Sunday, December 5, 2010

Caroline, 4 days old

I arrived to little Caroline's house and was very pleasantly surprised!  She had just eaten and was in a spectacularly chill mood for me.  Newborns are pretty unpredictable, but we were able to get right down to business with Miss C : )  I found a crocheted blanket in the home and used a light yellow blanket underneath, assuring that we got some nice, neutral organic images before trying anything else.

I like to try and get the meat-and-potatoes shots before we try anything crazy, like getting babies to sleep in a football helmet, so that if the wheels start to fall off and we can't calm an infant down, we've at least got our sure shots for the day.  We didn't have to worry at all with Caroline... she was a 4 day old PRO!  Her daddy brought a helmet from work, and after stuffing a couple of receiving blankets in the bottom (and a muslin blankey to hide the beautiful safety warning tag) it was ready for action.

She settled right in and kept on sleeping.  I could not BELIEVE she was so comfy in there, but it was precious, and I'm so glad we were able to get those shots.  There's no telling how much longer she'll fit into a helmet!  I know Mommy & Daddy will treasure those images for years to come.

Caroline even stayed mellow long enough to get some great shots of her in a bright green blanket-- they'll match her stylish apple green & black/white nursery decor.  I knew I was on borrowed time with the last few, but so happy we were able to work a little of Mom's fun fabrics in to the session.  She finally decided she'd had enough after that, and Daddy whisked her away to soothe : )

Such a lucky little monkey!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sweet Kendall!

I've gotten my hands on a new set of papers and embellishments for creating cute layouts (like the one in the previous blog), and since Kendall is one of my favorite mini-BFF's, I decided to play around with some of the images from her recent portrait session.  Voila!  Christmas card and a sweet little framable collage for her Mommy.

I cannot believe how big this little lady is getting... She's becoming more and more articulate and expressive every time I see her these days.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Morgan's Birth Announcement

Here's Morgan!  I opted for a front-and-back design this time, and since Morgan's family came into the studio for a portrait of everyone together... the front is a focus on the family and a teaser shot of Daddy holding the new baby's tiny head in is hands:

For the back side, it's gratuitous cute baby time!  Morgan's stats and a good sweet baby feet fix for everyone on the mailing list : )  I hope to post more images from Morgan's shoot one of these days... fall and holidays seems to always be the busiest time of year, when the poor blog gets neglected.  For now, enjoy more Morgan!

Friday, November 26, 2010

All you want for Christmas is a dSLR? Here's some help!

This is the time of year when I'm inundated with calls and e-mails from friends, clients, and family members regarding digital camera purchase... specifically, the digital SLR cameras.  Everyone wants to know which is the better brand, the best deal, etc.

I am no supreme expert on the offerings of every manufacturer, but I can offer a bit of help where the basics are concerned!

It's important to remember that, in general, prices on similar products are going to be very similar across the board when you're looking at Nikon and Canon models, because in order to be a Nikon or Canon retailer, you have to adhere to the manufacturer's pricing guidelines.  For instance, Nikon says to all of its distributors, "The retail price for this is 499.95, and you may not sell this item at a lower price."  If you see the item at a smaller store for 529.95, it's probably because it's a smaller store with a smaller inventory.  They don't have the buying power of the larger stores, so generally you'll pay a bit more.

You'll find competing Nikon and Canon products at most price points.  Which brand you choose is ultimately up to you-- I highly recommend going to a store that carries both brands and holding them in your hands to see what feels good to you.  You can't go wrong with either; both are highly respected manufacturers.  Any argument in either direction will really end up being a Mac/PC-Ford/Chevy-Coke/Pepsi type of argument.  You'll find loyalists to both brands.

I shoot Nikon and work on a Mac, but even the most seasoned professional would never be able to tell you what equipment I use simply by looking at my images.

Sony & Sigma are also competitors where the dSLR is concerned, but they're newer to the market.  Their products will probably run a smidge lower in price for the comparable product simply because their name in the digital photography market isn't as strong (although Sony is a huge name in electronic/digital technology, and Sigma has been manufacturing lenses for years).

Which camera body you choose will pretty much be based on your budget, but go as high as your budget will allow.  You won't regret it!  This is a big investment for most people, and I can absolutely understand where spending $500 vs. $800 could seem to be a no-brainer... but it's very easy to outgrow the basic entry-level consumer camera body.  If you have some wiggle room, take it to the next level : )

dSLR manufacturers will usually put out "kits" around the holidays-- a camera body with lenses included (sometimes also a memory card and camera bag).  They'll also include things that come with EVERY dSLR, but retailers like to list them out to make the "package" seem to have more things in it.  Including a camera bag is nice, but it's iffy whether or not it'll really be a bag you'll use.

Things that will come with every dSLR, and are not "bonus" items in a kit:

  • Rechargeable lithium ion battery
  • Charger
  • USB cable
  • Audio-Video cable
  • Neck strap
  • Body cap
  • Monitor cover
  • Camera manufacturer software
  • Any other caps/covers listed
Extras that generally don't come "with" the camera body:
  • Lenses
  • Memory cards
  • Additional batteries
  • Camera bag
  • tripod
Why kits are good:  You get a ready-to-go package of stuff you can play with and learn to use.  You've got a camera and lenses and chances are, the lens that comes with the kit will be useful.

Why kits may not be good: You might be getting a lens that isn't ideal for your use, and in many cases the kit lenses aren't the best, and will not get you much in the way of resale value.  You might be getting lots of extra junk you aren't going to use.

There are a couple of key pieces of information to look for where the lens is concerned... Reading the name of a lens can be like reading a foreign language.  Here's your secret decoder ring information:

The "mm"
Some lenses are "zoom lenses", and have a notation like "18-55mm".   You can zoom in and out, and take a wider or zoomier picture standing in the same place, simply by manipulating the lens barrel.  Most kit lenses will be zoom lenses.

Some are "fixed" which means they don't zoom-- you have to walk back and forth to change what you see in your image.  They don't have a "mm" range, just one number (for example, 50mm)

The "mm" number tells you how much you'll be able to capture in the image you snap.  Shooting at 18mm, you might be able to capture the entire table of children at a birthday party from end to end if you're standing near the table.  We'd call this a "wide" shot.

Shooting at 50mm,  you'd probably be able to get the birthday boy and three or four kids surrounding him.  At 80mm, just the birthday boy.

At higher mm numbers like 200mm or 300mm, you'd be able to zoom to your little center fielder from the bleachers at a little league game.

Having an 18-55mm lens AND a 55-200mm lens is exactly the same range as having one 18-200mm lens.

VR (vibration reduction) or IS (image stabilization)
This means that the lens will compensate for your shakiness when you're far away and zooming to something.  It's super-helpful for taking pics of your little centerfielder from the bleachers.  Nikon calls it VR, Canon calls it IS.  You want to get this on a lens with a lot of zoom, if it isn't a great deal more expensive than the alternative.

AF (auto focus)
You want this.  Most lenses will come with AF... you want this if you'll be taking pictures of moving subjects.

The f-stop range
If you don't know what the f-stop is, don't fret.  You'll figure it out in good time ; )  Move on to the next point because this will just confuse you further.  The f-stop range tells us what the lens's aperture is capable of-- which tells us what kind of conditions you can use the lens for.  Most kit lenses and zoom lenses with a wide range are going to be "f/3.5-5.6"... normal range for shooting outdoors in daylight or with a flash.

If you'd like to purchase a lens that will really help teach you about photography basics, I can't recommend a "nifty fifty" enough.  A 50mm f/1.4 lens is tiny and fun!   It should cost about $300-350.  The "f/1.4" part of the lens's name tells us that it's a "fast" lens.  The aperture (the hole that lets in light) will open up much larger than your everyday lens, allowing you to really experiment with aperture and shutter speed-- and shoot in low light conditions.  This lens will lot you get artsy, people!

Third party lens manufacturers
Canon and Nikon (Nikkor) manufacture lenses, but they aren't your only options.  Canon lenses aren't compatible with Nikon, and of course Nikon lenses aren't compatible with Canon bodies.  Be sure you're purchasing lenses that are compatible with the body you've chosen.

Companies like Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina all make lenses that will work with different brands of camera body.  Wolf Camera/Ritz Camera also sells a Quantaray brand.  They'll usually offer the more popular lens models at a lower price.  The quality is debatable, but for the average consumer they're a very good option.   I have a few Sigma lenses that I use for professional shoots, and I love them.  In general, I'd always prefer the Nikon glass... but sometimes price is a motivating factor.  I have a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 that's one of my favorites.

You've got local options like Houston Camera Exchange and Camera Co-op... where you will probably get the absolute highest level of customer service and find sales people with a great deal of knowledge.  These are wonderful places to purchase from because they really are the heart of our local photography community.  Their prices may be a little higher, but this is because they don't carry the huge inventory of larger stores and don't have the bulk buying power of chains and "big box" stores.

There are photography chains like Wolf/Ritz Camera, which are photography-centric, though your salesperson courtesy/knowledge is going to be more hit-or-miss.

There may be kit options available at Sam's Club, Costco, Best Buy, and other "big box" stores.  If you're going to buy at one of these stores, go in equipped with all the information you need.  The customer service associates at these retailers are not generally in the know.

There are major online retailers like B&H Photo and Adorama that are extremely reputable, and chances are you will find the best prices here.  They have a very wide selection of products in stock.

Please be sure you are purchasing a product with US warranty and not an import/gray market item.  The rule of thumb with online retailers... if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is (this goes for eBay sellers as well).  "Gray market" items are sold by unauthorized dealers and come with no warranty; you have no way of knowing if you're getting a good product and have virtually no recourse should you encounter problems.

Purchasing used equipment is also a great option, especially if you don't have the extra cash laying around to spend spend spend on items you want to experiment with!  The absolute best place to find reputable sellers of used equipment is Texas Photo Forum (, on the Buy and Sell Forum.  Houston Camera Exchange and the Houston Camera Co-op also deal in used equipment.

You can actually rent photographic equipment, which is great if you want to try out a lens before buying.  I love!

Here are some really cool camera bag manufacturers... Ladies, take an extra look at these, they do offer some not-so-mannish selections:

ShootSac (I love mine!)
Jill-e (love my large red rolling bag)
Kelly Moore (want!  pink!  WANT!)
Tamrac (great for everyone)
LowePro (great for everyone)


For those of you with dSLR questions... watch the blog for more info on beginner classes I'll be offering in January : )  The classes will be small and cater to your individual needs.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Incredible Deal! Don't miss out : )

Tomorrow I'll be hanging out at the St. Christopher's MOPs Holiday Shopping Extravaganza, hawking my wares with lots of other great vendors in support of the MOPs group (for those of you not in-the-know, MOPs stands for Mothers of Preschoolers).

The shopping day is a time for moms to browse kid-free and find some great stuff for themselves or their lucky holiday gift recipients.  Because I know that lots of these moms live in or near my neighborhood, I'm offering a pretty unheard of introductory deal to anyone in attendance... a short children's portrait session in the park for $95.  BUT WAIT, there's more...

The deal includes a $95 credit toward your next full location portrait session... so in a nutshell, you get a free shoot out of the deal PLUS some prints : )

If you want to drop by, please do!  This special is only available to attendees of the Holiday Shopping event, and must be purchased tomorrow.

Friday November 5, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

St. Christopher Episcopal Church
2508 St. Christopher Road
League City, TX 77573

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lauren & Kyle's Sneak Peek!

You won't want to miss this one...  keep your eye out for the hulk-hands, and the absolutely mindboggling groom's cake (Cakes by Gina)-- which is an homage to chef/groom Kyle's talents in the kitchen.  It's all edible, cake/gumpaste/fondant/frosting; even the macaroni.  Flawless work!  The word on the street is that Kyle won Lauren's heart with his spectacular macaroni and cheese.

Hats off to Kelly of Eventology Weddings for helping Lauren and Kyle plan and execute such a beautiful day of celebration.

The bridal jewelry was hand-beaded by my close personal friend Emily Wells (contact me for more info), and the lush florals designed by Lori Holley of Special Arrangements.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Sneak Peek for Brenda & Roel...

Here's a quick preview video with some of my favorites from this fantastic couple's wedding... to tie them over while I'm processing the rest of the pictures : )

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maddie and her Family on the Beach

Maddie's Mommy contacted me to schedule a portrait session for a couple of reasons... the most important being that Maddie's Nana would be moving out of state soon, and really wanted to have a shoot with the whole family. The happier occasion-- it was Maddie's first time visiting the beach!

These guys were troopers, waking up well before sunrise to get to the beach at my requested time of 6:52 a.m. all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It's always great when clients respect my advice about light and time of day. Since it was August and very, very warm outside I suggested we get started early so that we could avoid the heat as much as possible (and harness the beautiful morning light). This is good not only for the mood of my portrait subjects... but also because we have longer to shoot before everyone begins to melt.

Maddie absolutely adored the soft dry sand near the dunes, and loved picking it up in her hands and letting it sift through her fingers : ) She studied the seagulls, walked with each of her family members, and eventually discovered the water.

We had an awesome session with some really great images as a result. I have several favorites, I can't pick just one. I would like to mention how well Mommy did with the wardrobe coordination! I'm not sure we cold have asked for nicer colors to go with the sky, the sand, and the beach grass with its yellow flowers. She even wrangled Daddy into wearing a coordinating color of shirt. Good job!

She and I were able to coordinate and get a couple of beautifully collaged prints in time for Nana's going away party the following Friday, and according to the reports everyone just loved them. Enjoy!

Meghan & George's Engagement Portraits

Meghan and George's wedding is coming up this fall, so we headed out to the park under the bridge on Sabine Street for some fabulous engagement portraits. I love this location with its combination of pastoral, architectural, water and landscape! There's so much to use with such a small space.

These two were so much fun to work with, like old friends... I'm really looking forward to the wedding day : )

JoBeth's Bridal Portraits in Hermann Park

JoBeth is a dear, dear friend of mine who scheduled her wedding for a day I was already booked... but luckily I was still able to shoot her bridal portraits.

We went to Hermann Park and walked along the reflecting pool and the exterior of the Japanese Gardens, where all the pretty greenery and columns are. She was absolutely stunning in her gown! Her blue eyes popped (as usual) against her red hair, and even though it was really really really warm outside, she kept such presence.

She chose the shot of her under the arch for her large display at the wedding, but we printed the close-up shot of her face as a gift to her groom, Jody.

Now that she's finally married, I can post her bridals, hooray! Congrats Jojo & Jody : )

Movin' on Up!

Well, the Rice Village consult room has served me well for the past year, but it was evident early on that it wasn't going to be the ideal location for both meeting and shooting. I'm happy to say that come November (maybe even sooner, depending on how quickly the process takes place), you'll find Monkey Tree in a new location!

Near the intersection of Montrose and Richmond, it's bright and lovely, complete with a room full of great natural light for shooting portrait sessions : ) I can't wait to get some of my little snuggly angel babies in there and practice.

I believe it was painted today, so soon I'll be moving over some furniture and monkeying the place up. I'll post more pics as we get further along in the process, but here's a little peek at the blank canvas. From the ample parking to the beautiful doors and foyer, up the wood-paneled elevator and into the new space... I can't wait to welcome you into our new home!

We even have access to a great big conference room, so when you're all ready for more dSLR bootcamp, we have a nice place to spread out.