18 May 2010

Portraits and Such

I have no formal photography training except for a half-semester in 1995; I left midway through the course to move to California, got a great job, and didn't pick up my camera for almost six months. When I did, I went back to nature photography (it's a great excuse for a scenic road trip) but also spent a lot of time casually photographing my stepdaughter, then 5, so my now-ex-husband could have some nice pictures of her. I don't have these pictures anymore but remember how surprised I was to find how well the images caught not just her likeness but also her wonderful personality. The photo at right, which I took last year of two similarly sparkling personalities, is of two "bestest friends ever"; I was lucky they were by a window so the light was good, but really the picture works because it was totally unposed and spontaneous, and totally captures these girls' personalities and friendship.

I've found that a similar thing happens when photographing animals; there's a moment when you can almost see the creature's soul, and even if you don't believe animals have "souls" many of them definitely have something compelling about them. And they do all kinds of cute things. The giraffes above are both "zoo babies" at the Albuquerque Zoo, one a yearling and the other (believe it or not) just a few weeks old. I suppose "cuteness" depends on the species; the baby alligators at the zoo were not exactly cute...

They say to just do what you love and you'll learn to do it well, but I've also benefited over the years from books and, now, the Internet. One site I like is Digital Photography School; on the "Photographing Children" page the author offers a suggestion we could all live by, whatever our passion:

The key to good kid shots is to rediscover your own inner child. Kids love to have fun, they do the unexpected, they love to experiment and test things out and they love to play. Approach photographing them in this spirit and you’ll find your pictures take on a wonderful childlike quality.

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