On losing ones’ dignity for the greater good (or, how to take great kids portraits)

18b

 

Last week I got to do 9art’s ‘back-to-school’ mini sessions, and they went SO great. It was as simple as it gets… 15-20 minute sessions, one batch in the park and one batch in the studio.

I found the experience to be an interesting refresher on HOW to take pictures of children. It took me a good long time to be able to take good pictures of kids in 15 minutes.

So, photographers (and parents): I’ve compiled this short list of tips to show how I got shots like the one above, instead of shots like the one below:

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HOW TO TAKE PICTURES OF CHILDREN

 

#1: do not try to ‘place’ a child’s fingers, feet, shoulders, chin, head in any kind of preconceived way.

Misery will leak out of their soul through their eyes if you do. Or, if you do….

#2: ACT LIKE AN IDIOT.

If you can convince a child that you are ridiculous, outmatch THEIR silly faces, and surprise them in any way…

  • -sneeze so hard you ‘fall down’ (or, really fall down and scrape up your arm like I did)
    -put a tiny, tiny hat on your head
    -pretend a pebble weights 200lbs and you can’t possibly lift it
    -make as many fart noises as possible
    -squeak, squeal, scream, sing, and do mickey mouse impressions

#3: Don’t treat every child like they will respond to you like any other child.
Some kids need you to completely ignore them for like 10 minutes before you can take a single picture that’s any good.

Some kids need you to make a game out of everything.

Some kids need you to engage in extreme negotiations (if you let me take one picture of you, smiling with your sister and not moving, I’ll let you kick me in the shin).

Some kids need you to just sprint after them and yell something surprising every so often so you can use those precious milliseconds when they turn back to snap pictures.

Some kids just need you to make them laugh.

EVERY. KID. IS DIFFERENT.

#5: While, yes, sometimes you must be a ridiculous presence, you must also be a calming and patient presence- for the sake of both child and parent. If you show the slightest hint of frustration that you can’t get the shot you want RIGHT NOW, you will fail miserably at this, and you will drive the parent to try to force something that can’t be forced- only making things worse.

You have to meet the kid where they’re at. And you have to reassure the parent that it’s ok- that yes, it’s completely normal for their kid to do everything BUT pose for a picture. Because seriously, it is.

#6: don’t expect those kiddos to sit in any one spot (and be happy about it) for any longer than 5 seconds. If you absolutely must (and yes, sometimes you must), then….

#7: ACT LIKE AN IDIOT. (see list above).

So yeah. The real trick here, is humble thyself. And the funny thing about it? You walk away with the parents’ supreme trust and respect, like, for life.

Now, the pictures… enjoy, guys. :)

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#7: (bonus tip for scrolling all the way down!) Let the kids be ridiculous themselves. It’s the moment you tell them to stop being kids that things go downhill. Endure some outrageously silly moments (w/ pre-negotiated ‘posed’ moments in return). It’s worth it, I promise.

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The Beguiling Beachner Bunch!

Every now and again, I’m asked not only to take family photos, but to document something that goes deeper than just…

‘hey. look at our family.’

Amy is a client and friend of mine who lives ubSpringfield, MO. She and the rest of her siblings recently discovered that her parents would be unexpectedly selling the house/property they grew up in. Now, that’s not a bad thing- her parents are ready to start a new adventure in life, and how great is that? So few people take that opportunity later in life.

But, of course, it’s still a little sad. And a big enough deal that the kids & their families decided to all come together at the home one last time- pouring in from Oregon, California, and Kansas City, among other places.

What a better time to take family photos? When they are paying tribute- to childhood, to family, to being united in one location, full of memories.

The home itself & the property it sits on couldn’t be more beautiful- in the middle of kansas, you’re used to cornfields and lots of flat flat FLAT land. But unexpectedly, as you approach the property, you find hills and forest and a wonderful little lake, with the home nestled in above it, overlooking nature in all its’ glory.

Thanks so much to Amy and to her family for trusting me to do this session during a once-in-a-lifetime gathering.

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how do you get kids to smile naturally for a picture? KITTENZZZZ. alwayzzz.

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In a tribute to childhood in the country (something I’m very familiar with myself), we included the BB guns in the shoot. Each kiddo had their own.

In hindsight, I should have assumed that out of 5 kids aiming a gun at my face/lens, one of em probably forgot the safety. What can I say. it’s a dangerous job…

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I enjoy the subtle things going on between the first and second picture shown below…call it the astounding-temporary-transformation of a real family into a photo family.

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photographer recovers from burnout (written for creative folks)

The person who creates from the noise simply adds to the noise. The person who creates from a place of listening, however, can actually make something worthwhile and enjoy his work in the process.

-Michael Gungor, ‘the Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse’

 

-5b

 

warning: this post is way more personal and rambly than most of what I post on here. If you genuinely want to know more about what’s going on in MY personal life- or if you are a creative soul who’s ever hit a brick wall and can identify with that feeling- read on! If you’re really just here for cool pictures, well, scroll really fast, I’ll throw a few in.  ;)

I took last week off.

I needed it.

Like, REALLY needed it.

Businesspeople get burnt out by being in a constant state of connecting, orchestrating, planning, selling… artists get burnt out by pressure, by creative dry spells, and really, just by themselves. The mind of an artist is worse than any 11 headed, fire breathing, Justin Bieber crooning, used car salesman, dragon-demon-monster that you could conjure.

And businesspeople run the risk of wearing everyone AROUND them out by being mentally withdrawn and seeing everything in such a practical light that emotion is shut out completely. (My wife calls this ‘business mode’ and HATES it when I’m in that state of mind).

When you find yourself in the precarious situation of having to be both things at once- an ‘artist’, who is also running a business- I won’t lie, it can be a bit much.

That makes me sound ungrateful, which I’m not. I have a job in which I get to sit in a local coffeeshop much of my workweek. I get to interact with fantastic people. I have the honor of having an employee that loves her job and does it well. I found something I love to do, and I’m DOING IT, full time. My work is fun, rewarding, unique. And, for the most part, it puts bread on the table and supports my little family. I don’t take any of that for granted. I’m thankful, beyond thankful, in a state of praise to God who granted me this life.

 

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But it’s hard. It’s hard to market yourself. It’s hard to be a photographer in one of the fastest growing fields in the country. ‘Everybody and their dog has a good camera and thinks they’re a photographer now’, you hear people say.

Well, it’s true. Everybody. And their dog. I got underbid on a commercial shoot by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier last week. And by a poodle just this morning.

ok, ok, it’s not THAT bad yet. But I don’t want to lie… sometimes, business is slow. It’s a competitive field, and I don’t want to build up a facade, in which everyone thinks ‘wow HE’S got it made! he must be ROLLING in it!’ because, truth be told, I’m not. It’s one of the hardest summers yet.

But in the end… I love what I do. I’m called to do this. God will provide. And the jobs will trickle in as they always do.

So why the rant? Why this personal?

It’s the result of a whole lot of soul searching this past week. I’d hit a wall… my creativity waning, my focus gone, anxiety clouding my days. It’s a dark place to be.
 

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I got some answers this last week. I got some refreshment for my soul. I got away from the noise. I re-connected to my maker. I re-learned how to appreciate the ART side of what I do by appreciating the existence of art to begin with.

How’d I start that process? And, to echo another friend of mine also combatting a creative slump, how do you RE-SET yourself as a creative person?

That’s just one question out of many. There are so many questions for artists… and by artists, I mean anyone with even an inkling of creativity (and honestly, that includes businesspeople too).

I’d like to help answer some of those questions. Not because I HAVE all the answers by any means whatsoever, but because I’m on a quest to find them, and am discovering some helpful resources on the way. I’d like to designate a post here and there, on this blog, to fellow artists.
 

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So keep an eye out. More to come. In the meanwhile, as always, we’ll have more work from recent shoots, as well as some new ideas rolling in for 9art, including a limited edition Joplin prints series.

And if you are an artist- whether established or novice- if you are someone who loves to create- I would love to connect with you.

-Mark

4th of july

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Hope you had a good 4th. Since I didn’t get to editing these until last week, I’m going to just go ahead and pretend that our national holiday is actually the 4th of August.

SO: this is, in fact, very timely.
 
You all know I don’t post personal pictures incredibly often, but as I was working through what I thought was a very ordinary set of photos, I felt like I found both some magic and some laughs in these. So my plan is to start off with the laughs, and end with the magic…

I hope you enjoy them. :)

To start off, the star of the show, the one and only, ‘pooping puppy’. (my 3 year old was delighted, anyway).
 
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not the brightest dog. And a moment I REALLY wish I had video capability on my camera (just this once).
 
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Too old for sparklers? NEVER, my friends.
 
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You only need one hand for the sparkler. The other one stays on the hip.
 
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This face belongs in the movie ‘300’.
 

Tonight, we light roman candles in hellllll!

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fireworks are not food, take 2:
 
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strobes are for shadow dancing.
 
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switching from funny…
 
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photo credit goes to my wife for the next 2.

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Biaka & Lora

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Biaka has been a friend of mine for a good long while. And for a long while of that good long while, he was, well, my bachelor friend…

but NO MORE! Biaka found Lora, his perfect counterpart, a very lovely lady I am SO excited he is engaged to.

Biaka is a designer for Rapha House, while Lora is the Coordinator of International Admissions at Missouri Southern. Together, they’ve got some big plans to change the world… all while cuddling with their cats and watching lots of star wars.

Love these two.

Now, because Biaka is a good friend, that means I get to have some fun with him. Hence, lots of awkward pictures that I’d usually delete… ;)

We started the shoot at 6:30am. One of these two handled it a little better than the other. Take your guesses.

 

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But then he woke up. Still, he wasn’t sure what to do with his hands at that point…

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Ok, ok. Here’s the REAL pictures…

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*ahem*. For serious. Seriously.
 

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Lora really knows how to get Biaka laughing. Love it.

 

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band shot. You know. Every couple should have one, just in case they decide to form a band later.

 

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Around back of Biaka’s workplace AND current apartment is the table at Rocco’s pizza where Biaka & Lora exchanged their first fateful romantic encounter. They’d already been friends for a long time, but, you know, not the I-could-marry-you kinda friends. Biaka had been thinking on things for awhile and nearly lost his chance.

On the tip of a mutual friend who urged expediency, Biaka swooped in like a love-falcon while Lora was on a date with [some other dude], and bought everyone’s pizza– in a no-messing-around, bold LETS DO THIS sort of move. The rest was history…

 

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Ended things off at Biaka’s apartment, where the main goal was to get his cat in the picture. Yep, he’s a cat picture kinda guy.

Had to play some video games while we were waiting on the cat to stop being terrified of me…

 

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You could see it sneaking into frame on that last shot…

 

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Girl. cat. floral print couch. posters. JOY.

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Congrats, guys. Can’t wait to shoot your wedding in just a couple of short months. :)

Back to school:: MINI SESSIONS!

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Hey all! This post is just going to be a quick one, and is specifically for all you JoMo parents. If you live in Joplin and want some quick-but-awesome shots of your little ones in their back-to-school duds, we will be doing mini sessions this August 15th & 16th. $30 for the first child, $10 to add on additional kiddos.

If you want more info, click through to our facebook ‘event’… specifics are there, and you can click ‘attending’ and either e-mail (markn@9artphoto.com) or FB msg us to reserve your 15 minute slot.

We hope this to be a great alternative to stuffy school pictures, as well as a nice affordable option for folks who aren’t quite ready for a full-out family session just yet.

Here’s a few samples from mini sessions I’ve done in the past… day 1 at the park, day 2 at the studio, which is how I plan to run things this year too.

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Kevin & Amy :: engaged!

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Meet Kevin & Amy. We got to have some great conversations- I share an affinity for great movie scores with Amy, and a love of creepy/awkward humor with Kevin (you’ll see later…). The two discovered that TOGETHER, they share a great affinity for parmesan cheese.

Together, they are also adorable, hilarious, and all around pretty swell people. Even at 6am when we started this shoot, to beat the sun…

 

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This one is just for Kevin… a little selective color throwback/artistic flower focus [this is NOT a serious photo, for those getting nervous about my new 'style']

 

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Kevin really wanted some shots of each of them individually…so here’s me doing that…. (thanks for snapping a behind the scenes, Kevin!)

….and here’s kevin doing the world’s creepiest photobomb. As Amy said on facebook later, ‘my smile mostly just looks terrified because I can FEEL him back there.’

 

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Boys will be boys… especially this one. :) Titus loves dirt, baseball, and moving non-stop. Yes, that last part made the shoot a challenge, but the best kind. I enjoy capturing the energy that goes with that age- I’m pretty familiar with it, since I have a couple of little ones myself.

As time goes on, you realize what you REALLY want to remember- the running, climbing, dirt throwing, laughing, crying, jumping, splashing that IS being a real kid.

It’s also super fun to see mr. Titus growing up. I did pictures for his parents, Tony & Angel, a few years back when it was just them- now they’re in the next phase of life and enjoying the heck out of it.

We did the shoot out by one of the little league ballfields, which was the perfect setting for this baseball loving family. The grandparents came out too, which made it even more fun to show love of the sport through 3 generations. And it was an absolutely beautiful evening to boot.

BATTER UP!

 

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I love Tony’s more realistic expressions of what it FEELS like to have a 2 year old pulling your hair out while he cutely sits on your shoulders…

 

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July (third thursday) joplin Photobooth:: GATSBY

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Well, we got through another round of third thursday chaos… and, as we generally do, walked away with some super fun pictures. This month’s photobooth theme was ‘Gatsby’… in other words, 1920s. I thought the reference to Gatsby would help folks visualize it, since the newest film is still fresh in many of our minds.

 

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As a side note, I HAD to use the still above  from the film- the outrageously dramatic scene in which ‘Gatsby’ (played by DeCaprio of course) introduces himself. It’s the best introduction into a movie I’ve ever seen for DeCaprio, and honestly, maybe my favorite intro for any character. Whether the film itself is your cup of tea or not, you should at least watch the scene…

 

 

So yes. that’s the sort of ridiculous playfulness I was hoping for…

Finding props to fit the themes is always a challenge, but thanks to folks like our friend Kolourz- who ALWAYS has a giant bag full of perfectly themed items- we had some great items to piece together for that roaring twenties look.

Now a completely different note. One I hope doesn’t seem to out-of-nowhere with it’s more sober nature. I’d like to say that if a Photo Booth is something you can dedicate, I’d like to do just that to the memory of Trevor James Poulton.

Trever was a young photobooth regular who unexpectedly passed away in his sleep this past month. I have been talking back and forth with his mother Stephanie, who let me know that he is the reason she started coming to third thursday to take pictures.  She plans to continue to come each month as a a tribute to him.

here she and her family are from last night, in a very sweet picture of her holding up a 5 x 7 of Trevor from LAST month’s photobooth that I’d printed for her.

 

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[this is Trevor & his family last month]

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Life is short, and we so easily forget. Stephanie is an inspiration for her attitude of one who remembers, but does it while smiling and honoring that memory with a new tradition.

I love all my regulars. I love how I can connect to this community through something so simple. And I love how much a silly picture can end up meaning.

Here’s the rest of the batch, ol’ sport.

 

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National Guard GX magazine feature

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Been excited to share this one for awhile. The fun thing about commercial photography is, sometimes you gotta wait until it’s in print before you can share it. :)

a few weeks ago, I was asked to do a shoot for the National Guard’s GX magazine- yes, THE National Guard, and yes, they have their own magazine!

The shoot only required one final image, of staff sergeant Michael Byers, a local national guard officer who was one of the first on the scene when the 2011 Joplin Tornado hit. His story was this month’s selection for GX mag’s regular feature, ‘I was there’, which showcases military personnel who were present during major disasters.

If you’d like to read more about Michael & his story, you can check it out on page 22 of this virtual issue of the magazine. Michael is an incredibly humble individual- someone who certainly never asked for the spotlight,  which makes him deserve the recognition all the more.  I enjoyed chatting with him about the Guards and life in general, and sharing experiences from that day in May 3 years ago.

For the image itself, I scouted for a bit to find the perfect spot. I needed a location that conveyed a hint of the destruction that took place, but also featured an element of hope and moving on.  I found that spot across the street from the new high school that’s being built- the rebuilding is in the background, while a pile of leftover rubble still sits in the foreground. Spots like these are still a reality that certainly exists in more than one spot in our city.

Here’s the official selection from the article, as well as a few outtakes.

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