Let’s Shoot, She Said

Can you take my photo, Alex asked.
She needed a new profile pic for work and LinkedIn.
Of course, I said.
So we met in Campbell near the Ainsley House.
Typically, the first five to 10 minutes is a warm up period.
I’m reading the light,
Tinkering with exposure,
And establishing rapport and trust.
The client is often wrestling with discomfort
And the self-consciousness of being observed by a Cyclops.
It can take some time to get comfortable,
In both directions, in front of and behind the camera.
Results in the beginning are usually competent and satisfactory, if a bit forced.

Portrait photography candid profile picture business woman outdoors

But after warm up, interesting things can happen.
Interesting good things.
In the case of our photo shoot, Alex and I started talking about life,
About college, about baking, about scuba diving—
And of course about work,
Where integrity and self-assurance are key.

Portrait photography business executive head shot woman outdoors

Then something unexpected happened.
Unplanned and unbidden,
Our conversation turned into a fun, creative jam session.
We played with foregrounding and framing.

Portrait photography candid profile picture social personal flowers outdoors

We captured candid profile pics for use on social media.

Portrait photography candid profile picture social personal flowers outdoors

And we made B&W portrait art.
Catch light! Catch light! Just look at Alex’s eyes.
This image is proof that life without specular highlights is drab.

Portrait photography outdoor black white fine art headshot outdoors

A business portrait photo shoot
That morphs into a creative session for social media photos,
Which then evolves into B&W fine art photography is pretty damn cool.
And I’m very grateful it happened.
Thank you, Alex!

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Going, Going Gone

Zoie, 2018.
I’ve known her since she was two-years old.
I won’t do the math, I refuse.
Time has moved too fast.
She’s not even my daughter,
And still I grieve a bit as she launches into the world—
But launch she must,
And that’s exactly what she’s ready to do.
As a high school student,
Zoie’s mind was a sheet of paper ready for learning.

Portrait photography bay area high school graduate eyes closed

As a graduate and former class president bound for ASU, she’s woke.

Portrait photography bay area high school graduate eyes open

In addition to magnetic eyes, Zoie has an amazingly infectious smile.
It’s impossible not to smile back. Just try.

See, you can’t do it.
That’s the best kind of emotional contagion.
Her mom is a strong, passionate woman.
And she’s ready to release her daughter into the wild—almost.

high school graduate portrait with mom

And whether her parents are ready or not,
This kid is going to soar.

Family portrait photography high school graduate

Just look at her expression.
Bright future ahead!

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Mirror, Mirror

Say hello to Giovanna.
Or Gio for short.
Gio’s a mom and a marketer to boot.
She’s into healthy eating, weight training, and silly humor.
Emphasis on all three parts in equal measure.
I’ve known Gio a long time, before the Age of Children.
And now our girls are classmates and friends.
They’re good buds.
And Gio and I are good buds, too.
Luckily for me, she’s up for photo shoots at the end of a long week.
We practice lighting and posing for candid profile pictures,
Like this one minus the sepia treatment.

Portrait photography creative business headshot woman smile

Recently, we pushed ourselves beyond our customary limits.
And we explored shadow and light, hair and eyes.

Portrait photography black and white woman eyes shoulders hair intensity

We explored clavicles, lips, and the spine.

We explored strength and toughness…

Portrait photography black and white woman eyes shoulders hair clavicle

…and shoulders…

black and white portrait woman eyes shoulders hair

…and the assurance that comes from being the boss lady of one’s own life.

Portrait photography black and white woman eyes shoulders hair arms intensity

We shot for over an hour,
Using a 50mm f/1.8 at ISO 200,
With only a reflector and a white backdrop.
My favorite image from the session is this one, hands down.

Portrait photography fine art black and white mirror back eyes

It’s not an original concept.
Not by any means.
But it is the first time I’ve ever executed on the idea.
And I’m pleased with how it turned out—
A frame within a frame, capturing almost every feature we sought to explore.

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Climb On

outdoor portrait boy blue sky

When I pack my camera, Gavin says, Leave it behind.
But I don’t.
When I pull it out like a rabbit from a hat, Gavin says, Put it away.
But I ignore him.
I don’t photograph him because that would be annoying.
But once in a while, Gavin will say, Hey, dad, take a picture of me,
As he did here, having climbed to the top of a large rock formation,
Between Lovers and Divorce beaches in Cabo.
I said, Smile.
And I said it again and then once more because all good things comes in threes.
Wisely, he decided to look indifferent and accomplished.
And I didn’t throw away my shot.

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Shoot, My Finger Said

Portrait photography young woman BW old-school

“What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound than a portrait.” That’s Charles Baudelaire, a French poet and an art critic, on the mysteries of portraiture. And I think he’s right.

There are a million ways to botch a portrait, even in the best conditions. In my experience, admittedly limited, a good portrait is a minor miracle. You’re not really responsible for it, neither you nor the subject. It just sort of happens, unplanned, unbidden. At best, you hope it happens. And you practice and prepare to help the moment along when it does.

Take this young lady, for instance. She was sitting near a fire in a room surrounded by windows, overlooking Donner Lake. The light in the room was perfect. And the light on her face and shoulders was even better.

Can I photograph you, I asked.

Yeah, sure, she said, a little surprised.

So I went to work with an 85mm shooting wide open, gathering as much light as possible for a high-key portrait with a studio feel, even though we were in a public space.

Most of the time, she looked off lens, this way and that, musing on snow, wind and mountains.

Then it happened.

She bore down on the lens in a way to make a cyclops freeze. She held her gaze fast, serene and confident.

A little brain in my finger said, Shoot. And my finger obliged, thankfully, because Something ageless was born in that moment.

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Call Him Anthony

Portrait photography man creative director

I call him Salty.
But his name is Anthony.
And when you’re trying capture something right and true,
It’s good to use proper names.
So this is Anthony.
One of the great gifts of photography is that, every now and then,
You witness something deep and abiding.
When that happens, it’s an incredible privilege.
The mask slips and, for a brief moment,
You catch a man reckoning with some great internal joy or pain—or both.