Fun portrait of a close friendship

It was the last summer before four very good friends said their goodbyes and parted ways. My commission was to capture the joy of their time together for them to look back on.

This was taken as part of a 16th birthday shoot for Sophie (on the far right of this shot). She was one of a group of four who had been friends forever and were about to be apart for the first time as they were heading off to different sixth-form colleges.

They wanted some pictures to remember each other by as well as to commemorate their friendship and the end of this particular stage in their lives.

I was hoping for a timeless, almost-nostalgic location for the shoot and happily a friend agreed that I could ‘borrow’ their fields and farm buildings. We all went for a picnic there, and the girls were bubbly, fun and very energetic – characteristics that I was hoping to capture during the session.

Pin-sharp focus

This was one of those shots where I needed my Nikon D3 to live up to everything that it was designed for: fast-moving, pin-sharp images. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

I used my trusty 70-200mm f/2.8 lens at its maximum focal length. I wanted the foreground and background to be blurred, but all four faces to be sharp, so I opted for an aperture of f/3.5.

As my subjects would be moving towards me, I needed a fast shutter speed to freeze their motion. 1/325 second would ensure the shutter was fast enough to prevent movement while the image was captured. To achieve a correct exposure at these settings, I needed to up my ISO to 500.

Getting the right angle

My own height and position was incredibly intentional. I wanted a low viewpoint to include the grass in the foreground and make it look like the girls were running straight out of the image.

At the same time, I didn’t want the seed heads to confuse my autofocus. I also wanted to avoid having any seed heads overlap the faces of the four girls.

Then, when I found the optimum spot, I simply asked the girls to run towards me while holding hands. This helps keep them on the same focal plane, as they can’t easily run at different speeds. It also adds to the silliness of the moment, helping to prompt the beautifully natural smiles you see here!

For me, this image really portrays what the shoot was about: four bubbly, fun and very energetic close friends having a wonderful time together. Ok, the sky lacked a little character but other than that, the light and the location were perfect for an image that almost looks like a still from a movie.

And, if you do capture an otherwise-great image with a slightly blown out sky like this one, our recent video will help you fix it in Photoshop.

Camera Settings

  • Focal length: 200mm
  • Aperture: f/3.5
  • Shutter speed: 1/325 sec
  • ISO: 500
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