Introduction & Find Inspiration For Child Portrait
Even though I'm not doing composites, there is an element of Photoshop in these, which I think is really important to share and explain, because compositing is fun, and I've created a lot of composite images, but I love that challenge of getting all the elements in frame, so that there's no afterthought. Because I find that with a composite, you're often thinking after you've actually taken that initial frame, oh, what can I do next? Where can I take this? What can I add? You're thinking about it afterwards instead of thinking about that process leading up to it and creating that thought process that goes into creating something like what we're gonna create next. But I'm gonna talk you through some of my things that I look at leading up to taking a portrait of a child, and again, the thought process and that planning it out is all very similar for each shoot regardless of the age that I photograph, but there are different elements with those different ages that we're gonna talk about. ...
So this beautiful portrait here was taken of my daughter, Georgia, when she was about nine years old. And she's a funny little thing. She's nearly 15, but she has this beautiful kinda dark, moody side to her that I absolutely adore and cherish, and I would often just find her, sitting very quietly, playing on her own, and she's very comfortable on her own in those situations. So this is why I captured this. I was inspired by an illustrative piece that I found on Pinterest. It was a drawing, and I thought to myself, gosh, that face just looks like my Georgia, in the illustrative piece. And it was very dark, very moody, so that's why I went ahead to create this, and make it all about that beautiful side profile of hers, but it's so simple. I went on to enter this into the Photography Awards and I think it got a Gold Award, from memory. It's quite, it's been taken quite a while ago, but it is one of my favorite pieces of her, because it shows a side to her that not everybody gets to see. Usually, only a parent gets to see, and that's why I love it so much. So, when I'm finding inspiration for kids, again, going through all of those same points, communicating with the client, communicating and listening to their story. When it comes to communication, that listening is the most important aspect of the whole process. If you're not listening, you're not learning what it is that they want, and what they're hiring and paying you to do. You know, researching things relevant to their story. So when it came to Olivia that we're going to be photographing today, when I found out that she had some learning disabilities, I actually focused on those first, and I started to really research that. And I looked at images on the internet. So I would search words and then instead of going all, I'd go images, and then I'd see what that would bring up. I would go to Pinterest, and then I started to think, this is not the way I wanna photograph her. But that was my first, my first sort of go-to. And it wasn't until I did that, that I started to evolve that thought process into, okay, do I really wanna focus on those issues that she struggles with daily at school, or do I wanna make something really beautiful here? And then started to read more. So I would go research something, then I'd go back to all the information that I had about her in terms of the correspondence, the notes I'd taken. Re-read that, then go back to the internet, research some more, and this is where my idea started to evolve. So it's not that an idea (snaps) comes to you straightaway, it's a process of evolution. All of the different factoring things come into it to help you get to that end goal. And like I said, don't be so hard on yourself if it doesn't work out (laughs), because you learn something from every experience. But yeah, Pinterest. So I actually saw, when it comes to this image, actually saw on Pinterest an installation art exhibition of a swing hanging, and it was very dark, it was on a black wall, so it was very minimalistic. And I thought, I really love that idea of that illusion that it's floating on these two balloons. So then when I read that Olivia thinks that anything is possible and the sky's the limit, I'm like, there it is. And I visualized it. I even, on this image, I even drew it out, and you could see the drawing from my first slide of how I started to evolve that thought process and then start to think about the different elements that I'm gonna bring in. But, art galleries, again, magazines. And brainstorming with friends, and this is where it comes to that point of, like, if I do that, what's it gonna look like? Is it gonna look silly? And then they start to bring their input in, and it's not that you are using their input, but their input often takes you on a different train of thought, in a different direction, and that's what helps you move outside that square to kinda create something that you didn't think was possible in the beginning, which was really exciting. Okay, I photograph my kids a lot, like I'm showing you a lot of photos of my kids. But this is my son, and this was inspired by him. So, when he was five years old, he had hidden himself away in our house, somewhere with his iPad, and he'd set it up, and he'd recorded a little video of himself. And two years later, we're getting iPads fixed and things like that, and I'm going through all the old videos that are on there, and I come across this video of my son, he's missing his two front teeth, and he's got the iPad set up, and you can see he's hit record before he set the iPad up. So he's put it into position, and then he sits back and he says, "Today I'm gonna show you "how to make a paper airplane." And (laughs) I just started crying, it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and I'm like, I didn't even know he'd created this. And he had paper, and I knew he loved paper airplanes, he had books, he was researching them, but I didn't realize how much, so I never wanted to forget that moment. I wanted to make something inspired by that and his love of paper airplanes. He's never said I wanna be a pilot or anything like that, but I sourced those little different elements to kinda go with this to create the scene. So, similar to what I've done here, that was another iPhone photo, from my phone from an airplane window. I've printed it on massive sheets of paper. I even remember going to this print lab and it was just a very, very, like a photocopy center, and the lady said, "Um, that's not gonna print that big, "it doesn't look very good." And I'm like, it's a backdrop, it's fine, it's for my kids. And she kept challenging me on the quality of this image, and I'm like it's okay, it's okay, 'cause I, in my mind, knew what I was going to create and that it would work. So, I'll show you a little behind the scenes of how we captured this in camera, and how Garrett, my husband, and I sat and folded 200 paper airplanes. (laughs) So, what we did was, we hung the backdrop. We then brought out multiple lengths of fishing line and attached them to different areas. You can see one's even attached to the top of the door with a clamp. But, what we didn't realize is that we would have to become like commandos and have to roll in and out of the fishing line then. So we created this 3-D effect. This was also inspired, the way that we hung this, by another installation art project that I saw, so I am fascinated with installation art, and that comes from my daughter coming home from school saying, "Mummy, for our Art, "we have to create an installation art." And I'm like, what is installation art? So, I had to research it to find out what it actually was, and then my mind was blown. So it's actually been brought into a lot of what I create. So this is me, I've got the light source behind me, we've blocked out a little bit of light on one side to create those shadows, but, I mean, look how handsome he is there. What I then did next was brought in a smoke machine, and we started to fill that space with smoke to give that illusion of those clouds to be able to create that. So, I remember being in the judges' room whilst this is being judged, and one of the judges said, "There's no way this a single capture, no way." And she challenged it and challenged it, and this is why, in those competitions, you have to submit the raw file, which is wonderful, because you can't cheat a raw file. But being able to create that and challenge people's imagination, and to really, truly create something with that illusion of it being real is the most rewarding aspect for me as a photographer. This is another one of my daughter. And to show you where I got the inspiration from from this, is lamps, light shades. So this was in a hotel I stayed at, and I was teaching a class just off the balcony where I was standing there, so I was grading all of my students as they came in, I was waiting, and I just kept looking at them, and after the class, I don't know why, I came out, I took a picture. And I was like, I just loved those light shades. So, to be able to create that image, I used that inspiration of the light coming from within, because for my daughter, McKenzie, who does have learning disabilities, oh my God, does she light up a room when she walks into it. And she doesn't let anything like that, you know, those challenges that she faces, stop her from doing anything. So creating those beautiful photographs, but also, when I am photographing my kids, and we all know what it's like having kids that don't wanna be in front of the camera, like you pick up your camera, they run, and like, "Not again, Mum." And for me, it's really important to have them in those photographs, so I barter with them, and I say, how would you like to be photographed? Give me an idea, give me a concept. And I said to McKenzie, for this particular photograph, you know, how do you wanna be photographed? And she said, "Well, I like Maleficent, the movie." And I said, okay. So, instantly I'm thinking, horns and black feathers and things like that. Anyway, we started to talk, and I said, don't you wanna be photographed in another way? And she's like, "No, I don't really feel like it." And I said, why? And we started to talk about how she feels. And she's a very happy child, but there are times when she lets you in to her more darker inner thoughts that she keeps to herself, and we started to talk about her challenges, and she feels like she's caged, and she has a fascination with birds, but she feels like she's in a cage and she can't get out. I mean, imagine what that must feel like. So this is why we created this image. And we'd recently just got back from a trip. We did eight countries in eight weeks, so what I did, because it's a heavily composited image, I brought different elements from each of the eight countries that we visited with our family into that photograph, so when she looks at that photograph, she's like, "Oh, I remember when we photographed "that bird in Amsterdam. "I remember running up the stairs "through that archway in Rome. "I remember going to the Louvre and having a piece of paper "and having to walk around and find the different paintings "that were on the piece of paper." So for her, this has, this holds a lot of memories from her younger childhood that she's gonna grow up with and she knows the meaning. Not everybody needs to like it. I love it, she loves it, and it just tells this beautiful story of her sort of in a darker moment and I think it's really fascinating for a 10-year old at the time, to come up with that concept. It was really cool. So I love incorporating them, and communicating with them to really bring out something, but, again, barter with them to try and get them in those photographs. (laughs) You know, we all have our muses, and then again, creating storyboards. So, for me, for that last image that I just had, I was just bringing in all these different elements from our trip and things that I had photographed, things that I had captured. Laid them sort of all out on my screen, printed it, and I would just look at it over and over again, and then, when I took it into Photoshop, being a composite, even though I had an idea in my head, it wasn't until 3:00 a.m. one morning, when I was editing still, 'cause I couldn't put the pen down, my Wacom pen, that I went, no, this is not a landscape picture. This is a portrait. And that's when I really started to bring it to life and create something like it was.