Do you like B&W pictures? The B&W space is highly complex. Sometimes you can convert your digital pictures to B&W in the camera, but this really limits your options. You can also just desaturate the colors but this typically leaves an unsatisfying result. I used a Photoshop plug in called Silver Efex Pro or Color Efex 3.0 from Nik Software to create the images below. For each image I provide sort of my standard conversion and then an alternative to give you an idea of the diversity of things you can do in the B&W space.
I personally like B&W pictures because I feel it allows the viewer to look at the image with the clutter of color.
Many people think that colors need to be coordinated, hair done, and each individual in a family portrait needs to look perfect with a sparkling smile. While I think that is fine concept, I like to explore family portraits that are more real and expressive about the inidividual members in the family portrait. This means that everyone may not have a sparkling smile and most of the time, the clothes will not be coordinated as this is a more accurate reflection of who we are at any given moment in time.
This family portrait appears to be a casual snap shot. No coordinated clothing and some smiles and frowns and it may appear to be chaotic, but I wanted to do something that had a spontaneous feeling. This kind of portrait is kind of difficult to achieve: enough structure with a bit of irregularity. Planned chaos is one way to think about it.
The structured part of the picture include the lounge chairs evenly spaced with four individuals sitting. The two on the left are facing right and the two on the right are facing left, thus bringing your eye into the picture. The spouses are placed standing behind their husbands with aunts and grandchildren sprinkled around to fill the image space. Finally, the people are interspersed around the lower 1/3 line.
There is a story in this picture. First, it is a three generation picture. The family is together in a warm climate, but based on their tans, they probably don't live here the year around. They are visitors to a private swimming pool on a white beach with palm trees all around and a thatched roof shelter. Maybe they have been playing volley ball on the beach or just enjoying the sun lounging on the cots and playing in the water (see the floatie in the right of the picture), the towel on the far left and a couple of people are wearing swim suits. The sun has been bright (sunglasses). They are relaxed and happy, but who wouldn't be in such an idyllic place (Casa Mimosa, Isla Mujeres).
For the camera buffs, here are a few technical details. There are two light sources for the picture. First there is the sun behind and to picture right. This nicely lights the trees, roof, and beach, but casts a dark shadow across the people's faces. The second light is a SB800 camera right by about 3-4 feet and elevated above the camera by about 3 feet. The SB800 was triggered by a Mini TT1/AC3 on the camera and a FlexTT5 (both from Pocketwizard) on the SB800.
The camera was set to manual at an ISO 250, f5, 1/250 @ 28mm. These settings were selected to provide the best possible exposure of the sky and general environment with a shutter speed slow enough to allow for maximum contribution from the SB800 flash. SB800 flash power was manual and adjusted through a few test shots to get the lighting balanced.