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




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?


Blogstomp – My Newest Assistant


As I am trying to be much more consistent with my blogging, I was thrilled to come across a new app to help remove just one of my many excuses: Blogstomp

Preparing photos for the web can be a real hassle.

My pre-Blogstomp process:

  • open photo in Photoshop
  • process in “save for web”
  • open my watermark in Photoshop
  • drag watermark to new layer of the photo
  • position and size watermark
  • flatten layers
  • sharpen for web
  • save as a new file to my web folder
  • repeat for each and every photo I want to post

Then, if I want to post several images in a single photo collage, well that is a whole other long process.  I have used other “blog/web” prep processes and even some Photoshop actions which have helped to cut the time, but they just were a bit too limited and didn’t do everything I wanted.  The result from all my fumbling around with different methods has created some less than pleasing and very inconsistent results.

Blogstomp to the rescue! With Blogstomp I simply drag my image into the app and literally click one button and the image is automatically resized, watermarked, custom framed, sharpened, saved as a new file, and, if I want, it will even post it to Facebook and Twitter for me, all with one click!  But what if you have 30 images you want to process? No problem, drag them into Blogstomp and with one click it will process them all.  Collages or Blog Boards are just as easy.  Select the images you want to include in the collage and “stomp” it with one click.  Blogstomp will create a collage for you in less than 5 seconds, and even give you several layout options.

Single image


5 images – one option of 13 different layouts

Or how about 20 images in one collage? No problem.

20/100 Days of Summer 2015
First 20 days of 100 Days of Summer Project

Blogstomp will even allow you to customize the frame in any color or size, with or without image stroke line, background images, square or rounded corners, and more, all in one click.  Even if you don’t blog, Blogstomp will make sharing your images easier and faster.  My new assistant has taken one more excuse for not blogging off my list.  I guess I will be posting more in the future.

What is your image processing system?