Classic Hair and Makeup

I mentioned this shoot in my previous blog post, but I wanted to really go more in depth and share more about the experience.

Classic Hair and Makeup is a chic salon located in the South Side of Pittsburgh. Cristin (the amazing photographer boss lady I’m interning for) brought me along to the shoot to assist her and second shoot. She needed to take the stylists’ headshots, lifestyle candids, group shots, and make a promo video for their website.

Cristin is all about confidence building and girl power, especially in front of the camera. One of my favorite things that she did at the shoot was bring along a fan for the head shots. You don’t realize how glamorous a fan can make you feel until you’re getting your picture taken. It was a great way to make the stylists feel comfortable in front of the lens.

I had done some research the night before and came prepared with some hairdresser specific corny jokes. Corny jokes are so underrated! If there was a moment of awkwardness for the subject or if we needed the whole group to give us real smiles, I whipped out a hairdresser joke. “Why was the lady’s hair angry?” … “Because she was always teasing it! Ahaha.” It worked every time.

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For the last part of our shoot, we focused on lifestyle images. They brought in three model clients and worked on their hair while Cristin shot video and I shot pictures. I love taking pictures when people aren’t necessarily focused on me -- it always allows for a more candid moment.

I had never shot pictures at a hair salon before this, so this shoot was a great first experience. I’m learning that getting out of my comfort zone is a really great thing, and continuing to do so is a new goal for the rest of my 2019.

Rachel - Senior Session

Introducing…Rachel!

For Rachel’s senior session, she was looking for “train tracks and graffiti.” Thankfully, I had come across a location in a shoot I did over the summer that matched her description.

We started off with the train tracks, which led to some very fun shots. Train tracks can act as a prop, a backdrop, and a seat all at once! We moved onto the graffiti, which added a pretty purple color to our shots.

We wandered up a hill near the tracks and found an interesting area with some cattails, high grass, and rocks. You would never be able to tell that there were big construction trucks around us.

I had a great time getting to know Rachel and her bubbly personality — also, her hair was absolutely STUNNING. Doesn’t she look so gorgeous?

Yasmine - Michael's Shoot

I'm on a blogging roll!

About a month ago (I know, I'm a bit behind), I got to work with the stunning Yasmine Degnan, or @petalfever on Instagram. It was my first time shooting a model, which naturally made me nervous, but Yasmine has such great energy that she calmed me down instantly.

We decided to shoot at Michael's (yes, the craft store). This was a super popular trend earlier in the year, but I never had the courage to go into a public store and shoot. Thankfully, Yasmine radiates confidence and it was contagious. Soon enough, I was on the floor in all kinds of strange positions trying to get the perfect shot.

We ran over to the book store next door to snag a few bonus shots. I had the best time -- I loved being able to collaborate on shots from an artistic point of view. I was able to compose the shot in a way that I wanted to tell the story, and Yasmine was able to pose inside the shot in the way that she wanted to tell the story -- and somehow, our visions meshed perfectly! 

Go check out Yasmine's website to see more of the pictures and check out some of her other amazing work: https://yasmine-alexandra.com/ Models work really hard too, and sometimes people take advantage of that without giving proper credit where it's due. So go show her some love!

Here are a few of my favorite shots.

Jane - Senior Portraits

I'm a bit behind on my blogging, but I've finally gotten around to posting another senior session. I had the opportunity to shoot Jane, a senior with a radiant smile and a beautiful personality. She chose Simmons Farm for her location, which was an amazing choice. It was my first time shooting there, but it has quickly become my new favorite location. The flowers were so beautiful, as well as the corn fields.

Thankfully, the sun cooperated with us and we came up with some great shots. Jane was going for a bit more of an "artsy" style, which I was so excited about since it's refreshing to take a break from more of the "normal" editing style that I tend to do for senior portraits. I loved getting to know Jane, and I am so excited to share these pictures. I think her personality really shines through.

For anyone stumped on finding a good location for senior shoots, I highly recommend Simmons Farm. The flower fields are stunning, but there are some rustic barns nearby that I briefly scoped out. I would love to shoot a senior session around the barn. Let me know if this sounds like something you're interested in!

Danielle - Senior Portraits

Summer is the perfect season for senior portraits! I was so excited to shoot Danielle's senior portraits, as we had shot dance pictures in the past. She booked two separate sessions with me, so our first session would be dance poses and our second more "normal" shots.

Her dance instructor, Miss Heather, came along to help aid us in poses. It was a big help since I definitely do not have a dance eye. What looks good to me photo wise might not be the right dance form. You can find more about Miss Heather and her studio here: South Hills Dance Academy.

I absolutely love how these shots turned out. Danielle was impressively graceful even in positions that should have been impossible. We went for a more vibrant sort of look, which I am so happy with.

Take a look at some of my favorites

Anne - Senior Portraits

I love portrait photography.  It brings so many beautiful people in front of my lens.

One of those beautiful people happened to be Anne.  We headed up to North Park at the Latodami Nature Center, which has now become my favorite location for portraits.  The nature center was serene, which meant I wouldn't have to edit out any passing by families or ask them politely to step out of the way.  There were so many different choices of background like a small pond, a bridge, a grassy path, a painted barn -- it was such an amazing location!

Anne was so easy to work with, and I loved talking to her about her future plans for senior year and beyond. Check out some of my favorite shots below, and click here to schedule your own portrait session!

Kaylee - Mini Senior Session

I recently began offering mini sessions as a quicker and cheaper alternative for those who wanted their pictures but didn't want as in depth as the packages go.

When Kaylee reached out to me, I was thrilled to take her pictures.  She is a lovely young woman who has the most beautiful smile and personality.  She brought her flute for us to feature in some of the pictures, but our shoot was simple without any other props.

We took the pictures in a local park and the weather was perfect.  I've attached a few of my favorites from the shoot.  She looked absolutely stunning!

Milk Bath Self Portraits

Sometimes my level of determinedness amazes me.

Let me elaborate.  Yesterday, I decided to test out some milk bath photography.  If this is a new concept to you, milk bath photo shoots tend to take place in bathtubs or small pools, usually requiring at least a gallon of milk mixed in with some water.  This produces a milky white liquid, opaque enough to hide your subject under the water, but still slightly translucent around the edges, giving the picture a mystical effect.

I have always wanted to try this type of photography and since it's a new year, I figured it was time to just do it.  I had originally planned to have one of my friends model for me, because taking self portraits in a tub of milk seemed like a daunting, if not impossible, task.  However, due to my intense impatience and excitement, I decided to dust off my trusty tripod and figure it out.

I conducted a google search of milk bath self portraits and didn't find too many examples.  I meandered my tripod into the tight space, locked my camera into position, attached my tripod, and crossed my fingers that nothing would fall into the milky murth below.  I slipped my phone in a ziplock bag to prevent it from any water damage (since it acts as my remote) and started mixing the water and milk.

My five year old sister promised she would help me snap some shots in the beginning.  I slid into the tub.  If I had my eyes closed, it would have felt like a normal bath.  (But it really wasn't).  It was definitely uncomfortable because I was fully clothed in a dress and mesh cardigan, but it was 100% worth it.

My sister clicked my remote shutter for me for about ten minutes before she got bored.  She was a big help, because it was easy for me to shout, "Okay, go," instead of having to readjust every shot.  I continued taking shots by myself, which totaled up to about 30 minutes.

With pruned fingers and melting mascara, I decided that I would be satisfied with whatever results I came up with.  I've attached some to this post.

Photography is really about trying new things.  I've been wanting to do this shoot for ages but never jumped into it (literally haha) because it was intimidating.  But now it's become one of my favorite shoots and has filled me with a real motivation to try out some more creative techniques.

Get ready, because a color powder shoot is next!

Why Structure Destroys Creativity

Stifling.

I'm not sure it's necessary to even continue when one word can sum up my entire post.  However, I will elaborate because I believe it is important to speak on whatever tiny platform I can manage to obtain.

We live in a structured world.

It's in our schools -- we are taught to sit up straight in our plastic chairs.  We are taught to keep our eyes directly ahead, staring at the board; don't look to your left, or you might start thinking about things besides the square root of a number divided by pi.  We are given formulas to follow not only in mathematics, but in literature, languages, and science.  There is no room in the curriculum for creative thinking -- no time to understand, only time to memorize.

It's in our jobs -- maybe we sit in cubicles and go through the motions.  Protocol.  Rules.  Routine.  Maybe we stand for hours and hours on end, serving the general public, bending at the waist to bow to our superiors.  But no matter what countless effort we put into what we do, no one will listen to our suggestions.

It's in everyday life -- from the way we get lost in our own routines to the way we post specific pictures on Instagram.  "The norm," we call it.  Subconsciously we seem to believe there is no other choice.  No individuality.  We face problems that we don't know how to solve because to solve a problem, you potentially have to suggest an unpopular solution.  And if you somehow muster up the courage to suggest a solution, you'll be condemned if it's based on emotion or does not have the proper equations to back it up.

The system isn't working.

We do not value art and creativity with the same importance or respect as we value a research paper.  We do not often give our children blank pieces of paper, but rather we shove paint-by-numbers in their hands.  We look at emotions as weak and unnecessary, as if it is more important to say the words they want to hear than to know how to communicate our own feelings.

The system is what convinces artists to focus on "logical" careers.  "You won't make enough money." "Why would you want to take that risk?" "Don't you understand how impossible it is?"

Why don't we encourage artists?

Artists look at the world differently.  We do not only see problems, but we feel them.  We express them.  We want people to listen to us for the right reasons.  Perhaps artists should be taken more seriously in places of politics and business.

I'm not saying every artist has something "morally correct" to say.  I'm not saying artists are above scientists or that anyone's craft is less or more important than someone else's.  But I am saying that it's time to consider art as a positive, important part of society. 

Artists are our thinkers.  Our emotional receptors.  Our communicators.  Why aren't they taken more seriously?  Artists force people to feel, to understand, to see.  Is that not just as important as a medical degree?  Sure, you can fix my body, but can you fix my mind?  Can you convince me to believe you?  Can a stethoscope do that?

Oh, but it's my mistake.  This is a matter of logistics.  The skills artists possess, there certainly isn't anything they can do to benefit the rest of mankind.

Or so they say.

Behind the Picture: Artistically Grieving

Artist's block.  Communication breakdown.  A lack of inspiration.

Call it what you want, but it's all the same.  In some aspect, you are experiencing the inability to create.  To get your message across.  To share the inner workings of your mind with the whole world.

It's a terrible experience that only someone who speaks through art can understand.  Sure, athletes pull muscles.  Musicians break strings on their guitars.  Vocalists strain their voices.  But writers, painters, photographers -- we get artist's block.

How frustrating it is to hold a camera in your hand and not know what to do with it.  To stare at this instrument -- the conveyor of your ideas -- and not know how to express your message with it is beyond any sort of physical ailment.  These spells can last for as long as they like.  The artist's flow of creativity has been temporarily hijacked.  Who knows how long it is before the hands reconnect with the brain and make something worth looking at.

The artist herself enters a phase of grief, almost.  She becomes more and more entangled in desperation due to a lack of creation.  Creating is what she does.  She takes pictures say the words she cannot find, and here she is, not even able to do that.  It is a temporary sort of depression to find yourself at a lack of motivation to do the thing you love the most.  

This was the inspiration for a short series of images I created entitled, "Artistically Grieving."

Funnily enough, this was the picture that got me out of my artist's block.  I was sitting on the couch, frustrated, thinking about my artist's block when I realized that this was the perfect situation for a picture.  I could create the situation in a cryptic image and my message would be understood by the people who have experienced this for themselves.

I began thinking about how difficult it is to create when you're under the influence of this creativity destroyer.  No matter what message I would try to convey, ultimately it would end up bland and dull without my heart behind it.  

So, I bought a canvas and some paints and set up this shot.

I like the way it turned out, especially since it came from a place of desperation.  I still have episodes of artist's block, as one will always encounter unpleasant setbacks in anything they do, but it just goes to show how you can create something even when it seems like there's nothing left to create.

Follow me on instagram to see more posts like this: @paigespixel

Self Portraits: How and Why

I take my own pictures.

I'm not a model and I have no desire to be a model anyways, but I don't always have someone to stand in the rain or put glitter glue all over their face at 11 o'clock at night.  My creative sparks come in random spurts and they do not contain themselves to normal hours or normal portrait poses.

I have done many shoots by myself that I wouldn't want to make anyone else do.  I actually did stand in the pouring rain for a good half an hour, probably risking pneumonia, just so I could get a picture.  I've painted all over my face with acrylic paint, because who cares if I break out?  At least I'll get the picture.  I've lied on muddy grass and bent over fences at dangerous angles and sometimes I ruin whatever outfit I'm wearing.

But at least I get the picture.

Sometimes it's hard to put someone else in that position.  And even if they do end up doing whatever it is you've told them to do, they still don't always understand your vision.  For my creative portraits, I usually have a feeling or mood that I want to convey.  Not everyone knows exactly how to look into the distance the way I see it in my head.

And that could be my own flaw, honestly, because I don't know how to explain my vision until I actually have it in front of me and out of my own head.

Nonetheless, it's easier to set up my tripod, connect my camera to my phone, and shoot myself.  Because I know exactly what I want the shot to look like.

Don't get me wrong, I love shooting creative things with my friends.  It's a different experience than normal portraits for family shoots or senior headshots.  I've taken some really cool shots with my friends even if it's slightly awkward for me to tell them to "look like erm, someone erm, just ditched you at homecoming to be with someone else," since it's oddly specific and makes me slightly vulnerable.

But everything is about getting out of your comfort zone sometimes.

Even getting in front of the camera could be considered getting out of my comfort zone, though.  I don't like when other people take pictures of me.  That's in part because I want to be the one controlling the camera.  But being in front of the camera takes away that layer of security.

I do like the control that self portraits give you.  If I mess up a shot, I can retake it.  There's no pressure of blurring a photo too much for someone else and no trying to direct someone's hand to do exactly what you want.  I like being in control of everything in the shot.

So how do I do it?  Everyone is always so surprised when I tell them that I take the pictures myself.  All you need is a tripod and a remote!  The rest is all creative work.

Basically, a self portrait shoot starts with an idea.  And that idea turns into a costume and makeup.  And that turns into a location.  And I set up my trusty tripod, connect my camera to my phone so I can control it, and jump in front to pose.

There can be challenges of course.  It can be difficult to position the camera exactly how you want it, while if it was handheld, it would be so simple.  It's hard to carry everything, mostly--tripod, phone, camera, props--and then even harder to find a spot to set it all down at.  The elements aren't always kind either.  It's difficult to protect your camera from rain if you can't stand in front of it with an umbrella.

Honestly, I think I've learned more problem solving skills taking self portraits than I have in all of my time in school.

I've compiled a small collection of some of my self portraits.  Let me know what you think about them.

Denise

Denise is a foreign exchange student from Germany staying at my school for the rest of the year.  We became friends during our Algebra 2 class almost instantly while working over a problem we couldn't understand.  

The first thing you notice about Denise is her beautiful, long blonde hair.  She's a natural blonde (something you definitely don't find in America too often) and though her hair is what some people would kill for, she is considering cutting it.  I said, "NO! Not until we have a photoshoot.  Then you can cut it."

I bought $30 worth of flowers from the craft store the night before, something I have always wanted to do, and set up a station for hair and makeup.  I went for a natural makeup look and threaded some of the flowers through a braid in her hair.

A few weeks ago, I was at the thrift store (my favorite place) and bought a $40 wedding dress for the purpose of a costume.  It was the most money I have ever spent at the thrift store on one item, but it was worth it.

Denise is a natural born model!  It was so easy to shoot her and the pictures turned out so fairytale like.  She is basically Rapunzel in disguise.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the shoot.

Meet My Little Sister

A few days ago, I was preparing to shoot some self portraits.  I grabbed my fluffy makeup brush and dipped it into a few eyeshadow colors, imagining what kind of look I could create.  A little hand pushed open the bathroom door and I heard a small voice ask, "Paigey, whatcha' doin'?"

I smiled and watched as my four year old sister entered with her bright eyes and sparkly shirt.  "Just gonna take some pictures," I said.

Her eyes seemed to light up even more when she had an idea.  "Can I have a photoshoot with you?"

Is this a normal conversation between a preschooler and her big sister?  I couldn't tell you.  But for us, it was the norm.

"Sure," I said, setting down my brush.  "We can pick out a fancy outfit for you."

With a sly grin plastered on her face, she pulled out a Dollar Store brand eyeshadow palette from behind her back, the three metallic shades of purple, blue, and pink matching the colors in her shirt.  "I thought we could use this."

So we did.

We had fun matching the eyeshadow to one of her purple dresses.  She decided that her outfit looked like Mal from the Disney movie Descendents, which made her just about the happiest kid I have ever seen.  After completing the look with "space buns," we were off to go scope out locations.

Our location was almost always our backyard, and this time was no different.

I have to say, being completely unbiased, that my sister is gorgeous.  And what a little model she is!  Within ten seconds of me pointing the camera at her, she had managed to get her hand on her hip and tilted her chin to the right.  I've been alive twelve more years than her and still can't seem to figure out how to pose in front of a camera.

I've included a few of the shots we took together.  Enjoy the beautiful soul my sister has.

The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You

I have been granted with an amazing opportunity to shoot all over the city of Pittsburgh, as my photographs will accompany Dr. Samuel John Hazo's fifth edition of his book entitled, The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You.

The book is a memoir concerning Dr. Hazo's memories and emotions attached with Pittsburgh, as well as some of the city's history.  Being a "Pittsburgher" myself, I was excited to jump into the project when Word Association Publishers approached me.  However, I was also extremely nervous, being a portrait photographer who had little to no experience with street photography.

I couldn't pass up something as big as having my photographs published in someone's book, so I accepted and swallowed my nerves.

I met with Dr. Hazo in his home where we ate butter pecan ice cream and oatmeal cookies.  He talked to me about the book among other things, like how his wife liked taking pictures of flowers and how his grandson likes to fly planes.  Before I left, he smiled and spoke in his soft, wise voice, "It is an honor to be bookended with you, Paige."

I, a sixteen year old who takes pictures, soaked in the phrase that he, an eighty-nine year old published poet-playwright-essayist-professor-translator-critic, had said.  I shook my head, "No, it's an honor for me to be bookended with you."

After that experience, my nerves disappeared.  

I am a little over halfway through the list of locations I was given to shoot in Pittsburgh.  I don't even think I can tell you how much money my parents have spent on parking passes this far.  I see the streets of Pittsburgh everytime I close my eyes--for only being a junior in high school, I think I know the city pretty well by this point.

The past three weeks have meant constant trips into the city, but all of the traveling through the Liberty tunnels and detours because of construction will be worth it when I can finally see what my photographs look like in a book.

I will attach a few of the pictures to this blogpost--a bit of a sneak peek, if you will.  As you'll be able to notice, the pictures are focused more inside the locations than of the locations.  It's a bit less of cliche approach and more of an artistic approach to capture the city.

More information on where to buy the book will be coming out soon.  If you would like to preorder a quantity of the book, please contact me.