Category Archives: Dennis Kelly Customers

Meet Our Models

We are so excited to introduce the members of our 2018 Senior Model Team for Dennis Kelly Photography!


Be sure to leave them some love in the comments below.

Washington Township High School Class of 2018

“I am involved in lots of clubs in school including student council, junior achievement, freshman transition, and the dance company. I also dance outside of school! One of my greatest accomplishments are being on the honor roll all of high school!
I decided to become a senior model for Dennis Kelly because I love the cameras ability to capture a moment in time. Dennis does an amazing job at this, he has the ability to capture the story behind the photo, such as your personality!
When I’m not at dance I enjoy shopping with my friends and cooking. My best memory growing up was my tea party birthday that my mom gave me when I was 6. My friends and I All dressed up in white dresses and had an all out tea party, it was the best!
My goals for the future are to own a dance studio where I can teach kids all types of dance and to have a wonderful family, after I go to college of course!”




Lindenwold High School Class of 2018

“I play soccer and do track and field. I have received a gold watch at Woodbury and a silver medal in Haddonfield.
I decided to apply to be a senior model because I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone.
For fun I like to play video games and work out. Probably my best memory growing up was winning my first silver medal in track and field.
I plan to attend college after I graduate high school and try to major in computers.”





Williamstown High School Class of 2018

“I enjoy sports. I pitched for my softball team for 6 or so years before I found dance. I feel I have come a long way in dance, very quickly thanks to my teachers. Now I don’t have time for much else but I don’t mind; it’s what I love!

I knew a few people that were Senior Models in the past for Dennis Kelly. The pictures were so beautiful and different that I wanted to go there for my own photos. When I saw that they were taking applications for models I thought I had to try. I was surprised and excited to be chosen!
For fun, I like to be with friends and family as much as possible. My family is very competitive so we like to go to the paintball field or race go karts whenever possible. I also enjoy listening to music and working out.
I love to go on vacations with my family, but one trip in particular stood out the most. We rented a cabin in Tennessee and all my sisters were there together. We had a lot of memories from that trip alone. We rode horses and went whitewater rafting. We even had a raccoon visitor every night as we ate! After college I hope to dance professionally. Of course a back up dancer in a show would be my dream. But long term I plan to open my own dance studio. I love working children and I want to provide a family environment to help them feel like it is their second home.”




Washington Township High School Class of 2018

“My activities include dancing and doing community service. I dance at Chez Dance studio and I also take dance at school and after school. I am dancing 24/7. I also am a part of Interact which is a volunteer club. Where I participate in events such as the Buddy Walk for people with Down Syndrome, Monzo Madness for people who have ALS. I also volunteer at the hoagie sale and the Thanksgiving food drive. I love giving back to the community.
I wanted to become a senior model for Dennis Kelly because I love looking at photography and getting my pictures taken. Also I know Dennis always takes the best pictures!!
For fun I like to hang out with my friends and go shopping or go out to eat!  My best memory growing up would probably be going on family vacations to Disney, Aruba, California,Cancun and Aspen. My goals for the future are to go to college and major in Dance Education and open my own studio one day.”





Paul VI High School Class of 2018

“I play soccer for PVI and am in so many clubs! One of my accomplishments was scoring my first varsity soccer goal this year for PVI. I decided to become a Senior Model for Dennis Kelly because it was different from my normal activities I usually do. I wanted to try something new and I’m so glad I did! For fun I really just love hanging out with my friends! I love going to the beach in the summer and I love to travel. My best memory growing up is hosting a Spanish foreign exchange student for the summer. My primary goal for the future right now is to get accepted to my #1 school for college.





Kingsway Regional High School Class of 2018

“I love film and photography. Being in front of the camera as well as behind, directing is super exciting. I love listening to music and hanging out with friends.
I decided to become a Senior Model for Dennis Kelly photography to get experience in modeling and further pursue that dream. For fun I hang out with friends, watch movies, and eat sushi! My best memory growing up was probably Christmas dinners with my whole family! I love being with family and having everyone around and smiling. My future goals consist of becoming an advertising marketer & driving a Range Rover!”




Schalick High School Class of 2018

“I love to dance, play guitar, draw, and hang out with friends. I have studied German for three years and I went to Germany on a student exchange program. I am in dance academy at my school and get to learn new styles of dance every day. I was a pre-Olympic gymnast for 8 years and I was state champion one year. I have been trained by past Olympians who have helped me achieve many goals. I perform as a leader in school and get good grades.
I wanted to model for Dennis Kelly because his photography is so beautiful and inspires me! Having past experiences with modeling, I saw his senior model team as a great opportunity. For fun, I spend my time with dance, acrobatics, playing guitar, painting my nails, doing makeup, spending time with friends, exploring new places with my family, and drawing. Growing up, my best memories are of  traveling and competing with my old gymnastics teammates and creating such a strong bond with them; they are like my second family! Also being able to grow up with them and experiencing so many new things together, going to new places, and meeting new people whom we looked up to, was one of the best things that I will always remember and keep in my heart. I hope to get into the University of the Arts summer dance early college program this year, also explore other colleges and the different majors I am interested in such as dance, biomedical engineering, and dance therapy. One day I hope to have my own dance studio or company or make a big, helpful discovery in science and medicine. Also I wish to travel again, going back to Germany, and seeing other places around the world.”



Paul VI High School Class of 2018

“I am a very fun and sociable person! I love to meet new people and I make friends easily. I am in a few clubs in my school and my grades are good. I care about others as well as myself and my future. I saw that a few people in my school had been senior models for Dennis in prior years and it looked so fun! The pictures were extremely beautiful and extraordinary. I wanted to be involved with it in any way I could! For fun, I like to hang out with my friends and family, who are a huge part of my life and make me who I am today. I enjoy spending time with them and going on little adventures with my friends!  My best memory growing up would have to be going overseas to Jordan to visit my mom’s side of the family. It is such a beautiful country over there and I enjoy traveling more than anything. I have also gone to Hawaii recently which was definitely one of my favorites as well. The different cultures and lifestyles are so amazing to experience and learn about while you’re young. I have many goals for the future! As my career, I hope to pursue my dream of becoming a physician assistant in pediatrics. I love kids and I am very interested in the medical field. I hope to do all that I can to get to where I want to be as well as being very happy while doing it.”





Williamstown High School Class of 2018

“Some of my favorite are activities are Drama, DECA, and Senate! I enjoy participating in school and community theatres, as this has always been one of my passions. I also love to dance-especially tap! One of my newer activities is DECA. This year I was lucky enough to place first in both of my events and now I have the opportunity to go to California this April! I also love participating in my class senate, where I help plan prom, trips, and events as my class president. I’ve seen all of the Dennis’s photos over the past year and I fell in love with his senior portraits. I’ve always wanted to get nice, professional pictures done, and I felt senior pictures was the perfect opportunity! I love hanging out with my friends and getting to do theater with all of them! My favorite memory growing up is playing the piano with my dad in our family room. We always sang and had great times together at the piano, and that’s how I learned to start playing. I’m looking to attend a four year university and double major in Business Administration and Musical Theatre. Then I hope to go back to school and get my MBA. I hope to one day incorporate the two degrees and be able to run the business aspects of a theater like marketing!”





Washington Township Class of 2018

“I participate in is field hockey for my high school team and a winter league I play for fun! I also baby sit and working at Wendy’s is also a hobby to me because I love my coworkers and going to work is always fun. I play softball for my town and absolutely adore it. I participate in club activities like interact where I do volunteer work and help in the community .
Both my sister and brother went to Dennis Kelly for their own senior portraits. I really loved the photos he took and creativity and wanted to experience some of his work myself. My mom recommended to me I try to apply to be a model and to see what happens!
For fun, sometimes it’s sitting in my room with my sister laughing and messing around to just long car rides because I and my friends missed our exit trying to go to Krispy Creme. Spending time with my close group of girl friends is one of my favorite things because we are so close and know each other so well it’s always a good time. I love going out on the field with my stick and just messing around with team mates.  I always look to field hockey as my escape and a place I can always let loose and have fun.
One of my best memories growing up is any memory with my family. My mom, dad, brother and sister are the reason I am who I am. We have talks and will literally laugh for hours together. My brother and my sister are my toughest critics but best motivation. my mom and dad are my inspiration and they are the reason for some of my best memories
My goal for my future is to be a nurse of some kind. No matter where I go or what I do I want to help people. I adore working with anyone and my goal is to help anyone in need of a helping hand.”

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Also posted in Senior Portraits, Uncategorized

My Favorite Images 2016

Every year, as we close out our files for the year and prepare for the next, I like to look through the images I created and share of my favorites, along with a little story on each of them.

At the risk of sounding self indulgent, I do try to think of myself as an artist, and artists need to grow, or quit. Stagnation is just not an option. This exercise is helpful to me because it allows me to review how my work has grown, where I need to improve, and where I’ve had some success.

It is also interesting to me that at times my favorite images, and the ones that seem to win awards and recognition, are often not the same images my clients choose to own. This year that seems to be improving. So, either I am getting more in tune with what my clients are looking for, or more clients are seeking me out who appreciate what I do!

Anyway, here in no particular order, are some of my personal favorite images from 2016!  Please feel free to leave me some comments. I do read them all and they are important to me. Be nice. Spammy or inappropriate comments will be removed.

Capturing peak action is much more difficult than it seems. Often times I have to ask my subject to do something energetic and physically demanding over and over and over again. I was lucky this time to have a girl really up to the task. So naturally, I had to make it even more difficult by adding an avalanche of silk rose petals to the mix.

I remember ordering 5,000 silk rose petals online, only to have them show up in a small 6×9 envelope, all squished together like a stack of Pringels.  It took my wife and I three nights watching TV and pealing apart flower petals to get enough for this shot. And yes, I did fill in a couple empty spots here and there with flowers in Photoshop, but this image is pretty much how it was shot straight in camera.

Even though we do a lot of promotional headshots for actors and performers, this stunning image was actually created as part of this young lady’s senior portrait session. She is a gifted vocalist and wanted an image that would reflect that. I borrowed the vintage microphone from a friend who has a recording studio (yes, it’s real) and added strong backlighting to her hair to give it a theatrical look. Using my signature ringlight gives her eyes a magical sparkle and really made for an image that forces you to look, and look again.

Sometimes, the fleeting unguarded moments between shots when you are adjusting lights or camera settings can give you a glimpse into someone’s soul. There is a reason that the Old Master painters rarely portrayed their subjects with big smiles. I wish more people could appreciate that, because a quiet, introspective expression can say so much more. This was photographed in my studio with nothing more than window light, a pretty girl, and my camera.

I don’t always do portraits strictly for people to hang in their homes. Photography plays a vital part in helping businesses establish their brand and reach their clients as well.

This fun crew of young women run a fitness website that helps make fitness fun and enjoyable. I worked with them to create a series of images for their website that conveys exactly that message. These were shot on green screen, so the web designers could drop in any type of background that would work best for their design. But I love the energy of this shot. Almost makes me want to go to the gym! I said almost.

Scholar, athlete, musician. This kid has it all. He had been in the studio earlier in the day for more traditional shots and I convinced him to bring his cello with him to the football field that evening for something different. I actually had him playing something and still can hear the haunting melody when viewing this image. I love the way the halo flare from the field lights looks like a cloud shrouded moon in the upper right corner. Completely accidental, but I’ll gladly take credit for it!

Portraits are all about capturing emotion, and I don’t think there were many images I did in 2016 that do that better than this one.

We got lost on the way to this shoot at the stables where this girl boards her horse. By the time we found it, we had only about 15 minutes of sunlight left. I powered through a bunch of regular “poses” that I knew the clients would love, and then after doing the smiling at the camera shot, told the girl to give the horse a kiss almost as an afterthought. I added a slight texture overlay to give it a little more of a “painted” look. Beautiful!

My granddaughter turned 3 in 2016 and her favorite color is yellow.

I had stopped on the way to shoot her birthday portrait at the party store and bought a whole bundle of yellow balloons. My camera room has very high ceilings, so when I got inside I let the balloons go up to the ceiling until I was ready for them, not realizing that because heat rises, the temperature near the top was probably 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the room. The balloons quickly started bursting in rapid succession and by the time I realized what was happening, we were down to just 3 balloons. So now I pretend we intentionally choose just three because it was her 3rd birthday.

So I’m coming clean. It was purely an accident.

Because of how we choose to shoot many of our senior sessions, we get to go to a lot of cool locations.

This is the boathouse on Cooper River, and this girl is coxswain of her school’s crew team, and wanted portraits that showed that aspect of her life. The inside of the boathouse was big, and dark, and required a lot of additional lighting to capture. This image  took a total of 4 off camera speedlights to illuminate, but I think it was well worth the extra effort.

Speaking of lighting challenges, nothing is more difficult to light than a sexy sports car.

For this image, I used a technique called “light painting”. It involves actually moving all around, inside, and even under the vehicle with lights, making as many as 100 different exposures. I combine them later in Photoshop to create an image with details that simply could not be done in one shot.

This was shot in my studio parking lot, and I decided at the last minute to wet down the pavement with a garden hose to give it that super sexy look.

I sometimes work with models who are looking to add a particular look or style to their portfolios. This young woman, with her bright red hair and tattoos, was looking for something with a “Steampunk” vibe. If you don’t know what it is, Google it. It’s a whole subculture.

I used an area in my camera room often used for executive portraits. I found an old gas lantern in the basement (the previous owners where antique buffs and left us a lot of cool stuff). I lit it from inside by putting a small flash with a colored gel inside it.  Then I gave the whole image a kind of muted color, punched up detail look.

But the model’s attitude and pose is really what makes it work. I love starting with a picture in my head and then working to make it come to life. Its the closest we get to actual magic.

Speaking of redheads, this woman is an amazingly talented photographer herself, and a friend of mine. She has very striking features and stunning natural red hair and I’ve been trying to get her to model for me for several years. 2016 the stars aligned and this is from my first, and only session with her.

I added a texture overlay to the image to give it a more ethereal look than a conventional photographic print. After the shoot she told me that this was one of the only pictures of her that her mother actually fell in love with! So that should be my new tag line, “Making Mom’s Fall in Love Since 1981.”

This is my friend Annie, who survived breast cancer in 2015. Like me, she is a diver and we have shared many exciting underwater adventures.

Annie is being inducted into the Atlantic County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017 for her many philanthropic works. She needed an updated portrait, but I knew that a typical grinning mugshot wouldn’t do her justice. Windowlight, two reflectors and eyes that tell a story of bravery and compassion.

This senior’s mom had a very specific request for his senior portraits.

Something that really spoke to the transition from boy to man, and to high school graduation as the beginning of the journey, and not the end of one. Oh, and she wanted pretty fall colors too.

No sweat.

Speaking of milestones, a child’s First Communion should certainly qualify.

I swear though, if I see one more picture of a kid standing next to white Grecian columns or holding their hands together pretending to pray with Jesus smiling down on them, I think I’m going to loose it. LOL

Portraits can be beautiful and timeless without a lot of “STUFF”. Simplicity.

I had found these beautiful antique mirrors in a thrift shop a few years ago, and I think I scored them for like $30 or $40! They were broken and had to be glued back together, but they are just sooooo beautiful and I knew that would be the perfect counterpoint to this stunning girl and her elegant dress. Yes, this is the same girl leaping with the flower petals in the first picture. Beautiful and talented!

I decided to add the single candle in the right corner just to break the darkness in that corner… but the beautiful expression is what makes this portrait one I will always be proud of.

I currently have this as a 36″ print above my fireplace in the studio lobby, where it kind of makes the whole room sing with beauty and elegance.

As a working pro, I don’t often get to shoot “just for me” and sometimes we tend to overlook the simple beauty that surrounds us.

I noticed this simple scene in my studio yard one day and decided to shoot it. Something I probably walked by 30 times without ever really “seeing” it. Stop and smell the roses. Or, whatever those blue flowers are. Smell that too. Its all good.

We will go on location almost anywhere to get “the shot”. This senior wanted to do some shots where he wrestles. This is actually the spot where his team practices, and it was literally about 100 degrees in there the day we went to shoot. No air conditioning, or at least it wasn’t turned on for us.

The sweat actually looked kind of good on him, so it wan’t a problem, but I’m sure I was a sight as a dripping sweaty disheveled mess. Not to mention, the camera lenses kept fogging up coming from the air conditioned car, and I had all kinds of problems getting my accent lights to fire consistently.

It all worked out, and I love the intensity of the shot and the splash of bright red on the mat.

Another “Peak Action” shot that is way harder than it looks.

We have to carefully light the subjects here with strobes that can “freeze” the action, while keeping the shutter speed set so that we keep the background subdued, but not completely black. Then time the shutter release just a fraction before you anticipate the peak moment will be, because it takes a fraction of a second for the focus to lock, the mirror to get out of the way, the shutter to open and fire the remote lights. Hundredths of a second maybe, but if you try to push the shutter button at the exact moment you see the shot, you will miss it every time.

This one worked. I always tell my kids when doing this type of shot… it’s a lot like hitting a baseball. If you can do it 3 times out of 10 you’re doing pretty damn good.

We were supposed to do an awesome fashion shoot with our Senior Model Team at this amazing junkyard last year. Actually it’s more like a museum than a junkyard.

On the way to the shoot a driver involved in a road rage incident with another car crossed the median and hit Bonnie’s car with her and 3 of our Model Team members in it. The car was totaled, and the girls were all taken to the hospital  to get checked out, so naturally, the shoot didn’t happen.

I did have these awesome images I had taken a few weeks prior when we went to scout the place. I’d love to get back there again soon.

My niece got married this summer in Florida. I don’t actually do weddings, but it was my niece, so….

Florida in July is, well lets just say it’s pretty hot. We had about 15 minutes outside before people starting wilting. And did I mention it rains every afternoon? It did give me a great appreciation for what wedding photographers do. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it. You can read about it here.

We do photograph a lot of dancers and this one wanted something totally different.

She suggest wrapping herself in Christmas lights. This was about a week after the car wreck on the way to our fashion shoot and with the way our luck was running I wasn’t too keen on wrapping a kid in 120 volt wires for a photoshoot. Luckily, I found these LED fairy lights that were 12 volts and much more safe.

I had to shoot using just the modeling lights from my studio lights in order to have the little led lamps register, which means my subject had to hold pretty still and couldn’t really “move” through the pose. Still I love the way it turned out… magical and dreamlike.

It is so sad to me that classical portraiture is becoming a lost art form. There is something so timeless and pure about an impeccably lit, well posed classic portrait.

Today all you see is people in parks, on railroad tracks, and standing by dilapidated buildings with bad lighting and sun flare. I love this image because it is timeless and elegant. Not to mention, there are not many photographers left who can do it.

I have often said that you could take away all of my fancy studio lights and just give me a window and a simple background and I’d be happy creating gorgeous portraits all day long.

I love the higher than normal angle of this which forces you to connect with her eyes, and the out of focus “bokeh” in the foreground (which is really just a glass vase held in front of the lens) gives this beautiful portrait a sense of mystical sparkle.

Cutting into the top of the head is a technique used a lot in fashion photography. It imparts a feeling of energy to the image and places the eyes and face in a part of the frame where it is hard not to look at them.

I love using contemporary techniques in photography so the image not only looks like it came right out of  a magazine, but it captures both the beauty and personality of my subject.

This one will finish off my collection for 2016. A pretty simple shot really, but the addition of the 3 dimensional lighting, plus exposing the background and ice to bring out a “grittier” tone, I thinks adds a lot to the edgier feel of an otherwise “typical” portrait of a hockey player.

We usually think of ice as smooth and glossy. But a hockey player sees it as a field of battle… ripped and torn.

So, there you have some of my favorites for 2016. There were many more, it was hard to choose, but I hope you enjoyed seeing them and reading a little about either the thought process, techniques, or back story behind them. Now, to get pumped for 2017…..

Also posted in News and Happenings, Uncategorized Tagged |

I Shot a Wedding!

Last weekend I shot a wedding!

037KellyDean-9381-2Why is this news for a photographer?

Because I hadn’t shot a wedding since 1995.

I used to shoot lots and lots of weddings. In fact, I shot my very first professional wedding solo when I was just 17 years old. I had been assisting my first mentor in photography at weddings for over a year, but I had to wait until I got my driver’s license to shoot on my own. So, I think like 3 weeks after my 17th birthday… I was shooting solo.

002KellyDean-9270Back in those days we used to go to a wedding with 10 rolls of 120 film. That’s 12 exposures per roll, 120 pictures maximum. But, you were expected to bring 2 rolls back… they were for “emergencies”. So… 96 pictures is what you were expected to shoot. So you had to make each shot count. 96 pictures over a typical 10 hour day… do the math, there was a lot of waiting around for things to happen.

After the wedding, you would drop the film in a bag and wait for a professional lab to process it and make proofs. Then you stick the proofs in a little book, or tie them up with a nice ribbon and put them in a fancy box… and you were done until the bride and groom had time to make their selections. Those days are long gone.

After that, I shot weddings for a number of area studios, and later for my own studio, often shooting 2 or 3 weddings on a given weekend.

By the time I decided to retire from wedding photography, a typical wedding had expanded to around 200-250 shots.

Why did I quit?

A couple reasons… I had young children and I was tired of missing them growing up because I had to work every single weekend.

Also, I came to realize that even though I was one of the most expensive photographers in the area, when I factored in all the hours that go into the production of photographic wedding coverage, plus all the direct expenses involved, I wasn’t really making any money. In fact, unless I managed to get a significant additional sale in the way of extra parent albums, wall portraits, and additional print sales, I was barely making minimum wage.

So I quit. Just like that.

But last weekend, my niece got married in Florida, and we agreed that the best wedding gift we could give her would be her wedding photos. So I packed up all my gear, stuffed it into a bulging carry-on and headed for Southwest Florida.

024KellyDean-9453I learned some stuff.

First, I learned that Southwest Florida in July in not the most comfortable environment to hold a wedding.

It was hot. Like 3 shirts hot. Like car air-conditioning can’t keep up hot.

Next, I learned that weddings themselves haven’t changed much. There is still the normal confusion, last minute changes, mis-communications and overall stress that there has always been. Photographers still need to be 1 part technician, 1 part psychologist, and 2 parts diplomat. And did I mention the heat?

I learned that it rains in SW Florida in the summer almost every afternoon. Not just a shower… violent thunder and lightning downpours. You can almost set your watch by them. 4:00, every day… deluge. Like build an Ark rainfall.

We had arranged to shoot formal pictures outdoors at a beautiful park on the way to the reception and hoped the rain would hold off. It did, but not for long.

049KellyDean-9452-2We arrived to the sound of thunder in the distance, and I barreled through a set of formal and family photos in about 20 minutes…. and ended up running to the car with rain starting to fall. Without my wonderful wife acting as people wrangler, we would never have gotten them done. So, don’t try this alone.

Time for another shirt.

051KellyDean-9475-2Next, I learned that wedding photographers today have no lives. Because, instead of 100-200 pictures, with digital it is very easy to shoot 10 times that much. You aren’t going to run out of film and it doesn’t cost you $2 in film and processing cost every time you drop the shutter.

So, you bang bang bang… but every one of those pictures has to be downloaded, culled, inspected, cropped, color corrected, exposure compensated, and processed. Nothing is insignificant enough not to be recorded.

All that work that used to be handled by the lab… processing, color correcting, cropping, is now back on the shoulders of the photographer. And, handling 200 exposures has now blossomed into handling 1000-2000 exposures on any given event.

Needless to say, the hours that I was unable to justify putting into a job 20 years ago have increased exponentially for today’s photographers. But, amazingly, it doesn’t seem like the average price charged by wedding photographer has kept pace. Makes me scratch my head when I see photographers offering full day wedding coverage for only a few hundred dollars! I guess that’s why so many burn out so fast. It’s insane.

If you are one of those folks that thinks wedding photographers are ridiculously overpriced… I have news for you. They earn every cent in ways about which you have no idea.

017KellyDean-9293I learned that equipment problems have no respect, even for experienced photographers.

Two (or more) of everything is mandatory. And the backup gear does you no good in the trunk… you have to carry it with you so it is at arms length at any given moment. I suffered through a corrupt memory card, a lens that decided to die 30 seconds before the bride and her dad walked down the isle, and a flash that decided to quit in the middle of formal pictures. Not to mention a lens that fogged up instantly going from the air conditioned reception to the outdoors for the newlywed’s sparkler sendoff.

I can’t remember the last time I had an equipment malfunction during a portrait shoot. The worst you ever seem to get is an occasional flash misfire. For some reason, the fact of a time limited un-repeatable event of magnanimous importance seems to throw Murphy’s Law in overdrive. I have no idea why.

And the newest headache in the lives of today’s wedding shooters that I never had to deal with… well meaning friends and relatives taking cell phone pictures and getting in …   every…   single…   shot.

So, I pulled it off, although I’m still editing the photos. My niece and her family have been thrilled with the sneak peeks so far.

I got all the important shots, as my first mentor taught me, “always bring home the bacon.” I kept the mood light and airy. I dealt with problems and situations without anyone really knowing… fix it or deal with it and move on. Because that’s what wedding photographs have to do.

I came away with a new found appreciation for those of our profession that do this week in and week out. Hats off to you, wedding professionals. You are under appreciated, and underpaid.

056KellyDean-9539Oh, and I learned that the gasps, giggles, oohs and ahhs of a young bride and her family when they see the work you have done for them makes it all worth while.

So, there’s that.



Also posted in News and Happenings

My Favorite Images From 2015

DPKelly-2519sSo, another year has gone by. As part of the year end housekeeping of archiving old files and making room for new images, I like to review the work I’ve done in the recent past and remind myself of what I love about my job.

Shooting as a professional can be frustrating at times, especially when clients sometimes don’t “get it”. I once did a slide show of images to a class of professional photographers and received a standing ovation. Then I told them “All these images have one thing in common… the client did not purchase any of them.” So yeah, it can be frustrating.

Anyway… I thought it would be fun to share some of MY favorite images from last year. Some of these I may have shared on social media already, some may never have been seen before… but they all resonated with me for one reason or another. Maybe a special technique, maybe an emotional backstory, maybe just something that is out of the ordinary. Some are not even client jobs, but personal photos that have meaning for me.

In no particular order, here are just some of my personal favorites from last year. I’d love to hear your comments, so feel free to add them below.

I visited the 9-11 memorial in NYC this year. It was very emotional for me.


A remembrance, I assume, of a loved one lost. Maybe it was his birthday, anniversary, or maybe someone came every day. There are thousands of stories here.


They call this “The Survivor’s Staircase” many people made their way out of the towers on this very section of staircase, which was somehow spared destruction when the towers fell, now preserved as a monument to the will to survive.


This is the remnants of Ladder 3. Her entire crew perished that day.


This is a section of the last steel column that was removed from ground zero. The firefighters and other first responders posted tributes to fallen comrades as it was unearthed.

My friend Annie was diagnosed, treated, and recovered from breast cancer last year. I helped document her journey. Thankfully it had a happy ending.


Getting fitted for a wig with Dawn Gorman from Friends Are By Your Side.


I love this shot. Despite the smile, if you look close you can see tears in her eyes.


Post treatment, Annie decided to share the story of her fight to give hope to other women facing the same fight. She asked me to shoot some images and I was glad she did.



Here is Annie all recovered. She helped us photograph a Night of Wigs and Wishes this year, the same foundation that provided her wig when she started chemo.

This was one of my favorite families from this year. These guys are crazy fun, and you can feel the love they have for one another. It had been a while since their last portrait, and their dog was ill and not doing well. So we went to the beach and photographed the family with their puppy.  As of the time we delivered the portrait a couple months after it was taken, the dog was still doing well… let’s hope he still is, but I’m not sure.



I LOVE creating portraits that tell a story about my subjects, like this one I did of a little girl and her horse. I can picture people 100 years from now looking at this image and getting a sense of pride this young girl feels in learning to ride, and the love she has for her horse. It’s all about legacies, right?


My friend Martino is known as a “celebrity stylist”. I think of him more as a larger than life persona. I was really flattered when he asked me to do  portraits of him in conjunction with the launch of his new product line, and I wanted images that were as intense as he is.


That jacket had to weigh 30 pounds! Must be a workout just walking around in it.


Don’t know how appropriate the use of flames is in a photo used to sell hairspray, but I liked it. We’ll call it artistic license.

Speaking of Martino, his charity, Friends are By Your Side, does an amazing fundraising gala each year to raise money to provide free wigs to women battling cancer and to grant wishes to sick children. Here is an iconic image from the event. A tribute to Kiki, who receive the first “wish” from the foundation when Martino took her to meet Justin Beiber. She passed away a few days later.


Also got to photograph Paula Abdul, who is as kind and gracious as she is beautiful.


I had a really fun project to do last year for the Washington Township High School Football team. They wanted to do something different for their game schedule this year, so I proposed photographing the senior members of the team to use on the poster, but with a “Dennis Kelly” twist. So we talked to the kids, decided on a theme, and photographed the seniors in groups of 4 at a time on green screen and came up with this.

Poster rev 02

They were so thrilled with it the booster club ended up ordering several huge outdoor banners to hang at the athletic fields, which was kind of cool.


For the last few years I had been itching to do a shoot in the snow, but was never able to make it work. Last year the stars aligned and I was able to shoot some incredible images of model Ashley. Here is one of my favorites.


I first photographed Brianna as a member of our senior model team several years ago. I remember asking quite innocently about some scars I noticed on her neck and if she wanted them removed. She told me I better not dare remove them as she was proud of the fight they represented. Brianna has quite an amazing story, you can read about it HERE.  When she was older, I asked her if she would let me photograph her scars, and she graciously complied. They were some of the most powerful images I have ever done. Recently she told me she had gotten a tattoo which read “These scars remind me of how strong I am… ” So that prompted a reshoot…



Brianna is in college now and doing very well. I often ask her Mom to please make her stop growing up.

I had the opportunity to shoot at Eastern State Penitentiary this past year. It is only open to photographers to work with models a few times a year… what an amazing location. I went with my friend Tina, and while it is really hard to pick just one favorite shot… there must be 20… I think this one is representative and one of the stronger images.


Speaking of Tina, she is an amazing and versatile model, and generally up for any crazy idea I might throw at her. I had the opportunity to shoot some outdoor fashion style images. I was particularly pleased with how they turned out. Even more notable is that these were shot the week before Christmas, and it was still shirt sleeve weather down at the waterfront, even at sunset.


I worked a lot this year on perfecting and refining a lighting technique called “light painting”. It involves, well, “painting” a still life subject with light using different exposures and combining the different elements into one image which basically could not be done in one exposure. It is particularly suited for architecture…. and hot cars!

Viit 01c_1

I actually devoted an entire blog post to this shoot with the ’72 Vette that shows how I did it. You can find it here.

And, speaking of light painting, I used the same techniques to create these stunning images of the remodel of Martino Cartier’s beautiful Washington Township Salon.


Martino called me on a Sunday morning and he needed the pictures by the next day. He is about the only person in the world I wouldn’t hang up on… LOL. The images were use in a feature story in South Jersey Magazine.


Sometimes the simplest portraits have the most impact. I love this mother and daughter portrait I did for Mother’s Day.


I work at the beach a lot over the summer months, so sometimes I get a little jaded by the natural beauty that we tend to take for granted. Once in a while though, conditions are just magical and we get really breathtaking images, like these.



Washington Township’s Fire Chief of 17 years, E. John Hoffman, was retiring, and I got a call to do his official portrait which will hang at Fire Department headquarters. I thought it has a quiet dignity and sense of power. There aren’t a lot of photographers who are good at photographing men these days. That’s a shame.


One of my favorite lighting techniques for beauty portraits is something called a ring light, which has an almost shadowless look and makes eyes look amazing. Here are two of my favorite from last year using this lighting technique. I’ll admit to being a bit of a lighting weenie. Shoot me.



One of the things I especially enjoy is capturing the power and energy of athletes. Luckily I get the opportunity to do it often in our senior portraits, where we see all kinds of athletes.  I don’t really get photographers that photograph athletes in the studio, lovingly cradling a football next to their face while smiling at the camera.  I like my way better!


Martino-1384 (1)


And I’ll end this up with a picture of my granddaughter, just because she’s so damn cute.






Also posted in Charities, News and Happenings, Uncategorized

Behind the Scenes – Classic Car Shoot

This was a fun shoot I did recently. If you know a car enthusiast, wouldn’t one of these look great in their office or garage?


I thought it would make an interesting post to explain how I go about creating one of these. I use a technique called “Light Painting” which is the only way to really properly bring out all the details, curves, and reflections that make a car guy (or girl) swoon!

Let me start by saying that these take a LOT of work and skill to put together. But for anyone who may be interested in learning how it’s done, here goes.

First, here is a “before” shot… which is how the scene actually looked. Found a nice, but simple location and started the shoot about 15 minutes before sunset and established a “base” shot. Using a moderately wide angle lens allows us to accentuate the lines of the car, in this case a classic ’72 Corvette, AND make it stand out from the background.


Not a bad picture… but we want that bad boy to jump off the page, so with the camera on a sturdy, rock solid tripod so that it does not move even a millimeter during multiple exposures, we start to take individual photos lighting each of the cars features:

Here, I’m lighting the front wheel:


Here, I’m illuminating under the wheel well and grill.


Next, the back wheel and side pipes.


Here, I’m lighting the car’s far profile and edge of the right fender and windshield.


Adding some reflections to highlight the hood.


And the top part of the hood and roof.


Can’t forget the interior, which would be black without some illumination.


And then, the grass under the car to help separate it.


And, of course, the grill.


Then, we begin the painstaking task of layering the individual highlighted parts over the base image. Then, using a technique called “masking”, we hide the parts of each individual image that we do not want to show. So, we end up with a picture where all the individual elements are combined into one image that we could never actually create in one shot. Enhance the sky behind the car, and done!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Viit 01a

Here’s a before and after to see the transformation you can do with light painting:

Viit 01e

If you know someone who has a hot or classic car that they love, this makes an absolutely awesome gift!!  Call me at 856-228-4399 and I can create a one of a kind look for you too!

Also posted in News and Happenings, Tips

How to Get Great Color

or… why I never use auto white balance, and neither should you…..

I have a vivid memory etched in my brain. I was in Las Vegas, standing in front of a room of about 450 of the best professional photographers in the country…. and I was about to be humiliated.

11"x17" French Fold TemplateWe had all gathered for a week long workshop on marketing. One of my marketing pieces was being displayed for critique on three giant projected displays positioned around the ballroom. It was a Jumbotron of scrutiny and shame.  I stood alone at a microphone at the foot of the stage, while the speaker, an internationally recognized expert in marketing and a damn good photographer to boot, peered down on me from above. I felt like the 2nd grader called into the principal’s office, and I braced for the humiliation I was certain was coming.

His voice thundered through the microphone and went straight to my spinal cord.

“Man, you really got this color thing nailed… Wanna tell us how you do it?”

BAM!… I was instantly everybody’s best friend, and I didn’t have to buy a lunch for the rest of the week. It was… well, it was cool.

This was in the beginning days of the photography industry’s transition to digital imaging, and photographers were struggling with this new technology called “color management”.

02eSee, in the old days, all photographers had to do was drop their film off at a professional lab and somebody ELSE took care of the color for them.

An expert, or someone who at least kinda knew what they were doing, just handled it. We, as shooters, didn’t need to think about it much, unless we weren’t getting good color. Then the solution was to send the order back for reprints, or find a different lab.

But Not For Me.

You see, I began my career in photography in the darkroom. I WAS “the guy” the other photographers trusted with their color! I was “the expert.” So, when digital flipped the responsibility for good color from the lab onto the photographer, it was no big deal for me. I just had to learn the nuances of the new technology, but what good color looked like, and how to get it, was second nature to me.

I Know Color.

These days though, I see a LOT of bad color, from both amateurs and professionals.

It’s particularly troublesome when it’s a professional, because they are supposed to know better. But I see a lot of professional portraits with yellow, orange, or even greenish skin. You have too. I’m sure you’ve seen photos with skin tones that look like the image on the left, and no, it’s not good. The background here is actually blue, not green, and her hair… well, nobody’s hair is that color, at least not on purpose.

Scarduzio-4577Its a shame, because it isn’t rocket science. Whenever I teach a class to professionals, one of the most frequent questions I get is about how to get good color consistently.  The techniques are applicable to both pros and amateurs alike, so I though it would make a valuable blog post.

So, Here Goes.

The color from typical household bulbs is very yellow-red, and ACTUALLY looks like this.

The color from typical household bulbs is very yellow-red, and ACTUALLY looks like this.

The first thing you need to understand is that light that we see as white, can actually be many different colors. Our brains do an amazing job of compensating for us, but “white” light comes in many different shades. For example, sunlight on a cloudy, overcast day is very bluish… or as we say, “cold”, while sunlight just before sunset, when the light filters through much more of the atmosphere, is very reddish, or as we say “warm”. Light from typical household light bulbs is very yellow, and fluorescent light bulbs are typically very green.

The relative color of light is defined by something called “color temperature” and to get correct color, you have to match your camera’s settings to the color of light you are photographing under. This is set under something called “white balance”.



“But wait a minute, Dennis… my super wiz bang hyper doodle fancy digital camera has an “auto white balance” setting. Why do I need anything else?”

Matching our camera's while balance setting to the color of the light we are shooting under let's us correct the color to something that looks more natural. Our brains do this for us. Our cameras, well, they try....

Matching our camera’s while balance setting to the color of the light we are shooting under let’s us correct the color to something that looks more natural. Our brains do this for us. Our cameras, well, they try….

Here is why. Your camera determines how to set the white balance by looking at the colors in the image, and trying to figure out what colors are present in excess. So, if you are photographing under very yellow light, your camera will see an excess of yellow and adjust the settings for the photo to be more blue… the opposite of yellow on the color wheel. If your camera sees an excess of blue… like on an overcast day, it will shift the color to be more yellow to compensate.

So, whats the problem?

Well, the problem is the camera doesn’t really KNOW what it is looking at. It can’t tell the difference between a scene that is blue because the color of the light is filtering through clouds, or if the subject is standing in front of a blue wall wearing a blue sweater. In other words, there is an abundance of blue because there is SUPPOSED to be an abundance of blue. This is referred to as a “subject failure”.



Tina's skin should look like the image on the left. But the camera sees an abundance of blue in the background and fabric, so it adds a bunch of yellow to try and "fix" it. YUK.

Tina’s skin should look like the image on the left. But the camera sees an abundance of blue in the background and fabric, so it adds a bunch of yellow to try and “fix” it. YUK.

Likewise, when Tina is wearing red, the camera will try to compensate by adding cyan to the image, trying to "correct" what isn't actually wrong.

Likewise, when Tina is wearing red, the camera will try to compensate by adding cyan to the image, trying to “correct” what isn’t actually wrong.

I once knew a professional photographer who shot a prom with the camera set on “auto”. Every photo was a different color… if the girl had a blue dress, her face was yellow, if the dress was red, her face was cyan (a kind of blue-green that is the opposite of red), a green dress would yield a magenta skin tone. About the only pictures where the color was right was where the girl’s dress was white, gray, or black. In other words, where the dress wasn’t introducing a FALSE color bias that was throwing off the camera’s auto color feature.

If the colors in the image are basically neutral.. an even mix, auto wb will work ok. But you never really KNOW.

If the colors in the image are basically neutral.. an even mix, auto wb will work ok. But you never really KNOW.

It was a mess. Even if she had photographed the whole job on the WRONG color setting, it would have been better… because they all would have at least been consistent. It would have been relatively simple to make one color correction and apply it to ALL the images in post processing. But, because every one was different, she had to try and manually fix the color one at a time on hundreds of pictures.

This is why professionals in the know refer to the “A” white balance setting as “Awful White Balance” and almost never use it!

So, how SHOULD you set your camera to get best color?

Well, there are other settings on your camera… they are named, or marked by icons for situations like “daylight” “cloudy” “flash” “tungsten” (light bulbs) “fluorescent” and even a “custom” setting.

Untitled-1(1)Setting your camera to the setting that most closely matches the conditions you are actually shooting under will usually get you much better results! Even if the color of your pictures is a little off, you can apply a color correction to all your images at once in your photo editing software, because if they are nothing else, all the photos taken under those same lighting conditions will be the SAME. But, if getting great color is really important to you, there is an even better way….

Continue reading »

Also posted in Tips, Uncategorized

Bad Photoshop…

By now everyone is no doubt aware that there is a serious backlash in the media and on social networking against the use of Photoshop in the altering or “airbrushing” of images. The sentiment is that the use of image editing software presents an unrealistic and unattainable  standard of beauty that is unhealthy and harmful. This was highlighted by a couple recent stories that have gone viral decrying the evils of Photoshop. In one, a journalist sent an un-photoshopped image of her self to a number of freelance Photoshop “artists” from all over the world. The idea was to demonstrate the cultural differences in the perception of beauty.  The story is linked here: o-ESTHERHONGORIG-900 In my opinion, all this project REALLY demonstrated is how many absolutely horrible “photoshop artists” there are out there. The author even freely admits that she found all her “artists” on the website “Fiverr” which she utilized after her boss “asked me to use the site in order to contract cheap work for whatever projects I might be assigned.” So, we are comparing work done by freelance “professionals”  competing with each other over who is the cheapest. Further, the author freely admits that the process was purposely manipulated. “…one person would add a filter and a little airbrush while others really went all out. I’ve chosen the images that were more manipulated to publish for my collection.”

But, should we blame the process of being able to fix and enhance our photos when the real problem is people who just have no sense of taste? I think perhaps not!

In another recent viral video, singer “Colbie Caillat Snubs Photoshop & Goes All Natural In New Video“.


Curiously, if you actually watch the video, it deals entirely with MAKEUP and has nothing at all to do with Photoshop… but of course, no one is vilifying makeup companies, and I’ll bet good money on Colbie’s next album cover and at her next concert, she’ll be wearing makeup. But it is easier to pin the blame on the evils of Photoshop.

Let’s back up and get a little history and get some perspective before throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Often mistakenly referred to as “editing”, “retouching and enhancement” is the process of correcting flaws in a photograph not able to be addressed when shooting. Only the methods have changed.

“Editing” as most photographers actually use the term, refers to the process of selecting which photos to keep, and which hit the trash can. A culling process, in or out, yes or no. That is editing.

Photographers have been doing “retouching and enhancement” on photographs since the invention of photography. In the old days, photographers would learn to remove dust spots from prints using dyes applied to the print with a brush. Temporary facial blemishes and such could be removed from an image by blending the blemish on the negative to the surrounding skin tone using pencils sharpened to a needle point or dyes with very fine brushes. This usually needed to be done with the aid of a powerful magnifying glass or even a microscope. Needless to say, this level of artistry required a great deal of skill and talent, took years to master, and there were limits to what could be done.

More extreme corrections would be done by applying colored pencils, chalks, or airbrushing actual paint onto the surface of the photograph. The more work that was done, the more apparent it became and the more the image took on the look of an illustration or painting rather than a photograph. This is where the erroneous use of the word “airbrushing” comes from. No one today actually uses airbrushing as a tool to enhance photographs.

Enter Adobe Photoshop. A natural extension of the way photographers have always “polished” their images, Photoshop has simply, and perhaps sadly, made it easier for almost anyone to go crazy and alter images badly. Just as Karaoke brought forth an entire universe of awful singers, Photoshop enabled countless “photographers” to do retouching and enhancement, really, really poorly.

But why do we even need retouching? I mean, why can’t we just accept that people have pimples and blotchy skin and bags under their eyes and crow’s feet? Why do we have to aspire to some level of unrealistic perfection?

Fair question, but I think there is actually an answer. And the answer lies in what a photograph actually represents to most people… a slice of time… a MEMORY. Here is the reality about memories. When we meet with or recall someone, a loved one or relative, we do not spend time staring at and scrutinizing every pimple, blackhead, stray hair and wrinkle. We engage the person, talk to them, smell them, touch them. We do not have these additional distractions when viewing a photograph. All we can do is look at it, and with that, we scrutinize it. We see things, in razor sharp detail, that we would simply not see in reality. THAT is the purpose of retouching and enhancement. It brings our photograph more into alignment with our actual memory. Is that wrong?

Here is an image of my lovely friend, Tina. Yes, Tina is wearing makeup… shoot me. Let’s be real, modern sentiments aside, it is the rare woman who is going to sit in front of my camera without any makeup on. Is that really so horrible?  Anyway, right away we can see one of the first problems… today’s cameras and lenses are WAY TOO SHARP for portrait photography. I can promise you, if you had been there when this photo was taken, this would NOT be an accurate representation of your MEMORY of what Tina looked like. You will notice things in the photo that you simply would not be aware of in person.

Tina-5493 So, for me, the first step would be a slight amount of general softening and contrast adjustment to help compensate for the ability of the camera to record every pore and line in  harsh crispness. Step one, for me would look like this:


OK, better… and for many, this may be all that is really needed… but to me, I see a few things going on that I don’t think would stick in my mind as my impression of how Tina actually looked that day.


Is it “wrong” to remove these tiny flaws and allow the viewer to focus on Tina’s actual beauty and expression? Some of those blemishes are transitory and will not be there in 2 days. Why should her photo be eternally fixed with a temporary blemish? Other things are shadows and lines caused by the way the light is falling on her. Sure, they are real… but are they necessarily a part of her actual appearance? I don’t think so. Let’s retouch then reasonably and see if our resulting image is really a gross distortion of reality.


I’d bet money that most people would gladly choose this image over the 100% “realistic” one. Is that presenting a false ideal? I don’t think so. I think it is presenting an artistic representation of what we actually see, with our eyes AND our hearts.


So, what’s all the backlash over? Well, sadly, many photographers have taken the ease of making corrections in photoshop to the extreme. They haven’t taken the time to learn the proper use of the tools of retouching and enhancement to improve an image without making it look cartoonish and fake. This is what we often see on photographers portfolios these days:


The skin is retouched so that all texture and contouring is gone. The colors are blasted so that they look like a bad spray tan job. The whites of the eyes are enhanced to the point they look like doll eyes, and in the process, often fine details in things with texture, like hair and even clothing, turn to mush. Yeah, I agree, it makes you want to throw up, right? But it isn’t Photoshops’s fault. It is 100% operator error.

But what about those magazine covers that shrink women to impossibly thin proportions and give them skin that looks like polished porcelain? Well, that is a fantasy, and everyone knows it. Is it really any different than portraying a model wearing a dress of fire or water droplets, or a fashion model wearing 12 inch platform shoes and purple hair?

Yes, I agree that it send the wrong message to take a normal person of healthy weight and manipulate them to look anorexic. But does doing so really give young people an unrealistic standard of beauty? Only if we don’t educate them to the difference between fantasy and reality!

Tucking in a wrinkle in clothing that is making someone look a little heavier, or even, god forbid, helping someone out by removing a little love handle  now and then isn’t really the end of the world is it? As before, we just don’t focus on those things in real life as we do in a photo, so why not use our skills as professionals to help the subject look their best? It’s how the world actually sees them, and if done with skill and restraint, I just don’t see anything wrong with it.

Sadly though, I see many, many newer photographers in my own field of portrait photography who have never learned the “art” of retouching and enhancement, and the importance of restraint. Photoshop does make it way too easy to do way too much, way too easily. When you see this plastic, overretouched, “Barbie Doll” look, consumers need to learn to just say “No.”

Also posted in Tips, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

FAQ about Senior Portraits at Dennis Kelly

 Senior Portraits.

Frequently Asked Questions

For a complete guide to available session options, prices, and help in planning your senior portrait photoshoot, click here for our 2016 Senior Session Guide.

As always, if you have questions or concerns that aren’t answered here, feel free to call me at 856-228-4399. We are always happy to help and answer any questions you may have.

There’s a lot to know about senior year. It can be confusing. As a father myself, I remember!

Karavangelas-7007One of the decisions you’ll need to make is where to have your senior portrait taken. These “Once in a Lifetime” portraits mark the transition from childhood into adulthood. They are likely to remain in your family and be displayed in your home for a long time. They are also something of an investment, in both money AND time, so it is important to understand your options, so you can choose wisely.

You have choices! That’s good, but it can also be confusing. So, here are the straight answers to the questions we get most  about senior portraits  at our studio and in general. No matter where you decide to go, we hope this information will help you make an informed decision about this important milestone, because you don’t want to make the wrong decision.

How much does it cost? I’ve heard it’s expensive.

You’ve probably already heard a lot about Dennis Kelly Photography. Some things are true, like we do amazing work. Some are not, like you must spend thousands of dollars to come here! Truth is, it’s completely up to you. Although many of our clients love their portraits so much, they do spend a lot on them, we also have other clients that spend much less. At Dennis Kelly, most people find a budget of $500 to $700 is a good range to plan on, but it ultimately comes down to what you want to purchase.

Curcio-0278-2Dennis Kelly has a reputation as being expensive, but the reality is, our prices compare very favorably to other quality studios. People sometimes spend more here than at other studios, not because they have to, but because they love the pictures so much they really want to buy more! We can’t apologize for that!

Most of our clients opt to use our easy “Create a Package” system that allows you to choose exactly what you want in 4 simple steps and provides the best value for your money, but you are always completely free to purchase as little, or as much, as you desire.

Our prices reflect not only the quality of our work, but the amount of time we invest with each client. We find this is absolutely essential to get the quality and variety of images and the natural expressions that we are known for. We simply won’t cut corners or hustle you out the door in 6 minutes to save a few bucks!

Remember, things of  great value always do cost a little more.

This is true in all things, the cheapest price rarely gives you the best value, especially with something like your senior portraits, which will stay in your family forever. If you are considering a photographer who offers a seemingly very low price, ask yourself why they believe their work is worth so little?

Don’t you have to get your pictures from the school picture company?

New Jersey public schools are required by law to accept outside photographs, as long as they meet yearbook standards. You do not have to go to the school picture company, even for your yearbook portrait. This is true for all public schools in NJ.

Jankowski-5405RGPrivate schools may require that your yearbook picture be from a designated studio, but they cannot require you to purchase anything. You are always free to choose any studio you want for your senior portraits. We provide you with a yearbook glossy or digital file absolutely free with any package purchase, so here at Dennis Kelly Photography, you’re covered! If you are considering another studio, check their policy as some may charge you extra for a yearbook file.

School picture companies work on huge volumes. Because of that, you probably won’t find cheaper prices anywhere. But, what you give up for that cheaper price is quality, service, and creativity. Your session will likely be shot by a photographer who is only permitted to take about 4 to 6 minutes to do your shots. You will get an extremely limited selection of poses and every one will be exactly the same as the person before and after you in the line. There is zero chance that the photographer will capture anything unique or personal about you. It’s basically a mug shot session. But, if price is your main concern, this will undoubtedly be your cheapest option. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as your expectations aren’t too high. At Dennis Kelly, we simply don’t work that way. It’s just not what we do. Every session here is individualized so that we capture not just your face, but your  personality.  This is crucial to understanding why portraits here require more time, and cost more, than mugshots from a high volume school picture company.

Martino-7072Everyone in your pictures looks great, but what if I don’t look like a supermodel?

We make everyone look their best, it’s what we do, and we simply do it better than anyone. Dennis is a PPA Master Photographer and Photographic Craftsman, degrees earned by less than 6% of photographers worldwide. He has over 30 years of  EXPERIENCE, so he knows how to use posing, lighting, and all the other skills to bring out your very best features! That’s something you simply won’t get at other places. PLUS, our style is always interesting, fresh, and exciting.  Year after year after year, WE are the TRENDSETTER that the other studios copy, because Dennis is really good at what he does! That’s why you’ve never seen a bad picture from Dennis Kelly!

My friend/mom/neighbor has a good digital camera. Why shouldn’t I just let them take the picture?

Because a good camera doesn’t take a good portrait, a talented, trained, and experienced photographer does. Would you let someone cut your hair because they had a nice pair of scissors? A camera is only as good as it’s operator, think before you trust your once in a lifetime memories to an inexperienced photographer. Keep in mind also, that a picture in a park or by a  dilapidated building is probably NOT acceptable for your yearbook picture. All schools have specific requirements for what is acceptable for the senior portrait section of the yearbook. You may discover that you are left out of your senior yearbook if you don’t have a suitable photo to submit.

Lombardi-0531When should these portrait be taken? I haven’t even begun senior year yet. What’s the rush?

Senior portraits are typically taken during the spring and summer BEFORE the start of senior year. This is because the deadline for your school to submit the senior portrait section of the yearbook to the printing company is typically in the Fall. That is why it is important to have your  portraits completed BEFORE school starts up again after Labor Day. Trust us on this one… every year we have families who end up paying unnecessary rush charges because they waited too long to have them done.

What’s the difference between a “Session Fee” and a “Portrait Package”?

There are two different types of costs involved in the senior portrait process: Session fees are charged for doing the actual photoshoot, and all the work associated with it. These fees will naturally vary according to how involved you want your photoshoot to be. At Dennis Kelly, we don’t offer “One Size Fits All” photoshoot packages like most other studios. Every session starts with an individual one to one planning session where we will talk about what YOU want and we will tailor your photoshoot to fit your exact needs. Your photoshoot will be what YOU want, not what the studio wants you to have.

Most of our sessions at Dennis Kelly Photography are $50. There may be additional fees if you want us to travel to a location, like the beach, or your dance studio, athletic field or gym. We have our own outdoor shoot areas right at our studio, so we don’t charge extra for outdoor sessions done here. We are very creative and very flexible, so if you have a specific idea, concept, or location that you’d like to use as part of your senior photoshoot, ask us about it! We love it!!

Portrait sales, or packages, are determined by what you actually want to purchase in the way of prints, albums, collages, frames, etc. Everyone has different needs and different budgets, and there is something for almost everyone. At Dennis Kelly. the actual cost is determined totally by what YOU decide to purchase. At other studios you may be forced into a package that contains items you don’t really need or want. Not here!  In reality, the most expensive portraits are ones you paid for but didn’t love! We suggest that if you plan to budget between $500 to $700 that’s a good place to start. But don’t be surprised if you want to spend more, because you WILL love your pictures that much!!

Kouser-6702aIs it difficult to get an appointment with Dennis Kelly?

You won’t get to “make an appointment” with the school picture company. They will typically just send you a card telling you when you are required to show up for your shots. At Dennis Kelly, and most other independent studios, you can schedule a time that is convenient for you. Our summer schedule does tend to fill up quickly. Of course, there are always “holes” in our calendar that pop up due to rescheduling and such. Toward the end of summer, as the yearbook deadlines approach, it does become more difficult. But you won’t know until you call! Dennis does photograph all sessions personally, and we do spend a lot more time with you than other studios do, so available appointments are limited.

What if they don’t turn out, or I don’t like them?

With the school picture company, you’ll usually have to pay for a retake. Other studios may have similar policies, but you’d need to check what their policies are. At Dennis Kelly your satisfaction is guaranteed! If you’re not happy with your portraits when you see your previews, if the problem can’t be fixed, we’ll do more poses at no charge or refund your money. When you receive your finished portraits, if something isn’t right, let us know within 3 business days and we will get it fixed,, even if we have to completely remake the order, or refund your money. You are never at risk of being dissatisfied.

Karavangelas-1507Why Should We Choose Dennis Kelly?

Simply, we have what YOU want!

Unlike ordinary studios, we do not shoot everyone in the same place the same way. You get individual attention.

We are the INNOVATORS and trendsetters in senior portraits. Year after year, we set the trends. Check the other studios that advertise senior portrait. Compare their images to ours, and the choice will be clear. Nobody does what we do as well as we do it!

Dennis is a PPA Master Photographer, Photographic Craftsman, and a Certified Professional Photographer. These degrees are awarded to less than 6% of photographers worldwide. You get the very BEST!

Our Create a Package program allows you to customize your order to EXACTLY what you need and want.

Gambone-0856Your Senior Portraits are a ONCE IN A LIFETIME event that you will show to your children and grandchildren one day. You want the BEST for these all important images!

We HELP you with EVERYTHING! We will meet with you before you even book your photoshoot to discuss exactly what you’d like to have done. Then we provide you with a “Style Guide” to answer all your questions about your shoot, clothing, makeup… everything. We will provide suggestions for you as to the best way to display your portraits. We can even show you how your portrait will look — ON YOUR OWN WALL – before you purchase it. No surprises!

We have the finest quality products available in the industry. Your portraits will be in your family for generations, you don’t want cheap drugstore prints for your important memories.

We know how to make you look GREAT! Seriously, have you ever seen a bad portrait from Dennis Kelly? Can you say the same about any other studio?

Dennis Kelly Photography has the largest camera room of any studio in the Delaware Valley, with the widest selection of unique backgrounds and sets anywhere! We also have a full acre of outdoor shooting area with many unique and beautiful looks designed specifically for photography. Your portraits will be perfectly tailored to your look and style and will be a reflection of your own individual personality and style.

We will go ON LOCATION with you to wherever you “do your thing”. If you have a sport, activity, hobby, or other interest that is important to you, let us capture it in your environment.


There are so MANY reasons you should choose Dennis Kelly!  Making an appointment couldn’t be easier.

Just give us a call at 856-228-4399 and we will take it from there!

We Do Extraordinary

Also posted in Senior Portraits, Tips, Uncategorized

Introducing “Room Views”

Our clients usually display their beautiful Dennis Kelly Portraits in their homes and proudly make them a feature point of their home’s decor. We are told over and over again how an exquisite portrait of family or loved ones, when handsomely framed and displayed in an adequate size, quickly becomes the most talked about item in the home.

But, until now, deciding on the proper sizing and arrangement of  the portraits in your room has been somewhat of a guessing game. This is why at Dennis Kelly Photography, we have always made a point of offering our expertise and help in selecting the proper size and framing for your portraits.

Like any piece of art or furniture for your home, you don’t want to make the wrong choice and end up with a piece that doesn’t look quite right in your living space. Fine photography can be an investment, and certainly will be something that will hang in your home for many years. You don’t want to make the mistake of investing in something that is either too small or too big for the space. Naturally, you want it to be… perfect! So do we!

We now have the perfect answer!

Introducing “Room Views” an amazing new service at Dennis Kelly Photography that allows you to preview your portraits… at actual size… right in your own room! No more guessing about how your framed pieces will “fit” into your decor. You will have the chance to see it… in your own room!

And the best part is, we offer this service to our clients at absolutely no charge.

The process is easy and painless. After your portrait session with Dennis, but before your scheduled time to preview them, simply take a photo with your cell phone or digital camera of the room where you are thinking of hanging your portraits and email it to us! That’s IT! That’s all you need to do. We’ll take it from there…

The only thing we need is for you to include a ruler (we’ll even give you one to take home), yardstick, or really anything of a known length, somewhere in the picture (for instance, you could simply tell us that the mantle is 72″ long). This allows us to calibrate the viewing software so it will properly display the various sizes in perfect scale… exactly how it will look in YOUR room! How cool is that?

Then, when you come in to view your previews, we can show your portraits, at actual size, right where they will hang in your own home. You can even get an idea of how it will look with different framing options.

Here, you can see this portrait is a little “lost” in it’s place of honor over the mantle. This would have been a poor choice that the client no doubt would have regretted.

Here you can see a more suitable size that fits the space and allows the client to enjoy the portrait to the fullest extent.

But that’s not all we can do with this incredible new service!

Suppose you are considering a collection of images to display together in a grouping? With Room View, you can experiment with various arrangements, sizes and framing options…. all while seeing them right on your own wall.

Pick the arrangement that looks best, swap the pictures around, experiment with different frame styles, change the sizes…

We are very excited to be able to offer this amazing ability to our clients. Just one more way Dennis Kelly Photography is working to provide outstanding customer service and 100% satisfaction to our valued friends and clients.

By the way… when was the last time YOU had your family portrait taken? Portraits make GREAT Holiday Gifts! Call us today at 856-228-4399 to find out how to make YOUR home even more beautiful by decorating it with a Dennis Kelly Portrait of your family!




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Get to Know What “Good” Is


This is the time of year when we start to get lots of calls from parents of seniors who just received the proofs from their school senior pictures, or who went to another studio, and were disappointed with the results. Happens every year, like clockwork.

I remember there used to be an ad campaign (although I have to admit I don’t recall what company it was) that’s theme was “Get to Know What Good is…”

This struck home for me recently when an out-of-state friend asked my opinion on some “professional” photos he had a photographer take of his kids. They weren’t very good, at all… but of course, as a fellow professional, I hesitate to knock another photographer’s work. But a friend was asking, so I gave him my honest opinion.

“I thought so.” he said.  “I knew something was bad about them, I just didn’t know what….”

“I just didn’t know what…” That statement kind of resonated with me.  With Facebook and Twitter and all the rest, I’m seeing a lot of really poor quality work getting passed off these days as professional photography. It occurred to me that many people simply don’t know what a professional image should be.

I mean, if you hire a contractor or carpenter that doesn’t do a good job, it’s usually obvious. Things aren’t level, corners don’t meet, the job looks shoddy.

A fancy camera doesn’t make you a photographer.

But other things often aren’t so obvious. If your accountant does a poor job, you might pay more in taxes than you owe, but you may not know it unless you had some clues as to what to look for. These days, with almost anyone who buys a digital SLR camera calling themselves a pro photographer, it may be hard to know the difference without a little education.

Remember the local clothing store that’s motto was, “An educated consumer is our BEST customer.”? Having customers who understand the difference between good and bad photography is good for my studio, so I decided to write this blog article about it.

Now, I understand that beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. And when it comes to something as personal as a photograph of your loved one, all that really matters is that they are appreciated by YOU. But still, if you are trusting someone to do a job that you are paying them to do, you really should have some idea of what you are paying for.

So, here is a short list of things I see as “problems” that get passed off as professional photography frequently today. This is by no means a complete list, but may give you some idea of things to look for before you spend your hard earned money with someone simply masquerading as a professional photographer.

Correct color is always noticeable in skin tones, and in neutral areas, like grays, blacks, and whites.

#1. Poor Color.

This is a tricky one to uncover, especially if your only exposure is on the internet. Did you ever go into an electronics store where they have all the TV sets on display playing the same program?

The color and picture quality varies tremendously (actually, this is a sales technique to steer you into the sets they want you to buy!) But, the same holds true for your computer monitor. The color and quality of the image you are viewing has a LOT to do with how your monitor is adjusted. But, there are “standards” for monitor calibration that  pro’s should use to make sure the color is good. (Hint: If in doubt… look at the image on an ipad or smartphone. Most of those displays are pretty darn close to “correct” right out of the box.)

Professional photographers use high end graphics monitors and hardware devices called colorimeters to calibrate and profile their monitors so they display “correct” color.  These cost some bucks, but there is no substitute.

Professional graphics monitor with colorimeter.

Without proper color management, a photographer has no chance of matching his or her display to the prints they will get back from the lab.

Cyan, or blue green skin is never a good idea!

So, the proof is in the print, and the easiest way to decide if the photographer has a clue about color is to look at the prints.

If your skin color looks like a cheap spray tan… that’s NOT GOOD!

Skin tones should look like… well, skin. If the face looks like a really bad spray-tan (orange or yellow) or even worse, blue or green… it’s a sure bet the photographer doesn’t know how to correctly set and adjust color. Neutral areas (grays, whites and blacks) should be free from color casts. If your black shirt looks kind of red, or your white sweater is pink or blue, or your brown haired teen looks like a redhead, that means the photographer didn’t do a good job.


Most amateurs (and sadly, many professionals too) set their camera’s color setting on “auto” and think that’s all they need to do. Seasoned professionals know that the “A” on the white balance setting stands for “awful” and never, ever, use it!

Now, sometimes a photographer will use a special technique or style, like a candle-light look, or an intentional off-color effect to accent a mood or style. That’s intentional and different from someone who’s entire portfolio is filled with funny, weird skin colors.

  #2 Bad Lighting

Most people tend to think of “lighting” as simply whether a picture is too light or too dark, but in reality, lighting is way, way more than that.


Light is what gives the appearance of depth and dimension in a photo, it focuses attention where you want it to go, (and away from areas you don’t want it to go), it makes the eyes sparkle with life, and it makes the photo “pop off the page”.
Poor lighting can result in things like the eyes being in dark shadows (raccoon eyes), overhead light hitting the nose (clown nose) and even making the overall color, contrast, and look of the image appear flat and “muddy”.

Pro location lighting can be complex

Lighting on location can be especially tricky. If a “photographer” shows up at the shoot with just a camera and proclaims he or she is a “natural light shooter”, that’s usually an indication that they aren’t well versed in light control.

Good lighting makes the eyes look alive and the subject look great!

Experienced photographers have the ability to bring back professional quality images in ANY lighting situation… and that usually means equipment… lots of it. Reflectors, lighting equipment, flashes, scrims, gobos, shades… all are things a true professional spends years learning how to use to best advantage. Look at the photographer’s pictures… if the images seem flat (lacking a 3 dimensional look), if the colors and contrast and weak and muddy, or if the images have flare (a kind of ghostly, halo effect around the edges of the subject) chances are that photographer doesn’t understand lighting. Yes, a very skilled and experienced photographer can frequently “find” good lighting without the use of a lot of extra equipment, but these rare talents are few and far between. If you are shooting with one, the quality of their images will leave absolutely no doubt in your mind that they know what they are doing.

#3 Overused or poorly executed “gimmicks.”

When a trendsetter photographer starts showing a new style or technique, the copycats are usually quick to try and capitalize on it, but often do the technique poorly, or use it in situations where it just looks silly. For example, several years ago, I started incorporating the use of a fan in the studio with senior girls to gently lift and blow their hair. I “borrowed” this idea from the fashion photography industry, where it is a common technique, but we were the first studio around here to use it in senior portrait photography. The idea, of course, is to very gently lift and fluff the hair to give it that “fashion model” look.



Other area photographers soon took my idea, and now everywhere I see pictures of senior girls that look like they’re standing in a wind tunnel or are facing an approaching tornado! Sorry, it just looks dumb.


We also pioneered an “edgy” look to sports pictures in our senior sessions, giving them a gritty, “Sports Illustrated” type look in the style of Joel Grimes or Joey Lawrence.


Now the competition is copying our poses, but without the extreme lighting, gritty feel, and dramatic power we do. Well, they look kind of… lame.


When famous photographer Anne Geddes started photographing babies in flower pots, photographers everywhere started sticking babies in flowerpot with silly hats.



While Geddes’ work was breathtaking, the knock offs were hideous.

So, when looking at a pro’s work, ask if their style seems to be their own, or a lame attempt at copying a style without a real feeling for what works, and what even makes sense. Sitting on a fancy couch on railroad tracks?  Fire coming out of a saxophone? Seriously?


#4 Bad Posing.

The way a photographer directs the pose can make a picture look great… or ridiculous.

“Posing” is a dirty word with consumers. Everyone wants their photos to look “un-posed” and “natural”. What they really mean is they don’t want their pictures looking stiff and un-natural.

When you see a photographer shooting a supermodel on TV… the model is hitting all these incredible poses, and the photographer is shooting away, saying “yes! Yes! YES!!!”. Well, those supermodels get paid BIG bucks because they KNOW how to do that. Most people, like Uncle Rico here, don’t. And a quick look through your family photo albums will show you that completely unposed photos are often completely unflattering!

“Natural” posing mimics good body language in a flattering way.

The key is being able to direct people into “poses” that not only look comfortable and natural, but make them look good at the same time.

Learning “good posing” takes a long time. It involves not only learning about anatomy and facial structure, it involves understanding body language, angles, and a ton of other “tricks” to make sure people look their best. Is clothing properly adjusted, or are there wrinkles and bulges that are making the person look heavier? Do the arms, hands, or legs look “awkward”? Does the body position make the person look uncomfortable? Is the weight distribution on the correct foot for the subject and angle? Does the pose work with the light? Does the pose “make sense”? Is it believable?

Posing also has a lot to do with “body language”. Humans are very adept at interpreting body language, but inexperienced photographers often don’t “get it”. For example, there is a distinct difference between “masculine” and “feminine” body language. How men and women tilt their heads, use their hands, walk, lean… everything. Directing a male into a feminine body position is a mistake that most males will recognize immediately, yet I see boys and men with feminine head tilts and eye positions on photographer’s pages all the time. It’s a rookie mistake, and I’m sorry… it looks awful!

#5 Over Retouching

Today’s cameras and lenses are way too sharp for portrait photography. Let’s face it, no one looks good when you can see every pore, wrinkle, blemish and blotch. That’s why pro photographer judiciously retouch their images. When you meet a person in real life, you don’t stand there scrutinizing every pore and zit… but when looking at a photo, you are forced to do just that.

Retouching is an art, and must be done with skill and restraint, so the person still looks real. But many studios take a short cut and use some automated photoshop filters that result in what I call the “Barbie and Ken Plastic Skin Syndrome”.

No Retouching – Good Retouching – Overdone Retouching
Too much retouching makes your skin look fake and plastic… like a Barbie.

Over-retouching is a sign of a photographer who hasn’t learned good technique.

#6 The Ghost Syndrome

Looking a little pale???

This last pet peeve I have is actually a “style” that a lot of newbie photographers are imitating. I suspect because it is easy to do in photoshop and hides a multitude of mistakes. It involves tweaking the density and color saturation, using very flat, blah lighting, and making the subject look “ghostly”… although the photographers prefer to call it “porcelain”. I suppose for a very specialized look, it’s ok once in a while, but so many “faux-tographers” make EVERYTHING they shoot look like this.

Don’t have to worry about not getting the color right… it’s hardly there anyway. I know a lot of newbie children’s photographer use this style, but lets call it what it is, a fad, and not a good one!

Well, I hope that gives you some insight into things to look for. This is hardly a complete list, but hopefully, it will give you some things to consider when deciding to hire a professional photographer. There are many fine photographers around who have spent years learning and perfecting their craft, and who work hard to produce beautiful, timeless images for their clients. Once you start to “Get to Know What Good Is”, it will be easier to recognize them so YOU don’t have to say, “I knew something was bad about them, I just didn’t know what….”






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