When we (everyone, not just professional photographers) look at photographs, our eyes tend to go to the lightest part of the photo.
When a photo is a portrait of a person (or a group of people), the photographer wants your eyes to go to the face(s).
So, a photographer taking a portrait will want your face(s) to be the lightest part(s) of the photo.
This means no white or very light colored blouses or shirts. Even for business portraits, men should select a shirt with at least some color, e.g., blue oxford cloth. People with very dark complexions might want to consider deep colors like black.
When picking clothes, remember that simple is good. Go for the classic, avoiding trends that will make your photo look dated in six months.
Avoid clothing with pictures, writing or large logos unless the pictures, writing or large logos relate specifically to the photos. In other words, no Budweiser tee shirts unless this photo is for a magazine story about binge drinking; no Disney shirts unless this family portrait is in front of Cinderella Castle.
Loud colors, busy patterns, bold stripes, big plaids, polka dots, tank tops, mini skirts, and clothes that are baggy–or too tight–all call attention to the clothes, not the wearer. Best to avoid them. No short shorts past grade school, please.
Neon-colored clothing is popular right now, especially in children’s clothes and shoes. Please avoid neon if at all possible. It often prints an odd shade and even a single orange shoelace draws attention away from your faces.
When considering dresses for very little girls, remember that they often don’t sit with their legs together or their panties completely covered. If your little girl tends to sit with one leg bent up, you might avoid dresses. Or at least have her wear bike shorts underneath so if her undies are in the photo, no one is bothered by it.
Many photographers take portraits from above your eye level to hide double chins or wrinkled necks, and to minimize extra pounds. However, from this angle exposed cleavage is only enhanced. So women, please know that low necklines might be even more revealing in final photos. If you aren’t happy about your arms, neck, etc., wear a scarf or sleeves to cover them.
Avoid any sudden (and potentially unflattering) changes immediately before the portrait– no tanning booth visit or new hairstyle the week before your portrait.
What colors work best? Generally speaking, darker clothing will be more slimming than very light colors, but the best color for you is based on your own skin, eye and hair coloring.
You probably know which colors or outfits consistently bring you compliments, so go with the proven winners. Ask a family member or friend for an honest opinion.
If you are having a family portrait, you’ll want to coordinate everyone’s clothing to avoid a visual train wreck. I remember when I was young, our family had a portrait taken at Olan Mills. The four of us all picked out our clothing independently and the final product was a clash of patterns and colors.
You might decide to wear matching outfits (e.g., navy turtlenecks with khaki pants), or you might be more subtle, coordinating clothes around a common color theme. If you’re a Pinterest user, please take a second and look at my “How to dress for a portrait session” board, where I’ve pinned a variety of clothing collections, each one built around a few colors. Remember, you don’t have to dress matchy-matchy, but instead you can pick out individual pieces that go very well together when you stick to a controlled color palette.
Don’t forget to consider your shoes and socks. Group portraits are often full-length, and you may not be able to hide your feet.
Wrinkles are difficult to remove effectively in photoshop, so if you’ve picked an outfit that wrinkles easily, iron it and then don’t put it on until the last minute.
A word about glasses: Folks who wear glasses only part of the time are encouraged to remove them as glasses catch all sorts of reflections which aren’t easily removed in photoshop. Remember to remove them 15 or so minutes before the session to give any little marks on the bridge of your nose time to go away. If your glasses auto-darken in sunlight, bring another pair that doesn’t. Or don’t wear them at all. If you must wear glasses, your optometrist might be able to lend you a pair of empty frames that match your own.
About ladies’ hair: Often our hair looks “big” immediately after it is washed and styled, so if you wash and style your hair on the day of a portrait, do it early in the day to give it time to relax. Day-old hair holds a style better than just-washed hair.
Men who tend to have five o’clock shadows should plan a quick shave before photos taken late in the day.
If you have a lazy eye, ears that always stick out in photos, or another feature you don’t like, be sure to mention it to the photographer. We can often pose you in a manner that eliminates or minimizes certain features.
And, get a good night’s sleep the night before to avoid bags or circles around your eyes.
More important than even your clothes, however, is to bring a great attitude to the portrait session. If your body language says “nervous,” the best-looking outfit in the world is not going to save the shoot. And, the session will take longer as the photographer tries to loosen you up and elicit a smile. If you are totally relaxed and your eyes and smile are genuinely friendly, your portrait will be friendly and the session can end sooner!
If you find yourself ill at ease in front of a camera, take ten minutes (well, 13 actually) and watch this wonderful Ted Talk about how to bring your best self to a photo session.
Postscript: Following these simple guidelines should ensure that your photo doesn’t end up on AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com
In 2011 I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with Allie and Tim, and their two small children, to visit Lola Children’s Home in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.
Allie and Tim, who live in Cambridge, serve as directors for the orphanage. I had photographed their wedding years ago at the Newagen Seaside Inn in the Boothbay Region of Maine.
Allie and Tim have traveled extensively since getting married, and as part of those travels spent several months in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia volunteering at an orphanage. There they became fast friends with social worker Abebe Fantahun, who felt a specific commitment to children with HIV. Abebe dreamed of returning to his hometown, Mekele, in northern Ethiopia to open an orphanage that would accept HIV infected children and their siblings, as most orphanages would not accept HIV kids. Allie and Tim encouraged Abebe to pursue his dream.
Fast-forward to 2010 when Abebe has just returned to Mekele to open his orphanage (which he named Lola) and Allie and Tim had committed to raise funds in the US to help run the orphanage. Allie and Tim set a fundraiser at her family’s home in Portland and invited me.
When Allie and Tim began speaking about Lola it was clear they had a very deep passion for Lola and its mission in northern Ethiopia. What they didn’t have, ahem, was a whole lot of pictures to illustrate the wonderful things that Lola was doing. Sold by their passion for the project and flush with frequent flyer points, I offered to take photos if they would let me tag along on their next trip to Lola. And they took me up on it.
So, this past spring on this unforgettable trip I got to meet Abebe and other Lola staff and of course the Lola kids, and to appreciate firsthand why Allie and Tim are so committed to this project. We also got to help Lola celebrate its first birthday.
Lola Children’s Fund’s mission is to raise money to provide housing, medical and educational services for HIV-affected orphans and local children in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has nearly 5.5 million orphans, with more than 800,000 orphaned by AIDS. About 80,000 Ethiopian children are infected with HIV. In 2010, 14,000 kids were infected and 3,500 died. More than 20,000 children need anti-retroviral medications to survive.
Lola was founded because Mekele had no services available for HIV-positive orphans, many of whom are left without family or government support after their parents’ deaths. Most orphanages will not take HIV children, so only the non-HIV children will be taken in. Many children live on the streets, receiving no food, shelter, education or medicine to help them combat the disease. Lola, on the other hand, will open its doors to the HIV infected children and their siblings so the siblings can be kept together after their parents’ deaths.
So, it all started innocently enough: When I checked in online for my Christmas flight to Atlanta, the Delta web site indicated my flight was oversold. I should contact the gate agent if I was willing to give up my seat and take a later flight.
When I arrived at the airport in Portland and checked my bags, the same message flashed on the kiosk screen. So, I approached the gate agent and volunteered.
To make a long story short, by the time I got home six days later, I had given up my seat twice, and I had 900 Delta Dollars in my pocket. And, I was cooking up a scheme to go somewhere exotic. No offense, but those $900 weren’t going to be spent in the Lower 48. I was thinking bigger.
Thanks to facebook I’d been living vicariously through other photographers who had taken recent trips to Europe. Zofia Waig and Jennifer Stone had both just taken trips to Rome. Both posted gorgeous photos, Zofia mostly in in black and white. So, Rome was at the top of my list.
But, so was Paris as writer friend Selby had recently vacationed there and shared all sorts of wonderful details. With the advice of my sister, best friend and potential travel mate, Lisa, Paris came out on top.
So, the tickets have been booked for Paris in the Springtime. I’ll fly from Boston, Lisa from Atlanta.
Having the luxury of four full months to plan and research the trip, I’m having plenty of time to find us an apartment, research sights and even learn a little French with lessons I’ve downloaded to the iPod.
There’s nothing like a rivalry, and this past weekend’s Bowdoin v. Colby men’s hockey game–at the sold-out Watson arena on a snowy February night–didn’t disappoint.
With the right to host next weekend’s NESCAC finals hanging in the balance, the game incited all sort of craziness. Like fans who painted giant B’s on their chests and players’ names and numbers on their backs.
Polar Bears and B’s showed up on faces and even fingernails.
And then, there was that tee shirt with a special message for Colby.
And, somehow it just seemed natural for a student or two to show up dressed as a penguin. Or as a banana.
Alums and Bowdoin friends of all ages rounded out the crowd.
With Brian Beard of Creative Images Photography there to capture the sports action, I was free to work the area for pictures that captured the emotion of the game, on and off the ice.
The roomy and brightly-lit Watson arena is a photographer’s dream, offering great vantage points for photos.
The roomy press box is great for capturing the play-by-play announcers
and for straight-on shots of the Polar Bench bench.
The emotion ran the gamut from quiet times during official time-outs
to animated cheering when the game was underway.A third-period goal sent the game into overtime
and the partisan crowd erupted when Bowdoin scored the winning goal in OT.
For information on tickets on next weekends’ NESCAC final games, check the Bowdoin athletics web site.
Here’s forward Kit Smith signing pucks and tee shirts for local youth who hung around after the game.
Here’s a nod to Bangor Photo’s monthly photo contest, which this month is featuring cemeteries.
In a state that’s filled with many pretty little graveyards and cemeteries, one that truly stands out for me is the Glidden Street Cemetery tucked away on a lovely residential part of Newcastle (yes, on Glidden Street.)
Just across the Damariscotta River from Damariscotta (only a couple of turns off of Route 1), the cemetery is on a quiet tree-shaded lane lined with stately old homes and the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, which is also worth a visit.
Several things make the Glidden Street cemetery stand out. First of all, the property itself is very photogenic. It’s a narrow strip of land that runs from the street all the way down to the river. The gently rolling strip is filled with mature trees, and many of the headstones are over a hundred years old and carved with intricate details.
Driving back from Camden this past Sunday I detoured to see how the foliage looked in the cemetery. The leaves weren’t quite the shades I had hoped for, but the nice light made me stay.
This particular headstone stood out because of the light falling across it and the old carving. As I got closer I could see it marked not one death, but three. One family lost three small children (ages 8, 5 and 3) in a three-week span in August and September of 1842. How very sad.
I wish I’d known the legend of Mary Howe, as I would have hunted down her grave. I’ll have to look it up on my next trip there.
Have a favorite cemetery you frequent with a camera? Then, check out the contest rules.
One of the perks of being a professional photographer is meeting and working with wonderful people. Like, for example, Dan Cashman.
I first ran into Dan over a decade ago when, as a photographer for the Bangor Daily News, I was dispatched to the University of Maine campus, in Orono, for an article about a UMaine student who had started his own talk show on local cable tv.
Dan, who was only 19 at the time, was a huge fan of late-night talk shows, and in particular, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Seems Dan had started his own Carson-esque talk show and it had really taken off. He had the desk, the pencil jar he futzed around with, an Ed McMahon-like sidekick in Rich Norton, and even a house band in The Lidral Trio, that played during the breaks. Dan was witty, and his team was obviously having fun with the show, and as I returned to the paper with my pictures I told myself “this guy is going places. I’ll hear his name again.”
“The Nite Show” had an impressive five-year run, establishing Dan as a bit of a Boy Wonder in the Bangor area.While still in college in the late 90s, Dan landed a prestigious internship with Don Imus. This was at the peak of Imus’ popularity, when the Imus show was simulcast on radio stations and MSNBC. Imus took his show on the road, and during a live broadcast from the Bangor Auditorium, Dan had the guts to ask the popular broadcaster about interning on his show. Nine months later Dan was in New York working for the I-man.
After graduating with a degree in mass communications Dan joined Cumulus, a national broadcasting group with five radio stations in the Bangor market. He started as promotions director for the five-station group, and worked his way up to program director of WBZN, along the way winning several awards from the Maine Association of Broadcasters.
After five years with Cumulus, Dan got snapped up by Maine Governor John Baldacci, to come to Augusta as the Governor’s assistant press secretary.
Cut to summer 2006 and to Karen, a twenty-something bride-to-be who worked at Eastern Maine Health Systems with my former assistant Cristin. On Cristin’s prodding Karen approached me about photographing her wedding. “Who is your fiance’?” I asked. “Dan Cashman” she answered, and I smiled. “I know who HE is! I’ve taken his photo before!”
Seems Dan and Karen had met through UMaine, but not until after Dan graduated. Dan, working for Cumulus by this time, had been invited to speak to a communications class Karen was taking. Karen was immediately intrigued and asked a question. And got his business card. And came up with a reason to follow up. Dan, thankfully, was equally intrigued by Karen. By the time the two were engaged Dan was balancing the job in Augusta and the relationship with Karen, who lived in the Bangor area.
You learn a lot about a couple when you photograph their wedding, and I learned very quickly that Dan and Karen are well-organized, dependable, gracious, outgoing and hard-working.
One particular meeting I had with Dan and Karen came not long after Don Imus made national news with an offensive comment about the women’s basketball team at Rutgers; since I knew Dan had worked for Imus I was interested in his take. It would have been very easy for Dan to pile on his former boss–like everyone else was doing–but he resisted. While he didn’t excuse the remark, he didn’t crucify Imus either: “He’s not a bad person if you get to know him; he really does a lot of good for many people,” referencing Imus’ charitable work for kids with cancer. It was an admirable response.
Their wedding was fun to photograph. Cristin assisted, and it was nice to see the Lidrals there and even Governor Baldacci, who was able to drop in for about an hour.
Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago when Dan made a big announcement. After four years, commuting to Augusta is finally taking its toll; Dan’s decided it’s time to move on his dream to start his own public relations firm. Taking the experiences gained in Orono, in NYC, at Cumulus and in Augusta, Dan has started Cashman Communications. Located in Bangor, the agency offers a full range of PR services.Having watched Dan conduct his affairs in the past with smarts, the highest ethics, a sense of humor, hard work, determination, and a positive outlook, I know all these wonderful qualities will serve him well in business. It was a pleasure to work with Dan recently to create photos for his new website, which will be coming soon to CashComm.net. I know that he will do a great job for the clients who are smart enough to choose him for their PR needs.