Best of 2011, Part 1: Client Photos

2011 has been quite a year for new beginnings. In April I started this business, and in September I welcomed my daughter into the world. In between, before, and since, I've had a lot of great times, worked with some great families, and, of course, taken a lot of pictures. It being the time of year for retrospectives and lists, I thought I'd take the opportunity to go back through the archive and present some of my favorite images from the year. This week I'll share my personal favorites from my various client shoots, and next week I'll finish up with the standouts from my own family photos. And now, on with the show!

What's In There?The thing I love most about working with young children is how honest they are with their emotions and personalities. I always say that the best portraits are the ones that show you something real about the subject, and kids are always willing to show you their true selves. Here what you can see is a boy whose every gesture--from the set of his shoulders down to the stretch of his ankles--shows how excited and curious he is about the fountain. It's just amazing how expressive a person can be without even seeing his face.

KissThis was the first picture I took as a professional that made Juliette literally gasp. It will always be special to me for that, and certainly I love the picture for its sweetness. But it's also a great example of the technique that I've worked to develop--the composition, selective focus, and color contrast all work to create a strong focal point for the image, with your eye naturally coming to rest on the baby's left eye, with the mother's lips being a secondary focal point. Combine that with the emotion being depicted and you have an image that I keep coming back to, months later.

Where's Mommy?Photography is so much about being able to catch the right moments. Here I was able to catch this little girl turning to look for a little reassurance from her mom before taking a little stroll along the Old Poway Park train tracks. The half-smile, hovering between trepidation and fun, is perfect.

SistersHere again, the intersection of technique and emotion works really well for me. The play of light on the older sister's face provides definition and separation from the background. There are also a lot of lines and compositional elements that are nice: the curve of the older sister's profile nearly bisects the frame; the line of light on the baby's forearm and face intersects with a somewhat faint line of shadow on her chest and right hand, creating very close to a golden triangle relationship. None of which most people will exactly notice, but it makes for a pleasantly balanced image that draws you in and allows you to notice things like the softness and length of the older sister's eyelashes, and the calm of the sleeping baby's face.

Sweet SmileThis has become my favorite angle to shoot kids from, especially on an overcast day when the light is soft and gorgeous. This boy was a little shy at first, but he had such a sweet, soft smile that it just melted my heart.

The next few images are all from the wedding I shot in September. This first is from the portrait session just after the ceremony. Of course we took some more formal shots, but this one is my favorite of that set because I just love how real the emotion in it is:

SmooshLook at the way his nose smooshes a little into her face, and the little crinkles around her eyes and in the corners of her mouth. It's a goofy little moment, but it's unforced and genuine, and you get the sense of playfulness between them. I love it.

First DanceEvery time I look at this one I notice a little more. Compositionally, the couple are placed on the third of the frame, and I used a wide aperture to separate them from the crowd behind them. The line of blurred lights in the background helps lead your eye to back to their faces. But the magic is, as always, in the moment. Look at the crowd behind them. Some are intently watching this first dance, others are engaged in their own conversations. There's a lot going on all around the couple, but the only thing they're conscious of is each other and the joy of their new marriage.

Mother-Son DanceFrom a strictly technical standpoint this isn't a perfect picture, but the naked emotion on the mother's face--as if she can't believe her baby boy is old enough for her to be dancing with him at his wedding--takes my breath away every time.

MoonI happened to look up late into the reception and noticed the moon peeking out from behind the clouds. I love the contrast between the dark sky and the bright strings of light surrounding the party, the hustle and bustle below and the calm above.

CurlsAnd, finally, one last portrait. This one is a little less conventional than what most clients are initially looking for, but I just love it. See, the two physical traits that you most notice about this boy when meeting him are his curly blond hair and his striking blue eyes. Here the shallow depth of field brings his hair into focus, while the contrasting colors allows his eyes to still stand out, and the little Superman-esque curl running down his forehead helps connect those two elements visually. Plus, the fact that he's looking--and smiling--at something out of the frame is spot-on with this kid's outgoing, inquisitive personality.

And there you have it! Stay tuned next week for my favorites from my personal photos.