Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have taken the following photographs myself in different frames of time.

I have been told that in the below pictures, the man "dominates" the scene. How should I take these kind of photos such that :

  • The child dominates the scene.
  • No one dominates the scene.

The only lenses I have are:
AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
AF-S Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G ED

and camera:
Nikon D3100

enter image description here

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5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In your first photo, sitting in the grass, the adult is centered in the frame. There's no way around that: the bigger adult being in the center of the frame is going to dominate and hold the viewers attention. In that photo, you can recompose/crop to make the adult not be centered to better balance the scene. Similarly, notice how much grass surrounds the adult (especially on the left edge of the frame) and how little grass is to the right of the child -- that has the effect of feeling like the child is pushed to the side, out of the frame. I bet if the adult was near the edge of the frame and if the child had more grass around her it would feel more balanced.

Shooting parallel to your subjects will have a tendency to make them appear uniform and equal.
In both photos the camera is square to the subjects which makes it easy to make size comparisons.

Square to the subjects means that the subjects are at the same distance to the camera and that the line that joins the 2 subjects is perpendicular to the line of sight. A way of changing that would be to photograph the child from behind the adult, at an angle, so that you don't really see the adults face (just cheek) and more of the child face (entire mouth, both eyes, etc).

Shooting more from the side can be a way to hide the similarities/differences in your subjects. As Vertigo notes, a wide angle lens can make it easier to highlight this distortion, which would help you de-emphasize the size difference.

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Thanks for your answer. Please explain this: In both photos the camera is square to the subjects I didn't understand what you meant here. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 16 at 19:43
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square to the subjects means that the subjects are at the same distance to the camera and that the line the joins the 2 subjects is perpendicular to the line of sight. A way of changing that would be to photograph the child from behind the adult, at an angle, so that you don't really see the adults face (just cheek) and more of the child face (entire mouth, both eyes, etc). –  Mark Lakata Mar 17 at 6:13
    
@MarkLakata thankful for your explanation. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 17 at 7:16
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In each of your shots, the adult takes up much more percentage of the frame than the child, therefore it "dominates" the scene.

To avoid this, you can try the following things:

  • Place the Adult near a border of the frame and don't show the whole body, place the child more near the center. (Always depending on your composition and what you want to tell)

  • Use a (moderate) wide-angle lens (about 35mm on an full-frame camera), now place the child more near you, and the adult at a greater distance. Due to the fact that wide-angle lenses enlarge things in the foreground, and make things in the background look smaller, you can "break" the domination of the adult in your scene.

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Placing the adult further away from the camera also allows you to bring the child into focus, i.e. to blur the adult. –  Mr Lister Mar 17 at 9:19
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The easiest technique - have the child cover up part of the adult. Place the child in front of the adult - either sitting in the adults lap or standing where the adult may be sitting.

If you shoot them as two separate subjects they'll always look uneven.

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The second picture is especially illustrative - there, the adult covers up half of the child, making it much less prominent in the picture; if the layout would be opposite (that hand moved behind the child), then it already would be quite different. –  Peteris Mar 16 at 19:12
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Isn't the easiest technique, as you describe here, also the most common and "classic" even to the point that every such photo looks like a thousand similar photos, dull and unimaginative? –  Esa Paulasto Mar 17 at 8:43
    
I gave more of a 'supporting answer' because I felt Dan and Vertigo had covered enough of other techniques that I didn't need to write a thesis on the proper placement of children and adults. And I certainly think that simply having the child in front of the adult still allows for tons of flexibility - this answer doesn't dictate some 1980s studio pose. –  rfusca Mar 17 at 13:37
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I'm no specialist in photography, but my answer would be to put the children in front of the adult, e.g. with the adult holding him, such that, in perspective, it becomes bigger in relation to the adult.

The best example I can come up with are these three "photos", which depict the exact same thing, but with different dominations:

Child dominates

Adult dominates

(more precisely, the action of the adult dominates, the actual "photo" in the movie)

No domination

(if you ignore that the adult is looking at the kid, and the light is shining)

I'm sorry if this is a very naive example and answer, but I guess it illustrates my point.

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Your third example doesn't load. –  mattdm Mar 17 at 12:22
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Others have made some good suggestions regarding the placement of adult and child, but one thing I notice has gone unmentioned. It's not only the placement of the adult relative to the child that makes him dominate the scene but also the fact that in both photos the adult is the active participant while the child looks passive.

In the first photo, the adult is driving the duck-train while the child sits still and looks at the adult. In the second photo the adult is leaning in and (albeit tenderly) restraining the child's arm - by itself a "dominating" act.

The caveat is of course that with children as young as these, arranging for them to be doing anything in particular would be difficult. But say in the second photo, if the adult was on the ground, lifting the baby up, that would at least give the child the dominant position by being on top and unrestrained arms.

Disclaimer: I'm not a photographer!

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great advice, thanks. –  TheIndependentAquarius Mar 17 at 13:32
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