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September 14, 2010

Black & White Wednesday: Pearls

A few weeks ago, I bought a black shower curtain with the thought in mind that I'd use it as a backdrop for portraits.  I used thumb tacks to hang it on the wall in our guestroom. I also bought some inexpensive photography props - costume jewelry, colorful scarves, hair accessories, etc.  

20100913 IMG_1948maddy black background combined mink

Maddy didn't have to ponder her choices for very long.  She absolutely wanted to wear these pearls.  When I fastened them around her neck, her entire demeanor changed.  She must have felt like a real princess!

20100913 IMG_1948maddy black background combined

The black and white has a timeless, Kate Hepburn-esque, quality about it but I really I loved these in color.     

There's no story to tell here.  We took these photos specifically because I wanted to test out that black backdrop.  The lighting in the room left much to be desired so I dragged in one of my cheapo umbrella lights and flipped it around backwards so the light was diffused through the white umbrella.  I had to get it pretty close to her face and I still had trouble finding the right balance between aperture, shutter speed and exposure.  But, if your photo is well composed and in focus, you can fix just about everything else in Photoshop!

20100913 IMG_1934maddy black background musette and mink

Post processing makes such an amazing difference! After I 'fixed' the photos, I converted them to black and white using my favorite Florabella action "mink".  I always tweak it slightly and dial down the opacity.  You really need to do all of your edits before you convert to black and white.

20100913 IMG_1934maddy black background copy 3

One of the best tips anyone ever gave me about editing my photos was to slightly lighten the face.  I use curves and a mask and a very soft brush - opacity set to about 25.  I lightly sweep it over the face and hair of my subject then I invert the mask and remove the lightness from the eyes and lips. 

20100913 IMG_1933maddy black background mink

Another really valuable tip I got was to remember to wash my child's face before taking portraits.  It's so much faster and easier than trying to photoshop the mess off of their face later!  A little dab of lip gloss is essential too.  They hate it but it looks so pretty in the photos.  Especially since Gwen's lips are always chapped.

20100913 IMG_1933maddy black background fix

My biggest challenge is getting natural smiles.  I think it's one of the hardest things about photographing people.  I'm always trying to get my kids into a silly mood so their expressions are more spontaneous and honest but I have to admit that I'm really not very good at doing this because I'm usually preoccupied with camera settings.  I tried telling Maddy some goofy kid jokes but she's six and still doesn't quite understand how jokes work or why they're funny.    I'd love to hear some of your tips and tricks.  How do other people get their kids to look natural in front of the camera? 



For more Black & White Wednesday fun, check out The Long Road to China.
More of our Black & White Wednesday posts here:  Black & White Wednesday


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