Smile! How do I get kids to do that?

8 April 2017

I am excited to share with you my favorite tips on how to get kids to smile and I am also very proud of my flower hoop! It was a labor of love. My most recent situation of getting a kiddo to smile takes place during my Easter mini model shoot. First, let's set the scene and talk about this set up! I bought some beautiful plastic flowers and greenery, some bright green duct tape, 60 zip ties and a hula hoop. It took me an hour to tape up and zip tie all the flowers to my hoop, but the end result was worth it! I also purchased some plastic colorful eggs and a stuffed bunny. I laid out my background using light blue tulle over a sky blue cloth with a green blanket that perfectly reminded me of moss. I then invited over my favorite 5 year old, Bethany. Thanks to her mom, Melanie, who lets me borrow her from time to time. My kids get tired of being models. She was excited to be my model and she only charged me one salami sandwich and a peach cup. At first she was doing the fake smile thing and so to lighten her up, I started tossing plastic eggs at her. She would then pick them up and toss them right back at me. In between each throw a magical authentic smile would break through and that's when I would snap the shutter. Bethany being a super smart 5 year old, started realizing that I wasn't snapping when the eggs were in flight, so I had to modify my strategy a little bit for her, but I did get those real smiles.

Games! Kids love games and that is what I use to create genuine smiles with kids. Some of my favorite games are Eye Spy, Hide and Seek, 20 questions, and singing silly made up songs with them. Kids are naturally squirrely and keeping them engaged in fun, is the key to any kiddo photo session. I have pretended to be a talking ducky and have fully addressed an american girl doll on how to pose for real smiles and laughs.

Back to Bethany, we were near the end of our shoot and she just kept asking me about having a tea party. She knows he goods are somewhere in my house, so I pulled out the tea set and just let her play. The tea set actually belongs to my teenage daughter and she graciously let me borrow it. I just sat around and quietly snapped photos of her. Sometimes we get in the way of the magic. Stepping back from perfectly posed photos gives kids space to be who they really are and that is what’s most important. Parents want photos that reflect their children's true nature. Bethany was a doll and it reminded me of when my girls were that age, they grow so fast! Thanks to her help, the lighting is set and my Easter Mini's are ready to go. Our end product is here on my specials page. Thanks again Bethany!

How I Got Started In Photography

1 March 2017

It’s blog time and I thought I'd share with you some of my story. The reasons I feel so passionate about what I do. Up to today there are three major events that shaped my journey to becoming the photographer that I am today.

My first experience happened long ago on a warm, beautiful June day in 2000. I was nervous and excited because it was my wedding day. My dress was perfect. I felt all the princess a bride should. My grandpa was retired and an amateur photographer so with his camera in hand, he was capturing my day. It was a magical day that flew by and then I was off on my honeymoon. Everything was perfect. Three weeks after my magical day I got to finally see the photos and all the magic of my day was missing. I loved my grandpa very much, but these blown out overexposed photos did not reflect anything that my mind had recorded of my wedding day. On top of that he was a smoker and many of the moments from my wedding were missing. He needed a smoke and so when it came to the bouquet toss or our first dance he was outside getting his tobacco fix. I was disappointed, but at the same time I was happy to have any photos at all. We packed up the photos and headed back to college to continue with our lives together.

This second experience is the most profound. It happened a year later on a warm stuffy day in my art class at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California. We are exploring charcoal on textured paper. I was covered with the fine black dust. There were so many art classes in my schedule. Art is important to me and my degree required it. I was taking an amazing 18 units trying to graduate early with a degree in Digital Media. I had Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Website building and advertising design classes on top of all my art. The teacher in this particular class, could not pronounce my newly acquired last name, Phairow. He called me Jackie Pyro and I was tired of correcting him, so Pyro I became. We had a live model that stuffy day and I was having problems. I was having a hard time getting the highlights on my piece to look bright enough so that the darks would be super dark. I had been told by several teachers my blacks are never dark enough and my whites are too grey. I needed to work on my shadowing. The teacher walked up behind me and silently judged my drawing. He then blurted out, “Miss Pyro, you have a great eye for negative spaces, maybe photography is your thing!” I turned around and looked at him, then looked back at my form, and then back at him. Clearly this was not my medium. “Okay” is all that came out of my mouth.  After Class he leads me into a different classroom and introduces me to Clyde. This is the man who handed me my very first camera and it changed my life.

I’d say the rest is history, but people are always changing, growing, and learning. The latest part of my journey happened only a few years ago. I was home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest trying to get my photography business off the ground when I got a frantic phone call from my sister. She was hysterical and yelling at me to call my mom! The house was on fire and I should keep calling her until she answered. My mom works a graveyard shift so she was in bed sleeping while her house was on fire. I freaked out, dropped everything, and called my grandma who lived a few miles away. I had her drive right over to my mom’s house and call me right back. My mom was fine standing on the front lawn. The dog had jumped on her until she woke up, led her to safety, and now he’s the family hero. With the flames of my mom’s house all of my childhood memories and photos melted. I still ask my mom things like “Where’s that one video?” or “Hey, do you know where that one picture is?” More often than not my mom says, “It burned up with the house, Jackie.” It hurts to not be able to share my childhood with my kids. I so badly want to show my 14 year old daughter what I looked like at age 14. She would be in complete disbelief how much we dress alike. My grandparents have some school photos and a few Christmas photos, but not real meat and potatoes of my childhood. It makes me feel like my memories are somehow less vivid without the photos to prove that they actually happened.

These three experiences have had a very profound effect on me and how I operate my business. My wedding experience gives me the feeling of disappointment. This is a feeling I never want another person to experience when they look back on the most precious days of their lives. Those beautiful, amazing life moments should be captured in beautiful, amazing photos so when you look back on your wedding day, you can still feel the magic. I now know I am not great with chalk and charcoal drawings, but I did have a great teacher who taught me to see the world broken up into moments instead of one long continuous stream. He taught me how to integrate all of my imagination into my tools and to never give up. Technology changes quickly and the drive to keep learning and growing in my craft was all because of Clyde. I think I learned my greatest lesson after my mom’s house burned down. Take nothing for granted. Your memories can never be taken from you, but the physical evidence of your existence can. Photos are so important. The absence of my childhood photos has taught me the importance of photographs. This is what pushes me to be diligent about backing up photos and storing them in multiple places for not just myself and  my family, but for all of my clients. If anyone I’ve ever photographed has a tragedy where their photographs are lost, I will always have their memories to give back to them. I am passionate about capturing the magic and preserving the beauty of life by creating tiny pieces of time, beauty and truth. I am a photographer.


What Should I Wear?

10 January 2017

As a photographer the most common question I get asked by my clients, besides what kind of camera are you using, is what should I wear? If it's a family or couple it's more like what should we wear?

They often call or text me the day before our shoot to describe all of their clothes in their closets. They want me to approve or disapprove outfits and color combos. I totally understand. It's an excellent question. Everyone wants to look good in their photos and it's my job to make sure they do! So here is some general advice on getting yourself or your family ready for a photo shoot.

First, let's talk about what you should wear. Of course, dark colors are the most flattering and solid colors will isolate your face and make it pop but my favorite answer to this question is for you to wear whatever you feel the most comfortable wearing. If you love the way you look in sweaters and jeans then that's what you should wear. Anything you are unsure about or that you feel uncomfortable in will show in your photos. These photos are for you to remember this moment forever so love what you are wearing. I am up for a quick outfit change during a shoot. You can always bring more than one outfit if you want to try something a little different. If you want to mix and match family outfits I suggest you stick to one or two colors. For example, girls in dark purple shirts and guys in black shirts or parents in dark green and the kids all in shades of blue. Everyone, adults and kids, will look good in solid black shirts and a pair of good ol' blue jeans. If you need to iron your outfit, try to iron the night before. If you’re wearing something that wrinkles easily, don’t wear it on the way to the shoot. You can just change when you get to the location and be wrinkle free.

Ladies, please don't forget about your undergarments because bra straps won’t do anything to help your outfit look its best. Be sure you bring the bra that matches your shirt straps or lack of them. There are strap-adjusting accessories that can help with many outfits and I always try to have some on hand for emergencies but we totally want to keep those straps hidden. Guys, you should make sure your boxers are below the waistline of your jeans. Sagging is not one of my favorite looks and many people agree with me.

What's on your feet? Ladies, you can’t go wrong in heels or wedges. If you hate wearing heels and wedges, don't wear them. Just make sure your shoes are in good shape and clean. I am always a sucker for a clean pair of Converse or a nice pair of boots. Guys, put your feet in some dress shoes to look your best, but a new clean pair of sneakers can look pretty awesome. If you are unsure about this ask someone to help you decide on a good look for your feet.

Now let's cover the rest of you, starting with your hair. Ladies, if you want a hair cut for your shoot you should get it done about two weeks beforehand, just in case it doesn't turn out the way you expected. You'll have time to get your look right. If we are shooting outdoors, please be ready to put your hair up and make it look nice in case of a windy day. Bring bobby pins, hair clips, headbands or any one of your favorite hair accessories. Guys, you are the opposite, a fresh cut just a couple of days before the shoot is a good way to keep that neck line all cleaned up.

If your friends and family wouldn’t recognize you without your glasses you will want to wear your glasses but sometimes the glare off glasses can detract from your eyes in the photos. There are a few ways I can position your glasses on your head so the glare is minimized. It doesn't always work. If you don't want to worry about this or find moving your glasses at different angles is uncomfortable you can have your lenses removed from your frames for your shoot. Don't worry this is what famous people do to avoid glare in the movies and in major magazine cover photos. You can also ask for a loaner pair of similar frames or you could visit an inexpensive company online and buy a suitable pair of duplicate frames on the cheap.

My husband always has red dry eyes. If you have this same problem then Visine is your friend. Drinking to much the night before your shoot will also cause red puffy eyes. It is always best to get a good solid amount of rest the night before so your eyes can be fresh and bag free.

If you want to brighten up your smile, start treating your pearly whites about two weeks before your shoot. You could also give up coffee and wine during that time but that's not something I could handle doing.

I don't generally wear make-up when I shoot, otherwise I end up with one raccoon eye but ladies, a subtle amount of make-up can really soften your skin and accent your facial features. Please make sure you don't try a brand new look for your shoot and always make sure your foundation matches your skin tone. If it's more than a shade darker than your neck, your face will be orange compared to the rest of your body. Equally important, don’t cake on a lot of make-up to try to hide blemishes. It is so much easier for me to Photoshop away any pimples than it is to clean up overdone make-up or to un-orange your face. You will probably wipe or lick your lips during your shoot, so bring fresh lip gloss or lipstick to do touch-ups in between takes. Guys, you can also benefit from a nice touch of sheer powder on your faces before a shoot. It's a good idea if you have a completely smooth shaved head to dust with sheer powder to reduce the glare. Both guys and gals should use a little lip balm for a few days in advance of your shoot to make your tulips (two lips) look their best.

Guys, you should be freshly shaved with a new razor, shaving cream and a moisturizing after-shave lotion to avoid those pesky bumps and skin redness. Go ahead and trim up your beards, sideburns, moustache or any other facial hair you have. Please look for those crazy wiry stray hairs. Guys and gals you should both pluck and clean up those eyebrows.

A fresh coat of nail polish can really add a beautiful touch to your photos. Ladies pick a neutral color that won’t distract the eye in your shoot or clash with your outfits. Guys, you should also think about your hands. Trim your nails and apply a little moisturizer on to them for a few nights before your photo shoot. Dry skin will show up in your photos.

Sun burns and tan lines. No one thinks of this but Photographers. If your shoot is booked for Sunday, please don’t go hiking, skiing or to the beach on Saturday. Be mindful of clothing tan lines, sunglass tan lines, goggle tan lines, hat tan lines, you get the picture. You don't want weird tan lines on your back while in your strapless dress or across your forehead once the baseball cap comes off. If you do want to tan for your photos do it a week before your shoot and don't get a sunburn.

I know we all love high salt and high fat foods, but to avoid feeling bloated you should lay off of them for two to three days before your shoot. Whether your a guy or a gal, being bloated will sap your energy and confidence. That will effect your comfort in front of the camera and your photos will show it.

This last little bit is the most important. Don't forget to wear your sense of humor! Photo shoots can be unpredictable, especially with little kiddos running all around. The weather can change or the peaceful park we decided upon could have a giant birthday party show up mid shoot. Just leave the stressful things for me to figure out and enjoy your moment. Laugh. Have fun. Be in love. Dance with your children. Hold hands. Create a true memory to keep forever.


Shooting Stars vs. Jackie

21 October 2016

First, It's the middle of the night. I have driven not just outside of town, but one whole state away to photograph the next coming meteor shower. It took me 12 hours and more cups of coffee than I can remember. It's cold and dark, but not pitch black yet. I have to wait for the moon to go down. It’s light is way too bright to see the shooting stars. I am in Mt. Shasta, California. It’s where I grew up and when I read that the Perseid Meteor Shower was gonna be amazing, I pictured it above the mountain where I grew up.

So, I planned a whole family vacation around the event. For the next three days I will leave my precious kiddos at a friends house and live on coffee in the dark, waiting for the perfect shot. This is what I love. This is my passion. I live for the perfect shot. The nighttime stillness is amazing and kind of eerie. The air is crisp and my coffee is warm. It’s cooling off way too fast for me, but I’ll drink cold coffee to get that perfect shot. I’ll stand here in the silence and put all of my skills to the test. Night photography takes some technical skill with a camera and patience. Two things I am constantly working on.

As I sip my cold coffee, my mind drifts. I have decided that the technical difficulties of night photography are like a marathon. I drove far, got all my gear ready and to the start line. Man, the shutter wasn’t open long enough that shot was too dark. Mile 3 in this marathon. The ISO is up way too high and the photo is super grainy. Mile 8 in this marathon. Oh No! A car just drove by and the headlights ruined my shot because my shutter was open. Mile 13 in this marathon.

It’s time to check the clock and reset the camera. It’s midnight. I go back to thinking about my marathon. Each technicality I figure out is another mile logged toward that perfect shot. It’s cold and dark, but I am sweating and excited for every little change that gets me toward my goal. The perfect shot is a magical moment of real life happening now captured by me. I just need the right composition, the correct settings, and that one bright perfect meteor to shoot over the mountain.

It’s 2am and I’ve nailed down my composition. I have perfected my camera settings, it’s all about one meteor now. That one streak of perfect light. Six miles left of this Marathon. Here’s where the practice of patience comes in. It’s the middle of the night pitch black and most people are sleeping, but I want to document this moment. There it is! A perfect brilliant streak of greenish-red light, but my camera shutter closed one second ago and I have missed another amazing moment. I am totally getting frustrated, but I have to remember that my perfect shot will make my heart sing as soon as the shutter closes.

I’ve hit the wall in this marathon. I will be persistent. I will be patient. I know it will come. I am actually starting to feel proud to stand here in the dark, while the world sleeps. If I was at home sleeping, who would catch this beautiful moment? I do believe everyone should experience a moment like this one for themselves, but not everyone is able to stay up all night to watch the stars. That's why I am here. When the world wakes up in the morning, I will share my moment with them and that brilliant streak of light that shot across the night sky will not be lost in time. Yes! Speaking of streaks of light, that was the one. A bright rainbow of color and it was right over the mountain. Click. My shutter just snapped shut and my heart is now singing the victory song over the finish line.


The Three questions a photographer may ask themselves

4 February 2016

If you want to improve your photos what's the first thing you have to do?

Do you get a new camera?

Do you need to buy a good tripod?

Should you pay for Photoshop?

No, No, No. The answers to these questions is No. The first thing you need to do is practice the three main guidelines every photographer uses when creating a great photography.They don't include what kind of camera you are using or what settings your camera is using when you snap the picture. It really comes down to training your eye to compose a good photo. Every photographer follows three basic guidelines when they are setting up to take a photo. The first one is to make sure your subject is clear. You can be telling a story about that subject, but your subject should be very clear to everyone who looks at your photo. The second guideline is to make sure the focus is on your subject. Make sure the viewers eye is drawn to the subject of your photo. The last one is that, less is more. Keep your photo simple, the less things that are distracting the viewer from your subject the better. Now, how do photographers remember these guidelines? They remember by asking themselves three simple questions every time they are about to take a photo.

Question One - What is this photo about?

Question Two - How can I focus the viewer's attention on what my photo is about.

Question Three - How can I make this photo as simple as possible by eliminating everything that is distracting to the viewer from what my photo is about.

It seems kind of simple, but these three questions asked before every shutter click, will truly enhance your photos. The photo below is of a duck that I recently took while on vacation to California to visit my family. I think we should ask those three questions about my duck photo.

1. What is this photo about?

It's a photo of a duck stretching its wings after a hard day of swimming.

2. How can I focus the viewer's attention on this stretching duck?

I focused the viewer's attention by making sure the duck was very large in the photo and that my duck was near the center of the photo.

3.How can I make this photo as simple as possible?

I decided to zoom in on the duck to crop all of the other ducks in the pond and any large rocks out of my photo so the eye would only see my duck.

Now, I challenge you to go through your photos and ask yourself these three questions to each of your photos for practice. Then go out, shoot some ducks, and use the three questions!