Viewing entries in

Styling your family photos with color, jewelry, and accessories


Styling your family photos with color, jewelry, and accessories

Spring is almost here, and in North Carolina, it’s the perfect time for a family portrait session under Carolina blue skies. If you're thinking about scheduling a session but feeling overwhelmed by the planning process, read on!

how to dress for a family portrait session

There's a lot to think about when it comes to envisioning the overall look of a photo session, from mood to backdrop to the way each subject will complement each other. Of course, the best way to ensure great photographs is by hiring a great photographer, but even then, some of the decisions you make will influence the look of the resulting images... especially when it comes to what you wear.

Everyone struggles with how to dress their families for a session, and advice can be found all over the place... it's such a common issue that my welcome packet has an entire page devoted to the topic! The best advice is to be yourselves while making sure that your overall color scheme and style are coordinated.

Styling your family portrait session

Of course, that’s easier said than done for most of us, and so the majority of families end up in a combination of solid neutral colors. That works great from a portrait perspective - solids tend to photograph really well without distracting from the photo - but it can feel a bit boring… and this is where the right accessories come into play. When you accentuate a simple outfit with scarves, hats, and jewelry, you can not only add a bit of color and visual interest, but create an easy way to change the look of what you’re wearing in a matter of seconds.

Choosing Clothing for Family Photographs

Start Simple
The first rule when accessorizing an outfit is to remember that you want your pictures to focus on your face and not your clothes. Heavy or loud pieces can be too bulky and overwhelming, and while it’s great to have pieces that pop, you also want to make sure you don’t overdo it. Keep the larger pieces of clothing - tops, pants, and dresses - well-fitted and simple and in a coordinated overall color palate.

Clothing choices for family portraits

Add Contrast
Most of my clients shudder at the thought of being overly-matchy in their photos (and how many families all go out together in white shirts and khakis anyway?), but I do understand how tempting it can be to default to a neutral palate when you’re trying to coordinate four or five people. A quick fix? Choose one or two contrasting colors to mix in! A scarf with a splash of color, fun earrings, or your favorite pair of boots will add personality without distracting from the images. This is a great way to coordinate the look for the whole group without getting too complicated (or expensive!).

Color pop clothing family portrait session

Get Help!
A lot goes into choosing the right look for your photo session. If you are still struggling with the wardrobe and jewelry, pick a quiet day at your favorite clothing boutique and ask a salesperson to help you with ideas - they can be a great source of inspiration finding the right look (but don’t let them talk you into anything you wouldn’t normally wear)! Of course, I’m happy to help, too… though I’m no fashionista, I’ve learned a lot over the course of my career and can help you make choices that will give you the look you want that looks great for the camera.

Choosing clothes and accessories for family portraits

Want to book a spring session before they all disappear? Drop me a line and let's get something on the books!




Five ways to improve your Instagram photos


Five ways to improve your Instagram photos

I am completely addicted to Instagram. I love it. I don't post a ton - not even every day - but I'm on there lurking all the time. It's a bit of a no-brainer, really... Instagram is like the photographer's Twitter, but in my opinion, a picture can be worth so very much more than 140 characters.

My feed is a mixture of friends, photographers, and photographer friends, and the quality of the images varies pretty widely... which is to be expected. Instagram is as much a source of entertainment and connection for me as it is for inspiration, and you certainly wouldn't have to go too far back in my own photo roll to see that I don't require every photo I post to be a work of art. That said, I don't know anyone who would be opposed to making their phone photos a bit better and punching their IG cache up a few notches, so I thought I'd toss out a few ideas for how everyone with an camera phone can take their images to the next level.

(As a side note, all of the photos on today's post were made and edited with my iPhone only, and most have made it into my Instagram feed in the last year or so. They are not, however, presented in any particular order... just a random collection that hopefully illustrates the five principles listed below.)


As with all things photography, the number one key is light. With good light, you can make a good photo out of just about anything. Even better? Good light is all over the place. You can get lucky with a pretty sunrise or sunset, or you can get creative and make good light by moving your camera around in relation to whatever light source you have available. I can't tell you how many times I've used iPhone flashlights to light things for photos - including professional photos - in a pinch. It's not the light, it's how you use it...


One of the great things about your phone is that you've got it with you everywhere, so any time you find yourself in a particularly interesting setting, you can make a photo. Even if the setting isn't interesting, though - perhaps especially if the setting isn't interesting - consider changing your perspective to engage the viewer. Hold your phone directly over or under your subject, shoot your subject through another object, or skip your subject altogether and photograph him/her/it in a mirror or puddle. Make it your personal goal to avoid photographing anything from the vantage point that you'd normally see it.


Phone camera lenses are relatively wide-angle, meaning that they have a pretty large view of a given scene. This can be a drag when what you'd like is one of those pretty portrait lenses that flatters people and isolates the subject against the background, but it also lets you create some pretty dramatic photographs of landscapes and cityscapes. Phones also do a pretty incredible job of focusing up close, creating near-macro photographs. Keep your eyes open for the big and small scenes around you and you're sure to find some incredible things you can capture with your phone.


And what would Instagram be without the nifty filters it gives us to play with our photos? These photos don't have to be fine-tuned, people... the idea is that you shoot a photo, take thirty seconds to edit it, and get it out the door. People see these photos on a three inch screen, so impact is everything. I edit my Instagram much more aggressively than I do my professional work, because why not? It's fun!


Finally, the old standby: composition. I was watching the Grand Budapest Hotel recently and marveling at how Wes Anderson has dedicated his entire career to shooting scenes framed dead center... he pretty much started a whole movement around it. But whether you like to frame things dead center or go with the more traditional rule of thirds, do consider the composition of your images. Especially when you're working within a tiny square, the strength of your composition is your best advertisement.

So that's it! Don't overthink it, but don't underthink it either... and hopefully I'll see you on my screen sometime soon!





A quick and easy way to hang wall art perfectly

As many of you know, Riley MacLean and I recently relocated our studio to a bigger, better location in downtown Durham... which in itself is an exciting blog post for a (near-)future date. Of course, one thing that anyone does when they move is hang things on the walls, and as photographers, we've been hanging a LOT of things. Somewhere along the way, we stumbled upon a trick to overcome one of the most challenging aspects of this task, particularly when the items being hung need to be level with each other, so I thought I'd venture off the photo-sharing path to blog this quick, easy, why-didn't-I-think-of-this-before trick that has made getting all these prints up soooooo much easier. (Forgive the iPhone photos... these are pure illustration, not art!) The problem: You've got either...

- a piece of art that has two separate hangers on the back requiring two nails, which have to be level with each other, or

- two or more pieces of art that need to be hung side by side - again, perfectly level with each other.

(My example below has both! When we hung these mirrors in the old studio, it took SEVERAL adjustments, a half a can of caulk, and a $#*+load of curse words to get them right.)

The solution:

1. If your art has two hangers, carefully cut a piece of painter's tape that extends from one hanger to the other:

How to hang pictures level2. Transfer that piece of tape to the spot on the wall where you want to hang the piece, and level the tape on the wall.

3. Using the tape as a guide, install hanging hardware, then hang the piece to double-check placement.

4. If you're hanging multiple pieces, repeat the process, checking each time to be sure that the hangers are the same distance apart, as well as the same distance from the top of the piece. Finally, measure the distance from the ceiling to the tape to ensure that each art piece hangs at the same height.How to hang pictures level

Using this method, we managed to get three mirrors hung perfectly (though that might be hard to see in the wide-angle photo below) in ten minutes with exactly zero extra holes in the wall. Success!How to hang pictures level

Anyone else have any good hanging tips? I've still got plenty to do... Have a great weekend!