Choppin' in a Winter Wonderland

Yesterday the Northeast was treated to a beautiful snowfall that covered our streets and our trees with a fluffy blanket of snow. As a regular human, snow makes me want to stay in my jammies, curl up, drink hot beverages and read some soul-filling literature while listening to music.

Natural wetlands in the snow
birch trees in the snow

But the photographer shouts, "HELLO! Snow portraits!" I'm gonna be honest and tell you that the photographer doesn't always win because... seriously? PJ's and hot beverages are pretty serious contenders who don't just roll over and take no for an answer. However, yesterday, the PJ's lost to the beauty that beckoned. 

snow covered trees

But the thing is, I don't always want to just take pictures of nature. I love nature, don't get me wrong. But my hearbeat? It's portrait photography and for portrait photography, you need willing subjects. Once upon a time when I would get the hankering to shoot portraits just because, I had my adorable children as automatic subjects. Now they are in school (and school was not cancelled yesterday, only delayed) and even when they are home, they are not always thrilled with being in front of my camera.

This leaves only one alternative. And I have to say... he's a pretty dang attractive alternative. In fact... kids shmids. Husbands are where it's AT! HELLO!

Lumbersexual bearded man wielding an axe in the woods on a snowy day

I decided that the snow and the woods called for a Lumberjack styled theme. For transparency's sake, my husband is not a lumberjack. He is a pastor. He has cut down a tree or two in his time. But then so have I (TAWANDA!) and I'm no lumberjack. But he sports a fine beard, wears plaid well and doesn't look too shabby in a nice pair of jeans.

bearded man holding an axe in a snowy woodland photo near princeton new jersey

I knew I wanted him to wear red because snow demands that a man wears red plaid. End of story. The axe was a must and he grabbed the Coach lambswool gloves on the way out of the house which was a stroke of genius, I think. I made him tuck in his shirt and wear a belt because this is a gentlemanly lumberjack we are channeling here, folks. The kind that gently helps tiny old ladies across the street and then kills a bear with his bare hands two seconds later, right after chugging a Guinness in one gulp and chopping down some non-endangered variety of tree. (No actual trees were harmed in the making of these portraits.)

portrait of a man in the woods with an axe

My husband, brave, strong and strapping as he is, has about a 10 minute attention span for portrait sessions. You may or may not know a few guys like this. It's common enough. They like to be themselves and at ease, and being in front of the camera makes them feel a little nervous and like they don't know how to follow direction. A good photographer knows how to make them relax and appear as if they know exactly what they are doing and could do it all day with their beards tied behind their backs.

bearded man wearing plaid holding an axe in the snowy woods

Of course this guy is sort of used to me telling him to do things... I mean... asking him nicely to do things, like pick up his socks. Don't let the axe fool you. He's a bit of a softy.

bearded man carrying an axe in the woods on a snowy day photo

He's a great sport and I think these are his favorite portraits I've ever taken of him. Thanks for getting out there in the snow with me, hunkahunka. I love you!

bearded man carrying an axe in a snowy wooded area photo


Portrait design for your home deserves as much attention to detail as any design element in your home. Actually more!

I want you to look at this image of a sofa. (I didn't take this photo. It's a stock image.)

You most likely put a lot of thought into how you design and decorate your home. You read design magazines. You might get inspiration from your favorite TV designers. Maybe you have a certain era that you are basing your home around. (I love the hollywood regency and mid-century modern styles myself.) Maybe you even hire a designer to come into your home and help you come up with a cohesive plan that speaks YOU.

Princeton New Jersey Family Portrait photographer

You do this because you want your home and how it's appointed to reflect both to yourself as well as your friends and loved ones just what and whom you care about. You may have original art pieces showcased throughout your home. Maybe you have old family portraits adorning your walls. If you're like us you even have some of your passions like musical instruments hanging on walls, expressing to all who enter, "this is what we value here." 

Personal styles run a formidably sizable gamut, so when I ask you to look at this sofa, I don't want you to get caught up in this particular sofa and how attractive or practical (the moms are cringing at the whiteness!) it is or is not. This sofa could represent any piece of furniture or decor in your home in whose purchase you have invested your creativity, your time, consideration and money into.

Now look at the blank wall above this sofa. When you are hiring a photographer, do you think about the finished portraits as not only a family heirloom but also an important piece of home decor that expresses your personality and values in a meaningful way? Does the media in which it is presented say what you want it to say? Your family portraits are an investment not only in the next generations because the portraits will endure that long if the materials used are curated with attention to detail, but they are also to be seen as an important piece of home decor as they are often a focal point of a room. As such it's an investment that demands more than cursory consideration.

Hiring a professional photographer who specializes in portrait design ensures that your decisions regarding substrates, finishes and custom framing are more than afterthoughts by helping you give at least as much attention to the portrait that hangs above the sofa or fireplace mantle as you do to the other important design elements in your home. The investment you make in your portraits will secure even longer lasting returns than even some of your most favorite home furnishing investments, which are often quite substantial, because the greatest value in them, which most often is primarily sentimental, virtually never depreciates. 

Are your portrait decisions merely afterthoughts or carefully made design decisions imbued with lasting value?

Comfort Zones are for Wimps!

Comfort Zones are bubbles that are meant to be popped! I mean, my bed is probably my ultimate comfort zone. (Right? Raise your hand if you're with me? Three cheers for BEDS!) Some days, especially when the rain and drear threaten to chill me to the bone, I just want to stay in the warm comforting embrace of my bed and watch a whole entire BBC series without even getting up to pee, if that were possible. But, alas, that kind of inactivity must be reserved for sick days and hospital stays or maybe a nice cozy mountain retreat. And really, I like to live my life at a rather steady clip and such a life demands that I daily get up and in some way, shape or form break out of my comfort zones.

Nothing kills creativity and growth like firmly ensconcing yourself in a comfort zone of any kind. So I am always pushing myself to try new things, learn from others, grow from my mistakes (or as Bob Ross tenderly refers to them, happy accidents) and press outward against the walls of the seemingly impenetrable bubble of the beloved and simultaneously bemoaned comfort zone. A lot of times we are frightened of what is outside of that bubble simply because we are paralyzed by the potential of failure. That paralysis sometimes disguises itself as safety. 

In photography this could mean something as simple as shooting at a different time of day than you normally do if you are a golden hour addict, for example. Maybe your an introvert running a small business and know you need to do more person to person networking. Pushing against the walls of your comfort zone could mean as small a thing as going to the teller at the bank rather than the ATM! Perhaps you have been in the building phase of your small business for what seems like an eternity and the only thing holding you back from breaking into the next phase is fear of charging what you know you are worth because fear of rejection is the most terrifying idea of them all! Sometimes comfort zones can be our undoing.

Sometimes getting out of your comfort zone could mean setting up studio lighting in your tiny living room and using your family as photographic guinea pigs. Little forays into the different can open up new worlds. You may find a new comfort zone (that you will one day maybe need to break out of!)

Black and White Portraits in Princeton New Jersey Nan Doud Photography
Black and White portraiture by Nan Doud Photography near Princeton, New Jersey
Black and White High Contrast Photography

They are rather attractive guinea pigs, I must say...

Portrait design and wedding photography Nan Doud Photography, Hamilton Square, New Jersey
Black and White Photography by Nan Doud Photography near Princeton New Jersey

As I began editing these, in a style rather more dramatic than my norm, I felt they had a certain timeless quality to them. A friend said that they reminded her of Yousef Karsh. Quite the compliment, I must admit. Not there yet, I think, but certainly something to aspire to!

Another friend said they had a Norman Rockwell feel to them. This one above actually really struck me that way. Something about his facial expression and the depth of detail.

Black and White portrait photography New Jersey

So much darker and moodier than my comfort zone would normally dictate. But I like it! What about you?

What have you done lately to get out of your comfort zone, whatever it is?

Caring for your Fine Art Photographic Prints

The other day I was talking to my teenage son about the portrait photography industry and how it has evolved throughout the years. We were discussing the business of doing business and how people assign value to emotional objects such as photographs. As we talked about creating pricing structures for the products that a photographer may carry, he said, "Well, of course they are not paying you for the paper! They are paying you for what you put on it!" I must say that, as his mother and a photographer, my heart sort of skipped a beat when I heard him "get it" without even a hint from me. As I mentioned last week, there are real reasons that we ought to remember the importance of printed portraits. But the value of professionally designed portraits is not contained in paper and ink. It is in the image itself. Your photographer is going to most certainly charge more than what a blank piece of fancy paper costs because they are not selling you a blank piece of fancy paper. The photographer brings the only element that truly imbues that piece of paper with any kind of meaningful value. The image.

Princeton, New Jersey Portrait & Wedding Photography | caring for fine art prints

Think about it. Reams of paper and drums of even the finest pigments will never ever on their own be referred to by a mother as "priceless" the way that a family portrait will. Why? Because we do not pay photographers for ink and paper. We pay them for the images they capture. Some call it art. And for the photographer who has spent years studying photography, yes it is her business but it is also her art. It's a piece of herself because she has invested so much of her life into her ability to capture the light and shadows, the movement, the emotion.

While the value of printed portraits is not in the raw materials alone, my clients understand that I pour myself into my work and that I won't rest until I have placed a beautiful finished product in their hands. They know that I will not deliver a piece that isn't made excellently and designed to last a lifetime (and longer because portraits are not just for us!) This is why I only sell archival quality fine art prints. 

100% cotton fine art prints from Nan Doud Photography

Why archival prints?

There are numerous types of tree based papers on which your portrait designer can opt to print your images. Wood based papers though are often laced with substantial concentrations of acid, which causes deterioration and yellowing over time. Cotton based papers, on the other hand, are highly resistant to fading, discoloration and deterioration. My fine art prints are made on 100% cotton fiber or (depending on the finish you select) sometimes non-cotton Alpha Cellulose based papers sourced from a company that has been the premier provider of museum quality papers for more than 400 years. Printed on highly calibrated wide gamut precision printers, the inks used can combine to create millions of color variations, many more than your standard large format printers, which accounts for the depth, richness and clarity of colors in fine art prints.

While renowned for holding their color and clarity for many decades, Fine Art Prints are not impervious to environmental stressors. One still must be careful to treat them well in order to keep them looking their best. The fact is, for all photographic prints, archival included, the safest environment is a dark, climate controlled one. Not many of us invest in family and wedding portraits in order to hide them away. That you will display them is largely unquestioned. Here are some quick tips for caring for your portraits in a way that will best preserve their integrity while being enjoyed.

Two different types of archival print paper

Fine Art Portrait Care Tips

  • Avoid touching the ink. Whether you use cotton gloves when handling them or not, is up to you. At the very least, wash your hands with soap and dry them well before handling your prints. I have begun to include a pair of cotton gloves when I deliver your prints so that you can handle them appropriately.
  • Avoid tapes. If tapes must be used to secure the portrait to a mat, be sure that the tape is an acid-free archival tape. These can be found at local arts & crafts stores.
  • If possible hang them out of direct sunlight.
  • No direct contact with glass. Archival acid-free mats should always be used. Portraits that are pressed straight up against glass will bond with the glass over time, making it impossible to ever remove the portrait from the frame without significant damage. As for the type of glass used, it is largely up to personal preference. Acrylic glazing with a UV protectant can be purchased at almost any custom framer's shop. It is unbreakable, lightweight, easy to clean with normal household cleaners, reduces condensation and comes in an anti-glare variety as well. This is what many museums use to protect their works of art. 

(The images above were shot for Jacqueline Patton Photography at two different weddings in Liberty State Park. One took place at the beautiful Maritime Parc and the other at Liberty House.)