Meet Sequoiah | Empowered Urban Portraits in Denver

This woman is extraordinary. For real.

Sequoiah was a classmate of my son’s at Denver School of the Arts since the 6th grade (currently she’s a freshman at Stanford University), so we got to watch her grow over the years, developing her voice over the years to become a fierce advocate for women and minorities.

Throughout my time knowing her, I’ve always come away from conversations feeling inspired and energized. In each of her junior and senior years, she wrote incredibly moving and enlightening plays, both brought to life as full length productions as part of DSA’s Black History Show program. Not only did she research and write the scripts, she also directed each with brilliance, nuance and indomitable strength.

When I say she’s impressive, I’m only scratching the surface of the bazillions of ways in which she inspires me.

I’ve wanted to photograph her for years, so this was a special honor -- a true senior portrait experience. A sun and laughter filled photo session before she headed off to Stanford.

Absolutely radiant in the warm summer sunshine…

At Sequoiah’s consultation, she talked about her ancestry and familial roots, and out of that conversation, the ideas for styling her session were born. She decided that each look would celebrate a different side of her biracial roots.

We were so lucky to have her dear friend Yasmine to help style each of her looks on location, from accessories to wardrobe to hair and makeup. And of course I love that we were able to capture photos of their gorgeous friendship as well.

Ultimately this session (as I strive to make all of my sessions!) was about empowerment. Celebrating her spirit of extraordinary integrity, hard work and joy. Radiance. Sisterhood. It was a celebration for all of us, and I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have finally had the chance to work with both of these incredible women.

Sequoiah, we are thrilled for the next chapter you’re out there writing! You are an inspiration, a change-maker and we love you!!!

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!  

Gorgeous, Geological Location for Unique Senior Pictures

For 55 million years these selenite clay and sandstone spire formations have been evolving and eroding in a magical, little known and remote location east of Colorado Springs.

Senior Pictures Colorado location with Denver photographer Merritt Portrait Studio

Nestled just out of site, below the windy prairie, this geological treasure of a location was mined by natives over 5,000 years ago for the chromatic characteristics found in the pink, yellow and purple hues. This spot is now known as the Painted Mines, and one glimpse lets you know immediately that you’re someplace special. Rich in geological and archeological history, this place is hauntingly beautiful and an incredible location for a hike… or for unique photos.

I’ve been wanting to visit this amazing place and do a photo session here since learning about it a few years ago.

So... when Hannah said she wanted something different, specifically something that not everyone else would have for the location of her high school senior pictures, this was one of the first locations that popped into my mind.

I was THRILLED when she said she loved the idea!

And Hannah…

Oh man... this incredible girl is a force of nature herself, a unique and extraordinary human. She’s a survivor: a fiercely intelligent, talented, strong, kind, generous and beautiful young woman with an infectious laugh and grounded spirit of individualism that inspires me deeply.

Hannah’s gorgeous, deep blue eyes and dark hair, beautifully moved by gentle gusts of “model hair wind,” were stunning in this setting. The contrast of her striking look against this surreal geology was almost overwhelming for me as a photographer (seriously, I kept laughing when I’d look into the camera because it was all so incredible)!!

This naturally unique location was an absolute joy to explore together for this senior session. Overwhelming geological history calls out from the rich layers of undulating surfaces, leaving its mark of chalky dust if you touch the soft canyon walls. And the natural light is amazing -- bouncing everywhere with a color that is completely surreal.

Photographing for hours, we wandered happily to the sound of our laughter echoing off the canyon walls, catching glimpses of wildlife scattering by, from huge jackrabbits underfoot to soaring hawks overhead. And we breathed the scent of ancient clay dust and distant rain on the wind. It was a decidedly magical afternoon playing out there together for her photo session, well worth the extra drive.

a few final behind the scenes photos from our incredible session day!

a few final behind the scenes photos from our incredible session day!

As you can hopefully tell, it was a dream for my son and I to be out there photographing Hannah. Her session also made for an absolutely gorgeous storytelling Fine Art Album, my favorite new way to tell a story like this that families can keep forever.

And as with all of my most-incredible-senior-clients-ever, I’m crazy excited to see where this amazing young woman goes next!!

Now accepting bookings for Class of 2018 High School Senior portrait sessions. Summer and fall sessions will book up quickly, so contact me now (link above) if you'd like to set up a consultation!

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

Grace | Cheers to Celebrating to STRONG Girls with Portraits

Celebrating STRONG GIRLS... That’s what it’s all about.

urban-teen-girl-portrait-denver | merritt portrait studio

Strength: overcoming challenge, maintaining positive outlook, self advocacy. These are all examples of grace to me, and this girl exemplifies these qualities beautifully. What's extra cool is that I also always find myself thinking, laughing and feeling happy in her intelligent and fun-loving company.

Naturally, when asked, I jumped at the opportunity to create portraits of this amazing young woman for the American Physical Therapy Association. These portraits of Isa were commissioned for a campaign they launched recently, featuring inspiring stories of strength, healing, and second chances reached through physical therapy. As a passionate young dancer whose life was transformed by her injury and process of recovery, Isa’s story was particularly compelling. She has since shifted her focus to theatre arts, but you can just feel how her former dancer and experience with injury has given her poise, strength and perspective.

The session itself was a blast. We had planned an urban session, featuring her dancer poise and flexibility subtlely, but to really place the portrait emphasis on HER and her own strength as a person.

I MAY have mentioned this once or twice… but wandering the streets and alleys of downtown Denver with an adorable person to photograph is seriously one of my favorite things to do. Finding light, texture, color, interesting compositions (and even reflections to mimic a dancer studio!) AND having a beautiful young woman to pose… it’s really a dream for me!

The APTA purchased all rights to their favorite 2 images (which is always nice for a photographer, but means I can’t show them here)... but I’m happy to be able to share some of the “outtakes” from this incredibly fun and rewarding photo session, showcasing Isa’s strength, both physically and as an incredible human.

sorry... gotta add one final fun photo with my assistant!

sorry... gotta add one final fun photo with my assistant!

Here’s to your bright future, you absolutely beautiful, intelligent and strong young woman -- we are so happy to know you!

I’m a Denver based portrait photographer specializing in empowering sessions for my clients, as well as drawing out personality and natural expression. Portrait sessions are always custom designed and styled around YOU, and are immersive, fun and empowering experiences, to boot. Let’s talk about designing a photo session for you!

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...


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 !!


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