Welcome to the first post of my senior stories series. In this series, I will share some images from a senior session and then give some background about them. For this installment, we will cover one of my favorite sessions of the past year. During this session, we shot two completely different looks to create images that were initially dark and edgy but then became brighter and softer. These images were amazing and one was even picked up as a feature on Senior Year magazine's instagram account!

The Location

As every plan for a senior session begins, we discussed preferences over a phone call. It is very important to me to personalize every senior session so that it speaks strongly to the senior's personality. One of the defining parts of this senior's interests was that she felt very connected to the environment and drew her energy from nature. When she suggested that she wanted to involve water in the shoot, Black Creek park became a natural option. Black Creek would provide us options for water shots and also forest shots. Not to mention, it would be super convenient being 5 minutes from my house. We started at my house to shoot a studio headshot on a blue background for the yearbook (per the schools requirements).

So, easy decision... Black Creek. It is one of my go-to locations and I know tons of great locations for shoots there. However, I had never shot IN the creek before! This was totally new but I was stoked to try my hand at a session like this. Of course, I had to go scout out a good location for the shoot. It needed to be accessible, but also picturesque. I knew that we would be trying to shoot towards the end of the day and we would not want to walk miles to get to the ideal spot. After a trip to the park bright and early in the morning before I went to work, I found the ideal location at the north end of Black Creek near the parking lot.

Look #1: Goth Glam in the Forest

The first look we shot is best described as "goth glam". We are talking high black boots, an edgy black dress, and rhinestones. The contrast it played with the surrounding forest was kind of eerie but cool. I knew we were going to capture some magic.

To not overcomplicate things, we began by playing in the woods with the setting sun that was creating pockets of hard light as it streamed through the forest. I used to be afraid of hard light, but I have learned that sometimes it is best to just embrace it. Being late in the day, it was illuminating my senior's face without creating deep shadows in the eyes. The trick was making sure that when I exposed for the light, I did not blow out the highlights. In these situations, shooting in a raw image format is super useful. When capturing an image in a raw data format, there is more information stored that affords better results when brightening up some of the shadows and darkening the highlights.

Creating a Dark Scene

I love high contrast images. To be more specific, I love images where the highlight in the image is on the subject and the background is dark. It just makes the subject pop. With my senior rocking an edgy black outfit that one might consider a bit spooky, I wanted to create something dramatic with my strobe. To do so, we marched a little further back into the woods where the sun's rays were not reaching at full intensity. I set up my camera so that it was heavily underexposed (i.e. a black frame) when the flash was absent. I then positioned my senior in the middle of some gnarly bushes and grabbed my flash. The result was absolutely stunning and was way better than I had expected. The ability to control the light is why photographers use flash. Most people would have thought that this next image was captured in the middle of the night. It wasn't. It was captured probably 20 minutes after the 3 images above were captured.

Look #2: The Forest Princess

As I said above, this session was super fun because it was a tail of two halves. Where the first look evoked Halloween, the second evoked something entirely different. My senior had gone thrifting and found this amazing vintage green satin gown. It was flowy and feminine. She had transformed into a princess of the woods.

We continued playing with hard light and also the strobe. Below are two of the final images.

Down to the Water

The idea was to shoot with the dress in the water, and because we would be getting wet, it seemed only natural to go barefoot. There is something organic about being shoeless in the middle of the woods. It is vulnerable and innocent and would add to that aesthetic of the woodland princess. So that is what we set out to do. I waded into the middle of the creek and we began shooting in our new setting. With the sun starting to get low in the sky, its light was becoming more and more golden as it lit our scene. When the available light is hitting like that, it is best to embrace it, so I kept moving my senior into the pockets of light. We captured amazing shot after amazing shot.

The one twist in the shoot occurred when we learned that there are crayfish in Black Creek! Remember how my senior was barefoot wading through the creek? Yeah. We had a good laugh as she was stranded on a rock unable to move. I brought her her shoes and we got back to work. No big deal. Between the dress and water, no one would ever be able to tell the difference while standing in the creek.

Featured in Senior Year Magazine!

After this session, I believe I sent something like 200 proofs to my client to pick from! It was certainly an unconventional shoot being in the creek, but I think that these kinds of shoots are what make senior portraits awesome. I love being able to go out on a limb with my clients to provide something magical. If my clients loving the images were not enough, one of these images was picked up as a feature on Senior Year Magazine's instagram account! It is always a huge honor when your work gets featured and I was super humbled to be selected from amongst the incredible number of senior photographers in the world.

Stay tuned for the next senior story that will be coming soon!