The School Portrait Meets Portrait Photographer

school pictures

Once upon a time to say you were a wedding photographer was the equivalent of saying, “I have no art in my soul.” You could never claim to be a wedding photographer and expect to be taken as a serious artist. Thankfully we have evolved beyond those stereotypes.  Today, Wedding photographers are among some of the most respected and innovative in the industry.  And then there is the lowly school portrait photographer. Just saying the title conjures up visions of herds of children lined up and processed like a production line, 200 per hour.

 Mark, cheese, next.

Waiting for your school portrait can be hard

Unfortunately, that stereotype of the school portrait is not far from the truth. We still see canned smiles blasted with canned lights, pasted against fake backgrounds. There’s not much art to it.   In fact, many of the school portrait “photographers” have no experience beyond their 4 hours of on-the-job training There are, however, a handful of independent photographers, and smaller companies, trying to bring the true art of portrait photography to the school setting.

The School Portrait Meets Portrait Photographer

I work with Mugsy Clicks as an independent photographer.  Mugsy Clicks provides all the backend technology, sales, customer service, and school services. I provide the skill, experience, and art of a children’s portrait photographer.  Here, in the video below, is Mugsy Clicks founder, Linda Russell, explaining the heart and soul of school portraits worth framing.

What is a more natural setting for a child than outdoors? This is why, whenever possible, we use natural surroundings and natural light.  It can be a challenge to find an on-campus location with decent consistent lighting and an interesting background, especially in Orange County’s glut of concrete. But that is where the photographer and artist comes in, creating something unique for each school.  Another distinction is in how we interact with the children. Rather than telling the child to smile, or worse to say “cheese,”  we talk to the children, encouraging them to relax and give a natural expression.   
“Do you like superheroes or princesses?”    “Dinosaurs or insects?”      “Legos or Minecraft?”     “Music or Math?”school portraits worth framing
I am proud to say I am a School Portrait Photographer. It is not how I got my start in photography. I was a portrait and wedding photographer long before taking up school portraits, but it is a significant part of my business today Capturing that genuine smile, a serious contemplative look, that sparkle of mischief in the eyes, that is gold – that is what makes my cheeks hurt at the end of the day.  It may not bring me critical acclaim, but it does bring me joy.

Senior Portraits Premier Package 2016


2016 Senior Portraitsgreat passionscan elevate
the soul to great things.”
– Denis Diderot,

French Philosopher

Horn Photography is especially known for our deep love of capturing you doing what you do best for your Senior Portraits. We love seeing you in your element – whether it’s playing Water Polo, riding your horse, practicing ballet, singing, playing an instrument, painting, enjoying the outdoors, or simply listening to music in your room. Whatever you are passionate about, we love to photograph you doing it. If you have a special talent or pastime that you enjoy sharing with the world, please let us know and we will work with you to create a session around it. Often times these special sessions produce beautiful, intense photographs that inspire and impress. We are happy to provide on-location services within a reasonable distance to competitions, shows, or favorite spots around town.

Senior Portraits - Senior girls show their personal style
Senior girls show their personal style

We want to get to know you. Really know you. And then get that on camera.

Our style is capturing your style. Creating an experience with you that’s uniquely yours. What makes you the person you are? What do you love? Why do you do what you do? How do you express it? Each senior portraits session aims to answer these questions while making you look absolutely fabulous. Many of the young adults we work with enjoy multiple outfit changes to represent the different facets of their life and interests. One moment you’re the star of your soccer team, grass stained from head to toe but loving every bit of it, and the next you’re off to a glamorous night out in your favorite designer outfit. This is how you life your life. This is what your senior portraits session should ultimately reflect. At Horn Photography, we prefer to take photos in natural light, rather than an artificially lit studio environment. Natural light illuminates skin tones with a soft radiance and makes you look stunning. We love to work with you one-on-one to choose a location that’s both meaningful and flattering.

senior portraits 2016


We’re the photographer. You’re the superstar. We’ve been taking senior portraits since 2007 and love every minute of it. Our job is to bring out the celebrity, the artist, the athlete, the genius, the fashionista, the skater, the singer inside of you, so you can share it with everyone else.

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Senior Portrait Locations
Senior Portraits on Location

This is an amazing time for you. Let’s capture it.

You’re about to check into the real world, relying on your talents to make it big. We want to capture you just as you are, right now, so you can look back on yourself in later years and remember who you were right before one of the biggest transitions of your life. You’re gorgeous, you’re courageous, and eager to fly the nest. It’s the perfect time to dress up and immortalize the moment on camera.



2016 Seniors




One Wedding, Two Babies, and a Marine


Five and a half years, one wedding, two babies, and a Marine later we finally got around to a family portrait session for this amazing couple and family. Brian and Erica are one of the special couples whose faith and commitment are an inspiration.

Back in May of 2010 I had the privilege of being Brian and Erica’s wedding photographer. It was a beautiful wedding ceremony at the golf course followed by a warm and lovely reception at the family home.


One year later, their precious Faithy was born, and just days before their 5th anniversary this year, they welcomed little Nathanael. All life changes worthy of a family portrait! But the final event that pushed Erica over the We-Need-a-Family-Portrait edge was the recent graduation of their eldest son, Philip, from Marine Boot Camp. With only a short window of opportunity between boot camp and leaving for the Marine Combat Training we put together a quick family portrait session.


I am so blessed to know these wonderful parents. Parents who take on the challenges of step-parenting with the most respect and care, raising a rambunctious child with special needs to be joyful and secure in their love, and happily tending to the never ending tasks of a newborn. All this while pursuing God’s plan for their own futures as well.


My hat’s off to you! Ooh Rah!


Split-Shift Wedding


This past week I had the privilege of photographing the wedding of Cody and Chantel. This was one of those extra special events for me because I have known the bride since she was just a toddler. And now, here she is a beautiful young woman on her wedding day!

Orange County Courthouse Wedding and Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club Reception

Besides being one of those off-the-pages-of-a-fashion-magazine kind of couples, they have a truly romantic love story as well.  Having dated in high school, they lost contact with one another for several years.  Each had their own challenging, but maturing, life experiences during those years apart and then, when the time was just right, they found each other again.  The love between them is obvious.

Bride and Groom at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club

Cody and Chantel opted for a “Split-Shift” Wedding with the ceremony held on Friday at the historic Old County Courthouse in Santa Ana and the reception on Sunday at the beautiful Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club. I must say, I personally appreciated the extra time and lower stress (at least for me ) of the event being held over two days rather than one.  Wedding photography is hard work! 8+ hours of bending and moving on your feet while holding approximately 6 and a half pounds of equipment by your thumb and three fingers can be taxing physically, not to mention the mental workout of  adapting to constantly changing lighting conditions and the emotional stress of making sure you “get the shot.”   Yes, weddings are not easy, but the rewards are so worth it!

I have to give my amazing second-shooter, Bianca, a big thank you for doing such a wonderful job and capturing so many stunning images from that second angle, as well as assisting with reflectors and such.  Bianca is truly an artist in her own right.

Second-shooter's Images - Bianca Jo Photography
Bianca’s Perspective

Congratulations!  Cody and Chantel!


Shutterfly Fundraising Event


Scouts, band, sports, clubs. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that fundraising is not one of your favorite “back-to-school” activities. I know it’s not one of mine. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it is cookie dough or wrapping paper, fundraising is a chore. I would rather just write a check than coerce my family, friends, and colleagues to purchase things they don’t want and don’t need.


Our friends at Shutterfly to the rescue! We all love Shutterfly! The greeting cards, photo books, home decor, and quality prints.  Now Shutterfly has partnered with local portrait photographers, like me, to put together a Holiday Photo Day Fundraiser.

Just in time for Holiday cards and gift giving, participants pay $75 for a 15-minute photo session, which includes five digital images!  Not only will your friends and family get an amazing deal on professional photography, but your organization could raise $1000 or more.  For full details on how to get your organization signed-up, visit Shutterfly’s Holiday Photo Day site.


This is a very limited time opportunity.  You must enroll your organization by August 31, 2015 with the photo sessions scheduled for September, October, and November.  I am pleased to be a participating photographer for the Holiday Photo Day with Holiday Family Photography.  Head over to the Holiday Family Photography site where many of my portrait sessions are featured.

Act fast!  This opportunity will be over very soon!  Sign your organization up at Shutterfly/Holiday Photo Day before August 31st!



Cyndi Weeks – From OC to Middle Earth


It is my privilege to know some wonderful photographers, but it is a real pleasure when I get to share one of those photographers with all of you.   Add to this the chance to send a special photography opportunity your way, and I am doubly blessed!  Let me introduce to you, Cyndi Weeks of Cyd Weeks Photography.  Be sure to read to the end for a very limited offer. – Julie

Sometimes life can take you to some really beautiful places. 14 years ago what started between me and the cutest Kiwi I’ve ever seen in a dirty, dingy brick building has since taken both of us to some pretty amazing places.Our most recent is a move back to his homeland, New Zealand. It’s been a desire of his heart for such a long time and although it’s never easy uprooting your young family to a new place with new people, new cultural rules, almost orange butter and flabby bacon, I’m so grateful for the experience we are having!

You’ve seen Lord of the Rings, you’ve seen Chronicles of Narnia, but you really don’t expect it to take your breath away. You’re standing beneath a mountainside full of sheep and look 90 degrees to your left and there’s a beautiful winding road around a crystal clear blue lake, take another 90 degree turn and there’s a jagged mountain range shooting up out of the lake, another 90 degrees and there’s a beautiful stream running into the lake with wild lupins and foxgloves and other wild flowers. Travel just a small distance and there will be another scene waiting to blow your mind!  While transitioning away from really close friends and family hasn’t been easy, it has been a great joy to experience a slower pace of life and being out in nature all the time has a certain effect on you, it’s calming and peaceful. And the photos, they’re just so easy to take in such an amazing setting.

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My photography obsession started at a very young age, images of my Dad carrying a VHS recorder in a giant bag with a giant video camera on his shoulder in Hawaii come to mind when I think of my earliest intrigue. I love how a photograph stops time. It conjures so many thoughts and memories as you look back and remember what was going on back then, it stirs up in us all we have to be thankful for. I’m so thankful to have photography as a career theses days and while the artist in me is always striving for perfection that seems unattainable, I couldn’t be happier to be on this journey, meeting new and really great people and capturing moments that will live on for a lifetime.

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Thankfully photography has brought me back home for a short working vacation.  I’m offering mini sessions at $150 with 10 images and a 20 min session and full sessions at $250 with 50 images and an hour session until August 26th.

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     {Julie}  Cyndi now lives in Tauranga, New Zealand with her husband and three gorgeous children. However, if you are in Orange County, California, you can contact Cyndi and book your session before August 26,2015 by emailing  For more about Cyndi and to see more of her work visit


10 Tips for Fabulous Family Portraits


Family portraits season is upon us so I thought it might be a good time to throw some tips your way. If you are planning a professional portrait session for your family, here are a few things to help you get the most out of the experience.


1. Plan ahead

Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your portrait session. September through November is the busiest time for most portrait photographers. Consider scheduling your session in August or July when you and your photographer are less stressed.  Take advantage of Daylight Savings Time.  The longer days means a larger window of available session times.

2. Consider the end at the beginning

Maybe your portrait session is to celebrate a special occasion or to document your growing family. All very good reason to schedule a session, but, what will you do with those images? Will they just live on your computer? I hope not! Consider where in your home you might like to display your images. Or perhaps an album or photo book would work better for you. Are these images primarily to be used for a Holiday card or announcement? Pre-planning with your photographer before you have your session will help her know what kinds of images will best suit your purposes.


3. Think outside of the box

It is easy to get overwhelmed when trying to get it all together for a photo session.  That stress leads to the tendency is to resort to the easy and familiar.  However, if you followed my advice in number one and gave yourself some lead time,  you can start thinking of a few creative ideas to add to your session.  Will this be a Holiday card? How about carrying wrapped boxes or wearing ski caps in a few photos?  Are you documenting your growing family?  Maybe everyone could bring a treasured childhood stuffy?  Adding a bit of whimsy and personality to your session will set it apart and keep it fresh.


4. Select your location

This could be an entire article all on its own.  There are many factors to consider when selecting your location. Here I will only highlight the most important.  First, your images should reflect your family’s personality.  What are your interests? How do you spend your time together?  Are you homebodies or outdoorsy? Don’t assume you have to go to a park or the beach.  Urban and architectural points of interest can make for unique portraits.   Second, think about your color pallet.  Where are you hanging this image?  How is your home decorated?  Will the whites, bright blues, and tans of a beach scene compliment your home or would the deep greens, browns, and golds of a wilderness location be a better fit?    Third, are there any legal restrictions at your location of choice?  Most private locations and many public areas, including parks and beaches,  do not permit professional photography without a special permit, which can be costly.  Be creative, but check the facts.  Your photographer will have some suggestions for you, but don’t limit yourself.

5. Consider time of day

Golden Hour.  That special hour before sunset when the light is at its glorious best.  Oh that all photo session could be scheduled for Golden Hour.  But they can’t.  Great light is important, the lower in the sky the better, but it is not the only factor to consider. When can everyone gather?  When is my child at his best?  Is there a time, or day, when my location is less crowded than at other times?  Talk to your photographer and choose a time that will have as many positives as possible for all concerned.

FamilyPortrait-Irvine KWLibrary-four_WEB
6. Coordinate clothing

Gone are the days of the matchy-matchy family portrait, or at least they should be gone.  Your goal here is to coordinate while still maintaining individuality.  When choosing your color pallet consider the decor in your home as well as your location.  A simple rule of thumb, choose one main color and one accent color, then supplement with either warm or cool toned neutrals.  Not everyone has to wear every color.  Let everyone add an accessory that fits their personality, a hat, vest, accent jewelry.  Mix it up.  One final clothing thought, think about your shoes and those of everyone in the photos.  Make sure the style and color blends well with your other choices.  Nothing can ruin a nicely coordinated group than the lone pair of huge white and orange athletic shoes!

7. Come prepared

Imagine all the contingencies. Consider your hair and the weather.  Will you need hairpins?  A comb? Hairspray?  What about a snack for the kids?  Water?  Hand Wipes?  A favorite toy or blanket for the little one?  A change of pants for the toddler?  Make sure everyone’s nails are clean and clothes are wrinkle free.  Is the photographer’s number in your cell phone?  Have you printed out a make to the location?  The more prepared you are before the session, the smoother it will all go.

8. Listen to your photographer

Your photographer is a professional.  They have the experience necessary to make sure you will look your best.  Listen to your photographer’s directions on posing, interacting, and connecting with the camera and with your family, and take the lead in encouraging everyone else’s cooperation.  You and your photographer are a team.  Help them help you create beautiful portraits.

9. Make it an event

Take the day off!  Spend the day getting the last minute details ready.  Relax!   Get your nails done. Make this a special and important event for everyone.  With the exception of possibly holiday photos, most families only have a formal family portrait session every 3 to 5 years. Even if you have one done yearly, making it a happily anticipated family event rather than a dreaded intrusion into your busy schedule will create not only better photos, but also better memories.  When the session is all over, celebrate!   Take everyone out for a special meal.

10. Follow through

You went to all that work to coordinate schedules, find the perfect location, purchase just the right outfits, and plan a few fun and whimsical touches, don’t leave all those beautiful images hidden on the internet or on your harddrive.  Too often we have great plans and projects that never get completed (remember number 2?)  Before your photo session even takes place, schedule your design meeting with your photographer.    Your photographer is an artist and well prepared to help you in selecting artwork to compliment your home and enrich your life.  Take advantage of her experience and artistic eye.

What are your tips for a great family portrait session?


The Holiness of Portrait Photography


One of the great privileges of being a portrait photographer is getting the opportunity to be a small part of my clients’ lives as they grow, change, and move from one stage of life to another.   Whether it be a graduation and then wedding, a wedding and then the first baby, or a series of family portraits that document special milestones I always feel a special connection with these returning clients, a bit like a trusted auntie.

Just a few weeks ago I was invited to photograph the Hamilton Family.  It was a rather short session as their son needed to get home to pack — pack for his first post-training assignment in the military.  I had, 4 years previously, photographed the son for his High Senior portrait, before he headed off to college, and now here he was a full grown man on his way to a new life.  Just this past January we did a special High School Senior session for his talented little sister.  Amazing and so humbling to watch as this family moves into a new stage of life.


I think because I have already passed through most of these life stages myself, having raised three children and moved into the realm of grandparenthood,  I become rather nostalgic, wistful when doing a portrait session.  I know how fleeting each stage of life really is.  I want to stop time, if just a moment, so the person can later look back at that tiny hand or freckled nose and remember.

For me, portrait photography is something intimate, something to be treasured, almost holy.  Perhaps that is an overstatement, but truly, I feel so blessed to be permitted to enter into the “family circle” in this way, knowing that these images will likely be passed down to future generations, that they will be shown to great-grandchildren,

” . . . and this is what my father’s mother looked like when she was your age.  See that?  You have her eyes.”

More than eighty years of my mother-in-law's life- ages three, sixteen, and eighty-seven.
More than eighty years of my mother-in-law’s life- ages three, sixteen, and eighty-seven.



Home Education Graduation – The End of an Era?


This past week I had the privilege of photographing the graduating seniors at CHEA’s (Christian Home Educators Association of California) annual convention.

This year’s group of seniors was about one third the size of last year’s class, not because the number of students graduating from home education is smaller than in past years, but because the number of home schoolers choosing to attend the state organization’s annual event has decreased significantly.


CHEA holds a special place in my heart. I started Home Schooling in 1982 and home educated my three children from primary through their high school years. That first year of home schooling was a real adventure. There was no state organization of any kind established to help or guide. Very few textbook publishers would sell their materials to non-traditional schools, the political situation and legality were in question, and the voices of “experts” representing differing philosophies, from “unschooling” to correspondence schools, were hard to wade through. Finding like-minded families with whom we could share our struggles and support one another was very important to our success and sanity. And so, at a small gathering of young mothers at a park in Southern California, while children ran and played, Christian Home Educators Association was born.

My three children in 1982 – our first year of homeschooling

Today, the homeschooling atmosphere is much changed. The legal ambiguity is gone and home education, while still the significant minority, is almost common place. The problem of finding appropriate curriculum has shifted from too few choices, to an overabundance of tempting options. Where once we counted the days till we could gather together to share teaching and parenting strategies, closely examine every book before we purchased, and be encouraged by Godly leaders and by the sheer number of other like-minded attendees, now the internet, public charter schools, and local education cooperatives have, for many homeschooling families,  taken the place of the state-wide convention.

While I am pleased to see homeschooling grow and mature, and I am thankful that it is not as difficult as it once was, there is the danger of this ease lulling us all into complacency, or worse apathy. The migration away from a central state-wide Christian home education organization, if that is in fact what we are witnessing, weakens our voice as a whole. Who will speak for us as we face the new challenges to homeschooling; common-core, immunization, alternative lifestyles? Will it take new persecutions to rally us as one again?  Are we really so well informed that we no longer need to hear new insights or to be encouraged?

I don’t know the future of CHEA, or of home education for that matter, but I pray that this new generation of home educators holds tight to their convictions for the ride ahead and that they consider seriously their part in protecting their rights and that of future generations.

So, to this 2015 Class of Home Education Graduates,  CONGRATULATIONS! I pray you will represent us well as you engage in the wider world.


Photographer’s Workspace – Tools for the Post Process



Your workspace can say a lot about you.  Whether it is organized or chaotic, in a quiet secluded spot or in the flow of traffic, filled with your personal creature comforts or sparse and austere.  None of these aspects are good or bad in and of themselves, but they can be a window into the character of the person who works there.  So, here is a peek into my photographer’s workspace and post-processing world.

Where most of the post processing happens.
Where most of the post processing happens.

My workspace is in the social center of my home, the kitchen.  My kitchen is a large open room with a fireplace and it is where we gather at all times of the day.  While I do have a private separate office, I prefer to do all my editing here, where I can be with my family or company as much as possible.  Admittedly, my home is probably quieter than most; there are no small children running around, just my husband, two exchange students, and our large dog.

It is said that “creatives” generally have chaotic workspaces.  I am either not “creative” or just don’t fit the “messy” mold.  I tend to keep my space organized and free of as much clutter as possible.  In fact, when I am surrounded by clutter, I just can not concentrate, so keeping things orderly is important to my workflow.  It fascinates me how some of my artistic friends seem to not only be able to work among piles of papers and supplies, but in fact thrive in it!  Amazing! That’s just not me.  All work would have to shut down until I got the piles into some kind of order.

What is on the desk is also important.  Let’s take a closer look.

Tools for photo editing
Tools for photo editing

On the right side of the desk are my primary editing tools; wacom tablet which makes editing much easier, tablet pen, mouse, external drive, and my x-rite monitor calibrator which constantly monitors the light conditions in the room.  Of course there is also the obligatory rats nest of cables and cords behind the monitor.

Creature Comforts

On the left side of my desk are a few more essentials; card reader, keyboard, memory cards, notepad, mail file, and two small dishes to separate the backed up cards from those waiting to be downloaded.   In addition to these work items are my creature comforts; my favorite scented hand lotion, a nice tall glass of iced tea, and the remotes ready to launch the latest episodes of Mr. Selfridge, Sherlock, or Survivor ,  or just some nice background music.

My photographer’s workspace is my own and suits my needs.  What are your “must-haves” at your desk?