Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how to vamp up the traditional children’s portrait and create something unique that’s fun for the kids but also fun to shoot. I spotted that a local florist had posted some snaps of flower crowns she was making for a wedding and decided to create something around these beautiful pieces. Luckily for me, the lovely florist Juliette was up for doing the crowns for me free of charge in exchange for access to the images and so all that remained was to style the rest of the shoot around them.
I began by creating a mood board, gathering ideas about colours and locations as well as the overall feel I wanted. I’m fortunate to live within spitting distance of the Surrey Hills so finding a lovely open space with good light and plenty of green was straightforward and I’ve used this particular spot before for family shoots and love the graphical nature of the dead tree. It’s great for kids because its a very short level walk from the car park and the tree makes a fun climbing frame for use even when we’re not shooting.
My wonderful models are the children of my local friends and I owe their parents much of the success of this shoot because they did an amazing job of sorting the girls out with outfits that met what I was after. I wanted two different looks from the shoot, one more of a rock chick look with denim and black, as a contrast to the softness of the flowers and to reflect the personalities of these girls – who are not really girly girls at all.
And then one more dreamy but not too ‘bridal’ looking, to make a sort of modern take on a sixties/seventies look, flower power and the summer of love.
The important thing here was to make sure the girls were having fun! The whole shoot took around 90 minutes and we had plenty of breaks for them to just hang out while we were doing wardrobe changes and sorting out gear. Any longer than that and I think they would have got fed up. As it was we got a great selection of beautiful images and a really good mix of serious and smiley faces which is something I want from every shoot.
You can never be sure how kids will respond to this kind of modelling and I really think that the key is never to push for a shot that just isn’t happening – the more you push the more they will push back – it’s just what kids do. You have to go with the flow and take advantage when a good shot presents itself. Some direction helps but you have to take what they give you and it can be golden. The shot above centre is a case in point. The only instruction I gave her was put your hand on the log and look at me – that foot point we can only think comes from watching a lot of Strictly Come Dancing!
When working with kids I also find that having a lot of gear is a problem – they seem to react negatively to having lights or even reflectors in their face. So all these images were shot on moderately high iso with only the available light. Fortunately this is an area with really good even light and it was an overcast day so shadows were minimised. However, this did mean they took longer than usual to process, as more sharpening and smoothing was needed due to the higher iso and the need to shoot fairly wide to get enough light in. However, it’s worth it to get the shots with happy mini-models in natural daylight.
A massive thank you to my mini-models and their two Mums (and one Grandma) who were just wonderful on the shoot. A shout out too to Juliette Phipps who did the flowers and who I hope to work with again soon – you can find her work at https://www.facebook.com/FlowersByJuliette
For more of my work visit www.siantphoto.com