If photographing people has taught me one thing, it's that we see ourselves differently, and more critically, than others do. At most of my sessions, I ask "What do you not like about yourself in photos?" The responses I get are often surprising. Sometimes, I study the person's face while they ponder, and I start thinking about lighting or angles I would use to flatter their particular face shape or features. Then they tell me something that I never would have guessed or noticed without much scrutiny -- a bump on a nose, one eyebrow shorter than the other, the way you can see a missing tooth if the smile is too big. For many people, it's their weight or the fear of a double chin. Occasionally, I will work with someone who is perfectly comfortable in their own skin. (Let's face it, it's almost always men.) The more people you have in a photo, the more complicated this process becomes.
The funny thing is... when people look at your photos, they aren't looking for your flaws. They only see your expression. They are touched by your genuine smile, the kindness in your eyes, the tender moments between people who love each other.
I've often said that great photos aren't just what we look like, but who we really are. This mama and repeat client has few photos from her own childhood, so she makes a point of getting them for each child's birthday. The little girl in this photo, like many her age, is enthralled with princesses, dress-up, and stories. So Tammy created a session just for her, with that theme in mind. Tammy does an excellent job with conceptual shoots and would love to hear any idea you have!
One of the great parts of this job is getting to attend amazing events and meeting new people. I'm one of (what seems to be) very few extroverted photographers, so this suits me perfectly. I was asked to photograph this event on behalf of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce as part of their State of the City series. We heard from Mayor McKinley Price that crime is down, real estate values are up and jobs are coming to the area. More coverage can be found here in the Daily Press. It's a great time to live in Hampton Roads!
I put a high priority on my own personal family photos. When I'm old and these days have long passed, the only things I'll have from this time in our lives are our memories and our photographs. My children are young and their memories of this age will be fuzzy. Having something concrete will be more meaningful to them as they grow up. I know that intellectually, people know this. However, I see more and more women delay doing it. They get caught up in not knowing what to wear, or not liking themselves in photos, or wanting to first lose ten pounds, or cringing at the thought of getting their families to cooperate. The truth is: none of those things really matter. Family photos aren't about looking like some fantasy version of perfect. They are supposed to be exactly who you are today. Your best version of who you really are. To do this, we help orchestrate it for you. We help you feel great about your clothes, we help you prepare the kids so they are excited about the session (seriously, it works, and it doesn't usually include bribery) and we lead our clients through the photos so that they always have something to do and are creating real moments.
I recently worked with a great family at Yorktown Beach. They had the right attitude and the result was photos that were exactly what the mom wanted. Take a look, and at the end I'll tell you the keys to success.
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When consulting with clients, we often talk about timing. Some people know when they want photos and how often. Some have them taken every year, such as in the fall before school or during summer vacation. Or they do them every three years. Some like to vary the season, location or theme.
Others come to me for guidance. I always say that frequency depends on how old the kids are and how they plan to use the photos. In general, younger children need new photos taken often. Little ones grow so quickly. Here are two sets photos of the same family. One was taken when the baby was three weeks old; the other at seven months. (You can read more about their beautiful story here.)
And merely six months later...
I recommend that children under age two have photos taken every six months. Families with children ages ten and under should get family photos every one to two years. When the kids are over age ten, take family photos every two to four years.
Some families choose professional shots less frequently, but “go big” when they do. They get large wall displays for various rooms of the house and update them every few years. Others choose to have sessions more often, but alternate wall displays one room at a time and use albums for yearly updates. Digital files let clients easily share with friends and family and keep for archiving purposes, no matter their frequency.
Which option is right for you? How old are your kids? How do you want to display the portraits? Drop us a note or call. We would love to discuss your needs and how we can help you capture your family.
We're rolling out some new things here and to kick it off right we have TWO new offerings! First... Valentine's Day Mini-Sessions!
Audra is amazingly creative with sets and her gentle personality earns trust and smiles from every little one! Take advantage of the chance to get a completely unique photo as she is going create a brand new backdrop. Families also welcome. The event will take place in our studio on Jan 25. Mini-session details and booking are online at this link.
The next event is... we are hosting a glamour marathon! What's glamour? It's not boudoir and it's not a head shot. It's taking a timeless portrait of a woman, and bringing out all her natural beauty in a style that is best suited to her. This before-and-after shows it well:
See more highlights from the session here. On Jan 23, all day long, we'll have professional hair and makeup artists, a stylist to help you choose the right outfit and then we'll take the photos that bring out your very own beauty. We'll also serve wine to help you relax and enjoy the experience. The photos will be an excellent Valentine's Day present for a special someone, or just a gift to yourself. Come alone or with a friend, but reserve your spot now via the Contact Form because these will sell out quickly. $175 for hair, makeup, styling, wine and the session. All prints and products will be a la carte at special prices.
When clients tell me that not all of their family photos are professional, I reply with "Neither are mine." I firmly believe that snapshots are an important part of documenting our lives and memories. Unfortunately, I see a LOT of horrible photos on Facebook and other social media -- very blurry, dark -- some I really can't even see what is going on. So I've put together a few tips on how you can make the most of your everyday photos. You may have seen the segment on The Hampton Roads Show on WAVY TV 10 where I was in action while explaining some of what I wrote in this post. I have two scenarios, and you'll see some common points between the two:
Holiday card photos
Every photographer will tell you that lighting is everything, so finding good light is the most important thing to do. Good light will generally come from behind the camera onto the people being photographed, just like you see when a photographer uses studio lights. Outside, you’ll want to pay attention to the direction the sun is shining, but be sure you don’t have any harsh shadows (lines) on the people. Standing at the very edge of a shady area works wonderfully well. Be sure to choose an area that doesn’t have anything distracting in it. This is a photo of me and my family. I used a tripod and chose a location in my neighborhood. I did not use Photoshop to alter this photo so that you could get an idea of what to expect.
Be realistic about how many photos small children will tolerate. I speak from experience when I say that the most difficult people to photograph are your own children. To minimize the resistance, get all adults into place first, then add in the kids just before hitting the timer button. As incentive, you could try balancing a piece of candy on top of the camera as a reward for anybody who looks at it. An alternative would be to intentionally have everyone interact with each other. Remember to have that tripod at about eye level.
(This is when it's good to be a photographer's kid: I set up a "fake Christmas" for my kids so I could get these photos for all of you.) Just like with the holiday card photos, lighting is crucial. I advise you to open all the blinds and drapes and then as a last resort, turn on all the lamps. Choose a location where you can have a large window right behind you. Clear out all clutter and furniture both behind and next to the tree. In the photo below, there was a window to my right and also directly behind me. Yes, I choose the location of my Christmas tree based on the best light :)
Get down to kid level and have the camera just a foot or two off the ground so you can really get those smiles as they look down and see their new toys. Remember that a mix of look-at-the-camera and candid moments really tell the story better!
Potential pitfalls: Those bright, airy photos with light pouring in through the window behind the person require some knowledge on how to use the settings on your camera, so my advice is to not take your shots directly into a window.
Do you want to learn more about how to use your camera? Join me in January when I start my mission to Save the World from Bad Photos... sign up for a class!
“I feel like I’m supposed to love this, but I don’t.”
Do you ever say that about a photo? Recently, a local business owner showed me the family portrait on her desk and said that. “I feel like I’m supposed to love this, but I don’t.” As soon as I saw the picture, I knew why.
It was an image of her, her husband and their three children. It was a photograph of those she loved, but not a photograph she loved. They were dressed nicely. It had the proper settings, good light, proper positioning, etc., but there was no LIFE in the image. No personality, nothing to remember, or fall in love with. Their eyes seemed glassed over and their smiles forced. It was more of a mug shot than an image of a loving family.
Art vs. Technical
Photographers have to balance doing enough of the things we are SUPPOSED to do with enough of the things we SHOULD do. We have to do both art and technical.
Experience, skill and personal style determine how much is art and how much is technical. Sometimes we focus on one too much over the other. In the example above, the photo was too technical. The family wasn’t engaged in the moment. It lacked real emotion. It was technically right, but felt rushed.
On the other hand, these days, digital technology has put quality cameras in the hands of the public. Inexperienced, yet passionate, people take up photography. Artistic taste drives their work, even at the expense of technical proficiency. They get genuine smiles and emotions, but they can lack the benefits of good lighting (natural or artificial), good color in the skin and focus. The decent shots they get are lucky, and they aren't able to duplicate them for other clients.
When you choose someone to photograph your family, you need to decide for yourself what is important to you. Are you concerned about your weight or complexion? Do you want to highlight your best features? Then go with the technical photographer who understands how lighting, posing and choice of lens can help. Do you want to remember sweet moments and laughter? Do you want to smile every time you see the photo? The artistic photographer is the way to go.
But why not have it all? Carefully choosing a skilled and experienced photographer who carefully balances both technical and art is the best choice of all. Someone who understands both will be able to create photos from the client's list of needs and desires. Technical expertise is almost always needed to execute an artistic vision.
Take a look at your most recent family photo. Does it show what you look like or who you really are? Can you actually see the color of your eyes? Is your skin the right tone? Is your smile natural? Are your kids comfortable? Do you all look like yourselves? Do you love it? If not, it’s time to find a new photographer.
My fall calendar is booking QUICKLY! The Virginia Department of Forestry predicts peak fall colors in Hampton Roads in early to mid-November. I have already booked several dates during this time so act quickly to get the remaining ones. There are some amazing outdoor locations in Yorktown, Williamsburg and Newport News and I am very excited about the beautiful things I have planned.
In addition, here are the holiday ordering deadlines:
Sessions must be complete by Nov 16 and ordering must be complete by Nov 25 to guarantee
holiday cards by Dec 2
prints by Dec 6
canvas by Dec 13
albums and other items by Dec 20
I do have session dates and times available after Nov 16.
I look forward to seeing all of you!
While it might feel like fall weather outside already, this fall is going to be HOT with the amazing things I have planned. Keep in mind this is the busiest time of year so book QUICKLY to be sure you get the date you want. I only announce specials twice a year, so this is definitely something to be excited about!! Whether you are looking for outdoor family photos, an in-home documentary style session or you are expecting a new baby, I have something for you.