Senior Portraits

Well, we are in full swing for senior portraits and have been creating some pretty awesome stuff.  Sam came in last week and we had his portrait session in the morning and then we were able to show him his portraits in the afternoon and place his order.  His mother had also brought her older daughter to us a few years back for senior portraits.  They are a very artistic and fun family!  Sam's mother is a big blogger and brought along her camera to capture some fun behind the scenes shots.  Anyone interested in a senior session should certainly read over her post to help you get an idea for what you will be experiencing!!

Sam is a fanatic about old trucks so I took him to a field full of old trucks!


Just a few of my favorite sports posters from the year.

We have a lot of fun creating awesome images and we can be especially creative with sports teams because they are normally looking for a Hollywood movie look with lots of special effects.  Here are just a few that we did this year!  The first 5 are from a calender we created for the University of Iowa Dance and Cheer teams!

This softball poster has been a favorite for softball teams around the country!

This basketball poster won many awards this year in print competition and helped me to achieve my Master Artist Degree from PPA

Shaydee Stark Senior Session

Shaydee is a senior at Indianola High School. Shaydee is an All-American Cheerleader and was chosen to be a Shrine Bowl Cheerleader! It was so fun to photograph Shaydee because her personality was easy to capture through the lens... her outfits were fun and outgoing!

We started Shaydee's Senior Session across the street from the studio at Wilton's historic Candy Kitchen! It was cool to incorporate a small town feel into Shaydee's senior portraits.

Didn't even realize the writing on wall said "made in the usa" until I later looked at the back of the camera.

A cool vintage look with Shaydee's homecoming dress.

                      No Photoshop!!! Just some really good lighting and a lightroom preset!

 Thanks Shaydee for being so great!


Master Artist Competition

At the PPA International Print Competition there are two different contests. One is the Photographic Open Competition and the other is the Master Artist Competition. I wrote a blog earlier about my Loan prints in the Photographic Open Competition but I haven't yet gotten around to writing about the Master Artist Competition. Seniors, Families, and Weddings have been keeping me very busy these past couple months but wanted to quickly share one of my three Loan images in the Master Artist Competition.

I originally created part of this background for the Durant Wrestling Team Poster last year but for competition I decided I wanted to try something a little different. I was already entering two other sports posters (they won also) and wanted to change it up a bit. I decided to make it into a post apocalyptic crazy bride scene :) I came up with the idea only a week or so before images were due for competition so I didn't have much time to put it together.

I convinced my wife Sara to help me out. I found her wedding dress from 10 years ago hanging in the closet and had her slip it on. Then told her to pretend she was angry at me. I'm not sure where she found her inspiration ;) but she did an awesome job acting it out! We tried a few different poses with baseball bats and cinder blocks but ended up loving the dynamics of her throwing a bouquet at the camera. I then needed some bridesmaids helping her out in the scene. For the bridesmaid I recruited Taylor, my niece and studio helper. Sara had a bunch of old bridesmaid dresses from past weddings so I had Taylor put one on and had her pretend she was rampaging around a city - breaking windows, setting cars on fire, and such.

Below are some of my original images I used to build the scene


Obviously there was a lot of time spent photographing, extracting, blending elements, and changing colors and tones but I ended up with something pretty fun I think.
bride, loan image, bridesmaids, apocalypse, bridezilla, rubble, abandoned city
The final scene that I created from the above elements!


Fall Sports Posters!

It's that time of year and I've been busy creating some new posters for sports teams. I spend a huge amount of time coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make them come to life, but sometimes the teams don't give me much notice on what their theme is going to be.  

The football team was one of those times.  Originally they had said they didn't have an idea and wanted me to come up with something so I had an idea prepared for them but when they walked in they had come up with an idea of their own.  They wanted their motto to either be "Truck Ya!"  as a reference to their hill billy roots :)  or "Body and Soul, this is how we roll"  I suggested that the second would probably be more appropriate but from there I had to do some quick thinking.  With the "this is how we roll" I figured some kind of vehicle would be cool to pose them on but what?  At first I thought of a locomotive or semi, and did some quick checking through my libraries of images that I have accumulated.  I had a few but not exactly what I wanted.  I then remembered I had a cool truck that I had used in creating some images for a national advertising campaign for PhotoVision.  (You can check it out at  http://www.photovisionvideo.com.)   I found the image quickly and printed it off, drawing some stick figures to layout where I could fit the guys.  The boys loved the truck and had a quick argument over exactly what model, year and engine it most likely had in it.  Then it was picture time.  The guys had a lot fun getting into their rolls.  A few of them had longer hair and we broke out the hair fan for them which was pretty funny :)

The next weekend happened to be the town holiday and parade. As I was sitting with my kids gathering candy I noticed another big jacked up truck pull up down the street.  Even though I had already started compositing the players into the other truck, I couldn't resist grabbing a few shots of that one and ran a few blocks to the studio to grab my camera.  I was able to get a few decent images of that truck.  But just a short while later I was sure glad I had gone to get my camera because an even bigger jacked up truck rolled by.  So I ended up using the tires and undercarriage of that truck to put under the original 1970's truck to give it even more of a tough truck look.

For the individuals above I had to visualize the height and position of things around them - where a hand needed to be to hold onto the side of the truck, how someone would be hanging out the driver's window, and how I could insert an American flag (by request).  As I mentioned it's a good thing I work good under pressure because I only had about 5 minutes to come up with an idea, pre-visualize how each athlete would be able to fit into the image and then figure out what to use to position them so that they would actually look like they were there in the final poster!

sports composit, sports team poster, that's how we roll
The truck with the original smaller tires

I used the undercarriage of the truck and this truck and added it to the other truck.  Why wouldn't I just use this truck you ask - because the extended cab didn't leave enough room in the bed to fit all of the guys and I liked the old school feel a little better on the original truck.
Football poster, football motto, creative composit, monster truck, american flag
The final poster

To make him look like he was hanging of the back tale gate I had him hang onto a track hurdle to set it at the approximate height of a tail gate.  The guy in the white shirt is simply being used as a counter weight so #54 can lean back.  You can also see my lighting set up here with a 4x6 main light, two strip lights with grids and a hair light.


The Volleyball team this year had scheduled their poster well ahead of time and given me their motto plenty of time before the shoot.  But to be honest mid August is my busiest time of year and I hadn't had time to get much together.  I work very well under pressure though and knew I could come up with something awesome.  They wanted their motto to be  "Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments"  and feature a bridge in the background.  Well silly me, I had just been to Florida a month before and passed tons of cool bridges and not taken any, but luckily the weekend after I took their portraits I went boating with my camera and some friends and was able to get a few shots of a bridge. 
  My challenge though lay in finding a way to put the girls into the image without making them standing in water.  The coach didn't want them to be wet.  After lots of brainstorming I ended up using some rocks from an old poster to layer in some water and then created a foggy river bank to obscure the edges.

volleyball team poster, volleyball girls, bridge, misty river, sports composit, discipline
I offer many of my posters as templates to other photographers (as long as you are not anywhere near my area) and really like the options this one offers for layering in players at different heights and positions

Cross Country

For the cross country team this year the coach called me a few days before the shoot and told me that his wife had come up with the idea to use the motto "The Original Tough Mudders"  If you don't know, a Tough Mudder is a crazy obstacle coarse with insane things like electric shock, fire pit jumps and tunnels of ice water.  People who participate end up looking like a stack of mud with shoes.  When the coach told me of his idea I made sure to double check that the athletes would be fine getting covered in mud.  The day they came in I had sheets of plastic laid down from the back garage door to the shooting area.  I loaded them up in my truck and drove a couple blocks to my house where we had just done some landscaping and had big dirt yard.  I broke out the hose and everyone had a mud fight.  Some were a little more hesitant than others but they all ended up looking pretty good! 

From there I took them back to the studio and photographed them each.  The hardest part was coming up with a good background.  It mostly helps to have this kind of stuff ready before hand but I enjoy doing things the hard way!   I ended up layering lots of photoshop mud brushes and water brushes until I had a rainy muddy looking scene for the team to be standing in.

Cross country team, tough mudder, muddy, dirty, running, runners, sports team
How tough do these guys look!

The above shots are some examples of what I started with

Since they were muddy and having fun I did a few group shots for the parents too.

Durant Football

The Durant football team wanted their motto to be "Coming In Hot"  at first they suggested going to the fire station and having them stand around a fire truck.  I explained that to create the epic image that they had seen in the past I photograph each person individually in the studio to get the very best expression and lighting and then could composit them onto a fire truck or whatever we ended up doing.  The night before they came in I did some experimenting and came up with a cool action that made their hands and feet look like they were "red hot" and about ready to burst into flames.  When they came in I showed them my idea and suggested that keeping the background very simple would help to really focus on them.  They loved the idea and we set about coming up with random poses that would look cool.  These guys were a lot of fun also.  I have a big studio with lots of couches and they made themselves at home, sitting around cracking jokes and having a good time.  I'm looking forward to seeing some of these guys for senior portraits.  I know that they are going to get some great portraits because they already feel completely comfortable.

football team, sports poster, firemen, fireman, football motto, football poster, fire, red hot, coming in hot


Shannon's Senior Session

We’re keeping busy here at the studio with senior sessions. School is just around the corner ( or already here for some) and we’ve got some seniors trying to sneak in before their final year gets started!

We’re sharing one of those seniors with you today… meet Shannon! Shannon is a senior at Pella High School. She’s laid-back, easy-going and was fun to get to know. Shannon totally rocked this shoot! Her outfits were so fun and she was an absolutely natural in front of the camera. Thanks for being awesome, Shannon!

Check out some of our favorite portraits from her session....

Love the way the colors work together to make her eyes really pop!

We tried some vintage toning with our waterfall and really like how it turned out!

Shannon's dad Jeff, brought her grandfather's first EVER tractor! 
Shannon's awesome volleyball collage!


Brad and Holly's Wedding!


Brad & Holly's wedding day took place at the historic downtown Hotel Blackhawk. We started the day photographing in Holly in her hotel suite.  It's always a great to have somewhere nice to create some getting ready shots.  Many times brides underestimate the importance of their getting ready portraits and choose a cluttered church basement which can definitely make it more difficult to capture beautiful portraits.   

The lovely bride-to-be as she put on her wedding gown with the assistance of her mother and bridesmaids. 
Holly's bridesmades were all smiles and laughs as they helped Holly with her dress.

We always set up a private first meeting between the couple.... its great to see the anticipation, it's also great for the couple to have a few moments alone to talk and soak each other in.  Check out Holly's smile.  She was certainly excited!

How beautiful does Holly look on the marble staircase!

Hotel Blackhawk has many great places for portraits.  The hotel embodies class, sophistication and elegance. 

I loved this portrait because it feels like Holly and Brad are an art piece.

This was a classy yet fun pose for Holly and her bridesmaids!

The bridal party was so much fun to shoot. They were very eager and excited to be a part of Holly & Brad's wedding. Check out the groomsmen... they were just hanging out before the wedding and I was able to capture a cool portrait of them!

The Quad City downtown cobble-stone road made for a great background for this fun portrait.

After the wedding ceremony we jumped on the Trolley and rode downtown where we created some portraits of the wedding party & the couple having fun and enjoying the BIG day!

Holly & Brad had a great set-up at their reception... their table was set in the middle of all the guests. It was a great night with a lot of dancing and toasting! 

In the months before their wedding Holly & Brad took dancing lessons and they certainly did not let them go to waste! Check out their amazing dance moves!

Check out these great vendors that made this night possible. 

Band: Funktastic Five  /  Reception Venue: Hotel Blackhawk - Gold Room  / Ceremony Venue: Hotel Blackhawk  /  Caterer: Hotel Blackhawk  /  Dessert Bar: Oh So Sweet by Tiphanie by Tiphanie Cannon  /   Florist: Julie's Artistic Rose  /  Tux Rentals: Ducky's in Moline  /  Wedding Dress & Veil: Hope's Bridal  / Bridesmaid Dresses: XOXO Bridal Hugs & Kisses  /  Hair & Makeup: Salon Luce and Spa Luce