CJ Wilkes

About CJ Wilkes Photography

Capturing Your Dance In The Rain is such a thrill and joy to me. Being able to look back on those special times through beautiful artistic imagery makes it a worthwhile challenge.
Learning to Dance in the Rain has been very easy for me. I am drawn to Water & Life! The exciting part for me is to teach you to enjoy your moment in the dance as I capture it from behind my camera.
Looking forward to Capturing Your Dance In The Rain
CJ Wilkes

Archive: ‘Models – Modeling’

Right in Camera?

Monday, April 13th, 2015

I hear all the time – well if you get it right in camera. Yes, getting it right is important – But what is right?! Stop and think about it.

I enjoy editing and sometimes I know that if I underexpose for some situations I will be able to not worry about blown skin or highlights. If I boost my exposure some then I can fill in the shadows more if I like.

Personally – The natural light feel is what works for me, but then I have heard some people say that Natural Light is for those who do not know how to use OCF (Off Camera Flash) or lights.  I say – WRONG.  I have worked with both and can use both equally well. I still prefer the natural light look for most situations… especially outdoors, unless I am using street lights or a vehicle…. or plausible source of light for the setting.

Then there is the issue of color. You are limited with a camera when you hit the shutter key – that is what you get. Once you take your images into LR or PS you can tweak colors individually so as to help compose a masterpiece. I actually prefer PS because I love how I can play with those colors in layers to marry together the perfect combination.


For me – this is right in camera for what I do. I wanted this exact Before so I could create this After. Could not be happier.  When it comes down to it you truly need to evaluate what you are doing and what you want in the end. There is more than one right answer. Like many things, there is often more than one way to go about achieving the desired look. Another thing to consider is that once you do understand the rules… they are yours to break as you see fit.

Don’t get discouraged – learn to make lemonade if you have lemons. In this case – I had just what I wanted and needed :)








How I See Color

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

One of the things a person needs to be able to do is see color before they can effectively edit an image. Sure, there are tools in the editing programs and even while shooting that can assist, helping to make the job easier.

Here is an example of what I see when someone is just starting out in photography and the editing aspect of it. They want to warm their image and just have a hard time pinpointing what the problem is. They will post an image that looks something like this:



Editing does not involving just tweaking one color or even 2. Editing involves understanding which colors need tweaking and how to do it effectively without ruining the whole image.



In fact – if you look at the above image here – the yellowish orange seems to get stronger in the shadows and edges.



In the SOOC (Strait Out Of Camera) image there was some pooling of Blues and Magentas (which you will see in a moment).  The issues from the SOOC were greatly resolved by adding the warmth or yellow. But I do not want a beach that looks like a toilet or an orange model.



The islands are green here because of the trees – but even so – the atmosphere will give it an almost bluish look. This is too green.



Granted – the image is pretty like this. It is cool (blue tones) but one could get away with this as a final product. I like elevating my images to another level. I dislike blues in my whites. I think it gives the image an unfinished look. I find that the color always seems to grasp onto the shadowed areas. For myself – I see color really easily. I know without having to test it out that I would be Desaturating some Blues, Cyans, and Majentas. Maybe not completely -but some. Either I desaturate Or – I would need to bring in colors that will cancel out the hues that are bothering me.


Here you can really see the cool tones on the islands. For what I am wanting – it is too much blue. If I wanted to depict a winter scene I could easily leave it the way it is and not stress about it. She is in a positions where she is either enjoying the breeze or the warmth of the sun above – or both. When one thinks of warmth it is not a blast as in the first images. For the final product I had many layers combined and masks to isolate where adjustments were made.


(Note – My clients all know that I use PS and that I take artistic liberties. Jenny is gorgeous – as you can see. In the final edit she appears thinner. The reason is because the fabric I had wrapped her in heavily was bunched up heavily making her appear almost pregnant. I could have easily left it – but instead, I used the liquify tool to adjust that.  Some my like that some may not – It does not matter. What matters is she is happy as well as myself.)



That was meant to read – I like to add the sunlight on it’s own layer.



I did not let the shadows go black but at the same time – I ensured they were not Blue or Yellow or Red or Green.



Hahaha – I was doing horribly in typing quickly. That was to read Skin. When I played with the tones in LR I was able to adjust in such a way that the whites were neutralized beautifully. By paying attention to those areas – there was less for me to do in PS.



In fact – the layer I used for the sunlight an playing with the warmth and luminosity I was able to neutralize just enough, leaving an ever slight blue tone to the islands. Much like what you see in real life here.


In my editing flow I always produce a conversion for my clients so they can decide which they prefer best.



The colors were perfect in the final edit though so it would be my personal choice to showcase it.


Some things to note. In LR you have control with the colors. You can play with color tone. You can play with individual colors and their tones, hues, luminosity.  You also have color lens correction in LR & you have brushes where you can edit different parts of the image. The control you have is in the brush size and opacity or flow.  You can do a whole lot.

In my work flow I play some in LR but ultimately I bring it into PS because I love the layers, the masks, the ability to fine tune things so much more with blend modes, and modes – well there is nothing out there that compares. I love the overall control that PS gives me. I can tweak the whole image or just small areas.

Well there you go. I just let you in my mind for a moment. Hope you enjoy and that this helps you to seek out color more effectively.  Stay tuned to some great tutorials in the near future.

(I apologize for the misspelling on the images)

Concept Generation

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

There are many parts to a concept From A to Z. I am going to cover the first few steps, which I find to be the most vital, and that is making the concept a reality. Of coarse the first step is to have an idea. Second step for me

is to go and shoot some images that can possible work. Of coarse, getting it in the first shot would be awesome, unless I change my mind – so I shoot several ideas and then some closer details. Once I get home, I cull

through the images until I have found the ones that would work nicely. In this case we are starting with the following 3 images of my daughter just taken yesterday:


These images won the lottery for the project. They will become the third image in the “Cross My Heart” series. So now that I have the images I need to put them together so that they seamlessly fit together. I started with

Images A & C c being the image on bottom and A on top. Before I did that though, I had to extend the walls from image A (This is going to be a vertical layout.)
To extend A I made duplicates of A. 4 to be exact. Sure I could have free transformed, but I did not want much distortion. Instead, I duplicated and masked back. Once I did that, I merged the copies and placed c on top

with a mask.


Once C was on top of a I lowered the opacity so I could see the image below and still see C. Next used Free Trasform (locking it so the dimensions would not warp) and altered the size of the image so it lined up almost

perfectly. I then put the opacity back to 100% on layer c. By inverting the mask I had less to paint, so that is the option I chose. I painted the legs in. For any areas that did not mesh perfectly, I cut and pasted new layers of

the back wall and masked where I needed so it blended well enough.
Here it is with the legs extended:


I knew this image would be a darker image so I did not stress about it being too perfect. The legs would not be the highlight of the image.


Nathanya’s face is lovely here, but the series as a whole is a bit quirky. The first image of my son crossing his heart – his lips were puckered. The second image with my daughter Miriam, her lips were semi puckered and her

eyes were opened wide. When deciding on this particular image, I wanted it to match in flow – not only by color. By tying actions I felt that I could achieve this particular goal. So with this image I had taken some images

where her eyes were open very wide.


I had made a copy of all the below work. Next I placed image B on top with a mask again. (When shooting for a concept I try to shoot several images in a row that are similar. Little details really matter. Same with the close

ups. I try to have those done in the same spot, angle, lighting.) The image with her eyes open were a close up, this helped me not only to get the look I wanted, but the clarity as well. I did the same as I had done with the

other 2 layers. I added a mask to B. Lowered the opacity so I could view the image below. Free transformed the image, locked it so that it does not warp when transforming. I then proceeded to use the eyes as my guide. I

matched the inside of the eye near the nose. Once I matched those fairly well I then set the transform and put the layer back up to 100%. This time, I was using more of the image so I did not invert my mask. (Again, less

painting for me.) Using the black I masked until I was satisfied that it blended well enough.


Now many of you may think that the changes are too subtle, well they are quite subtle, but attention to detail will make and or break an image.


Can you see that mark on my baby girl’s hand? Well that would be one of those stick on tattoo’s. Kids love them. My children are no different. Only problem is, they are a pain to get rid of and fade into an ugly mess. I could

have taken a picture of her other hand and covered it – but instead, I thought – This is another chance for me to learn a new skill! So I decided to make a new rub on tattoo for her hand. Hopefully one that would match the

scenery nicely.


Talk about control freak! Hahahaha I guess I am when it comes to my art. I simply used my brushes to create this little piece:



Sticking it on her hand did not go so great. I had to duplicate the image, add noise and lens blur. Then I added it. I played with a few mode options to see what I liked. I had a normal layer and I believe a linear burn layer.

Lowered the burn layer to the opacity where it blended best. The end results were perfect!


Once I have my piece ready then I can go crazy with color, lighting and overall feel. This is exactly what I wanted to start with. Turned out great! Because of the patience of my girl, I had the shots I needed and was able to

add on to the collection. Introducing the newest image “Lost-N-Found”



If you have questions feel free to ask. Would love your feedback. Thank you!

~ Cindy

Practice Starts with Me March of 2013

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

I am the first to admit that I cannot stand being in front of a camera. I am not comfortable with the skin I am in and am not good at posing myself. I cannot tell you if I look good or not cause I don’t see it. But when I am behind the camera I see what I like or don’t like. Not sure how many can relate to this, but my self image is not the best.

As  a photographer I believe in always challenging myself with new or different things, from editing to ways of shooting. Afterall, the more you shoot, understand, and practice – the better you can get. Does that mean all my images are great? NOPE Not at all. I take my fair share of FLOPS. The thing is I cull through the images before bringing them to you. Heeeheeeheeee. So this particular blog is not going to be my most comfortable blog. I am going to share my personal challenges from Feb. 2013 and a few images from it too.

Always remember that practice is just that – practice. Here I had challenged myself to shoot some self portraits. If I am not comfortable and feel what others feel, I may become more empathetic to how those in front of my camera may feel. Here – you all can see my own discomfort too. :/ Can  you sense my nervousness?


So – I admit one thing here. I did not push the shutter and I had a tad of guidance from my dear friend Stacey. I will go into that later. Some things I did to feel better about the session was make sure I did my hair. I have natural curl, but I still curled it. I made sure to wear a little makeup, and I bought a new shirt. I felt beautiful. Because I felt beautiful – I was much more relaxed than I would have been otherwise.


I loved the look and texture of the gray rug on the floor. Not too distracting but not too plain – hopefully adding without taking away from the image. I think it did well. I also put myself down lower on the ground so you could not all look at my double chin. That meant a lot to me.

As I mentioned, Stacey assisted me some with this, but it help me to think a bit outside the box. When I got home from Wisconsin I decided to try another self portrait session in my own yard, outside, on my own. I did get my daughter to help keep the camera from being blown over – but then I also ran back and forth attempting to get a good shot. (If that was possible.)

The day was a bit rainy so I went with wet hair. (Something, I realize, would have looked better had I done my hair or dried it some.) The feel was intended to be the raw me though, so I feel that it turned out as it should. I feel like a princess living out in the woods. It is hard to feel like a princess in the brush as I hope you can see in the next few shots.


It is hard not to be in tears while posting this. I find that this shot is a small look into my soul so bear with me. I am not comfortable, I am nervous to look at the camera, I am ok with the viewer seeing simply a profile of me. I am a mom of five and my body shows that. Unfortunately, my metabolism does not make it easy to keep my once under appreciated body. It is hard not to look past my own shell.


My first attempt to look at the camera when the shutter released was not easy at all. I had to coax myself into it. Not fully accepting of the moment, the task, or myself – I just did it.


I then told myself to be pleased with the fact that I tried and that is what counts. Honestly, I am very proud of myself and often draw back on this experience when shooting others. I try to stop and remember how I felt so I could better help others feel more comfortable in their own skin.

Of coarse, I had to turn to my children to brush off the experience,  because thinking too hard about it is never good. I had time enough to edit and dwell on it – then becoming more pleased with the overall outcome.


My girl is my constant companion! She loves to assist me on shoots – even those of just myself. She was also my comforter this day saying “Mom – You are beautiful!” I love that they are there to help me reflect through their eyes. This is my angel. Grateful I can practice on all of my babies.



My son was hanging out watching what was happening. I thought – I want to practice in Full sun. Where would I go in a huge meadow with only one tree. He was in reg. school or play clothes – nothing thought out at all. So we worked it and he of coarse nailed it for me :)

This is not an uncommon day at all for me. I will keep some and get rid of other images – learning from it all. I then will go to plants and work on macro images. They are so fun and help me to become better at focusing. Understanding Depth of Field (DOF).



I have discovered that although tilted images may be popular and fun – I don’t like how I do them LOL I tend to want to tweak it upright after all is said and done.


Here are some shots of our huckleberry bushes. I love the contrast of reds and greens.  shooting in full sun gave me a bunch of options to work on – from dealing with shadows to over exposure. I also work on colors and b&w options.



Both of these shots were played with in color and b&w. In the end I liked both options Hahaha.



Many think that being a photographer is quite glamorous. I am here to testify that it is work, practice, work, with some success inserted – but never without work and practice.

Thanks for letting me pull some pieces out of my vault. Thanks for letting me share a bit of me.

Sometimes We Create the Mood Feb. 2013

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

I find it interesting with mood shoots that not everyone comprehends the artistry behind it. I often get comments like – Why are they angry? Why are they not smiling? It makes me laugh a bit actually. Until more recently in time – smiling and laughing for the camera was just not done. Look at all the past images from centuries before. Smiles are not often portrayed. Laughter, hardly ever. Fast forward to today and people wonder what were they thinking? However, some of the images are so profound because of the non smiling faces. In my opinion it is because – without the smile you are drawn to the EYES, the overall look. It does come down to preference of coarse – but this is one of my favorite types of shoots (especially in studio).

This particular shoot was done in my dear friend’s studio, Stacey Hamilton of Times 3 Photography.  This was her family. We discussed the look we were going for – then we raided all the closets to find what we would use for clothing. I find that you can make a shoot from most whatever can be found in ones own closet. Here we wanted white – plain – simple, using texture to give variety. One child I took a shirt and turned it upside down, allowing the fringe from the bottom to create that texture. Another child, we had her squeeze through the neck of the eyelet dress then pinned the sleeves behind her. The other child we had squeeze through the neck of a Tshirt also pinning it behind her. We intended for this session to be all Black and White. All of them had exposed shoulders to accentuate the soft flow from the top of the head, down the neck, then down the soft curve of the shoulder. All this was pre thought. Because of this, when we looked for clothing for Mom and Dad, we wanted to keep the same feel. Mom, we had her in a simple tank top while dad had a button down shirt opened in the front. For the family image though, we simply had him shirtless. His white shirt was a bit too disruptive to the feel. However, when I did their couple shots it went very well with the whole set.

Love of a Mother

This was a highlight from my visit in Wisconsin. The opportunity to do this session of Stacey’s family – the best! Being a fellow photographer – I have to admit I was nervous. I always get nervous around other photographers.  Each of us do things differently from the other. It was so much fun though and her children were so stinking adorable. Super fabulous to work with!

Our first goal was to get the images of mom with her girls.



Every photographer needs a spouse like Stacey’s. He was up for anything. One moment he has his shirt on, the next he is asked to take it off and he did with no complaints. He understood that we had a vision we were trying to put into reality and just went with our (my) crazy schemes. Looking at these – I think his willingness to not be difficult is what made this shoot all the better. Thank you Peter!


I have found that an ever slight change or movement can change the entire feel of an image. Both great images and very similar but so different.


This little mini me of her mom – well, she just was a natural! She understood small movements. Had the perfect eyes – followed direction. You could tell her mom had worked with her before!



This little girl is so full of life! She is smart! Beautiful! And I could spend an entire day just taking her picture. Miss her tons :) She made me smile all the time.




Little Miss P is the baby of the family, born the same time as my baby. Who does not love the little one of the family? Adorable, Funny, and boy can she make one laugh! She was good at this modeling thing too!

If I could go back and do any session again I would love to do this one! It was so creative, fun, experimental, and just the best people to work with! Love these girls and family! Can’t wait to get back to Wisconsin again!



Twilight Costume on the Beach

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

When I was a kid I had the most amazing costumes EVER because of a mom who was a wickedly awesome seamstress. I remember everything from cougar cubs to genies. We felt so cool in our costumes. Nowadays it is so easy to purchase costumes and life seems to busy to spend time sewing costumes… so I have to admit that Amazon.com and I are best friends at Halloween time. Horrible I know. But I do try to make it up by capturing my children in their coolness by taking their pictures. So before branding me as a neglectful mom (which, ok… it is a bit lazy of me) take a look at these and let me know if you still feel the same.

Miriam chose to be a Zombie Angel for Halloween this year. It was one of the coolest outfits I have ever seen. At the same time I was challenging myself to shoot in darker lighting conditions to create an almost twilightish appearance.  I have to say that I am quite pleased with the outcome of the shoot.

I love the quirky zombie feel to this image!

When I am editing I try out different ways and then settle on one that suites a shoot best. Personally I love the ones above best and will probably re edit all the others… but for now the feel of the following is great too. I love them both really. I have had them printed and they each lend well to the image. Here are a few more from that evening.

I think it would be hard for anyone to claim that the Angel part does not fit.  I hope to get my little Ballerina Devil’s shoot completed soon. We are waiting on nice weather for it. My boys have masks so their shoots will be done in other costumes that don’t hide their face.

There is so much I love from these images, I don’t know where to begin. The lighting, the colors, the bare feet. This was all done on a very stormy afternoon. We laughed all the way home that we had the chance between major wind blowing to get this done. If only I had the courage to post the one image of me and my muddied entire front. All of it was easily taken care of with a nice Hot Tub and a cup of Hot tea.  This was a moment that we will always remember!  Love you Miriam… thanks for humoring your mama!

This photo session was taken at the Roosevelt Beach in Washingon.

Water Tower Bridal Shoot (Modeling)

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Brides are very much what I truly enjoy shooting. I love that there are so many different personalities, dresses, likes, and overall combinations. All of it makes my mind work hard to create the PERFECT shoot for each individual. I love dramatic when it comes to brides and the look we are trying to achieve. This session worked out perfectly for it!  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Tell me what you think of the Water Tower Bridal shoot!

Jessica Lemmons ~ Trash the Dress

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

One of my all time favorite types of photography is the Trash the Dress shoots!  For me as the photographer it lets me be ultra creative.  The thing that makes it even more fun is other fellow photographers on board with the fun.  I had the pleasure of having my fellow photographer and friend, Jessica Lemmons of  Jessica Lemmons Photography,  have the desire to do a trash the dress session since she is going through a divorce.  We have come to find that Trash the Dress sessions are very therapeutic for those going through such a stressful time, such as divorce, in their lives.  What topped it all off was that I was not shooting this alone!  My dear friend Stacey Hamilton of  Time’s 3 Photography in Racine, Wisconsin was here with me too.  Keep checking her blog out for the images she captured from our amazing day!!!

I can not tell you of the FUN we had!  We had crowds stopping and asking questions right there in downtown Seattle as we worked our camera’s.  We had one man stop and say he wanted to be in the movies and that we should take shots of him because he had blue and green eyes!  :)  We had others just stop in the middle of the road to have a chance to speak with Jessica – our amazingly gorgeous model!  Then we went into an interesting alley way to get a new feel.  After those adventures we took it to the beach – docks – and yes! You all know me – we were in the WATER!!!!  Here it is for you all to enjoy:

That is a Wrap!  Well, at least as far as you know ;).  We are definitely going to have to have future updates or shoots.  If you are interested in a fun Trash the dress session just email any of us ~ And do not forget to visit both Jessica and Stacey’s blogs.




RaNelle Wallace

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

This summer I went to Utah to spend time with family and friends.  When I was younger I had heard about a woman whose plane crashed against a mountain.  For some reason I felt strongly that I would one day meet her.  Fast forward to last year.  I was speaking to my sister and she was telling me of one of her very best friends and her experience having crashed into the mountain with her plane.  My heart swelled and I KNEW that I would have the opportunity to meet the woman I had known about for years.  I also thought I would be so honored if she would allow me to photograph her.  When there this time I knew my sisters would be having me take pictures of their children and families – so I asked Jenny if she would ask RaNelle if I could take her pictures for her.  To my pleasure she said YES!  We met and my first impression of this amazing woman was that she has such a big and loving spirit that it disguises all her scars.  She is BEAUTIFUL!  My children all said they did not see any scars – they all felt she was so beautiful inside and out!  Here is RaNelle’s Story.  She has also written books and spoken to the public about her story: http://www.near-death.com/wallace.html

Here is a few of my favorite images from that day!  Would love to do it again!!!!

RaNelle took my Nathanya out to pick wild flowers while I took some pictures of Jenny.  I turned around and just melted at the beautiful scene before me.


When we went to the Wasatch Forest – Provo River Falls RaNelle told us of her favorite location.  While we were setting up and getting the kids situated before the shoot she went to a spot to rest.  The peaceful moment was just too beautiful not to capture!  This is her element – which made it so much easier for me because as you all know – WATER is my element!

When I do a session I love to keep it real.  I love watching interaction and pondering.  This was all moments when I was testing my light /settings.  RaNelle and Jenny would talk with each other and the beauty of the moments we had together there can be seen here.  Surrounding yourself in settings that set such sweet moments and moods is what I love about these women!

There are times I just want to be right in the middle of the water coming down – but moments like this make me so happy that I was the one behind the camera.  RaNelle – you are stunning and so full of LIFE!  I love you girl!

This particular area had the most awesome rock formations.  The falls were all around us.  In front running through the side and then going to more falls behind me.  Such a dreamy area.

Jenny and RaNelle Kindred spirits!

There are some friends that I feel God places in our lives that are meant to be sisters for life!   I am grateful Jenny is my sister and believe that RaNelle is one of those that is a sister forever!

These are just a few – we had even more fun later – but here you get to see a person who is, for lack of a better word – AMAZING, an INSPIRATION, a FRIEND forever.

Check out her book “The Burning Within”  She is coming out with another book.  Some of her images will be in there.  I am blessed and honored!  Once again – Thank you Ranelle for the opportunity!

Model and SPA

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

At the SPA Studio they would have a Wednesday Feature model night.  This is where a model would come.  We would choose the location in our studio we wanted to work in, set up our set and our lights (as a photographer) – then we would take turns working with the model.  She or he would cycle through each of the 2-5 different photographers.  The great thing about this program is that the model would get some fun images for their portfolio, practice working with different photographers, and experience working the camera – the photographer would get to work on their lighting, posing, techniques, communication.   Here are some images from a model that the camera absolutely loved.  For me she was a model that made my job as a photographer a breeze!  (Again – thank you to When for this opportunity to work in your studio and for finding amazing models to work with as well.)

Before I show her images I have a couple images of fellow photographers.  It is great because we work as a team while setting up in that we will stand in and let the photographers shoot us to test their lighting and tweak it as necessary.  These guys John Clark and Ted Leung both were kind enough to stand in and let me test my set up before shooting my model.  Thank you guys!!!

John Clark has a great understanding of studio lighting.  He is quiet and sweet as can be.  Photography is not his day job – he calls it his hobby, but he sure knows how to rock that camera!

Ted Leung is a husband, father, hard worker – and adds photography to his other jobs.  He is creative in his shooting.  It was fun shooting along side him because he is innovative and does not settle for less!

Ok back to our model for that night:

If you are a photographer and you have the chance to work with Kristen Rey do so.  She will make your job that much more enjoyable and very easy to accomplish.  Thanks again to SPA – When, John, Ted, and Kristen.


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