Themed Photoshoots: Worth It Or Nah?

At some point, you’re going to ask yourself: “Should I do a themed photoshoot?” Maybe you’re the one behind the camera, or maybe you’re the one who’s going to be in front of it. But either way — is it worth all the hassle?

But before we dive in, let’s explain exactly what a “themed” photoshoot is!

It could be something like our upcoming Harley & Joker photos. It’s a photoshoot with a specific theme. Everyone at this shoot is going to be dressed as Harley or Joker.

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The shoot doesn’t necessarily have to be cosplay related, it could just have a “theme.” We’ve done Southern Belle shoots (with a lil’ cowboy for good measure):

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A lot of times, a photographer sets the theme and makes a day of it. But sometimes clients come to us outside of one of our specials and ask us to help them with a theme they personally want in their photos.

These photos below were “Disbound” Belle & Beast. When we get requests like this, it’s an opportunity to find new photo locations that fit, too!

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From a photographer’s standpoint, themed photoshoots are fun. They’re apart from the every day family or maternity session — which, of course, we still love — but themed shoots are a great change of pace.

From the perspective of someone who participates in a themed shoot, it’s a unique opportunity, and you know the photos are going to be one-of-a-kind.

So, are themed shoots worth it? Our opinion is a resounding “YES!!!”

They’re much more work than regular photoshoots, but the fun makes up for it!

And just to prove it, we will be announcing our Lemonade Stand Mini Sessions later this month!

 

Look forward to it! And make sure to follow us on Facebook to keep up with our latest shenanigans!

3 Tips On How To Pull Off A Surprise Proposal

At Kansas City Photography, we love LOVE. So much so, that we’ve had several clients come to us with their surprise proposal plans. Since we’re the photo pros — we wanted to give you some tips on how to pull it off successfully!

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1. Have A Plan

The first step to success is setting up “the plan.” You don’t want them to know what’s coming or that would ruin the surprise, right? Several of our clients have planned the proposal on anniversaries. This way, the two of you were already planning on going out and doing something anyway, so it doesn’t seem as suspicious.

You could plan it around a holiday or special day of the two of you. If that’s not your style, then you could always plan it around an activity the two of you do together often, so as not to raise any red flags.

Take Kyle, for example. He planned a brunch with his now-fiancee Emily. Afterward, he told her they had an appointment to go look at a house. There was conveniently enough time after brunch and before the “realty appointment” that they could go take a walk in Loose Park … where we were waiting. 😉

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2. Find The Perfect Location

Picking the perfect place for the backdrop of when you officially started planning your “forever” is crucial!

But we are here to help! We know people take this one seriously because our “Top 10 Photoshoot Locations” blog gets hundreds of views a day! So, that is our gift to you, dear reader, 10 potential locations all in 1 blog post for you to peruse.

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Get the time, the place, and then …

3. Contact Us!

This is definitely a moment worth capturing and remembering forever! Once you have the plan in place, reach out to us and let us know what you’re planning.

We usually exchange photos so that we know what the other person looks like and will be ready when we see each other.

We arrive at the location 15 minutes early. What we do is pretend to be taking pictures of other things. Roses in the rose garden, a fountain, etc.

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When you arrive at the scene, there is always that brief moment of eye contact before we go back to pretending we aren’t supposed to be there. Once you are on one knee, we turn our cameras around and capture all of the emotions and reactions!

Hats off to Tony & Katie — who had one of the best reactions we’ve ever seen!

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Keep in mind we travel! There is no distance too far for love. <3

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Our Top 3 Tips For A Successful Newborn Photoshoot

Everyone loves babies! Seriously. Who doesn’t? But these newborn wiggle worms don’t make it easy to get cute, snuggly photos of them! Here are our top 3 tips for a successful newborn photoshoot!

1. Make sure the house is WARM.

We usually recommend turning the heat on and having the house set around 78. No matter the season! If the adults aren’t sweating a little, it isn’t warm enough! Keep in mind, these new little snuggle bugs get cold easily. And if they’re cold, they’re going to cry. It needs to be comfortable enough in the house that the baby can have no clothes on and feel warm.

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2. Feed Baby 30 Min. Before The Shoot

A hungry baby is a crabby baby. And we want your little nugget of love to be happy and smiling during the photoshoot! Feeding your snuggle bug 30 minutes before the shoot ensure they won’t be hungry come closeup time! It also gives some time for any stomach rumblies or spit up to happen. Now, not that we still won’t get pooped on from time to time … but at least the babies are happy!

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3. Schedule Within The First Two Weeks

Babies grow — FAST!! We’ve found they really retain that new “baby” look within the first two weeks after birth. After that, they really start changing into their own little person very rapidly. The “baby” cheeks go away so quickly, it’s actually kind of heartbreaking! If you want true “newborn” photos, we need to take them when they actually are newly born!

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We hope these helpful tips will make your newborn photoshoot a success!

~*~

Are you currently expecting, or have you already given birth to your bundle of joy? We’d love to help you capture these first couple weeks with a newborn session! Contact us to set a date and time (don’t forget — we are in both KC & St. Louis)!

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The Rule Of Thirds — What’s That? A Lesson From Working At A TV Station

My first day on the job at the TV station KOMU, I was 18 years old. I was a freshman at Mizzou, majoring in Broadcast Journalism. I wanted to get my foot in the door, so I applied for a cameraperson position for the morning show “Pepper & Friends.”

I had no experience using such a huge, movable, expensive camera. It was taller than me — with huge wires protruding out the back that would get dragged along with it as you wheeled the camera around. Here’s what they looked like — I snapped this shot while I worked there:

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I learned a lot at the TV station. I started doing the cameras, then moved on to make the show’s graphics, and by my Sophomore year, I was on-air crew reporting in the field.

But on that first day, when I showed up and was being taught how to use this ginormous camera — the very first thing I learned was the rule of thirds. And it was actually a co-worker who taught it to me!

It’s one of the first, if not the first thing you learn in photography and videography: The Rule of Thirds.

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All images can be broken down into thirds — both horizontally and vertically. You’ll see nine sections cut out on our cute picture of Bella above. This is what the Rule of Thirds grid looks like.

People’s eyes naturally gravitate to those outer corners — not the middle of the photo.

This has been proven with various studies — and using the Rule of Thirds and positioning your subject in a place where eyes naturally follow just makes sense, and in turn, makes your photo flow.

So, there are FOUR places you can place subjects in photos to follow this rule.

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You can see this picture of Bella follows the rule — as she’s off-center and placed in one of those four important areas of a photo. Your eyes naturally go to her when you look at the photo.

Same below. I can guarantee you either looked at the window, chandelier, hallway, or couple at the bottom first. It’s because they line up with the grid.

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I learned this skill at the TV station when working behind the cameras — and it was one of the first things taught in class when I entered into the School of Journalism my junior year at Mizzou.

So, this is a great rule for photographers — beginner, intermediate, professional.

But, we’re artists, and we don’t put ourselves in a box. Rules are absolutely meant to be broken. So, you don’t have to follow the Rule of Thirds in every shot. But, if you do stray — make sure it has purpose!

Want to learn more? Here’s more in our “How To” series!

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What’s In My Camera Bag?

This is Christine! I get asked a lot which lenses I use, so I decided to make a post on what’s in my camera bag!

All of them are linked if you’d like to get one yourself! Note: I am totally on #TeamCanon. Mainly because I can use and abuse my camera and lenses (I’ve dropped them all SEVERAL times) — and they still hold up!

The Bag Itself:

This is the bag I tote around! I like the backpack style a lot. I’ve thought about getting something more personal (or Sailor Moon related … tee-hee), but for now, this is it!

Canon Deluxe Photo Backpack

canoncanon2It’s handy and it does its job! I like the side pockets for sticking business cards into, and the front pocket for sticking little extras into like this adorable thing to get kids to smile!

The Tripod

I prefer to free-hand my shots, but for the occasional time when I need a tripod (*cough* eclipse *cough*) — this is what I use. It’s my favorite color (orange), and fairly inexpensive. You can definitely upgrade to a better tripod, but since I hardly ever use it — this was the most bang for my buck (and did I mention my favorite color?!?!).

Sobrovo Portable Travel Aluminum Lightweight Tripod 

I also found a cheaper one, same model, here. 

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The Camera:

Right now I am sporing the Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18.0 MP Digital SLR Camera. It’s not the latest model, but still does an amazing job.

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The Lenses:

Here are the lenses I carry with me: 

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

This lens is my pride and joy (aside from my two children, of course). I saved for years to get this lens! I use it at almost every photoshoot (except newborn because I tend to not have as much space to work with during those shoots). I love how it gives the background a flawless bokeh effect.

70200.jpgHere is a shot I took with this beauty:

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I also have a Canon 75-300mm that I won’t be highlighting in this post — and I prefer this one above over it anyway!

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

This is the lens I use for headshots and newborn photos. When you really want to get up in people’s business (no zoom, so you have to physically step closer or farther for the shot you want).

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Here is a shot I took with this one:

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Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Lens

If you could only pick one lens from this list to purchase — this is it. It’s great for beginners, and is usually the lens you get when you purchase your first Canon.

It’s nice for shots where you’re really trying to get the scenery in along with the subject.

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Here’s a shot I took with it:

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If you’re a budding photographer, don’t freak out by what’s posted here.

I didn’t start out with all of these lenses. I started with a basic Canon DSLR and the 18-55mm lens that came with it. That’s it!

It took me a year to buy the backpack. And to put things in perspective, it took me 11 years before I bought the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens!

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What To Wear For A Photoshoot [Our Recommendations For Stellar Photos]

You’ve booked the shoot! Hooray!

There are three questions we often get right after:

  1. Where should we shoot?
  2. Do I bring any props?
  3. What should I wear?

We already have a solid answer for No. 1 & No. 2. 🙂

As for No. 3 — that’s what this blog will be for!

In this post, we will go over recommended dress codes for maternity, engagement, family, and senior photos!

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What Do I Wear To A Photoshoot?

Well, our recommendations really vary depending on the type of photoshoot we’re doing. Since we have our friend Ally featured up above, let’s start with maternity!

Maternity:

I love anything flowy for maternity pictures. We can angle you right into the wind and get that gorgeous wind-swept look. This typically involves some sort of dress or shirt/shorts, combined with some kind of flowy shawl / vest thing … I am not sure what to call it! But you know what I mean!

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Definitely something form fitting for the top — we wanna see that bump!

I’ve also had clients skip the flowy shawl and instead opt for a dress with flared sleeves, which achieves the same effect!

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Or, any dress that hugs that tummy! It all works!

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As for the guy responsible for that bump — we usually let his significant other pick out what he wears. I personally love it if it’s a little matching — using the same color concept, or working in the same color our mom-to-be is wearing into his outfit somehow.

We don’t recommend the guy wears anything flowy … that’s just for mom!! 😉

During the shoot, I will still always do some of just mom solo. But, then I’ll include him in the rest!

Sometimes I have had moms come to us and want shoots that only include her — and that’s fine, too!

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We are celebrating that life growing inside!

Engagement:

As with maternity — we still love anything flowy. Although in these photos, the focus isn’t on your stomach — so we can be a lot more lax about the outfits.

Anything that would possibly pick up when the wind blows, or if he gives a playful twirl. A long skirt, a tunic with flared sleeves, a dress that has an extra layer on top.

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Again — if you decide to be match-y, that’s always adorable as well. I love it when couples plan their outfits together! It looks like you belong together, which you do!

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Family:

We don’t need anything flowy for these photos. Since we are going to have more people — we aren’t going to be able to get those individual shots where your gown is flowing with the wind.

However, matching can be tricky with more people. If you’re having a large group, I highly recommend assigning each “family unit” a color. Like the Miller family did:

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From there, we can break off into smaller family groups after the initial big group —

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As you can see, the family can take the color recommendation however they’d like! They’re all in pink, but it’s not all the same shirt or style. The oldest daughter wore a pink top, the youngest a pink dress, and the middle some fun pink leggings and matching hair tie!

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It also just makes you look like the lovable family unit that you are when you can tell that you belong together!

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My biggest recommendation is to pick a color, and then have everyone incorporate something of that color.

It doesn’t even necessarily have to be the same “shade.” Here are some outfits I personally picked out for my own family photoshoot this week. I usually pick two colors — this time I went with pink and gray. I have pink, and so does one of my daughters. Then my husband has gray, and so does our other daughter. This is another way to match!

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Senior:

Senior portraits special! It’s a time to focus on your uniqueness and the likes and interests you have at this time in your life. For seniors, I always recommend a few different outfits.

  1. Jerseys / Sports Attire & Paraphernalia

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What are you into? Sports? Let’s incorporate it! Bring jerseys, a ball, anything related to the sport that we can work into the photo.

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2. The Cap & Gown

I always want to snag cap and gown photos as well! These ones are usually the fastest, and it’s really easy to throw the gown and cap on over whatever you’re already wearing!

It’s a great symbol to the world that you’re a graduate! You did it! And it’s your turn to turn that tassle to the other side of your cap.
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3. Something nice!

I also usually recommend something a little nicer. A dress, a tux, whatever you think of when you hear the word “nice.”

You’re an adult now, you’ve come of age — I like to get some shots that reflect that!

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4. Something that reflects your personal style

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Are you always wearing Chucks? Do you have a favorite hat? A dress you’ve worn approximately 15 million times? Some jeans your’ve worn holes into that you’ll never part with? A promise ring? A bracelet or necklace that you never remove?

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These photos are about you, your likes, your favorite things, what makes you the person you are now — we want the photos to reflect that!

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Phew!! This should help you decide what outfits to wear to your photoshoot — we’re so excited to be working with you! And if we’re not yet — feel free to reach out to us and book a shoot!

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How To Photograph The Total Solar Eclipse [Safely]

I’ve been getting this question a lot — “how can I take awesome pics of the solar eclipse?!”

Especially with the upcoming total Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21.

[The cover photo for this post is from NASA].

Let’s jump right into it.

Firstly, you need to protect your eyes.

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I know you’ve seen everyone and their brother selling those solar eclipse glasses. Don’t go with the cheapest, go with the safest. Joe from down the street may not realize he’s selling you some shades that won’t do diddly squat when you’re staring at the sun.

Which is literally what you’re going to be doing.

Staring. At. The. Sun.

And while Amazon has thousands of sellers claiming to have these special glasses for you, NASA recognizes only a handful of manufacturers with glasses that meet the safety criteria.

A handful!

Here are some of them:

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American Paper Optics

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NASA also notes: “More than 6,800 libraries across the U.S. are distributing safety-certified glasses. Many are working with scientists to hold viewing events and activities before and during the eclipse. For a listing of participating libraries, visit:

https://www.starnetlibraries.org/2017eclipse”

Next, you need to protect your equipment.

These next few tips are for if you are using a digital DSLR camera. If you aren’t, you can skip on down to the bottom!

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Camera lenses really aren’t meant to be facing directly into the sun for prolonged periods of time, just like our eyes.

You are going to need a solar filter for your camera lens.

Why?

Well, because that sunlight is even more intense inside the lens — and pointing it directly at the sun can cause damage to the lens itself. And your camera shutter. And your imaging sensor. And … just about anything that’s pointing directly at the sun unprotected.

So, first, decide on which lens to use. We recommend a telephoto lens since it will have a nice zoom. 70-200mm should do the trick. But, if you have anything bigger — go for it. Your shots will be even more amazing!

Get a solar filter similar to this. It’s not cheap, but it’s a lot cheaper than having to buy new camera equipment.

Next, you’ll need a tripod.

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You need a steady shot for this. You don’t wanna be all loosey goosey like our friend Aidan above.

And, you don’t want to be stuck holding your camera the entirety of the eclipse. You can go cheap on this option! Any ol’ tripod will do.

Lastly, Practice, Like a True Graduate! And Mess With Your Camera Settings

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Once you’ve gotten your filter onto your camera, and put a piece of black tape over the viewfinder (you want to use the camera screen for these shots, you don’t want to look through the viewfinder), and set up the tripod and camera — practice by taking photos of the sun. Use your solar eclipse glasses while you’re doing this as well.

Now, we’re gonna get technical.

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Make sure you set your camera to manual, and make sure you have your flash off [during the entirety of the eclipse].

You’ll need to adjust your aperture, exposure time, and ISO.

Aperture:

You can adjust the aperture on your telephoto lens. Aperture is the hole in which light passes through your camera. In other words, it’s the opening where light enters your camera.

Smaller numbers mean wider apertures. You want something wide for these shots!

Exposure Time:

Exposure time is literally just that — exposure. It’s how long your cam’s imaging sensor is exposed to light.

This will change throughout the eclipse, because as the moon covers the sun, less of it is showing, and therefore that imagine sensor won’t be exposed to light as long.

So, as the moon starts to cover the sun — you can lengthen the exposure more and more.

ISO:

Next is what I would argue is the most important part — the ISO. This has to do with your camera’s imaging sensor and how much light you’re letting in. If you have a high ISO setting, your camera will be super sensitive to light because it lets more in. It also increases the brightness of the photograph (but increases graininess).

When the sun is still bein’ its glowing self, you won’t need a high ISO. ‘Cause the sun is brighter than those blinding white Christmas lights your grandma used to string up outside her house every year.

Howeverrrr, since this is an eclipse we are talking about — the moon is going to cover up granny’s Christmas lights, AKA the sun. When that happens, you are going to need to raise that ISO.

Don’t Wanna Do Any Of This On Your DSLR?

The coolest thing — if you are in the line of totality — which means you are in an area where you can see the moon COMPLETELY cover the sun for approximately 2 minutes, photos can be taken during this period only WITHOUT a solar filter.

Still gonna need that tripod, though. And you’re still gonna need to raise your ISO.

Wanna Use Your iPhone?

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NASA says go ahead. The lens is probably too small to get any sort of damage from the sunlight. They do sell telephoto lenses you can attach to your iPhone, too, since the iPhone’s natural zoom is pretty puny.

And, regardless, make sure you’re still wearing your solar glasses!

I hope this was helpful! I can’t wait to see all of your pics!

And, above all else, make sure you take a moment during the totality to look AWAY from your camera and at the actual event itself!

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Should I Bring My Pet To A Photoshoot? Our Top 3 Tips!

Soooo, we’re gonna cut to the chase here. The answer is a resounding “YES!”

Your pet is a part of the family, so whether it’s engagement photos or family photos, including this furry part of your family is important!

However, we have a few tips to make sure it goes smoothly.

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1. Make sure to bring someone else along to help hold the leash for the shots your dog won’t be in! 

We know Fido won’t be in every shot, especially for those engagement photos! So, make sure to bring along a best friend or sibling to help watch and entertain your pet until it’s their time to shine! Make sure you have a leash, many locations have a leash policy.

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2. Bring treats, their favorite toys, and tucker ’em out!

I encourage the pet helper to walk your pet around during the photos (when they aren’t the star). It gets them nice and tuckered out for when it’s time for their closeup!

Also, make sure to hand us the treats and/or favorite toy! We can hold them in front of the camera, squeak them, etc. When all else fails — we usually end up barking. That usually gets their attention for a second or two.

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3. Pick a location that’s not too distracting!

Sure, maybe your dream is to have engagement photos at Loose Park. And while we can definitely make that dream a reality, we would recommend against taking your dog there.

There’s a lot going on at a busy location like that — and it’s easy for pups to get distracted. No matter how good the treat in front of them is, a new smell will win out their attention every time!

We would recommend picking a quieter location — like Unity Village or Bingham-Waggoner Estate. They are both featured in our Top 10 Photoshoot Locations in KC list!

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We hope you find these tips helpful!

Are you a photographer? We have a post on tips for photographing pets as well!

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What To Bring To A Photoshoot — Props Or No Props?

I get asked this by clients a lot: “Do I need to bring anything?”

The answer? “It depends.”

What kind of shoot is it? For many engagement shoots, props aren’t really needed. However, if you want to use the image as your Save the Date — I have chalkboards I can bring along. I once had some clients bring along some faux leaves to write their wedding date on, and made sure I got a photo of it.

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For maternity shoots, I often recommend bringing a onesie or a pair of baby shoes. We can work those into some really cute shots! It also works great for the newborn session after, because we can do a “before” and “after” effect!

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First birthday cake shoot? You bring the cake, I’ll bring the cam (and in this case, I’ll bring the backdrop, too!).

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And we’ve had a couple adult clients do cake smashes, too! In both instances, these ladies brought along all of their own props. They had a vision, so we made sure it was captured!

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For Senior Photos, I always ask the person what they’re into. If they mention any type of sport, I ask them to bring along something related to that sport — a bat, a softball, a jersey, a soccer ball, a tennis racquet, etc. I like to work personality into shoots!

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So, props or no props? That’s really up to you!

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Focusing On Sunshine: How To Deal With The Sun During Photoshoots

Since my entire area is flooded right now, I feel like focusing on sunshine. Something we desperately need. I would say “imagine you’re on an island,” but I actually am … no one can get in and no one can get out. But at least our house is safe, and so are we!

So, for today’s post, lets talk about Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun (please, please, please shine down on me)! Sometimes he’s great to work with —

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— and sometimes he’s a jerk.

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Although you can edit it so it looks like you did it on purpose.

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Like so:

The key is to just not let him mess with you in the first place. I prefer to find shady spots. But you have to be careful the shady spot you find isn’t “spotty.” You don’t want the sun shining through leaves and making weird splotches on people’s faces.

You don’t want squinty eyes, either. Don’t face the person toward the sun. Their eyes will water, they will squint, and your photos won’t look very cute. We want everyone bright-eyed and happy! No weird shadows on their faces!

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Another thing that helps you out is the timing of the shoot. Don’t set them for mid-afternoon, when the sun is highest in the sky. He can cause more problems when he has more sky to work with. My preference is to set photoshoots for the morning (unless you’re going for that sunset shot, and that’s a whole ‘nother blog post). In the summer, morning shoots can also be a lifesaver because it’s usually before it gets too hot!

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Ok, let’s recap!

How To Work With Mr. Sun:

  • Find a shady spot to shoot
  • Once you find that shady spot, make sure there aren’t weird shadows being cast on their faces by the sun shining through a tree, for example.
  • Don’t face people toward the sun. They will squint.
  • Aim to book shoots in the morning (unless you’re going for that sunset shot).

Want more? Feel free to check out more of Kansas City Photography’s “How To” series!

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