San Francisco Night Engagement Session #2: Lydia and Mike

Lydia and Mike weren't sure where they wanted to do their E session...until they saw Karen and David's E pics on my blog. They loved them, and wanted to do something similar. But, every couple has a different feel, and no two are alike.

We started off in the Mission, planning to shoot a bit in a pie shop since it was Lydia's birthday, and I thought a birthday cake and candles would be a nice starting point. But no one thought to bring candles, and the shop was kind of small and packed, and it's usually a bad idea to start off an E session in a busy place anyway (makes the couple more nervous if they are not used to being photographed, as they feel like a spectacle). So we shot pics of the couple feeding each other banana cream in a little alcove down the street, and then got up to start walking around the neighborhood, which is when I noticed this cool sign:


Mike has that punk rock wall-lean thing completely down. I always used to try it myself when waiting for the Subway but could never get my leg up high enough to look cool.

Most of the shoot took place in and around mission dive bars like the 500 club and the Elbow Room...but as usual the best shots came from little places that just caught my eye as we walked around.




Finally we ended up in Muni, and I was psyched to try a blurred train shot or two. I'm surprised how nice I was able to get the color of these shots in post, given the horrible florescents that are everywhere underground.


Lydia and Mike wanted a shot of them jumping the turstiles, as a finale. I have about 6-7 images of the entire course of the jump, taken within a second or two, but so far I like this one best.


Angela Gail Banchi, my friend and fellow photographer, was kind enough to be my official light schlepper when my regular assistant was not available. She was a trooper, especially in light of the fact that the shoot was again approaching 4 hours in length. In my defense, most of my E sessions don't pas 90 mins and if the couple begins to look bedraggled, then we end it...but Lydia and Mike seemed to be right there with me the whole time.

After we dropped them off at 11PM, Angela and I stopped for food at the one restaurant in the Mission that was both still open and not a taqueria, and then headed back over the bridge for home.

Two recent baby shoots

Both of these youngsters are between 9-12 months of age. Boy can they move! Nothing at all like shooting newborns.

Baby Elle alone and with mom Lisa;









Baby Ishan with mom Rupam







with dad


big sister Ayesha


affecting boredom as only a 4 year old can...

Technical notes: I usually start out the session by photographing the baby on a neutral background...either white seamless or black cloth works nicely. This gives us a lot of really nice, clean images we can use for announcements, holiday cards, etc. and it works no matter where we are shooting or what the location looks like. I shoot with my Qflash in a medium (24x36) recessed softbox, for soft directional light that wont bounce all around the room.

We will normally take some shots "au naturel," and some with baby in various states of dress. Overall I am looking for natural expressions, personality, and not needing (or expecting) the baby to stay still. I let the parents play games with baby or use a noisy toy to get him/her to look towards the camera once in awhile. If the baby is quiet for a moment, I take the time to shoot details of the hands and feet, along with some more solemn images of the baby herself. Newborns and the very young may be photographed sleeping or lying/sitting semi-awake. It is important to start shooting shortly after feeding time, when the baby is relaxed and content.

From there it's time to bring mom and/or dad in, and this is where we start to capture more of the interaction between them and baby. I love it when the home has a large window to backlight the parents with, and a nice couch or chair that helps focus the composition on the baby and parent. I tell the parents to just cuddle and play with their child, to forget that I'm there.

After a few minutes of this the older babies will usually get a bit fussy, from being held down and focused on for so long, and may need a break. If he/she seems ok to shoot again after 10-15 mins, then we can put baby on the floor and let him crawl around a bit and play with toys in a more active way. This is a good time to get environmental portraits.

Finally, if there are older children to be photographed, the baby's break time is a good time to do it. Younger kids will want their own time in front of the camera, and they are more likely to share the spotlight later for family portraits if they get it. It's very important to notify the parents that you don't need them to tell their children to smile, or to order them around in any way. Younger kids especially don't know how to fake a smile, and when they try they usually end up looking constipated. :) It's enough to just talk to them, and let their natural happy expressions come out when they talk about something they like.