Friday, March 28, 2014

{R&M} Engagment

I love photographing couples for their engagement. LOVE it. It's like I get to play a small part in a romance novel or a fairy tale.
I get to see people at their best, most selfless and during their most tender moments. I also get to see them be silly, express who they are as a part of a whole, and who they are when they let down their guard with that special person who makes them more themselves.

Marisa and Ryan were so sweet, earnest, and honest. They're getting married this October, and I can't wait to capture those precious moments for them! Here are a few of my fav's from the shoot.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mommy Makeover Contest Nominee: Sandy

Nominee #1: Sandy Tipke

Here is a nomination from a daughter who clearly loves her amazing Momma very much!

"My mom is amazing! She is my rock, my best friend. We didnt have a great relationship for a while. When I became a teenager we started to get close. My mom is an amazing lady. She raised me when I was growing up as a single mother! My dad was not in the picture and although she probably should have done things a little different I am who I am because of my mom! I have the best relationship with now! My mom is a beautiful women. And as my step dad and me and many other people see it, she doesn't treat herself as if she is beautiful. She thinks she is too fat to look good. But this women is beautiful inside and out. She loves the Lord and her family. I love her so much. Thank you for considering her. :-) "


To vote for this gorgeous lady, just leave a comment below. Good luck, Sandy!!

Mothers Day Makeover Contest

The words "self sacrifice" are almost synonymous with the word "mother."
Who else would spend their days covered in boogers and wiping chocolate fingerprints ( let's hope that was chocolate...) from the new sofa, while trying to coax slime covered little hooligans to eat their vegetables?
Even once the toddler stage is over, moms spend their days working, cleaning, cooking, washing laundry, driving to baseball practice and cub scouts and dance recitals all while trying to figure out how dinner and, God willing, a SHOWER is supposed to fit in amongst everything else.

Moms work the hardest, longest hours on less sleep and with less appreciation than any other job I can think of.  9-5 doesn't exist for moms.

If there is anyone who deserves to be pampered, it is a mom. Unfortunately, many moms aren't able to set aside the time or money to spoil themselves with things like getting their hair done, their makeup professionally applied, and having their portrait taken.

That's why I'm teaming up with ultra-fab makeup artist Serena Cook of Esoteric Makeup and super talented Laura Klem of Modern Trendz Salon to bring  you the first annual Mommy Makeover Contest!

We want to bless some deserving momma with a day that's all about her, but we need YOUR help!

Nominate a deserving mom by emailing a photo of her and a paragraph about what it is that makes her so amazing to:

I will take all entries and give them their own post here on the blog, that way even if a mom doesn't win, she will still get recognition for all the amazing things she does. I will email you the link to your nominees post, and share it on Facebook.

Voting will begin as soon as the first entry is posted, and end on April 26th, 2014 at 12pm PST.
You can vote in the comments section.
One voter per voter.
The nominee with the most votes will win:
Pro Hair and Makeup
A photoshoot (either just herself in all her glory, or with her loving family) just in time for Mother's Day.

I can't think of a better gift to a deserving momma than a portrait of her, looking her best and surrounded by her family.

SO nominate those mommas! Share this blog post on Facebook, or other social media sites. Tweet about it. Shout it from the rooftops! Find everyone you can to vote for YOUR Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, long as she is a MOM...and let's spoil her for Mother's Day!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Case for Photoshop

In a previous blog post, I used a stage magician as a metaphor for Photoshop. I'm now going to raise the curtain and let you see behind the smoke and mirrors. This is what Photoshop really does for photographers and retouchers who are using it responsibly.

Our eyes VS the camera and lens

There are very fundamental differences between the way our brains interpret something we see, and what a camera and lens "sees" and captures. More often than not, there is something the lens distorts, exaggerates, or simply cannot see at all. Photographers who know the intricacies of this dynamic are able to both compensate for and take advantage of it. However, there is only so much one can do in camera.
For example; the human eye is capable of seeing a much greater dynamic range of light than what a camera sensor is able to process. During the brightest time of day, our eye is able to see detail both in the bright highlights on the sunward side of a leaf, and in the deep shadow beneath the tree. A camera sensor, though, cannot. It needs an operator to tell it what to expose for; either the highlights, the shadows or the mid-tones, and will miss a bit of the opposing side. Photoshop can help compensate for that by either blending multiple photos of different exposures or by tweaking the darker or lighter pixels and increasing the dynamic range of the resulting image. Thus, image editing software actually fills in the cameras weakness.

At any given time, only about 10 percent of what the human eye sees is in sharp focus. A camera lens at the right aperture is able to freeze a scene in crisp detail almost to infinity. This has a couple of effects, particularly on human skin.
First of all, because we have such a limited range of focus, it means that when we are interacting with a person, we don't see all of their face in sharp detail at once. Because a camera can see that way, it means that imperfections (for lack of a better word) in skin are much more evident. Portrait photographers used to use soft light and soft focus to compensate for that, blurring detail to achieve smoother skin and diminish the appearance of things like pores and wrinkles.
If you want a nice, sharp portrait, though, editing the skin in post production is the digital answer to the older techniques.
Another thing a camera lacks is interpersonal communication. While we interact with someone in person we notice several things at once; changing body language, expression, the way someones eyes sparkle when they laugh, we listen to their tone of voice, and all those things come together to make one unified vision of a person. When you snap a portrait, you are hoping to capture as much of the subject's authentic nature as possible but because the photo is frozen, it is easier for the viewer's eye to roam and note details that are not usually seen when interacting with someone. For instance...lazy eyes, mismatched eyebrows, ears that are a bit bigger on one side or that stick out farther from the head, acne scars, (and the list goes on...) that we might not notice while someone is talking to us, are all frozen for our eye to roam over and dissect at will.

Lens choice and camera angle also have an effect on the appearance and proportion of the body. Our eye doesn't distort the human figure when we view it.
A lens can and does.
There are many circumstances that influence what lens a photographer chooses. If we know that we are going to be shooting in low light, we may choose a prime lens. This allows for a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion, but can distort the appearance of the face and/or body shape of the subject by doing such things as making the nose appear larger because it is the part of the face that extends the farthest toward the lens. I'm not going to get into all of the technical details in this post, but here is a link to some examples of barrel distortion to give you an example.
There are literally hundreds of factors that may effect the appearance of the body in a photograph. Body position, angle, frame of reference, lighting, lens choice (shape, barrel length, etc...) Photographers, good ones at least, will do their best to control as many factors as possible. However, there are instances where, for one reason or another, image editing software can make the difference between making at accurate representation of someone or a distorted one.

So, often, Photoshop is used to make an image more closely match what the human eye sees or what the viewer would experience had he or she been with the person or at the location of the photo.

The effects of light

I am a photographer. I know the effect of light on a human body. I know that human skin naturally has bumps, scars, uneven tones, pores, stretch marks, wrinkles, blemishes and so on. I know that the appearance of those things can either be enhanced or diminished not only by technique but more importantly by certain kinds of light. Because a photograph cannot interact with a viewer using the force of personality, voice, mood, ect. in order to make an impression, I have to think long and hard about how I present a portrait. What I want the photo to say, the mood, and what I hope a viewer sees about the subject of my photograph can all be influenced by the kind of light I shoot under.
Even, soft light will reduce the appearance of shadows that define texture in the skin, while directional light will cause the shadows and highlights that make those imperfections so visible.
If I am taking what is known as a "beauty shot" I want to use light that will flatter not only the facial structure of the model but also his or her skin. These are generally head and shoulders photos with bright, even light and very soft-or little to no-shadows. This diminishes the look of pores, wrinkles, blemishes, and any other facet that causes texture in the skin. The skin appears much more "perfected," without the use of Photoshop.
However, if I would like a photo with more dynamic light and a dramatic feel, then I may want to use directional light. The downfall of directional light is that it tends to highlight any area of texture. This means that blemishes, wrinkles, pores and everything else is going to be even more obvious than under other lighting conditions because it will have both a strong shadow and a highlight. If someone has larger pores or deeper wrinkles this kind of light will exaggerate it, much more even than what the human eye will see in person. Couple that with the sharpness I discussed above and we are talking about visible detail and texture in the skin than can possibly distract from the vision, mood, or feeling of the final photo. Photoshop (or other editing software) allows me to achieve the more flattering look of even light on the skin while maintaining dramatic light for atmosphere. It's the best of both worlds.

I'm not even going to bother going in-depth about more artistic images that are designed to look surreal or fantastic because those have an unnatural element to them that clearly falls in line with digital alteration and fools no one into thinking the images are "real."

Self Confidence

Finally, and not lease important, there is personal body image and confidence to consider. It would be wonderful if everyone was proud of their body and comfortable in their skin. How much happier would we be!? The reality is that many people are not.
I personally know people who will not get their portrait taken because of things they view as imperfections. Maybe they are on a weight loss journey and hoping to wait until they feel more confident in their skin before taking family portraits. Maybe they have scars from an accident that they don't want to relive every time they see their photo. Maybe they have always been insecure about the size of their arms, and can't see a photo of themselves without sighing and thinking "why do my arms always look so HUGE!?"
I also know from experience that people with misgivings like these have a very hard time feeling comfortable in front of a camera even if they've drummed up the courage to get their photo taken. If someone is uncomfortable, the camera can tell. The resulting images are almost never flattering. These people do not deserve to have the joy of a well taken portrait stolen from them because they aren't yet secure enough to bare it all.

Is it such a horrible thing, then, when I look at someone and tell them, "Listen, if you feel insecure about your arms, I can handle that."

If that helps them feel comfortable enough to relax and smile genuinely during a portrait session, it's worth it to me. Would it be better for everyone to do some soul searching and realize that those things they are uncomfortable with aren't imperfections at all, and that they are special and amazing and unique? Of course. But that is something that takes time and a lot of work and is a LONG road for most people. Technical aspects of post production aside, if doing a bit of tweaking in Photoshop to diminish or distract from areas a person is insecure with helps them feel more confident in front of a camera and enjoy their photos without reservations...then that is reason enough to use Photoshop for me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Darling Nora; Cale and Kathleen's Blessing

Cale and Kathleen are truly a once in a lifetime kind of couple.
They were high school sweethearts, married young and making the most of their lives. Cale joined the army and deployed overseas, and Kathleen traveled on missionary trips to foreign countries. All the while, this special couple inspired everyone that knew them with their faith in God, their love for people, and their deep love and devotion to each other.
A car accident threatened to change all of that. It left Cale fighting for his life, and Kathleen in constant prayer that God would keep their family whole.

He did.

Cale proved the Doctors wrong when he lived.
He proved them wrong when he woke from a coma.
When he began to speak
to walk
he proved them wrong.
Despite living with a traumatic brain injury, Cale continues to break barriers and prove wrong anyone who doubts his will to live and to love.

And Kathleen never stopped fighting. Fighting in prayer, fighting for the best care for the man she loved, fighting doubt and fear about their future, fighting to keep her husband at home and not in a nursing facility, fighting the effects of TBI and the struggles of becoming a care provider.

Through all of this their faith, their love, and their devotion never wavered. They trusted in the will of the God they both serve to hold them up, and to use them to glorify Himself.

He did.

He does.

God blessed them with a once in a lifetime kind of love, and now they have one more blessing to thank Him for.

A soon-to-be-born baby girl.

From high school sweethearts to a soldier and his princess, from a boy and a girl to a man and his wife.
And soon...
to Mommy and Daddy.

Here are some teasers from their maternity session, and here's to celebrating the special love that created tummy baby, Nora Grace

Cale reads to Nora every day. He talks to her, and tells her how very much she is loved. Being able to witness the absolute honesty and heartbreaking sincerity of his love for his unborn daughter was so touching, it almost had me in tears.