I have a new set of favourite photos of my son. But these shots happened in such an unplanned and ad hoc way that I wasn’t sure how they would turn out.
We were upstairs in the studio playing around after a photoshoot that I had. The backdrop was already set up from the previous photoshoot and some of my gorgeous kids skirts were out. (There is a technical term for these skirts and it is escaping me. When I think of it I will come and add it in to this post.)
So there we were, my son and I, upstairs in the studio with a backdrop set up next to a window. Everything was pretty random and messy and not planned in any way. I had used studio lights for the previous shoot but had started putting these away and had opened up my blinds to let some natural light back into the room.
So with natural light streaming in, a backdrop set up and one toddler in s skirt who was in a great mood, a bit of magic started to happen. And this is the end product.
I put together a series of photos of him dancing into one shot and I absolutely love it. But a fair amount of photoshopping was involved to get it all to this point.
My son has always loved dressing up (in all of his 2 years on this earth!). Having a big sister means that there is a pretty solid dressing-up role model in his life. She loves to put on any of my photography props and outfits, particularly these amazing skirts and now, so does my boy.
So there he was, picking up a skirt and asking me to photograph him dancing. It was just so adorable. And of course I was very quick to grab my camera and snap off as many shots I could of this little boy who was laughing and dancing around having a ball. He was having so much fun, swirling and falling down. The thing about these skirts is that they swish and move beautifully. They are a subject in themselves. They hang in such a way that moving with them is actually really fun.
I couldn’t wait to see the shots but I knew that they might not turn out in a way that would be ideal for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the light source. If I had have actually planned on shooting against this backdrop using only natural light, I would have moved the whole backdrop closer to the window or even shot it all in a different direction from where the light source was coming from.
Secondly, the backdrop. While I love this particular backdrop, it is one of my smaller ones. If I knew I was going to be photographing a dancing toddler, I would have certainly pulled out one of my biggest backdrops to give the child lots of room to move around.
However with a two year old in a good mood, you need to go with it straight away. He wasn’t going to stop and wait for me to set up a large background in an ideal spot.
Once he had enough (which was after about 10 minutes), off he went to play with his cars and it was all over.
When I had a look at the shots my heart just filled with joy. I loved his facial expressions, his body movements with the movement of the skirt, the fact that it was a boy in a skirt, the fact that he was clearly having so much fun, and I loved the colour of the skirt and the backdrop. I was so glad he had picked up the red skirt!
I realised pretty quickly though that these shots would need a bit of photoshopping before I would be happy with them printed up. Here are a couple of the RAW images, straight out of camera before any editing:
As you can see, cute shots, but the background roll is really too small.
The shots however did convey a sense of joy on his face and a beautiful movement of his body and the skirt which were making gorgeous patterns. I decided that I would stitch all of the photos together to create a little series. That way I could have a panoramic print of all of my favourites on the same image.
There was a couple of ways I could have done this. I chose the following method:
- Contour out all of the individual shots of him (otherwise known as clip pathing)
- Put them all on one big long backdrop so I could aim for more consistency of colour and texture
- Photoshop out his nappy (even though it was cute, it detracted from the final image as it stood out too much being a stark white colour)
- Add some drama and pizzaz with the colour and the lighting. To do this I deepened colours, shadows and levels. I also crunched (sharpened) some of the skirt movement and adjusted the mid tones on some to highlight them.
- Created a painterly effect by adding texture
It was quite fun working on these images, just for me. I rarely go to so much trouble for my own family photos and I found myself sitting up until after midnight finishing it off (because this is the only time I have to do these things, hence why they never happen). I hope my son loves these just as much as I do when he is older.