In My Easter Bonnet

When I was a kid, one of the yellow-vinyl Golden Records that I loved to play on my portable record player was Irving Berlin’s  “Easter Parade.”  I knew all the lyrics. It described, as only Berlin could, the tradition of New York’s high society promenading up and down Fifth Avenue on Easter Day dressed in their new spring fashion. I loved that song’s word, ‘rotogravure’, even though I hadn’t a clue what it meant. (I know now, of course, that it referred to the magazine section of the newspaper.) I especially loved Berlin’s poetic reference to “the Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it.”

The Easter bonnet was part of my own traditional Easter outfit. My mother, who had marvelous fashion sense,  delighted in carefully selecting an adorable new spring dress trimmed in lace or eyelet or tiny flowers and black patent leather shoes for her little girl to wear to church services that day. And always, atop my head of soft curls would be placed my Easter bonnet.    Unfortunately for my mother, I was not as thrilled with this endearing attire and would have much preferred my cowboy hat to the delicate straw or linen bonnet embellished with flowers.

Dressed in my Easter Sunday dress and bonnet, I was a happy toddler in this portrait taken by my father.
Dressed in my Easter Sunday dress and bonnet, I was a happy toddler in this portrait taken by my father unlike the one taken a couple years later when I was five.

In my Easter Sunday best, I looked as pretty as a picture.  Or so my father must have thought. Being the photographer he is, he saw it as an opportunity to capture on film this rare occasion of his little girl thusly dressed.  But one year, in particular, I was not a willing model.

I was about five or six-years-old. I undoubtedly was anxious to head home after church that Easter so that I could eat some of those marshmallow peeps or the chocolate bunny that I found in my cellophane grass-filled Easter basket earlier that morning. My father, however, had another plan. He wanted to stop at his studio first so that he could make a portrait of me while still wearing my lovely baby blue dress and crescent-shaped white bonnet with blue flowers across the top.  My mother and aunt had styled my hair so that I had a fringe of soft curls circling around the nape of my neck.  I must have looked like a little angel.  At least to them. At least until we arrived at the studio.

Once in the camera room, my father slid the film into the holder on his 8×10 back portrait camera and set the modeling lights to perfectly fall on the little subject standing on the box centered in front of the camera. But I had no intention of modeling for him that day. I stubbornly refused to cooperate. It became a contest of wills–mine against  theirs. Finally, my parents’ patience wore out or they must have been hungry for dinner as well. One of them picked up the little plastic toy hand crank guitar that my father kept on hand in to use as a prop for children and gave me a little swat on my backside.  I honestly doubt it was a very hard swat but tears swelled in my eyes.

This portrait of me was taken by my father one Easter and titled "Easter Best".  It is a light oil and was selected for exhibit at the state's professional photography association's salon.
This portrait of me was taken by my father one Easter and titled “Easter Best”. It is a light oil and was selected for exhibit at the state’s professional photography association’s salon.

Resigned to defeat, I stood before the camera just as I had been kindly asked to do beforehand while my father got the picture of what appears to be a very prayerful, solemn little girl in her blue-flowered Easter bonnet and matching blue dress.  He made a ‘light oil’ print made of it–a technique used to hand-colored images in the days of black-and-white only photography.  The finished print was entered in the state’s Professional Photographer Association’s salon that year and received high marks and a ribbon for my father.  He was proud of the portrait, but not so proud of the method he and my mother employed in order to get his model’s cooperation and my reverential expression that day.

I was the joy of my parents on this Easter Sunday.  Note the black patent leather shoes on my feet.
I was the joy of my parents on this Easter Sunday. Note the black patent leather shoes on my feet.

I’ve long forgiven them of course, and admittedly probably deserved the swat. The portrait still hangs in my parents’ home, a bittersweet reminder of one Easter long ago.

What Not to Wear

March is ‘Getting Down to Business’ month at my studio. Schedule an appointment for your business portrait and receive a second finished image along with the one included in your session at no extra cost!  Contact my studio now for details!  http://www.southhillstudio.com/contact.htm

One of my favorite television indulgences is the TLC series, “What Not to Wear”. While I don’t watch every episode, I tune in now and then just to see what hosts Stacy and Clinton are doing for their latest fashion ‘victim.’ Sometimes I like the suggestions they make, sometimes not so much.

It’s a little like what I do for my business clients when planning their studio session. The difference being, of course, that I don’t tell clients that they must throw out everything in their closet before we start. Instead, here are some straight-forward, simple suggestions to help you look your  best in front of the camera and in your final business portrait. Thought I’d share them with you.

Attorney Jim Britain recently updated his business portrait.  Note that he selected a light blue shirt instead of the usual white.
Attorney Jim Britain recently updated his business portrait. Note that he selected a light blue shirt instead of the usual white.

1) Keep patterns to a minimum.  Solid colors, other than white, are usually more flattering to everyone and ‘read’ better in a business portrait. If you must wear something patterned, make it in the blouse or shirt beneath a jacket or sweater. Or better yet, as a scarf or tie. White dress shirts beneath a suit jacket are fine.

2)  Iron everything before  you arrive. There’s nothing worse than rumpled garments in a business portrait. Removing wrinkles from an image is costly and time-consuming.

3) Accessorize.  For women especially, a necklace or scarf can change the look of an entire outfit and is quick to do. For men, a couple different ties or a vest can make accomplish the same thing.

4) Bring two different sets of clothing. I allow my clients a change of clothing during their portrait session and encourage them to select one outfit that is more casual, perhaps even more ‘fashion-forward’  than the first. There are times when they need an image that is not quite a formal as the one on the website for promotional or publicity purposes. It’s easier, and more economical for my clients, to switch clothing at the initial session than to come back later.

For a second, more casual business look, Carolyn wore a sweater insteadl of the jacket.
For a second, more casual business look, Carolyn wore a sweater instead of the jacket.
Carolyn Coughlin chose a black suit for her website portrait.
Carolyn Coughlin chose a black suit for her website portrait.

5) Avoid clothing with fashion logos on them.  Whether you know it or not, a fashion logo subliminally sends a message to your clients. You want the focus on you, not who makes your clothing.

6)  Hats are a no-no. I love hats. I wear them all the time. But for a business portrait, unless you’re an artist with a paint palette in your hand, leave the hat off.

7) Glasses. If at all possible, ask your optician if you can borrow a set of empty frames like yours or similar to your for your portrait session. It helps to cut down on glass glare in the portrait and saves artwork time afterwards. If you don’t always wear your glasses, be sure to remove them for some images.

8)  Under-eye baggage.  Try to get a good night’s rest the evening before your portrait session. Everyone has shadows under their eyes but dark shadows due to lack of sleep are bad for business.

9) Easy on the make-up. Contrary to what a lot of people think, you don’t need to wear heavy make-up for a studio portrait. Most studio lighting used doesn’t require it. The type of make-up a woman might wear for a ‘glamour’ style portrait certainly isn’t appropriate for a business or professional portrait.

10) Hair today… Unless yours is a portrait for a hair salon, stick with your usual hairstyle, the one  familiar to your clients. If you’ve updated your hairstyle and plan to stick with it, then you need an updated business portrait as well. A trim a day or two before is fine, but if you need a cut, do so at least two weeks prior to your portrait appointment.

I hope that these tips are helpful. Your business portrait is an important part of your marketing effort. Take care in planning and selecting your portrait so that it sends the message you want to your business’ clients and customers.

Be Prepared for Your Business Portrait

March is ‘Getting Down to Business’ month at my studio.  When you schedule an appointment for a business portrait for yourself and/or your staff, you’ll receive a second image, in addition to the one included in your professional session  for no extra charge.

Every six months, I go  to the dentist to have my teeth checked and cleaned.  It’s part of my regular health maintenance program.  I’ll bet many of you do the same.  And yet, when it comes to ‘maintenance’ of your business image, some people think once every five or even ten years is good enough.  It’s not.  Like your teeth, your business portrait needs to be ‘cleaned up’ on a regular basis.  It’s often the first thing visitors see on your website or advertisements.  The impression your portrait creates could make a difference as to whether that individual decides to choose to do business with you instead of someone else.

Plan Ahead

When Jenne joined the team at Gene Bell & Associates, she needed a portrait for the website.  As someone who works closely with clients, she needed a warm, yet professional feeling to her image.
When Jenne joined the team at Gene Bell & Associates, she needed a portrait for the website. As someone who works closely with clients, her image needed to give a warm, yet professional feeling. Read her profile at: http://www.genebellassociates.com/Our-Team.1.htm

A little pre-planning before you arrive for your business portrait appointment will help both you and the photographer more successfully achieve your portrait goals.  I ask my clients when scheduling their appointment to think about how they plan to use this image.  Will it be for the website?  For a print ads? For editorial use? For the business card? Or all of these things.

Think about the image you wish to convey.  Trendy photos are fine for personal images but for the professional, consider what the portrait will say about your business, your personality, your credibility.  Will potential customers be put off if you present yourself seated atop your favorite motorcycle, for instance, unless you operate a business that sells or caters to that vehicle? Likewise, wearing a stern, harsh look on your face  instead of smile might say that you are ‘unapproachable.’  Not the image you want to project unless, perhaps, you’re a judge.  Even then you’d probably want to appear ‘knowledgeable and just, rather than grim and foreboding.

Set Your Stage

Since Jeff is a consultant to the snowboarding industry, an outdoor setting in casual dress best reflected both his work and his personality. Find him at: http://www.jeffharbaugh.com/about/

If the image is primarily for a website, think about where your business portrait will appear and how it relates to that page.  If it’s for your bio page, your photo needs to complement that information.  That may mean staging your portrait in your business environment instead of in the studio.

Generally, I advise clients to have one of both if possible because the two different settings have different applications. Clients ask for an outdoor setting because they want to create a ‘more relaxed’ impression on their customers.  That is often combined with a studio session because sometimes a more formal, more ‘business-like’ image is necessary.

An  ‘on-site’ session requires you to ‘dress the set’ just as in the movies. And just as in the movies, the background, the items on the desk and bookshelf all become elements in ‘your story.’  Clean off the clutter and keep personal items to a minimum unless they are key to your business image.

Studio vs On Location

John Walton's editorial portrait was staged at his company warehouse to accompany a feature article about him in a magazine. Read more about John at: http://waltonmagic.com/about-john/
John Walton’s editorial portrait was staged at his company warehouse to accompany a feature article about him in a magazine. Read more about John at: http://waltonmagic.com/about-john/

There are times when convenience requires the photographer come to you, instead of the other way around.  The advantage is generally one of time for the client, not the photographer.  However, for the formal business portrait, the studio is better.  Not only does the photographer have a greater command of tools in the studio–lighting, backgrounds, seating– but the studio is free of outside distractions.  In the studio, there are no telephone interruptions, no clients dropping in, no meetings disrupted.  That means that you will be focused on the task at hand and the results will be noticeable.

Remember, your annual business portrait update is an investment of both time and money well worth making.

The Good Ol’ Hockey Game!

Anyone who’s ever attended a hockey game, from the pros to the minor leagues, has probably heard that  folksy, raucous tune:  “The Good Ol’ Hockey Game!” usually played sometime during the third period.  (There are three periods in hockey.)  It is to hockey what “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is to baseball.  Easy to sing along with a catchy  melody and a foot-stomping rhythm, “The Good Ol’ Hockey Game” is the unofficial anthem to the sport.

The Los Angeles Kings try to slip on in during a play-off game last year against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Los Angeles Kings try to slip on in during a play-off game last year against the Vancouver Canucks.

The chorus is simple to remember:  “The good ol’ hockey game, It’s the best game you can name. And the best game you can name, is the good ol’ hockey game.”  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung those words myself along with the thousands of others at a  Vancouver Canucks game who stand up and clap their hands along with the music. Of course, it helps to have consumed a beer or two to get into the true mood of the thing.

Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler warms up with his teammates.
Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler warms up with his teammates.

Songwriter was National Hero

The man who penned those words and music, and in so doing became something of a Canadian folk hero, died this week at this home in Ontario.  To tell the truth, I never who wrote this rowdy tribute to Canada’s national sport, but I’d recognize his recorded voice anywhere.  A little like the U.S.’s Johnny Cash, ‘Stompin’ Tom Connors, as he was known, was a flag-waving Canadian and proud of it.  That in itself is a bit out of the ordinary for Canada, which, until the 2010 Winter Olympics at least, kept their national pride pretty well in check. But Connors told people if  they weren’t proud of their country the best thing they could do for their country was to leave it.  I’m quite sure he meant it.

TheVancouver Canucks defend their goal against a rush by the Anaheim Ducks in this seaon's opening game.
The Anaheim Ducks defend their goal against a rush by the Vancouver Canuck’s left winger Chris Higgins, #20, in this season’s opening game.

Hockey Night Tribute 

Saturday night on Canadian TV is traditionally, “Hockey Night in Canada” as games from throughout the NHL (the National in that by the way stands for Canada, not the U.S.) are broadcast starting with the East Coast evening game followed by one from the West or Mid-West.    I have no doubt that this week, at hockey games all over, in the U.S. as well as Canada, that tribute will be paid to Tom Connors and “The Good Ol’ Hockey Game.”

For more on Tom Connors, tune in to NPR’s story at:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2013/03/07/173746201/stompin-tom-connors-canadian-folk-hero-has-died

Getting Down to Business

March is ‘Getting Down to Business’ Month at my studio!

Gaye Godfrey recently update her professional portrait for her website and says: "The thing I appreciated most about Cheryl and her photography skills is her intuitive ability to determine the perfect setup for each shot, i.e. attire, location, pose, lighting, outside conditions, and most of all she quickly understood my goals."
Gaye Godfrey, Benefit Auction Specialist, recently update her professional portrait for her website and says: “The thing I appreciated most about Cheryl and her photography skills is her intuitive ability to determine the perfect setup for each shot, i.e. attire, location, pose, lighting, outside conditions, and most of all she quickly understood my goals.”

Update that worn-out business image you’ve been using now.

My business and professional portrait sessions include a 30-minute studio session with a change of clothing (to vary your look), up to 20 images to select from and your choice of one image from the session fully retouched and prepared in four different formats for different business uses.  This month, schedule an appointment for a business portrait for yourself and/or your staff and receive a second image for no additional charge.

Keep your business and professional portrait current.  

Your  image reflects  how up-to-date you keep your business.  Likewise, using a “snapshot” or an amateur photo for your promotional materials is a mistake because that too projects your public image to your clients and customers.  Remember that old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words?”   No where is it more true than in the professional world of business.

Hart Hodges needed an updated business portrait when he joined a new firm.
Hart Hodges needed an updated business portrait when he joined a new firm.

Regular updates of your professional portrait  is just good for business.  Styles change, trends change, you change–often for the better–so why not change the picture you use to present yourself as a professional?  Contact my studio and “get down to business” with a new, professional portrait.  Remember, this offer is only good through March.  Phone my studio for your appointment:  360-714-8241.

See more of my business and professional portraits on my website at  www.southhillstudio.com.

Concert Pianist Touched Many with Music

Famed concert pianist Van Cliburn died earlier this week prompting an abundance of posthumous tributes and  a flood of memories from those who were fortunate to see him perform.  I was among those lucky thousands who heard him play in person.

Vam Cliburn came to my hometown in 1970 when he was 35 years old.  He had won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow just eight years earlier, at age 23 and instantly became an American hero.  He returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York, the first ever given for a musician, then began crisscrossing the country in a concert career that lasted until 1978 when he retired from the stage.

Courtney Fortune was photographed seated at the piano in her home as a high school senior.  She'snow  a jazz singer pursuing her career in Seattle in and Los Angeles.
Courtney Fortune was photographed seated at the piano in her home as a high school senior. She’s now a jazz singer pursuing her career in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Everywhere he appeared, the music-loving American public fell in love with him.  As Anthony Tommasini writes in the New York Times:  “Every American town with a community concert series wanted him to come play a recital.”  My hometown was no exception.  He played in the largest hall in the town–the nearly 1,600-seat Municipal Auditorium.  Although I can’t be certain, I’ll bet every seat in the house was filled.  I know I occupied one of them.

Looking back, I am somewhat amazed that a musician on his stature performed in my small town of nearly 14,000.  Having served on the board of Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre, I am very familiar with what it takes to book an artist of that caliber.  Perhaps it was different in those days but I suspect some local philanthropist very generously donated his artist fee

It was worth every penny for those of us who went.  In addition to the evening performance, he gave a special afternoon recital for the junior high school students.  Imagine how many kids he may have introduced to classical music for the first time. Or, like me, inspired to pursue their musical studies in college.  After his evening performance, I, along with some other young admirers, met him backstage.  He was so tall and lanky, and his hands were so large it was a wonder he could play some of the delicate passages he did without his long fingers getting in the way.  He graciously posed for photos (I have one), signed autographs and offered words of encouragement to young, aspiring pianists.

The young man pictured here was chosen to solo with the Mount Baker Youth Symphony in 2006.
The young man pictured here was chosen to solo with the Mount Baker Youth Symphony in 2006.

I was so taken with Van Cliburn’s amazing playing that when he won the Tchaikovsky competition, I was moved to write an editorial for my little ‘neighborhood’ newsletter entitled: Why I Want to be a Concert Pianist.  That was a dream that never quite materialized (I didn’t have nearly the talent it takes to reach that level).  But I did continue to study piano as a music major in college.

Over the years, I have become personal friends with other professional concert pianists.  In particular, my friend Barbara Nissman whom I once photographed when she was in residency at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts.  Barbara too was inspired by Van Cliburn and later when she had a career of her own as a concert pianist, met him upon occasion.  “Van truly inspired all of us,” she says. “I remember hearing him in high school. sitting at the top of the Academy of Music in Philadelphia and after he played, said to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do!!’

“He was the sweetest guy,” she recalls.  “I was always amazed that every time I saw him, he remembered my name.  And look what he did for music even though he didn’t continue to play. He didn’t have to.  Not many “icons” like him around! What a great loss.”  No doubt the impact he had influenced Nissman in her own work with young audiences.

It’s been my pleasure to photograph many young pianists here in Bellingham either for a senior portrait or the Mount Baker Youth Symphony.  Some of them have gone on to study music and become professional musicians as well.

Julia was a senior when I photographed her at the piano. Today, she's a busy accompanist and musical director in Seattle, WA.

Julia was a senior when I photographed her at the piano. Today, she’s a busy accompanist and musical director in Seattle, WA.

While someone like Van Cliburn only comes along once in great while, you never know who is going to be inspired by a concert like the one he gave that day in my hometown and who might emerge as the next talented concert pianist of a new generation.

 

For more about pianist Barbara Nissman, visit her website at:  http://www.barbaranissman.com/#!