Creative Portrait Photography


Shoot Report: SweetCycle Apparel and the Alley 33 Fashion Event

Did you know Portland is brimming with world-class fashion designers? And did you know that many of those designers specialize in eco-friendly, wallet-friendly clothes? It’s true. This is such a rad town. It got even radder on July 23, at the Alley 33 Fashion Event down on Hawthorne Street. A runway was built in the alley and over 20 designers showed 3-4 pieces. It was really well attended, and was an astonishing display of Portland’s sartorial talent.

Alley 33

I was there covering SweetCycle Apparel‘s presence in the show. SweetCycle makes super cute clothes from reused, upcycled materials. What impressed me most about their designs was the attention to detail and the structure of the pieces–very well done. The models were also super cute (and eco-friendly, I’m sure). If you haven’t checked out their clothes, you should! Every piece is one of a kind.

So I’m really hoping to see another Alley 33 event some time soon. It’s a great way to showcase a niche of designers that are very Portland in their design philosophy.


Shoot Report: SweetCycle Apparel Launch Party

Life might not be a party, but sometimes work is. I recently photographed a party hosted by SweetCycle Apparel at The Beauty Bar. I’ve not been to The Beauty Bar before, and man was it cool inside. I’d love to do a fashion shoot there some time! The Fasters and the Hollywood Tans–friends of the SweetCycle Designers–provided some kick-ass music. Cool music, cool people, cool bar–doesn’t get much better than that.

How NOT to Choose a Photographer

You’re getting married next spring, or maybe next week. You want photos of your new baby, a headshot for your business website, for your fashion line. You want coverage of your family reunion, your father’s 70th birthday, your bridal shower. You want a good photographer at a price you can afford, but a search on Google, through the Yellow Pages, and through reveals an overwhelming selection in a vast range of styles, quality, and rates. How do you choose a photographer? That’s largely up to you: your budget, your aesthetic preferences and needs, and your personality. But let me share some tips on how NOT to choose a photographer:

  • Find one with specific gear. You read an article in a bridal magazine that told you that you should never hire a photographer who doesn’t shoot with a full format camera. Do you know what that is and why it matters? And are you now confused because you can’t find a photographer with a full format camera willing to shoot your wedding for under $1000? Full format cameras are expensive, and photographers working with good gear will charge more. Rather than looking for photogs with specific types of cameras, focus on the images they are making–do you like their photos? Are they good quality? Do they have good reviews from previous clients? Then what do you care what they are shooting, so long as they deliver a quality product?

    This is a $5000 camera. Nice, but not essential to taking good photographs

  • Find one who will work for free or very little. Your wedding dress cost you $2000, so you don’t have much left to spend on a photographer. $150 for a day’s worth of work is not bad, and anyone should be glad to get that much in this economy. People who pay thousands of dollars for a photographer are suckers! Nope. They’re smart. Think of it this way: you are going to wear that dress one day, then it goes into a closet for the next several decades. Your photos will be viewed over and over again. You’ll show them to your children, your friends, your relatives, and eventually you’ll hand them down to the next generation. It’s my opinion that you should budget as much or more for the photographer than you do for the dress. Good photographers are expensive because photography is hard work. Following a bride and groom around for 10-12 hours while carrying 30 lbs and $20,000 in gear is stressful and exhausting. Wrangling people into poses, competing with guests who are jockeying to beat you to the good shot, working with bad light, squatting, stretching, bending, and constantly thinking, thinking, thinking–it’s a ton of work to get those gorgeous wedding photos you crave for your album. Then, after the big day, processing and retouching the photos can take weeks. It’s not worth anyone’s time to take photos for less than $1000, and realistically it’s not worth it for most photographers unless it’s much more than that. Some people try to justify paying less by saying things like “this will be good for photographers looking to build their portfolios” or “this would be a good gig for a photography student” but no, it still isn’t, not for them or for you.
  • Hire your friend’s roommate. After all, he has a camera that costs $500! And he takes nice photos. So, he’ll be able to take all the photos you need at a fraction of the price. Right? Not necessarily. Again, the gear is not really a big deal, but good photography is hard work, especially weddings. It takes experience and really quick thinking. Can your friend’s roommate make an instant decision on how to deal with the low light in the church so he doesn’t miss those important walking down the aisle shots? Does he know the industry well enough to get all the shots you’re going to want later? Does he know how to process the images afterward so you have files or prints you can actually use? That being said, sometimes your friend’s roommate is a really good photographer who would be a photography star if someone would just give him that first gig, so a risk could really pay off. Look at his images and learn whether he can work well and quickly under intense and fast-paced conditions.
  • Hire the first photographer you find in your price range. Then, the day of your wedding or portrait session, discover that things are really awkward between you and the photographer, you don’t seem able to communicate clearly to each other, and the whole day feels off. When the images come back, they aren’t anything like you wanted. It’s so important to really examine the photographer’s work. Everyone has a different style and aesthetic. Find someone who produces photos you like. Meet with the photographer first over coffee and chat about what you are looking for. You want to find a photographer you are comfortable talking to, someone whose personality meshes well with yours. It will make the shoot much more enjoyable for everyone, and the images will be better for it.
  • Wait until the last minute to book a photographer. This is a sure-fire way to ensure you end up with someone you are not happy with. There is a chance of getting a good photographer at a good rate just days before the wedding/party/day you want to shoot, but it’s not likely. Most photographers book weeks to months in advance, and many wedding photographers are booked full a year or more in advance. Book as soon as you can.
  • Declare you will edit the photos yourself, thereby justifying the low rate you want to pay. Rather than attracting photographers, this will end up scaring them away. A photograph is a photographer’s bread and butter, and also her reputation and her advertising. Maybe you’re really good at editing photos, but most photographer’s aren’t going to take the chance you aren’t. If you take her photos and edit them until they are unrecognizable as her work, she’s not going to want her name near them. Most photographers want to control the editing of their own work simply because it is vital that the final image is something they can stand by–it could be the death of their career otherwise.
  • Justify not paying a photographer because you are really attractive. I actually saw this once. It’s nice that you’re pretty, but you still need to pay for services received. Photographers see pretty people all the time, and while it is so nice of you to share your pretty with the photographer so generously, he still needs to pay rent and buy a new lens, so pay up.

Finding a good photographer who is right for you and your event takes time and a little research, but it’s well worth it. It’s also worth it to pay your photographer well–most photographers are not living the high life, and you’re not seeing the cost in time after the event, the cost of insurance, equipment purchase and repair, and so on. Do your research, make good choices. Best of luck!

A Trip to Hoyt Arboretum

A recent photo session took place at Hoyt Arboretum here in Portland, OR. I’ve been here for quite a few years now and never made it out there, and I’m so glad I finally did! What a treasure for the city of Portland. I took the opportunity to practice my nature photography skills, and came away with a few shots I really love.

bee on buddleja globosa


If you get the chance and are in town, absolutely stop by and check it out. The Monkey Puzzle tree is worth the trip, and admission is free. And it’s just a few minutes from the heart of downtown! This is such an awesome city.




Weekly Wanderings

Some of the cool stuff I stumbled upon this past week. This week: bloody cult musicals that aren’t Rocky Horror and event invisibility cloaks.

Shoot Report: Emily’s Beauty Shoot

There is something of a persistent belief that models are moody, spoiled, vapid, and flaky. I must be a very lucky photographer indeed because all the models I’ve had the good fortune to work with have been sweet, intelligent, fun, professional, and punctual. Either that or the image of the dumb diva model is complete rubbish.

Emily is no different. She showed up to the shoot on time and having done all the prep I asked of her. We had a MIA MUAH, so make up and hair was left to me, and I am absolutely not putting down the camera any time soon and picking up a make up brush. Didn’t faze her one bit. She tolerated my clumsy styling, posed prettily, and was ridiculously easy to work with and to photograph. Easy peasy.

For this shoot, we asked Emily to sit on a stool inside a kludged together lightbox made out of foamboard on three sides and the top. We turned off the lights in the room, but still had some ambient light coming through the blinds in the room’s only window. Our other light source was a Metz Mecablitz 50 used on camera. Emily held a white reflector on her lap. The overall look was very clean and, paired with Emily’s delicate beauty, very classic. The make up was red eyeshadow powder and a shimmery pink lipstick and a little powder–that’s it. Simple shoot, beautiful results. All shoots should be so easy!

I processed each image a little differently, to give myself a variety to choose from. Which do you like best?


Shoot Report: Dave Helfrey, the Ringmaster of Fear!

Now this was a fun portrait to shoot! Dave Helfrey is the owner and madman behind Portland’s best haunted house attraction, Fright Town. Also known by his creepy yet sophisticated alter ego Baron Von Goolo, Dave is a staple in the Portland haunt scene.

I met Dave at the Fright Town warehouse where he stores the props and other materials used at Fright Town. The warehouse could easily be used as a haunted house itself–made of corrugated metal sheeting, with dusty floors and sharp-toothed scarecrows propped against the wall, boxes filled with decomposing women, coffins, eyeless ventriloquist dummies, twisted taxidermied waterfowl, and painted images of monsters and freaks. The smell of paint and silicone made me think fondly of last October when I served my time as a volunteer at Fright Town’s Elshoff Manor, covered in prosthetic scarring and blood and scaring the bejeebus out of grown men twice my size. Good times . . .

This image was taken as an entry for the Strobist’s Bootcamp 3 Assignment 1, so there were some very specific requirements for the photo. Specifically, I was limited on the type of lighting I could use to get the shot. I decided to go with something a little old school scary, like holding a flashlight underneath your chin and making ghost noises to frighten your little sister. I set up my Metz Mecablitz 50 flash to camera left and angled it upwards at Dave. We recruited some assistance from a lovely decomposing mannequin, a grotesque foam freak, and a monster mask. My assistant held a white reflector to camera right, and we killed the warehouse lights.

Ringmaster of Fear!

Dave is a natural in front of the camera, so I was spoiled for choice among the many dramatic poses he gave me. I settled on this one at the end–we get a little of the warehouse and the props, no reflection in Dave’s glasses, some dark and spooky shadows, and a pose that sums up Dave perfectly: a showman with a great sense of humor.