My aim with this blog (and I might still be learning how to do this best) is to share some of the ideas that go into my work (among many other things too). I just finished having my viewing session with Margaret, mamma of this family of five. They’re all over the place, Butch and Mark live in Forbes, Kellie is here in Canberra with her mum and Emma lives up north in Darwin. They were all together here for Margaret’s 60th, and decided to mark the occasion with a beautiful family portrait…enter…me.
I always ask a new family to tell me about themselves, their story and the elements that make up their lives. I’m not big on pretty portraits in pretty locations for the sake of it, there’s no challenge in that for me. I like setting the challenge of tailoring what I do for each family I meet…I much rather inject something personal into the session for the family, so there are layers of meaning in the photographs we create. I think I grow more as an artist that way and the people know they’ve had a very personal experience.
Essentially this family is a country family. They’re very earthy, dogs running around everywhere, and they’re kinda incomplete without the pups…so as Margaret was explaining all of this to me I conjured up images in my mind of the family with an outdoor setting, the bush ideally, with the dogs in tow. Perfect, she was happy with this arrangement and willing to be guided by my preferences. We all got together on a sunny sunday morning near her house here in Canberra, where we’re blessed with many beautiful, rustic, bush-like outdoor spaces.
It was a full on bright morning, so I kept everyone’s backs to the sun, for smooth, calm lighting on their faces. By the end of the photo session, we came to a calm time where I could have everybody rest nicely together for a group portrait. I’m never too big on the ole-pole-up-the-bum scenario, so I was pleased that the mood was right to photograph everyone together (and no easy task as Mark was rather…shall we say…resistent…).
Then in post production I continued on my mission to produce photographs that were appropriate for the personality of the family. I had in my mind’s eye something reminiscent of the old west photos from 100 years ago, all sort of sepia and faded at the edges. I gave the images some warm tones in the highlights and a touch of earthy green (very little) in the shadows, to add interest tonally. Colour wasn’t an option at all. Everyone’s just in blue jeans and neutral colours, the blue sky distracts as does all the tree action. The colour photo at the left is straight from the camera, a bit blah, doesn’t do it for me, but the elements are right. So black and white with some tonal work was the best option in the end. After four sessions of assessment and refinement, I had the collection ready for Margaret.
…four dogs?? Was I mad? Maybe, but it was fun…
How do you approach photographing people? Show me some before and afters, I’d love to see how you make your creative decisions.
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Thank you for reading, it means a lot to me that you’ve stopped by. Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.