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Earlier in the year I was asked by my camera club to give a presentation on Portrait Lighting. To be honest, I was hugely flattered and I tried everything I could think of to get out of it.

“Oh yes!” I said.  “I would love to do that but I’m in the middle of a remodel, so…”

Well, she said there were many months that were available, how about April?  No, I thought that would be pushing the time line.  Then she suggested June and it was far enough away that I thought I might be able to work up my courage by then.

The months zoomed by and soon it was the end of May and I was moved in to my new house so there was no reason to put it off any longer.  I spent several weeks poring over my photos, choosing ones that I thought would demonstrate not only different ways to light a portrait, but would also clearly show my style.

I came across this photo, which was taken several years ago and was responsible for me pursuing people photography over other types of photography.

Portrait Lighting.002-webI took this shot without much thought.  Again, I saw something pretty and shiny and I put the camera to my eye, which I had done many times before and many times I was unhappy with the result.  This time I wasn’t.  I was actually amazed.  It was a pretty pose, graceful almost, the light was good on her hair and shoulders, the wedding dress reflected back up onto her face making it well lit and I could see the background.  There is even a little movement with the water dropping off her dress.  I fell in love with people and people photography.

I thought about this photo for a while and how it played into my style of photography now. What was it about this photo that captured my attention and passion?

I hadn’t had much to do with making this photo…I hadn’t posed her or told her where to stand or set up the background.  But to me, it told a story.  It was better than a posing bride in the water.  It spoke a story of light, delicacy, elegance and simplicity.

I had always enjoyed being a story-teller and now I could gear my photography towards telling stories.  So, although my presentation was supposed to be about lighting portraits, I went a slightly different route, while speaking about lighting portraits.

My thought pattern always starts with the person I am photographing, her/his personality and the story that I am trying to portray.  What are their desires or what is the story I am trying to tell when I hire models for a photo shoot?

Next I think about a pose that will be genuine and help to tell the story.  I can usually tell right away if my subject is uncomfortable in the pose.  Sometimes I continue with the pose trying to help the subject feel more comfortable, but most often I change up the pose until she feels more comfortable and I can achieve a more genuine look.

And at some point I think about the light.  Sometimes the light catches my attention right away and I try to place my subject in that light in the most flattering way.  Sometimes I add light to make my photo.  Sometimes I combine the light that I see and some additional light.  It all just depends on the story I am trying to tell.

So, here are some of the examples I presented to my camera club and the thought process that went along with them.

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And last I used my favorite model, my youngest son (oldest son is pictured above).

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The rest of my presentation involved setting up a quickie studio with a backdrop one light and a model (my youngest son) and going over some of the equipment I use when I’m only using artificial light.  It was a fun time and I’m hoping that my camera club enjoyed it, also.

My strong conviction is that as a photographer you are always looking for the best light for your subject, but if you do not have a beautiful pose with a relaxed subject, then the light just doesn’t matter.  Develop a relationship with the subject because a photograph is a two-way mirror…the subject and the photographer.  If the subject is uncomfortable and ill at ease with the photographer, it will show in the photo.

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2014 Hamma Wedding-567-webI always enjoy photographing weddings. There’s so much love in the air and the bride and groom spent so much time carefully planning all the details. Erin and Cory’s wedding however, was not only beautiful, fun and charming, it was one of the most unusual weddings I have ever photographed. I asked Erin, the bride,  how she met Cory and she said: “Online—Plenty of Fish website. I was a busy vet student who had just rescued a horse from slaughter, so many of our first “dates” were spent at the barn taming Ashwin and breaking him to ride. Cory fell in love with horses after meeting Ashwin.”2014 Hamma Wedding-575-2-webThe wedding and reception were held outside, under gorgeous giant oak trees at Double Oak Ranch in Shingle Springs, CA.2014 Hamma Wedding-391-webWhen I asked Erin what her favorite part of the wedding was, she said: “Riding in on my rescued horse who did an AMAZING job, standing in front of our homemade alter with welded “HAMMA” horseshoe sign, seeing everyone laughing at our silly entrances, dancing down the aisle, dancing crazy in the barn with all the lights on, “just married” sign and cans on Ashwin’s tail—perfect! We just love that everyone (including ourselves) had fun the whole evening. It definitely wasn’t a boring wedding.”2014 Hamma Wedding-269-Edit-web  It definitely was not a boring wedding. The bridesmaids wore decorated jeans (and so did the bride until she donned her dress)2014 Hamma Wedding-69-Edit-webThe groom and groomsmen wore jeans and plaid shirts and cowboy hats.2014 Hamma Wedding-124-Edit-webThe entire wedding party danced down the aisle one at a time, but it was the groom who outdid everyone else.

Groom dancing down aisle

Groom dancing down aisle

The bride, on her beautiful horse Ashwin, galloped down the road and onto the site of the wedding.2014 Hamma Wedding-348-Edit-webShe then, rode her horse down the aisle to her handsome groom while all her friends cheered, smiled and took lots of pictures.2014 Hamma Wedding-356-Edit-Edit-webThe officiant brought a shotgun and laid it against the tree before the wedding2014 Hamma Wedding-368-Edit-weband then he took a selfie with the bride and groom after they were pronounced man and wife.2014 Hamma Wedding-452-Edit-webThe first dance was to “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mrazhamma 4webYou could tell they were really loving every minute of their special day, surrounded by friends and family that love them.2014 Hamma Wedding-768-Edit-webAs for me, one of my personal favorite moments of the wedding was when the bride got on her horse after we had taken some pictures of her and her groom and galloped away…hair and horse tail streamers flying out behind her. Her husband watched her beaming.2014 Hamma Wedding-981-Edit-webCheck out some of my favorite shots of this wonderful wedding.


A few more people that helped their wedding go off without a hitch was:

Cake Maker: Sandy Crabb-Lynch

Where Dress was Purchased: Goodwill $10; self-installed corset

Caterer: Dickey’s BBQ

Florist: from the flower market and bride made all arrangements herself.

DJ: DJ Alazzawi Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Hamma.

And the details

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The venue was beautiful by sunlight and after the sun set.

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This was a most memorable wedding for everyone that attended.  Thank you for letting me “see” it for you.2014 Hamma Wedding-833bw-web

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  • June 11, 2014 - 9:02 pm

    Lisa Van Dyke - What beautiful photos of my friends, Erin and Cory! You did an amazing job at capturing the moments, Karen!!

  • June 12, 2014 - 8:25 pm

    Virginia Forgatsch - Thanks for sharing the wedding pictures. We enjoyed being there.

  • June 13, 2014 - 2:42 pm

    Karen Schmautz - Thank you so much for this referral, Lisa. They were a delight! The wedding was a blast.

  • June 13, 2014 - 2:42 pm

    Karen Schmautz - It was my absolute pleasure to photograph this wedding. It was truly a fun time.

A quiet moment

A quiet moment

The above photo does not begin to demonstrate the depth of personality of this dynamic young woman whom I was fortunate enough to photograph.

Leaping for joy

Leaping for joy

Nor does this.

But it is a glimpse.

Beautiful pose

Beautiful pose

I’ve known this beautiful young woman’s mother for several years, so I was very thankful for this opportunity.  Here’s is a photo I took of mother and daughter.

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

You can surely see where daughter gets her beauty.

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A few more from this session:2014 Redding-592bwcrop-web2014 Redding-1119_pp-Edit-Edit-web2014 Redding-827-Edit-web

Thank you so much to both of you.  It was truly a joy for me to photograph both of you lovely ladies.

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In the forest

In the forest

And finally, a simple portrait.

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Who hasn’t looked at the old time movie stars and wished that they could have a similar glamorous photo taken of them in that style?

I’ve always loved the elegance, costumes, makeup and lighting of the 1940-50′s glam photos.  I’ve done a couple of these types of shots in the last year or so and I’ve enjoyed the results so much.

Recently I had the opportunity to set up another vintage photo shoot.  I had several beautiful women who were willing to try it out and I think the results speak for themselves.



We had a great time.  The ladies were an inspiration and I would love to do this again.

If you are interested, contact me and we will set up a photo shoot.

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