by Gregory Daniel FDPE, FSA, M.Photog. CR., F-ASP

Never underestimate the power of having a plentiful toolbox loaded with skills, knowledge and experience.  If you are like me, every session seems to have different variables that challenge my preconceived ideas of how I thought it was going to pan out.  The cloud you wanted was not in the proper spot, our client was very early or could only do the session at high noon and how about a small child that is not old enough to know how to pose perfectly on demand.  These are the conditions where having a strong photographic knowledge base allows you to maximize your creativity and deliver the goods.

A couple of months ago I was commissioned to create a portrait for one of our past clients.  We had created a lovely wall portrait of her young son that portrayed him and his mother playfully posed, with strong warm backlight.  She wanted to hang her daughter’s new portrait in the same room and wanted them to match but did not want them to be created in the same location.  She loved the idea of having elements of gazebo, flowers, fence, interactive storytelling, warm light and vertical to match her son’s portrait.

We selected a local park that had a few of the elements we needed.  Warm light was accomplished two ways, light is warmer just before sunset and with no clouds in the sky we used a gold reflector to create a strong sense of backlight.  Placing the subjects far away from the gazebo allowed me to see the entire gazebo and use it as an element in the design.  Doing so placed our subjects in direct sunlight. Using the translucent diffused the light creating a beautiful flattering light on our subjects.  The gazebo was tucked away in significant tree cover, which blocked most of the direct sunlight creating the right side to be in very low light.  To compensate I used a bare bulb strobe to bring up the illumination and create background dimension.

During the planning session, Lesa helped with clothing selection based on color harmony and something that would flow.  Placing the basket of flowers closer to the camera gives them size and prominence. In addition, they become the perfect element of use in creating an interactive story.  Now all the elements are in place and ready for the magic to happen.  This is where Lesa is brilliant with young children as she creates a story time with the child.  She tells stories getting the child fully engaged in wonderland allowing me to wait for the “spaghetti moment” (you know, Lady and the Tramp).

Looking back on this session I am certain that without all the years of giving, caring mentors and instructors poring their knowledge into my toolbox, I would never have been able to create such a lovely timeless heirloom for our client.  I encourage each of you to seek out classes and venues that will build your own personal toolbox.