Posts Tagged ‘portrait photography’

Photo: Story and Tips

Shooting just for fun
I’ve written about this in the past about how often I go on just for fun photoshoots and get pictures of the people I’m with (like¬†+Liz Draper who’s a local photographer) I had them model and as you can see in the pictures so did I even.
I’ll have to find that article about how and when I’m totally cool with doing pics for the heck of it.

Flowy Water
We often see the flowing water theme in landscapes but perhaps not enough with portraits.
I’m sure all skill levels will read this but just as a recap: the lower your shutter speed (longer time) the more flowing it looks.
I shot this whole series without a tripod and on the smugmug gallery you can go in and see photo details to see the times if you so desire.

If I remember correctly from 2 seconds all the way to 1/20th of a second.

No Tripod… no problem
I love being creative with how to get low shutter speeds without a tripod. When I travel and I’m in big cities it’s a pain to carry around a tripod all day long just so you can have one at night. So I frequently use all sorts of poles or walls or any of the many, many things you find along the sidewalks… or use the ground. I get some unique pictures because I’m putting the camera in places I might have never considered.

So for a couple of these I was using nearby trees and some of them a ledge that was a bit higher. I think for one or two I was handholding… I’m pretty sure you can tell on one or two of them. (If you see a black “void” around the subject)

Sieze the moment with flash
Even with putting the camera in steady places it’s not perfect because the subject will be moving, but it’s not a reason to not take the pictures.
Flash can help.
There’s some technical reasons going on (which I refrain from getting into at the moment) but just suffice it to say you’ll capture and seize the moment with flash which helps a lot with low shutter speeds.

Testing new stuff
I usually won’t go and play at pictures without trying something new I can use safely here on a for fun shoot before I take it to a paid shoot.

I was testing out two things this time: a battery pack for my speedlight (sb-900) and a flash bender which i was using as a snoot to direct the light straight onto the subject without much bleed onto the surrounding area. It worked well because we had to be sometimes 20ft from the subject standing on the bridge over the river with the flash pointed like a sniper at the subject while I stood from the angle you see here (first picture).

Verdict on the things I tested…
Well it wasn’t a long shoot so I’m not sure how long the battery pack will last but I’ve done 2-3 short shoots with it and it’s still going. And I might consider having a different device for my snoot as the one I was using was a little small for how huge the sb-900 is compared to all the other typical speedlights.

I love the spotlight look and I also love the colors. Because it was just after sunset the light was a lot cooler and we were able to warm her up a bit with the light so it’s a pretty stark contrast between warm and cold light.

Random models
I had some friends from church doing a picnic of sorts nearby. Of of my friends is into photography and he came and watched a bit so we threw him and his fiancee into a couple pictures.
On the last picture you can see the nice dramatic pose… in clothing that certainly did not match. eh? haha (Like them nice green running shorts for the dramatic dip with dramatic lighting?)

Not too slow
I went to a pretty low shutter speed but liked the look of the river at a somewhat faster speed so you could see just how rough the river was running.

Anyway those are some tips and the story behind the pictures.

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A good photographer is a person who is observant of things and people.

I’m not talking about how they can tell if a hair is out of place or when something is different.

I’m talking about they take in what they’re about to photograph and process it in the mind and heart. They know how to interact and they know how to bring it out on the screen-print.
The kind of observant that understands a person’s personality and knows how to bring it out. Even the positions to put them in. Not just observant of the concepts you as a photographer have in mind… with plans for whatever mannequin that comes your way. The right picture for the right personality.

I always tell students-interns that when they look at a picture on the screen unedited and awaiting it’s destiny…. that we look at the picture not at how it is… but what it can become. (Then we pick our battles because some are more worth our limited time than others… I believe God does the same only he has infinite capacity for us all)

So why not when we’re taking the picture … the subject as who they can become.

Not that we’re gonna change them up and put a bunch of makeup there. But we interact and let them be who they’ll be when not burdened down by our own objectives. I mean we’ve got plenty on the plate already… we want them to be right here because this is our background, and to not move too much because I’m focused just right. And dont’ turn around because we’re fond of your face… So i guess it does sound like a lot of things. But go ahead and do whatever you want. haha

I’m thinking here… equal time, equal awesome place with each child. Me laying on the ground (as I’m prone to do) directing the children to sit just exactly where I want them.

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Maybe a bit crass for the audience but all I gave was a simple suggestion to show off the dress and hold it to the side… but I guess I’m not to adept at giving directions so this is what we get.

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A little coaxing from the peanut gallery… a little assurance from my part that he really can do the stuff he wants to do, or the random things we call out. It’s his call and I won’t be upset in the slightest and I’ll make sure his parents don’t talk back for a change.

Being observant is also about listening to their ideas… I find out the dad throws the kids in the air… that’s what we do next. Believe it! (If they’re not throwers and it makes them uncomfortable I wouldn’t even want to do pictures like that)

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They do their thing, they interact, they pose their way… certainly i’m in control of so very much. But it’s all the unspoken stuff that I keep to myself, they don’t need to know about it. They just know that their ideas are welcome and that this particular one i will make awesome and you’re free to be a part of the creative process.

And ready set …. GO!


Last 3 posts have been about getting children and showing their personality… well in this case this little one is a bit small to be running or even sitting. With no random props to stuff her in we just went with showing off the personality of the WHOLE family. How this child is a part and their feelings for the child. The personality of the family, if you will.

A family picture doesn’t have to be of them looking into the camera.

This little one isn’t very good with directions yet… so let’s just roll with it.



Then we did the baby on the blanket picture



OK so we’re doing lots of group pictures, the other child is running around and since he’s a boy he’s obviously playing with rocks and sticks. The baby doesn’t have that luxury yet… the muscles in his body won’t allow that yet.

This was nott the first picture that I took… we had a different thought in mind at the beginning, but like so many of my pictures it morphed into this… one of my favorites from the day.

In fact it started with this.


What shall we do? Ok let’s just lay him on the ground.

Just us getting the baby to do his cute little smiles and laughs.

I switched to get a straight on view


Still laughing and smiling and happy. The clothes, the eyes and the smile. No balls, no buckets, no boots, no bears… just the child on the dead ol’ grass of cool fall day in the mountains.

Well this kids not gonna move around to much, we’ll get a bunch of his different faces… but it’s about time to switch it up… let’s get the closest parent. The one that probably decided it’s about time for a photoshoot for the family… tadah… there’s mom.


It can still be about the child with mom as a kinda-sorta-in-there element. Baby still looking up and mom interacting.

OK mom go ahead and do whatever you want.



Not sure what the facial expression is all about… but we’ll roll with it… I think it’s cute and perhaps I could ask “Ummm, excuse me sir but could you be so kind as to close your trap”

Now that we have that… just lay down next to him and look up mom


OK mom now look at him. (She already knows she has the freedom to do so in whatever way, and she knows I will make sure it doesn’t look bad, and she knows that we’re rolling with the flow and she gets to be who she wants to be not who I want her to be)


Beautiful… the interaction… the look in both their eyes.

Personality and emotion aren’t always about over the top. But about those moments I’m sure all parents have all the time. Wonderment. Those peaceful beautiful moments.

You don’t just say ok now have a wonderful, peaceful, beautiful moment…. we find them and create them together.

Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit

Like this picture? Well let’s take a step back to show how we got there.

The family mentioned very briefly “the log”… so i said well let’s run with YOUR idea (since I don’t have to sell you on it.) Well that’s what I was thinking at least… that they’d be involved in the creative process and we’d come up with pictures that they didn’t just feel they could have gotten at a studio… but something they were involved with.

Prior to the picture below we had done some full group(family) pictures on the log and then we started breaking it down a bit into groups and that’s where we pick it up below.

To get to the picture above we must understand what happened below.


We did the full family, then just the boys and then we got just the girls sitting on the log.

I separated them for a shot because I wanted them to be all their own personality … 3 individuals in the picture. Then later have them interact to show the personality between all 3.

Then I see the one girl and how she chose to sit… a little bit further… enough that the way her dress was out and on the log caught my attention.

I told the other two to leave … probably my exact words something like “get out of her picture now” said with a big smile so they always know it’s said with love. haha

…and then I took this picture below


Yes I took the way she chose to sit and the way her dress was and exaggerated them out a little bit and then her hands went down from off her knees and it was just perfect.

But then I thought well that’s a good one of her… but how about just the two little girls without the mom, opposite sides of the log.

They don’t need to match the way they sit nor have their arms in unison in my opinion (though I might throw one variation in there like that.)

Then as the two sisters sat far apart it was time to see what life would bring us.


I’m sure it was just some simple random command or encouragement… “get close to your sister”, “hug your sister”… something like that they’d both understand.

Who went to who… it didn’t matter… I was ready for anything. Maybe it’s fun psychology to see that it was the little girl moved over and how she moved over and how the big sister reacted.

This is a family… this is personality… this is love.

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Obviously not a pose I could think of on any given day: with her leg practically straddling the log and the other sister awkwardly leaning over and giving a choke hold hug. But these are kids not yet reformed in poise and haven’t studied the delicateness of interaction of hundreds of movies. They just do.

It’s the fluidity of the events, yes there is plenty of direction being given, where we were wasn’t entirely a fluke, who we chose for the log wasn’t either, even getting them together wasn’t either.

But in the end it was their own photo shoot, entirely different than any other and reflecting of their personalities.

FALL FREE SHOOT – The 4th annual charitable shoot

In years past I would have worked on one big long post about my yearly Free week of photo shoots which have been known as my” Fall Free Photoshoot” or the “Charity Shoot” because I donated whatever they gave to a charity or this year the “Charitable shoot” because I made people pay nothing to do the shoot but it was about me giving back to all my past clients (specially past bride and grooms)

In part the big post was in order to get them done and out of the way and jump back into editing of lots of other stuff.

Lots of posts

This year I feel I owe you more posts and great information… I have been slacking in my blog posts department so I’ll work on queueing a bunch of posts interesting to both future client and photographer and of course friends who just love to see nice pictures.


I’ve often wondered how I would approach the subject. I see lots of people putting babies and little kids in all sorts of crazy situations. Boots,boats, buckets, balls, bears and bellies.

I wondered if to be successful I would have to shop for a long list of items to keep the photography fresh and have people like my pictures of their kids.

I do a lot of weddings and a lot of travel, yes there are kids at these places and I take pictures of them… but for a shoot to be all about kids that would be different.

Do we change our style when it comes to another field? I’ve found my answer. NO

Focus on what you’re best at.

For me it’s about the personality, the person, making a connection for the viewer of the picture to the subject in the picture. It’s the same in weddings as it is in children photography (for me)

And according to my style a lack of clutter and props helps my viewers to focus more of their attention on what I think is most important… the child. We can call this my laziness for finding and buying creative things, but it does work with my style of photography and if freeing myself up helps, then so be it.

WHEN PROPS WORK (for my style)

Now hey if the parent brings something like a prop for an idea of theirs… so be it… the thing is it’s now a part of them. It’s a mixture of their child and their own creativity, this is a view of the interaction of child and parent.

And when they see their picture they’ll see a family picture with only the child in the picture, and I won’t recreate an exact vision of the parent but I’ll bring out the personality of their idea. I’ll personalize their idea to them in accordance to my way of seeing.

Pictures with meaning

If I come up with some neat idea my job is to make it ours, not mine, alone.¬† I want them to feel like we were all a part. Looking back at the picture they weren’t just a model or a pawn in my game. But the creative process we experienced together and came up with it as a team.


Sure I just suddenly thought: “wouldn’t it be cool if we could focus on the daughter by having the mother in but not really”. Almost like a bride holds a bouquet (coming from the mind of a wedding photographer) like a detail shot. But in this case it’s a child. And that child might be called…”hey look here” but they can do what they want as long as it’s not “nothing”

I call for a child’s’ attention not because I want every picture to be of them looking at me, but because there are going to be tons of pictures naturally of them looking away and from time to time they’ll look at me and parents are happy to have a good mixture of those as well.

But if I can remember correctly about the picture above she was probably holding her in a position somewhat like this and probably just told her to exaggerate it more. To hold her lower and straight… like she’s sitting.

It really is one of my favorites… because it’s the personality of the girl, the mom is there, you know it’s her, there’s still connection and all the clothing the parent wanted to show off are all there.

No ball, boot or bucket needed. This is me.


It never gets old the ambiguity in the meanings of “shoot”


Get a small patch of cool stuff and don’t look at it and say “Darn, I wish there were more so I can get this cool shot I have in my mind”

Realize for a moment it’s not going to happen you can’t make another acre grow real fast… deal with it.
Make what you have work to your advantage. Don’t live in what could have been. Start dealing with what you have.

In actuality this section of cool plants was plenty large enough to get the pictures I wanted.
The angle I chose was to make the plants look more plentiful, but not just that but because I didn’t have a never ending supply in the back.

This is the big reason why she’s down on the ground.
If the field were bigger or I could get up on a ladder I would have shot from on high but with her standing as well.

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Then of course I got down because we all know I love shooting in through stuff.
I also felt a nice up close portrait was in order.

Brooke asked her mother what she wanted for Mother’s Day and I’m told this is it.
Sounds perfectly understandable… I think everyone should do it.
I expect to be booked up for… forever! haha

But really I can totally understand not only does the mother benefit from getting the actual pictures but she also gives her daughter a chance to feel beautiful in front of the camera and beautiful for years to come each time she looks at the pictures.
What a good mother!

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Again not a huge section of awesomeness to play with but when you’re shooting straight down you don’t need much.

Which makes me remember to say get them in all sorts of positions (sitting, leaning, lean-sitting, you know… everything) why?
Because they’ll feel more comfortable in some than others…
(unless your style is a total posed style. Well then don’t listen to me if that’s not your style and your not intersted in bringing out their personality… move along nothing to see here)

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Backlight… Create your own, or put them in positions where it already exists.

See more pictures here

Remember back in the day when I talked about how individual portrait shoots or modeling shoots are pretty easy.



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Well I don’t get to do them often with all the other shoots going on and since I’m known mainly as a wedding photographer.

Well Jenny convinced me that I should take time and at least do her’s.
She did a good job because in a week where I had 8+ photo shoots I fit her in for a nice long shoot with 3 outfit changes from direct sun to shady to dusk and even night with lots of off camera flash stuff.

Full Gallery Here


It helps when you’re with good company.

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Jenny is working on a fitness show and I wish her all the luck in the world with that.
Tell her how beautiful she is and perhaps even how Amazing My work is. haha



BTW, I stand by what I said this kind of individual portraits is so much easier than weddings or shoots like that, but there’s something about weddings that make them worthwhile… oh yeah and they also pay better.



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That being said I’d take nice paid portrait/model shoots any day if anyone is looking.