Oct 24, 2008

Family Candids by an Old Barn

This has got to be one of my fastest "sneak peeks" ever! It's raining today, so I'm stuck inside and that means . . . photo processing! We took these photos on Wednesday night and I had a ball getting these 10 images ready to post today. When it comes to making selections from the many pictures I take during a shoot, I've learned to wait at least a day or so before looking at them. I've found that a little time helps me look at the photos more objectively. Another reason I wait is because (on the day of the shoot) I'm apt to throw out a good picture if it isn't exactly what I was working towards. Just chalk that up to artistic perfectionism. Now though, I'm very pleased. These are some of the best photos I've ever done.

Preparing for this shoot was a bit of work on my part and on the part of the client. The mom of the family is also a photographer and blogger, so we also talked a lot about light, clothing choices, poses, and inspiration from other photographers. That's one of the things I really love about my business: I have the chance to offer a totally personalized photo shoot for each client.

Mom had a good idea of what kind of background she wanted in the photos. At first, she wanted a spot with fall leaves and warm autumn colors. But it's still mostly green here in Alpharetta, so the day before the shoot (yikes!) we changed locations (thanks to a little location scouting on my client's part) and got permission from the owner to shoot next to this fabulous old barn.

It's sometimes hard to strike a balance between a nice posed family shot and a totally candid shot. I find that most clients want something that looks candid, but is not a purely unposed shot. Here, we worked to set up opportunities for candid shots like the black and white walking picture and the second photo where they aren't looking into the lens. (They were smiling at Jacob who did a 360 degree spin for them. How fun!)

Finally, a word about my favorites. The shot of mom and baby (a classic Marchet Butler photo if you've seen the work from my Early Motherhood Project) is one of my favorites. I love lens flare shots, but haven't had a lot of experience creating them. Then, there is the black and white photo of Dad and the boys checking out the tools and gadgets inside the barn. (I could tell Dad is a pro at getting kids in position for a picture.) Finally, I love how the colors just "pop" on the color photos. That red barn is certainly an eye-catcher, and the kids and parents really stand out, not to mention that romantic dip! Enjoy these, guys. No need to have worried, we had a great time, and it looks like you did too!

Oct 23, 2008

Special Edit: Custom Matte-like Borders

Recently, we were invited to a special joint birthday party for these cousins, and I had a great idea for a gift: custom 8x10s. Since I already had photos of the 4-year-old boy, I concentrated on getting a good photo of the 2-year-old while he was visiting his cousin a couple days before the party. What a surprise his mom had in store when she helped him open his gifts!

My idea was to create a portrait that was immediately frame-able, no matte required. I thought it would be fun to create the illusion of a 3-dimensional matte with borders and vignettes. Here's how I did it.

1. The original photo was darling, but needed a little help to make it "pop." (That's a fleece blanket in the background hung over the railing. I'm all about impromptu backgrounds.)

2. After saving the photo to my computer, I played with the levels a bit to bring out the vibrant colors in the boy's eyes and shirt.

3. I created another file for the 8x10 print and used the color from the boy's shirt to fill the background. This would eventually become the "matte" border of the 8x10.

4. On another layer, I dropped in the photo of the boy and cropped and resized it so there was a 1" border around the 8x10. Thank goodness for guides! They make measuring easy.

5. Then came the fun part! I created a vignette using the burn tool and a fun brush shape. Although I could have done the vignette with a dark oval and feathered edges (like I did on his cousin's portrait), I wanted this one to have a rougher look. So I did the vignette by hand (well, actually, by mouse). I also dodged a bit of the background to make it blend in better.

6. Finally, I used a pattern and then a filter to create a more interesting texture for the border. And ta da! It's done. (It took me about an hour to do all of this.)

I used the same basic method to create the second custom 8x10, and yes, their parents loved them! (And I had so much fun doing them!)

Oct 16, 2008

Playtime: Child and Mom photo shoot

This darling three-year-old boy and his mom wanted some pictures together and some portraits for the little guy's fourth birthday coming up soon! We decided to stay close to home and got some fabulous pictures just 5 minutes from their home on the Alpharetta Greenway and the little park by the YMCA. I had such a hard time picking which photos to post, they turned out so well! I love the ones of the little guy on the slide: the depth of field is great, the color is beautiful, and the expression is priceless. But I'm also really charmed by the last image. (Jeans look so good in black and white.) His mom told him to "Hug your Thomas!" (He's a big Thomas the Tank Engine fan.) Snap! snap! we got it.

There's a trick to getting a young child to smile for the camera, especially after the novelty of picture-taking has worn off (which in the case of most children is about 5 minutes into the shoot). Here are some of my tried-and-true methods. First of all, know the child's name. I make sure to memorize all of my clients' and models' names before the shoot. Second, explain to adults and other children there that it is your job to make the child smile, not theirs. When I do posed shots, I have to tell parents and siblings not to look down at the baby (or toddler) when I am trying to get their attention. It's so hard for them not to look, but it really works. If you are doing portraits of a child alone, you can ask the parent to help you catch the child's attention, but they need to stand directly behind the camera so that the child's eyes are directed towards the lens. Also, choose a location that has play equipment or something the child can explore while you are shooting. Bring a toy, a rattle, puppet, or other attention-getter to wave in front of the child or let him or her play with while you shoot. Play peek-a-boo. Make funny faces, sounds, and expressions. And most of all, have fun! Children love to play, so make the photo shoot a playtime and you'll have the same problem I do: too many cute pictures to choose from!

Oct 13, 2008


Whenever Jacob and I come home at night, Jacob makes sure to check on the resident spiders that build magnificent webs outside our home. He is fascinated by these nocturnal creatures. Consequently, these webs and their occupants have become a favorite subject of his to photograph. Here are some of my favorites. Come to think of it, this post is especially timely considering Halloween is just around the corner. And that last one is kind of spooky!

Oct 11, 2008

A Little About Me: Alpharetta Photographer

Meet Marchet Butler, photographer

I didn't start out taking photos. My primary interest in art was illustration and (as I got older) design. As the daughter of a graphic designer, I got first-hand experience in the subtle art of choosing typefaces and making even a book report look like something out of a magazine. Dad's influence left a lasting impression on me: if it's worth reading, it's worth looking good.

In school, I chose to pursue other interests. By the end of college, I was certified to teach English, business, and computer classes at the secondary level. When I got my first teaching job, I was assigned to be the yearbook adviser along with the other classes I was to teach. What else would you do with a teacher who has an obvious flair for design, writing, and who knew her salt when it came to computers? Actually, it was a perfect fit. At that point, I didn't even know how to work a digital camera, but I knew I could learn.

Four years later, I was known in the family as the photo nut. I constantly toted a camera and happily took portraits at family gatherings. Although I didn't know it, this was the beginning of my photography career.

Later, after our son was born and I had left the world of teaching, I tried having photos taken at a few studios around town. Both Jacob and I weren't satisfied with what the studios were offering. Prints cost how much? ($?!) And you won't sell it to us on CD? So, we toyed with the idea of opening a little photography business of our own. Our idea was to offer reasonably-priced photography on CD and let the client order the prints on their own. After all, that's the kind of photography we were interested in; wouldn't other people like that as well?

Our little photography business is no longer just a dream. Besides offering something that has real value to our clients, photography has given me an outlet to use my talents. Besides having a chance to create beautiful photos, I've expanded my knowledge of photography software, design, and printing. I've met wonderful families, parents, and kids. And I've been able to honor my commitment to be a full-time mom by designing shoots so I can bring my little one with me.

Meanwhile, I'm expanding my photography repertoire. Right now, I'm experimenting with some do-it-yourself light modifiers for my external flash. And I've been doing a little more location scouting. There are some gorgeous spots here in Alpharetta and I can't wait to shoot in fall foliage!

I shouldn't end this post without a big thanks to my aunt and fellow photographer, Terry Tronier, for these portraits. I visited my aunt and my grandparents in South Carolina recently and mentioned to Terry that I wanted some pictures of me doing photography. (That's the tough part about being a photographer; you don't get shots of yourself very often!) Terry happily obliged and we had a fun, although somewhat damp, photo shoot at Hopeland Gardens.