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.
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!
I did the cherry blossom shooting over two consecutive weekends.
And from one week to the next we switched from a high of 70 degrees to around 50. So appreciate that this set was taken when it was pretty dang cold! The shots of Kaitlyn (down at the bottom) were after the sun had set and it was probably 45 degrees for her there!
But I think that this particular shoot is so unique, so different from anything else that you can get in our little valley, that everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. And I'm so glad that they did! I hope you love these shots as much as I do. Enjoy!
Oh yes! So I've had several other photographers ask me how I styled this shoot. And the quick answer is that I briefly explained to my team what I had in mind via email and I included a link to a Pinterest board for inspiration on makeup, hair, and outfit ideas. If you'd like to check out the board it is here:
A cherry blossom shoot has been on my bucket list forever. I've been kind of obsessed with cherry blossoms for a long time. In fact, I actually used a fine art Japanese paper called Chiyogami featuring a cherry blossom print for my wedding invitations. At any rate, this year I finally pulled off the shoot-- thanks in no small part to this phenomenal team of girls who managed to pull my style vision into reality with a scant 4 days notice.
As soon as the white flowering trees started to pop, I went to check on the grove of pink ones and sure enough they were about a week out. The weather was an amazing 70 degrees for February. Everything just came together like magic. Enjoy!
At our Galentine's shoot Team 19 had fun playing around with some heart props, making valentines, and hanging out while listening to music. Oh yeah, we also took some pictures...and pictures of taking pictures... Happy Valentine's/Galentine's Day!
After a whirlwind couple of weeks, with a record number of applications, I'm proud to announce the thirteen members of Team 19! These lovely young ladies will be representing Samantha Grant Photography over the coming year and will be featured in a number of stylized shoots. Stay tuned to see great things from this fantastic group of local students!
"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.
I love shooting in downtown Livermore. There are so many interesting walls and fences and little nooks and crannies; it's possible to get tons of variety of imagery within a very small walkable radius. And every time I go I discover something new. This photoshoot started out at one of my favorite spots which features a highly unusual *turquoise* (swoon!) brick wall. I wanted to begin there because my model brand rep, Adelle, happens to have blue eyes and I thought this wall would really make them pop. Sure did!
Her eyes really are this color. No photoshop magic here, I swear. Adelle has this great collection of glasses so I asked her to bring some along. I've heard this particular style referred to as "1980s serial killer" glasses. Funny, right?
After the brick wall I thought it would be a good time to hit up some graffiti. (Attention taggers of Livermore: can you please up your game? I like your color palette, but please can you work on your hand lettering?) Anyways, luckily for us the graffiti was right next to some corrugated metal. Location GOLDMINE!
This next spot was a total fluke. The third place I wanted to try wasn't going to work because of the light at that time of day so I thought "let's just go find an abandoned lot." So we found one and walked across it, and low and behold was this sign... "Purity Cleaners". OMG. I literally was speechless, dumbstruck by our luck.
The other side of the lot had a few trees and and abandoned trailer. Score!
A little behind the scenes here with a reflector...
Select dates in November are still available for senior portraits. Book now in order to reserve your sunset session.
I am a high school senior portrait photographer in the SF east bay area.