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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.

Sigma 10-20mm lensPINIMAGE

1/400 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200

This is the Sigma lens at 10mm.  As you can see, you can get the entire Hundred Acre Wood gang, a field of corn, and some silos all in the same shot.

Sigma 10-20mm lensPINIMAGE

1/1600 sec., f/ 5.6, ISO 200

Here is the Sigma at 20mm.  The whole gang is here, and the background, too.

Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEI used the Sigma lens for this cute girl’s baptism photos because I wanted to get the entire Gilbert Temple in the photo.  I paired it with a portrait lens for close-up shots.
Photographed by Jubilee Family PhotographyPINIMAGE

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.

Tamron 28-75mm lensPINIMAGE

1/1000 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200

Here’s the Tamron lens at 28mm.

Tamron 28-75mm lensPINIMAGE

1/1000 sec., f/5.0 ISO 200

Tamron lens at 48mm.

Tamron 28-75mm lensPINIMAGE

1/1000 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200

Tamron lens at 75mm.

Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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.

Nakalele Blowhole in Maui, HIPINIMAGE

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.

Nikon 50mm lensPINIMAGE

1/1000 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200

As you can see, you can get a nice shot of the group, but not much of the background.

Photographed bu Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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.

Nikon Nikkor 85mm lensPINIMAGE

1/400 sec., f/5.0, ISO 200

As you can see, the 85mm is so tight, only a few of the Hundred Acre Wood friends can fit in the photo.  Which is fine if Rabbit is being annoying (always).

Photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEPhotographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEPhotographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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!

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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.

Family photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Topsail Island, NCPINIMAGE

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.

Family photographed in Gilbert, AZ by jubilee family photography.PINIMAGE

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.

Family photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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.

Family Photo by Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGE

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.)

Family and dog photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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.

Family photographed in Litchfield Park by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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.

Family portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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!

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  • liz - love, love, loved these tips!! Thank you for taking the time to write them down! I especially loves the extra tips, so good!ReplyCancel

I’m so excited to share this next location with you because unlike my previous favorite locations, this one is a secret.  It’s so secret, I can’t even tell you where it is.  I can’t tell you, because I like secrets and also because it’s private property and that’s just bad manners.  Some friends of mine own a pistachio grove and they use the land for bonfires and parties and cub scout meets and such.  It’s like the Room of Requirement.  They have graciously agreed to let me shoot portrait sessions in their lot, provided it’s not filled with cub scouts or on fire.

This is the perfect location if you are looking for something “rustic”.  There’s a large wood pile, a treehouse, random bales of hay in beautifully lit corners, and it’s all lined with pistachio trees.  One word of warning, the lot is irrigated once a month and, therefore, filled with water.  Timing is everything.  Also, it’s pretty barren in the dead of winter so if you want full trees I suggest any other season.

Family in pistachio grove photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEYoung girl photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEChild photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEPINIMAGEFamily in pistachio grove photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGECouple photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEFamily photographed in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGEFamily photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGELarge family by wood pile photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEFather and sons on wood pile photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEPINIMAGEChild photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEBoys in rustic setting photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZPINIMAGEHappy child photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEFamily photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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Nichols Park (or “the pit behind Walgreens”, as I affectionately call it) is located on the corner of Higley and Guadalupe in Gilbert, Arizona and is a very popular spot for portraits.  VERY popular.  My husband once had a work colleague from Scottsdale say their family was headed to Nichols Park for their family pictures.  That’s a long drive for the pit behind Walgreens, in my opinion, but that’s how popular it is.  Nichols Park is filled with trees and shrubbery and in the late summer is basically one huge field of green grass and that’s hard to come by in this area.  Because it’s a retention basin, you can almost always find shade.  (Also hard to come by in this area.)  The park is fantastic for large families and can even accommodate a multi-family portrait session.

A few warnings about Nichols Park: 1) My daughter and I were once attacked by a huge swarm of mosquitoes during a portrait session there.  It was traumatic.  I don’t want to talk about it.  2) There’s a wonderful grove of trees and shrubbery on the Southern edge of the park that’s great for shooting, unless it’s irrigation time, in which case it’s a disgusting muddy swamp.  If you want to use that grove, check it out a few hours beforehand.  3) Did I mention Nichols Park is popular?  During the month of November there will ALWAYS be at least five other portrait sessions taking place in the park and you will have to throw elbows or have a dance-off to claim the best spots.  I highly recommend this area for literally ANY month but November.

Family Photo by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEBallerina photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEBallerina in purple photographed by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEPINIMAGEPINIMAGEyoung boy on fatherPINIMAGEPINIMAGEPINIMAGECloseup of blond little girl in white sweater.PINIMAGEFamily portrait. Gilbert, AZ. Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGEFamily portrait. Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGEChild portrait by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEFamily photo. Jubilee Family Photography Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGEChild photography by Jubilee Family Photography in Gilbert, AZ.PINIMAGE

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Spring is here and the world is in bloom!  You may have looked outside and thought to yourself, “Now would be a great time for us to get our family portraits taken.”  First of all, congratulations on your fantastic idea!  Now IS a great time to have your family portraits taken, but the thought of making that happen may also make you feel a bit anxious.  Let’s be honest, traumatic family portrait sessions are not uncommon.  You may still be reeling from an awful experience you had four years ago.  I get it and I’m here to help.  I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade that can help make your family portrait experience a little less stressful.  Are you ready?  Let’s do this.

Family portrait. Gilbert, AZ. Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGE1. Find a photographer who fits your style.

There are a lot of great photographers whose work I admire, but I wouldn’t necessarily hire them to take my family portraits.  If you know someone who takes great pictures of weddings or landscapes, that doesn’t mean they will do a great job with your toddler.  Consider your needs and do some research to figure out exactly what you like and don’t like (such as lots of post-processing) and find a photographer who meets your requirements.


2. Communicate with your photographer as much as possible before the shoot.

Make sure you are both on the same page about what poses you want, where you want to shoot, and how much you want to spend.  There’s nothing worse than getting a bill that is much more than you were expecting to pay.  It really bothers me when photographers aren’t up front about how much they charge.  Get these issues settled before the shoot, or you will definitely regret it later.  While we’re on the subject, make sure you and your spouse communicate as much as possible before the shoot so they know what to expect.  There’s a chance your spouse will care very little about your portrait plans.  If this is the case then continue to keep in touch with your photographer.  I love it when clients send me pictures of their outfit choices and ask me for location suggestions!

Family in downtown Gilbert, Arizona by Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGE

3. Dress Mom first.

This isn’t a hard rule that I always follow, but I have found it can make the wardrobe process less stressful.  It’s very likely that the person who will care the most about how they look in the family portrait is Mom.  Therefore it stands to reason that you should start with Mom when you are deciding what to wear.


4. Arrive early (or at least on time).

Expect lots of drama as everyone in your family gets ready for your photo session.  Like, lots of drama.  Plan for it.  Prepare for it.  If you set a goal to arrive early to your location, you will have time to decompress before shooting begins.  In my sessions, I’m on the clock beginning at our appointment time.  So if you show up late or you show up on time but not quite ready, you’re eating into your session time and you are paying me to wait for you.  Arriving early will make your session much more relaxed.


5. Bribe, but don’t threaten.

It may not seem like a big deal to stand there and look pretty, but for your kids (and also maybe your spouse) it’s a big deal.  You can make it worth their while by promising something fun to do or have after the session.  You know what will inspire your family best, so make it good but don’t over shoot.  The key here is to be able to remind your family that something fun will happen after the session and that should make them happy.  DO NOT THREATEN TO TAKE AWAY THE FUN.  I’ve seen it overandoverandover again.  A frustrated parent will blurt out “Hold still and smile or no one gets ice cream!”  Really?  Do you really expect a kid to produce genuine smiles after you just yelled at them?  Don’t be absurd.

Family portrait. Jubilee Family Photography.PINIMAGE

6. Strive for real, not perfect.

There’s something I need to tell you.  Are you sitting down for this?  Okay, here goes: Your family is not perfect.  How are you?  You doing okay?  Still breathing?  I can work all kinds of Photoshop magic on your portraits to make your family look perfect.  However, nine times out of ten people choose to buy the shot where their family looks “real” rather than perfect.  I love when a client looks at a picture of their kids and says, “That’s so them!”  Family portraits are a record of a moment in your family’s life, so let them be.  If your kids are laughing and joking with each other during a photo shoot, let them be.  If things get out of hand, your photographer can reign them in.  Otherwise,  let them be.  Keep calm and trust your photographer.


Family portrait by blue VW bus in Gilbert, AZ by Jubilee Family PhotographyPINIMAGE

7. If there’s something you want fixed, just ask.

Okay, this may seem contradictory to what I just said, but it’s not.  Once the shoot is over and you are reviewing your proofs, let your photographer know if there’s something you would like to fix.  My clients are always surprised by what I can fix in Photoshop.  You never know, so just ask.  I also really like it when clients tell me ahead of time about a zit or scratch that they want taken care of before I begin the editing process.  It makes things much easier for me.


8. If you like your photographer, use them again.

Finding a photographer you like is like finding the right hair stylist.  If you are happy with their work, it will save you all kinds of stress to use them again next time you need portraits taken.  Also, some photographers have loyalty programs that could save you some money on your next session!


I hope you found these tips helpful.  I’d love to hear any tips that you have learned to make family portraits less stressful!  Please share!

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