I had the great pleasure of being asked to speak at a monthly guild meeting of the Professional Photographers of Orange County last week in Santa Ana, CA and then teach a day long workshop the following day on my Black & White Children’s Character Portraits. One the the great things about teaching is I always learn something new while teaching others!
My Black & White Children’s Character portraits started out essentially as baseball pictures where I drew on inspiration from the movie “The Sandlot” – if you haven’t seen the “The Sandlot” it’s one of the great coming of age baseball kid movies of all time – at least in my opinion.
The baseball themed shots are some of my favorites to make, but every now again again I’ll get some requests to do something kid character related, but something I’ve never done before and this past week in Orange County was no exception. The mother of the children that provided us with models to photograph during the workshop asked if it would be possible to do something of each of her kids that was still authentic but maybe different than baseball. We had briefly chatted after the guild meeting the night before the workshop. That is when she let me know that her oldest son was into swimming and that that she had some old cowboy cap gun pistols that were family heirlooms that she would like to do something with her two and half year old son, along with some gymnastics of her daughter. I thought these would be great pictures to make in addition to the baseball pictures.
The above picture is what I came up with as a character swim portrait for her son. A little glycerin and water along with a swim cap and goggles yielded this picture, and one of my favorites from the workshop. We have an authentic look, without an authentic mess of water in the studio space we were using, which was the California Center for Photography and Digital Arts and a fantastic facility to do our workshop. I’ll be looking for additional kids who swim and the parents who may want to portrait to preserve this moment in their swim careers.
It took us a few takes to figure out how to portrait a back bend over in a picture, but the above picture is what I came up with. I had to rethink how to place the light to get pleasing light on this young ladies face, but once I figured out placement it was magic from that point forward. This young lady had modeled for us the night before as a baseball player, as really wasn’t too keen on getting dirty again. So I wanted to show case her great expression in a unique way so for the final presentation I flipped the image upside down so we can enjoy her expression, but then also be captivated by how her arms and legs are positioned, almost like a tulip flower. So this shot taught me a few things about light placement for gymnasts to still get a great portrait while they demonstrate what they do.
Lastly – we had this little guy who mom dressed up as a cowboy sheriff, he was having nothing to do with pictures with a hat on until the end when I had an opportunity to make a few frames. Experience has taught me that when photographing this challenging age that sometimes it has to be their idea rather than anyone else’s. I’ve also learned that if you watch for the moment it will happen rather than trying to force it to happen. That was the exact case with this little guy and he expression is just perfect!
I want to again think the Professional Photographers of Orange County for inviting me down to speak and teach. The importance of inperson education is invaluable for the networking with other photographers, being able to ask questions, and making new friends. I can’t wait to teach again later this summer!