Photographing active subjects during a lifestyle shoot can be more challenging than it seems. A photographer can set their focusing system to whatever variation of follow focus is built in to their camera. The focusing spot is placed where you want the main subject within your frame. As the subject moves into position, the shutter button is depressed half way, allowing the focus to lock onto the moving subject. The photographer pans with his subject and the camera continues to adjust focus until the shutter button is depressed all the way.
This is a great system and if you have ever worked with manual focus cameras, follow focus seems like true magic. There can be some bumps in this road, however. I often subtly light my subjects with a reflector or diffused flash and having your assistant jog along with your subject is pretty tricky. My friend Kevin Steele seems to pull this off regularly, but I have developed a very low tech work-around for this situation.
I set my camera on a tripod with cable release, then pre-focus and pre-light a particular spot, marking it with something from the environment, and then have my models run past the spot several times. Every pass of my subjects is perfectly lit and focused.
If you look closely, you can just make out the seagull feather marker under the boys front foot in the image above, produced for the Pismo Beach Conference and Visitors Association in California. Notice the skin tone of the two children compared to their parents in the background. The reflector added about a subtle stop of light to the kids making them the stars of this shot. The parents and grandparents are just background. By the way, the dog is sitting because he was missing most of the fur on his tail and he looked like a large, furry rat. Sometimes you have to make the best of volunteer models.
The real challenge in producing this kind of image is keeping up the excitement level of your subjects as they repeat the same action several times. This brother and sister are a bit competitive, so it was easy to get real action out of them both. Backlighting my subjects controlled contrast and gave the whole scene a great feeling of high energy and a kid-friendly beach.