2013, Portrait of Jack
As I have mentioned before, there is a special power to images where the subject is looking directly at the camera. There are many theories out there as to why this is so. I myself subscribe to the idea that having a photography subject looking directly back at you changes the viewing experience for most of us. Instead of a passive overview of a moment in time, we somehow feel more drawn in and connected to the person we are looking at.
This photo is one of those that won’t mean a lot to anyone who doesn’t have a connection to the subject. Oh, it’s a nice enough image. A cute engaging face, soft even lighting, blurred out background, catchlight in the eyes. But still, unless you know the boy (or perhaps just really like kid portraiture) it probably doesn’t mean a lot to you standing on its own. Now, if it were one of the images in a magazine story on child prodigies or autism or even the “American family”, it might be considered a moving image. But on its own, with no frame of reference, it’s just a photo of a kid.
That having been said, I will tell you that because I do have a connection to him, this image means a lot to me and to those close to him. There are precious few of these images of this particular kid engaging with the camera in this way. So it retains a lot of that power I talked about earlier. I shot it with a nice big bank of windows at my back, giving the soft lighting that is so nice for portraits. The shallow depth of field helped isolate the subject from a fairly busy background. Most importantly, the focus being right on the eyes gave this image the feel that I was going for. For some reason, however, I find the catchlights distracting. I wish they weren’t right over the pupils of his eyes. It’s one of those tiny things that it is hard to remember when shooting candid images. Other than that, I wish the background was a little more even in tone. There isn’t much you can do about that sort of thing in some locations (in this case, a small kitchen in a small house) and it is blurred nicely. But as far as a critique, it is fair to mention it. Finally, I’m not sure if it is because I know that his hair isn’t quite that color or just because I am picky, but his hair looks dark to me. If I were a portrait shooter, I might have tried to bounce the tinniest bit of flash off the ceiling or maybe have a small reflector bounce some light in there. But I’m not, I’m a candid shooter and these are the types of tradeoffs you make when you choose to operate outside of a controlled setting.
Canon EOS Rebel SL1, 125 ISO, 1/60 @ f/1.8, EOS 50mm f/1.8