All Things Go Better with Chocolate

Treehouse Chocolate Pouring

Zupan’s is where I found myself on Valentines Day, along with plenty of others, buying a loving gift for my wife. Walking past the tasting tables, this tall, blonde haired man with a huge smile lured me in by giving away small bits of chocolate. I hid the Moonstruck chocolate (my wife’s favorite) behind my back as I wanted to have a little taste.
Treehouse Chocolate Original

Pleasantly surprised, I stayed and chatted awhile with Aaron Koch, who is the Founder and Master Chocolatier of Treehouse Chocolates. Come to find he make his chocolate only two blocks away. Now if that’s not local, I don’t know what is. The name originated from the actual tree house where Aaron lived for a couple of years. He was such a nice guy with such great tasting chocolate that I offered to help him get his story out by doing some food photography.
Treehouse Chocolate drinking chocolate

We utilized the talent of a young chef named Cory Nickel for food styling. Our stylistic approach mixed an Italian bistro feel with the Pacific Northwest. This came through by choosing certain props and backgrounds as well as some special post processing effects that reflected the handmade, artisnal nature of the product. For those interested in photography techniques, it involved using quite a bit of “clarity” and “de-saturating” the files in a way that created a gritty feel, leaving enough of the main color in to complete the story.
Treehouse Chocolate 8oz Chill

Creating the brand story through commercial food photography is my favorite thing about being a creative photographer. It is true that all things do go better with chocolate.

So You Want to Photograph Kids

kids sitting on carpetWith over 30 years of experience as a photographer, Steve Cherry’s passion resurfaced once again in photographing children. This video shows one of his long time clients who is a national carpet manufacturer that specializes in carpets for schools and daycares.

Every time he finds it fun yet challenging to capture great expressions from every kid who are all under the age of six. If you have interest in being a kid photographer, take a look at this video and see if you’ve got what it takes. (hint: a large cardboard box)

It is true like Charles Baudelaire said, “Genius is the ability to recall childhood at will.” Steve succeeds in channeling his inner child to get some great smiling faces.

The Devil is in the Details

Dakine Bag detail in Coraz

When Mies Van der Rohe, a modernist architect, said, “the devil is in the details”. He was talking about how every piece of stitching, material, font, embellishment, etc. – through to the final product is what makes a brilliant idea.

Derrin Battles, a Polara Studio Partner and Product Photographer, showcased these new DAKINE products in a unique way, focusing on the signature details. It all started when Derrin changed up the lighting and began getting closer to highlight the intricately designed details of Dakine’s products as a gift during larger shoots.. DAKINE loved those tight product photographs so much they began giving him time just to focus in on the details. To change it up and cite Gustave Flaubert in an earlier version of our quote,  “Le bon Dieu est dans le detail.”

We hope you agree.

Another Egg-scuse for a Photoshoot

“To show your true colors you have to come out of the shell.”

That’s egg-actly what we did one wonderful afternoon. Richard Pie, an up and coming Food Stylist, prepared some fancy deviled eggs. I, of course, used my favorite lighting from our beautiful northern facing windows of Polara’s natural light studio.


This is a new chapter in my “Bounty of Oregon” series which showcases raw then prepared foods all sourced locally.


Even the simplest of these eggs such as the one garnished with a single spear of chive is whimsical and appetizing. Eggs garnished with bacon & avocado or salmon & caper make a delicious new dish that delights the eye as much as the taste buds. Thank you Richard for a fun experience and your vision.

Happy Easter!

Always Go Into a Shoot with an Open Mind

Oftentimes good photos come from the places you would least expect them to. That’s why it’s important to never judge a shoot beforehand. Everyone seems to want to shoot musicians, celebrities, and big campaigns with big budgets, but it’s important to bring the same amount of love and curiosity to every location photography shoot no matter how big or small it is.

A few months ago I shot some corporate photography for a company called Reitmeier that fabricates and installs HVAC systems. The budget wasn’t huge, we didn’t have much in the way of production, and we didn’t have a stylist. What we did have was excellent art direction from my friend Michelle Cheney at Kinesis, and a setting that allowed for some compelling images. When I went to the initial meeting I sensed right away that there would be opportunities to make successful photographs. The space was unique and it was filled with interesting gear and materials.

The first shot of the day was supposed to represent Reitmeier’s HVAC service and repair department so we went on the roof to shoot a technician servicing the HVAC unit. I don’t know why the photo gods keep putting me on roofs, in cranes and on scissor lifts, but for some reason they feel they have to cure me of my fear of heights. I just have to go with it.


At first I thought “Geez, I need to get rid of that nasty flare”. Then another voice in my head said “You idiot! That flare is what makes the photo good!”. Now I don’t listen to that guy often. He’s usually the guy that wants to drive too fast, drink too much, eat things that are bad, and generally say inappropriate things. But when I’m on set he’s often right.

Below is a photograph from the roof again, for the careers section of their website.


We were in the conference room for this photograph, illustrating teamwork. Great light and the fall colors really helped make this shot.


This photo was intended to highlight the HVAC design part of the business. Love those low angles and wide lenses.


Next came a group portrait of the department heads. These photos can be a challenge for many reasons. It’s hard to find a background that works for multiple people who are different heights and wearing striped or patterned clothing. We had planned for this. I had the company send out a memo to the participants to wear non-white solid colored clothing. I also brought a variety of apple boxes as a posing aid. Earlier in the day I noticed this area where they kept the various kinds of ducting that are used in HVAC installation. I thought they would make an interesting background that tells the company story at first glance.


It was a successful shoot, we told the company’s story and the client was happy with the outcome. With having so many diverse clients, I get to learn a lot about many subjects I never really knew much about. It’s one of my favorite parts about this job.