Five tips for capturing perfect portraits of your children
Five tips for capturing perfect portraits of your children
Well I don’t want to jinx it, but I do ALWAYS seem to get very lucky with the weather on my location portraits! Saturday was no exception!
Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath was the location and when I arrived it was just glorious sunshine, the park was pretty much empty apart from a couple of dog walkers, and joggers.
I was slightly early , so I parked the camera bag on a bench and sat in the sunshine contemplating life, you can’t get better than a beautiful, spring morning in London.
The portraits I was shooting were of four cousins, ages ranged between 3 and 7, so I new it was going to be a lively one, I made the most of the peace until they arrived! 🙂
All four had their own unique personalities, which is really lovely to image, and all had a great relationship with each other, which is so lovely to capture.
The colours of the shrubs in the park were glorious and made a perfect backdrop to the portraits of the children, I will defiantly be suggesting this location for further portraits, so many wonderful places.
Here are a few of my favourites, the expressions are just priceless!
If you would like a portrait shoot anytime up until July I have some special offers running on my website, but only very limited availability. Especially for weekends.
After this I will be away volunteering for Raleigh International in Nicaragua for nearly three months and will return early September for some gorgeous Autumn shoots, If you would like to book a shoot for the Autumn shoots please donate to the just giving page for my up and coming trip to secure your place. A minimum donation of £75 is required.
I look forward to seeing you all when I get back! And if you would like to keep up to date with my travels, please join the instagram page, (link above) or follow this blog!
I am sure all of you by now have read all of the amazing reviews of all of the new Fuji film products that were excitingly released on the 19th of Jan! So my experiences? Well where to begin
As a portrait and travel photographer the obvious choice for me of the new arrivals was the X-T20, a smaller more compact little sister of the the X-T2 (a camera that I now use for ALL of my portraiture and travel commissions).
In November 2016, I was approached by Fujifilm asking if I would be interested in having a trial of another of their prototype cameras. Now is any photographer going to say no, to such a great opportunity? You’d be a fool not to get involved!
The very next day I was off on my travels again as a trainer for the wonderful Photojourney in Nepal, I packed up the x-T2 in my Billy bag and just popped in the X-T20, and hoped that I would get a chance to give it a go.
With most of the prototypes that are sent out there are always some initial glitches, but I managed to get it up and running for a few days whilst up in the hills of Barpak, Nepal.
It was so small I would often take it out on my golden hour walks, something that I try and do everyday whilst visiting a new area, I would pop on either the 90mm or 56mm prime lens on and that would be it!
The following images were taken a year and a half after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, and I wanted to really highlight the way the town had managed to regenerate and develop with vigour and pride after such an epic event, it was really very inspiring!
As the X-t20 was a pre-production model, I was unable to shoot RAW so shot all of the images in Jpeg, and then processed after in Nik software as I love the BW conversion, I was amazed by the quality and depth of the files and the sharpness! Sheesh! That 56mm APD lens is something else!
The biggest benefit to the size was that I found was that I could very discreetly hand hold the camera, in all situations and it is pretty much unnoticed, really nice when you are trying to get natural portraits.
Even more so when imaging the children of Barpak, (and there were LOTS of children!) as they were certainly less intimidated with the smaller body, I was amazed how close to the subjects I was able to get.
I’m not one to go into to all the new technologies and features, but as a photographer who likes things easy I just like things to work the way they should!
Photography for me is more about the connection and interaction with the subject, and this lovely little piece of kit certainly allowed me to have that! The eye contact that I was able to maintain was easier as I was not behind a huge DSLR, quite often I would use the flip screen with my eyes above camera to draw an expression from the subject!
The controls and menus are pretty much the same as the X-T2, so I was used to where everything was, just slight differences were noted but nothing too out of the way.
After returning from Nepal and a couple of firmware updates (very normal for the pre-production models) I was able to shoot RAW and the files as expected did not disappoint! The files are BIG! And again lots of depth and clarity.
I am still experimenting with the body and it has also recently been in my kit for a recent family holiday to Costa Rica, it was a great to take out on days and to the beach, and I am sure it will be a great add on to my work kit also!
I am now thinking of carrying two bodies (this one being the extra) to my portrait shoots, so that I am able to seamlessly shoot both wide and long lenses quickly! When shooting children at speed this can only be of benefit! I will update you when I have started my London portrait shoots in a few weeks! (its just too cold out there at the moment!)
In the meantime for all of the camera details just click on the images above we really could learn a lot from their strength of character!
A few months ago, just after returning from Photokina in Germany, I was asked by Ugo Cie of the traveling image makers podcast site, if I would share a few stories about my photographic journey and where it has led me in the last few years!
Here is that interview and a few words to introduce it by Ugo himself!
“A few weeks ago I was visiting Photokina, the world’s largest photo and video trade fair, held every year in Cologne, Germany. As I was leaving the exhibition’s floor at the end of my last day there, I happened to pass by Fujifilm’s booth and I noticed there was a talk about to start on the stage. The photographer that was going to present her work was Saraya Cortaville, who I didn’t know previously.
I decided to stay a little bit more to attend the presentation and I am happy that I did, because her work was truly inspiring and her personality captivating. At the end of the talk, I introduced myself and invited Saraya to be my guest on the show and she graciously accepted, so we recorded an interview a few days later and here it is.”
I hope that you all enjoy this insight into what I do if I am not taking images of children in and around London! Being a photographer really is a wonderful gift, when you can have such varied experiences!
Heres to the next adventure!
Travelling through Nepal with the Fujifilm X-T2.
So I am currently sat in an empty/ish Koln airport, Ive bought the obligatory duty free, eaten the dried ham and cheese roll with my last beer, and now I have a couple of hours to kill before I get my flight back to the uk! So I thought rather than just sitting and watching the world go by I would share some of my experiences of my first Photokina.
I was attending the vast trade show as a speaker on the Fuji live stage, telling my story of my switch from NIKON to the gorgeous Fuji XT-2.
I was speaking alongside some incredibly talented photographers, it was a little nerve wracking to say the least, and I felt a little out of my depth, having never spoken on such a big stage before!
I really shouldn’t have worried! Everybody and I mean EVERYBODY, has made me feel extremely welcome, and they all assured my that everything would go smoothly! And it did! (I had been worrying about this for weeks!!)
Thank you so
Here are a few of the images from my talk…..Click on the images to find the exif data…
Arriving at Koelnmesse, where the trade show is held, I was shocked at how large all of the stands were! I had been to trade shows in the UK before, but this was on a different level!
It was clear that there was a real buzz around the Fuji stand, probably due to the announcement of the eagerly anticipated GFX medium format body and lenses. There certainly was a lot of bodies crowding around the displays, all taking images of cameras! (A little strange if you ask me, but each to their own!)
The highlights for me were:
The images on the Leica stand, the disturbing giant images from Bruce Gilden were just shockingly powerful.
Seeing the other speakers on my stand, Elia Locardi and his epic travel images. Jonas Rask and his beautiful street photography, and Javier Abads stunning wedding images, I could go on…. all of the speakers on the Fuji stand were great, and I took something away from each and everyone!
Seeing the real passion with which the Fuji staff feel about their product, and their real care as to how it is received by us, its clients. I don’t think I have ever known a company that really honestly cares so much! It is refreshing to be involved with the company that really does listen to our opinions!
And lastly making some amazing new friends, and catching up with old ones is always lovely, just to chat photography every evening over food and a few, (maybe one night too many!) beers.
I leave Cologne, with a huge smile on my face, and feeling inspired to go shooting with all of the creativity that I have taken away!
Thank you Fuji! And thank you Cologne! 🙂
So wow this has really been one of busiest months, EVER since leaving the studio a year and a half ago!
17 location shoots, eight weddings, preparing for my talks for Fuji in Cologne, and a precious need for some mummy daughter time, and I have felt stretched beyond belief, but its nearly over and I am looking very much forward to a few days off !
Leaving the studio before my trip to Africa was a brave move, and one that I must admit, made me a little nervous to say the least! But I am so pleased that I made the jump, to a better work life balance!
My trips abroad were the push to leave the daily grind of the commute and the rent payments (dont get me wrong I bloody loved that studio!) but it was time for a change! And for the first time since I have been back, it has felt that my business has got back to where is was before! Phew! It took a while!
But now from strength to strength as they say, and because I am no longer tied to the studio I am able to take up some wonderful opportunities that have come my way!
Sometimes you just have to jump, and hope that you’ll land ok! And with a lot of hard work that generally tends to happen fortunately!
We will be visiting the epicentre of the Nepali earthquake that tragically took so many lives last year to see how the area has progressed since. From my visit in January this year I have no doubt that the Nepalis will be smiling through it all and welcoming us into what ever shelter they have! I hope that the government has released the much needed fund to rebuild!? I will wait and see.
The next great opportunity actually happened a while ago, as you can see from my last post I was approached by the lovely guys from Fuji, to test out their new flagship Fuji XT2 in the hope that I would see the benefits of using the mirrorless system over my Nikon DSLR.
It was a bit of a steep learning curve, especially with a prototype model, but even with that factored in, I was impressed! I have now completely switched, and am now looking forward to speaking in Cologne at Photokina telling of my experiences! Its been a bit of a whirlwind of a year, and my advice to anybody stuck in a bit of a rut?
Go out there and do something that pushes your boundaries and your buttons of creativity! It really has taken my life in a completely different way!
I am so excited for the few next months and years! And never expected that volunteering for four months for an NGO would take me so far!
They do say you get back what you put in , and seems to have rung true with my year!
Here’s to more adventures and exciting projects!
And for all of you reading, I was NOT a fuji ambassador at the time of writing this, and wrote totally from my own opinions, I already had a kit that I was happy with, and was asked to write an impartial view!
I have never been a great one for keeping a secret!….
25th of April, 15:00 hours and the rendezvous point was Somerset house, Embankment, London, England.
Two very special agents from Fuji U.K handed me a top secret black box!
A black box that only 100 other photographers around the world were privy too, before its official release.
My mission was to test out this prototype and see if I was willing to defect!
Being a loyal Nikon user since my first assisting job in 1999, and having always enjoyed the quality, and build of their cameras.
A Nikon user since the film days of the F5! I invested in the lenses and bought into the ethos of quality! Yes a photographer who had stayed loyal to the brand and the system for a long while almost 15 years! Could I be swayed?
My most recent investment being the D4s, and three lenses, the 24mm-70mm, f2.8, 70mm-200mm, f2.8 and the 50mm prime f1.2. This kit has travelled with me across the world and allowed me to shoot some beautiful images that I am very proud of!! I have gained two fellowships and numerous awards with this kit!
Why should I change?
When pros are spending over £5000 for a pro body and extra for the lenses, do we not deserve the cutting edge technology? Wifi technology, 4k Video, perfect auto focus and face/eye recognition, and a better hit rate?
I work my camera hard! I expect it to perform! And it generally did!!
However, the offer of testing out a new and exciting system was just too much, and I accepted the challenge! So lets put this thing through its paces! Lets see if my worries of moving to a new system were justified?
Initially my main concerns with the fuji X system were;
The body, would it “feel” like a pro camera?
The sensor, would the image quality be as good as my current full frame DSLR?
The focus, would it have the ability to compose and capture quickly?
The Lens, would I get the same drop off when using the wider apertures?
The battery longevity, how long would it last?
I was also keen to discover what new little gadgets and tricks were included, as most photographers I had spoken to about the Fuji system have said that they are great fun camera, to work with! FUN?
So when I finally returned home to unpack my secret packages, THIS is what greeted me!
Click on an image to view larger…
New kit is always exciting, and the guys at fuji had tried to match up my current kit, so that I could give their system a fair go.
With my preconceived ideas, I did have a few worries that needed to be put to bed before I could confidently say I was full on Fuji X girl!
So straight out of the box, and this feels good! With the battery grip on it has a similar feel to my DSLR, but even with the 50mm-140mm (equivalent 70mm-200mm) it is considerably lighter to handle, and just as ergonomic! It seems to fit better to my frame, and feels very natural.
The dials, and functions are fairly obvious, and easy to figure out! Having never used a Fuji before, it was pretty easy to just pick up and shoot, without any filing through a huge manual! (I know some people LOVE reading instructions, I am definitely not one of them!) Everything feels like it is supposed to be there, kind of instinctive!
The addition of the dual card slots, a deal breaker for me before, were welcome! I travel a lot and things can go wrong! The security of that back up was very important to me, I dont want to be trekking back up to a village to reshoot images that I should already have in the bag!
Things are looking good, so far! But what of image quality?
Smaller sensor, now that was a thing for me, and the reason I had always thought that this wasn’t the way for a pro photographer to go! Surely thats a step back?
So I arranged a few test shoots, and put it through its paces! I did four back to back shoots, with kids, as I would shoot normally, and apart from a few teething problems (all sorted with firmware updates) it was pretty impressive!
Then came the file reveal…This is the lovely Lily and Robbie, the first shoot I did with this kit!
How wrong I could have been!! This can’t be right, were my initial thoughts! I’m getting better results! Whats going on here?
The files just speak for themselves! You HAVE to study them to see what I mean!
The Raws are just superb! And the jpegs not far behind! I found myself using the jpegs mostly to save on editing time! And only referring back to the Raws when the highlights had just blown a little.
I played around with a couple of the built in film settings, and found that the ones that most suited my work were either of the PRO Neg settings (as seen in this shot of Misha above), but I am keen to test out others especially some of the BW settings!
As I try and get as much as I can correct in frame, there was minimal editing needed with all of the images, they are already sharp, the tonal range is glorious, and I generally just needed to push the curves a little to get to my style of contrast.
The prints that you can achieve are impressive, I printed a few off from my Epson 3880 on Hahnemuhle glossy find art paper and they are just gorgeous!
So when other photographers ask me about the cropped sensor, I will say, “surely its the end result that you should make you decision on?” And the final result that I can see, both on screen and in print, is pretty perfect!
Click on an image of Jojo to view larger…or to read more about her portrait shoot in Leigh-on-Sea please see her specific blog post!
The new focussing system is incredible! For me the face and eye recognition was a revelation, and the speed is perfect for my style of work! As I work mostly with children this needed to be fast! As most photographers of children will tell you, there is nothing worse than a missed expression!
The focus point joystick is easy to use and with the point being moveable to near the very edge of the frame in all corners, is a fast and effective tool, and with 325, YES 325!! focusing points it is perfect for composing!
Just a quick click and it returns back to the central point! Clever little shortcuts that make this such a usable camera, and make life easier, for us hard working pros!
And the focus itself? Damn pin sharp! It is a joy to see images at 100% on my screen, the detail and clarity were staggering.
Fuji have always been renown for producing great quality lenses, and it was interesting for me to put them to the test!
The build quality on these lenses is solid, with a functionality that like the body are very self explanatory! The 50-140 has the add on of the image stabilisation, (this can be a bit noisy and I am sure a drain on the battery)
Being predominantly a portrait photographer, I shoot towards the wider end of the aperture, so around the 2.8 and 4 mark, to get that lovely bokeh that draws you into the subject.
Any toggy geek will tell you that the cropped sensor effectively shifts your aperture a stop higher, and I was keen put this to the test, o.k it wasn’t a technically exacting test, I just wanted to see wether under my normal shooting conditions that I would get results that were appealing to me!
Would I still get the gorgeous bokeh that I could capture on my 200mm at 2.8?
So I set out with my new 50mm-140mm and tried a few (a lot!) of shots with my gorgeous little models at f2.8-f4….
Yet again, I shouldn’t have questioned this!
The bokeh was lovely and smooth, and the drop of at 2.8 was just beautiful for portraiture! Of course the level of bokeh, is variable from shot to shot, the distance, from subject, subject to background etc etc, but I am liking what I am getting!
On a side note I was able to interact with my subjects a lot easier as I can be that little bit closer, so surely better expressions and a client thats more at ease.
Well with communication the most part of good portrait photography, that my friends is a no brainer!
I have been told however that the 90mm, f2 is just incredible! (oh and by the way its my birthday in 3 weeks!! ) Might just need to give that a go, just to make sure of course!
Battery power, now that has always been an issue for the mirrorless sector, with the EVF, the camera is constantly working to give you a representation of your final outcome, and this can just eat up power.
Fuji wanted to give me a similar feel to my pro body, so I had the added advantage of the pro grip which gives the add on of two extra batteries, so my worries in this respect were quelled, and I was able to shoot a full day of portraits with no worries. Even with the boost mode in gear!
Fuji have also stated that with the final version of the body that there will be a power cable to recharge all 3 batteries whilst still in the camera in approximately 2 hours! Now that would be an advantage!
So will I be changing?
So is there anything that I have found to be a negative with this system, and any reason why I would not change?
In my opinion, the Jpegs can sometimes be a little too contrasty, and as such can sometimes miss the details in the whites, but as this prototype, I would hope that this is just a glitch and will be sorted on general release.
Oh and the strap is a little thin for me! But thats nothing that a couple of quid on Amazon won’t fix!
I found that when I returned to my nikon gear it just felt clunky, and of course heavy! And really not as responsive as the Fuji, almost frustrating!
So will I be changing system? Of course! At the moment I am just using it for portraits, but it will definitely be coming with me on weddings and on my next travels to Nepal!
To me I really did ask a lot of the Fuji, and not only did it deliver, it surpassed my expectations! And it made it fun to be a photographer again!
I cannot wait to take it out and experiment with all of the other features that this body gives!
I may even delve into the realms of some 4k video, with the filters, this seems too good to be true! A portrait photographer that also offers moving portraits!? Now thats got me thinking!
A big THANK YOU to all of my beautiful models, who made the trip to the seaside for this! You were all just gorgeous!
Sorry, that should be Saraya Fuji X !
To see more of my portraiture work, please visit my main website for more details on portrait commissions in Essex, Hertfordshire and London.
And please do let me know what you think! xx