Proms, squirrels, cellos and senior portraits


Some sessions are just smoother than others. The trick is to not get upset by the bumps in the road.

Linley’s senior session took some patience. Not because of her; she was great. Anything we suggested, she was game.

It was just the squirrels. And the students going to prom. And the stinky fruit I stepped in.

But I digress.

We split Linley’s session into two parts, one in the fall and one in the spring. She wanted two different seasons, and I thought that would be fun, so we gave it a go.

The fall session was taken around the Hendrix College campus. It’s a beautiful campus, which means it draws a lot of other photographers, both professional and somewhat “semi” professional. Which also meant that for her fall session, we had to work around several other photographers.

I’m used to that. What I wasn’t used to was being berated by students.

A couple of girls – apparently doing research on the campus squirrels – asked me to move away from a pair of feeding rodents that shared a mutual ambivalence with myself. The students were observing them feeding and didn’t want my presence to spook them.

I really wanted to point out that the squirrels on that campus were so accustomed to human presence that I probably wouldn’t even register a blip on their radar.

Heck, I’ve had squirrels pull knives on me at Hendrix looking for food.

By that point, I was ready to call it a day at that location. Too many photographers and squirrel observers to deal with. We punted.

I knew of a location a couple of blocks away that was an older residential area; beautiful trees, picket fences, a great place to make some portraits.

Fortunately, none of the other photographers were there.

We picked our way along one of the streets, using the beautiful foliage as a backdrop for our shots. It was a great location, except for the stinky persimmon-esque fruit that I managed to step in.

My shoes smelled for a good week after that.

Fast forward to our spring session. We went back and forth on location, finally settling on the Old Mill in North Little Rock as our setting. The flowers would be in bloom, and I had hoped that scheduling in the evening time would mean fewer people hanging out there.

I didn’t think about prom season.

Or quinceaneras.

Holy cow.

The park was overrun with prom dress, formal wear and tuxes. Everything from smart phones to expensive camera gear was being deployed to capture that special senior moment.

My subject showed up with her mother, with a chair and two cellos in tow. I was a little taken aback, but ready to roll with the punches.

I wanted to concentrate on showing Linley’s personality and less on our setting, so I tried to find more neutral surrounding that still had nice spring colors. We occasionally had to wait out another photographer or group of students, but never for a very long time. Linley’s mother was also very good to warn me when someone was about to wander into the background so that I could pause or adjust my composition.

The longer our session took, the more we noticed the park thinning out, too. Students filtered out, presumably headed to their dinner reservations or parties before prom began. I was able to relax and work on some more looks.

Ultimately, the spring portraits were probably my favorites. The cellos were great props, and we managed to keep strangers in the background to a minimum.

One of the things I pride myself in is being able to make adjustments on the fly that will allow me to bring back the portraits that are meaningful to the subject. I think in Linley’s case we managed to pull that off.




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