Category Archives: Tips

Professional Portraits: Ready To Thrive

Do you have a professional portrait?

I’m not talking about the ones where your office wants to update the company directory and hires someone to come on in and photograph everyone in 5 minute intervals like you’re back in grade school. I’m talking about a portrait that you can be proud of and share across your social media channels.

Did you know that people judge you by your profile photo first? We might not want to admit it, but we are visual creatures.

©Holli with an i photography
©Holli with an i photography
©Holli with an i photography
©Holli with an i photography

I’ve been studying fashion portraiture for a few years now, and while the fashion world doesn’t appeal to me, the art of it does. So, I apply some of that to my portraiture for professionals. This way, I can accentuate your features with the best lighting, and even offer wardrobe suggestions – are you looking for a new job or a sweetheart? Subtle things like the color of your shirt to your eye contact with the lens can make all the difference.

I had a client recently who suddenly found herself in need of a head shot for a professional event, and all she had was a passport photo of herself. She hates have her photograph taken, and I was certain I could do better than that myself. Luckily, I was able to rush her session, and help her put her best face forward.

So, if you’re thinking about getting your portrait taken, but don’t feel like the most photogenic person, trust me, get it done. Find a photographer whose personality you click with and get out in front of the camera. No one should be stuck using a passport photograph!

From online dating to a new LinkedIn profile portrait, a professional portrait will help you shine.

A First Family Portrait!

I had the honor of giving this beautiful family their first portrait session. They were funny, well prepared and had the most serious almost two-year-old I have ever met! He was adorable and I have to admit that as a Mom myself, I was happy to see that he didn’t take to a stranger like me with a big camera too quickly…

TaylorFam_HolliMargell 1

TaylorFam_HolliMargell 6

TaylorFam_HolliMargell 2

Since this photo session, I’ve heard from a few other families with kids under 6 years old. They haven’t gotten a family portrait done because their kids are too antsy to sit or they don’t have the budget.

I totally understand where they are coming from, and did my best to do our own family portraits for a couple of years after baby number 2 entered the scene. But, I have to tell you something. I have only met one child who sat still and followed directions for a family portrait. One. They are children after all, and a good photographer will work with you and them to capture those heart melting smiles.

If you need a little more inspiration, Mallory MacDonald wrote a great piece about being a family photographer on LisaJo Baker’s Blog last month: Tips for Taking Christmas Card Photos.

And, as for the cost, well, all I can say is that for our family, we budget for it just like we do Christmas gifts. Our annual family photo is my favorite gift of all (and one I get to be included in).

So, don’t wait until you think your kids will sit still, because life as it is is beautiful!

2 Easy Ways To Take Better Mother’s Day Photos!

I love Mothers Day. I know it seems like a Hallmark holiday, but really, it’s a good excuse to stop and thank our mothers. And, I have a couple easy tips to make the most of your events full of snap shots…

1. Look At The Light

If you’re snapping photos in the sunshine outside, keep the sun at your back. This will eliminate harsh shadows and prevent such squinty eyes that you can’t see them anymore!

photo (4) photo (3)














2. Eye Level

If you want to avoid the double chin that happens to the best of us, keep the camera pointed at eye level. The only exception to this is children, the model thin folks, or people who want to look taller than they really are. For example, I shot this of my daughter aiming at her belly button. She looks taller and bigger than she really is. And, if you look closely, she’s got a tiny double chin going on, which in my mind adds to her cuteness;)


I hope you have a wonderful time celebrating your Mother whether you see her on Mother’s Day or not!



p.s. Shameless plug:

MDPostcard2Now that I’m expanding my photography business to include modern portraiture with a photojournalistic twist, I wanted to do something fun to debut my portraits. This Saturday, May 11th, I’ll be offering 30 minute, mini-portrait sessions for $50 at my favorite Nursery in White Center. Details here: Garden Mini Photos!

There are only 4 sessions available until Wednesday, May 8th.

Overcoming the time excuse

I used to say I didn’t have any time for Photography. Last week I sorted through my Photograph archives from the past 10 years. I captured thousands of images. The only thing I didn’t make time for was doing the kind of Photography I wanted. I’ve never stopped taking photographs, but I have let time stand in my way of using a lens to capture the things that strike me as beautiful.

This was captured with my purse camera while playing at the park with my kids, and is one of my most popular prints!

Now, don’t get be wrong here. I really enjoy photographing my son’s birthday party or a picnic with friends, but I’m usually pulling double duty – snapping some photos and serving a salad. But, what I really love is being totally focused on capturing beauty be it a Bride’s face when she first see’s her Groom, or a vividly colored Fall leaf on the ground.

As my life has grown, the things I wanted to photograph 7 years ago has expanded. Now it includes nature, and details and above all beauty I see every day. The sunlight touching a fresh new Fern is as stunning as the glimmer in a New Born’s eyes.

How to you make time?

Here is how I’ve allowed myself to “find the time” for photography…

1) Got a Camera?  I carry a camera with me all the time. I do not own an iPhone. Anyone who does, has no excuse not to take photographs on their lunch break. My phone camera is made by Microsof, ‘nuf said. So, I carry a Canon Coolpix in my purse every day.

2) Anytime, anywhere! Use your camera every day. I find some times at home to pull out my Cannon Rebel, and capture something staged in about 5 minutes to highlight a particular subject. The camera in my purse captures wonderful images, too, but is sometimes lagging. The point is to shoot often, and keep at it. You never know when you’ll walk into a stunning scene.

3) Schedule an appointment with your camera. Sometimes you really need more time with the camera to get into a groove or set up something ornate. I have found that just an hour is plenty of time for me to capture at least one or two images that make me smile.

4) Make time when it appears. I leave uploading images and editing to my spurts of free time – whenever I have it to spare, I use it on Photographs. Sometimes it is hard to wait for that window of free time, but usually I’m so busy with life stuff and kids that I have no trouble waiting a day or two.

So, what is standing in your way? Is it thinking about how little time you have to spare? Stop. I was there, and it didn’t help me find any time at all. I just had to start making time where ever the opportunity presented itself, then after getting into that mindset, the time became more abundant.

Goals and Transformers

My new creative project for 2012

As soon as my Photography show was up on the walls at Sugar Rush Coffee and Baking Company I thought to myself, “What next?” And, people started asking me the same question after the Opening Reception. I thought to myself that I wanted to do something a little different, a project or series, but I didn’t know what yet, and didn’t let the ideas leave my brain.

A few days after the Opening Reception, I got an email from my neighbor sharing this idea she and her husband had about doing a Calendar with his Transformers and her Garden. Thus, the Transformers in the Garden project was born. They merely wanted a Calender for themselves. I came on board thinking this project would deserve a wider audience.

And so, this is how my next photography project got started! Just a thought, then a prompt, and now with our first session complete, I’m really excited about it.


Goals: yes, I have a few! The most important lesson this Photography show has taught me is the power of putting our goals out and up where we feel the pressure to complete them. To put this lesson to good use, here are my goals for 2012:

– Two Photography Shows: With one under my belt, I know it’s a lot of work. And, I know how much fun it was. So, I want to do more.

– Complete a Photography Project: Yes, the one above is plenty. But, I have a few more rattling around in my brain involving vegetables. While one is already going, I may have more that are destined for completion by 2013.

– Market my Photography: No, I’m not going to send out postcards or do direct mailing lists. I am, however, looking at ways to get creative with my work. For example, I can donate a piece of work to my son’s school auction (which I’m going to do). And, I could donate one to a local Art Lending Library. This is one area I have the most need for growth. I’m happy to share as I learn!

p.s. The Rainbow of Life show will be up for one more week at Sugar Rush, 4541 California Ave. SW Seattle, WA 98116 – check it out and don’t forget it’s a partial benefit for the West Seattle Food Bank (donation bin by the door).

Learning Curve

Beach Wedding by Holli Margell

Wedding Photography was easy. It was a way to use my love of Photography in a straight forward way as a service. You hired me, I did my job, and got paid. There was more to it than that, but that was the basic bones of it.

Now that I’m entering the art photography world, I’m learning as I go, without feeling confident that I know some formula for success. You get to watch my learning curve.

Art Photography – Essentially, I’m selling a product. Art in all mediums is a product. You either love it or you don’t. I think that is why it scared me to try. I know I love my photographs, because I take them and keep them because I believe they are beautiful. But, the big question I face is, “Will others love it?” And, can I sell it?  Some people don’t and hire great business managers. Others never try, and their art rests like skeletons in their closet. I’m working to figure it out for myself.

The business of art – I’ve been reading a lot about how to make money with my art photography. One of the key pieces I read by Gwenn Seemel lays things out simply, “Making a living is like making a painting.” She explains some of the tools she uses, and the fact that things take time to evolve.

Money and art – One of the joys about being a Seattlite is that there are a variety of opportunities to learn. Last month I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of Chase Jarvis’ LIVE interview of Ramit Sethi (author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”). You should invest the 1.5hrs to watch it here. Chase and Ramit share the ins and outs of pricing your work and finding your ideal clients in a passionate and conversational setting. I was not bored for a second, and even got to ask a question! Chase shares a lot of valuable information for photographers who want to make a living.

I priced my work at the show to the comfort of my stomach – knowing a coffee shop show wouldn’t bring in art collectors, but also that I wanted to make enough to donate to a good cause. I’m still looking at what sold, and who bought to understand who my audience is – who loves my work and who will likely buy it. They actually suggested this in the interview, and I’ve read about it before. Some even recommend offering the work for free to learn more about your target market. I did this slightly by giving away cards for food donations. It is fascinating to look at which cards people took when money wasn’t involved.

So, what I’ve learned so far is that women are the ones who purchase my photography art, and I’m not the only one who thinks the photographs are beautiful.

Rainbow of Life Show: Thank you + Review

My Dad and Me, he gave me my first camera, a Polaroid when I was 10. Photo by Joe LeBlanc

The best part of the show was hearing from a cousin, “Wow, Holli, I didn’t know you did this!” It was fun to see so many friends and family members come out to see my work: big and pretty and up on a wall. The comments and compliments of strangers was even more delightful, because they didn’t have to like my work. Being a part of the West Seattle Art Walk was a little dream come true.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the Opening Reception for The Rainbow of Life Photography Show. Thanks to all who have purchased a piece or print, we have raised $367.50 for the West Seattle Food Bank! And, those who brought non-perishable food donations – we’ve filled the donation bin up almost half way.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to see the show, I’ve done my best put together a slide show of the work – at the bottom of this post. Now, onto a Review of the experience so far… Continue reading

Lessons from The Art of Food Photography class

My latest Salad Recipe: looks as delicious as it tastes!

Since I was 6, I’ve been taking photos. I had an eye for composition, and my Mom let me use her instant, film camera from time to time at family events. I learned at that young age to make every shot count, because each one cost money.

When I finally took an official photography class, it was Photojournalism. That was back in 2000, when we were still using 35mm Cameras and a Dark Room. I remember having so much fun, physically dodging or burning an image, making my own 4×6 or 11×14 prints. It was like watching magic happen. I used an old Contax Camera with a Carl Zeiss 85mm lens, it was sort of an inheritance from my Grandfather (since he’d passed away, my Grandma was happy to see me use it). Today, it sits in an old camera bag in the closet. I haven’t picked it up in 5 years.

Last Saturday, I took Ashely Rodriguez‘s The Art of Food Photography class. It was a very casual class with about 12 others set on a long dining table at The Pantry. We all introduced ourselves, explaining our level of photography knowledge and what we wanted to learn. Thankfully, the class covered pretty much what I recall everyone wanting]. For me, it was a refresher.

One of my first Salad photographs.

White Balance is key!

When I used a film camera, I used to check the White Balance all the time. I got so familiar with the settings for certain lighting situations, that I didn’t’ always need to check the White Balance first. Somehow going from using film with such ease and confidence to a DSLR, I simply forgot or merely assumed the camera was smart enough. During the class, I had a lot fun figuring out how to set the white balance with my Canon Rebel Xti, working with a couple classmates with camera’s a model up from mine. It was pretty amazing to see the difference.

Composition is everything.

Something Ashely said at the beginning is that it doesn’t matter what equipment you have, everyone can take delightful photographs. I agree, wholeheartedly. My food photography has been on the fly. I’m always snapping a few shots just before the food is devoured. Lately, I’ve taken 2 extra minutes to think about composition, and again, I shouldn’t be amazed at the difference.

Setting the WB helped - my new favorite photo.

Creative Camaraderie helps.

What I loved about the class was the physical ability to talk with class mates. And ask questions. I could have easily been reminded of these key lessons by reading around online, but there’s something powerful when you’re in a room with other people. I appreciated talking and learning from others in the class. It’s especially fun to look at their blogs, or see what they’re doing in a Flickr group.

I look forward to capturing more savory photographs of the recipes I create and food in general. If you’d like to see the, hop on over to – this is where all the new content is going to find a home.

p.s. Huge Thanks to my friend, Karen, for recommending the class:)

p.s.s. Classmate’s blogs:

First Look, then Eat

Seattle Seedling (great to finally meet her in person!)

Bray Hayden

Surviving Sun Burns and Bug Bites Naturally

Keeping my baby from sun burning last summer.

I get bug bites very summer. Ever since I was a little girl, if I went camping or spent time petting a dog or cat, I’d get at least 3 bites. Often many more than that. At one point I had a pet cat, and got so bit up (dozens and dozens) that my mom almost gave our cats away. She even bug bombed the house and got anti-flea shampoo and ointment for our cats. I still got bit up. This summer is no exception. But, I’ve discovered a way to deal with them and the other thing that comes with summer: Sun Burns.

Since having kids, I avoided getting a sun burn for 4 years. Taking precautions like wearing a hat, sun glasses, long sleeves, and honestly simply not being in the sun for more than a half hour at a time worked.  Last year, with more mobile older children,  I managed to get burned and my little fair girl had a day of being extra pink. I had planned the best I could, but sometimes you can’t be prepared. So, here’s what I have found that works for us:

Bug Bites

Natural Repellent: For Flea and mosquito bites, I found a fantastic little blurb in my local co-op newsletter: Keep Bugs at Bay, Naturally – Looking at the right side bar listing essential oils, I concocted my own potion, roughly using their recipe. I tried it for a walk through a local trail with my husband one fine evening, and it worked. But, I tried it again during a camping trip, and it didn’t hold up – honestly, even my non-bitten husband got bit. So, I went to the big guns and used what my Mother-In-Law had brought, a real store-bought kind that did include a handful of essential oils.

Sooth Bites: This summer, I got my first chigger bites while visiting Arkansas for the first time. I tried using liquid Benadryl on them and the flea bites I’d acquired on the trip. It helped a little tiny bit. Once home, I bought Calendula Oil and Lavender Oil and mixed it up, using about an ounce of Calendula and 5 drops of Lavender. It really helped soothe the bites and I think heal them. I scar easily, and these bites are almost gone in one month. I’ve also used the old Baking Soda paste method, but find it too messy for daytime use.

p.s. I found this recipe for making your own Calendula Oil.

My natural potion collection: Olive, Calendula, Lavender, Peppermint and Lemon Grass Oils

Sun Burns

Since I was a kid, I’ve used Aloe Vera to help soothe my burned skin. My grandmother always had several plants around the house, and so did my mom. While it certainly works, I’ve tried using oil – I know it may sound counter-intuitive, but this is what has worked for me.

Olive Oil: Last year, I simply applied Extra Virgin Olive Oil on my skin after being out in the sun and feeling a little bit burned. It worked! I never peeled, only turned a little bit golden. I have a dark complexion, but tend to get burned and even have a few freckles on my shoulders.

Calendula Oil: This year, I started using Calendula Oil with Lavendar Oil, and have to say that it really does soothe the skin, taking away that burned feeling. And, it works like the Olive Oil did, helping me to brown a bit and not peel.

Caster Oil: Another great oil is Caster Oil – I found a roll-on container at my local co-op, originally using it for my daughter’s constipation (rubbed it on her tummy). Since I had it on hand, earlier this summer, I used it. It worked just as well, and is wonderful for applying to a child’s small face.

What about Sun Screen? Here’s a useful site that rates Sun Screen (there’s all kinds of junk and contradictory info out there): EWG SunScreen Guide

p.s. Shared on Monday Mania natural, real food link party.

Why we adopted a garden

Cleaning up under the Apple Tree at Mrs. B's garden.

I have fond memories of wandering between my Grandma’s raised garden beds in the back of her city home.  The smell of sun ripened strawberries and Lemon Mint mingle in those memories. She even used raised planter beds after she moved onto a larger city lot where she and my Grandpa also raised dozen of chicken and two pigs. They retired to a small rural town in Oregon, and their “hobby farming” blossomed to include more animals and a garden yielding more vegetables and fruit than they could eat.

Unripe Apples fall from the tree and need collecting - Cooper like to throw 'em in a bucket.

About two years ago, I was missing my Grandma who had passed away, and coincidentally embracing the ideals of eating locally. But, we didn’t have room to garden aside from a planter with strawberries, and some pots for herbs. I was daunted by the waiting list for our city P-Patches (a program in Seattle where you can garden in designated Parks land). So, I asked my good friend, and found this locally produced site:– it was just beginning and included only two sites in my neighborhood. Neither one was suitable for me to bring my two kids under 3 years old.

So, I called my mom and told her how I found this new site, but there wasn’t the right fit for us on there yet. She in turn introduced me to her High School friend, JoAnne. She just so happened to live in my neighborhood and have a Mom who was willing to share her garden, Mrs. B. She is a sweet lady who is kinda like my Grandma in her knowledge and passion for gardening. We enjoy the fruits of her years of labor through the bounty of strawberries, blueberries, grapes, Peaches, Apples, Pears, Plums, Garlic, Broccoli, Collards and Raspberries. And in turn, we try to help keep up with weeds and tend our own part of the garden.

Fresh strawberry!

We’re getting a late start this year, but are excited to continue our “Adopt-A-Gardening” as I am going to call it. It is a mutually beneficial way to garden in the city. If you’re like me, and want to garden but don’t have the space, take a look around your neighborhood. Are there any elderly folks who can’t keep up with their garden? Or a neighbor with a yard just waiting to be used? Taking a good look online, I’ve found some other useful resources that might help.

Here are some handy links:

Urban Garden Share: started in Seattle, the site now a few cities in California, Kentucky, Idaho and Georgia.

Gleanit: A Seattle organization also known as The Community Harvest of SW Seattle, they coordinate ways to share excess harvest or neglected fruit trees to food banks. The also provide classes and opportunities to volunteer.

Garden Share: resources for gleaning or sharing your harvest in and around New York.

Do you have a similar program in your city? If so, please share the info!

Shared on Monday Mania – recipe, real food link party.