10 Tips for Outdoor Portrait Etiquette

When I’m not taking photos, I work for a natural resource agency as a scientist, and my office is located in a building that houses a nature center surrounded by a beautiful public park with natural areas, walking trails and fishing ponds. Having heard about some recent landscape damage caused by photographers at other parks, and because I rely on public areas for my own wildlife and portrait photography, I was particularly disappointed to recently witness a photographer breaking many common sense etiquette rules.  A few google searches on the topic produced no real results for the kind of information I was looking to share – so I spoke with some fellow facilities and put together a few guidelines for using public areas for photography.


1.) Preserve the natural landscape.  Work from established trails and do not trample or destroy vegetation. Do not cut or break branches from trees. Do not pick flowers.

2.) Observe fences or obvious boundaries and do not cross them. Areas labeled as “refuge” are off-limits to all activities. Restoration areas and wildlife habitat (such as nests of ground-nesting birds) can be fragile and easily damaged by foot traffic.

3.) Respect other users. If someone is in the spot you’re wanting to use, move on to a different location and come back later.  If you must, ask politely if you may use that spot, work quickly and thank them for sharing the space. Be prepared to take “no” for an answer. Avoid setting up in high-traffic areas or during a crowded event. Others have just as much right to be there as you do.

4.) Using props is OK as long as they can be taken away after the session and do not damage the landscape or structures. Putting down a blanket or placing a chair is usually fine (see #1) but dumping a pile of sand for a “beach” theme or carving names in a tree for an engagement session is not.

5.) Save the cake smash photo for the studio.  Leaving frosting and food scraps on the ground is gross and unhealthy for wildlife that may find and eat it.

6.) Wildlife may interrupt your session, especially if they’re used to human activity. Be patient, don’t try to chase wildlife away by shouting or clapping, and NEVER feed wildlife to encourage them to enter your frame.

7.) Check with the nature center, park or area so you are aware of specific rules for photographers before booking a location with your client.  Make sure your client understands these etiquette guidelines as well as any special rules for that area.

8.) Buy a membership or make a donation if the nature center or park has such a program.  This ensures you’ll be in the know for any special events – but most importantly, your membership dollars will be used to maintain the landscape and trails.

9.) Take care of your clients. Know how to avoid plants such as poison ivy and remind clients to check for ticks after entering heavily wooded areas.

10.) Remember that when you’re working as a photographer, you are representing not only yourself but other photographers.  If you portray a negative image, particularly to a large number of people, you are also making the rest of us look bad.  Be considerate, and treat the public area as you would your own private studio, leaving it clean and ready for the next session.


Lasting Snow

I love snow.  Everything about it – the cold, the wet, the gorgeous pure white blanket covering the ground. I make a habit of enjoying it when we do have it, for soon enough it will be summer and I’ll be longing for the cold again.  Things have been a little crazy lately and I’m behind on my posts.  Hopefully this one gets me back into my schedule.





Lane is a Year Old!



My nephew recently turned one, and my little sister wanted to do an “uno” shoot to celebrate.  We met in the afternoon and set up a cute backdrop in her living room using a bit of flash and some natural light coming in through a large window.  Lane has just learned to walk, and he didn’t really want to sit still!

Birthdays are a big deal in my family – we make it a habit to use it as an excuse for as many of us to congregate as possible.  Here are a few shots from the party a couple of weeks ago…  Free lightroom templates here.





Spending Time

Fall is always such a busy time of year for us as a family, with the four of us running in up to six directions at once.  It had been several weeks since we’d all been home together long enough to even eat dinner, so when my boys were out of school for a day, I took a day off work.  We started with our favorite sushi restaurant, followed that with a bit of shopping, had some gelato and then headed to a local state park, where I snapped a few photos of my youngest walking through the colorful foliage.

Walking PathImageImage

Fall Families: David and Cat

Recently, the lovely Cat Poland, blogger at Mom on the Range asked me about family portraits and I was honored to join her wonderful family at her parents’ farm on a beautiful fall afternoon.


While it was the first time to meet her in person, I’ve loved reading Cat’s blog for some time.  Her honest and heartfelt posts hit close to home on so many levels, and I’d love it if you bounced over to her blog for a read.


Families are so much fun to photograph.  I smiled the entire time I was editing these photos – it’s clear that the love this family shares includes a heavy dose of fun 🙂


Seven Little Pumpkins

An impromptu family gathering last weekend prompted a certain auntie to load a cart with seven pumpkins for a carving party, resulting in this adorableness.


It was quickly determined that the pumpkins were much to large to carry, so we rolled them out into the yard where we set up the carving area. IMG_1060

We scooped, and scraped and took out seeds by the handful – which we tossed in a a sunny, out-of-the way spot, hoping for a future pumpkin patch to sprout!


Some of the littles were just too small to play… but they still went home with a pumpkin of their own 🙂

S&K Family Session

My favorite thing about family portraits is watching the kids grow and change from one session to the next!  I couldn’t believe how tall these girls had gotten since I saw them last – and even more lovely. We met at a local state park and had some fun in the just-chilly air, with the fall colors just starting to emerge.





Senior Pool Shoot



David is a bright young man whose family I’ve known for several years.  He wondered about a swimming pool shoot for his senior pictures, as he’s on the swim team at his high school, and I couldn’t wait to oblige!  David’s mom has a friend with a gorgeous backyard and saltwater pool – and it worked beautifully to capture his stunning smile and personality.