This picture has “brothers” written all over it. It happened to have been taken in Athens, Ohio, in 1969, but a similar one could be taken anywhere in the world.
So, how do you take a picture like this? I don’t remember doing it. It was a single frame sandwiched between a scenic of a tree and interior of a house. The scenic tells me that I was cruising around looking for wild art before or after the interior assignment.
My guess is that I was standing on the back porch talking with the homeowner when the kids started going at it. I had time to get that one picture before mom or dad broke up the scuffle.
To be ready for quick shooting, I always had at least one camera body set to shoot for different lighting situations. That might mean one would be set for bright daylight and another for low level lights. When you have to shoot fast, you don’t have time to take light readings and fumble with shutter speeds and f/stops. You grab the appropriate body, shoot and hope your exposure is close enough to fix in the darkroom.
Tight or loose?
I like the looser composition of this shot that hasn’t been cropped much because it gives the feeling that the kids are going at it unsupervised The tight shot feels like an adult is hovering.
Why did I emphasize the tight shot, then?
Newspaper rule of thumb was that a face had to be the size of a dime if you were going to be able to see detail in it. The cropped photo is the one that would have run; reader eyeballs don’t linger long, so you want to get your message across quickly.
Even this shot is cropped in from the left a little. The original shows a tricycle parked at the bottom of the steps on the left.
In addition to making the faces larger, there was another consideration: the boys are in the shade and a white house in the background is in bright sunlight. That’s a killer wide range of exposures to try to balance in a photo. Taking the background out meant less distracting blown-out highlights.