Photographing Teens

It’s not a surprise that teens are a the forefront of most selfies. They are getting an understanding of who they are as a somewhat adult but still child.

Self awareness is huge for teens and most already know what they like and don’t dislike and unlike my generation, are more forward in telling you exactly what that is unapologetically.

Teens are also one of the most self aware clients and therefore can sometimes feel a bit self conscious and uncomfortable in front of a stranger that mom and dad paid to photograph them.

So here are my tips for having a great experience with teens!


PRE CONSULTATIONS

I can not stress how important it is for you to have a conversation with your client before any type of session actually takes place. This can be via email, FaceTime, or better yet, in person!

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Ask them what the session is for, why they wanted to hire you, what they need after the session or if the session is with other teens or family.

Also, if you can, get some time with the teen alone, always with mom or dad near by, and talk to them about THEM. Ask them if they’ve had professional photos taken before, what do they want out of the session. If the teen goes mute, which can sometimes happen if they’re around say 14 years old, just keep asking the questions in a light hearted manner.

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Don’t dwell or force them to answer anything they’re unsure of. Teens are unsure of many things. If you can spark up a conversation about you like or perhaps ask them to create a vision board and text it to you.

Giving the teen some say about their own session gives them the authority to dictate what they like, what they don’t and be the creative directors of their own shoot.

Trust me, having their input will help you create images that they’ll love and ultimately get bought, shared, and even mom will enjoy that you got them onboard.

PLAYLISTS / MUSIC

Have music playing. If it’s in studio, on location, or anywhere, create a playlist and even offer the teen to add songs to it if they wish during the session.

You can also bring a small portable speaker and have them connect their phone to it so that their favorite music is playing.

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Music can create an experience unique to the teen and help them feel more comfortable in front of your lens and during the whole session as well.

Music also fills in awkward silent gaps because let’s face it, we’re focused on creating amazing images for them and sometimes, the convo can get a little stale. Music helps to fill in that blank and keep the momentum going even when you’re not talking about anything in particular.

WARDROBE AND STYLING

Teens have some really great style, however sometimes they can use a little help in that department, and we’re not talking about mom or dad.

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Have an add on your packages for styling services with a local hair and makeup person, or you can do a quick inspiration board before the session with all the looks that the teen likes from pinterest or social media.

Creating a cohesive look and getting the wardrobe and styling down before the session can also bring confidence levels up. When you feel and look good, it shows! And teens will like having this confidence boost.

DON’T FORCE IT

Okay, we’ve all been there. Photographing someone and most likely it’s mom who’s begging the children to smile, say cheese, have fun, or otherwise force the child/teen to do something they want.

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It’s best to give the parent a little pep talk, sans teen, and reassure them that the teen is gonna knock this out of the park and that having them just enjoy the experience is much more important.

Let them also know that it’s a rule that if the teen doesn’t smile, we’re not gonna force it. Because sometimes they don’t want to. Sometimes, you’ll get a huge authentic chuckle after the nerves have calmed down.

You might even get them to dance to the music they put on. Just give them some space and time and their personality will shine. There is no need to force it.

GIVE HOVERING PARENTS A JOB

And if the parent is hovering, give them a job to do! I’m a mom, I would totally hover and make sure the session I’m paying for goes how I want. Because I know my kid and I know their real smile versus their fake one, I know what gets them happy and I can always hear their laugh in my head.

But let’s get real, as photographers, that’s super annoying and keeps us from doing our job. And it’ll make the teen never want another session again because of mom or dad.

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My solution to this is to give the parent something to do, hold, or find. This gives them something to do rather than just watch the session. They are actively participating and busy hands don’t have time to hover over the busy photographer.

Even better if the parent is comfortable with going for a quick coffee run or lunch run. That gets them totally out of the room and lets the teen just relax.


What are your tips for sessions with teens? These tips are here to help you at your next session because we want our clients to have the BEST EXPERIENCE POSSIBLE which will let you create amazing photos for them, their parents, family, and everyone!

Until next Friday friends! Oh, and let me know what you’d like to see for future posts!


Want to sponsor a post or contribute some great tips? Email at hello@jackielamas.com

It's not all about gear

When I first started in this art form, digital was just coming up and lots of really professional and tenured photographers were starting to switch over. It was a constant battle between Canon or Nikon and many even winced at having to put their medium format cameras on the shelf until digital backs were more widely available.

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Some didn’t make the switch at all. Some swore by one brand or another. But I’m here to tell you IT DOESN’T MATTER ABOUT YOUR GEAR.

What does matter then Jackie? Let me tell you: Experience, practice, and the willingness to always learn and be receptive to criticism.

I’m going to blow your mind by telling you whats in my camera bag. You might even laugh and say what the how? Or you might say, oh it makes sense. Either way you’ll be surprised, for sure.

My gear:


  • 28-105mm F/3.5-5.6

  • 580 EX ii flash

  • Cheapo extra flash that can be slaved or TTL

Taken with my cellphone but this is it, my gear. On camera is my 50mm.

Taken with my cellphone but this is it, my gear. On camera is my 50mm.

Yep, that’s it. Every image you see here on my website was made with that gear. And before a few years ago, it was a Canon 5D, the original one, which I still have two if anyone is looking to buy. While it’s good to keep one for backup, that’s all they are now. Just cameras I lug around “just in case”. I also have a tripod and I’d be surprised if I actually ever pulled it out to use it.

But all the gear listed above is what is in my bag and I love it. Keeps my gear light, easy to access, and I seriously love the 85 and could honestly shoot everything with it if I had the choice.

Now let’s get into what DOES matter when it comes to photography.

KNOW YOUR GEAR AND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

If you’re just starting out and are worried that you’ll be judged by others, clients, photographers, neighbors, your dog, that you don’t have all the top gear, or that you’re still shooting on a semi professional system, let me be the first to tell you that IT DOESN’T MATTER if you don’t actually learn how to use your gear.

Knowing your gear in and out until you don’t even have to look down at the buttons is what makes you great at the creative side of things. Sure, tech is cool and trust me, I’d love to have all the latest gear to play with but it’s not the reality and honestly, let’s be real, expensive.

This was shot on a 2006 Rebel Ti. One of the first ones that ever came out, I believe second generation? Kit lens 18-55mm.

This was shot on a 2006 Rebel Ti. One of the first ones that ever came out, I believe second generation? Kit lens 18-55mm.

Photography, at least not professional photography, is not cheap. So it’s best to really get to know gear and even rent if you need to until you’re sure what gear works for you for the type of photography you want to do.

The only way that you’ll understand what the differences are between a 35mm and an 85mm is by shooting with them. You’ll see subtle differences and perhaps your style doesn’t include a 16mm wide angle lens. Perhaps you shoot in a studio and feel like a solid 24-70 is your sweet lens.

Perhaps you’re a natural light photographer and don’t need anything fancy in terms of flash. Perhaps you are all good with a reflector and some good light.

Maybe you’re starting out and have the kit 18-55mm lens. Use that lens with everything its got and see how far you can push it’s limits.

Get so in tune with your gear that you are not phased when work comes your way, you know you can rely on the gear you have and the set up you’ve created for yourself.

Knowing my gear in and out helps me create images that I picture in my head. Otherwise, I won’t be able to create photos like this because I won’t know the low light capabilities, for example, of my camera.

Knowing my gear in and out helps me create images that I picture in my head. Otherwise, I won’t be able to create photos like this because I won’t know the low light capabilities, for example, of my camera.

My gear works for me. Because I mostly photograph families, children and events. Sure a 70-200mm would be nice, but personally I’ve shot weddings with that lens and it’s painful for my hand after a few hours. Plus, most beach weddings are small and intimate and I don’t even think I’d use it all that month. So for me, it’s not on my wish list.

My gear is light, easy to move around and change, and more than anything, still gives me the results that I’m looking for. It’s what works for me, find what works for you with what you have or want in the future.

PRACTICE AND EXPERIENCE

It doesn’t matter if you have all the latest gear. It doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve spent learning Photoshop. The only way that you can make your gear work for you, is to practice and gain experience.

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Shoot, learn, watch other photographers and how they work, read tutorials, get insights into how people do and create the images that you like, try recreating (not copying) and learning light. Ask friends to pose for you, try different lighting situations, use different backgrounds, reflectors, creative ideas to get unique style photos that are all your own.

Shadow another photographer. Send them emails, ask questions, connect with other photographers, build a community, and shoot, shoot, shoot as much as possible.

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That’s the great thing about digital now, you can shoot until your finger goes numb and if you don’t like any of it, erase it and start over. Only when you feel like your gear is holding you back is it time to start thinking about what you can change, if you have the money. If not, then think of unique ways to use your gear to get different photos or the photos that you’re trying to create.

NEVER STOP LEARNING

I started photography when I was 19 years old. I’m 34 now and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new about photography, lighting, gear, the creative aspect, or the industry as a whole.

There is always something to learn and that’s what makes it so fascinating! Which is always why I write articles and tutorials because if i can pass down some kind of knowledge I’ve learned over the past few years, then I will.

CREATIVITY

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I can’t end this post without talking about this aspect of photography that has nothing to do with gear. You can have all the gear in the world but if you don’t expand your creativity or at least attempt things, try new things, add ideas to your list of ideas, or explore that side of yourself, your photography will not flourish it it’s true potential.

Creativity can be found in all different formats and doesn’t have to be to actually taking photos. Some photographers are inspired and get their creative juices from books, movies, music, paintings, experience, personal struggles/triumphs, family, etc. There is so much floating around that can move us and keep our creativity flowing.

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This doesn’t mean you are to compare yourself to someone else. NOT AT ALL. Creativity is personal and it is an intimate experience with yourself. Your photography is an expression of that and it can push your limits.

Just because you photograph portraits doesn’t mean that you can’t do macro photography as well. Or mixed media with photography and other types of art. Allow your ideas to be big, crazy, and creative. Allow yourself to really dig deep and get it out and see how you can bring it to life.

No amount of gear can bring out your creativity.


Okay, I know that this week’s post is a little fluff but I can’t even begin to tell you how many photographers and artists I come across who are so bent on the fact that they can’t move forward with their craft because they don’t have the right “gear”. Let’s be real: It isn’t just about gear. A camera is a tool, that’s it.

Photography is much more than that, it’s YOU. Your drive, your creativity, how much you practice, the experience you accumulate, and how you express your creativity.

Types of lighting

So a while ago a photographer friend came to me and told me how she recently had a client who told her that a real professional photographer doesn’t use flash.

Yeah, I had to hear the sentence a couple of times, mouth wide open, in full surprise that someone would ever think that! Not because flash is bad or gets a bad rep for being a little too harsh sometimes but let me say this for everyone, clients and photographers:

ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS SHOULD KNOW HOW TO USE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LIGHTING.

Whew, there, I said it. This means that flash, studio strobes, hot lights, flash lights, and even construction lights should not go to waste when the can help you achieve the look that you want and get your shot.

Yep, used flash here to fill in my clients’ faces in order to get the color from the stained glass in the background.

Yep, used flash here to fill in my clients’ faces in order to get the color from the stained glass in the background.

When a photographer can use both artificial light and natural light, there is nothing that photographer can’t create! Don’t limit yourself and jump in today because we’re gonna talk about using flash.

WHY USE FLASH AT ALL?

Okay, let’s start with this all too common question. A flash is a more portable studio light that can help you add light to your photographs when needed. See, the thing with photography is that even though it’s modeled after our own eyes, it doesn’t have the ability to expose for both foreground and background.

Not just for people, but for details and still life too. Pointed directly at the ceiling to bounce light.

Not just for people, but for details and still life too. Pointed directly at the ceiling to bounce light.

Artificial lighting is there to help light your scene evenly and not be limited to natural lighting situations. Which, let’s face it, as photographers natural light can sometimes backfire on us with really harsh days, or even worse, cloudy days where the sun hides behind clouds and throws off your exposure every couple of frames. Those are the worst in my opinion.

External flashes, and pop-up flashes, help to fill in light on a scene that otherwise would need too much photoshop or to do a composite which also takes up valuable time.

Used flash in a small room to create these portraits.

Used flash in a small room to create these portraits.

Multiple flashes can be used to create your own studio and light scenes that you have pictured in your head just right so that your creation can come to light. This is where you manipulate the light to do exactly what you want in a photo.

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Flash is portable, lightweight, and easy to use in any photographic situation. Having one doesn’t mean you’ll always use it or that you have to like it, it just means that you have in your bag more possibilities.

EXTERNAL FLASH MODES

This debate is like the RAW vs. JPEG and Canon vs. Nikon. I can only let you know my own experience with both modes on external flash and why I prefer Manual Mode in all situations.

Left: without flash, blown out sky. Right, with flash, richer colors and you can see the orange in the sky and a bluer sea.

Left: without flash, blown out sky. Right, with flash, richer colors and you can see the orange in the sky and a bluer sea.

TTL

Let’s start with TTL which is an abbreviation for “through the lens”. This is where the flash meters the output of light based on the information of exposure metered through the lens of the camera.

It will choose the best output for you as you focus your camera and fire off. In TTL you don’t have to think about the flash much because it’s doing its own thing. You can use compensation +/- to get more or less output from your flash, which is pretty effective if you want to control the flash a bit.

However, my complaint with TTL is that it often meters the output differently from photo to photo. Meaning, one photo taken in the same spot may have a different flash output than the second photo and so on. Which to me is really inconsistent and super frustrating.

These were all shot in manual mode with two flashes. One on camera and one camera left pointed at my clients.

These were all shot in manual mode with two flashes. One on camera and one camera left pointed at my clients.

MANUAL

When I learned about manual, it was a little hard to catch on at first because I had only had experience with controlling strobes in a studio and not a flash on location. Took a little bit of trial and error to get the output right for each situation but it was a total game changer because once you had your correct output you then didn’t have to change it unless you moved into a different lighting situation.

Every single one of these photos was shot using flash!

Every single one of these photos was shot using flash!

For example, I’m on a beach during midday sun and need the flash to compensate with the sun. I put my flash pointed directly at my clients at 1/2 power. Which is a pretty high output and I need it because the sun behind my clients is really bright, causing all kinds of shadows on their faces and lots of lighting mess.

I put it at 1/2 power and see that it works perfectly. Now, I can go about my entire session when I want flash and not have to guess, change, or move the output at all. It’s consistent and I know I’m getting exactly what I want in that particular lighting situation.

Yep flash again! With a big soft box attachment to soften the light. Black and white in photoshop.

Yep flash again! With a big soft box attachment to soften the light. Black and white in photoshop.

Or another example, I’m photographing a bride getting ready and I have the flash bouncing off the ceiling at 1/16 power. I take a photo, see it’s not enough output and so I change it to 1/8. Leave it on 1/8 for the entire getting ready because won’t be changing rooms and I can have consistent flash output each and every single frame.

Manual mode helps me to get consistent exposures and makes me work less by trying to compensate the flash either up or down each time I take photo.

BOUNCING, DIFFUSING, AND SLAVING

Flashes are so great because they’re portable little tools in your bag. Need to photograph a headshot but want to create that studio lighting effect? Flash. Want to light a reception with two flashes to get some cool flare? Flash. Want to add soft lighting to a bridal portrait to make it look like window light? Flash. All of these scenarios are perfect for flash. Which also requires the use of bouncing, diffusing, and slaving.

Both images have flash. Placed on a light stand and my assistant holding it so that I can move around and the light stays the same each time the flash fires.

Both images have flash. Placed on a light stand and my assistant holding it so that I can move around and the light stays the same each time the flash fires.

BOUNCING

This is when your flash is pointed at something and bounces the light back onto your subject, object, or where ever you want it to land.

The most common is bouncing it off a white ceiling. I also like to bounce light off an adjacent wall to create more depth and shadow in the photos. But, that’s all preference and you’re the boss of what want your flash to do.

DIFFUSING

All of these images have flash because it was super hot, bright, and I was competing with the sun (see the shadows?) Kept my clients out of the harsh sunlight and got the portraits lit evenly. Can’t even tell I used flash.

All of these images have flash because it was super hot, bright, and I was competing with the sun (see the shadows?) Kept my clients out of the harsh sunlight and got the portraits lit evenly. Can’t even tell I used flash.

Diffusers are useful in that they make the flash light softer. You can use the diffuser that came with your flash to soften light, or a mini-softbox, or I’ve even seen a trash bag used to diffuse light. The point is to soften the light making it more even across your scene.

SLAVING

This means that you “slave” one or more flashes so that they fire off at the same time. For this you’ll need either a transmitter and receiver or flashes that communicate with one another. Some flashes have a slave mode and when they detect the light fire from a flash with in range, that flash fires as well.

One flash on a stand behind the bride slaved to the one on camera.

One flash on a stand behind the bride slaved to the one on camera.

Slaving can be really useful in studio lighting situations where you need to light different parts of the stage with light at different output power. Or if you’re lighting a reception venue and want to make sure that you have light for any angle within the venue.

***

Flash can be subtle or intentional. You’re the photographer and you can create more with flash.

Flash can be subtle or intentional. You’re the photographer and you can create more with flash.

In the end, flash is such a great too for ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS and knowing how to use them is really helpful for lots of different lighting situations.

You could even use you cell phones flash to get familiar with lighting angles. Video lights also work for still light and getting to know how light works within a frame.

And never let anyone tell you that flash isn’t for professional photographers because the more you know, the more you can create.

That’s it for this weeks Photographer Friday friends! Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Posing Families | Tips for Portrait Photographers

Posing, sounds like it would be really hard but it’s not! At least not with a little bit of prep and practice.

Posing can be really fun because it can be really subtle and it can make your clients feel a little more comfortable if you take a little bit of control.

Here are a quick five tips for posing families in particular. I’m talking about 5 people or smaller. Larger families will have their own separate post because it’s a whole different thing!

I’m not giving you exact posing because every family dynamic is different as is the location, time, situation, and mood. However, these tips will help at ANY family session to keep them going, keep them fun, and get the great images that the parents are going to want to buy!


START WITH NATURAL POSING

What the heck is natural posing? I know seems like a made up term, and it is. I made it up, or chances are I heard it somewhere. Anyway, the point of natural posing is to simply allow your clients to get into the groove of the session by just being themselves.

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This is helpful because it gives you time to get your exposure right, perhaps walk to an area that is perfect for the session, or just talk and shoot while keeping things light and less “in your face with a camera”.

Ask your clients to walk hand in hand, or carrying their children if they’re young, and have them just explore and check out the location.

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With smaller children, younger than 3 years, exploring and walking around helps them get familiar with their surroundings rather than forcing them to smile and pose at the camera right off the bat. Which let’s face it, toddlers kinda do their own thing and run the show most of the time, ha!

Even with older kids, giving them an activity can help them relax in front of the camera.

Even with older kids, giving them an activity can help them relax in front of the camera.

Getting these natural poses can really bring about real connection between family members and also authentic expressions which are probably the favorite images for parents.

During this time, get close to the children and explore with them as you take their photos. Ask them to run to daddy and play a joke or jump on him. Ask the children to hug or maybe make faces.

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All of this play will help you gain their confidence and they’ll eventually do what you ask. Of course it’s not a guarantee but at least they’ll think you’re fun.

POSE QUICKLY AND GO WITH THE FLOW

Posing can get pretty boring for children so try and pose quickly and go with the flow. It’s really important to tell the parents that children run the show and it’s the best way to gain their trust and with some coaxing, get them to pose as you want.

Pose mom and dad first and then ask the children to go on either side. After I asked them to all look at each other, which is the result at left. Then the kids wanted to show me their floss moves so I let them play and have fun!

Pose mom and dad first and then ask the children to go on either side. After I asked them to all look at each other, which is the result at left. Then the kids wanted to show me their floss moves so I let them play and have fun!

Start with posing the parents first. Put mama and daddy where you want them and then tell the children to pose with one or the other. If there is only one child, pose the child in the middle or perhaps being help by one of the parents.

Sometimes posing the parents where the children are is your best bet. This little girl sat on the rock as we were playing a game and I quickly asked the parents to sit on either side. Two seconds later, the little girl was running again!

Sometimes posing the parents where the children are is your best bet. This little girl sat on the rock as we were playing a game and I quickly asked the parents to sit on either side. Two seconds later, the little girl was running again!

Posing mom and dad first helps the children see that they too are listening to the photographer and so usually, the children quickly pose alongside the parents.

Here is where you have to shoot quickly and be ready to…

ACT A FOOL

With smaller children, you should be ready to act a fool. Play is the strongest asset you have when dealing with children under 5 years old because they don’t have any interest in getting their photo taken.

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However, if you’re ready to bark like a dog, sing the wheels on the bus as loud as you can, or jump around to get a laugh, you bet these kids are gonna do whatever you ask them to.

Get close and tickle babies, grab keys and shake them loudly around you. You can also use clapping to get attention. Play the peek-a-boo game or just anything you can to get their attention.

Wanna know how I got these kids to stay still? Before this I barked like a dog and meowed like a cat.

Wanna know how I got these kids to stay still? Before this I barked like a dog and meowed like a cat.

Sometimes you’ll have to swap out heads in the final images to make sure that everyone looks their very best.

If you feel like the children want to be silly, let them be and then say “ okay now a good smile for mom and dad”. This gives them the go for being themselves but also toning it down to get what their parents want.

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MIX STYLES

The best way you can keep children engaged in the session is to keep mixing both natural posing and directed posing. This keeps children moving and doesn’t let them get bored with the session.

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Giving them something to do also helps to keep them exploring and going. Children usually last a solid 45 minutes and that’s hoping for the best.

Switching it up can keep them going a little longer and you can get some really good expressions out of them by showing them photo sessions can be fun too!

Posed verses non posed. Both showcase the family as they are!

Posed verses non posed. Both showcase the family as they are!

So, what is your biggest challenge with posing families?

I want to know what you want to learn about each Friday, send me an idea!

Comment on this post!

Photographer Friday : Intro

I am so excited to start Photography Fridays!

I have over 10+ years of experience as a portrait and wedding photographer and well, I thought it was time to share some of what I’ve learned with others! I also graduated in photography communications from California State University, Fullerton, which by the way doesn’t mean you need a degree to do photography… at all!

This space is open for YOU to ask questions, post comments, and even give me ideas on what you’d like to learn each Friday. Eventually I would love to create a community and really help photographers learn their craft, without having to hit so many road bumps like I did when I first started!

A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ME: I’m Jackie, I’ve been a photographer for quite a while. I write for a couple of photography websites and help photographers there as well. I am an introvert by nature but have been learning the advantages of being an extrovert as well! I’m a mama to an almost 3 year old who keeps me on my toes. Oh, and I live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico but I’m originally from Sunny California! If you’d like to know that story, just email me and I’ll share that story with ya!

So, what would you like to learn?