The Secrets to Natural Family Interaction

The Mom of the family you are about to shoot steps out the car exhausted, frazzled, and already giving her 12 year son the evil eye. The Dad looks as if he can’t wait to get this thing over with and the younger kids are ornery about the crisp new clothes they were forced into.

Lucky you.

You get the easy job of creating gorgeous, fun, happy family photos to be treasured for the next 50 years with a family that doesn’t want to be near each other for 5 minutes.

As a photographer I’ve been in this situation on numerous occasions. The hours leading up to a family photo shoot can be super stressful for the family. Mom wants everything perfect…the hair, the outfits, everything. And Dad usually just wants to close his eyes and get the whole ordeal over with. But even if your session is starting out under these less-than-ideal circumstances, it’s doesn’t have to continue that way. You can still pull out outstanding photos.


It’s all about knowing how to control the situation. Knowing what to say to get everyone on board. And knowing how to interact with the family so that they will know how to interact with each other.

In the video below I have the answers to all these secrets and more. Say no to mediocre interaction! And start saying yes to natural, happy, and loving interaction that will carry over to your photos.


Please share your own secrets to natural family interaction. We can never have too many tricks up our sleeves! And as always, let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy.


2 Freebies: Grab Katie’s FREE video, Top Photography Struggles Answered! Here’s the link: https://keytopictures.com. AND as a bonus also download her highly acclaimed ebook, InstaLove: The Key to Creating Gorgeous Photos with your Phone.


The secret for when baby Just. Won't. Sleep.

Scream Baby Scream by Alicia Birch

thumbnailRed faced, quivering little chin, tightly balled up chubby fists. She has nursed 3 times …but she is still screaming her tiny little lungs out. You have done everything right. You’ve swaddled, you’ve rocked, and you have soothed and done everything in your power (see my top tips for happy, sleepy newborns here) to make baby happy. But still, this baby, this peaceful, sweet, newborn piece of the world’s goodness has been howling like a banshee for the past 20 minutes. Photographing babies doesn’t always go to plan.

 So now what?

Take heart – this happens. Not often but believe me, it does happen. Baby can’t tell you what’s wrong and some days you simply cannot make it right for them. Maybe baby didn’t get enough sleep, or she has wind or reflux…maybe the planets didn’t align for her. Whatever it is, it’s just not her day.

So here is my number one tip when you have tried everything in your power and baby will not settle. A secret soooooo big it will astonish you with its’ simplicity.

Send them home.

Yep, send them home. There is no point continuing if baby is that upset. It just makes baby, the new mum and photographer frustrated and stressed.

There is nothing wrong with sending baby home for today and rescheduling the session for a couple of days’ time. I have done this on several occasions and every time the second time around baby has been content, sleepy and happy.  Try it next time – mums get it, they don’t want to see their baby upset. I have found that mums are happy to be able to come back on another day to complete their session and achieve the gorgeous newborn photographs that they have come for.

In a Perfect World...

In a Perfect World…

The funny thing is, every difficult baby I have brought back a second time seems to end up with amazing photos! Sometimes the ones you have to work hardest for are the ones that end up the best!

Til next time

Alicia Signature SPU copy5





5 Tricks to Gorgeous Indoor Shots

This time of year brings with it many exciting photo opportunities INDOORS. But with indoor photography, many struggles can arise…poor coloring and blurry pictures normally top the list.

But not to fear! Those struggles can be easily remedied with these 5 tricks. Read on!
Indoor shots 1


1- First and foremost, turn off all of the overhead lights. When you have overhead lighting it’s really hard to capture that natural coloring. Only rely on light coming from the windows. Check out the ugly photo below to see an example of what overhead lighting will do to your photos:

Indoor shots 2
Now see what it will look like once you turn off all overhead lighting:

Indoor shots 3

I know what you’re thinking… What if it’s night time or there isn’t enough light coming in through the windows? See Tip #2!

2- If it’s nighttime, there are no windows or it’s just plain cloudy and dreary outside then of course keep the overhead lights on but make sure your white balance is set on incandescent or fluorescent lighting. Or if you use a manual white balance put the number very low such as 2700K.

Indoor shots 3a

3- The next tip is to use a lens with a wide open aperture (f/1.4, f1.8, f/2.0…) in order to let in as much as possible. When you use an aperture that is wide open like that you are able to pull in tons of light through the lens thus making it so your shutter speed is faster which in turn gives you a sharper photo.

Indoor shots 4

ISO 400, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/125th sec.

4- If you are not getting a fast enough shutter speed even though your aperture is very low, start to increase your ISO until you gain a sufficient shutter speed. I always like to start at an ISO of 400 and then go up from there. Just remember though, the higher your ISO, the grainer your photos will be.

Indoor shots 5
ISO 500, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/100th sec.

5- The last tip is to hold VERY STILL while you take the picture to reduce camera shake causing blurriness. Sometimes I find that my shutter speed is still not fast enough even though I’ve opened up my aperture and increased my ISO. So in that case I just hold very still, hold my breath and gently squeeze the shutter release button so that even though I still have a slower shutter speed, I reduce any camera blur.

Indoor shots 6
ISO 500, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/40th sec.

Using these quick and easy tips you are sure to capture all of your holiday celebrations! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to email me! I love to help and support people in their photography goals.


2 Freebies: Grab Katie’s FREE video, Top Photography Struggles Answered! Here’s the link: https://keytopictures.com. AND as a bonus also download her highly acclaimed ebook, InstaLove: The Key to Creating Gorgeous Photos with your Phone.


Photographer Dies of Exposure by Mimika Cooney

The Internet is the 21st century version of the atom bomb. For all it’s benefits and advantages, there is some overlooked carnage that us, as photographers in a digital society, have had to survive.


In his October 26th article in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/IjDcX8), Tim Kreider ( author of “We Learn Nothing”) vented about his irritation with the sheer number of requests he receives from sources offering him “exposure” in exchange for his writing.


“People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing.”  says Tim Kreider.


Why is it then that general society thinks it’s okay to ask a photographer, writer or artist, with a straight face and clear conscious, to give them their work for free? As if the number of website hits promised or eyeballs who will see our work should be enough compensation because “It’s great exposure!”


Exposure to what? The chance “exposure” is to be like a brush with fame mixed in with empty promises. Usually this kind of “offer” is a sugar coated way of telling me that the offer comes from someone who is struggling or broke.


“Exposure” doesn’t pay my bills.  In Tim’s words, its like “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom.


As a photographer, how do you feel when someone asks you, or worse expects, that you give them your images with no payment in exchange for “exposure”? It seems like a catch 22 situation: if I don’t give my images I come across as stingy and risk losing referrals; yet if I do openly give them it will be hard to charge what I’m really worth and they will expect them every time.


Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again.”  Tim Kreider


I have to agree with Tim in that because they aren’t artists, they probably think we just do photography for the fun of it. They think we must be flattered when someone asks us to “do our little thing we already do” as if we are wannabe pop stars just waiting for a chance to “perform”.


There are exceptions of course, when sharing your work with a source will indeed provide you with access to thousands of eyeballs, or better yet, immediate access to potential customers.  This only works when you are given full credit for your work and your potential audience have a direct way of making contact with you.


If we actively educate the general public that time is indeed money, then maybe we can attach an intrinsic value to our photography?


The trick to making “exposure” work for you is to show what you are truly worth. This can be achieved with a friendly note along with a “paid in full” invoice showing the real dollar value of your services when submitting your work.


Here are my Tips for dealing with “Exposure” requests…


  1. Thank the source for the opportunity.
  2. Ask what their number of subscribers or potential clients they have to assess if they are a good fit for your brand.
  3. Make it clear that your services are $XYZ and the usage of the digital files are $XYZ.
  4. Let them know that you would be happy to help them out in exchange for full credit AND a link back to your website.
  5. Always watermark your images with your logo.
  6. Be confident but kind and stand by your prices.


So believe in yourself, you are worth it. Don’t doubt your dreams. You can do what you love and be paid for living it!


{Big hugs}







What is your opinion about free “exposure”? Share your comments below…


Freebies... Download a free chapter of Mimika’s book and other Marketing goodies here http://www.mimikacooney.com/freebies


Shoot for YOU by Cliff Lawson

I have been remiss in not getting a blog posting up lately, but between being unusually busy and my feeling that it is poor form to post unless you have something worthwhile to say…well…that’s my reason.


I am a portrait photographer. I am pretty good at it and I love it.


Sandy usually asks me to post on things concerning equipment. This may seem off-topic, but the equipment is some of our most important: our brain and our soul.


I just wrapped up the busiest high school senior portrait season I have ever had. For me—like plenty of you—it is a one-person operation: I schedule, shoot, process, sell, print, and deliver.  I did not take a single image for myself since early summer. I am a low-volume operation by design and this summer/fall proved that referrals really do work! I needed a break.


So when my friend Jeff Johnson of Soul Road Trips (http://www.soulroadtrips.com ) asked me if I wanted to go along with him and a few friends for a week-long trip through three national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, and Monument Valley, it did not take long for me to say yes.


I am not much of a landscape person. I enjoy looking at the work of photographers who do it well, but it’s just so hard to get a good expression out of trees and mountains. AND you have to get up soooo early. Well, the good news is that in mid-November sunrise is later and sunset is earlier—a much more civilized operation! Another bonus is that the tourists are few and far between.


I needed images for ME. Stuff nobody would see unless I wanted them to see it. No pressure to get it right. If the images were less-than-stellar, no big deal. It was a chance to do some photography just for the sake of taking images. Also a chance to get away from the phone, emails, image processing, and all that business stuff. A chance to re-energize!


Living in Denver, the drive to Moab, Utah is around 6 hours. Only a bit longer than driving through Denver at rush hour. So we left late morning, arrived late afternoon, had dinner and went to bed early to get up for sunrise in Arches.


I should add that I took two camera bodies—Nikon D800 and D7000 and three lenses—70-200, 24-70, and the 17-55 for the D7000. A tripod, cable release, and a Polarizer.


This first image is actually about a half hour BEFORE sunrise: 25 seconds at f/9, ISO200. The blur in the clouds is due to their movement during the exposure. Wow, haw many time do I get to do a 25 second exposure for a high school senior’s session?


231 Arches before sunrise-018


Fifty-five minutes later, the sun started to work its way across the rocks. Aside from being cold, this landscape stuff was starting to look fun!


232 Arches sunrise


233 Arches-209


After sunrise at Arches, we went back into Moab, had a mid-morning breakfast and then took the westbound road just north of town out into Canyonlands. It is called Potash Road for the potash processing plant at the end of the improved part of the road – just before that road gets interesting. I mean INTERESTING!


Remember the movie “Thelma and Louise?” At the end they drive their car off a cliff and by coincidence I took an image of our car from EXACTLY the camera location as the camera in the movie. Here is the spot.


234Thelma and Louise


You can go here on You Tube and see the car fly off the road at the same spot.



The rest of Potash Road is one breathtaking view after another. The climb out of the valley is not for the faint of heart! One lane – one car width – no guard rails – and multiple switchbacks up the vertical wall.


Skip to the next morning—back to Dead Horse Point, but now we are on TOP and looking down on the road we traveled yesterday.


Here is one view just as the sun broke the horizon.




And here is the view looking down onto Potash Road. The Thelma and Louise area is just where the road disappears off to the right.


235 River at Dead Horse Pt


I’ll not make you view all me vacation photos! But here is an image you just cannot make around big cities—too much light pollution. This was taken in Monument Valley about 90 minutes after sunset. Millions of stars. That straight line in the upper portion is a satellite. Thirty seconds, f/2.8, ISO 1600.




There were other sights (and sites) but that is a taste of what got me doing some exciting things with a camera that was just for me. No pressure—just fun!


Of course I AM a portrait photographer and on our last day the weather was gray overcast and just not the stuff of decent landscape images. So we went to a Moab junkyard to see if we could turn images of junk into art. Well, the other guys went junk shooting and I came upon this gentleman in the garage. He was welding what appeared to be shelving and I asked him If I could take some images while he worked. What a guy! He said, “Sure, what would you like me to do?” I just told him to do what he does and ignore me. I got this one. Honestly…one of my favorite photos of the whole trip. I love people images!




So here is my point: Get out once in a while and make images of things outside your comfort zone. Do personal projects – something that nobody is paying you for. It will invigorate you. It will sharpen your skills. You will broaden your education in the craft of photography.


Now back to the world: headshots and a group this morning, a family session tomorrow and then the Thanksgiving Holiday. May you all have a wonderful holiday season.




239 Welder 2

katie evans newborn 9

5 Tips to take beautiful newborn pictures in the hospital by Katie Evans

There are few things more precious than a newborn, especially a newborn who is just hours old. I’m always in awe of the absolute miracle of it all. As a photographer, I can’t help but think how every single detail needs to be documented.


katie evans newborn 1


katie evans newborn 2


Here are 5 quick and easy Tips to take beautiful newborn pictures while they are still in the hospital:


#1: Open all the blinds and use a low aperture.


Often times hospital rooms are not exactly conducive to taking natural light photos. But not to worry, there is always a way around it. First of all open the blinds (pull them all the way up, don’t just open the slats). Next, if you still don’t have a fast enough shutter speed, open your aperture all the way. (f/1.8, 2.0, 2.2 etc.) This will help you achieve a nice fast shutter speed.


katie evans newborn 3


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#2: Position the baby where there is not a lot of clutter and distraction


Let’s face it, hospital rooms are packed with eye clutter…cords, trays, buttons, your own stuff, the baby’s stuff…the list goes on and on. When taking pictures of the baby push that clutter aside and fill your frame with the baby.


katie evans newborn 5


katie evans newborn 6


#3: Take some detail shots of the baby and the room.


A newborn’s skin is so soft and furry and often times so wrinkly. And unfortunately this stage only lasts for such a brief moment. Take some close-up pictures of the baby and even some of the surrounding area to document exactly what the baby looks like.


katie evans newborn 7


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#4 Step back and take a picture of the entire room


Just as you took pictures of the details, take some pull-back pictures of the entire room to show what it felt like and looked like in the hospital room.


katie evans newborn 11


katie evans newborn 12


#5 Take some shots of the baby and Mom.


Of course you need to document Mom holding the baby and the special bond they share. To help take the pressure of being in front of the camera off of Mom try suggesting things for her to do. For example say, “Hold the baby in your left arm and gaze down at the baby.” (click, click, click) or “Put the baby on your belly and look up at the camera.” (click, click, click) “Good, okay now look down at the baby. ” (click, click, click)


katie evans newborn 13


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As you can see, documenting special moments doesn’t have to be complicated. Don’t let yourself turn a quick and easy 15 minute job into a complex and difficult 2 hour job! Simplify and see results.


Thanks for reading and please let me know how I can support you,



Generating Leads from Event

Generating Leads from an Event by Lisa Francescon

Lisa FrancescanChristmas music, cookies, Santa, children bouncing off the walls, and happy dogs sniffing each other.  This is what you will find when you visit the Santa Paws is coming to Town Event this November.


As a pet photographer, this is a wonderful opportunity to generate leads for the business. However, since this is a high volume/low cost event, there must be a process in place to qualify potential clients.  A transition into the studio environment and pricing is a must in order for the process to be successful.


The Event

Hosted by a local church, we will be providing a unique Santa Claus portrait experience. Families are invited to bring both their children and pets to visit and be photographed with Santa.


Since this is also a fundraiser, if participants bring a canned good for the local food pantry, they will receive a complimentary 5×7. A portion of the sales will also be donated to a local shelter that works with at-risk and homeless youth.


When I met with the church board to discuss this idea, I allowed them to choose the charity that will be benefitting from Santa Paws. Since they are hosting the event by providing the space, punch and cookies, I wanted them to be an integral part of the planning.


At the event, I will also have a drawbox in place in which we will be giving away a session and a wall portrait. The entire purpose of the drawing is to generate leads.




I will also have a banner in place and studio information cards. One side of the card will have instructions on how to view and order their images, the other side will be studio information.


This is the second time I have done an event like this with pets. Last year, we offered viewing and ordering at the event. I found that the ordering was difficult for the families as they were attempting to control their dogs and kids and look at images at the same time.


I want this to be a positive experience for the attendees so if I can take away a little stress, I will.


So this year, I am taking a risk by placing the images online. Images will go up the Monday after the event and will be posted for one week. If images are not ordered during that time, families will have to contact me to swing by the studio to look at images. All images will be archived on December 1st. This information is on the cards that we will give them.


The Marketing

Using the templates from the Santa Paws Is Coming to Town Campaign, posters, postcards and an email blast were designed. Posters were distributed throughout the community. Postcards will be mailed to clients. The church that is hosting the event will also be mailing postcards. The event has also been published in church bulletins throughout the Quad Cities.


Santa Paws Poster


I will also be blogging and posting on Facebook as the event draws near.


The woman who has been assisting me, sent a press release to our local newspapers. One of the papers found the idea to be quite unique and will be interviewing Kathleen and me next week.


From the event to the studio

Here’s the challenge, taking new clients from a low cost event into the studio in which the pricing and products are significantly higher. Remember, the guests at the event will be purchasing packages equivalent to school package pricing. Portraits purchased at the event will be mailed and the cost of mailing is figured into the pricing. My assistant will be taking care of the packaging and mailing.


Another challenge is the fact that the Santa Paws images will be placed online to order. Something that is not done at the studio.


So instead of just throwing everyone into the studio pricing and crossing my fingers that they will stick around, we have a process set up to qualify our new clients.


In February, we will run Pet Pals Limited Edition Sessions with some special packages. Although it won’t be full studio pricing, the packages will be significantly higher. Postcards with the Pet Pals promotion will be placed in the event orders.




Remember the draw box? Not only are we gathering emails; but phone numbers will also be acquired. I will have my assistant follow-up with these people to share and schedule the limited edition session.


With the Pet Pals Limited Edition Sessions, these new clients will get the full experience that the studio has to offer. This includes a full consultation and sales session. The consultation is vital at this point. I will have to reeducate the new clients on the importance of studio sales sessions and of course, the pricing. However, by placing emphasis on the experience they will receive during this promotion, new clients will realize quickly how different this session will be.


Following the Pet Pals Limited Edition Sessions, some clients will stick around and become part of the studio, others won’t. That is fine. Remember, not everyone is your client. By having a process in place, you will make the transition from a high volume/low cost event to your studio experience a success.


Until next time,









Attracting Seniors to Your Business! by Peg Buckner

pegbuckner_headshotIt’s always great to stay in the minds of your clients and potential clients. Remember, it takes at least seven times for someone to become familiar with your brand. Its worth your effort to advertise at all times, to keep your business looking active and desirable!

Here are some of our recent “Back to School” specials! We made flyers and posted them at our favorite businesses around town! We also used the same file images for our Blog, Instagram and Facebook. We wanted to spread the news about the limited opportunity to take advantage of the savings we offered at the beginning of the school year.



The colors were bright and eye-catching and provided a good visual. We created our outdoor sessions for seniors in many colors, so clients could see how well our Nevada desert can be portrayed.  Sometimes, people forget how beautiful their surroundings can be! Cherish, our senior, in these images, enjoyed her session and loved how beautifully the colors of the images turned out! Another good idea for marketing and broadcasting is that we ask all of our clients to let us know about their experience and provide them with a small paper to fill out, while they are choosing their images at their order appt. This is a great way to add a testimonial to our blog and other social media.



Using our studio camera room, and different lighting, we ran a second ad. We always make an offer and an incentive in our ads. A discount and a time to action is very important in any campaign! This time in our ad we used a dramatic dark moody lighting and were trying to catch the attention of seniors that like the fashion looks! Also we have wonderful displays at some businesses in our community. We’ve been told that our senior displays (framed portraits) at restaurants around town are exciting and fresh!  I think this kind of advertising is incredible and the best you can get!

The image below was a companion image that we used on the blog and social media with the ad. It was a good follow up image to include in the advertisement of the senior specials. Doing a different lighting in these images was important to show our versatility and our modern capabilities. We always try to stay current for everything, especially our seniors that expect a different level of photography!




Have a great week and stay picture perfect!


Peg Signature









How to create a simple 3d effect…by Mark Overstreet of Art-Mark Ink

markoverstreet_headshot_forwebI have had many requests to show how I do my 3d effect style images, so I finally took the time to sit down and write a very direct tutorial that assumes you know how to navigate through your version of PS without going into extreme step by step detail.

This is a very popular session I have been offering my seniors! It is a perspective that gives the simple illusion of 3d. When photographing for this effect it works best to have the object or part of the body that you want to extend past the border closet to the camera. In this example it is the girl’s glove.  This can be done with a background, at a location or as a composite.  In this particular example I did it as a composite so you will get some bonus info on creating a composite.




First you want to make a clean selection of the subject then make a new layer via copy. Why copy, because I generally will set the new background to 90-95% opacity so some of the fine details that are impossible to select in the image layer show through to make the end result more believable.


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Now that the selection is ready bring in a background of your choice, move it behind the selection and as I mentioned above set the opacity to your preference, I used 90%.

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screen 3

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The next step is adding shadow to match the direction of light and again to aim for believability. To do this I duplicate my subject layer set her to black going into Image/adjustments/Hue&Sat then sliding the lightness bar left to black. (There are many options to achieve this; this is how I do it…) Next a scale the shadow done the move where I feel it would be cast from the direction of light.

Screen 5


To achieve a more realistic shadow I go to filter/blur/gaussian and slide to the right until I like the look in this case it was 78.










It still looks artificial to me so I go into blending on the shadow layer and change it to soft light. Now make it a layer mask and brush off areas where the shadow should not be visible. *I ended up duplicating the shadow/mask layer to give the shadow a little more darkness. Why didn’t I just use overlay or hard light, it had too much contrast for my liking.


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Almost there, as you can see I added some flare and some pop to the image which I will not cover in this tutorial. So now it is time to add the white border and then bring the image past it to help create that 3d effect.  There are so many ways to do this and I personally use several ways depending on my image. In this particular demonstration I hand made the border by measuring how far in I wanted it to go. The further the object or body part can extend past the border the more it will look 3d. Let’s start, make a duplicate layer of your image depending on how you finish your image you may need to flatten or merge layers first. (The reason I am going to duplicate this layer is so that after I add a white layer in-between the two I can paint away or back the image or border.)




Make a new layer make sure it is white or whatever color you plan to use and place it in-between the two image layers (mine are marked hdr touch and hdr touch copy).




I decide where I want my border and measure and mark it by using guide lines, and then draw a selection along the border, select then inverse selection. On your top image layer erase the selection.




Now move down to the white layer and if you like, add a border, I made a black splatter edge with several different brushes.




Finally nearing the end we are going to select white layer, make it a layer mask and paint back the glove being careful not to include the background.  Now sign your piece and you are finished!



Working in PS we all know there are a hundred ways to do the same thing and over time you find the way “you” like to do it, feel free to share any alternate options or questions in the comments section below!


Thanks for reading,

mark overstreet