My first session with the stunning DeeAna Barilics.

Working with the Virginia Beach model and how my sessions typically go.

DeeAna and I recently teamed up to do a beach portrait session at First Landing in Virginia Beach. She is a local model figuratively getting her feet wet in the scene which means it’s only fitting that she get her feet wet literally with me. A beach session gave us several different “looks” that she could add to her portfolio.

People ask me why I like starting some time before sunset for these sessions. The answer is simple for a variety of reasons.

DeeAna Barilics First Landing portrait session Mark Knopp
DeeAna Barilic’s recent portrait session at First Landing State Park by Mark Knopp

One reason is that, starting 2 hours or so before sunset, gives us time so that the client and I can go through the outfits, try on the candidates, take a couple test shots to see how it looks and how it flows. I can’t tell a thing about an outfit as it lays there on the ground. I need to see it on them and them moving around in it to get a better understanding of what it can do.

In the first half of a typical session they try on an outfit, we do a couple test shots, they do an outfit change, we take a couple more test shots, et cetera, while I keep mental notes on if, where and when we can use it later. After we do that then it becomes a matter of putting the right outfit into the best context and reshoot it. An outfit that works best in the tall grass with natural light might not be the best one to wear at sunset, for example.

Another benefit to an earlier start time is that it also allows us time to get to know each other and get into a groove with posing and such to show off their best features. We get past the initial jitters and build confidence which builds trust which results in better images. People always ask my why I show more of the images captured later in the sessions than ones generated at the beginning in these posts. The truth is that the images from the second half of our time together are almost always the superior ones because we have that groove going.

This is all prep work so that, when the Big Show – sunset – happens, we already know what outfits should be worn, they know how to pose, and we are firing on all 8 cylinders. Prep work is paramount to the success of a session. That magical light is only around for 20 minutes or so and then it’s gone for good with no way to bring it back unless we want to wait another 24 hours. Using our time together wisely is key to the success of a session.

Now, if it’s someone that I’ve worked with before, then that sense of trust and confidence is already there and we can get to our “A” game quicker which is why those sessions tend to be shorter. We still need to warm up, mind you, but the transition is always quicker as we already know what works best, they know the poses, et cetera.

It’s also why I prefer to do sunrise sessions with those that I’ve worked with before. With sunrise sessions, we don’t have a lot of time before the Big Show happens. We get there, we warm up a little bit and then it’s go time. The best light happens right at the beginning and then the light gets progressively worse. Having that previous experience allows us to get into it much quicker.

DeeAna, while still relatively new, has a strong presence in front of the camera while still maintaining an open mind for suggestions. She wants to learn as much as she can to be the best she can be. Working with several different photographers will give her that knowledge base as each of us works in different ways. Each new photographer that she works with will give her another piece of the puzzle she needs to complete her skill set.

Contact me at for all your portrait needs from headshots to senior portraits, model portfolios, engagement sessions, couples sessions, fitness sessions, or to enjoy a model experience session as a treat for yourself.


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