I’ve judged the San Joaquin County Fair’s photography show a few times and there are always an overwhelming number of landscapes, seascapes and flowers but the categories that involve people tend to have the smallest number of entries. For the second Readers Photo Challenge: Outdoor Portraits, 24 people sent in 54 photographs. That’s roughly half the number of the first assignment of flowers.
People are among the hardest subjects to photograph well. Not only do you have to manage the technical aspects such as lighting and exposure, and esthetic elements such as tone, color and composition, but you have the capture a human connection between you and your subject as well. With the outdoor portrait one may have plenty of light to shoot with, it is often too harsh, especially at around midday.
Most of the photos were of friends and family. Which is understandable because they’re usually readily available to pose as models and they’re certainly easier to photograph because of the preexisting bond between subject and photographer. Kudos to the brave few ventured to take pictures of strangers. It’s a much harder task because one has to overcome an initial shyness to establish a connection. Successful photographers have either an innate ability to create that rapport or have worked hard to learn how to do it.
Here are 5 of the top examples that readers have sent in.
Carolyn Silva of Jackson attended the Lodi Street Fair with her husband and friends. She took a some photos of them but then decided to try to get some strangers. At first her shyness got the best of her and she let a couple of photo opportunities slip away from her. But then she worked up the courage and was able to get some great shots of people she just met. I liked how Silva used the tent opening to frame vendor Joyce Montgomery, owner of Sadie Mae’s Catering (specializing in southern home cooking), used to red color in background to tie things together visually. Silva used a Nikon D5000 DSLR camera with a 18-55mm Nikkor lens and utilizing a fill-flash technique.
Christy Dunn of Linden took this photo of her 4-year-old daughter Cami playing with her dog Allie in their backyard with a Sony Alpha SLT A55 and 35mm lens at around sunset. Dunn basically photographed the shady side of her daughter with the setting sun providing a nice glowing “rim” light to her hair.
Former Record reporter Jennifer Torres Siders, now Community Relations Manager with the University of the Pacific, photographed her 3-year-old daughter Alice near their backyard vegetable garden in Stockton with a Canon 30D DSLR camera under open shade conditions. With Alice peeking around a brick wall she captures the innocence and shyness of childhood in her daughter’s face.
Letty Balderas of Stockton took this photo of 8-year-old Brenna Schweininger in Modesto with a Canon 40D DSLR and a 24-105mm lens. It’s an excellent example of using a combination of open shade and fill-flash to help balance the light on her subject.
15-year-old St. Mary’s High school student Sydney Spurgeon of Stockton is a burgeoning young photographer. She and her parents make “assignments” of different subjects and events for her to take pictures of a few times a month. For this challenge they went to the University of Pacific graduation and a Stockton Ports baseball game. She approached total strangers at both events and came up with some great photos
At the Ports game Spurgeon photographed 4 unidentified Little Leaguers at a Stockton Ports baseball game at the Stockton Ballpark in downtown Stockton with a Nikon CoolPix camera. Despite a busy background she avoided any unwanted objects from sticking out of their heads and captured a certain spontaneity even though they were looking right into the camera.
The challenge is going on a little break until next month with the next assignment to be announced on June 10. See you then!