A Family Affair

ISO 100, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/50s, Focal Length 18mm

On April 10th, I did my last official photo shoot in Dayton, Ohio at Something Old Dayton before my big move back to Washington DC.  Don’t worry I’m still doing photography; I’ll just be doing it in the DMV now. (For those that don’t know DMV stands for DC, Maryland, Virginia also referred to as the National Capital Region or NCR.)   This last photo shoot in Ohio was special because it was with for my Mom and two of my Aunts.   Back in at Christmas I gifted all my female relatives, a photo shoot day with me down in Dayton for sometime in the summer.  It was supposed be a glamours all day event with make-up artists (MUAs), food, drinks, fun, and some creative photo concepts; however, with me taking a new job all that changed.  I had to move the date up to April and severely compress my planning time and schedule.  I think everyone who was available to attend still enjoyed themselves but I knew the overall vision I had for the day wasn’t there. 

My original plan was going to be to do some individual high fantasy concepts, then a group concepts in either evening gowns or something involving those old Hollywood style robes trimmed with feathers. Alas those plans did not come to fruition, because 1) I did not have enough time to source the robes, 2) most of my fantasy concept props/items were already packed to be moved, and 3) I just did not have enough time to plan accordingly.  So, I settled on a 1950’s style garden club theme with hats. I was able to source dresses from Amazon and hats from The Alley Vintage and Costume shop in Columbus.  I also brought in a MUA, Tanvi, to do make up on all three ladies.  I have worked with Tanvi before and she did a great job, and so I knew she would do an amazing job on my mom and two aunts.  (I highly recommend her if you ever need a MUA for a photo session or special occasion.)

For this session since it was going to be individuals and group shots, I decided to use two strobes with square soft boxes, two c-stands, two regular light stands with two speedlights with umbrellas. I also used a radio trigger attached to the camera to activate the strobes and speedlights. I used my standard Cannon with my 18-200mm lens.  I thought about shooting tethered but decided against it, because I would be moving between sets a little too much.   For this shoot I shot in four different areas of the studio, the first was a set that was set up like a living room with plants, the second was some older chairs by the large windows, the third was just a simple white corner, and the fourth I used at the very end was a fireplace with a large leather chair. 

I started with the individual photos, since it was easier to stagger them with make-up and lunch. The shooting plan was simple, one lady would be getting their make-up done, one would be relaxing or eating, and the other I would be working with. This ensured a nice flow and a good use of the overall time. I also used a very standard routine, starting with the couch set then moving to the window set with some pre-defined poses at each location.  This took stress off me and the ladies which made it easier for me to provide direction since we weren’t doing anything crazy, and kept the whole process simple.

The first lady up was my mom.  She brought her own dress, purse, and gloves, while I supplied the hat. It can be a little intimidating to work with your mom, because you want to do a real good job.  One of my favorite images from the session is actually a profile shot. I like it because it is simple and timeless. This particular shot was a combination of windowlight and a single speed light with and umbrella, with the speed light providing most of the light for the image.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length 28mm

The next lady up was my Aunt Darlene, who wore the polka-dot dress I provided and a one of the hats that my mother brought with her. I like the image below because it is a simple yet elegant image, it really shows the 1950’s sophisticated lady waiting for her friend to return to the sitting room and continue the conversation.  I think it also captures the overall personality of my aunt. To light this image evenly I was using two strobes with soft boxes and no grids.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length 18mm

The last lady up was my Aunt Linda, who has a unique personality.  She chose one of the dresses I provided and brought the hat which was a hand-me-down from one of the relatives and is true vintage. The hat really suits her personality. She really wanted to be surrounded by plants. So, I surrounded her with plants, even though she does not need to hide behind plants.  I light this image with a single strobe with a soft box.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/80s, Focal Length 18mm

We then did some group shots. The theme of the group shoots was ladies sitting for the annual garden club photo.  I played with a few different configurations of standing and sitting.  I could have gotten all crazy with the group photo, by shooting and lighting each person individually and then composting them in, but that seemed like too much work.  Plus, with a composite I feel you lose the energy between the members of the group.  That is why I went with the standard group, plus three people is easy enough to light with just two strobes with soft boxes.  The overall configuration that worked the best was one person sitting on the ottoman and the other two standing, this allowed for good interaction between everyone.   This is my favorite group image because everyone is smiling.

ISO 100, Aperture F8, Shutter 1/40s, Focal Length 18mm

After the group shots, we still had some time so I opened it up to the ladies for any special images they would like.  My mom chose to change outfits completely and go with a light blue dress with 1920’s type styling. For this outfit I changed sets and used the fireplace and leather chair. Because of her outfit I, immediately though of the old rich ladies who are the matriarchs of the family and a bit of Downton Abbey.  For this image I used one single speed light with an umbrella on a light stand.  When editing the image, I added a world map to the empty frame on the wall to give the scene more of that overall old study feel.  I also tried to keep the image a bit dark, again to make sure it had that old study feel.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/160s, Focal Length 18mm

The next up was my Aunt Darlene who wanted some red in her photo. She paired a red had with a piece of red fabric I had on hand to come up with the look below.  I shot this using one speedlight with an umbrella, and kept it a bit dark when editing it to match here overall expression and pose.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 18mm

Then finally my Aunt Linda just wanted some basic photos in her everyday cloths. For these shot I went with the old study theme, akin to Masterpiece Theater, because she was a teacher and librarian.  I also had her pull one of the books out of the fireplace set to use as prop.  I used the same set up as before a speedlight with an umbrella on a light stand.  Again, I kept the images a bit on the darker side, just to keep with the old study feel.  I also added the map to the empty frame when editing to complete the image.  I like this image because I think it captures the more conservative side of my aunt and her past as a teacher and librarian.

ISO 100, Aperture F5.6, Shutter 1/100s, Focal Length 18mm

Overall, it was a good day and a nice way to spend some time with my mom and aunts, before my move to DC.  I think everyone had fun.  I may do this again in the future but make sure all the female relatives can make it. If I do, do it again it will be occurring in DC, it will be too hard to bring all my equipment and props up to Ohio.


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