Street Portraits of Children in Shanghai, China

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 by Jared Platt in Shanghai, China

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

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Nathan: A Senior Portrait, Queen Creek, Arizona

Nathan is a Senior at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona.  We made the drive to Queen Creek to take advantage of an old abandoned warehouse and some farmland for his senior portraits.  I keep asking myself why photographers like old broken things and the best thing I can come up with is that we love texture.  I think I also have an interest in the history of an object or a location.

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

I love the drama on this shot.  No lights, just one large door opening up to a large bay with indirect light filtering through.  There is a lot of volume in the image.

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Softer light as we headed out into the bay, which was perfect to capture this genuine smile.

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

I thought the guitar shots needed a little funkification, so I went for a slight cross process look.  I think it worked well.

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Needless to say, this lone tree was calling to me as we shot.

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

I love the warmth of this sunset.  It just feels like the world is on fire.  And Nathan… doesn’t care…

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Senior portrait in Queen Creek, Arizona of Hamilton High School Senior

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Queen Creek, Arizona

Slideshow Music: Roy Ashen, “What Can I Say” Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

Baby Boy Bailey: An Infant Portrait, Gilbert, Arizona

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

I got a call from my great friend and fantastic photographer, Isaac Bailey, asking me to come over and photograph his new baby boy.  Congratulations Heather!

Of course, the thing we photographers deal with is that we can take plenty of pictures of our children, but we never seem to be in them…  I completely understood how Isaac was feeling, so I dropped everything and went over.  We got some fantastic infant portraits.  The first one (above) is my very favorite.  I think it describes Isaac very well: a strong man with a very soft heart.

The next image is perfect.  Isaac has large hands, which was good because Baby Boy Bailey (that is still his official name on the records) has very long feet, so making them look super tiny requires BIG hands.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

Baby Boy Bailey (I love calling him by that name, I think I will always call him BB) was very sleepy.  So we had a time getting him to open his eyes, but with some patience, we got a few shots of him with his eyes open.  Sleepy, but open.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

I love the yawn.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

This has to be my second favorite image from the infant portrait session.  I love the contrast between Isaac’s beard, his rough carpenter hands and the baby’s soft skin.  And of course, the tender kiss seals the importance of the image.  Nothing is more precious than a kiss on a baby’s cheek or forehead.  That connection can not be over stated.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

Isaac wanted to make sure we captured a few images with the hospital band in them.  I completely agree.  I think I wore my hospital band for weeks after my daughter was born.  Anyway, this image does such a great job of showing off that hospital band.  It is definitely one of the major characters in this image, but doesn’t over power the other players, like BB Bailey and his dad’s hand.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

The size relationship of a father’s thumb and his baby’s hand should be one of the wonders of the world.  I am always amazed that those little fingers work just like mine do.  BB Bailey also has long fingers.  This boy will be a very tall concert pianist.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

Feeding time is a precious moment.

Infant Portrait in Gilbert, Arizona - Baby Boy, 1 Day Old

Congratulations to Heather and Isaac Bailey on their brand new baby boy.  He is precious.

Infant Portrait by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Gilbert, Arizona

By the way, Isaac Bailey is not only a great photographer… he designed and built this blog!