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Photography Lighting On-Location

Photography Lighting, When Natural Light Won’t Do

The day we planned to shoot the December issue of Simply KC Magazine, I awoke to dark November skies. No sun was evident behind the thick cover of clouds. But in photography lighting is the key between great and mediocre. On a dark November day I chose to make my own light.

As we began setting up, a light mist began showered us with yet another element with which to contend. Shooting on-location at the Midland Christmas Tree Farm, I put together a couple of lights and made some magic happen!

(My gear:  Canon 580 Ex Flash through white umbrella, Travel light diffused with softbox which was plugged into an outlet powered by my vehicle, pocket wizards to remotely trigger flash.)

A lot of the information below will be photo-speak. Feel free to skip. The simple recipe is calculate the ambient exposure and add light as needed. Use light modifiers to adjust specifications of light- amount, intensity, direction. Simple enough, right?

First things first, Adjust your ISO

I used the sun and calculated the ambient light as my main source of light. Two other lights were used as additional fill. First, I needed to determine ISO and shutter speed.  If you are shooting with an SLR camera (Single Lens Reflex) your shutter speed must sync when your lights fire. This is typically 250 or less so I start with a low ISO between 200-400. Meter the area to determine your corresponding F-stop with a shutter speed of 200. You might need to adjust your ISO to find an F-stop that works for your shot.

My SLR Canon syncs with flash at 200- so my target ISO was one that would yield a 200/second shutter speed. On this particular day, my camera was set at ISO 250 most of the time. My shutter speed was 200 @ f4.5-6.3 (depending on the shot).

  • *Tip: Shooting slower than 200, and you’ll subject yourself to camera shake or movement when shooting people. You must shoot fast enough to FREEZE any movement.

Balance Shutter Speed and F-Stop

Once you’ve balanced the ambient light and found your settings, it’s time to add your light!

  • ISO-: Your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the number, the less sensitive.
  • Shutter Speed: The duration of the exposure, how long the ‘film’ is exposed to light.
  • F-Stop: Controls the amount of light that is let into the camera which corresponds to your depth of field.

Add Your Own Light

So here’s what I determined the best solution. I added a soft box to the front of my subject to provide even soft light on her face.  Behind her, just hidden out of sight of the tree, I chose to use a back light (flash unit shooting through umbrella) to light the back of my subject.  You can see the light hitting the the face of the stylist as well as the ladies in the background. This helped separate mt model from the trees and provided depth in my frame.

Light Modifiers

Add one more thing to the complexity of lighting and that, my friend, is modifiers! Whether you are using a soft box, bare bulb, grids, barn doors, umbrellas, etc., each modifier will achieve different results. They are designed to allow further control over the intensity, direction of light and ultimately the mood of the photograph. Use them wisely!

Happy Shooting!

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Halloween Decorating; Cheap & Easy Tricks for Decorating

Halloween pumpkins from Aldi

Decorating for Halloween

It’s mid- October, and you are either one of those parents who checked off ‘ Halloween Decorating’ October first or you’re like me scrabbling two weeks shy of the holiday!

After repeated pleas from my daughter, I knew I needed to make an attempt to decorate. Decorating for Halloween doesn’t need to be expensive or time consuming! It should be a fun way to start celebrating the holidays with your families.

This is actually the first year I’ve expended any energy into Halloween decor.  But my daughter will be 7 next year and she is doesn’t want to be left out.

I put together a few easy decorating tips for Halloween on the cheap. Even though the month of October is half over, there is still plenty of time to throw up a few spooky decorations and have your child giggling with glee.

We used the plant hanger to start our own Halloween basket. It’s currently home to a few tiny pumpkins but as my daughter creates her own Halloween crafts, we’ve been adding to it.

Cheap Tips & Tricks for Haunting your House

If you didn’t purchase any decor last year after Halloween (this is the best time to stock up for next

year!) then it’s off to the dollar store for your spooky decor needs! For less than $20 bucks, I compiled everything I needed to ‘spook’ up the house and please my first grader.

  1. Spiderweb bushes. These are easy to do but the trick is NOT trimming the bushes prior. This makes it easy to create creepy spiderwebs and this stuff is so sticky, you’ll probably just want to trim up the bushes the first of November for easy clean up.
  2. Haunted Caution tape. This is an easy fix. Wrap it around your bushes, staple it to the house or wrap up your child like a mummy! (kidding) The brightly colored tape adds some pops from the road and can complete the look.
  3. Pumpkins. Yes, everywhere you go there are pumpkins this time of year! While I know I’ll be making that one necessary trip to the pumpkin patch, I bought my giant pumpkins from Aldi for $2.35 each! Inevitably we’ll carve them up or perhaps paint faces on them but for less than $3 each, we could create a pumpkin family!
  4. Bone Yard. I didn’t grab any ‘random bones’ from the dollar store. At the time, I didn’t understand how I could use the bones. But then I saw someone with a bone yard display!  The bones were scattered throughout their yard and a few creepy skeletons were crawling without legs! I felt that might be a little much for my little girl (or perhaps just me).
  5. Spooky Printouts. If you’re more ambitious that I was and choose to continue decorating the inside your home, spooky faces are easy and cheap to print on your own.haunted house halloween pumpkins


What ideas did you come up with this Halloween? Any great tips you’d like to share???

There are plenty of Halloween Craft ideas online. Here are a few we are going to check out:

Spider Web Craft

The Girl Scouts put these Flying bat Pinata’s together.

Party City has some fun ideas for parties, including GIANT spiders.

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Annie is Everything that Sparkles

Kansas City Wedding at the Madrid Theater

I’m fairly certain I cried when Annie called. In fact, I know I cried and I’m pretty sure she was crying too. She was recently engaged and calling to check dates for her Kansas City wedding for October.

Quickly the conversation changed to who’d stolen her heart?

Her voice squeaked when told about the love she’d found with Paddy. She’d taken her time, found a true friend and companion. Life rewarded her with true love. They found themselves better together than apart.

Annie is Everything that Sparkleskansas city wedding bride getting into gown

Paddy & I met while shooting engagement photographs for the pair. We met up at the Nelson-Atkins Museum to talk about life, love and the friendship they had come to find with one another.

While we spoke at length, neither of them mentioned how accomplished they are in their own unique ways?! Annie is an incredible dancer, teacher & inspiration to young girls. In Paddy she found a similar soul. They are a positive influence to all who surround them; yet they remain quiet about their personal achievements and charity work.

Bridesmaids & the father of the bride watch as she steps down the stairs.

I discovered the depths of their souls during the wedding reception. Annie’s father proudly spoke from his heart about the daughter he’d raised and the strong woman she had become. The best man bragged on his younger brother, the groom. The room was filled with love and I found myself sharing in pride for this amazing union.

Needless to say, all of these things are important for the making of a trendsetter and Annie is indeed a trendsetter! One I would be happy for my daughter to emulate.

This Kansas City Wedding was chocked full of wedding tends predicted for next year!

If you pay attention to the details, you’ll notice that Annie hit the mark for a few of the top wedding trends for next year.

She chose a combination of ROSE GOLD tones and a sweet MILLENNIAL pink for her bridesmaid gowns. These colors were influential in setting the tone throughout the wedding day. Add some sparkle a lot of love and you get a glittery, glam GORGEOUS affair!!

Then it was off to the Madrid Theater on Main Street for the reception. I enjoy the majestic old theaters in town. They are definitely magical; however, they are no easy feat to light! It typically requires 3-4 professional lights set up throughout the theater to appropriately record the action.

kansas city wedding reception

In the wedding photographs below, the bride and groom are entering the reception and enjoying a toast by the bride’s father.

Photography Tip

**For those interested in the lighting logistics, I have a light behind the couple (you can see it going off in the first shot). This light separates them from the black curtain on the stage. Another light was set up in the balcony to provide a soft global light throughout the room. The third was set on the lower level, opposite of the stage to light the other side of the room.

My final light was a mobile flash my assistant carries on a pole. This is used to provide light on the fly to fill in shadows as I follow action around the room.

Whew! Totally worth it for these moments below!!

kansas city wedding bride groom


Of course, I did some googling when I got home to find out more about Paddy & his golf tricks…. You should check him out too. He is pretty awesome & gave golf a new meaning to me!

Go ‘Like’ Paddy Whack Golf via Facebook or check him out via Charity Golf International

wedding toast madrid theater



Kansas City Wedding Professionals who made a perfect wedding day:

Karyn Brooke; Sidelines Floral, Custom Floral Art Design

The Madrid Theater, Kansas City Wedding Reception

St. Michael’s Cathedral, Leawood Church

Adrienne Maples PhotoStudios, Overland Park Photographer

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Wedding Trends that will be HOT in 2018

Wedding Trends for Next Year

The wedding industry is buzzing with wedding trends and Fall activity. Every Fall we are quickly slammed with everything 2017. The theories on what will be hot NEXT year was already the topic of much discussion this summer.

I paid a visit to Craig Sole, floral designer & artist extraordinaire, last week to discuss the latest wedding trends. I was surprised to learn that a new shade of pink is making headlines for next year and the color black is coming back in unexpected ways.

Bouquet by Karyn Brooke; Sidelines

Flashy is classy!

Craig tells me, ‘Beading, sequins, shimmer & shine. Everything that sparkles is in for 2018!’ But it can be easy to go overboard on the sparkles. Adding a glint here and there will be an excellent way to show off for your wedding photographs but include it in the right doses. Craig also pointed out that rose gold is on the hot list for next year!

The truth is I’ve had several trendsetter brides throughout the last 15 years. But after my discussion with Craig, I took to the internet to compare our conversation to what the industry is buzzing about. As our wedding schedules fill with couples for the 2018 wedding season, it’s exciting to see all of these ideas come to life!


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Puerto Vallarta; Destination Wedding

Destination Wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 

By the time July arrived, I was well aware I needed a vacation. A mere break from everything life has thrown my way over the last year. In fact, we all needed a vacation. Apparently Alice was the only one who knew this last summer.

I took her call last September. It was late in the afternoon and was watching the evening light quietly slip away. My cell buzzed and the screen flashed with a picture of my ‘little’ cousin, Alice.

Of course, she is about a foot taller than I am these days but once upon a time I was her ‘big’ cousin. In those days, she thought I hung the moon. At Thanksgiving, she’d quickly jump to the seat beside me eagerly listening to whatever I had to say.

I miss those days but I am incredibly proud of the woman she has become. More than just beautiful, she is brilliant in every possible way.

We hadn’t spoken in a while but I knew instantly she had some exciting news. In true Alice fashion, she attempted to ask my about my life and how things were going.

‘Spit it out girl!’ I demanded, ‘He finally popped the question, didn’t he?’

And her calculated response (which I heard involved more than a few tears):

‘OK, yes. Let’s do this!’

She began to tell me she wanted a destination wedding in Mexico on her mom and dad’s anniversary … July 2nd. They’ll invite their closest friends, all the Rugby guys and their wives, of course.

That’s so exciting Alice!!” I tried to act excited about Mexico. But I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea. I instantly began to think about the complications.

“Mexico? In July? You know it’s gonna be hot, right?” I wasn’t the first or the last person that would ask her this question over the course of the year.

Alice was right.

She’d thought everything through and she wanted a destination wedding. She wanted everyone she loved together, not just for the day. She wanted everyone to have time to get to know each other; for family and friends to become one over the course of the celebration.

Sometimes we all need a break.  Just time away from the everyday grind in order to get our minds back to what really matters. I’ve had a trying year, thus far, with lots of daily challenges and new adversities to overcome. Life happens to us all and sometimes we need someone like Alice to remind us to take some time for ourselves.

Check out Alice’s Top 5 Reasons for a destination wedding.

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Telling your Child about the Death of a Pet

The death of a Pet

(originally posted October 28th 20016)

The clock said 8:01. I insisted Emmaline hurry as we rushed through the front door. Out went the cat as I turned the key into the lock. I told myself there wasn’t enough time to catch the fur ball and still manage to arrive at school on time.  A decision I regretted almost instantly.

We sang songs as we rode the short distance to the school just a few blocks away.  A typical Friday morning in our daily lives.

As I turned the corner back to the house, my day took a turn I didn’t expect.

My phone rang, it was my next door neighbor.  I cheerfully answer the phone with a silly: ‘Yelllloooo, what can I do for you today!?’

Hiya honey…. Uhm…  I think your cat was hit by a car?’

She remains silent on the line as I turn the down the street and I see her standing in the the road over a white pile of fluff that was once Simon. My grief was instantaneous. I touched his side, feeling his soft fur for the last time. The life was already gone from his body; he was no longer my daughter’s sweet cat.

Simon the Christmas kitten.

Last Christmas this little fluff ball entered our lives. He was an abandoned kitten who’d been rescued by a friend’s non-profit organization (K-911). He was so laid back he would let the four year old stuff him in her back-pack and tote him around the house. One of her daily joys was locking the dog and cat together in the crate and reading to them. He was just a cat but he was a happy part of daily life. He had a loud, infectious purr and his fur was softer than cotton. We laughed at him when he begged for food or when Pete the dog usurped him for some love.

Death is a part of life.

The day Simon died, Emmaline was a few months shy of her sixth birthday.  I wanted to find the right way to break the news to her at age and I was certain I didn’t want to lie to her about it.

I did some online research and talked to friends to help me find the solution right for my situation. I don’t make it a point to lie to my daughter in an attempt to protect her from life. However each situation is different and some are more delicate than others. It can be difficult providing a balance between innocence and growth.  I wanted her to find her own closure for the situation and for that to happen, she needed to know the truth.

“Don’t feel as though you have to give them a lot of information,” says McNamee. “Tell them what happened, then see what comes from them, such as their feelings and ideas about how to handle the death.” *2

Involve your children in the grieving process

I waited 24 hours before telling my daughter about the death of the cat. Gaining control of my own emotions was required before calmly sitting down and telling her the unfortunate news.

‘ I have some sad news’ I began, ‘Simon was hit by a car and killed yesterday.”

She interrupted, ‘I want to see him and where it happened.’

I already thought about how I would proceed if she asked to see him. I deemed that too grotesque and something I still couldn’t get out of my head.  So instead, I took her to the spot where the blood splatter was fading on the road.

She took my hand and squeezed as I told her, ‘He didn’t see the car. He died immediately because the car was just too big and powerful for his little body. But we are going to celebrate his life in a little while and bury his body in the backyard. In the meantime, why don’t you draw some pictures for Simon.’

“Children need a process of saying goodbye,” says McNamee, and “you can help them do this in a variety of ways. Have them draw pictures of your pet. Share funny stories. Plant a tree in the backyard in honor of the pet. Put the pet’s ashes and pictures on the fireplace mantle. These kinds of tangible steps may be more helpful to your child than talking alone. “*2

We held a small funeral in the backyard

Later that day Emmaline, Mr. John, myself and a few neighborhood kids gathered in the backyard to say goodbye to Simon. Emmaline placed a drawing of Simon she made that afternoon along with a clipping of her hair. She picked flowers in the yard and sang a song to celebrate her little cat and the short happy life he lived.  We told a few stories about silly things the cat had done in his short life and Emmaline said ‘Good-bye little cat. You were a good friend.’



When A Pet Dies

What to say when a Pet Dies *2

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Why a Destination Wedding

Why say ‘I Do’ to a Destination Wedding

Initially, I wasn’t exactly ‘excited’ when Alice called me to tell me about her wedding plans. Mexico, I thought? Why get married in Mexico? She met resistance from almost every family member with whom she discussed her plans. Even though I’ve worked as a wedding professional for more than 15 years, I still had little understanding of why someone would choose to plan a destination wedding.

While sitting together for breakfast on our last day together, we universally concluded that Alice was right. It was a much needed vacation for everyone whom attended. It brought us all closer together, spending quality time and making new life-long friends. It also gave us all the chance to discover who Alice & Bryan are as a couple.

Since #aliceknowsbest, I asked my blushing bride to provide a few key reasons why she knew a destination wedding in Mexico was the perfect way to marry the love of her life.

1) A large, self-selecting guest list!!

  • We could invite literally everyone we wanted because we knew not everyone would be able to make the trek. Guest lists can be extremely challenging. You never want to hurt anyone’s feelings but the cost of a wedding changes drastically as the guest list expands.
  • We don’t live near our extended family or parents, so having the wedding in our city was still going to be a destination for them anyway. getting married in one of our hometowns made no sense for the majority of our friends.

2) More QUALITY TIME with the people we love.

  • Six hours hours of fun just wasn’t enough for us! We wanted more time with our friends and family. We also wanted them to get a chance to know one another. We live on opposite coasts so this was a great way to unite our loved ones.

3) Vacation Mode

  • Sure, less people come, but all the people who make the trek are in total vacation mode. Most people needed some time away – they left their kids at home and were partying like it was 1999.  Yes, literally- like it was 1999 mostly to the tremendous number of 90’s references throughout our wedding celebration.

4) All-inclusive means less work

  • We choose the all-inclusive Now Amber Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. They put on weddings all the damn time! It’s like clockwork and they do it all for you!  There’s a crew of people setting up your wedding and you don’t worry about a single vendor (except your photographer, which is why we flew Adrienne there with us!) Wedding planning is always stressful, but going with a resort that does it all for you alleviates a TON of potential stress.
  • BEWARE all-inclusive DOES NOT mean your wedding events are free!!
  • You still pay per head for each event you host. This is because the resort is putting together a private event for your guests. But it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than what per head would have cost in the States.

5) More bang for your buck.

  • We decided on Mexico because for the same cost of 6 hour reception and open bar in San Diego, we could do 3 open bar events with food for 70 people (rehearsal dinner, ceremony/reception, and brunch).  We ended up spending the same amount of money but we had 5 full days with friends and endless cocktails!


Please share your experiences? If you were there, what was your favorite memory?

Do you agree with Alice?

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Summer Wedding Day Adventure at the Hilton President

Summer Wedding Day

Behold, another gorgeous day celebrating at the Hilton President. This wedding day (like many others) did not come without it’s unique challenges! It’s important to remember that no wedding is created equal and no two weddings are EVER the same.

This couple knew that this one day was theirs and they owned it! They embraced the hiccups, taking in every moment with joy in spite of things one might say ‘went wrong.’

Summer weddings in Kansas City have known to be ridiculously hot which makes everything a little more difficult. We were blessed with sunny 70’s and we thanked our lucky stars when the limo broke down! Yes, that’s right! While going up a hill, the car made a terrible noise just before the engine gave out.

The wedding party and I were in route to take photographs downtown prior to the wedding ceremony. When the car stopped on the hill, I bounced up and told my couple we’d get out right there.

‘It’s an adventure!’ I proclaimed.

They both smiled with a quick, ‘OK!’ and off we went, frolicking in the June sun. Their smiles never faded, even when it was evident that our mode of transportation was now our feet.

Yet, not a single soul complained?! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends than the ones who surrounded Anna and Jordan, especially since we were going to have to make a trek back to the hotel. I began to make a plan of action getting us back to the hotel without sweating through our clothes!

Enjoy the moment

The kids laughed and told stories as we navigated from place to place. I continued to shoot as I led everyone through buildings, following a path that would take us back to the President.

With my alternate plan in place, and an experienced team of wedding professionals, we made our way through downtown playfully enjoying our adventure. We often miss exciting moments in life because we are too concerned with how ‘the day’ will roll out. Try to enjoy the moment! Sometimes you have to relax and let things unfold, especially on your wedding day because that’s when magic happens!

Just as I was about to call it a wrap, Anna turned and the wind took her veil. I walked around her observing the light that bathed her in a soft, warm glow. Her groom looked on proudly, beaming with satisfaction that this woman was about to be his wife. Anna giggled, claiming she felt awkward with all of us all starring at her. It was classic Anna!

Maura and I giggle with glee as we capture this quiet, unanticipated moment. We took a moment to admire the woman she has become, looking forward to what she has yet to achieve. With Jordan by her side, she is unstoppable.  That’s what unconditional love can do for you.


This wedding day was shared with some of my favorite Kansas City Professionals. A gorgeous display of floral art by Craig Sole, Cinematography with the talented Maura Coleman-Murray of Creative Films KC, delicious yet beautiful cake by Classic Cakes run effortlessly by Samie LaForce with the Hilton President.

View more images from this wedding day on their personal wedding proofing page: Anna & Jordan Got Married

Leave us a review!


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The Masters Series

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been inspired by the rich enduring paintings crafted during the Golden Era of the Renaissance. The significant art created during this period has had a great influence on the portraits I longed to create. These paintings drew in the viewer with stark contrast of colors on rich textures and bold fabrics. The use of light adds drama and intensity while the story is told using symbols and subtle gestures, implying innocence or passion, virtue or grace.

With this body of work, I use light, texture, and contrast to create the familiar look of these paintings. I utilize new world techniques to complete each canvas I hopes of reflecting the same beauty and timeless touch achieved by the master painters throughout history.

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What is Clean Beauty?

What is Clean Beauty?

Jeopardy was a big deal with my grandparents. We sat together with them anxiously watching, ready to pounce on ANY attempt to answer before my grandfather. He was rarely stumped and I was always looking for an opportunity to prove I was as smart as my brother. Then came the day that Alex Trebek asked, ‘This organ is the largest and protects the human body on a grandeur scale than any other…’

In an instant I was up and shouting, ‘SKIN, it’s the skin!! The skin is the largest organ on our bodies!’

My brother smiled incredulously at me; ‘Way to go sis!’

I am hoping on day Alex Trebek points to the category ‘CLEAN BEAUTY’ with a line of questioning about toxic chemicals. The truth is there is a great need for more awareness about what we are exposing ourselves to with products we use daily. The US only bans 11 ingredients from beauty products,while the EU bans a staggering number of more than 1,400.

Why is this a big deal?

We must look at the larger picture here. Our bodies have the ability to remove toxic things; however over time the cumulative effects of the build-up of toxins can affect how we regulate hormones and other normal functions.  You find Endocrine disruptors in a variety of beauty products from body wash to the Aveeno lotion I once used regularly. (Now I use coconut oil for everything!)

Women are particularly vulnerable to substances that interfere with hormone production especially during phases of reproductive development, pregnancy and adolescence. Without using toxin-free products on our children and instilling knowledge in them about toxic additives, our daughters will be using products that may one day interfere with her ability to have a child of her own.

Our Children Deserve Better; We ALL deserve better

Did you know that the average teenage girl is using more than 13 products on her body each and every day (deodorant, perfume, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser, face lotion, eye lotion, foundation, powder lipstick, eye shadow, blush, concealer…) ?!

But chances are that in this day and age, she isn’t reading the label and makes her choices from advertising and friend’s recommendations. She’s studying for her next final and the list of ‘toxic things to avoid’ aren’t on her radar. We need to teach ALL women to avoid products that will impair their hormones especially our daughters.

‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better do better.’ – Maya Angelou

Let’s do better together. It won’t happen overnight.

You must be patient and forgive yourself on a daily basis but I am on a journey to a toxic free life, will you join me?

(Here is a list of chemicals you should always avoid!)

This assortment of chemicals added to our personal use products can contribute to premature aging as well as a variety of health problems. 


I’ve chosen Beauty Counter Products for myself and my daughter and I’m joining the movement for clean and safe products.  Beauty Counter Corporation is lobbying congress to update their law about ingredients in our products.  There has not been a major piece of legislation to regulate ingredients in personal care and beauty products since 1938. Think of all the things our scientists have learned since 1938!

In conclusion, making informed decisions through education is the key for us, our friends and our children.


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