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Thread: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

  1. #1

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    On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    My goals are to:
    1. Get back some technical skills I've lost in being absent from SLR photography and printing (now photoshopping) for the past 10 years
    2. Develop a style of lifestyle/semi-photojournalistic portraits of kids/families with kids.
    3. Practice on my own kids and my friends' kids and eventually go semi-pro with it.

    I know how VERY KEY lighting is...and I've read all about lighting for portraits (my earlier photo passion was architecture but in those 10 years I was "absent" I had 2 kids and my passion has now changed). And I see all the beautiful loop-lighting portraits and ones using either off-camera speedlite or reflectors.

    But my issue is that I want to stay as much out of the way as possible. I want as authentic shots as I can get. Without assistants or holding up large reflecting discs that will pull a kids attention and thus detract from the lifestyle photography I want to develop.

    So long story short I need to be a primarily natural light/on-camera speedlite photographer. But how can I get that interesting directional lighting with kids moving around in their environment and me being a "fly on the wall" photographing? I know how to pose them with the sun and other light sources to get that effect...but I don't want to pose them and kids don't always naturally face the most flattering way. And I know how to bounce my on-camera speedlite, but when we're outside, there's not always a handy wall/floor/ceiling to bounce it off.

    Any suggestions, books to read, websites to visit, etc. would be much appreciated!

    Thanks!
    Last edited by kellymdempewolf; 5th January 2012 at 05:01 AM.

  2. #2
    Goldcoastgolfer's Avatar
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    Re: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    Tell them to move to the light you want to capture them in They'll keep playing in the general area if there's something interesting to do. It doesn't always work but its one way to do it if you find some really interesting light.

    One of the other things i do when I can't get ideal lighting is to over expose the shot and then do some creative post processing. It often means ending up with a brighter background than I would like but I can dim some of the background with some gradient adjustments to make the light still look natural in Lightroom.

    Of course, what i do isn't probably technically correct but I've never been great at following rules

  3. #3
    Ricco's Avatar
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    Re: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    Have a look at this link - it isn't what you are specifically chasing but I like the idea near the bottom of having the soccer player weaving in and out of the light. This fits with your idea of a bit of authenticity mixed with great light.
    http://strobist.blogspot.com/2011/12...gh-sunset.html

    If you can figure out what lighting and positioning of the camera is best for a particular scenario, then half the battle is won.

  4. #4
    Ricco's Avatar
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    Re: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    And one more Kelly - again, may not be specifically related but this guy offers an interesting point of view on available light and photography styles.

    http://photo.net/learn/wedding/weddi...-jeff-ascough/

  5. #5
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    Re: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    A hotshoe flash mounted on the camera and bounced using a diffuser/reflector such as the Flash Diffuser Pro or a DIY model can provide lighting that looks like you have shot with available light.

    Using the flash with the long end toward your subject rather than positioning the flash parallel to your subject and with the diffuser/reflector at the end of the flash will allow you to switch from landscape (horizontal) to portrait (vertical) camera position with minimum adjustment of the flash position. As shown below:

    On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    If you use a reflector with an adjustable angle, you can compensate for different ceiling heights or even no ceiling off which to bounce. As shown below:

    On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    Shooting with a flash allows you to use a smaller f/stop allowing a greater DOF and the flash, indoors, will freeze the motion of your subject.

    Shooting active kids or dogs using available light at f/1.4 or so and a relatively slow shutter speed because of low light levels is quite difficult.

  6. #6

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    Re: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    From my somewhat limited experiences with the sort of photography you mention, Kelly. I have found that shooting in the same manner that I regularly use for wildlife often produces the best results.

    So, unless there are definite and suitable flash bounce surfaces, forget about this method. Yes, under controlled conditions it can produce excellent shots but I have found that for quick 'no thinking time' shots it can produce as many problems as it solves.

    What I do is to set my camera up using manual controls which are chosen to suit the scene. For example, what is the ideal shutter speed and aperture, ignoring the fact that flash will be used. Then pick an ISO to try to bring those settings a little closer to a flashable range.

    Remember that you may need to use high speed flash for faster action shots; and this can have some limitations over the flash output range.

    Set the flash unit to ETTL and adjust the flash compensation as required.

    If your basic settings are suitable, the flash output should automatically set itself to something workable and you just need to vary the compensation amount to suit varying scenes and substantial changes to the ambient light, which should come with practice.

    Whether you use some form of softbox etc with your flash is open for discussion. Personally, I usually think that for most quick and variable shots I prefer to use the straight flash and keep adjusting the flash compensation instead. But there are good reasons both for and against this.

  7. #7

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    Re: On-the-fly lighting advice for lifestyle-type portraits of kids

    Thank you all so much for you input...I'll continue trying new things and practicing.

    And the thought that taking pics of kids is similar to wildlife made me giggle...my kids remind me of wildlife often!

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