I had the pleasure of shooting some family portraits for some dear friends of mine. We went to the beautiful UW Botanic Gardens in early spring just as many of the beautiful cherry blossom trees were coming into full bloom.
My favorite two shots from the morning shoot were a last minute experiment. The sun had gotten pretty high in the sky and was pretty harsh. I noticed their daughter playing under the blossoms of a beautiful little tree. I quickly switched to a wide angle lens, stuck my hand way up in the air, to get it over the tree limbs and to where I could shoot down at the girl through the blossoms. Once I had the camera up high I started blindly pressing the shutter button, and snagged a few shots. One of which is pictured here.
I liked the way the blossoms dangled from the tree and framed a nice little natural window frame around the girl. Her siblings were getting a little tired so I asked them to lie down together and to take a minute to gaze up into the clouds. Once again, I raised my hand way up in the air and started hitting the shutter button with no idea of what I was actually capturing. I got lucky and snagged this photo.
I enjoy this photo. It’s a a fun, somewhat dreamy spring image of the kids soaking life in. I actually edited it to have a different finish and look from the first photo because I wanted to emphasize the dream like quality of it.
Though the photos above were my favorite, they weren’t the initial shots I set out to get. I had pictured in my mind a photo that would highlight the beauty of the gardens in spring. It was the first photo I worked to get that morning.
While I also enjoyed the more straight up family photo and the way it captures the beauty of the UW Botanic Gardens, I found myself enjoying the unexpected picture of the kids goofing around beneath the tree to be the more impactful image that I’ve gone back to most. The family photo is more of a canned group shot. You know…”everyone say cheese.” Whereas the photos of the kids above tell more of a story. Even in the first image of the girl smiling right at me, it has a more authentic feel. That’s largely because she WAS smiling, as she was hanging out and playing under that tree. I just happened to see it, stick my camera in the air, and capture her attention in the midst of the fun she was having.
The scene with her siblings was more directed (I asked them to go lay down and helped position them a little bit). But I didn’t have them look at the camera. I told them to just hang out and have fun as they chatted and looked at the sky. So once again, I snapped a shot that was far more authentic as it captured the kids having fun doing their thing.
It serves as a good reminder to always be thinking creatively about different ways to use the environment you’re shooting in to frame your subjects and to add depth, drama, and impact to your image. It’s also a great reminder that if you want to go beyond a basic canned family photo, look for how people are interacting with their environment and try to capture them enjoying the adventure of life! You will likely walk away with a photo that has way more impact!