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April: Portrait Photography

On behalf of the April project themed on challenges – I reveal my first portrait series! Having never done portraits – I learned a great deal in just a few shoots! I am already seeing things I could have done better and have learned a ton along the way.. but am very proud of the results of this heroic little journey!

Below are the featured portraits large, including a statement by each person about a specific challenge in their own life. Following are a few others, including one self portrait I played around with the other night!


Personal Challenge: “Divorce changed me forever and though challenging, I’m still growing from it. Pain in a relationship can lead to redemtive actions and has for me. I couldn’t recogncile my divorce with loving someone, and wondered how could I divorce someone I loved? After anger and hurt subsided (6+yrs later), I know I loved, and now, I can love better.

A message found in 1 John 4:7-21 has significant relevance to me post divorce. Loving well means not fearing being loved. Resting daily by relying on the love God has for me frees me to love others well. In my heart, I want this but often forget.”


Personal Challenge: “I grew up in a predominately white neighborhood. My parents weren’t exactly the best at speaking English, and making friends was hard during my early years. I made a few, but I was still very shy and relatively quiet because of it. It wasn’t until later on in life (college and beyond) when I started socializing more.”


Personal Challenge: “The hardest thing I do is look myself in the mirror. I used to be a bully, really. Not take your lunch money at school type bully, but just a generally toxic person who relished confrontation with anyone I could find. I didn’t realize that I was such an ass until a few years ago, and have made major changes to how I conduct myself on a daily basis. I still have a hard time accepting that people like me as a person nowdays. Sometimes I suspect their motives, and honestly sometimes I suspect my own. I guess you could say I have a hard time forgiving myself for the person I used to be.”


Personal Challenge: “After having surgery 6 years ago and loosing over 300 lbs, I still to this day struggle with my feelings about my appearance. I still see that 600lb man in the mirror every morning and hate him and what he did to my life. I know that this will be a struggle that I will have the rest of my life, but it is a burden I am happy to take on.”


The Challenge of Portraits & What I Learned:

– The biggest challenge for me with this was connecting with the person and directing them. I had no clue how to direct them.. or even really what exactly I wanted! Plus, every person is different and has different needs and you must be able to adapt to that.

– Oh the weather! What a bitch to be doing outdoor portraits in the rainiest month of the year! Mother nature smiled upon me and parted the week-long stormy weathers JUST long enough on a few Saturday afternoons for us to make this happen! How lovely.

– When asking for help, make sure you ask the right questions! I was all set to fashion this home-made studio backdrop using ladders and sheets and all sorts of things… when a photographer friend of mine messaged me saying “you know, I have a backdrop kit… would you like to borrow it?” Ha! The thought did not even cross my mind to ask if anyone already HAD a backdrop kit! I will know next time to ask a better range of questions before jumping into the most complicated version! =P

– Apparently, I’m a wee bit oversensitive to constructive criticism when trying new things. Upon finishing the final shoot, my boyfriend (who posed for a portrait) gave me some loving advice from his perspective as the one in front of the camera. I suddenly realized that I had royally sucked at giving any kind of direction during the shoot… oh my God. I’m a total failure at this! And then began the tears. Geez.. How old am I? Thankfully, moments of reverting back to being 5 years old don’t last long – and I was able to remember… “Hey now! For my first try – I did pretty darn awesome!” Like the good perfectionist I am, it also wasn’t long until I was thinking of ways I could improve upon my directing skills.. even practicing a bit this week doing some self portraits helped me to understand what I might tell someone I am shooting in the future. Practice, practice, practice!

All in all, April’s project was a very fun one! And while I don’t think I’m going to be quitting my job to go be a portrait photographer… it was a great experience and not nearly as horrific as I had anticipated. I leave you with a few other shots from the month’s journey. And of course, a GREAT BIG thank you to all of my wonderful supportive friends who were brave enough to pose for this – and even braver to include some personal stories about their own challenges. Your words added such depth to this project and are much appreciated!

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Caela #

    These are really wonderful. I love how reflective they are of people’s spirits. I would love a book on this from everyday people in every station of life across the United States. You have a gift for capturing the true essence of someone including the imperfections and making each facet beautiful.

    Friday, May 6, 2011
    • Thank you for the kind words my friend!! I was trying hard to capture a connection or essence (while not knowing how on earth to do that!)… just knowing you got that from it really makes me feel good! Yay! =)

      Monday, May 9, 2011
  2. becky #

    You did an amazing job! The personal stories really add to the portraits’ intimacy. I would be interested to know the camera settings used for these. I used the know the art of getting such amazing contrast with dark blacks and white highlights… brings out amazing detail and adds an otherworldly quality. But that was in college a million years ago, and was with film cameras. I was hoping you would do black and white – cool!

    Saturday, May 7, 2011
    • Hi Becky!
      Thank you so much! I am so happy everyone was brave enough to share some personal stories.. it really did add a lot of depth, I agree!
      Believe it or not… I think I may have used the auto setting for these (shame on me!). I shot them with a 70-200mm lens which helps to add some depth and blur out background. The rest… mad photoshop skills! I whitened the whites of the eyes considerably for example, a trick I saw in someone else’s portraits while doing research. It really seems to make the eyes pop. Also added a lot of contrast and sharpening to bring out the skin textures and such.

      I may just have to post an original shot next to a final shot to kind of show the process! You’d be amazed what small tweaks in photoshop do! I know I was!

      Monday, May 9, 2011
  3. Simi #

    I love these!! Now tell me, how did the quality come out so beautiful?? Is it the lens or the lighting? Or photoshop? Or the genius within YOU? :-) I need some photo tips! :-)

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011
    • Hey girly! These required relatively little equipment actually… just my Nikon and the standard 18-55mm lens it came with. We did them outside and used natural light and a few white foam core boards to bounce and soften light. As for the background, I actually borrowed a black backdrop setup from a friend – but you could even use a black sheet for this just pinned to a wall or something.

      To get them nice and crisp there are some tricks you can do in photoshop… I will see if i can find a tutorial that will show ya soon. I also photoshopped the whites of the eyes to be whiter than they really were naturally – a trick I picked up from studying some other portrait photographs whose look i was trying to replicate! It seems to really make the eyes pop but is subtle enough that it doesn’t look fake.

      Hope that helps!
      I’ve got a few websites I look at for photo tips – will email you those soon too!

      Thursday, September 29, 2011
  4. Simi #

    Aaaa you are the best! I mean these are amazing!!! =)

    Thursday, September 29, 2011
  5. I went to Russia on my own and did my own factor and loved every single minute of it. I did employ a guide in Moscow only for the truth that I didnt want to miss any of the principal highlights of the city.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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