Having Vacation Portraits Taken – Creating Personalized Memories

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Those following along on our blog during our trip to Maui last February know that Cindy and I were really excited about having professional portraits taken while on vacation. It was an amazing experience and something that gave us not only more wonderful memories of paradise, but special, personalized keepsakes that we will be enjoying forever.

Maui SunsetSure, you can buy postcards and posters of all the beautiful sights on Maui. You can also, like me, take a dozen memory cards full of photos yourself, capturing that same majesty of the Valley Isle forever. But when you can get that same surreal backdrop with both you and yours in the foreground, you have an instant memento. Now, do that almost 200 times over the course of an hour, and you’ll be able to fill a vacation album that will make your wedding album feel a little jealous.

The following post describes how this idea came to light for us, and details of just about everything that went into our little version of things. There are also notes about the wonderful photographer we hired for this, Natalie Brown, and some of the reasons why she helped make this experience so incredible. And of course, there are a few of our favorite photos from the shoot, too.

If you haven’t considered having vacation portraits taken while on vacation in Hawaii, I strongly urge you read the rest of this post. By sharing our experience, and how happy we were with the results and having such beautiful pictures of us in paradise, hopefully you’ll give it some serious consideration. If you have had vacation portraits taken, be sure to scope this out anyway and talk story with us at the end with thoughts and feedback from your experiences.

Whalers VillageIntroduction
Allow me to start with a short story. I really enjoy taking pictures of just about everything when we’re in Maui (I know, shocking). But for the literally thousands of shots I’ve taken, and the hundreds upon hundreds I’ve shared with family and friends, there are maybe two dozen or so that are of both Cindy and I together. For awhile there, it was sort of a joke that Cindy was vacationing without me because she was the only on in the photos. :)

So, last year as we toured the island with my mom and showed her all the wonderful reasons we love coming back to Maui each year, I noticed a portrait photography kiosk at Whalers Village in Ka’anapali. It was right along the beachwalk, so we must have passed it about a dozen times over the course of those two weeks. And although we didn’t stop at that particular booth, I kept the idea in the back of my mind as something I definitely wanted to do the following year. This February was that following year.

The Research
There are a lot of great posts already out there about how to find a wedding of portrait photographer for your Hawaii vacation, so I’m not going to re-invent that wheel. Sheila at GoVisitHawaii.com has a good one that I recommend to those interested in learning more about things to look for, what to ask, things like that.

My search actually started shortly after I signed up at the Hawaii Photography site and started sharing some of my own photos there. What I discovered was a lot of great Hawaii photographers sharing some of the most beautifully done couple and family portraits. That pretty much sealed the deal that we were going to do this. I followed a link from the HP site for the Maui Photographers Organization, which helped narrow my search down to two photographers: Natalie Brown and Karma Hill.

I considered them both as they each had wonderful portfolios and tons of experience. And it would have been a very difficult decision, had Karma not been planning to take a maternity leave at the time of our trip. Natalie it was!

Keawakapu BeachThe Preparation
After trading a few emails and a couple of phone calls with Natalie, we were booked for an hour-long sunset shoot at Keawakapu Beach down in South Maui. Most photographers recommend either early morning or sunset photo sessions (aka the “Golden Hours”) when there is enough natural light but not that glaring sunlight when the sun is directly overhead during most of the day. Anyway, just from talking with Natalie over the phone, I could tell she had a very cheerful and friendly personality, which really helped make the overall experience that much more enjoyable. More about that in a bit.

Our session was scheduled for Friday the 20th, which gave us an entire week to hunt for our portrait attire. It was kind of fun hopping from store to store looking for something we really liked, and by Wednesday, we were all set. The other part we were careful of was to not to get overly sunburned prior to the photo session. That was a tough one, because anyone that knows Cindy will tell you it’s very hard to keep her out of the sun, especially on Maui! Considering we landed on Sunday and had to wait the entire week before heading to the beach, Cindy was a real trooper about it.

The last part of our preparation was picking up fresh leis to wear for some of our photos, and also because we didn’t receive them while checking in at the Sheraton like we had received in the past. We found two beautiful, fragrant leis at Safeway (yes, Safeway) that we brought along with us. We were down at the beach about 45 minutes before our shoot started, so we walked around and enjoyed the incredible beach Natalie had recommended. I totally forgot the leis were in our tote bag. D’oh! It wasn’t until after we were back in the car and on the way to dinner that we realized we had forgotten to use them. Too funny, if you ask me.

The Photographer
Natalie Brown The name Natalie Brown came up a lot during my initial research. I mentioned earlier that she has a profile on Hawaii Photography and the Maui Photographers Organization website, under both Weddings and Portraits. She is also featured on the new Art on Maui website, which I might add is a beautifully designed website. Based on all these samples of her work, and her own website, it became evident rather quickly that we were going to be getting some high quality photos that we would adore forever.

I noted that Cindy and I arrived about 45 minutes prior to our shoot, which gave us a chance to start walking off some of that nervous energy. After all, aside from our wedding and a view portraits on a cruise back in ‘07, we haven’t had a lot of exposure (pardon the pun) with getting professional photos taken. To this day, Cindy still reminds that our wedding photographer way back when was a little shady. :)

Even though we were nervous in the beginning, Natalie’s friendly and engaging personality made us feel very much at ease. She asked us a few questions on what we were looking for in terms of poses and shots, which we really hadn’t thought of up to that point. Natalie offered a few suggestions, explained the rest, and we were off and running. Before long, we were talking story about our trip and the island and sharing different ideas for photos and poses, and all those nerves were completely gone.

In fact, near the end of the hour when the sun was starting to set and the usual crowds began to gather on the beach, we noticed a few people watching us to see what all the camera flashes were about. Was it yet another celebrity couple vacationing in paradise, or the latest pair of Maui newlyweds? Or maybe they were watching that guy standing on his head doing beach yoga? (No, I’m not making that up.) Normally, all those eyes would have added some anxiety for us, but as you can see from the photos, we didn’t have a care in the world.

Natalie was a real pro, and not only could you tell she was really good at her job, but that she genuinely enjoys her work. Come to think of it, if I was a professional photographer, I’d have a hard time thinking of anywhere better than Maui to shoot. All told, it was an amazing experience, and one that was totally worth it. And thanks to Natalie, we have incredible photos to always remember it by.

The Photos
Okay, so if you’ve read the entire post up until now, a big Mahalo. If you’re just here to see the photos, that’s cool, too, but you don’t know what you’re missing (hint hint, scroll back up).

One short note. The reason I’m able to post these photos here are because (1) we purchased the duplication rights for all the photos Natalie took for us, and (2) I asked for Natalie’s permission to do so. Photos taken by professional photographers in these types of photo shoots are almost always still owned by the photographer unless arranged otherwise. Therefore, while I’m able to post these photos here, they are still owned by Natalie and I have to insist that you treat them as such. As an aspiring photographer myself, I wouldn’t want my photos to be stolen or otherwise misused without my permission, so please treat these the same way.

So, on to the pics.

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Now, for that last photo, Natalie showed it to us on the LCD viewscreen right after she took it. She said the sunset and the sky in the background was so perfect, that people might think it’s just a fake backdrop. I totally agree, so it’s a good thing we have all these others to prove everything is real.

In all, we ended up with over 175 photos from the hour-long session with Natalie, 30 of which we ordered 4×6 prints for a little photo album. With that many great photos to have as keepsakes (or a brag book, if you will), I don’t know how the evening could have been more

Talk Story
Mahalo for reading, and hopefully these notes from our experience has left you considering to have your own vacation portraits taken. While I tried to add a lot of different details here, I did have to leave some of the lesser things out, so if you have any questions or what to hear even more about our experience, hit me up and let me know. Leave a comment, shoot me a note on Twitter (@webnelly), or via the Contact Us page. Just like everything else Maui, I could talk story about this evening for hours on end.

Also, please share your own experiences or thoughts on having portraits taken on your Hawaii vacation. We’d love to hear how things turned out for your portraits.

- Kris


About Kris

Kris and his wife Cindy are avid Maui fans, and have visited the island half a dozen times since '06. Over the years, they have made many friends living on Maui or through social media, which keeps them in touch with the island until they can return again.

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