Recent PostsThe Family Portrait Session: Tips for a successful and stress-free portrait session The Power of Portrait Presentation Pain, Passion, and Prayer: My journey to becoming a full-time photographer Senior Portrait Series: What to wear? Senior Portrait Series: Location, location, location Senior Portrait Series: When is the best time for your senior portrait session? Portraits = Cherished Memories: How to Manage and Store Your Photos Why should I bother getting professional senior portraits? Advice to My Departing High School Seniors
Welcome to my blog. As a portrait photographer, I find that I have a lot to capture, a lot to share, and a lot to say. You will find some helpful tips along the way to make your portrait experience the best that it can be. Thank you for letting me share with you!
Ahhh..... The family portrait session. You see beautiful family portraits posted on Facebook and Instagram that depict the perfect family with everyone dressed perfectly with perfect smiles and perfect hair and looking so perfectly happy. But, in your mind, all you can imagine is something like what you see in the images above. The thought of getting everyone ready and where they need to be at the right time, and keeping everyone happy and trying to look fantastic yourself is just an exhausting concept. Well, it doesn't have to be. The first step to a successful family portrait session is to embrace the fact that your family is perfect just they way they are. They are perfect because of the love that binds them. It really is as simple as that. They are yours. You love them. You cherish these years that are passing too quickly. You want to capture that and treasure it, forever.
As a fan of Modern Family, I am reminded of a great episode that poked fun at the stress of preparing for a family portrait session. In typical fashion, Claire held on to the unrealistic expectation for a perfect family portrait. She was setting them all up for failure because her concept of perfection does not exist in the human world. Had things gone according to her plan, the resulting portrait would have been stiff and fake. As a result of one hilarious mishap after another, the portrait that you see above is full of emotion and reveals the genuine love that binds them. I am not advocating that your family have a mud fight right before our portrait session, but rather, remember that all of Claire's fussing and nagging was in vain.
So, what might be a better approach? Well, let's first identify the goals of your family portrait session. What do you intend to do with these precious portraits that we are creating? Would you like a piece of wall art to display on the mantle? Are you thinking about a series of three or four square canvases to hang in a series in the hallway or foyer? Do you just want something to frame on your desk and use for the Christmas card this year? Knowing our desired purpose will help us to make smarter decisions along the way.
Okay. We have our goal. How do we get there? Planning and communication are the keys. Since we have our "why" (the goal), we need to carefully establish a plan for the "who, when, where, and how," and then effectively communicate these plans to everyone who is involved in the portrait session.
Who? You might be thinking that the "who" is obvious, our family. Defining your family can require some thought. If there are step siblings, think about how you want everyone included. Would you like for any grandparents to be included? If older children have girlfriends or boyfriends, would you like for them to be in any of the portraits? Are your pets an integral part of the family? Would you like any portraits of just mom and dad? It is possible that the wedding portrait is the last good portrait featuring just the parents? What other groupings should we capture at this time? If one of our goals is to create a wall collage or a series of portraits, then what combinations would you like to feature? Identifying the answers to these questions will drive our portrait session. Communicating this information to me will make our time together more efficient. Communicating this information to your family members will prevent the need for discussions in the moment and avoid hurt feelings.
When? The sunset time dictates the time of day for our portrait session, but the time of year must be considered. Maybe you are hoping for a particular season. Fall portraits are absolutely beautiful. However, if you intend to hang this on the mantle in the formal living room which is decorated in a palette of pale blues and silver, then a portrait with oranges, reds and golds may not be a good choice. If your kiddos are involved in multiple activities, think about the time of year when the schedules are less hectic. If you have kids away at college, find out when they will be home for break. Think about your work deadlines and busy seasons to avoid. Again, communicating the time of your scheduled portrait session to all involved will help to ensure that you have everyone participating. Kindly make this information known as soon as you schedule the appointment so that all can plan accordingly. Providing tactful reminders as your session is approaching would be helpful to set your mind at ease that this is really going to happen.
Where? Sometimes the where is obvious. If you live on a farm, we will want to take advantage of that beautiful setting. If you have property on a lake or belong to a country club, then you may want to utilize those pretty settings. If your family has a special place where you have built some treasured memories, then that may be your ideal location. Is your family comfortable in the outdoors immersed in nature? Is a metropolitan look a better fit? Are we looking for casual or formal portraits? Do we need a location that can offer both?
If your family includes younger kiddos, then think about how they will engage in the location. Portrait sessions in the home with toddlers can be difficult. They know their surroundings too well. You may want them to play by the pretty tree, but they remain fixated on their Little Tikes car in the driveway. Forcing a move will surely bring tears. I love documenting toddlers exploring a new setting and capturing the wonder in their eyes. Keeping things fresh and new, but maintaining a feeling of security is key to natural-looking portraits with little ones. Again, be sure to communicate the specific location with all involved so that we have everyone together in the same place.
How? My philosophy is to keep it simple, but make it fun. The Claire Dunphy style of neurotically micromanaging every detail will add stress and set us all up for failure. If we have addressed the questions already stated above, then we are well on our way to a successful portrait session. Nonetheless, we do need to address the all-important issue of "what to wear." In the future, I will be dedicating an entire blog post to this significant element in a portrait session, but there are some key factors that I will share as they relate to the family portrait session.
Allow me to reemphasize: keep it simple. When someone looks at your family portrait, they will be focusing on your faces and reflecting on the relationships among your family members. This is not a portrait of outfits, it is a portrait of precious family members who are individuals, yet part of a dynamic family unit. That is not to say that the wardrobe is not important, but it should not become the focal point. Bold patterns and large graphics tend to take the focus away from the people. Outfits that are too matching actually become distracting. Having everyone in exactly the same thing makes it difficult for me to pose members in a way that creates layers and interest by separating bodies but still creating connectedness. This is why I advise against dressing members in black or white, not to mention that wearing black or white will wash out pale complexions.
Rather, when planning a wardrobe for a family session, it is best to choose clothing items that represent a family of coordinating colors. A few examples can be found above. Go back to your purpose. What is your intended use for these portraits? What is the color scheme in the room where you want to hang a large piece of wall art? Do you have an accent color in that room that you can use to make this portrait add interest? Is this going to be a casual or formal portrait? Does your intended setting dictate what might be appropriate? What colors look good on your family? If you want a palette of soft pastels, then remain consistent with that. If you want deep oranges, golds, and dark greens, then stay within that family. Shades of blues and tans can be a beautiful blend. I recommend laying the intended outfits out on the bed next to each other. If they are pleasing to the eye, then you are good to go.
When dressing the little ones, think about their comfort. Place your hand inside the clothes and feel it for yourself. Is there a scratchy seam where the tulle is gathered at the waist? Is there an annoying tag at the neck? Check the gathering points around arms, legs, and necks. Are they too tight? When buttoned or zipped, can they still move freely? These are things that can make for an unsuccessful portrait session. That outfit is only cute if the little body inside is happy.
Remaining consistent with the need for communication, be certain to make the wardrobe expectations clear to all members in advance of the session. You do not want to deal with a meltdown or resistance as you are trying to get everyone dressed on that day. Have the outfits set aside so that you are not rushing things in and out of the clothes dryer. Start getting ready early so that you are not rushed. If you are concerned about little people getting dirty, then dress them when you arrive at the location. Let them know that they are included in this special day and that "all of us are looking so nice today."
So, as we prepare to create your gorgeous family portrait, we will strive to "keep it simple, but make it fun." You bring me your prepped family and let me do the rest. Together, we can plan and communicate to enjoy a successful and stress-free family portrait session. Your family is already perfect. Let me show you just how beautiful that is.
You make the memories; I will help you cherish them.
Love and smiles,
There was a time when a portrait only existed as a sketch or painting. With the invention of the camera, a portrait could be captured on film and developed into an image on paper or some other medium. For centuries, portraits were a luxury and treasured.
It is amazing how differently we handle our images today. Most exist on our smart phones. Some get uploaded to a website or downloaded to a storage device for safe-keeping. Some get published on social media. A small percentage actually get printed and become tangible. Finding a way to display these few "print-worthy" pictures can make all the difference in how you are able to enjoy them.
Once you find that portrait that takes your breath away, you need to decide how you can use that portrait to enhance a particular space. You also need to consider what display method would make the most of that portrait for the display location that you have in mind. There is so much to consider. My goal in today's blog is to help you to better understand the options available to you with regard to displaying portraits, and to help you determine which display option would best meet your needs.
There is a significant difference in the reaction to an image that is presented as just an image, compared to an image that is displayed with a purpose. Simply placing a picture in a frame of appropriate size and in a complementary color or texture can elevate the impact of any image. Matting can certainly have the same effect. This does not have to be a huge investment. I have often purchased large framed art that had been place on clearance simply because I like the frame. I tear it apart and place my own image inside. Many of these clearance pieces of art have gorgeous frames and matting that only cost a fraction of what it would cost to buy it all separately. You can amaze yourself with the results. That portrait can come alive with enhanced depth once you get it on the wall.
If you are wiling to be a little adventurous and invest in a portrait display method that will really be something special, then you may want to consider some of the products that I offer in a category called "Home Decor." Within the Home Decor category, I will be talking about Print Wraps, Canvas Prints, Metals and Acrylic Prints. I recently purchased examples in each of these categories so that I could share the specifics with you and help you to make informed decisions when purchasing products from my website.
Print wraps are a fun way to give your images some dimension as the print is actually wrapped around a frame to make it a little puffy. It is about 3/8 of an inch thick. Because the edges are wrapped around the frame, you lose the ability to see the outer most edges as they get tucked into the back. The good news is that these are less expensive than canvas wraps, but are also less durable. You can choose from a wide range of sizes from 8 X 8 to 16 X 24. You can choose from the most common E-Surface paper or upgrade to the Kodak Metallic paper which has a little more luminescence. You can choose from a gloss or matte finish. I was impressed with how nicely the back is finished and that the mounting makes for easy hanging.
My print wrap sample that I ordered is 11 X 14 on E-Surface paper with a gloss finish. In the pictures, you can see how the corners are finished and the mounting block is attached for hanging. It is not very heavy, so wall mounting is not a big concern. You can see that the mounting block also elevates it away from the wall and makes your portrait "stand out" nicely. The E-Surface can be wiped off, but would not hold up very well if hung in a location where it could get dirty and require cleaning beyond dusting. So, a kitchen or bathroom where you have the likelihood for grease or steam could cause this print to show some wear.
Most people have an idea about what to expect with a canvas print, as they are fairly common. These pieces are a little more expensive than a print wrap, but the improvement in quality and durability is evident. In my opinion, the canvas print really elevates a portrait to "art" status. The texture is less reflective so your portrait can be seen from most angles with no glare. The canvas prints are actually canvas gallery wraps, and how you choose to wrap will make a difference in the resulting look of the piece.
When ordering a canvas wrap, there are several choices that will impact your final product. Canvas wraps can be ordered in a range of sizes from 8 X 10 to 24 X 36. There is a drop-down menu of choices for the canvas sides. Your print is wrapped around a frame that is 1.5 inches thick, so you can choose what the sides look like. Your options are mirrored sides, extend image to sides, black sides, or white sides.
The option of "mirrored sides" is my least favorite. Your entire print will look perfectly normal from the front, but the side edges that are wrapped around the frame are a "mirror image" of what is on the outer edge of your print. I feel that it looks a little confusing for most images.
The second option, "extend image to sides," does exactly what it says. You will see less of your image on the front of the print because the outer edges are wrapped around the frame. Two of the samples that I ordered represent this option. Both the large seascape and the small close-up of my daughter in the hat are canvas wraps that extend the image to the sides. I like this option because you feel like you are still seeing the portrait as you walk from side to side. However, it is not a good option if your portrait does not have much space around the edges. You don't want important features to be lost because they are wrapped around the frame and no longer visible from the front.
The final two options, black sides and white sides, are basically the same. The entire image will be visible on the canvas from the front. There is no image on the side edges. The sides are painted black or white, depending on the preference you indicate. The sample of my daughter sitting on the beach shows the black sides option. I am very pleased with this look, as well, because I feel it frames the portrait and you don't loose the ability to see any parts of the image from the front.
These canvas wraps are finished nicely on the back where the canvas is secured by many staples. They are ready for hanging with hardware appropriate for the size. The large 24 X 36 of the seascape has a very sturdy wire for hanging that is more than sufficient since the canvas and frame are fairly light. The other two sizes shown are 11 X 14 and 8 X 10 and have brackets attached for hanging.
The modern metal print is a fairly new option to my customers and I really wasn't sure what to expect. Let's just say, it is exactly what its name implies. It is a really cool modern look and it is metal. Now, if you are looking for durability and you want the colors to pop, then this may be the option for you. The website description says it best, "Add contemporary style to your photography with aluminum prints. Images are printed using a dye-sublimation process to create a stunning finished product." At only $49.99 for an 11 X 14, it is a very enticing choice.
These are truly amazing! I'm not sure how they get it to look so glossy and vibrant, but I was so impressed when I opened the box. As you can see from the pictures above, the easy mounting block on the back elevates the portrait away from the wall to add even more dimension. Modern metal prints come in sizes ranging from 8 X 10 to 20 X 30. I can just imagine these hanging in a business or restaurant. A home or office with a modern flair would receive a nice upgrade with these modern metal prints on the walls.
The final Home Decor product that I am featuring in this blog is the acrylic print. I would have preceded that statement with a drum roll if I had audio because the acrylic print is truly something special. The website description says, "After the photo is printed directly to the 1/4" acrylic, a layer of opaque white ink is screen printed on the back to create a product that highlights the vibrant colors and fine details of the image." Wow! That's all I can say. Just let a little light pass behind the image and it absolutely glows. It comes with four stainless steel "standoffs" for mounting onto the wall. The mounting is rather permanent, so be sure you are willing to live with the portrait in that spot for a long time. I have not mounted mine because I intend to bring it with me as a sample when I meet with my couples for wedding consultations.
Acrylic prints only come in four sizes ranging from 16 X 16 to 19.5 X 23.5. They are an investment, but will look fabulous forever and can be easily wiped clean.
This summary shot shows a close-up of the corners of each home decor product for ease in comparison. Hover over the image to reveal the caption that will identify each home decor product.
Top left - Canvas Gallery Wrap . Top right - Print Wrap . Bottom left - Modern Metal . Bottom right - Acrylic
As with all orders, there is a charge for shipping. Mpix goes the extra mile when packaging your order to be sure that it arrives at your doorstep safely. Every product was carefully wrapped in several layers of protection and secured in place with tape inside the box so that there is no bumping the sides of the box in transport. My only complaint is that it took me a long time to get through all of the layers to see my beautiful treasures inside.
I am always available to assist my clients with the ordering process, and I would be happy to offer advice about sizes, product choices, and placement in your home or office. The possibilities are endless. So, as you browse through your gallery of portraits, you may be looking with a new purpose. Take that favorite portrait(s) and elevate it (them) to a level of even greater impact. I am certain that you will love your portraits even more.
Love and smiles,
Once upon a time, specifically in October of 2008, this beautiful young lady took a chance and asked me to take her senior portraits. With much tempered excitement, I agreed to give it a try. Although I look back at those images and find it appalling that I delivered portraits with such poor quality in lighting and white balance, I can recall the flutter I felt capturing and editing them. I find it amazing that I am able to experience that same excitement with every portrait session, over and over again. I think they call that passion, and I am so blessed to have found mine. The blessing is even greater that I am able to make this passion my new career direction on a full-time basis.
The journey that has led me to this place has not been easy. Most things that we appreciate dearly are the things that come about as a result of adversity of some kind. You see, I was born as a teacher, a middle school science teacher, to be exact. I was fortunate enough to serve in this role for 25 years. I loved my students. I loved my science content. I loved my school. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. The only constant in education is change. Sadly, there were enough changes in various entities that my role as teacher was no longer the same. It no longer allowed me to use my expertise as a professional to approach teaching as both an art and a science. I always felt that my creativity in these areas and my personal connections with my students made me an effective teacher.
The struggle was real, and it became manifested in a contentious teacher strike. One ugly event lead to another, and after a very difficult journey over the past nine months, I have found myself in a very good place: a place of excitement, rejuvenation, and some healthy fear. I have made the conscious decision to leave the "security" of a contracted teaching position with all of its benefits to pursue my photography business on a full-time basis.
So, what does this mean for my clients? It means that they have my dedication of time and talent to make myself more accessible to their needs and schedules. It means that I am dedicated to my professional development as I participate in courses, workshops, and webinars to learn new techniques and improve my skills. It means that I am free from distractions and able to truly focus on my role as photographer. It means that I can offer better customer service and make each portrait session a priority. Most importantly, it means that I have found a new emotional eye for my art, and this translates into more meaningful portraits.
This new "emotional eye" that I mentioned is the result of the journey that I have traveled, with the most meaningful miles passing in the last nine months. I have been forced to examine myself with raw honesty and forced myself to face the difficult questions. I credit the rewards of this journey to my amazingly supportive family and friends, my counselor who helped me to see what I already knew, and my God who placed me on this path and helped to show me the way.
Meaning and purpose. You see, I am passionate about anything that I pour myself into. At one time, this was teaching. When I was no longer able to find my meaning and purpose in education, I lost my passion; I lost myself.
Here comes the scary part. How do I find my meaning and purpose, and still contribute to the family? Already having my photography business on a part-time basis for nine years made the transition to full-time much easier. Nonetheless, I am taking a leap of faith that I can maintain this business at a sustaining level. I am pouring myself into making this work because it is my passion.
Meaning and purpose: it is here, in my role as a photographer. When I look through my viewfinder and see the composition that focuses on my subject and blocks out everything else, I feel the emotion that I intend to convey. When I see that image pop up on the LCD screen on the back of my camera, I often gasp with excitement. When I show my client their beautiful portrait, I see their face light up with a new appreciation for who they are. I see them gain some confidence. I see them embrace the process because they trust me to show the beauty they possess. When I see the emotion well up in parents as they gaze on the portrait of their child with an appreciation for the lasting memory that I am able to provide for them, I have found my meaning and purpose.
So, it is with much gratitude that I formally announce my commitment to being your full-time photographer. My journey has helped me to not only see what really matters in life, but to focus on it, and to provide you with a tangible way to hold on to it, in all of its stages, forever.
You make the memories; I will help you cherish them.
Love and smiles,
So much goes into planning that senior portrait session. In previous blogs, we have discussed time and place, so our next consideration is wardrobe. Most will stand in front of a closet or dresser and look for that outfit that will be just perfect. So many factors can determine which clothing options might be better than others. Today's blog is meant to help you make some wise choices that will lead to your beautiful portraits.
First of all, why narrow it down to just one outfit? You have many sides to your personality, so you should have many styles to reflect those qualities. However, we don't want to spend the whole session changing from one outfit to another. We do need to actually take the portraits. So, finding a way to filter through the many options will be necessary.
As in so many tasks, I advise my seniors to keep it simple. The fewer layers that you have to adjust and the fewer pieces of jewelry that we need to straighten, the better. I do not make this statement out of a desire to rush through your session, but rather from experiencing the visual result of too much going on in a portrait. Remember, these are portraits of a very special individual (you) at a very special time in your life. We want the focus to be on you, and not on all of the things attached to your body.
Keeping it simple usually lends itself to my next piece of advice, which is to be comfortable. I'm going to be working hard to get natural expressions and easy smiles. That is so difficult if you are struggling to breathe because the neck is just too tight, or gritting your teeth because the sweater is just so itchy. We want to look at these portraits and think about how much they reflect the real YOU. So, choose pieces of clothing that you would actually be seen wearing in real life. If you absolutely never wear a shirt with a collar, then don't buy one just because you think you should have it in a portrait. You will probably need a formal shot for the yearbook, but there is no need to pretend you are someone else for your portrait session. That defeats our whole purpose, which is to showcase you as the special individual that you are.
Since we are showcasing YOU, choose clothes that are flattering to you. Think about anything that tends to elicit complements when you wear it. We all have parts of ourselves that we like better than others. Think about what might help to highlight your favorite traits and camouflage the ones that you are a little self-conscious about. Be careful to avoid clothes that are too tight or revealing. It can become very distracting in a portrait. Consider tan lines or exposed straps that may require continual adjustment. If we have too many things to watch out for, chances are, something will be amiss in that favorite shot and we won't catch it until I am in the editing phase when it is too late.
One of the most important considerations in your wardrobe is color. Oh, we can have so much fun with some variety in color. The first thing I will ask to see when we meet at a portrait session is your variety of outfits. I will be looking at the colors and making my decisions about which locations will be best for each outfit that you have packed up in the car. The season and location can play a role in making decisions on color. Also, be sure to consider your skin tone, hair color, and eye color. You probably know what colors are especially complementary to you. Make sure to bring those colors along.
As you dig through your closet, my suggestion is to bring more than you may actually use. I will be happy to look at your collection and advise you on which pieces will be your best choices. In the end, you will have beautiful portraits that fit your personality, demonstrate the many sides to your personality, and are cherished because the focus is on you.
You make the memories; I will help you cherish them.
Love and smiles,
Don't you just love that question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" Some of us have an automatic answer and others really have to stop to think about it. Some of us know exactly what we want, while others are just trying to manage the events of today. I have found that the question of "Where do you see yourself for your senior portrait session?" often renders the same range of responses. Some have a clear vision for the setting they desire, and others have no idea. The purpose of today's blog is to offer some "direction" for choosing a location for your senior session.
While many may be automatically focused on the backdrops and landscapes that can be found in various locations, my first consideration is LIGHT. The amount of ambient light that is available and the opportunities for it to be reflected or absorbed are crucial to my ability to function as a portrait photographer. Soft variations in light with much access to shaded areas will allow for the variation in portraits that I intend to provide. This is another reason I work within the two hours before sunset. Wide open spaces are fine for some shots from a distance, if the sun is at a very low angle, or if it is overcast. Most of our work must be in shade with ambient light spilling in.
What does this mean for a location? It means that we need cover of some sort. Trees, buildings, or structures that are tall or with overhangs are going to offer those shaded spaces. Pavilions, gazebos, porches, breezeways, barns, sheds, parking decks, stacks of straw bales, and retaining walls can all offer refuge from direct sun. Once we find these areas, we can get creative in how we utilize them.
Now that we are looking for locations with shade and ambient light, we can think about variety. One of my goals in a portrait session is to offer you many different types of portraits. You are a multidimensional individual with many different sides and I intend to allow those to be expressed. Sure, we can do close-ups and distance shots, serious and smiling expressions, looking off into the distance and looking at the camera angles. But, if every one of those portraits includes the same tree, where is the fun in that? I like some variety in vegetation, variety in architecture, variety in elevations, variety in color. We want to have fun with this!
When thinking about location, it is imperative to consider the personality of the senior and determine what might be the best fit. The earthiness of a farm setting might be perfect for one individual, but the edginess of a metropolitan area is most fitting for another. The whimsy of a playground may bring out the playfulness of a lighthearted senior, but an upscale shopping complex may allow another to express his/her style. Since our seniors have many layers to their personalities, multiple locations can be used if carefully orchestrated.
The obvious consideration, and sometimes limiting, is access to desired locations. We may need to request permission to use specific areas. Busy times should be avoided so that other patrons or visitors are not impeding our progress. Always being respectful of the properties and other people is a must. I have experienced such gracious cooperation from people when they recognize that our intentions are sincere and that we understand their needs.
Having said that, let's think about the types of locations that we may want to consider. Again, we need to assess the ability to gain access, and times when our presence would be least disruptive, yet within the two hours before sunset. That is where it can get tricky.
Some locations where I have found success include local and state parks if they aren't too busy. Schools, stadiums, tracks, and high school fields can provide settings to highlight your high school career. Family farms are perfect because there are so many textures and structures to offer variety, and we typically have the whole place to ourselves. College campuses are usually well-maintained and offer much variety. Golf courses can be beautiful, but you should have knowledge of where you are permitted. Wineries and vineyards are a gorgeous setting, but may require permission. Metropolitan areas can be surprisingly effective, but be prepared to watch for traffic and pedestrians. For some seniors, there may be locations that have special significance and could provide portraits with deeper meaning and purpose. I am all about customizing the experience and making this portrait session truly yours!
You make the memories; I will help you cherish them.
Love and smiles,
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