My project for this semester is about capturing my idea of a perfect family portrait; I am photographing images from all stages of a family life from the newborn moments up to the full family portrait.
I will be producing a set of images that show the progression of the notion of a ‘nuclear family’ lifestyle; images that relate to the vast majority of today’s family standards. My reasons behind this are simply to produce a body of work that can relate to the predominant family structure in contemporary society. From here I aim to expand to creating much more conventional images that can then relate to the minority as well as, through out my career as a photographer.
My family portrait photographs will be a simple structure of images that show development through out the growth of individuals from birth to adulthood through a series of traditional family shoots; i.e. Newborn, toddler, pre teen, family portraits.
As well as taking the images of the families and children I will also be staging the scene/setting and locations of the shoot to create a backdrop I find suitable, this will be a non distracting background, so all attention is kept firmly on the family members themselves, making them the main focus of all my images, appropriately coloured, so nice soft delicate colours e.g. pastel, rather than bright vibrant distracting colours.
I will be also including in the shoots items of importance, nothing too extravagant but small memorabilia such as soft toys, blankets, jewellery, items that fit nicely into the photographs with out causing too much distraction but still have a sentimental meaning to the family members involved.
Above is a photo taken from my very first testing shoot, for this I used a ‘fake baby’. My idea was to create images using the doll as a stand in baby, this enabled me to take the images I wanted with out worrying that the baby may wake up, move or poop! Which brings me to my first issue with my project; being able to capture the perfect pose.
As my project is based around photographs of family members, mainly children, I have the disadvantage of having miserable faces and clingy children which may not always make a great family photograph. unfortunately this is something I will need to either work with or overcome, I have been engaging with my clients and/or children I’m photographing to make the experience more enjoyable, by interacting with them; having a laugh and generally creating a more relaxed atmosphere this creates a much better situation in which to photograph. Although many babies will giggle and play along with toys and react to funny sounds not all are so compliant. when this does happen I find myself letting mum or dad have a cuddle to clam down baby and take some intimate images, some cuddles and kisses and even though I might not get the cute lying in a basket image I set out to get I am still able to come away with some images.
If I was to let the little set backs stop my train of thought then getting a body of images wouldn’t be possible, not all my images will be straight forward baby and a plain background, I will be using other images to represent my family portrait project, Which leads me to the image below, this image was taken during my first newborn shoot, after managing to get a few baby in basket style images, as can be expected, the baby began to get fussy, so letting mum give her a cuddle to sooth her I took the opportunity to get some images of her being comforted.
the image taken worked well with my set, I was still able to capture the baby, close up dropping all distractions out of the background, keeping the colours neutral and with the natural light cascading in from the background and although this was not the original set up or agenda I still managed to capture an image I was please with, with the eyes fixed on the lens and full face visible, I captured baby snuggling into mum’s shoulder. This sort of set back I have to be prepared for during all of my shoots, so I know when to change direction and look for other opportunities.
Issues that I will often come up against will be creating images that appeal to everyone, we all as photographers have different ideas on what we feel is a good photograph and that goes for potential clients too. My images will be created with my view on photography, but may not always appeal to the public, so I have to make sure that my images fit the criteria. When taking baby and children photographs I will be focusing on what makes them important to the family, so cute little fingers toes etc, the detailing on the eyes and the facial expressions that make you go awwwhhh!
The basic criteria for a ‘cute’ photograph will often consist of all the above characteristics meaning that these are the main details I aim to capture, to be able to get images that will appeal to a mother, whilst at the same time not falling into the same routine of capturing a set of identical photographs. I will be experimenting in new poses, positions, angles etc. whilst all the time looking for the important parts to capture to create the meaningful image the parents are after.
It isn’t always likely that all parents who come to me will find these ‘cute’ images appealing, meaning I will always be needing to look at different ways to capture moments so I am able to keep up with the ever changing market.
Sticking with the concept of getting all the important details in a baby photographs I move onto my third image; this one again is from my first newborn shoot. I wanted to capture the delicateness of the tiny toes of a newborn baby, so getting inclose I captured a detailed shot of the newborns feet, a very traditional newborn photograph, when asking the mum what her most desired image was, she told me ‘the feet’. I feel this is something that has developed over the years and has now become a tradition in baby photography to capture the feet as a resemblance of the size of the baby.
Capturing the feet and hands is a very popular image when it comes to baby photography, this I will be practising and experimenting with through out my project, I want to perfect this shot, not only for my module but for my future career in family photography. the image above took some time to get right, with the baby being very pink I found the original image didn’t do the shot much justice as the feet looked very pinky, I felt this image worked much better in black and white, this shows the details of the feet and toes with out taking too much distraction away with the pink colours.
By using a reflector I plan on taking many more shots like this one aiming for more detailed shots each time, the use of the mother cradling her babies feet add a sentimental feel to the image, making it meaningful. Representing the love a mother has for her child as well as the protective hold over the feet.
As part of my project I have been given the opportunity to work with a baby and newborn photographer, Kerry Comiskey who had offered to help me to create some traditional newborn shots using SIB a posable ‘stand in baby’.
The image below is one I had taken during the training day where I tried different safe positions for newborn babies. Whilst placing him on top of a ‘wee-frame’ set up, which basically consists of a circular frame and baby safe material (cotton) over a beanbag. This enabled me to get images without too much set up, but still able to get a clean white background, I added props such as headbands and blankets for more colour and detail and took shots from different angles to capture all the important details, i.e. feet, hands etc.
This is one of my own positions I had chosen to position SIB into. I captured this image to get full detailing of the face, positioning him in a comfortable and natural position, from here I was able to move around the baby getting images from above, the side and this angle using a wide aperture to blur out the body and keeping focus on the face.
After My training day I then went on to photograph another real baby! Using tips I had learned from my training session the day previous, this image Is one I shot using a similar set up, positioning the beanbag in a comfortable pace and using a soft blanket as the background I positioned the sleeping baby into my required pose.
I went for the natural nude image you often see in baby photography, this enabled me to get all the details of the baby that a mother expects; again the toes, fingers etc. Keeping the image clear of distractions I removed all clothing, extra blankets and toys and got a natural sleeping pose. I feel that this shoot went particularly well I was able to position the baby carefully and safely following safety guidelines I had been practising with during my training session.
As my project is based around the family portrait and development through life from newborn images to full family portraits I wanted to capture what best symbolises that of a newborn, by taking a nude image of the baby I am capturing the beginning of life and how they have entered the world and using neutral colours so to give a tranquil calm feeling; a feeling that you might not always be lucky to experience being a new mum! So these quiet moments are something to be cherished.
I will now be moving onto the next stage of life, capturing images of toddlers to continue the movement of the family life through the use of images, using skills I have gained during my progression through the shoots I have done so far.