Let’s start by saying that I’m currently on holidays with my family and, unfortunately, I’m not one of those photographers who use their holidays to photograph new subjects or try new techniques. My holidays are pretty much all about my daughters (the older is almost five, the younger is just nine months old), with very little sleeping (teething, you know?) and a lot of duties, like diaper changing, feeding, and constantly checking that the younger doesn’t crawl into anything lethal while the oldest doesn’t drawn while playing in the sea/pool/boat.
Plus, I usually shoot so much during the working months of summer that taking the camera out of the bag is actually the last thing I want to do during the holidays part. That said, I have two young daughters who keep growing and changing, and summer holidays are indeed a good moment to catch some good memories for the later years. So, here I am, from time to time urging myself to take the camera out and shoot some portraits of the girls.
Now, between them and my wife, when it’s time to travel we’re usually so packed that there’s really little free space for my photographic gear. This year, again, I opted for the sole X100T, together with the teleconverter and the battery charger. The whole set occupies such little space that I can fit it anywhere, while being capable of capturing amazing pics at 35mm or 50mm equivalent.
If you’ve ever read my article on my X100T configurations you’ll know that I prefer to work with manual focus, having the AF/AEL button set to activate auto focus when required, but that I also set the autofocus switch (the one in front of the camera) to automatically activate the face tracking (the article says how I set this and everything else on the X100T). During these holidays, the facial recognition came as a real blessing when trying to capture my younger daughter, an hyperactive, nine-months toddler who crawls quickly and moves constantly! Thanks to the face tracking I don’t have to care about the focusing point position, I just work on the composition while the tracker keeps focusing on my her face. Coupled with a decent depth of focus (obtained with apertures values between f/4 and f/8), the face tracking focusing allows for a very high rate of sharp shots.
The other X100T tool I relied a lot while shooting these portraits was the high-rate continuous shooting, also known as Burst Mode (just press the Drive button, move down to the second option and then select the H). The reason is very simple: with kids you never know what’s going to happen. My technique is to shoot bursts of around three pics and then compose-focus again and shoot a second burst. In my experience that half-smile that fades as quickly as it shows up in toddlers is hidden between those bursts.
My older daughter is not such an unpredictable subject as the younger, meaning she can stay still enough on a spot if she’s asked to, however she’s now in a more “self-conscious” age, and when she realizes someone’s taking her portrait she gets all cheesy or puts up some dumb expressions, like those she sees on cartoon characters. The trick, then, is to get “candid” shots very, very quickly, so to capture the unspoiled emotions she’s experiencing at that moment. On the other side, sometimes the most authentic and moody stare happens at the very moment in which she sees the camera. The face tracking and the burst mode work both very well in helping me getting that moment. A trick to help get the moment is to focus-compose, then to start shooting, and at that point to call her name. She’ll be forced to turn to me, however not knowing that I’m taking her portraits, so showing exactly that kind of stare I am looking for.
There’s another little tip I want to share with you. As you can imagine, the face tracking fails every time a face isn’t well framed, so, for example, if the subject turns his/her head beyond a certain point (which usually is when the camera can’t see both eyes and the mouth at the same time). When that happens, the autofocus goes back to the focusing point. I suggest to keep the latter in the center of the frame, so when the face tracking fails you’ll always know you just need to quickly center the subject to focus on it. Setting any other focusing point can get confusing with the face tracking moving constantly around.
If you have infants, toddlers, little girls or boys to photograph, I suggest you to try my X100T settings with the Autofocus and face tracking modes on and to see yourself if your Fuji doesn’t get faster and more precise. It surely got it for me.