Planning Your Platinum Senior Session

It’s your senior year and there is so much to do!  One of the biggest things on the list is taking care of your senior portraits.  Here are a few tips to make your platinum session amazing!

1.  Plan and book EARLY.
      The perfect time to have your session is in the early fall when the weather isn’t too hot or too cold.
The thing is you can’t wait until early fall to book your session because fall is a very busy time for photographers, so it’s important to get in the books early!
     Come in for a consultation about a month before your session so we can discuss the plan for your day.  This is when we can decide on colors, backgrounds, locations, props, and anything else you are worried about.
2. Decide on hair and make up styles. (Guys, you can skip this part. )
     Do you want your portraits to be ultra glamorous?  Do you want them to be simple and casual?  Do you want to look like you or do you want them to look like a fashion model version of you?
     With the Simply Me Studio Platinum session you can have the best of both worlds actually.    You can have a hair and make up session , come to the studio for glamour shots, then brush through your hair, restyle it, tone down your make up, and head outdoors.  OR you can come to the studio for some casual simple shots with your own hair & makeup style, then see my stylist before going out on location for the rest of your session.
3.  Decide on clothing. (Guys, you are welcome to wear the tulle gowns, too, but if that’s not you, we have suspenders, ties, newsboy caps, and other things you can borrow as well.)
 This is the hard part.  What do you wear?  Do you want to wear tulle gowns, lace, and jewels?  Do you want to wear your ripped jeans and favorite T-shirt?
There’s no reason you can’t have it all.  Pick a couple of casual outfits  and pick a couple of high-end fashionista outfits.  With the platinum session, your options are practically endless.
Most importantly, consider your colors.  Remember neon colors don’t photograph well.  Soft, solid colors are most flattering.  Wild patterns can be a huge distraction in photographs. Avoid graphic tees unless there is a specific reason to include it in your session.
4.   Be prepared. Make a list of everything you need to bring with you on the day of your session.
Your class ring
Your letterman jacket
Your props (sporting gear, hunting gear, musical instrument, favorite book, etc.)
Your undergarments (the right color panties, bras, socks, tube tops, wifebeaters,  etc.)
Your shoes (boots for this outfit, sneakers for that outfit)
Your dog
Your make up (for touch ups)
Your chapstick/lip gloss
Also, make sure your hands are freshly manicured.
Avoid spray tans just prior to your session.
Avoid getting sunburnt and tan lines…especially multiple tan lines.

Be sure you put on plenty of lotion in the days before your session.

5. Relax and have fun!
Seriously.  Don’t stress out. Just chill.  You will be amazing!

How I Planned MY Family Portraits

  I’m embarrassed to say this, but there was about a 12 year gap between our most recent family session and the previous one.   I run a photography business and I didn’t have a recent family portrait on my walls that included my son-in-law of almost 9 years and my grandchildren, ages 2 and 4 at the time.   It’s more than an embarrassment…it’s a tragedy.
   So last fall I began planning my own family session with none other than Heather Bookout of Bookout Studios.   This was a one shot deal for me.  My youngest daughter would be home from Canada for Christmas.  We would all be together for a few short days.
    Family sessions are always a challenge to plan, but we were facing a few additional challenges: 1) Our window of opportunity was during the holidays, a time when many photographers are completely booked and families are frazzled and exhausted. 2)   I needed a large family photographed looking their very best–a challenge all on its own 3) two small children were involved 4) one of the children is a special needs child 5) coordinating clothing for that many people who all have very different personal styles and personalities.  It was a tall, tall order.
     I carefully explained to Jordan, one of Heather’s assistants, what I needed to get out of my family session: one large print of our entirely family, a shot of me and my husband with our two adult daughters, a shot of me and my husband with our two grandchildren, a shot of my daughters together, and a shot of me and my husband together.  Everything else would be icing, but those were my “must have” shots.  And in my perfect world, my large family shot would have my special needs granddaughter smiling.  I just knew I was asking for the impossible.  The planets would all have to align in my favor in order to pull this off.
         Jordan scheduled a date and time for me to come to the studio to plan my session. She assured me that Bookout Studios could make this all happen.
        For the next couple of weeks, I began building an inspiration board on Pinterest. As a photographer myself, I knew that the best way to help Heather help me build the perfect family experience in her studio was to search HER images for the things I liked , so I scoured the Internet looking for Bookout Studio images that appealed to me.  I chose some for the lighting, some for the posing, some for the editing style, some for the furniture that was used, and some for some indescribable appeal. I captioned each one explaining why I chose that particular image.   This is my inspiration board for my session.
    When I went to Heather’s GORGEOUS studio in Huntsville, Jordan met with me and showed me around and  asked me some very pointed questions about my personal clothing style and make up preferences and asked me questions about what I envisioned for my session.  She took very careful notes and then I showed her my inspiration board, which she also noted and then forwarded to Heather.     Next she helped me look through the gowns and dresses to find a piece for me to wear during our session.   I chose this dress with a muted dusty rose lace cardigan.
This was going to be the basis for selecting all of the other clothing for the rest of my family.   There weren’t any other dresses in the wardrobe that would coordinate in style and color and be in the correct size for my two daughters, so shopping trips would have to happen.   I took that picture of the dress so I could refer to it as I shopped with my girls to find their clothing and clothing for the guys and my grandchildren.
     During this planning session, Jordan and I discussed Tyley Sue’s needs.  I explained that it can be very difficult to get Tyley Sue to smile  and that we may have to settle for her serious face. Jordan asked me about the things Tyley Sue likes and the things that could make her happy or content.   She assured me that Heather and the rest of the staff would do everything they could do to get a smile.    Next, we worked out a timeline so that my daughters and I could come in for hair and make up and begin our portion of the session before the guys arrived with the children.
Our session would take place on December 29th…just in time for us to have our viewing session of all the images before my youngest daughter, Mikaila, had to return to Canada.
     The first thing I did after booking and planning our session was take my husband shopping.  Randy is a Jeans and T-shirt kind of guy, but for this session, I wanted his clothing to coordinate with mine, and being the husband that he is, he was will to let me dress him up for the day.   In my perfect picture, he would be wearing a newsboy cap, a cream colored button up shirt with suspenders, but that wouldn’t have been “him”, so my next choice was a nice button up with a tweed vest and some khaki pants.
     The hardest part was going to be finding clothing for my two girls that would fit their personalities, go with my color scheme, and coordinate with the style of the dress I had chosen.  To top it off, Mikaila wasn’t going to arrive until just before Christmas, so our shopping spree was going to take place during the after-Christmas chaos that happens in the retail world. We spent several days just shopping and purchased several possible outfits, knowing we might be returning any or all of them if we ever found THE outfit.   We finally found a tunic she liked, in a color that worked, that would allow her to wear a splash of color to reflect her personality.  We then found a tunic and leggings  for my other daughter, Ashley, and an outfit for Tyley Sue, and finally coordinating outfits for my son-in-law Tyler and my 2 year old grandson, Elijah.
This was the final result:

Take a Tour

I had been drooling (sinfully, enviously drooling) over other photographers’ studio spaces for a very long time.   I was ever so grateful that my sweet husband had helped me repurpose my youngest daughter’s abandoned bedroom into a little studio space, and goodness knows I wore that space out over the next couple of years, but I wanted MORE.
I wanted more space, more light, more height, more privacy…just MORE. But it wasn’t going to happen any time in the foreseeable future….especially not with the prices I was charging.  Studio rent, insurance, light bill, and all the other expenses of having an external space just weren’t going to be a possibility unless I quadrupled my prices or my workload.  Neither of which were options for me.  So, I just drooled and continued on my way.
Meanwhile, I had been stashing away my photography money for months.  I didn’t really have a specific goal in mind.  I didn’t really even know what I wanted to do with it… it was kind of mad money.  Money stuck back just in case…just in case Tyley Sue needed more therapy, or Mikaila needed new softball gear or a plane ticket home, or one of any number of things that could possibly come up… and then my husband announced he was planning on purchasing a new camera as a Christmas gift for me…  THE camera I had been talking about for a year…the Canon 5D Markiii.  Without hesitation, without a real plan in my head I replied, “That’s great, but I’d rather have the money.  If I put it with the money I’ve been saving, I could buy a cabin shed and turn it into a studio!”
Studio 3
And that is exactly what we did.   I started a secret Pinterest board full of inspirations and I studied all the Tiny Home/Little House projects I could find.  This is how it turned out. ( There is a video tour of the space at the end of this blog. )
This is where we started.  When they said “Sold as is”  they really meant it!    Luckily, there were a couple of useable pieces in there.  The wooden dresser in the before picture ended up getting a makeover and now has a home in the back room of the studio.
The building was wired, framed out, and fully insulated before sheetrock was installed.
The sidewalls in a shed are shorter than in a house, making standard French doors impossible, so our handyman fabricated  a 5×5 glass door for the sidewall.
The floors went down and then the waiting got really hard!  The two special doors I had requested took FOREVER to get the bugs worked out of.  
 You can see the other special request door resting against the back wall behind Tyley Sue (who was kind of impressed with the tall ceilings).
My sweet husband and partner made the wrought iron sign hanger for me. Goodness, I am spoiled.
This is how the studio turned out.  The furniture moves around a lot depending on what kind of session I am working on so I invested in some felt slider pads to put under the feet.  Best investment ever!   I can move that red couch all by myself. 🙂
 One of the things I wanted this studio for is so I can offer modern women’s portraiture.  I call them Beautiful You sessions.  And I’d LOVE for you to call me to discuss this kind of session for YOU!  These are the clothing racks I built from pallets and copper tubing.  I was really impressed with myself over these!
 Behind that wall is the changing area with bathroom and the stairs into the half loft.
One of my favorite things about this space is that I have room to display many of the props and options available to clients for use in their sessions.
Here is a video I made for some of my photographer friends touring the studio space.   I talk a LOT, so you might want to turn the volume off. 🙂

Celebrating New Life: Planning a Maternity Session

There is nothing a woman does in her life more worthy of celebrating and documenting than bringing a new life into the world.   What better way to celebrate and document that event than with portraits to preserve the memories?
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Here is a list of things you need to know when planning your maternity session:
1)  When should I take maternity pictures?
I generally recommend between 32-36 weeks so you have a belly full of baby, but aren’t so close to delivering that you have difficulty moving around.
2)  Who can be in the pictures?
That is entirely up to you.  Most women like to have a few shots with their husbands and their children, and then the rest of the session is all about Momma.
3) What should I wear?
Again, this is really a matter of personal preference.  Do you want simple family portraits?  Do you want to show the sensuality of pregnancy?  Something artistic ?  Something timeless?   I love them all.  Once you have decided on the kind of session you want then you can begin choosing clothes.
For the simple, real life maternity session choose clothing that really shows off that bump.  Remember to choose pieces you can sit down in. As always, soft colors are best.  Avoid bold patterns and bright colors. Look for timeless, casual pieces.
For the artistic look, special maternity gowns are all the rage. I have several you can borrow, including several tulle skirts.  This board even includes some gowns you can make yourself.  Sew Trendy Accessories also sells several of the gowns on this board .
For the sensual (and artistic) look that is timeless and beautiful, a lace bra and panties paired with your husband’s white button up shirt is always going to be a winner.
4) When should I book my session?
The earlier the better. Especially if you need a Saturday evening session… those go fast and I often am booked 4 to 6 weeks out.  Weeknight sessions and Saturday morning sessions in the studio are often booked 2-3 weeks out.   So if you need a specific date or time, get booked early. 🙂
Besides, the earlier you book, the more time you have to find the perfect dress and really decide what you want your maternity session to look like.
Heather maternity
5) Where can we do my maternity session?
I love doing studio sessions for maternity.  It’s private so you can wear anything you like without worrying about who might see you; we can keep the temperature just right for you; and we have a comfy place to sit and take breaks.  HOWEVER, if you have always dreamed of doing your maternity session in a wide open field or in the streets of downtown, we can do that, too!  Make an appointment to stop by the studio and we can plan the perfect session for you.
Bradley Maternity
6) Which package should I book?
That depends on your needs.
Do you want to be pampered with hair and make up and have lots of options and time for your session?  Do you want a little bit of everything in your session…some studio portraits, some outdoor portraits, some casual, some elegant?  Then you want the Styled Maternity Session.
Do you just need a few pictures of you with your family in some simple clothing that you’ve chosen?  Then choose the Basic Maternity Session.
Do you also need newborn portraits?  (You know you do!!!)
Then choose a newborn session with a maternity add-on.
If you aren’t sure what you want or need, just make an appointment to come to the studio and we can sit down and talk about it and look through some ideas so you end up with the perfect session for you!
Bonnie Couch

A New Business Model

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This week I did Alek’s 4th birthday session. I’ve been doing his annual birthday sessions for a couple of years now. I think we stumbled onto the right kind of session for Alek.
Alek is a busy little guy,  and he just doesn’t have time to sit still and take pictures.  So this year we decided to let Alek play .  It worked like a charm!
This wasn’t the only change we made to Alek’s session, though.   This year, as I’ve begun moving my business to a print-based full-service model, I’ve had to schedule a second session for clients to view their images, choose their prints, and pick the photographs that would go in their digital gallery.  I worried, though, that my clients would think it was too much trouble, but I believe that this provides you all with the best possibe images to fit your needs.
In the past I’ve always just selected my favorite images, put them in a gallery, and called it done. Over time, after watching which images clients were choosing to print (and not print), and after noticing that some clients weren’t spending the print credit that was sent with thier gallery, I began to question how I was doing things.   The images clients were choosing to print BIG were rarely the images I would have chosen, which made me wonder, if given the chance,  would they have chosen some of the images I had thrown away as I was editing.
Alek’s mom, Carolyn, was the 4th session I’ve done this year using this new model.  After showing her the slide show with ALL of the images  that were useable (I removed images where I caught Alek blink or that were exact duplicates), I helped Carolyn make some choices for her digital gallery and showed her differnt product options so she could best decide how to spend her print credit.
When we finished, I decided to ask her honest opinion of the process.
” Was it worth the extra time to come view the images in person?”
“In my opinion, yes, because I got to see them all and pick my favorite ones, plus I got to get my print order done right away.”
I’ve asked the other clients the same things and they all seem to agree.  Some have said that the ordering session is much more useful because in the past they couldn’t make a decision and ending up not even getting prints made because time just got away from them.
I’m so excited to be offering a full-service experience for my clients this year.  In the end, my goal is to make sure you have the best possible images and end up with some beautiful artwork on your walls.
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Things Every Bride to Be Should Know About Wedding Photography BEFORE Planning Her Wedding

1.  A photographer should be hired FIRST…your photographer will be able to guide in you choosing times and locations for your wedding that will result in the best images. Photographers also usually know some of the best caterers, wedding planners, videographers, DJ’s and venues!

2.  The absolute BEST way to get to enjoy your whole reception is to take ALL of your formal pictures BEFORE the ceremony.  Do a “first look” or “reveal” with your groom, and then take all the pictures so you can go straight to your reception with your guests!

3. If you plan a sunset ceremony, YOU CANNOT BE LATE!   The sun waits for no man (or bride)!  If you know you are that perpetually late girl, you might want to plan your wedding before sunset and then you can “stall” the day of the wedding if necessary to get the sunset ceremony you really wanted.

4. If you want soft, romantic images with gorgeous light, you absolutely cannot plan your wedding at midday in a stark location with little or no open shade.  If you are doing  pictures outside, you will want your ceremony to take place approximately 60  minutes before sunset so you will have time for golden hour photos with your groom after the ceremony.  (Plan 90 minutes to 2 hours before sunset if you will not be doing a first look! )   If your ceremony is outside, plan for the whole ceremony to take place in shade if possible for the best, most evenly lit images.


5.  Candlelight is NOT your friend.  You paid THAT much money for your dress, you want people to be able to see it (at the ceremony AND in your pictures)…candlelight won’t do that.

6. The bigger the bridal party, the more problems you’ll have. From wardrobe malfunctions, to people being late, to personality conflicts.  Your bridal party is one time when you should take the “less is more” adage to heart!  If you just can’t choose among your friends, then consider having a bridesmaid lottery.  Get the girls together, put everyone’s name in a bowl, and draw out the 3 or 4 girls you will have standing on the altar with you.  Get the others involved in other ways.  🙂

7.  Guests with cameras are one of the number one distractions in professional wedding  images—Uncle Bob hops out in the aisle with his point and shoot just in time to block the photographer from getting THE KISS.  Ask your guests to put their cameras away and be present with you  in the moment. Your photographer will be sharing lots of images with you and with them on social media.   They won’t regret sitting back and enjoying the moment while the photographer does his or her JOB. 🙂

8.  Your photographer is not just being paid for the 8 or 10 hours on the day of the wedding.  There are days of preparation before the wedding and weeks of editing after the wedding.  That is why your photographer is “so expensive.”

9.  Hiring a second shooter is more than just a good idea….it’s necessary for your peace of mind.  If your primary photographer comes down with appendicitis the day of your wedding, you can rest easy knowing he or she hired a second shooter who will be there and take care of you.  And if the primary shooter is perfectly fine the day of your wedding, then BAM you have two people capturing professional images in two places at once

10.  If you want THE KISS in a photo, it has to last for more than 1.4 seconds!  And the groom cannot wrap his arms around your head and shoulders—the camera cannot see through all that. 😉

11. If you want fun, creative bridal party pictures, you need to be sure you have selected fun, creative bridal party members.  One stick in the mud is all it takes to ruin a fun shot.

12.  Children in your bridal party can be sketchy.   Don’t expect beautiful images of them if you have selected children who tend to scream and cry and run away.  And if they do…come on they’re’s kinda funny and definitely memorable.