Sunday, April 29, 2007

04/29/07: Real or Fake?

No, I'm not talking about the results of some pop idol's latest trip to the plastic surgeon -- I'm talking about LIGHT! Currently I'm training my wife on various lighting set-ups so that she can better assist me with my wedding photography business.

One of the assignments I've given her involves analyzing pictures from various sources -- magazine ads, news stories, web-sites, etc. -- to determine if the light in the pictures is natural (i.e. the sun, or some form of directional light produced by the sun), or artificial (i.e. flash, strobe, or other form of studio light). Many of the best shots seem to be ones that use artificial light sources which mimic natural lighting conditions. When you analyze a magazine photo or ad, does the light appear to be coming from multiple sources? What kinds of challenges did the photographer / art director / location scout have to deal with to get that great image?
By learning to recognize how you can work with natural and artificial lighting, you can become much better at setting up shots quickly and in challenging lighting conditions.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

04/28/07: Legal Forms for Photographers

One of the most helpful books that I've purchased in the last year is this book - Wedding and Portrait Photographers' Legal Handbook by Norman Phillips and Christopher S. Nudo. Inside you'll find gobs of different forms for use in a photography business -- or even just sample model releases for both adults and children if you are a hobbyist with editorial aspirations of any type. The book comes with the ability to download sample forms for use in your photography business. I bought my copy from for under $25 -- a real bargain considering the protection that legal forms offer photographers these days!


Friday, April 27, 2007

04/27/07: Quote of the day...

Here's one of my favorite some others I've posted, it's not directly photography related but it certainly hits home when I'm out taking nature walks and shooting pictures!

"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it…but by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. If one just keeps on walking everything will be all right."

-- Soren Kierkegaard

Here's something fun...try taking that quote and changing the word 'walk' to 'photograph' and 'walking' to 'photographing.' :)

"Above all, do not lose your desire to photograph. Every day I photograph myself into a state of well-being and photograph away from every illness. I have photographed myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot photograph away from it…but by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. If one just keeps on photographing everything will be all right."

(with all due respect to Mr. Kierkegaard!)


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

04/24/07: Check Out This Cool Gadget

Wandering through a local camera store the other day I found a gadget that I just couldn't pass up. The "Gorillapod" by Joby is designed to allow you to set up a camera (or other external device such as a flash) in creative places where you couldn't normally or easily place a tripod. Click here to go to the Joby Gorillapod web-site for more information. The Gorillapod comes in several different sizes -- including the original for lightweight SLR / point and shoot camera as well as the SLR zoom model that will hold up to 6.6 pounds! How cool is that?

I can't wait to try mine this weekend!


Monday, April 23, 2007

04/23/07: Tips for Photographing People

If you are like most people who take pictures...sometimes you have a hard time asking someone if you can take their (non-candid) picture at an event that you have been hired or asked to photograph. One of the easiest ways to lower that fear of being rejected (as if you are paparazzi or something) to first compliment the subject/s. Tell them you love their hat, shoes, smile, etc., and they immediately will show an interest in you since you have shown an interest in them. Another tips is to simply introduce yourself..."Hi, I'm Dan, can I take your picture?"

I am one of the most outgoing persons I know...and even I struggle to break the ice when I'm photographing a reception. I know the bride and groom want pictures of their guests to be part of their I have to work at getting pictures (especially before everyone has had a chance to have a few adult beverages!), but I have found that taking an interest in, and engage in dialogue with, your photo subjects will be much more accomodating of your photography efforts.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

04/22/07: Photoshop Brush Shortcuts

You can save yourself time and aggravation while editing in Photoshop by learning shortcuts. Here are two of my favorites...

To increase the size of a brush in Photoshop, simply click the [ key to make the brush smaller or ] to make the brush larger. To harden or soften the brush -- just try Shift+[ to soften the edge of the brush or Shift+] to harden the brush.

Happy editing!


Saturday, April 21, 2007

04/21/07: Adobe Camera Raw White Balance Tip

In Adobe Camera Raw, you have the option to change white balance using drop-down presets (as shot, auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, flash), OR, you can use the temperature slider for a custom preset.

QUESTION: What is the difference between the presets and using the temperature slider to obtain the same value? (e.g. choosing daylight which is 5500 K, or, choosing 5500 K using the slider.)

ANSWER: When you use a preset, the tint value changes too -- but when you use the slider the tint value does NOT change. So the slider gives you more flexibility to seperate the two changes -- color temperature and tint.

For the tint value -- just remember that you are choosing to add:

-- GREEN when moving the tint slider to the left, and
-- MAGENTA when moving the slider to the right.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

04/20/07: Quote of the day...

For those who got or will be getting tax refunds this year...we offer the double-quote Friday! :)
"What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are."

-- George Eastman
"I don't photograph the world as it is. I photograph the world as I would like it to be."
-- Monte Zucker


Thursday, April 19, 2007

04/19/07: Great Article on Trends in Baby Photography

My inlaws live in Kansas City, MO and subscribe to the KC Star. Here is a link to a great article on baby photography from today's Star.

I love that the article mentions the trends toward all black and white sessions as well as photos of the child at play and or at home. Being the parent of three young children...I just love these types of pictures!


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

04/18/07: How'd You Do THAT????

Recently I went out to shoot some collegiate baseball pictures. I had a picture in mind where I would focus just on the ball being pitched -- the ideal shot would freeze the motion of the ball with only the ball in focus. Here is one of the shots I got that day...

Many people ask how this shot is done. Well, it's kinda like what the character Edna Mode from the movie The Incredibles says..."Luck favors the prepared."

Luck is basically being able to time a shot that involves timing the placement of an object to arrive at a fixed focal length in less than a half second.

Preparation is -- manually prefocusing on a spot approximately two-thirds of the distance between the pitcher and home plate, use the infield grass. Also, shoot in manual exposure mode -- the fewer decisions the camera has to make, the better. To freeze the action of the ball you'll need the fastest shutter speed your camera will allow -- and don't try this at night! ;)

The above image was captured at ISO 400, 1/6400th shutter speed, f2.8.

I positioned myself directly behind home plate and shot through the backstop netting. You'll have to just keep practicing to get the timing of the pitched ball delivery to coincide with the arrival of the ball at your pre-focused distance. Yes, it will take some practice. But that's the beauty of digital photography -- it's not costing you any more to keep shooting!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

04/17/07: Adobe Photoshop CS3 NOW SHIPPING!!

Adobe Photoshop CS3 is now available and shipping from Adobe. You can buy an upgrade (for Photoshop versions 7 or higher) for $199 and the full product for $649 on the Adobe web-site.

And, keep in mind, you have until April 30th to purchase Photoshop Lightroom for $100 off the expected retail price of $299.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

04/16/07: What is a "dutch angle?"

The term "dutch angle" is a cinematographer's term for a shot where the horizontal frame line is not parallel to the horizon. In simpler terms, "dutching" is a camera tilt that is use to enhance the composition of an image. Camera tilts can add strong visual appeal to an otherwise dull shot.
Best advice for camera tilts in composing still images -- use them conservatively and always try a variety of angles including no tilt whatsoever. The variety will allow you to pick the strongest of the images from the series of slight to severe tilts.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

04/15/07: What's Hiding in the Shadows?

Great photo opporunities! I *love* taking pictures of cool shadows and any kind of light that is blocked in distinct or fun patterns. You can find great images lurking in and around shadows. You have to be careful -- your eye sees twice as much tonal range as your camera does -- so the camera will tend to polarize the light and darks into ranges lighter and darker than your eye sees. In other words, your best bet is to find soft shadows or areas where the light falls on medium toned surfaces. Here are some cool shots I took of shadows at a professional baseball game.


04/14/07: Storytelling Photography

Photojournalistic or candid style photography has grown in popularity over the last several years. As a photographer there are ways to develop (sorry, photo-pun) or improve your photojournalistic shooting.

One easy way to help train your eye for shooting the details of story-telling photographs is to start speaking the things that you see. Say for instance you are going for a nature walk in a botanical garden. What does your eye see? If you see purple flowers, verbalize that -- "I see purple flowers." And then start to think in terms of just photographing what you see on your walk. You'll start to notice more things as you train yourself to speak out what you see in your story. If it's a soccer game -- you'll notice some things that are less obvious...sweat, divets in the grass, a coach or parent yelling at a player. :)

To take it to the next need to start noticing whether what you are photographing are nouns (a bumble bee, soccer cleats, a bride's veil), verbs (bumble bee flying, soccer cleat kicking the ball, bride peaking out of her vail), or adjectives (painful bee sting, jubilant soccer players, crying mother of the bride when seeing the bride's face after her veil is lifted).

The more adjectives you shoot, the greater the likelihood that your photographs will be story-telling photojournalistic images.

Even if you aren't specifically shooting images -- just try naming the things you would photograph (wherever it is you are) and pay attention to whether you are shooting the nouns, the verbs, or the adjectives (bonus points if you shoot the adverbs! LOL)

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Friday, April 13, 2007

04/13/07: Quote of the day...

Not sure if I've posted this quote before...but it came across my monitor screen again recently, so I thought I'd post it up! :-)

"When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you are on the right track."

-- Arthur Fellig


Thursday, April 12, 2007

04/12/07: Kill Some Time With This Online Photography Game!

Our friends at Manfrotto, makers of fine tripods (of which I own three different models!), have this fun online video game. The game challenges you to pick the right tripod, set it up properly, and capture images in various settings. It's addictive!!!

Click here to play. I'm not telling you what my scores have been so far...I'm not very good at video games!!

While you're on the Manfrotta web-site you can check out some of their free tripod use tutorials.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

04/11/07: Do This Right Now!!! (If you haven't already...)

Most photographers burn back-up discs of their best images and / or their client images. Do you?

If you do, that's great! Where do you keep your back-ups?

You should do this right now -- make back-up discs to be stored somewhere off-site from your house or studio. Keep a set of back-up discs at your office / work, at a relative's house, or -- better yet -- in a safe deposit box.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

04/10/07: Great Tutorial DVDs for Image Editing

Vincent Versace is an amazing Northern California photographer with specialties in celebrity and nature photography. I met Vincent about five years ago while shooting a sunset on the Marin Headland trails overlooking the San Francisco bay. Vincent has a line of tutorial DVDs called "Welcome to Oz." Check out the DVDs on his educational web-site:

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Monday, April 09, 2007

04/09/07: Awesome Photography - Check It Out...

For inspiration and awe of some truly amazing photography, check out Robert Seale's web-site -- I love how his talents carry over from portraits to sports action!

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

04/08/07: Keep it secure...keep it cool!

If you are like many photographers who have small children...chances are you own a mini-van or SUV. If you are like me, sometimes you find yourself on photoshoots where you leave some gear in your car. Combine these two -- and you're just a quick smash'n grab away from filing an insurance claim. One thing I learned is that you can find creative ways to secure your gear -- in those fleeting occasions where you can't take everything with you. Cargo covers and blankets are nice...but a nice creative way to hide your gear is to have a large cooler in your car. Drop your satellite gear back or other valuables inside the cooler and it's no longer a temptation for opportunistic thieves (unless you have photo related graphics on your car...or you ARE a theif and you read this blog...let's hope the latter isn't the case!).


Saturday, April 07, 2007

04/07/07: Amazing Seminar for Lighting

If you are looking for an amazing training seminar at an affordable price, consider the One Light Workshops from Atlanta-based photographer Zach Arias. His intensive day long seminar has received rave reviews from photographers all over the country and the class only costs a little over three hundred bucks. For more information on Zach's One Light seminars, go to:


Friday, April 06, 2007

04/06/07: Quote of the day...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

04/05/07: RMSP Digital Photo Weekend in St. Louis!

For the third year in a row I will be assisting with a Rocky Mountain School of Photography ( weekend seminar. RMSP returns to St. Louis this year and this time the focus is all digital! The seminar will be held April 21st and 22nd at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton -- you can register for 1 day for $109 or 2 days for $169. The Digital Weekend is perfect for photographers and photo-enthusiasts alike as you can take either basic classes or advanced classes through the weekend -- and you can choose which classes to take while you're there, no need to decide in advance. To register or find more information, check out this link.

From my experience, Rocky Mountain is one of the best photo-education resources available to photographers today -- I took one of their pro studies classes back in 2004 and found it to be an incredible learning experience. I'm excited that instructors Tim Cooper and David Marx will be back in Missouri for 2007 and I'm also looking forward to seeing and helping my friend Michael Robinson with administration of the Digital Weekend!


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

04/04/07: Lifestyle Baby Photography - Part 3 of 3

Lifestyle Baby Photography- Edition 3: The Session Experience
by Amber Holritz

Once you have established your Philosophy and Strategy and have created your Relationships, it is time to create the Experience of the Lifestyle Session. Your objective during this session is to create the emotional images that your client will treasure for a lifetime, but to do so without causing any additional stress in their lives.

1. The Walk Through
The first thing I do when I arrive at my client's home for the first time (after giving the Mom a baby present of course!) is to do a quick walk through. Mom and I have already discussed which rooms Baby spends most of her time, and now I want to use that knowledge to help me create a "game plan" of sorts. I look for pockets of indoor light, beautiful pieces of furniture, and sentimental touches within the home. As I walk through the main areas, I mentally map out a quick sketch of the session ahead.

2. Interactive Portraiture
When I schedule the session with Mom, we plan for Baby to be awake for the beginning portion of the session. (Of course, babies and schedules don't always sync, so I plan to be as flexible as possible!) This allows us to do the interactive portraiture with Mom, Dad, and siblings at the beginning of the session, freeing the family up to go about their day as Mom and I finish up. I begin this portion of the session by reiterating what we have determined previously. "When you hang out as a family, it's usually in the den, right?" We then head for that area, I have them grab a seat and sit closely (I usually tell them to go cuddle on the couch together...), and then I tell them to talk to the baby and one another, kiss, hug, and just love each other for a few minutes. I shoot this from every angle possible. I focus on the baby, and let the family go out in the background. I use the fisheye to show their environment. I get down low and shoot through a the coffee table. I frame the image wide and center the piece of art hanging above the couch. I do this portion as quickly as possible. Then I grab Dad, and take him to a "pocket of light". This could be a hallway, a window, anywhere that I like the quality of light. I ask him to hold the baby like he usually does and nuzzle her a bit. I shoot this from every angle possible. Wide, tight, low, high. Focus on Dad, focus on Baby. Dad can then leave if he needs to. If he sticks around, I try to get him in the background of images of Mom and Baby. The image of Dad watching over his family is a very powerful one! I do the same with Mom, often using the same space as I used with Dad. But I will continue to photograph Baby with Mom throughout the session as we move from place to place, and as Mom soothes, feeds, and changes Baby.

3. Environmental Portraiture
From this point on my focus is on the child. With newborns, I am focused on capturing the size of the child. I do this by using familiar pieces of furniture in the child's home. I most often use a couch, an interesting chair, and the master bed. I try to use existing art pieces to add additional legitimacy to the images. Using the home in this way adds to the historical value of the image! These images are easiest when Baby is asleep! It is then an easy transition to the crib, to get some beautiful images of the nursery that Mom and Dad have spent so much time on.

With older babies, I am focused on capturing what they are "doing" at this age. I am able to place her in her most comfortable environment (swing, play gym, nursery with toys, ect), lay down on the floor with her, and shoot to my hearts content. Often, she will be completely enthralled with the camera at first, and I will be able to easily snag my "portraits" (with eyes to the camera), and from there will be able to focus on capturing moments.

4. The Fun Stuff
After I have created the important portraits, I can move on to the fun stuff. I look primarily for expression, relationship, and environment when creating these images. I am consistently looking to see where Mom (and the rest of the family, if they are still around) is, and will frame her in the background if appropriate. We do bath time, playtime, pet time, snack time... Anything that Baby normally does, we will try to do! The important thing at this point is to compose creatively. If you are not careful, these images could look like snapshots. Use these ground rulesto create images that look professional regardless of how casual the situation is.

Amber Holritz, and her husband Nathan, run Holritz Photography based in Chattanooga, TN. when they aren't busy shooting amazing pictures of weddings, babies or their own beautiful children, they find time to speak to and consult photographers throughout the United States. You can read more about Nathan and Amber Holritz on their photographer resource blog --

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

04/03/07: Lifestyle Baby Photography - Part 2 of 3

Lifestyle Baby Photography- Edition 2: Creating the Relationship
by Amber Holritz

Creating the Relationship

The key to creating beautiful and intimate Lifestyle images is Relationship. I place a high priority on my relationships with my Moms, and will go out of my way to extend these relationships in any way possible.

Initial Contact/Scheduling Calls
The first opportunity for relationship building comes at the initial contact. When your client, generally Mom, calls in to discuss setting up a portrait session, begin the conversation by creating a relationship. Be sure to find out the baby's name, and use it regularly throughout the conversation. Take the time to ask pertinent questions about the baby. There is nothing that will endear a mother to you faster than empowering her to talk about her baby! That is a mom's favorite pastime, and too often, she feels that people are not interested in hearing what she has to say! If you do not have children of your own, purchase a book, such as "What to Expect the First Year," and familiarize yourself with the developmental stages. When you are talking to Mom, you can better frame your questions to relate to what she is dealing with at this stage in her baby's life. Another huge point is in scheduling. When my moms call in to schedule sessions, I list off a few days in which I am wholly available. I then say, "I have these dates free, let's talk about what the best time of day for your baby is." This allows Mom the freedom to explain her child's schedule, or lack thereof, and allows us to come up with the time that will create the least amount of stress for both Mom and Baby. I also take the time to explain that I have kept the rest of my day free, and that we can explore the session with as much or as little time as is best for the two of them, and for her to feel free to take any breaks that her child needs. This helps her to see that I do not plan to follow my own agenda, but will be flexible for her so that she can meet her child's needs.

At the conclusion of the initial conversation, I have an arsenal of facts that will assist me in creating emotional and legitimate images! I can step inside the door and know that Mom and Baby spend their time in the nursery, eating and napping, in the playroom, playing in the toy gym, and in the kitchen, taking baths. I already know that when Dad and Baby bond in the den and in front of the TV. I know that Dad is a great help to Mom by always bringing her water when she is nursing, and I know that the family Dog always sits at Mom's feet and plays guard dog when she is in the rocker. Knowing these things prior to my arrival helps me see their importance, and allows me, the insider, the knowledge needed to effectively capture this part of their life!

First Session
I arrive at every newborn session with a gift in hand. This is a huge step for me, and generally creates an immediate bond. From that point forward, I am very "familiar" throughout the session. I volunteer to hold the baby, help with any needs the baby has (cleanup, diapers, ect), grab things for Mom when she needs them (water when nursing, baby wipes, blankets, ect), and constantly affirm Mom about her physical appearance as well as the baby's. I make sure to make mention of the things we discussed ("Oh look, she really does love her feet, doesn't she!?"), and this helps Mom see that I was truly interested in the information that she was giving me over the phone. I make a concerted effort to capture the nuances of the baby and the baby's relationships described to me during our conversation. At the end of the session, I never leave without thanking Dad for his time (if he is at the session) and giving Mom a hug.

The slideshow can be the high point of the relationship. After this first slideshow, you will officially have a friend for life, and this can be the basis of a huge future client base. I try to have the slideshow up the evening following the session. When choosing the images for the slideshow, I try to think of what Mom would most want to see, and I am sure to include those images with my own personal favorites. I pay very close attention to Mom's appearance in the images, and do not include any images in which she is not looking her very best! New Mom's are in a very insecure stage, and we need to do whatever we can to flatter them with our imagery! This will also make them love you!

Follow Up
I do my best to make contact with my client regularly after their session. I let them know when the images are up on Pictage, and then I contact them again when their hard proofs arrive. I try to make a quick "housecall" when their products arrive, and I do a little handholding throughout the ordering process. I let them know that I know just how busy they are, and that I want to do whatever I can to make this process easier for them.

The reason that relationships are so vital to this process is threefold.
1. Insider knowledge
2. Repeat Customer
3. Referrals.

If you have the inside knowledge to your clients life, their child, their relationship, ect, you will be able to effectively transfer that knowledge to your images. This will then create a bond with the client that will cause them to call you every time that they want images of their child. Every stage that the newborn goes through will become an important moment, and they will want it preserved by you.And they will tell everyone! Moms trust other Moms. Create a relationship with one key Mom, and then prepare for her friends. They will call!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

04/02/07: Lifestyle Baby Photography - Part 1 of 3

Today I'm excited to announce the first of a three part series from an amazing photographer and guest-contributor to Daily Photo Tips!

Amber Holritz, of Holritz Photography based in Chattanooga, TN, is fast becoming one of the best lifestyle baby photographers in the United States. Her warm personality, gentle demeanor, and patient devotion to capturing great natural images of babies and toddlers put her in great demand -- both with moms as clients and, along with her super-talented photographer-husband Nathan, on the photographer speaking circuit.

So, without further ado, I'm proud to present the first edition of Lifestyle Baby Photography by Amber Holritz!

Lifestyle Baby Photography- Edition 1: Philosophy and Strategy
by Amber Holritz

Lifestyle Photography is (and should be!) taking over the portraiture world. Slowly but surely, we are losing the market for those stiff, "smile at the camera" portraits, as a relaxed, journalistic style of imagery moves onto the scene. I have recently fallen in love with the world of Lifestyle Baby Photography, and wanted to share some of my newfound passion with you!

Webster's defines lifestyle as "a typical way of life." The images that I want to produce during an infant session are, by definition, of a "typical" nature. Can "typical" be artistically fulfilling? Definately!! So my philosphy for portraiture is to produce artistically fulfilling images depicting a "typical way of life". It's just that simple!

An image of a child can and should serve the following purposes:
1. Appropriate likeness of the child
2. Artistic rendering
3. Historical documentation for future generations

An image of a child would ideally show:
1. Emotional connection
2. Scale
3. Reality

The first set of expectations are easily met. Add in the second set, make them the criteria for your images, and you will see that true Lifestyle Photography is going to be the easiest way to provide a perfect portrait! You will be creating an artistic likeness of the child with legitimate historical meaning. You will be making an effort to seek out emotional connections between parent and child, compositions that provide scale, and do it all within the reality of the subject's environment! The final product will be an image that will portray "typical" life in a creative, editorial fashion. And once your consumers see how emotionally provoking these images can be, they will have no hesitation about the style!

As a parent, I could go on and on about just how fleeting a child's life is. I can barely remember what my oldest child looked like sleeping in his crib, playing with his first toys, or eating in his high chair. Nathan created some beautiful portraits of him at various stages, we took a few "candids", but we have nothing that artistically expresses the reality of his life at that stage! I want to remember what he looked like at home at 3 days, 3 months, 3 years. I want to remember not only his big loving smile, but also his moods! I want to show my future adult child pictures of his life as a baby, and in doing so, give him history! This is what Lifestyle Portraiture gave us with our second child. We have all those moments captured! We have history! I present this to my potential moms, and they all get it!

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

04/01/07: A Digital Hasselblad for Under Five Grand?

April Fools! :)

(sorry, couldn't resist...)