So I wanted to take some portraits of Stefanie, but wanted a softer, more natural looking light with her, like soft light coming through a window. The problem? We did this shoot in the evening.
So, what to do? It boils down to a simple concept. The larger the light source, the softer the light. I had two speedlites, a transmitter, and a selection of softboxes from Westcott, and my EOS 5D Mark II. I placed one speedlite in the 52″ softbox- the biggest one I have. Nothing replicates that gorgeous light of a north-facing window better. I didn’t need to be concerned about spill- this was mostly going to be a headshot mostly anyway, and it would just appear as window light in the background. So for this shot here, one 52″ softbox at camera left, and that was it.
So lighting was the easy part. As pretty and sweet as she is, Stef is not all that comfortable having a camera pointed at her. This can get compounded when you have a parent in the room, criticizing the expressions because they want a “good smile.” Honestly, whenever I hear a parent utter those words when I am taking photos, I cringe. That’s the end of things usually. After that, the smiles become forced, the expressions become stiff, and the subject gets self-conscious.
I try to avoid the parents getting too involved. I want them there, obviously, but depending on the relationship, it can get awkward, because the kids can get self-conscious and the parents get annoyed. With Stefanie, we knew each other so we just started a conversation. Mom chimed in now and then, but for the most part just let things go. For this shot here, Mom and I started joking with each other, which of course got Stef laughing and smiling. I just kept snapping (Tip of the day- ALWAYS be shooting), and nailed this expression as she sat on the floor against the wall. Ultimately, the secret is to just get the subject to forget the camera is there. Get a conversation going, with her, with mom, with her friends, and keep everyone involved. Then just snap away as if it’s normal. Because it is.