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  • Writer's pictureJanet G.

Improving and building my quinceañera portrait photography portfolio

I have to take a moment to express gratitude. Not for the things I have, although that’s a plus, but for the people that have served as inspiration for my portrait photography from the start.

So, this gratitude post is dedicated to my cousins, tias, and tios who trusted me in helping them celebrate their quinceañeras. Thanks to my cousins' quince, I was able to build a strong portfolio and grow as a quince portrait photographer. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them.

8 reasons why taking photos of your family helps you improve your portrait photography

I helped three cousins with their quince - by taking pictures. In each quince, I practice, learned, and tried something new. Photographing family members is more comfortable. You know the person - what makes them smile, how to talk with them and you're more confident.

Below is what I practiced and learned photographing my cousins' quinceañeras:

  1. Directing. Photographing a family celebration event you need to learn how to direct family and friends when taking group photos. Practice how to grab everyone's attention and keep it for one minute.

  2. Posing. Trying new poses is terrifying! With cousins, it is a fun activity and you're more comfortable giving it try. Depending on their personality, they might just go for a pose. Plus, the family is more patient and outgoing.

  3. Lighting. When taking photos at a family event, you have the opportunity to practice reading the lighting around you. I do portrait photography outdoors, so when I'm inside a reception hall, I have to analyze the lighting and see what I need. Today, I used a flash for every session - indoor and outdoors. Click here to see my recent quince photography.

  4. Composition. Starting out, our composition is not the best. Practice capturing symmetry and depth with your portrait photography. Use the rule of thirds when taking family photos. And, have a sharp eye and double-check that there aren't any distractions in photos, like your photo equipment in the background.

  5. Exposure and Color Balance. Do you know how aperture, ISO, shutter speed, and white balance work together for exposure and color balance? Taking photos of family and friends can help you gain practice and learn how to change the right settings for your photography needs at a quick pace.

  6. Editing. Taking pictures at family events gives you more RAW photos to practice and find your editing style. And this also goes along with your camera exposure settings. Your camera settings are very important in keeping your editing style consistent.

  7. Being Ready for Anything. Photographing family events helps you be ready for the unexpected. Quinceañeras are similar to weddings. A lot of surprises and emotions going on. You have to learn how to prepare and what to expect. Taking photos during family celebrations gives you the chance to practice for it.

  8. Experience. It gives you the opportunity to practice and find your artistic style. Portrait photography is an art and it takes practice to find your voice. The more you practice the more experience you gain and the bigger your portfolio gets. Plus, your family gets professional photos done and you get referrals.

Building my quinceañera portrait photography portfolio

Photographing my cousins' quinceañera helped me build a strong portrait photography portfolio. I got referrals. My tia's recommended to their friends and family for their celebrations. This is how I started offering family sessions, senior year portraits, and first communion/baptism photography.

I also got social media content. I shared a few of my photos and behind the scenes on my Facebook and friends booked me to take professional photos. From a solo-portrait mini session to maternity, to family sessions to weddings.

Thanks to my cousins and my family, I was able to build a strong portfolio and get the experience to be where I am today. I invite you to scroll down and read how each quinceañera helped me practice my portrait photography.

Veronica's Quince Portraits at Anthem Community Park and Imperio Hall

2 Things I PRACTICE during Veronica's Quince - My First Quinceañera

Vero's quince was actually my first quinceanera. Her quince was on May 24, 2015. My parents are her godparents and my mom asked me to take her photos - as a gift. And I did. Had a great time and learned a lot. I also realized that I was more relax and comfortable taking photos. Below are the two things I practiced with ease:

  • Poses. I was more confident in trying new poses. I spend a lot of spend on Pinterest and looking at quinceañera photos on Google. Action shots and landscape are a big component of quince portraits. My cousin chose the park - Anthem Community Park. It was my first time there and I love it! That waterfall is worth the drive. Doing action shots keeps the whole group together and keeps the atmosphere fun and outgoing.

  • Directing. Taking family portraits at the reception was fun. I know everyone, and I was comfortable and confident in directing everyone into a pose and looking at the camera.

3 Things I LEARN from Veronica's Quince

  • Shadows. I love having shadows in my portraits. However, for quinceañeras, it's not recommended. Shadows create patterns and distract the viewer. For quinceañera portraits, focus on the girl, the dress, and make-up. Capture the beauty of the whole person. Shadows have to be intentional when it comes to portrait photography.

  • Color balance. Capturing the right color balance takes practice. You have to read the lighting of the reception and set the right exposure setting on your camera to capture the color balance evenly throughout the event. That takes practice and investing in the right lighting equipment.

  • Editing. Photo editing also takes practice. I use Lightroom and there are ways to color grade and edit the exposure on Lightroom, but during this time I didn't know how. I was too scared to try all of the options. It wasn't until a year later I was comfortable editing on Lightroom.

Natalie's Sweet Sixteen Portraits at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel in Phoenix

1 Thing I PRACTICED during Natalie's Sweet Sixteen

Natalie celebrated her sweet sixteen on August 13, 2016. For her sweet sixteen, I was more prepared. I continued practicing and trying new poses and how to direct family members during family photos. I also was intentional with my composition and angles. Below is the one thing I tried new and practice during Nat's celebration:

  • Flash Lighting. To keep my lighting consistent and even, I use a flash. I also had a better understanding of exposure. Doing family portraits helped me practice and learn how to use my camera settings properly.

2 Things I Learned from Natalie's Sweet Sixteen

  • Be ready for anything. My tia and tio surprised Nat with a mariachi band and I was in the bathroom. I heard the trumpets and guitar as I was washing my hands. I quickly dried my hands and rush to grab my camera. This is when I learned to ask questions. Ask and confirm all of the details before and on the day of the event. Always be ready for the unexpected!

  • Editing style. While I was in the editing room, I tried a new editing style. Nat's dress was bright red, so I went with a dark and moody style for her photos. I added lots of color contrast and put all the attention on the red dress.

Stephanie's Quince Portraits at Anthem Community Park and Imperio Reception Hall

Stephanie celebrated her quince on February 27, 2017. For her quinceañera, I put into practice everything I've learned and practice to this point. Lighting, posing, directing, camera settings, and editing. Reviewing these photos today, I do see some inconsistency in color and you can see my equipment in the background. What does that mean?
  • Experience! The more you practice your photography and the more you photograph events, the more experience you are going to get. The more experience you get, the better your photo quality gets. Practice, practice, practice. It takes time and practice to become the best version of yourself.

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