I wanted to take some photos of Caroline in her new princess dress last week, but it was dinner time and Multicultural Night at school so my timeframe for this magical photo shoot was about 7 minutes. I live on a teeny tiny lot in a city neighborhood, so meadows and forests are in short supply. We do have an empty lot across the street, but most of it has been turned into a community garden (the vegetable kind) by a church.
But the weather was warm-ish and the sun was shining and my model was cooperative, so we popped across the street to borrow their grass, figuring we would just be making the most of a convenient location.
And we found a beautiful field of crocuses!
But it wasn’t actually that magical. It was just a little square of flowers between a driveway, a dead spot, and the church’s mulch pile. Here’s the cell phone pullback shot of Caroline in the same location:
There are several tricks you can use to maximize a less-than-ideal location if it’s all you have to work with. I knew when we went out to shoot I would be trying to disguise the background so I choose my 85mm f/1.8 lens, which is a medium length and is good at separating the subject from their surroundings. Once we found the flowers I decided to shoot at about f/2.2 or f/2.8 so I could include a good slice of the photo in focus – I wanted to be able to get Caroline’s whole profile in focus instead of just her eyelashes, or her whole body as opposed to just a sleeve.
Here are 5 more pieces of advice to help turn a bad spot into a good spot:
- Light! The sun is starting to go down and partially blocked by some of those trees, which means a great glowy kind of backlight instead of harsh overhead shadows. If the sun had been coming from the opposite direction I would have shot the other way (which would have been unfortunate, because there’s pavement the other way).
- Work your angles. I took a lot of these photos from overhead with Caroline crouching down, which includes a lot more grass/flowers and a lot less background. You can also get super low yourself, and shoot straight across the ground – you’ll end up with fewer distracting background elements.
- Get close. Fill the frame with your subject instead of trying to get too much of the environment. Yes I wanted to capture the crocuses, but having her hold them or shooting the flowers on their own is a good option.
- Horizontal vs vertical can be your friend. I shoot horizontally 90% of the time, but in this location I didn’t have a lot of space to work with. To create some variety in my shots, I took a series of photos vertically. Sure, she was standing almost next to a dirt pile, but because the photo is narrow you can’t see it.
- Don’t say cheese. Almost none of these photos have Caroline looking at the camera. Instead, you’re looking at what she’s looking at – her hands, the flowers in front of her, etc. Let your subject guide the viewers eye into the foreground instead of the background.
If this was a client shoot instead of just a fun session for Caroline, I would have taken the extra step in post-processing and fully removed the fence posts, dirt spots, and blue trash can from the background of a few of these. It’s not a hard fix in Photoshop, but I’ve gotten in the habit of using only Lightroom to edit my 365 photos or blog photos, just because it’s so easy.
Let me know if you have any questions!