Tips for Your Photo Shoot! What to Wear! Connecticut Portrait and Wedding Photographer!

Do you have a photo shoot with Crystal Starr Photography coming up soon?  Have you thought about booking one soon?  Let me help you have the best possible experience and create photos you will treasure forever!  Let’s begin with the basics.  What should you wear?  What kinds of clothing are most flattering and look best in portraits?  Let’s get into that.

What NOT to wear!

  • Anything you don’t feel comfortable in.  Seriously!  If you aren’t comfortable then you will not look comfortable in photographs.  You will be self-conscious or fidgety.
  • Avoid solid dark colors and solid light colors.  When everyone in the group is wearing all white, all black, all gray, or all navy blue you create photo that is more 2 dimensional, flat, and to be quite honest… boring!  Not to mention very unflattering for everyone.  It becomes difficult for the eye to determine where one person begins and another ends so EVERYONE ends up looking much wider!  No one wants to look wider, trust me.
  • So toss out the white shirts and khaki pants or jeans.  You can do better.  I promise!
  • Avoid tiny stripes or patterns, or logos.  These are distracting and are not picked up well by the camera.
  • Avoid having everyone wearing just the same thing.  Seriously, the matchy matchy look is just not flattering or interesting!

So what SHOULD you wear?

  • Alright, I just massacred all of your ideas didn’t I?  Before you run away screaming keep reading! Bright, bold, saturated colors photograph best.
  • Choose colors that go well together. One way to style your family is to choose one colorful piece of clothing (like Mom’s dress) and coordinate everyone else’s outfits around it.  To be more specific, choose three bright colors and purchase everyone’s clothing around those colors.  Perhaps pink, blue, and yellow are your colors.  Maybe sister has a sweater with those three vivid colors.  Dad has a nice shirt in blue, brother is dressed in yellow, and mom has pink and blue in her attire.  Coordinated and interesting but not totally matching.
  • If we are shooting a large extended family then think in much the same way.  Choose three colors and just invite everyone to go with it.
  • Bold elements are a lot of fun!  A big bold necklace, a wide brimmed funky hat, a brightly colored scarf, big chunky healed shoes, all of these things add so much interest and variety to a photo.  A talented photograph can use these fun things to bring out the best in the photos and they can ensure these things do not overtake the photo.

Below I have a photo of one of the best dressed sessions I’ve ever had.   You can see they are definitely coordinated but each outfit is distinct and if you knew these children then you’d know what they were wearing is what they like and feel most comfortable in.

Confession time!  I stink at coordinating my own family for photo sessions.  I am NOT a shopper!  I cannot STAND malls.  I’d like to hire this Momma to dress MY FAMILY!

I hope this FAQ helps you when planning your next photo session!

Have a fabulous week!

Tips & Tricks: How to make your photos look better! Backgrounds!

So how did I start out in photography?  It’s a rather long story.  The short of it goes like this.  I didn’t come from a family that took many photos.  The few photos that we did take we rarely saw as we usually never got around to developing the film.  Rolls would sit gathering dust forever.  There aren’t many photos of me growing up displaying and documenting the things I did.  Then I grew up and sadly people I loved or would have wanted my children to know started to pass away.  My husband and I lost 2 grandparents, an aunt, and a father is the space of just a couple of years.  I mourned the fact that my yet to be born children would never get the chance to know these people and that I had nothing of them to share.

That’s when scrapbooking came into my life.  Up until then, even if I had taken the photos and went so far as to have them developed or printed what exactly was I ever going to do with them?  Now I had a plan, and a creative outlet to boot!  Loved it!  STILL do!  As time went on I began to realize that my FAVORITE pages were often those with the most beautiful photos.  So I wanted to get MORE beautiful photos, with purpose.  I didn’t want to rely on luck any longer.  I wanted to learn how to make it happen.  So I learned, I practiced, I studied, I practiced, I took courses online, I practiced, I took a distance course through the New York Institute of Photography, I practiced, I went to workshops, I practiced.  Ok… so you get the point.  I am certainly not done learning or practicing for that matter.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to share a series of posts aimed to help budding photographer’s get better pictures.  They were the suggestions that got me started!  I shared these suggestions recently at a workshop scrapbookers.  I hope you enjoy them and if you have any questions be sure to ask!


TIP ONE!  Making Backgrounds Just Right!

Check your background before hitting the shutter release!

It might be stating the obvious but even the most experienced pros forget this from time to time.  Look through your view find or at your LCD.  Is there anything that is distracting, ugly, out of place, etc?  Are there any funny objects (like a tree, a pole, a lamp shade, or something similar sticking out from your behind your subjects head?)  If so, what can you do about it?  Most of the time the fix will take five seconds, just do a quick sweep away for the clutter and then move on.  Other times you might have to be more creative.  You just aren’t going to be able to move that ridiculous cell phone tower over your friend’s shoulder.

Move your subject

Some backgrounds just aren’t going to work and you’ll need to move on.  But often times the fix is just a quick shimmy to the left or the right.

Place subjects in front of open spaces

Putting some distance between your subject and the clutter can often help tremendously.  The clutter becomes smaller in the frame and less obvious.

The bench I chose for these 3 cuties is in front of a busy road and some not so glamorous houses.  Luckily the bench is a good distance from those distractions and therefore they are not as noticeable.  I also squat down and changed my camera angle so that I could use the bench to block out some of the mess (more on that below).

Fill your frame with your subject

Get in close and fill in the camera frame with your subject.  If all we see is your subject then we won’t be able to see any of the yuckiness behind them.

Change your shooting angle

What if you scoot way down and point your camera up, can your camera still see the unsightliness you are trying to avoid?  What if you grab a chair or jump up on a nearby wall and point your camera down at your subject.  Does that make your background more pleasing?

Can you believe the photo on the right was taken just inches away from the two chairs on the left?  I just asked my couple to sit on the ground while I stood on a little box.  You’d never know they were in the middle of thrift shop.  I filled my frame with them AND I shot from a higher angle to cut out all the clutter.

Make your own background

Backgrounds can be easy to make.  A simple blanket close pinned between two chairs can work fabulously for a child.  Some shear fabric tacked artfully to the wall can be very pretty.  Get creative!

This photo was actually taken in a pretty tiny living room in a typical condo.  I simply tacked a large brown blanket behind her and I had an instant backdrop.

Post processing

You always want to strive to make the photo as great as it can be in camera.  Occasionally though, you’re just going to have to do the dirty work on the computer after the photo is taken.  There are many programs that have adequate clone tools that can quite efficiently erase away that thing you just wish would disappear.

Sometimes the computer can be your best friend.  After the fact I decided this gorgeous Momma to be looked far better without the bridge  behind her (or the strange stick sticking out of her head).  It took some time and effort but I was eventually able to remove everything.  Ah… much better!

A great background really truly can make or break what should be a great photo.  I hope you find this post helpful!  Sometime next week I’ll do another one on finding great light!

Enjoy your Thursday!

It Sure Is A Blessing to Give! Or, I’m as good as Jay Harris!

It was fall when I received a message from my friend Jen.  She was planning a human auction to raise money for the new building our church is renovating.  She was looking for talented people to volunteer their time and services.   I automatically assumed she was asking me to help her brainstorm a list of people who ask.  I think I read the message 4 times before I realized she was asking ME to donate my photography skills.  Wait me?  ME? I’m being included in a list of people skilled enough to donate something to auction?  It probably seems ridiculous to some but I couldn’t believe it!

Before you could say boo I started writing an email telling her how excited and honored I’d be to do it.  But then my fingers FROZE!  All the what ifs started flooding my mind.  What if my session went for some piddly amount?  Or worse!  What if no one bid on me?  I’d be hurt and embarrassed!  I had serious doubts about accepting.  But I did, thank goodness I did!

The night of the auction finally came.  I was NERVOUS!  I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t want to witness my own humiliation if I only brought in $10.  I mean, all of my friends were going to be there!  But at the same time, I couldn’t stay home either.  That auction began.  They started with some delicious pies and other baked goodies.  Someone donated dog training services and someone else donated some interior decorating services.  My husband bet on some help from a handyman to do some fix ups around our house.  One of the most exciting items of the evening was a golf game and tour of ESPN with Sports Center Anchor Jay Harris.  Some of the guys were furiously bidding and the excitement was high.  What fun!  Then came my part.  A Session with Crystal Starr Photography.  I told myself I’d be happy if I rounded out at around $75.  A $100 would be wonderful.  The bidding started.  First $25, then $50, and before I knew it we were at $75.  Phew!  I would be embarrassed after all!  But then it just kept going!  And going! And going!  My head was spinning!  How could this be?  People were excited!  A little war was going on between the Pastor of our church and a couple of others.  Can you believe my session went for just as much as the round of golf and a tour of ESPN with Jay Harris!?  I was beside myself!  Pastor Joe won.  He told me his daughter-in-law wanted it and he decided he was going to get it for her.  My heart sang!  Not only did I feel appreciated in my work, but I was able to do something I loved to bring a nice chunk of change to the church.

The session was fantastic.  Jay and Sheena had just had a little baby a few months back.  They wanted photos of her and their nearly two year old Rylin.  Baby Riese was so sweet and tolerated my fussing and my camera like a champ.  Rylin was a doll.  So full of energy and just as curious as any little girl should be.  She kept me on my toes but listened so very well.  Mom and Dad were super.  They kept a very positive attitude and gave me the space to help their children be successful.

I was so blessed with this session.  I hope to have the opportunity to donate my photography to another great cause some day.  I’m not sure I really want to do another auction!  As fun as it was, it was a bit much on my heart!  Thank you Jen for asking me.  Thank to all of those who bid on me.  And thank you to the Jakum family for such a wonderful session!

A Family Portrait Session at Hubbard Park

It was a wet fall day.  Silly me, you’d think I’d check the weather forecast when I have an outdoor shoot scheduled.  That was a bone headed move!  I had no idea it was going to rain.  Driving down the highway I eyed the ever graying clouds with a scornful eye.  And then the rain drops started to pelt the windshield.  Darn it!  I should have called this poor family ahead of time and rescheduled.

I called my husband and asked him to check the radar for me.  I love my husband.  He is always there for me at times like this.  My acting meteorologist informed me that there was a window in the rain headed straight for the park.  I had a chance to get it in.  Phew!

I climbed out of the car and was met with a warm welcome by my friend Caryn.  She and her husband Mike eyed the sky and asked me if I really thought this was going to work out.  “Well, we are here! Let’s see what we can get.  If we have to I’d be happy to reschedule.”  She agreed and opened her van doors to let her little crew scamper out.  To my delight, the children were thrilled and full of smiles.  They didn’t seem to notice the weather.  The air quickly filled with squeals and laughter.  I eased.  I knew we could make something out of this.

I suggested we take a walk down a nearby set of stairs into a lower part of the park where the light still seemed pretty well.  As we descended some I felt my head get pelted with little drops of rain.  The children didn’t seem to mind!  If anything, they seemed to enjoy it!.  My first mission was to try and get the ever elusive sibling shot.  You know, the one with all three, smiling, LOOKING AT THE CAMERA!  Sarah, Elizabeth, and Joshua range in age from not quite two all the way to 6.  What a challenge.  But they made it easy!  They were delightful and eager to do as I asked.  So mission 1, accomplished.


And then the rain began to really fall!  Oh dear! With squeals and laughter, we ran to take shelter under a nearby overhang.  I snapped a few more as we waited to see what the weather held for us next.  I am forever grateful to Caryn and Mike.  Their easy going, laid back attitude completely rubbed off on the children.  They decided to have fun with it and the children took that cue and they had fun too.  That attitude created an atmosphere of big grins and giggles that are a breeze to photograph.  All of this despite the rain.  And wouldn’t you know it?  The rain let up just enough for us to continue with our mission.

First up was funny man Joshua!  This little boy’s expressions were absolutely darling!  I wonder if he had half as much fun with me as I did with him.  A total doll.  A complete gentleman.



Then we had sweet Sarah.  Shy and giggling.  I could tell she was a bit nervous.  But she was a total shining star.  I was totally impressed with her through and through.



And finally, we cannot forget Elizabeth!  She is the big sister and she shines in her role.  On this day she was sporting a new gappy grin and a bit of concern about a little bandage on her finger.  I had so fun much chatting with her.  What a little lady.



Would you believe we completed this session in about 45 minutes?  That has to be a record!  3 small children in 45 minutes!  With more than a couple of breaks to dodge the rain drops to boot!  WOW!  That’s just a testament to what a family they are.


Thank you so much Elizabeth, Sarah, and Joshua!  You three make an awesome team! Thank you for making ME look so good!  I truly look forward to next time!



Time to Start Sharing! A Newborn Session

Ok Folks!

The holidays are over!  Many of my clients asked me not to share their photos until after the Christmas season as many of them wanted to gift their photos to friends and loved ones.  I didn’t want to spoil any surprises so I have not blogged many of my fall sessions.  Well it is time to start!

Today I bring to you the absolute sweetest family.  I was given the honor and privileged of being welcomed into their home when their newest arrival was just 5 days old!  What a doll!  And his big sister cracked me up the entire time.  Big sis is a typical spunky 2 year old with lots to say and lots of love for her baby brother.  We had a ball.

Adam and Lindsay thank you for a great session!

FAQ: What do your spiral bound photobooks look like?

In the past I offered something called a session album as part of a couple of my packages.  I found the description must not be very clear because most of my clients asked me what exactly that was.  So I’ve decided to rename the product. I think Spiral Bound Photobook is a bit more accurate.  It features front and back custom designed sturdy covers.  These books are absolutely adorable and perfect for toting around in your purse and sharing with others.  They make fantastic gifts as well! I feature the 5×7 version in my packages but they also come in 4×6, 5×5, and 8×10.

Since a picture is worth a 1,000 words I thought you’d appreciate a visual of exactly what I am talking about.  I created this album for one of my recent clients.  I was quite pleased with how it turned out.  Of course, I did have a gorgeous model gracing the pages.


The Joy of a Family Session!

Family photo sessions are some of the craziest yet most fulfilling sessions I shoot.  Why do you ask?  Well, because children are involved of course!  Children are the funniest little beings.  They are God’s special gift from heaven to every person on earth.  They come to us in order to teach us right from wrong, patience, kindness, acceptance, and to remind us how really magnificent this world really is.  Some people claim they aren’t “kid people.”  Whatever that means.  I guess what they are trying to say is they don’t enjoy children.  Or some people tell me that they raised their kids and now their done and no longer have the tolerance for little ones.  I think that’s sad.  Children bring so much to the world that those who choose not to notice are really missing out on some greatness life has to offer.

When I sign on to shoot a family I know I’ve signed on for a great adventure and a challenge.  Little ones have their own agenda.  They have their own ideas.  They have their own attitudes (both positive and negative).  I promise you, at least ONCE during ANY shoot involving children that their agenda will be different from mine.  But it is in those moments, if I am calm and sit back, that I often find my best photos.  During shoots with children, the children are the true artists.  Not me.

I recently had the opportunity to shoot a very fun loving family.  These two little ones, N & G were so full of personality!  Each of them brought one of their personal loves into the shoot (Thomas and Pooh).  I LOVE that!  It adds so much to photo about who the children are!  These two little ones absolutely adore one another.  So much so in fact that they sometimes pretend that they don’t.  But in the end they both shined before the camera.  I do hope I get a chance to shoot them again sometime.  Thanks mom for the chance to do it!