It's Been a Great Week! | Orlando Senior and Fine Art Photographer

I woke up yesterday morning to an email telling me that I had been published on the CM photography blog! I submitted the article months ago, but seeing it in print was like seeing it for the first time. I think I smiled all day. Follow this link to read how shooting the same subject every day helped me grow as an artist! Warning - it's full of black kitten cuteness.

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It's been a great week, overflowing with things that make my life full -- like seeing my kids grow and thrive. On Sunday morning, we moved my 18-year-old into his first dorm. I miss seeing him every day, but I'm bubbling over with pride as well. It's bittersweet.

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And my younger three returned to high school. It's been great to see them reconnect with friends and settle into their classes. And now I know from experience, not to sweat the small stuff because I'm going to blink, and they'll be off to college as well.

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And then, this morning, for the first time in many years, I stood before a classroom of kids and parents. This year I'm teaching photography to elementary and middle school students. I really can't think of anything better. 

Lot's of changes around here. Good changes! I can't wait to see what this school year brings.

Summer Art | Orlando Fine Art Photographer

I've spent the first part of this summer mainly shooting for myself. I've played with my specialty lenses and embraced bold color. Here are a few of my favorites. The last landscape is an older work that I re-edited this week.

  Even the Tools are Beautiful

Even the Tools are Beautiful

  Purple Daisy

Purple Daisy

  Preppy Pink and Green for Summer

Preppy Pink and Green for Summer

  Summer Gown with Flowing Skirt

Summer Gown with Flowing Skirt

  Daisy with a Little Curl

Daisy with a Little Curl

  It's a Daisy Quartet

It's a Daisy Quartet

  Still Waters Run Deep

Still Waters Run Deep

How I Get Fine Art Portraits of My Teenage Sons | Orlando Senior Portrait Photographer

Of course it's a generalization, but most teen boys aren't really into posing for portraits. So how do I get fine art portraits of my teenage sons? By photographing them doing something they love - like playing video games, for example!

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My magic words when photographing my teens, both boys and girls, are, "Just ignore me. You don't have to pose." My kids are used to seeing me with my camera out every day, and as long as they don't have to do anything, most of the time, they are OK for me to shoot photos of them. And if for some reason, they say, "No," I respect that and move on.

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When shooting fine art portraits, lighting is key. On this morning, I noticed that the TV was lighting up his face as he played video games in an otherwise dark room. At that point, I picked up my camera. I also like plain backgrounds and simple clothing with no words or logos when shooting fine art portraits. Because this was shot early on a Sunday morning, he was wearing a plain polo for church. And I quickly removed a large piece of wall art that was behind him as he sat on the sofa.

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I LOVE fine art portraits in high contrast black and white. Straight out of my camera, these images had all kinds of crazy colors reflecting off the TV onto his face, but that was OK, because I knew I was shooting for black and white. If you'd like to learn more about how I get this look in editing, see this tutorial I wrote on editing high contrast black and white over at Clickin Moms.

All images in this post were shot with a Canon 6D and a Canon 35mm 1.4 L lens. Black and white edit was done in Adobe Lightoom.

How to Get Variety In Your Senior Pictures | Taylor's Winter Park Photo Shoot | Orlando Senior Photographer

My favorite shoots are senior portrait shoots. I love the whole process - from planning, to actually shooting, to editing, to delivering the photos. And I get a special thrill from opening my mailbox to see a graduation announcement made from a photo I shot.

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My style is uncluttered and modern and fun. And one of my goals on every shoot is to give my senior client a gallery full of variety. 

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There are two decisions we make early in the planning process that ensure a unique gallery with a variety of images. The first decision is where to shoot. For Taylor's senior portraits, I suggested a rural location - basically a wild overgrown field - or a more urban location - downtown Winter Park, FL. Taylor chose Winter Park.

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What I love about Winter Park is there is so much variety - all within walking distance. Winter Park has lush foliage, brick streets, unique architecture, sparkling fountains, and all sorts of little nooks and crannies that the casual observer might overlook, but to a photographer -- those little spaces are gold! 

I look for backgrounds that are non-distracting, but add interesting elements - like color and texture. I also look for a variety of ways to "frame my subject." And of course, I'm looking for beautiful light in every shot.

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The second important decision that is made in the planning stages is wardrobe. Taylor and I texted back and forth about her wardrobe and in the end, she chose two outfits -- a floral romper and a simple blue dress. 

Just changing clothes once gave us variety in the images, while still leaving lots of time to shoot. If Taylor had wanted even more variety, she could have added a hat or scarf or jacket or changed up her accessories in some other way.

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I love close-ups and head shots, but for senior portraits, I try and remind myself to get some wide angle and full body shots too. So much variety can be added with posing and camera angles - all at a single location.

Once I know the location we'll be shooting at and what my senior client will be wearing, I put together a rough plan for our shoot. But on the day of our shoot, I'm always on the lookout for the unexpected. Who would have known that the ground in this spot would be covered with fallen blossoms that pretty much matched Taylor's romper? While Taylor and I shot some photos a few feet away, I asked her mom and friend to gather up as many of the blossoms as they could. They piled them on my reflector and for the shot below, they rained down flowers on Taylor as she laughed. 

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So those are my favorite ways to get a variety of images in a senior portrait gallery. It all starts with picking a great location and wardrobe. And then, it continues with decisions I make during the actual shoot. I work my plan, all the while keeping my eyes open for the unexpected and magical along the way.

Reaching, Stretching, and Accomplishing Goals! | Orlando Fine Art Photographer

I've been reaching a little lately. . . trying new things. . . seeking to stretch my artistic vision a bit. One thing I do when I want to bust out of a creative rut and see things in a new way is break out the Lensbaby lens. On Saturday, I walked through the garden shop at a local home improvement store. 

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Now I'm not sure if I'm really allowed to shoot at the home improvement store or not, but I just acted like I belonged, and decided beforehand that if an employee asked me to stop, I'd promptly put my camera away. But from doing street photography, I've learned that when you act like you belong there, most people assume you do belong there. A couple of teenage employees asked me if I was getting good shots, but that was it. 

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Lensbaby lenses are manual focus, so I have to really, really slow down to get good images. But it's just that slowing down that allows me to see, and think, and compose with intention. 

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I pulled out my Lensbaby again last night while I waited for my kids to finish soccer practice.

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Ordinary things can look magical. That Lensbaby blur caused the colors and light in this landscape to take center stage. 

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And then, today I crossed one of my 2018 photography goals off my list! I had a black and white editing tutorial posted on a major photography blog. If you've followed my photography at all, you know I love black and white, but what most people don't know is that it takes a lot more than just pushing a button to make a beautiful black and white image. If you'd like to read my tips and tricks for editing high contrast black and white images in Lightroom, head over to Clickin Moms to read my post. There's even a video demo where I walk you through an edit, start to finish.

Reaching, stretching, accomplishing goals. It's been a good week so far.

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Shoot and Share and Why I Submit My Work | Orlando Fine Art Photographer

I submit my work. I submit images for critique to online professional forums. I submit work to online magazines. I submit work to competitions. Getting feedback and seeing how my work resonates with viewers - both other professionals and just the general public, pushes me as an artist. Sometimes I even tag a lens company when I get an amazing shot with their product. 

This spring I submitted 50 images to the Shoot and Share Contest. My 50 went into a pile of over 1.1 million submissions. For several weeks, people from around the world voted on these photos. Anyone, anywhere can vote in this contest. Professional photographers, for sure, but also kids and grandmas and lots of ordinary people. Voting is anonymous and super simple. Four images appear on your screen. You click your favorite. That's it. You can vote as many times as you'd like. And with 1.1 million images, there's really no way to rig the contest. I could get all my friends and family to vote for hours, and they might never see one of my photos.

In the end, over 81 million votes were cast, and 17 of my photos received awards. Two were even finalists.

  Finalist, Creative/Personal Projects, 13,502 total entries

Finalist, Creative/Personal Projects, 13,502 total entries

  Finalist, Passion Projects, 1,998 total entries

Finalist, Passion Projects, 1,998 total entries

This is a different kind of contest. It's not necessarily the most technically correct or the most artistically amazing photos that win. No one is evaluating them that closely. It's just 4 photos. . . Click. . . four more. . . click. In the end, I call it a "first impression" contest. You just have a few seconds to wow the viewer, and beat out the other three photos for that click.

Because of that, it's important to choose photos with a "Wow" factor or images that evoke strong emotion. Color seems to win over black and white. Images that require some analyzing to truly appreciate them often get knocked out in the early rounds of the contest. 

  Top 10%, People Portraits, 14, 733 total entries

Top 10%, People Portraits, 14, 733 total entries

  Top 10%, People Portraits, 14, 733 total entries

Top 10%, People Portraits, 14, 733 total entries

  Top 10%, Teens & Seniors, 29,460 total entries

Top 10%, Teens & Seniors, 29,460 total entries

  Top 10%, Creative/Personal Projects, 13,502 total entries

Top 10%, Creative/Personal Projects, 13,502 total entries

  Top 10%, Travel / Landscape, 16,373 total entries

Top 10%, Travel / Landscape, 16,373 total entries

  Top 10%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

Top 10%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

  Top 10%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

Top 10%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

  Top 10%, Creative/Personal Projects, 13,502 total entries

Top 10%, Creative/Personal Projects, 13,502 total entries

  Top 20%, People Portraits, 14, 733 total entries

Top 20%, People Portraits, 14, 733 total entries

  Top 20%, Teens & Seniors, 29,460 total entries

Top 20%, Teens & Seniors, 29,460 total entries

  Top 20%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

Top 20%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

  Top 30%, Teens & Seniors, 29,460 total entries

Top 30%, Teens & Seniors, 29,460 total entries

  Top 30%, Travel / Landscape, 16,373 total entries

Top 30%, Travel / Landscape, 16,373 total entries

  Top 30%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

Top 30%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

The voters have spoken! Over 81 million times! I probably wasted way too many hours voting, and probably obsessed just a little too much while waiting on the results. But it sure feels good to see which images the voters liked the most. And that some of my personal favorites were their favorites too is just icing on the cake!

  Top 30%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries

Top 30%, Pets / Animals, 14,426 total entries