Archive for November, 2010


baptism and joyful family gathering!

Recently I had the honor of  shooting a baptism of two babies and a  gathering of their extended family of 14 people.  We started at the church and took a few images after the service (no pictures allowed during the service – a good thing).  In the image above, if you look carefully at the bottom center of the frame, you will see a small edge of the glass baptismal font – a subtle discovery.  We just had a few minutes to grab these images, as the church was being set up for the next service.  The altar guild was patient with me, for which I am grateful!

After the church service, we went to the home of the grandparents.  A few days before the baptism, I’d scouted the home and had chosen a sun porch to take some of the family pictures. There was a lot of natural warm light in the room and I filled in with one strobe light in an umbrella. I’ve learned to keep things simple.

The babies were adorable. When this picture was taken, one was a bit happier than the other. Both were real troopers!

This was a fun day for me all around.  Everyone in the family was terrific – and photogenic to boot.  The family was pleased with my work, which of course makes it all worthwhile. I don’t do a lot of “event” photography, but after this experience, I’m ready to do more.  Do you have a special family event planned?

After the inside shots, of several combinations of the 14 people, we took some pictures of the whole group outside.


headshots of men

This month, I had the pleasure of taking headshots for a wonderful small company based in Fairfield County.  We did headshots of all 11 employees for the company website.  As I have mostly shown images of women in recent blog posts, I wanted to write about photographing men today.

There are some obvious differences.  With women, I normally use big softboxes for  lighting, to create a very flattering look.  A somewhat harsher light is appropriate for men – especially if we are going for the chiseled, manly look.  (If you’re old enough, think: The Marlboro Man.)  However, in this shoot, I used the same lighting for all 11 headshots (8 men and 3 women), in order to have a consistent look on the website. So the men got the flattering, smooth skin look.  They still look masculine, for sure!

In the three images shown, you can see a fair amount of shading on the left side (as we look at the images) of each face. With women, I generally bounce some light back into the shadow side with a reflector, reducing the shadows for a softer feel.

A note about glasses.  You will see both men below are wearing them. Reflections in the lenses can be a problem, so you have to position the light carefully.  Sometimes people will actually take the lenses out of the frames to avoid this.  To me, this can give kind of a strange look. I don’t mind seeing a subtle reflection of the glass. In both of the images below,  I did a bit of work in Photoshop to reduce the appearance of lens reflection, without totally eliminating it.

These guys were great fun to shoot with (as were all the others in the company – men and women).  You can see the relaxed and open smiles; everyone worked well together and there was a real sense of family – nice to see in today’s tough business environment!

As always, would appreciate any questions or comments.


creativity and purpose

Craig Tanner has been and is an important mentor and teacher to me. I’ve taken two workshops with him and have a third planned in Santa Fe next April. Craig has critiqued several of my images. You can see some of these video critiques on my website by clicking here.  There are many wonderful resources on Craig’s website, The Mindful Eye.

Here’s a short piece Craig wrote recently about creativity for those interested in growing in photography, but it also can apply, I believe,  to other areas of our lives.


A common question I get on workshops is how can I move past my current creative limits. I often first encourage a reframe of the question. We are always evolving…. sometimes a little more slowly than others but it is an ongoing process. I think a better question is “What is the next step in my evolution as an artist?” When we reframe the question in this way we are encouraged to identify first with our purpose. When we know where we would like the next step of our vision to take us then it is a lot easier to practice being there.

Tanner Tips

Here are three simple steps for growing your creativity as an artist.

 1) Know your overall purpose as a photographer and the purpose for each shooting session.

 2) Next practice as much as possible and practice consciously. Conscious practice is when we know what we are working on to the point of being able to identify whether or not we are making measurable progress towards our purpose or goal.

 3) Finally, trust this simple but powerful process. If we just set out to make great pictures without a more specific or meaningful purpose our results may never satisfy. Our standard for great is always evolving along with our vision – just wanting to be great is not a purpose. It’s a moving target that can leave us feeling like the cat that chases its tail. But when we practice relative to a specific purpose that has an identifiable meaning we can measure our results and see clearly that we are making progress. That leads to satisfaction and a greater trust in the process which speeds us past our limits towards our infinite potential.

 Craig Tanner,


just a fun shoot

Recently I had the great pleasure of shooting with Sarah, pictured above. Sarah really wanted to do a fun and creative shoot. We bounced around a few ideas before the day of the shoot, but mostly came up, together, with the concepts as we went along.  What she didn’t want were typical headshots – she had done too many headshots in her days as an actress in Los Angeles. So we agreed we’d only do “non-headshot” headshots. One of these is shown above.

Faithful readers will recall that I often do jumping shots.  These are hard as you never quite know how they will turn out. We’ll shoot a bunch to get, hopefully, a few keepers. But the energy, fun and enthusiasm always seems to shine through, as it does in the image above.  Well done, Sarah!

In this casual shot, I needed a wall and a floor that would complement the colors of Sarah’s jeans and top. I used a black foamcore board as the “wall” and white paper as the floor.  We are used to seeing white walls and dark floors, but I think this upside-down look works for the image. How does it strike you?

The last shot, below, may be my  favorite from the shoot – a relaxed, playful and natural pose, that just happened without any coaching from me or much forethought by Sarah.  As always, your comments or questions are always welcome.


Lighting Styles for headshots

Recently I had the privilege of shooting with Laura, an experienced model and a new friend.  Laura needed some updated headshots and I wanted to try a few different lighting styles.  The lighting in the first image, above, is pretty traditional. We had a large main light to camera left and a fill light on low power just slightly to the right coming over my shoulder. If you look closely at Laura’s eyes, you will see the two catchlights reflecting the two studio lights.  This is a classic, flattering lighting setup. A soft feel, but you still have some sense of three dimensionality – notice slightly more shading on the right side of Laura’s face (right as we look at it).  There was a third light way over to the right side, just putting some highlights in her hair, but positioned so as not to hit her face.

Here’s a very different lighting arrangement. There is just one small light high and to camera left. I was going for a dramatic, almost cinematic feel.  This is often a difficult light for photographing women, but Laura’s smooth and clear skin could carry it off. Notice the small, well-defined catchlights in the eyes.  When you look at a headshot, check out the catchlights first – they can often provide clues to how the lighting was set up.

The shot above is one form of “beauty lighting” – one light directly over the camera angled down at about 45 degrees and then a reflector held just under the visible frame of the picture to reflect some light back into the face.  Normally, an image with this lighting would have the model looking straight ahead, but it works well here, in my view, with a slight turn and tilt of the head.

This is the same lighting setup, but with Laura’s face almost squared up to the camera. I love the spontaneous big open laugh!

Back to soft overall lighting below.  I always like to do a few headshots that include the hands. These can be tricky. Hands are very expressive and we infer a lot of emotions from them, based on how they are positioned.  What feelings are you reading into this image? Your comments, as always, are most welcome – either on the blog or by email.