Lighting, aperture, and time of day for natural outdoor shoots – Hong Kong photographer Susan Goodwin shares her expert advice on how to take the perfect family portrait.
Tell us about this image.
This photo was taken on Tong Fuk Beach, South Lantau. Its just down the road from where I live and the family in the photo is also local to the area. They were expecting their second child and wanted to have some memories of the three of them together, while capturing the baby bump as well. They have a very active toddler, and until this photo, had never taken family pictures for fear that the photographer may not be able to catch the boy’s attention enough for even a shot or two! We ended up getting a couple dozen great photos, and they were thrilled.
Describe the work that went into perfecting the shot, and why is it your favourite shot?
There are many reasons why this photo is a favourite of mine. The light is by far the most important technical component – as it is in all of my photography. It shows the value of the ‘magic hour’ when you’re shooting. The sun was low in the sky, and I chose to use the sunset for backlight to create the warmth and really set the mood. The shutter speed was set fast for the crispness, and the aperture opened up to let in the glow of the light. It was shot in November, which I feel is one of the best months for outdoor photography in Hong Kong. It’s not too hot or humid in the late afternoon and as you can see by the feeling the photo creates, it’s a perfect time for a walk on a quiet beach. During this particular time of year, I study the light in the early mornings and late afternoons, and know just when the best times are to head down. The window of time for the shots is really only about an hour so you have to be smart and know your setting.
Along with the light, the location is another key factor. I know that this beach is quieter than many on South Lantau, and therefore there are not other strangers in the way or even in the background of the photo. The children always love being out and running on the beach, and it creates a very natural and happy result every time.
Is this a typical image of the work you do?
During the month of November, it’s beach shot after beach shot – this one being a very typical image that I would take. I love family photography and people are always wanting to get photos done for Christmas time. Its a big trip to come out to South Lantau if you’re not a local, but I encourage people to make the journey, as the rewards are plenty!
I don’t have a studio, and take almost all of my photos with natural light, whether indoors or out. I can set up a simple mini-studio in the clients’ house for the times of the year that Hong Kong is too hot and humid for being out and about, or for a newborn baby session which are more popular to be shot indoors. I enjoy shooting a range of things aside from families including corporate events or casual gatherings, maternity, newborn, as well as wedding photography.
You can find lifestyle photographer Susan Goodwin by visiting her page Susan Goodwin Photography.