Hi!! I have been meaning to blog for what feels like years, and I am finally doing it!! I really want these blog posts to be helpful, so if there are any specific topics that you guys want to hear about, please just let me know!!
As it is, I thought a good first blog post would be a behind-the-scenes look at a few images. These really encapsulate what I want my photography to be- magical, whimsical, soft, storytelling. I will admit to being a bit of a control freak when it comes to planning out a shoot and I try to make sure that every aspect of my image serves some kind of purpose—it is either telling part of my story or adding somehow to the emotional impact of the image. Location, props, clothing, posing, and lighting all play a huge role in creating emotion and telling your story.
There is no place that I love shooting more than in the woods and forests near my home. Undoubtedly influenced by my upbringing in rural Massachusetts, the woods represents childhood to me… a place of endless adventures and magical stories. Forests are the birthplace of fairytales, a place of imagination and beauty and home. That is what the emotional side of me sees when I look at a woodland. The photographer in me sees leading lines, endless texture, beautiful color, well-placed framing, and amazing potential background compression. Forests really have it all for me, so it’s probably no surprise that a lot of my images are set in a woodland of some kind. Now, I am not saying that everyone should head to the woods to capture magical images. Quite the opposite, actually. I strongly believe that you need to find what speaks to you—what you have an emotional connection with—and THAT is where you will find your own magic. The best way to capture magic is to feel it yourself… you will be able to inject so much more emotion into your images if you really do feel that emotion as you are shooting. And that connection will come across to your viewer.
So, onto the WHERE: these images were both shot in two different forest locations. For me, just placing my subject in a forest already adds emotional storytelling. It also gives me a location with a lot of potential for both foreground and background compression, which I really, really love (just a tip: for that wonderful, yummy foreground compression, shoot using a long lens–135mm, 200mm, etc– wide open and get as low to the ground as possible). I looked for a spot that had some open sky (on both days it was very overcast, so the woods were very dark, but I didn’t have to worry about having hotspots or dappled lighting as the clouds really act like one big diffuser). I also looked for texture (moss, ivy, etc) to create visual interest in the scene. Don’t dismiss what might look like a boring location to your eye. Try to see the scene as your camera would see it, and what’s more, what editing potential is there. Both of these locations look pretty boring and standard as they are. You as the artist need to look beyond that and see the possibilities present with which you can craft, manipulate, and create.
CLOTHING: I love texture in my images, both in my location and in the clothes. Knits, lace, suede, faux-fur, tuelle—wherever and however I can get it, I want it in the clothes that my clients or my models wear. I also really love neutral colors: creams, whites, greys, tans… these colors don’t distract from my subjects, and I think they also compliment the woods environment that I love so much. When I selected the outfit for these images, I wanted something that looked almost like pajamas for my model to wear… something that looked warm and cozy. My gray hooded knit romper completely fit that bill for me!
PROPS: I love this little teddy bear, it features in a lot of my images. Not only is it the perfect size for little children, but it has a lovely vintage feel that I LOVE for my images. He is simple and sweet and the perfect little companion. I love Winnie the Pooh, and I think that having this little teddy in an image adds to that whimsical, childhood, fantasy feel.
LIGHT: Because the woods are dense where I live, and the days are very overcast this time of year, it makes for some pretty dark conditions when shooting. I tried not to go too deep into the woods, so light was coming into the scenes from the road, and because I was shooting in a little bit of a clearing, it gave me overhead light as well to helped to illuminate my subject.
LENS: For both of these images I used my 135L lens. I usually shoot with my 200L, but that lens is an absolute beast. It’s massive, and because it is so big I have to keep my shutter speed up very high to avoid camera shake. This means my ISO, unless I’m shooting somewhere really bright, also needs to be high. Combine that with underexposing slightly to compensate for skin tones and it’s a recipe for noise, noise, and more noise. My 135L has become my go-to forest lens. It’s light, it’s sharp, and the compression it gives is just dreamy.
MY EDITS: I knew for these edits I was going to want something magical and whimsical looking, and for me that that means softness and lovely light. I really love subject isolation with an illuminated subject, so I also usually edit so that my backgrounds are darker and my subjects lighter, which allows them to pop a bit more and grab the viewer’s attention.
Here are the straight out of camera shots for the images:
I also knew that I wanted to get a shot of my son pointing up at something, so that later I could add some light and dust motes. He is too young to be able to really follow directions (actually I’m pretty positive that he understood exactly what I was saying to him, but in the grand tradition of two-year-olds, his current favorite word is “No”). If you have a specific shot in mind and your little model isn’t cooperating, there are usually ways to go about manipulating the situation into one that is advantageous for you. I try to avoid bribery where I can, because it can set up a precedent from which it can be hard to break (when they’re little it’s easy and a square of chocolate will do the trick, but the older they get the greater their understanding of supply and demand!). I generally try to keep the situation calm when I am shooting, because I want that calmness to come off on camera. But sometimes breaking from that mould is the best way to get a reaction!
Annnnd here’s a pullback of how I (or rather how my husband) managed to get him to point:
I hope this has been helpful (or at least a little bit interesting)– let me know if you have any questions at all and happy shooting, guys!!