Just what are you paying for? Before and After examples.

Sometimes, it’s really hard. To justify investing in professional pictures of your family. To really spend some time thinking about who you’d like to capture your kids at this moment in time; to just simply freeze life for a minute or two.

And what goes into that process anyway? What is involved in someone taking your picture?

Lots of things, really. Relationship. Seeing relationship. Creating a fun, happy, and unhurried environment in which to relax and play a little bit. And then there’s the technical stuff about lighting and exposure and shutter speed and composition. But those are all things that happen during the shoot…

What happens after?

To be honest, only about 1/3 of my time is spent at the shoot itself. The other 2/3 is learning more about you as a family in order to find an awesome location for your shoot, then culling and processing your photos to tell your story. I can’t decide which part is my favorite, to be honest. :)

To demonstrate the final product, though, I’d thought I’d share some of my family’s before-and-after photos. I keep an almost-daily blog about what happens here at the Pantier Casa, and these by no means are staged or “professional” shoots. But they do tell a story, and it’s the one I have in mind as I’m shooting.

I wanted to tell a story about my kids here: of them playing in the snow, catching snowflakes on their tongues, and especially that new toothless smile of my 6yo.


I cropped out distracting elements in the background, brightened his face, and selectively boosted the colors of his skin, coat, and hat. I also faded the background a bit, to support the idea of this being in our neighborhood, in our front yard, and an everyday moment of our life.

Here are some other examples, all focusing on him trying to catch snowflakes on his tongue.



I love those last two because they really focus on what he was doing, as well his honing in on his facial expressions that are lost in the uncropped versions of those pictures.

You might be asking at this point, “Why didn’t she just zoom in?” The lens I chose to use here wasn’t a zoom lens. I had to physically move back and forth to create the “zoom”, and was positioned between my boys to try and catch them each. It gave me a little more freedom to crop the photos in Photoshop and really focus on the story, while keeping my focus sharp and on my intended point in camera.

Here’s one of my 2yo, who was cracking up as the snowflakes went up his nose. The memory of what was actually happened would have been splintered by leaving my car in the background. And while that background element would most likely be absent in a professional shoot, sometimes things like tree branches, animals, someone’s purse, or an odd shadow might be there. In fact, as I critique the final photo here, I should have cloned out the distracting shadows to the left of his nose at the edge of the photo.


By cropping in, you can focus on the crinkles that his smile creates at the bridge of his nose and the outer corners of his eyes, especially since his face is in profile. To me as his mom, it doesn’t get much better than that true glimpse of him – I can almost hear him laughing!

This last outdoor shot of them nearly did me in. I took about 10 pictures to get it, and in each either one or both of them had their eyes closed because of the snow glare. Thanks to Photoshop (God love that program), I cloned my 2yo’s face from one picture and worked it into another to show them both smiling. I also cloned out the distracting snow shadows around their heads so the focus is on their faces.


That’s why you might hear your photographer taking millions of pictures, just to catch that one fun shot of your kids. Especially if they’re as busy as mine. :)

Now for some indoor shots. I’ll preface this by saying that our home sheds an awful yellow cast on everything at night. The paint on the walls plus our “soft white” lightbulbs create a beautiful warmth, but it does tricky things when you’re taking pictures without a flash (and flash creates shadows in this situation, which can be remedied, but that’s a whole different post. And for those of you photographers out there…yep, I should have watched my white balance. I’ve since created a custom setting on my camera based on Kelvin to compensate for this in my house at night). (Ooh. I should also add, I didn’t do a very good job while taking this picture – I should have fixed some things in my camera before taking it; this edit took longer than it should have. This was more of a “save” because I loved the picture, not a “let me make a good picture great” type of scenario.)

You can see that yellow cast on the left. I fixed the cast, worked on his skin tones quite a bit, and adjusted my sharpening. He wasn’t feeling very well when I took this picture (a nasty cold), so I softened his under-eye bags and lifted the sparkle in his eyes to mask that.


And my last example is of my 6yo. He tends to have massive darkness under eyes in most pictures. I usually fade that back a little, which I did here, and I also worked on that yellow cast again. You can see the difference not only on his skin, but in his hair.


I hope this helps you see the work that goes into every photo shoot, and these are just daily, silly pics of my kids! :)