How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Lesson 6/31 - Shoot: Posed Child Portraits


How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR


Lesson Info

Shoot: Posed Child Portraits

- [Julia] With this shoot, we're going to start off with Kyra who is a beautiful ballerina. I have photographed her before and she's such a sweet, sweet loving young girl. Kyra, how old are you honey? - [Kyra] Eleven. - She's 11 years old. So, we're starting off with a little bit of an older young lady who is a ballerina. She's so awesome. You can just relax there, first, sweetie. So, we're going to shoot her in her ballerina gear and what I want to show you is how we can make a white background go very dark, okay, by not lighting it. Again, watch the shadows, okay? So, we're going to do some fun stuff with her. So, she's a little bit of an older child, so we'll start off easier okay, and, then we're going to go in to Evie, who is six. I think she just turned six, she's a first grader, and she dressed herself, like, this is awesomeness. I love it when kids dress themselves because it's amazing. And granted, I helped her a little bit to coordinate some stuff, and she has her stuffed pug...

with her. Her name's Lulu, excuse me, it's very important that we get Lulu's name right. And then we're going to set her loose with some balloons and have some fun with a with little different outfits. I know it's hard because I'm sitting here in a controlled environment, essentially a studio, and telling you it's the same as natural light, so I get that there's a discrepancy there. And we might need to kill some house lights for me to get truly what I... Let me look at her real quick. Yeah, it's going to kiss her over here and I want to make sure that... Yeah, that's better, perfect. Okay. Thank you, dear. Thank you, sweetie. Can I take all these people home with me? Wouldn't it be just awesome to have like 20... Wait, come closer, over here. So, now, what I'm doing is I'm pulling her off the background, why am I doing that? I want her far away from the background because what I'm trying to do is turn that background gray, okay? That's why it's so cool to if you're going to invest in seamless paper, which's really cheap. It's like $60 for a role, but the first color you should get is white. Because white can be made white, it can be made gray, it can be made almost black. Every image you've seen of these children has been shot on white. So, and they're all gray backgrounds, I mean, it looks gray, but that was actually shot on white, okay? Awesome. So, miss, my dear, I'm going to have you take this little thing off your wrist. And then, if I'm consulting with clients... This is so 11-year-old, I love it. But if I was doing, like, a true classic portrait, I would make sure, tell her mom not to have blue nail polish on her nails, but I think it looks awesome for her, for now, so we'll just go ahead and let it go. But you see what I'm saying, how that can quickly become like a little distraction like because she has these beautiful hands and fingers and then they're blue on the tips? So, awesome. Okay, I'm going to have you take off your sweatshirt, sweetie, and we're going to go into pointe, because I know you're so good at... she's just learning pointe. How long ago did you get your pointe shoes? - I think, in September. - September, oh my gosh. - I don't really remember. - You don't really remember, but I bet ya it was a big moment in your life, huh? - Mm-hmm. - That's pretty important. It's like a big deal to get on pointe shoes, isn't it? - Mm-hmm. - Yeah, that's like the be-all end-all for a ballerina, huh? Did your instructor have to, like, give you permission to be on pointe shoes? - Yes, she told me to do it. - She told you, you were allowed to do it? Oh, my gosh, did you go home and run until mom as quickly as possible? That's what I would do. Oh, my goodness, that's what I would do. Awesome, sweetie. And dancers are actually super fun to photograph because they are very aware of their bodies and they know how to do things, kind of thing. All right, my dear. So, she already is, like, in this cute sweet little pose. I'm going to take a quick test shot because I want to see if I'm throwing my background to gray. I should be pretty good. I want to make sure I'm rocking and rolling here. Yep, just a quick little test. See how it goes to a light gray? Okay, I'm going to up my shutter speed or my aperture to 2.8, which means I need to drop my shutter speed down, right? Right? Right? Right? Okay, one more shot, perfect. And now I am, I'm looking in my camera and my exposure, my focus point... I wish you guys could see inside my camera. Let me take a quick shot and I'll show you exactly where my focus point is. So, my focus point is right here, okay? And my metering is smack in the middle, like, I can't see it swing one direction or the other, why is that? The scene is pretty bright, right? I'm on white background, shouldn't it be to the right? Yeah. Yeah, she said, "No." It's because the face is 16% gray, it's 18% gray. Well, and she's right in that, I'm... the focus point is on her face, that's also where my metering point is, right? I'm metering off her face, so the camera's measuring the light that's bouncing off her face, it's reading in here, okay? It wants to make that face 18% gray. If I made this a black and white image, chances are her face would measure at almost 18% gray in black and white, okay? Middle gray. So, that's why doing portraits metering off portraits is so wonderful measuring off the skin, okay? Because the skin almost always falls at 18% gray. Now, a couple of audience members here have darker skin tone, so it'd be a little bit different, and then our redhead here has very light porcelain skin. So, there are some differences in the way skin reads but for the most part, and she's fairly light too, but it's still working well to meter off of her, okay? So, I have my focus point in that upper right corner. I'm focusing on her, metering off her skin and face, and because I have not lit my background, the background is falling to a soft gray, okay? So, let's go ahead and do a kind of a full-body on her, she's so cute. Okay, sweetie, you're doing awesome. Now, let me test one more shot full-body because if you see with natural light, guys... You're doing awesome, Kyra. She's just doing it naturally. That's what I love about dancers is they just kind of do things naturally you don't have to... Now, what you'll notice is what you see is what you get. The light is falling on the floor a little bit, so the floor is turning more white, but the background is going gray. Do you see that? Now... let's let that baby warm up a little bit. So, if you're at home and you've got a window and you want to shoot, put up seamless paper next to that window. The placement of that paper, in relation to the window, is critical to how your images will look. Get it? If I moved this paper forward, it's going to be more white, which is exactly what's going to happen. I'm going to show you here in a second, that's as if my window was much longer and I put the paper right next to the window, okay? So, you're going to have to think about your window being's critical to evaluate the window. Some windows aren't going to be big enough to do it all. Do you know what I'm saying? So, now, what we see is what we get once, again, and look at how much brighter in the background is immediately, okay? In strobe world, you can get this so controlled and move the subject forward off the background, even more, you can stay there, sweetie. That you can turn a white background literally black by not lighting it, by pulling the subject further away from the background, and remember that fall-off rule, there's going to be no light on that and if there's all this beautiful light on the foreground, the background is going to go black. Make sense? Okay, so let me shoot this now. So, look at that image. Soft gray background, now that that light is warmed up. Perfect, just perfect pose, sweetie, just like you were, awesome. I love it. Look how pretty she looks, awesome, sweetie. And just go ahead and cast your eyes down, look down at your shoes, for me, sweet girl. Beautiful, awesome. Now, when you see the image come up, look how much whiter that background is simply because we threw some light on it, okay? Yet, the exposure has not changed, this light has not changed, right? All I've done is add light to the background, okay, for a different look. Now, I happen to love, with ballerinas, a little bit darker of the look, so we're going to turn that off. Sweetie, I'm going to actually have you come off the background to the floor, to the brown floor. Perfect, beautiful. And come little bit more forward, beautiful. We're going to (inaudible) this even more forward. Now, I'm moving the light closer to her. See that? What's that going to do to my exposure? You're doing good, girl. What's that going to do to my exposure? There's more light, right? It's brighter, right? So, I'm going to have to stop down because there's not as much light, right? Okay, perfect. So, now let's see. Can you do this? We're just doing head and shoulders, so if you want to stand flat, you can. Look at her. Oh my gosh, that's amazing. There's [inaudible] no way I could do that. You know what, just stand flat, because don't want you to have to hurt yourself you're, all right? I'm just kind of want up, up high, like pretty arms. Yes, pretty arms, beautiful. Okay. Now, I need to be careful because watch what's happening. That right arm is the closest to the light, right? And it's going to be hot. Should we try it and see what happens? Perfect, good girl. Beautiful. Now, I hope my exposure is right because I moved my light, it might be a little...notice how much darker my background is, number one... Sorry, that light was totally in the way, isn't it? Can you guys see that? Darker the background is but now her right hand is hot, hot potatoes, okay? So, to adjust that, I'm going to have her just to the outside arm up. There we go, perfect. And can you give me a little lean? Perfect, good girl. And now I want your nose to point down towards your right shoulder, beautiful. Gorgeous, my sweet girl. Beautiful. Awesome. So now when I take the shot... Perfect. Good job. Now when I take the shot, the arm, the light is falling on the face, which is the brightest point of the image, it's the closest to the light. Her other hand is beautiful and pretty, you'll still know the ballerina, but I haven't made the right hand a distraction. Make sense? Okay? And notice how black the background is. Simply by pulling her away from that... I'm shooting on a white background. I mean, who would have thought that you could make white black, right? Oh, the power of a photographer, right? So beautiful image. Okay, so now we're going to refine this just a little bit more. Sweetie, I love it, but your right arm, I want it to close right here a little bit more. So, bring it over just a little bit. Sorry, the right arm. So, same pose as before, yeah, good girl. And then the right arm, just bring it in a little further down. There we go. Now, turn your body towards the light just a little bit and then give me that sweet into the shoulder like you were before, beautiful. Good girl. And close the gap between your right, right here, there we go. Good girl. Awesome. Beautiful. I got to get my background in focus, pretty profile. Gorgeous. I love it. So, that's what bothered me a little bit about that first image is that there was a little too much space. So now I'm going to go ahead and open it up a little bit more and make it less of a distraction. Make sense? Okay. So now let's go ahead and go back onto the white background. And I'm going to have you come just a little bit more forward, sweetheart. Good girl. Okay, and now we're going to do fun pointy stuff. So, let's do one of these things. What's that called? Elevé, is that what it's called? - Relevé. - Relevé, that's right. Good grief, ballet was not my thing. Beautiful. Now, what you'll see me doing is dropping in camera angle, okay? I'm here on the floor, beautiful. And go ahead and just be on...can you stay like that for a couple seconds, just like that? Give me pretty second position. There we go, that's beautiful. Beautiful. Yeah, gorgeous. That looks good, too. Okay, and go ahead and look down that way, over your shoulder, not too much, perfect. A little bit nose towards me, not chin down, just a touch. I'm noticing the angle of her face. I want to see that right eye, okay? Now, here you'll notice I have to recompose a little bit because my focus points don't get up tall enough. Does that make sense? So, the background... Okay, so a couple things... You can relax, sweetie. I don't want to make her kill herself. A couple things going on here, I've moved her closer to the background, so we're not as dark in the background. We're not, like, charcoal colored like we were before, we're more of a soft gray, okay? But then I also am lowering my camera angle which makes her seem very performance oriented, very larger-than-life, very grand. I'm making a child seem extremely important. Does that make sense? It is. She's a ballerina. This is her sport. This is her performance. This is her in the spotlight. I want to make that a big deal, okay? If I was to shoot this from a high camera angle, let's go ahead and do it real quick. I think they gave up trying to help me because I just do things rogue. I just do things rogue. Okay, so if I get up here on a nice high camera angle, and go ahead and look down toward your right, beautiful. It's still a beautiful image but it gives a much different impression. Loading, loading, loading, there we go. Still a beautiful image but it gives a different impression. She doesn't seem as grown up. It's not as larger-than-life. It's not like as if she's in the spotlight performing on stage, because when you're on stage, you're up, you look up, okay? So, think about those things as you shoot. Okay, so let's go ahead and take one for mom. So, this time, I'm going to have you sit and then take off your shoes, okay, or just lace up your shoes, sound good? Okay. So let me lower for a second. So, go ahead and let's... Yeah, sweetie, leave that one on. Let's leave that one on, we're going to do the other one. So, go ahead and turn your body towards the light. You're doing great, beautiful. That's...ah, she's doing it already. See that? She's got that pretty post going on, and literally, all I'm going to have her do is play with her toes, her shoes, and the laces a little bit. And what I'm doing is focusing on her face, composing in camera, and bam, shooting her putting on her shoes. Now, she's kind of half tied but when she starts to get the laces undone and long, it's going to be that beautiful ballerina, you know, her... There we go, perfect. Good girl. So, go ahead and just take those off, sweetie, for a second. Or, not the whole shoe, sorry, just the lace. I miscommunicated. Oh, that's a strap, got it. Okay. So now, go ahead and try to re-lace it back up, and what I want you to do is bring that... Let's see. Bring the right foot in pointe. No, tuck it into your bottom. See, even still to this day, I have to look at it, like, I'd put her in different place to see what I'd like, okay? So, yeah, that looks better. Put your knees together a little bit. Beautiful, that's much better. There we go, perfect. She's already...she's like reading my mind. I love it. But do you see how just adjusting her feet, like, I can see a difference in the pose? Yeah. I mean, this is gorgeous, right here. So, go ahead and keep leaning on your knees. Bring your knees out a little bit, there we go, perfect. Now, bring your left foot further out, there we go. Beautiful. That's what I wanted, gorgeous. And then, sweetie, I just want you to look into the light. Perfect. I was out of focus. Good girl. Gorgeous. Did I frame it right? Okay, I think that one's out of focus there. That one might be the good one. Beautiful. Now, notice her right eye in the shot. I need her nose pointed towards me more because her right eye is distorted. Do you see it? So, by just letting her stay in that same position and then... There we go, perfect. Pretend like you're tying your shoes one more time and then look up at the light, nose towards me, just a little bit, look up at the light, beautiful. Do you see that? Stop right there. Now, the nose is not breaking the plane of the face, do you see it? See how her nose comes inside her cheek, now the eyes don't seem as distorted. I can see more of her face, it's a three quarter. The other image, if we could just go back to the other image, see how the nose sticks out past the forward cheek line? And if you can go back, I'm not sure. There we go. See how that nose is just breaking the profile cheek line? It's not quite as good, okay? Now, it's still a beautiful shot but to really see that profile of her as a portrait... Don't move, girlfriend. Don't move don't move, look at me, perfect. Beautiful. Love my job. She's so pretty. Oh, beautiful. Good girl. That's for mama right there. That soft sweet smile, oh, yeah, beautiful. Okay? So, dancers are a lot of fun. This is a very simple way to create a beautiful portrait. You can do this in front of a window, you don't need studio strobes to do it. You can do it with just seamless paper, which is like $50 a roll, and a window, and a cheap little stool from Hobby Lobby. I paid $20 for that stool at Hobby Lobby, okay? So, just try to use your light and your shadow to influence the look of the image. We've done everything from making a white background to a soft gray to an almost charcoal black look with simply a white seamless paper, okay? Let's give a round of applause to Kyra because she did amazing. You did so good, sweetheart. So good. - [Woman 1] Tammy Flynn had asked, "So, is it just lighting the background that makes the background white or dark?" - Yes. Yes. Simply just adding... But here's what's interesting, note that if I turn my light like that... I need a willing subject. Darling, come here. Let's see, though. She has dark shoes on, that's okay. Just try not to step too much of the background, right here. You know how dark shoes, like, make it all nasty? Yeah, okay. See how she's... My light's a little low, but see how she's beautifully lit but the background is also lit too? That's because my light is angled towards the background. The minute I go like this, now the background's... Step forward just a touch. Mow the background has gone soft gray and she's still lit. Lighting angle, camera angle, posing angle. Your lighting angle is just as important as...where you place the lights as well as how you angle them makes a difference, okay? Now with a window, a window, you can't really angle that light too much. But you can angle your background, okay? So, if you wanted this kind of effect, real soft gray but keeping her lit, you would turn your background so that it was at more of a kiddy corner angle to the window, okay? Just be careful you don't get flat light, you know what I'm saying? If it were perpendicular, in other words, the window was right here, okay? Everything's really flat. Now, it looks cool, okay? But if I raise this light up... See if I can do it here. I think that's as high as it goes. This takes an awful... Now, if I raise the light up, see the shadow below her neck and below her nose? That's, all of a sudden, what we call a butterfly lighting effect, okay? We still have a shadow. There's still direction of light, okay? Now, don't get me wrong, there are amazing photographers out there, like, Joel Grimes will do, literally, this look right here, and he will shoot, like, right like that and it looks amazing. And you can see the catchlights are on the top of her eye. Let's take this shot, just to show you. I'm a lot shorter than her and I'm not using very good lens for this because I'm too close. But, this will be a nice close-up shot of you, you'll be like, "What the heck." Chin down for me, sweetie, just a touch. Perfect. Metering off her face and I'm lens is a little too long for this because I'm too close to her. But the point is it can be a really cool look with those catch lights in the upper eyes. I know she's like, "Oh my gosh, you can see every pore in my face." I totally get it. But Joel Grimes does this look amazing, and it can be really fun especially for a model, high-fashion look. So, don't be afraid to experiment with things. But the biggest thing that you want to consider is, is the light shaping the face? Are there shadows falling in the right spot and highlights in the right spot that flatter someone?

Class Description

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  



Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....