Thursday, 23 of October of 2014

10 Tips for Senior Yearbook Portrait Photography

With school back in session, photo days are on the schedule for many students and their families. Earlier, we discussed ways to improve the quality of yearbook photos. Today, we’d like to focus on a special sub-genre of yearbook photography: the Senior Portrait.

Senior Portraits are probably the most unique yearbook photos taken. Generally, throughout the US, seniors are given a particular appointment with a special photographer who will be in charge of senior portraits only at that time. Therefore, senior photos usually do not occur during the same time frame as the other yearbook photos. They may be scheduled during the summer break with the in-coming seniors being photographed one-by-one then. They may be scheduled during the latter part of the fall semester or during the spring semester. Also, these sessions run much differently than normal yearbook photo sessions and will generally come with instruction packets that request the student bring or wear certain clothing or avoid certain clothing. Pay attention to these as the photographer is not sending this packet just to be a control freak. Beyond that, follow our tips below to get the best senior photos you can.

1) Check the previous yearbook senior photos – The photos that run in the yearbook for the senior class almost always keep the same style. For most schools, this means that the backdrop will be a single-toned neutral or dark color (generally grey or black) and that the young men will all wear tuxedo shirts, bow ties, and black jackets. The young women will all appear to be wearing a gown that is off-the-shoulder. Check the style of the classes before yours and be prepared for that.

2) Prepare for the formal attire photo – Men will need to bring a plain white dress shirt that is appropriate for a tuxedo. Women will need to bring a bra that is either strapless or one where the straps can be slipped down beneath the draping without causing a wardrobe malfunction.

3) Ladies, bring your mother, sister, or a good female friend – The ladies’ photos do not actually require them to wear a dress. Instead, they will be given a drape of cloth and sent to the restroom to put it on. It will need to go over their arms and generally closes in the back with clothes pins or another simple (yet adjustable) closing mechanism. Drape the cloth over your chest so that it covers everything decently, adjust your bra straps as needed, and then have someone else pull it over your arms and snug behind you to pin it. Unless you have magical powers, you are not going to be able to do this on your own.

4) Know the hairstyle you’ll be using – Unless the session indicates that there will be time for multiple wardrobe changes and hairstyle changes, plan to use the same hairstyle in all of the photos. If you have an appointment that will allow you to visit a stylist in advance, feel free to do that. Otherwise, make certain that you can not only get your hair styled the way you want but that you can fix it quickly on your own or with whoever you have helping you.

5) Arrive at least ten minutes early – This will give you time to prepare for the formal photo (it’s usually the first shot that is done) and to make any last-minute fixes to your hair or make-up. Speaking of which…

6) Be conservative with the make-up – Go easy on the toner, base/foundation, and powder. Use an eyeshadow that compliments your irises (this is frequently the color that is opposite your eye color on a color wheel). Short hand is: use honey/gold/orange if you have blue eyes, lilac/lavender/light purple for green eyes, blue/cyan/pink for brown eyes (variable depending on the tint), etc. Keep your blush/rouge under control and looking like a healthy glow and choose a shade of lipstick that complements your entire face. If you normally wear flashy make-up or apply your make-up with a trowel, this is the time to visit a professional and learn a lighter, more mature touch.

7) Practice your expression – Don’t smile if you don’t feel like it. However, don’t scowl or try to look overly dramatic. A neutral expression or a small smile is fine so long as it doesn’t look plastered on. My own senior portrait has my most natural expression which is one of quiet daydreaming and I’m happier with it than with the version where the photographer demanded I smile (I have trouble faking emotion).

8) For the informal shots, bring clothes that are complimentary but comfortable – Informal shots can be done indoors or outdoors and will have a variety of backdrops, props, and settings. Bring something that goes well just about anywhere but that is comfortable enough for you to sit, squat, kneel, or stand in.

9) Get information on retakes – Some people will not be happy with their first set of senior photos. Be sure that you get the information for retakes in case you wind up needing it.

10) Parents, back off a bit. Students, listen to your parents – Senior photos are the last school photos you’ll be getting. By the time a child has become a senior in high school, they are generally old enough to have a fairly large say in what they’ll wear and how they’ll look. So, don’t force the issue too much, parents. That said, students, this is the last school photo you’ll be using. This will be the one that hangs on your parents’ wall. It’s up there with the photos from your wedding. Don’t use this as the photo to launch your full-out rebellion against parental authority. Trust me – you will regret doing that.

What other advice would you offer to seniors getting ready for their portraits? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

The end has come to another week in the world of photography. This week has been an interesting one. Today, the Scots voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and photographers have been out capturing the story of both the Yes and No campaigns over there. Floods sweeping through India and Pakistan have also made headlines as monsoon season starts in earnest. Photokina 2014 was also a huge thing this week with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, and more giving demos of their newest photography gear and reviewers getting a chance for their first hands-on with these upcoming cameras.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks! Have a great weekend and we’ll see you again next week!

– da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Dave Engledow

Profiles in Photography: Dave Engledow

If you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ll have come across one of these hilarious images from the World’s Best Father, Dave Engledow. Though he has a degree in photojournalism, he considers himself to be an amateur photographer. His collection of images featuring him and his daughter Alice Bee are intended to poke fun at the stereotype of the clueless father while chronicling the girl’s life in a unique way.

Before anyone gets worried, almost all of the images are heavily edited in Photoshop and Engledow’s primary rule is that Alice never be at any real risk during a shoot. He frequently stages the photos using holders, harnesses, and other things that can be hidden by perspective or edited out on the computer. Though Engledow may not be the most perfect father in history, he’s got more than enough sense than to place his daughter (or himself) in deliberate danger even if the final photo makes it seem like they are (such as the Thanksgiving photo that has garnered a lot of hand-wringing and a follow-up photo). Alice Bee has even begun to suggest some photo ideas herself now so we can look forward not only to seeing her father’s wickedly twisted sense of humor but her own creativity in composition in the future.

Dave Engledow is a very patient and creative man who has come up with a very unique way to capture his daughter’s childhood. Unlike the traditional “family photos” or “childhood photos” that so many of us have, his collection of childhood photography really will be something that stands on its own and lets Alice remember some very fun times when she’s grown and having children of her own.

What do you think? Has this inspired you to try to add some spice to your own photography? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird


New Canon 7D DSLR Coming In November

New Canon 7D DSLR Coming In November

The latest news out of Canon is that there will be a new addition to their DSLR line-up: the Canon 7D Mark II coming out in November. As of this morning, here is what we know to expect from this new camera:

  • AF system with 65 cross-type points
  • 10 fps video shooting
  • An expanded ISO
  • Dual DIGIC 6 processors
  • 20.2MP APS-C sensor
  • 150,000-pixel RGB+IR 252-zone metering sensor
  • Built-in intervalometer and GPS

This camera will not come with built-in WiFi though there will be adapters and editions available that will have WiFi though the feature will not be standard. The current expected retail price for the November release is $1,800 (body-only) or $2,150 (EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM bundle). As pre-order information and a more detailed feature list come out, we will let you know more about this awesome new camera from Canon!

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy week in the world of photography as everyone gears up for Photokina 2014 next week in Cologne, Germany. This week also marked the 13th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Photographers from around the world have been busy capturing images of the memorials and the ceremonies as well as preparing for the change in seasons and the resultant change in focus on photography as people and events move indoors against the cold. This week also had the supermoon or the perigee full moon which was a challenge for many – including us – to capture.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below!


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

– da Bird


Profiles in Photography: Eric Lafforgue

Profiles in Photography: Eric Lafforgue

There are some places that very rarely see journalists or photojournalists covering them in candid ways. One such place is North Korea, frequently called the Hermit Kingdom. Ruled by a dictatorial regime who exercises complete control over entry, tours, and exit of the country, it is often difficult for photographers to get inside the country, let alone to cover the people and the stories from North Korea.

However, it is possible to do so if one is persistent enough. Eric Lafforgue, a French photographer who has long been fascinated by distant countries, managed to visit North Korea many times as a tourist. His access to North Korea, however, was revoked due to an off-hand comment he made but even without current access, Lafforgue was able to capture hundreds of photos showing the human side of North Korea, the regular people who live under the regime and have little say or influence over its policies.

His photography inside the Hermit Kingdom shows children at play, laughing and having fun, the same as children the world over. He visited frequently enough that he was able to figure out ways to convince his guide to take him off the beaten path a little. He also learned that he would not be interfered with so long as he acted like a tourist and not a journalist and so long as he didn’t try to get into any political discussions with the North Koreans.

Lafforuge’s photography not only shows a colorful and candid side to the people of North Korea; it also shows just how far behind the country is. Though that is not the primary focus of his photography, it is difficult to hide how dilapidated and run-down many of the buildings are — even in Pyongyang. It is also eerie to see wide highways with little traffic on them and weeds sprouting up through cracks in the cement.

Lafforgue believes that North Korea is changing and seems to hope that, one day, the Hermit Kingdom will be more open to allowing people in and out of it and that it will have less control over the information its citizens can access, allowing for a peaceful transition from a closed dictatorship mired in the early Cold War era to a thriving culture comfortable with using modern gadgets.

Eric Lafforgue’s fascination with North Korea and his willingness to visit the country and play “their game” has allowed some great photos of the secretive nation to be shown to the rest of the world. Lafforgue also visits many other countries and remote areas, photographing them and sharing their stories with the world. What places would you like to learn more about? Chances are he’s visited some of them!

– da Bird


Photokina 2014

Photokina 2014

In just eight days, Photokina 2014 will take place. Photokina has long been an event that brings together camera manufacturers, retailers, professional photographers, and photography enthusiasts to discuss their common interest – photography. This event takes place once every two years and this year’s Photokina is going to be held in Cologne but will be providing coverage of its events live and daily via their website and social media.

This year should be very interesting, especially if mobile photography makes a splash. Nikon, Canon, Samsung, and Olympus have already made announcements about new cameras and gear they’ll be showcasing at Photokina. Photokina itself is doing a massive drive to involve consumers and photography enthusiasts with multiple contests, workshops, exhibits, and more aimed at helping non-professional photographers take their next steps in the craft. Pro photographers will also have plenty to take in starting with Cologne itself – a very photogenic city – and workshops and discussions that focus on their needs and abilities.

With there only being eight days left before Photokina starts, chances are that you may not be able to make it to this year’s event. However, if you’re a hardcore photography enthusiast, it might be worth your while to keep an eye on Photokina’s news site to learn the date and location of their next event so you can make plans to attend it.

We will, of course, be following the news out of Photokina and will do our best to provide a good write-up of it after the event has ended.

– da Bird


Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-Up

It’s been another busy and interesting week in the world of photography this past week. Photokina is coming up in just under two weeks and camera makers and photographers are getting ready for the show. There have also been some big movements this week with the start of the Burning Man festival and the US Labor Day holiday. Storm photographers are gearing up and offering advice for anyone who wants to get in on this kind of photography in the up-coming storm season in the US. Nikon and Canon have both had major announcements this week as well.

All of these stories and more were covered on our Twitter feed this week. If you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below.


That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great weekend and see you again on Monday!

– da Bird


5 Student Portrait Photography Tips

5 Student Portrait Photography Tips

Across the US, the school year has started and that means that soon, for many schools, it will be time for student portraits and yearbook pictures to be taken. While some schools do these photos during the early spring semester or later into the fall semester, many still hold them closer to the beginning of the school year so as to give the yearbook press time to organize the bulk of the photos and go through the various iterations of layouts and designs.

Generally, schools hire a professional portrait photographer to come in and do the photos. The professional will know what to do and will already have all of the gear he needs to take care of his side of matters. Therefore, our tips will focus more on helping you and your child to get the best school photo you can.

1) Make certain you know when school photos are being done — Most schools will send home announcements and pre-order forms for school portraits. You will need to check in your child’s backpack and ask them directly about it. If the school has a web presence, you might check there in case your child is one who frequently forgets to mention such things. Once you know when the photos will be done, mark it on the calendar and set yourself any other reminders you deem necessary. Fill out the pre-order form and send the payment as requested.

2) Prepare to prepare for the session — Depending on your child’s age, this may take more or less time and may (or may not) become a contest of wills. Parents generally want portraits with their children wearing the best clothes they can, with their hair decently arranged, and (for older children) any blemishes obscured or make-up that is appropriate. However, no child wants to wear something to school that will be uncomfortable or prevent them from playing or socializing normally during their breaks. Some schools do have strict uniform requirements as well so check with your child’s school to see if they will allow non-uniform clothing on the day of the shoot.

3) Get ready for the photo shoot — A day or two before the photo shoot, sit down with your child and discuss what you would like them to wear and if you would like them to have a particular hair-style or hairdo for the photo.

For young children: This discussion will be less a discussion and more of an announcement. Show your child what you would like them to wear and use a hair-style or hairdo that they are used to wearing (this is not the time to begin doing experimental hairstyling). If they have major objections to the outfit, see if they would prefer your second or third choice but, in the end, you the parent decide what they are going to wear and how you are going to handle the disagreement.

For tweens: Children between the ages of 10 – 13 will have much more feedback into what they want to wear and have the skills to make a forced clothing option backfire. They may want to wear something more comfortable or more in line with what all their friends are wearing. However, again, you’re the parent. If they are wanting to wear something that is completely inappropriate, veto it. But, if they simply do not want to be stuck in your choice all day, let them take their regular clothes to school with them so they can change as needed. Older tween girls may want to wear make-up so be certain that, if you allow this, you check their make-up in the morning and explain to them that less is more and that laying on the make-up too heavily will cause the light to reflect in odd ways and might make them look terrible in the photo (especially given that most 13 year olds are not the most skilled make-up artists).

You may also wish to speak with older tweens about how to make their expressions look natural so you do not get the “dead-eyed forced fake smile” in the photo (more on this in the next section).

For non-senior teens: Wardrobe, make-up, and hairstyle options with this age-group become less about imposing your will and more about reaching an agreement you can both live with. Do veto any clothing options that are extremely inappropriate (“no, sweetheart, you are not leaving the house wearing daisy dukes”). However, these are the years to let your child do something (photo-wise only) that they may regret or that might make for a wonderful story years down the road. So, if your child dresses like a goth most days, replete with make-up to match, let it go.

Instead, for this age group, focus on facial expressions and intent. Explain that simply turning up the corners of the lips does not make a smile. Have them practice in front of a mirror. Suggest that, instead of focusing on smiling “big” like they did when they were younger (a trick that generally works with smaller children because of their lack of more complex emotional drives and reasoning), they think about something that makes them happy. A favorite story. A movie-star they daydream about meeting. Tell them to fix that in their mind instead of worrying about looking good for the photo. A relaxed, natural smile, even if it winds up being more of a wry grin, is a thousand times better than the fake, forced, dead eye smile that makes the person look more like a deer caught in the headlights than someone having a photo done.

Kids in this age group may not always want to smile for the camera, as well. Again, have them practice the expression they plan to use and suggest ways to make it look more photogenic. Lastly, if your child is determined to use a silly expression, practice it with them so that it at least looks good and check to see if you can get a second photo set with a more normal expression.

For seniors — Senior portraits are done very differently than normal school photos and will be the subject of a future blog entry that will also include homecoming, prom, and school club photo sessions.

4) Make plans for a retake if necessary — Sometimes kids miss the first photo day due to illness or other things that keep them from school that day. Or, the child may have come down with a rash, allergic reaction, or injury that you would not want photographed for posterity (my younger brother wrecked his bike and had a black eye the day before school photos and one year I was covered head-to-toe in poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac the week of school photos). Sometimes the child will rebel and deliberately ruin their first photo session or the photo session will result in unflattering images of your child. That’s why schools generally plan a second photo session. If your child needs to have their photos redone or done later, know when the re-shoot will take place and plan accordingly.

5) Don’t sweat the small stuff — At the end of the day, a school photo is not that big a deal. Yes, it goes in the yearbook and yes, it’s generally something you’ll want to hang on the wall as a milestone marker. However, if it doesn’t turn out perfect, just take a deep breath and stay calm. Please do not take the frustration out on your child or the photographer. Check into having a re-shoot done or simply chalk it up to kids being kids and tell yourself that the weird expression or hairstyle (or whatever) will make for an interesting and entertaining story years down the road. Humor and a long-sighted view will serve better than temper in this case as in many others.

Portrait photography can always be a bit of a hit-or-miss thing when it comes to getting the photos done for an entire school. There are hundreds of students to photograph over the course of a day, the setting cannot be changed easily, lighting rigs can cause problems with heat and make-up, and kids themselves frequently balk at following orders. However, with proper preparation, getting your child’s school photo this year can be made much easier.

What are some strategies you’ve tried in the past? How have they worked out? Are you planning to try out our advice this year? Let us know in the comments below!

– da Bird

Photo “Fake Smile” taken from NakaKon – “Terrible School Photos…. Again.”

Photo “Fond Memories” taken from Yearbook Fail.


Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!

Today is one of the last days for grilling and barbecuing before the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter. It’s also a day to take off and enjoy the waning summer weeks with your friends and family and to get lots of photos for posterity. So, all of us at Beach Camera would like to wish all of you out there a happy Labor Day and hope that you will stay safe as you travel to your various celebrations and Labor Day sales!

– da Bird