Class of 2015 Senior Portraits – Minneapolis – The Importance of Light

August 17th, 2014

First things first – Minnesota high school seniors, I am now booking into September and October for senior portrait sessions. Contact me today to get on my schedule as open slots are dwindling! If you’re looking for a family photographer this fall, I am booking past clients and referrals from past clients only, but I’m happy to refer you to some great family photographers in the area if you are new to Salina J Photography as I am no longer accepting new family/child clients at this time (focusing instead on senior portraits and head shots – anyone can book with me for those!).

Now… anyone who has heard me talk about photography knows I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to the technical side. My vision as an artist is first and foremost, but photography is nothing without the right light. When shooting outdoors, the light doesn’t always cooperate. My clients and I might be outside and there’s too much sun in a spot with a great view, or if we’re in a wooded area, there might not be enough light to take advantage of the pretty background and still get light in the eyes and a proper balance between the illumination of the face and the background.

I don’t always need it, but I bring supplemental lighting to every  session. Not only can I help boost the ambient (natural) light wherever I am, I can also do some creative shots that simply aren’t possible without additional lighting. For example, if you’ve seen my photographs of seniors with beautiful sunsets behind them, I had to use a light in an umbrella to create those. Otherwise the face would be totally dark in order to see the sunset.

Here’s a great example from a recent session showing why I bring my lighting gear to a session. I was photographing this class of 2015 Lakeville senior in Northfield and wanted to use a path in the outdoor area we were in. The sun was behind Rachel which highlighted her hair perfectly, I loved the trees and the light filtering through them, but it was too dark to get catchlights in Rachel’s eyes. In order to keep the background looking the way I wanted, without a flash Rachel’s face would be underexposed. I could increase my exposure so that her face would be bright enough, but that meant sacrificing the background (also, a too-bright or “blown” background draws the eye away from the subject). So I quickly set up my flash on a light stand and was able to get the gorgeous shot of Rachel on the right, with both her face and the background in perfect balance, lighting-wise.

Salina J Photography Blog Image

Head over to my Instagram feed to see the portrait I took of Rachel at the end of her session with the amazing sunset behind her – also made possible by my trusty flash and lighting skills.


Maddie – Woodbury High School Class of 2014 – Senior Portraits in Minneapolis

March 16th, 2014

Well hello there, my long-lost blog. I’ve been so busy shooting, editing, planning photography sessions with clients and updating my marketing materials for 2014 that writing on the blog took a bit of a backseat. But now that we’re heading into warmer weather (finally!) it’s time to start sharing some of my favorite senior sessions from 2013.

This is Maddie, a senior from Woodbury High School who’ll be graduating in a few short months. We headed to the Guthrie area of Minneapolis for her senior pictures last fall and had simply gorgeous weather and light. Doesn’t hurt that Maddie’s smile could light up the entire Twin Cities on a dark winter night.

Class of 2014 – graduation is around the corner and that means sending out announcements. If you’ve already had your portraits done with Salina J Photography, it’s time to start thinking about invitation designs, and I’ve got a lot of great ones for my clients to choose from. If you didn’t have your portraits taken last year, or maybe they didn’t turn out like you hoped, don’t fear – spring is a great time to book so that you can still have incredible pictures for your announcements and at your grad party. Contact me today for session information – salina@salinajphotography.com.

Class of 2015 – It’s never too early to start planning for your senior pictures. Many high school yearbooks in Minnesota have deadlines ranging from September-December of senior year, and that means you need to have your session scheduled a good six to eight weeks before that deadline. Prime time slots (evenings and weekends) fill fast, so if you want to stay on top of the game, booking early is best!

I look forward to hearing from you, whether you’re a past or future client!

Salina J Photography Blog Image Salina J Photography Blog Image Salina J Photography Blog Image


Go Big or Go Home – Choosing the Right Print Size for Your Walls

September 5th, 2013

I love offering printed products to my clients. Digital negatives are convenient, and my clients do purchase them, but they and I know that a digital negative is more likely to rest on a hard drive or in a tablet’s photo album than be seen in the home. We are so accustomed to having photos available to us in pixels we forget to print those photos and display them in our homes, either as prints or in albums.

My clients know the value in seeing their portraits professionally printed – they hire me because they know that I, as a print-focused photographer, know how to prepare my digital negatives for the print process. Colors will be rich, skin tones will be natural and there will not be distracting areas that are too bright or too dark. To help my clients with their selections, one benefit I offer is in-person ordering. After the session is complete, my clients can schedule an ordering session at my studio or in their home, where they can see and touch samples of different albums, canvases or large prints.

One of my favorite parts about this is bringing multiple sizes of prints to a client’s home. In some cases, my clients have never ordered a print larger than an 8×10. They think of that as the “large” size, when in reality an 8×10 is considered a desk print, or is meant to be clustered in a grouping of other photos or art work. So during our ordering session, when I recommend a 16×20 for a particular wall where they’d like to display the smiling faces of their kids, at first they are skeptical… until I compare how the wall looks adorned with an 8×10 and then with a 16×20.

Prints seen from a distance, like those displayed on a wall, should be large enough that the faces are clear without someone having to walk up to inspect. Clients should also take into consideration the scale of the walls and the furniture. A print meant for a shelf in an office can be smaller, but so many newer homes now have soaring ceilings and rooms with oversized furniture.

A client sent me a photo yesterday of her bedroom with a print of her children newly hung above the bed. At her ordering session, I first held up some 16×20 prints, as they initially thought about ordering one 16×20 of each child. Then I held up my 20×30, the largest sample I have. The clients loved the idea of having one bigger print for the wall, but my client said “I don’t think that’s big enough.” So we ordered the portrait as a 24×36 Elevated mount (this is a modern option that comes ready to hang, and the edges can be finished in black, white, silver or wood-tone).

Here you can see the finished product! I am so happy she shared this photo, I love seeing the results.

Salina J Photography Blog Image

Just for fun, I edited the image to show what the print would look like had she ordered it in an 8×12 size. The difference is amazing! So the next time you order a print of your favorite portrait, whether through a photographer or on your own, think about sizing up. Use a piece of newspaper or cardboard cut to a larger print size and tape it to the wall where you’d like to hang your photograph and see which size works best for your space. Big isn’t always the answer, but in many cases it will help fill your space and showcase the smiling faces all the better.

Salina J Photography Blog Image

Very Special Babies – Why I Volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

August 7th, 2013

I can’t remember how I learned about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. A photography forum or an email, perhaps. I do remember it was 2010 and I was a year into my business and the youngest of my four children was about to turn one. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (I’ll refer to it as NILMDTS from here on out) is a non-profit organization with a network of volunteer photographers who provide free professional photographs for families facing an infant loss. In many cases, photographers are contacted last minute to photograph babies who passed away due to stillbirth. Sometimes a baby is on life support and is photographed with his parents gently cradling him, tubes and complicated medical machinery and all. In other instances, the babies are tragically born too soon to survive or have “incompatible with life” diagnoses and the photographers arrive either before or shortly after the babies pass away, surrounded by the love and comfort of their parents.

I immediately thought, “Wow, that is so hard.” I couldn’t imagine walking into a hospital room to be faced with so much sadness. Yet I kept returning to the NILMDTS website to read more about the organization. When I was in high school, I babysat for a family who’s fifth baby was stillborn. I remember how excited they were for that baby to be born, and then in the sad days after he arrived without a breath, I watched the older children as the parents had to attend to funeral arrangements for a baby they never were able to rock to sleep in their arms. Years later, as a new mother, I met a woman in a parenting forum who lost her first baby to stillbirth – a cord accident – at the very end of her pregnancy. I recalled how she wished she had better photos of her baby, yet how much she cherished the photos she DID have of her son because it was all she had to remember of the life he had in her womb and in her heart.

Slowly, “I don’t think I could do that,” turned into, “I think I could help these parents.” I felt more confident that I could serve the families in their time of need. Without knowing exactly what I was in for (how could I?) I submitted an application to be considered for NILMDTS and was accepted. This was in 2011.

My first call I cried all the way to the hospital. I didn’t know how I could possibly speak to the grief-stricken parents or photograph a baby who would never coo or smile or clutch his mother’s finger. I felt panicked and questioned my decision to volunteer. I had a small hope that the parents would turn me away when I arrived so I could go back home and pretend nothing had ever happened.

And then I arrived at the nurses’ station at the labor and delivery unit and they gently and calmly told me the parents’ names, the baby’s name, and explained a little bit about what had happened. I took cues from their strong but gentle demeanor and walked into the hospital room with one goal – I would photograph this baby and give the parents a memory of the baby they’d dreamed about for nearly 40 weeks as he grew in his mother’s belly. How I felt didn’t matter – only providing the family with these images mattered.

I left the hospital feeling so incredibly sad, but I felt more strongly than ever that this was an important task. I knew I was volunteering for NILMDTS because I could do this. I didn’t want to do it, and I wished so much that the organization didn’t have a need to exist, but I could do it.

Six months went by without me being able to take another call. The requests from the NILMDTS coordinators either came at times I wasn’t able to leave on short notice or were at hospitals too far away from me to get there before other volunteers could arrive.

Then on the morning of March 14, 2012, my brother called. I could tell immediately that something was wrong – I suspected one of my grandparents was ill or worse. Then my brother breathlessly told me that the baby he and his wife had been expecting for 35 weeks was gone. No heartbeat. They were on their way to the hospital to be induced. Without hesitation I said I would go to be with them and then I asked, through my tears, “Do you want me to take the baby’s photos?”

I had never understood why I felt so strongly that I should join NILMDTS, but that morning I knew. My brother’s baby, a girl they named Kaci Lee, came into the world completely still but completely perfect and beautiful. Her mom had complications from the delivery and had to be rushed to the OR right after Kaci arrived, so I photographed my precious niece so that she would know what her daughter looked like right after she was born. My hands shook and sometimes I had to wipe away tears before continuing. Kaci looked so peaceful, just like a sleeping newborn, we all kept saying we expected her to start stirring or to cry. It was one of the saddest days of my life. Losing a child is something no parent should ever have to experience and I was stunned it had happened to my family.

Here are some of the photos of precious Kaci. A tiny little peanut with lots of hair. She looked like her mom. We are doing a walk/5K in Kaci’s honor in September and my brother and his wife said I could share Kaci’s story. Because she is their baby, even if she’s not in their arms.


It’s hard to talk about NILMDTS to others. It’s a sad subject and it, understandably, makes people uncomfortable. Some find it unsettling that we take photos of babies who’ve passed away.  It makes sense to feel that way. I  know how much the parents cherish these memories of their babies gone too soon, though. I hope no one reading this ever has need for NILMDTS. I wish no one would ever have to experience this pain. But if you or someone you know ever has to face this unbearable loss, I hope someone from NILMDTS can be there to offer you a memento of the short time the baby had in this world.

I recently did maternity photos for a family who received devastating news that their baby boy, Rocco, had an “incompatible with life” condition. While they were in my studio they told me all about Rocco and all the people who were praying for him and rooting for him to be a miracle and defy the odds given to him. Rocco’s mom had her hands on her baby belly the whole time, sometimes talking to her son, sometimes looking down with love and amazement at him as he moved inside her. Rocco’s big sister was there, his daddy was there, and we smiled as we celebrated Rocco’s life. They told me about the Facebook page they’d created, now with over 800 people following Rocco’s journey.

With Rocco’s parents’ permission, I am sharing the link to their page and some photos from the maternity session. Rocco is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning, and as his mom said to me, “We are very open about everything and created Rocco’s page for all the support, prayers, love & light he can get. It truly is amazing how many people are already rooting for him. Thank you so much for asking and sharing his story.” I hope he can get even more people sending prayers and thoughts in his direction.

This is what prompted me to write about NILMDTS today. Each of these babies I or one of my fellow volunteers photographs has a story their parents will want to remember forever. These babies bring joy to their parents and families and communities, they remind me that the world is not always fair but always loving. The babies live in their mothers for a short while and in the hearts of their parents always, no matter what.

Send your thoughts to Rocco and his parents this week. He is undoubtedly loved.


Best-Dressed Family in Minneapolis – Portrait Photographer Northfield, MN

July 22nd, 2013

I think many moms know what I’m talking about – the excitement that comes from planning the wardrobe for family pictures. And as a photographer, I get just as excited. I can help my clients choose the best outfits to help ensure their sessions are successful. As much as we’d like to say the clothes don’t matter, they really do. Or at least, the wrong clothes can have a negative impact on how my clients look and feel.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I met Dana and Kevin and their three gorgeous-eyed children. Dana did a phenomenal job styling her family. I love how everyone is in tones of blue without being overly matchy. The shirts and dresses (and Dana’s shoes – perfect!) all complimented our urban scenery in just the right way.

Thank you, Dana and Kevin, for a fun night during the session! I just received the album they ordered and it’s beautiful – a wonderful and compact way to enjoy their portraits for years to come.

Minneapolis MN Family Photographer


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