Christmas Vacation, in real life

Merry Christmas to one and all.  As we gathered our entire family for a terrific Christmas day together (as pictured-can you tell where I slid in after hitting the shutter?), I was reminded of a funny in-home portrait I created several years ago.

It was between Christmas and New Years that I was scheduled to do a “large family portrait” in a home in a very elegant part of town.  I arrived early, assessed the options of where we would setup (had to convince the mom that her idea wasn’t too great) and began setting up my lighting gear.  I had many cheerful helpers as we moved furniture (nothing gets the hostess more crazy then moving furniture and exposing dust…).  The family was almost complete, and everyone was dressed very formally (as instructed) for this portrait. The plan was to hang a large wall portrait (perhaps a 30″x40″) above the fireplace.

This was “pre-cell phone” days, so there was no way to contact the one missing family.  The full range of emotion was observed.  “Where are they”?  “What is wrong with them?” “Can’t they ever listen”, “I hope they are ok”…  Well, they arrived, they made an entrance that would have been fitting to the famous “Christmas Vacation” movie.  The group was stunned by the wildly colorful, comical, over the top outfits (complete with santa hats, scarves, booties with bells of course and more).

The stunned silence was broken when the mother of the clan simply asked “what were you thinking? You know we were planning on doing this family portrait”.    I quickly stepped in to mediate the situation.  I pointed out that we had two options, we either re-dress them with whatever is available to better fit the rest of the group, or we lighten it up, change plans and go for fun and wacky with the whole group.

Well, when the Christmas tree fell over, that eliminated the original setup (the tree actually snapped in two).  Somehow, I was able to get everyone laughing about it, and before you knew it, we all went out on to the deck, and created a very fun and wacky portrait that they absolutely loved!

So when planning your family portrait with Picture Place, count on me always being able to roll with the punches!

Have a great holiday season with your family!

p.s. Here’s a bonus picture I shot with my iPhone on Christmas day.


30 Year Anniversaries all around.

30 years ago today, I married up and starting a lifelong journey with my college sweetheart.  This is also the year Picture Place is celebrating 30 years in business!

These 30 years have been plenty interesting, and I recall one wedding that really was memorable on the anniversary front.

I photographed a wedding on a VERY snowy December day in the early nineties at a very cozy church in the Roseville area.  The wedding day chosen by the couple was in honor of 3 other family weddings, all on the same date! The bride’s parents, grandparents and older sister all were married on the same date.  Talk about a family that loves making traditions!

It strikes me that this kind of appreciation to legacy and heritage is not getting the attention it once did.  I encourage every bride I meet with to embrace and appreciate the richness of family relationships and traditions.  I am saddened by the number of brides (and grooms) I have met with that care only about themselves.   Statistically, the average age of brides has gone from just under 22 in 1981 when I was married, to just over 26 in 2010, and is expected to hit almost 28 in the 2011 reports.

Why is this important?  30 years ago parents had significantly more input (probably too much in hindsight), and today, the advanced age of the couples has them calling all the shots, and spending the money their way, on what they want.

I recently was asked to critique a wedding shot by a very new (and very young) wedding photographer.  There were some lovely images, but the daunting quantity of shots of the couple was hard to comprehend.  I was surprised that there were only a handful of group shots (poorly thrown together) and no shots of parents or grandparents alone.  When I asked the photographer about that, I was told “no one cares about those boring shots anymore”.

As I celebrate my 30 years, I encourage all my photographer friends to resist the trendy urge to tilt too far to the creative side.  I equally challenge future brides and grooms to take stock of what really matters.  As I looked this morning at my wedding album, I realized my dad was only about a year older than I am now, and boy does that change your perspective.

Photography is the one constant we all have access to as we record our lives, and celebrate the joy only our families can provide in our life journey.  Enjoy this shot from my wedding!   Photographed by Adrian Halvorson.

Merry Christmas to all!


Picture Place Photography

Has anyone seen the Priest yet?

30 years of photographing weddings, families, high school seniors and more have created some memorable moments as a photographer.  Sure, you want your photographer for your wedding to be experienced, skilled, creative, fun… But you might be surprised how important a photographer with good diplomatic skills can be for you.

It was a lovely summer Friday night wedding at one of the oldest churches in Minnesota.  The brides day got off to a bad start when she was informed that she WAS NOT allowed to use one of the rooms in the air conditioned part of the church/office as a brides room.  It was a sticky day, and the thought of the girls changing in a very hot room was not met with grace on behalf of this particular group, and I can’t say I blamed them.   After some colorful screaming exchanges between the bridesmaids, the bride and the church secretary, I intervened and asked if I could speak with the church representative.

I calmly explained how important a non-sweaty bride was for a set of pre-wedding portraits I had planned, and asked if it were possible if the girls could change in an air conditioned room, if we promised to collect all their belongings to be moved into the designated (non a/c) brides room as soon as they were changed and ready for pictures.  The suggestion was met with a smile, and I was glad I was able to settle down a very heated moment and looked forward to a happier bride for pictures (than what I would be had if she fumed her way thru preparations in a 90 degree changing room).

Great story, right?  Oh it got worse.  I finished the pre-ceremony pictures about 45 minutes before the ceremony, a typical 15 minutes ahead of my normal schedule.  With about 30 minutes counting down to the start of the wedding, the bride, and her mother realized no one had seen the Priest yet.  I suggested someone call him right away.  A call was made and to the callers surprise, the Priest answered the phone!  He thought the wedding was the following week, but said not to worry, he’d be there in 5 minutes.   The bride went crazy (very bridezilla) and had some choice words about her Priest.  I again, intervened with two suggestions.  1) The guy will feel bad enough the way it is, you won’t help anything ripping his head off when he arrives.  2) His parish is a good 45 minutes from this church, so why doesn’t someone make an announcement that the start of the wedding will be delayed by 15 minutes to allow guests to step outside for a few minutes if the heat in the church is uncomfortable.

I ended up delivering the announcement (another good reason to dress appropriately for the day).  I made sure to be there when the Priest arrived and delivered a clever, diffusing welcome that got everyone (except the bride) laughing to soften the blow of the whole mess.

The Priest, felt horrible, got through the wedding and I hope my efforts to help everyone through the conflicts of the day were appreciated.   My pictures are always great, but there is so much more to being a great wedding photographer! Give me a call anytime to chat about your wedding dreams, fears and ideas!  Barry 651-426-0232

Time for a good laugh!

Every once in a while, something comes along that is just too good not to share.  If you’ve read this blog, you know how I feel about the state of professional photography.  You know that I have been at this for over three decades, and somehow still am passionate about the profession.

I recently stumbled on a satirical website that brilliantly exposes many of the sentiments that I have blogged about in recent months about the newb photographers that are popping up everywhere.

You can view these short videos at:

Yes, the sidelines of photography are getting pretty crowded these days with so many photographers, but at the end of the day, I know that quality, experience and professionalism will survive.

New photographers aren’t the problem, it’s new photographers that refuse to learn (because they don’t think they need to know anything more than how to turn on their camera).

The journey to become an accomplished photographer is time consuming, and a journey with no final destination.  I am a string player, and a pretty good one at that.  I don’t pretend to be as good as the professionals on stage with the Minnesota Orchestra, and I’m totally fine with that.  Why is it so hard for so many photographers to appreciate the skills and talents of experienced pros?  It is obvious that newb photographers love just heaping on the praise of each other, instead of applying more time and energy to learn how to improve their photography.  You could buy a 5 million dollar Stradivarious violin, but that won’t make you an accomplished violinist.  Cameras are getting better all the time, and I feel saddened that so many newb shooters just don’t seem to realize how much value there is in knowing everything there is to know about how photographs are made, not just snapped.  Even the best camera made just doesn’t make you a better photographer without a better understanding of how it works.

Sure, every photographer looks great on Facebook.  I had the opportunity recently to attend a screening of “The lost Steve Jobs Interview”.  It was really cool (shot in 1995 about a year before he returned to Apple).  One comment he made (talking about the “net”) was that “The smallest company in the world, will be able to look like the biggest company in the world”.

Think about that as you surf countless photographer websites and Facebook pages.

In closing, I’d like to remind everyone that we are photographers.  We are not solving the economic crisis, developing alternative fuels or curing diseases.  We take pictures and need to embrace the role we play capturing the “Milestones and Memories” of lives of our clients.  I can’t prevent the number of folks picking up a camera who are trying to steal business from me every day. What I can do, is continue to do what I do, better than most and have confidence that my customers will figure that out for themselves.

We are proud of the work we produce in every category, and have loved the comments we’ve been getting about our new Velvet Touch retouching we introduced this year for our portrait and wedding clients.

We are finishing celebrating 30 years in business at Picture Place.  It has been quite a run for sure.  I invite you to join us in our continued journey as we try and do our part to make everyone’s lives a little richer through some really great portraits and event photography.  As always, give us a call at 651-426-0232 or visit our website at

I’ll be writing another blog soon (with images) about weddings.

Until next time,

Barry – Picture Place Photography

Why you should hire Picture Place for your wedding.

Congratulations on your engagement!  Now it’s time for “Say yes to the dress” and catching your favorite episodes of Bridezilla and find a photographer.  I bet you never knew how many people you know that either are photographers, or who are dying to recommend some amazing photographer.  Brides, listen carefully to this advice, BE VERY CAREFUL WHO YOU CHOOSE.  It takes more than some awesome looking images on Facebook to make someone a great photographer.

There are so many factors to consider.

Here are a few questions you need to ask any photographers you are considering to photograph the biggest day of your life.

• Can you show me an entire wedding?

• What am I really paying for?

• Do you edit and enhance any images?

• Do you know how to pose and light people of all body shapes to create the most flattering images?

• Do you know when to use a low camera angle, high camera angle or do you always shoot just standing from one position?

• Do you use any light modifiers, or just use natural light and your on camera flash?

• Are you able to use a variety of lighting techniques, or will all my pictures look the same?

• Can you provide me with any referrals?

• Do you offer a free engagement session?

• Will you be organized, and dressed appropriately for the day?

• Do you pose family groups and wedding party poses or just have us stand however we want?

• Are you able to photograph in low light, bright sunlight, during the dance?

• Do you use professional, or amateur equipment?

• Have you earned any merits, won any awards, published any articles, hosted any podcasts or belonged to any organizations?

• Is your business registered with the State of Minnesota Department of Revenue?

• What makes your style unique to you?

Ok, some of these questions might seem really basic, and too obvious, but trust me, you want to know the answers to these questions.  Here’s the deal, there are more photographers than ever shooting weddings.  The popularity of being a wedding photographer is at an all time high.  It amazes me how many new shooters I meet that have little to no experience, but are brimming with confidence that they can start shooting weddings.

It’s a simple, “Buyer Beware” moment of your life.  Be smart, ask good questions, and be confident that your wedding photographer will do justice to the biggest day of your life!

Don’t save a little, and regret it every anniversary for the rest of your life.

I’ll post a few images in my next post.  I have been photographing weddings for over 30 years. NO, that does not make me a cranky old fashioned photographer.  I love being able to apply my extensive knowledge of portrait lighting, posing and ability to create great images, in any conditions. I love shooting weddings, and would love to show you what experience can really offer you on your wedding day.  Think different, by thinking experience.


Picture Place is Living Social

Picture Place is jumping into an exciting new promotional campaign with the online marketing company Living Social.

You can view our ad here 

It has been fun already to take calls from folks with questions on how they could redeem the offer. I have no idea how many will take advantage of the deal, but I have been very impressed with my dealings with Living Social.  One of the things I appreciate about their program is that businesses are required to have a “brick and mortar” storefront.

As the industry changes, so must we.  Picture Place is constantly exploring new concepts and ideas for our customers.  If there’s something you’d like to see us offer, drop me an email at

I’d love to hear from you and hope you have a truly blessed Christmas season with your family!