Photographing women of any age is my passion. But there's something extra special about shooting little girls. I think it's their joy at being photographed mixed with their Disney-princess sense of logic (of course it makes sense to wear a tiara and tutu all day).
I shot little Kinley shortly after her 3rd birthday. I had this visual in my head of her dancing around in a floor-length tutu and reaching for clouds. I'm not going to lie, I cursed my own imagination many times while trying to create this scene. I made her skirt by sewing alternating strips of pink and tea-stained ivory tulle around a silk ribbon (half of my bathroom is now tea-stained as well, oops) and purchased the leotard off of Amazon for $13. Both the ladder (made by an Etsy artisan out of reclaimed wood) and the rocking chair (won at an auction for $10 - sold!) were perfect toddler size, but it was the clouds that had me panicking for a few days.
I'd found this amazing image on Pinterest:
And thought oh no problem! (problem #1), I'll just get some batting and glue it to balloons or paper lanterns (problem #2) and hang it from the ceiling (problem #3). First off there's a big difference between cotton batting (more expensive, but more cloud-like) and synthetic batting (cheaper, whiter, less realistic looking but holds together better). First I tried rubbing and tugging the cotton batting (as instructed online), pulling it gently to create a cloud like shape and I ended up with this tiny misshapen ball.
Then I tried gluing pieces of the batting to a paper Chinese lantern (looked awful) and to a balloon (which didn't work as the hot glue immediately popped the balloon and super glue wasn't strong enough). Finally my husband (I think out of pity) suggested I try wrapping the synthetic batting around hangers in large clumps. This got me an initial form that held, but did not look like clouds.
So as he bent metal hangers and poked them through the batting, I began rubbing and tugging AND (this was important) pushing and pulling. Part of the beauty of clouds is their ability to reflect and absorb light in random little pockets, to achieve that look you have to pull out and poke in in little alternating sections.
To hang them, I attached the hangers with fishing line from a pole I raised to be near the ceiling. This worked well but kept all the clouds in one flat line (but was great for getting them stabalized and in place). Since I wanted more depth to the image, I staggered the clouds using extra fishing lines (to pull them forward) and attached them to push-pins in ceiling, creating a more realistic effect.
I have to add that when the cloud formation process got difficult, I did consider adding the clouds digitally. Here's why I did not do that - 1) even though I could've made it look realistic, I wanted the cute, whimsical look these puffy cotton clouds gave the image. And 2) toddlers are very visual little people. I could instruct Kinley by saying "reach for the clouds" and have her not only understand but think it was fun (who doesn't want to play with clouds?). But to tell her to reach for an invisible object would've given her nothing to interact with, and I would've quickly lost her interest in taking pretty pictures.
So it took some experimenting, but in the end I was able to shoot my vision, giving Kinley's family special images of their beautiful little girl, and I can now add "cloud maker" to my list of skills.