We first met Donavan at his aunt Jessica’s wedding. Vesta and I were the wedding photographers and Donavan was, well he was her nephew, but he had a video camera and I had a Panasonic GH3 on one shoulder and a Canon 6D on the other.

He saw the GH3 and wanted to know if the video quality was as good as all the reviews said it was and I told him that I didn’t know, because we don’t do video. However, I told him it was a great stills camera.

Vesta and I met him again, when we photographed his grandmother’s wedding. She was remarrying the man she’d divorced thirty-three years ago. It’s quite a romantic story.

We met Donavan again, when we did his family's photos. And finally, we did his senior photos, which you can see below.

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We have props in our studio, though truth be told, we seldom use them for senior photos or engagement photos. With kids, sometimes.

However, for reasons I don’t really know, that red hat just seemed to fit Donovan’s personality.

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We did his senior session in Midtown, which is an up and coming, wanna be, trendy section of Reno, just south of Downtown. They’ve got a lot of nice little restaurants and arty shops on Virginia and just off of Virginia as well. We lived there for a year and liked it a lot.

As we were walking and talking thru Midtown’s streets and allies, we came across these electric meters and orange street cones and it looked like a great spot for a photograph.

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We also process a lot of our photographs in black and white. Our brides seem to like it, well as long as they get the color ones too. We like black and white a lot. It works with weddings, portraits and senior photos very well and I suspect it would be good for funerals, though we’ve never been called upon to photograph a funeral.

Anyway, the meters behind Donovan, the brick wall, his sweater all combine, in this photo anyway, to give off sort of an Irish appeal, almost like the photograph was made in Belfast.

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Here’s another black and white photo, made by one of the many murals in Midtown. We’ve done a lot of senior photos by these murals, plus a few portraits sessions and we did a trash the dress shoot there as well. No, we don’t really trash the wedding dress. It’s just a term used for photographs taken sometime after the wedding day, where we go around town with the bride and take photographs of her in her dress.

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It may seem silly, but this back porch in a back ally in Midtown is one of my favorite spots, black and white photography wise. We did our bride here, with her long gown flowing down those stairs. She liked the way the photograph turned out so much that we included it in her wedding album.

So now, whenever someone wants their lifestyle portraits or senior photos done in Midtown, I always try to get a photograph done here. In black and white, of course.

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The background in the black and white photograph almost looks cartoonish. But it’s not, it’s real, as you can see in the photograph below.

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There are a lot of places like this in Midtown, actually, I think in any town. You just have to look for ‘em and we do. For our brides, grooms and generally older folks, maybe not so much. But for senior and engagement photos, they work quite well and it keeps us from having all of our photographs looking the same.

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When I saw this wall and Donovan’s hat, I immediately thought, Dublin. And if it wasn’t for the shoes, this shot could’ve been taken there. However, I don’t think Chucks are nearly as popular in the streets of Ireland as they are in America.

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So, to make this photograph look like it was taken in the Ireland I remember, I zoomed in for a tighter crop, losing the Chucks and the side of the building.

Now Donavan could truly pass as an Irishman standing in front of a building somewhere in Belfast. He has the look, the photograph has the feel. It could be real, maybe.

I think that’s one of the reasons Vesta and I like shooting in Midtown so much. Some of the building were built in the twenties, others in the thirties, forties, fifties and on up, so you can recreate almost any era in time during most of the last century.

There are also home that look like they were lifted right out of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Plus, there are oodles and oodles of places to find shade on a bright sunny day, so when we go out for a shoot, we don’t have to worry about the harsh sunlight or squinty eyes.

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Rather than move him to another location, I zoomed in even closer, because Donavan had the look you so often see on the cover on movie magazines, you know, when an actor is trying to appear cool.

A Brando look, but Brando never tried to appear cool. He was the epitome of cool, so he didn’t have to try. And Donavan’s not trying either and that’s what makes him a portrait photographer’s dream.

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Sometimes, I think every portrait should be done in black and white or sepia. I suppose, because way back when I was studying photography in college, I had a prof who opened his course by saying something like, “If you want to photograph birthdays or weddings, shoot them in color, but if you want to make portraits, photograph you subjects in black and white.

We don’t have that problem now, because we don’t have to make a choice on which kind of film to use. So today, we shoot everything in color, because we can process our photos both ways and we often do. However, I have to admit, I take particular pleasure in processing portraits in black and white, because I believe you can see so much more of the inner emotion of a human being when you strip away the color.

Ansel Adams believed that shape and textures were more pronounced in black and white and though he was talking about his landscapes, I believe that holds true for the human face as well, like in this photo of Donavan. Which do you think shows the most emotion, the black and white version above or the color version on top of it?

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This was a very bright day and we didn’t want to do any flash photography, because we believe for the most part that makes for dear in the headlights kind of portraits. Well, not of you get the flash off the camera, but even so, we prefer natural light.

Which, as I said above, makes Midtown a joy to shoot in, because there are plenty of places where we can find shade and shade makes for a natural type portrait.

In the above photo Donavan is smizing. That’s the term coined by model Tyra Banks and here’s how you do it.

You have relax you face, actually your whole body helps. Then you have to smooth out your forehead, while you’re still relaxed. Do that and your wrinkles will smooth out and in some cases almost vanish. Next, you should focus on something behind the photographer, slightly to the right or left of the camera. If there’s nothing there, put something there and then imagine it’s something or someone you lust for, develop a bond with it, desire it.

You think that’s it? It’s not, there’s more. You have to lower you chin slightly (not in all photographs, for example Donavan’s looking up in this one). And then, you have to squint, but NOT WITH YOUR WHOLE FACE. Pretend your face is paralyzed, except for the muscles under your eyes. Yep, the only part of the squint you should be able to feel is the area directly under your eyes.

But there’s still more, you have to part your lips, just a little itty bit. No enough for the camera to see any teeth. And, if you’re into yoga here’s where that could come in handy, you have to slowly and calmly breath all the way into your gut.

And then you elongate you neck just a little, while focusing on that object of desire behind the photographer and smize.

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Here is another black and white photograph of Donavan in front of one of the many murals in Midtown. This one is actually a Simpson’s mural, with the cast on the bus. However, we made the portrait this way, because of the Twisted Minds graffiti on the side of the bus.

As for those murals in midtown, there’s about sixty of them and though we lived there for a year and hunted down most of the them, we have not seen them all. So now we’re thinking about taking the Mural Tour.

Yep, there’s a tour you can take. It costs ten bucks and if you’re interested in taking it, you can google it. This tour, like the wine walk and beer walk and the Santa Crawl and the Zombie Crawl and all the other crawls we have, is just one more reason why Reno is such a fun place to live.

I saw on TV awhile back that the tour lasts about two hours and it did seem like it was fun. As for the murals, each one is unique and several of them appear to tell a story. Some of them have been commissioned and others have been painted by local artists, just because they found a wall and wanted to paint their masterpiece on it. And I’ve been told that some were painted by artists just passing through on their way to Burning Man.

But what I really like about the murals is that taggers seem to respect other’s art, so for the most part, they’re tag free.

We done several engagement shoots in Midtown and a couple trash the dress shoots as well and both the brides who we’ve photographed in front of various murals were over the moon about their pictures.

Actually, if you’re a bride looking forward to her wedding, you could have your portrait made in your dress in front of a few of the murals even before your special day. When you think about it, why not have an opportunity to rock your wedding dress before the wedding?

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Ken Douglas Wedding and Portrait Photography, 1250 Ralston Street, Reno, NV 89503 
Phone: 775 393-9529