Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Young Girl at the Renaissance Festival

Some images that you capture haunt you. This one does that to me. Maybe it's because I don't have children, and I'm not around a lot of children, so there's something about the intense gaze of a child into my camera lens that intimidates me. I'm not used to seeing it through my viewfinder, and I'm a little uncertain how best to process it now that I've captured it. This young girl was one of the first people Doug and I met at the Renaissance Festival a couple of weeks ago. We were walking through the fairgrounds as the gates opened and came across her and her mother, who was the violinist in the Gypsy Dance Theater group that performed at the festival. We asked to take their photos, and the young girl seemed very shy, perferring to play with her doll than have her photo made. We took a couple of photos of them --- nothing too spectacular. About lunch time, Doug and I were in the audience as the Gypsy dancers performed, and during one of the breaks in the show this young girl came out onto the stage to collect donations. She leveled the look you see above at me, and I couldn't help but fire off 5-6 shots --- no flash, no posing, no composing a background.
First off, I got lucky with the background, which was a large gold-colored building that sold Greek food. Since light was constantly changing I was shooting at f/3.2, 1/400 sec, +0.7 EV with my 70-200 VR lens, just getting what I could out of a challenging situation. In postprocessing, I did some minor touchups to the background, took out some shadows under her eyes, brightened up her eyes a bit, and did some selective sharpening to the face and hair. I also added two layers at the end to warm the skin tones a bit, and I also put a black and white Silver Efex layer in at 36% opacity to add some contrast and depth. Now my question is this. What else should be done to this image? It's a starting point, but I don't feel it's final. A couple of things I thought about doing were: 1) to go ahead and crop into the top of the head and 2) to color shift her blouse from blue to yellow/gold to make the image more monochromatic. Like I said at the beginning, this one haunts me. I like the shot. I just don't feel 100% comfortable postprocessing images of young children. Any suggestions are welcome.


  1. I have some shots of this young girl too. She was very pretty and as you said quite shy when we shot her with her mother. She seemed to open up when she got on stage while watching the Gypsy performers, including her mother.

    I remember how easy it was while following the action on stage to forget about watching the background in my shots.

    I think you might have gone a tad too far on the whites of her eyes. I'm also not sure about the negative space to her left, photo right. I think it needs a square crop here.

    I do like the skin tones and pleasing OOF background.

  2. A square crop and lose the best part of the image -- the background? I don't think so.

  3. What a fabulous shot of this little girl. I am immediately drawn to her eyes and I do think you could crop in quite a bit to take off the top of her head, all the background on the left and a lot of the background on the right (as much as I love that beautiful background!). I tried a tighter rectangular crop and like it because it moves her eyes to the left more but still leaves some of that golden blur. Yes, I also think you could change the color of her shirt as it is the only thing different in the image and so draws the eye, for some reason here the complementary color is more distracting than complementing. I think your processing is just perfect, you can see every strand of her golden hair. Beautiful girl and beautiful image. I have to smile to think about a 6 and 1/2 foot middle-aged (ouch) guy intimidated by a 3 foot tall 5-year-old's stare...:)

  4. I don't think I meant to remove all the background, but enough to eliminate some added space to the right. My question here would be "are you featuring the background or her face and eyes"? If the background showed some of her environment to add to the story I would understand keeping all of it. Just my's only one.

  5. If she was my daughter....I would press Print!
    David A.