Ken’s Tips On Your Pics: Natural posing.

Elodie has sent me in this lovely photo of her children and she has asked me about a very specific problem concerning the focus of the picture. I will address this problem in a moment but first I would like to talk about the posing of the children in this pic.

Am almost perfect photo.

In the garden together.

I often use a bench when photographing children in a garden, it is a nice prop, it enables you to sit the children where you want them and usually manages to keep them still for a second or two. Elodie has done almost everything right with this picture – the children are sat off centre to give a bit of interest, the bench fills most of the frame creating a nice composition and there is very little in the background to cause the eye to be distracted. I can imagine setting this shot up myself, exactly as Elodie has done.

The one mistake Elodie has made here is to try to create too much intimacy between her son and daughter. I can just imagine Elodie saying before she presses the button “give your brother a hug”. This has resulted in a pose that looks a little uncomfortable and is being done for the camera – people don’t really sit like that on a bench. It is still a very nice photograph but the viewer is aware that they are posing for a picture.

Clients often say to me that they like my photographs because they aren’t posed. Almost every picture I take is posed but I take great care to arrange people in a way that seems natural. I did a very similar shot to Elodie’s a few years ago and and although the children are holding hands and posing for the camera you could imagine that they were just sitting like that before I came along. Always try to make the sitter comfortable before you take the shot and you will be rewarded with very natural photos.

Holding hands. A bit more natural?

Holding hands. A bit more natural?

Elodie says that the background in her photos seems more sharp than the children. I have blown this picture up and I don’t think that is a problem here. From what I can make out the jeans and the bench seem to be in focus which means that the heads must be also. All digital images need some sharpening applied to them, sometimes it is done in the camera and sometimes in the editing programme. Depending on how the sharpening is applied it can have a greater effect on areas with a lot of lines or hard edges than on soft ones such as a face. I would guess that is what has happened here. Personally, it doesn’t worry me in this shot.

The main cause of mis-focusing occurs when the automatic focus of the camera is set for a small area in the centre of the frame and the main subject falls outside of this. Most cameras will lock the focus when the shutter is held halfway down, so point the camera at the face, partially hold the shutter down, re-frame the photo then finish pressing the shutter. Cameras are becoming so sophisticated now that they will often detect  where the face is in a shot and focus on that – very clever.

Another quite quite common fault created by digital cameras is called back focus and as the explanation is very technical and aimed more at professional photographers I have linked to someone who explains it much better than I would. You can read about it here.

Thanks for sending in such a lovely shot Elodie, I hope you found what I had to say helpful. If anyone has any ideas or comments that they would like to make then please do. Or if you would like any advice on a family photograph that you have taken, please post it on my Facebook Page or email it to me at: ken@kensharp.com.

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3 comments so far

  1. Thank you for taking the time to look at my photo and for the praise. I appreciate your advice and I will play around with sharpening in photoshop. It’s funny that you thought I told my children to hug, because they never actually do what I want them to for photos, so the hug was totally spontaneous between the 2 of them. I do understand what you mean though and will remember for future pics. Thanks once again.

    By Elodie at 3:34 am on Oct 29, 2010

  2. I do my sharpening in Lightroom Elodie. I use the brush tool and with a Wacom tablet you can do really subtle bits of sharpening. A very slight amount of sharpening around the eyes in a portrait can really make a big difference.

    By Ken at 9:40 am on Oct 29, 2010

  3. Great tips and lovely holding hands photo :)L

    By lara parent at 6:11 pm on Aug 7, 2011

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