Not long after school started, here in Nashville, my kids were sent home with the dreaded portrait envelope. As a photographer I understand the importance of taking your child’s picture, but I just can’t help but cringe at the uniformness of them. The portraits are boring and lack personality, not to mention overpriced and often amateurish. So my solution is to take school portraits myself.
I’ve done the whole college class thing on studio lighting, the best poses, but I just really hate the whole indoor setup, so I do what I do best. Let them loose, and chase them down. It can be a curse, but I prefer natural lighting, i.e the giant ball of fire in the sky. A few small reflectors in different materials help remove random unwanted shadows, as long as you have a helper, if not, a simple shift or angle can change the entire image. A few sample shots in the beginning will help give you a generalized idea of where the settings should be on your camera, and when dealing with young children, a fast auto focusing lens is a must.
Location and time of day played a large role in my portrait session. I knew I would be running in circles with my kids so a location in a wide open area with no major distractions that would not require heavy use of Photoshop. I also wanted to shoot early in the morning so the shadows would be softer. The gates were locked on the first location until the afternoon, so we had to move on the next spot on the list, which happens to be a popular spot for Nashvillians. The Belle Meade Overlook with its sprawling stone stairways in the Edwin and Percy Warner Parks. The stone structures provided an interesting backdrop and there was only one direction I had to avoid to keep out city clutter.
The kids were constantly moving and I missed a few shots due to bad focusing but the end results were well worth it. Canvas ready images that show their personalities, favorite toys, and in an environment a lot less sterile than the classroom.