Margaret Koning + The Story Behind

Ever wondered what happens when you give a photographer a fog machine and a 50mm? Well, if you didn’t you will now because that’s what gave Margaret Coning of Colorado that gorgeous, dreamy haze around her adorable son in this featured photo in this week’s The Story Behind.  Quite the combo, heh? Read on to find out how she created this gem and how exploring something new led to one of her favorite photos to date.

Can you tell us “The Story Behind” this shot?

To create this shot I knew I wanted to capture the sunlight coming through the shutters in my son’s room. We bought a new home and the whole house is sunlight and windows and its been a dream to discover all these gorgeous pockets of sun! A lot of research on getting that beautiful streaming sun in-camera led me to getting a fog machine (I love how photography is versatile enough that eventually you find yourself adding a fog machine to your shopping cart on Amazon!) and so I started it up and left the fog to “settle” over the span of about 5 minutes in his nursery. Then I placed my little guy front and center with a few wooden toys and angled the shutters so the sun was right on top of his head and started shooting! He actually had just learned to play peek-a-boo and this was him trying to reach to cover his eyes, but covering the top of head instead! The element of fog added a gorgeous softness to the photo!

DSLR, iPhone, instant or film?


What were your camera settings for this image?

ISO 100, 50mm, f/1.4, 1/650 ss

What speaks to you about this image? What specifically made you press the shutter?

I loved how he was really trying his hardest to reach up to the top of his little head! When they’re this little they tend to grow in and out of things so fast that every day you feel like they’ve mastered something different while no longer doing something they were obsessed with doing the day before!

Did you have any lighting challenges/How did you light the image?

I knew there would be a lot of backlight in this photo so I exposed for his face and then pulled the highlights down on the windows in post.

Did you use any special techniques – freelensing, prism, etc?

Fog Machine! Gotta love the fog machine!

Was this photo happenstance or did you visualize it prior? If so, how did you envision the image and set up for it?

I absolutely visualized this photo beforehand (I usually tend to go “documentary” style in my personal photos but wanted to set this one up) and while using my trusty 50mm lens was a little challenging in his smaller room, I liked how it pulled him in front and center.

Did you use a preset to edit this image, your own selective edits or a combination of both?

I use 001 SMAL Vol.2 on almost all my photos, including this one, and then hand edit to get it how I want it. I did use RAD SUN adjustment brush in LR to really highlight the sun coming down through the windows, by the Unraveled Academy.

It took a fair amount of prep work to get this photo just as you wanted. Would you say the process of this shot is indicative of what you typically do in your work?

I adore this photo, but I also know all the setup and post it took to get this exact result. Most of the work I do with my own family is purely documentary and those are the photos I truly treasure. So while I occasionally do have very “staged” portraits of my children, I also like to add healthy doses of real life moments into my photography!

Margaret Coning calls Colorado Springs, CO home but you can find her latest and greatest here: