash, but without the flash, I would have a little too much darkness in her eyes, so when possible, I prefer to have an off camera flash putting just a little light into her eyes.  You can see the slight shadow on the fence from the flash, which is off to the right of the camera, but because of it’s off camera position, there is plenty of volume in the shot.

Man, she was adorable…

The interaction on the next few images are priceless.  These are the shots that matter in life.  Take away every family “portrait” I have and leave me with these meaningful interaction shots with my kids and I will be completely happy.  And that’s what requires some specialized skill.  Catching the moments, being ready for them and not forcing them in a way that kills the authenticity is the challenge of being a family photographer.  I’ve started to turn down family photography work these days for people who don’t get what’s important.  If someone wants an instant portrait painting of their family, standing stiff in a line, they are not going to respond what I am creating, so I point them to other photographers.  I think we are all happier that way.

I love this one.

What child doesn’t smile when they are swinging between their parents arms?  But while she’s having all the fun, I am trying to time the focus.  I live on the wide side of apertures, so I rarely have any room to breath on focus.  What is in focus can be out if there is just a few inches of movement.  So, I live dangerously, but the results are fantastic.  The trick is to figure out where the focus will be and time for that part of the swing.  Oh, and shoot a lot of images!!!!!!

I fell in love with this image when I took it, but I fell in love with it again when I worked on it in post-production.  I absolutely love  how the tree becomes a line drawing in the background.  This one is for the wall.

Dandelions are about the best weed on the planet.  They are to fun, that we started thinking of them as flowers.

You see how much fun they are.  They are full of absolute fun!

Family Life Portraits by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Tumbleweed Park, Chandler, Arizona

Professional Toddler: I’ll Call You Back, I’m in a Meeting.

I take a lot of pictures of a lot of events, people and things, but some of my favorite images come from child portrait sessions.  These little people are the most genuine and conformable people I photograph and we get along very well.

This session was a lot of fun.  Our little toddler was always on the move, so she was a challenge to follow, but that energy came with a lot of personality.  The session started in the park where she wore us all out running back and forth with her ball and when we finally got back to grandma’s house, she was settled down pretty well… and was content to draw, read to her stuffed animal or hold meetings on her cel phone.

Child portrait in Phoenix, Arizona by photographer Jared Platt. (13)

Always smiling.  The park is her natural habitat.

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Get a load of that excitement and energy.  That’s truly infectious.

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Grandpa got the most love of the day.  Grandma spent more time running.  I’m glad I got this shot.  I would want this shot if it were my daughter.

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Child portrait in Phoenix, Arizona by photographer Jared Platt. (7)

As I approached the house, after the park visit, she was waiting at the door.  I wasn’t really ready for the shot, I was packing in gear and so I had to set a few things down to get the shot and I only got one shot and then she was gone.  It pays to be ready for the shot.  Also, having an assistant to cary the other things would have given me more freedom to get more shots, but I think I got what I needed regardless.  I love the shot.

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Snack time.  This is important on many levels.  It is essential that a child have a snack half way through the portrait session so the energy levels are replenished and there aren’t any major breakdowns.  It also gives the child a chance to do something they love to do.  And finally, it gives me a chance to get some cute photos that are a little different than the rest of the shoot.  Snack time is a great part of any toddler portrait session.

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When my wife saw this photo, she said in an envious tone, “I want that photo.”  With her daughter in it (of course).  That’s how I know I got a great shot.  My wife covets the shot for her own child.

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Story time.

I was very pleased with the entire setup for this shot.  The windows already had great light coming through, which made for a nice backlit situation.  The lamp was also proving a glow, as were the lights in the room.  Just one addition flash was needed to fill in the shadow and give the subject a little extra volume.  The light was a Canon 600RT Speedlite with a Strobie small soft box on a Cheetah Stand.  I exposed at a higher ISO and first figured out my exposure for the window light.  Then I fired up the flash and pushed it up to a few stops below the window light.  I always find the ambient light first, then add flash of constant light to supplement the natural light.

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And finally, a happy formal portrait.  I am so pleased with all of the shots, but second only to the shot of her on the phone with the bear to her side, this is my very favorite image.  She’s just so happy and everything works well compositionally for a portrait print.

Child portrait in Phoenix, Arizona by photographer Jared Platt. (16)

Children’s Photography by Jared Platt, www.plattphotography.com

Slideshow music by Anna Sali, courtesy of www.TripleScoopMusic.com

Location, Phoenix, Arizona

Have a Magical Holiday Season

Holiday greeting card from Jared Platt

 

We made a holiday greeting card for the McPhie family.  This is the back of the card.  I just had to post it because it makes me smile.  I am sure this little guy will be embarrassed by this photo when he’s 16 years old…

Well, I am preparing for the holiday season, and I am sure you are too.  So, may I join the McPhie family in wishing you all a magical holiday season.

The Seely-Olsen Documentary Session: China

Several of my last posts have been family portrait sessions from China.  This is the last family portrait from China, but it is a unique one.  We spent ten days with the Seely-Olsen family in China.  Becky (the mom) is a super great friend and she and her children have always been very important to us.  Becky was married this year to Jeff (also, super great guy with super great kids).  Well, Jeff works in Shanghai, China, so Becky and her children moved to China and the two families combined to make one very big family!  In China, a big family is a very big spectacle.

We spent a few of our days in Shanghai with Becky and Jeff’s family and then took a few trips out into rural China.  I will make one last post with my documentary/travel photographs from the trip, but this slideshow is a family documentary for the Seely-Olsen family.  We never did a formal portrait session, but rather a ten day documentary of their family as we traveled through China.  As you will see, the results are very different from a formal portrait session.  Both documentary and formal portraits have their place and both are important to a family, but I tend to gravitate toward the usefulness of pure documentary because a true documentary captures families and relationships as they truly are, which is how I would prefer to remember my loved ones.  That is why, even in my formal portrait sessions, I try to keep them very casual and documentary in feel.

Here are a few of my favorites shots from the Seely-Olsen Documentary Session.  I know I have not represented each and every member of the family in this blog post, only in the slideshow.  I have just posted my absolute favorite moments and shots here that can help me describe their life in China.

Becky’s kids are all over nine years old, Jeff’s are younger.  So Becky now has little ones again.  Aliah is the youngest and goes everywhere with Becky.  This is their transportation to and from the market.  All little errands, etc are done on this little scooter.  We would hope in the back and off we would go.  On one of our trips, we ran low on batteries and I was tasked with pushing the cart to get it up to speed where the batteries would keep it coasting a little longer than normal friction would have allowed.  I would jump in and enjoy a short rest and then, I was back out to push again.

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We took a bike ride through rural Guilin, China with all of the kids.  This was at the bottom of a mountain as we prepped for the hike up the mountain.  I love this shot.  These two are very close in age and make up their own little section of the family.  All the kids seem unite to take care of these little ones.

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (13)

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (12)

It was quite a hike to get up here, but everyone made it.  Don’t be so surprised that little Aliah made it.  Be surprised that Becky and Jeff made it.  I think Jeff carried her most of the way up the mountain.  I think Becky carried her too.  I only had to carry my camera.  Being a photographer has its advantages.  My photo duties trump good friend, “let me carry your child up the mountain,” duties.  So I only had to drag myself up the mountain.  That was hard enough.

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This was our countryside bike ride.  I could have enjoyed riding a bike through the country there for days.  Every time you came around a bend, there were more of these strange mountains and something very interesting to see.  The people, the farm lands, the buildings, the textures.  I think if I were to go again, I would want to spend a few more days just riding a mountain bike around the countryside.

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We also traveled by boat.  These little rafts are made of bamboo.  They can seat two passengers and a gondolier.  And no, he does not sing to you!  Sometimes, he will try to communicate with you, but ours knew three words in English, so most of our communication was in pointing and nodding.  This is Larsen.  I have known him for a long time (because he is one of Becky’s kids).  We had a good time on our river rafting adventure.

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There’s Jeff with piled high with kids.  By the time we reached the end of our river excursion, it was sunset.  But sunset here is much softer and darker than other places because the finger like mountains block the sun very early in the late afternoon and the humidity (at almost 100%) scatters and softens the light you do have.

I suppose you would have a hard time judging when you would get true sunset on any given week as the sun shifts around the sky because the sun can be completely obscured by one of the finger mountains one week and the next week the sun could be seen through a gap between the mountains, giving you another 20 minutes of direct light in the day.  At any rate, the soft quality of this image comes from the low and indirect and soft light of sunset in Yangshuo.  It is truly unlike any place I have ever been on the planet.

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This house was too much to pass up.  I only wish we had been there at a different time of day.  But you take what you can get when you are hiking from place to place.  The light wasn’t optimal, but the house is so strange, we had to grab a shot.

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Yes, it is a real place!  These are rice terraces in Ping’an, China.  I will show more images like this in my next China post, but I thought I would add this to give you a sense of the things we were seeing as a family.

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The kids are all waiting for their foot massages.  Everyone (except for me and Tate) got a foot massage.  Not a bad thing to get at the top of a long hike.

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You can see that the village spills through the rice terraces.  The pathways through the village are windy and steep with lots and lots and lots of stairs.  Hence, the foot massage.

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While all of the less tough travelers were getting pampered with foot massages, Tate and I went in search of a spot to record a video.  I was supposed to record a quick video inviting people to join me in studio at my creativeLIVE workshop in Seattle on Dec 6th, The Efficient Photoshoot.  You can see the video we recorded by clicking here.  Tate was a great director.  We found some steps to rest the camera on and set up the recording.  Once we were back in Shanghai with an internet connection we were able to send the footage to creativeLIVE and let them edit it into a video.  We got a little slap happy toward the end and were making some jokes, but they were all cut out of the video.  Maybe that was for the better.

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Let this be a lesson to you.  When in China and you come upon a fruit stand that has an open bowl of fruits and snacks for purchase, it is very possible that the owner’s child has been licking every sing one of them for the past 10 minutes.  These are dried fruits of some kind and have a sugary dust all over them.  I watched this little guy lick the sugar off each and every one of these dried fruits.  I stood there for about ten minutes to see if anyone would stop him… nope.  He was in heaven.  So was I.

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She is always so serious.  I was so glad to capture this smile.  This was on one of the last days.  I think you just have to be around a child long enough and you will find the moment you are looking for.

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Documentary Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Slideshow Music by Roy Ashen, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Location: China

Thomas: A Child Portrait in Phoenix, Arizona

The Farm at South Mountain is a great place to get away from Phoenix for a while, even though it is five minutes from downtown.  There’s great food there for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  When I go there, I feel like I am back in my home town, minus some palm trees that are still visible there.  But mostly, it is a little working farm right in the middle of the valley.  I hope it never goes away.  So when a client wants something that doesn’t look like the desert, but doesn’t want to travel, this is a great spot.  Of course, there are fees associated with photographing here, so be prepared.

Thomas is a cute little kid.  I shot his parents wedding a few years back.  Like I’ve said before, it is always an honor to photograph the children of my wedding clients.  Thomas is a very curious and active little guy.  He’s got the walking thing down and he is like the energizer bunny, so we followed him around and sometimes, like in the case of this first photo, had to keep moving him back into position.  We would get a shot or two before he was off investigating something else.  But we got the shots and the light was absolutely perfect when we first arrived.

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I liked the color on the scene, but on this particular image, he moved into the light and the oranges from the sun were a bit too orange on his skin, so I elected to change it to black and white and loved what I got from it, so this one became black and white.  We could get the same beautiful black and white from all the other images, but this one needed to stay black and white, whereas the rest of the images in the series could be seen in either very well.

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Here is his on the go.

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The fruit kept him entertained for a few minutes so we went with it.

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What you don’t see is that the fruit was in his hand moments before.

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This is a Sun Devil Family.  I get that, because we are as well.  So we made a swap into Sun Devil gear and took a few final photos.  I love this shot.  There are more in the slideshow, but this was my favorite.  If you follow my work, you will note that I don’t find typical posed family portraits to be all that interesting.  And while we take them during the course of a shoot.  There are the images I like to pay attention to.  The mean more to me and to the people who are in them.  The typical posed stuff serves more as a record of what a family looked like at the time of the portrait and that’s about it.

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It is always such and honor to photograph the the children of my wedding clients.  Thanks Ashley and Darren for trusting me with yours.  He’s a cute kid.

Child Portrait by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Location: The Farm at South Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona

The Basha Family Portrait in Phoenix, Arizona

It’s been a while since I hung out with the Basha boys.  The youngest remind me so much of my youngest boy, so photographing them is a lot of fun.  Well, they seemed to have a good time too.  So I’m going to call it a success all around because we got some greta photos.  Here are my favorites from the day, along with a slideshow of the session.

I think their father was doing something behind me at this point and I think it had something to do with me… that’s ok.  I will take any kind of abuse to get the shot.

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This was an interesting choice.  There’s a lot of green back there that is beautiful, but only when the vines are the majority of the frame.  The composition I think is better when the building plays a greater role in the image, but the color of the building pulls you away from the family, so when they were in front of the vines, I kept the images in color, but when they are in front of the building, I turned the images to black and white with a sepia tone.  I much prefer the sepia toned image to the color anyway, but I can see the merits in the color images as well, so long as the building is not too prevalent in the image.

I tell write this out so that people can get a glimpse into my thinking as I make decisions for the image.  I suppose very few clients would have felt that something was wrong with the color version of the image, but I am certain that if shown the two side by side, the choice would be clear.  That being said, I don’t show them side by side, because I fortunately get to make the decisions…

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One of the most challenging things we do in a child portrait session is try to get a child to smile naturally.  If you tell them to smile, they give you a forced smile, which then makes you wish they would just go back to sullen.  So we go back and forth, smile, frown, smile, don’t smile, we tell jokes, parents act like monkeys, we tell them little lies about spaceships in our cameras, whatever we can do to distract them from thinking about forcing a smile.  Then, once in a great while, they break out the natural smiles.  The ones that say, “you’re funny daddy,” or that show the beginnings of bright eyed wonderment.  All the spent frames can then be dumped on the cutting room floor in favor of the little gems of personality we capture by shear will patience and will power and distraction, of course.

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He was pretty proud of himself, getting on that rock.  It required smashing a lot of flowers!

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This is my favorite shot of the older brother.  This was late into the portrait session, so by this point, he had gotten used to me and was able to let go a little.  The images always get more and more natural as the session goes on.  Imagine what a photo session is like when you spend all day, or three days with the family.  By the last day, the children don’t even know I am there.

I will be posting next, a family documentary portrait that lasted for 10 days in China.  If you have been following the other portraits I shot there, those were two hour sessions, as was this session.  But the family we were there to visit was the focus of my attention for ten days.  I’ll look forward to sharing the images with you.

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I love the fence in the background.  When I found this, I was sold on it and had to bring them here for a few shots.

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I love this image.

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This is not my image, I must admit.  It is one of the boys’ shots.  They wanted to take photos so badly, so I let them.  The camera is a bit too heavy for either of them, but I held the bulk of the weight and zone focused it and then let them frame and shoot the shot.  Not bad.  I don’t know which image was which boys, so we will just say this image was shot by the Basha Boys.  Good job guys.

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Thanks for hanging out with me.

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Family Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography.

Slideshow Music by Fisher, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.

Location: South Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona

Baby Smith: An Infant Portrait in Chandler, Arizona

It’s always an honor to photograph a new baby, but especially when it is the baby of a past wedding client.  This is baby Cameryn.  The very first baby to the Smiths, who were married in Sedona a couple years ago.  She was born while I was out of town, so the first image was taken by my associate Robin Lee, who is a very good family and child photographer.  She showed up at the hospital to get a couple shots of Cameryn’s first day in this world.  I think that any infant portrait is “more complete” with great photos early on in the baby’s life.  So when I book an infant portrait, I want to get some images from the hospital.  Most people think they will just get a couple snapshot of their own, but they don’t ever turn out very good, and it is such a historical moment, it just deserves to be captured right.

Thanks again to Robin for getting to the hospital to capture this first image while I was out of town.

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We then scheduled a portrait session at the Smith home a few weeks after the baby’s birthday.  This is the best time for infant portraits.  It gives the baby a chance to acclimate, but not enough time to grow, so when we take those size comparison shots of the baby’s hands and her father’s, it is still quite striking.

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We’re not sure what this look is, but it makes me laugh.

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She is beautiful.

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Yes, the baby is very religious and extremely precocious and is already reading the Bible.

This was something that Allison (mom) suggested.  There are a few issues to deal with on a shot like this.  First, focus on the appropriate words and the child at the same time, without having to great a depth of field… and if everything is sharp, you leave far too many options for the viewer which only creates visual confusion.  The other issue, is design.  How do you design a shot with an infant, and a book?  She’s obviously not going to be sitting up, holding the book and reading it.  I messed with this quite a bit while we were shooting trying to get a composition that I could get behind.  I like this one.

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I love the next two shots.  This was the last shot of the session and she was exhausted.  She fell asleep in this basket and we couldn’t, for the life of us get her to stir, we could reposition her like a little clay model and she would just stay there.  It was good for designing the shot.  And she was obviously enjoying the photo shoot as well.

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Infant Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography.

Hospital shot by Robin Lee.

Location: Chandler, Arizona.

Slideshow music by Cherie Call, Courtesy of Cherie Call.

Portraits from China: The Driggs Family

This is my 3rd post of the China portraits I shot in Shanghai, China.  A few more posts on China to come.

This series of portraits was taken at a Buddhist Temple in Shanghai, China.  The grounds were fairly spacious and offered a lot of great opportunities for backgrounds.  Both of the boys are young enough not to be all that interested in the surrounding architecture and symbolism, but they did enjoy the coy ponds and the many small walls and walking paths.

The slideshow has a lot of great images in it, but I was particularly interested in a small few for the purpose of discussing the lighting.  In the next image, we were on the back side of the property where the light was getting dimmer and softer.  The main light-source was the open (sunless) sky, what we could call “north light”, although I don’t know if it was truly the northern sky.  That open sky was to the child’s right and just behind him.  Notice, how the size of the light source helps to wrap around the child’s face, making smooth transitions extremely soft and smooth.  Of course the sky is a huge light source.  But if the sun were visible in the sky, the sun would become that light source and would create harsh shadows and would not be so pleasing.

I like this shot.  This little boy is always on the move and always paying attention to everything, not just where he’s going.  I think the image describes that well.  While he is climbing on the wall, he is still keeping track of everything else in the area.  Probably keeping tabs on his little brother…

Here is the little brother.  Those eyes were the subject of most of my photos with him.  This was the perfect outfit to intensify them.  That large open sky, makes a perfect light for portrait.  But notice that I am not shooting with him facing the open sky directly, which would flatten the subject.  Instead, the open sky is off to his left, my right.  The shadow side of his face is toward me.  The soft highlights are coming from his left .  It’s all about volume and depth.  Without some shadow, you have none of that.

OK.  I have been looking forward to writing about this photo for a while.  The basic scene here is lit by the open sky off to the children’s left (the camera’s right).  You can see the lighting effect on the boys’ faces.  Highlights on the right side of their noses, shadows on the left sides.    But there was one very real problem, the background was quite dark.  Everything back there was sucking up the light and with a thick canopy of trees over the background, the open sky was not lighting the back ground with the same exposure as the foreground.  In essence, it was a black hole.

Enter a small Canon 600 RT camera flash placed off camera to the camera’s left and behind the boys.  You can see the light’s glare in the top left corner of the frame.  It is also lighting the grass and the bushes in the background a bit and most importantly, it is catching the edge of the kids’ shoulders and hair to separate them from the background.  Without this little flash, the photo would not be worth showing.  But notice, I only needed one little light to get a very well exposed and expertly designed shot.  This shot could have been designed with many more lights to get practically the same shot, but why?  The point is, that one small, lightweight flash or even a flashlight can escalate the production value of the shot with very little additional cost or effort… efficiency isn’t just for post production.  Efficiency during a photo shoot is just as critical.

If you are interested in these issues, I am teaching a free workshop called The Efficient Photo Shoot online at CreativeLIVE.com on Dec 6-8, 2012, where we will be demonstrating these very concepts.

This kids started running around and around on this little path and I realized, my light from the first shot could still be used to accomplish the same goal right where it was.  It just had to be turned slightly.  With Karen Liu at the light, that was easily done.  I ran to my new position and told the kids to keep circling the path and kept firing away as the got into the positions I liked.  I think they must have run around that path 50 times, over and over, which was good for me, I needed a lot of opportunities to get the right shot.  And good for mom, they must have slept well that night!

I love how the light cascades across the long grass and kisses the little one’s cheeks.  Imagine, without the light, his little hand would be completely lost in the shadow of the trees.

Now, with the open sky light coming from camera left and the flash also on the left, behind him, the light wraps all the way around his left side.  This makes for an even softer look because the rim light is not so pronounced and looks more like a slightly brighter continuation of the sky light.  Again, volume is created by the direction of the light.  The shot is slightly dramatic, but still pleasingly soft.  I love these shots.  If I had gotten nothing but this little series of shots in the tall grasses here, I would have been trilled.

 Child Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Shanghai, China

Slideshow Music by Fisher, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Portraits from China:: The Liu-McGee Family

This is my second post of portrait sessions from Shanghai, China.  You will see, we are in a different spot for every photo session and all of them are very unique, as are the photos themselves.  I try not to follow too much of a pattern when shooting sessions.  I want them all to have their own unique flair…

Karen Liu, mother of three great kids and an aspiring photographer, booked a photo session as a learning experience.  So, we shot a little less and spent a lot of time learning.  I took her through my thought process for shooting and lighting on the street with both natural light and additive flash lighting.  We also talked about compositional choices and selecting the appropriate camera settings.  All things I will be teaching in my upcoming free workshop at CreativeLIVE on December 6-8, 2012.  We got to the market in Shanghai, China early enough to avoid the throngs of shoppers and pedestrians that make this place a purely claustrophobic experience during the business hours.  This also gave us great light, since the market is a canyon of traditional Chinese style buildings (I say that with absolutely no understanding of “Chinese architectural styles” but when you look at the images you will understand what I mean).

In this first shot, we had 360 degrees of choices for the shot, but one gave us the best lighting for a complete existing light portrait.  Notice that the strongest instance of sun is coming from behind the kids which gives us the rim light coming from behind them.  Behind me is a large building with a light wall which is reflecting indirect light onto the kids, so, we have beautiful soft light coming forward on them.  So in an instance like this one, all that is required is the correct exposure at the camera.  No additional light is needed to get a nice shot.

As we got further and further into the morning, it got more and more crowded.  I love crowds for portraits, because you get all sorts of additional people in the shot.  If you wait for the “right” person, you get get juxtapositions.  I love this one.  Karen (mom) also loves this street photography style work, so I suspect she will love this one as well.

We stopped for a Chinese snack after the shoot.  I am not this good at chopsticks!!!

This is one of my favorites from the session because I identify with it!  My kids hang on me whenever I am shooting and they are around.  I am sure any of you parents out there with small children experience the same situation.  I think they do it because they know you are not paying attention to them.  Hanging on you seems to force the attention their direction.

Incidentally, I have the same problem when I am traveling with adults.  I get to taking photos and all my attention becomes focused on the shot.  So my wife and all the other adults with me tend to get annoyed with my lack of attention.  So, if you have a photographer in your life… just know that they still love you, even when they seem to be ignoring you.  Want their attention?  Take the camera out of their hand.

Children’s Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Shanghai, China

Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Subject: Photographer Karen Liu

Portraits from China: The Sloan Family

Today starts a series of Portraits taken in China.  I will be posting once each day for the the next few days.  Today, I will introduce you to the Sloan Family.  We went to the Former French Concession in Shanghai, China for a walk with the family.  The Former French Concession is unlike anything else in Shanghai.  Enormous trees canopy the streets and you feel like you are on a street in Europe, except that there are an awful lot of Chinese nationals running around…

The kids were great to work with.  They are extremely expressive and are pleasant children.  So, they make for easy subjects.  Something I had not accounted for, though, was the Chinese people’s fascination with blonde hair.  The boys are all ultra blonde, so these kids are a hit everywhere they go and attract a lot of attention, so we had a lot of people staring.  Fortunately, they were less invasive of our personal space since we looked all official as we shot the photos.  But, it is a common occurance to have the Chinese people run up and take their photo next to your child if you have a blonde child…  Anyway, that is one thing I could have never anticipated about the cultural change between the US and China.

This first shot is pushing the composition, but I really responded to it.  It has a lot of energy and movement in it.  I had to include it as one of my favorites.

I seem to recall some question when we first met being raised about her blouse.  Was it a good choice, etc.  I liked it and now I see why.  That soft pink matches her so well.  You can see that same shade highlighting her cheeks and in her lips.

The light here was quite perfect too.  Everything was soft.  Shanghai is an extremely hazy city (due to it being very polluted), but that works well for portrait light.  Then, the buildings, keep any direct light from hitting the subject and the canopy of trees keeps the light from the sky from being too bright (creating raccoon eye shadows).  So the main light source is reflected and filtered light coming from the street to her right and from behind here.  This puts the shadow of her face forward, creating an alternating light pattern on her face shadow, light, shadow, light.  In this case, it is simply about seeing the right light as it exists and exposing for it.  No other lighting necessary.  It’s simple light, but very pleasing.

There’s the curly blonde hair that is the ultimate stand out in China.  I have a shot or two with his head up, but I love this shot.  I think a lot of who we are comes from our hair, when we have unique tops.  I am completely bald.  That is quite identifying and I tend to wear that proudly (as I wear most things).  So hair like this is also worn with pride, and makes a major identifying mark on a person.  I’m pretty sure he loves his hair.  Who wouldn’t!

There are the trees.  Minus the all the cars on the street, this was a perfect place for photos.  I had to constantly re-frame to avoid too many cars and people.  I love the look on his face.

Talk about expressive.  The youngest boy is great.  I know Mr. and Mrs. Sloan were a bit worried that he was getting out of line or that he was not being cooperative, but sometimes a character like this has to be set free so you can get those great shots.  And it’s not all just about the funny faces.  It’s about all of the expressions you will see in this post.  Taking a photo of a child is an art in and of itself, and the art is based in knowing how far to push and when to let go of that control.  There has to be a good balance of discipline and freedom to get the expressions and still maintain control over the photo shoot.  The Sloans had the balance and it shows in the final results.

Now that is a shot for the wall!

I love the light on this image and the texture.

This is the Shanghai sky line on one of the only clear days we had in the city.  So we had to take the opportunity to shoot with the skyline in the background.  The first day we got there, we came to this spot and could see only the shadows of the buildings through the smog.  I’ll post those photos later this week.

The light on this shot is simple.  I exposed for the ambient light from the sky and the buildings in the background, but that leaves the family in dark shadow (not silhouette).  So some additional light was needed.  A Canon 600 RT flash does the trick.  It is off camera right just above head level.  That provides all the light needed to match the exposure of the buildings.  Notice that I put the flash to the side that mimics the direction of light hitting the buildings.  You can see this best on the tallest building in the city.  The shadow is on the left, the highlight on the right.  The same is happening on the family’s faces.  Highlights on the right, shadows on the left.  Put the flash on the other side and it would start to look a little strange.

And this is The Bund.  Look a big like London?  That’s because the English built this part of the city.  I like this photo as well.  It’s shot at 6400 ISO f2.5 at 1/125 of a second with no flash.  This is a risky shot.  You don’t always get it right when you play at low shutter speeds and wide apertures.  But it worked and I love the shot.  The thing is, like everything in life, if you always play it safe, you get predictable shots that are good enough, but the truly fantastic shots come from accepting some risk and accepting some failures to achieve the great shots.  Did I get every shot in this series?  Not even close, but I got three from it, that I liked.  Is everyone tack sharp?  No, I’m shooting at f2.5 at 1/125.  But the photo is strong, there are a few people in the focus plane and the rest become supporting actors in a very cool documentary shot that I love.  I’ll have to see whether the Sloans love it, but I suspect they will…

 

Family Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Shanghai, China

Slideshow Music by Mindy Gledhill, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Black and White Infant Portrait for the Mulligans

I photographed Meghan and Hugh’s wedding a few years back and was thrilled to drop by to meet the newest mini-Muliigan.  Wylie is a serious boy.  Or at least he was serious about our photo shoot, which I think makes him look quite handsome.  Here are some of my favorite images from the photo shoot at the Mulligan home in Phoenix, Arizona.

I loved the shirt.  Had to get that into the shot for sure.

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I ended up with very few color images from this infant portrait shoot.  I am a  firm believer that color should only exist in a photograph if it is driving the photograph.  I thought that the majority of the images were better seen in black and white, which also makes those left in color stand out even more.  I am pleased with the results.

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Wylie has a very cool nursery, filled with cute little monsters and a large chalk board wall.  He’s going to enjoy that when he becomes aware that drawing on walls in most homes is a bad thing…  Not in the Mulligan house.  Hugh is a graphic artist.  So…

 

This is by far one of my favorites.  Not only is it a favorite of the photo shoot, I think it is a favorite of images like it.  The difference between the father’s hands and the baby’s foot is quite stark and the rich black and white contrast helps to push that concept even further.

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Here are Wylie’s little monster friends.  That is a colorful photo.

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That is a big baby, born on a very good day!  Father’s day.

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Infant portrait photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography.

Slideshow music by Cherie Call, courtesy of Cherie Call.

Location: Home, Phoenix, Arizona

Collins: An Infant Portrait in Chandler, Arizona

I’m in my office, listening to music, posting images of Collins, the beautiful new baby to Pat and Laney, who are were married about a year ago.  My own family is traveling, visiting family, and I just received a phone message from my little girl.  Someday soon, Collin is going to be leaving her daddy goodnight messages an breaking his heart with her cute little voice.  Right now, she is melting his heart by sleeping in his arms.  I love my work.

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I was fortunate enough to be in town and available when Laney delivered her baby, so I was able to come to the hospital and see them.  These are some of my favorite images.  Day one is a miracle beyond belief.

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I always love the little hats on the first day.  Maybe the baby’s don’t love them.  Not sure we’ll ever know.  One of these days, a baby is going to start talking on day one and we’ll get the full scoop.  Until then, we’ll keep putting hats on them.

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A few weeks later, we shot her official portraits.  She was exhausted right from the start.  Everything was shot in her home.  I loved the textured wall paper in the family room, so we put together a little photo op for her there.

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She looks so peaceful.  I enjoyed the ruffled tutu in the foreground.

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Now, that is a well styled dresser.  Cute items and a cute little baby.  That blanket is super soft.  We worked on Collins’ position a bit, but she likes to sleep a little more spread out.  I think she looks quite comfortable.  In fact, I would have taken a nap there, but the dresser would have tipped over and the piggy bank is too fragile to fall that far.

Oh and a great composition.  For the photographers out there, notice how every frame edge is playing with the shape of the dresser.  On the top and left, the negative space is creating great shapes.  On the right, the frame is toying with the center support for the shelves and on the bottom, the frame is interacting with the opened drawer.  Framing is very important to every photograph.  I can’t emphasize that enough.  When you are shooting a photo, pay attention to all four frame edges before you take the shot.

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I enjoyed watching Pat with his daughter.  This shot is a pretty good description of that relationship.

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If you are going to catch Collins awake, this is the time to do it.  I was so glad to grab this shot.

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I always love seeing a baby’s nursery.  It ways a lot about the mother (usually – sometimes the father is involved).  Collins’ nursery was decked out!  This wall was great.

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The pink and the grey is a great color combination and I love the bling encrusted mirror.  And there is sleeping beauty again.

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Little fingers and little toes.  No matter how many times I take a shot or look at a photograph of them, I am always amazed by the miracle of these tiny little things!

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Thank you for including me Pat and Laney in this wonderful event in  your life.  She is beautiful.

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I’ve enjoyed looking at these images.  So many great keepers.  What a life.

Infant portrait by Jared Platt, Platt Photography.

Slideshow music by Cherie Call, courtesy of Cherie Call.

Location: Chandler, Arizona