Hey Mom – yes, I see you with your super-long to-do list that includes everything from grocery shopping to picking up the dog’s medicine at Costco (HUGE money saver right there!). Maybe you even need to show up for work in there somewhere. With our lovely (insert eye-roll) 90-degree Houston September weather, the holidays seem a million miles away, but you know they will be upon us before we know it…and you KNOW you need to get your family portrait session scheduled but you just haven’t had the time to think through all the details.
I get it.
Getting ready for a family photo shoot can be a lot of stress and work, not the least of which is deciding who to hire. Here’s my list of 7 things to consider before you hire a photographer this fall.
- What kind of feel do you want your photos to have? Do you want the perfectly posed, everyone-looking-at-the-camera shot to hang over the fireplace? (This kind of shot takes more skill on the photographer’s part than you probably realize.) Or maybe a more relaxed version of everyone looking at the camera? Do you want candid shots of your family loving on each other? Or do you want to highlight the quirkiness of your family’s relationships with a water balloon fight, night at the ice cream parlor, or something else your family enjoys doing together (commonly known as lifestyle photography)? Once you’ve decided what kind of images you want, look for a photographer whose portfolio matches up with how you want your images to look.
- What do you see in the photographer’s portfolio? Do the people look relaxed and natural? Do the hands look natural, or are they stiff, awkward and have nothing to do? What about expressions? Are smiles forced, or does the smile reach the eyes and really communicate authentic expression? Being able to coax real expression from subjects is a developed skill, and some photographers are much better at it than others.
- How will the photographer help you prepare for your shoot? Will she provide you with suggestions on how to put your outfits together? What about hair and makeup recommendations? Should you have your hair and makeup done by a professional? If so, will the photographer help you set that up? (Shameless plug – my answer on this one is YES you should have it professionally done if possible and yes I will help with appointments!) Will the photographer work with you on finding the perfect location for your shoot, or is she limited to only a few places? Is there an indoor option if that’s what you prefer?
- What kind of deliverables do you want from your photography session? Do you want digital images only? Or are you interested in top-quality, professional photographic art that will grace your home for years? What about framed prints or canvases to beautify your walls, or albums for the coffee table? There’s no right answer to this question (well, on second thought I MIGHT have an opinion on that, ha!), but give it some thought. Some photographers offer only digital images, some only provide printed products, and some offer a mix of both. (I’m in the third category, in case you’re wondering.)
- What’s the photographer’s turnaround time and when do you need your images or products? If a photographer is doing all of her own editing and processing, it may take two to three weeks to receive your proofs or images. If you need your images the same or next day, you may need to make a trip to the mall. If you want professionally crafted portrait art, the design and printing process can take some time, so just check with your photographer before you book to ensure she can meet your timeframe. This is especially important during the holiday season when portrait photographers are at their busiest.
- Is the photographer reliable and someone you want to work with? If you have found your photographer online and not through a friend’s recommendation, ask for references. If you like talking on the phone, set up a time to chat – it’s a great way to get an idea of what it might be like to work with someone new.
- Do you understand the pricing? Pricing for photographic services is all over the place, and encompasses everything from the photographer’s time and skill to her costs associated with the business. A photographer who uses top-of-the-line gear, has years of experience and education, and operates a dedicated studio space will charge more than someone who’s just starting out. Regardless of what the price point is, make sure you understand how the prices work and what is included. Some photographers offer all-inclusive pricing and some use a model of a session fee and a la carte or package purchases after the session. Again, there’s no right or wrong here, just make sure you understand what you are purchasing. (For example, session fees usually do not include any prints or digital images.)
Want to know more about my fall availability? Pop your email below and I’ll send it right your way, along with a pretty cool surprise, too! Happy fall, y’all!
Send me the fall scheduling info!
I promised a summer bucket list post awhile back, and here it is, July 15, and I’m finally getting around to it! (It’s amazing what DOESN’T get done when the kids are home for the summer, but we are having all kinds of beautiful adventures. I’m so grateful to have this season with them!)
A couple of years ago, I realized that our summer had just sort of slid by, without much intentionality about how we would spend our days. Being a working mom, I can’t bring my business to a grinding halt just because my kids are out of school (although I do take on fewer clients during the summer months), but I also don’t want the summer to pass by, not having accomplished much or created lasting memories. Enter the Summer Bucket List.
Last summer, our family made a list of all the things we wanted to do before school started back up. I’ve learned it’s one thing to “want” to do something fun, but unless it’s staring me in the face in form of a written reminder, chances are it just won’t happen. (Weird, I know.) So we made our list, prettied it up with individual scrapbook pages for each activity, and posted everything on the wall. Our den was plastered with all of the fun we wanted to enjoy together, and it was really motivating to make sure we scheduled each item at some point during the summer. And we got it all done!
This year’s list is a bit more relaxed. Rather than wallpaper the den with gorgeous scrapbook pages (as fun as that was), this year’s list lives in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook (which I’m seldom without). The reminder isn’t as constant, but our list is simpler this year. (I found that including a lot of stuff on last year’s list produced a bit of anxiety because I felt I *had* to do it all.) So here’s what we’re up to this summer:
1. Family vacation to Wimberley, TX (check!) Our vacation happened just a couple of weeks after the devastating flood that roared through the Blanco River, carrying houses off their foundations, ripping one-hundred-year-old cypress trees out of their banks as if they were twigs, and killing several people. It was a bit more somber trip than usual. But we still managed to enjoy Cypress Creek (our accommodations offer lots of private, creekfront land), some amazing food (our faves: The Leaning Pear – a MUST, The Salt Lick, The Grismtmill), and relaxing family time in a simple, natural setting.
2. Schiltterbahn – we had hoped to visit the New Braunfels location while in Wimberley, but Tropical Storm Bill had other plans, so we’ll go to Galveston in August.
3. San Antonio – we’re going next week!
4. Family Camp at Lutherhill – our annual tradition the week of July 4th. The kids always have an incredible time (so do I), and this year was even better with the addition of my sister and nephew!
5. Blue Bell Tour in Brenham, TX. Obviously, our list was created was before their operations were shut down. We are hoping they will be back up and running before the summer is out – I miss me some Blue Bell!
6. “The Farm” – friends of ours have property in Hempstead, TX, and no trip to the farm is complete without a dip in the pool and a ride on the 4-wheelers. Check!
7. Finish summer reading challenge from the library. We’re working on it.
8. Swimming. Check, check, check! They are in one pool or another almost every day.
9. Go to the beach. Coming in August!
10. Go to Mountasia. (Putt-putt golf and go kart place.) I’ll be honest, I don’t look forward to this one in the summer. But it’s part of their summer reading rewards, so OK!
11. Take a drawing class. We took advantage of a great opportunity at our library this summer for a free drawing class. Jacob has really been enjoying it. Julianne and I hang out and read while he’s sketching.
12. Eat cookies. Every day! Our daily read-aloud time is called “Cookie Time”. We all pile on the couch with cookies, glasses of milk and great books. The den is a bit messier than usual but the kids do not want to miss a day!
13. Throw a party. I’m not sure what they have in mind for this one, but sounds fun to me!
14. All-day movie marathon. Sounds like a great post-San Antonio activity.
So that’s it! In addition to these “fun” things, I also developed a flexible daily schedule that includes chores, quiet time (for naps and/or personal reading time), read-aloud time (aka Cookie Time), and limited screen time, plus a long list of “I’m bored” activities that they can do by themselves. It’s been a great summer so far; I’ll be sad to see it come to an end.
What’s on YOUR summer bucket list? Let me know in the comments – I may need to start my 2016 list early!
Once you have your favorite images picked out, what can you do to create a visually pleasing arrangement on your walls? Of course, my favorite way is through a gorgeous wall gallery display:
A wall gallery makes an incredible statement piece over the fireplace.
If you’re looking for other ideas, here are a few quick tips to help you make the most out of your space.
- Hang images in small groups rather than spreading them out. If you have a large wall and just a few pictures, the space will look much better if you group the images together. It gives the illusion of one large piece and keeps the focal point together instead of scattered.
- The center point should be at eye level. When you are hanging a group of images and art together, the center piece should be hung at the level of one’s eye as you are standing and looking at it. The other pieces can be grouped around this central piece.
- Have one thing in common. It adds interest if there is one element that ties all of the images together. This could be the frame color, or that the images are all in black and white, or maybe all of the images are of baby faces. Having a common theme gives your display a sense of cohesion.
- Use a shelf and lean the images against the wall. It’s a great way to display images in a fresh and unfussy way. You can also add a little candle or plant to warm up the entire wall display. Frames can even be hung just inches above the shelf while using the shelf for smaller frames or interesting art pieces.
- Hang big images where they will be seen from across a room and small images on a wall where people often stand. Think of the person viewing the image. If the wall is a narrow hallway that you within a foot or two of the images, it would be very hard to view a 48 inch canvas. Hang that picture on a wall across the room where it is easier to view from a distance and keep smaller pictures on the hallway wall.
- Create a frame outside a frame. Try hanging four square images in a square pattern so that the entire feature appears to be one large frame. You can do this with any number of images, and you may want to lay them all out on the floor before hanging them on the wall.
Have fun playing with your images! I am always available for in-home consultations on creating the wall gallery of your dreams!
Do you ever take a shot and wonder why the entire picture looks like it was pulled out of an old photo box because of the red tint to it? This can happen when you are shooting indoors, in low light, or when your camera settings aren’t adjusted correctly.
Or sometimes, if you’re shooting outside in the shade, skin can take on a bluish cast. No one wants to look like a Smurf! What’s going on here?
To fix this error and get correct coloring on your images, change your camera’s setting for white balance. The white balance setting is one of the only settings on your camera that adjusts color, not exposure. You can change the setting to match the type of lighting in which you are currently shooting. If you are photographing in a school auditorium, try adjusting the white balance to the icon that looks like a fluorescent light bulb. If you are shooting outside on a cloudy day, change your setting to the cloud icon. (Sometimes the cloudy setting can be a little TOO warm for me, so occasionally use the Daylight setting on cloudy days.) Making these changes helps display more accurate color in your images.
If you have a simple camera that doesn’t offer these setting changes, then you may want to consider shooting in black and white, or editing the image after it’s taken to a black and white image. That way you can still capture the memory, and not be frustrated with the color tint!
Just to give you an idea of the power of white balance, take a peek at this sample. No editing was done (although it needs more polish for a professional image, that’s not the point of this example!). This example is simply to show you the difference that changing your white balance preset on your camera can make.
White balance can also be used for dramatic color effects. Try using the tungsten setting at dusk to really deepen the blue of the sky (but everything else will turn blue, too!). Play around with your white balance camera presets and you just may come up with a new look you love!
Amanda is a portrait photographer based in Houston, TX and serves all surrounding areas. Amanda is also available for travel and one-on-one camera training.
Who needs perfect photos? BOR-ing! Why not spice it up with some awkward background elements or bad lighting? Read on for the BEST ways to ruin your photographs!
1 – Make sure you have photo bombers in your photograph.
When you’re at a huge milestone event (such as high school graduation), get in the perfect position to grab a snap of the grad, and wait for a teenage boy to jump into the background as you press the shutter release. Photo bombers are the BEST!
2 – Put your subject right in front of a tree.
Trees are a great addition to any photo, depending on where they are placed in the composition. If you want the worst tree photo possible, put your subject directly in front of the tree. Who doesn’t love a big trunk coming out of her head?
3 – Find the most cluttered background possible.
You need to update your profile picture and happen to be in a public bathroom fixing your hair. You snap your own “selfie” and love the photo! And bathroom hand dryer and feminine napkin dispenser TOTALLY make the image. Award winner right there!
4 – Shoot from low angles.
Everyone LOVES a double chin, and the perfect way to guarantee you’ll highlight (or create) a double chin every time? Shoot from low angles! Crouch right down to the ground and shoot up toward your subject. You’ll also put even more emphasis on everything from the waist down when you shoot low. Awesome!
5 – Have everyone look toward the sun while you shoot.
Squinting and harsh shadows? Yes, please! (It’s total the look right now.) Everyone loves staring straight into the sun when they’re trying to smile for a photo. While a shady spot with a big patch of sky showing creates beautiful, even light on the face and is much more comfortable for the subject, who cares?! Go for the drama and shoot in full sun, in the middle of the day!
6 – Jiggle the camera while you’re shooting.
Don’t you just love blurry photos? You can guarantee that special “artistic” effect by jiggling and shaking the camera when you release the shutter. Who needs to see their subject actually in focus! Rock the blur, and for heaven’s sake, don’t try to hold the camera still while shooting!
7 – Go dark.
When you shoot in a low light situation and you’re not using a flash, your shutter speed will slow way down in order to get enough light on the subject. That slow shutter speed can also almost guarantee blurry photos – yay! More artistic effects! Choosing a well-lit area instead and actually having a crisp photo? That’s so last year.
(Since you’re a smart reader, I’m sure you’ve already figured out that this whole post is satire. I’ll soon be starting a blog series on improving your everyday snapshots, so be on the lookout!) If you’re a regular reader or Facebook page stalker, you know that it’s rare for me to post without images – and although I’ve made EVERY.ONE. of the above mistakes, I didn’t think my clients would appreciate me sharing those. 🙂
Already thinking about your fall family portraits? Good for you! Use those buttons right down there to get in touch with me. I have a rockin’ special for August 2014 sessions!