Archive for October, 2009

The Art of Family Portraits.

Monday, October 26th, 2009


OCTOBER 26, 2009

I’ve been looking through photo albums that my mother assembled as a young woman, before she was married. There are many wonderful pictures of her, her siblings and her friends. Some are well done technically, but many suffer from the problems I’m sure you find in your own family photo albums – the blurred, out of focus images, the pictures shot a mile away from the main subject, or photos made under poor lighting conditions. While snapshots like these have their charms, the pictures I treasure most are the beautiful enlargements of family portraits that were done by a professional studio. I’ve posted one here of my grandparents and their first three children, my mother being the youngest. The images are crisp, and they are lit well. These pictures are more than a family record – they are photographic art.


From my father’s family, the only portrait that exists is one taken of his parents when they were married. There are a few snapshots of my dad and his brothers as adults, taken with buddies on army bases after they each enlisted during World War II – nothing of them as children, though, and nothing that shows them with their parents and their older sister. My dad took pictures of me and my siblings when we were growing up, but we never went as a family to a studio for a portrait sitting or had a professional photographer come to our home. We have nothing to compare with the elegant images that exist of my mother and her family. Snapshots that sit in a box, but no art to hang on a wall.


As the holidays approach and you plan for family gatherings, think about the value of having a professionally done portrait. Whether your dress up in your Sunday best or each wear an outfit that best reflects your personality, make it an occasion – a favored memory, not a chore. A professional photographer will provide many options for how to preserve your image, whether by having your portrait matted and framed or put onto a canvas enlargement to be enjoyed now and for generations to come.

Who should you hire for your next assignment?

Friday, October 16th, 2009

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You are:  In charge of marketing for a corporation. Organizing an event. Planning a wedding. Starting a blog.

You want:  Beautiful, memorable photos. Images that will grab the viewer’s attention, and hold it. A new head shot. A creative Christmas card.

You need:  A photojournalist with daily newspaper experience.

Here’s why, according to Andrea James, a reporter formerly with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, you need to hire a photojournalist:

1. Photojournalists don’t make excuses — Things do go wrong, but a photojournalist who has worked for a daily newspaper is trained to do superior work, and quickly. She cannot come back to the office with no photo. The paper is coming out tomorrow; a photo is needed. She is used to operating under pressure.

2. Versatility — What I love about newspaper photographers is that they can do anything. My P-I colleagues often found themselves shooting a natural disaster one day (they all own rubber boots), a concert for the arts section the next day, and then a cake for the food section the next.

3. Consider your moment captured — How much would you pay to make sure that THE moment of your event is captured forever? This is what photojournalists are trained to do every day. At my own wedding, I knew that I didn’t have to worry about making sure our photographer (and friend) was capturing crucial moments. He was everywhere. When I saw the photos, I was delighted and saw new aspects of my own wedding that I had missed.

4. Photojournalists are problem solvers – Tell me, how do you make a photo of a technology company interesting? As a business reporter for nearly five years, I got to profile some really cool companies — but a lot of times, these companies performed a service that just wasn’t visually interesting. But I rarely worried about this — I knew we’d have a publishable photo for the newspaper because the photographer would think of something I never could have.

5. They’re the best of the best — Newspaper journalism is cutthroat. Thousands of people want to shoot photos for newspapers. However, just a few hundred actually get to do it. In short, they’ve been vetted.


For your next portrait, event, annual report, brochure, or website, come to Kathleen Kelly Photo. I’ll bring my 20 years of experience and style as a newspaper photojournalist to bear on your assignment to bring you a variety of photos and meet your deadlines.


 (Andrea’s “Five Reasons You Should Hire a Photojournalist” are reprinted with her permission. They originally appeared on her blog at

Corporate Recognition

Monday, October 12th, 2009


OCTOBER 12, 2009

Twenty years of experience at producing pictures for newspapers on tight deadlines came in handy last week when I got a call from Becky Stockbridge, owner of iBec Creative, a web design firm in Portland. She had just gotten off the phone after being interviewed by a writer for Business Week. Becky, who designed my website, had just been named as one of the magazine’s 2009 finalists for America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.


She had to send them a photo — something more than a head shot. She needed the picture by 2 o’clock; it was 12:15. Could I help her out? I grabbed my camera bag and hopped in the car. I arrived at her office at 12:45. In the span of an hour we had done the photos, downloaded the images to the computer, and Becky was making her selection of which picture she wanted to send to the magazine.


If your business needs a photo in a hurry, you can rely on Kathleen Kelly Photo to produce quality results on deadline. Even better, though, would be having me come to your company to photograph when you’re not under deadline pressure. From executive portraits, to facilities photos, to documenting the ongoing processes of your business, I can create a body of work that you may draw upon for press releases, your website, blog, or brochures. In fact, since I maintain an archive of images shot on assignment, you may call me and have me take care of sending out press release photos for you.

A Creative Exercise.

Friday, October 9th, 2009

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OCTOBER 9, 2009

From time to time, photographers need to recharge their batteries — not just the ones in their cameras, but their creative batteries as well. That could just be by taking a vacation — seeing new places, new things — or it could be by experimenting with a new style or a new medium to get the juices flowing.


In July I attended an artists’ forum one evening in Portland called Pecha Kucha. This group brings together speakers from different artistic disciplines — painting, sculpture, graphic design, photography, music, theater, architectural design, etc. — to talk about their work. Each presenter is allowed 6 min, 40 sec to show 20 slides. They can talk about what informs or inspires their work; they can show a long-term project they’ve been working on; or they can show something new they’re experimenting with. That evening I was most intrigued by David Weinberg’s collection of images. An illustrator who is used to drawing things out by hand, David had started using the camera in his cell phone to replace his sketchpad. He showed a selection of square images that were interesting individually, but then he combined them in four-panel sequences (an influence from his days of drawing cartoon strips). The interplay of the images with each other then created a new visual experience. I just loved them.


I now wanted to play with something new — well actually, something old. Instead of using the latest technology to create pictures, I decided to go back to a very early image-making process — photograms. These are images made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of photo-sensitized paper and then exposing it to light. You can do this with regular photo paper, but since I no longer have a chemical darkroom set up, I chose to make the photograms as cyanotypes. A process developed in the mid-1800s, cyanotypes are made by coating paper with a solution of ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide. When the paper is exposed to an ultraviolet light source like the sun, the UV light reduces the iron. When it reacts with the ferricyanide, it creates an insoluble blue dye known as Prussian blue. You develop the picture by flushing the paper with water. I used pre-treated paper, which you can buy in kits, so that I didn’t have to mix chemicals in my kitchen.


This was a purely aesthetic exercise for me. I didn’t have someone’s great facial expression to rely on, like in portraiture; I wasn’t looking for a “moment,” like in photojournalism; I wasn’t having to make a corporate client’s business or product look its best. I was just concentrated on using shapes and space to create an interesting visual experience. Off and on over a period of about 10 weeks, I worked on the pictures, finding out how much time was needed to expose the paper properly and what types of objects worked well in the photograms. Once my images were made on paper, I scanned them into the computer. Seeing all the pictures in Prussian blue, though, was fatiguing to my eyes, so I began to make changes to them in Photoshop. I began with small changes, like slightly de-saturating the blue. Afterwards, I toyed with replacing some of the blue tones with other colors and playing off the color changes in the positive and negative areas of the images. In one sequence I stripped out all remnants of the original Prussian blue in the images. I replaced colors and also used color inversion on the pictures. When I started this project, my thought was to stick strictly with the old-time photo process, but I got more enjoyment out of it in the end by incorporating digital technology into the final images.


Last night I was selected to be among the 10 presenters at Pecha Kucha. I started by showing some of my portraits and photojournalism so the audience could see the divergence in style and technique that this project represented. The six minutes flew by in a whirlwind. There was so much other wonderful work to look at as well — from Thomas Hillman’s simple but elegant graphic designs, to Greg Daly’s complex and intricate dioramas depicting World War II scenes that had the audience cheering. I’d like to thank Lynnelle Wilson, of Bold Vision Consulting, for encouraging me to submit my work to the review panel and David Weinberg, the cellphone sketchpad artist, for being an inspiration to me.