The best and simplest way to order your portrait photographs.

The steps to getting great pictures.

The steps to getting great pictures.

Simple and easy for you.  This is how do we work? 

1. We arrange an in-person or on-the-phone consultation to discuss your needs, artistic preferences, go over clothing choices, answer your questions, etc.

2. The photo session takes about 45 minutes to an hour.  Typically we photograph two different outfits.  We will help pose you, adjust the lighting to flatter your face and figure and then take carefully crafted photographs.  Unlike inexperienced photographers, we do not need hours of your time or to take hundreds or even thousands of pictures to create the perfect image for you.

3. After the photo session, we will set up a date for you to return to see paper proofs.  We strongly recommend you return to see the pictures in the studio.  At your viewing we will help advise you on proper sizes, printing options, etc.  If you cannot return for the viewing, we will make arrangements to mail your proofs to you (a different fee schedule applies for these services, please ask for information before your photo session.)

4. The viewing of your photographs.  You only need 30 or 40 minutes to see and compare the best images.  You are not guessing what the images look like.  The photo proofs are smaller images of the finished product with most of the retouching and enhancements completed. After your order, please allow about 1-2 weeks to allow additional enhancements, printing and deliver to you.  Some finishes take a little longer.

I have been asked about why I use paper proofs, instead of digital proofs. I have heard so many complaints about digital proofing from clients.  The pictures are too small, hard to compare to each other and often the final product (usually a print for display) does not look like the digital proof.

Then why do so many photographers show you the pictures on a computer screen or set up an online gallery?  It's simple. It saves the photographer money and time. Allan Castle spends hours enhancing the photos after your photo session.  He does not show you unfinished work. Then the photos are professionally printed (another cost for Allan)  And then, because you are looking at actual photos, you can clearly see what the photographs you order will look like and can easily pick the best images.  

Also you are not trying to remember what 50 or 100 or more images look like that you see on a computer monitor for a few seconds each.  I have heard stories of portrait clients, at other studios, spending two or even three hours or more viewing hundreds of pictures.  Then they give up and often buy a bunch of inferior images, because they can't decide on the best ones.

Because I use film, I am often asked how my clients may get digital copies of the images. I scan almost all the images.  So you can have fine film quality, but can also have images that may be viewed on your phone or in social media, etc..  With any order of a 16 x 20 print (or larger), you get digital images ready sized for use on Facebook, Instagram, use on your webpage or phone, etc. This is complimentary.  With smaller sizes, there is a reasonable fee for digital file.

If you are interested in a photo session, please call Allan to set up a consultation and discuss your photographs.

Film Photography Vintage Portrait for wall display

Photographed on 4x5 film in my studio.  Hand processed.  Scanned as a 104 megapixel image.

Photographed on 4x5 film in my studio.  Hand processed.  Scanned as a 104 megapixel image.

Why enlarge your photographs to large sizes?  Come into my office and compare a small print like a 4x6 inch print or even an 8x10 to a more substantive image that is 16x20 or larger.

The larger print will almost always appear more impressive and have a commanding visual and graphic quality.  Also a small print looks almost ridiculously small on a typical wall of a nice home or the lobby of a professional building.

When you go to an art gallery or museum do you see a wall with hundreds of snapshot images or a few impressive, large images?

And why do I often emphasize black and white, instead of color?  Black and white is CLASSIC ART photography. It has existed much longer than color photography. It shows the shapes of objects and light (the heart of photography) much better than color usually does.  Most of the photography images in museums, galleries, etc are black and white.

There is a history of black and white photography.  Many artists, including Ansel Adams, Irving Penn (now on exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and more, had the option to shoot color film. For most subjects they choose black and white film. And those black and white images made them famous and are the photographs we remember. Also many fine art photographers today still choose to use film. 

The pleasure of viewing large format portraits is often cited by major collectors of photographs. Seeing beautiful images, displayed at an appropriate size.  Seeing original artwork, beautifully printed and framed, cannot be equaled by the fleeting images you see on a TV set or in a magazine and especially the tiny images on your phone.

Years ago a few people had paintings commissioned, often to mark their success and influence. The new trend is to commission fine art photography, since it is more modern and shows a better likeness of the individual.  Of course a great photographer will make an image that is very flattering, makes a statement of success and is elegant, yet maintains the classic values of a painting.

I like the word, elegance.  It sums up so many things. Graceful, classic, taste, sophistication, refinement, luxury, allure, glamour and more. Much as sophisticated people purchase fine cars and luxury products, from Gucci, Rolex and other brands, you should consider a large fine art portrait to display at your home.

Fine portraits for wall display, have much in common with luxury brands. Only a few photographers, in the country, offer large format film photography for portrait customers. The work is mostly handmade and carefully crafted.  Years of experience is required to gain the skill needed to produce this level of quality. And a level of taste and sophistication is needed. Very few photographers have the talent for accept this challenge.  

To give an analogy, some women can sew, but few can design, find the perfect material, sew, and then create a gown that you will love at a red carpet event. And that will be the perfect fit for the subject and enhance the person's beauty, as well.

So, when the time comes for you to commission a photographer for your portrait, please call Allan Castle to consult on the image you want created. To receive great quality, requires an expert who will provide the needed time, materials, expertise and service you deserve.

I've attached a separate shot to show the incredible quality possible with large format film photography.  This image is a small section of a print that would be about 4 x 5 FEET. This photograph could be enlarged to almost any size and still maintain sharpness and beautiful tones.  

Compare this to the full image at the top of this article. At a normal viewing distance of several feet you don't see the grain (natural texture) of the film, just the beautiful tonality and sharpness.

Section of a 4 x 5 FEET print.  Notice the incredible sharpness.

Section of a 4 x 5 FEET print.  Notice the incredible sharpness.

Soft focus romantic glamour portraits - Look your best.

Romantic Soft Focus portrait in black and white

Many of my clients, especially women, want a softer look for their photographs. Almost like you just got a glance at them out of the corner of your eye. Mysterious and exciting. Or you see a beautiful woman at a restaurant in dim candlelight or in their home with soft lights.

Why not look fabulous? After all, you will be displaying these images for years. Impressing your friends and family with your images is important to you.  

Soft focus portraits are making a comeback. After years of high contrast, too sharp images created on digital cameras, many sophisticated clients want more artistic photographs of themselves. So many people are tired of seeing pictures that show every wrinkle and blemish on their face and also on their hands and other parts of the body.

As I dislike critically sharp, harsh photos of women, I have for many years experimented with many techniques to create more flattering photographs and softer effects.  It takes an expert to achieve the proper effect.

There is a long history of soft focus and "pictorialism" in Photography.  Creating photos that almost look like paintings, are fine art oriented or have a fantasy element. Photographs that are often softer and more emotional. The goal is to create the picture instead of just recording a boring and often harsh view of reality.

Photoshop is the number one tool most photographers use. Unfortunately, retouching by an expert is a time consuming and expensive process. I often spend 1-2 hours per picture and then review the photo later and spend another 30-60 minutes making final adjustments and corrections, before printing. If my client is older or has rough skin the time may be much greater and the expert skill required is very high.  

I was shocked when I talked to one of my competitors a year ago and she told me that many of her clients complained about the retouching. Her business model was to create work quickly and as cheap as possible. She only allowed 2-3 minutes per image for retouching and preferred to hire students, due to the cost. She eventually went out of business, due to her low quality work.

George Hurrell, the master of Hollywood Glamour photography, said he spent up to 6 hours retouching a photo for a celebrity or for the movie studio so they could use a magnificent photo on a poster, ad or magazine.  His memorable and iconic photos of Hollywood movie stars like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow are still admired and collected many years later.

Unfortunately many photos of women today almost look like cheap cartoons.  Many newer photographers think buying a "portrait" software programs for retouching is the answer. Unfortunately it is not. The programs tend to soften everything equally.  But a skilled artist may soften the area around the nose, more than the area near the eyes.  Or he or she will blend areas to achieve a natural look.  

And then it is essential to shape the face properly with light when creating the portrait image. Getting everything right from the lighting, posing, camera technique and finishing of the image will determine if the photograph is a success or a failure.   Also don't forget that using film, instead of digital, is often important since it maintains a softer skin tone naturally.  

Fixing a bad image with Photoshop is like buying a house with a bad foundation and hoping no one will notice the cracks or that the house is starting to fall down.

I am occasionally asked by my clients if can retouch their own pictures. Do you ask your mechanic if you can use his garage to tune up your engine or find out why your transmission is broken?  Just because you have a wrench or hammer does not make you a mechanic. It's the same with Photoshop. Even after working with Photoshop and other programs for thousands of hours, I have some secret methods I use and I learn new techniques on a regular basis.  I sometimes will use 2 or 3 programs to achieve the look I want, since even Photoshop has limitations and a certain look to the pictures it produces.

There are also many ways to achieve a soft focus look, from soft focus camera lenses, filters to add on to your lens and even adding petroleum jelly or silk stockings to the front of the camera lens.  

It is also possible to add the effect when printing under the enlarger.  Well known and sometimes notorious fine art photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe often used that techniques in his portraits of singer Patti Smith

How do you get the photograph you want? It's best to work with an expert. Please consult with an expert photographer, before taking the photos.  That way you can work together to achieve the effect you desire. I can advise you about what fashions photograph the best, use the most flattering lighting and posing and then use the proper camera techniques and enhancements to create a great photograph.

Here is a before and after glamour photograph with retouching and soft focus. It could be adjusted for effect from almost unnoticeable to quite strong. The client preferred the softer version. There were other photos taken with less effect and different poses for Linkedin and business use.

Here is a before and after glamour photograph with retouching and soft focus. It could be adjusted for effect from almost unnoticeable to quite strong. The client preferred the softer version. There were other photos taken with less effect and different poses for Linkedin and business use.

Hire a photographer who uses film, to look your best for your portrait

Don't most professional photographers use digital cameras?  Yest, but some of the best photographers in the world still use film cameras.

I know you're asking why.  There are a lot of reasons, that can make your portraits look better.

1. Film cameras can use film and techniques designed to make you look great. Kodak, Fuji and others make "portrait" films, designed for portraits and weddings.  They are designed for natural, softer skin tones, beautiful color and a more flattering image with less contrast.  Black and white film can be processed in special chemicals to give the proper contrast and smoother skin tones.

Digital cameras tend to show every flaw.  Do you want your pictures to EXAGGERATE every flaw, wrinkle and skin pore on your face.  Digital cameras are optimized to take sharp pictures. Why?  

People who buy digital cameras often go to online reviews.  Would you buy a camera that was reviewed as having a softer lens or if the sensor did not show ALL the texture possible in your tree picture? And almost all digital cameras are designed for multiple purposes. This means compromise. They have to work for scenic photography, night pictures, architecture, people photos and more.

To create the proper retouching in Photoshop can take hours. So most digital photographs take short cuts, when retouching, or do a sloppy job.  They make people look like cartoons. Film needs less retouching and results in more natural skin texture.  

2. Film has a more "organic" and natural look. I remember when my digital camera had a problem and would not work. The camera repair company said it would take a few days to be fixed, so I asked a client if I could use my film camera for the project.   No problem.  

When the film was developed and returned to me, I was shocked. The depth of color, natural highlights (bright areas) and open shadows was great. The skin looked outstanding. Beautiful color, sharp but natural, a greater variety of skin tones. Skin is not just one bland color. After using digital for a while, I had forgotten how good film could be. And my client could still get digital files, scanned from the film negatives.

It was also more convenient for the client.  She looked at actually proofs, at my office. In a few minutes she had decided on her order. She did not spend an hour or more, seeing the pictures on a computer monitor. that most of my clients spent when I used a digital camera. The client asked why I did not use film all the time!

Why is digital so "digital" looking?  The image is composed of one layer of pixels. The pixels are actually black and white.  Filters are added to make color possible.  Mathematical calculations fill in the information so color is possible. Errors occur in the process.

On color film, there are actual layers of film, sensitive to different colors.  No guessing, by an impersonal computer in your camera.  On film, red is red, blue is blue. Because of the layers and more random distribution of the film layer emulsion, film tends to naturally "blend" tones and soften skin a little. On digital cameras the dark area are often too dark and the light areas "burn out".  Film handles the range of tones better.

3. Years of technology favors film. Film has been made for over 100 years. Many years of research has allowed a tremendous improvement in the quality possible.  

Digital cameras have been considered acceptable by professional photographers for about a dozen years. I hear the quote, "it's good enough" from so many photographers.  Really?  That's a compromise. Why compromise?  Most photographers save thousands of dollars on film, processing and printing at the labs every year. 

4. Art favors film. There are so many beautiful techniques developed for film photographers. Photographers have been creating images since about 1826. Film cameras come in many styles, type and sizes. Film comes in so many types and some photographers even coat their own film. Lenses were often designed for different purposes.  Some very sharp, some softer for portraits.  

Artistic photography is probably the most important factor.  There is a distinct, quality film has that digital does not have.  For example, when you attend a symphony don't you expect to see many musicians playing the music.  Along with a conductor.  It's real, authentic, live.

Isn't it possible for a few guys playing digital instruments or a synthesizer to create the music? Would the experience be the same?  Digital photographers often try to emulate film. Usually it's a poor imitation of film. If you want pictures to look like they are shot on film, it's usually best to use film.

Galleries and museums still favor photographers working with film. I was visiting a gallery and saw some beautiful photos of trees.  Millions of people take pictures of trees, but these had a special quality. The gallery representative explained the hours of work, techniques and materials used by the photographer.  Could the photographs have been taken by digital cameras?  I'm not sure, but they certainly would not look the same and the artist would not have approached the subject with as much study and care.

Film is what the best photographers have been using for over 100 years.  

So for your portraits, please work with a photographer who is willing to spend time creating a special portrait for you. He usually has more experience and skill than your average digital photographer.  As a sophisticated portrait client, you want something artistic, memorable and with a sense of history.


Denver portrait photography


What kind of pictures do want to represent you? A selfie, a shot by your friend on a windy day with your hair messy?  

Why look ordinary, when you can look special, glamorous and create a once in a lifetime photograph.  Everyone has selfies and everyone looks alike.  But a unique picture will stand out and be remembered.  Whether the photo is for a friend, spouse, yourself or on your webpage or Facebook.

When you think of great portraits, who do think about?  Many of the most recognized photos of the last hundred years are of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and other Hollywood movie stars.

Why classic photography? Did the stars of 50 years ago look better than the stars of today? Most of today's photography and the media is focused on "reality". We have reality TV and reality TV stars. Yes, many people look ok without retouching or other tools of the photography business. 

But, let's be honest, what do YOU want to look like in your photographs? Like you just got up in the morning? Do you want your pictures to look like the reflection, you saw in your mirror, this morning? Or do you want to dress your best, have someone capture you at your best, and use the most flattering lighting and camera techniques? Then retouch you, to your specification, to minimize any flaws, blemishes and "problem areas".

You might have a pimple the day of the photo session.  Perhaps your skin is a little rough. Do you panic? Cancel the photo session?  Live with the result? Is that how you want to be remembered?  As a person with awful skin.

I often am asked how the stars look so great on magazine covers. For example, how can Nicole Kidman look so fabulous?  Isn't see 49? (as of May 2017).  She looks 20 years younger, in so many photographs? Is she different from you and I? Almost everyone I  know over 40 has a few lines and wrinkles.  Is it the makeup or skincare?  I am sure that helps, but great photographers take great pictures.  And great Photoshop artists and retouchers polish the pictures to perfection.

Most of the stars today, just like 50 years ago, demand top photographers and high end retouching. They know their image is important and that how they look in their photographs may help or break their career. How many unretouched, selfie pictures of Meryl Streep have you seen on the cover of Vanity Fair, Vogue or Cosmo? I doubt the magazines would even allow it, people would not buy the magazine.

How can you get the Hollywood Glamour treatment?  Pick a photographer who had years of experience. Many of the newer photographers do not know about using lighting, real film, posing, etc. I just talked to a new photographer who said he did not need any of that, he took candid pics with his phone.  

Make sure you consult with the photographer before the photo session. It takes time to get to know someone and make yourself comfortable around them. And it takes experience to know what kinds of fashions, photograph the best. An experienced photographer will also carefully choose lighting setup, bring out the best angles and help you to feel relaxed in front of the camera and get your best expressions.  

If possible, it often helps to choose a fashion photographer who has worked with models. They often know the secrets to making models (and other people) look great.  Whether it's for a cosmetic company, magazines or framed photograph for your home.

If your photos are for business use, it's still important to get the best pictures possible. Even if you are not a movie star, the picture you have on your Linkedin or Facebook profile may determine if you are hired for that great job. A great picture on the dating site helps you get the best dates. A commanding portrait makes your annual report stand out and helps the company get the investment it needs to thrive.  First impressions, often a photograph, can make a decision difference.

Maybe it is a  cliche, but it's been said for a long time, that people shouldn't judge a person by their appearance (or photograph). However, it's plain to see, that many people judge other people by their looks and their photographs. In the book industry, everyone knows that the front cover of the book, has a major affect on whether someone buys that book. The cover is the first thing someone sees. For electronic books on Amazon, that may be the only thing they see.

Denver portrait photography

Portrait photographs to last a lifetime.

Many of the pictures I see have no heart. They are only snapshots, soon to be forgotten. It's almost like they are the pictures that came with the wallet.  A stranger.

But I was amazed when a client brought in a big box of photos for me to scan, fix and restore. It was a large group of old family photos.  Some over 100 years old. Many were amazing. My client told me stories about many of the people in the pictures. The great times she had at Grandma's place. Her father and his love. Her kids growing up and their adventures.  Each picture reminded her of the persons background, challenges in their lives and the joy she had in knowing many of the people in the photographs. She told me how much love there was in their family. And she felt so lucky to have the pictures. Many of the people had passed on, but the pictures were still with her.

Old fashioned portraiture captured something special. Maybe even the soul of the person. The people seemed special and she had great respect for them.

Why were the pictures special? Most were taken by established portrait studios. They often placed the finished pictures in folders, proudly displaying the name of the studio. People were posed in a classic sense, rather than the casual snapshot style of today.  They had dignity. The photograph worked to capture the person gracefully, use flattering  light, careful printing and used materials that would last a lifetime. They took pride in the craftsmanship of photography and considered themselves artists. Many of these photographs still look fine and have minimal fading, even after 100 years. They can be handed downed for generations. 

She had some snapshots too.  She remarked that the quality difference was dramatic. Some were faded, many out of focus, others displayed terrible color, etc. She showed me a picture of her uncle and told me how handsome and successful he was. But the picture made him look ordinary and plain. She did not have a good photograph of some of her closest friends and relatives. The snapshots looked out of place next to the professional portraits. She wished that they had taken the time to have a quality portrait taken and sent to her.

I hear similar stories from so many people. They have no real photographs of their family.  Just a few pictures they took with a phone. It's sad, one client told me she did not have a picture of her beloved grandfather, who passed away last year. 

Our histories are fading. So few portrait studios and artists are left. Fifty or hundred years from now, what will we have left.  A Twitter feed?  Will your Facebook posts still be there?  Will you have digital photos that cannot be retrieved or viewed, because the technology has changed so much?  But the pictures of great photographers like famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams are still on view in museums, galleries and books.

Ask yourself a question. If your house was burning down and you only had a few minutes to grab a few things, what would you save?  What is important and irreplaceable? Many people say it's the family photo album.

You can replace your TV, your phone can be backed up, you can buy new clothes or a new couch, but the memories of who you are, how you grew up and your family pictures cannot be replaced.

Vintage family photo, year unknown.

Vintage family photo, year unknown.

Old fashioned executive portrait, year unknown

Old fashioned executive portrait, year unknown