The world’s your portrait studio.

It’s coming up to one of the biggest family events of the year, Christmas, and at events like Christmas lots of family portraits are taken.  You might even be trying out the new digital camera you got as a present.

You can’t always be in a professional photography studio, but if you treat the whole world as a portrait photography studio, and take advantage of the light, you can get great images.  Here are some shots of a little girl at a family event, a wedding, to show you what I mean.

"Directional light" by Derek Gale

She was waiting quietly on a sofa while the bride was getting ready.  The light from a window was falling across her face giving a softly directional look.  The pale sofa reflected some light back and filled the shadows.

There’s a temptation to always use your camera’s built-in flash when photographing people indoors, and often the camera chooses to turn it on for you.  Direct on-camera flash would have given a very harsh light, and produced an image that was much less successful than this one.  It’s useful to read your camera’s manual and find out how to turn the flash off.

"Diffuse light" by Derek Gale

Outside on a sunny day the light can be very strongly directional, with very bright highlights and very dark shadows.  It’s often better to find a place where there’s lots of light but that’s out of direct sunlight.  This image was taken in a stone arbour with lots of lovely light-coloured stone reflecting the light everywhere.  The light was very diffuse, and out of shot there was a white table that gave a nice catch light in her eyes.

"Rules of Connect 4?" by Derek Gale

As a contrast to the two quiet portraits, here’s one where she was playing with a giant “Connect 4” set.  She wasn’t exactly using it as its makers had intended, she was simply throwing the pieces up in the air and catching them.  The game’s rules didn’t matter; she was having fun.  I waited till she had just thrown a playing piece, and chose a shutter speed that would give a bit of movement blur.  It’s a great informal outdoor portrait.

"Wedding playground" by Derek Gale

This last image brings in the boys too.  Also at a wedding, he was playing on the floor at the reception.  I dropped down quite close to the ground to get a good viewpoint; I had to move fast as he was all over the place!  I used a pop of flash bounced off a wall to balance the natural daylight and fill in the shadows.  It’s given a very natural portrait of a young boy at play, but it could have been taken in a portrait studio.

So, the world is one great big photography studio.  If you would like to learn how to use it to take better family portraits why not come along for some One-to-One training with me?  There’s info on the Photography Training pages.

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