How did you take that photo of the mother & son in bed?

How did you take that photo of the mother & son in bed? pin it button

One of my friends told me that this photo of the mother and son in bed was their absolute favorite photo of 2011.   Of course, it has a special story behind it.

This single mom lived nearby for many years.  In Staten Island of course.  I met her about 12 years ago, but we lost touch.  We were reacquainted in 2010 and became good friends.  Her gorgeous son who is one of the most lovable boys I have ever met, would lightly touch his mothers face and cheek with his hand and say “mamma, mamma” lovingly.  I’ve seen him do it millions of times.  There was something really heart wrenching about how he loved his mamma.

How did you take that photo of the mother & son in bed? NLP portfolio005 1024x684

How did you take this picture? This portrait was taken in the morning last April.  I used my Nikon D3s with my 24-70mm using available light and video light.  The first step with all my portraits is determining my camera settings and my composition.  I chose f 2.8 because I wanted the mother and child to be the center of focus and I needed a lot of light in this moderately lit room.  I had my ISO at 1250 and the shutter at 100 gave me the proper exposure.  I’m careful not to slow my shutter too much while photographing children who move often.  I didn’t want any motion blur in this shot.  Using the D3s, I could have easily doubled my ISO, but I chose to add in video light for a bit more directional light and drama.  Diffused sun light was the primary light source.  The window was on the left side of the photo, but it wasn’t strong.  Which is why I used my ledzilla video light.

How did you come up with this concept? My client wanted to make a unique portrait for her son’s second birthday but was unsure what to do so she called me.  It was late winter and we wanted to do something indoors.  I knew her house was for sale and thought it would be nice to take a few pictures to remember her first home where her son was born.  It was very special to her.  Her gorgeous boy, as I mentioned earlier would lightly touch his mothers face and cheek with his hand and say “mamma, mamma” lovingly.  I’ve seen him do it millions of times.  I thought it would be a wonderful memory to capture him doing this.  Since her son sleeps in bed with her often, and wakes her asking for a bottle while caressing her face, I suggested we photograph them first thing in the morning.  At first she thought early in the morning would be too difficult, but early on my clock is 10:00am.  hehe

I want my portraits to be real reflections of who my clients really are.  Of course our concept which seemed so simple wasn’t as easy as we hoped.

How did you execute this concept? After getting my camera settings and composition,  I positioned my client and her son on the bed in pajamas early in the morning (at 10:00am).   Her bedroom had suede painted walls with an embroidered comforter with loads of textures which added interest.  I opened both windows to let in as much light as possible.  This part of the house was dimly light.  I used a bit of video light to execute this and a few lolly pops and wa-la!

How did you compose this portrait and pose the mother and son? For this concept my goal was to capture my clients son caressing his mothers face and cheek with his hand while saying “mamma, mamma” which he does so often.  But on this very morning, he was sleepy and a little shy.  We didn’t exactly capture that moment, but what we did capture was their very special bond.  Being a single mom is never easy, but she really makes it look easy.  I positioned my clients between the sconce on the wall and the portrait at a 45 degree angle from the primary light source (the window).  Careful that neither the sconce nor the portrait intersected their head.  As you can see I had very little room to work with so my camera position had to be perfect.  The quality and direction of light was decent, but not as beautiful as I wanted.  Adding the video light did create a light shadow behind their heads, but I didn’t mind.  The suede painted walls created warmth and dimension.  The diminishing size of the portraits on the wall add to the depth perception in the room.  The crosshatch pattern on the bedspread added even more interest to this portrat.  The pillows were scattered on the bed and they were wearing their pajamas.  Believe it or not this is what the mother looks like first thing in the morning.  She rarely wears makeup because she’s a natural beauty with gorgeous cheek bones.  This was really a moment between mother and son.  I didn’t direct a thing.  I let them interact and talk to one another.  This was my absolute favorite in the series.  I may show a few more. We shall see….

Background: This portrait entitled “Not Alone” was awarded honors by PPA earlier this year.

Why did my clients like it? More importantly, why did I love it? I’ve received so many wonderful emails and comments about this portrait of the mother and son in bed entitled “Not Alone”.   My client has this portrait displayed in her home and a second displayed in the grandmothers home.  This portrait was early in my fine art exploration, where I first discovered my love for pictorialism.  I didn’t even know that phrase and movement existed until recently.  I love this portrait because it tugs at my heart strings as a mother, as an artist and as a friend to the beautiful family pictured.

How many hours of time was investing in this image? My estimation is 8 hours was invested in creating this image.  2 hours during the consultation and preparation, 1 hour on the execution and at least 4-5 hours processing and editing this photo.

STAY TUNED for more articles on “How did you take that picture?”.  If you enjoyed reading this article and are curious how I took any specific pictures, just email me at

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!


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