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Hard to believe but Senior Portrait Season Kicks off in mid-April

As hard as it may be to believe, senior portrait season is upon us. Starting in just a few weeks, we will see both current seniors who either are retaking pics from last summer, or just never got around to it, as well as hundreds of juniors getting them in right on time. Things ramp up quickly just as soon as we see leaves on the trees, sometimes even before, to the point where we show up at some popular spots and there is literally a line of photographers waiting for their turn. I try to stay away from some of those more common spots, unless it’s something you feel really strongly about. They’re pretty, of course, but how many senior pics in the door frame of the stone church in Boylston do you see online each summer?

For me, it’s all about creating images that are different. The old fashioned run-of-the-mill studio shots with the boring backdrops and standard poses just isn’t my style, and quite honestly, it’s probably not what you’re looking for either. I enjoy actually working with each Senior and giving them the freedom to tell me what they’re looking for in their portraits, instead of me telling them what their options are. From mountain tops, to train yards, to grassy fields, to city streets, whatever you want to do, I do my best to go above and beyond for each session in order to create images that truly bring out the personality of each senior. We may find ourselves on the top of Mt. Wachusett, in the middle of Moore State Park in Paxton, or the train tracks behind Union Station. There are so many great spots within just a few minutes of Worcester that the choices are pretty much endless.

The senior portrait package price includes the session fee and professional editing of images. I hate constraints, and so there’s no limit to the number of poses, outfits, or props you use during your session. How you choose to use your time is completely up to you. Here’s what your get with your senior portrait package:

1- 2 Hour Session

Unlimited Poses

Unlimited Outfits

Up to 2 Locations (within close proximity)

About 25 Edited Proofs for your review

1 Edited Yearbook Photo sent to the yearbook company in digital form

Online Proofing Gallery to share with family and friends for viewing and purchasing of prints

Booking Your Session

First and foremost, it’s VERY important that you book your senior portrait session as early as possible. Typically, senior portraits are usually taken during the late spring in the student’s Junior year or during the first few weeks of their Senior year. If you schedule your senior portrait session too late, that leaves little time to get your senior portraits edited and back to you before the deadline for yearbook photo submissions (if you plan to use one of your senior portraits for your yearbook photo). Schedules starts to fill up quickly, and the longer you wait to pick a date for your session, even if it’s a few months away, the less likely you will be in getting a time and date that you want for your session. SO BOOK YOUR SESSION EARLY!

It’s important to me that I know a little bit about each client before their session so that I can get a feel for their personality, their interests, and what they’re expecting from their senior portraits. So, the first thing we do is schedule a consultation to sit down for about 30 minutes or so and talk about you, what your interests are, what you like, what you don’t, etc. These things will help me to get to get a better idea of how to bring out your personality in your photos during your session. If you’ve seen some other photographs that you liked on a website or in a magazine, bring them with you and we’ll work together to create something similar to the look and feel of the images you like. I also have a folder of some of the best senior portraits I’ve seen from around the world, some of which I would love to try and recreate, so if you need ideas, perhaps those will be a good starting point. We’ll also go over what to wear, what time of day we’ll be shooting, some possible locations to shoot at, and then schedule a date for your session. If you have any questions before our consultation, please give me a call and I’ll be more than happy to answer them.

A $100 deposit is due at the time of our consultation to secure your session date. The balance is due at the time of the session.

Once we’ve decided on a location and time for your session, it’s time to have fun! Sessions generally last about an hour and a half depending on the location, how many wardrobe changes you have, etc. My shooting style is very laid back, and my goal is for you to have fun during your shoot, so relax You’re going to have a great time!

After your session, it usually takes me about a week to get all of your images edited. Once your images are ready, you’ll receive an email with a link to your online proofing gallery where you’ll be able to pick out your favorites and order your prints. You’ll also be able to use this link to share with friends and family for sharing or purchasing prints.

Once you get your proofs, all print orders need to be made within 30 days from the time your images are ready. So be sure you get your print orders in on time.

For more information, please contact me using the contact form on my website or just give me a call at 508 735-4663, and I’ll answer any questions you may have. If you get together a few friends from your school, I’ll come up there and we can chat on-site for a few minutes and save you the trip to the studio.

Frequently Asked Senior Portrait Questions

Do I get any prints with the Senior Portrait package?

Most photographers offer some kind of “print package” that comes with a set number of prints in certain sizes. The problem with “packages” is that often times you end up with sizes that you didn’t really want or need. With your Senior Portrait package from Stellar Images Photography you will receive an 8 x 10 of your favorite pose, along with two 5 x 7′s and some wallet sized. If you prefer to just pick your own sizes, you get a credit of $30 towards any prints that you want.

How do I order prints from my session?

Once your images have been edited, I upload them to your own private gallery on my website and then send you an email with an access code that you can use to log in and view the images from your session. Within your gallery you can choose which images as well as what size, how many, and various other options you would like to order prints of. Once your order is placed, it usually takes about a week to get the prints back.

Do you have a minimum print order requirement?

Yes. For all Senior Portrait sessions there is a $100 minimum print order requirement which can be met by ordering prints,or any number of other products that are available.

Is your logo on all of my prints when I get them?

When you view your images in your online proofing gallery, you will see that each image has a watermark. This watermark is to protect my work in it’s digital form while on my website and on Facebook. Your prints will obviously not have this watermark when you receive them, though they may be embossed on the bottom right with our studio name unless you request otherwise.

Can I invite a friend to come to my session and take some pictures with me?

Absolutely! Buddy Photos, as they are called, are done at half the sitting fee per buddy during your session. Because of time constraints, and my limited availability, separate buddy sessions are not available.

What do we do if it rains?

Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. If your session gets rained out, we’ll get it re-scheduled for the next available date.

What do I wear for my session?

One of the best pieces of advice I can give Seniors about what to wear during their session is to never wear something that you wouldn’t normally wear. Not only does it make you uncomfortable during the shoot, but wearing clothes that you wouldn’t normally wear just doesn’t bring out your true personality! That being said, the general rule of thumb is that darker solid colors are generally best. Stripes are a no-no, as are clothes with any kind of repeating small print or pattern. Hats are optional, but typically don’t make the best portraits.

Can I bring props to use during my session?

Bring them! If you have a letter jacket, a guitar, a favorite pet, a mountain bike, or some other prop that you want to include in your portraits then we’ll use them!

What else should I bring with me to my session?

Other than what you want to wear during your session, any props you may want to use, and the standard grooming items (hair brush, hair spray, make up,etc), be sure that you bring at least one bottle of water with you. Water is one of the most often overlooked things to bring to a session, so don’t leave home without it! You may even want to throw in a small snack if you think you’ll get hungry during your session. Hopefully a parent can bring along a bag with a change of clothes, snacks, etc.

How do I get one of the “cool” pictures with the special effects that you do?

I’m a photographer that likes to think outside the box, and my goal has always been to provide my clients with images that are truly different than anything they can get from other photographers. From time to time, there are certain images that are ideal candidates for a post processing technique that I use which creates a final image that is truly a one of a kind. This process is not the same for each image, and takes a considerable about of time and focused effort to produce. Normally, photographers charge more to do additional work, but I started this business because I truly love expressing my art, so for now I’m just doing what I love at no added charge.

Here is my FAQ page, in case you have any other questions – http://stellarimages.us/services/faq-page-2/ or just ping me an email anytime at all at steve@stellarimages.us

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Retouching Photographs – Massachusetts Portrait Photography Tip of the Day

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts – Someone had emailed be yesterday about doing a Senior Portrait at St. Johns, and wanted to book a date, but said that their son was nervous because he had a large pimple that he was furiously trying to clear up. They thought it was a crazy notion to have to schedule senior portraits around teenage blemishes, but I assured then that they weren’t the first parents with a similar request! In fact, one of my first inquiries was from someone who wanted me to do some senior portraits at Algonquin Regional High School and was explaining that their daughter and her two friends were hoping for a weekend when all their faces were clear. Really guys, you can relax and worry about the important things in life, thanks to the amazing portrait retouching software that exists out there.

We’ve come a long way from the days when a team of artists used to literally airbrush everything from family portraits to glamour models, and now the tools available for professional photographers have enabled us to do the same miracles tight here on the computer that magazines have been doing for years. The more I play around with those retouching tools, the more jaded I become realizing how all of us fall victim to comparing ourselves to those gorgeous people we see in the magazines, only to find that none of them actually really look like that. Well, very few of them do anyway. I will say that I took my kids to see Lion King on Broadway years ago and would up sitting next to Christy Turlington, and she was prettier in jeans with no make-up than you might imagine.

Truly the things we can do are just amazing, and the challenge is sometime to focus on the theory that “less is more” and not get carried away with retouching. When I first purchased one of my many software tools, I started playing around with Sam’s senior portraits, and next thing I knew he had bluer eyes than Liz Taylor! Looked really cool, but of course that wasn’t him. Suffice it to say though that all of us, at least those of us over 10 years old, can sometimes use a little touch up now and then.

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Behind the scenes of an 8 hour family portrait session…

Today was an amazing day, as it marked the official opening of my new photography studio, which was so exciting.  It seems like it’s been coming for so long, and to finally cut the metaphorical ribbon and welcome our first real customer.   Fortunately, it was an amazing family session, with two couples and two kids, and they were probably one of the sweetest groups I’ve photographed.  Everyone was right on the same page….get the pics with the baby first, while he’s smiling, then we’ll do this group, then that group, etc., and it all was innovative, adaptable and most importantly it was fun, even though it was 9AM on a Sunday morning, which isn’t usually my prime time of day.

Anyway, I thought you might be interested in just what goes on behind the scenes, of the so called “One Hour Photo Shoot” that I have so far spent at least five hours on, and which has so much yet to go.  In many ways, it’s much like my real estate business, where so few realize just what goes on behind the scenes. The good news is that at least the client was only there for one hour of it!

So todays shoot was at 9AM….. at 8:00, I was in the studio setting up, picking out the appropriate backdrops, laying the turf, and setting up the lights.  By 8:30, it was time for equipment testing, and making notes of settings, so that when the family arrived we were ready to jump right in while the baby was smiling, without any fidgeting around on my part.

Fortunately for me the folks were running a tad behind, which meant I could have another cup of coffee and get ready. I think we finally got rolling around 9:45, and it was a solid hour of shooting, perhaps a tad more.  We swapped out backgrounds, props, and did a host of different groups and outfit changes.  Really I should realize that coming with “two families” really takes twice as long, so I should schedule, and probably bill, accordingly, but as I said these guys were just so fantastic that I was in no hurry for it to end, and I was having fun experimenting with some new techniques that I now know I’ll use again.

By the time they left, I had taken over 400 Photos, a few of which I deleted on the spot, but I still had 350 to work with.  Try and imagine for a moment what 350 pictures means.  That is a LOT of photos.  Of course, as the clients headed home to spend a relaxing day together, the photographers work begins.

The first step is to import all of the photos into a temporary storage file on the computer, and begin doing a “first culling.”  At this point, you go through and eliminate all the ones that might be out of focus, or where someone moved during the shot, and that whittles it down to 300.   Next, you enlarge the viewer to 50%, and go through a second culling, picking out any that have weird facial expressions, eyes going the wrong way, perhaps some glare, and deleting those, and not we have it down to only 175, which is far less onerous.

At this point, it’s time to move from the basic folder into a true photo processing system, which in this case was Apple’s Aperture program.  It’s at this point, with a few hours behind me, that it starts to become challenging. Imagine that you’re looking at 7 photos of the same group of six people, and what you need to do is pick which one is the best, examining each persons eyes, knowing that in each shot, one person may be looking off center while the others are all great, flipping back and forth like an optometrist…..is THIS better, or is THIS better….and then gradually getting it down in this case to 81 really nice photos.

Next comes a very quick retouching of all 81 in Aperture, fixing the color balance, maybe a few shadows, the overall exposure, and most importantly cropping them to the best possible dimensions like a diamond cutter.  Some will be square, others in a 4 :5 ratio (8 x 10, 16 x 20) and others will look best as a 3:4 ration, such as 8 x 12, 16 x 24.   Still others are going to be panoramic, 10 x 20, 20 x 40 shots, and so on.

Finally, we’re getting close to the halfway point of our photo shoot day.  Those last 81 images are now moved into Adobe Lightroom, where they are modified further, and then a sampling of those are moved into Adobe Photoshop and edited with a pricey Portrait Retouching program that can do everything from shrink your pores, to turn your eyes blue, and everything in between.  Each image that you do a real retouch on takes about 20 minutes, as it moves from Lightroom to Photoshop to Portrait Professional and then back to Photoshop and back to Lightroom where it lives in the file system.

At last we are getting close to the end, of the beginning, as Churchill said.  Having spent about four or five hours on them so far today, and with my neck sore from staring at the screen, the 81 photos, 5 or 6 of which have been retouched, are then watermarked, and uploaded to the online system for the client to review. Once they pick the images that are of interest to them, it will be time to go back and retouch those by hand with a dose of love, something that most photographers outsource to an offsite “retoucher.”  I choose to do it myself, because in the end, it’s my name on the print, and my reputation on the line.

Next it’s time to meet with the client again to review their choices, and go over the many different options available from the printer, in terms of size, and the various mediums from canvas, metal to custom gallery wraps and so much more, and then get order in to the lab itself for printing.  Of course, the best moment will be when they arrive, a few days later, I get to hand deliver them to my client and hopefully see a huge smile on their faces. To a photographer, that is the greatest joy of all.

So next time someone asks why the photo session was over $100, and “only took an hour” (which mind you nobody has ever asked),  I will be able to share with them this story of the other 8 hours that go into it all behind the scenes.

Thanks again to today’s wonderful family.   I can’t wait for the next.  Perhaps that’ll be you?   Feel free to email me at steve@stellarimages.us and let’s chat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The role of portrait photography in the age of the iPhone

SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – We live in a generation of amazing camera phones, social media, and discount stores. Unlike the days when I started, the ability to snap a photo is such that images of anything and everything are more ubiquitous than ever before. You realize that more and more as the age level continues to drop to the point where in a given 3rd grade class you may find that half the students have their iPhone handy, and can snap photos all day long.

I post pictures to Facebook and other venues almost daily, and I love to look at what pictures friends have shared with me. However, it is easy to overlook to the differences between pictures and portraits, and the role that portraits have for you and your family. It is often difficult to explain why our portrait prints are priced higher than the discount stores where anyone can have a pictures printed for under $2. Somewhere along the way, the ‘craft’ and ‘art’ of becoming a photographer was lost by many and equipment availability became the only criteria.

Pictures verses Portraits?

Pictures are something you should take daily. They make you smile or laugh. Anyone is capable of taking a great picture whether they use a camera phone or a fancy camera. The other day, I was working out at Shrewsbury Health and Racquet Club, and as my partner and I were huffing and puffing trying to jump rope (something that is so much harder than I thought) we both looked across the room to see the most tender moment happening before our eyes. Two seniors, maybe 75 years old, were sitting on the weight bench, and as the man was trying to curl this 5 pound dumbbell, his wife put her arm on his back to keep him stable. I know it sounds weird, but it was very, very loving and warm. Thinking quick, perhaps like a photographer, I reached into my pocket, grabbed my iPhone, and snapped a photo of that fleeting moment so I would remember it later. That, my friends, is “taking a picture, but it is not a portrait.

A fine art portrait will capture much more than a fleeting moment. It captures part of you. It is a lasting memory of loved ones. Something you want to look at over and over and becomes more valuable to you over time. It captures the milestones in a lifetime of growth. Quite simply, it provides cherished heirlooms for you, your children and grandchildren.

Creating Art Portraits

So what do you need to create such an art piece? Oddly enough it sometimes isn’t about the cost of your equipment, although clealry that plays a role. More important is passion, dedication, technical knowledge, creativity and experience. When you invest in fine art portraiture, you are not simply purchasing ink on a piece of paper. You could upload your iPhone photo to the web and print it out for under $2. Instead you have something that has value to you and it takes skill on the part of the photographer to create it. You are investing in what it represents. It is this passion for photography that true artists treasure, and the vision that our clients share.

A finished quality portrait is not something that is produced quickly. It takes training and discipline in the arts. Understanding and controlling light and capturing emotion. Craftsmanship and vision to produce a final canvas or framed art piece that you love to view each day.

Do these things have value? I suppose it depends on your viewpoint. I went to Legal Seafoods with my family, which is always one of our favorite places. We had a lovely lobster dinner, which cost $150 for the four of us. It was a great hour and a half, but now it’s over, devoid of any lasting memories. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it all over again, of course, but how do I compare that with spending the same amount on a breathtaking portrait of my family that will be hanging over my mantle twenty years from now, when not my children, but my grandchildren are here for dinner?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why bother with a real student portrait session?

If you, like me, have a drawer full of photos like this, you will quickly get my point.

If you, like me, have a drawer full of photos like this, you will quickly get my point.

SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – One of the big questions that people in the photographic field hear, comes from people asking why they should bother doing a student portrait session, when they get school photos done each year anyway.  On this one I can speak from personal experience as a dad, more so than just my years as a photographer.  Somewhere upstairs in my dresser, I have a plastic baggie, and in there is a stack of school pictures for each of my three kids, that dates back 18 years. The process of doing them really hasn’t changed much since I was in grade school 40 years ago.  The kids let you know that “Tuesday is class picture day,” they wear a nice shirt, someone comes into the gym and snaps a few pictures on a blue background, and then you get an envelope with the photo of your class, and your individual portrait.  When they arrive, you smile at how cute your child it, and then you cut the 5 x 7′s and wallet sized pictures out and send them off to your family, where they hopefully will find a place on grandmas refrigerator door. As I said, not much has changed. For all I know, 60 years ago my parents did the same with their grandparents.

With all of the innovation that we have seen over the decades, the technology has gotten so much better, yet the process itself is still hampered by the simple fact that (a) when you can only spend 45 seconds with each child and need to get 2 shots in, it isn’t exactly a unique and personal experience, and (b) the majority of the people that work for the large “school picture houses” are not photographers. In fact, a quick search on one of the job boards had over tons of jobs for such folks, all with “no experience required.”

The funny thing is that the one part that has changed over the years is that the cost of getting the typical school pictures done has grown exponentially.  Suddenly you get the envelope home, and as you’re looking through the “packages” that they offer, you’re seeing prices that are close to $100, and at those kind of prices, you’re practically paying for a professional shoot anyway, which would actually give you something you would treasure for decades to come, instead of just tossing them in a drawer.

Eventually, I got to the point where I finally stopped buying the school pictures, and sent back my empty envelope.  After all, I thought, this photo they were going to send me doesn’t really seem like it reflects my kids unique personality, and if I know it’s just going to wind up in the drawer anyway, I would rather save the money an do something else with it.

Instead, the two questions I posed to myself, and would ask people reading this site, is first how you want to remember these special moments in your child’s life, and secondly, are you getting your moneys worth for what you buy. This week, I had the chance to invite one of my neighbors over to do some pictures while I tested out my new lighting system, and we had such a great time. I don’t think we spent more than 20 minutes for the whole session, but what came out of it was a set of photos that I know they will really enjoy.

Here are some of the photos from that session, which they gave me permission to post.  Call me crazy, but I don’t think these are going to wind up in a plastic baggie in the dresser.  I think they’ll actually get hung on a wall, and treasured as the years go by.

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Here is another one from last week, with one of my favorite photo subjects, again posted with mom and dads permission of course. Can you see this as something that might be treasured in the years to come?  I know I can.

The ironic thing is that the cost of doing portraits with this level of quality is so affordable now, that it’s almost the same price as the typical “photo package” I was getting back from school anyway.  It becomes even better when you combine your kids together into one session. Some of the difference in quality can probably be attributed to using great equipment, and other to the fact that I’m actually a trained photographer. The biggest element though, is just being able to take the time to get to know the subject a little bit, in more than 45 seconds, and try to bring out their individual personality.  That’s where you come upon the difference between equipment, and being an actual artist.

In the end, I suppose the old adage has always been that you get what you pay for, but in this case, I think you actually get far more for more your money by doing it right the first time. Check out some of the photos on our site, and you be the judge for yourself.

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