Lakeshore Photo Shoot

What's up!?

Today's post is going behind the scenes of a cool on-location shoot I did last month. Model Alessandra with Factor Chosen Chicago reached out to me about putting together a test shoot with some swimwear involved.  Now, this was in early March so we were working around the weather.  After lots of planning, conflicting schedules, winter weather in April, and one very early Saturday morning call time, we were ready to shoot.  We got hair and makeup artist Vicki Valente on board along with stylist Charles Harris (also with Factor Chosen).  So, we pretty much had one KILLER team on this. Since we were shooting on location, I figured it easier to meet at my apartment for hair/makeup and prep.  We ended up shooting around Montrose Beach, which is one of my favorite locations for photography.

When discussing concepts, we were really at mercy of the weather.  Alessandra was looking for swimwear, but we planned for cooler weather as well.  When discussing with Charles about style, I sent him a few inspiration images and told him, if he wanted to, just pull everything from Zara (I've recently fallen in love with this store, I know I'm behind).  We ended up with a cool combination of Zara spring styles and some of H&M's Coachella Line (which as unpractical as most of the clothing is, it makes for some ah-mazing styling).  Can I just say Charles is awesome?!  He pulled 6 colorful funky outfits that all made for great photographs.  A lot of the things he pulled are versatile and allow the model to pose and move with the clothing, which as a photographer I LOVE.  He also hit it off with my boyfriend which was pretty funny, they talking about basketball while us girls chatted over hair and makeup details. ;)

Which brings us to makeup! Vicki Valente is this incredibly experienced, poised, makeup goddess in the body of an 18 year old, and she's a doll.  We really wanted glowy, fresh, beachy skin, so from my perspective, it doesn't look like a lot of makeup, but that's the point.  The "no-makeup makeup look," where a makeup artist creates flawless, clean skin that appears to be totally natural and you can't see the actual hour of work that goes into it, which she nailed.  My favorite part was how she styled Alessandra's long, dirty blonde locks.  She started with just curling them, but throughout each look, she would shake out the models hair more and add more product (and some water) so with each outfit the hair was a little bit more broken down.  One of my favorite things about working with Vicki, which I can tell she got from her mentor, Jessica Monzalvo, hehe, is her attention to detail.  Some HMU's check out once the model is behind the camera, and some focus more on the makeup and less on the hair.  But Vicki keeps it very detail oriented which makes for a much more polished final image.

We ended up shooting on a gorgeous day, but because we started so early (I believe we got to the beach around 8:30am) it was still a little chilly, and very windy. I had been looking forward to photographing Alessandra for a while, I'm really in love with her look.  She is so down to earth and fun to work with as well!  Our plan was to start with outfits with more skin coverage until it got a little warmer out. One of the crazy parts of being a model (this is from observation, not experience) is how last minute everything can be.  Models often book shoots super last minute and can be sent on castings at any moment.  Which is what happened to us half way through our looks.  Alessandra got a call that she was needed at a casting shortly so we had to cut our test shoot a little short.  However, I'm seriously in love with the images we got! =) Hope you do too!


BTS: Spring Style Shoot

Hello everyone!

Two weeks ago I got to shoot with an AMAZING girl powered team.  Hair and makeup artist Shannon Rodriguez with Wilhelmina artists and I have worked together once before and she is amazing.  This time we teamed up with a friend of hers, Nurdan Nazim, for some styling.

The three of us ladies planned a LOT for this shoot, including an awesome meeting at Headquarter's Beercade for some drinks and girl talk. We scheduled a lovely model, Alison F, with Factor Chosen (who also just got signed with 3D models in Cape Town, get it girl!) and I booked an Airbnb for us to shoot in and we were ready to go!

Well, we were until the Airbnb canceled on us hours before our shoot. Spoiler alert, we pulled it off, but not without pulling some strings.  I love Airbnb, I've stayed in them all over and intend to in the future, but moral of the story for me, READ THE REVIEWS.  Sometimes, they're not all bogus.  We had planned to shoot early in the morning, but, by the grace of science, I checked my emails before bed.  I had a notification from the studio host saying we couldn't check in until after 12pm, i.e. after my check out time.  I ended up on the phone with Airbnb for nearly an hour, while searching for other locations.  Shannon and I were messaging each other trying every option we could think of. You know when you need recommendations for things, so you post on Facebook hoping one of your friends may be able to help you out? And it never actually helps you? WELL, this time it did.  A photographer friend of mine suggested a place to us that was available and after a few hours of a panic attack, I could get some sleep.

For this shoot I rented some lighting equipment, because I'm still too poor to buy my own.  I went with two Profoto heads, two soft boxes, some stands, and some extension cords.  I kept my lighting setup pretty much the same for this shoot as we really didn't have time to change it up and it not end up looking right.  I set up my main light with a soft box just off to my side, and one back light aimed at the model creating some interesting double shadows.  Because of my money and time constraints, I had to keep my lighting setup pretty simple.  Which honestly was refreshing and let me really focus on working with Alison to create more conceptually constructed images.

Besides lighting, I also like to have my set have a giant moodboard.  I'll always print out pictures of poses that I think may fit our shoot, incase we need some inspiration.  I'm constantly searching pinterest, modeling portfolios, and magazines for new ideas.  One of my favorite things a photography professor ever told me was: "everything's been done, find something you like and copy it, you'll end up with something totally different and your own."  And I find that to be so true.  Not that I'm going around copying other peoples works, but I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't have Alison do some of the exact poses on my tear sheets.  And finally, we top off our set with some awesome music.  Stylist/DJ Nurdan played The Weeknd's A Lonely Night on repeat which kept all of us dancing.


Shannon kept our makeup really simple to start with, the "no makeup makeup" look, which she is amazing at.  She also mixed up Alison's hair in between looks which really helped keep each look totally it's own.  Nurdan pulled four looks from Top Shop and Zara (figures right?) and added a touch of her European style to the looks: like her killer Italian black boots.  I love doing test shoots because you can just mess around and don't have to stay on one theme.  Shannon got a little fun with the last look and added a really warm orangey contour and eye lid look (sorry I don't understand makeup).  And finally, she got really creative on the last look and used some of those little drink umbrella's to decorate the models hair.  Another example of how you can find props anywhere!  Hope you enjoy our photos!

Winter Beauty Shoot

Hello loves! Let's talk about winter makeup!

Today I'm detailing my beauty shoot with hair & makeup artist Jessica Monzalvo and model Grace Fernyhough, both with Factor Chosen Chicago.  Jessica and I have worked together once before this shoot and exchanged many many e-mails over the last few months discussing details of our future beauty shoots.  For this shoot, we did three editorial style makeup looks designed by Jessica the day of our shoot and then just started to get creative in front of the camera!

I've been trying to challenge myself more with my lighting in studio, and sometimes it doesn't always go as smooth as planned.  The first shoot Jessica and I did, I tried more contrasty lighting; black background, and beauty dish with a grid set up high and angled down to the model.  I ended up adding a single head set up on the opposite side of the model to even out the light a little bit. However, it wasn't enough in the end.  Once I got to editing the images I realized what a struggle they would be to edit.  The model was having some troubles with her skin that week, mixed with my contrasty side lighting, made skin retouch extremely difficult. Even though I got some nice images out of it, the experience and mistake was invaluable. 

For my second shoot with Jessica (the shoot shown in this post) I tried some lighting that was a little more clean, clamshell lighting. This is a set up you learn on day one of a photography lighting course, but to be honest, I'd never actually used it until this shoot. If you're not familiar with clamshell lighting, go read about it here. This set up has made my retouching much easier, and the models skin this time around was great! I like to start by practicing what the light looks like on this weird mannequin head while the model is in hair and makeup. Naturally, I have to adjust everything anyway once I get a person in front of the camera, but it helps my anxiety to try to be as prepared as possible. =)

SO, for the first look, we gave our model Grace a lovely fake bob! Jessica is so attentive on set and constantly there fixing little pieces of hair out of place. This is something every artist has to learn the hard way, do it right the first time! Don't always rely on fixing things in post, sometimes its just easier to stop, and make everything in the frame perfect.  And secretly, this look is my favorite one.  Another thing I learn from this look, is sometimes less is better.  I always try to make extravagant images, but I often find my favorite shots are the most simple images.

Our next look took a little more time to get just right.  We added a nude color lip and a more pink lid.  I wanted to add some props into the shoot so I bought some different colored tulle from Michael's to tie in the hair or around her neck. It took a couple of tries to find the right background color, lighting, hair, and ribbon placement to make these images come together.  This is always the best part of my job, when I get to creative problem solve on the spot.  Jessica, Grace, and I bounced around some ideas before slicking the hair back and adding some gloss on the lips which made all the difference! 

Lastly, the most fun look of the day! I'm intrigued by the new trends in editorial makeup that are really channeling painterly styles, and showing the 'art' in makeup.  I wanted to try something a little more 'out there' and artistic.  I told Jessica to go for it, do whatever she wanted and have some fun experimenting, and then the three of us created some magic.  After the shoot, Jessica posted a live video oh facebook about the shoot and how great she felt about stepping out of her comfort zone and trying something new here.  She explained how we all pushed each other to try something new.  Which is why I love test shoots! It's a great chance to TEST out new ideas.  SO go get out there and create some work on your own.  It's not always about the pay check. ;)


BTS: Weekend Shoots

What's up! Today we're going behind the scenes of my crazy weekend. I packed three shoots into two days. Saturday morning I started in Chicago's South Loop for a pre-fall look-book shoot with online boutique Laurel & Lace. Next, I headed to the north side to Ravenswood to photograph some adorable "One-Year" family pictures. Needless to say I was exhausted when I got home that evening and went straight to bed, after a nice cold beer of course. Sunday I got up bright and early (and by bright and early I mean 9am) to start my day at Gold Plaited Finishing Salon in Lakeview to shoot with some Chicago fashion bloggers.

Earlier in the week, I met up with Laurel & Lace co-founder Leah to prep for the look-book shoot. We met at Spoke and Bird in the South Loop/Prairie District area for some coffee. Even though this neighborhood is just blocks from my former college campus, I was surprised to find what a hidden gem it is! We chatted about how she and her friend Megan decided to start their online boutique on a whim and how successful it's been. They only opened in May! Leah and I scouted out some locations for the shoot and tried to nail down a plan for Saturday morning. The weather, however, was working against our schedule that morning. Scattered thunderstorms clouded the day's forecast. Yet, we were fortunately enough to get some dry weather by the time the models were finished with hair and makeup. As a new company, Leah and Megan had to get creative to keep their shoot within their budget. Unable to work out the costs of agency signed models, they reached out to sorority girls and aspiring models to be apart of the shoot. All three of the models were wonderful to work with. They were all up for anything and full of energy, which are the best qualities a model can have! We shot four looks on each model and in four different areas, using Leah's apartment as our home base for changing looks. After a long, fun, and very warm shoot it was 4 o'clock and time for me to start heading north.

Shoot two. My boyfriend, Isaac, has an amazing family. His cousin Jen has a son that just turned one, and her and her husband recently announced that he is soon going to be a big brother!  I had Isaac meet me at his cousin's place in Ravenswood to help me with the shoot.  He's so great with kids, and it's also helpful to have someone else getting the baby's attention while my face is behind the camera. Jen had scouted some cute locations ahead of time and had a few nearby places for us to shoot.  Alleys and L tracks always make for great portraits!  Plus, baby Mack loves when the trains pass by.  Once little Mack was fed up with my camera in his face, we all grabbed some dinner together.  A much needed night cap!

Sunday morning. Shoot three. Thankfully we were starting only blocks from my apartment in Lakeview. Erin Leary, jewelry designer and owner of Be Buddha Jewelry, organized the entire shoot! She got a group of bloggers, business woman, and designers together to do this big collaboration project. Gold Plaited salon graciously volunteered to do everyones hair and makeup. This salon is a finishing salon, which was a new concept for me. The stylists specialize in makeup or hair styling. No cuts or color. I can't wait to attended a wedding to go get all dolled up there! After everyone was finished with hair and makeup we popped some champagne (help everyone get rid of their nerves) and headed out to find some locations. We ended up under the L, on a parking garage, and in a small park.  The whole shoot was so casual and such a blast.  It was great to get to meet eight other wonderful women who have started their own businesses and blogs. I recommend going and checking out some of their pages! All of their links are at bottom where you subscribe. ;) 

For all of these shoots I used only natural lighting, shooting with my Canon 5D Mark II and a Tamron 28-72mm lens.  




Interested in checking out some of these cool peoples Instagrams? Start copy and pasting.

  • Laurel & Lace @shoplaurelandlace
  • Be Buddha Jewelry @bebuddhajewelry
  • Ana @fittingmoodblog
  • Cara @badd_pictures
  • Chelsea @the_real_chelsea
  • Big Red Vintage Boutique @bigredvintageboutique
  • Allie @alliesfashionalley
  • Angelica @thecitylush
  • Dannie @stile.foto.cibo
  • Gold Plaited @goldplaited_

Brynn & Andrew Tie the Knot


Photographing them, talking about them, pinning about them, and dancing at them, plus an open bar never scared me away... but today we're talking about Brynn and Andrew, and their beautiful July wedding in Muskegon, MI.

I met Brynn at a friends wedding that I photographed a few years ago. Last year she contacted me and told me she had recently gotten engagement and was interested in me photographing their special day. Every time someone asks me to capture their once in a lifetime moments I am equally as overwhelmed with excitement as the last.  

July 9th, 2016 Frauenthal Theatre, Muskegon, MI

July 9th, 2016 Frauenthal Theatre, Muskegon, MI

I arrived in Muskegon around 9:30am. I had a half an hour to scout locations before Brynn started hair and makeup. She planned on going to the beach for some formal shots, but I wanted to be prepared with a few other locations. As always, there was some cool brick walls and alleys. I found a small garden that I feel in love with and a made it a point to take the group there.

Brynn was so prepared for me. When I arrived she had every detail ready. She had the rings, her shoes, her dress, and all her jewelry ready for detail shots. She seemed so relaxed while getting her hair and makeup done.  None of her bridesmaids had seen her dress; she was adamant about keeping it a surprise for everyone. Her mom helped me take the dress to the theatre for some solo shots. The lighting was a challenge as expected, but I just bounced my flash off the ceiling which gave me the perfect amount of extra light.

Andrew and the guys were getting ready in the dressing room next door. I grabbed a few detail shots of them slowly getting ready and drinking a few beers. None of them were camera shy! Sometimes grooms take a little opening up to a camera in their face but Andrew was ready the minute I walked in.

Time for Brynn to get into her dress. I brought all of her bridesmaids upstairs to the gallery for their first look at Brynn's beautiful, lacey, mermaid, dress. It was such a great moment, I wish more brides did this! Click images to scroll through the first look.

The ceremony was held in the banquet hall upstairs. Brynn had the room beautifully decorated. The west end of the room had big windows, but the sun was so bright the curtains had to be closed cutting off my natural light.  I'm not a fan of flashes during a ceremony.  I'm supposed to be a fly on the wall for this part of the day. I ask the master of ceremonies if he opposed me using a flash for a few shots.  After getting his blessing, I alternated from my flash to natural light trying to be as discrete as possible.

After Brynn and Andrew got married it was time to board the trolly! As a photographer I love when the bride and groom get a trolly or party bus versus a limo.  It may seem less glamorous, but sitting on top of each other in a hot, dark, stuffy limo is a lot less cooler than it looks. Plus, you get way better pictures because of all the extra light! I'm all about the light!  We rode to the beach and got some beautiful, sandy, shots then headed back towards downtown Muskegon.  We stopped in the small garden I scoped out earlier for some more formal pictures and after a quick hour and a half, it was time for dinner.

During the reception I always like to steal the bride and groom for some shots of just the two of them.  It can be difficult to take them away from their party, but I feel like in the long run it's worth it.  A lot of a couple's wedding day is spent apart or greeting guests, that they never get a moment just to themselves.  This gives them a chance to stop and reflect on their amazing day, and get a few more memories to look back on.  We made it out just as the sun was setting and the lights on the theatre were coming on.  They had a few poses and ideas prepped for this moment so we collaborated and created some images that really reflect them as a couple.  It was such a beautiful wedding. Beautiful location, beautiful weather, and a beautiful couple!

Now go check out the photographs! ;)



I'm Sara.  I'm starting a blog for three reasons.  First, it seems like a great way to launch my photography career.  Second, for therapy.  Let's be honest, it's a lot cheaper than a psychologist or drinking.  Third, it seems like a hell of a lot of fun...  so we're going with blogging!

I'm an artist. Born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI, I moved to Chicago three years ago to attend college.  As much as I love traveling, I never want to leave this city. My entire family is from the Chicago area, so growing up I would just tell people that's where I was from too.  It's really nice to get to say it without lying now.  The last three years in the city have definitely "toughened me up" and prepared me to be successful in not only my career, but in life.

I'm a photographer.  I graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a major in Photography, concentrated in Fashion. The images and artwork you see in the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, that's what I want to do.  Columbia is great, because you get real world experience creating professional-quality photographs that are your very own.  Since graduating in May of 2016, I've been thinking a great deal about with what to do next.  There are endless opportunities in this profession.  I know where I want to end up but getting there takes passion, hard work, and a little bit of good fortune.  I know many other photographers and artists in the fashion industry that are in the same boat.  I believe that each of us has the ability to create our own luck, so here I am, giving you a look behind the curtain into the industry that I love and am proud to call my own.  This page will provide insight into some of the "dos" and "don'ts", a unique look at the craziness that is the fashion world, and hopefully a few good laughs along the way. Now go subscribe below! ;)



also go check out my Instagram @SaraKeefePhoto. 

P.S. I don't do twitter or snapchat.