Fall is still going strong here in North Eastern Ohio, so I grabbed a couple of my favorite models, the fun and fabulous Brooke, Chloe, Emily, Erica, Kelly, Lexi, Tenley and Zoe, and we Headed to the Hills… oh, right, it’s totally flat here…so we Headed to the Forest of Peninsula, Ohio one early, crisp fall morning.
We had everyone dress in black, grey and cream so that the drabness of their clothing would stand out amongst the brilliance of the fall colors, and so that they would form a cohesive look without being too matchy-matchy, which was very popular in the ‘90’s, but has now definitely fallen by the wayside in favor of everyone having their own personal style while still keeping the flow of the group.
One way to stand out in a group in a negative way is to wear a pattern; stripes or big flowers, especially, but textures don’t tend to distract at all.
We started out on this killer fallen log that just happened to be in one of the most beautiful settings ever….gotta love that! I love using found items in nature whenever I possibly can…I have done the fabulous chair or couch in nature too, but I really try to stay away from anything too trendy…you never know when a trend that sounds like a great idea today will become a choice morsel of egg throwing, belly laughing fodder on www.failedphotography.com tomorrow. Any time you have more than one person in a shot, the likelihood that everyone is going to do the same thing at the same time diminishes in direct proportion to the amount of people in the shot, so to help get everyone on the same page, I like to do little group exercises, like having everyone walk together, or having everyone laugh together. I find that it really helps on the individual blinking, as well. When everyone is invested in an activity together, they even start blinking at the same time, which is kind of interesting and makes for less failed pictures.
Bonding makes Beautiful!
It was about 40 degrees out, and the mist was coming up out of the water, but these troopers slogged out to the middle of this creek like pent up chickens on the first day of spring. There was a lot of slipping and near misses, peals of laughter at the sheer frigidity of it all, and, then, the appreciation of each other…the little ones helped the 15 year olds balance, the big girls carried the ten year olds, every single person got their feet totally drenched, but, what the heck, bonding produces shots like these, where everyone is doing something different, yet, look at their faces, they’re so totally happy…they’re all in the same mindset, in the same mood, which gives the picture this kind of “whole” feel, and that’s what makes for good pictures.
Think of it as a kind of “Band of Brothers” approach…people who have been through a war together really bond, so if everyone in your group is ok trying a different sort of location that is a tad on the daredevil side, not, mind you, anywhere near approaching skydiving status, go for it. And don’t forget your waders. Cold, wet feet does not a happy photographer make. I think my toes were purple by the end of the shoot. But did I stop? Nay, sire. Nay.
Posing these beauties was easy. A lot of times, even if my subjects are great friends, or even family, they feel funny touching in pictures, but having people so close that you can smell their deodorant, or lack thereof, is that best way to have a nice cuddly, fun looking group, who LOOK like they’re in the groove with each other. If you don’t have them really close, one person usually tends to wander away and look like they’re not part of the group any more. After that, it’s the same as I always tell you…create triangles. Everyone get bendy. But remember, if you think that 8 kids will just crawl up on a rock and pose themselves, you’re nuts. Go sit in front a mirror right now, the way you always sit when you’re comfy. It doesn’t look so hot, does it? So what you do is assess the action.
Point out where you’re shooting, and some of them will run over and sit down. Pick the one who looks the best and go off of them. In this case, Chloe, who is in the cream sweater and scarf in the middle, had already been looking great right as she was on that rock for her individual shot. I had her bend her camera right knee to get her foot a little higher and off being on a straight plane. Then I had Brooke, camera left, and Kelly, camera right of Chloe, come in and I told them to turn their knees to the side. Brooke naturally put her knees up, so Lexi was able to snuggle in next to her, and Erica went on her knees behind and between them, while Kelly stretched out her legs a bit, making a perfect spot for Emily to lay over them, and Kelly’s side made a great place for Zoe to lounge on. She turned her legs sideways, so that little Tenley could scoot on in, and there you have it.
Speaking of which, if you have a big gang there, like that and they’re all friends, shoot them individually and together in twos or small groups of friends, making sure not to leave anyone out. Love one pose or don’t have a lot of poses in your arsenal? No problem! Telling people to do the same things can produce totally different effects, like with Emily, top, and Lexi, bottom. They both grabbed the tree branch, but in different ways, and the look and feel of each shot is totally different.
Hugging it Out
People connect when they hug, also when they look at each other. But a lot of times, hugging pictures look awkward, probably because their heads are on a straight line with no triangles. See how everyone’s bent arms bring their hands up to point at their faces? I used the rocks and foreground leaves to frame the girls, and the blurred out fall brilliance in the background is thanks to an f-stop of 2.8. Even in this group huggie shot, the girls’s heads aren’t all going one uniform way, they are forming triangles Zoe and Brooke are hugging and making good triangles.
Look at the way their heads make a figure 8…those loops, a/k/a triangles, keep grabbing your eye in and compell you to keep looking at it.
Look for the light
It was getting kind of high noon-ish, which, surprisingly isn’t usually a factor here in North East Ohio, land of the Disappearance of the Sun, and my lovely assistant for the day, Mindy, pointed out a thick section of forest with the sun filtering through the trees, and mentioned that it looked like a scene from the movie Twilight, so I broke into a run and flung the models over in that general direction and told them to do something twilight-esque.
This pose was of their own doing, maybe because they have all seen Twilight and kind of had a feeling associated with the woods and the movie in mind, or maybe because they’re all so totally awesome, but the effect was magical, either way. I turned up the contrast and down the saturation in Photoshop to bring out this kind of eerie feeling, and let the unevenness of the light coming from above work to my advantage in this shot.
I really want to encourage you to send me your winning shots, as well as your misses, so that we can all get better together. Send your thoughts and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . And follow me at @barbstitzerphotography on instagram…tell me it’s you and I’ll follow you back. Any way you want to get in touch, I’ll be here waiting for you.