Lakeland Senior Pictures – Julia goes to the beach

In the last post, I wrote that Julia came down all the way from Erie, Pennsylvania for her senior pictures. My specialty in Erie was photographing seniors on the beaches of Lake Erie, and I often had senior dancers ask for poses and leaps at the beach at sunset. I developed an approach that allowed my seniors to capture a wide variety of images in a short period of time, including dance poses, silhouettes and leaps.

So  I was not surprised when Julia asked for the same, only Florida style. I was up for the challenge, and we headed West to the Gulf of Mexico.

Following a great dinner at Crabby Bills Indian Rocks Beach, we headed across the street to access the beach.

I usually capture a few images before we head to the water, just to set the mood. Here’s Julia with the dunes in the background. You have to be careful to stay away from the sea grass and other plants, as they are off limits!


Julia made some nice dance poses and leaps. Here are a couple, caught before the sunset became too colorful. I kept the flash off for these, to develop more of a silhouette effect.

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Then we did a few senior poses with the developing sunset behind her. Note the balance of subject lighting with the water and the sky. That takes some practice to get right, especially at dusk, when the lighting levels are constantly changing.

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Here is a leap that we caught during the sunset. The key with dance leaps is using a fast shutter, the right light in front, and balancing that with the color of the sky and sea behind the subject.


Overall it was a great session. Though the sunset was not as developed as I have seen, it did provide a great backdrop for senior pictures

Lakeland Senior Pictures – Julia

This summer as I was settling into my new life in Florida, our friends joined us for a few days. I had photographed two of their three kids for senior pictures. On their trip to visit us in Lakeland, I took some time to capture senior pictures for Julia, their third.

Julia’s a dancer and a lacrosse player, so we focused on some images which included some of her activities, as well as some great images in a variety of outfits. It was in the 90’s outside, so we jumped from the AC to the outdoors and tried to stay cool.

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I applied an infrared finish to the second image.


I use large studio flashes outdoors, and I also take advantage of special lenses that can provide a very narrow depth of field, meaning that items in front of and behind the subject are nicely blurred, as you can see below.


We spent some time in Hollis Garden. I like the garden but everyone uses it, so we captured a few ballet images and a couple of lacrosse outfit shots, and moved on. Of course, Julia is from Pennsylvania, so it’s safe to say that no one else from her school had Hollis Garden shots!


Lake Mirror is a great backdrop for a variety of images.

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I put a bit of watercolor on this image, which I think turned out nicely!


Next, we moved to downtown Lakeland where I found some really neat walls to use for close up and full-body portraits.

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We headed out to Florida Polytechnic for some bright daylight shots with the amazing architecture. This was full on mid-day, and I was shooting off a high-powered studio flash to balance the ambient light and clearly illuminate the subject.

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There are many great locations in Polk County and surrounding areas for senior pictures. I envision using several locations for each senior session. Check out the next post for some great beach shots with Julia!

What is a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP)?

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Q: Why is Certification important?

A: Certification is a way to demonstrate to customers and others that a photographer has a strong foundation in the photographic arts and sciences. Just like an accountant has a CPA, a CPP is a standard that assures that the photographer develops and maintains a high level of skills, techniques and knowledge.

Q: Does a professional photographer need to be certified?

A: It is not necessary to practice photography, but it is a differentiator. It separates the casual photographer from those who are willing to study, learn and subject themselves to scrutiny and evaluation to raise their standard of performance.

Q: What does it take to become certified?

A: You have to declare your candidacy to become certified, and you have a limited time to complete the certification. You must study for and successfully pass an examination of 100 questions designed to assess your knowledge of photography. And you must submit a folio of images that you made while in the course of your professional work, which demonstrate your mastery of various techniques including high key, low key, depth of focus and other composition and image capture elements.

Q: Once you are certified, is it permanent?

A: No, you have to re-certify every three years, either through showing continuing education credits, or retaking the certification exam.

I will admit that my journey to certification was both exciting and humbling. Open criticism and rejection of images that I believed were technically excellent will do wonders to reshape your perspective of your capabilities compared to your peers. The feedback I received on my image critique was very helpful in teaching me to “see” differently. And the academic element of the exam forced me to learn about light, color, history and exposure.

Here’s an example question. See if you can get it right the first time around:

Select the exposure below that is equivalent to f/16, ISO 100, 1/125 sec:

A. f/22, ISO 200, 1/60 sec

B. f/32, ISO 100, 1/500 sec

C. f/11, ISO 400, 1/1000 sec

D. f/16, ISO 800, 1/15 sec


Lakeland and Central Florida Nature Photographs

When I first transferred from Pennsylvania to Lakeland Florida, I had some spare time on my hands, and decided to check out some of the local parks and capture some images of birds and the great hiking trails and water scenes available.

Here are a couple of images from Lettuce Lake Park near Tampa. The wooden walkways allow you to get very close to the water – to see the animals and get up close to the Mangrove trees.

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IMG_7623The trails over land are also impressive. I really enjoy seeing Spanish moss in the trees here in Florida. IMG_7626

I plan to spend more time in Florida’s amazing parks, and do some hiking on the trails!

The Big Move – Transplanting great Senior Pictures to Lakeland Florida

I developed my business in Erie, Pennsylvania, where I lived and worked my entire life. Starting as a Dance photographer, I branched out into family portraits, then senior pictures, then weddings, events and even some commercial work.

But then a new opportunity called. In late 2014, I took a job in Lakeland Florida and picked up my family and moved 1162 miles almost due South.IMG_7632

For the first year, I focused on getting established in my new company and settling into our wonderful new house. I did a bit of scenic work, keeping my skills warm, but none of it was paid work.

But now…I’M BACK!

With a simplified price list and business model, I’m focused on Senior Pictures and maybe a bit of Family Portraits. I won’t be pursing weddings here – I decided that they take up too much of my weekend time, and I’ve spend 30 years away from family and home on Saturdays.

Stay tuned for a teaser of some Lakeland Senior Pictures that I took last summer. I’m starting to learn about all of the great locations in Polk County and the greater Central Florida area for senior pictures.

Photographic Craftsman Degree earned!

John Huegel CPP, Cr. Photog.

That’s my new title. It shows that not only am I a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP), but I am also now a Photographic Craftsman (Cr. Photog.)


I recently earned the degree of Photographic Craftsman by earning the required number of speaking and service merits. Service merits are earned when attending training or conventions, and by volunteering at conventions. I volunteered for two years at the PPA National convention as an “Orange Shirt”, and attended many educational sessions offered by other photographers, where I learned new skills.

To earn the speaking merits, I developed and presented educational programs to other professional photographers. My first program, which I presented throughout New York and at several Tennessee photographic groups, was focused on developing a strong web presence for photographers by creating strong web sites with content that the search engines will promote. My second program, which I presented across New York state and at several Louisiana photographic groups, was centered on creating a business model that is tailored to the photographer’s lifestyle and business goals.

Both of these programs can be viewed on my main website if you are curious. I am also available to present these programs at your professional photographer gathering, whether it is a PPA group or not.

I am very proud to have earned both of these degrees. I helps me to stand apart from other photographers. Helping each other learn and grow is a core element of truly professional photographers and I am very glad to be in the company of many great PPA members.