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It is rare that I get any significant amount of time alone with either one of my twins. I love getting to know them as individuals. Most of the time spent with my daughter, Clover, without her twin brother or their older sister is spent somewhere in or near the children’s hospital. Luckily yesterday it was just for a check up. When we were walking back to the car, the sun was out and we had at least 2 more hours left of free parking (Four hour free street parking is about as rare as time spent with a twin alone!) so we took a detour into the huge park that surrounds the hospital.
I had my camera with me (as I almost always do) and even though it was noon, my little model was in the mood for photos. When photographing kids, you really need to be prepared to work in any light because the best photographs happen on their schedule…not just during the gorgeous magic hour before sunset.
The key to shooting at noon is knowing how to modify the light. In this case, the park had a lot of little groupings of leafy trees that worked as open shade. There are a few things to watch out for when using natural locations like this to flag overhead light.
First issue is dappling. Make sure you scan the ground and your subject’s face for hot spots where the sun has made it directly through the break in some leaves. In this case, I had my daughter move just a little bit to a spot where the light was all even as there was one beam of sunlight hitting her cheek.
The second is reflected colors. Sun hitting grass will bounce unflattering shades of green up into your subject’s face. The spot I found here had a whole patch of tan bark mulch directly in front of my daughter where lay down to take the shot. If that is not the case where you are, consider using a tan or off white towel or blanket. Spread in front of your subject, it will bounce just enough light back for a bit of fill without causing squints nor color cast. It is also a lot more comfortable to lie on than mulch…trust me.
A third thing to watch out for is white balance. I was taking the easy road out here because we were just playing and did auto white balance. Normally I would use a custom white balance setting to give all images in one lighting situation a consistent color. Even if the white balance that you set is a little bit off, with consistent color in the set of images all taken in the same lighting conditions you can easily batch correct them all in your editing program to save time.
This shot was a bit on the cool side, but I added a quick warming fix in Photoshop. In fact, the only other thing I did in Photoshop to this photo was take out two spots of eczema from her forehead. All of my daily life photography of my kids is shot in jpeg. I am not here to debate RAW versus jpeg, At the risk of losing my (non-existent) secret professional photographer membership card, I shoot mostly jpegs. When it comes to my daily life photo blogging, I am a mom of three with limited time. Since I can fine tune the Picture Controls on my D3 to produce images that come straight out of the camera looking very close to how I want them to look, I save time (that I don’t really have anyway) on post processing. (The D3 has two memory card slots, so with clients, I shoot RAW and jpeg…everyone relax, no one call the photo police!)
Back to shooting at noon. The last thing that was an issue was sunflare. Even though the area where my subject was seated was in shade, I needed to flag the lens. When the light coming through the trees hit my lens, I got that tell-tale line of bright circles diagonally across my image that is sunflare. I did like the way the sun hit the tall grass that was in between me and my daughter. With the wide aperture and long focal length, the grasses turned into a warm streak in the foreground and the shadow of my hand over the lens kept the sun from hitting the sensor.
If I had an assistant and needed to shoot a client at noon, I would make sure to bring reflectors and my external flash for more control of the light. But just like most everything as a busy mom, I made what I had to work with work for me.
For more on the topic of Kids Photogrpahy – Check out Rachel’s eBook Click! How to Take Gorgeous Photos of Your Kids. Also check out her brand new Life in Natural Light eBook (which currently comes with some great bonuses for early birds).
Rachel Devine is an international commercial kid photographer and daily life photo blogger from the states. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia. Rachel and Peta Mazey are the photography duo behind “Beyond Snapshots”. They teach and mentor (in person and online) photographers of all levels on how to take better photographs of life. Their book will be published next year on Amphoto/Random House.