Child Life Portraits by Jared Platt, Taken in Shanghai, China

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

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

Portrait of Children in the Woods in Gilbert Arizona

My First Edit on Snapseed Desktop App by NIK Software: Way to Go Guys

Portrait of Children in the Woods in Gilbert Arizona

If you have not used Snapseed on your iPhone or iPad, you are missing out on the best mobile device photography application on the planet. The program is made by NIK Software. The biggest problem with the app was that I could only use it on my mobile device. Well, all of that has changed. Now it is available on the desktop computer on the Mac AppStore. Don’t worry, those of you who are still using the abacus-I mean a PC, it will be coming soon.

This is my second photo made with the desktop application. I love it. It feels just like the mobile app, and it also handles RAW photos.

About the photo: We went out into the pecan groves in Gilbert, Arizona with our good friend Brandt, Brandt Photography to take a family portrait. While we were there, I got this shot of the kids waiting to have their portrait taken in their winter animal hats.

Way to go NIK Software! You make great stuff.

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography
Location: Gilbert, Arizona

A Few Shots from A Family Portrait Session

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The most challenging part of any family or child portrait session is the child.  This little guy was not all that interested in the photo session, but he loved throwing oranges.  So, guess what he did throughout the session… that’s right, he gathered and threw oranges.  And that is perfectly fine.  A happy child, makes for a great portrait.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to allow children to enjoy themselves during a portrait session.  Try to control them and they will always win that battle.  Want to win the battles?  Don’t fight them.  Go with the flow and great things happen in a portrait session.

PS, I do not advocate letting children call the shots in raising children, just in photographing them.
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 Child-Portrait-3

The real key to this photo shoot was scouting.  We were on a time schedule: so we needed a location near the family’s home in Mesa, AZ, and it needed to look good in the morning light.  I had only one afternoon free for scouting locations, which meant that I had to use my experience, guided by my iPhone compass and sunrise calculator to calculate where the sun would rise and where and how it would strike the various locations.  Finally, this location won out because of the ease of access for the family, protection from direct sunlight and beauty.  You certainly wouldn’t think you were in the middle of a city.

And of course, the props were perfect.  Crates, baskets, benches, oranges and a red flyer wagon helped pull the whole thing together.