Category Archives: Helpful Articles

It’s Fall, Y’all! Tips for Your Best Apple Orchard Photography


It’s time for apple picking with family and friends. We can’t tell you how much we love this time of year. There’s nothing quite like apple picking to make your heart happy. And there’s no landscape or light that is quite like that of an orchard. In a word, orchards are magical. Apple orchards may be lovely settings for photography, but they can also pose unique challenges, with dappled light and different tones. Still, NAPCP photographers love orchard photography, and we’ve put together a few tips for shooting in fruit-filled locations – for professionals and hobbyists alike!


1. Consider living stills. The images of low-hanging fruit, or piles of apples at the base of a tree are, of course, beautiful. Think about the dynamic a tiny, reaching hand brings to a photo. Or the very moment an apple is plucked from a tree. Your four year-old daughter’s nails are painted her favorite hue, Ice Queen Blue. You catch a glimpse of the child in your fourteen year-old, as he thoughtfully gathers apples that have fallen to the ground. Other than the natural beauty, what do you want to be reminded of when you look back at these images?



2. Back up. On the flip side, while photos of ‘the details’ are on trend, don’t be afraid to capture what you see … not just what your camera is capable of seeing. Shoot some pictures that look like what your mind will remember. There was a mackerel sky above. Your family was practically alone in the orchard that day. Some of the trees’ limbs were so heavy with apples, they had to be propped (this is a common sight in Northern California!). Forget about composition for a moment, and create a memory.



3. Embrace interesting light. There truly is no light like the light of an orchard. Rows upon rows of imperfect beams, lighting a golden path. A safe bet is to shoot from where the sun is behind the trees (this will depend on time of day, etc).


Enjoy the beautiful setting, and have fun!


Special thanks to NAPCP photographers Dana MacIntyre, of Defining Moments Photography (title and first image), and Sarah Lough, of Sarah Lough Photography (remaining images), for providing the photos for this post. For more from these talented women, and for booking inquiries, please visit their websites.

7 Tips for Capturing the First Day of School Photo, by Kelly Morra, of Kelly Morra Photography


1. Be ready! Have your camera charged and ready to go first thing in the morning. The first day of school is always hectic … don’t add stress looking for a memory card, or finding a dead battery. While you’re at it, have that backpack, lunch, and first day of school outfit put together the night before, too!



2. Find the light! Scout some good photo-taking spots the morning or two before the first day. Natural light is best, especially early in the morning. Avoid indoor lights by placing your kiddo near a window or in front of a door, if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Head outside if you can. Avoid harsh shadows if the sun is shining  — a covered front porch or the shade of a tree are great options. Don’t forget the garage … it never fails to have great light – even when it’s raining!



3. Keep it simple. Your child may be full of nerves, so simple is best. Breaking out the crazy props while waiting for the bus will not fly. First day of school signs are all the rage right now, but if you want that tradition to stick, you better find something simple your child will hold a few years down the road. You may also find your child has no interest in holding a sign (like mine!), so be flexible. You can always add text while editing.


4. Don’t rush. Give yourself extra time to capture these moments. Head out to the bus early if you want to grab some pictures at the bus stop. Set your alarm accordingly. Plan those extra minutes in the morning so you aren’t yelling, “Hurry up!” No child will happily pose for a picture if they’re being rushed out the door to do so.



5. Don’t forget the details! The details are the things so easily forgotten. Take the time to capture those. The backpack he spent weeks deciding on, the gap-toothed smile, and those shoes she HAD to have for the first day.



6. Be there, too! You are there, in the moment, experiencing this milestone with them. So capture that! Don’t leave yourself and the rest of the family out. This is a big day for everyone.



7. Give yourself permission to fake it. If you think your child (or you) will be extremely nervous on the first day, it’s okay to fake it. Do it the day before, or the second day. Heck, do it the third day! Nobody will know but you, and you’ll probably forget in a few years anyway.




We love everything about this post, Kelly! Thank you.

Kelly Morra is an on-location portrait photographer specializing in the fashion-forward tween and teen of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her exclusively tween project, Kids of Pittsburgh, can be found on Instagram with the hashtag #kidsofpgh.

For more from Kelly, and to contact her, visit her website, and Like Kelly’s Facebook page.

5 Tips for Photographing Children with Special Needs, by Caitlin Domanico, of Photography by Caitlin Domanico


As a photographer who also has a Masters in Education with special education certification, I have a lot of clients who come to me specifically because their child has special needs. As a teacher, I am very comfortable adapting to and supporting kids with all abilities, and that has translated into my photography pretty seamlessly.

Sometimes, it can feel pretty daunting to plan a photography session for a child with special needs. What if I don’t know what to do? What if I don’t know how to act? How will I communicate? How do I know what the child can do?

All of those questions and thoughts are completely valid, and I can assure you they are normal! If you really think about it, those questions are the same ones that pop up when working with new clients in general – we all get butterflies in our bellies from time-to-time, because we want to do our best, to work our magic with the camera, and ultimately, to have very happy and pleased clients!

Pre-Session Consultations are a crucial part of the photo session process. If you are not yet incorporating pre-session consultations, I beg you to consider them. Just a quick chat on the phone will most often suffice. It will allow your client to get to know you a bit, which will really help them feel relaxed at the session, and this is a great time to learn more about your clients, including any special needs or insecurities they may have.






1. Ask questions. Ask mom or dad if anybody has any special needs. If they say yes, ask them to tell you more. Ask if there are any ways you can better prepare yourself or the session location to make their child comfortable, including their likes/dislikes and levels of functioning. Just like typically developing children, many children with special needs love singing and songs, but sometimes, singing songs will over-stimulate a child with special needs, and will result in them having a tantrum/melt-down, so it is best to learn in advance if there are triggers or special things that make them happy. If a child loves bubbles more than anything in the world, then you had better believe you want to have bubbles at the session! Many children on the Autism Spectrum are uncomfortable with or even unable to make eye contact, so you will want to avoid asking them to look at you, and instead, ask questions (“Is there a cow on my head?”), put a sticker on your camera, and engage with them that way, rather than “look at me”!






2. Location. Consider the location choice carefully with mom and dad. If you have a child with physical disabilities, your location needs to be accessible. If your child elopes (runs away), an enclosed spot will be a safe place to have a session. Some children become overstimulated easily, and in that case, you will want to choose a session location that has little extraneous stimuli, or stimuli that you can control for the most part.





3. Take breaks. Recognize when a child needs a break. Plan for little breaks throughout the session. Encourage mom and dad to pack water and non-meltable snacks. Bring books/bubbles/and other aesthetically pleasing items to play with – avoid cell phones and tablets, as these are harder to transition from and may be detrimental to completing the session.






4. Educate yourself. Take some time to familiarize yourself with developmental milestones in the areas of cognition, socialization, language, and physical development. Once you have an understanding of them, you will be able to begin to understand where the child is currently functioning and respond appropriately. This is not to say you will be able to diagnose a child or know everything about them within the first five minutes of meeting, but being educated will help you throughout your session, and will help you avoid placing unreachable expectations on a child, which can lead to frustration or shutting down. You want to ensure all children are safe and comfortable during the session, so knowing the ways most children develop is very important.






5. Relax and have fun. Most children will model your behavior and attitude. If you are calm, laid-back, and positive, chances are, the children will be, too! Do not be afraid to fail. If you follow your regular approach to composition, and capturing the beauty of a family, you will be able to make strong images in which the child with special needs is natural, happy, and comfortable. If you are typically a portrait photographer who relies on very precise posing you may want to consider using a more relaxed/lifestyle approach, so that you do not box yourself in to one type of pose/set-up. Remember, beauty unfolds when families are allowed to act naturally – so let them snuggle, let them have a tickle fight, and capture those loving moments!






50 Summer Snaps: A Personal Photography Project, from Abbe McCracken, of Abbe McCracken Photography


Most photographers love a good personal project. I am no exception. What’s not to love about shooting just for yourself? Capturing your own family?

Practicing day in and day out? I’ll tell you. It’s hard to maintain! Case in point, my completed Project 52 album from 2013 (yes, I said 2013) just landed on my desk . . . and no, it didn’t take Artifact Uprising that long to print. It took me that long to find time to design it. It’s beautiful and makes me want a million more.

It also makes me so happy that – despite the busyness that is motherhood – I’ve carved out time to start another personal project: 50 Summer Snaps. Sounds fun, right? IT IS! But I’m kinda cheating and I’m ok with that.

This project started out with the name 100 Days of Summer Fun. Many of my photography friends are well on their way to completing all 100 days, but me, well, I got a late start. I’m blaming it on Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools because to me, summer doesn’t really begin until the kids are out of school. So right off the bat, I gave myself a 25-day handicap and called mine 75 Days of Summer. Fast forward a few weeks and the summer taxi service I seem to be running has me behind again. Thus I renamed it 50 Summer Snaps! Title revision number 3 and proud of it.

Personal projects are just that, personal. What works for some, may not work for all. I don’t need a new picture every single day … I already do that on Instagram. For this project, I’ll be happy with as many summer pictures as I get. Just a few to document our days. I think 50 sounds about right … although if Jay’s new Tennessee shirt makes any more appearances I’ll have to change it to the One-Shirt Summer project. What can I say? He’s excited about the team’s new Nike line and I do laundry too much. Here are a few of my favorite summer snaps thus far . . .

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_09

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_08

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_07

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_06

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_05

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_04

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_10

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_03

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_02

Abbe McCracken 50 Summer Snaps 2015_01


The Story: Submitting Your Images for Competition: Tips from Competition Judge Michael Howard

One of the hardest things you can do as a photographer is to edit your own work. When I say ‘edit’, that means to choose which images are successful and which images need to go away. It’s almost impossible to do this yourself. The reason for this is because we are too close to our own work. We know the stories behind every image we took and we know how hard we worked to get a particular images. To put it simply, our personal bias clouds our judgment. We can’t see our work clearly for what it often is. So the challenge is to narrow your work down to a select few of your best images to submit for a photo competition.

My advice for this little venture is summed up by the following:

Suggestion One: Have 2-3 other people look at your work. Don’t do this alone, but don’t ask just anyone.

There is a strategy to this…

Figure out who the people in your life are who will be brutally honest with you. Ideally, these people should have decent knowledge of art history and photo history. They must have a ‘good eye’. This means you respect what they value as ‘good art’. They don’t have to be photographers. They can be anyone that understands and loves art.


Suggestion Two: Ignore the story.

When you take a photograph, you know the story of the day, you know how hard you worked to get that shot, and you know what was going on behind the scenes. You know how hot or cold it was that day. You know how rushed the entire shoot was. You know how challenging that child was, and how this image is of your favorite client of all time! We don’t know these stories. All we can judge a photo on is what’s actually in the image. None of the back story is there for us, so don’t submit images that move you because the back story is compelling in your head. You’ll more than likely be disappointed with the results from a detached viewer.


Suggestion Three: Make small prints.

This is always the best way to narrow down your portfolio. Print 4×6’s or 5×7’s of your top 20 images and lay them all out on a table at one time. Then start rearranging them and comparing them to each other. Include your selected 2-3 trusted people to view the prints as well (if possible) and have them do the same thing. You’ll naturally find your best images a lot faster this way then going through them in Lightroom or Photoshop.


Suggestion Four: Soul > Pretty

It’s easy to fall into the trap that the best photos are the most idealized, but throughout photo history that has been far from true. Usually the best photographs are the ones that draw you into the human soul. When you look at these images you get a sense of what it means to be human, to be flawed yet to have worth. Technical mastery is great, but if there is nothing in the image to connect the viewer to humanity then it’s a pretty boring image in my opinion. Give me heart and soul over pretty every single time!

I hope these four suggestions help you choose which images are best for competition. Each of us are looking forward to viewing your work and giving you feedback on your art. Make sure you enjoy the editing process, because you’ll learn a lot about your work by simply analyzing it and making decisions about what is your most successful photographs.


View Michael’s judges bio here. Visit his beautifully essentialist website to view more of his work, and to contact Michael.

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