Tag Archives: girl

Westminster, CO | Documentary Portraits | Molly & Balloon

With all of the below zero weather this week, I was really longing for some summer sun. I went back through some of my photo shoots from last summer and pulled these documentary portraits of Molly. They were shot during a concert at the Westminster Promenade in Westminster, CO. Molly was having a great time playing with the black balloons while staying in the shade of the Westminster High School tent.

The dark tent overhead, with light streaming in from all sides, made for some beautiful light; and the dark balloons next to Molly’s light skin created really interesting contrast in the images.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Natural Light

Nikon F3
Nikon 50mm f1.4
Ilford HP5 Plus
Ilford Ilfotec DD-X (9min @ 20C)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Arvada, CO | Children’s Portraits | End of Year Collage

I have posted previously about a collage that I created for one of my seniors. For the holidays, I decided to take that idea and apply it to a bunch of pictures that I had made of my girls thoughout the year. I put together the collage you see below and we gave prints to Grandmas and Grandpas. I think this ended up being a cool way to display a variety of pictures, and it tells a much more complete story than any single image ever could.

These collages would also work really well to display a selection of pictures from one of my documentary family or children’s portrait sessions. Over the course of a single shoot we might not get enough images to put together a complete album, but we will almost always get enough great images to put together an interesting collage. If a collage seems like something you might be interested in, just let me know.

You can click on the image to see it larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Collage created in Adobe Photoshop CS5
Mixture of film and digital captures

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Arvada, CO | Outdoor Children’s Portraits | Emma+Molly+Tree

There has been a lot of black and white stuff up on the blog recently, so I wanted to break things up with a bit of color. Below are a few portraits of the girls that I shot back before Christmas. I needed to get prints of these pictures in short order, for presents, so I shot digitally. I think the digital files held up pretty well. It would be nice to have a little more highlight detail (like I can get with film), but the prints still look really nice.

Even though these are my own kids, this was a pretty typical “kid’s session” for me. For this shoot, I was more focused on nailing the traditional portraits than I normally would be. We were working on a pretty limited time table, and I knew I was going for a couple of nice prints rather than a photo story or session album. We had to shoot pretty fast because the light was falling and it was pretty cold (but not that cold considering it was December in Colorado).

I find, when photographing kids, it makes things easier if I have something for them to interact with. It takes their mind off of the camera and allows me to get more natural expressions. In this case, we used an almond tree in my parent’s back yard as our “prop”.

We waited for late afternoon to get warm, directional light. I placed the sun at the girls’ backs to give nice rim lighting on their hair and to help show the texture of the tree.

One other element in this shoot was camera angle. You will notice that I was moving around a lot. Some of the shots I was standing on a chair to get a higher angle, and some of the shots I was sitting or laying on the ground to get a lower angle. I like to move around to keep the images from a shoot constantly changing. It allows me to get a variety of different looks from a single location.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon D70s
Nikon 35mm f2
ISO 200
Adobe Camera Raw

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Brighton, CO | Documentary Portraits | Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas!

Here are a couple of documentary portraits from a couple years ago on Christmas day. I like the fact that they include the Christmas tree, but it is subtle and out of focus in the background. I also really like the tones and grain visible in these film scans. As usual, these were shot with available light, in the natural surroundings. Just a couple of quick snaps after the kids had opened their presents. It doesn’t take a lot of time to get great shots. Simply pay attention to the light, the situation, and expressions and be ready with the camera. That is the fun, and the challenge, of documentary portraiture.

You can click on the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon N90s
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Documenting Your Family | Photo Tips | Tell An Authentic Story

With the advent of digital scrapbooking, and inexpensive one-off book printing, it is more important than ever to tell a story with your pictures. Rather than thinking about your final product being a print, think about a series of prints or a layout in your very own coffee table book.

When you work in this way, not every picture needs to be able to stand on it’s own. If fact, they probably shouldn’t. Some pictures will just be there to reveal a detail or give a broader view. Some pictures may even be presented simply to give a visual break. The trick is to remember to shoot these “supporting” images as you are out shooting your more traditional portraits and snapshots.

Also, when you are working in a story format, not every picture needs to be technically perfect. You are free to do some experimentation – dramatic lighting, motion blur, soft focus, interesting angles, etc. These elements can all bring depth to a photo story, as long as you already have a few “safe” shots in the bag.

So, when you are out shooting pictures of your family, try to think about how the pictures you are making will work together as a story and whether that story authentically captures the situation.  Remember to experiment with different techniques and grab some of the supporting shots that will add the flavor to your story.

This weekend, get out with your family and try to find a story to tell. I’ll be curious to find out if you found this information useful.


Below is a series of images of Emma that I shot in Glenwood Springs, CO. You will notice that almost all of these are of the more “experimental” variety (my favorite variety) – We have a cropped portrait with dramatic light and motion blur; another portrait shot from a low angle; an “action” shot that focus on leaves and grass rather than Emma walking; a detail picture that doesn’t even include Emma; and a picture of her climbing on the playground, completely unaware of the camera.

Of course, there are a few elements that tie these disparate images together – Emma’s clothes and hair remain consistent, and the pictures were all shot on the same camera/lens/film combination. But I feel like the pictures are really unified and given a purpose by the final, traditional, portrait. It’s clean and sharp and she has a great expression on her face.

You can click on the images to see them larger and read a caption. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon F3
Nikon 35mm f2.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Arvada, CO | Documentary Portraits | Real Baby, Really Cute

It’s hard to shoot a picture of a baby that isn’t really cute, but you don’t see a lot of portraits of babies that are really real. They are usually laying on a white background, or sitting on a blanket covered with roses, or popping out of a cabbage patch in a costume. While those types of pictures are fun, they don’t really tell you much about that baby’s personality, or what makes them different.

Below, I have some documentary style baby portraits. These pictures were made in a real location, with natural light and authentic everyday baby clothes. Through the pictures, you can relate to this little one’s environment and understand how  she interacts with the world. They give you a good sense of how old she is, and where she is in her development. She is alert and aware – curious about the camera. She is able to pull herself up to a sitting position. She is very tactile, using her fingers to better understand her surroundings. This is all important information that can be effectively communicated through documentary portraits. And of course, you also get to see all the “cuteness” visible in a more traditional studio portrait – the big eyes, the peach fuzz hair, the chubby cheeks. I think it is the combination of all these elements that makes for interesting pictures.

You can click on any of the pictures to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Nikon N90s
Nikon 50mm f1.8
Ilford HP5 Plus
DR5 Process (B&W Slide)

Camera Scan
Sigma SD9
Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro
Photosolve Xtend-a-Slide

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Northglenn, CO | WHS Senior Portrait Session | Collage

Here is a collage that Breanna asked me to create using her favorite images from our Senior Portrait session this summer. This image is pretty different from the work I usually put up on the blog – I tend to lean more towards black and white images on simple backgrounds. But this was a fun project, and it shows the variety of opportunities that are opened up with technology.

Having been out of high school for more than a few years, I didn’t know that collages were “a thing”.  Now that I have had my eyes opened to the possibilities, I am definitely interested in where they may lead. Collages seem to be a great way to showcase a wider variety of imagery and include some of the “edgier” pictures that might never see the light of day in the traditional world of 8X10’s hanging on the wall.

Anything that lets people see portraiture in a new context, and exposes them to interesting imagery, is okay in my book. What are your thoughts?

You can click on the image to see it lager. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Collage created in Adobe Photoshop CS5
Images are a mixture of film (Fuji Pro 400H) and digital (Nikon D70s) captures

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Documenting Your Family | Photo Tips | Get On Their Level

One of the keys to getting great pictures of kids, is getting down on their level. This simple step accomplishes a few things…

  • It opens your eyes to the way children see the world, and helps you relate to them.
  • It can give interesting backgrounds that mostly go ignored by us grownups.
  • It helps hold kids’ attention, as they are unaccustomed to having the big people look them in the eye.
  • It makes the little ones smile, they love watching us struggle to move around for a change.
  • It lets your camera really see into a child’s eyes, rather than looking up through their eyelashes

So what does moving down to the kid’s level mean from a technical perspective? Since you are lower and pointing your camera up, you are likely to have some sky or brightly lit background in the frame. This can trick your camera’s light meter and cause the images to be underexposed. Just be aware of this as you are shooting. If your camera allows, it might be a good idea to dial in some exposure compensation.

Another thing to consider is your clothing. When I work with kids, I almost always wear jeans or shorts because I am invariably kneeling, sitting or rolling around on the ground. This makes kids laugh, and keeps the atmosphere light, but it is hard on dress clothes.

Below are some pictures from a shoot with Molly. You will notice that I was moving up and down as I was shooting these. I was also moving in and out (with my feet, since I don’t really use zoom lenses). I think this is an important point – allowing the kids to move around, and you yourself moving around, keeps everyone animated and engaged.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Natural Light
Nikon D70s
Nikon 35mm f2
Adobe Camera Raw – no actions or filters

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Arvada, CO | Documentary Portraits | Family Pumpkin Picking

Halloween is here again! I hope you have your pumpkin picked out.

Below are some documentary pictures from our pumpkin picking adventure this fall. The whole crew went over to my Mom and Dad’s place where Dad has a big garden with a small pumpkin patch. The kids all got to pick out a couple of pumpkins and there were still a few left over to give to some of the kid’s friends.

I really like these pictures for a few reasons… first is the light. We did this in the late afternoon, so the light was warm and directional, perfect for these kinds of pictures. If you are scheduling a family event that might provide good photo-ops, always try to take advantage of the light at the end of the day.

Another thing that I like about these pictures is the authenticity. Everyone looks real. Julie and Luke just got out of work, so they are wearing their work clothes. Dad is pretty much always dressed just like this – jeans, pocketed t-shirt and a big hat (in the winter he adds a flannel shirt). It’s the end of the day, so the kids hair and clothes are messy, and they have stuff all over their faces – just as you would expect. These pictures really document our family, not some idealized version, our real family.

This kind of authenticity is what I always strive for in my documentary portrait sessions – family fun, real locations, natural light, comfortable clothing – perfect. So if you have a family event coming up that could benefit from some authentic documentation, give me a call.

You can click on any of the images to see them larger. Enjoy…

Tech Info:
Late afternoon light
Nikon D70s
Nikon 35mm f2.0
Adobe Camera Raw

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Documenting Your Family | Photo Tips | It’s Your Frame, Use It

  Probably the most famous documentary photographer of all time was Henri Cartier-Bresson. He was best know for images that capture the “decisive moment” (a phrase that he coined). And while his images certainly embody this idea, I think there is another aspect of his work that is too often overlooked – his conscious choice about every element that was included in (or excluded from) his frame. He typically worked with a Leica rangefinder camera, meaning he was not looking through the picture taking lens, but he was still able to beautifully frame his photographs. Neither leaving in extraneous elements or omitting important aspects of the image.

When you are out making pictures of your family, it is important that you be conscious of what is in your frame. Notice that I wrote making pictures, as opposed to taking pictures. That is what you are doing, you are making the decisions about what you include in your frame. Include elements that add to the story or give context, exclude elements that are unnecessary or distracting.

In the two pictures above, you will notice that one works and one doesn’t. The person walking through the background in the second image is distracting and really should not be there. For these shots, I had made the conscious choice to stop the bottom of the frame on the black rubber of the swing and not include Molly’s legs. This did a few things, it helped center her face in the frame, it allowed me to add a lot of the chains to help explain what is going on, and it shows a lot of the climbing wall in the background, adding context to the image. Now it takes a lot longer to write (or read) all of that than it does to actually come to the decision. After you start thinking in this way, it becomes pretty instinctual.

So what went wrong with that second frame? After I had made my decisions and framed the shot, I could only shoot one frame every time Molly swung into the proper position. In the first frame it worked perfectly – Molly swung into frame, I clicked the shutter – bang! – properly framed and focused image. Immediately after I made this image, a woman walked into frame from camera right. I was so busy concentrating on Molly’s position, I didn’t even notice… Until just after I pressed the shutter. No great loss, it was only one frame and I could even crop it to a square and exclude the background if I wanted to. Also, this was a pretty complicated situation. Normally it is pretty easy to look over your entire frame before clicking the shutter.

The trick to nailing this technique is simply to make it a habit to look around your frame before making the picture. I always start by deciding what is my center of interest (the most important thing in the picture) and then placing it where I want it in the frame (generally NOT dead center). I then let my eye do a clockwise lap of the frame edges. This picks up anything weird going on in the rest of the image. I am especially watchful for things that might be cut-off or jutt into frame.

The above process will seem slow at first, but as you get used to it, you will pick up speed and before long it will become a habit and you won’t even realize you are doing it. This habit should really improve the quality of your pictures, especially if you are using a point-and-shoot digital camera where everything is always in focus.

So give this technique a try and let me know what you think.

P.S. Here is the second image cropped to exclude the distracting background…

Tech Info:
Nikon F100
Nikon 50mm f1.4
Legacy Pro 400 (AKA Fuji Neopan 400)
Richard Photo Lab

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