My camera loves you

Posts from the ‘article’ category

photo of wall portrait hanging in client's home

A wall portrait to cherish and celebrate

A wall portrait is a great way to cherish and celebrate your life love and family. I know that, but it is rewarding to reconfirm this idea again!

The idea of making a portrait sprang to my mind

I have known Michael and Ken for about 20 years, and in May Ken posted on Facebook that they
“celebrated 31 years of friendship, and a marriage of 18 years with my husband Michael – my love, my best friend, my soulmate, and my champion. It is with a grateful heart that I celebrate our love and our life together.”

When I saw that I knew I had to give them a gift by taking a portrait of them. Of course I could send a card, or even flowers, but I knew something personal would be best.

We arranged to meet on one of my trips down to Los Angeles, and I took my camera and lights and we created several portraits. This is the one they chose to enlarge and hang on the wall. In this digital age, it is even more important to have your photos printed, and best ones hung on the wall so you can see it and enjoy it all the time. Taking out your phone to show it to people is not a bad idea, but being able to see it as a wall portrait in your home is a whole different story.

The portrait is now hanging on the wall

Today they sent me a photo of the wall portrait on the living room wall, along with some really kind words, which I quote:

“Hi Portia,

We got the canvas print yesterday and Ken hung it last night.  Pic attached.  It is really beautiful.  Note your watercolor on the far left.  🙂
Thank you so much for doing this for us.  We have wanted a portrait ever since we got married, but never got around to doing it.  We couldn’t be more pleased.  You did an outstanding job!


“Ditto Portia!  You have to know that we are both thrilled with this gift you gave us of your time and talent.  As Michael said, we have wanted such a portrait for a long time.  I will add that we have always wanted something that was professionally done.  I can’t begin to tell you how special this is.  I absolutely love having this (wall portrait) in our living room and seeing it as we walk through the house.  Thank you again.  We will be showing it to all our friends and will be happy to give them your studio contact info if asked!


Portrait of Michael and Ken

Happy anniversary!

What size digital jpeg photo file do you need?

I offer 3 sizes of digital JPEG photo files, small, medium and large, which size of the digital file do you need?

Small is for web use, profiles for social media sites, your own web sites, for printing on your business cards, flyers, etc. Pixel-wise, the long side is 900 pixels, at 300 pixels per inch of photo quality prints, this means it’s a 3″x2.7″ print, so a wallet size, your photo on your business card does not usually take up the whole card, so plenty big for that. When you print it bigger on a flyer, people are not expecting photo quality, so you can print bigger than 3″ on the long side, and it will still be OK. If you print on a glossy brochure, and you want larger than 3″ on the long side, then you may want to order the next size up, medium.

Medium size is for print, up to 8″x12″ if it is not cropped. A lot of times the file is cropped to 8″x10″ proportion, because that’s a common print size. When you order a medium size digital file, you also get the small size (if you want it) included. The medium size JPEG file is 2400×3600 pixels when it is at the 8″x12″ proportion. This means there are 300 pixels per inch, and that is a photo quality print at 8″x12″ size.

Large size is for printing a poster or anything larger than 8×12. Most people do not need this size, but it’s available if you do have something special in mind.

Here is a sample of the small jpeg file, click on it to see how it looks by itself on a web page, and I am sure you will agree it is more than sufficient for web use.

sample small jpeg file

and here I am including a medium size jpeg file, click it to see how big it is. It may look the same size as the small on this page. because the browser resized it to fit in the space of this blog format, but when you click on it, you will be able to zoom in and see more. The small jpeg on the other hand, can not be zoomed in (at least in Safari browser).

sample medium size jpeg file


What is “high resolution”?

Is the small jpeg file “high resolution”? Of course, it is 900 pixels and printing it at 300 pixels per inch, you are only getting 3 inches. So it is not a resolution you are asking, but the print size. When viewing an image on the web, the browser does not display at 300 pixels per inch, but maybe 90 pixels per inch (measure your screen resolution if you are curious about what it is, but every screen is going to be different! what I do know is it is NOT 300 pixels per inch!) So the 900 pixels on the long side of the small jpeg file will be 10 inches on your screen! See this article if you are interested in more detailed explanation.

So a medium size jpeg file has a lot more pixels than the small jpeg file, and you can print bigger at photo quality. But they are all “high resolution”! You should care about how many pixels are in the file, the more pixels, the more inches you can print as a photo.

Celebration of Smiles days set for April 2015

Come to Celebration of Smiles

We have set two days aside to participate in “Celebration of Smiles” this year. April 7 and April 17.

For a minimum donation of $49, you get a 30 minutes mini-session, and an 8×10 print of you or your loved one. in addition, you get a $50 studio gift card for use in future studio products. Since only $240 provides a surgery for one of the children, five sessions will help create a smile in children like Divith and Danila. Call me at 831-426-1400 now to make your appointment, space is limited.


PPA Charities Platinum Studio!

It has been many years since 2007 when I first got involved with PPA Charities. PPA is Professional Photographers of America, a trade organization for professional photographers. Over the years PPA Charities has with the help of photographers everywhere to create smiles and help children in need. With the participation of clients at Family Portrait Month, Celebration of Smiles Day and other events, I was able to donate enough money to create more than 15 smiles! shows  a list of participating studios

Positive Vista Photography & Art is a platinum studio for PPA Charities

What happened to my business reviews on Yahoo local?

About a month ago, Yahoo Local listing starting serving up Yelp reviews for businesses. This may or may not a good thing. If you have never had  or not have many reviews on Yahoo for your business, but a lot on Yelp, this is great, because now you have more reviews showing up when people search for you on Yahoo. But what happens when you have more reviews on Yahoo? I actually had more reviews on Yahoo of my photography business than Yelp. I did not like Yelp’s policy of arbitrarily hiding reviews so I have told people that and I always preferred seeing reviews on Yahoo Local. In years past, when Google+ did not exist, Google used to serve up Yahoo reviews, but things have changed since.

I have always had positive business reviews of my studio because I always make sure clients are completely thrilled and happy with what they got and experienced at my studio, that’s part of my “be thrilled or bust” guarantee. When people take the time to write me a review, I not only appreciate the feedback, I also save a copy of the review to keep on my computer, that’s a good thing because now I found no way to see the 21 reviews my clients have written for me on Yahoo listings and the reviews would have been lost if I had not saved them. I think Yahoo really did a disservice to their business listing customers, there should be a way to still see these reviews! So is the web forever? Not exactly.

For now, I am just going to repost some of them here, so at least the effort and feelings my clients have expressed are not lost. To all of you who have written reviews of your experience at my studio at Yahoo, Yelp or Google, THANK YOU! I enjoyed meeting you and photographing you and your family, and have fun!

family photography Santa CruzDANA Created on 05/11/13

I had been wanting to do a family photo for quite a while but never took the time to get it together until I saw a Groupon for Positive Vista. I had never heard of Portia Shao, but then, I didn’t know any photographers so I just went for it. It ended up being a great choice for me! My daughter lives out of town and it was a little difficult to find a time when all four of us could be together to even take a picture. Portia was wonderful in helping with offering to work when she normally wouldn’t to accommodate my needs. The photo shoot was amazing, not only did she spend more time than I would have expected, it was a blast! We all were laughing and having a great time. Portia took probably hundreds of shots, in all different combinations of the four of us. I ended up with exactly what I originally wanted and more, I now have a beautiful collage of my two young adult children and the best picture of myself ever taken! Thank you Portia for capturing my family in time that we will all enjoy for many years into the future!


Theresa Created on 07/18/12 portrait-by-portia-shao-01

Coming for overseas to do a photo shoot with my boyfriend, what i liked most about Portia was her efficiency and willingness to be creative and flexible with us! Also very professional and fast results. never left you lingering!

 Posted on 06/01/12

I had a wonderful experience at Portia Shao’s studio. I originally went to get a few portraits of myself dressed in my military uniform for a Father’s Day gift. She was very accommodating and flexible. I ended up bringing my dog, Jazz, along and Portia even took a few shots of us together- which turned out to be some of the cutest shots I have of her. My dog was actually smiling! Portia made me feel completely at ease during the photo shoot and had many creative ideas. You can tell photography is not just a job to her, but also a passion.

Zoe Posted on 02/28/12

Wonderful experience! My daughter had been looking to do head shots, performing on stage as well as in front of a camera. I have never done anything like this before and Portia was able to walk us through the process. What a treat for both my daughter and myself. Portia knows exactly what she is doing and does it very well. The portraits were amazing and exactly what we were looking for. Now its up to my daughter to do the rest, but those photos sure won’t go unnoticed. Thank you Portia, it was very enjoyable and relaxing

jaynorry 10/31/2011 portrait-by-portia-shao-04
I needed a photo of myself for a book I had written and was ready to publish. I found Portia Shao online, and was impressed with her comprehensive website and her perspective on her art. Then I met her, and I was even more impressed. She is awesome! I have never felt comfortable having pictures taken of me, and have seldom been happy with them. I was apprehensive about the session. Portia put me immediately at ease; I was amazed at how happy I was with the shots she took, and the work she did on them. She delivered like a true professional and a talented artist. I would recommend Positive Vista Photography and Art to anyone looking for the perfect photo or set of photos for any occasion.
portrait-by-portia-shao-05Edna Vilozny 10/21/2011
I recently came to see Portia Shao at Positive Vista Photography and Art for a mother/son portrait with my little boy, Brody. I wanted a loving, intimate and somewhat candid-looking photo spread to display in my new apartment. Portia helped me achieve exactly what I wanted, and Brody and I had a great time during the shoot (3 year old boys don’t always love having their picture taken!). Portia helped me every step of the way, from deciding on poses, choosing the layout and what kind of frame setting I wanted. I love my portrait and will continue to use Positive Vista in the future.

ihollenberg 09/09/201 portrait-by-portia-shao-06
I needed a head shot for a professional profile, and felt a little bit nervous because I think of myself as not photogenic. Portia’s photograph of me is better than I would have believed possible! It was fun working with her, and I would recommend her highly to any one, whether for a professional or a personal portrait.

portrait-by-portia-shao-07Lisa 08/11/2011
Portia Shao is amazing! I recently had her take family portraits when my father, who is now 81, was visiting us from Florida. I have very few photos of my father and me together (one of us is always on the other end of the camera! :), so the resulting photos are very precious to me. They came out beautifully — even my children each wanted their own copy of the family picture (and that’s saying alot coming from teenagers!) — and I am thrilled! She also took professional head shots for me for both my website and my social media sites and I love the way they came out as well. As a financial professional, people want to get to know me and my work; having a professional image is very important, and Portia has definitely captured that in my photo. If you need to upgrade your professional image, Portia and Positive Vista should be the next appointment you put on your calendar!


Working on new Polaroid photos in Santa Cruz

I have been out and about taking more Polaroid photos in Santa Cruz. Yesterday I walked down Pacific Avenue with my Polaroid camera and took some photos of the local book store, Bookshop Santa Cruz. Although my time-zero Santa Cruz is in the book store, the book did not have a photo of the book store, even though it contained many other photos of stores on Pacific Avenue. So here it is, a photo of the book store!

Polaroid-Bookshop-Santa-Cruz-photo-by-Portia Shao-800x

But it’s my photo or is it? About Copyright

This Copyright thing! Whose photo is it?

People are confused about this Copyright thing, it is not just you, but even some people in the business of stock photography are confused.

Long time ago, before I opened my portrait studio, I went on a cruise with a bunch of friends. On cruises, they take lots of photos of you, and you can buy them if you like. If there is a photo of 4 of us, shall we buy 4 copies? or buy one and make some copies ourselves? It turned out that even though the idea crossed my mind, I never did it, somehow in the back of my mind, I knew there was something unsavory about making copies of them. In fact, it would be illegal to do so. I doubt the cruise company will be taking people to court over this, but that doesn’t make it less wrong.

When a photographer takes a photo, he owns the copyright of the photo, period! If you take a photo using someone else’s camera, hmm, you still do, but most of the time it is not a photo that is worth the trouble, so nobody worries about it. If it is an image of someone else, that someone else does not own the photo. They may not like it, or say you can not take a photo of them, that is a privacy issue, not a copyright issue. The copyright holder can “copy” or make copies of the photo, others can not. Unless… the copyright holder grants you the right to do so.

When clients come to my studio, Positive Vista Photography & Art, I always ask you to sign a Model Release, this covers the privacy issue, and allows me to display images of you publicly, modify them, sell them. If you don’t want to sign the model release, and I still agree to photograph you, I won’t display your image on my web site, I can’t show them off publicly. If it turns out to be a master piece, I miss the opportunity to show what I have created. I respect your privacy, especially if it is a boudoir photo of you, and won’t show them unless you allow me to. As a photographer, I want people to see the photographs I created, be it a portrait of you or your family, a pet portrait, or even a horse. Ah, but the animals don’t have the rights to privacy like people do, so they do not need to sign Model Releases.

You can get a print, or a digital file of your image from my studio. If you want many prints, use the photo online, and email it around to your family, I offer the digital file of the photo along with a Limited Copyright Release, in which I grant you the limited right to make copies of the photo for the uses you and I agree on, personal, business, or both. So, even if it’s an image of you, and you purchased the digital file or the print, you do not OWN the photo in the sense that I do, and you are only licensed to use it. Strange? It’s kind of like when you buy a book, maybe even a book about you, you really only bought a copy of the book, you do not own the contents of the book, which is owned by the author (copyright does expire eventually, see this US copyright office page)

Are you still confused? I will be happy to explain further if you are. Let me know!

Working on group posing in class

The art of posing and lighting

I just finished an one week workshop at Texas School of Professional Photography. I studied The Art of Posing and Lighting from master photographer Hanson Fong. Hanson is a world famous wedding and portrait photographer from San Francisco, but we both had to go to Texas for the school! There were more than 50 instructors at the school, and more than 1000 students. Several instructors were from California, and I am the only photographer from Santa Cruz, along with two more from California.

I have seen Hanson present at other photography conferences and trade shows, and have always admired the ease and proficiency he showed in posing groups of people, and his famous flow posing for couples. Even though I do not photograph weddings, there were a lot to be learned from a master. There were more than 20 photographers in my class, and we also learned from each other. Everyone has difference background and experience, height, weight, size and shape. I especially enjoyed the hands on part of the workshop when we had to pose each other, but it was amazing to see how Hanson made it look so easy.

A great portrait does not happen by accident. At least not if you just want to get lucky. Lighting in the studio must be used to bring out the best of the model (the subject in the portrait), and hide anything you don’t want to show. I am reminded of what I learned from another master photographer about how to analyze the face for the best lighting and angle. People have written many books on how to light and how to pose, it is definitely an art to be learned and practiced.

So what are the principles of posing? For groups it is uneven height, blocking or showing the bodies as appropriate, moving forward closer to the camera to appear bigger, further away to appear smaller. These are just the tips of the iceberg on how to pose for a great portrait. I will be applying what I learned to my portrait sessions, and look forward to creating more beautiful portraits of family, couples, and individuals.

Abstract Waterfall from Dallas Botanic Garden

A fun photo of waterfall from the Botanic Garden

photo from Model Shoot out night

A glamour photo from the model shoot-out night

Red River Dance Hall party night

We had a party night at the Red River Dance Hall


black dog headshot

How to take a better pet portrait – pet photography

Do you wonder how to take a better pet portrait? Here are 5 simple tips to a better pet portrait.

I take a lot of pet portraits, mostly dogs, some cats, a few chickens, some rabbits and even a rat. Sometimes dogs and cats together!

While volunteering at the Santa Cruz SPCA, I get to see some poor animals who at first glance don’t look like they would make a great photo, but I try my best, and luckily for everyone, I usually get a few good photos which would show them off in a better light, and attract people to come in and adopt them.

Here is a video showing an actual photo shoot at the SPCA, created by Adobe, the company which gave us Photoshop and many other wonderful products.


Read more