Taking the Ordinary to Extraordinary


by Kimberly Smith, Texas School Instructor

As everyone knows, sessions with one-year-olds can be a bit of a challenge. A sweet little girl named Addie had her moments but, for the most part, was very cooperative. We chose an indoor session because her mom felt she might be distracted and not deal well with an outside session. That was fine by me. It was in June and the temperature in Oklahoma was around 104 degrees that day with high humidity.

We did several different images on a variety of backgrounds. They were your typical one-year-old shots. Although her outfits were a little more bold than I would have preferred for a more timeless look, that was OK, too. It was the look her mom wanted and the colors were fun and vibrant. Then I asked Mom if she minded us doing just a few in a more simple outfit and, of course, she didn’t mind. We keep a handful of dresses and outfits in various sizes and colors for moments like this and I picked out one that seemed perfect for the image I had in mind.

My studio has great windows in the front, floor to ceiling, facing north (a portrait photographer’s dream). They flood the studio with beautiful light but, if you are shooting into them as a background, you get a background full of colorful cars and a parking garage… not the best option for a nice, clean look in a portrait. However this was not in my plans for this session, so I was unprepared for the outdoor scenery. Of course, it would have made my job easier had I gotten rid of the “junk” in the background, but I would have lost the attention of this little girl. Sometimes we just have to take what we can get… and I did.

I had her sit in the window and I put a sticker on the sill beside her to distract her. It also prompted her to look down and to the side. Stickers are great because they are flat and can’t be seen that well and are easily removed with some minor retouching (just don’t use bright orange ones).

Addie did exactly as directed and I got several beautiful images. I knew immediately which one would be my favorite. When we were finished, her mom was shown the images on the back of the camera. She smiled and agreed with me. It was beautiful! Mission accomplished!

Looking at the images on my computer confirmed what I had seen on the back of the camera. This was exactly the look I wanted. It was simple, but elegant…  minus the vehicles in the background.

Some people might not have even taken the image because of the additional work required on the background and others might have simply left the cars in the background, converted it to black-and-white, and called it good. But I’m not like some people.

Learning to have vision has been something that has continually worked in my favor and can do the same for you if you can learn to look past the ordinary, the mundane, the unimpressive to see the possibility of the beautiful, extraordinary outcome. Sometimes we must  look past the flaws and the distractions and capture the beauty before the moment passes.

Kimberly Smith began her career in 2001 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Join her at Texas School ‘18 and learn how to get your creativity flowing and where to look for inspiration beyond photography. Learn more about Kimberly at www.KimberlySmithArtist.com.