Selfies, group shots, Instagram, Snapchats – our attachments to social media mean we’re constantly on the lookout for a great image to share with our followers. Which means this gal, the IRL follower, is going to catch every dessert picture you snap.
Mueller Lake Park, how do I love you? Let me count the ways … in pictures!
Shortly after I moved to Austin this summer, a new friend and fellow photographer took me on a driving tour of her favorite outdoor photography spots. Mueller was on that list, and I fell in love immediately. The lake, the ivy-covered amphitheater, the playground … It was and is a family photographer’s dream.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m still in love. Though I’ve recommended and shot in dozens of locations around Austin, Mueller remains my favorite. Looking back at the last few months of family photos, I was struck by how different each session turned out. Dozens of shoots, and no two look the same!
Jessica and her family, one of my first sessions, spent a summer day strolling around the water, leading to lovely mid-afternoon shots of the lake and plenty of greenery. Several months later, that same greenery turned into rare Texas foliage when Anna and her family did their post-Thanksgiving shoot there.
Sunset and sunrise are equally gorgeous at Mueller: A very tired Qian family and an extremely upbeat Paris family made for some pretty different images at almost the same location on the lake (bonus – check out those giant steps!)
And not to be outdone, even the shops around Muller Lake are great for photos. I was lucky enough to photograph Cristina and her family shortly before the holidays, when a beautiful display of umbrellas lined the walkway next to the Thinkery. I can’t wait to see what they install next – I’m sure it will make for some great photos.
Sometimes, a pop of color is all you need to make a great head shot. Other times, you have to show people in their element – their home, place of work, or favorite coffee shop – to capture who they are.
Enter the environmental portrait. The phrase is a holdover from my photojournalism days, but it’s one of the most popular types of head shot portraits I do right now, and there are a few elements that go into making a great one.
1. Light: This should go without saying, since photography is, at its core, an exercise in manipulating a camera to get the best possible (and hopefully most interesting) light. But a space that is well-lit and bright can go a long way when selling a business. For Lindsey, creating a cheerful space was important in promoting her new private practice as a therapist, so I brought in two umbrella lights to help the already great natural light in her office.
2. Intention: Want to capture someone in their element? You have to find a space that leaves no question as to who they are and what they do. The team from Laura Britt Design welcomed me into their 6-room office with no shortage of options in which to shoot. But for lead designer Lauren, the back office, covered in samples of her work, was the perfect spot.
3. Lack of clutter: Lauren’s portrait makes complete sense for her, but for Orange Theory instructors Melanie and Katie, a more Zen-like approach was crucial. Environmental doesn’t necessarily mean cluttered, and assuring that every item in the photos is intentional keeps the eye from getting distracted. For their fitness photos, a serene pool and a simple metal wall outside their gym allows the customer to focus on them, while also giving a sense of space.
Austin’s got some great walls.
Yes, everyone knows about the “I love you so much” mural on South Congress. We’ve all snapped a selfie at the Hope Outdoor Gallery. But some lesser-known pops of color throughout the city can be a game-changer for a simple head-and-shoulders portrait
First, the blue tiled wall on Sabine. Technically at the corner of Sabine and E. 5th Street, and technically two connected walls, the exterior of the Austin Hilton is a popular spot, but worth sharing with other photographers. During my session with Alison, two other photographers came by. Fortunately, the massive wall provides plenty of room.
Second, the exterior of in.gredients on Manor Road. To be specific, the back of the building, facing the parking lot. Sheryl, whose portrait I shot for the cover of her first novel, opened my eyes to the wonders of green with this awesome color-blocked wall. The staff is generous with their space if you check in with them ahead of time, but it wouldn’t hurt to buy a latte while you’re there as well.
Lastly, art galleries! Austin has a ton, and though the exhibit Sarah and James visited for their engagement shoot was only temporary, Art on 5th, Mexic-Arte and Pump Project have rotating exhibits so you never get bored (bonus for Pump Project, the striking yellow on the building’s exterior!). Just make sure to check the photo policies before you go!
There are times when having a skill-based career benefits us. Coders and designers can create their own website, accountants enjoy a smooth tax season, and mechanics are saved from having to describe “that weird noise” their car makes when they start it.
Photographers can take their own head shots. But I wouldn’t recommend it.
I’ve been shooting business head shots for 10 years, and my process is pretty streamlined. So when I cut 8 inches off my hair and needed new ones, I assumed the entire process would take 15 minutes – As a photographer, I give good direction, so I would be my easiest client. Every shot would be a winner.
Every shot was not a winner, and it took an hour. Never mind the basic logistics of setting up a timer and adjusting the focus when there is no subject to focus on. Since my camera doesn’t have an adjustable display screen, not being able to see myself led to some unfortunate outtakes.
There was the excessive lean, inexplicable and awkward. There was the “glare on the glasses” look from the studio lights (the face I’m making reminding me how much I hate wearing my glasses) and the shot my friends describe only as the “smizing” photo. Not ideal for a business head shot.
In the end, I finally got a shot that worked – the winner featured on this very website. But at 30 minutes of setup and an hour of shooting, it solidified my decision to hire someone else the next time I drastically change my look.
I envy mechanics, accountants, and coders. Because when it comes to images, particularly the image of yourself you want to portray, there is no substitute to hiring a pro photographer to be your guide. Focusing on smiling is hard enough without also focusing a camera.
Having moved Time and Place Photography from our nation’s capital, it almost feels like kismet that my first session in Texas would take place not only in the capital city, but at the Texas State Capitol building.
With business ramping up before I had the chance to buy a car, I had to bike to the center of downtown Austin on the morning of my shoot with Komal and her family. Approaching the capitol from the north, I was taken aback. My plan had been to shoot the family’s portrait in the main walkway leading to the entrance, but I found myself distracted by the tree-lined paths, the deep, rust-colored façade, and the unexpected scale of the building itself. To call the Texas State Capitol Building a smaller version of the U.S. Capitol is both unimaginative and incorrect.
Fortunately, there was no shortage of opportunities to explore. Komal, her husband Vinesh, mother, and two children came prepared with outfit changes, and our session was the family’s third visit to the Capitol that week alone. I was in the driver’s seat, but I had a car full of knowledgeable navigators.
In the end, I got my shot in front of the Capitol, but, as with all my shoots, the most beautiful moments were the unexpected – Komal’s two children embracing on a secluded bench, and the family prepping for their next shot in front of a historic tree.
My favorite? This gem of the family finding something new and surprising in a place they already knew so well, forgetting for just a moment that I was there.
I understood how they felt. As I continue to settle and build my business in Austin, the Capitol feels familiar, reminding me of my own Capitol back home, but new, thrilling me by the possibilities of what’s ahead.
Confession: Despite six years as a journalist and another five as a copy editor (AKA "rehabilitated journalist"), this is my first blog.
Yes, with a glass of wine (not my first) close by for safety, I'm sitting down in my new apartment in Austin, Texas, to blog for the very first time. I ask all three of you reading to bear with me.
2017 has been a year of firsts for me - as every year should - including my first time living off the East Coast. After five years in Florida, 20 in Virginia and five in Washington, DC, I have officially become a Texan. An Austinite. A North Looper, to be specific. As such, naming my blog "A DC Tog in Dixie" seemed only fitting.
Time and Place Photography is new to Austin, but my portrait work has a long life. I focus (pun absolutely never intended) on natural, candid moments and try to bring out the best in my sessions by keeping them relaxed and fun. Expect to see examples of my work here, along with continued self-deprecating comments about my blogging abilities.
Looking forward to getting to know you, Austin!