In photography school one learns to engineer a perfect photograph. Balancing conditions in the shooting environment with the capabilities of your equipment and the immense range of possibilities in the darkroom, one can approach it and, with practice, master photography. I appreciate the many generous teachers and mentors who helped me with that process, and especially the ones who showed me how to look for and find the light.
"Available-light photography has always held the allure of intimacy. Other genres reach for grandeur and beauty or the brutal impact of graphic truth. Available light offers... the exotic possibility of going beneath the surface and into the shadows to reveal what is hidden." --Jim Richardson, National Geographic
The painting of Benoit Agnes Trioson by Anne-Louis Girodet housed at the Louvre is a lovely example of what I appreciate in a portrait and strive to emulate in a photograph. Beautiful window light casts a radiance on the boy's features. Note that there's a scattering not of props but possessions, and the boy does not look posed.
We want to create a photograph that is timeless, one you won't want to take down in ten years because the photographic style, scenery or overall look and feel no longer has a place in your home. One your visitors will call striking, and one you will never walk by without being pulled into.
It's hard to capture the real child in a one hour photography session, especially when we encourage them almost from birth to smile-when-ready, flash those teeth and prepare for a lifetime of selfies. I wait them out. We'll chat, play and wander until we get it right. I'm not so vain as to believe we will always connect--we may not. In that case I'll watch for what Mom evokes, or Dad, Grandma, or the dog. However it happens, I'll wait it out and find it, and take the dog too.