Archive for December, 2010


my youngest collector

At my photography exhibit in the Fall, my images of marbles were among the most popular photographs.  One of my friends brought his 7-year-old daughter to see the show and she fell in love with this image.  So Daddy bought the framed print for her as a surprise Christmas gift.  I decided to give her the actual marble that is featured in the center of the image, a beautifully made piece by a talented glass artist.

Here’s a note received today from Dad:

I hope you had a great Christmas.  Ours was lots of fun, and your photo was a huge hit.  She was so intrigued by its shape before she opened it, having forgotten all about it.  Then she was overjoyed by it. Your very thoughtful inclusion of the actual marble made it extra special.  When I was turning off her lights Christmas night to put her to bed, her final comment on the big day was “ Daddy, thank you for the picture from Blake – I love it!”  Thanks, Blake, for brightening our Christmas with your great art.

Wow, this feels great on many levels.  It’s a real rush – and very humbling – for me to have people buy my work and to imagine them looking at the images hanging on their walls. This adorable and precious little girl is my youngest collector.


Sisters – a baby and a toddler

Last week, I had a fun shoot with two young sisters, Lucy, pictured above, age 3, and Clara, age 6 months, below. These girls are adorable, don’t you think?

When shooting kids, I’ve learned a few things that are important. One,  set up the lighting to be pretty soft and even all around. I’m not going to be able to get young kids to look in the direction of one light. In the first shot of Lucy, she was actually looking away from the main light, but I had enough light coming from the second light on the other side to show her face properly.

The second tip that’s important with young kids – get down low, at their level. In most of these shots I was lying on my stomach, propped up with my elbows.   I also try to get as close as I can, so the child pretty well fills the frame.

And, the third and last tip – shoot a lot of pictures and shoot fast. You never know when the kids are going to lose interest, or just “lose it” altogether. Lucy and Clara were wonderful for about 50 minutes – pretty amazing for their age. I took 170 photographs of them in that time, which included some fast wardrobe changes.  The family picked out about 50 images they liked and from that group I chose 27 pictures to edit in Photoshop. 

Here are the two girls together.


Critique of Beauty Lighting Image

Today, this image was critiqued by Craig Tanner of The Mindful Eye. You can see the critique by clicking here.

The Mindful Eye is one of the most popular photography websites.  The website  is terrific – lots of really helpful resources, education and inspiration. I’ve taken a couple of workshops with Craig and he has been a mentor and friend for several years.  Craig is an amazing teacher.

The video is quite long – over 21 minutes.  The last half of the video is a fairly technical discussion of making color adjustments in Photoshop, which may not interest everyone. But the first part of the video talks about the beauty lighting setup and balance in composition.

There are more images of my shoot with this model here.  As always, any comments or questions are welcome.


beauty lighting

Whenever I have the term “beauty lighting” in one of my posts, I seem to get a lot of hits. So, we’ll use it in the title, again.  These images are from a shoot with Gabrielle, a grad student in civil engineering and also a swimmer and triathlete.  The picture above is lit mostly from the back, with the light wrapping around the face, plus another light in front aiming down at about a 45 degree angle.  Also, Gabrielle held a reflector just under her chin, further softening the light.  Faithful readers will recall this lighting setup as the “Oil of Olay” look.

The image above uses the same lighting setup and was converted to black and white in a special program that adds grain to mimic a classic black and white film effect.   In the first few years of digital photography, many photographers said they wold never convert to digital because you couldn’t achieve the look of film.  While there are still a few holdouts, that argument just doesn’t hold water anymore. In fact, with the program I used for this image (Nik Silver Efex Pro) you can replicate the look and feel of some classic black and white films that are no longer made.

Here’s a more traditional headshot look.  I like the idea that Gabrielle is looking up – this can imply optimism and joy (the open smile helps too!).  Looking up also helps to emphasize her beautiful blue eyes.

As mentioned, Gabrielle is a competitive swimmer. In the photo below, she’s in her starting position. She’s wearing a suit that is so fast it’s been ruled illegal for competition. 

As always, any comments or questions are welcome.


the headshot – color, black and white and posterized

Last week, I had the privilege of shooting again with our friend, Ainsley.  Those of you who saw my photography exhibit in the Fall will recognize her – she actually appeared in 4 images in the exhibit.  This time, we shot a wide variety of pictures, but I wanted to focus on just three – or more accurately three versions of one image.  The first one, above, is a photograph that appealed to me for several reasons – the subtle colors, the “Mona Lisa” smile and the flattering lighting, mostly coming from above and centered.  See the catchlights in the eyes – you can always tell a lot about the lighting setup from the catchlights. We were trying for a simple, classic look in this shot.

But – what else could we do with this image? Well, immediately I thought of black and white.

Usually, my black and white images will be a bit darker and have more contrast. For this headshot, I kept the tones fairly bright, with the idea that Ainsley would be luminous and her skin would be smooth and pale.  There are, of course lots of choices one faces when editing an image in Photoshop – some are a matter of taste. It’s always a good idea to ask: what are we trying to accomplish with this picture – and how do we get there?

The last version is a posterized version. Think: Peter Max.  These images are definitely not to everyone’s taste. I’m drawn to this style because the image is reduced to its core components and has a graphical quality that can be quite striking.  This posterized effect in available in Photoshop as an “artistic” filter called cutout. 

Have a close look at all three versions.  Try to respond to each one individually.  Does it hold your attention?  Then think about which one of the three is your favorite.  I’d love to hear from you, either with a comment on the blog or an email.  As always, thanks for reading my blog!


“I have a crush!” – photos for on-line dating services

It’s been a long time since I was in the dating scene – Richard Nixon was president and we didn’t have personal computers or cell phones, much less web dating services.  The world has changed a bit since  then.

So, I’m clueless about web dating services, but I do know they are now mainstream. has 30 million members and is adding 20,000 a day. Recently, I had the privilege (and fun!) of helping a young woman create images to put up on some dating sites. Here’s her story, in her own words:

When the decision is made to attempt on-line dating for the first time, many questions swirl through your agitated head.  Will this even work?  Am I brave enough?  What about the horror stories I’ve heard?  Like my cousin Barb and that man who was not really named Clarence?  Really, of all fake names…he chose Clarence?  And this is what I was walking towards?  This place of the unknown. 

Well, I set a date.  A date for myself before the actual dates where my best friends would be instructed to call at a certain time so I could have a possible out. I planned to have many creatively legit emergencies. 

The date was to have some pictures taken by a professional photographer.  I have had this done before…numerous times…but this time it wasn’t for an agent in Los Angeles or to appease casting directors.  I wasn’t going to wear the suggested layers of cobalt blue.  The session was to only document me – a close-up of my head or a quarter-body shot.  I wanted freedom and Blake easily agreed, “Sure, whatever you want.”

Flashes caught me in mid-air while I jumped.  Flashes captured simple moments while I relaxed on my back.  Flashes followed me as I looked over my shoulder. 

While sitting at Blake’s laptop scrolling through the finished shots; something came over me.  I got excited to put myself out there.  I would so date me!  Blake and I worked together and created moments that were simply me.  He instructed and other times I lead but in the end, I couldn’t stop smiling at my smiling image.

Four weeks in and I’d like to report that the dating world is fun…and I have a crush.  And we will be seeing each other again for the third time this Friday.   And his name is NOT Clarence.