Art Everywhere - The Seeing Series Part II | Orlando Senior Portraits

I’ll say it again. The biggest gift photography has given me is the gift of “seeing.”

It wasn’t automatic. At first, I was consumed with all the dials and settings. Trying to get the exposure right. Trying to nail the focus. My brain can only think about so many things at once.

But eventually, with hours, and weeks, and perhaps even years of practice, all that became second nature. And I began to “see” differently. I began finding art everywhere.


I noticed a shift in my senior sessions recently. After getting the “safe” portraits my clients are expecting, I’ve started to take more risks. What will it hurt if I try something crazy? It might be an epic fail. Or it might be simply EPIC.

This senior had an amazing concept for his senior portraits. He wanted to wake surf wearing a suit. We spent an afternoon on the lake shooting tons of action shots. I knew we had nailed it. As we were heading back to the dock, I “saw” that sunset. And I decided to shoot this last shot - an image with him surfing home in the shadows. In the end, it turned out to be my favorite, even though you can’t see his face in detail.


I get two questions over and over when I share this image. First of all, “Why isn’t he wet?” That even led to a few people suggesting that maybe I used Photoshop to edit him into this scene. Actually he is wet. You just can’t see it because he is in the shadows.

The second question is, “Didn’t he ruin that suit?” Probably. But he bought it at Goodwill just for our photo shoot so it’s all good.

While traveling this past summer, I shot this senior’s portraits in downtown Huntsville, AL. She was all in for both traditional and more creative shots. I love the way we were able to use the hard light and shadows to get this unique image.


Later, we placed her in this street art mural for another unique portrait.


With my own work, I’ve been experimenting a lot. Sometimes “seeing” involves seeing what could be more than just seeing what is already there. I’ve been working on a series shot through rainy windows. Often these do involve combining more than one image. I see it in my mind first, and then I shoot the images to create my vision.


Art. . . Creativity. . . Seeing. This fall, I’m pondering these ideas as I teach photography at a local private school. My students are 4th-8th graders. And they are amazing. Creative and fearless. We talk a lot about “seeing like a photographer.” And they get it. They see light and shadows and reflections. They experiment with unusual angles. They are true artists in every sense of the word.

To read Part I of “The Seeing Series,” click here.


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!

Orlando Senior Pictures Fine Art teen boy (1 of 5).jpg
Orlando Senior Pictures Fine Art teen boy (2 of 5).jpg
Senior Pictures Fine Art teen boy (3 of 5).jpg

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.

Senior Pictures Fine Art teen boy (4 of 5).jpg

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.

Senior Pictures Fine Art teen boy (5 of 5).jpg

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.

Winter Park Senior Portrait (11 of 29).jpg

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. 

Orlando Photographer Senior-1.jpg

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.

Winter Park Senior Portrait (5 of 29).jpg

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.

Winter Park Senior Portrait (24 of 29).jpg

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.

Orlando Photographer Senior-4.jpg
Orlando Photographer Senior-2.jpg
Winter Park Senior Portrait (14 of 29).jpg
Winter Park Senior Portrait (20 of 29).jpg
Winter Park Senior Portrait (12 of 29).jpg

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. 

Orlando Photographer Senior-3.jpg

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.