Chrystal Cienfuegos, owner of Chrystal Cienfuegos Photography, offers a natural & organic style of newborn & portrait photography in Southern California. She is passionate about telling love stories through elegant and timeless imagery that is inspired by the unique beauty of each client. She's a San Diego native and mother of two fun little ladies. Among her favorite things are Chargers football, swimming, impromptu family dance parties, wine (of course), and evening walks with her neighbors.


This is so helpful. Thank you. I am going to open a studio soon and I was wondering which type of camera to buy but now you have me thinking. I have a D90 now but I need a full frame I can tell the difference when i am framing. I also hate how whenever I take the pictures it looks right in my viewfinder but there is more background then I saw in the view finder then when I view the image. Does having a full frame help with this?
Thank you so much for sharing your advice! So what do you think - is it easier to pose people outside, with gorgeous backgrounds and the natural terrain/props to help you create interesting portraits, or is it easier in a studio? My business partner and I will be taking family portraits for a fundraiser (indoors, on-location) and it we will be using a backdrop. I much prefer taking photos outdoors because I feel it is easier to put people at ease and there is the option to change things up a little more. I am afraid these mini-session portraits will be boring. I'd love to hear some studio posing tips geared toward family photos if anyone is willing to share them.
Almost as important as quality and expertise is to find a photographer who has a style that resonates with you, and your life. Take some time to think about the style of images you are looking for. Do you want studio (either classic and simple or with props for some shots) or do you want on-location or natural light, and if so, where? Where will you display your images and what are you looking to accomplish with them (i.e. wall displays in a casual or formal room, to compliment a display that has been built over time, a heirloom album showcasing your entire shoot)? It’s extremely important that you choose a photographer whose galleries and portfolio reflect what you are looking for, and reflect it consistently without a constant changing style. Check out their work on their blog and website. You should be able to get a feel for whether they maintain a style and have mastered it, or whether they jump from trend to trend. Regardless, make sure you really assess what you want your outcome to be, as it relates to your life, and your personal style, and try not to be swayed by “what’s hot” as whatever is hot might not really make sense in the big picture. Once you have selected a few photographers that you believe meet your quality, expertise, style and vision goals, make sure you have a conversation with them to discuss planning your session, and your goals. You will want them to understand what you are looking for so they can agree it’s something they can accomplish.
Just as you do not want the exposure to change from frame to frame, neither do you want the focus to be adjusted. Assuming you’ve taken #1 to heart and are using a tripod, you will not be moving. Likely if you’ve posed your group in a relatively static position, they will not be moving. Not much anyway. We are only concerned with moving closer to, or further away from the camera. So . . .

Creative props can be the difference between a professional photo and an amateur one. Newborn props don’t have to be expensive and you can find most of what you need at home or a local crafts stores. Other recommended locations are Beautiful Photo Props and Etsy. For ideas, consider incorporating the parents’ hobbies, their culture, their favorite colors, or their overall personalities. We came up with the concept below for Ellie because her mother used to live in Paris. For more inspiration and to see how this scene was shot, please see our Newborn Photography Workshop.
In my 6 years in business, I have photographed over 300 newborns, I have taken posing and safety workshops, I've had three babies of my own! :) Let's not forget to talk about, insurance; yes, I'm fully insured! Although reasonable DSLR cameras are easily accessible to consumers, what matters most is the skill it takes to manually and creatively use that equipment. I have personally invested over $40k in camera, lenses, studio lighting, computers, latest editing software, management systems. Over 20K in quality newborn props; backdrops, floors, outfits, headbands, hats, wood props, blankets, wraps to name a few but that's just the expense of want it takes to produce an image, it does not include my CODB; taxes, licenses, memberships, subscriptions, fees, marketing..etc. It's an investment I have made and will continue to make into my business. Most importantly and above all else, a commitment I make to every single client of mine that I will produce the best possible photographs.
Select an outfit that is appropriate year round. One of the more popular times for families to take their portraits seems to be around the holidays (when the kids are home from school and everyone is in the same place). The holidays may seem like the perfect excuse to bring out the Santa hats and incorporate props into your family portraits. However, you’ll want these photos to be displayed all year round. Try to avoid purely seasonal accessories and items.
Hi Debbie! Babies are HARD to photograph, especially as they get a little older and more mobile. And babies at that age always have their hands in their mouth! I really love my 50mm 1.8 lens for portraits – it doesn’t zoom in or out, meaning you just have to move yourself to get a closer (or further away) photo, but it lets in tons of light and does a great job blurring the background. It’s around $100, so it’s very reasonable for a nicer lens.

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Lighting: If you talk to any photographer, they’ll tell you that lighting is 90% of what makes a photo good or bad. One of the best ways to understand lighting is to hold up your hand and face your palm toward a window. Then start rotating your hand back and forth and look at the different ways shadows are cast on your hand as you move it around. If you face your hand directly at the window, the light falls very evenly and cleanly, but if you start moving your hand at a ninety degree angle away from the window, it creates shadows that make your hand look moody and dramatic. This is what photographers do all day. We analyze light. So as you’re looking through photographers’ portfolios, you’ll start to notice that we all play with light differently. Some photographers prefer really bright photos that make the world look light and airy, while others use light to create mood and emotion. For example, take the photos below. They are of the same bride, taken moments apart, but the light is totally different, and therefore the photos are totally different.
So whilst we aren’t advocates for fixing in post, the RAW format just generally gives greater flexibility in post-production. You get a lot more control over things like white balance, exposure and shadow recovery than you would with a jpeg file. This is particularly helpful with weddings as the lighting is unchangeable (unless you use flash). The ability to manipulate these features after the fact is a great help to most wedding photographers.

Lori Wilson Photography is a photography studio located in Dallas, Texas that specializes in wedding, travel, puppy, portrait, newborn, child, expecting, family, and engagement/couple photography. Since she was a little girl, Lori has been in love with taking photos. Her mission is to capture beautiful, real moments that make people identify with the subject. Lori Wilson studied photography under the best photographers, including her mom.
Most new wedding photographers skip hiring a “second shooter” to back them up on wedding days.  If you can possibly make it happen financially, it is definitely worth the money to hire another photographer to work with on the wedding day.  The photos will be better, you'll have a second set of gear in case of disaster, and you're extremely unlikely to miss the shot.  (Thanks Gabrielle Walker-Jones)

We’re not into rules. So with us as your adventure wedding photographers, feel free to throw out any traditions you don’t sync with, but keep ones you think you’ll enjoy. It’s your day, celebrate in your way.  If you want your adventure wedding day to be  symbolic of you and your partner, with artistic and heartfelt portraits in beautiful scenery — and photographers you like and trust, then you’re in the right spot.


Engagement sessions are a big hit with couples and photographers. Almost all couples agree for a session before the wedding, so engagement photography has pretty much become a staple of wedding photography. An engagement shoot is done after a couple gets engaged and it usually is captured before the wedding. Some photographers sell this session as a separate product and most photographers include this session in their wedding packages. Regardless of how you like to approach it, understanding the basics of photographing couples and knowing how to coordinate a shoot that involves more than one person is crucial. Hence, I decided to write a piece to explain what goes into the planning process of an engagement session.
I attended the University of North Texas and received a Bachelor’s degree in Radio/Television and Film.  In 2011, I received a Master’s in Ed. Technology.  My first thought was I would teach technology/videography at a High School level, but I fell in LOVE with photography after my 1st daughter was born. She came into the world with the most beautiful red hair and striking blue eyes, needless to say, her Dad, her grandparents and myself were shocked!  I picked up a cheap Kodak camera and never stopped taking pictures.  Over the years I have self taught through online workshops, upgraded to a professional Canon Mark iii, purchased several fancy lens and just have gotten better by good ol’ fashion practicing.  I have 3 children ages 12, 10 and 8 who always give me a good reason to shoot what I see!  🙂  I love what I do, which I think truly shows in my work.  Photography and children inspire me.  I am so grateful to be a given a gift to see the world the way I do.

We photograph you at your house, on your property, a park or any place of your choosing within a 30-mile radius. Multiple poses of your family will be taken. The images are processed on the same day and can be viewed either in our studio or at your location with your photographer. A clothing change for the family can be added for $45. Please call for a quote if your chosen location is farther than 30 miles from our studio.
[…] One more step to shoot inside, is to really zoom in on your subject. You can get up nice and close physically to your subject or you can put on a lens that allows you to get close without getting in their personal space. By getting close, you eliminate any distractions that might be around the house. Get closer than you normally would – focus on the eyes, or just the face, or little hands and feet. Get all of those little details up close. […]
Be very open with your clients about your preference regarding an engagement session and explain how you typically do it. Be very patient with the couple and let them speak their minds before suggesting anything from yourself. As the opportunity presents itself for you to explain what you usually do, lead them the right way while showing examples of your previous work. Ask questions and make the session about them. Find out if they like certain places or if they have strong location preferences where they wish to be photographed. Are they an outdoorsy couple or do they enjoy the city life better?
Consider COLOR: Most people look their best in certain colors (mine are green and orange).  Although I love hiding in black clothes as much as the next guy, it tends to be a tough color for photographs.  And again - you don't need to match. Pick a color tone (jewel tone) or pallette (pastels) - maybe even select 3-4 colors - and go from there.  Pinterest has some great color ideas for family photos.  Before you go out and buy anything - spend a bit of time with favorite items you already own.  You probably have everything you need. 
They are very similar and both are cute pictures. However, the bottom photo is much more flattering to the baby’s face. In the top photo I was slightly closer to his feet and shooting up his nose, which makes his nostrils very prominent in the photo. It also makes the bottom half of his face look larger than the top half. The second photo shows his face in much better proportion. (Did you notice his hand? I should have pulled that pinky finger out so the whole thing would be visible – it’s those little details that really make a beautiful photo.)
Baby pictures are among the most popular types of portrait photography, and most newborn photographers are well versed in the best places to take baby pictures in their local areas. Some newborn photographers will come to the hospital to shoot the baby within a day or two of birth, while others have set up their studios to accommodate the needs of infants. Some parents prefer to have the newborn photographer come to their home or travel to a favorite park or other outdoor location. Like any portrait photography, the best place to take baby pictures is the place you like best and that will yield the types of photos you want of your baby, whether that’s posed and carefully lit studio portraits or spontaneous, casual photos at home. Work with a local newborn photographer to find a safe, calm location with great lighting and some privacy for your family.

Determine how you will receive your pictures. Find out how long you can expect to wait for the pictures, and in what format they will be presented. You need to make sure you know what your photographer will pass on to you at end of the process. The number of photos, the format and resolution of the photos, as well as the way they are presented are all crucial questions.[13]


I’m no lighting expert but have found that my best results have been when I’ve used my flash in a ‘bounce flash’ way – shooting it up into a ceiling so that it’s indirect. This diffuses the light a lot which leaves Xavier less washed out in the shots, and more importantly means he’s not blinded by the light from it (we don’t want to blind our little ones by our photographic obsession – I actually asked a pediatrician about camera flashes and his advice was that it wouldn’t do damage but that for a babies comfort that indirect flash (ie bounced and/or diffused flash) would be advisable. I’m sure different doctors would advise different things but I play it safe with my bounce flash – and avoid flash altogether where possible). It also gives a fairly natural looking shot.
Don’t just shoot what’s always been shot. This is a good general rule of photography. I really try to be “consistently inconsistent” (I recently heard another photographer, Nate Kaiser of theimageisfound.com, use this term and I had to pirate it). Let me explain, you’ve got to approach each shoot as it’s own. I’m very committed as a photographer to tailoring each shoot for the subject I’m photographing. Like I said before, this is a good general rule that applies particularly to maternity photography. Even though millions and millions of mothers have given birth to millions and millions of babies for millions and millions of years, a momma-to-be needs to feel like her pregnancy is miraculous, special and sacred, that the things she’s experiencing are unique only to her. Because they are.
Another reason to hold a newborn photo shoot soon after birth is because babies change so quickly the first few months, and you don’t want to miss the chance to photograph that uber tiny newborn look. Does this mean you can’t get good pictures when your baby is three weeks old instead of seven days? Of course not. But earlier can be simpler, which is always a good thing.
Because one of our best tips is to shoot in RAW we advise getting fast memory cards. RAW files are big and there is lots of data to store on your memory card. You should be looking at the ‘write’ speed measured in MB/s. BEWARE! The speed listed on the card is the transfer speed (the speed in which it transfers the files to your computer). Whilst it can be good to have a fast transfer speed what you want is good write speed. 95MB/s is a good write speed and should easily handle a continuous burst of RAW photos.

Ask about the photographer’s experience. One of the key things to talk about in the interview is the level of experience each of the photographers have gained. You should ask how many weddings the photographer has shot, and how many similar to yours. Different weddings have can hugely different requirements and expectations, so it’s important that you understand how much experience they have that is especially relevant to you.
Not only is it handy to have two camera bodies for a wedding as insurance against gear failure, but it also enables you to have a different lens on each body.  This way you can very quickly switch from telephoto to standard zoom as the wedding party moves around.  Once you've tried it, you'll never go back to shooting just one body.  Fortunately, you can rent the lens and camera body for cheap.  (Thanks Kati Lewis)
I was iffy about maternity photos however I definetly want new born photos. I found a photographer who has a package including 30min maternity session (perfect because I only want a few) and hour newborn session for $100 that comes with photos on cd and the rights! Or another package for $200 including 30min maternity 45min newborn and 30 min 6month and 1year sessions again it's the cd and rights! Therefore I will be doing the 4sessions for $200! Just can't beat the price and I won't regret any missed photo oppurtunities:)
This comes up a lot, and I’m more than happy to talk through your ideas and offer suggestions. I LOVE coordinating outfits (take a look at my family portraits). My biggest suggestion is coordinate, not necessarily match. Pick 2 or 3 colors that you want to use, keeping in mind the room in your home that you want to display your wall portrait. If you have red walls, do you want to wear greens and have it look too “Christmas-y”? Do you want to wear orange and browns if your family room is teal and grey? I spend a lot of brain power in planning our outfits. But be yourself, and the personality will shine through. *Upon booking your session, I will email you a link with style and color boards with lots of ideas for what to wear, like this:
Kids are naturally photogenic. Instead of bending over backwards to create posed photos that look natural, try capturing the essence of special moments in your daily life. Take photos of your kids swinging from the monkey bars, splashing along the shoreline or tromping down the side of a large hill. Thanks to digital photography, you don’t have to worry about wasting film. You can take as many shots as you like until you find the ones that have the fresh, yet timeless feel you are looking for.
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