Jake's senior portrait session was so different from anything I've done recently. It really made me have to think and the editing was more difficult than usual, but I love the results. Jake loves the fashion of the 1920's jazz era and 1950's gangsters. His mom bought him his first complete well tailored suit just for the session. I think he would wear it every day if he could. His mom's reaction when he put it on was "It's so you".
When Jake's mom, Faith, contacted me to do his senior portraits, I said yes right away. I don't usually do senior portraits, but Faith has been a client of mine since long before HeartStrings existed. I've known Jake for so long, I couldn't imagine any other photographer taking his senior photos. Faith
wanted to use the Palace Theater in Hamilton for the session. She contacted the owners and they said yes! We met there for the consultation. I took tons of notes and quickly became super excited. It's not often I have the opportunity to shoot in such a unique location.
Jake plays saxophone, so of course we had to include it in the session. We enlisted the help of one of the theater's employees to run the spot lights, and started our session on the big stage.
I can't say I have ever used a theater spot light in a photo session, and hardly knew what to expect. It was actually easier than I anticipated, so I decided to "go big or go home" and had our lighting guy place a green gel over the spot light (green is Jake's school color). We ended up with my absolute favorite shots of the night.
You can't tell from the finished product, but Jake was not totally comfortable with being an impromptu fashion model. While he felt at home in the suit, he did not feel at home on the wide stage. It took a lot of directing to get him to hit the poses, but after a while, I think he got the hang of it. He may have felt a little silly at times, but he took it all in stride, was able to laugh, and pulled it off. I just hope he sees what I see when I look at these portraits. I see a cool, good looking guy with more confidence than he knows he has.
Once we were done having fun with spot lights, we moved the session upstairs to the bar area. At this point, I was pumped up and Jake was probably humoring me more than he should have. His mom was just laughing at my craziness. I sat Jake at one of the bar tables and asked if there were any rocks glasses behind the bar. We put water in it to look like vodka. I think I forgot for a few minutes that Jake is only seventeen. The scene just didn't look complete without a drink!
We made some jokes about the "vodka" and moved over to the bar where there was some really cool hanging lights. I struggled a little here trying to light Jake's face. The way the bar curved and the space that we were in just didn't allow me to put my softbox in the spot I wanted it to be. After moving it several times with no improvement, I decided to just go with it. In the meantime, Jake was talking with his mom, sister, and the theater employee and laughing. I realized I had to stop messing around with the lights and capture some real smiles. Oh, and I also realized these were supposed to be for a high school yearbook and took his glass of fake vodka away.
Track lighting on stairs...coolest thing ever. That's really all I need to say about that.
During the consultation, we ventured down to the basement level of the theater to check it out. When I saw the bathrooms I almost had a heart attack at how cool they were. I instantly had a vision of Jake in his suit, tie loosened, hat off, leaning over the sink, looking in the mirror, exhausted at the end of a hard day. I HAD to do this shot. We talked about it and there were jokes and laughing. I don't think Jake realized that I fully intended on making him do this. If he had said no, I may have cried. Not on the spot, but later, at home. So at the end of the session, we went down to the bathrooms and Jake looked at me like, "You're really going to make me do this"? I had a VISION! I'm so glad he knows how to laugh at himself. Two of the three bathroom shots made it on to their favorites list in their viewing gallery, so I'd say it was worth it.
This session really brought me back to my days as a photography student, experimenting with lighting and working with fashion models. I absolutely love working with children and families, but there's a part of me that misses creating dark, moody images. With most sessions, I live in the moment and try to shoot based on instinct and emotions between family members. There's not much room for experimenting and vision when you're working with a toddler! Jake and Faith inspired me in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. I am so thankful that Faith put her faith in me for her son's unique senior portraits, and I am so thankful that Jake humored me with a smile. I can't wait to see what ideas Faith dreams up with her other two kids when the time comes!
Cassandra Zingaro - photographer, mom, wife, owner of HeartStrings Photography and first time blogger