Digital Retouching and Achieving the Impossible

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I’m no stranger to the art of digital retouching. In fact, I do a lot of what I call “natural enhancements” for my clients every time I create a portrait. Through lighting and camera technique I can eliminate or reduce wrinkles, downplay features that aren’t desirable — you name it, it can be enhanced. But, I believe there is a line between enhancing a person’s image and altering it. Yes, I always do my best to portray someone in a flattering light. But, I want the end result to look like them. I recently read a blog post, Photoshop Transformations and You, that really epitomizes the issue I am seeing far too frequently. I’ll repost the video below so you can watch for yourself. It’s really stunning to see the before and after versions of some of these models.

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The Power of Giving

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As the gift-getting mentality becomes ever more prevalent in our society, my husband and I have been taking steps to intentionally cultivate a spirit of gift-giving and sharing in our son.
Besides a more well-known favorite, The Giving Tree (*), one of Toby’s favorite books that illustrates what it means to share and give is one I received as a child: The Mouse in the Manger (*). It’s about Oscar, a young mouse who runs away from home because he wants a bigger bed of straw; he ultimately gives away his entire pile of straw and learns how freeing it can be to give unreservedly. Read More

Finn’s Insurance Executive Portrait

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I recently was able to create a combination family and executive business portrait for Finn’s Insurance. We created a business portrait with four of the five Finn brothers and their father, and then by adding in the fifth brother we were also able to create a great gift for their mom. Here is the business portrait for Finn’s Insurance:

Doing dual-purposed portraits is actually a common request for me. Frequently my business professional clients love their headshot portraits so much that they ask about ordering a few prints to give as gifts. I love it!

Back from New Orleans!

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Betsy at the International Exhibition of Professional PhotographyWell, we just wrapped up our first family trip to New Orleans! It was nice and warm there, we were happy to wear shorts instead of winter coats. But, the highligh of our trip was getting to see my photographs in the International Exhibition of Professional Photography, and getting my Master of Photography degree.

And, I can’t say enough about how nice it was to travel while babywearing. While other moms were trying to force their strollers through crowds on Bourbon Street, we were able to just go with the flow of sidewalk traffic. We enjoyed our beignets at Cafe du Monde, had lots of tasty seafood (including an excellent meal at Bon Ton Cafe), and did quite a bit of walking around the French Quarter.

The snapshot at right is of me and the little boy (in our comfy Didymos wrap) at the 2012 International Exhibition of Professional Photography. Two of my three photographs on display are in the snapshot (to the right of my head, the top two). You can see all three portraits if you’d like!

Baby Finn Arrives! (Meet Toby)

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Toby decided to wait just a little past his due date, but he’s finally arrived! My delivery was definitely a bit more “interesting” than my uneventful pregnancy: after a successful induction, and 24 hours of mostly productive labor, Toby came into the world via an unexpected route — cesarean section.

Happily, Toby got a clean bill of health upon delivery, and I’ve been recovering well from the surgery for the past couple weeks. During our 4.5 day stay at the hospital, family and friends came to visit, including a special cross-country visit from Liz Vance and her daughter (Liz not only created our first family portraits, but documented some candid moments from Toby’s first days too). This first video slideshow shows the birth memories that Liz documented for us:

And then of course, the newborn portraits that Liz created. I absolutely love all of these, Toby looks so adorable and peaceful:

Since coming home from the hospital, Toby has been doing great; he’s a good sleeper, eater, and doesn’t really fuss much at all! And happily, Cinnamon and Ginger have inspected and approved of the new addition to our family too.

We’ll look forward to sharing more as Toby grows; and can’t wait for you to meet him in person!

Displaying Your Family Portrait

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Sometimes it can be tough to figure out where exactly in your home you’d like to display your family portrait. Common places that my clients typically want to adorn with portrait art include over their fireplace, in their front entryway, or a bedroom or hallway. It really depends on where you will be able to get the most enjoyment out of your investment though. If you really love the portrait we’ve created for you — will you be happier if it is on display in your family room, or hidden away in a back room so it can be enjoyed on a more personal level?

I love where we decided to display our own family portrait — it hangs over the fireplace in our family room, which is really the nucleus of our first floor (due to the open floor plan). Every time we walk in the front door, we can enjoy the portrait, and every time I come down the stairs or pass through the family room I am able to enjoy the memory of our family vacation to New Hampshire, where we had a wonderful portrait experience with an award-winning photographer.

I want you to enjoy your portraits every bit as much as I enjoy mine. And that’s why I recommend thinking about where you’d like to display your family portrait ahead of time. You don’t have to have a spot set in stone, but knowing your options will make life easier when it comes time to order your family portrait.

Here’s a picture of the entryway into our residential studio, which, as you can see, prominently features the family portrait of yours truly.

home decor family portrait photographer

You deserve to have portraits you can enjoy not just because of who’s in them — but also because of the fine craftmanship and artistic nature of the portrait itself. Treat yourself to something more. You deserve to enjoy a piece of personalized artwork in your home!

Jerusalem of Gold

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So there is no way I can really do this print justice on the web. But, it’s one of the images I created while in Israel earlier this year. It also was accepted into the 2010 International Print Exhibition, organized by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). This image of Jerusalem was taken during Holy Week from the Mount of Olives, around sunrise on Easter morning. Beautiful city. Lots of history. Many stories to be discovered.

Jerusalem of Gold, fine art photograph taken at sunrise on Easter Sunday in Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

I have some plans for unveiling the rest of the images I created while in Israel and Italy. But it might require some patience on your part :).

Ginger + Cinnamon

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The girls are getting so big!! Here are some relaxed portraits of Ginger and Cinnamon. Cinnamon definitely has a little more girth to her than Ginger, but they both are really adorable.

This is Ginger — she likes to lounge in our reclining chair. Oh, and chase her tail there too, but that’s another story (yes, our cats like to play with their own tails).
Michigan Pet Portrait Photographer

Here is Cinnamon — definitely a little ham for the camera.
Dexter Michigan Pet Portraits

Ginger has actually gotten a little white patch under her chin (covered by the collar), and the girls’ coats are different enough for us to tell them apart most of the time. Ginger has darker, more contrasty, stripes, while Cinnamon has more of a muted coat. Plus, if you look closely, Cinnamon has cute little owl-like ear tufts at the tips of her ears — another way I can tell her apart from Ginger.

Such cute purrballs. Ok, I will stop gushing about my furbabies now. 🙂

Baby Progress…

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Today we got to find out we are expecting a baby boy! Sadly for my niece, she remains the only girl among her Finn cousins. Such is life!

While they captured a number of detail images for “doctor” purposes, we got to take home this selection of four pictures. Baby was pretty fidgety during the ultrasounds, but the technician was able to check everything she needed to. So yay for a healthy baby :).

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Northern Michigan Mini-Trip

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This past weekend, Steven and I took a mini vacation up north. We didn’t really have a set agenda, but wanted to drive through Gaylord, and maybe get to Traverse City. We managed to visit both places, as well as a few more! On Friday, we stopped by a studio sale to pick up some new props, and had dinner with some friends in Southeast Michigan before heading Northward. That night, we got as far as West Branch, MI.

Saturday morning, we ate at the Lumber Jack restaurant in West Branch before continuing our Northward drive. We stopped at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Gaylord, to peruse their store selection — and then it was time for lunch. Thanks to Google places, we found a nice little restaurant called the Stampede Saloon. They had homemade root beer, buffalo burgers, and scrumptious sweet potato fries! Then it was off west to Traverse City, to visit the lighthouse at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula.

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Two’s company… Three’s a family!

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Since I’m my own boss, and I’ve got everything under control… there’s no need to keep the excitement under wraps (well, for any longer!). Steven and I are expecting our first little Finn :)… sometime in March of 2011. It’s all very exciting, we’ve been getting lots of advice and tips from everyone who is already a parent… of course!

Here’s our 10 week ultrasound, which I just got digitized. Very cool to see baby’s tiny heart beating at about 150 beats per minute!

Fortunately, the kittens have been great with babies and kids, so with a little training and prep, we shouldn’t have too much trouble getting Ginger and Cinnamon used to being around things that smell like baby.

Oh, and one last thing: Betsy’s Photography will remain open and operating as usual. We will schedule a brief holiday around the baby’s due date, however we will be operating at full capacity as long as possible.

Purrballs :: Meet Ginger + Cinnamon

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On Sunday we went to the Humane Society of Huron Valley‘s adoption event — Kitty Palooza! There were more than 100 kittens ready to be adopted, and the Humane Society was offering adoption specials that were too good to pass up (that is, if you love cats and wanted an excuse to adopt!). How did I find out about it? One of my clients! (Thank you Angel!)

So, we headed over to the Humane Society, around the same time as yet another tornado warning was announced. Fortunately, we didn’t see much of anything except for heavy rain. Boy was it humid! Walking into the Humane Society, I felt bad for the person inside the furry dog costume — the humidity was so terrible it was almost like being in a sauna. Read More

Visiting Israel!

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Greetings from Israel! I am in the middle of traveling right now, and figured I could give you an update or two while I am on my trip!

Unfortunately, I can’t make this a visual experience for you right now — traveling without. A laptop necessitates saving photo-sharing for later.

Yesterday was the first full day of sightseeing for the trip. We went to Masada, and learned about the history of the place. I would love to go back and actually hike up to the Masada — this time, though, we rode on a tramcar built in Bern, Switzerland. The view from the top of Masasa was impressive.

Next, we drove north along the Dead Sea to Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered. It was interesting to learn about the ritual baths, and that the sect actually didn’t even live in the buildings; they lived in the caves (presumably some of the ones where the scrolls were discovered). Again, I would like to go there sometime and have time to hike up closer to the caves.

Our last stop for the day was at the Dead Sea. I did go swimming there, but not for long. The beach was very crowded, with it being Passover week and all.

Our guide is definitely very knowledgable and has been imparting mini-history lessons since we got here. Being insure while learning about history definitely males it feel much more real.

Ok! That’s all for now! I’ll give you another update when we reach another free wifi hotspot! Traveling is so much different with the advent of wifi (not to mention Internet). Last time I was abroad, I had to pay for Internet at a local Internet cafe; per minute pricing makes you keep things shorter, that’s for sure!

10 Makeup Tips To Help You Look Your Best in Photos

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makeup tips to help you look your best - betsy's photography - http://bphotoart.comThe collection of tips below was compiled by Professional Photographer magazine for the March 2010 issue (a trade industry publication that I write for).  In the article, Steve Moore, Deanna Rene, and Holly Schumacher weighed in on makeup tips for brides as their wedding day approached — but this information is really invaluable for anyone who is planning to be photographed.

Blend, Blend, Blend

You can use your everyday makeup, but use more than you normally use every day. Many makeup professionals use airbrush makeup, the method of choice for high-definition TV, because it’s lightweight, waterproof and gives flawless coverage.

Good makeup shapes and enhances the features of your face, and doesn’t really jump out at you.  If you’re not experienced with applying makeup so that it enhances your features and blends smoothly, have someone else do your makeup for you.

You deserve to be pampered every so often, anyways,… right?

2. Sometimes Less is More

Use less makeup for a day wedding and more for evenings. You can get dramatic with eye makeup.

The eyes say it all. You want to make sure to compliment your style — if your style is casual and lighthearted, then more minimal makeup will suffice.

On the other hand, if you’re planning a something really formal and elegant, you will probably want to go heavier on your bridal makeup so it matches the mood.

3. Don’t Skimp on Concealer

Use a moisturized concealer on the thin, sensitive skin under the eyes. If your concealer isn’t moisturizing, blend it with a skin cream. For blemishes, first treat them with a natural or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, then cover with concealer.

You can also prevent that “too dry” feeling by applying a moisturizing lotion to your face before beginning to apply your concealer. This will allow you to blend the area needing coverage more subtly.

4. Do a Makeup Trial Run

It’s the only sure-fire, stress-free way to make certain your makeup will look beautiful.

Plus…. if you decide you don’t like the look, you’ll still have time to come up with an alternative plan of action.

If you’re not one to normally wear a lot of makeup (or any, for that matter), then you’ll definitely want to consider a trial run so you know whether you can feel comfortable going out all made up.

5. Not All Mineral Makeup is Created Equal

Titanium dioxide, a chemical used as sun block, can reflect flash, giving the bride a ghostly appearance. In 2009 makeup artist Annie May launched a line of mineral makeup especially formulated for photography called Advanced Mineral Makeup. May promises it won’t white-out the bride under a flash.

Trust me — I’ve seen this happen. It is not pretty. You will not want to share the pictures if your face looks bright white.

Not sure if your makeup includes the “ghost factor?” Take a snapshot with flash once you’ve applied the makeup in question — it will show up on your consumer camera if it’s going to happen.

6. Use Waterproof Makeup With Staying Power

You don’t want to spend your reception in the bathroom reapplying your makeup. Foundation, eyeliner and mascara all should be waterproof. And in case you cry (and you probably will), have a tissue or handkerchief handy to gently blot your tears right at the eye.

Even if you use waterproof makeup, I’d still recommend taking the “essentials” along with you to help you “freshen up” if necessary at any point.

7. Keep Your Lips Moisturized and Colored

Dry lips look dreadful in photos. … touch up often. Matte and gloss lipstick both photograph well, and be sure to use blended lip liner for enhanced definition.

Applying colored lip liner before your lipstick will definitely help the color to “stay” longer.  Check the mirror whenever you visit the restroom and you’ll be able to do any touch ups then.

8. Don’t Forget the Groom

If the groom is red faced due to too much sun (or drinking), a little powder can help. That goes for shiny heads, too. And it’s a good idea to slip a tube of Chapstick in the groom’s pocket for his dry lips, as well as a handkerchief to dab well-wishers’ makeup smudges off his suit.

This tip is the most blatantly wedding-related.  But the tip about too much sun goes for anyone.  Although, I’d add that most guys won’t let you put any “powder” on them, even if it will get rid of shine for any photos.  But you’re welcome to give it a shot if you truly feel the need to do so.

9. Don’t Sprinkle on Glitter

In photographs, it tends to look like little white spots, as if there’s something wrong with the camera.

And…. if you put glitter in your hair, it can sometimes even resemble dandruff in the photographs. Make life easier on your photographer, and don’t glam up your hairdo with glitter!

10. Remember to Put Foundation on More Than Your Face….

Don’t forget to apply foundation and powder to your neck, shoulders and décolletage—you want your head to look like it belongs to your body!

Also, unless you tan, your skin is generally lighter in the winter than in the summer — so if you’ve matched your foundation and powder to your skin months in advance… you may find your makeup looking too “obvious” if you only apply foundation and powder to your face.

There you have it! Ten makeup tips to help you look your absolute best in photos

Landscape Photography

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I wanted to share this series of landscape images with you.  The photographs were created in Oahu, Hawaii.  Earlier this year, the composition won 1st place at the Detroit Professional Photographers’ Association (DPPA) Folio Competition, in the Illustrative category.

About DPPA: Photographers meet on a monthly basis to network with fellow photographers to learn from each other, attend seminars & workshops to further their photographic education, and compete in photo competitions to be critique by their peers and to further their skills. Furthermore, all photographers abide by a strict Code of Ethics established by the DPPA to promote good business ethics and dedication to the photographic industry, as well as provide their clients a truly professional experience.

Studio Renovation Project

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In 2009 we completed an extensive studio renovation project, and were featured on DIY Network’s show, Renovation Realities (The Finn Project). You can read about our project below. The renovation involves about 880 square feet, and includes the consultation room, the sitting room (where sessions are held), and the office (where all the behind-the-scenes magic happens!). I’ll be posting a series of images so you can see the the progression of the studio space.

In case you’re not familiar with Renovation Realities… this show is the antithesis of the “weekend-flip” shows.  Whatever happens, happens… and whatever goes wrong… gets aired.  Renovation isn’t all fun and games, and Renovation Realities is all about sidestepping stereotypes and unearthing the reality of renovation.  Here’s what DIY Network has to say about our episode:

Steven and Betsy Finn are a young couple living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Betsy, an award-winning professional photographer, operates her studio out of their basement. It’s a barren space with nothing more than some backdrops hanging on one wall, and a seating area with miss-matched couches against another. Wanting to make the space more client-friendly, they plan to insulate the basement floor and walls, lay plywood subflooring, frame the walls, install drywall, update the electrical system, add new lighting, and lay laminate flooring, all in just five days. They start out making decent time, until a violent storm knocks out their power, forcing them to stop work earlier than anticipated. The setbacks become a recurring theme as the couple battles scheduling conflicts, unfamiliar tools, and hunger-fueled blowups throughout the renovation. After five days of backbreaking work, not to mention blowing through their budget, Steven and Betsy finish less than half of the renovation and they soon realizes that this renovation is going to longer than either of them ever expected.

AnnArbor.com did a feature on our appearance on Renovation Realities

Studio Renovation – Preparation (8/17/09)

The first stage of the project was to prepare the space for the renovation. The image below show the space just before framing. Notice the lovely pink walls — that’s rigid foam insulation, and the exterior walls (and floor) are lined with 1-2 inches of the stuff. The rigid foam insulation that was laid on the floor is hidden by the plywood sub-floor.

Also notice the open staircase. The wall was opened up during prep to help create an open, airy feel. Later in the project, the railing and new stairs will magically “appear”.  The red support pole will be encased in a wall once the framing begins… you’ll see.

The next stage is the framing.  The pink rigid foam on the walls was a little overwhelming in this image, so I’ve done your eyes a favor and chosen black and white.  This image depicts the future consultation room.  Notice all the batt insulation — that’s for between the studs.

Here’s a view of the office and sitting room, all framed out. Insulation has started going up, as you can tell — see how much the insulation expands once you open the packaging?  Pretty cool.

The next phase of the project is drywall, followed by painting, flooring, and wood trim. 

Studio Renovation Phase Two (8/18/09)

This update shows the studio space, prepped with insulation (both in the walls and the ceiling).  The image below is looking into the sitting room (where sessions are photographed) from the office (behind-the-scenes work area).
This next image shows the opposite view.  From the sitting room, you can see the office (left) and the consultation room (right).
A closer look at the consultation room.

Now that the insulation is up, the next step of the renovation will be to hang drywall, get the drywall mudded and taped, and then for the finishing touches (lay the floor, apply trim, and put in the new stair treads/railing). 

Studio Renovation – Drywall (8/19/09)

The studio renovation is going well! Make sure to check out my past updates (framing + insulation). This update will start to show the finished space a little better (drywall + mud/tape).

And just in case you’re wondering — yes, we still have a functioning studio space in the meantime. Sessions, consultations, and the like are all being scheduled as usual.

This view is what you see when entering the consult room from the stairs.  To the farthest left, you can see the changing room, and the doorway to the right is the entrance to the sitting room (camera room).  In this first series of images, the drywall has been hung, ready for mud and tape.

A view from the camera room.  The room on the left is the office, the room on the right is the consultation room.  The opening in the ceiling is for studio lighting.

A view of the office… and beyond that, the camera room again.

A view of the consultation room, from the changing room.  The stairs will be done after painting, so we don’t have to worry about getting the lovely new oak treads and railing covered in paint.

The same view of the camera room — after the crew has mudded and taped.  We made sure to find a good crew to do this task, as it sets the foundation for the paint.  Meaning, any mistakes in the drywall which aren’t “covered” by the mud/tape job will be visible.  Fortunately, the crew did a great job.  I’m very pleased with how it looks!

The consultation room again, post mud/tape.

The next step after this is to paint.  The walls will need at least two good coats of drywall primer, followed by the final coat of paint.  Next on the agenda will be to lay the wood flooring, and then put the wood trim in place.

Studio Renovation – Painting (8/31/09)

As promised, here is the next update on the studio renovation.  All the walls have been painted.  We went with a subdued tan/brown tone called “ancient stone” for the consultation room and the office.  Here’s the updated view as you enter the consultation room:

And a view of the consultation room from the other direction.

One final view of the consultation room (the room through the archway is the camera room).

Here is the camera room.  It’s been painted plain old white, so we can have optimum flexibility here in the studio.  The room on the left is the office; the room on the right is the consultation room.

And the newly painted office, looking into the camera room.  The door on the left is for storage.

The next steps will be to connect all the wiring, and of course lay the floor (a process we’ve already begun).

Studio Renovation -Flooring (9/5/09)

The flooring is in at the studio! it’s very exciting, since this is one of the last “big” things to be done for the studio renovation. Remember, we are still taking appointments and have a functional studio space, despite the renovation.

If you haven’t been following along with our blog updates about the renovation, check out the past updates). Otherwise, read on to see the underlayment being laid, and the finished studio floor.

This first series of images shows the underlayment being put down (the white stuff with black printing), as well as being taped at the seams (red tape).

Here’s a shot of the office, which has been completely prepped for the final flooring.

And a view the other way, into the camera room from the office.  In case you’re wondering, the underlayment is basically a layer of foam.  It absorbs any imperfections, dampens sound, and makes the floor a little more comfortable when you walk on it.

The flooring installation process only took one full day of work.  We selected a floating floor that imitated wood flooring, but with better durability (meaning easier to clean up any messes in the studio!).  Here’s the view of the consultation room as you enter the studio space.  The yellow wires sticking out of the wall are for the light switches.

Here’s a view of the consultation room from the other direction.  To the left is the camera room (where sessions occur), and to the right (just out of the picture) is the changing room.  The stairs are obviously still waiting to be redone.  The treads, ballusters, etc were special ordered, and we haven’t picked up all the parts yet.

One last view of the consultation room, from the vantage point of the changing room.

Next, we’ll proceed into the camera room.  I love how the flooring finishes off this space and unifies all three rooms!  After the trim goes in, we’ll be bringing in all the studio props, backgrounds, and accessories that we use during studio sessions.

Looking into the office from the camera room.

View of the office (and beyond that, the camera room).

One more view of the camera room, from the vantage point of the office.

Once we get the trim up, and the official lighting installed, we’ll be sure to post some more updates.  But, as you can see, things are going well, and the studio space is looking great!  I can’t wait for you to see it once we finish getting everything set up.

Backyard Visitor

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The other day, I went out into my yard after a session to relax… seeing as the weather has been great lately! Well, I didn’t quite get the break from photographing I expected… since I found a turtle who needed his portrait taken. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very cooperative! But, I guess I’ll settle for a “leave me alone!” portrait, since it still looks neat:

Mr. Turtle, peeking out to see if the photographer has left yet:

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