Professional photography inspiration: a spring photo shoot

I’ve recently become part of a brilliant group of photographers, brought together by my photography mentor, Nina Mace. We share tips, ideas and feedback, and each month we write a blog post on a shared theme.


Image taken on Nikon D750 with Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens. Shot at f1.8, ISO 200, 1/640th

This month, we’re blogging about our favourite recent spring image. This is mine: taken of my children in the midst of a busy spell of spring shooting. Here’s the detail of how I took it, and why I like it.


Photo shoot preparation

If you’ve read my previous post about photo-shoot location scouting, you’ll know that a lot of work goes into choosing an outdoor photography location. Finding this one took weeks of research, and endless muddy woodland walks. But once I’d found it, and secured permission to shoot there, I knew it’d be the perfect spot.


Next, I chose my children’s outfits – picking neutral and pastel colours that would complement each other, and the spring backdrop.


On the day that I’d planned to take this photograph, the weather was forecast to be sunny and hot. I knew that I wanted to avoid the harsh light, so we arrived at our location at 8am.


I also knew that I wanted the background to be really creamy – an effect called ‘bokeh’, if you’re interested. This creates lovely separation that isolates your subjects, making them look 3D. One factor in achieving decent bokeh is the distance of the background from your subject: the further away the better. So I picked a spot that had trees and foliage a good distance behind.


I positioned my children behind a patch of bluebells, then lay down on the path in front of them. By getting down low, I could give the impression that my children were sitting in amongst the bluebells – whereas, in fact, they were on a patch of grass. This meant that I could incorporate these beautiful spring flowers into my shot without causing any damage.


Taking the shot

Now for the hard part: taking the picture. In true photographer’s-offspring style, I knew my children would be reluctant to pose. So the only option was to mess around, and be ready to capture the natural moments as they occurred.


Here, my daughter’s holding a (colour-coordinated) sweet that I’ve told her she can eat once I’ve taken some pictures. I’m telling her that, whatever she does, she mustn’t put it in her mouth yet. And of course, she’s pretending to do just the opposite – with both children finding the whole thing hilarious.


Camera settings

I took this image on my Nikon D750, with a Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art lens. To achieve the bokeh, I shot it at f1.8. This creates a very shallow depth of field, meaning that I had to put – and try to keep! ­– both children on the same focal plane to capture them in focus. This provides little margin for error, which can make it tricky – especially when there’s a lively toddler involved!


As my children are fairly fast moving, I set my shutter speed at 1/640th, and ISO at 200 to achieve my desired exposure.


Post-production

As the shooting conditions were so good, I only had to make minor tweaks to achieve the overall look that I wanted. I warmed it up slightly, increased the exposure on my children’s faces, added a bit of magenta, and lifted the shadows. Oh, and removed my daughter’s runny nose.*


[*An aside about runny noses: usually I’d favour wiping over editing: it’s much less labour-intensive. But, in this case, I would have missed the moment, so made the decision to remedy it later.]


Why I like this shot

With my photographer’s hat on, I like this photo for its light, bokeh and beautiful spring colours. But, as a mum, I love it because it’s natural and captures the essence of my children.


I love seeing how other photographers are interpreting this theme, and putting their own stamp on it. If you’d also like to take inspiration from the other professional photographers within the #collaborationnotcompetition project, feel free to visit any of the websites below:


Anna Hurst Photography

Catriona Mairi Photography

Charles Thorne Photography

Clare Harding Photography

Clare Walpole Photography

Dandelion Photography

Derya Vicars Photography

Hannah Cornford Photography

Helen Rowan Photography

Jo Haycock Photography

Photography by Leela

Light Monkey Photography

Louisa French Photography

Lyndsey Abercromby

Lynne Harper Photography

Mel Wilson Photography

Nadine Brandt Photography

Portrayed Photography

Danielle Reeder Photography

Tor Keene Photography

Nina Mace Photography