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
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.
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.
She has such beautiful curly hair. She was so much fun to photograph.
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.
Children’s Portraits by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music
Location: Park in Scottsdale, 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Slideshow Music by Roy Ashen, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music
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.
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.
Here is his on the go.
The fruit kept him entertained for a few minutes so we went with it.
What you don’t see is that the fruit was in his hand moments before.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
He was pretty proud of himself, getting on that rock. It required smashing a lot of flowers!
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.
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.
I love this image.
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.
Thanks for hanging out with me.
Slideshow Music by Fisher, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.
Location: South Mountain, Phoenix, Arizona
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.
Location: Shanghai, China
Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music
Subject: Photographer Karen Liu
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…
Location: Shanghai, China
Slideshow Music by Mindy Gledhill, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music