Thursday, September 3, 2009

Figuring it all out, finding my "voice"

So probably a topic of considerable angst, especially among creative beginner portrait photographers. I hope to eventually specialize in family, childhood and maternity portrait photography. There are many brilliant photographers out there, and just as many unique styles. And for every "unique and truly fabulous" style, there are about 50 average duplications of it.
Props or no props?
Moody or lighthearted and fun?
Dress up outfits and fabulous staging or come-as-you-are?
Textures or no?
Close ups or far away stories?
Perfect exposure and commercial quality, or flawed and sun-flare filled?
I enjoy it all when it is done well, consistently, and comes from a pure place.

What I'm doing for now?
Trying to relax and do what comes naturally and have fun in the process.
Taking millions and millions of photos, and sifting them out like bits of pretty shells in a pile of sand. The ones that appeal to me will tell me the story of the direction I'm going in, I think.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Tuesday Tutorial - a truly vintage conversion

I've discovered a fun new way of making "vintage" inspired photos that so far, seems to be very true to actual vintage images. I'm thinking circa 20's, and maybe earlier? I'm an ignoramus when it comes to history, so I could be off.
Before I explain the technique, I'll explain my image choice for this treatment.
1. The subject matter is somewhat timeless. (with the exception of her fingernails and maybe her clothing in the first image.)
2. She's got a serious face. Many earlier photos are non-smiling subjects. I think it has to do with the slow exposure or maybe the myth that smiling in photos made people appear insane?

I use Photoshop CS4, but I think many of these steps could be duplicated in earlier versions. All of these steps are very general and should be toyed with to your liking.
1. After you've chosen your image, make a layer copy and set the blending mode to "screen."
2. Create a new adjustment layer using Channel Mixer.
3. Set it to Black and White Infrared
4. You should see instant drama. But it will make all the reds - especially skin tones, appear blotchy and unattractive. Here's how to fix that:
5. Create a new blank layer, just under the channel mixer adjustment mask.
6. Select a paintbrush with soft edge to the size you need. For a subtle way to "paint" out and make those skin tones soft and get silky, smooth skin, set your brush to the following. Color = 7fa15e (a kind of olive green.) Set your brush blending mode to soft light, and turn down the opacity and flow somewhere around 25%.
7. Use your brush on that layer to paint the skin and other problem areas. If you go too far, you can just use the eraser tool to tone it down.
8. Finally, select a vintage type texture to apply to the top layer. I happened to use Florabella textures, but there are plenty of free ones out there. For a "warm effect" simply set it to soft light blending effect and you are finished. For these images, I chose a warm texture, but wanted to cool the images a bit so I did "adjust/invert" to the texture to get the bluish tone.

So there you have it!
I know I could go into a LOT more detail with this tutorial, and if you are stuck and don't understand my instructions, feel free to email me. In the future as I find more time, I'll do a lot more detail-intensive tutorials.
Have fun!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Zoey and Mr. Bunny

UPDATE! I'm so honored to have been a featured pic last week in this challenge. There were so many AMAZING entries, and it's truly humbling to be recognized in such a talented group. Thanks so much!! Click HERE to see the other featured winners.

This is my entry this week for the "nostalgia" theme at I ♥ Faces. CLICK IMAGE TO SEE LARGER.
Zoey crashes out sometimes during the drive, and I bring her in and lay her on the couch. Since she was a baby, she's had "Mr. Bunny." My husband and I were worried that the terrible time might arrive when Mr. Bunny could possibly be lost, and then she'd never sleep again. So I found a "duplicate" on ebay, and we had two that played as one. The time came when she eventually found the twin in the dryer. And now "Mr. Bunny" has become "The Bunnies. Either way, she won't sleep without the pair.
For now, sometimes they are stinky, and irritating when they are lost in the house, or must be carted around when we go grocery shopping.. but one day I'll miss them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Notice the little things, but seek the big picture...

A very dear friend sent me one of those forwarded email stories yesterday. Some of these email forward things are very annoying and stupid. Some move me to check them out on, then re-email the b.s. back to everyone as "false." But this was one of those hokey, true ones. Read the whole thing HERE.The gist of the story was this:A world famous violinist played for 1 hour in the metro station in Washington, D.C. on a handcrafted 1713 Stradivarius violin, reputedly worth $3.5 million. After one hour playing one of the most difficult compositions ever written, he was barely noticed and had earned only $32 in tips. The point? That we don't pay attention to the beauty or wonderful things in our life if they are not set in the correct context. We are too busy "going about our business" to appreciate art or music or anything, really.
So tonight I had set a goal for myself to begin gathering a nice selection of portfolio-worthy images. I went back into my rejected images and began to look again, but in a different context. I wanted to view what I believed would be the most moving images for my CLIENTS, not for me. I've been very focused on trend, and technical aptitude, and props, and processing.. I've paid so much attention to so many of the talented photographers I've found on Flickr and in other places. By those standards, this image would probably not cut the mustard. But in the proper context -- to the parents -- this image is perfect.
So here's my reminder to myself: beauty can be found in imperfection. Context is everything.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

There is something about the ocean..

I don't get to the beach enough, and it's a terrible shame since it's all of five minutes away.
Zoey and I had been cooped in the house a little too long today, so I said "let's go."
But not so fast -- "Hey Zoey, how about trying on this really pretty outfit from great-grandma?"
She loved it, mostly because it was like jammies.. loose, cotton and a little too big.
So I loaded her up in her precious little outfit and took her down to the sand and sea. My second time with a toddler in this terrain, and more terrifying this time for these reasons:
1. I was alone with her
2. The tides were stronger this time
3. Switching lenses and dealing with sand and saltwater and expensive gear makes me feel distracted and nervous
Anyway, the adventure lasted for about 30 minutes. She Diva'd out when the seaweed and sand got too messy on the dress. I think she's so funny sometimes.
It was worth it to get our toes sandy and for the amazing photo I was able to get. Cheers.
Click here to see the image in my Flickr photostream.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A purple door only adds romantic value, not property value

Our house is one of those "upside down" houses. Or "under water" is another term they use, although 3 miles from the beach is far from under water.
That means we owe way more on the loan than we'd ever hope to sell it for right now.

It's our very first home, purchased more than two years ago.

When my husband and I were looking for a home, we did lots of drive bys and peek in windows. During these weekend trips driving through neighborhoods and dashing out to look at the flyers in the tubes and walking through properties, we were so excited at the possibilities.

After dozens of "well, that seems okay, but it would need so and so... " we spotted The One.

Yellow with a purple door and purple trim. White window planter boxes with pink impatiens.

I fell in love with it and barely a month later, we were officially Home.

It is less than 1000 square feet.

It has closets that are so small there is room for nothing.

It is 57 years old. When you run the hose, or flush the toilette, or do the laundry, there is hardly any water pressure for anything else.

It is on a busy street, and has a chain link fence all around the front yard.

The neighborhood has questionable characters around at all hours, often.

But it has flowers in the yard that my husband has so beautifully landscaped.

It is my daughter's universe. Under the shade tree in the front yard is perfect for her kiddie pool and sand box.

The lighted tiki torches at night on our patio transform dinners into something magical.

It's our place.

Monday, August 10, 2009

funny, silly face theme at I Heart Faces

This pic was taken a long time ago, but it's always been one of my faves.

Thought it fit into the theme really well.

To see more entries, go on over to

Friday, August 7, 2009


My first ever "Fix it Friday" entry for the AMAZING blog,
If you've never been there, it's such a cool place for just about anything you can think of regarding photography.
The community is warm and friendly, the tutorials are awesome, and the participants are so full of inspiration and talent.
It's an absolutely addicting place to visit on the web.

For this pic, I didn't have to edit TOO much because it was so beautiful already.
I cropped it square, pumped up the colors a bit by blending two layers on "soft color" blend mode, sharpened a tad, and tweaked the eyes a little brighter.
I did a selective color mask to really brighten up the pinks in the flowers, and also used the burn tool to pump up the saturation on the cute little surfboards on his shirt.
Lastly, I added a subtle vignette effect to draw the eyes inward.
I really love color, and vivid "saturated" looks, so this was probably the first of many edits that result in this kind of look..
Glad I got to participate!

To see the original, you can click the image and it will take you to my Flickr photostream.
To see all the other amazing versions, go to, and click on "fix it friday" button to be wow'd!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Whew... hit with a karma avalanche!

Today feels so great!
Two REALLY nice things happened:
1. I made Flickr's Explore with my beach pic. (see above and click it to see the original)
2. I've already gotten a request for "what I'd charge" for some portrait photography
HUH?! (Advice anyone? I'm trying to figure out my "internship level" price package, or if I will even consider taking anyone's money yet...)
Today makes 23 days since my Nikon arrived and I feel like I've been on a serious sprint ever since the UPS guy handed me the box.
I am totally in awe of how the niceness of the universe is beginning to blend into the shape I always hoped and imagined it could. There is a huge, powerful and anonymous Internet World, and an equally powerful, personal and much, much smaller "real life" world.
I need and crave the goodness from both. I hope I can reciprocate all that I take.
So this post today is a big 'ol shout out to all the cool ass people that I love and know personally, and all the people I don't know, but would probably click with instantly if I met them.
Thanks, ya'll.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 19 with D90 + first newborn shoot = technical difficulties

I work with cool, friendly, helpful people. So when my coworker who knows I'm doing portfolio building said "I have a newborn for you," I said "Okay!!"
Then I said to myself "omigod."
I haven't even gotten through the user's manual yet!!
The family I shot couldn't have been friendlier. They were excited and eager to help me get ANY shot I wanted. I had full reign of the house and the camera was my license to be creative.
Unfortunately, after hours of shooting (and mingling, and eating!), I came home with hundreds and hundreds of unusable pics.
I was mortified and crushed.
I sat down to sift through the rubble of my session, downtrodden.
Then a nice thing happened. My husband came to peek and told me I was crazy. "Sweetie, what are you talking about?! That's a GREAT shot!"
"Mmmm, yeah... I guess so.. it's not too bad."
This happened for a handful of pics until I came up with a nice selection of the best.
In the end, the parents got some beautiful pics of their son they will cherish forever.
I got some practice with what it feels like to NOT know what I'm doing.
And I realized how lucky I am to have such a sweet hubby.
HERE is where you can find the rest of the pics from the session.

Friday, July 31, 2009

First shoot on the beach!

Okay, not every beginner photographer is so lucky.
The beach is literally minutes from my house, and my friend and co-worker has a son that looks like a little model. Those were the two ingredients for my first ever "session." It was pretty much unplanned, and both of us were unprepared. But her son got to romp in the sand and surf and I got to click, click away..
Although there are lots and lots of things I'd have done differently, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for a few of my favorite shots.
Click here to see the rest of set in my Flickr photostream. I'll probably add a few more when I have time to edit.. stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

When it's fun, it works...

So I've been overwhelmed with my new camera in a good AND bad way. I'm such an impatient person, and also a perfectionist about certain things -- so combining those traits with a fancy, highly technical tool and only one week under my belt has made for some serious anxiety.

Thankfully, I returned to common sense yesterday and relaxed and reminded myself that it should be FUN.

Zoey and I headed to the downtown park and I snapped away the whole time. She picked flowers, rolled in the grass, ran from my tickles and played with other kids.

We both got sweaty and red-faced.

In the end, I got some beautiful pictures that will remind me of the nice time we had.
The storyboard above: Zo wanted to decorate her shoes with the pink flowers. I thought it was so sweet and VERY typically girly.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I heart faces - "At the Beach" photo challenge

I live about 3 miles from the beach, so it was tough to pick a fave.
This is a recent one from a vacation I had at the end of May. We are on a rooftop at the pool and Zoey is missing all the action. It makes a really great background on my screensaver, too. Sometimes at work I look at this picture on my desktop and feel the same way -- "wish I could escape and get down to the water."
Click on the image to see other pics in my Flickr photostream.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Red is the color of love, balloons and blood

[below, the story of how that scab appeared on her knee.]

I work full time, so by the time 5 ‘o clock started getting near, I was already in a near panic about lighting.
Desparation and sheer panic. No, insanity and obsession. No, neurosis and psychosis.
I MUST rush to the grocery store and get red balloons. Will I have time to even comb her hair? Crap.
What if she’s not in the mood? The sun is going down, the sun is going down...
I should probably get some groceries, too.
“Yes, I’ll take five balloons.”...
Wow, they are pretty big.
“Um, let’s make it four.”

“Hi sweetie!!! Look, mommy brought a surprise!!”
{great, she’s pleased! she’ll cooperate.}

Hair into sloppy pigtails, new dress, from Marshall’s, (on sale) is on.
Mad dash to the car, with new balloons, new camera, newly dressed toddler, and new obsession in tow.
No wipies. No sippy cup. No bunnies or play toys.
It’ll be fine.

{Don’t force it. Don’t be a mean mommy. Just let her have fun. Oh shit, she lost a balloon.}

Heartbreaking, sobbing, she can’t believe that balloon is way up there, floating off into space.
What am I DOING?? Why am I taking photos of her wailing.
Oh, come on.. it’s just a balloon. She’ll get over it.

Tears gone, now only three balloons. Smile returned. Boogers wiped off. Photoshoot in progress.

“Hey sweetie, you look so beautiful. Do you think you can come running toward mommy ONE more time? I PROMISE we’ll go play in the park as soon as I take a FEW more shots.”

And she did. Came running, hard, without her shoes, as I had instructed. Smiling even.
Stumbled. Fell. Splayed out on that icky, terrible summer-hot asphalt.
This was a bad one.
I put down the new camera.. carefully.

A slow stream of red blood trickled down, starting at her knee, all the way to her ankle.
It was so bright, and warm, and red.
Just like the balloons.

Oh, how awful. What have I done?
No wipies to clean it.
No sippy cup to give her some water.
I had nothing but a dirty beach towel and some warm bottled water in the car.
We cleaned up with those things, and she was very brave.
I fulfilled my promise to let her go play in the park, bloodied, tear stained.

Sun was finally almost completely down as we pulled into the driveway home.
She reached her hand and rested it softly on my forearm as I was unbuckling her.
“I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too,” I said.
And one of a billion tiny little threads in my heart, broke.

[click here to see a shot from the balloon shoot]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm a maniac, maniac...

Can't stop practicing with the new camera.. think I'll head to the beach tonight at sunset and try out some shots there, too.. I'm having sooooooooo much fun. Luckily my daughter was used to me chasing her around with my P&S, so she's pretty cooperative..

She cries, even to abuelo the clown

She cries, even to abuelo the clown, originally uploaded by time I pick her up from abuela and abuelo's house, she cries when she realizes the fun is soon over.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

violets by window

violets by window, originally uploaded by

Took this one today on my lunch break. Edited with Florabella textures. I'm pretty pleased with how soft it feels...

Zoey and Mommy's foot -- a portrait for I HEART FACES feet entry

IMG_5712-e, originally uploaded by

Here's a recent pic of mine and Zoey's foot. I like how her name kinda sits on my big toe. We had fun shooting this one together. This is my first entry to Click on the pic to see it in my flickr account.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

4.99 score! cool chair i'm gonna paint for photos

quick shot of a thrift store chair I painted purple for photo props. Can't wait to use it. Stay tuned for lots of cool pics in the future.
Click image to see my before/after.