Problem Solving and Workflow

The kids were really enjoying the break and having fun on the boulders behind me so I took the opportunity to get some candid pictures using just the ambient light, which was starting to get lower (as in intensity, not angle) and warmer (as in color, not temperature) and was really starting to look gorgeous. It wasn’t long before they noticed me snapping way again and their behavior instantly becomes more ridged and conscience. The jig is up, back to more posing. I start off with the kids since they’re already where I need them but there is a lot of bridge construction behind them which certainly doesn’t add to the image. Again I solve this problem by opening up my aperture to drop the depth of field which turns the background to a nice colorful blur that doesn’t distract from my subject. Since I’m not using my speedlights at the moment I’m not held to my 180th of a second shutter speed limitation so I can open up as wide as I want. My lens, a brand spanking new Fuji 56mm prime that I have been lusting after, does allow me to open up to f1.2, but being this is the very first time I’ve used it (I literally opened the box and put my new lens on my camera before walking out the door to come to this shoot!) I want to leave some margin of focus error. Even with the setting sun and shooting at ISO 400, I am now shooting around 850th of a second shutter speed.


I do get a few good shots initially but the kids who have been exceptional so far soon grow weary and I start to get that forced smile, dead eyes look, so I surreptitiously enlist their mother to intervene and try to liven things up. As luck would have it, this yielded an unexpected “happy accident” and led to some very nice photographs of the mother and son.


Great! Now we’re back on track so I start adding people back into the new setting for this last series of images. If I had my druthers I would have liked to have gotten my flash back online just to add a pinch of light to my subjects, and more importantly, to add a little more catchlight in their eyes, but I wasn’t going to stop the train and lose the moment to simply add that little feature when the lighting was certainly acceptable and the risk of losing their energy didn’t offset the benefit. Again, I weigh the rapport with my subjects just as import as the technical aspects of the image and I think this example really underscores that point.

Since Mom and Son are already there I casually start to introduce the rest of the family back into the images to cover all of the different combinations of family members. I really do wish that we could have started out at this point since everyone is pretty relaxed and have built up an immunity to the camera’s presence and our rapport is at it’s zenith. But alas, that’s the nature of things, right?


I keep adding all of the family members back into the scene until we finally arrive back to the full family group shot.


I do consider going for another series of images that are radically different that what we’ve been doing so far. Surveying the area around us there are some environmental elements that would have allowed for some very dramatic looks that would have been dynamite, but my group is at the end of what can be expected from them. If I had tried to press on the images would have looked gorgeous, but would have failed to meet my goal images because their body language would have exuded exhaustion.

I end with a few group shots with them “celebrating the end of the session!” and we call it a day. You can see in this last shot two important things that are worth mentioning. One, looking at my group you can see in their faces that they’re just done. Two, you might want to bring a squirt bottle to the river when you shoot so you don’t have to remove all of the bird poop on the rocks in post!


Well that’s it, we’re finally at the end of the photo shoot and likewise, the end of this article. I know I’ve covered a vast amount of information in this post and will expand upon each piece individually in more focused technical posts in the Behind The Scenes section as time goes on, so be sure to check out what articles are already there and check back often for updates.

Again, I know there was a lot of subjects covered here, and most of the technical topics may or may not be new to you, but I hope that I have conveyed how to dynamically string all of these techniques together to serve you as you problem solve your way to your goal images.  By using this iterative process of identifying issues and evaluating your options you should wind up looking at each photo project as a series of small challenges and will also help you build the confidence to handle just about anything out there you may encounter.

And one final sidebar for you Fuji fans, the new Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2 lens that I shot these photographs with is simply divine. Even while shooting wide open it is dang sharp. I never got past f5.6 and I literally did a double take when I imported the pictures into Lightroom. As a rule I shoot in RAW but the strait out of camera images were total acceptable. At f5.6 the clarity and sharpness of this lens is unparalleled in the Fuji line. I can’t wait to try it at f8!

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