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Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Lesson 10 of 20

Gear And Accessory Considerations

Tamara Lackey

Capturing Authentic Children Portraits

Tamara Lackey

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Lesson Info

10. Gear And Accessory Considerations

Lesson Info

Gear And Accessory Considerations

Let's get started on gear, gear and accessories. It has been said that it's not all about the gear, and in many respects, that's true. So much of it is what we're talking about. Interaction, making sure you read a subject well. So much of it is in your head and what you're seeing and practicing, not just awareness about them, but self-awareness in terms of what you're bringing to the table. That is all a very significant part of photography, and one thing I always remember is that some of the most amazing photographs that exist historically were shot 900 versions before the ones, the cameras we're using now. Like, obviously it can be done. That being said, great gear can make a huge difference in terms of allowing you to not just capture what you want, but to visualize it, set the camera so that you can guarantee you get it, pretty much guarantee that you get it, and utilize different lenses and lighting and accessories to really secure those shots that you see and you wanna get. Let's...

talk a little bit about gear. In our business class, our two-day business class we did, I showed a studio walkthrough. We did a whole studio walkthrough, and I showed how, in the office I have, I wanted to have a section where everything kinda has its place. And so every camera and lens is kind of assigned to an area. That doesn't mean I haven't added things in to better populate the space, but I kinda know if I have to grab this lens, for the most part, I know how to grab it. The caveat is after workshops when it's just chaos in our studio, but most of the times I need to get a 105 lens, I know where it is. That's been very helpful for me. So right out of the gate, how are you organizing your gear so that you can find what you need when you need it? That is a big component about being able to be clear-headed walking into the shoot. Let me find what I need rapidly and go right in. These are some of the cameras and lenses that I have, and I wanna show to you specifically the ones I stress that I use a lot, and for what those reasons are that I use them a lot. The camera of my choice, and it has been for a few months now, is the Nikon D850. If you haven't shot with that camera yet, you might wanna try. It is absolutely my favorite camera of all time, because it just lets me do the things I see in a way that's easier. So the D850 is my main camera, and then I also shoot with the D5 a lot on shoots. Why those two cameras? The D850 is kind of an upgrade from the D800 or the D810, and if you're shooting Canon, or Sony, or Fuji, you're recognizing what the comparable cameras are with your brand model. But the reason that I like that camera is, one, I get big files. The D850, like the D810 and the D800, give me really large file sizes. So if I get a shot and it's a 40 meg photograph that's coming out of there, I know that, if the moment that happened was amazing, but I didn't crop it just so, there's some distracting things in the background, there's elements in the frame that I don't wanna show, that I don't think contribute to the portrait, I have a lot of latitude to take a 40 meg file, crop in pretty closely, and still blow it up to a 20x30 with no problem. That's one of the reasons for photographing children where you have to catch the moments when they come. These aren't overly posed, overly set models I'm usually working with. These are kids who I've gotta pull these expressions out here and there, and I've gotta get it quickly. So having a camera that enables me to get it quickly and then modify the frame afterwards is very useful for the work I do. The D5 does not have the same large file size, but it is so fast. It is, you know, you hold it down in a burst mode and you're getting 10, 11 frames or whatever based on how you've set up your frame rate. You're getting a lot of shots very, very quickly. And if you're having some sort of exchange where they're jumping or playing or doing something that you wanna rapid fire grab a bunch of shots because it's gonna make a great succession of images when you deliver it, being able to do that with a camera that can really fly through that burst is super cool. So I like the D5 for that reason. The D810 used to be the other camera that I used forever with the large file size. The other reason I like the D850 so much now, and I know a lot of people are gonna complain, like, I want it too; I can't get it. It's been a very popular camera, and I know it's rolling out. I'm a Nikon ambassador, so clearly I am speaking very affectionately about these cameras, but it's because I know exactly what goes into them from an engineering perspective and how much work it takes to produce a great camera. So I do have a big affection for my gear. But one of the things that's great about the D850 over the D810 is not only do you get these big file sizes that let you do all the things I talked about, but you also have a much higher frame rate. You can now burst mode with a high file size. And from a gear perspective, that's crazy. 'Cause normally you can't shoot really large file sizes rapidly because it takes a while to process those shots as they come in. So to do them both at the same time is pretty cool. You kinda get the best of all worlds. And if you wanna see more on that, I did a whole review on the Nikon D850. You can just put in Tamara Lackey D850. No, actually, I'm sorry. I put that on my Facebook page. So if you go to Facebook, Tamara Lackey Photography, you'll see in the video section I recently uploaded a more detailed review of the D850. So the other cameras that I have are the D500, which I like because of the crop sensor. Sometimes I hear people say I don't know if I can do all the shoots you're doing because I have a crop sensor, which means that, basically, if I'm shooting a full frame here, the crop sensor makes it seem like I'm here, the same exact shot. So one of the reasons I actually quite like the crop sensor is that if I am farther back and I want to get closer, I automatically get that with the D or a camera with a crop sensor. And if you put on a long lens, it's brilliant, 'cause you're going significantly farther. The long lens and the crop sensor allows you to get much closer to a subject than you ever could with a full frame and a long lens. It's great for wildlife landscapes. I have some great chipmunk pictures. Not like my hippopotamus family that I like to photograph as well, but that's in reference to something we did in the business class. That sounds weird out of context. But the D500 or any camera with a crop sensor can be extremely useful if you're stepping back and you wanted to get these shots of things that are farther away. The D750, that is a lightweight, great camera. A lot of people ask me what camera to get. I've got this budget, what do you think? And I'm like, look at the D750. It is a great camera that a lot of pro photographers will use at weddings because it's lightweight, you have a lot of capability to be able to swivel screens and move things around, and it's just a great camera to carry around if you want something that's lightweight but powerful. So those are some of the camera bodies I use. Lenses? My favorite lens ever and ever and ever is the 105mm/1.4 lens. That lens is just beauticimous. It's got great quality. It's very sharp. It takes great photographs. The photographs look very clear and crisp, and it allows me that really soft background that you're gonna get with a very shallow depth of field, but it's incredibly enhanced. It's really beautiful right out of camera using the 105/1.4. And it's a really flattering portrait lens. For me, portrait lenses anywhere between 85 and maybe 135, and we'll step through lens by lens, but anywhere in that range, I think, is the more flattering way to photograph people because you just are able, based on where you're standing, the compression, how they look, how you're shaping faces, it's the more flattering way to go. When I shoot really close with a very wide-angle lens I know I am not flattering my subject. With children, especially if they're in the middle of a frame, it's not as big of a deal, but if I'm trying to photograph an adult who wants to be photographed beautifully, that's a tough route to take. I'm going to step back, and I'm gonna get more of a flattering look that way. Other accessories that I'm using, I am shooting mostly my flash is the SB-5000. I like, again, that it's a smaller kind of flash. It doesn't take up as much real estate on top of my camera, so I can look over it easier when I'm photographing children, which I tend to do a lot. But the SB-5000 is a powerful lens, and it can trigger other lenses really easily too. The other two I have, the SB-910s, I have two of those. Honestly I'm not using them as much now that I have the SB-5000. I used to use them a lot, but I'm mostly just using the SB-5000 now. And what else? The lenses here, the 24-70. The 72, 100, the 35, the 85. I'm saying them very quickly because I'm going to step through them in detail. I wanna talk a little bit about accessories. I have the MacBook Pro 15-inch retina display. It's probably about a year-and-a-half, maybe two years old by now. So by Apple standards I'm driving a incredibly vintage laptop. I hate it when you walk in, they're like, "Oh, you still have that?" I bought it six months ago! Wow, that's embarrassing that you still kept that. So the MacBook Pro. When I am asked what I edit on, tell me about your screen setup. How large is your production area? And I get asked some variety of that question quite a lot. I am doing my editing now on the MacBook Pro with no problem. I actually enjoy it. It's lightweight. I can take it a lot of places. This is a big change from when I first started editing, and I believed I needed two large monitors, a darker room, everything had to be calibrated just so all the time. I don't need that for the work I do. If I were maybe doing extremely fine retouching on a model that was gonna be the side of an entire building, I might wanna get more precise. That's not what I'm doing, so I don't need all that. And I can do very, very well with just that. I can win print competitions or place very well with just that. Just the laptop. So the G-Tech drives, I used external drives. I would highly suggest that if you're doing a lot of work with imagery, try to get it all on external drives. Do not load up your laptop with photographs. It's a really easy, tempting thing to do, and I find myself doing it without thinking about it, and I have to remind myself, "Pull these images off my laptop." 'Cause they're clogging up my laptop, they're slowing down my processing speed, they're causing more issues. I'm gonna start having those just glitchy things happening with my laptop. If at all possible, start investing in external storage as a way to be able to free your laptop to do its maximum job, but also secure those images more safely. So I use multiple drives that way. The extreme cases, memory card cases, I have more than once, embarrassingly so, dropped a pack of cards. And by, I mean, like, a little memory card case, four to five to six cards in there, dropped 'em. Didn't know I'd dropped them, and now had to like go back and find them. And luckily I've always found them, as far as I know, but one example that really stands out for me is I'd photographed this whole family. It was a tough shoot. It was a long shoot. I was dealing with a lot of different behaviors and little personalities. I was so proud of myself that all was said and done. I'm like, ah, I got everything I wanted. I worked. Got everything I wanted. And it was a shoot where they'd come in from out of town. So I live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and I have people who will drive in, fly in, come in, which is great; it's very flattering. But it's also a lot of pressure. It's a lot of pressure to not get this wrong. And so I had this whole shoot, and we all left, and I went home to go download the cards, and I couldn't find them anywhere. And if you've had that feeling where you're just digging and scrambling and (gasping) it's not it. Holding the laptop bag upside-down. Holding your camera bag upside-down, and just being like, oh my lord, it's gone. I don't know what happened. And I've had, like, that scare here or there with like a small memory card, but just, you don't even know where it is or what's happening and you've gotta scramble. But to have it with a whole pack that had the entire shoot on it. Oh, and by the way, the couple shoots before that I had downloaded but not all the way yet and I never wanna take it off the memory card. But mostly I was really freaked out about the shoot. So I went through my house, I went through my car. Two days later, I'm like, what are the chances it's somewhere in that whole arboretum area that we did the shoot? So I get in my car, I drive there, and I'm walking around, and I literally tried to retrace everywhere we shot by memory. And I'm coming up and I see this tree and a pile of leaves. And raining. It'd been raining. I see a pile of leaves, I'm like (sighing). You know, ready, like, it's over for me. I might as well just quit. I'm the worst person in the world. And I kick these leaves and I see the very edge of this case and it's under these wet leaves. It'd been sitting there for two days. It had sipped out of my bag when I packed things up. I was able to pull them out, and I had this extreme weatherproofing case. And even though it had rained, and been in this kinda yucky molded kinda thing, they were completely fine. They were untouched. So these accessories matter. When you screw up, they can save you. I was able to go home, download everything, and I was fine. But from here on out, I invest in those extreme cases that just safeguard my memory cards. Because those contain every ounce of effort you and they put together, and you don't wanna lose them. So thinking about it that way. From a lighting perspective, I'm gonna dig into lights a little bit later, but I use a combination of lights based on the situation. And again, I'm gonna step through that later, but it's usually strobes, constant light, reflector, video light and flash. Those are the ones I'm cycling through based on the situation. I'll show you those situations, but those are some of the accessories I have. And if you want to see all of this gear and a lot more in more detail, you can simply go to and click on pages/tamara-lackey, and you'll see there's quite a bit on there of all the gear that I use in more detail.

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!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Tamara Lackey Posing Book Discount

Nations Photo Lab Discount

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



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!