Tamara Lackey’s Family Posing Playbook is released!

In October 2012, I released my first Posing Playbook, focused on Kids Who Don’t Do Posing. Since then, my team and I have received some pretty wonderful feedback and quite a few requests for a family-focused version. And, while it only took three years, I finally finished writing one – and the Family Posing Playbook is now officially available for purchase! (Download Here!)


Photo by Stacey Stricklin, shot at the San Francisco Portrait Photographer’s Workshop

This new posing guide is aimed very squarely at photographers who photograph families. It has more detail around each type of potential set up, and there is also an additional Family Posing Playbook Quick Reference Guide with just the poses and bullet point reminders so you can refer to it easily while on shoots.

I initially built the Posing Playbook…for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing as a printable item, but I found that most people were using it as an on-the-go reference guide. So, the new Quick Reference Guide that comes with the new Family Posing Playbook was built specifically for the purpose of easy referencing while on a shoot, without having to wade through all the detailed information about each pose. It is designed to be printed, laminated, and ring-bound—or simply save it to any mobile device you might bring to your shoot; it is compatible with all devices.
Or you can do both!

I like that the entire Family Posing Playbook is based off real-world experiences. It’s one thing to say “this is how everything should go,” and it’s quite another to work with a variety of personality types, challenging situations and resistant subjects—and to show exactly how you can work in so many of those situations to still create a great final shot. I detail every component I considered in each scenario, most especially lighting, technical settings, posing, and expressions.

Download Now!

When you purchase The Family Posing Playbook, our first 200 downloads (and we are almost halfway in at the time of this post!) get a FREE $60 lifetime song license, thanks to a rather generous offer from Triple Scoop Music. AND, like our Lush Albums, 10% of all proceeds go directly to Beautiful Together, which works to identify and complete specific and measurable projects that tangibly improve the lives of orphaned children in the United States and Africa. Beautiful Together also shines a light on children living in extreme poverty, foster care, or orphanages through a combination of on-the-ground work, professional photography, video profiles, and social outreach.

These donations really do make a difference, as you can see on Beautiful Together’s Fully Funded Projects page, so we’re excited about these new contributions!

Beautiful Together, Tamara Lackey, Family Posing Playbook

I am always happy to partner with the (very) talented team at Triple Scoop Music. I personally have used their music for years, I’ve even built a Top 10 Favorites list with them—they were the first company that I found to have royalty-free songs that I would want to listen to on my own, in the car, or while on a run. I’d never been able to say that about royalty-free music before. Like, at all. But they have such talented musicians and such a range of sound; they have truly good music offerings, I just love incorporating their original sounds in my work. So a big thank you to them for this very kind offer.


Posing Playbooks for All Kinds of Portrait Photo Shoot Situations

I liked having so much feedback from our Posing Playbook…for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing. We knew just what to expand on and what would make sense to add—in this case, the separate quick reference guide. I really feel you can use either the Posing Playbook…for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing or the Family Posing Playbook, based on what you’re most focused on photographing, and find that you have two very different, useful resources based on the work you are doing.

Here is a little preview from the introduction to the Family Posing guide:

“When I first wrote The Posing Playbook … for Kids Who Don’t Do Posing, I tried to incorporate all of the main things to consider when posing children. There are often a few factors to consider: location, lighting, styling, interaction, mood, expression and, of course posing. The most prominent issue with that last factor, posing, being rather interesting as most kids don’t really do posing.

Guess what: families don’t really do posing, either. But even as people aren’t often professional models, they are often amenable to being move this way and that. So, how do you adjust them to showcase them as flatteringly as possible and keep their expression fresh so you can showcase them as attractively and as naturally as possible – while also keeping the shot well-framed, well-lit and showing off what matters the most: who they genuinely are at heart, and how they belong to each other? 

This book, like my original one for just kids, is all about creating a reference book of past “wins” – challenges I’d faced and how I was able to resolve them to produce attractive and natural-looking poses using a variety of techniques, which I share in detail, along with before and afters, metadata, what lighting I used, and any interpersonal techniques I utilized to shift the mood or refresh expressions. I also share any interactions I may employ in certain situations – and any other helpful technical information that could come into play in that scenario or any others like them. This comes complete with bullet points to quickly reference the main considerations of each pose.”

It is my sincere wish that the Family Posing Playbook helps you fast track a lot of that progress in your own work. You can purchase it here or feel free to contact us with any questions!  I look forward to hearing from you.

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Upcoming Mentor Series Workshop with Popular Photography Magazine and Nikon – Tuscon, Arizona


I am so looking forward to joining Popular Photography Magazine and Nikon as an upcoming instructor in one of their Popular Photography Mentor Series programs.

“The Mentor Series travels to dramatic, vibrant and cultural destinations creating a hands-on learning experience out in the field.”

Although I’ve done several photo trips, this will be my first time leading a program with this esteemed program. The trek lasts from November 6th to November 8th in gorgeous Tucson, Arizona.

I’ll be teaching alongside Tom Bol, who I haven’t taught with before, but have heard some rather great things about, from more than a few people.  I always learn something from all of the people I collaborate with, and I look forward to seeing Tom in action.

We’ll be checking out the area before the workshop kicks off, and I’ll be sharing the process of how I translate places into photographs. One of my favorite things is to scout out new locations and figure out how to make it work, so it’ll be a lot of fun to do this together as a group. To learn more, and to sign up, please visit the Mentor Series Website. You can view a preliminary itinerary, or you can go directly to the sign-up page.

I usually share more of my portrait work, but I’ve done quite a bit of travel and landscape photography over the years, and that will be a good amount of the focus of this particular mentor series.

All the photographs shared in this post were shot with Nikon gear. Specially, the Nikon D810, most with the Nikkor 24-70 2.8 lens, and some with a polarizing filter.



Glacier National Park, Montana



Jackson, Wyoming



Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


I firmly believe that the more experience you get with locations, lighting, subjects, and situations, the more quickly and effectively you can respond in nearly all types of circumstances. It’s one of the reasons I like to photograph a variety of genres rather regularly and love to photograph everything on all of my travels.


Glacier National Park, Montana





Montana Skies



Grand Tetons, Wyoming



Yellowstone, Wyoming



Grand Tetons, Wyoming

There’s so much involved in running a photography business – far more than people expect, which is why most of my teaching involved business, marketing, and lifestyle. But this trip will be pretty much directly focused on shooting, which is really fun. The only preparation needed from attendees is gear that is ready to go – and an open mind.


Yellowstone, Wyoming



Yellowstone, Wyoming



Glacier National Park, Montana

It’s truly an honor to work with Popular Photography and Nikon on this internationally-recognized mentor series. I remember seeing their ads for photo trips years ago, thinking how much I’d love to do one – and here I am leading one! The coolness of that is not lost on me.

The exact details of the photo trip, directly from the program description:

Photograph birds of prey during Raptors Free Flight at the Sonora Desert Museum. Showcasing the natural behavior of native birds in the open desert, the flight demonstration will provide a great understanding and appreciation of desert wildlife. The 98-acre museum is also brimming with botanicals, various animal species, mineral collections and an aquarium for photographic exploration. Finally, as we end the day at Saguaro National Park, we will capture the cactus-studded landscape as the sun falls over the desert during our sunset light painting demo.

After an early departure to capture the morning’s first light, photograph the exterior of Mission San Xavier del Bac, a functioning, 18th century mission. Framed in the warm browns of the surrounding hills and the violet shadows of more distant mountains, the Mission rises, brilliantly white from the desert floor. Learn to use your off camera flash to photograph models at Prima Air and Space Museum—an airplane graveyard—and at Old Tuscan Studios, an Old West town with saloons and churches. A visit to White Stallion Ranch to capture images of horses, wranglers, barns and ranch life concludes the photographic journey.

To learn more, and to sign up, please visit the Mentor Series Website. You can view a preliminary itinerary, or you can go directly to the sign-up page.

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San Francisco Portrait Photography Workshop & CreativeLIVE Photo Week

I’m thrilled to spend a few very busy days in San Francisco this week. I love San Francisco – we used to live here before we moved to Chapel Hill and we come back fairly often. This time, I’m here for the last 3-day Portrait Photographer’s Workshop of 2015. I’m excited to work with a group of such talented and creative photographers.

Then, on Friday, I’m off to Seattle for a quick visit with Creative Live to present at their Photo Week (a 90 minute presentation on Friday at 3pm PST!).


San Francisco from my hotel – Shot with Nikon D810 and 35 1.4

We kicked off our workshop on Tuesday, September 22, and we’ll be going strong until Thursday, September 24. I always feel a bit nervous before beginning a new workshop even though we do a good amount of refreshing, revising, and preparation beforehand. Fortunately my studio manager, Sarah, came out with me to help handle all the details. She’s essential to the success of a big event like this.

These three days are quite intense, and it’s my sincere intention that no one leaves with any questions left unanswered! I spend time with each attendee – private, alone, and one-on-one – to really get to know his/her unique business challenges. The best part is that I also really get to know them in the process, too. I’ve made some really good friends from these workshops.


Huge thank you to Joy Bianchi Brown and her lovely Millie for being our (seriously. adorable.) lighting models. Here, they’re showcasing shutter speed and strobes as part of our indoor lighting segment—while being ridiculously photogenic.

This is our last workshop of 2015, but bookmark our workshop page to learn more about additional opportunities coming in 2016. I try to do them once or twice a year, as best I can!

After this 3-day whirlwind, I go straight to Seattle for CreativeLIVE, presenting at the final day of their Photo Week 2015 Event.
I’ll be live at 3PM PST/6PM EST on Friday, September 25 to talk about Authentic Family Posing.

I’m excited for this segment as I’ll be showing new video of a family session I photographed. I feel the video really captured all the specifics I’m discussing when it comes to posing families authentically – something that I care a great deal about, and that can really help you effectively capture a unique family personality and dynamic!

This is actually my first year doing CreativeLive’s Photo Week – even though I’ve done 8 full classes for them. Each of these programs have been so different and fun. Please feel free to join us virtually on Friday. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter. I always welcome questions!

Although I love this week’s intensity and all the opportunities for personal interactions with my workshops and session participants, I’ll be flying home on Saturday pretty darn exhausted.

For now – luckily for me, there’s nothing like spending time in September on the West Coast : )

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Lighting Classrooms & Education Center Repairs – BeautifulTogether.org

We are so grateful to have completed renovating the orphanage bathrooms in Ethiopia – the children living there now have clean, safe bathrooms with new toilets, lovely sinks, updated plumbing, and (my favorite) hand sanitizers! These newly renovated bathrooms have made a big improvement in the orphanage. We are also currently finishing up our last project, Safeguarding The Orphanage, which we’ve heard is already cutting down on every day injuries and finally keeping the children safely inside a much-improved play area. (We hope to be completely done with that project in less than a couple of weeks!)

And, of course, we are all thrilled with their new Portrait Gallery, or The Best Gallery Opening Ever.

The next big project we have researched and worked with the orphanage to plan out is this: to light up their small, dimly-lit on-site classrooms and bring their education center back into existence.

Please check out exactly what I mean when I say these classrooms are so dark – and why an existing education center can’t help these kids if nothing in it works:

We hope you can help us help these children. They are already growing up in an orphanage, waiting for families (although, statistically – and heartbreakingly – this will not happen for many of them). Even more than for most children, education is the way to a better life for them, especially for all those who will age out of this orphanage with even more challenges to face.

These kids are bright and talented and affectionate and hold so much promise with their lives. If you’re interested in helping us help them receive a better education, please visit the donation page for more information.

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If you’re not a video-watching kind of person, here’s the deal: The good news is that there are three small classrooms that have been built onsite at the orphanage to help the children with early education. The bad news is that the classrooms are all very dimly-lit, as in it’s tough to even see the chalkboards when you are inside. Between the lack of adequate natural light, the extremely intermittent electricity, and the high cost of utilities in Addis Ababa (which coincides pretty rottenly with the lack of resources for the orphanage), it’s tough for the kids to even have the opportunity to learn in these classrooms, as it’s simply very difficult to see when you are in the classroom.

We’re looking to raise $6,500 to light up the classrooms by installing a 1,000-watt solar panel that would feed light into all three classrooms. In addition, we’d like to help bring in natural sunlight by installing shatterproof glass windows, which will help keep the kids safe, as well. These improvements will not only light these rooms, but they’ll also help the orphanage save dramatically on their electric bills with the ongoing use of a sustainable energy source.

The goal for this project is to give the children a brighter, cleaner, more inspiring learning environment.
Please consider either donating or sharing this post with others who might be interested in helping these kids!


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The other part of this project will be addressing the major issue in their once-donated Education Center: not one of the computers that were donated years ago currently work. This Education Center was a great idea – the older children at the orphanage have received educational CDs and DVDs that they want to use, to help them study and further their education. And they have a lot of motivation to learn. Truly, education is the key to a significantly brighter future for them. But there is not much opportunity for them to study when none of the outdated computers work. Our plan is to team up with a local repair shop to fix the computers that can be fixed and then replace the ones that are beyond repair with new, basic computers. They do not have internet in the orphanage and are not currently able to take on that expense, but they will be using this education center for significant ongoing study.

We’d also love to add some protected tablets that can be attached to the walls in the Education Center, if we raise enough funds. And, of course, we plan to stay in touch with an IT specialist ongoing to keep this education center in good working shape long-term.


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These education and lighting improvements will truly make a huge difference for the children as they grow and learn, and we’d love for you to be a part of it in any way that you can. If you’re interested in donating, please visit the donation page for more information. If you’re not in a position to donate at this time, please help spread the word. There are sharing buttons above and below this post!


Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light.
~ Albus Dumbledore


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Beautiful Together’s Orphanage Bathroom Renovation: Officially Completed!!

We are thrilled to announce that the orphanage bathroom renovation that has been in process for nearly two months is finally, totally, beautifully completed!!

When we first announced this Beautiful Together project, we weren’t sure exactly how long it would take or what kind of complications we might run into, but much of the work was done before we traveled to Ethiopia, and it was done well – so when we arrived, we were able to walk through the bathrooms and just talk through paint, adjustments, updates, and additional things we’d like to add to the overall project, which was a huge bonus.

MASSIVE thanks to Larry Leuallan (!!!), Rangefinder Magazine/WPPILauren WendleTricia Kelly McCormack, Diane Rausch Belden, Sarah CoppolaTom and Laura Witt FennTeresa Prociuk, Thunder Cloud ImagesKryrissa Morgeau, Carlie Brunelli, Derek Aheme and Brooke Shaden for their contributions to this specific project! Their donations were extraordinarily impactful.

(And, of course, we are always grateful for the constant donations and the ongoing support of Lush Albums!)


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Everything started by stripping the bathroom of what the children at this orphanage had been using for years. As ground broke on the project, and each rusted and rotted toilet, tank, and piece of disintegrated plumbing was removed, we became more and more excited about the simple dignity of clean, new bathroom fixtures.


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Next up was picking out all the shiny, clean, brand spankin’ new sinks, western toilets and “turkish toilets”, or squat toilets as they are frequently called. We had initially wanted to install only conventional western toilets but were informed by the caregivers at the orphanage that many of the younger children could not use them on their own, that the little ones would actually fall in or get stuck. There’s no leaving a smaller toilet seat there for children to manage on their own, with the strain of trying to supervise 65 children with an already-stretched care staff. So we invested in a combination of each type for both major bathroom areas and found that to be a rather smart decision, especially after witnessing some of the tots’ full-on comic efforts to use western toilets!


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After all the old fixtures were removed and all the new equipment was installed, we were able to move on to managing some of the plumbing issues and drainage leaks that were damaging the inner and outer walls of the orphanage and causing mold issues. In addition, some small updates were made to fixtures in the kitchen, to help it run more safely and efficiently.


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While the fresh coats of paint were applied across the bathrooms, in such bright, cheerful colors, we asked for some additional minor changes, like a door to close more smoothly, a lock to be fixed, or small sections of cracked tile to be replaced in multiple locations.


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There was a lot of celebrating the clean, new digs:


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As the kids embraced their new bathrooms, we asked for one last addition to the orphanage bathroom renovation project:


As wonderful as it was to have new sinks with fresh, running water, the day-to-day reality of life in Ethiopia is that the water is simply “not running” all the time. Sometimes, you turn the handle and water flows out; sometimes you turn the handle and the sink remains bone dry. And, besides that, a bar of soap is not always handy. The option for children at this orphanage before this renovation was to simply plunge their hands into a barrel of lukewarm water that sat in the bathroom.

The incredible germ-controlling, infection-managing, cleanliness-boosting benefits of being able to use waterless soap was something we really, really, really wanted these kids to have. According to the CDC, or The Centers for Disease Control, the most significant way to stop the transmission of a variety diseases is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water and/or use a hand sanitizer. When these children have absolutely no option to wash their hands with soap and water, which occurs frequently, it’s a wonderful thing that they can still use waterless soap to kill nasty bacteria that can hurt their sweet, beautiful, growing little bodies (Okay, can you tell I really, really, really wanted them to have hand sanitizers???).

This last addition to the project was the last part to be installed, tested, and found to be completely working, along with every other aspect of the project, point by point.


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Although this was not the first project we completed for Beautiful Together (that was our Portrait Gallery!), this was the first one we had officially kicked off, the first one we started, and the first we had fully funded, due to some extremely generous hearts.

We are extraordinarily, overwhelmingly proud to see it completed in its entirety.

I can’t wait to finish our Safeguard The Orphanage project next, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. The majority of work has actually already been done, and it’s just those final pieces that can take a little while to complete.

And I can’t wait to kick off our Light Up The Classroom & Educational Center project soon. Think solar panels.
And bright minds getting brighter.

Lots and lots more to come, too.

I love this work.
I am so grateful for how many people care.



When we founded Beautiful Together, our 501(c)(3) all-volunteer, non-profit organization focused on supporting children without families, we knew that one of the benefits of doing this type of work would be meeting others who were doing similar work. We knew we would want to partner with a few key organizations and have found that it has been a surprisingly natural process to determine who that would be. We are currently partnering with two organizations. One of our partners is Life To Live for Korah, a feeding program for orphaned children in one of the poorest communities in the world. I will be sharing more about them and the work we are doing with them soon. The other non-proft we are doing work with is Make Your Mark, which focuses on at-risk youth in a very real, hands-on way. Founders Carmen and Trent Post moved to Ethiopia from Charlotte, North Carolina four years ago because they believe that every child deserves the opportunity to impact the world, and sometimes they just need help to be able to do that.

While we were in Ethiopia, we went to their home for dinner and learned more about what Make Your Mark does – mainly, help get children off the streets by working hard to earn their trust and then giving them an opportunity to, over time, transform their lives. Not that I think this sounds remotely easy, but it’s even more difficult than one might think. I headed out with them one Tuesday morning at 4:30am to document, and be a part, of the work they do. And this is how it went.

We started out by finding the groups of children – most orphans, most boys – in the locations where they tended to sleep. When we found the first group, some were still sleeping, very much huddled together for safety and warmth, and some were up and already burning whatever they could find. The morning we spent with them, they were burning scraps of rubber, and the fire emitted an incredibly acrid smoke. I kept thinking about how bad it was for their little lungs – these children were mostly between 10 and 13 years old. But, then again, these same children are nearly all doing whatever they can to stay safe, warm and to dampen their constant hunger. In that respect, burning rubber was kind of the least of their health concerns.

By the way, I photographed all these images with my Nikon D810. And I shot plenty of these images in pitch dark, as in this camera sees in the dark. Because of the nature of what we were doing, there was definitely no using a flash or any additional light. Although I had to do quite a bit of manual focusing, this camera performed exceptionally, truly helping me to tell this story. Some of these images were shot at 25,600 ISO. (No, that’s not a typo.)


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Carmen and her daughter, acting as translator, ask the children how they are, how they are feeling, how the night was. They sing together for a bit. Or they just sit together, side by side. Basically, they make a point of showing they care for them, that they want to spend time with them.

And the dogs. There are so many street dogs in Ethiopia, in all kinds of conditions. But the dogs that stay with these boys are very much their pack. They really do stick together – sleeping together, sharing body warmth, watching out for each other, protecting each other.  They build a truly special bond that is heartwarming to see.


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If you can’t tell, these children are sleeping in the middle of a median. Of a VERY busy road. It’s not quite as busy at 4am and 5 am, but there are still cars and vans and police going by at all hours. They stay in this spot, though, because it’s more open, less hidden – and, thus, safer for them at night. But “safer” is a pretty relative term. I worry about my children falling out of the bed a few feet onto the floor. Here, rolling the wrong way is simply life-threatening.


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These faces stay with you.
There’s no question why Make Your Mark does the work it does, why they feel compelled to do this often-exhausting work. Even as you know they are also constantly battling some rather discouraging odds.


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We told the boys from the first area that we’d be back to take them out for breakfast. The thinking is that, in order to gain their trust, you take them out for meals. You sit at a table with them and you hear their stories. You return. Again and again. And eventually you invite them to come to a day center established for children on the street to have a safe place to be, connect, eat, learn, all of it. You give these children a chance to make the decision to change their own lives. But you don’t get that kind of opportunity with them by just driving up and handing them money. You feed them – but you’re actively part of everything else it means, in all cultures, to share a meal together.


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We moved to another group.
It was dark-dark out in this part of Addis Ababa, about 5am now.
I photographed these images at 25,600 ISO, 1/30 second, f2.8. What you see below is Carmen and her daughter speaking to a woman, her son, and her infant, held very tightly in her arms. They are learning that this family, like so many others, is homeless on the streets but could have a chance for a different life. Specifically, this woman has relatives in the countryside and, if she could just get to them, she could better feed her family, and her infant would have an infinitely better chance at life. Carmen offered to return and put this family on a bus and pay bus fare for them.


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At one point, while we were at this location, Carmen told me to turn away from a few men who were walking up to us. They said some things to us, and we all kept our backs turned and stayed silent. After a while, maybe a few minutes, they moved on – and there was a feeling of noticeable relief. Carmen says she doesn’t really worry that much about safety out on the streets, but there are definitely some interactions it makes sense to avoid.

I wrote earlier that these boys would do a whole lot to dampen their hunger. I have photographs of this boy sniffing glue, an extraordinarily cheap and massively toxic way to get high and to forget how cold, hungry and alone you are. They are not shared here. His face is partially covered for a reason.

Nearly every child we spoke to was doing something to help get by – if it wasn’t glue, it was herbal. Chat, or khat, is a small, evergreen plant that can be chewed on and acts as a stimulant. One of its main benefits, though, is a decrease in appetite. These are cheap (or even free) drugs and getting children to no longer rely on them when they’ve repeatedly made life more bearable is one of the major challenges that Make Your Mark faces. They know that the choice to leave drugs behind for a better life has to be the choice of the child. A choice difficult enough for most adults.


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And, as you can see in this image below, no matter what they are living through, make no mistake: these are very much children. And they act like it.
They are affectionate, they dance, they cry, they giggle.

They are kids in every way except in one we naturally think of as part of childhood: they have no home, and they have no parents. They are completely on their own.


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This boy caught a ride with us. Make Your Mark had been trying to help him transition off the streets for a while. He was very quiet, very kind, and he had a wonderful smile that we didn’t get to see a lot of over the 4-5 hours we spent with him. He had also experienced things most of couldn’t imagine at his age. At any age. It hurt to hear how much. After breakfast, we drove him to get some medical attention. I think of this boy – and that surprise dimple of his that emerges when his expression opens up.


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When we went back to the first location, we collected the boys to go for breakfast. We would walk with them to a restaurant about a mile away that had agreed to open up early so these boys could be fed.

While standing there, though, something occurred.
Something really frightening.

This white van raced up the road just as one of the little puppies wandered into the street. I mentioned earlier the relationship these boys had with these dogs. They were close. They truly care for each other. The way you watch them snuggle these puppies, you could be anywhere in the world with any child and their puppy. For all the extremeness of their situation, sometimes some things are just the same everywhere.

So when this puppy wandered out into the street and this van just kept going, I heard a boy cry out and the van screech to a halt – and I saw the puppy disappear under the van. The boys ran up to the front of the van and, for a minute, it all looked pretty horrible.


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Then, a little scamper – and this puppy emerges from the undercarriage of the van, near the back tires.
I don’t even know exactly how.

I heard these whoops, and then they grabbed the pup, hugged him and celebrated.

Sometimes love is just the same everywhere.


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We headed out to breakfast, walking just under a mile on pretty empty city streets, as the sky finally started to lighten a bit. And of course, the dogs walked with us, too.

These boys wore everything. Some of their jackets were women’s jackets, many of their clothes were far too big – but it was coverage. Some had shoes, several did not. Shoes, I learned, were quite the commodity. If you were a deep sleeper, and you had shoes, you didn’t wake with your shoes still on; they would be taken in the night.


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We waited outside the restaurant for a while until they opened their doors.  The boys all wanted their photograph taken while we waited. And once we got inside, the boys lined up to use the sink. This was their best chance at a shower, and they washed their faces, arms, chest, as much as they could as best they could.


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Then we sat down and went around the table, the boys telling their stories. How they got to where they were now. Some had lost their parents. Some were told there was no more room for them at the house. Some had left the countryside for a better chance in the city. I kept asking how old each was. Although some knew they were ten, eleven, twelve, others didn’t know. “Eleven?”, with a shrug. As odd as that sounds, knowing your exact birthday is not as common in Ethiopia as it is in the west.


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Grace was said as the meal started arriving, after the scuffles broke out.
Food arriving at the table for some and not yet for others created a sense of panic among some of the boys. They were each given their own separate plate for that exact reason. Sharing food off a main plate would simply be too difficult. Carmen made it very clear – No one touch anyone else’s food. You will all be given your own food. She knew to head things off at the very beginning.

There was still a bit of swiping, though. One of the boys burst into tears because a boy next to him had grabbed a piece of his meal and swallowed it fast. The boy who was crying was probably around twelve years old. The way his tears flowed reminded me of my son losing his stuffed bear when he was four years old. The quick sadness at the loss.

The boys separated. The one in tears wiped his face and continued eating, now with his arm around his plate.


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After breakfast, you could feel the energy relax. There was more laughter. The boys had eaten well, and they would now head back to the streets.
But not before running back to say a sweet goodbye.


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This ritual will continue for weeks, feeding the boys, building trust, developing relationships. And then they would be invited into the day center. They would slowly be given the opportunity to transition off the streets and move into a transitional home.

They would have the opportunity to transform their lives. But only if they committed to it on their own.

That opportunity, to transition them off the streets.
That takes a lot of driving, to and from the day center, to get the boys, to bring them back and forth. This is one of the major needs of Mark Your Mark: a dedicated van. This is one of the areas where we are partnering with them, to help them raise funds to be able to afford one. This actually helps in more than one way – not just to help these children, but to also offer a full-time job to a boy who transitioned off the streets years ago and who would greatly welcome the chance to have a career as a driver. We will be creating a fund for this soon on Beautiful Together. If you would like to learn more, or wish to contribute to this fund, you can do so here.

My hat is off to Make Your Mark, to Live Life for Korah (these are their facebook pages, if you want to learn more about them), and to every person in the world who is trying to make life better for those who have it pretty rough. And especially to those trying to make life better for children without families.
This is the heart and soul of Beautiful Together.


Best Gallery Opening EVER.

Last week I wrote about my concept for a portrait photography gallery for the Kidane Mehret orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  And I spent two full weeks photographing the approximately 65 children who live in this orphanage with the intention of creating this gallery, feeling a strong desire to create it for a few reasons. First, one of the things I noticed from my experience photographing children in orphanages is that although they may know to look at the back of a camera or at a mobile phone to see their photo, it’s quite rare that they ever see a printed photograph of themselves. And nearly never a larger portrait piece. I do that in my studio work every day. I know the impact of giving that – and I wanted them to experience it.

I also know that although the job of an orphanage is to care for their children, many of these institutions tend to be, in general, rather austere, clinical, almost hospital-like environments. I looked up these stairwells and along these tiled walls, and I could see this gallery, these photographs I had yet to shoot, gracing the walls and truly warming them up, making the whole environment feel less like an institution and more like a home.

Lastly, like I’d mentioned in my last post, I wanted these children to look up at this gallery and not just see their beautiful faces but also better see the connection that they all have to each other there. Although I wish each of these children could be joined with a family and live in their family home, statistically that is not their future. Most will spend their childhood in this orphanage. So I wish for them to see that although they may not have a traditional family, they still have “their people”. To see that they are talented and smart and crazy beautiful and care much and are cared for AND ARE WORTH SO MUCH VALUE.

And I wanted them to see that on the walls of the orphanage they live in each and every day.

We are either in process or have finished other renovation projects for this orphanage through our non-profit Beautiful Together – like renovating the bathrooms and safeguarding the orphanage, but this would be a bit of a different project. Not as directly critical for their health and physical safety but arguably just as critical – if not more important – since it touches on their sense of self-worth and their need for community and family. For belonging.

I photographed these children over the course of two weeks while spending days tracking down a printing solution. I would have loved to have used my awesome print lab, Nations Photo Lab but, alas, they have not opened an Ethiopia branch yet and getting tons of prints like these through customs in time was simply impossible. I finally found a shop that had an in-house printing option, though, and the test prints looked good. The next task was to create these sturdy, moveable-if-necessary, protected pieces. This particular gallery would have to withstand lots of children’s fingerprints, water spills, or worse. The pieces also couldn’t be too heavy, lest they accidentally fall on an unsupervised toddler – but they also couldn’t bend over time. They also needed a strong adhesvive, since many of the pieces would be secured to tile. Lots to consider. The solution ended up being a print secured to a custom double-mounting, about a 1/2-inch thick, which would assure that the print wouldn’t warp over time, with a very strong adhesive applied to the back of the mounting. In addition, a matte-laminate, waterproof protectant seal was placed over each enlarged print. A lot to bring together for that many pieces, and a rather unusual request, but it worked!

All photographs were shot with the exact same gear kit: my Nikon D810, my 24-70 2.8, and all kinds of handy reflective objects (think white sheets, metal bounce, etc.)

We started out with these bare walls, and I pulled my first piece out to show a rather giddy subject her portrait:

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And then I just started hanging the pieces. My wonderful husband, Steve, not only helped immensely but also took nearly all of these photographs. (I should note that he now considers himself a premiere gallery show photographer.)

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Each time I pulled out a new piece, the children would shriek the name of whoever was in the print and they would cheer and laugh and race out to get the person if they were not there. And then they did it again. And again. And this went on for hours, since it took quite a while to hang every piece and make sure they were spaced apart just right.

But, man, talk about the real-time response making all the work so worth it.

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I loved the unbelievable joy and glee each child experienced seeing his or her own portrait for the first time. There was so much pride and sweetness in the way they all complimented each other and even laughed with and clapped and hugged each other – honestly, BEST GALLERY OPENING EVER.

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I had started out hanging these pieces just with a child or two around me, but the audience grew with each piece I presented to hang along the walls until I was absolutely surrounded – and it stayed that way for the rest of the “Gallery Opening”. I don’t think these stairs have ever been so packed before, for so long in a row. I loved it.

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THIS was a very touching experience. This boy has incredibly impaired sight. He gets around on his own throughout the orphanage without a cane or any aid, but when I was photographing all the kids, he kept wanting to look at the back of the camera. I’d show him, and he would hold the LCD right up to his glasses and slowly move it around, still right up to his glasses, to see every inch of the 3 inch screen, in an effort to see the entire image. He loved the photo-taking process. I finally had to make a deal with him that I’d let him shoot for a while if I could skip showing every single photo of every child every single time. (Luckily, he accepted the deal.)

So to show him his photograph (and he looks awesome in it), for him to be able to see all these photographs, so readily and with so much more ease? Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the best surprises of the gallery show, his vivid experience of it.

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This woman, below, is the Sister who runs the place and has been there, caring for these children, for over 59 years. She knows how to get things done and is rather no-nonsense when it comes to most things.Throughout all the conversations and negotiations we had with various crew members (a lot, waaaay more than I expected) while working on our Beautiful Together projects, she would look around the room of mostly Ethiopians and say “Careful. I know everything that goes on here. And, never forget, I’ve been in this country longer than any of you.” And she was right.

She was the one who gave me the go-ahead to create this gallery. She knew about it but hadn’t really known what to expect. So her heartfelt approval of the pieces, her genuinely surprised smile at the photographs and at the overall gallery, just the warmth of her compliments, was definitely some kind of top prize for me.
(Can you tell I went to Catholic school? : )

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When all was said and done, we hung all these pieces – shot throughout the course of these two weeks, along with several that had been shot last year when we’d visited – in four different places throughout the orphanage. In the entranceway and along the first set of stairs:

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And again along the second floor – and throughout the baby room and also in another hallway:

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All in all, this was an extraordinarily meaningful experience, and one I would honestly wish on any artist. I love that even though we had to return home, this still stays with all of them, as this gallery is a testament to their worth and beauty and connection to each other.

I greatly look forward to adding on to it every time we go back.


Beautiful Together – New Portrait Project


As you may know, I’ve been in Ethiopia for the past week and a half working on renovating a bathroom inside an orphanage for our Beautiful Together non-profit. It has been an amazing experience so far, with our days filled with hard work of all kinds. I’ve been trying to update on my Facebook page, Twitter, and my Instagram feed, but Internet has been spotty at best! I wanted to give a small update on the blog and share another BIG project that I just got approval on and are working on in with every spare moment here.

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve gotten approval to photograph the children here separately and together for the purpose of creating a sturdy, moveable gallery of sorts throughout the orphanage.


I can’t tell you how much this means to me. As much as I would love, and as much as I hope for, each of these children to have a family, the reality is that most will spend their lives in this orphanage until they age out and have to leave. So the people they spend their childhood years with (and the truly caring volunteers who come through repeatedly) is, for all intents and purposes, their family.

It made me think of how one of the things I love most about portrait work is that when children see their family photographs on the wall in their home every day, there’s this constant reminder that they are loved and cared for by “their people”. So although my first hope, that they have their own family and live in their own family home, may not come to fruition for many of these children, my *other* hope is that this gallery here at the orphanage will serve to show them each and every day what they mean to each other and how they care for each other.



I am often asked what the barrier is between the children who wait for families and the families who would want and love and care for them. Why adoption can be more difficult than these children and families deserve. The truth is that it’s a frustrating combination of factors.

There are an estimated 150 million orphans worldwide, children who have no family due to disease, poverty, violence, grave misfortune, and more – and a large portion of them are “stuck” in orphanages. These children could join families – families who would deeply love and care for them – but they stay in institutions – some far, far worse than others – due to paperwork issues, politics, lack of documentation, investigations into regions or processes or programs or procedures, on and on and on. Factors that may have, at one time, been instituted to help protect children have, in actuality, left millions of them to spend their entire childhood in institutions. And “aging out” of orphanages just leaves them with less of a support structure than ever before.

But beyond the complicated specifics behind these worsening statistics is a crazy simple truth: Each and every child deserves a family.





And I truly feel that although they may not have a traditional family, they still have “their people”. That each child is talented and smart and crazy beautiful and care much and are cared for AND ARE WORTH SO MUCH VALUE, and that my hope is that they can see that in these images on the walls of the orphanage they live in each and every day.

We can do so much more for these children. While a heartening MANY work to change the current climate of adoption, we are trying to improve the quality of life for those children who wait. If you are interested in helping to make a difference here, please consider donating and/or joining our newsletter at BeautifulTogether.org to help fund or learn more about several new, very tangible projects we will be detailing out quite soon.


Portrait Photography Workshops: San Francisco

I am so excited to announce the location of my San Francisco 3-day Portrait Photographer’s Workshop on September 22-24, 2015!  Big thanks to all those who were patiently awaiting the location – we looked at quite a number of spots all around the Bay Area, but ultimately we went with a super cool spot right in downtown San Francisco. Although this last one of our portrait photography workshops (for the year) is nearly full, we still have a few spots leftyou can register here if you’d like to join us!

The workshop will be held at the Chronicle Books Corporate Headquarters, located at 680 2nd Street, near the beautiful Embarcadero walkway and AT&T park. We will be utilizing their amazing meeting rooms inside and we can go explore the best of downtown San Francisco right outside our door.



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This is the last of our portrait photography workshops for the year. I am so proud of our 100% ‘Would Recommend to A Friend’ rating after all of our past portrait photographer’s workshops. You can read tons of reviews from past workshop participants here, but here are a few notes of feedback from just our most recent workshop:

The workshop was the best I have ever attended. The insights gained will improve my photographic technique, my business effectiveness and the quality of my life.  I feel inspired and equipped to take my business and my life to the next level! ~ Alicia

It was really marvelous; the extensive instruction with cameras, settings in different situations, posing active subjects ( children, dogs, parents), post processing, maintaining a constructive work life with a successful business and at the same time having a healthy personal life. ~ Molly

Tamara covered so much in the short three days, that I am afraid I might forget some of what I learned. It was awesome! ~ Dean

I just loved it. Loved the setting, the people, the material and of course the instructor and support staff!! Tamara was so engaging and easy to talk with. She gave us 100% of her attention, and I really appreciated that. ~ Bonnie

This workshop includes:

3 very full days of workshop participation
Catered breakfasts, lunches, snacks and beverages
A generous swag bag of assorted photography products and goodies worth hundreds of dollars, plus many more big giveaways
▪ Celebratory wrap-up dinner out with everyone

Join Tamara for this intense, 3-day shooting-focused workshop, which includes an in-depth shooting clinic, lighting configuration instruction, post-processing and business training.

This highly interactive and hands-on shooting clinic will help you to master your technical skills behind the camera, as well as teach you how to set up and work with existing and additional light sources – and better utilize natural light in a more controlled fashion. The shooting clinics also include one-on-one time with Tamara, image critiques, portfolio and website reviews, and a walk-through of specific post-processing techniques, to show and help create a quick and powerful end-to-end digital workflow. In addition, there will be a business and work/life balance overview.

In addition, I will be conducting a private, off-site, one-on-one 30-minute mentoring session with each attendee. Getting to know you and talk about your business and unique challenges is truly one of my favorite parts of the entire event! The workshop is limited to 15 attendees, and we still have a few spots left.

Just a tiny sampling of photographs shot during previous portrait photography workshops:

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Tamara Lackey, photography workshops, children's portraits, Durham, NC

portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

Tamara Lackey, photography workshops, children's portraits, Durham, NC Tamara Lackey, photography workshops, children's portraits, Durham, NC

portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

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portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

photography workshops 2014, Tamara Lackey, Portrait Photographer's Workshop

Interested in learning more?

You can read many, many (many) reviews from past workshop participants, visit the workshop page or sign up here.

I hope to see you there!Tamara-Lackey-San-Francisco-3-day-Portrait-Photographers-Workshop-2015-WEB_reviews-3




Photograph by Mike Corrado

In the newest episode of the reDefine Show, I spoke with seriously talented photographer Mike Corrado on creating dynamic images. Mike has been a photographer for over 36 years, including 30 years working with Nikon. He has traveled around the world capturing stories in many countries, in addition to his explosive and fascinating sports and music photography. In our discussion, he dives deep into the importance of looking for impact, energy, and emotion when trying to create in-the-moment shots.

I also speak with Mike Corrado about remote photography and the massive significance of taking on personal projects, like his recent obsession with bird photography. You can see the fast-moving interview, aired on Adorama TV, here:


Photograph by Mike Corrado


Photograph by Mike Corrado



Photograph by Mike Corrado

What exactly is the reDefine Show? Well, we try to showcase creative artists who have gotten it right, creating small intimate mentoring sessions that you can enjoy from anywhere. You can catch up on all past episodes, several years’ worth!, right here.

In this other recent episode, I spoke with Brad Jefferson, who was recently profiled in Forbes, The New York Times and so many other top-tier media outlets. Brad is the CEO of Animoto, and we discussed how he co-founded the organization and why, exactly, the power of video can boost one’s creative business. Many photographers look at the idea of using video to promote their work as a complicated thing – but Brad explains exactly how simple it can be to create SEO-favorable video with just still photographs, a huge bonus for creatives looking to get their work more attention online:


And this was another very recent episode, a wonderful conversation with wedding and fine art photographer Parker J. Pfister about revitalizing the creativity in your work – and how he did so and continues to do so over time. He also speaks to how changing the light can help you see things differently and gives us insight as to how he views scenes differently. Parker creates some incredible imagery, and he walks us through exactly how he builds a shot – light by light by light.




Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


As always, huge thanks to Adorama.com! You check out all the other fantastic content by talented Adorama TV hosts Joe McNally, Mark Wallace, Richard Harrington, Bryan Peterson and Gavin Hoey by heading over to AdoramaTV.com.