Fall Student Portraits in the East Bay — in the crazy year 2020?

If there’s one thing we can agree on these days, it’s that 2020 has been a year of surprises. When I’d originally expected a fall filled with family photo sessions, along came news of a pandemic. Then shelter-in-place orders, a summer surge, a badly sprained elbow for me and return to remote learning for my 3 kids.

And just when it looked like fall outdoor family photo sessions might be doable with new safety measures and protocols, along came the days and weeks of wildfire smoke that made the outdoors about the last place those of us around the Bay Area should be.

But just as I felt the hope of moving forward again draining from me, an idea I’d considered trying eventually some time ago … made perfect sense. But ONLY if I could pull it off in 2020 style. A challenge AND an opportunity!

fine art student portraits without school
The challenge should you accept it: Creating beautiful, studio-look portraits in the outdoors, while socially distanced, in only natural lighting? Game on!


Outdoor portraits, distanced, in natural light — with pandemic-friendly pricing.

While there was no word about the usual school photos here — if, when, or how that would happen — it was clear that THIS is the year of all years to have updated photos of our kids to send to extended family and friends. Particularly who are missing them more than ever during this pandemic and may not be seeing them in person during the holidays!

Outdoor portraits with social distancing in the East Bay
These aren’t your 2019 school pictures! Outdoor, distanced, with covid-conscious protocols.

So as soon as I worked out the ideal locations and timing for sweet, natural light, I opened up the first couple of afternoons for booking what I call my “Fine Art Student Portraits.” And I held my breath as probably all the parents did, too, that wildfire smoke would not force us to reschedule everyone!

As luck would have it — and luck is certainly helpful this year — all the appointments went off without a hitch! I saw students from elementary, middle, and high schools. And I was able to overlap siblings booked in consecutive time slots with photos together as well as apart.

fine art student portrait of siblings
Siblings overlapping during an outdoor portrait session.

Parents were pleased, more inquired and I went ahead and boldly opened another pair of afternoons for more student portraits. And then another! And in spite of threats of red flag fire warnings and gale force winds, not a single appointment was missed or rescheduled! (You can bet I was getting good at anchoring the backdrop!)


Authentic expressions, and a variety of them, included in every student’s online photo gallery.

I’m just working my way through the last of my private Fall 2020 Fine Art Student Portraits now. What a fun adventure it was, and what a pleasure to connect with all these bright spirits! And as I stood 8-10 feet away in my mask for the short while I photographed each of them, it was great seeing their SMILES.

east bay portrait photography black and white
Natural expressions, in natural light — with photos in color, and black and white!

And hearing their LAUGHTER, too, of course!

outdoor portrait of high school student in East Bay
No more “deer in the headlights” expressions, and plenty of authentic ones!

And now that I’ve had the chance to refine my system for these, I’m ready to take my Fine Art Student Portraits to other schools and preschools that may appreciate these, too! If you know of a school or youth group that might want to offer student portraits like these for their families — all taken outdoors with the same distancing precautions and distinctive look as these — shoot me an email. And you can send them a link to this post while you’re at it (or send them to my IG feed)!

better than school pictures a fine art student portrait
Real kids. Real expressions. In classic fine art portraits.

Thanks so much to all the families that participated this fall! I’m sure your friends and family members will welcome those warm smiles from your students this holiday season, more than ever!

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