High School Senior Pictures - Michael - Fairport Class of 2016

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High School Senior Pictures - Michael - Fairport Class of 2016

I had photographed Michael several times with the Fairport high school hockey teams, which made him feel very comfortable during his senior portrait session.  The more comfortable someone is during their session, the better the resulting photos will be.  Like many high school boys, Michael just wanted to "get through" the session, but found that he really enjoyed the experience, and it shows in these images.

We worked through several clothing changes during the session and went outdoors for several photos, but it wasn't until we got to the hockey photos that things really took off.  I always get great expressions from athletes when I say, "Think about your biggest rival, and think about what goes through your mind just before the game".  Works like magic every time.

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High School Senior Pictures - Ashley - Greece Athena

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High School Senior Pictures - Ashley - Greece Athena

Ashley came to the studio from Greece for her senior portraits.  She is a senior from Greece Athena, and also happens to be my niece.  I have been photographing her since she was three months old, but all that means is that I have to dig deep and give her something really new for her senior portrait session.

We worked in the studio for awhile, then finished up near one of my "go to" locations in the Village of Fairport, the old American Can building. On the north side of the building, the light is always perfect, and the facade of the building changes every 50-100 feet. Plenty of options and different possibilities....all in one location.

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High School Senior Pictures- Sarah's Outdoor Session

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High School Senior Pictures- Sarah's Outdoor Session

Sarah is a Model Rep. from Fairport High School's Class of 201 6.  She is very talkative and has s lively personality.  During this outdoor portion of her sessions, we ended up at several locations around the Village of Fairport that I'd stopped at before, but we made every photo of Sarah at those locations new and unique.

We also got permission from a couple of private property owners to use their locations for photos.   I always recommend getting permission to go on private property, even if you are only going to be 5-10 minutes, and they would never know if you are there.  Some people think that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but in this case, I never want to trespass on someone's property.

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High School Senior Pictures- Payton's Outdoor Session

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High School Senior Pictures- Payton's Outdoor Session

Payton, a senior from Victor High School, is one of the studio's Model Reps. for the Class of 2016 and wanted to incorporate ballet photos into her 2nd session at the studio.  We explored a couple of lighting scenarios in her ballet outfits, going for dramatic lighting on a black background for the red and white outfit, and a softer light and white background for the light blue outfit.

Following the dance photos, we walked outside around the Village of Fairport and picked several locations that accentuated Payton's beauty and clothing choices.  The orange tank top reminded me of the sun, and her white and blue shorts looked like the sky and clouds.

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High School Senior Pictures- Jen's Outdoor Session

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High School Senior Pictures- Jen's Outdoor Session

Jen is one of the studio's five Model Representatives from Fairport High School for this year's senior portrait season.  Her first session in the studio was in February, and during her second session we got to take advantage of the warmer weather and walked around the Village of Fairport.

Jen's biggest passion is softball, and she plays first base and pitches occasionally for Fairport's varsity softball team.  She bats lefty and, like most lefties, has a sweet, pure swing which often sends balls over the fence.  She calls herself a little weird and funny, but also a very caring person.  The only thing I think is weird about her is that she doesn't like chocolate.  I mean....who else besides Jen doesn't like a little decadent chocolate once in awhile.  She does make up for this by loving mac and cheese, the all American comfort food.

Please enjoy these photos from Jen's spring time session, and a couple of videos from her sessions.

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High School Senior Pictures- Marissa's Indoor Session

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High School Senior Pictures- Marissa's Indoor Session

Marissa, a Model Rep. from Fairport HS, came in for the studio portion of her three sessions, and we were able to explore a whole series of looks and moods with her.  She is one of the most photogenic subjects that have come through the studio.  The term "photogenic" does not mean beautiful, pretty , or cute.  It relates to their comfort level in front of the camera, which she is in total control of.  She is able to turn on a beautiful smile in a quarter of a second, turn it to a sly smile ("I know something you don't know..."), and then has a stunning look when the smile leaves her face, that really shows off her eyes.  Take a look through these and you can see exactly what I mean.

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On-Location Photography: Traveling With Photography Equipment

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On-Location Photography: Traveling With Photography Equipment

Going on-location for a photography business portrait shoot does not have to be that big a deal any more.  Smaller, more powerful hot shoe "speed lights" have made on-location lighting easier.  However, when you throw in the variable of air travel, summer thunderstorms, and delayed and cancelled flights, it adds a level of "excitement" that is anything but exciting.

While traveling to Detroit for a commercial head shot portrait session, I finally had the experience of an airline losing my baggage.  If the bag just contained clothes, I could have dealt with it very easily.  However, the checked-in over-sized bag contained light stands and umbrellas, and my personal toiletries bag.  I never check in my cameras and speed lights...they always travel with me in my carry-on bag for just this reason.  Because the job only involved employee head shots for an emerging business, the lack of light stands and light modifiers was going to make the job a little challenging, but not impossible.  The fact that I didn't have my rubber ducky from my toiletries bag for the morning bath was inconvenient, but not a deal breaker.

Lighting set up for head shots in a hotel lobby with impromptu equipment

Lighting set up for head shots in a hotel lobby with impromptu equipment

The staff at the Sheraton Hotel in Novi, MI was very accommodating and helped me out wherever they could, and I can't thank them enough. They provided me with several presentation easels and three white bed sheets.  Two easels were set up to camera left and covered with a bed sheet for the main light.  A speed light was bungee-corded to another easel to camera right and was pointed at the upper part of the sheet, and the reflected light off the sheet provided a very large, soft light source on the subject.  Because this speed light was very near the subject, there was some light that spilled onto the subject's face, so a purple accent pillow from one of the chairs was clamped next to the flash on the easel as a scrim to block the light from reaching directly to the subject.  Problem solved in a very fashionable manner.

An unmodified speed light was placed on a window railing behind the subject to act as a hair light/accent light. This light was a little harsher on the side of the subject's face than I wanted, but I was able to edit this easily in post-processing.  An unmodified speed light was placed to camera right pointing straight up at the ceiling and was used to augment the ambient fill light in the entire scene.

Subject's view of the reflective panel main light (i.e. white bead sheet)

Subject's view of the reflective panel main light (i.e. white bead sheet)

The light on the subject was large and soft and ended up being very flattering, and this whole session turned out so much better than it could have if I was not able to think on my feet and work with what I was given.

 

Lessons learned for traveling photographers:

1.         Always, always, always carry your cameras with you and enough equipment to be able to shoot your job, even if a checked bag does not arrive at your destination when you do.

2.         Do not freak out and cancel the shoot.  Think about it and work with the situation you have at hand.  I didn't require an umbrella or softbox for these portraits...I needed a large light source.  The bed sheet and reflected speed light filled that requirement nicely.

3.        Don't get mad at anyone else.  The people you are asking for help from  did not cause any of the issues you are dealing with, so don't make it their issue.  You'll get further by asking for help and being grateful than barking out orders and demands and making everyone miserable around you.


P.S.
The equipment did not end up getting lost, it just happened to be following 12 hours behind me on my trip.  I traveled from Rochester through Philadephia to get to Detroit.  By the time I had finished shooting the job and was leaving the Sheraton to go back to the Detroit airport to head home to Rochester, the bag was being delivered to the hotel.  I asked the hotel to refuse it if it was delivered, so it was returned to the Detroit airport.  I flew to Washington D.C. (Dulles airport), at which point my flight back home to Rochester was cancelled and I was rescheduled on another flight 24 hours later.  My bag, however, was flown from Detroit to Atlanta and then to Rochester.  It traveled 1,000 more miles than I did, went to different cities, and was delivered to my home by the airline...12 hours before I arrived home.

Delta Airlines was not the reason for the missing/delayed bag...I had to switch airlines to Delta halfway through my trip from Rochester to Detroit, and my bag never made the switch with me.  However, Delta Airlines did whatever they could to get the bag on it's way and get it to me....even though I flew from USAir to Delta Airlines to United Airlines on this trip.  Kudos to Delta Airlines for saving me from losing over $700 worth of equipment....and the rubber ducky in my toiletry bag. 

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High School Senior Pictures - Marissa, Fairport Class of 2016

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High School Senior Pictures - Marissa, Fairport Class of 2016

Marissa is finishing her junior year at Fairport HS and we photographed her entire Model Rep. session in the High Falls area of downtown Rochester.  The warmer weather gave us an opportunity to take advantage of the great architecture and history of the area. Knowing the possibilities, I had some aerial footage of the session recorded with a quadcopter that was equipped with a high-definition camera.  The video gives a really good indication of the working environment.  Here is a link to the video.

When she grows up, she merely wants to be "happy", which I think is a great goal to have no matter what you do or how old you are.  Her dream job would be working in an aquarium with dolphins, and she's already a certified scuba diver.

Marissa had a "look" that  thought would work well in this environment.  We brought a portable changing room so that she could change outfits throughout the session, and we took advantage of the color and texture of her clothes to match...or contrast...with the environment that we were in.  She has the most amazing detailed flecks of color in her rich brown eyes that you really can't see unless you are there talking to her, so I wanted to show alot of close ups of her to share that here.

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DIY Faux Rusty Industrial Wall Background

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DIY Faux Rusty Industrial Wall Background

My studio in Fairport, NY needed a new "gritty" background to use for high school senior pictures. Because my mantra is making my senior pictures look different than everyone else's, I didn't want to buy a background that anyone can buy...I wanted to make my own unique background that would make an impression.  With a little of DIY construction and faux painting, the studio now has a background that is one-of-a-kind and will look great behind a senior boy who wants a certain kind of "look".

Many of my backgrounds start out as a 4 ft. x 8 ft. sheet of 1/4 in. plywood, which I'll cut down to 4 ft. x 6 ft.  Two grommets are added to one of the short sides and one of the long sides so that the background can be hung in both orientations.  Once each side of the plywood is primed, each side can be individually painted for different backgrounds.  If both sides are not primed, they will absorb moisture differently and the plywood will warp over time. 

This particular background has a rusty industrial wall on one side and distressed leather on the other (a follow up blog post).  For the faux industrial wall, I painted the base color on the background, which consisted of a medium-toned gray.  I then painted "rusty" seams on the plywood, breaking it up into smaller panels.  The seams consisted of layers of dark gray, brown, orange-brown and yellow-orange to replicate rusted edges of metal.  I then spot painted streaks of lighter colored grey paint mixed with yellows and greens to add the streaky aged areas.  After that I masked off a panel and sponged on some green-yellow-gray paint to simulate aged mold and distress.

Hand-painting a photography backdrop with a faux rusty steel industrial finish....base coat.

Once the aging of the metals was complete, I added the rust on the entire background by lightly adding a watered down mix of orange and brown using a spray bottle, spraying lightly in different areas, and then lightly blotting the wet paint immediately afterwards with a paper towel.  The paint was allowed to run and drip in a few areas, but I was looking for a mottled rusty color over parts of the background.

Hand-painting a photography backdrop with a faux rusty steel industrial finish....adding rust.

The rivets were adding using the end of the handle of a foam paint brush dipped in light gray paint (lighter in color than the base coat).  A crescent-shaped highlight of very light grey paint and a crescent-shaped shadow of dark gray paint was painted was added on each rivet to give it a 3-dimensional look.  Another layer or two of rust was sprayed on after the rivets were added.

Hand-painting a photography backdrop with a faux rusty steel industrial finish...adding rivets.

 

 

I had previously made gears from 1 in. thick foam insulation and painted them to look rusty.  The foam was cut using a DIY hot knife, which consists of a heated wire which cuts through the foam like a hot knife through butter.  I will show the hot knife in a later blog post, but there are multitudes of examples show on YouTube.  The foam gears were hot glued onto the background, leaving space in the center for the subject of the photographs.  I added a little extra dimension by adding a foam block behind one of the gears to raise it off the background, which results in more of a shadow when the background is lit.

FauxRustyIndustrialWall

The background most likely will be lit with a hard, directional spot light as shown in the example, in which I stepped in front of the camera for my assistant.  It shows a harder more dramatic light on both subject and background, which enhances the mood and look of the gritty, industrial portrait.

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High School Senior Pictures - Haley, Fairport Class of 2016

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High School Senior Pictures - Haley, Fairport Class of 2016

Haley is a junior at Fairport HS and is a little dynamo of a personality.  I had so much fun with her and her mother, nicknamed Mer Bear by Haley, in the studio during her senior portrait session. She said that talking for hours is an unusual talent that she has...but I wouldn't call that unusual for a lot of teenage girls.  But she is a bubbly smiling machine, and I firmly believe that she could go on for hours.

Haley's session coincided with a particularly nice day early in the year, so we were able to get outside the studio and work outside for awhile.  And here are the fruits of our labor:

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High School Senior Pictures - Victoria, Victor HS

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High School Senior Pictures - Victoria, Victor HS

Victoria is an amazing young woman who is heavily involved in singing, dancing and acting programs through Victor HS and other local programs.  Much to the delight of young girls everywhere, she dresses up as Cinderella and Elsa from the Disney movie "Frozen" at events all over the Northeast and gets her picture taken a bazillion times a day with little kids.

So she is obviously used to being in front of the camera, and I merely asked her to be herself, which she found quite easy to do.  She was very comfortable during the session, and we talked about her induction into the Tri-M Music Honor Society, an international music honor society for school-aged kids.  Her goal after high school is to work in the Disney college program and to eventually work at Disney World and be a role model for younger kids.  I'd say she has a pretty good start with all that.

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HS Senior Pictures - Crystal, Fairport Class of 2016

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HS Senior Pictures - Crystal, Fairport Class of 2016

Crystal is one of the Class of 2016 Model Reps. from Fairport HS, and came to the studio for her session in between lacrosse games and practices.  She said her favorite place on earth is the lacrosse field, and I've seen her there and I believe its true.  

She brought in a variety of outfits and we worked through as many as we could during the session, but no matter what she wore, it was immediately apparent that her blue eyes took center stage in all of her photos.  When my daughter saw these photos, she said that I must have really retouched her eyes, because they are "SO" blue.  No, I really didn't.  Her eyes really "ARE" that blue.

I always try to get to know my Model Reps. as well as I can, so that they feel comfortable with me and I know more about their personality, which enables me to bring out that inner personality in their photos.  Crystal is on the quiet side, and she said that one of her dream jobs is oneirolgy...which, as everyone knows...is studying dreams.  No, I didn't know that...she had to tell me.  :-)  And she confided in me that her hidden talent is breaking an apple in half with her bare hands.  Next time I photograph her, I'm bringing a bushel of apples and letting her show me.

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High School Senior Pictures - Payton, Victor Class of 2016

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High School Senior Pictures - Payton, Victor Class of 2016

Payton is a cheerleader and dancer from Victor HS and is a Model Rep. for the Class of 2016 from Victor HS.  Her mother teaches ballet, and that is why Payton became very accomplished at dance herself.  She added cheerleading to the mix a couple of years ago, and although she was pretty quiet and focused during her session, she describes herself as very talkative.

She is one of two girls whose sessions were shown in the studio's behind-the-scenes promotional video that was produced this year.  Her big dream is to go to nursing school and to become a neonatal nurse, but I can bet that meeting Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio probably finished a close 2nd to nursing.

Payton's next session early this summer will involve some ballet and dancing photographs, but please enjoy these from her first session.

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High School Senior Pictures - Sarah, Fairport, NY

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High School Senior Pictures - Sarah, Fairport, NY

Sarah is very social, out-going, fun-loving and is one of this year's Model Reps. from Fairport HS. She loves shopping and softball, and has an infectious laugh, which she lets fly quite often.  She is one of two girls that starred in a behind-the-scenes promotional video that was recently filmed for the studio, and she stole the show.

To look at her, you may be surprised to find out that she has a pet snake.  But what intrigued me most was when I found out that she can cross just one of her eyes...which I of course demanded that she demonstrate when she came in for her session.  I did have to promise that it wouldn't show up in the promo video.

Look for more to come from Sarah later this year,  But please take a look at a few images from Sarah's first session.

 

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High School Senior Pictures - Jen, Fairport Class of 2016

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High School Senior Pictures - Jen, Fairport Class of 2016

Jen is a junior at Fairport HS and is one of the studio's Model Reps. for the upcoming Class of 2016 senior picture season.  These photos are from her Model Rep. session in February, and show a little bit of what is coming for this year's senior portraits.

Jen is on Fairport's varsity softball team and has a really sweet lefty swing, which is typical of many, but not all lefties. I am looking forward to her next session in June, when we can get some dramatic sports photos.  Her friends would describe her as a little goofy, but the only thing that I find is a little goofy about Jen is that she does not like chocolate.  Knowing this, she is always welcome to spend Halloween or Easter at my family's house, because that's one less person we have to fight to get to the chocolate.

Enjoy her photos, and look out for more to come from Jen this summer.

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Group Photo - NYS Supreme Court Appellate Div.

NYS Supreme Court Appellate Court, 4th Div.

The studio was asked to do a group photo of the judges of the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division in Rochester. Like they say in the movies, "it was an offer I couldn't refuse". So we took the Luke Photography show on the road to the courthouse.

I imaging my time with them was much like a Hollywood photographer having 8 minutes of time to shoot portraits of a celebrity.  Their time is important and limited, so I had a minimal amount of time with them in the room, and once their put their robes on, the clock was ticking.

At a time like this, preparation is key.  You don't want to be fumbling around with lighting and camera settings with them standing there watching, judging every move you make. We arrived an hour early to scout out locations and settled on a traditional location for their group photo, where I could also set up for individual head shots of each judge.

Umbrella LIghting - Group Photo

I went with a fairly simple lighting setup with two umbrellas on my strobe heads.  The umbrellas were pointed straight forward, and not tilted down.  With groups...and especially big, deep groups,you don't want to point the umbrellas down towards the front row.  In doing that, the strongest light coming from the center of the umbrella is going towards the people closest to the camera, and the weaker light coming from the edges of the umbrella is going towards the people that are farthest from the camera.  You want the strongest light going towards the people furthest from the camera so that the exposure across the whole group,...front to back...is even.  In this case, with only two rows of people it wasn't quite as critical, but it's a good habit to do it all the time.

I always meter the light from front to back and left to right across the whole scene, to ensure as even light as possible.  Having an assistant...and best case you have two clones of that assistant...helps to see that and correct it before your subjects even enter the room.

Metering group lighting with a talented intern


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DIY Vintage Telescope

Telescope_06.jpg

This is a DIY tutorial on changing the appearance of a 40-year old telescope into a vintage-looking 400-year old telescope of tarnished brass.  

Bushnell telescope - the "before"

This telescope had been in my parent's basement for 30 years. It was an inexpensive 1970's era Bushnell telescope that was purchased at a garage sale for a couple of dollars in the late 1970s.  As I am prone to do, when my parents were throwing it away a couple of years ago, I said, "I'll take it....I can make something out of it."

It took a couple of years until I started, but I just finished it and it looks exactly how I had imagined it.  Upon close inspection, it won't be mistaken for a museum piece, but for the studio, it certainly fits the bill.

Disaswembled telescope

After disassembling the entire telescope, I used gold leafing to cover the telescope tube and any other parts that were larger in size.  Follow the manufacturer's directions for the leafing that you use. And don't go cheap on the adhesive....use the adhesive sizing recommended for the gold leaf.

Gold leafing

For the smaller parts, I used craft paint in a couple of colors that resembled tarnished brass.  Don't be too careful while painting the smaller parts, I ended up dabbing the paint on with a large paint brush....you are not going for a clean look on these pieces.

Gold paint

When all the pieces were covered, I sprayed anything that was covered in gold leaf with a spray polyurethane in a matte finish.  This protects the leafing from handling. The gold leaf is somewhat fragile even after dry and can get scraped off easily.  Use a matte finish spray, because tarnished brash does not have a glossy look.

 

Telescope_05.jpg

For the aging and distressing of the pieces, I used brown paint mixed with an extender that both thins the paint and retards the drying process.  I applied the thinned paint with a damp paper towel, dabbing it onto the parts of the telescope that I wanted to look older.  Don't apply too much paint at once...it pays to be patient and layer the paint on until you get the look you want.

Above you can see the start of the application of the brown paint on the main tube of the telescope, compared to the shiny gold-leafed lens barrel that has not been aged yet.

Before and After

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Family Portrait in a Movie Theater

Family Portrait - Theater

When families call the studio for a unique family portrait, my first question is always, "What do you do together as a family?"  I try to photograph families doing what they enjoy doing...having a family portrait does not mean you have to get dressed up in formal attire and have your picture taken in a studio in front of a painted background.

When this family told me they go to the movies almost every week, I said to myself, "Holy Cow, that can get expensive."  My second thought was, "Great...this will make for a fantastic family portrait!".  I contacted a small, local theater that shows a lot of indie movies, and they allowed me to use the main theater room for about a half an hour mid-day on a weekday.  Not wanting to impose on the theater owners at all, I made sure that I brought all of my own lights so that they would not have to do anything special for me.  You don't want to go into a place like this and starting making all sorts of requests...they will be sorry they agreed to it, and probably will not take your call next time you want to use their facility.

With the family seated in the center of the theater, I wanted to make it look like they  were watching a movie.  I brought in a large 4' x 6' softbox that I placed in front of the family on the small stage in the theater, to replicate light coming from the lit-up movie screen.  I also brought a smaller flash that I placed high and behind the family, to replicate the light coming from the projection booth.  This light also provided nice rim lighting, highlighting the family against the darker seats behind them.

We ran through several sequences of them reacting to different kinds of movies: laughing at comedies, frightened at scary movies, intrigued by the height of a dramatic sequence,etc.  Once I was satisfied with that sequence, we moved along the aisle and we did several arrangements there.  Finally, we moved to the concession booth and finished the session there.  All in all, I tried to give the family several options for the wall portraits that they were interested in purchasing. They ended up buying two large wall canvases for their home...a fitting gift for the couple's 25th anniversary. 

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Ballet and Lyrical Dance Session

Lyrical Danceoufit in split pose

I had an intern at my Fairport studio for the months of December and January, and I wanted to take advantage of the fact that she was a dancer by having a dance-themed session before she returned to college for her spring semester.

Emily brought in a variety of dance outfits that she had worn to dance competitions while she was still in high school and we picked out several that we wanted to work with.  The lighting for the majority of the setups was consistent: two striplights on either side of her acting as main lights, and a large octabox in front of her...over the camera....acting as fill light to soften some of the shadows that would appear on her face from the strong sidelight.

For the final setup,we moved into the daylight-lit studio for a ballet setup using softer window light. I set up apiece of burgundy fabric to camera left to act as a stage curtain, and had Emily posed on the floor putting on her pointe shoes. The background was the bare brick wall of the studio.

Putting on ballet pointe shoes

As I watched Emily suggest a number of poses that she has seen in magazines and dance publications, I had her make subtle position changes so that the resulting photo would look as good as possible.  She had to hold some of these ridiculously technical positions for extended periods of time until I was satisfied with the results. She was being a real trooper, but I felt like a hypocrite sitting comfortably on the floor while she was posed in very physically-challenging positions, so I offered to switch with her and have her take my photo, so I could feel what it was like to hold those positions.  Granted, I am more than 25 years her senior, but she was seriously impressed that I was even able to get in position, hold it, and get out of it without the need of a crane, hospital traction, and a wheelbarrow full of Advil. 

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Maddie - 3yr. Old Girl

Maddie came into my Fairport studio for her annual portrait session.  I photographed her mother's maternity session, so I've been photographing her since "before" she was born.  This was the fifth time she's been in the studio, and was, by far, the most entertaining.  We talked about Rapunzel's tower, Cinderella's slipper, Ariel's hair, and various other Disney princesses.

Here are some photos from this little cutie's session.


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