A friend of mine said an interesting thing describing someone close to her, “By the time most of us are adults, we have learned to be guarded and protect ourselves. But he is just totally open and full of wonder – and to have retained that is amazing in this world.” Do you ever think about what the world looks like through a child’s eyes? It’s full of hope, magic and mystery. Children haven’t learned to keep their joy to themselves or to be embarrassed about what excites them. They have a zest to absorb all the beauty around them and feel no shame in being vulnerable in front of others.
Mamiya 645AF | 80mm F/2.8 Lens | Kodak Portra 400 Film | Scans by PhotoVision
PRESS PLAY FOR MUSIC
Our world has a way of snuffing out the light that we all start with. I often scold myself as an adult for being naive or gullible when I attempt to assume the best about people – only to wind up hurt. In reaction I build my boundaries higher and higher until they practically reach the sky (allowing nobody in). We so quickly learn what masks to put on in order to survive this thing called life that it’s easy to forget we all started out fresh faced running in the sun (even if it was taken from us too early).
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of building my fortress. It may keep the occasional un-safe person away, but all too often it steals my joy and isolates me from connecting with creative, wonderful people. I took the photos at my mom’s house, while my niece made bouquets out of “weeds”. She ran each and every dandelion over to her mommy, so proud and excited to share it. It didn’t matter that it was a weed, to her it was lovely…and that’s all that mattered!
I want to be brave enough to declare that I’m excited and joyful about a dandelion or something I created – freely and happily. All too often I find myself weighing the odds and wondering if the people around me will crumple up my art and say , “no, that’s not actually beautiful, you just thought it was.”
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
I love the quote by Thoreau above; I don’t think anyone paints their canvas better than a child. What if it is truly possible to reclaim our wonder and our bravery to be vulnerable and excited about our creations and dreams? Or at least just live our lives a little more open hearted rather than on high alert. We only get to be in this big world just a wee bit of time…it seems to me there is no reason to delay.
It has been so difficult to make a living being a photographer, especially shooting film. In fact, it’s been harder than I ever could have imagined. Even as I type these words the future is unknown due to some personal struggles and financial stressors I’ve been experiencing lately. I never doubt my passion or my drive – my grit…but sometimes I doubt that I can MAKE it happen when so many variables attack my hopes of success.
Does it sound like I’m giving up? Well don’t worry, I’m not. Because getting photos like THESE back from my amazing lab (PhotoVision) remind me that I’m a growing artist and THAT can never be taken away from me. Let me tell you a little bit about this amazing and inspiring little family I had the joy to photograph recently.
Mamiya 645AF | 80mm F/2.8 Lens | Kodak Portra 400 Film | Scans by PhotoVision
Emily and Aaron of Hunting Ground Films are a creative duo crafting films for weddings and small business branding. They recently moved to Portland on a leap of faith that they could pursue a creative career and at the same time simplify their life (they sold everything to do so!). Since then, they’ve been successfully making beautiful films for weddings and businesses and Emily will soon be taking her talent all the way to England! They graciously allowed me to take these photos of them, entirely on film, on a bright and golden morning near the Columbia River Gorge. Their daughter Cedar toddled around in the sunlight playing with ferns and giggling at her parent’s “kissy” faces – and didn’t seem to mind my camera at all.
It goes to show you that you CAN do beautiful things with your life if you work hard and keep going when it gets tough. The question of “success” may hang in the balance…but what is success anyway? I unfortunately tend to view success in dollar signs and a full inbox of inquiries. And while I do need to eat and pay rent, I’m learning that success can be as simple and making beautiful art…and sharing it with others.
This was my first 100% film shoot for a family session, which was risky! You have to be very patient while testing light and composing shots while using film, because every frame counts (literally, it’s expensive to develop and scan!). I’ve been afraid to shoot much film with families because kids tend to move so quickly, making manual focus difficult. Film also naturally has a softer look entirely and this can quickly turn into blur if you don’t zero in on your subject very carefully. However, Cedar was the perfect subject…moving just enough to keep things interesting but curious enough of my camera to allow me to nail my focus on nearly every frame (focus is consistently my struggle with film and children).
I’m working on being grateful that I get to even take pictures and trust that there is a space for me in this world of small business owners. It’s difficult to be present and not worry too much about the future! However, Emily and Aaron and their big dreams were such a great inspiration to see in action.
Maybe you are struggling to realize a dream and worry it won’t pan out. It may not wind up looking how you thought, but learning to redefine the plan may be just the thing that will keep you in the game. I suppose I’m describing learning to let go…which is a hard thing to do. Here’s hoping it brings wonderful lessons and more opportunities to create.
A family portrait session can be stressful for parents. It’s hard enough to get your kids packed in the car and arrive somewhere on time, much less get them to smile and do what the photographer says. Having worked as a nanny for years before I became a photographer, I understand (to a degree) the frustration parents must feel when their child finds a mud puddle in the first five minutes of our session. The good news is that there are a few things you can do to help your session go well and ease your anxiety about what shenanigans your kids may pull. These tips will even help your photos simply look better (and you won’t need to spend money on new clothes).
TIP # 1: WARDROBE
I’ll address this one first because it’s probably the number point of worry for clients. Choose clothing the kids are comfortable and WARM enough in. If they get cold, it’s all over and we don’t want that (plus layers can be removed if they get too warm). You don’t all have to match, in fact, I don’t want you to match. Try and pick colors that compliment each other (all warmer tones, or cooler tones – but even that is a loose rule). If mom is wearing a floral print, then Dad and the kids can choose something pattern-free (or visa versa). You always want to balance patterns with simple or solid colors. It’s normal to want the kids to dress up a little but just make sure that they feel like themselves. If they really hate that cute hipster vest it’s going to show in all the photos…and it’s never worth a cute vest if your child is snarling at my camera because of it. Avoid name brands, cartoon characters, most neon colors or anything distracting on clothing. Finally, less is always more. Simple outfits in a simple location always look great.
TIP # 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE COOL TREE
This one may sound weird, but it’s important. I know the bridge at the park is cool, I know there’s a great view of the mountain over that way, and I’m totally aware of the awesome-ness of that certain tree. I’m even more aware how crazy I may appear that I’m shooting in a really simple part of the extravagant park we are in. The reason I do this is every second we spend walking to the cool tree is a window of time I’m losing with your kids. My main goal is to get you and your children’s natural moments in good light. Sometimes even I am seduced by multiple cool locations but I usually regret starting a shoot out with lots of walking around so I try to avoid it.
If we spend the first part of a session in one location, it’s because the light is great and your kids are doing everything I want them to. In those moments, I will knock out as many great shots as I can. Your favorite photos will be the moments that happen organically rather than the posed photo in front of the cool tree anyway, trust me! After I know I have plenty of pictures I know you’ll be happy with, then we can walk around a bit and I’m generally happy to capture any ideas or locations you are really excited about.
TIP # 3: I’ll HELP THE KIDS KNOW WHAT TO DO
It’s really tempting for parents to tell their kids “look at the camera sweetie!”, especially during a classic portrait moment (the one grandma winds up framing). The problem is, when you tell your kids to smile they automatically don’t want to. Even if they do, suddenly Mom or Dad isn’t looking at the camera. I can’t tell you how many great frames I lose to Moms looking down at their kids with a worried face when everyone else is looking right at me. Please know, I am NOT being critical of moms…you have the toughest job on the planet. I know it’s really difficult not to try and manage your kids because you are just doing your job! However, the best thing you can do (in this particular moment) is relax and let me queue your kids to smile. I will do the robot, I may have you stand behind me and make funny faces, I may offer stickers…honestly I’ll do anything to get them to look at me and I’m happy to do the hard work for you. Be willing to let me guide the moment and if I need your super human powers (which you have in abundance) I will absolutely call on you to wield them.
TIP # 4: IT’S NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE SMILE
I will always shoot classic group shots with everyone looking at the camera because they are definitely important. However, after we knock those out – we’ll just let the kids play. This will create opportunity for me to be goofy and highlight the natural moments that make your kids unique and special. What is even better is if you jump in and play with them, that’s when really incredible moments happen! The less they think it’s a photoshoot the better. Sometimes the most precious photos are the ones with eyes closed, the back of a head, just hands…it’s all in the details.
TIP # 5: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
Most of the photos featured above had some kind of obstacle we overcame. This included hard rain, a shy child, skinned knees, wet/muddy clothes, tantrums, a tight schedule, difficult light or less than ideal locations. Would you have known that looking at them? I always tell clients that even if it feels like it’s not working, trust me…it’s working! I want your family to be you, including tears and high energy toddlers who won’t stay still. Your family is great and we want to highlight who you are together! So embrace the moment (whatever it brings) and have a blast!
I hope these tips help the next time you plan a family portrait session and thanks so much for reading!
After emerging from a camera break over the winter, I came lumbering out of my cave squinting my eyes ready to get back in the swing of things…I truly didn’t touch my camera for nearly two months. This is not something I’d recommend, as I felt very rusty diving into this little shoot. However, I tried to embrace my rested eyes as my tiny team and I drove out to the country for some simple bridal portraits.
Mamiya 645AF | 80mm F/2.8 Lens | Kodak Porta 800 Film | Scans by PhotoVision
These are some of my favorite scans I’ve ever received back from my lab. I’ve struggled to find the proper film stock and post-processing techniques to fight the very flat Pacific Northwest light. I used to believe that over-cast was a gift…and sometimes it is. However, as I’ve developed my style I find that I am drawn to rich color and slightly deeper contrast than I used to be. I just MAY have found the solution in Kodak Portra 800 Film. I love how saturated the colors are – but still dreamy and pastel like. Shooting Fuji400H doesn’t always render the results I’d like in our very green, gray climate. The 800 speed on the portra stock also allows for more flexibility on dreary Oregon days where light can fade so quickly.
The rich greens set against Alexandra’s red hair is such a delight to photograph. I love how the tones in these scans turned so emerald and deeply forest green. This was my first time shooting 100% film during daylight. When you have a successful film session, it’s so rewarding because there is very little post-processing needed. In fact, these photos needed nothing besides a little brightening on a few frames. Overall, I sent the film rolls off, got them back looking finished and am blogging them in record time. That experience is the one that every film photographer is after. It’s so peaceful and fulfilling when it works out that way – and saves you so much time and energy at the computer so that you can get back to the fun part, the actual shooting.
These images wound up looking like they could have come out of Europe and have a very “moody” quality that I’m really pleased with. When I see the cobble stone, ducks and water texture, I think of Jane Austen or the Irish Isles. The funniest part is I actually shot these in a combination of Laurelhurst Park and Milo McIver State Park. Who would have thought these simple park settings could look so elegant?
I’m learning to create a story while shooting and look for details that compliment the over-all tone and color palette. This becomes so important when walking into a wedding. As photographers we don’t always get to shoot our dream weddings in the perfect venue – but I’ve learned that every celebration has something special about it, something the camera can zoom in on and make shine. This shoot was a good practice in that.
As a photographer, I’m always on the lookout for ways to improve my creativity and overall portfolio. Gifting friends and clients with free photography is a way to find opportunities to boost the imagery I show to the world and offers more freedom for me to take my time to tell a full wedding story. Also, it’s just totally fun to give cool stuff away. With all that in mind, I’m excited to offer free wedding photography to a great couple! See more details on how to enter below:
This giveaway is for an engaged couple getting married at a predominately outdoor venue this upcoming Summer or Early Fall, who exhibit a thoughtful and timeless vision for their wedding day, and who’s story I connect with.
WHAT DOES THE WINNING COUPLE GET?
10 hours of wedding coverage ( $5500 dollar value )
Custom photo-timeline with emphasis placed on natural light + time for details / full story telling
High-Res files on a USB + Print Release
Printed Proofs of each delivered image
6 months access to online gallery
Options for album, photo book, framing or print purchases
Pre-Wedding Venue Walk-Thru
Unlimited Communication leading up to Wedding Day
Plus surprise gifts / goodies along the way!
Contest open to everyone, anywhere in the world. However, winner is responsible for travel fees outside of 1 hour of Portland, Oregon. > VIEW TRAVEL_FEES <
Deadline is April 1st, 2016 (deadline may change if more entries are required)
Winner will be contacted on April 15th (date is subject to change). To stay up to date on the winner and contest subscribe to the email list, which will be sent to you after submission.
Wedding Day must be in June-October 2016
Wedding photos must take place predominately outdoors + couple must be flexible to be outside even in un-fortunate or cold weather.
Must be willing to develop a photo-timeline for wedding day based in natural light
Must be willing to sign contractual agreement + pay for any additional hours or products requested that are not included in winning prize.
Must agree to photos being used by Photographer both online, on social sites or in print/blog publication (more details on this in contract)
Must agree NOT to hire any other photographers in addition to Jenni Kupelian
Winner will be selected by Jenni Kupelian
If winner is unable to collect prize, a new couple will be chosen
HOW TO ENTER
Carefully read and fill out the form below. The form CANNOT be saved and finished later, so allow yourself a bit of time to thoughtfully fill it out.
It is an honor and a privilege to photograph your wedding! The winner will be treated like any paying client and I consider this a collaboration WITH you. If you are not selected don’t be discouraged…I’m sure your wedding will be gorgeous and I anticipate this being a very difficult contest to judge.
I can’t wait to see the entries and wish everyone the best of luck!