When you leave for college it can be both a really exciting time but also a time that can cause pretty intense homesickness. Especially at first. And even though I'm sure that most of my Team 19 isn't really thinking about this yet, I am. When that time comes, they will have something that I hope will help-- a really lovely photo of them with their mom, right there in their dorm room. So this shoot was definitely a Mother's Day shoot, but I think it will grow in importance over time. And without further adieu...some moms and daughters of Team 19!
There's this location that had been bugging me. I had seen images of it pop up on my Instagram feed from time to time and whenever it did I'd get a renewed enthusiasm for figuring out where it was. After quite a lot of digging, I finally nailed it down. And it was even more fantastic than what I expected...
A few things that I love about this location:
1. So many spiky plants! And beautiful colors. We were there in early April and the tulips were blooming...gorgeous.
2. There's a mansion on the premises, not to mention a reflecting pool, stone stairways, sculptures...
3. They have a bathroom so you can change outfits.
4. Now for a couple of limitations - this venue is only open Mon-Fri and only until 4pm.
If you are a senior portrait client and are interested in a Secret Garden photoshoot, get in touch! This location adds a little bit of complication to the process but is entirely worth it.
From the get go Viviana wanted something different for her senior portrait shoot. She's very into fashion (she is Foothill High's "Best Dressed" for the class of 2018, after all) and was interested in a fashion/editorial style senior shoot. When she showed up for her session and stepped out of the car in her first outfit I pretty much squealed with excitement...
"I have a pair of pants that's an even brighter shade of yellow," she explained. Her mom, Monica, had told me that she still wanted some traditional portrait-style pictures taken, so I spent the session going back and forth between editorial style (like above), and portrait style (see below).
So what's the difference between the two? Well I like to start off by saying that there's no *one* thing that shifts a traditional portrait over, but editorial style pictures are more like what you would see in a magazine. Take, for example, this next outfit with the red blazer. Here is a traditional style portrait. I shot this with a lens that is specifically designed for portraits because it doesn't cause any distortion. I'm also shooting from an angle that is pretty straight on. I blurred out the background because, well, I nearly always do that with portraits so that the focus is on YOU.
And here is that same look shot in an editorial style:
It has a very different look and feel to it, right? For one thing, you see her in the context of her surroundings-- I'm not blurring anything out. She isn't posed in an absolutely classic position designed to be ultimately flattering-- it's more spur of the moment. I'm also shooting from a lower angle. Finally, this was shot with a wide angle lens, rather than a portrait lens. It distorts around the edges of the frame...but in a fun way. Here's some more back and forth...
We wrapped up the session at sunset down by the river. At this point I switched entirely to portrait mode. The reason was that when we got there, and Viviana put on this dress, the entire scene looked to me like a classical oil panting. I could have shot editorial here, but I wouldn't chose to do so with this soft golden lighting.
What are your thoughts on editorial style shooting? Does this suit your personality or would you like a traditional portrait style shoot?
It has been an honor and a privilege to get to know you, class of 2018. So many talented athletes, scholars, musicians, passionate cause fighters. I'm so excited to be able to say that I knew you back when! Go out and do great things!
I don't often get the chance to shoot people really dressed up so prom is something different that I always look forward to. I love every part of the process- from the promposals, to the getting ready, to the pre-party and the main event...all of it. This year I was able to take some pre-prom pictures of a few of my Team 19 members. So fun!
In case you weren't aware, these days the way to ask someone to be your date to the prom is a bit of a to-do. It's called the Promposal, and often they can be quite elaborate...
This is Mason. About a week ago I got this DM from him, out of the blue: "I'm not sure if you know, but I'm Mollie's boyfriend..."⠀
Long story short, Mason knew that Mollie and I had a shoot scheduled and wanted to know if he could do his promposal before we began. I was, of course, super-psyched. You know me and prom...⠀
So the plan was to get to the venue 15 minutes early and set up the balloons. But it turned out to be super windy. We realized that he needed to tape the balloons together...just as we saw her drive by. We jumped into the bushes. I ran to her car to create a diversion so he would have enough time to fix them. By the time Mollie and I came around the bend everything was pretty much perfect.
As you can imagine, she said yes.
Thanks so much, Mason, for inviting me to join in on your super fun promposal!!!
Abriana is one of those amazing athletes that got to enjoy an entire senior year free of the stress of college acceptance. And I'd love to say "Lucky!!" except that luck had very little to do with it.
What did have something to do with it are grit and determination, both of which came in handy on this shoot. Abriana braved through rain and pretty chilly temperatures to pull off these beautiful shots.
Abriana has been team captain for her swim team for both junior and senior year because, well, she's just that kind of person. The younger swimmers (the "littles") call her "Mom" which, naturally, her own mom finds pretty amusing.
This was at the tail end of the shoot, the chilliest part before heading home. "I want to go to Starbucks and get a hot cocoa," Abriana said, "...and put my hands in it!" Cracked. Me. Up. Abriana, I had a fabulous time with you. Hopefully we'll find a time in between spring meets to shoot a cap & gown mini session but if not have a fabulous time down in LA next year!!!
In case you were not aware, there is this phenomenon happening right now where professional photographers go to atypical shooting locations (sometimes deliberately "ugly" ones, for eg. the lighting department of a Lowes Home Improvement store, or the parking lot of a Target) and conduct a portrait session.
After many photographers sought them out, Michael's craft stores officially approved of the practice (see, "Yes, You Can Do That Portrait Challenge In Our Stores") and it became an even bigger thing than it had been previously. So I thought, why not?
Now about 99% of the shoots that I have seen at a Michaels involved the photographer heading straight to the florals department and hanging out there nearly the entire time. Their goal was to try to make the pictures look like they were not in a store with, what I consider, mixed degrees of success.
I decided to completely forgo that notation of deception and just admit it with the pictures: we're inside a store. But I was hoping to create a bit of the surreal. Hence the spacebuns, 70s running shorts, and general quirkiness.
Here are some fun behind the scenes so you can get a feel for what we were working with.
For my portraits I really like clean lines and unfussy backgrounds. Michael's stores are basically the opposite of that so the only way I could figure out how to get what I wanted was to put Kaitlyn up high...
Finally, we were practically ready to leave when we passed by the aisle with all those different vases I pulled out some fairy lights and we crawled under the floral display and rounded out our morning with this:
All told, it was definitely a fun way to spend a morning. The staff at the Michael's in Dublin were extremely gracious when I checked in at the start. And a shopper or two actually asked us if we were doing the Michael's Challenge.
If anyone reading this is interested in doing the challenge I have a few recommendations.
1. Definitely bring your own lighting or if not, make sure that you are shooting in RAW because the white balance of their lights is pretty funky.
2. Check out the store in advance. You'll notice color themes throughout that are helpful to work with.
3. Have your model wear makeup that is bolder than normal. I asked Kaitlyn to wear red lipstick because I knew that the weird lights were going to wash everything else out.
4. There is a lot of stuff to work with there. Think outside of the box!
The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a dry garden in Walnut Creek featuring an incredible diversity of colors and textures in succulents. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing for spiky plants. And for spiky plants this venue does not disappoint!
Hows THAT for a succulent? This sample looks like something out of the Triassic period! I love how it looks like it's exploding behind Emily here.
One of my favorite aspects of this location is how there are fuzzy or fluffy plants right next to the spiky ones. We could be in Arizona, right?!?!
For styling your shoot here plan on working with background colors like minty green, yellow, peach, and firey red.
Outfits with peach and pink tones work perfectly with the setting. Definitely consider some statement jewelry. Gold or silver would both be great. Turquoise would also be a fantastic choice.
We will absolutely be doing some full sun shooting at this venue for your session. Bring along a favorite pair of sunglasses (or a few). A floppy hat is also a great accessory here.
Interested in some garden art? This lovely rusty orb can be yours for only $21,000...
Agave for the win!
One of the benefits of booking your portrait session at the Ruth Bancroft Garden is that it looks absolutely stunning year round-- even in winter and early spring when most of the trees haven't leafed out in other areas. So if you love succulents, or even boho styling in general, this would be the perfect spot for your senior portrait session!
Each February the Cal High Leadership team puts on the Formal Faire: it's a lunch-time fashion show that takes place at the quad. A prom dress boutique loans out dresses, Men's Warehouse loans tuxes, a salon donates their time doing full hair and makeup, and for the past two years I've been invited as the paparazzi. Now, I'm not typically an event photographer but I make an exception for the Formal Faire; it's always a ton of fun.
If you are in leadership and would like to bring this event to your school, here are a couple of tips to get you started.
1. Start planning early. Definitely get in touch with all the vendors *before winter break*! November is not too early to start reaching out to explain your concept to local businesses!
2. Make sure you've got a greenroom available the day of the event where the salon can set up and work on at least 6 people at once.
3. Find a good centralized location for the catwalk: hopefully outside.
4. Have people available from leadership to help the vendors set up tables near the catwalk.
5. Find a charismatic person to be the M.C. Make sure that they have accurate information about the outfits that each couple is wearing so that they can announce everything correctly.
6. Pick a fun sound track to play leading up to the event and for background music during.
7. Promote, promote, promote! Signage, IG posts, do your thing!
8. Finally, DM me if you'd like more info! Like I said, this event is so much fun-- I'm happy to help you make it happen at your school!
I am a high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.