Chandler, Arizona Family Portrait by Jared Platt

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

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

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

A Behind the Scenes Tour at the Phoenix Zoo

A Trip to the Zoo from Jared Platt on Vimeo.

I spent the day at the Phoenix Zoo with Freeman and his friends and family. We were able to see behind the scenes a little and even feed the animals. It was a fun day.

Photography by: Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Music by: Nancy Falkow – I Wish You Love, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music.