Great Portrait Session

What makes a great portrait session? The images, the planning, the experience or is it a combination of it all? If you think about anything you have done on personal level where you receive a product at the end, it is the product where you had planned well and had a great experience you value the most. Think about it; you go to the same salon because the experience and how you feel at the end. Same way with a car dealer or a favorite restaurant and even a healthcare provider. All of the places you go back to time and time again is because you have had a great experiences that had a plan to get you to a great product, in the case of a photographer, great images.

 

So how can you take the great experiences of the places you are familiar with and apply that to the photography studio? Well first you must find a photographer whose images grab you and that requires a little research. Most of it can be done on the web now a days which is great because it saves gas and time. And don’t look at just their specific types of groups you are after, look at all of their images because you are going to get a sense of their strengths and style of photography. When you have found one then keep moving through and look for at least two more that also spark your interest, this way you have options.

 

With the images you are looking at try to get in mind of what you would like to have done in your portrait session. Not many people do have a plan, in fact I hear a lot;” your the artist, I will leave it up to you.” That can be ok for some but again you are not adding to the overall experience of the portrait session. Think about it, portraits of any kind are very personal, they reflect you or your family and the goal in the end is to have them adorn the walls of your house, not some dark space of the closet. You don’t have to have an exact road plan but you should have an idea of the style you are looking for and the things you want to wear in the portraits.

 

The best way to get down to what you want ask yourself these questions. First; what style are we looking for? Is it Lifestyle where the portraits are more journalistic or is it more about posed formal portraits?  Do you want an outdoor session or more in the studio? These are sometimes hard questions to ask but necessary in order to get what you want. But because you have taken the time to, if you haven’t already, looked at photographers website, you can answer these questions easier by what images you are attracted to.

 

Once you have narrowed it down to the a few photographers that create images that attract you, then it is time to talk to them. That is correct I said a few photographers because not all of them you choose will work out. Some you may not mesh with and some maybe too busy to take you on. Set up an appointment with each photographer for a consultation session, most photographers should like to sit with you and talk about what you are looking for in your portrait session. Think of this like an interview, you are looking for a person that is not only creative but willing to get to know you so together you can get the portrait you love. In these interview you need to ask a lot of question and open up about what you are looking for in your portraits as well as the products you need. By being honest and open with the photographer you will be able to get the portraits you want.

 

In the few weeks of the appointment your photographer most likely given you things to do to prepare for the session, first and foremost is the hair appointments. You want to make sure that you get everyone hair is cut at least three weeks before the session. Everyone’s, or at least my hair, doesn't look it’s best until the second or third week after it has been cut. I think that is when it seems at its normal length to us and everyone else. This is also a good time to have the clothes picked out and purchased. New portraits sometimes means a new outfit for the occasion but sometimes it is hard to get similar outfits for everyone to wear.  By starting early you will be assured that not only you have outfits that look together but they can get a washing to loosen them up so they hang on the body more naturally.

 

The day before and day of you is key. You should try the best you can to get ready for the appointment under as little stress as possible. If you have little ones it is best to present the appointment as a fun adventure, keep the mood light as you get ready. This way everyone is happy and ready to have fun during the session. An hour before the session finish up getting ready and go over the list of things you could be bringing to include or change into during the portraits. And when you arrive to your session a few minutes before or at the agreed time make sure you are as excited and ready for the session. If your mood is up and laced with anticipation for a great time, then your session will go smoothly.

 

A final note on your photographer; back in the day when portraits were painted there was a lot of work done behind the scenes to insure they had a work of art that was worthy to hang on the wall. Communication of ideas, wants and needs are important and should flow between both you and your photographer. After all you are paying them for work that is not going to hang on their wall but yours and working out the details before the session will only insure best results.  Overall the advice that I am giving you is nothing out of the ordinary and you should hear the same thing from the photographer you have hired. Follow them and find a photographer that is not only skillful but ready to work with you to create images that you will love to hang on your walls.

Vacation is Coming

In a few weeks I will have 10 days off from work. 10 days to do what I want. Where to start? For the most part I have already decided the big concept of this time off, but the fine details are needing to be ironed out. That is always with me, I have the big ideas but I struggle with the small goals to lead up to the big finish. I shouldn’t worry because I have two and half weeks to plan, right, but I do and the more I worry the more I tend to freeze up and then when it comes to the big day, I have nothing. That is worst

 

So here is the big plan; to go two state parks and scout out some photographic opportunities. One park I am going back to is Kepler but I am not set on the second park. When I am not doing that I plan to rework the site to better represent what I do and what I am about as a photographer. Recently I have restarted my portrait end of my photography but I still really want to keep going on with my landscape work. The plan it to create a site that has both which some people would advise not to do. The thought is that is confuses potential customers and instead of booking you, they move on. I guess I will take that risk because as a photographer, I feel I need to present who I am as a photographer.

 

I am also reworking my blog and instagram pages to better reflect who I am as a photographer. I have not decided if I am going to delete photographs that doesn't reflect my work. I want the gallery page of my instagram feed to represent my style and subject matter I cover. As far as the day to day stuff I could post it on the Facebook page or post them on my blog with a story. As far a the blog, I want to journal more about the day to day stuff rather than specifically create stories to sell me, if that makes sense? If you look at a lot of blogs you may find well crafted stories that are designed to sell the services by telling stories about specific sessions. That is great but that is all you read in the blog. I want to not only right about the sessions that were fun but I will also write about my travels in the park, stories about the bike I am working towards, my pets, or the beer that I tried. I feel these are the stories that give you a better way of connecting with me.

 

I guess I will start with that and work on to bigger things,for now I will get my plans straighten out in the next few day. I need to make the most out of the time I have off.

What's New?

As I sit out on the porch listing to tunes and updating this blog I can't help be inspired by the nice weather we are finally having this spring day. It is spring, right? Although I haven't written or talked much about what I have done over the winter, I have been busy. Because I haven't a studio it is hard to do shoots unless I do them on site or brave the cold weather on a location shoot. But now that spring is in the air there are a few people who have approached me about creating family portraits. I am ready and have a lot of ideas for future shoots and can't wait until the green and warmer days start to appear!  

Although I had not created a lot of images this winter, I still was working on some photography none the less. First I was privileged to update the St Luke's Laboratory Staff Portraits that adorn the wall. Since I had been gone the task of creating and putting photos up of new staff has not gone to a photographer. Needless to say when I came back I could not let the contrast of the professional portraits against the mugshot go on much longer. I also created images of the happenings and stuff around the lab as well. It exercised my creative illustration/documentary skills so that we can show the patients that there is more than blood we deal with in the lab.

There were a lot of photographs that I really liked but one that stood out was the cutting up of breast tissue. That's right, the dissection of  a patient's breast tissue and I got to photograph it. Now I have no idea who's it was or the story behind it, because of the HIPAA Law, what I do know is it was interesting to personally witness the careful dissection and collection of tissue to further diagnose this person's condition. Even though I work at the lab, there are a lot of things I don't get to see on any given day. The Histology Department has been a one of those places in the lab I don't get to see what goes on. It's not because it's off limits, in fact nothing is off limits for me to witness there, it's because I don't always have the time to hang out there. Especially when you are on the clock and there are people who need their blood drawn.

I also hung out in the Micro Department where I got to photograph things growing on plates and people working with them. I was especially pleased with the portrait I got of Nick working on a plate. I thought it would look great on the wall of the reception area of the lab as well as my portfolio. Again I got to learn more about the micro lab than I had before shooting photographs. 

When I wasn't creating photographs of staff and the goo they work with, I was working on continuing education, specifically posing as well as lighting. I picked up a few classes on line on posing people both in groups and single subjects. I sometimes feel that I struggle with this and have always looked for ways to improve. These classes were taught by the leading photographers of the day. As of today I am still working through a class and once I am done I know the lessons I have learned there will show up in my sitting. I'm excited to get started.

On my last post back in February I talked about my health and how I was taking control over it. Since then I have completed my yearly physical and for the most part I passed with flying colors. Where I am still struggling with is the cholesterol issue, specifically it staying on the boarder line. My doctor was not too worried because I still  have some weight to loose and now that spring is here I should be able to drive the bicycle to work more often. 

With that I would say; if you are needing to update your families photographs this year let me know. Because I work every third weekend I don't have a lot of those dates open. You can call me or leave me an email to set up an appointment. I look forward to talk to you.    

 

       

Food and Health

Besides being a photographer one of my other hobbies is being an avid cyclist. Not the kind that races but one who loves to ride a bike to work or just for fun on the weekends. I have been doing this for many years now and will hopefully continue for many more to come. Cycling is one way for me to get the exercise that I need throughout the week and face it, it is way better for the environment overall. Now that I am older coupled with my other profession, my health has move up to be a top priority. For most of my adult life I have struggled with my glucose and more so, my cholesterol and cycling along with diet is the way I try to control it.

At its highest point a few years back, I had made some dietary changes and in a few months I had dropped it some 40 points. At that point I figured I was on the road to recovery but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. A few weeks ago, I had to complete some fasting labs for a life insurance policy and there it was again, staring right at me in the results, my high cholesterol. I wasn’t expecting great numbers but some improvement but that did not happen. Instead I managed to keep the number at the same level as before. My glucose was way down as well as my weight, but the cholesterol stayed the same leaving me frustrated. See I do not want to go on any type of statin to reduce my levels because of the damage they can do to your liver, not to mention most people on the report feeling odd while on them. That can’t be good. So, my solution is to drop all dairy, egg and anything that has a hint of cholesterol to try to get my numbers down by the end of next months physical.    

What I think that is happening is that my body just can’t process cholesterol as the rest of you do. So instead of getting rid of what I don’t need, it gets painted on the walls of my arteries and veins leaving it there as art. If not taken care of will eventually cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes which isn’t all that fun. And I should know I have seen them play out in the emergency room time and time again.

 I thought I would write about this because I know I am not the only one who struggles with this particular plight, there are many others who are in the same boat. Some know it and others will know it with their first heart attack or stroke. I want to blog about it here and in my cycling blog because I wish to bring to light two things. First; there is life outside of our western diet that is killing all of us slowly in one way or another. Second; your health both mentally and physically shouldn’t be a forethought only coming to light after some major health incident or a death of someone close to you of very preventable disease. It takes work that will not only payoff for you but the people who count on you being there in their lives

Because I love photography I thought I would combined some of these blogs with photos of the activities and food I have. Tonight, we had Salmon with asparagus and red wine. The Salmon is one of the few things I can cook without poisoning my wife. Really, I am a bad cook and if it wasn’t for salad, raw vegetables, and fruits I would starve. I am not going to get into how I prepared it but instead I thought I would photograph it for you to admire it. If you want the recipe I can send you a link to it.

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Health care shouldn’t be expensive, but it is and because we love the convenience of our processed foods. Millions of us are dying of preventable disease while the rest of us are ticking time bombs waiting to have our turn in the Emergency Room. While you read this ask yourself if you could be next, then if you haven’t had a physical, make an appointment and get checked out. Maybe you will be one of the lucky few that everything is ok for now, but I am betting you won’t. My guess there will be something that with a little change in diet and exercise could change your path from the ER to a very healthy life.

So, get up and get it done and once you have been checked out and even if everything is A-Okay, make some life changes anyway. Get away from processed foods and eat way more vegetables and fruits. Next, look into getting a Fitbit or something akin to it. I found it to be a great tool in keeping track of my activity, sleep and quality of food intake. Look into them they are simple to use. And finally think about cycling to work. I have a blog that I put out information about cycling and commuting to work that I think would help. Spring is coming, tune up the bike or buy one at a Local Bike Shop and get your exercise while working out some of your stress in life while commuting to work. What have you got to lose but a few pounds and some stress in your life. Remember if you don’t want to pay high prices of health care then you must start with yourself by taking care of yourself. If you don’t do it for yourself then do it for the ones you love.  

 

  

 

Take Charge of Your Health

I’m disturbed by the observation of the decline of places that are open to people who need help with their mental healthcare. Healthcare overall is suffering funding issues and has for years but the biggest loser of healthcare has been mental healthcare. With our tech heavy sedentary lives coupled with the growing substance abuse and depression has resulted in self-destruction and senseless violence that has increasingly touched more lives. So what do you do? Take steps in your life and not only be the proprietor of your physical health but mental health as well.

 

I am not a professional psychologist by any stretch, but I know what helps me cope and that is getting outside and away from stressful things in my life. Photography has been that vehicle in which I use to get out and create images of nature. Finding subjects to create images from, is just half of the therapy with the other half being away from the noise, the electronics, and being surrounded by nature. I know that if I don’t get out on a regular basis I tend to get restless, irritable, and not too fun to be around. Prolonged absents from my favorite activities tend to eat at my motivation and desire to create while increasing my want to just sit and do nothing.

 

You don’t have to take up photography or a heavy physical activity to enjoy nature, just get out. I find the best way to start is to grab a friend and go somewhere you haven’t been before or in a long time. For me, exploring a new place is great distraction from the problems of the day. And discovery of new things along with the walking more than five feet seems to release the endorphins I need to better my mood. Once you have found a place that you enjoy, make it a part of a daily or weekly routine to visit. By establishing a routine of getting outside into nature you are taking charge of both your physical and mental healthcare in once simple activity.

 

In conjunction with getting out into nature, you could also surround yourself with nature in art form. Photographs, paintings and drawings of nature in your house can help you in between the times you are out experiencing it. By googling “Nature Art and Healing” you will find countless articles written by doctors of medicine and physiology of the effects nature and images of nature has on the healing process. I have observed in the two hospitals I’ve visited the number of nature related images have grown over the years.

 

Mental along with physical health is important enough for us to make it a part of our daily route. I see too many people in the ER who could have avoided it had they taken the initiative with their health. There are situations that medical intervention must occur but doing things before that benefit your health both mentally and physically will mitigate the more severe problems later down the road. So start by simply getting off your couch and take a walk in your favorite park. Whether it is in your neighborhood or one of the many state parks we have, just start now. And if you are looking for a park, visit Kepler State Park, it is one of my favorite places to be.

 Kepler State Park, Fall of 2017

Kepler State Park, Fall of 2017

Day 10

I seem to have a couple of themes going in the past images and which one that appears to you will be in what state of mind you are in. I believe that art changes depending on the state of mind you are looking at it. This can have an effect on what you see in the image, if the piece resonates with you or not and that your preference for a piece changes not only with time but mood.  

For the creator mood on a conscience and subconsciousness level will often appear in the themes of their work. It is easy to attach the color of the pallet the artist might use to conclude what state of mind the artist could be in. The other method of understanding an artist just on their work is the subject matter and compositions of the subjects. For me I think I am starting to see my subconscious playing out. So without getting to deep here is what I am starting to see in my work.

First, I do not include people in my nature scenes. I want you to be in the work or view the work as if you are in the scene. It is a reminder that we are a part of nature no matter how much we try to deny it.  People for a long time have fought to extricate themselves from nature. We believe we can change nature to our will, we build cities that are full of glass and metal and pave it all. When we travel we use metal canisters get us there fast and in comfort and never giving a thought on the experience of our surroundings is part of the journey.

I don’t want the viewer to focus on things that are familiar but instead reconcile the things that aren’t. Things in nature are familiar to most people in the since they know what they are, but most people don’t have a relationship with it as they do with people. By taking the people out of the image you can’t, on some level, relate to it. And if we want to keep living on this planet we must be able to relate to nature as we relate to each other.  For most people it is a place to visit and when they are tired of it they can just go home. But truly there is no separation between the two and when Nature is destroyed then we will parish.

Second theme that is coming out is the framing that I see. I am attracted right now to natural and constructed frames. They draw attention and help focus the subject. Most of my fames help me or guide me to the importance of the composition. I am feeling I need that right now. I understand the big goal but sometimes the path is not always clear. Right now, I am starting down a path, emerging from a darkness of confusion and frustration on to the light that will guide me through to my success.

The last theme is an arching theme on the lack of color in most of my work. Color to me has too much emotion attached to it. As I grow older I move away of the emotion that made me rashly act out instead of looking at the structure of event that was before me. My emotions have lead me down some paths that hurt me more than helped me. Had I looked at the composition of life lessons and how it fits the bigger picture I might have the courage to pursue things I am only doing now. Understanding how to use emotions is like understanding when to use color in image with good composition.

Along the Path

Day 9; The Winding Road

I have come across this scene at least a dozen times and each time I had attempted to create an image I have been less than happy with it. However today was different. Today the quality of the sunlight as well as its position that had changed which had made all the difference. This is a perfect example where persistence, not giving in paid off.

I am drawn to this image because of the feeling of emerging out of the darkness into the light. Ironic, I feel I have emerged out of the funk I was in with this image, in to the light of success. My eye is drawn down the road which leads me to the detail of the trees in the shadows. I am also partial to natural framing and feel that I had accomplished that with the dark leaves surrounding the lighter leaves which in turn frame the trees trunks in the center of the image. A frame inside a frame. 

The park in which this road leads through is one that has a warm inviting light to it. A light that almost feels like home, a shelter away from the stress of the city, job and people. This park is a place I love to go to when I just need to get away from it all. I could live here all year around and never get bored walking round.

Winding Road

First Opening

The third and last image I felt was one for the hospital was this waterlily opening up for the first time. A new flower breaking through and opening up for the first time in the sun with some peddles not fully stretched out. Again, the spot light on its coming out with the pads playing a support roll.

Why I chose this one;

Like the last image this photograph has layers created by the light that gives subtle details pleasing to my eye. I find the reflection of the flower soothing as water can be in an image whether it is a painting or photograph and the bug in flight give scale to the subject.

Compositionally the motion of my eye is circular but I don’t have as much detail as I did in Waterlily; Absent of Colo, but that is not to say that this image is devoid of interest. The main pad that leans against the flower has patterns that pleasing both on the bottom and edge on to us. Moving along the edge I can see the motion of the bug in flight pushing me to the back and into the shadows and eventually around to the reflection of water. Reflections I find peaceful, calming element of water. Under the surface of the water is the pads moving to the edge of the main pad again. Like the one image before this works so much better in black and white. There is more depth to the story of this image without the color that I feel influents emotion and motion.   

What do you think? Now that I have shown the three images it is time to decide and maybe have a conversation the broader picture. Let me know what you think. Is there at least one image you believe is the best or maybe I should start over with a whole new set. Maybe I shouldn’t bother with it? Leave your comments or email me and the one you pick. One lucky person will be chosen to win their pick, enlarged, matted and signed.. Thanks again for your feedback and feel free to pass this or any other post along.

First Opening

Waterlily; Absent of Color

The second image I had chosen is this image of my waterlilies in my back pond. This was the template I had used in my head for the Yucca plants. The success of the direct sun and the dark shadows grabbed me. It reminds me of a film noir as far as the scale of gray tones from the dark shadows to the bright whites. This is probably the more successful tonal range in a black and white that I had accomplished.

Why I chose it.

Light, I chose to photograph this subject because the layering of light brings out and the details throughout this image that holds my interest. My eye is drawn first to the flower itself, bright, detailed and textured in the grayscale of the darker peddles. The lighter peddles has a look of collar, reflecting the light on to the subject of the darker and a separator from the leaves around it.  Though the flowers are in the spotlight my eye doesn’t stop there but move to the right and down following a circular motion of the leaves. Each pad having just enough light falling on it to give detail and motion from front and moving to the back into the shadows. With the light and softening of focus I can’t help feeling that there is depth to the composition that compels me to explore.  

I find beauty in compositions that have depth and motion pleasing to the eye and emotionally gratifying. I did not get the same feeling from the color version of this photograph, in fact I felt conflicted by the red of the flower and the lighting of the subject. I could not get past the red to explore the rest of the image. The red of the flower essentially flatten the composition and stalling the motion of the image. By switching it to black and white the image came alive, more interesting leaving me wanting to look from the bright whites of the flowers to what was hidden in the shadows. Like a good story, this image has layers that moves us through the image, to leave and return to discover more.

I know they are only flowers and the depth I see maybe self-serving but I do think this image has a story and moves the view not only to search the image but upon returning, find new details missed from before. To me that is what I am hoping for, an image that is not only pleasing but one that makes you want to look at more than a few times. This is why I feel it would be a good image to donate to the hospital.

What do you think? Am I reading too much into it? Is this a good image for the hospital or not? I’d like to hear from you, good or bad. Leave a comment or email me what you think so far and you could be picked to win a matted and signed copy of your favorite image.

Thanks again and feel free to share this or any other post.

Waterlily; Absent of Color

Yucca in Bloom #1

This is the first year I got out and photographed the Yucca Plant in Bloom and I am glad I did. Last year I did not take the time and create a group of proper photographs of the blooms as they should have been. The difference from this year to last, I think is the fact I took the time and had the vision of light I wanted. Of course, when the Yucca plant bloomed the light I was seeking wasn’t there and instead I got this spectacular light instead. Happy accidents are sometimes the best. 

 

This is the first of tree images I have chosen to donate to the hospital and here’s is why.

 

First thing that I am drawn to is the quality of light.  Soft, delicate light that wraps around the peddles of the flowers, pods and branch of the plant. The light’s ability to show the detail in the highlights, the ridges and lines of the blooms show up so well against the black background. This quality not only shows up in the whites of the blooms but the pods. The rich texture of the pod is captured so well in both the highlights and shadows of the image.

The subject matter is simple in composition which give a minimalist feel to it. As a viewer, I am not overwhelmed with what to look at. I can take my time and discover new details of the photograph without feeling the need to take it in all at once. I find it pleasing to start with the highlights of the blooms and move my way through the that detail then to the mid-tones and finally to details in the shadows. I also find the tonal range pleasing. The lack of great contrast between the background and subject matter give a since of peace, relaxed feeling when I view this image. Had I gone with a harder contrast I would have had a feeling of tension with this piece.

Finally, the composition; a soft diagonal line in a square format. The downward line of the main branch is not steep. This is repeated in the line of the bottom tips of the blooms as well as their positions and size on the branch.  For me this shallow line does not add tension to the image but helps the viewer slowly move through the photograph. Had it been steep I know it would have given an unintentional speed in which the eye would have traveled form the top to the bottom corner, while missing details.

Over all I find this image peaceful and would fit very well with what the hospital is trying to do. Beautify and give an emotionally pleasing image to help lift the spirits of their patients as well as visitors. I hope if this or one of the others are chosen that the views find it as pleasing as I do

Yucca In Bloom #1

I would like to hear from you. Help me choose one out of the three images and you could win your choice in a 8x12 (or 12x12) matted and signed. Just leave a comment or email me your choice and on Aug 12 I will announce the winner. Thank you for your help.