Posts in Category: portrait

Brand Update: photography, website and graphics

Julie was approaching her 10-year anniversary and wanted her visuals to reflect the modern, tech-savvy clientele she’s recruiting. It’s not often that I get to create/update a brand identity with design and visuals, so I jumped at the opportunity.

We systematically upgraded her logo, website, social media channels and print materials to reflect her bold, clean, professional but personalized style. We blocked out a day to shoot 5 different setups as well as city backplates to incorporate quotes for a cohesive, bold look.


  • BES Website by Jen Serena
    BES Website by Jen Serena
  • BES Website by Jen Serena
    BES Website by Jen Serena
  • BES Design by Jen Serena
    BES Design by Jen Serena





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  • Julie Ballard-Lebe by Jen Serena
    Julie Ballard-Lebe by Jen Serena
  • Julie Ballard-Lebe by Jen Serena
    Julie Ballard-Lebe by Jen Serena
  • Julie Ballard-Lebe by Jen Serena
    Julie Ballard-Lebe by Jen Serena



Composer: Gray Bashew

Collaboration with musician/composer Gray Bashew.

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BEHIND THE SCENES note: I built the prism out of 3 small mirrors so we could visualize the complexity/multiplicity of the composer’s process. (And it looks pretty rad too.)



Will Work for Food


We’ve enjoyed many celebratory beers and tasty lunches at Tony’s Darts Away.

But one of the unexpected bonuses of setting up shop right next to your favorite bar (besides the obvious) is getting to know their amazing staff.

Their award-winning chef, Caroline, needed a professional portrait / headshot that she could use for publicity and personal work, so of course I was excited when she asked me to take them.

We wanted to keep it stylized but simple – to reflect her openly friendly, no-nonsense personality, and the tasty cuisine featuring simple elements that combine for an amazing meal.


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The first setup (natural light with strobe fill) was shot in our back area and features the wood fence that separates our two properties. The second, brings in texture and depth. No hair and makeup, just fresh – like Caroline, and her food.

We had so much fun, I asked if I could follow her around the kitchen for an hour, so we could share some of her amazing food in photos as well. My first foray into food photography, my main job was to stay out of her way. (easier said than done in the tiny galley kitchen.) The results showcase some of her culinary skills in the unexpected environment of a local bar. And my mouth waters just looking at the food.

They do it right at Tony’s, as many of us can attest to… from craft California beers to vegan food options.. you’ll find lots to love there. Plus, they have the BEST CHEF OF BURBANK working hard for you.

(And don’t forget to give a shout of thanks to Caroline when that delicious meal is served! )


Read more about Caroline in this LA Times article.


Kirsten Nelson: not just a headshot

For many working actors, the headshot can become outdated before you know it. Kirsten knew she needed that one basic look, but I wanted to give her more.

We discussed ways that we could maximize time and give her a variety of looks that she could use beyond the standard headshot… to be used for editorial as well.

We opted for

  1. Casual & Classic: A natural light white and wood background were the perfect accompaniment to her denim look (tech notes: natural light with fill from strobes & bounce card)
  2. Dark and sensual: Giving her a darker edge, the single light and darker color schemes help accentuate a different side.
  3. Pop of Commercial Color: Kirsten ended up having 2 outfits that we couldn’t decide between… so we shot both. (tech notes: By keeping the lighting the same, we could change out backdrop and wardrobe and create two different looks.)
  4. BONUS! Kirsten is such an easy-going person, that also knows her body in relation to the camera, so we had time for one more. This time, I had her bring whatever crazy props/wardrobe/ideas she could think of, and I’d roll with it and make something on the fly… thus “No Regrets” was made.



  • Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
    Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
  • Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
    Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
  • Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
    Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
  • Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
    Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
  • Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
    Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
  • NO REGRETS Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena
    NO REGRETS Kirsten Nelson shot by Jen Serena

Cosplay Family Shoots

I don’t normally shoot family portraits, but when I do… it’s because they are awesome, crazy ideas.

For the past 3 years, I’ve been shooting the Thomas Family Portrait and since they keep adding more talent, the shoots get more and more “interesting.”



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And a little love from the family…

My wife and I were very fortunate that Jennifer Serena agreed to shoot our family portraits. We have always really liked her photography, and while what we had in mind was, well, different, we knew she would make it incredible. And in the end, incredible is an understatement. Even though she was faced with working with a toddler and eventually a baby, and that she was asked to recreate or be inspired by famous movies, nothing fazed her. Jen captured not only the spirit of the movies, but also us as a fun family.  The final products blow me away each time I look at them.  I can’t wait to see how she brings the next movie to life in our 2016 family portrait…

I SCREAM for ice cream: photography campaign


“I SCREAM” was created for a Quenelle, a boutique ice cream shop that has been expanding their presence with new locations – and thanks to the quality of their product – has limited marketing efforts.

This creative commercial photography campaign would give them a high-end polished look worthy of their product, infused with the delight that ice cream brings. We were ultimately able to create a campaign over many different mediums from one half-day shoot. A delicious success!


THE SHOOT: We invited Quenelle customers (and brought in a few select models to round out the diversity) to join us for a day of screams and smiles in front of the camera. It was an infectious day of fun – and we added the element of animated GIFs to the setups to 1) expand the marketing usage and 2) increase the “fun” of the piece. The great side effect was that it helped the non-models feel instantly more comfortable as they had an action to complete.

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We felt the GIFs captured the energy so well, that we used them to animate the main tiled images, which was an added benefit as so many of the shots were worthy of publishing, we needed 3 groupings to accomplish it.









ON THE TECH SIDE: In order to quickly accommodate 32 people of varying ages and group sizes, we shot on white sic – enabling me to manipulate the color schemes more quickly in post for each setup.

THANKS: Huge props to Producer Pam Elliott for seamlessly scheduling model and non-model alike, and keeping the atmosphere fun and friendly. Thanks also to our intern Trevor Dalton and to Ric Serena who assisted on set, ran B camera grabbing some video footage of the fun, and were both forced to eat a few servings of ice cream as well. Kudos to Bobby Lory who quickly drew the Quenelle logo so that all participants could leave their mark .

And it couldn’t have been possible without Quenelle, the models and John, who hand-scooped each artistic serving.

A delicious day!

Jazz Violinist: classical to modern Nora Germain

Truly honored to have Nora Germain – jazz violinist  – and already a sensation at the age of 23 ask me to shoot her portraits. She’s hip, yet grounded and wanted to get a range of images to showcase her versatility. Youth, talent and style all in one package.

It was a quick session, but we managed to capture 4 setups and 3 different looks. She’s such a natural beauty that we didn’t want to go extreme with any of the processing or setups, but wanted to share her youthful vibrance with bold color, her sleek style with bright white, her natural easy-going nature with an outdoor setting and the classical stage vibe to harken back to her intense training and serious passion for her art.



  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
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    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena
  • Nora Germain by Jen Serena
    Nora Germain by Jen Serena


(Side note: I was stoked to finally paint a wall in my studio for a session. So far, we’ve brought in backdrops that have sufficed, but this time I went for a bold purple wall that rocked. I fell in love with the stage setup so much that I ended up using it for a later shoot with Stephnie Weir for her 1-woman show poster image. More on that zany and awesome project later! )

Read more about Nora and give her a listen here. If you haven’t heard of her, no doubt you soon will.


Contact Jen (  818.568.4976) for ideas on how to creatively tell your photography story within your budget

See more of Jen’s music photography here.

CZAPPA: TV Repairman and Artist

In the ten years we’ve lived in Burbank, California, I must have passed ARC TV & Repair over one hundred times.  The handful of art pieces in the front window always caught my attention, but I assumed the artist was a friend of the shop owner.
After Jen wrapped up her HOMEGROWN photography project, showcasing small business owners in Burbank, she received a phone call from Bill Czappa, owner of ARC TV & Repair, asking if he could be included in her next round of photography.  She returned to our office after shooting with him and urged me to meet him and consider shooting another [ahr-tuh-zen] project installment on him.
I didn’t have lofty expectations for the end product when I made the commitment to shoot a short piece on him, mostly because I didn’t know how much time I would be able to commit.  However, during my first b-roll shoot with Bill at his garage studio, we got to talking unofficially (I didn’t have location audio with me that day because I hadn’t intended to shoot interviews), and Bill mentioned that he’d always thought Van Gogh had it easy compared to some artists, including himself.  With this passing comment it became very clear the direction and tone the documentary would take.  I was hooked.
In the month that followed, I spent a few hours here and there with Bill. At his garage studio. At his repair shop/gallery. For one of Bill’s recounts about a gallery experience, I wanted to come up with a clever way to visually tell the story.  His retelling was lengthy and required quite a bit of trimming to make it fit.  Because I only shot his interview with one camera, I didn’t have the luxury of a second camera to cut away to.  In addition, I felt like cutting to random b-roll during this story felt unmotivated.  So I took a cue from Bill and decided to use a “different material” than video to tell the story.  I decided to tackle stop-motion animation for the first time in years.  With our awesome intern, Odessa, we cut characters and shapes out of construction paper and created a rudimentary animated sequence to accompany Bill’s humorous art gallery story.
There is nothing like watching an animated sequence come to life.  The icing on the cake was hearing the sound design from my long-time collaborator, Durand Trench of Sasquatch Sound.  All of us were in his office laughing like children.  I have a feeling it won’t be our last animation.
The next step was a crucial one and somewhat fortuitous.  I had been editing the film with no music.  It’s been an exercise of mine recently as I try to avoid temp love (the notion that some producers/directors/editors fall in love with their temporary score so much that they’re unable to appreciate the novelty of an original composition), and I wanted to provide the composer an opportunity to come at it with a fresh perspective.  For this project, I asked Paul Bessenbacher (PB) of Emoto Music to consider scoring the film and gave him the first right of refusal.
Near the end of my picture edit, PB released a track from his then forth-coming solo piano album titled, Equilibrium.  On a whim, I played the track against a section of the film and was blow away.  Everything worked.  Timing.  Tone.  Moments.  PB had independently and coincidentally created the perfect piece for a film he’d never seen.  From there, PB provided some of his other existing tracks for me to place against my sequence to help him determine the tone I was going after.  I was willing to forsake my exercise at the request of the composer, especially considering it was his music.  Eventually, he composed an original score that differed significantly from the temp music he’d provided earlier (save that initial piano track, Bloom, which we both felt was perfect for the film).  I will admit I had a brief moment of temp love the first night, but it only required one more listen of the new score to appreciate the creative approach and cohesiveness it brought to the film.  The musical collaborative process is one of my favorites in filmmaking, and I’m fortunate to work such talented composers like PB.
We went back to Bill’s garage studio to record some additional sound effects for the soundscape of the film, and from there Durand tackled the mix.  This was his first mix for a theatrical setting, and he nailed it.  Sidney Lumet wrote he hated the mix process.  I’d have to disagree with him.
Passion projects can be a bit tricky.  There is a balance you must strike between making something the best you can make it and respecting the  time of your creative collaborators.    At the end of the day, you want have something you all can be proud of.  I think CZAPPA is a prime example of achieving that goal.

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HoMEGRoWN: KleanSpa

We’ve been pretty busy around here, but there are still more businesses to share from our HoMEGRoWN photo series! So, in honor of National Small Business Week, here’s the latest… this time on Jennifer Hardaway at KleanSpa.

First, I have to admit, I’ve been dying to make my own scent ever since I stepped into the shop. That DIY attitude, helped by a scent mixologist (I think I just invented a title) could only mean great things.

Jenn is an incredible salesperson. Not because she’s big on sales, but because she obviously LOVES her products. And they actually hold up to all of the excitement! From innovative scents in perfumes, colognes, soaps and lotions, KleanSpa puts you in the scentual driver’s seat.

I asked her for a word of advice on starting your own business, and here’s what she said:


Our conceptual image features a blending of Orange Blossom and Sandalwood.  Makeup artists had fun gluing on earthy materials onto our model, and the finished product is full of tiny details that beg to be found.

In her tiny workroom, it was a great challenge to keep everything as light, airy and colorful as she, and her business are. I think we absolutely got it! all the way down to incorporating her orange & green colors in the concept image.




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PHOTOGRAPHER:  Jen Serena, Serena Creative

MODELS:  Elle Jane Hounsell &  Chris Pavlik

HAIR & MAKEUP:  Alexandria Storm & Miss Cassanova

WARDROBE STYLING:  Drelyn, Beyond Image


Learn more about the HoMEGRoWN project here.

Rockin the Home Town with Christopher Giles

There’s hardly a time – especially when traveling – when I don’t have my camera.

So, on a recent trip to our hometown of Sanford, FL, I was able to take advantage of the cobble streets and open spaces that our hometown has to offer – by photographing a talented, driven and genuine musician: Christopher Giles.

His social media following alone shows he’s business savvy, his responses to his fans shows he cares, and his latest single shows he’s ready to rise the charts. To describe his music, I’ll grab a line from his website, “Chris’s romantic and passionate nature led him to Soul and R & B, still being his favorite genre to this day. His larger than life personality, desire to move and be moved by the power of music also led him to appreciate the rock genre as well. These influential aspects of music have manifested into soulful, passionate lyrics with a powerful delivery.”

And now, we’ve crafted some visuals to match.


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And man… I sure do love a rusted out car.

(Backstory on the car… we were headed to another location when I spotted the rusted out car near a garage. Christopher was game, so we pulled over. I didn’t want to draw attention, so we shot with available light, and man, we really happened to be there at just the right time.)