I love shooting portraits. Unlike a lot of my fellow photography fans I chat with online, however, I’ve never really gotten the support to build. I have lots who praise my work (or invite me to events and nonchalantly inquire whether Cam has tagged along), but few have ever said “she takes great pictures and I want her to do my family portraits.” Or it’ll be suggested in passing, but there’s no effort to set an appointment or treat the session like an investment. Letting me take pictures becomes a favor – free practice outside my immediate family (or something ).
At times I am discouraged. At other times I take solace in not having the pressure of a potentially critical client.
This winter was a testy one. Though it never seems to be wintery enough for a “White Christmas,” we always seem to have these spurts of bitter cold followed by unpredictable rain, sleet, hail and snow. And no, the mail man does not cease to deliver despite delays. The weather makes for shooting outdoors a bit… painful. I nearly froze trying to shoot a playoff game during football season. And my “models” – aka kids – are even less appeasing to Mommy’s “hey, let’s go shooting” whims when it is freezing. Trust, I don’t blame them, but the urge is real sometimes.
Last year’s taxes paid for a light kit – one of the cheaper ones with three lights, a collapsible stand, and two “drops” in white and black thin cloth. The kids (or dog, or nobody, or somebody else) knocked the one un-umbrella’d light over. The light bulb shattered. The casing that holds the light bulb broke, too (something with the adapter ring now being a free moving metal piece and not a stationary, useful one). Nevertheless, the two remaining lights pack a bit of power, so I’m not upset [anymore].
As soon as the weather turned foul, I started buying backdrops from a wholesaler. THEY TAKE FOREVER to arrive and come folded up. The creases (oh, the creases!) are a PhotoShop nightmare. We know Rachelle does not iron. And, I’m afraid the ultra thin vinyl things are going to melt or, worse, bleed. Anyway, they are great “fixes” for moving away from my preferred white drop [read: off white bed throw], and they’ve become the staple feature in my most recent fashion shoots of Ri.
For days, the boys had been plotting a photo session. They’d picked out and pressed coordinating shirts and jeans. They’d debated the use of hats and who would wear what color. And they’d requested my assistance in selecting a location.
Feeling a bit under the weather – which had become all to common this December – I finally agreed to their shoot. We bundled up, fighting the deceptively cold air that contradicted the reported temperatures.
The boys shed their coats and stood awkwardly next to each other waiting for direction. And it took a bit of coaxing to get each into positions that looked comfortable. It took longer, still, to persuade them to “think warm” and relax tensed faces.
There were only a few shots of each of my guys, but I think their personalities are really featured. JD looks apprehensive – as though uncertain of his purpose in posing and unfamiliar with the camera. It’s no wonder, as I rarely get to capture him in pictures. Rico looks like he’s working on his “smooth operator” status. And Ya? Well, he’s showing his usual defiant, “I don’t want to be here” look.
Yes, these are my three gents.
We’re early. Too early.
In the room marked Salon One, we find an empty space next to a pillar. Chi looks around at all the girls. Many are flipping long, touseled locks about their shoulders. Hairspray clouds encircle heads while stylists stand ready with curling, crimping, and flattening irons. Girls blink as false eyelashes are glued to already made up faces. Power dust billows. One child complains quietly, unsure of the addition. “Go big or go home,” a mother snaps.
Another girl practices her walk along the patterned carpet. Mom stands, hand on hips, a few feet away. “No. When you hit the end, pose like this.” The child huffs, starts over.
Several print starlets waltz into the room, instantly drawing looks of admiration, and of disdain. They seem oblivious to the recognition, searching out friends they see at events and shoots they’re often booked together for. These have become their confidants of childhood in the midst of their jobs as young models. In rare breaks between hair and makeup, they find corners away from adults and whisper privately, play hand games, and fiddle with electronic diversion.
Most of these child models ignore the fuss created around them. Moms grow frustrated, cutting their eyes at other’s children and pushing their own forward for touch ups. In the stylists’ chairs, tots rock, fidget, and kick with unspent energy.
As the lineups begin, one or two littles begin to pout, boredom and exhaust evident. One clings to her mom, rubbing her freshly teased hair with abandon against her parent’s arm. Another whimpers about a bathroom emergency.
Some moms snap photos with their cells, others use SLR cameras. Those with instant connection to WiFi update their models’ fan pages. The live and times of these little stars is important news.
And here we sit, holding up a pillar and watching in awe. People pass by constantly, not even a wayward glance or hello. I check the time -mere minutes elsewhere a posing from the last look – and Chi sits close beside me, wringing her hands. “Should I get dressed, or something?” She asks as I toy with her baby for yet again. She is nervous, and, I sense, feeling as much out of place as I do. And we wait. Wait for acknowledgement, wait for a cue, wait to feel a sense of belonging that doesn’t seem forthcoming.
I cheated. I’ve skimmed my manual countless times in the five years (or so) that I’ve had cam, so I didn’t want to peruse again. I’ve not gotten any new equipment lately, so there was nothing to fiddle with. Did I mention I don’t like my studio system? Someone, “not me,” broke one of the lamp lights. Now I’m down to two lights with their attached umbrellas. I don’t like the shadows they cast, so I don’t use them unless absolutely necessary.
So here’s what I decided to do for my assignment: return to documenting life. Specifically, I decided to capture our gremlin (she’s advanced from imp). I shot pictures without my flash (as always), hoping the green wall wouldn’t cast too much color on her lively movie watching.
My 35 mm is great for indoors, especially smaller spaces. So I focused on little things: her new “ow-ow-ow,” her hands, her lashes. Her popcorn mess was an unexpected addition to the “shoot” when she got excited about an action sequence in “Tangled” – which she is, apparently, just at the age to really begin to enjoy.