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Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Lesson 12 of 20

Deconstructing A Shoot In Process

Tamara Lackey

Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Tamara Lackey

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Lesson Info

12. Deconstructing A Shoot In Process

Lesson Info

Deconstructing A Shoot In Process

Alright, let's talk about deconstructing a shoot, how to break it down. When I am doing a shoot, I am thinking about a few different things. But if I am deconstructing a shoot, what I mean by that is I'm gonna show you exactly how I start, how I step through it, I'll show you a little video of exactly what I mean in terms of creating a shoot. But look at these images left to right. I just plop her down. Go right here, I run up, just like you saw me do earlier. I go ahead, put this leg here, put this leg here, I'm engaging with her as I'm kind of posing and I say, you know, "Do me a favor, hug your leg." And I back up. I am doing nothing with expression whatsoever. These are all out of camera, by the way. I'm doing nothing with expression here. Then I say, "Alright, I want expression." I say something, I do something, I engage her in some way. And I've got expression, but now what's happening? She's tightening up. Her body language is a little different than the language that's going on...

in her face. It's not the most flattering way to frame her. So I've got this, I've got this, all I've gotta do is say, "Drop your leg, drop your leg, drop your leg! "Keep your hands home, keep your hands home!" I will do it that rapid-fire, and then I get to something that I really like. It looks natural, we've got great expression, the pose is fun, but I didn't start there. I had to get there. I got there by plopping her down, doing a little bit of motion, adjusting a little bit, getting the expression, cleaning this up, keeping the expression. That would be a normal method I take when I'm posing a child to be able to pose them in a way that I think is flattering. It's not just like this. To be able to set them up, adjust accordingly, and get that expression, that spirit, that life, the authentic feeling of, this child is engaged and this is how they actually smile. That comes in at the end. You're pulling it all together. Let me show you that in action. This is a behind the scenes video of me working with a kid, kind of rough but you're gonna get the point. It is behind the scenes, it's rough, but when you see what's happening, you're gonna see at the end exactly the progression of the shots I'm getting. You'll see how I'm doing it, and then I'll show you what those shots are. Okay, alright, you ready? Yep. Alright, let's come over here. Just have a seat, plop down. Do what you do. Let me just get a shot of you doing what you would do. Is this what you would do? Yeah. This is you doing you? Actually she posed really nicely. Now let's work more because that was fabulous. Alright, so exactly as you are, do me a favor. Take this foot and tuck it behind that ankle. Yeah, and then kick your legs out a little bit more because I'm gonna be shooting from back here and I want them a little farther out and back and if I shoot at this angle, they won't be right in front of the lens. Okay. Did you catch all that? Yeah. Okay, and then as you are like this, right? Mmhmm. Ignore my legs, you're just gonna be kinda like that. Right, but really far out, like you're gonna just kinda pull out like that a little bit and your hands are just like, exhausted. Show me exhausted. No, exhausted is like, I think I may need to drop a little bit more, like exhausted. Yes, very good. And then I will adjust you accordingly. Let's spruce up the hair, all the little details, yep. And then I'm gonna shift my angle. Like, I'm gonna take one shot here just to show what that would be if I just went like that without worrying too much about it. And now I'm gonna come down here, I haven't worried about fill lighting yet. I'm gonna worry about fill lighting next. Yeah, oh look at you, so responsive. And bring it down. Yes. (laughing) Excellent. Very good, and now kick that knee out even further so it goes even farther out, and do exactly what you were doing. Now put your hand how you would do it if it were up to you. Like, if you could just put your hand anywhere you wanted to, where would it be? Yeah, alright, good. Now lean forward a little bit more. See me down, like match me a little bit. Yeah, excellent. Alright, I love this. Stay there, don't change anything. I'm just gonna do the exact same thing with a little extra fill light. And I'm gonna use a silver, which is usually kind of sharp, but since I'm holding it, I'll be back here and I'll try this. Beautiful. Gorgeous. And okay, tell me if this is too much. Yes! (laughing) And back here, alright. So, glance that way for a second. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna light you up. And then when you come back, it'll be nice and pretty. So, glance over that path. And then come back to me. Very good. Okay, so this is us. This is how we started, right? We're on the left, she just plops down. Great, what are the issues I have? Well, we don't have fill light in front. We'll deal with that later. Her legs are kind of out, so they look larger than they actually are cause they're closer to the lens. We've got a pretty good expression but it's just, nothing's flattering, it's not flowing. We move on here, I posed her. I set this up and I say, "Make your hands exhausted." And she has this, super awkward, but I don't care cause that's not what I'm working on right now. What I'm working around is getting this here, making sure she's paying attention to me, setting up the actual technical settings as I'm going. I'm going to here now, alright. I've pulled in some fill lighting, and you can see how the whole frame changes, right? I put it on her, it was kinda bright. I moved it out. It's working, but it's not directly on her face like I want. Then I'm over here. I've got the catch light that I want. I want that fill light to light her face up and I want that catch light. Can you see here how we don't have it? And here, in all of these, how it shows up? So in that far left side, I've got her lit up, I've got her expressive, she's got her chin up a little bit more than I want. I want to change that a little bit. And since I had that reflector pulled in, I've got some fill light, but I need to adjust and move it back a little bit so it's not over-blasting her face. I want a little bit more contrast, a bit more dimension. I'm getting that here, but I still have her chin up. I've got more of the contrast I want. And then I get to here. She dips her chin down more naturally. She relaxes this more naturally. I'm backed up, and I think the entire frame ends up coming together in a way that feels comfortable and natural. But if I start with that, I'm in trouble. If I'm like this, this, this, this, this, this, gonna be good, get the fill light in place. Alright then, now go ahead and smile. I'm not gonna get what I want. But I go from here to there in this really slow build that is also actually interacting with them the whole time. I can't get to the end of everything, and then just have her come alive. I've gotta keep her with me the whole time I'm doing all of these other parts, all these technical parts. This is a little segment on working with children in a studio, in a studio lighting. Really simple, constant lighting but I'm trying to work with them to build a pose. And by the way, you may have worked with a lot of these children. They're not really interested in building a pose. They just want to laugh and be goofy. So, how do I do that? We are here in the studio, and we're gonna work on some posing, taking away some of the normal kind of shots and working on a little bit different kind of posing and interaction. We are using the outside light as the main light. It's actually coming in pretty strongly and it's spreading across this way. And we're using the constant light as the fill light and bringing it together so there's no gaps. It's nice cause we've got these two broad light sources coming in. We don't have any major shadows falling anywhere on our subjects. It's not gonna be a super dynamic pop, not a lot of depth and a lot of modeling, but what I'm going for, I don't really even care about that. I'm gonna be mostly focused on interaction and expression and planning to pop it up in post processing. Alright, ready guys? And whenever you are shooting something like this, where you're shooting top down, it's always important, especially with children, to not only keep the neck strap on, but to make sure that you guard your lights with a sandbag or in this case, a bag with a couple heavy weights inside. Either way, you're holding down the light. Alright, you guys ready? This is all you're gonna do. You ready? You're gonna roll toward each other. Yes, on your sides, no, no. No, no. No, no, not at all what I'm saying. Go back, go back. Stay, stay. Alright, I'm gonna reset you. Oh no. Jump up for a second, jump up. Ready, here we go, and lay there. Oh, wow that was impressive. Alright, so this is what you're gonna do. You're gonna just go on your right side. And you're gonna go on your left and you're just gonna face each other. That's all you're gonna do. Ready, one, two, three, go. Wait, no, that's not facing each other at all. No, no, no. No, no, no. No. This? Yes, and then nose to nose. (kids laughing) Ready? Here we go, here we go. One, two, go. Nose to nose. Yes, excellent nosing. She said that she just went to the bathroom. (laughing) What did he just say about you? She just went to the bathroom. She went to the bathroom on you right now? Did you go to the bathroom in your clothes? She doesn't smell good. Yeah she does, she smells like roses. Watch, try this time. Ready? Let's do it again, and this time, just nose to nose and then nobody breathe. Ready? Nobody breathe, one, two, three, go! Nobody breathe! (kids laughing) Did you breathe a little bit? Alright, last time we're gonna do it. One, no we gotta get much closer. Closer, closer. Perfect, perfect. Alright, let's try with our baby. You're gonna roll this way. Stay, stay, stay, stay. There you go, oh so cute. Now look at Liv. And when you look at her, send all your love shooting through your eyes. Go! Is it shooting? Okay, a little less love, bring it down. (laughing) Calmer love. So cute. Alright, we're gonna do the same thing. We're gonna do the same thing. Okay that's good, that's good love. And then stay there. Yes, alright, try it again. Okay, now this time, watch out I'm gonna take this bow off for just a second. I love the bow, but we don't want it to cover up your baby's face. Okay, got it? There we go, now try again. Bring it in, bring it in. Okay, yep, yep, that's a tiny arm. That arm is made out of glass. Go like this? No, not literally. Okay, ready? Here we go. Can you give her a little kiss on the nose? Very good, let's do it again. Little arm, little gentle kiss. Alright, now you stay just like this. Don't lay on her arm. That is a tiny arm, super delicate. Now come in, come in. Okay ready? Gentle, gentle. Okay, now, okay, ready? You're gonna lean on your side, super gentle. Super gentle, now just like that. You don't need to do anything. And you're gonna do that little kiss again while you are just... Yes, ready? On three. One, two, three. So good, last one. And this time go, "Mmmmm." (kids laughing) Okay, that's good, that's good. Alright, do you see how, first of all, I'm having a lot of the same obstacles I'm sure you guys have when you're trying to, "No, that's not at all what I wanted you to do." But how you can build toward it. And you see how up here, it's silly, it's raucous. I'm loud with them. And then I have to change all the energy when we have this delicate little creature, this little newborn come in. I change my tone, I try to get them to slow down theirs. Everything changes because now we have to be really careful of this tiny little baby. And I want softer images that are still cute and sweet but not like, "Bahhh!" It's kind of a big difference in terms of how you're posing, right? We're breaking down the posing and we're using different energy. We're using different expressions. We're changing how they physically look, how they interact with each other in the end, to get these looks and feels. I think the main question that people have been asking seeing you shoot, as well as when you talk about the gear, was about how you are focusing when kids are either moving or not moving. Are you using continuous? Are you manually focusing? Tell us just quickly about that. Yeah, so when I'm shooting, like here earlier, where the kids are on the chair and I'm moving back and I'm shooting a single shot focus. So, single focus mode where I'm literally on the back of the camera. I either focus and recompose, or in a situation like this where nothing's changing, I will go ahead and use that joystick on the back to move the single point of focus up a little bit because I know I'm gonna keep this frame time and time again. If I'm in an actual shoot where this is here and this is there, this is here, I don't do that. I focus and recompose to stay with it. But I'm doing a single shot. If the kids are running around and racing around, I switch to a continuous mode, continuous auto mode and I let the camera capture that stuff as rapidly as possible. But when I go back and I switch to a really quiet shot, I'm gonna make sure I get to single shot focus so the camera's not deciding the wrong thing for me. With the recomposing, cause that's how I shoot, I've noticed that if I'm shooting with a really wide angle up close, I still mis-focus a little bit. Do you have issues? With the single shot focus? Yeah, if you're like, I back button and then recompose and I just use my center focus point. And sometimes if, when I'm focusing, if my composition is my subject toward the edge of the frame, do you ever have... Or how do you deal with that? I don't think I have issues with that, but I will mention something that I think is often a confusion point for portrait photographers. Sometimes, what we think of as a not catching the focus or the focus being soft isn't necessarily the focus. It's the shutter speed. It's getting unintentional blur because you are shooting at too slow of a shutter speed, whether you're on an auto or a program mode or manually, and the end result looks a lot like the subject is out of focus, but it's not. They're unintentionally blurred. So if you're getting that, if you're focusing and recomposing and everything is set and you're shooting back button focus, so you should be good, I would look at that. I would look at what your shutter speed is doing.

Class Description

Each child is unique and needs different techniques to draw out the most authentic portrait. Acclaimed family photographer, Tamara Lackey, talks through how to quickly identify the characteristics of a child and the posing techniques and direction that can lead to a fun session with great results. She’ll cover:

  • The 6 basic personalities that children may show up to a photo shoot with
  • How to draw out a shy child in front of the camera
  • Tips for photographing the children who don’t want to be there
  • Gear and accessory considerations for family shoots
  • How to build to a natural pose

Have the confidence and the technique to capture an authentic child portrait in every session no matter client or their mood!



Tamara Lackey brings amazing energy to her teaching and shooting style. She shared a ton of tips and tricks for capturing the true character and personality of each child in both individual and group portraits. I have always found it to be particularly difficult to capture portraits of multiple children that are composed to be both visually interesting and true to their unique story. I learned so much about directing and communicating effectively with child subjects, and how to use my gear and other tools to streamline the process and keep it all fun for the family. No matter how much you think you know about photographing children, this class is an asset that you will not regret! Thank you Tamara Lackey!

Heidi Mikulecky

I love Tamara's tips for working with common personality types found in children. I also love that class allows you to be "fly on the wall" during her photo shoots. It's so helpful for me to see how other photographers engage their subjects (especially children). Tamara brings a ton of energy, excitement and playfulness to her shoots. It opened my eyes to how fun (and how exhausting) a photo shoot can be when you give it your all. Great class!

Sara NAomi

This was an amazing class. Photoshop has been a huge learning curve for me during the past year and it was so helpful to see the quick and easy way you used levels to bring down brightness/hotspots. I will definitely be using it to improve the "ear" on the portrait that you critiqued. Thank you soooooooooo very much Tamara and CL for providing such great content!