Saturday, May 30, 2009

Photoshop Actions: Free Upload from Pioneer Woman

The boy ate an ice cream cone.

The freckle-faced, red-headed boy escaped the sweltering heat in the shade of a luscious, green Oak tree while enjoying a double scoop strawberry ice cream cone.

Which sentence do you prefer?  

Some people prefer the "Just the facts, Ma'am!" approach.  Others love the way the second sentence draws them in to the story being told.  Just like adjectives and adverbs can spice up an otherwise ordinary sentence, I'm discovering that Photoshop actions can breathe new life into your images.

I know.  I know.  I've said before that actions were not for me.  You might recall, though, that I did say I was going to make it my goal this year to at least take them for a spin and learn something new.  Imagine my surprise when I pulled up the Pioneer Woman's blog the other day and found some free downloads - 2 sets of them.  Perfect!  Better yet, I could try them out without investing a dime.  

What I found is that Photoshop Actions can actually be quite useful and equally fun.  See for yourself.  Below are a series of pictures.  The first image in each set is my original "Straight Out of the Camera" (SOOC) image - with my standard very basic enhancements in Bridge.  Above the second image in each series I'll tell you exactly which actions I used to create that particular affect.

This first image was taken with our very first digital camera - a 1 megapixel Nikon Coolpix.  I wasn't shooting manually or Raw at the time, and I hadn't even taken any classes or read a single photography book.  Apparently composition was an innate gift as this image has a perfect diagonal composition.  My professor even told me that it would make a great advertisement with plenty of room for text throughout the image.

For this second image I opened it up in Photoshop CS3 and applied the BOOST action from Pioneer Woman's Actions Set 1.  Then I flattened the image and applied SUNSHINE from her Action Set 2.  I lowered the opacity on that second action slightly.   I like both of these images equally well.  It's fun to discover that you can get two completely different looks from just one image.

In my opinion this next image from the Fantastic Four's session was perfect as is, but I made a promise to myself to at least TRY all these actions.  So, I did.

I applied VINTAGE from Pioneer Woman's Actions Set 1 and lowered the opacity until I was happy with the results.  Doesn't the vintage action add to the old world charm of the location?

Here they are:  The Fantastic Four!  The only initial change I made to this image was to add some slight sharpening to the oldest girl's face. Since she was not on the same plane as the other three children, she wasn't in focus as well as the others.  Otherwise, this image is SOOC.

For a slightly different look I applied the SEVENTIES action from PW's Actions Set 2, flattened the layers, then added QUICK EDGE BURN from the Actions Set 1.  I significantly lowered the opacity of that last layer to get the look I was after.

Again, I Love this image just as it is, but in the spirit of experimentation, I'll mix it up a bit.

I wanted to show you this last action called PWs B&W from her Actions Set 1.  Take a look at the youngest girl's face in this second image.  Do you see how the flesh glows and the face is undefined.  This is a VERY popular look right now in the children's photography world.  Here I achieved this look by applying PW's B&W action, lowered the opacity A LOT, then clicked on the same action one additional time to achieve the "glow".

Though I had great fun checking these out, I'm not sure these are for me yet.  We'll see.  There are a few really useful actions that I do LOVE. Perhaps some of these more creative ones will grow on me.  In the meantime, if you'd like to have some fun of your own, check out Pioneer Woman's blog.  You'll love what you see.  Here's the link to the Photoshop Action Downloads.  You will need Photoshop (sorry Elements users).

Thank you!  Thank You, Pioneer Woman.  (Or, should I call you Wonder Woman?)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fantastic Four - Soon to be Five

Bonnie and Homer have four beautiful children, one boy and three girls. I first met Bonnie at Bible study and have grown to love her vivacious spirit and positive outlook on life.  Bonnie ends all her emails with her trademark closing of "Superlove".   Not everyone can pull that off without sounding over-the-top, but it fits Bonnie to a tee.  After reading her emails I always end up feeling just that - super loved.

I've photographed Bonnie and Homer's family on four different occasions now.  From staged Easter Egg Hunts to Bathing Suit Bubble Baths Bonnie has had some of the most fun and creative ideas for their sessions.  I truly have the BEST time when I'm with them - it's a total HOOT! 

Before I show you my top picks from their latest session I thought I'd share one of my favorite images from my very first session with them. You may have seen this in the B&W gallery in my website.  This was taken at Hannah's newborn session just under two years ago.  

It doesn't get any better than this - a totally devoted Daddy loving on his newest baby girl!

That was Hannah then.  Here she is today.  Full of smiles and giggles!

Isn't she precious!

Hannah is soon to be a big sister herself.  Baby #5 will join the family later this summer.  You better believe Hannah's big brother Jesse is looking forward to finally having another boy in the house.  And, with all these fluffy skirts around, I'd say another little man in the house to rough and tumble with is the perfect fit for this growing family.  I can't wait to meet him!

Now, it may just be my wild imagination, but for some reason I think the rain brought the best out in these little ones.  This was the last of my three sessions in the rain from two Saturdays ago.  It was so fun to watch these four walking through the puddles and running through the mist.  I'm just loving the fantastic shots we got of these four beautiful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed blessings.

Here's Jesse.  You may recognize those famous blue eyes of his from the Children's gallery in my website.

After seeing some of Jesse's portraits, Bonnie admitted that she's a little sad to see how grown up he looks.  Kinda tugs on a mommy's heart to see your first baby all grown up.  I know.  My son just "graduated" preschool today.  (This second pose was Homer's idea.  He was going for a staring off in the distance look with the light shining in his eyes. Cool, huh?)

Here's sweet Abbi.  She looks more and more like her mother each time I see her.  

Playing peek-a-boo with Ella and her umbrella.  Hey, I'm a poet and don't even know it...

Thanks again, Bonnie and Homer!  What a fun session!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Lovely Lauren

This lovely young lady was my second session in the rain last Saturday. Though it was dismal and grey outside, Lauren's sweet smile helped to cheer my spirits.  It was such a joy spending time with her family.

Lauren's dark hair, brown eyes, and olive skin remind me so much of my daughter Alden.  At times during our session I found myself picturing what Alden will be like when she is Lauren's age.  It was surreal.  I can only hope she's as innocent, kind, and lovely as Lauren.  

"You are what you eat," or so the saying goes.  And if Lauren is anything, she sure is a sweetie!  I'm thinking that Starbucks hot chocolate was just what Lauren needed to make it through her session. She did great!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bell Tower Session

This past Saturday I had three sessions scheduled...AND it was raining. My May is completely booked and our family is going on vacation in June, so I was really hoping not to have to reschedule any of these sessions.    

With my fingers crossed, I headed out to the location to see if there were any dry areas where I could still hold the sessions.  There were, so I quickly contacted everyone to make sure they were still willing to come out.  Can you believe they were all up for it!  My clients are AWESOME!

As it turns out, my first client happened to be one of the key architechts on the building project located just south of the Croatian Village.  He offered up the very top of the Bell Tower for his family's session.  How could I say no?

108 steps later (and many regrets for not leaving my extra camera gear in the car) I found myself at the top of the loveliest structure I've seen in quite some time.  I felt very much like Rapunzel - minus the waist length hair.

Not only were we able to stay dry, but we were able to hold their session in the very work of his hands - his creation - his baby.  Though I wish the sky weren't as dismal and grey, the Bell Tower (still under construction) looks amazing!  I can't wait to see the finished product.

As for his other "creations", he and his wife should be very proud.  Their children are beautiful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baby Gavin: 3 Weeks {Dallas/Allen Newborn Photographer}

The teachers at my son's school recently got together to give fellow teacher, Miss Megan, a newborn photo session for her Baby Shower. I'm always thrilled to photograph newborns and was especially looking forward to meeting baby Gavin and getting to know Megan. 

Gavin is three weeks old and such a handsome little fellow.  Though it was dreary outside, we were able to find a small patch of light in his mommy's bedroom to hold his newborn session.  Gavin, like most newborns, was drawn to the light.  We didn't have much luck drawing his attention away from the window.

Distracted little man aside, the session couldn't have gone any better. With only a small break to drink a bottle, Gavin was such a good sport. And that good behavior apparently lasts all through the night.  His mommy says he's only waking up once in the middle of the night to eat. I'm thinking I'd like to know her secret (IF - and that's a big IF - I ever end up needing it again).

Could he be any more precious!

sigh...I just love these tender moments between mother and son.

Gavin's sweet Aunt Rachel was on hand all day to help out her sister. Gavin adores her, and I'm pretty sure the feelings are mutual :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fleurs & Events by Amparo

Fleurs & Events by Amparo has to be one of the most charming floral shops I've encountered in a long time.  Not only was the shop itself breathtakingly beautiful with an old-world feel, but the Creative Director, Amparo, who specializes in European Floral Experiences, was such a breath of fresh air.   She was so sweet and genuinely kind. 

I met Amparo while on my session with sweet little Margaret a couple weeks ago.  Before beginning Margaret's session, I wanted to pop in to make sure it was okay to snap a few pictures outside Amparo's doorway. As you can see in the picture above, her shop is postcard perfect, and I was so hoping she'd allow me to incorporate that beauty into a few of my shots.  

Not only did Amparo graciously oblige, but she even provided several flowers that made for the perfect props.  Amparo's generosity and kind-heartedness reminded me of the good old days when store owners cared for their patrons and took the time to know them by name.

I wanted to take the time to pay it forward and highlight her shop on my blog.  I couldn't just take a picture of the flowers outside her shop.  I wanted you to see for yourself the exquisite creations found inside.  The flowers were vibrant, fresh, unique, and exotic.  I could tell a whole lot of love and passion went into each and every arrangement.

Take a look for yourself.

In case you haven't bought your mother something for Mother's Day, it isn't too late.  Stop in to see Amparo and her associates for your last minute gifts.  They are also available to assist you in your wedding, special event, floral, decorating, and catering needs. 

I would think any bride would be honored to carry one of Amparo's bouquets down the aisle.  Don't you agree?  One thing is for certain, these aren't supermarket bouquets.  These are a work of art!  

Stop in to see for yourself at 6841 Virginia Pkwy, Suite 105 in McKinney, Texas 75070.  Or, visit their website at

Thanks again for the flowers, Amparo.  Your a gem!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Best Friends: Lily and Grace

Lily's mom Tami was telling me during this session how she had taken a ton of pictures of her first born son when he was little.  She was shocked to discover recently how few pictures she had taken of Lily.  So, she decided it was Lily's turn to have a special session of her own.  Big brother was left at home.

Isn't that the way it is with our second born? I can remember feeding my first born homemade baby food.  My second born was fed out of a jar. Sure, it was mostly organic, but I always felt it was second best.  I shutter to think what I'd feed our third child if he/she ever came about. 

Life with two small children has a way of bringing our best intentions to a slow halt.  Tami reminded me how important it is to document each child's life.  Perhaps it's time for you to schedule a session for your younger child as well?  

Instead of her big brother, Lily was allowed to bring along her best friend to her photo session.  She and Grace just happened to be having their very first slumber party that night, so it was a super fun way to kick off their weekend together.  I can remember going along with my best friend on a photo session when I was growing up.  I still treasure those pictures - though I much prefer the post-braces me. 

I'd say we got some precious images of Lily and some very fun pictures of the two of them together.  Take a look!

There was some debate over the two painted chairs I had brought along. Lily LOVED the blue sunflower chair.  I, of course, preferred the pink one that coordinated better with her outfit.  So, we compromised.  We took a few pics with each.  This last one's for you, Lily!  I think it worked out just fine!

Does your child have a best friend?  Be sure to take pictures of the two of them together.  They'll treasure those pictures long after life takes them on their own separate journeys.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Aubrey, Parker and Piper: Cuteness x3

This first image was taken during my very first session with this family just short of 7 months ago right after Parker and Piper were born.  I love how tenderly their big sister, Aubrey, is holding each of them.  

Now look at them all.  Aubrey is a sweet as ever.  Little Piper is beautiful and simply full of giggles.  Handsome Parker is cutting his first teeth - AND already on the move.  

Mariah hoped the twins would both be sitting up in time for this session.  Who knew our little man Parker would be CRAWLING!  I think they may just have a little athlete on their hands.

This is the fourth time I've photographed this family.  One thing is certain.  They are a family full of love for one another and full of laughter.  They are definitely hands on parents.  I've recently discovered that Mariah does wonderful crafts and fun themed meals for Aubrey to teach her about the world she lives in. I'm certain I'll have to incorporate a few of her ideas with my own children.  Talk about creative!  Who knew a hotdog could double as an octopus?  That sure makes learning about the ocean much more interesting for little minds, doesn't it.  She gave me permission to share the link to her blog, so you can check it our for yourself.

Aren't they a beautiful family?  Mariah, Great job on coordinating all the outfits.  See, you didn't need me after all.  

Can't wait until next time!