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When I was in Colombia last month, my photography team took on the challenge of photographing portraits for an entire orphanage full of adorable and energetic children. We had about 20 minutes one morning to photograph all 60 or so kids. There would be no other opportunity to do so again, so we had to be spot on the first time.
Envision: On location. 5 photographers. 60 kids.
We had about 15 minutes to organize and prepare. Ultimately we wanted all the photos to have a cohesive but creative series so the orphanage could use them later. Here is the workflow we developed for a smooth and organized portrait shoot.
The first backdrop we chose was the side of a distressed wood building. The warmer tones were pretty, but after some discussion, we decided that the building was not true to “Colombia” – the audience may think the photos were from any rural place in the world. To make it more unique to Colombia, we chose a path between two buildings, with Colombian bush in the background.
Sunlight is known to change within just a few minutes. While we didn’t want every portrait to look cookie cutter, we did want the lighting to be unified across all the portraits. We could have had the children stand in the direct light, but settled on the shade cast from the side of a building. We also added a reflector to even out the skin tones and capture beautiful catch lights.
To fly through a set of portraits without making them all the same, have a list of poses you can draw from. With 12 or so number of poses, you can change up little details to make each pose unique – such as how a hand is placed or the angle of the head.
Even though multiple photographers were shooting, we wanted all the portraits to have a unity about them so there was not a distinction between photographers. We placed all the cameras on the same settings to achieve these results.
The most challenging part of a speed shoot is having the ability to make every child smile in a matter of seconds. The person who is the most engaging and entertaining ought to be the one directing the child’s attention. Genuine smiles are always the best for portraits, but it’s not always easy to capture.
Our speed shoot was a smashing success. Every element we worked through in the organization ultimately yielded portraits of each child that were beautiful and authentic. I for one, and more than pleased with the results.
Note: Images of Children withheld for privacy