So, how do you choose a photographer for you senior pictures?
How do you make that decision when there are thousands of photographers? What should you be looking for? Here are some things you’ll want to consider to help you decide who is the best senior photographer for you.
Tip #1: Digitals Only vs Designer Products
What are your thoughts on products? Do you just want digital files? Do you want an easy way to share your images with friends and family? Do you want to do everything yourself or do you want someone that will take care of all the design work and ordering for you? Are you interested in having some beautiful keepsakes to remember your graduation? Do you want something unique? Maybe you want a huge portrait over the fireplace. Maybe you want a collage of multiple images. Perhaps you would prefer to have lots of images that you can easily swap out. During your Ordering & Design session, we’ll help you sort through all of your pictures, discuss what products fit your needs, design graduation announcements and grad party invitations, and show you some gifts that your family will love! After that, all you have to do is sit back and relax…and worry about the million other things going on during senior year! Our clients (especially moms!) love that once your session is done, we don’t just leave you hanging. We take care of every step from start to finish so you don’t have to stress about it!
Teenagers don’t care too much about products, right? Wrong!! My experience with seniors hasn’t proven that at all! Nearly all of our seniors choose to have their own storyboard, keepsake book, or metal! Of course our high school seniors all love the personalized mobile app, which allows you to show off and share your senior pictures on social media. For your safety, these images are watermarked and ready to share directly from your phone! If you’ve purchased the premier slideshow, that is available in your app too!
Tip #2: Editing and Professional Retouching
You’ll want to know how your pictures will be edited. Professional senior pictures should be edited, and if you don’t choose the right photographer, you might end up with little to no editing. Please know that ALL digital images need some basic editing, and that is where many photographers stop. The images that come straight from the camera (called RAW files) can’t even be opened by most people! They take processing to turn them into a jpg that you can view. But beyond that, also check a photographer’s images to be sure you like their style of editing. Some photographers do almost no retouching, some do a magazine edit and airbrush your skin.
For my high school seniors, I do quite a bit of retouching, but it doesn’t look like it and that is the point! I’ll be sure you look and feel as amazing as possible during your photo shoot. What if you have a few skin imperfections? What if you prefer a more artistic look? As much as I’d love to show you some before and after pictures, I just don’t believe that anyone should be worried about their “before” pictures being displayed to the world! However, during your in-person consultation, you’ll have plenty of time to see first hand what the choosing the right photographer can do for you. While we don’t believe in airbrushing your skin or making you look unrealistic, every image will be professionally retouched by hand (not actions or filters) to brighten your smile, smooth your skin, remove redness, touch up scars and zits, and be sure that your personality shines through! If you’re really itching to see some before and afters, there are a couple shown on the seniors page.
Tip #3: Meet Your Senior Photographer in Person
Most of all, you’ll want to choose a senior photographer that fits with your personality. We offer free in-person consultations to all of our clients because we want to get to know you before the session! That way we can talk, find out more about your likes and dislikes, clothing style, and help choose locations that fit your style! You’ll want a photographer that doesn’t rush you through in an hour and wants to just have a blast getting lots of unique pictures! I want you to be comfortable in front of the camera, and that will be easier if we get to know each other before your photo shoot.
Tip #4: Choose a Professional Photographer
Finally, one of the most important tips for your senior pictures is choose a professional photographer! These days, anyone can buy a “good camera” and “become a photographer.” It is a great hobby! But for your senior pictures, please be sure to choose a professional. This is a once in a lifetime photo shoot and I want it to be a highlight of your senior year. You don’t want someone who is just starting out to document such an important milestone! I’m a full time professional photographer. My goal is to produce beautiful, timeless portraits for you. This isn’t a weekend gig or something I do just for fun. Who do you think will want to ensure your happiness? Think twice before you ask your bff with a cell phone or your favorite uncle. While they might be good, they likely haven’t studied photographer like myself and many other professional photographers in the Phoenix area. I’ve also been published in several teen & senior magazines since 2014 as well as having images featured both nationally and internationally. I am licensed and insured, a member of PPA and part of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
8 Fun Gift Ideas for Teenagers
We’re smack in the middle of the holidayseason, and with that will comes shopping and gifts. If you’re stumped on what gifts your teen will actually use and love, then you might want to check out this list created for you below.
1. Customizable Hydro Flask: $55.00
If you have a teenager, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Only now you can customize your Hydro! Choose the size, bottle color, boot color (yes, it comes with a boot!), cap color, and strap color! My teens personally prefer the 40 oz wide mouth. If you have an athlete, it’s perfect for those long practices!
2. Fuji Instamax Mini Camera: $54.99
Need a lightweight camera with tons of options for taking selfies? This one is for you! The camera signals the recommended aperture setting with a flashing LED. This helps capture the perfect photo every time!
3. Custom Title & Name Frame: $24.99
Everyone needs a frame for their favorite pics with their BFF! Personalization Mall has quite the assortment of names and quotes to customize your gift. This frame
lets you show off your favorite picture and have it engraved with your friends’ names too! This natural wood frame arrives with an easel back design for table top display, or ready for wall mount.
4. Personalized Starbucks Cup: $16.75
The perfect gift for your favorite coffee lover! Ditch the paper cup that everyone else has and sip your favorite java in style — your style. This biodegradable cup is reusable plus you get 10 cents off your drink when you take your to-go cup to Starbucks!
5. Multi-Device Wire Charger: $13.99
Your internet connection just got faster, portable, and stylish. This high-tech gadget lets you charge five devices simultaneously.
6. Portable Speakers: $96.99
If your teen loves music, you can never go wrong with gifting them a tiny portable speaker. This way, they can listen to their favorite beats on the go without any inconvenience. Speakers with a built-in Bluetooth feature will be a big plus for them. This is definitely a favorite in our home and it’s waterproof so it can go by the pool or near the shower!
7. Airpods w/ Charging Case: $144.00
The latest technology which has taken the world by storm, Apple Airpods are a present that will be more than welcome for teens. Buy the latest pair introduced by Apple that comes with their own charging port, Bluetooth feature, and their battery lasts much longer than their previous version.
8. Wireless Charging Pad: $14.99
Stylish, chic, and modern, these wireless pads are a convenient fix to a teen’s fear of their battery running out too soon. The latest updates come with the feature of charging several cell phones at once. Now parents don’t need to worry about not reaching their kids because their battery died.
These are just a few out of a plethora of gift options available for teens. Looking for the latest fashions? Check out American Eagle or Hollister. If you have a makeup lover, don’t miss the new, smaller James Charles Mini Pallette. Looking for the perfect experience? What about iFly Indoor Skydiving? Maybe tickets for their favorite concert, like Blake Shelton or one of the other events on this long list of 2020 concerts? just need to be aware of where to look. With this season’s holiday sales going on in full flow, make sure you take advantage and buy your gifts in high quality at cheaper rates! Use our list, check it twice, and you’ll be sure to find gifts your teenagers will love!
If you’re looking for great personalized photo gifts, be sure to check out our 2019 Holiday Gift Guide!
Tips for Including your Dog in Your Senior Pictures
On the scale of zero to adorable, there’s not much that can top cute pictures of your pet—unless, of course, it’s cute pictures of you WITH your pet. Your senior picture photo shoot is the perfect time to bring along Fido or Phoebe or Boomer (or all of your furry companions), because it’s a pretty sure bet that they’ve been a big part of the memories you’ve made throughout your school years.
If you’re planning on bringing your pup along for your big day (which I highly recommend!), I have a few tips and tricks that will help things go smoothly. After all, your photo shoot is a lot like a vacation. It takes some planning, we’re going to be tired when it’s all said and done, and if the pooches come along, we need to plan ahead for that.
I’ve done a LOT of photo shoots, and I’ve captured a lot of tail wags and slobbery canine kisses along the way. So trust me when I say the cute factor of the pictures we get will more than outweigh the little bit of planning we do to make sure things work out how we want them to. Here’s what you need to know:
Operation Cooperation – Getting Your Pooch to Cooperate
Yeah, this isn’t going to happen. You know every dog commercial where the obedient and well-groomed pup leaps into the air with perfect timing to catch the frisbee that’s thrown to them? That’s likely take #412 of that shot, and at that point, the guy behind the camera is probably considering giving up his career to live a solitary existence somewhere in a forest. So, instead of putting pressure on your furry best friend and expecting him or her to behave in a certain way, we’ll just capture the moments organically. Trust me…we’ll get better pictures that way anyway!
The Less Complicated, The Better
If you’d like your pooch to wear a velvet capelet while prancing through a field with a flower crown balanced on her head and spontaneously nudge a butterfly with her nose, that’s not going to happen either. However, if you plan on finding beauty in the simple moments, you’re guaranteed some great images of you and your best fur-buddy that you’ll cherish forever. And please don’t forget to clean up after your pup. We’re typically in public places, so always bring paper towel and a bag for those potty breaks. Nobody wants to step in that!
Seconds before this picture was taken, Marissa’s dog nearly knocked her over. “Quick, grab him and give him a hug!” Let’s just say that a 10-month-old pit bull might just have a few other ideas about how the session should go. But seriously…this face!!!
Capturing Their Character
Goofy? Serious? Playful? Gruff? Whatever your pup’s personality—and however your pet acts with you—I want to capture that in pictures. Does your best pal get the zoomies whenever you play with him? Let’s see that whir and blur of tail and ears! Does your best gal flop of her back for belly rubs whenever you’re around? Whatever their silly quirks, whatever makes them your unique best friend, THAT’s what will make pictures with your pup the very best pictures ever. Don’t worry about all the sitting and shaking and behaving. This whole photo shoot will be out of the norm, so don’t count on your pooch to take that lying down!
Not Opposed to Bribery
Got Snausages? By all means, go ahead and fill your pockets with whatever treats will calm the savage beast (or drooling fluffball). Seriously, if you need some snacks for yourself, too, go right ahead. Just try to steer clear of Cheetos or anything broccoli-ish that might get stuck in your teeth. My point is, go ahead and bribe your pup with a Beggin’ Strip or two. I’m all about everyone having a little bit of fun!
The first picture is what every client thinks they want. Literally all of you, right? Until we get the 2nd picture. Which one do you think is printed BIG for their wall? It isn’t the first image of Brandon and his new pup staring sweetly at the camera. It’s the one where you can smell that puppy breath and feel the slobbery kisses! Maybe we used a little peanut butter, maybe we didn’t! Nobody will ever know.
A Little Goes a LONG Way
Here’s where we throw in a little strategy. You may have noticed that your doggo doesn’t have the longest attention span—and that’s ok. But we need to plan for that. The best way for us to get amazing shots of you with your pup is to limit the time he or she spends in front of the camera. While you’ll be going to several locations for your pictures, your pup will likely only go to one. We’ll work together to pick the perfect spot. I try to pick a time either at the very beginning or end of your shoot, and have someone (mom, dad, friend) swing by with your pup at the perfect time. We will be at a safe location—not near busy streets or train tracks—just in case there’s a slip of the collar or escape attempt. I also try to pick wide open places like parks or even back yards so there’s less noise and confusion for your pup. I’ll get several shots of you interacting with your best fur-buddy, and then he or she can go home and relax after their short photo session experience. It’s super stress-free for you…and for your pet!
My dog is crazy!
Um, aren’t they all? Isn’t that why we love them so much! I can’t tell you how many clients have come in for their in-person consultation and never considered including their dog because they “don’t listen” or they’re “too wild and crazy.” Lucky for you, wild and crazy is my specialty! Trust me, ALL dogs are like that! Well, except Mocha, this sweet pup below. But I’m telling you, she is the exception not the rule. Also, when we got our first dog (years and years ago, before we were married) we had our dog trained by professionals. Really, they trained us not the dog, so my husband and I both know techniques that work with many dogs. I’ve worked with rescues, small dogs, big dogs, you name it. And of course it doesn’t have to be a dog either! I’d love to meet your cat, horse, or other beloved pet!
Goldie is a gorgeous rescue and it took some time to get her to adjust to her surroundings. She wasn’t outside much as a pup, so an outdoor photo shoot sent her senses into overdrive! That’s OK! We let her roam and sniff and just enjoy being outside. Then in between, still captured gorgeous images for her mama.
Some of the cutest and most fun senior pictures I’ve taken have included family pets. When it’s time to sit down and talk about your session, ask me to show you some of my favorites. Once you see all the slobbery faces and wagging tails, you’ll definitely want to include your pup in your senior picture photo shoot. After all, they’ve been your study buddy, your slumber party pal, your midnight snack sidekick, and your secret confidant for all these years. It just takes a little bit of planning to include them in your photo memories.
7 Tips for Choosing the Best Photographer for Senior Pictures
There are thousands of photographers out there, so how do you know which one is the best photographer for your senior pictures? How do you choose? What should you look for? How do you make that decision when there are thousands of photographers? Not all sessions are the same, so you’ll need to decide what’s important to you! These tips are designed to make sure that you’re picking the perfect senior photographer to capture your senior year!
Tip #1: Do your research.
Ask around. Ask other moms and seniors about their experiences with photographers that they’ve used. Additionally, you should ask each photographer you are considering for references and reviews. Check the photographer’s social media. Dig through their website to see if their style matches yours. When you’ve done all of that, make sure that you feel confident that you will be comfortable spending an hour or more with this person. You want to feel a connection not only to their work but to them. Again, you only experience senior year once. Make your senior portrait session count!
A good way to gauge what your experience with a photographer will be like is by noting how quickly they respond to your emails, calls, or texts. Does it take days or do you usually hear back from them within 24 hours? It’s important to have reasonable expectations and to realize that you are not their only client, but you also want to feel like you are important to them. Make sure that you have a good feeling when you communicate with your photographer. Are they excited about your shoot? Are they giving you helpful advice? (Psssst…my goal is to make EVERY client feel like my ONLY client!)
Tip #2: Don’t let price alone dictate your decision.
I get it. Teenagers are expensive! Car insurance, prom, college, life…it’s never ending! Price is the first thing that most people ask about. Don’t let price be the roadblock to getting the look and experience you want! These are your senior photos! If you go with the cheapest photographer or have a friend take them, are you going to get images you love? Will you have envy or regret about your senior pictures? This is a rite of passage, one of the most important milestones of your teenage years.
Find someone you love and believe will deliver the best experience and images! You’re only going to do this once! And this is super important…try to find someone who will guide you through the process, help with styling, and offer ideas for product selection. While there are times to hire a hobbyist, hiring a professional is definitely worth it when it comes to senior pictures.
I know there is a wide range of prices out there, and I know I’m on the high end, but that’s because of what I offer and what I deliver for each and every client.
Tip #3: Choose a photographer that specializes in senior pictures.
Many photographers think it is best to offer a little of everything, and some do it very well! I used to be that photographer, the one who took newborns and families, seniors and engagements, pretty much anything that was requested. Over the years it became very obvious that my true passion is working with teens and seniors, and when you love what you do, it makes all the difference in the world!
If a photographer only works with a few seniors here and there, they may not be the best choice. Being an amazing family or newborn photographer doesn’t mean that they’re as good at photographing seniors (although they may be!). This is why it’s important to ask to see a full session and really look at their portfolio before making a decision. Are there a lot of different seniors shown? Do they show both guys and girls? You want to be sure that you hire a photographer who is an expert and knows how to help you look and feel your best. You’ll also want to be sure you’re not just a number to them, but a priority. If you hire a wedding photographer, they will likely be focused on brides. If you hire a newborn photographer, they’ll be great at posing babies but may not be able to help with styling.
By specializing in senior pictures, it allows me to keep up with trends, have a dedicated Style Closet, and have years of experience working with teenagers. My first seniors were the Class of 2011, and after a few years I began only doing sessions for teens and seniors. Now, I get recognized regularly by industry leaders and published in magazines!
Tip #4: Choose a Professional Photographer
One of the most important tips for your senior pictures is choose a professional photographer! You’re only a high school senior once, so why not hire the best? These days, anyone can buy a “good camera” and “become a photographer.” It is a great hobby! But for your senior pictures, please be sure to choose a professional. You don’t want someone who is just starting out to document such an important milestone! I’m a full time professional photographer. My goal is to produce beautiful, timeless portraits for you. This isn’t a weekend gig or something I do just for fun. Think twice before you ask your BFF with a cell phone or your favorite uncle. While they might be good, they do not have the skills and artistry to capture your unique personality in photographs, and have limited time behind the lens.
You also want to make sure that if it’s required, your photographer has permission and/or a permit to use the location you select. This is a HUGE deal and a big difference between a professional photographer and a hobbyist! While it maybe isn’t always required, it is always best to ask if you’re in a public place! Some of the parks require permits for day use, some places strictly prohibit photography. Please be respectful on their decisions. I’ve used restaurants, stores, and even private residences…but never without asking first!
Professional photographers have standards to uphold and are always improving their skills to you the best. This is done for a reason! I want you to be confident that I will produce amazing portraits for you!
Tip #5: Take your session to the next level.
Who doesn’t want to feel amazing when they are being photographed? Being pampered on the day of your session is not only fun but it will make you feel more confident and beautiful. Find out if the photographer has a professional hair and makeup artist to help you achieve the look you want. Make sure that the photographer is willing to meet with you before your session! It is often hard to open up to someone you’ve never met. Find someone who is easy to reach and responds to your questions. You don’t want this to be a stressful photo shoot! Getting helpful advice and knowing exactly what to expect at the session is a plus and goes a long way to calm nerves and make both you and your parents feel confident.
Tip #6: The truth about portfolio building.
Often people will try to cut costs by hiring a new photographer or someone who is portfolio building, but here’s why that can be a problem. Are you paying for a senior session that represents you or for your photographer to build their portfolio? I always remind my clients that this is their time, not mine. I’m here to provide my talent and experience but it’s not my session, it’s yours! I’m happy to suggest locations that offer interesting backgrounds or give a certain vibe. If you’re unsure about what to wear, I’m happy to help you choose outfits. This is all part of a photographer’s job!
However, if a photographer is telling you what they want for your session, it’s important to ask yourself if the photo shoot is more about them than it is about you. Your input and creative expression are key! If you need ideas, I’m full of them, but even when I use similar ideas or locations, I don’t want your pictures to look to like your friends’ pictures. I want you to have something different! Is there a limit on locations or outfits? Often photographers will only let you change once or twice, or don’t have a place for you to change if you’re outdoors. Be sure you get all the details before you commit!
Tip #7: Include your parents.
This may seem like an odd thing to look for in a senior photographer, but it’s still essential. Having one or both of your parents involved in the session is important! Make sure the photographer allows a parent to be present at the shoot at all times. A good senior photographer will shoot for both you and your parents and provide you with images that everyone in your family will love. A few sessions this spring I had both Mom & Dad at the photo shoot and it was phenomenal! It makes me feel like we’re all in this together! (And just as I typed that I heard High School Musical in my head, which wasn’t intentional!) Plus, sometimes I convince them to step in for a quick picture. Go ahead, let the tears roll down your face.
There you have it! I hope that these tips have been helpful and will help you pick the best photographer for you. If you think we might be a good fit, I’d love to meet you and offer you a free in-person consultation.
Enjoy Your Senior Year! Class of 2020…It’s Your Turn!
High school has flown by, and now you’re a senior!!! When you look back, have you really enjoyed high school? Or did you just fly through, waiting for the next chapter of your life to begin? Now is the time to make the most of your senior year! While this all may seem daunting, relax! It will be OK! Now is the perfect time to start planning these things, because the earlier you start planning, the easier it will be in the spring! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later! Planning in small increments over a long period of time will significantly reduce your stress levels. So plan early, but don’t stress!
Visiting college campuses
The best way to start planning the future is to visit the place you might be living at for the next four years. This will help you make an informed decision about your future. Don’t let this slide! Get your essays written and submit those applications! Before you know it, it will be spring and graduation comes quickly! When you’re planning your visits, try to schedule your visit while school is in session.
Start planning and saving…NOW!
While it’s true you still have a little while, it’s best to start planning early. Start thinking and planning where you want to live- are you going to live at home, in a dorm, or in an apartment? Will you have a meal plan? Some colleges have rules involving staying in dorms and having meal plans, so check with your college to see if you are required to have one or both of those things. Some other things to check is what is included in the dorms, whether you have communal bathrooms or private bathrooms, how close your dorm room is to certain buildings, etc. It’s better to be prepared so when you arrive on campus, you aren’t surprised on much.
Spend more time with friends
Whatever you decide to do after high school, it’s likely that some of your friends will be moving away. Try to take advantage and spend time together. Also, be sure to make new friends too! See if you know anyone at the universities you’ve visited. Maybe you’ll be able to connect with old teammates, friends’ siblings, or your friend that moved away a few years ago. And be sure to nurture your current friendships. Doing this will ensure that you’ll have someone to talk to if things get rough next year.
This is the time to reach out to those teachers who made an impact on you. Your teachers would totally love to hear a small token of your gratitude. Remember, most of them have a passion for what they do. Showing appreciation will go a long way. Whether it’s your math teacher who got you through Algebra or your favorite coach, let them know how they’ve helped you grow. You might even take some time to drop a note to your favorite elementary school teacher too!
Spend more time with family
It’s hard to balance school life, homework, and friends, but don’t forget to spend time with your family. Mom is probably having a hard time too, so take this time to do something special together. She’s gotten you through the last 17 years and you’re gonna need her even more as you venture into the adult world! You may be going away to school next year, joining the military, or moving out on your own. Enjoy having your family close!
Explore new things, new places, something different. Take a day trip with your BFF’s, or visit a new coffee shop, check out the museum in your town.
Be upfront with your feelings
There’s no better time to embrace honesty. Don’t leave that chance for things unsaid. Definitely don’t be rude or mean about things, but saying how you feel about things that scare you will help you leave high school with no regrets. Get it off your chest and it will help you enter your next chapter of your life with nothing holding you back.
Embrace school activities
This is your chance to fully participate in everything your school has to offer. Don’t look back and regret not going for the last time. This includes sports, football games, dances, and spirit days! While some of you may be playing sports in college, for others the number of games or meets left may be limited. Make the most of it!
It’s time to let go of old grudges. It’s your senior year! Honestly, it probably won’t matter that much in the future. Holding on to the past will only leave you with negative impact on your life. Relax and let it go!
Practice basic life skills
Now is the time to learn how to be more self sufficient. Learn some basics! For example, learn how to do laundry correctly. No, you’re not supposed to dump your entire month’s worth of clothes into one load. Cook some basic dishes, maybe even cook a vegetable. Learn the basics of car maintenance and make sure it is in good working condition. And definitely be sure you know how to handle money. Practicing now while you still have parents around to guide you, will help get a handle on some of the adulting that will be hitting hard next year!
If you’re an athlete, check out our tips for your senior sports portraits!
I’m here to help and am always willing to answer questions. There are no dumb questions, trust me, I’ve asked them all. What may seem like common sense to some is new to someone else no matter how long you’ve been shooting! Today I’m just gonna ramble a little about some basics and see what happens!
What Lens Do You Use?
Oh boy is this a loaded question! It is by far the most asked question that I get from both hobbyist and professional photographers. The answer is easy to give, but much harder to put into practice. Let’s start with the easy answer. What’s in my bag?
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 70-200mm 2.8L
- Canon 28mm 2.8
- Canon 85mm 2.8
- Canon 24-70mm 2.8L
- Sigma 15mm 2.8
Clear as mud, right? I went through exactly the same thing! I used to get so frustrated when I’d ask and the photographer would reply with “well, what are you trying to do?” Uhhhh, get awesome pix like you? LOL! No joke, we all thought like that as beginners and we are ALL beginners at some point! Worse yet I would ask and they’d tell me. I had asked for a great lens for sports and bought my 70-200mm 2.8L which I bought in 2009 and is still my baby. Over the years I took portrait classes and one webinar in particular really had me stumped. I had the same camera and same lens, but VERY different results. Mine were, well, not great. Hers were amazing! Then I started to notice something. While we were both using the 70-200mm lens, my focal length was all over the place. Hers was at 200mm nearly all the time.
So What? Bokeh vs Compression
So think of focal length as if you stand in one spot facing your house. The smaller the focal length, the more of your house you’re going to get in the frame. Nearly everything will be in focus, due to the compression (or lack thereof). Just stick with me and stash that in your brain for now. Everyone seems to think that bokeh produces those beautiful creamy images, and that is one part but not the whole picture, so to speak. So now go stand in front of your house using an 85mm. You’re gonna get maybe half of your house. Next, use a 70-200mm lens, 135mm, or long focal length. If you’re still standing on the sidewalk, you’re likely get a window and front door. Why? Because of the compression.
Now let’s put that into practice. For years I shot all my sessions with my 70-200mm getting nice portraits and creamy backgrounds. This image was taken with the 70-200mm at a focal length of 140mm. All that color behind him? That’s sun and trees at Tumbleweed park. All compressed into a gorgeous, creamy background.
Too many photographers think that creamy backgrounds come from shooting wide open with an aperture of f/2.8. That’s only part of the equation and honestly, that thinking will often result in one eye that’s in focus and another that’s out of focus. Again, speaking from experience. So in order to get a shot like Jalen’s and get that creamy background, I knew I needed to use a long focal length. So this was taken with a focal length of 140mm and an aperture of f/4. Not even f/2.8! I could have closed down even more if necessary and still had this compressed background. Say for example, if Jalen’s parents were standing behind him. I’d want them in focus too, so I probably would have closed down to f/5.6 and adjusted the shutter speed and/or ISO accordingly.
When I’m with a client, I keep my 70-200mm lens on most of the time. It’s an amazing portrait lens! So here’s Adrienne which was also shot with the 70-200mm lens, but this time at a focal length of 75mm and an aperture of f/4. See the difference? Still get the upper body, but the background isn’t all compressed. You can see the lake and tall grass, get some sense of the surrounding and Adrienne still fills a good part of the frame.
Now let’s get serious. What happens when you want those gorgeous eyelash shots and you want all the lashes in focus? Well, following the thought that shooting wide open will give beautiful bokeh just doesn’t work in this case. This is really the perfect example of using the right lens to get the background compression but still keep your subject in focus. This image was taken with the same lens, focal length set to 110mm, and an aperture of f/4.5! Yep, 4.5 not 1.8 or 2.8. If I had used my 85mm @ f/1.8 the result would have been very different. See, she’s not perfectly straight. Think of aperture as a thickness, like a piece of glass. Using an aperture of f/1.8 would have resulted in one eye being more in focus or her eyes being in focus but not her nose.
Wide Angle Lens
Now let’s jump to the shorter focal lengths. This image was shot with a 28mm lens because I wanted the full picture. I wanted the background, the water, and the surroundings. Using this lens, I can be pretty close to my senior and still capture all of this. I could have easily been sitting in this exact same spot shooting, changed to the 70-200mm lens and taken a closeup of Adrienne! What would have happened? All that tall grass behind her would have been compressed. Results might not have been ideal due to the lighting, but that’s a post for another day.
Let’s get out away from the pretty backgrounds into urban downtown Phoenix. This image was also taken with a 28mm focal length. Notice how I got everything in the frame and was able to make Mercy take up a good part of the frame but still fit in all the urban landscape.
What lens do you use?
Let’s get back to the original question and answer. The answer is, it depends what I’m shooting and the look I’m going for.
When you might use a wide angle lens or short focal length, like a 28mm:
- Want a large area
- Tall buildings
- Urban areas
- Lots of surroundings
For me, 28mm let’s me get these fun shots like the one of Mercy. It let’s me catch gymnasts jumping or a football player throwing a football and I want to capture a lot of the field and stands. It also lets me create the illusion of something being larger or bolder, like a car. The closer you get, the more distortion you get. Play with it! Wide angle lenses can really bring variety to your portfolio!
When you might use a long lens and long focal length, like a 70-200mm:
- Don’t love the background and want to blur it out
- Headshots without distracting surroundings
- You want the texture but want the focus on your subject
- Creamy backgrounds
My 70-200mm is still my go-to lens for portraits. I get great headshots and people are always requesting those “gorgeous blurry backgrounds.” It also lets me get further away so I’m not right in someone’s face. The downside of course, for those of you who have worked with me, is that I have to back up. Then back up more. And then back up a little more to get everything in the frame!
Next time we’ll talk a little more about aperture and bokeh. Have more questions or need clarification? Shoot me an email!