Art for Heart's Sake

Today, I got to make ART.

For the sake of art. In the spirit of collaboration and creativity.


Even better, I got to make art ... in a museum ... with a treasured co-conspirator in the arts.

My muse was my gorgeous, extraordinarily talented friend Valerie. A life-long dancer with unparalleled grace in her movement through life. Someone who shares the calling to create art with her life's work... and sometimes purely for the sake of art.

We got to make art that was inspired by art. Giant, abstract expressionist art came to life in a whole new way before us as Valerie danced.

We made art inspired by the “life-lines” that run vertically through so many of Clyfford Still’s vibrant paintings. Inspired by the movement we found in his colorful canvases and the sumptuous light in this special space, a museum designed specifically to house this one artist’s prolific body of work.

Downloading the photos tonight brought me intense happiness (I may or may not have shed a tear) -- watching what we had created come to life image by image on my monitor. What a liberating experience it is to create art for the sake of seeing, for capturing a moment, feeling depth of color and composition with no agenda outside of discovery, and possibly a desire to share (if anything ends up being worth sharing). The act of sharing would be like icing on the cake. For what it’s worth, after today, I'm so excited to share what we found in there that I'm here with a sneak peek, something I hardly EVER do.

 SNEAK PEEK: this is a low quality iphone photo of my monitor, highlighting a few unedited images as they downloaded from my camera tonight. Final Images are yet to come... watch this space!

SNEAK PEEK: this is a low quality iphone photo of my monitor, highlighting a few unedited images as they downloaded from my camera tonight. Final Images are yet to come... watch this space!

My heart is full. And I'm left with a strong emotion that, especially given the uncertainty and unrest in the world, we all need to remind each other to make moments for those things which make our hearts full. Discovery, creativity, adventure, love.

Thank you, Valerie, for your beautiful heart, for your life’s art, and for coming to Denver to share this crazy idea with me. And for letting me collaborate with your dance today. I can’t wait to share the final photographs!

Actor Headshots | Make the Most of Your Photo Session!

As a lifelong theatre lover, stage production photographer and mother of an actor heading for his BFA, I have an intense admiration for your work, and the highest possible respect for your talent and art.

 above: natural light actor headshots photographed on location in urban settings in Denver, except for upper right which was photographed in my natural light studio

above: natural light actor headshots photographed on location in urban settings in Denver, except for upper right which was photographed in my natural light studio

And I get it: getting photographed as an actor when you’re not… acting… is not your favorite thing.

SO... if you're nervous about this, please keep in mind that 1) you’re not alone in this feeling, and 2) I’ve got your back. My job will be to help you relax and have fun with the process. I’ve been told often by many clients that this is my superpower.

But there are a few things you can do before the session to increase the odds that you arrive at least feeling prepared.

Think of getting ready for your headshot session like you would prepare to arrive at an audition: rested, hydrated, on time and dressed for the part you want.


  1. Bring 3-4 different looks for and actor headshot session (4-6 looks if you booked an extended photo session). Even if your end goal is just two photos  (one commercial and one dramatic) it’s best to have options. Please don’t bring your whole wardrobe as we'll end up using up shooting time trying to sort through your clothes.

  2. Bring a variety of necklines and fabric textures. Simple tops are best, and keep wardrobe options in line with your brand.

  3. Clothes that fit close to your body are more flattering in photos (no matter your body type, I can pose you in more flattering ways if your clothing is not baggy or boxy).

  4. Think about colors that compliment your skin tones (please bring options outside of black or pure white -- colors that compliment your eyes, skin tone or hair are best).

  5. Avoid flashy and busy patterns that will distract from YOU. The main focus of these photos should be your eyes and the connection we feel with your personality.

  6. Jackets and uncomplicated layers are helpful in creating variety without stopping for full changes.

  7. If you can wear a light tank under a few items, it allows for quick changes outdoors (more photography time).

  8. Jewelry is likely to distract from you, so unless it’s a vital part of your brand (and you're confident it will stay that way until your next headshot session), skip it.

  9. TRY ON your wardrobe items before you bring them. If you’re only doing headshots, there’s no need to worry about pants (I mean, you’ll need to WEAR pants to the session, of course). Check that items still fit well. Hopefully this will remind you to pack outfit specific undergarments (i.e. avoid striped undershirts/black bras under light shirts).

  10. Launder, press, de-lint as needed.

  11. NOTE for actors and models who have AGENCY REPRESENTATION: talk with your agent beforehand if he/she wants input regarding wardrobe and styling!


  1. After selecting your wardrobe, PACK it in a way that it is portable and can comfortably sit on a sidewalk while we are taking photos. A small rolling suitcase is ideal.

  2. Make sure you stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. This will help keep your skin clear and eyes bright. Don’t stress if you wake up with blemishes the day of your session (and don’t mess with them as that generally makes them worse -- let photoshop do the magic there!)

  3. Exercise the week prior (if that’s your thing), but there’s no need to delay a headshot session just so you can “lose a few pounds.” You’d be amazed what good posing can do to flatter every and any body! Light exercise before your session can add a healthy glow to your skin.

  4. Eyebrows / Nails / Hair / Lips / Facial Hair: Clean up, pluck and trim as necessary. You want to arrive at your audition looking essentially like your headshot for it to be the most effective tool for casting directors to connect your headshot to your audition. Please DO NOT try out a brand new haircut/style in the few days before your session (take it from many clients who have learned this lesson the hard way)! Wear hair & makeup how you normally would, just be sure to refresh right before our session and bring anything necessary for touch-ups just in case. Even if you don't wear makeup, mascara and lip tint or at least gloss is great to highlight your features but still look natural. Men: remember some lip balm or chapstick… it’s Colorado. 

  5. It is not your job to be photogenic, it is my job to make you feel empowered to draw out your personality while you connect with the camera. You can relax knowing that I will direct you into your most flattering poses (this is critically important since you can’t see yourself, after all). I’ll give you posing tips to take with you, and YES, I’ll show you photos as we go (not all photographers do this). My clients love to see what we are getting and discuss any necessary modifications we want to make as we work together.

  6. Familiarize yourself with directions to our meeting place and leave time to negotiate traffic and parking. Nothing worse than arriving frazzled, except perhaps arriving late when there might be a session scheduled after yours.

  7. If you have done your prep-work, the only thing left is to show up! We’ll chat about your wardrobe for a few minutes when you first arrive, and then you’ll have time to relax into the session. Ideally you’ll have a great experience while we produce fantastic headshots to land you in front of your dream casting director.


To learn more about my personal approach to studio and/or on location actor, model and professional headshots (for men, women and kids), and to explore investment options, please check out my PORTFOLIO. And if you’d like to read my most popular blog post to date, check out my INTERVIEW with Denver Casting Director Sylvia Gregory and discover in depth what she’s looking for in an actor headshot.


Final thoughts if you’ve reached this post and are still shopping to hire a professional: Be sure you are working with a photographer who specializes in Actor Headshots (very different from portraits or professional corporate headshots). Spend time looking at your photographer’s work -- do you resonate with the photos in her/his portfolio? Are the eyes the main focus of the photos? Do you feel personality and connection in the subjects? Is the lighting flattering? Do the photos make the actors look approachable, interesting, engaged and professional? Are the backgrounds distracting? Also important: do you feel comfortable communicating with your photographer? Is he or she willing to talk with you on the phone if you have questions? Your comfort level the day of your session is critical to getting great connection in your photos.


Class of 2018 in Denver: Senior Portrait Season!

Senior portrait season is in full swing! Since early June I’ve been photographing and editing as fast as my shutter, eyeballs -- and computer processor -- will allow. I'm working with such a fun, fascinating and diverse breadth of high school senior clients every day that it has become quite the challenge finding the time to blog. But I’m still here, and I'm dying to introduce you to the first (better late than never!) senior pictures that I photographed for the amazing Class of 2018...


Adding to my warm feelings on this set of photos, this senior portrait session was a personal one. My son and I have known this gorgeous green eyed girl since they were in 6th grade together at the Denver School of the Arts, and you just can’t help but adore her! Ellie is a bright beaming light: talented, kind, and possessing an adorably infectious laugh and fun sense of humor. She is the embodiement of the expression, "Beautiful inside and out."

Having grown up near Wash Park, this outdoor location, a wild geese-filled, luscious public green space nestled in the heart of Denver was a natural fit to capture Ellie’s senior pictures. And it was a fantastic complement to her relaxed, fun personality and her natural, welcoming look.

I’ve photographed at Wash Park several times over the years, although not for a while, and never in some of these parts of the park. As with so many great locations, on this day, with these clouds and this green eyed young woman, everything looked different.

Everything was… perfect.

Given my approach to portrait work, as I tell my clients often, choosing a portrait location is mostly about where you’ll FEEL comfortable. My goal is always to create magical photos anywhere there’s good light. Compositions can change dramatically with the tiniest shift of perspective, even when you’re surrounded by trees and water, as you can see in the different kinds of photos we got during Ellie’s session. Often it’s the simplest move -- a small tweak of my footing or bend of knee, combined with the tiniest shift of her shoulder, and suddenly: BAM. Breathtaking. We had a lot of that on this session. What a blast!

 Ellie's stack of finished products upon delivery! Custom Image Box, luxe USB with her accompanying digital files and a Fine Art, Deep Matte Print!

Ellie's stack of finished products upon delivery! Custom Image Box, luxe USB with her accompanying digital files and a Fine Art, Deep Matte Print!

Delivering Ellie’s photos and experiencing HER joy as she adorably hugged her finished Image Box and prints reminded me to my core why I do this. Photographs freeze an incredible slice in time in a young person's life. And it's a moment that will then get to be cherished as a marriage of art and memory for generations. They represent a piece of a story of a beautiful soul on the brink of her great next adventure!

Ellie, thank you for the honor of taking your senior pictures!! Your grounded spirit and authentic joy are positively contagious, and I smiled A LOT editing your photos.

I'm so excited for your senior year and the next chapters that await you and your awesome DSA Class of 2018!

VERY LIMITED SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS for CLASS OF 2018 are available, starting in mid October. Inquire immediately via email (button to right will open your email browser) if you're interested in booking a session for this season. Please leave your name, school, yearbook deadline and phone number -- thank you!

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection and personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook. Instead my focus is on creating an unforgettable experience. Together we are telling a part of your story with pictures. I collaborate with each of my clients to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around his or her personality, style and interests. I’d love to tell a high school senior story about YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!  

Meet Cooper | Fall Senior Session in the Mountains

What a blast it was playing in the mountains while photographing this handsome, fun, bright senior!

senior guy pictures in Denver mountains, photographer Jennifer Koskinen
laughing senior guy photo in fall

Cooper lives a bit farther from Denver than a lot of my clients, and schedules being what they are we arranged his senior portrait consultation over the phone. As a result, I didn't have a chance to actually meet him face to face until the day of his photo session.

I prefer meeting clients before their session for a consultation if possible so they are fully comfortable with me and what to expect from this experience. Yet despite not having met first, by the end of our time at Lair o’ the Bear park I felt like we'd been friends forever!

We had such a great time getting to know each other, laughing and searching for the best spots on the trail. And what a great location this park is, just up the road from Red Rocks Amphitheater, west of Denver.

Cooper is an avid autumn-lover, and was fortunate to attend a school with a later yearbook deadline which allowed us to plan his outing accordingly. We chose a session date closer to peak autumn color (so many high school senior yearbook deadlines are too early for peak fall color in Colorado, which really doesn’t happen until the middle to second half of October).

As Cooper is an actor (heading to one of the most prestigious BFA programs for acting in the country), part of the goal was also to get him some actor headshots as well. I love the mix of capturing intimate, character-in-the-eyes photos with the more casual, quirky photos you get to explore on a senior session. For example, someone who wants to do yoga and meditation in the woods? I'm in!

One of my favorite things about visiting the mountains is how the trails can change dramatically in just a few steps. This area has so many varied vistas, allowing for deeply shaded photos, cottonwood, water flowing in the creek, and open fields with tall grasses. And in autumn, everything glows with golden warmth.

Like the personality of this awesome young man! So excited to see what he does with the next exciting phase of his life!! Thank you for letting me capture this experience with you, Cooper!

CLASS OF 2018: SENIOR PICTURES ARE BOOKING FAST!! Drop me a line if you'd like to learn more!

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving Denver high school senior portrait photographer specializing in bringing out connection, personality in the eyes of my clients. I strive to do more than just take senior pictures for yearbook, instead my focus is on storytelling with pictures. Together we’ll collaborate to design an immersive and empowering portrait experience, custom tailored around the personality, style and interests of each awesome senior -- hopefully YOU. Let’s grab a coffee and chat about designing an amazing high school senior photo shoot for you!

Voice Talent | Personal Branding Portrait Session in Denver

Don’t be fooled by her petite stature: this adorable woman is a fierce powerhouse of talent, warmth and inspiring confidence. To say I was impressed by her (and loved every minute of spending the day with her!) would be an enormous understatement.

Rachael West Talent Personal Branding Photos in Denver with Merritt Portrait Studio

An Emmy Award Winning ISDN Voice Talent, Actor, Model and Host, she also happens to be downright delightful. My son (assisting on this session) and I thoroughly enjoyed touring her studio, learning about the work she does in her impressive custom studio, and basking in the purple and yellow glow of her home.

Her personal branding photo session was divided into two parts. Part One fell into my initial career skillset of architectural photography. The goal here was to showcase her incredible, purple (I do LOVE a client with his or her own color!) custom recording studio. Her top of the line professional recording booth was designed to fit her home so she can record at any hour, without the need to work around others’ studio hours, as well as to meet the demands of her internationally based clientele. And this woman WORKS. Every detail has been addressed from technical to functional… and the cream on top? It is all designed to match her personal style.

Part Two of her session was her personal branding, headshot and portrait session. Which, of course, was a blast! We spent a large portion of the session laughing as we wandered around downtown Denver seeking out the perfect backgrounds and colors to complement her wardrobe and coloring, finding a cohesive look to tie all of her photos together. All the while we enjoyed trading industry stories and getting to know each other..

I always love working with actors and talent who have had the opportunity to work with other photographers, as their perspective provides me with valuable feedback. I try to be as helpful as possible in communicating direction on a session, as well as showing my clients what I mean with examples on the back of camera to help them visualize what I'm getting. It was great to hear her articulate both during the session and afterwards, just how helpful that was on that side of the camera.

"Amazing! Incredible talent, wonderful ability to give direction in the moment with understandable adjustments that make the photo magical. The BEST headshot experience I've ever had in Denver!" - Rachael

Towards the end of the session, as the light slipped toward the warm and golden hour, we headed to one of my favorite spots in Denver and these photos are some of my favorites of this season. Warmth permeating not just in the quality of light, but captured in her adorable personality, expression, tone and character.

Every time I meet someone with this quality of warm competence and confidence, I can see immediately that their clients must love working with them as well. What a treasure!!

For more information on Rachael West and RW Talent LLC  and to hear and watch samples of her work, please visit her website:

Thank you, Rachael, for reminding me again how fortunate I am that this work introduces me to such outstandingly talented people. You have inspired me and I'm grateful to know you!

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I am a Denver based portrait photographer specializing in bringing out personality in my clients’ eyes while creating powerful, personal images. I want your photos to stand out and communicate more than your average headshot. Comprehensive personal branding packages are custom styled around each client’s specific needs, and sessions are designed to be enjoyable and empowering And don’t worry, if you think you’re not “photogenic” -- it’s not your job to be photogenic. It’s my job to take great photos of you! I would love to chat with you about designing a couture professional branding session for you.