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A few tips for great Senior Portraits

Senior Pictures by Edward Mendes, Modesto, Ceres, Hughson, Turlock, Ripon, Waterford, Riverbank, California, Oakdale

Summer is coming to an end, or at least summer vacation is for most of the incoming class of 2014 and that can only mean one thing.  It’s time to have your senior portraits made!  Awesome, right?  Senior portraits have come a long way over the years, gone are the big hair and prom dress formal pictures your mom and dad had in the 80’s.  You know what I’m talking about, the studio picture with your mom’s reflection in a mirror or maybe your dad leaning against a huge white 1991 prop on a plain white background that looks like it was taken at Sears.  What was that about?

Today’s seniors (You) don’t want the same old cookie cutter yearbook style pictures everyone else has.  You want something different, pictures that are original and reflect your personality and style.  You want awesome senior pictures!  With that in mind here are a few tips to make sure you have the best senior portraits possible, tips for great senior portraits if you will.

Do a little window shopping.

I think it’s important that you look at a lot of images from a number of different photographers.  Remember that choosing a photographer for your senior portraits isn’t like shopping for a chainsaw where you can find the exact same chainsaw at different stores for different prices.  Photography is an art form and photographers are artists and each one of us creates a much different product.  Be sure to find a photographer with a style you really like and look at as many sample images as possible.

The photographer’s website is a perfect place to start but don’t forget to check out their  blog, Facebook, Google Plus and Pintrest pages too as these are usually updated more often and can give you an idea of the images the he/she is making from session-to-session.   Think of blogs and social media pages as a small underground club where your favorite band tries out their newest stuff where as a website is a greatest hits album.

Schedule a consultation.

After you’ve found a photographer with a strong portfolio of killer images that matches the style you’d like to have for your session you should ask for a consultation.  Consultations are an important part of the portrait process and something I do with each of my senior clients.  Consultations are important for a number of reasons as it gives you a chance to see actual large print samples and some of the other great products we offer in addition to giving you all the information you need regarding awesome shooting locations, clothing, pricing, referral programs and more.

Most importantly however the consultation allows us an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit prior to working together.  I feel it’s important to have a good repoire with your photographer,  being around someone you get along with and feel comfortable with makes it much easier to be yourself during your session and this comfort will certainly show in your pictures.  It’s during the consultation that we’ll discuss some of the things you’re interested in, sports you may play or we’ll even chat about your car so I can start to design a senior portrait session to fit you perfectly.

You may notice that many, if not most, photographers don’t do consultations, especially for senior portrait as it’s usually all about how many session can be shot in a day and consultations are viewed as a waste of time.  I think this is a disservice to both you and them.  If they don’t offer a consultation don’t be afraid to ask for one.  If they still don’t want to schedule a consultation even after asking for one it may be a indication that you haven’t found the right photographer for you just yet.


Besides picking the photographer to create your senior portraits the clothes you bring to the session will be your most important decision.  I think this is perhaps the most important part of any consultation and one area that I really focus on.  You want to make sure your clothing captures you and who you are but also fits well with the look and feel of the location in which your pictures will be taken.  For instance an off white flowing vintage style dress with boots is great for a session in tall dry grass but doesn’t fit as well on the beach.  Also pay close attention to the colors and patterns your outfits have as the eye is drawn to certain tones and textures, choosing the wrong tone or pattern and guess what the first thing people will notice in your pictures?  It won’t be you, it will be that bright pink shirt or white shoes.   Remember to bring a nice selection of outfits in multiple styles.  I suggest bringing 7-10 outfits of different styles, we may not use them all but at least we’ll have a lot of different “looks” to try.  I always encourage my clients to keep an open line of communication and to ask me about anything they’re unsure of.  If you’re debating what may or may not look good give me a call, I’m always happy to help you look your best and I bet any other photographer is as well.

Accessories and Props

I love accessories of all sorts, belts, hats, jewelry, vintage headbands, whatever fits your style bring it along.  Finding the right accessory for your outfits adds an extra layer of visual interest to your images and goes a long way to separate you from the pack.

The same is true with props or “me” stuff as I sometimes call it.  “Me” stuff can be anything from sports gear, bikes, cars, motorcycles, letterman jackets, trophies and even pets.  Anything that helps to tell the story about you at this unique point in your life is perfect “Me” stuff and helps to make your session uniquely you.

Have Fun!

Most importantly have fun and enjoy your senior portrait session, you never know this may be the start of a modeling career!


Are you graduating or know someone who is and are looking for more than your typical boring senior pictures?  Then you’ve come to the right place.  Give me a call today 209.541.1815 or send an email to schedule your senior consultation.

Wedding Photography and Engagement Portraits. Senior Pictures, Family Portraits, Newborn Portraits, Children. Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale.
The art of Your story!


Filled Under : Hints & Tips , Portraits , Seniors

 What to look for when choosing a professional photographer

choosing a professional photographer

When I was a kid having your family’s portrait made or your senior pictures taken was a fairly straight forward endeavor.  You’d pick up the phone book (remember those?) look up photographers and give a call to the 6 or 7 professional studios in your area.  How times have changed, do an online search for photographers in your area now and be prepared for the seemingly endless number of results you get back.    It seems like everyone with a camera or cell phone today is calling him or herself a photographer and diving into the portrait and wedding market as a side job.  As a consumer these increased number of choices may seem ideal however with all the choices how to you go about choosing a professional photographer that’s right for you?  Well, it just so happens that I have a few thoughts on that exact subject.  Here’s a few things to consider when choosing a professional photographer.

Does the photographer’s style match your own?

Photography’s an art form and photographers, regardless of the subject, are artists.  As with any form of art each individual artist has their specialty style within the medium, such as Picasso with cubism or Monet as an impressionist.  The same is true with photographers.  There are many different styles of photography within the portrait and wedding fields that you may be familiar with such as classically posed images (usually taken in a studio setting), non-posed photo-journalistic images, environmental portraits (taken outdoors), lifestyle portraits and a few others.   It’s important to choose a photographer that creates images in a style that you enjoy.  So, if you’d really like a beautiful tradition indoor family portrait to hang in your formal living room it’s probably better to work with a photographer that has an indoor studio and a strong portfolio of studio images.

Do they have a large portfolio of great images.

After you have an idea of the style of portrait you may want it’s time to start looking at each photographer’s portfolio with a more discerning eye.   This is where the internet has made our lives so much easier.  Today virtually everyone has a website, blog or at least a Facebook page and most photographers have all of the above and more, I know I do.  Before contacting any photographer you should make a point to visit their website in order to get a feel for the quality of images they create.  Look at as many images as possible and pay special attention to things such as the quality of light within the image, the poses used, the background within the images and the uniqueness of their pictures.  You’ll probably soon realize that a small group of photographers stand out from the pack and before you know it that endless list of photographers will be cut down to just a handful.  Not sure what exactly to look for when viewing images? Here’s a few tips.

  • Lighting:  Photography is all about light and a good photographer should understand how to use it well.  A well lit portrait shouldn’t look like you took it yourself (no offense) with your little on-camera flash.  Harsh, straight on light and washed out skins tones that may have a blue/cyan tint to them are a sign that the person taking the images likes to use the flash right on their camera in complete auto mode, which is something you can do so why pay someone else?  Another big no-no are deep, dark shadows where a person’s eyes should be.  This is a sign that the person with the camera doesn’t understand fill lighting.  I personally like to use warm, soft, directional light in my portraits as it give a beautiful warm glow and a sense of dimension to the images helping to create a portrait that allows the people within it to look their best.
  • Posing:  Posing is itself an art form, with countless books, articles, seminars and workshops devoted to posing individuals, couples, groups, babies, even pets.  I think the best poses  allow the person being photographed to look comfortable and natural in their surroundings.  When viewing a photographer’s portfolio ask yourself if the people within the images look natural for the given situation, do they look comfortable and loose or are they stiff with strange expressions on their faces? If so you can bet your pictures will look stiff and awkward too. Also, pay attention to hands and feet, are they cut off or are they positioned naturally.  A cropped hand can make the person look like their an amputee and goes against most sound posing ideals.
  • Backgrounds:  I’m not necessarily talking about a studio background here however those can be something to think about as well, I’ll get back to that.  What I’m really referring to is what’s in the background of outdoor portraits.  Are there distracting elements like people walking in the background or does it look like branches or poles are sticking out of people’s heads?  Many of these things can be fixed at the time the image is made by simply waiting a few seconds for someone to walk through the scene or by moving a couple feet to the left or right in order to get a slightly different angle.  At the very least they can be fixed back at the studio with a bit of image editing.  If you notice these things in a photographer’s sample images it may be a sign that they aren’t paying much attention to the image as a whole and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see similar distractions in your pictures.
  • Regarding backgrounds in studio portraits remember that backgrounds should appear smooth and seamless.  If it looks like the photographer used an old wrinkled bed sheet, they probably did.
  • Uniqueness:  This one’s pretty self explanatory.  Is the photographer’s work fresh and unique or does it look like something you’d see hanging in your grandparent’s house?  Not to slight grandma but styles change and while some type of images do remain timeless even those “classic” images that stand the test of time can be updated to set themselves apart from the crowd a bit.
  • This sense of uniqueness however can also go to the extreme as many photographers today try to be so “trendy” that their images will look extremely dated in just a few years. #hipsterfingermustache

Above all remember you should really like the images your seeing from other sessions as those are the type of images you’ll be receiving from your session.

Personality Match

Once you’ve picked a photographer with a strong portfolio of images that match the style you’d like for your portrait session you should ask to meet for a consultation.  Consultations are an important part of building a relationship between you and your photographer and are something I do with each new client to my studio.  The consultation not only gives me an opportunity to discuss portrait styles, clothing, locations and investment with someone but it also gives us an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit.  I feel having this opportunity to meet during the consultation goes a long way in building a friendly and successful relationship with each one of my clients, many of whom I consider friends and continue to work with for years.  This is important because I think the best images are made when you feel comfortable with someone, enjoy being around them and feel a bit more free to be yourself.  The fact is, through no fault of your own or the other person, you just don’t “click” (pun intended) with everyone you meet and without a consultation there’s no way to know how you get along with your photographer until you realize it (for better or worse) during the session.  It’s important to note that many, if not most, photographers don’t do consultations for portrait sessions I think this is a disservice to both you and them.  If they don’t offer a consultation don’t be afraid to ask for one.


I’m not going to dwell of this but it really is something to consider.  You’re investing your hard earned dollars to have beautiful professional portraits made, the least you should ask is that you’re not paying to help someone “learn on the job”.  Just as in most professionals, more goes into being a professional photographer than most people realize, and having a “nice” camera has virtually nothing to do with how well your final images look.   Knowledge of natural and artificial lighting, posing, shooting angles, exposure, aperture and much more are all major aspects of creating images you’ll be happy with.  When a photographer has a formal education and degree in photography you can be sure they understand all of the above which allows them to focus on creating the best images possible of you and your family while also giving them the knowledge to adapt to unexpected situations when they occur (which is pretty much all the time).  Just something to consider.


It’s important to realize that not all photographers are created equal, far from it in fact.  Choosing someone to photograph your wedding or newborn baby isn’t like shopping for a sweater where you find a brand and style you like at Macy’s and then head over to Wal-Mart to see if you can find the exact same sweater for less.  Photography is a creative process that requires both technical and aesthetic expertise.  Your portraits are a custom product that a particular artist is creating specifically for you and your home and no two photographers are going to create that product the same.  For the most part the old adage “You get what you pay for” is very true when it comes to photography.  If you notice a photographer or photographers that are much less expensive than others it’s probably for a reason.

I’d encourage you to not let price be the deciding factor when choosing a photographer as a beautifully crafted portrait that you love and will hang in your home for decades is worth much more in the long run than the poorly lit and badly printed portrait you received on a disk and had printed at Costco when it starts to fade in a few years.  At my studio I want each person that comes in to have pictures, prints and albums that they’ll absolutely love and cherish for the rest of their lives so I do everything I can to make them as affordable as possible.  To that end myself and many professional studios offer ways to make having the images you want possible.  Some of these include monthly or quarterly payment plans, wedding and portrait registries, gift cards, occasional sales and much more.  I try to work with every client to make sure they can have the portrait or wedding images they want and if there’s an options I don’t offer I’m always open to new ideas, all you have to do is ask.

Choosing a professional photographer in a nutshell.

There you have it, some of the more important things I think you should be looking at when choosing a professional photographer that’s right for you.  Whether it’s for your wedding photography, newborn or children portraits, high school senior pictures or family portraits choosing the right professional photographer will be a decision you’ll be happy with for a very long time and following the tips above will make the decision a much simpler one.

 Wedding Photography and Engagement Portraits. Senior Pictures, Family Portraits, Newborn Portraits, Children. Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale.
The art of Your story!

Are you looking for a professional photographer?  Great, I just so happen to be a one.  Check out some of our awesome images at www.edwardmendes.com or give me a call, (209) 541-1815 or drop me an email to ask questions or schedule your consultation.

Filled Under : Hints & Tips , Portraits , Weddings

A parent’s guide to great newborn portraits.

Modesto Newborn, Baby and Children photography.  Portraits by Edward Mendes - Modesto, Turlock, Ceres, Oakdale, Ripon, Riverbank, Hilmar, Newborn, Sacramento, Stockton, Central Valley

Newborn portraits today are a lot different than those of the past. Today’s parents want newborn portraits that stand out from the pack, the old one hour mall portraits just won’t cut it.  As a parent of the “greatest thing that’s ever happened to the world” you want to show off your new bundle of joy to friends, family and anyone else that happens to be passing by and why not?  Babies are special and your baby is extra special!  Your baby’s newborn images should be as fresh and unique and special as your family.   There’s a very small window of time (the first two weeks) that makes for the best newborn portraits (however 3-5 days old is even better).  It’s during this time that babies sleep the soundest making it possible to create the beautiful and unique images my clients are looking for.  Here are a few things to keep in mind to make your newborn session the best it can be.

A well-fed baby is a happy baby

More often than not when a baby gets fussy during a session it’s because they’re hungry.  Newborns are happy when their bellies are full so it’s a good idea to come to your portrait session prepared.  Before the session prepare a few bottles or bring a nursing cover so you can feed your little guy or girl before, during and after the session.  And don’t worry about how long it may take or how many times you may need to feed them during the session, any photographer that photographs a lot of children won’t mind, in fact we expect it.  Babies eat when they want to eat.  In my studio I usually block out half a day for any newborn or child session so parents never feel rushed or like I’m watching the clock trying to finish as quickly as possible.  So don’t worry, there’s plenty of time for everything weather it’s feeding or handling a tantrum meltdown.

Keep them warm

Newborns like warm temperatures, especially during the first two weeks, which is when we generally photograph them.  During that time they’re still accustom to the warmth of the womb and temperatures adults generally consider pleasant newborns find to be downright frigid.  Most photographers will keep their studios quite warm during a newborn session in order to keep your little one comfortable but that may not be enough, especially considering most newborn sessions require your little guy or girl to be nude.  I always keep a number of baby blankets on hand to cover them with between images or as we’re setting up a pose but you shouldn’t assume every photography studio is the same.  Remember to bring at least a couple blankets with you just in case the photographer doesn’t have any on hand or if one or two get soiled.

Plan your day around your session

Children in general tend to do things on their own schedule and sometimes require a good deal of time to sooth whatever may be bothering them.  In addition, all those cute poses you see on websites and blogs like mine take a lot of time and effort both during the session and in preparation before you get to the studio to make them happen.  Posing or swaddling a newborn can take time and often a few attempts between which a feeding or cuddling may be needed and that’s OK.  As a professional photographer who photographs a lot of children I know what to expect and I try to rely that to my clients.  When you schedule your portrait session it’s often a good idea to plan your entire day around it, this is especially true if you have other children that will be at or taking part in the session.  I recommend blocking out at least three hours for the session and adjusting your meal and nap schedule for that day so any two or three year old siblings also taking part will be happy and energized during the session.

Stay Clam (sessions with siblings)

Many of my families that come in for newborn sessions also have a 2, 3 or 4 year old son or daughter that I photographed a few years earlier.   I love creating images that include older siblings but we all know how a two year old can be when they’re not happy or have decided they’re not going to do something.  So, how do we keep big brothers and sisters cheerful?  This is actually going to be the subject of another post but I’ll give you a few helpful hints here.  First, make the portrait session something they’re looking forward to by talking about it in a positive manner in the days prior to the session.  Tell them how much fun it’s going to be to have their picture taken with their little brother or sister.   Next, remember to bring them plenty of snacks so they can keep their energy and mood up.  Also, there can be a bit of down time during a newborn session during feedings and image setups and to a three year old even a few minutes can seem like a lifetime,  having their favorite toys, books or even some interactive games on hand will help to keep them occupied, entertained and engaged.  Lastly remember to stay calm, even if they aren’t.   Tantrums happen and tears sometimes can’t be stopped, they’re kids it’s OK.  The key is to take it in stride and not let their acts of stubbornness affect the portrait session in a negative manner.  Try to speak calmly and in a pleasant tone, reiterating the fun aspects of the session or how he/she can be a big help by doing this or that.  Above all try not to become irritated as this can often cause more tears and additional stubbornness.  These tricks usually do the trick for me but if all else fails I always keep my secret weapon close by, my dog Lulu, kids adore her.

Planning Makes Perfect

The old adage is true, planning really does make perfect, especially when it comes to fresh, modern newborn portraits.  I encourage expecting parents to contact me as soon as possible for their complimentary consultation.  I try to create unique images for each of my newborn clients and sometimes that means building props, painting backgrounds or hunting down the right accessory to complete an idea I have for an image.  These things can take a bit of time so starting the process early gives me the opportunity to take the ideas we’ve exchanged during the consultation and create you a one-of-a-kind piece of art for your home.

Wedding Photography and Engagement Portraits. Senior Pictures, Family Portraits, Newborn Portraits, Children. Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale.
The art of Your story!

Have a newborn on the way?  Give us a call, 209.541.1815 or drop us an email to schedule your consultation.  Want to see some of the cool newborn images we do, check this out!

Filled Under : Hints & Tips , Newborn , Portraits