Having access to the Santa Monica pier and the beach must be a dream location for this senior photographer based out of Los Angeles.  I have to admit, I am a bit jealous.  🙂
Renee Bowen of Renee Bowen Photography says that this is one of her favorite shoots.  Having the carnival lights in the background adds some extra flare to these photos and shooting on the beach shows off one of this seniors favorite places to be.
Check out the session below and be sure to check out Renee’s other work here.  Thanks for sharing Renee!!
What was your inspiration for the photo shoot?  
I usually ask my clients if they have a location or ideas in mind first, because I treat each Senior shoot as an experience for them..so I really want this to be a collaboration.  
Sydney didn’t have any specific ideas but said she thought the beach might be fun, but was “up for anything”.  *Insert evil laugh* 😉   
I love when clients are just open to fun and ready for whatever crazy scheme I throw at them!
I had never shot at the Santa Monica pier, but I loved the idea of mixing the beach with the carnival theme, so we could get a whole slew of different looks in one location.  

Where did this photo shoot take place?  We began the shoot underneath the Santa Monica Pier – I wanted to use the pilings and the wood; I love being able to mix textures – the water & sand, with the wood, and there’s these bright orange kayaks in the sand as well.  Not to mention, the light was amazing.

Did you collaborate with this senior to come up with the clothing and/or concept for this shoot?
Yes, for every Senior shoot, my makeup artist and I show up a little early to their house and help them choose the outfits for their shoot. (I have them set out at least 5-6 different options for us to go over with them).   I offer a few different session packages – each with a different number of outfit changes – and Sydney chose the one with three changes, but we threw the Westmont shirt as an extra.   I typically suggest that we start pretty natural – so maybe jeans or shorts with a cute top, and then move into more funky or dressy outfits – whatever they are into.  The makeup will also evolve as we change, so we want to make sure that it’s a smooth transition.  (My makeup artist, Jami Cox, comes to every shoot and stays the entire time – it’s part of every package I offer.  We usually apply the makeup at the client’s home, then go to the location from there.)   The clothes are so important for my senior shoots, since my style is more fashion-forward…..I make sure and let the girls know that I very much want them to feel comfortable though – so I want them to choose things they love.  I also want them to have fun with it,  so I’ll point them to my Pinterest board “what to wear” if they’re stuck and need suggestions beforehand.  
What camera, lens and equipment were used for this shoot?
I use a Nikon D300s, and mainly the 85mm 1.4.  I also used the 35 1.4 for this shoot, as well as my lensbaby composer.

What time of day were these taken?
I always shoot later in the day for Seniors; this shoot started about 2 hours before sundown and we shot until it was all gone and then some  😉

Can you share any post-processing techniques used when editing this session?
I use Lightroom for most of my post processing; I also use Photoshop CS5, but I don’t use it on every image.  I’ve found that I can complete everything – from import, to editing, to exporting – mostly in LR.  I open PS when I want to apply a texture or create a more artistic shot.  I’ve created my own presets in LR, based on how I shoot and my style.  

Most of these images were all done in LR only; the one of her holding her volleyball straight out was edited in PS (after LR presets and adjustments).  I shot this with the 85, at around 2.0, so it would be impossible to have both her face and the ball in focus.  Most of the time, that’s ok; but I really liked the idea of having her last name in focus as well as her face….  so I shot a few of each – some with the focus on her face, some with focus on the ball; all in the exact same stance.  I created the final image in Photoshop by merging the two.

What is your favorite thing about this session?
Honestly, we had entirely too much fun on this session – Jami and I love working together and we laugh a LOT.  Sydney and her Mom were so fun to work with; like I said – totally willing to do whatever crazy thing I asked – and not at all phased by the swarm of people we attracted.  I think they thought she was famous!  All of a sudden, I turn around, and there’s all these people just watching us!  Sydney handled it like a pro 😉    

I also LOVE the color of the ferris wheel behind some of the photos at sunset.  Shooting with only natural light that was fading super fast, with a manual focus lensbaby…with half of Los Angeles meandering around….I had to be really quick.  But that’s what I love – challenges.  I think sometimes we get really comfortable and it’s great to step outside of that comfort zone every once in awhile and just play.  I’m not going to lie – I was a tad nervous about those shots…but they ended up being my favorite ones.

What do you want this session to convey about this senior and about your senior photography style?
I want this session to convey Sydney’s amazing laid-back style, while seeing her obvious beauty.   
I want her Mom and Dad to see their little girl *almost* all grown up.  
I want her to feel prettier than she’s ever felt.   

It’s always my goal to make my seniors feel absolutely the most beautiful they’ve ever felt……I want them to feel special and have a great time.  Sydney did want to incorporate volleyball in this session, since it’s a huge part of her life, so I wanted to make sure we got that, but again – in my “style”.  I don’t like super posed shots or forced props; I like to let things happen organically.   I thought the beach would be a great spot to capture some volleyball shots….and while my first inclination was to use the volleyball courts that were on the beach, in the end,  I thought the focus should really just be on her.   
As far as what I’d like it to say about my senior photography style….hopefully potential clients are able to see that I’m willing to stretch and bend a little on my shoots, and that I incorporate creativity so we don’t get an entire session of all the same smile or all the same type of shot.   I want it to convey that I’m a little unconventional & non-traditional, yet classic and artistic.
What is one tip you can share with other photographers regarding photographing seniors?

If I have to choose only ONE thing to share, I’d have to say that having fun and being present with them – connecting with them – is key.  Yes, you need to know the technical aspects of your job, etc….but really spending time with them and their parents…collaborating – to give them photos that will not only make them feel beautiful, but that they will want to share with their friends – is at the top of my list.  It’s a really special time in their lives…treat it as such. 

Senior Inspiration – {Renee Bowen Photography}


heck, yes i do!

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