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Robo-Shark 86-It: Get Realistic About Your Photo Goals; It’s More Creative

 Steven Spielberg Had A Plan – Too Bad It Sucked

When Steven Spielberg took his film crews off shore to shoot the classic Movie “JAWS” he brought Bruce.

Bruce was a life size, mechanical shark. Created by the top effects people that Paramount Studios had to offer.

What they didn’t honestly test for was the fact that something so massive, bobbing in the water, relying on electronics was bound to FAIL.

Big time. The shark never really worked, it cost a fortune in time and money and all those story-boarded close-ups of big teeth and a menacing shape swishing around the swimming victims had to be scrapped.

But something truly mind-blowing came out of this catastrophe on the ocean: Spielberg learned that the most powerful creative moves are made when your back is against the wall, when best-laid plans reveal themselves to be useless. The expensive robo-shark was 86’d; only used in a few scenes; in the end a diver guided a big fake shark fin in and out of the sequences where Jaws stalked the next victim. Instead of showing the skinny-dipper being full on chased and gobbled by the killer great white, a diver merely hovered below the actress pulling her under without warning, pushing her forward as if in the mouth of a monster. The end result never fails to terrify me even though I’ve seen this movie dozens of times. He followed that same line of ‘make do’ and get creative within your limitations for the rest of filming.

What Does An 86’d Robo-Shark Have To Do With Me?

How does this anecdote apply to your photo session? My goal is to arrive at your shoot with a plan that’s been created with your participation.

If you’re into props, let’s talk a month or more in advance-the clever work you see on Etsy, is notoriously unpredictable both in delivery time and final result because it’s hand crafted. You need time to collect the things you want to use in your photo. If you have a love of fleur-de-lis patterns, go on a hunting trip at your local fabric store and buy 2-3 yards of everything you love. If you want a nautical theme but only have a tiny sailor outfit, head to Home Depot or a fishing supply store and get the real gear. If you’re brining your grandfather’s christening gown? How do you want to present it? For sure I stock a lot of backdrops and fabrics and oddities to use for photo shoots but I don’t have a Warehouse 13 with anything you can imagine.

You spent a lot of time picking out the kid’s outfit, decorating the nursery… approach your session like that. If you find a photo on Pinterest you want to aim for, show me. If I can do something like that, but customize it for your session I’m open. But if there are good reasons it’s not going to work now is the time to discuss the final plan.

Overprepare. Babies will explode as only they can. Bigger kids won’t like what they’re wearing or need a change-up or can wreck their clothes. You think your kid won’t be hungry until X O’Clock? Nonsense. Bring food, drink, pacifiers, bottles, wipes, back-up EVERYthing. You think you’re child is on a schedule? Once you take them out of their routine their schedule changes. Going somewhere new to have their picture taken is an interruption of their routine.

I’ll have the stuff I need to aim for the plan we discuss, but I’ll have other things in my back pocket too. Ideas I’d like to try once we get your plan done.

This Is The Part Where OUR  Robo-Shark Doesn’t Work.

There was a newborn session that didn’t go as planned. It really should’ve. The baby was 9 days old and on a feeding and napping schedule. We were working at the parents’ home and comfort zone. We had time:  they’d booked as a 3-hour custom session.


Bruce strikes again. The baby would not sleep for nearly 4 hours. He was intent on eating non-stop.

Mommy had multiple  outfits for the little guy but whenever she stripped him he screamed until he was comforted and fed for 15 minutes or more.

The parents had three amazing vintage props, handed down from their parent’s childhood, but the baby hated being put down in and on all of the them. We’re talking:  screaming bloody murder.

Even on my squishy and soft fabrics, he wasn’t dopey enough. He was just awake enough to make every shot unusable. Too little to fully lift his head or keep his eyes wide open long, he was neither the ideal newborn or the next level up. He was fighting for control of his body, sensorally electrified and who can blame him? He spent 9 months smashed into the shape of an egg.

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You get one bite of the apple when they’re small. I didn’t charge extra for this but I stayed late because, folding-up my gear and leaving at the 3 hour mark would’ve left them with a very expensive set of family photos-he did great when mommy was cuddling, feeding, carrying him. The kid was in love when mom and daddy posed with him-but no individual newborn shots they LOVE.

The parents were  stressing because they knew the clock was ticking.

I know things can go wrong.

As ready to adapt as I was;  the only way to make the robo-shark work was to 86 it. In this case the robo-shark was the time-limit I set on my session.


I stayed nearly 2 additional hours, waiting for the kid to pass-out.  It worked. We were able to use every single antique childhood prop and a few of my own.

Mommy was tearing-up to look at him sitting in an old doll stroller.

Another robo-shark?  Something you saw in another photograph without knowing the context of that other photo’s creation.

A couple brings a hard, cold beat-up fireman’s helmet-belonging to grampa (who’s no longer with us).

special gift basket25remake

They really want to use this helmet but they can only see it used as the helmet was off the Pinterest image they found.  I worked with every other outfit, prop, backdrop, fabric, and pose in my arsenal first because all I could think of was:  when was the last time your baby to nap sweetly on say a frying pan, or a guitar; the helmet was worse both inside and out.

You have got to decide what’s more important: the giant robo-shark or working with what you got and getting a better result?  We went outside, grabbed real flowers from my garden and got the baby used to the summer heat and sun (shaded of course), and I let the helmet collect the sun while we worked.  We were able to get a few of the wee one in the hat with some padding.  It wasn’t ideal and not my favorite shot at all but it was important to the  family.  We didn’t spend the session trying to force it, I did my best to make it as comfortable and doable by tiring the baby out, getting the helmet and kid super warm, and using the warm-up time to get some pretty fresh girly shots and when all was done, the couple had that image which included Grampa.

The other great part about 86’ing that robo-shark idea is that while you’re waiting around, thinking up a new idea, you get a chance to grab an unposed, sublime moment.





Posted in Le Blog-Because Everyone Has Bloggage

A Tribute To Family Stiles: Representing The Home Front!

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Leave it to someone who is sacrificing so much already to ask only for others and nothing for himself.

So let’s make him feel good, give something to any and all military families you know.   Check in on them and offer something.  They won’t ask, they never do.  They’re as proud and strong as their loved ones in the service.

Spreading that kind of effort and support is the best thing you can do short of greeting them at the airport.

If you know a local military family (Monmouth County) give them my name and tell them I’ll do a mini session for them to send overseas to as a thank you for their devoted and loyal service.  They can contact me at my facebook page:  ‘Viki Reed Photography’ or via email:

Here is a tribute to The Major and his amazing wonderful family.  It is my privilege to serve YOU!

Posted in Le Blog-Because Everyone Has Bloggage