When you get a call to do a portrait of a child and her pony, you kinda do a happy dance, because kids and horses make for some wonderful photographs. But multiply that times five, all in the same photograph, and the happy dance turns into a slow waltz as you contemplate “how am I going to accomplish THAT!”.
That’s just what happened late last fall when a thoughtful Dad called and said he wanted a portrait of his five kids AND their horses for his wife for Christmas.
Dad just had three requirements – have them all together with their horses, have it done for Christmas and keep it a secret. Two of those I could do – the secret part was up to the kids. Needless to say, getting all five of them out to the stable, dressed appropriately, all at the same time without Mom knowing was a feat in itself.
We were familiar with the stable and had some thoughts on where we could do the shoot. One thought was to get them all walking towards the camera through one of the fields. This worked OK, but it was difficult getting the horses and the kids to all look good at the same time.
Then I thought of our “In Your Best Light” portraits that we do at the studio. For these sessions, I photograph each person individually instead of in a group. That way I get each one looking their best. This works great for families and lets their unique personalities shine through. For the final portrait, I blend the individual portraits together to create the final family group.
I’d always done this with the controlled lighting in the studio, but there was no reason it wouldn’t work outdoors at the stable. I found a great spot on the north side of the barn (north light is wonderful light for photography) in front of the open barn door. We photographed each rider and their horse until we knew we had their ears forward (the horse) and a great smile (the rider).
Now the fun began. After selecting the best image of each of the five duets, I carefully retouched and blended the images into one panoramic portrait.