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Portrait Sessions: Pynn-Lively Family

Dustin Abbott

December 8th, 2015

Portrait Sessions:  Pynn-Lively Family

Once again we are going to step behind the scenes and look at the process of shooting portraits.  I will cover location, the experience, and the gear used for the session.

I met Gary and Josie when they visited our church on a few occasions and struck up a friendship with them.  They are great people, and, while I hadn’t really met the rest of their family, they contacted me about doing a family portrait session late this fall.  Their preference (and mine) was to do an outdoor session.  Our targeted date had a forecast of rain a week out, so we all started praying.  The forecast didn’t change, but the weather did, and we were able to shoot without getting wet.

My next challenge was choosing a location.  By this point it was the beginning of November, and autumn’s beauty had largely faded.  I needed a location that didn’t rely on leaves and foliage to make it beautiful, so decided to use water instead.  I had them meet me at a place where I had some different options right on location.  It ended up working out very well.  Environmental portraiture relies somewhat on the environment, and this is truer when you shoot a larger group as you need to use a smaller aperture for more depth of field, meaning that the background will be more visible.

I shot with two different lens combinations.  I mostly used the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS, as the 35mm focal length is moderately wide but not so wide as to cause distortion.  One tip I try to follow is to always frame a little wider than I might otherwise to leave room from cropping.  An 8×10″ (a very common print choice) is considerably more square than the native resolution of most cameras (which correspond more closely to the 3:2 aspect ratio in a 4×6″ print).  In layman’s terms this means that you will have to crop off a fair bit of the sides of the image if your client orders an 8×10″ (or similar) print.  I also used a Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD telephoto for tighter framing of a smaller family group.  The latter is one of my go-to lenses for portrait and event work, particularly when I want to have separation of my subject from the environment.

I put the sun (it was mostly overcast) at their backs and filled in the light with a couple of Metz 64 AF-1 flash units – one fired through an umbrella and another on camera using the Lite Genius Lite-Scoop II to diffuse it.  The latter allowed me to keep moving around and to bring my light source with me while still feathering the light.

We shot in a few different layers.  One was a traditional shot built around a seated adult (two, in this case).  I then shot a tighter grouping of a “sub-family” (son, girlfriend, and new baby).  I then really used the environment by placing them on large rocks along the shoreline, while I hopped onto another exposed rock out in the water so that I could shoot back at them.  I really like the dramatic result of this series.  I had also brought a blanket, so we then switched to a ground series with the whole group and then the children.  I got right down to ground level to shoot some of these.

I got great participation both from the young people and the baby.  We worked at keeping the baby warm and happy, and for the most part succeeded.  One of my favorite parts of the shoot was that Josie ordered a lot of BIG prints.  Low quality photos look worse when printed large; high quality photos look better!  I love seeing large prints of family photos; the details and colors are really given a chance to shine!

Here’s a look at some of the photos, and look down at the bottom if you want a little more gear info.

Gear Used:

Canon EOS 6D DSLR Camera (Body Only)
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Zoom Lens for Canon
Metz 64 AF-1 Flash units
Lite Scoop Lite Genius II
Adobe Lightroom CC Software for Mac and Windows (Boxed Version)
Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud 1-Year Subscription
Alien Skin Exposure X (Use Code “dustinabbott” to get 10% anything and everything)

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