John McDonald Creates Silhouette Profiles of His Children

Jul 20, 2020
Photographer Spotlight

A while back, John McDonald’s wife suggested he create a specific kind of imagery of their children: silhouette profiles. Though he wasn’t crazy about the idea at the time, he’s since warmed to it and — thanks to the help of an iPad — got his young boys to sit for the portraits.

I’ve wanted to do silhouette profiles of my kids for a while because it was something my wife mentioned years ago. I didn’t want the blacked-out style like our teachers used to do when we were kids. I wanted to make the lighting beautiful and dramatic without feeling cold and off putting. So, I worked in my office basement last week to build a quick two light set on white seamless.

John McDonald During COVID Milo profile

I’ve now had a lot of practice shooting very young children as my oldest is almost three. They cooperated with a little distraction from an iPad.

As John mentioned, he wanted the imagery to be more engaging than the “blacked-out style” from back in the day. For each shot, he spent nearly a half hour to make sure the lighting allowed for this.

Post was about 20 minutes per image. I think adding warmth to the hair and on the front of their face really helps balance the low-key lighting. 

John McDonald During COVID dip of boys

The older my kids get, the easier they are to work with — but it’s still tough and I wouldn’t say I’m good at it. I just have to stay patient and bribe them. Milo will be three in August and Noah is one. They are 16 months apart and are best friends. They like being outside, all day every day.

Of course, I wasn’t going to do a piece on John’s children and not ask him about Milo and Noah. As you’d imagine, the proud parent was ready to tell me all about his adorable kids.

Milo has a 12v tractor that he just rides around and around. He also loves baseball, thanks to the movie "The Sandlot." He’s really into music and pressing play on the record player. He’s a Pixar kid through and through. Ratatouille, UP, Wall-E, Onward, and all the Toy Story movies are his favorites. Noah is a dancer, or wiggler. He loves music, books, and our dog, Nico. It took an afternoon to get the shots. Pre-light before nap and got the shots right after their nap while Blippi (my nightmare) was on the iPad.

Though adorable, the two boys have proven to be a handful for John, who’s been trying to balance work and life — nearly impossible for the father of kids whose combined age is four. Add on to that the fact that John is homeschooling young Milo and Noah because of the pandemic (they'd be in daycare 4-5 days a week otherwise), and it’s a wonder he got these portraits done in the time he did!

I’m working on learning some motion and stop motion for an upcoming job. Other than that, I’m trying to homeschool my boys and have had zero time for my job. 

Check out more of John's work at johnemcdonald.com.

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