You Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em

One of the most important things I do as a professional photographer is assess the situation and respond in a way that will bring the maximum benefit to my clients.

You Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em | Family Photos at Home

A really good example of this - and of things not going according to plan - was my session with the Ovard family this June. We had talked about wanting sky and mountains to match Gina’s newly redecorated home, and our consultation left me excited about finding a location that would showcase her neutrals and blues. We had planned on the lavender fields, but because of timing issues, we couldn’t make the 1 ½ hour drive. So, I decided to create her portraits with our stunning Mount Timpanogos as the backdrop.

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She was very keen on this because of her love of the mountain, and so we headed up with the family on a June evening. We were able to get one family grouping with that awe-inspiring vista.

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Then, the surprises that awaited us were ticks, cranky kids, and hot wind. I could tell after creating a few portraits that even though they were willing, they were not relaxed, and I knew the portraits would reflect their unease. I made the executive decision to move the session to the family home, and it turns out that was exactly the right call. At home, the kids were comfortable, had snacks and drinks, and were 1000% more eager to let me goof off with them. The home itself has beautiful neutrals and blues in its exterior, and is meticulously landscaped.

We wrapped up the session in less than 30 minutes, with perfect lighting. I love the resulting images.

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Notes for me for the future: be flexible in the experience. We can plan as much as we want, but there will always be unexpected surprises that will try to sabotage our best efforts. Also, don’t underestimate a family’s home as a great location for portraits.

We are Better Together

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We are Better Together | Red Butte Gardens Family Portraits

There are some families that know the value of sharing the same photographic space together, and none more than the Little family. I met Heather Little Pickett through the Intermountain Professional Photographer association, and have since counted her among my best friends.

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Her sense of style and color theory has always been en pointe, so she said she’d cover the wardrobe selection. When we were meeting with her mom, Laurie, and planning out their family portraits, they showed me albums and wall portraits of various ages - treasures to be sure.

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We all decided that for the album, we needed another photographer there to capture some loose, documentary moments, while I could focus on the detailed posed portraits. Enter Mary Kim Oswald who is like my soul’s twin and a truly inspiring photographer herself.

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So if you’re keeping track, that’s three professionals on one portrait session. And we had two assistants - our daughters - and I’m telling you, I would have a crew of five on every session if I could! The results were an easy-going session, where the kids could roam around the beautiful Red Butte Gardens while we were creating portraits.

The family then ended the evening with Laurie’s Pinterest-worthy Root Beer floats, and I think the experience will remain a positive memory for everyone - even Great Grandma (heh heh).

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When I think back on this session, and why it turned out so well, I know it was due to the planning put in by Laurie and Heather. But it was also having the luxury of a gorgeous location with the right lighting - something that doesn’t always happen. And with Mary Kim there to fill in the gaps for the album, it was kind of a perfect storm. I want to do it again.

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Oh yeah, and Mary Kim got this awesome Behind the Scenes shot of me launching Olaf for laughs. I love how ridiculous I can be for kids!

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Thor’s Judgement

All-Inclusive Photography Packages

Our family has been obsessed with the Avengers all year. We absolutely LOVED Endgame, and have seen it 4 times in the theaters thus far. One of my all-time favorite Marvel movies is Thor, Ragnarok. I even have a playlist of songs that is dedicated to the God of Thunder. I absolutely LOVE what they did with Thor’s character in Endgame, and I can not wait for the next Thor movie coming out in 2021: Love and Thunder.

All this considered, I must still be categorized as “not worthy”, because Thor decided to wreak havoc on our home via a lightning strike to our trees on April 26th this year. We lost all sorts of random electronics in our home: garage door opener, furnace transformer, treadmill, internet router… but the biggest loss was my two 5-drive raid towers with all my data and back-ups for my personal and client photos for the past two years. All of my back-up systems in place were completely useless in the face of one lightning bolt, and I am still waiting to find out if the data recovery team at DriveSavers can retract anything. I am remaining optimistic, however, and moving forward with online backup systems.

This experience has left me wondering how to best serve my clients in the future. I started photography in the late 90’s with film, and so most of my clients are print people. They recognize the value of a tangible product that is professionally crafted and displayed in their homes. I also have a few clients who want the printing rights and electronic images for publishing and archiving purposes. And the thought of my clients having a digital backup system of their images is very appealing to me after Thor’s shenanigans this spring. After pondering the issue for a few months, I have decided to offer all-inclusive packages that have both printed portraits as well as electronic files with licensing.

The first is this beautiful Keepsake Box. Each box comes with 5, 10, 15, or 20 portrait cards that are easily kept together as a set, or separated and framed for gifts or display. Also included are the electronic images and printing license. 

The other all-inclusive package I offer is an absolutely gorgeous and meticulously-crafted album with storage box and electronic images. Both the keepsake box and this album are crafted in Europe and are the best-quality product I have found while hunting the trade-show floors of conventions for years. The album has silk pages that feel like fabric rather than paper, and the binding is solid and crisp. Can you tell I’m drooling?

You can combine either the Keepsake Box or the Elite Album with any additional framed art pieces for your home. It’s a win-win for me and for you and your future generations. And please, PLEASE, for the love of Thor, print your family photos! I may have lost two years of our lives, and it’s physically painful for me. Lesson learned.


PS - Princess Leia kitty approves of this message.

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Lavender’s Hot, dilly, dilly…

Everyone knows the lavender fields in Mona, owned by Young Living Family Farm are a unique, beautiful location for portraits every June/July. But I’m starting to wonder if they are worth the hassle.

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Firstly, in order to secure reservations, one needs to call in January/February when they open their calendar, and it’s first-come-first-served. It’s like trying for a hiking permit to the Wave, and I never know how many sessions to purchase.

This year, they also changed their hours. No longer are we able to stay until sunset - when the lighting gets good. I understand it’s for security reasons, but really, standing out in an open field in the middle of July with no shade isn’t what I’d call stacking the deck in your favor. At any rate, even though we had scorching heat and were all sweating rivers, the Belcher family were darn good to face it all with cheerful faces and burning retinas. And if I hadn’t just told you about what a chore it was, you’d never have guessed by their images.

The key is making your own shade with a scrim or parabolic, and then adding flash to fill in those shadows. I was grateful I knew harsh lighting techniques, and that they were willing to face full sun for some. I love the natural feel - and there truly is nothing that compares to lavender and sky!

The kids walking and piggy-backing through the fields is one of my all-time favorite. Also worthy of mention are the park gardens. I have done a couple sessions in their actual park, and it is absolutely beautiful - shady and gorgeously landscaped. We finished our session in the cool shade, and there is still plenty of lavender and other colors. I actually love it there.

Anyway, what do you think? Is this location worth the effort? Should I pick up any sessions next season?