What to wear for your family portrait....

What to wear for your family portrait…


One of thethings I find that stresses mom out about having portraits created is clothing.  

Clothing is an essential key element when it comes to family portraits.  The game has changed quite a bit in the last few years. For a while many photographers including myself suggested that everyone wear the same color and no patterns.  Solid dark colors were best.  


The ideas behind keeping it simple were:

  1. The clothing should not be competing for the subjects faces.
  2. Patterns can be distracting
  3. It was easier to have everyone is the same color….


For traditional portrait photography trendy clothes and colors could eventually date the portrait and since fashion styles change photographers didn’t want their clients looking back on the portrait in ten years and think to themselves…  “what the heck were we thinking with that outfit?” 

Simple and classic would always stand the test of time…..  except when it gets boring.

And…. it did start to get brining, especially if you have clients come back year after year.  Families would want their yearly portrait to have differences besides the ages of the children.  Change of location of course -  but a change in clothing and colors started to become necessary. 



Now that the clients have more choices when it comes to clothing it can be hard to coordinate everyone.  Too many colors or patterns can be really distracting and take the focus away from the subjects.  Some moms are fashion savvy and some moms (like me) are not.  


Here are my top 10 tips to help when designing the clothing platte for your family’s portrait session.  


  1. Choose color pallets that work well together.
  2. You can choose a solid color and add patterns and colors that blend with the main color.Grey as a base is wonderful because you can put almost any color with it.  Grey and black -Grey and yellow or pink or green.  
  3. Younger children can handle brighter colors and patterns with parents in a coordinating solid color is fun without being overly distracting.
  4. Don’t go crazy trying to do something that doesn’t look like your family.  If your husband doesn’t like to wear pink -don’t put him in a pink shirt. 
  5. Accessorize - bring hats and scarfs for the kids - it will show some personality and let them have fun too.  
  6. Add neutral tones to jewel tones.  Cream/Ivory with burgundy or royal blue can be a great combination. 
  7. The number of subjects in the portrait can play a role in how many colors you add.  For larger groups up to 3 colors work best… it can be very distracting if you have too many colors with a lot of people. 
  8. The location can also play a part in deciding the color palette of your portrait. The beach lends itself to blues, coral, yellow, cream or pastel colors. Fall foliage may work well with dark green, brown and cream tones.
  9. The room in your home where you will display the portrait can be the inspiration for the clothing choice.  If your room is earth tone you can use your portraits to pop color into the room. 
  10. Have fun and express your family’s personality with style and color.  


Keep in mind dressing too trendy can look dated quickly and you want to enjoy your family portraits for many years.  



I always let my clients know that if they are unsure they can send me pictures or stop by with what they are considering.  Some clients buy new clothes - my suggestion is to buy more than you need and we can put the right combination together at the session.  Leave the tags on and return to the store what we didn’t use. 


Keep in mind dressing too trendy can look dated quickly and you want to enjoy your family portraits for many years.  


Here are a few samples of well put together and coordinated clothing options.  They each look classic, fun, personal yet timeless.

Categorized In: clothing for portraits | family | family pictures | michele celentano | michele celentano blog | photography | portraits

Inspired by "The Voice"

Inspired by “The Voice”

I have watched “The Voice” since the beginning and I thought this season I could give it up.  I DVR the show obviously to get past the commercials, skip the fluff and minimize my TV time.
Yesterday was a crazy windy rainy day in AZ (rain is so rare it makes you want to curl up on the couch and take a mental health day) -and sure enough the new season was recorded and I couldn’t help myself -

I was trying to figure out why I enjoy “The Voice” so much and endless reasons came to mind.  The first being that I love music.  SInce the age of seven I wanted to be on Broadway singing.  I grew up in NY so Broadway was something I did a lot of.  My first show was Annie and from that moment on I wanted to be on stage.  My family will tell you that I am always singing...  I can carry a tune but that’s about it.  
Growing up I don’t think my mom and grandparents knew how to direct my passion or they didn’t have the resources so I was never had any kind of formal training. I tired out for Juilliard when I was 13. I sang “The Rose”.... I was so nervous and all the other kids trying out had been in signing and music lessons most of their life so I was crushed when the rejection letter arrived.  (I know it’s not too late.... Believe me the thought has crossed my mind)

I however found my passion in photography and discovered the outlets to grow and develop a career.  I think my love of the stage is one of the reasons I love to teach and present programs.  Someday during a platform program I’m going to breakout into a melody of Broadway hits... (I need to find a way to  work that into my program)

The similarities in music and photography started to become so clear to me and it  confirmed why I love watching this show so much.
Performing on “The Voice” means overcoming fears, having talent, wanting to be mentored by industry greats and watching talented mentors excited about bringing up new talent.  

Then I started to realize that genres of music are a lot like styles of photography - they are virtually endless.
Musically you might like - Country, Rock, Pop, Hiphop, Rap, Techno, Indie Folk, Singer/Songwriter, R&B, Metal, Opera, Classical, Alternative, Show Tunes... and the list goes on.  

Photographically you might like - Traditional Wedding, Photojournalistic Wedding, High fashion Wedding, Landscape, Wildlife, Infant Portraits, Lifestyle Portraits, Traditional Portraits, Studio or Environmental, Commercial, Fashion, HS Seniors, Macro, Children or Family photography..... again the list goes on.

You probably like more than one type of music and more than one type of photography.
No one style or genre is better than another they are just different.  We sometimes forget this in photography.....

Some of the comments that Adam Levin makes on “The Voice” really move me.  He is an incredible talent but when he hears something in a new artist that he is not capable of he recognizes it and appreciates it.  
He said to one contestant yesterday “I wish I could do what you do with your voice, I sing like a high pitched girl and would love to have the range you do.”
I love that about him.  He is capable of acknowledging different talents in others without feeling threatened by it.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could all operate that way.  

Another aspect of the show that I love is the coaching and mentoring.  These new comers to the music industry are so eager to learn and to be coached to become better at their passion. One contestant said to Usher “I want to learn so much from you.”
We have so many new photographers in our industry that want to learn from those of us who have been around a while....
It’s the circle of the industry - I was mentored therefore I must mentor so that someday you will mentor too!

Last year I wrote a book.  When the publisher approached me about it I had been slowly pulling back from photography and heading into a new career in health and fitness.  After 25 years in the industry I felt I was ready for a change and that perhaps I was done in the photography world.  I think I had forgotten what I still had left to give.  I just assumed that everyone already knew  what I know and that I was a bit outdated.
So, when I agreed to write the book it was with the thought that this would be a great way to close this chapter of my life (pun intended).  The plan was to write the book and then move on.  ‚Ä®Funny thing happened on the way to publishing..... Writing the book redirected me right back to where I was supposed to be along - giving back to an industry that had given so much to me.  I love to teach, inspire and motivate photographers to grow as artists and business people.  I realized that I was not outdated... I was really a classic oldie with a great base of knowledge and experience that I learned from great mentors.  Mentors I would never consider outdated - I consider them legends - hall of famers!

Looking again to the music industry I started pairing up well know photographers to well know music artists that remind me of each other.  Not one better than the other but all uniquely different....
For me:
Monte was the Frank Sinatra of his time -Timeless, classic, smooth and untouchable.
Don Blair and Dean Martin....
Hanson Fong is like Mozart - Classic and flowing.
Jerry Ghionis is like Bono -  Classic, iconic, edgy, rock and roll
Doug Gordon is like Pittbull - Gritty, edgy, outspoken
Skip Cohen is like the Clive Davis of photography (able to see amazing talent and make things happen in an industry)
Bambi Cantrell to me is like Christina Aguilera - Classically trained yet edgy and confident.
Clay Blackmore and Michael Buble - Young, passionate yet timeless
Vicki Taufer reminds me of Cobie Caillat - Fresh, fun, easy going and timeless
Anne Geddes and Celine Dion are the perfect match and collaborated on a project together.
Annie Leibovitz is like Etta James to me.  Timeless, classy, distinct and raw
Joe Buissink can only be compared to John Lennon - ahead of his time, peaceful, thought provoking, elegant, a master of the craft.

When musicians talk about range, runs, pitch, falsettos, tone, high and low notes... they are talking about the basics.... The basics of music that every artist must know before they start creating their own sound.

When photographers talk about the basics we mean - basic lighting patterns, understanding posing and bodies, white balance, exposure, lens usage, camera heights, facial angles, the color wheel, highlight and shadow.... and the list goes on.
These are basics every photographer must have before they can “break the rules” -and create a style of their own.  

We can not escape a proper foundation no matter what we do in life. From music to sports, to medicine and yes photography too.  We need to build on a foundation of basics.  Even the most raw and gifted talent needs to start with a foundation of basics in order to fully utilize their raw talent and bring it to it’s full potential.  
We can not expect to fast track our way to success without a solid foundation, without education, passion, a willingness to be humble and learn from others and without mentors,  true mentors that are interested in watching young artists grow, mentors who want to give of their time for the betterment of an entire industry.  
One of the things I loved most about Monte was his desire to not only teach but his deep passion for learning.  We all become better teachers by continuing to grow and learn from others as well.
That is the message that Adam Levin leaves me with.... “I love and appreciate a talent or skill you have that I do not.  How can I help you grow and how can I learn from you?”.

“The Voice” - I love the show for the talent, the dreams, the personal stories, the mentors, the passion, the determination, the diversity- I love it all - Just like I love photography for all the same reasons.  I’m glad I took a step back for a little while. I believe everything happens for a reason.... if you are tuned into to yourself the reasons will show themselves.... Just like the reason I was asked to write a book was to bring me back full circle to my passion of teaching and photography.

What kind of musician an I....?  I know who I’d like to be like.... but I’m not sure it’s my place to say.
You probably have your own pairings... Write them down - what do admire about those artists?  What would like to emulate about those you admire?  How can you grow and is there someone who can learn something from you?  

This is what a rainy day in AZ gets you!  


Categorized In: music | photography | portraits | the voice | wedding photography

CreativeLive - Day 2

CreativeLive Day 2
The Pavlatos Family-

A few weeks before CL, Victoria emailed me to let me know that she and her family would be my models for my workshop.  I had let my producer (Malika) know that I would love to work with a large family.  In my mind I thought more along the lines of grandparents, children and grandchildren so I was really surprised when my large family turned out to be a Victoria, Timothy and their nine amazing children.

Now, I have to say I am old school - Brooklyn - Italian when it comes to kids, disciple, manners and politeness.  I think I have figured out that when you have that many children they need to be well behaved and not spoiled in order to have peace and harmony in life.
Without a doubt these 9 children blew me away with manners, politeness and personality!  I loved them all.  Having a “normal” family portrait session done with a family of this size is tough on everyone, never mind being on set all day with 3 video cameras along with my camera and an entire crew around.  This most certainly could have become a complete chaotic mess.  The truth is, it was one of my most enjoyable portrait sessions EVER!
If Victoria is ever looking for one of her children that appear to missing - I took one.  The only problem with that is I wouldn’t be able to decide which one to keep - they are all amazing!

The house we were using as our location was a dream for creating out door portraits.  Everywhere I turned there was another beautiful spot to use.  The only problem - I was a bit limited to how far I could go because of the camera wires and mic range.  I’m not used to being restricted and I had to get used to that quickly.  I also had to be done in the front of the house early enough to let the food delivery guys pass through without getting them on camera.  It is so crazy what goes on behind those cameras.

Teaching a workshop is always fun for me.  I really pushed the ladies who attended in a way they have never been pushed and I was nice enough to do it on camera.  For me, the best way to learn something is to do it myself.  I can watch someone do something 100 times but I won’t really get it until I actually do it!  Posing is a skill that needs to be learned hands on.  Christine, Lisa and Erin were great sports as I put them each on the spot to pose different combinations of groups.
Seeing how to puzzle people together while helping them feel comfortable in front of the camera is tough if you don’t have a lot of experience.  It is also helpful when you are learning something new to actually make mistakes.  That’s how we learn, we make mistakes and then learn how to correct them.  It’s pretty rare that anyone can master something new after only one attempt.  
A while back I read that it takes doing something 10,000 times to become a true expert at it.  Practice, practice, practice.....

Anyway,  the images I am showing you here are straight out of LR4 with nothing done to them except the logo and resizing.  A few have been cropped to 8x10 since that is how I intended them to be when I shot them.  

Even though we were shooting at what I would call the worst time of the day for portraits , we were lucky enough to have an overcast day or as I like to call it “God’s Softbox”.  I still would not recommend this time of day for portraits simply because the main source of light is still over head creating raccoon eyes.  Using a reflector under the faces helped to eliminate that problem but I still prefer late afternoon low directional light.  The point is we made it work - camera wires, overhead sun, lunch deliveries and NINE children ranging in age from 6 months to 17 years.

Tuesday seemed to fly by.  Before I knew it I was being flagged down by a white board announcing I had 10 minutes left.  When you are having fun photographing a family time  passes faster than you know it -  however when you are sitting on an airplane in front of a crying baby and a guy next to you that stinks - 3 hours feels like a lifetime! (I’m just saying)

After lunch we headed out back to continue working with the Pavlatos family using a different location.  There was a great deck off the house that provided beautiful open shade (until of course God decided to test me by yanking my softbox away and left me with bright direct sunlight).  I kept inching closer to the building in order to stay in the open shade but by the time the afternoon break came around I insisted on moving back to the front of the house where I had much better light.  

You can see how many different combinations of portraits we created with this family and honestly I could have kept going.  The light was PERFECT about an hour after we wrapped up.  However, from standing poses to sitting on the ground, using an arm chair and even a rock the possibilities for creating images were endless.  Not to mention the EZ Step blocks from Hanson Fong....  I’m pretty sure I could not live without them.

In the end I was thrilled with the images we created on day 2.  I had so much fun with Victoria, Timothy, Dre, Isaiah, Tatiana, Gabby, Anasia, Jordie, Tasso, Noodles and Evie (please forgive me if I spelled a name wrong - I’m thrilled I remember them all - but then again they are pretty unforgettable)

I’m looking forward to having the family over for dinner when they are in AZ visiting.... You know that is going to be fun!!!

Day 2 is a wrap and I’m already sad I only have one day left at CL.....

Tomorrow I will wrap up day 3....

Thanks for reading....




Categorized In: celentano | photograhy | portraits | weddings | wppi

Then and Now...

Then and Now....

It’s Sunday morning and I am just beginning to recover from WPPI in Las Vegas.  I have attended this convention since 1995 and wouldn’t miss it.  In the last 12 years I have spoken many times as a platform speaker but this year there was a really special energy.  
The feeling of excitement was electric and people were incredibly interested in learning how to become better photographers and better business people.

For most of my speaking career I start my programs with some of my very early work.  Going back to my younger days I remember sitting in programs and listening to amazing photographers talk about their work and there was always a little piece of me that wondered “how will I ever be that good?”.

It was daunting as a “newbie” to feel I had such a long way to go.  With that in mind, I decided when I started speaking that I would show my early and very bad early work as a way to show photographers that education is the most important thing you can do for your career and that if I could improve my work so could the students sitting in my class.

SInce then, dozens of photographers have thanked me for being brave enough to show my first wedding images.  They let me know that it really helped them to see that anything is possible - If I could do it so could they...

This exchange sparked an idea for a blog series I call “Then and Now”
Each blog will be dedicated to showing an image from my early work and an image from my current work.  I’m going to have to dig deep to find old images and pair them with new ones but I think it will be fun for everyone.  Fun for me as it will remind me of how much I have grown in my craft and hopefully fun for you to read and learn from.

Since I started my career in wedding photography I thought I would start this blog there.

Here are two wedding images taken years apart.

The first one makes me laugh because I can remember what I was thinking.  “Sweet, a nice gazebo, flowers in front, I’ll throw a flash behind the bride and groom and light them from behind like I learned in my last class.  I’m going to nail this shot”
I came close.... Okay except for the glasses I left of the railing of the gazebo, the backlight is too hot and pointed in the wrong direction and the posing sucks.... But at the time - I nailed it.

The second image is from several (okay maybe 12 years ago) but it is still a classic.  I used the environment, used the directional light, turned the faces of my subject toward the light and they are posed beautifully.  They are both open to the camera, there is detail in her dress as well as his tux.  To me this is a timeless image that could have been taken 12 years ago or yesterday.  

I’m pretty sure image 2 is a far cry from image 1.  

I still can’t believe I didn’t move the glasses from the railing.  Classic rookie mistake.


Categorized In: celentano | photograhy | portraits | weddings | wppi