Meet Riley | Urban Senior Guy Portraits

When my son arrived as a wee sixth grader at Denver School of the Arts, he and this amazing young man forged something of a brotherhood. At the time they were both only sons (although Riley ended up being an awesome big brother to two little boys), and they forged one of those friendships which has produced laughter, immeasurable growth and has inspired gratitude over the years.

And now... they are high school seniors. All those cliches about time flying? They are TOO TRUE!

In any event, we're thrilled to have this kid (and his whole family) in our lives. Riley is truly one of the good ones. Huge heart, kind soul, tons of talent, the kind of charm that just makes you want to giggle when you're with him, a quirky sense of humor and an overall very adorable human. 

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For Riley’s session, we decided to go a little artsy/urban. So we set out to discover photo opportunities in one of my favorite parts of town. I’m not sure it has an official designation but I think of it as the Museum District in downtown Denver, not far from Civic Center Park. Full of vibrant color, gorgeous light and a striking, eclectic mix of architecture, this whole area is a dream in which to photograph portraits.

And I just love photographing a guy with a sense of his own style. Riley’s style in this location was a perfect fit. Classic, colorful, fun. We were able to find great backgrounds and light for each look -- from sleek and modern to more edgy and artful.

We laughed… A LOT… on this session. I like to laugh on every session (it's hard to get great photos if you're not having fun, after all), but there’s something about relaxing into a session with great people like Riley and his fabulous mom that really does remind me again that I've got the best job in the world!

Riley's mom recorded a few iphone videos on our session and some great behind the scenes photos, so here's a quick glimpse behind the scenes... with sincere thanks to my dear friend Kimberly for the great shots! Gabe and I are happy to have your family in our lives and we look forward to watching Riley's next chapter unfold!

NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019! NOW'S THE TIME to set up your session consultation and details for your session even if you want to shoot later in summer or fall (those dates are booking already, and I had to turn away too many end of season clients last year -- it broke my heart!)

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: I’m a fun-loving, Award Winning, 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!

GABE’S GREAT SAND DUNES ADVENTURE SENIOR PORTRAITS

Holy crap you guys: my son is a senior in high school...

Fun, happy senior pictures with photographer jennifer koskinen merritt portrait studio 01-denver-senior-photographer.jpg

... And yes, it’s April so this is not exactly new information. It has been a thing for a while, but life moves so fast and we’ve been so busy the whole time that it still kind of catches me off guard, usually in the middle of the night when my mind drifts to a time just a few months in the future when he’s heading off to a new adventure. Chasing opportunities, facing fears and tapping into raw potential (the kind which is limited only by barriers we set ourselves) are the presiding themes of our conversations these days.

It’s scary. And very, very exciting. And sometimes you've just gotta laugh.

So, after years of him assisting me on other people’s senior portrait sessions, this year it was time to get his gorgeous mug on the other side of the camera. We knew, just from having struggled to find time for his headshots, that actually scheduling his photos was imperative. So we decided to go big, book it in the calendar and turn it into a mini family adventure. A “destination senior session!”*

Early on he had mentioned a desire to take his senior portraits at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in southeastern Colorado. We hadn’t been there since he was about ten and the idea stuck, so to the Sand Dunes we road tripped.

Where we found surreal light, wind-blown sand, mind-bending landscapes and mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes (PSA: there's a "mosquito hatch" season over Medano Creek and we discovered it -- which is why that picture below is the only photo we have near the water!)

Indiana Jones inspired senior portrait with photographer Jennifer Koskinen, Merritt Portrait Studio

Since he was old enough to get lost in stories, Gabe has been keenly interested in the details of the characters whose stories have captivated him.

From baseball players to Indiana Jones, from Leo diCaprio’s character on the Titanic to the superheroes that captivated his attention for years, he has studied and resourcefully created elaborate costumes to wear for Halloween and Comic-Con. So it was fun to watch him view his senior portrait session as a chance to express his own character in the stark and cinematic sands of a rare Colorado desert.

We had a blast, discovering our own balance on the rough sandy breeze, somewhere between cinematic portrait and comedic experience.

And of course all this happened while lugging wardrobe and camera gear across the desert sands, blinking frequent wind driven clouds of rocky dust from our eyes (it was the first time Gabe's camel-length eyelashes were more than just pretty -- they were functionally practical!)

Shooting at the sand dunes is not without its challenges.

Intermittent and unpredictable winds mean flying sand is always a threat to your equipment (meaning essentially you need to pick one lens and stick with it).

In addition, the distances are much greater than you imagine so you spend a lot of time trudging across thick sand to get to “that hill right over there” (which is never actually right over there), and the light is surprisingly fast moving and oddly difficult to predict with so many bright surfaces to bounce it around.

But when things click into place, it’s incredibly exhilarating.

I mean, check out the ephemeral light bouncing off the dunes in these black and white photos... flying sand everywhere (but you can see it especially well at the edges of the light near the surfaces of the dunes)... and dramatic shadow lines stretched out before us from the quickly setting sun.

There's a lot of magic in those dunes.

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All in all this was a fantastic and memorable experience. It inspired me to want to offer destination sessions to my clients.

With some advance planning and permitting, it's a great excuse to book some family time outside the everyday.

I love that the final photos are a fun mix of editorial, storytelling, fashionable and adventurous feeling.

We also caught a beautiful sunset, which, over the dunes with mountains behind and water underfoot, was completely surreal.

Quiet and majestic.

Gabe… my lil' buddy who is becoming a man... watching you grow up and step into your talent inspires me every single day. I love you with all my heart and can't wait to see what adventures await as you embark upon this next chapter of the story you are writing...

YOU ROCK!!

 

Even the camera roll on my iphone tells a fun story of its own (below).

NOW BOOKING SENIOR PORTRAIT SESSIONS FOR CLASS OF 2019!

DON’T WAIT (had to turn away too many end of season clients last year and it broke my heart!)

Click below to send an email to Jennifer. Be sure to include your name, parent's name & email, your school, a PHONE number, and then please check your spam folder if you haven't heard back from me within a day or so!

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!  

cinematic portrait of high school senior walking off into the desert, photographer Jennifer Koskinen, Merritt Portrait Studio

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!

We Just Had To | 2nd Annual Spring Blossom Portrait Fun!

I mean, we didn’t really have a choice, did we?

I think of this as his "Stephen Colbert face" -- pure ridiculous and full of joy

I think of this as his "Stephen Colbert face" -- pure ridiculous and full of joy

Last year’s flower photo session with my son was such a blast, and with the threat of snow in the forecast, it didn’t take too much arm twisting to get Gabe to model for me again this year. I didn't even have to bribe him with pizza this time.

When we first arrived, he posed for a few artful and more cinematic feeling photos.

I should note there were about 400 people arriving as we started, drinking beer and setting up for sporting events right behind us. Gabe just did his thing as if they weren't even there. The focus of an actor...

And then it was time for him to just be a boy. The "personality" shots... all him.

And a few more... a touch less ridiculous... a little closer in...

The conditions were the incredibly similar to our cherry-blossom-play-time last year, but I tested out a few different lenses out there this year. My normal go to lens is out of commission at the moment, and I'm actually enjoying testing the limits of two other lenses I've had but not used as much. I quite love them! Always learning...

Gabe even snapped a few shots of me -- he's got a fantastic eye!

Creative Outdoor Portraits in Denver in Natural Light. Photographer Jennifer Koskinen

If you missed last year’s post it was equally silly, creatively inspiring and totally fun. HERE it is if you'd like to see! Man... I just realized this kid of mine is going to be needing his high school senior pictures this upcoming season!!

Despite the "snow" (which wasn't as big a deal as predicted), there's still color out there with which to play. If YOU would like some creative spring flower portraits -- buzz me asap!

This incredible wonder of nature in the city will go quickly and is a spectacular backdrop for child, family or personal fine art portraits!! I'd love to photograph YOU out here before it's all gone!

Oh the Things We Do for Art... and Pizza.

The remnants of our latest winter storm in Denver had barely faded this year when the trees started to don those precious and fleeting spring hues that inspire me walk around my neighborhood in an artist’s stupor. It’s almost too much for my eyes to take in, and sometimes makes me feel as though I’ve tripped into an illustrated children’s novel:

Pink tree, purple tree, yellow tree, blue… Green tree, lime tree, red tree too...

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Lately I’ve been obsessively photographing environmental and beauty portraiture, so it was on my mind to photograph a glamour portrait session out in the vibrant hues and rich colors this spring. But almost immediately on the heels of the first blossoms came predictions of yet another fairly significant winter storm. One of those, “totals could be measured in feet,” kind of storms. The kind that would almost assuredly wipe the color off the trees, and we’d be praying for it not to take the branches off the trees as well.

In Colorado, heavy spring storms inevitably result in my son and I spending the next morning wandering through our neighborhood, alternating between appreciating the purity of a fresh spring snow blanketing the city, and moments spent covered, ourselves, in snow as we shake and free the branches, watching them spring back to life... thinking about the importance of remaining flexible in life if you want to survive the heaviest of storms...

As the storm predictions marched closer, nothing opened up in my schedule, and I nearly surrendered to waiting for next year to execute my vision for an epic flower glam session.

Friday morning, the day the storm was due, time was up and thick clouds were rolling in. Around noon, as I was folding backdrops after my last professional headshot session of the day, I picked up one of the pink wraps I sometimes use in studio and all the sudden it hit me. The actual snow wasn’t due to start for just a few more hours and I was suddenly once again determined to Make. This. Happen.

Sometimes you simply have to run home, grab a green shirt (to bring out your model’s eyes) and a pink piece of fabric (for obvious reasons), kidnap your teenage son -- at the bus stop with his backpack still strapped from his school day -- bribe him with the promise of pizza (the BEST pizza), and beg him to pose for glamour-style portraits in flowering cherry blossoms...

All for the love of ART. And humor.

And what turned out to be a lot of fun packed into the 20 minutes before freezing drizzle started.

And thus this session was conceived, born and completed in just a few hours.

Turns out this boy of mine has really been listening as he has been assisting me on photo sessions over the years. Kid knows where the light is, and how to rock a glamour pose with his chin, shoulders and hands... AND throw in his own brand of teenage boy personality while he's at it. I know of no "Koala Pose" in the world of fashion photography... but perhaps it should be a thing...

Hilarious... and also kind of awesome.

The inclusion of Gabe's "Blue Steel through the Blossoms" was all him. I can take no credit for this last pose.

Judging from the overwhelmingly positive reaction a small selection of these photos received in just a few hours in photo groups on social media the next day, my takeaways are this:

Necessity really IS the mother of invention.

The answer often IS right in front of you.

Do something UNEXPECTED, do it from the HEART, and do it WELL.

 

Oh… and my son is THE BEST !!

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PS -- did I mention that my son (THAT AMAZING BOY ABOVE) is an incredible photographer, too? He has been working with me on photo shoots -- often as a second shooter -- since he was 14.

Here’s wishing an incredible next trip around the sun… to the most incredible, inspiring, supportive, crazy-talented, funnier-than-he-knows, wicked-smarter-than-he-believes, strong, sweet, loving, flexible, soulful, wonderful, GOOD HUMAN I’ve ever been lucky enough to know.

I love you, kiddo. Thank you for the photos of me!

 

Jennifer Koskinen is a Denver based portrait photographer specializing in empowering high school seniors, women, and headshot clients, as well as having a special passion for connecting with and drawing out personality in her subjects’ EYES. Sessions are custom styled around YOU: You should exist in photos... for yourself AND for your family!

Photos of Jennifer by the one and only, Gabe Koskinen-Sansone