"I definitely took some dance classes when I was, like, 5," Canyon mentioned as we walked over to the shoot site. I was wondering how she happened to own the corset and the tutu; I had sort of assumed that she was a dancer. "No," she explained, "not really. I did take a dance class last year but it was part of a theatrical production I was in."
So the corset and tutu? "A halloween costume!" She exclaimed. The corset was off Amazon and the tutu she actually made herself out of tulle.
I had seen a snapshot of her in this outfit on her instagram and thought: we need to get HER in THAT in the SNOW!
I spent a bit of time location scouting. And then I stumbled across this place and thought: game over!
I absolutely love stylized photoshoots: they are such a fun way to experiment and try new things! And just for fun, below is an unedited picture taken in between takes. The coat was helpful, but it turns out that wearing a pair of cage heels in the snow makes you cold faster than anything! Lesson learned.
Sleeklens offers a variety of presets and actions for Lightroom and Photoshop. These are, for those who are new to photo editing, shortcuts that help photographers attain a specific look to their images without having to go through a series of steps over and over again.
The Sleeklens Strike a Pose Portrait Workflow for Lightroom comes with a ton of presets, some of which are black and white, but most of which are color. They are stackable, which means that you can run one preset and then run a different one afterwards to more dramatically alter the image.
Downloading and installing the presets was a breeze- Sleeklens offers short videos that walk through the process- it only takes a few minutes. They also have a serious of videos that demonstrate a few selected presets and how they can be used. I watched all of them and found them extremely helpful.
One problem that I have with presets is that when presented with a long list of them in a drop-down menu I really have no idea which ones to try on my photo. But the videos help because you can see which presets they tried on, say, a portrait taken in overcast lighting with grass in the background. Then you can envision what it would look like on your similar images.
The Strike a Pose Workflow that I received included several presets in the following categories: "All in Ones," Base Edits, Exposure, Color Correct, Tone/Tint, Polish, and Vignette. Tone/Tint warm up is good for skin tones when shooting in the shade. Base Edit 2 is a good overall starting place with nearly any RAW photo because it appears to increase contrast and boost colors- basically bringing your RAW image back to what it would have looked like shot in JPG.
After playing around with the presets and trying them out on a variety of my images I have discovered that my favorites are the ones that are the most subtle: the Color Correct- Fix Green Skin and Color Correct- Fix Red Skin. Achieving beautiful and consistent skin tones across and entire gallery (and across different lighting conditions) is a huge part of my workflow- so these two particular presets are especially helpful. I do find that I end up tweaking the white balance even further with most photos, but they definitely get things going in the right direction.
As you can see, the "Fix Green Skin" preset removed quite a bit of the green tones in her skin caused by all that light reflected off the nearby vegetation.
Here you can see how the "Fix Red Skin Tones" preset pulled quite a bit of red out. This can be especially useful if you shoot portraits near brick walls.
Quite a lot of my photography is portraits shot at sunset where I’m nearly shooting into the sun. I love the romantic look this creates, and the solar flare, but I would also appreciate some help with the resultant haze, loss of contrast, and color. Thus far, my best results involve pulling the images into Photoshop and using levels, which seem to do a better job than Lightroom’s tone curve. Unfortunately I haven’t found a preset in this pack that seems designed for these particular shooting conditions. But it’s possible that I just need to stack a few of them together. It also might be something that's part of their "Chasing Light" package. They do offer, however, several different presets within Portrait Essentials that help boost the warm golden glow of a sunset if you want to add that to your image.
When I downloaded my Sleeklens presets I was pretty excited to try them out but it turns out that the brushes that also came with the pack were the actual game changer for me.
Lightroom comes with pre-loaded brushes, and it’s also possible to create your own for things you use over and over again. But the Sleeklens “Strike a Pose” brushes do things that I didn’t even realize were possible in Lightroom and solve some Lightroom-inherent problems that people have been complaining about forever.
Case in point: the Fix Red Skin brush. Ruddy complexions, cold noses & hands in winter, and blotchy/acne prone skin all need to be addressed when editing portraits. And up until now the only way I knew how to reduce red in Lightroom would reduce the reds for the entire image- including peoples’ lips! So the only real way to deal with this was to use a masking layer in Photoshop to selectively remove the red from parts of the image.
Sleeklens’s Fix Red Skin brush makes this a total snap. No need for photoshop or layers- just brush over the area that needs help. Interestingly, you can see what’s going on: the brush is actually applying a shade of pale green to counterbalance the red. And if one pass-over isn’t enough you simply hit “Done,” open the bush again, and paint over it another time. I absolutely love this new brush and it alone has been a huge time saver for me.
Another brush that I’m using a lot now is the Strike a Pose “Define Blond Hair” brush. When applied over blond hair this brush applies a light yellow color layer that subtly brightens it up. You can also selectively paint over a person’s highlights to emphasize them. This is an especially great tool to use on wavy blond hair because if you only paint over the parts that naturally catch the light it makes the hair look especially shiny and healthy.
If you are interested playing around with Sleeklens’s presets and brushes, they currently offer a free starter pack.
In general, if you want to do most of your edits in Lightroom, or are a person who finds working with layers in Photoshop to be intimidating, the Sleeklens workflow bundles could really help you take your portrait work to the next level. And for anyone who enjoys before and afters (I know I do) you can check out a ton of them on Sleeklens's pinterest page.
*Sleeklens provided the Strike a Pose Portrait Workflow to Samantha Grant Photography for a fair and honest review, which I believe that I provided. If you have any questions about my experiences using this collection, feel free to send me an email.
When we were planning her photoshoot Bella mentioned to me that she would love to incorporate flowers. This presented a bit of a challenge, given that it was early November, but I suggested that we start out at Alden Lane Nursery because they pretty much always have something in bloom. I love shooting at Alden Lane; the people there are *so nice.* They always tell me that I'm free to move anything around for the shot, and go out their way to accommodate photography. Sure enough, for Bella's photoshoot they had plenty of flowers and were crazy nice, as always.
This trimester Bella is taking a sci fi lit class where they not only get to read the Hobbit but also get to watch all the Star Wars movies. "It must be really hard to get into that class!" I exclaimed. "I mean, wouldn't everybody want to take it?" But she said she just signed up for it, no problem. One of her other classes is an internship at Kaiser, which sounds pretty perfect since she intends to major in nursing at Ole Miss.
After a bit at Alden Lane we headed over to Shadow Cliffs to catch the sunset.
Between her four classes she's done with school at 2pm (sweet!). But Bella's still pretty busy; she works at Bent Creek Winery helping out with the back room stuff and she also leads a bible study group for 7th grade girls at Cornerstone Fellowship.
During her free time Bella plays the guitar and and enjoys reading and writing poetry. I'm so happy that she brought her guitar to her photoshoot-- I feel like the images of her playing really capture the heart of who she is.
I'm so excited to see you in the spring, Bella, with all of your Ole Miss stuff for your mini shoot! It's going to be a ton of fun!
Because she joined my brand representative team I've had the pleasure of photographing Adelle several times this past year. But this shoot was different because it was her actual senior portrait, designed and produced to showcase her unique style and personality. During the shoot we talked about college and I just found out that she was accepted to her top pick: Oregon State. Way to go Adelle!
To her session Adelle brought a pair of beautiful turquoise earrings. She also wanted to make sure to get some shots in her letterman's jacket to celebrate her tenure on the cheer squad.
Durring her session we talked about all of her exciting upcoming plans: a trip to Costa Rica, a resolution to dye her hair pink (which she did the very night of this photoshoot!) and the intent to get a tattoo when she turns 18 in March. The design she picked out is this beautiful flower and symbol that represents internal peace and tranquility.
Here are a few of my favorites of Adelle from prior shoots. We've had a blast this year finding all sorts of unique locations for shoots and chasing the sun! Thanks for joining my team this year, Adelle! It was wonderful to get to know you!
"They're always super fun and exciting, right!!?!?" I exclaimed, dripping with sarcasm. Katherine was much nicer in describing the school board meetings she has attended. As a member of a club on campus whose goal is to improve student life, she's made an effort to create meaningful change. This group is attempting to get AVHS to reform their expulsion policy. And at the school board meetings Katherine has proposed that the student reps not merely have the right to attend the meetings but have actual voting power. She did tell me that she's interested in possibly majoring in chemistry, but might I suggest taking some poly sci? I'm thinking politics might not be a bad route to consider, Katherine...
Speaking of chemistry, Katherine is taking 3 AP classes right now, including BC calc. As a person who was completely mentally drained by AB calc (those related rate problem- ugh! I still have nightmares about water flowing into and out of a bathtub at different rates. Not even kidding.) I can really appreciate what this means. She's also doing lacrosse in the spring.
Katherine's dream school is UCLA and she's applying to a bunch of other California schools but she's also applying in Colorado because they have a merit based scholarship for $15K! Who knew? (Well, she did...I didn't.)
For the record, Katherine's photoshoot started, continued, and ended with a bit of weirdness. At the get go we had to relocate because there was an enormous running race happening at the original venue. Once we got to the new location and started shooting a totally random police car drove down the trail...really slowly...right behind her. And they shouted, "We'll make a nice backdrop for you!" Thanks guys. And then as we were wrapping up, we noticed cat after cat after cat amassing around us. Dusk was setting in and after about 5 minutes of chatting there were probably around 7 cats hanging out on a nearby driveway. "A cat party." she declared. Totally.
For Sophia's photoshoot we did our pre-session consultation, like always, and she sketched out a few ideas for her outfits. But I have to say that I had no idea (based on what she described) how cute her looks would turn out. But you'll see...In the mean time, let me actually tell you about Sophia.
Sophia volunteers at Sage Veterinary Hospital because she'd like to be a vet. "The vets there are super nice," she explained. Total roll models. They've actually allowed her to do observations in the operating room. "How is that?" I asked. "It sounds like it could be intense?"
"The first time I nearly passed out," she admitted. But after that it was fine. Her plan is to go to either U of O or OSU and major in general science before going to vet school.
Sophia was on the cheerleading team this fall but is super excited to have more free time now that it's over. She's got time to go to basketball games and is contemplating getting a job in retail.
So this was a complete fluke: I asked Sophia to lay her head down on her arms on a table for one of the shots. And her mom Danette exclaimed, "Hang on a second! We have a similar shot from when she was a little kid!" So I took the shot, and later that night Danette texted me this lovely picture that they think was taken around when Sophia was in 4th grade. Amazing, right?
This got me thinking-- are there any shots that YOU would love to recreate? What a fun concept...count me in!
In case you live in the Tri-Valley and don't already know who Madi is, allow me to enlighten you. Madi is a level 10 gymnast, which I guess is one step before an Olympic level. When she was 14 Madi was offered a full ride to Oregon State, and since she did a verbal commit then, she's known where she was going to college since she was in 8th grade. Consider my mind boggled.
Now in order to make this all happen Madi, who goes to HS in Pleasanton, commutes to her gym in the peninsula 4 days a week and practices 5 hours per day. Pleasanton USD was kind enough to allow her a class schedule that lets her to head out a bit early for this.
So I knew all this about Madi before our photoshoot, and I was really wondering what a person would be like with that kind of drive and dedication. Was she going to stare me down with steely intensity? Was it going to be all about focus, details, minutes on the clock?
Not at all. Madi drove up with her mom, we talked about outfits, we talked about classes...apart from a few shots in her leos, Madi's senior session was just like anybody else. Actually, I take that back. Madi is both totally casual and pretty silly so her session included more peace signs than I typically take.
Madi's cap & gown mini in the spring is going to be awesome because we're trying to time it for when her sister Lacy is home to get the two of them together: Lacy is already on the gymnastics team at OSU and Madi is super excited to join her in the fall. I can't wait to see you two together!
Grant's photoshoot involved quite a lot of two things that I don't often get a ton of: 1) a huge variety of hilarious outtakes and 2) embarrassing stories about him as a kid as told by his mom throughout the photoshoot.
The best story was about Grant in 3rd grade. Apparently he had a tough teacher and a long patch of bad behavior in class. Finally his mom, Mindy, got to the point where when Grant got a good report home from the teacher she gave him a banana split....for breakfast. "There's worse things, than a banana split for breakfast, right? I mean, there's fruit in there at least" she concluded. I concur.
Grant is on the track team. His main event is the hurtles, but he'll probably also do the 4x400.
We were talking about flexibility because I wanted to have him sitting in some of the shots. He said that because it's the off-season he's not super flexible right now. But during the season they stretch for like 45 minutes a day (!) and he improves a ton.
Grant's dad was an FBI agent, so that begged the question. "Are you going to apply?" I asked? He answered with a resounding "No." He explained that when starting out you can actually make more money in the Livermore PD than as an FBI agent. And that it takes several years of rising through the ranks to finally make a decent salary. You also can't hold any other part time jobs while you work there in order to supplement your income. "They own you" is the consensus. Interesting.
Speaking of owning... Grant is the owner of a Cap & Gown mini session in the spring so I'll be posting more pictures of him then and we'll get to find out where he'll be next year. Can't wait to have you in front of my lens again Grant!
When I first asked Braxton what he was into he produced this crazy list that included about everything I could think of and ended with cliff jumping. So I was like, "water polo, fishing, wake boarding, baseball...cliff jumping. Right. Cliff jumping. Sure." And then lo, I was looking at his instagram and there was a picture of him...jumping off a cliff.
He really does do all these things. And he's actually into a whole lot more that he didn't even mention up front. For starters he is taking the photography class at Amador right now and he has his own photography page. I love getting all nerdy talking to seniors who are into photography and Braxton didn't disappoint. I can really appreciate the complete and utter despair that he suffered when his neg development process went awry and he lost a spectacular shot of two motorcycles that were both popping wheelies that he shot from on top of a bridge. I have so been there. Braxton also had several ideas to contribute to his own shoot involving his baseball glove, which were fantastic.
We talked about colleges a bit-- it is that time of year after all. He explained that he actually submitted 3 apps earlier that very day but had about 8 more to go. He's applying to schools mostly on the west coast but then threw out North Dakota. "North Dakota, huh?" I said. "For aviation," he explained. In addition to an interest in history, finance, and business, he's considering pursuing aviation. He actually has plans to start taking classes at the Livermore Airport next semester.
Braxton plays baseball for two different teams- AVHS during the normal season and a traveling team in based in Danville the rest of the time. He also manages to work as a lifeguard at the Pleasanton Valley Club in the summer, which meant that we knew a ton of people in common. It's such a small world.
Braxton, with all your diverse interests, I can't wait to see where you end up next year!
Can you imagine leaving California in 5th grade, moving to Kansas for the next 6 years, and then moving back at the start of your senior year of high school? Well that's what Kaylee did and all I could think of was how hard it would be to re-establish a group of friends but she just shrugged and said it wasn't a big deal.
When she got back in town she looked up her old friends from 5th grade and it turns out that they still hit it off. I found that oddly reassuring-- that peoples' personalities don't actually change that much from elementary school to the end of high school.
I also asked her if she found the people in California to be different from the people in Kansas and she said, "Not really." Also reassuring.
Speaking of reassuring, Kaylee's already been admitted to one university (yay ASU!) but she's still working on more applications including her dream school: Colorado State.
Kaylee already knows what she wants to study-- she is going to be a vet, and although Colorado State doesn't have a dedicated vet program for undergrads (most schools don't) she's already mapped out her animal sciences major. And back when she lived in Kansas she got a ton of experience in vet clinics helping getting animals ready for surgery.
She told me that she once put an IV into a llama! "Umm..." I said, "How do you do that, exactly? I mean, with all that fur, how do you even know where the veins are?" Somewhat cryptically she said, "there are ways." Since I am NOT a needle person, I left it at that.
Because a love of animals is a huge element in Kaylee's life she brought one of her dogs, Dany, to her portrait session. Dany was, at times, a reluctant doggie model but I think she did enjoy walking around the Arroyo and hanging out with us for part of the shoot.
Kaylee I can't wait to see you back for your cap & gown shoot in the spring, hopefully in a CSU shirt! Crossing fingers for ya!
I am a high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.