Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Please Don't Try This at Home {New Braunfels Photography}

I recently banned America's Funniest Home Videos from my house. We used to enjoy watching it together as a family. That ended this week when my 6-year-old screamed "film this" as he threw himself off the arm of the couch into the ottoman hoping to get a funny pratfall to send to the show. Yeah I know the host Tom Bergeron says "don't try this at home." But since when do our kids listen to us, let along Tom Bergeron?

It's gotten to where professional baby photographers should share that warning with others as well when they display photographs of teeny tiny babies in poses that seem complex. Or hanging from trees wrapped in tulle, or perched atop saddles or high places. I blogged about the use of Photoshop deception in baby photography once before. But I'm afraid I failed to mention how terribly dangerous it could be to try to pose babies to copy some of those famous images of sleeping babies in precarious positions.

That baby asleep on the saddle I used in that other blog was not actually asleep -- he blinked -- and he was not actually unsupported on that saddle. I removed his mom's hand in Photoshop.

The famous pose of baby with his chin resting in his hands is a fake as well -- if it's done correctly. I love this blog and the photos Esther Dorotik displays to demonstrate how it's done.

While talking to some of my photography friends the other day we discussed the dangers of non-professional photographers attempting these poses. One had heard of a baby injured during a photo session who now has a spinal injury to deal with. It's horrifying to think of the dangers that babies risk every day at the hands of photographers trying to copy images they've seen from great baby photographers. The real professionals like Esther, Anne Geddes, Jennifer Dell, Rachel Vanoven or other pros never put the babies they photograph at risk. Take a look at the behind the scenes images Rachel posted in the link above as well as the images in Jennifer Dell's blog appearance.

I don't often photograph newborns -- maybe once or twice a month -- but when I do, I prefer to not push the boundaries of safety. We stay on the floor, with a soft carpet and a basket full of blankets and soft fluffy pillows. I'm not one to attempt to hang a baby from a tree. Truthfully, I don't even really care for the common chin in hands pose, although it's cute enough if it's for you! It's just not my style. I prefer to photograph baby in the arms of mom or dad. It's the relationships and the interactions that capture my heart. If your heart is set on the chin in hands, or the baby hanging from a tree. Please call a real professional. Do your homework and your research. Here's a hint, the real pros are most likely not going to give you a session and all images on a disc for $100. Sorry, not going to happen. If it means paying quite a bit more for the expertise one of these ladies has, isn't it worth it to put your babies safety first and foremost?

Lisa On Location Photography

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jacque and Colby are Officially the Most Fun Couple Ever {New Braunfels Wedding Photography}

Most of you know how much I love weddings. I get excited when I talk about them and compare notes with brides and exchange photos from other weddings. I can sit with some of my brides for hours and talk about centerpieces, food, portrait ideas, great dresses, not-so-great dresses, and our favorite wedding vendors. I love seeing all the creativity and sharing what worked for one of my brides with other brides who may benefit from that experience.

In that respect, I'll be talking about Jacque and Colby's wedding for a long time. Jacque is the oldest of six kids. Yes, six kids. She's going to make a great mom someday if she chooses to be one because she was great with her younger siblings. Everything about this wedding was kid friendly, home-made, and fun.

I first met Jacque at an open house at Boulder Springs. She had seen my work previously and was ready to talk to me about her wedding. She let me know she was on a tight budget and that was fine with me. I liked her instantly. She was charming and sweet and likeable in every way. She was also very clear on what she liked and didn't like. She liked fun. She liked happy. What a coincidence, I like fun and happy too!

When I arrived at Boulder Springs to photograph this wedding it was clear from the moment I walked in the door that this wedding was not like most weddings. There were children running everywhere. Grown-ups and children alike were all over the floor preparing decorations, working together, having a good time. It was an hour before the ceremony and nobody was fussing at anyone. There was no stress. There was no drama. There was only excitement, joy, and happy anticipation.

When I found Jacque, she was walking around in a colorful skirt, smiling, relaxed and extremely calm. So un-bridelike. I checked my clock. Did I arrive too early? Nope, it's an hour until showtime. My usual arrival time. Where's the stress? It never did show up.

Jacque and her best friend and fiance turned husband, Colby, were the calmest, happiest, most fun couple I could have hoped for. They included their family in the marriage ceremony, they read their own vows -- some of the most pure and heartfelt words I'd ever heard.

The reception was low budget but you'd never know it by looking around. I didn't realize it at first but once I started studying the centerpieces, I noticed they were random food containers painted solid white. There were spaghetti sauce jars, mayonnaise jars, ranch dressing bottles, ketchup bottles -- all painted solid white -- with colorful flowers in orange, red and yellow, stuck in. Very low budget, yet stunning.

The cake was a simple white frosted cake with the same flowers decorating the top. 2Tarts did a fantastic job with it. The dessert table also hosted pies and cookies baked by the family themselves. Almost everything at this wedding was home-made by the family.

The evening was beautiful and the temperature was perfect outside and it's a good thing too because the kids had football to play, and croquette, bean bag toss, bubbles, play doh, glow sticks, coloring and chalk as well. When it got too dark to stay outside, the guests came in for some table games including "guess what this means," in which a hint about Colby and Jacque's relationship was at their table and guests had to make up a story about the hint. Stories ranged from "Night at the Museum," scenarios to scary hobo tales. My favorite was the Star Trek story. They thought there'd be a long line at the IMax on opening day so they arrived six hours early for the show to find that they were the only ones who wanted to see it. I'm sure it was a lovely six hours. The evening included a slide show as well as a flash mob by the wedding party and family. There was a Photo Booth with funny hats and glasses, crossword puzzles about the couple, and souvenir Frisbees passed out to all the guests.

I felt so honored to be included in this wedding celebration. Everything about the celebration and these people was inviting and made me really feel like part of the family. Thanks for having me over to play Jacque and Colby!
Lisa On Location Photography

Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Be a Really Great Wedding Guest {New Braunfels Wedding Photography}

New Braunfels wedding photographer at Boulder SpringsI feel after the number of weddings I've photographed lately, I'm becoming somewhat of an expert on appropriate wedding behavior. I've actually photographed many more weddings than I've ever attended as a guest my entire life.

I had a blast at weddings when I was a kid. There was a time when every wedding was a major social event for the whole community. There were usually more than a thousand guests, it lasted all day with a big long ceremony (and a big long train on the dress) with a barbecue dinner, a dance with a live band, and keg after keg of Lone Star beer. As a kid I ran around the venue with the other kids -- who we'd never met before and would probably never meet again but they were our best friends for that night only. We'd sneak behind the stage and get into trouble or find secret rooms at the venue with things like pianos and chalk boards. The cool kids were the kids who were "in the wedding" and if the bride spoke to any of us it was like we'd reached celebrity status.

Today there are fewer big community events in weddings, but they can still get pretty big. Usually they run around 100-300 guests and the venues are much more elegant than the old church school gymnasiums that used to host them. Wedding behavior has changed as well including the old tradition that you had to stay until the bride and groom left or you'd be thought quite rude. I've noticed many of the older guests still hold onto that tradition and often look pretty miserable hanging around until midnight while the younger generations party on the dance floor.

I know I'm not Miss Manners, but I thought it might be helpful to spread the work a little about some modern wedding etiquette that I feel needs mentioning. Are you ready? Here we go!

Rule of Modern Weddings #1: If you RSVP that you're going to be there. Please be there! Nothing is more frustrating for a bride than empty tables and food that she has to pay for that nobody (meaning you) is eating. There are no refunds for no-shows. If you don't want to go or think you won't be able to, just decline the invite.

Rule of Modern Weddings #2: Leave the bride alone before the wedding unless you're invited into the bridal room. She's stressed enough without every relative and friend she's ever known poking their head into the dressing room to ask "are you nervous?" Hold your congratulations until later.

Rule of Modern Weddings #3: Let the photographer do her job. Can I hear an Amen?! I need to let the world in on a little secret: I've already been paid. That's right. I've already cashed the check and probably spent the money on groceries by the time the wedding rolls around so you're not saving the happy couple any money by jumping in front of me to steal my shot of the bouquet toss or shooting over my shoulder during the formal portraits. A lot of people think "Oh, I'll get this shot or take these photos and give them to the couple as a gift from me so they won't have to pay the photographer for them." No such luck, Uncle Bob. You're actually doing them no favors. They want me front and center taking those shots because, as I've mentioned, they've already paid for them. They've probably looked through lots of photography websites and interviewed several photographers looking for just the right person to capture just the right images from their day. Thanks a lot, Uncle Bob.

Rule of Modern Weddings #4: You know there's always going to be formal photo time after the ceremony. That's just the way it is 99% of the time. So when the ceremony is over, unless you're part of the family that's supposed to stay for pictures, just leave to the reception. Just go. There will be time to congratulate the couple later. Seriously, go.

Rule of Modern Weddings #5: Put the cell phone away for a little while. Please. I'm not just talking about the annoying ring tone that always goes off during the ceremony. Although that's pretty bad too. I'm talking about the texting, and the games, and the texting that goes on hour after hour during a wedding celebration. I can't tell you how many times I've circled the room looking for shots of happy guests interacting with each other only to find table after table after table of guests with their heads down, their fingers working out their feverish text messages. Do you really need to share with your BFF another random tidbit from your day? "OMG, I just totally burped." Put down the phone and get to Number 6 and....

Rule of Modern Weddings #6: Just dance! Get off your rear, and hit the dance floor. When the bride and groom and father of the bride and mother of the groom have finished their dances, the floor is open. Please use it. This is one reason why children are so wonderful. They aren't shy about dancing. Do you really want to be out-danced by a 7-year-old? Show us your moves!

Rule of Modern Weddings #7: If you do dance (and drink), don't wear a short miniskirt. When you go low, low, low, low, low -- it shows! You can share your underwear to the world in another venue on another day. Not a wedding, please.

Rule of Modern Weddings #8: If you do drink and get obnoxious, leave the vendors alone. Don't try to take the camera from the photographer, don't try to hijack the DJ or tell the band to loan you their guitars so you can "show them how it's done." Don't ask the bartender to clock out early so you can handle it from there. And as good a driver as you think you are, please don't try to take the keys from the limo driver. And please oh please, don't drive your own car either.

Weddings are fun. They can be good clean fun, or good raunchy fun. It's all good. I look forward to hundreds more!

Lisa On Location Photography

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Hunting Season. Wildflower Hunting Season, that is. {New Braunfels Photography}

Lisa On Location photography bluebonnet portraits for New Braunfels, San Antonio, Austin and San MarcosThis time of year my phone starts ringing repeatedly. By this time I usually have had a bit of a break in the portrait photography business. There aren't too many jobs aside from a wedding or two, and of course boudoir and pin-up during the entire months of January and February. Once March hits, however, it's on. The flowers start blooming and the calls start coming. About half of them want me to photograph them in the flowers, the other half want to photograph themselves or their own kids but they want me to tell them where the getting is good.

Lisa On Location photography bluebonnet portraits for New Braunfels, San Antonio, Austin and San MarcosSo where are the good bluebonnet and wildflower patches this year? Well, that's a good question. It's still pretty early. The first few bluebonnets in New Braunfels popped up along Loop 337 near Landa just last week. That's where the two images of bluebonnets I'm sharing today were taken. That's also the spot of an amazing display 2010 brought us. Most of you know 2011 was a flop for bluebonnets. The other side of the Loop has a nice display as well. Go under the loop on Landa and park along the side of the road and go for a walk for a few yards. Watch for snakes and mud!

I'm excited to try out a new Facebook fan page for sightings. I'm seeing reports from all over the state on this page and it looks to be up to the minute. I've heard there are some lovely fields in San Antonio along 1604 especially near 281. Rumor has it that the entrance to Six Flags Fiesta Texas is lovely right now.

Lisa On Location photography bluebonnet portraits for New Braunfels, San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos
If you're looking for color other than blue, the yellow is amazing in some areas. There's a field on Morningside Drive near Rueckle Road covered with waist high yellow flowers. I found a smaller field of it that's open to the public near the Little League Fields on Loop 337 (not far from that bluebonnet field actually). We stopped by it after shooting the bluebonnets tonight to capture these images.

Lisa On Location photography bluebonnet portraits for New Braunfels, San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos
I'll be keeping an eye out for more fields to pop up as the season gets underway. The rain we had this weekend helped those seedlings and as I sloshed through the fields tonight I saw lots of buds breaking through the ground. I was careful not to squash them, I promise. I look forward to see what this season brings!

Blog update!: I found another awesome patch along the loop, this time near the intersection of River Road. Park either along the loop or along River Road and walk to the top of the hill for a beautiful blue surprise!
Lisa On Location Photography

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Birthdays and Goodbyes {New Braunfels NILMDTS Photography}

New Braunfels photographer Now I Lay Me Down To SleepToday is my baby boy's 6th birthday. Every day I've spent with him has been a blessing. I think I look forward to my children's birthdays more than they do. And that's saying a lot. I remember the anticipation I had as a child. My parents wouldn't make much fuss about it. They were raised in a different generation that didn't make a big deal about birthdays. They'd bake a cake, get a small gift and get to choose what they wanted for supper so that's pretty much how I was raised as well. I remember getting birthday spankings as a kid and dreading them like a trip to the dentist. I never understood why humiliation needed to be a part of a happy day -- and yes, it was humiliating going to the front of the class to have my bottom smacked once for each year I was. And the one to grow on always hurt! How is that fun!? Grown-ups just didn't get it.

For kids, a birthday is a huge deal. And since I consider myself a kid at heart, I still think birthdays are big. They're important. They're something you can extend into a whole week if you try -- and we do try. There's party prep work, there's the day of the party -- which is usually not the same day as the birthday since there are 7 days a week and your birthday rarely falls on a weekend. Then there's party aftermath and more build up to the actual day of the birthday itself. Then there's cupcakes at school and the wearing of the birthday crown. Then there's the birthday dinner the night of in which the birthday boy or girl chooses the place (usually Chuck E. Cheeses until they're about 8 or 9). It's a big ol' party.

But this year's week-long birthday celebration of my boy was bittersweet for me because of the work I do for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I volunteer for this wonderful organization that provides professional photography for the families of babies who will not live to see birthdays of their own.

The calls come at all hours of the day or night. There's usually not much notice. "There's a family at the hospital who needs your help," the nurse will said. I know when I get those calls, my day will be put on hold. If I'm not otherwise booked with a client, I drop what I'm doing and go. I've had two of those calls in the past three days.

Last night's was especially heart-wrenching. On the eve of my baby boy's 6th birthday, I met with the family of a baby boy who would not live to be 6 weeks, let alone 6 years. As I held his tiny hand in mine to put a rosary in it, I remembered the way my boy's hand felt at that age. So warm and soft.

When I'm at a NILMDTS session, I keep my emotions in check. I focus on composition, lighting, camera settings. Which lens do I need for this shot? From what angle should I light? Strobe or window lighting? Get the paperwork done, offer the condolences, then leave. I can usually make it to the car before I break down.

Last night I arrived back home at bedtime. I went up to my boy's room where he had just heard his bedtime story from his daddy and he was ready for me to tuck him in. I crawled into bed with him and held his almost 6-year-old little hand in mine, the same way I had held the hand of the baby boy and told him how much I loved him. "To infinity and beyond, over and over." Just like we always say to each other. I held him extra close and cuddled extra long, like I always do after a NILMDTS session. These moments are important to me as much as they are to him.

People tell me, "I don't know how you can do that," when they hear about my work for NILMDTS. And I usually answer, "I don't know how I couldn't if I'm able." It gives the family something to treasure forever. And it gives me a perspective on the beauty and preciousness of life that so few understand.

Tonight a family in Conroe will mourn the passing of their baby boy. And I will take my boy to Chuck E. Cheese and feed tokens to the whack a mole and sing with the teenager dressed as a rat and eat bad pizza. Because life will go on. And every moment is priceless.

Lisa On Location Photography