Creative Family Session: The Treasures of Globetrotting

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At the beginning of February, the sample family for a creative family session was chosen. There were so many great families that applied for my call out and it was a hard choice to make, but in the end, I could only have one family so I had to make a choice. Thank you again to everyone who applied!

After informing the family and confirming that they still wanted to go ahead with it, the fun and magic started to happen!

My reasons for wanting a sample family was to show to the public and anyone contemplating a creative session exactly what was involved from beginning to end. I have done a number of creative type sessions over the last few years beside my normal portrait photography and was realizing more and more that I want to concentrate on this direction.  My problem was that (other than my own family lol), I have not had creative session clients allowing me to show the art that we have created together. I fully understand when someone prefers me not to publicly post what we have created, it does make it hard to promote these type of sessions without examples though. Since I only do paid work part time and wanted to concentrate more on the Fine-Art side of photography, I decided last year that I would give up the regular portrait photography side of my business in 2017 and concentrate on creative sessions. So in December 2016 I put the call out for a family that would work together with me on a creative family session and allow me to show publicly all aspects of the session. The family I chose is a fantastic family who I also enjoyed working with in 2015 when they booked a portrait session with me. It was wonderful seeing them again and they put a lot of energy and time in working together with me to make this creative family session a success! A huge THANK YOU to them!!

This will be a long blog post, but before I begin with all the details, here is our finished artwork:

A creative session with me is always in 3 parts after the initial e-mail/phone call booking me:

  1.  Brainstorming and preparing ideas
  2.  Photography Session
  3.  Editing and creating the final work of art

In all 3 parts of the session, it’s important to me to keep in close contact with my client in order that the final work of art is perfect for them.

During the brainstorming part, I try to find out if the client already has a concrete idea of which direction they’d like to go in. If not, I will try to help them by asking about hobbies, likes, and other fun things they do as a family. I will also ask if they have a place picked out for the artwork to hang and what might fit into the theme of the room they will want to hang it. If they already have a concrete idea, I will start thinking of what is possible and what might not be possible for the final picture. I may start looking through my pictures or through stock pictures online trying to find something that is suitable for the background and try to do some quick (very unfinished) samples in Photoshop to give the client an idea of what direction the final picture may take. Once the client and I are happy with the ideas we have come up, we start preparing for the photography part of the session. Clothes and poses are discussed. In the case of my sample family with a 2 year old, I also suggested that they start practicing a certain pose at home before she came so that it would be more comfortable doing it in front of the camera (lying on her tummy looking intensely at the action on the treasure map – we used an ipad to help with that).

Because of the brainstorming and preparation, the photography part of the session went smoothly. We knew which pictures we wanted to get and I was able to set the studio up. When a two year old is part of the scenes, it is important that things move quickly and smoothly and that she feels comfortable with what is happening. I wanted to do the scene with her looking at the map first since that was an integral part of the final picture. If we ended up having to cut out one of the travel scenes because she didn’t want to co-operate anymore, it wouldn’t be as bad as having to cut out the scene of her looking at the map. In a creative session, I always try to think 0f the finished picture and work towards that end goal of getting the shots we need for that. She did great and so I had the important picture to create the background for the final work of art! I knew I would be placing a soft bokeh overlay over the background to create a dreamy feeling for the background.

With the background done, I was able to move forward with the treasure map. Before the photography part of the session, it is always important to know what the background will be so that I can photograph at the proper angle and use correct lighting. In this case, we had decided to go with a treasure map type of background for the travel scenes so I went looking for a stock photo of old paper and a compass. For the hand prints, we painted my client’s daughter’s hand with water paints and had her make a hand print on paper which I later photographed to use.

stock credits:
old paper by ftourini on Deviant Art:
compass  by Evasplace at

The different elements were put together and and manipulated in Photoshop to create the size and look we wanted for our treasure map.

During the brainstorming part, we had started off with the idea of using an actual map but the challenge was to put a number of scenes onto the map and still have them large enough to be able to see some detail. I knew this was going to be a huge challenge. It would be hard enough to see the individual pictures online, but I could accept that since the main goal with a creative session is to create a piece of art to hang on the wall. With the picture printed in large format, the scenes would be able to be seen if figured out how to present them on a map without them being lost in all the other detail. My clients came up with the idea of dropping the continents and all other details of the map and using a treasure map idea. I took that idea and ran with it. It was perfect for being able to create a number of scenes and place them roughly on the map without having the details of oceans and continents making everything look small and lost. My clients enjoy traveling and seeing different parts of the world, they had certain places that were important to them. I asked them to limit it to 3 or 4 scenes and let me know which ones were most important. That way we would start off photographing the most important ones to them and with luck be able to photograph all 4 scenes before their little girl decided it was enough. She did so super though! It was no problem to get all 4 scenes in plus the beginning scene with her for the background and a hand print to use for the map!  In my search for stock photos to use for the different places on the map, I narrowed my search down to look for ink drawings of different scenes. I wanted my clients to stand out and not be lost in colors and too much detail of the cities. I was so happy that I was able to find what I wanted for each scene we wanted to put onto the final map.

For Paris, I decided to photograph each member of the family separately in order to place them around the Eiffel Tower how we wanted them to be placed.

stock credit:
Eiffel Tower:

The 3 pictures of the family were then cut out and placed on the map together with the Eiffel Tower.

The next scene we photographed was the hot air balloon scene over Cappadocia (German: Kappadokien). When the family told me that they would like a hot air balloon scene included, I had to think hard about how this would be possible. This is why the brainstorming part is so important! It gives me time to go through different ideas and try to find an angle or way of putting everything together that will work. I love the idea of the balloon coming off the map and floating over it.

stock credits:
The hot air balloon is a bought stock photo from Shutterstock.

The family was then placed in the hot balloon and added to the picture.

The gondola scene in Venice came next. With each scene, we thought where on the map it would be taking place and what type of pose would fit the scene best.

stock credit:
The gondola scene in Venice is a bought stock photo from Shutterstock.

Again, the family was cut out and fit into the gondola for placing on the map.

The last scene we photographed was sitting on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Originally, I had wanted to photograph this scene right after the first picture of their little girl. This was just because of the way my lighting was set up in the studio. Both the first scene and this scene were photographed using the little platform that I have in the studio and the other three scenes were photographed in another corner of the studio. In order to save time with moving lighting around, I had thought to do both scenes that needed the platform first and then move the lighting for the next 3 scenes. Luckily my clients spoke up. The San Francisco scene had them wearing hats so we of course wanted to keep hair looking nice for the other three scenes and opted to move lighting around instead of ruining hair dos!  We tried a couple of different poses for the Golden Gate Bridge scene. During the session, we all decided that a picture of them pointing and being able to see their faces actually looked the best. While editing, I realized that this picture of them looking down into the water suited the overall scene best and decided to use this one instead for the final picture. It was a great help to me that my client told me during the session that they trusted my artistic vision and was free to make changes in choosing pictures that I thought would suit the final picture best. This is one of the differences between a classic portrait photo session and a creative session. During a portrait session,  I am constantly looking for and choosing pictures that highlight the client best whereas during a creative session, I need to constantly keep the final picture in mind and choose pictures that best suit the end picture.

stock credit:
The San Francisco scene is a bought stock photo from Shutterstock.

And again, the family was cut out and fit onto the Golden Gate Bridge and placed on to the map.

Once I had all the scenes on the map. I used Photoshop to create the dotted line leading to the different places and wrote the names on the map. The clients had already told me approximately what size they were thinking of having it printed for the wall space they had picked out and that they preferred a vintage style edit on the final picture. While they were in my studio for the photography part, we discussed what options were available for printing and upgrading if they wished to do so. A 20 x 30 cm fine art print is included in the price of a creative session as well as the high resolution digital file of the finished picture. My clients decided to upgrade their fine art print to a mounted 90 x 63 cm  print printed on Hahnemühle German Etching fine art paper.

I love it when pictures are printed large and hung to be enjoyed everyday!

And to end this long blog post, I will share the picture my client sent me of the finished piece of art hanging in their home. They also wrote a wonderful report about their experience. The report is written in German and can be found at the end of the German version of this blog post:


Flickr Album with more creative edits:


This entry was posted in Behind the Scenes/Making of, Familien/Families, Kunstwerk-Fotoshooting, Making Of, Photo Shoots and Sneak Peeks, studio, themed shoots   |    Bookmark the permalink.


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