Breakfast Morning Portrait Session - Monona Bay, Madison, WI

Michal's mom had been asking her to please, please, please take some updated photos of her and Gavin, since her most recent ones were from their wedding a decade ago (or something like that). So Michal finally relented to stay in Mom's good graces. We talked about where to shoot and settled on a breakfast shoot at their place (though a cyclo-cross shoot was also considered). Done deal.

Michal actually didn't know how to cook eggs, which was awesome. Everyone should maintain a few basic things you don't know how to do, because it makes for great photos when someone teaches you. This is why I still don't know how to ice skate.

After breakfast, we walked out to the barely-frozen Monona Bay. I often walk the rails over the land bridge here early in the morning, it's a great place for capitol views, or to see folks on the lake. The trestle bridges are old and tastefully unimproved, always a nice contrast against a couple beautiful people.

5 Steps to a Classic Holiday Card Photograph

We just finished our holiday card for this year, which turned out well enough. We did not necessarily intend this to be an annual project; we used to write handwritten letters instead of photo cards, but with kids in the picture, the time investment has become overwhelming. Besides, as photo card options have risen in quality and dropped in price, it's a bit irresistible, as a photographer, not to take part. 

While working on this small project, I noticed how opinionated I am about what does and does not make a good holiday card. I thought I would write down a few thoughts, to validate, inform, or bugger your own position on the subject. Enjoy!

1. Take Time for a Dedicated Holiday Photo

Instead of mining your annual photo archives, searching for a photo (or many) that might bend to serve the purpose, give yourselves and your friends the gift of a fresh, purpose-driven portrait of your clan. An image made specifically to suit the holiday season will feel just right and communicate something subtle but important that that photo from your July beach vacation just can't.

2. Include the Entire Family

This is a completely subjective, personal request. I want to see your whole family, not just your kids or your dog. I know, you have WAY more images of your kids than you have of yourselves... I get that. But you're sending these cards to people you rarely see, they're gonna hang these photos on their refrigerator or whatever, and they want to see you, their old friend, looking back at them. Include the rugrats if you must (and of course you must), but get the parental survivors in there too. 

3. Choose a Location Appropriate to the Holidays

Forgive me, but a holiday card should look holiday-ish. I don't want to see you at the beach (unless you live at the beach). If you live in a cold, Northern climate, I want to see you bundled up and looking cozy. If you live somewhere warm, you still know how to look festive, right?

4. Get Help

Maybe you can't afford to hire a professional photographer, or maybe you just don't want to, that's fine. But please, get some help. Use a tripod, or ask a friend to come along. Selfies have a strange, squished look to them, and photos taken on a timer tend to look a little jittery. 

I immensely appreciate the help of Maya's mom, Jackie, who is always willing to shoot under my direction. Not many people would bear that cross, God bless her.

5. Leave Room for a Message

While it's generally a good idea to crop portraits fairly close, you probably need room for some copy on this mission. You might not know whether that copy will go above or below your family, so ask the photographer to shoot a little wider, leaving some room above and below (or above, then below) your faces. As long as you have a variety of compositions, you'll be able to find something that fits on your favorite photo printing site.

Olbrich Gardens Family Portraits in Madison, Wisconsin

This shoot was scheduled for Labor Day weekend, but it turns out the Navy does not predictably schedule leave for its sailors. Which was okay with me, considering I'm not the one with a family member in some unknown location in the Pacific Ocean most of the time. That brings some perspective. Thank you, thank you a thousand times to those who serve and protect us all over the world.

Before our session, I got to visit the home and see the wonderful collection (and implied appreciation) of black and white prints this family has in their home. Beautiful work all over the walls, both in-house from dad and daughter and from friends and colleagues as well. And they asked ME to photograph their family... I felt that was quite a compliment. And a little bit of pressure, but that's a good kind. Nice making work for folks with a deep appreciation for photography as a medium.

Christmas Family Portraits in Madison, WI

There are lots of kinds of people out there. I don’t know exactly how to describe these kind of people, but I could stand to spend more time with them. Funny, loving, kind, warm, at ease with themselves. Maybe that’s because the elders of this clan are so heart-meltingly wonderful. Grandpa’s eyes sparkled the entire time. And those glasses grandma was wearing… so awesome. Fun challenge to shoot an indoor session where two people can’t leave their chairs and half the family leaves for Toronto in an hour, I like adventure.