by Ginny Felch, www.photographingchildren.com
Click on photos to enlarge
This article is an excerpt from "Chapter 6: What's your style?" of her book "Photographing Children" available from Wiley Publishing:
If you asked ten different photographers to photograph the same child in the same setting, you would have ten different interpretations of that same child. Just as the children you photograph, each photographer is unique in his or her view of the world. Some bring a fresh, hip perspective to their work with children, while others prefer to capture childhood in a more timeless, less trendy fashion.
What is your style? Do you have one yet? While most photographic work can’t simply be slotted into one category or another, it is helpful to make some broad generalizations when you’re starting out to give you a point of departure for your own work.
Classic and Romantic
Many parents appreciate portraits that reveal a sense of timelessness. The classic style of child photography has its roots in the paintings of the old masters. Drawing on the style of painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, and others, the classic and romantic style of children’s portraiture can often be seen as an idealized version of childhood.
In the Studio
When shooting in the studio, a classic portrait becomes a study of the child you are photographing. There are no distracting elements to take your attention away from the child, leaving only their expressions and gestures to tell the story. In many ways, capturing a storytelling image in the studio is much more challenging than shooting on location where you can rely on the environment to tell part of the story (figure right).
In a photograph that is low key, the background is darker and perhaps more colorful, as in a garden or forest. If the clothing is darker as well, the attention again goes to the skin tones, or the lightest thing in the photograph, as in 6-4. Classic and romantic styles work well with painted muslin or canvas backgrounds that give a painterly feel to the image.
Capturing the Mood
All of the decisions you make, whether it’s the location, the lighting, or the clothing you’ve selected, add or detract from the mood you are trying to convey. Deciding ahead of time what mood you would like to convey in your image is the key. What are you trying to convey about this child and her personality? What elements in the surrounding environment can you use to support your vision? Do you want an image full of energy and whimsy or is the child more thoughtful and shy? For example, the soft light and bright sari that surrounds this your girl’s peaceful countenance in the right figure and enigmatic smile causing the viewer to ponder what she might be think when this photo was captured.
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