This past weekend I had the honor of attending the baptism of one of my favorite little eight year old girls. This darling girl has the sweetest smile, sings like an angel, and keeps her room clean. We got together one beautiful evening back in May when all the flowers were blooming and no one was in danger of heat exhaustion and had a photo shoot at the Gilbert LDS Temple. It was an unusually windy day, but that just made her look more like a rock star. A rock star who makes great choices, obviously.
Category Archives: Portraits
Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing the most patriotic one year old in town. P-dog (Can I call you P-dog?) is celebrating his first year of life with a USA-themed party so his mom asked if we could do a patriotic cake smash before the big day. It was hotter than hot outside, but little P was happy the whole time! The cake may have had something to do with it. Happy Birthday, new citizen!
The great philosopher Ree Drummond (AKA The Pioneer Woman) once gave me a great piece of advice that I will now pass on to you. Back in the days before her cooking show and her magazine and her hair product line (that last one I may have made up), she was a woman with a blog that included photography tips. Coming from the world of film photography, I was grateful to have someone take me by the virtual hand and lead me into the land of DSLR’s. The best advice she shared on her blog was to buy the camera body that suits your needs and the lens you want separately. In other words, don’t buy the camera kit that comes with the kit lens. So many of my friends express frustration at having purchased an expensive DSLR, but not seen the results that they expected. Usually those friends are using a kit lens and have their DSLR permanently on Auto mode. And that expensive DSLR usually sits at home in a closet while these friends take better photos with their phones. The other piece of advice that PW shared was to wait until you have completely mastered your current camera before upgrading to a new one. If you use an expensive camera on Auto, buying a more expensive camera and using it on Auto will not yield different results.
So I took the woman’s advice and bought the camera body I wanted and have been adding lenses to my lens family over the years. If you’re looking to upgrade or wondering how certain looks are achieved in my portraits, read on! Starting from widest to tightest, here are my lenses and when I use them:
The Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 is a wide angle lens. I purchased it because there were many times when I wished I could include more of the background in a shot. I don’t use it for portraits very often because sometimes a slight lens distortion occurs on the edges of the image, but it’s great for landscape photography.
A wide-angle lens is essential when your husband is falling off a cliff at the Grand Canyon. Silly old bear.
I purchased the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 because I needed a good all-around lens and there weren’t enough pennies in my piggy bank for the NIKKOR 24-70mm lens. It’s much better than a kit lens, but still not quite as shiny as the 24-70mm. If I’m going on vacation and I can only take one lens, I bring this one because it offers the most flexibility of all my lenses.
This is the lens I go to when I want to include the whole setting in a family portrait, such as this shot from the Farm at Agritopia.
I took the Tamron lens to Maui earlier this year and was happy to get a shot of the Nakalele Blowhole without having to get as close as that jabroni on the cliff. Didn’t he watch the safety video on the hotel T.V. channel? Danger, dude!
When I finally purchased my first DSLR, the NIkon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm 1.8 was my first lens. (Ahhh. Memories . . .) This lens is often called the “Nifty Fifty”. For a pretty great price (as far as lenses go) you can achieve that beautiful blurry background known as bokeh. The aperture is super wide and lets in all the light, making photos look light and airy and pretty pretty pretty. This is what’s known as a prime lens. That means it has a fixed focal length, so you can’t zoom in or out. This is my go-to lens for indoor shots and group shots.
Usually I can get just enough of the background with my 50mm to make it interesting.
I saved the best for last! The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm 1.8 is my absolute favorite lens for portraits. It’s also a prime lens and the bokeh is even better than with the 50mm. It’s my go-to lens for all of my portrait sessions. I find it’s a little too tight for photographing people indoors, though.
The key to getting handsome photos of this young man in downtown Gilbert was my magical 85mm. Also, it was 115 degrees outside, so the streets were empty. What am I doing in Arizona in the summer?
For more photography basics, check out my Pinterest board Photography 101!
I’ve always wanted to take dance lessons. The closest I’ve ever come was zumba class at the rec center. Then I developed bad knees because apparently I’m a 37 year old senior citizen. (Have I mentioned my undiagnosed early onset dimentia?) Since my dream of being a dancer is pretty much dead, I’ve been living vicariously through my daughter (as one does). CB has been dancing for many years now and few things bring me more joy than watching her perform. She ended another year of dance recently with back-to-back endless dance recitals. (As my dad once put it, “Some of those parents are just throwing their money away.”) What I love most about watching her perform is seeing the happiness that it brings her. That way I don’t feel like a creepy dance mom.
By the end of the year, CB was tired of having to keep her hair long (so she could wear it in the required Ariana Grande high ponytail). The day after her recital, CB got her hair chopped off. We picked our two favorite recital costumes and headed downtown for a photo shoot to celebrate her hard work and her new look.
Roosevelt Row Art District is an area of downtown Phoenix dedicated to visual arts and fried foods (from what I saw). I’ve seen some of the beautiful murals in this area pop up on my Instagram feed and have been dying to take a look for myself. It’s such a cool place to hang out and an even better place for portraits. (Though a stranger did tell me he wanted to punch me in the face when he saw me taking pictures. So watch out for face punchers, I guess.) I don’t think we found half of the amazing artwork on display in Roosevelt Row. We’ll have to put on our dancing shoes and head back for more.
Congratulations! Today is the day I do you a solid and make family pictures a little bit easier. The other day a friend of mine said to me, “I love the look of coordinated clothes in family pictures and I would love to be able to do that, but I don’t know where to start.” This can be a major source of stress for clients and I get it. Okay, no I don’t. I secretly LOVE finding coordinating clothes for my family to wear for family portraits. To me it’s like a fun clothing version of Master Chef. “Take these three colors and find coordinating outfits for your whole family in 30 minutes! Ready: GO!” I would kill it in that competition. Hopefully, by the end of this blog post you will have the tools you need to kill it on Master Wardrobe Coordinator Season 1 (Working title.), too. Here are my four simple steps for finding your perfect portrait wardrobe:
Step 1: Pick a Style (Consider the setting. Consider the season. Consider the reason.)
Have you ever seen a couple out on a date and it’s clear (based on their wardrobe) that one of them had no idea where they were going on their date? That person usually looks super annoyed and out of place. The same thing can happen with your family portraits if everyone in your group isn’t wearing the same style of clothing. For example, if you’re wearing an evening gown, your daughter will look like a slob in shorts and a t-shirt. If you’re not sure what style to choose, consider the setting. Would casual clothing be appropriate in your portrait location? Consider the season. Is it sweater weather or sweating weather? Consider the reason for your portraits. Do you want them hanging on the wall? Will your style clash with the decor? Will the portraits be used for Christmas cards? Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options very quickly.
Step 2: Pick a Color Scheme
There are several ways to decide a color scheme. Again I would encourage you to consider the setting, season, and reason. What colors are popular right now? What colors might everyone already have in their wardrobe? It may work best to just pick three colors and go from there. Or maybe you have an outfit in mind for yourself and you want everyone else to match it. There are a lot of helpful tools on Pinterest (including my What To Wear For Family Portraits board) and sometimes inspiration can strike when you just type in some colors you like. If you have a large group, sometimes it’s a good idea to just stick with a wide range of colors like jewel tones, pastels, or primary colors. One thing to avoid is everyone wearing the exact same outfit. (For instance, red t-shirts and blue jeans.) A matchy-matchy wardrobe will create more of a corporate retreat or summer camp look than a family portrait look.
3. Pull From What You Have and Fill in the Blanks
Once you have decided on a style and color scheme, raid your closets for anything that fits your criteria. You may be surprised by what you already have. Take a close look and figure out what’s missing. Then the best part: go shopping! Shopping is much easier when you know exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a good idea to start this process a couple of weeks out from your portrait session so you have time to have items shipped to you.
4. Lay Everything Out Together
I like to lay everyone’s wardrobe out on the floor or my bed and see how it looks together. Sometimes I end up switching things up because it just doesn’t quite mesh. Don’t forget the shoes! Take a picture and send it to others who will be in the family portrait (such as extended family or older children no longer in your home). Have them do the same, if they want. It’s helpful and reassuring to know that you’re not going to clash with the rest of the group. At the very least, send it to your photographer so she can start visualizing your session.
Ta-done! You did it! Just for fun, I dare you to go try these four steps right now. I’ll bet you could have the perfect wardrobe picked out in less than a half hour.
Are you ready for a few more tips? Because I have them. Tips guaranteed to have you and your family looking your best.
Tip#1: Avoid all logos and words and try to keep prints at a minimum. Usually a 3 to 1 ratio of those wearing solids to those wearing prints is a good rule of thumb. Otherwise, the photo could look too messy. I like to have at least one person in the group wear a print that includes all of the colors in the color scheme.
Tip #2: Grown men look most masculine in fitted pants and close-toed shoes. Shorts and flip flops are really only appropriate for beach portraits. Women tend to look more elongated and have better posture in heels. (Consider the location and whether or not you will be able to walk comfortably in heels.)
Tip #3: Consider your insecurities. When I see a photo of myself, my eye immediately goes to those areas about which I am most insecure. Everyone does it. I know that even if the lighting is great and all of our wardrobe choices are fantastic, I’m not going to print a picture of me looking large and in charge. So, when you’re choosing your portrait wardrobe, consider your insecurities. Not a fan of your upper arms? Avoid sleeveless or capped-sleeve tops that will draw attention to your arms. Insecure about your belly? A suit jacket is a nice way to hide your belly and class things up.
Tip#4: Go neutral. If the idea of finding the perfect colors to fit your wall at home, your grandmother’s mantel, your Christmas card, and your son’s graduation announcement is too overwhelming, go neutral. This is an especially good idea if your setting is very colorful.
Tip #5: Go black and white. The easiest family portrait session we ever had was when we all wore our favorite sweaters and I made the photos black and white. I stopped after step 1! It was so freeing!
The truth is that this is not a life or death decision. Sure, it’s lasting and you’ll be creating memories, but hopefully those memories will be of the joy of being together and not the stress of agreeing on a color scheme. With my four simple steps, I hope you’ll find it much easier than creating the perfect seven course meal from a mystery box of ingredients. I believe in you! Let the games begin!