I don’t know about y’all, but I love a good pullback.
I mean, let’s be honest, they are pretty magical. There is something so awe inspiring, breathtaking even, about a wide angle shot of a location and, immediately after, seeing several photographs nestled underneath it taken in the exact same spot at nearly the exact same time. I find pullbacks to be incredibly inspiring and, today, when I sat down to write this post, I had every intention of sharing traditional pullbacks with y’all.
Something happened as I looked at my pullback shots, though. As much as I love those wide angle shots, I like them more with people in them. So today, we are going to talk about pullbacks with a twist. Instead of sharing a wide angle landscape photograph and following it up with a few portraits, I am going to show y’all one wide angle, environmental portrait and then share two close ups taken in the same environment.
First up, a photo series of my son!
The above photograph is a wide angle shot of my one year old, Henry, hanging out on my bed. Henry loves spending long afternoons rolling around my bed with books and toys and, best of all, pillows (he’s a snuggler). So, being a mom who loves to photograph her babies, I set out to document him relaxing one afternoon. The shot above shows Henry at the edge of the bed. There’s a window on the left side of the frame, a cradle full of (folded!) laundry next to the window, and a mess of pillows against my yellow headboard. I love the window light in this room and, apparently, Henry does, too.
Here he is laying in the sunlight:
As he laid there, he kept pulling on his feet and laughing so, as I laid down on my belly next to him, I turned for a moment and took a photograph of his feet.
These three photographs were all taken within five minutes of each other. As we took these, I was talking to him and we were playing with stuffed animals and laughing. The light and our environment never changed – there was a huge stack of laundry on the left side of every single one of these photographs and a cup of water on the bookcase on the other side of the bed – but, by coming in closer to my son and noticing details, I was able to add variety to my photographs with minimal effort.
Next up, the sweetest seventeen-year-old.
When I took these photographs of India, I knew that I wanted them to be fresh, fun and full of light. In the photograph above, we are standing in a tiny gravel parking lot that, honestly, is kind of a side road behind some baseball fields. Over India’s right shoulder there’s a patch of amazing golden hour light. Immediately after taking the first photograph, I had India pull out some sunglasses and we took this:
In this photograph, I am using the same lens I used in India’s first photograph, a Canon 35 1.4L. India is sitting in the exact same spot she is sitting in for the first photograph and my settings are basically the same as well, the only thing that has changed is my position, her pose, and her sunglasses. By taking several steps forward and isolating the background of the trees and light, I have created a totally different feeling in the second photograph when compared to the first.
For my next photograph, I decided to switch things up a little more and swapped my 35L out for the Canon 85 1.2L. Set at 1.2, I had India stand up, remove her sunglasses, and stand at the left side of her car. I then took this photograph:
Location wise, my favorite part about this third photograph is that it looks like we are smack dab in the middle of spring (and we totally weren’t!). If you look back to her first photograph, you will see that the trees behind her are mostly dead. By choosing an 85mm lens, a longer focal length, and opening the lens up as wide as possible, I was able to isolate India from the background. This made the trees behind her appear more green than they actually were. With the extra bonus of the golden light, India looks as if she is an entirely different location than she was in for the first two photographs. It’s amazing how that can happen, right?!
Last up, a photo series of one of the cutest couples ever.
The above photograph was taken at my very favorite time of day, the time of day when the golden hour is fading and dusk is quickly approaching. I placed this couple on a hill, took a few steps away from them, and shot this photograph. I absolutely love this kind of light so, without moving my couple, I walked closer to them and took this:
As I took this photograph, I couldn’t help but notice how nicely the light was coming across their shoulders, so, again, I took several more steps in and shot this:
In these three photographs, my couple did not move a single inch. The exact same light was behind them the entire time but, by putting myself somewhere new, I was able to create diverse photographs.
And there you have it! Three simple examples of three simple pullbacks. So remember, next time you take an environmental portrait of anyone – your children, a senior, a family, a couple, or even at a wedding – check your surroundings, examine the light around you, and capture your subject in a way that will make your photographs sing. You can do this at any time, anywhere, and any place. You won’t regret it!