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It's Leap Year! Shoot Jumping Portraits!

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Mason Resnick is the editor of the Adorama Learning Center and a lifetime photography enthusiast.

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It's Leap Year! Shoot Jumping Portraits!

Get your subjects' feet off the ground

Want to add energy and something different to your portraits? Don't just let your subjects sit there--get them to jump! (Bonus: this is a great way to get restless children to channel their energy into great airborne poses.)

It's February 29! In honor of leap year, let's talk about getting your subjects to leap off the ground so you can deliver fun, energetic jumping portraits.

Here's what you need to get great jump shots:
  • A camera with no lag time is a must; use a DSLR, MILC or high-end compact.
  • If outside, choose a fast shutter speed, at least 1/500 sec.
  • If light is dim, boost your camera's ISO setting.
  • Shoot from a low angle to emphasize height.
  • In the studio, use a seamless white background and flash kit with the shortest duration possible.
  • Shoot at the peak of the jump. Going up or down you may subject get motion blur.
  • Between shots, show your subject preview images in your camera's LCD. You can both refine your timing based on this feedback.
  • Take your camera off autofocus. Focus acquisition takes a fraction of a second and can mess up your timing. Use manual focus and prefocus on where the subject is jumping to eliminate this variable.
  • Take a lot of pictures so you'll have plenty of choices.

©Mason Resnick

Rather than having my daughter just stand there, I had her jump, adding a dynamic aspect to this vactation shot. She appears to be jumping much higher thanks to the low camera angle.


Photos © Stanislav Tiplyashin (top) / Studio One (bottom)

Like shooting jumps, “leapography” requires fast shutter speeds, split-second timing, and the right gear to pull it off successfully. Use this for photographing people diving into pools, airborne on skis, or simply skipping a step or two going down stairs.

© istockphoto/Rhoberazzi

Athletes are often more than happy to be photographed doing their thing and will be cooperative subjects; a few simple tips will help you freeze their best moves in midair.


© istockphoto/Jason Lugo
You’ll need a Digital SLR for its fast-responding shutter release; with a compact camera, there’s usually a delay, and even a fraction of a second’s hesitation will mean you’ve lost the shot.

Get up as close as you can, and shoot from a low angle with a wide-angle lens to accentuate the feeling of height and airborne-ness.


© istockphoto/Julie Macpherson

Alternatively, you can show the leaper in profile using a telephoto, (above). In any case, choose a fast ISO if the light is low, and the fastest shutter speed available (Set the camera in Tv mode so you can set shutter speed; the correct aperture will be set automatically).

Looking for more inspiration? The ultimate source must be Philippe Halsman's Jump Book (right), where he made his subjects—most memorably, avante-garde artist Salvador Dali—pose while airborn. You can find this book used through Amazon and other sources.


Follow these tips and soon your portrait subjects will be jumping...for joy!


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