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Pictured above are my maternal grandmother (79) and her sister, my great-aunt (66). Taken in the fall of 2008, it was my first attempt at real portraiture. My sweet, supportive husband built a backdrop and light stand out of pvc pipe specifically for this shoot. Bless his heart, I haven’t used it since.

I had wanted to have pictures of them together for a long time, both for myself and my mother. A collage of the images I took that day ended up being a Christmas present for all three.

The pictures were taken with my Canon S3 IS point & shoot. Lighting included a 250w daylight bulb on a stand 45 degrees above and left of subjects. Natural light also penetrated through the large living room window and, in retrospect, actually ended up providing the majority of the light. Shooting manual and without on-camera flash, at one point I increased my ISO to 800, to keep my shutter speed fast enough to avoid motion blur, and never took it back down. This created an enormous amount of noise in all my images, and was probably the most disappointing component of the results.

My post processing skills were newbie, at best, having learned all I knew about Photoshop from video tutorials found on youtube. Therefore, minus some very minor curves and levels adjustments, this is straight out of camera.

Things learned from this shoot:

  • Move background farther away from subjects, and be sure lighting is not discoloring subjects hair (a green hair light on an older woman is not flattering)
  • Know where your primary light is coming from and adjust accordingly
  • Check your settings regularly! (hello ISO 800!)
  • Practice using fill light, and know how to do it on your camera
  • Use reflectors
  • Posing a subject is a lot harder than you think it will be, especially if there’s two!
  • Know what white balance is and how to set a custom white balance in camera
  • Iron the backdrop, for goodness sake!

The pictures turned out okay, lessons learned were many, but the half day spent shooting, laughing and crying with my loved ones was priceless, and is really what made this a memorable beginning of my desire to be a photographer.