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Seasonal Senior Session

Hi!  My name is Corrie and I own Corrie Barto Photography, a natural light boutique senior portrait studio in McKinney, TX just north of Dallas. I was so excited to be contacted by Basic Invite to share my favorite senior session on their blog!  Their invites and other products are just amazing, and I'm thrilled to be connected with such an awesome company.

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I've been in business since October of 2014, and just this year I had my first client that requested a double in the fall, and one in the spring.  Katie is a darling girl from Liberty High School in Frisco, TX.  A competitive and high school cheerleader, she has eyes that sparkle and a serious look that'll have you saying, "oh if just everyone could pierce through my lens like that!"

For the fall session, we chose downtown McKinney as our backdrop, and then an open field at sunset.  Downtown McKinney has been named on many lists as one of the best historic old towns in the country.  And it just so happens to be a photographer's dream come true!  Everywhere you look there are a wide variety of spots to choose from...some funky, some grungy, some urban, some classy, it just keeps going.  After shooting down there for a couple years now, I have started using only the spots where the light is incredible.  I would rather my subject be nicely lit for their portrait versus using a dark shadowy location just because I like the backdrop.  My clients expect sharp, colorful, and beautifully lit portraits, and that is what I aim to deliver.

A little word on my equipment:  I shoot with a Nikon D810 and 85 mm 1.8, and a Nikon D750 and 50 mm 1.4 lens.  They are always on my back with my Holdfast MoneyMaker, and I cannot live without my 4x5 reflector on the silver side.  99% of shoots I have an assistant with me holding the reflector.  I shoot with my Kelvin scale in camera for white balance, and like to keep my aperture about 2-3 stops up from wide open.

Here's Katie at one of my favorite locations on the square.  The stairs provide somewhere to sit, or lean, or stand next to.  The light is beautiful, and it's a great place for a headshot.  I love Katie's shoes!  They were on loan from her mom.  And that necklace--it comes from my collection of jewelry I loan my clients for shoots.  Everyone picks it!

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One of my favorite tricks for a serious look headshot is this.  Have the client set in the pose, usually something relaxed that doesn't feel uncomfortable.  Position yourself to be ready for the shot, and tell them to close their eyes.  Count down from three and tell them to open their eyes, looking deep into your lens...3, 2, 1, and go.  Snap right as they open their eyes!  This wall that Katie is standing at is on the edge of an ugly parking lot.  Look past the surroundings and find the best light, and make it work!

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This back alley is SOOOOOO grungy.  People love how it looks, but I HATE the light.  It's so dark. One day I was back there and for a moment got over my dislike for raising my ISO, and brought it up to like 3200.  BOOM!  It's usually not the spot where the parent will buy a huge wall portrait, so a bit of grain (brought down in Lightroom of course) isn't a huge deal.

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After having some fun downtown, we headed to a local park out in the country where my favorite sunset spot is!  Katie changed into a beautiful floral dress and I provided the gorgeous yellow drop earrings.  A little darkening of the lip and she was ready!  The bench she is sitting on was a find at a vintage market.  I snapped it up for like $15!  I love how it is backless and lower to the ground.  Set in the middle of tall grass is where it shines the most.  I hardly ever shoot a subject straight on.  Getting to the side and having the subject turn their head toward you is always flattering.

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This next image is a great example of using my reflector.  I love beautiful golden backlight, but having the subject's back to it causes shadows in the eyes.  In this shot, my assistant was about three feet away from her with the reflector feathered off of her face, just to get some nice catchlights in her eyes.  The colors in her dress and the golden glow behind her was enhanced just a bit in Lightroom.

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Since a reflector can only reach so far, it's not incredibly helpful for full length shots.  It's this reason that I used a white quilt for Katie to sit on.  The reflection from the quilt wrapped around her and brought some nice light onto her face, while the golden glow in the back makes the image so beautiful.   This was the end of Katie's fall session, and I couldn't wait for the spring to get her back in front of my camera again!

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Katie's spring session occurred in the end of March.  For this session, I wanted to try some new spots in Dallas.  I always have a little hesitation going somewhere new, but it turned out better than I could hope for!  Dallas is home to an incredible garden called The Dallas Arboretum, and I had recently bought a membership.  They close at 5, so we had about an hour before they closed to wander through it.  Aaaaannnnddd...that sun was still really high.  It was a fun challenge to find the right spots to work with the sun.

In a little rose garden, I shoved Katie way deep in the vines, and had my assistant stand with the reflector right under her waist.  The resulting shot you see here is one of my most favorite images ever.  The light on her face, the bokeh, the roses, her top, her eyes, everything!

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You can see behind Katie how bright the sun was at this time.  Look for open shade in this case. Sometimes covered shade works too, but you must stand right on the edge of that shade line to get the best light.  In this image, there were some trees behind her and around her, but not on top of her.  And, the pillar she was leaning against had nice reflective quality about it.

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And here's that gorgeous big smile again!  My assistant was standing to her right holding the reflector over her head, to block the sun from falling on her.


This was our last spot at the garden.  That grass was so green and soft and cool, but I didn't want to risk her pants getting stained, so we waited until the end for this pose.  It's one of my faves!  Remember to get a bit to the side, or ask the senior to shift their feet to the side so that they are not appearing to stick out from the top of their head.


Katie's mom suggested we go to a local shopping area in an affluent part of Dallas.  I had heard of a staircase there that is covered in colorful tile.  Katie chose some high waisted shorts with a large black bow, an off the shoulder white ruffle shirt, and choker.  Luckily the light was just perfect when we arrived.  I could have stayed there for an hour just shooting on those steps!  Here are a couple of my faves:


I chose to do just a tiny bit of a matte finish on these image in Lightroom.  It gave her and the steps that pop I was looking for.  Can anyone say "AMAZING!?"

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Around the corner from the stairs was an ivy wall with this incredible little window.  There was bride nearby doing portraits, so we snuck to the side and got this shot.   I'm not sure what was behind that window making it glow, but boy was it pretty!  My assistant had the reflector right below Katie's elbow.

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This storefront boasted an orange door.  Katie's grandmother was an artist, and her mom was in love with the color.  She said Katie's grandma would be obsessed with the color!  I love a sweet laughing shot, especially having the senior looking at her mom.  They always seems to know how to make their girls laugh!


I always try to get at least a couple artistic shots during a senior session, and here is one I look of Katie.  There was a pretty pot next to the orange door, so I crouched down behind it and shot through the greenery.  I love the bokeh in the foreground and behind her!

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We ended Katie's spring session at a gorgeous park in Dallas.  She chose this fun gray romper and cool heels as her last outfit.  The park includes a bridge, creek, and beautiful greenery.  The bridge is narrow enough to sit like this, and allows you to capture the leading lines away from her.


As the sun was going down, we snapped this sweet 3/4 shot and then headed down into the creek for some cold water fun!


I happened to have forgotten my rain boots (a must have for shooting in water), so I braved the slimy limestone with her!  The water was giving beautiful reflections and soft light was wrapping around her.

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As we were walking to the car, her mom was trying to convince her to do one last shot in her competitive cheer uniform.  I'm so glad she decided to do it!  Here is our last shot of the day:

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I just loved Katie's senior session that spanned two seasons.  She will be attending Texas Tech University in the fall, and I can't wait to see where life takes her!

Thanks to Basic Invite for the chance to write this blog post!



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