Category Archives: Life

What’s the best camera? It’s a simple answer, really…

As you can imagine because we are photographers, we are asked about “…what’s the best camera…” all the time. Of course, there are many answers to that question because you have to factor in the budget and level of technical functions required and, and…. that’s usually when you get brain freeze!

Chicago/ Marsha

Marsha in “Chicago – The Musical”

So, maybe this anecdote will help with the answer to this question. Recently, our daughter was in her school musical and of course lots of people took photos of the event itself and backstage. It was one of those times when the camera phone just wasn’t enough either for the parents or the students to capture the magic on the stage and the camaraderie that built up backstage.

But what do you do when your ‘good camera’ has no power or, worse still, no space left on your card just as you are ready to use it? It’s hugely frustrating and then photographs that you really want of a very special event end up being snapped on a phone. And that really won’t cut the mustard for life’s big occasions like weddings, communions or school plays & musicals – trust me on this one.

So, you know that way you have a ‘process’ around your mobile phone? You always know where the charger is, you back it up regularly, and if you’re like me, you charge it up in the same place every night. We create processes around the things that are important to us at home or at work.

It helps to take the time to create a process around your camera too. Download, file and date your images soon after they’ve been taken (and back them up if they are very important). It’s worth learning how to do this properly, and it really is easy to do. It helps to quickly check that the images have all been saved properly and, if they have, then you can safely clear or format*  the card in your camera so it’s empty for the next time. Take out the battery & place it in the charger somewhere that won’t be a nuisance (like, not in your kettle plug).

Then, the next time you grab your camera as you walk out the door,  it will be fully charged with a clean card and ready to go.

By the way the very best camera is the one you have with you – fully charged with a clean card and ready to go. And I know that you knew that.

*Format is the technical term for clearing your card and making it ready to accept files in a camera. You can find out all about your own camera on the manufacturer’s website and on numerous photography websites.


Filed under Cameras, Family Life, Humour, Life, Photography, School Musical

The only “bad” photographs are the ones we never take…or keep.

One of the projects most children do in school at some stage is “The Story of Me”. We had just such a project in our house recently and so the hunt for the photos to illustrate the story involved many boxes & albums of photos along with discs and hard-drives (there has been a huge change in photo technology during the 16 year span of the young life in question).


Today, a photograph of most newborns will be on social media within 57 minutes of birth. This image, taken within an hour of birth (on film), has taken 16+ years to hit the internet…

As we trawled through the past 16  years, the whole family had a really lovely trip down memory lane. We stumbled upon long forgotten photographs – maybe they didn’t pass our “high standards” at the time and so they never made it to our hall of fame.

But being photographers, we find it really hard to tear up or delete photographs permanently. And now, we are so glad we have all those images because, as it turns out, even “bad” photographs are good, when viewed back through the lens of 16 years.

Can it be that there really are no such things as “bad” photographs? Once the moment has passed, all we have are our photographs and our videos which take us back to those baby + toddler days…back to “nappy valley” or back to whatever part of life we chose to record with a photograph.

Looking back at these photographs I’m sharing today, I’m sure like many parents we thought the days of bottles, nappies, soothers and packing  a bag just to walk out the door would never end. The days of early rising and nights interrupted by feeds and teething – the universal experience that we all share – tapped all our energy.

Phoebe's Story 35

Phoebe getting her first shoes while her sisters supervise & approve the style choice. The shoes are now framed, as are her sister’s, and hanging on our kitchen wall.

Phoebe's Story 34


But then there were also the funny days and all the “firsts” of our three children – and luckily we do seem to have snapped most of them too. My favourite photos are the ones that just remind us of the everyday things, like Phoebe’s obsession with our Christmas tree decorations and how she licked the sparkles right off a big green one (we still have the much licked and much loved bauble).

I remember  looking in the back of the car at our line-up – eldest in the middle, babies at the sides. Now that the car, those child car-seats and the complaints “I’m squashed” are gone, it’s nice to have just one photo – not a high art piece – to take us back to those outings.

Eldest crammed in the middle, babies at the sides...

Eldest crammed in the middle, babies at the sides…

So if you do stop for a moment to snap an image of your kids or family, then I can highly recommend saving it somewhere, anywhere. Print it, date it and pop it in a box and keep it there until you get around to sticking it in The Album – you know  The Album that we all have, still in the box, ready to be filled with our precious photos? Or save the file somewhere other than in a mobile device or on the camera card – I won’t even begin to go into the choices that are out there to help you keep you digital images safe, but you can call me at the studio – 01 284 5544 – any time if you need advice.

On her first holiday...

On her first holiday…

The buggy that transported our girls and was in our lives for 6 years.

The buggy that transported our girls and was in our lives for 6 years.

Rae, Marsha & Phoebe, with our first au pair Milena,  in the kitchen.

Rae, Marsha & Phoebe, with our first au pair Milena, in the kitchen.

I’m so glad to have all of these images now, not just because we love photographs anyway, but because they give us so much pleasure and help us to remember days & events that we might have forgotten.



We have had so many laughs looking back and recounting stories to the girls, as it is only now that the children themselves really appreciate the value of the images. They were too young to remember most of the events depicted in the photographs.

Spotting tadpoles in Butterstream Gardens - one of the many places we garden-mad parents went to on our family outings.

Spotting tadpoles in Butterstream Gardens – one of the many places we garden-mad parents went to with the children on our family outings.

I’m asked a lot about taking photographs and taking better family snaps. Really, like most things in life the more you do something the better you get at it. So keep taking photos and keep them safe. Because in my humble opinion, there are no bad photographs – time has a way of turning every photograph into a treasure.

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Filed under Childhood, Family Life, Humour, Life, Photography

“Big-wigs”, “Lock-in” – what really went on when #FLOTUS came to town…

Barry's photo of Michelle Obama with Mr & Mrs Finnegan - the only image he released from the event to the media.

Barry’s photo of Michelle Obama with Mr & Mrs Finnegan – the only image he released from the event to the media.

A lot has been said and written about the visit of Michelle Obama and her daughters to Ireland this past week. We had a particular interest because of our proximity here to Finnegan’s pub where #FLOTUS ( the Secret Service acronym for First Lady Of The United States while traveling) and her girls had lunch with the Hewson family. Of course, the whole lunch could have taken place in the privacy of Bono’s home, but he wanted to share with his guests the experience of a good Irish pub lunch in his favourite local, and fair play to him for doing so.

In an effort to create the buzz of a typical lunchtime, within the strict security parameters that surround #FLOTUS, the Finnegan’s invited in many of their regular customers, us included, to be in the pub that morning. Not, as has been rather surprisingly suggested elsewhere, “big-wigs” but the people you see there on any given day. Familiar Dalkey names like Sheeran, McCabe, Sheehan, Snell and lots of other people, young and old, who make up a fair proportion of Finnegan’s regulars. Of course, the local Chief Superintendent was there along with a local TD – but in the main, the guests that day were all friends. The Secret Service agent in charge asked Donal with incredulity “Who are all these people”…when he saw the steady stream of guests being body scanned at the entrance that morning, along with the very many who queued but were turned away. “They’re friends” was Donal’s reply “I know every one of them”. The Secret Service agent could only ask “Who has that many friends?”. I’m guessing it was his first visit to Ireland, or else he would know the answer to that.

As for it being a “lock-in”, well that’s also not quite true. I did hear one lady demand to be allowed to leave, but that was because she was a bit vexed at being asked to move back and not push out towards the area where #FLOTUS was departing. The very polite Garda (plain clothes) told her she was free to leave anytime she wanted – she just had to use the same door she came in by. In fact anyone could leave at any time, if they wanted to, but nobody did.

Doing a 'selfie' with Michelle in Finnegan's June 18th 2013.

Doing a ‘selfie’ with Michelle in Finnegan’s June 18th 2013.

It was more a lock-out than a lock-in, and despite the feigned disinterest of the media in the proceedings, the rush for the door as the cavalcade swept up Castle Street can only be described as a stampede. As I tried to head out the door that #FLOTUS had exited minutes earlier, I was met with a crush of journalists wielding their branded mics and I had to retreat. Today FM, Newstalk and TV3 all got in ahead of RTE and the breathy interviewers pounced on Peter, Alan and Donal Finnegan for the DETAILS!!!!

A fair amount of tweeting and FaceBooking went on from inside the pub, but not as much as you would expect because, quite simply, it wasn’t the typical social media tribe who were in there. My pics weren’t great – you can see what I tweeted here, if you enjoy the feeling of watching paint dry – but I did get a pic from Dominic Hearns who had a great vantage point throughout the proceedings. It was of one of the Finnegan children doing a ‘selfie’ with Michelle Obama (above), which I thought was hilarious. I imagine that Malia and Sacha Obama would have liked to engage in this type of typical teen behavior too during their visit – but I expect they don’t have smart phones or Instagram accounts. Still, couldn’t you just see it “Me with #bookofkells in #hogwarts or some place #whatevs….” or “OMG the #bugs are killing me #momwhydidyoumakemedothis! #eatenalive”

This widely published photo  of Bono meeting Michelle Obama at Finnegan's was taken by Dominic Hearns and tweeted by another from inside the pub.

This widely published photo of Bono meeting Michelle Obama at Finnegan’s was taken by Dominic Hearns and tweeted (by another) from inside the pub.

The scramble for photos was hilarious too – scores of smart phones poised for that winning image – the one everyone wanted of Michelle and Bono. Dominic did also get the most widely published photo of the proceedings (right) and he kindly shared it by text within the pub but alas, his image was tweeted and improperly credited, which is a great pity.

The real memento image of the day was the one Bono wanted of the two families together and the #FLOTUS staff photographer duly obliged. Barry stood by while this picture was taken (he doesn’t do ‘invasion of privacy’) but one of the Secret Service guys leapt forward and said “Sir, we have to take you out…” GULP! Happily, Barry wasn’t ‘taken out’ and he got to photograph Michelle, Dan and Colleen together, which was the picture they really wanted.

Barry waiting to be "taken out" by the Secret Service.

Barry waiting to be “taken out” by the Secret Service.

Of course, the only people who came anywhere near the group while they dined were her personal staff including her photographer, Secret Service and the wait staff of Finnegan’s. And only the Finnegan family and Gordon Snell were introduced. If you hear anything else, well take it with a large pinch of salt. The rest of us were providing the buzz and atmosphere for which Irish pubs are famous and we did our job with gusto and with the benefit of a free bar*.

There are lots of stories and anecdotes from the day – the lead up, the back story, the “Jaysus, the Hollandaise has curdled…” story, the “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…” stories and most embarrassingly, the “Shit, where’s #FLOTUS’ handbag gone…” story. None of those details can be fully recounted here, you’ll have to come out to Dalkey for that.

(* mine was a soda water and lime throughout, honest.)

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Filed under Dalkey, Humour, Life, Photography

It’s just what I always wanted…

A very useful Crystal Bootie...

A very useful Crystal Bootie…

All of my family are together this Christmas for the first time in a long time. We’ve decided to add to the fun and reduce the gift buying frenzy for the adults by trying something called ‘bad santa”. It’s called “bad santa” because no-one gets a particular gift bought for them like Kris Kindle – so technically you could end up with a ‘bad gift’. But really that’s not quite accurate – all the adults are going to buy one gift – any gift – male/female; useful/useless – whatever you fancy, for about €25 minimum. And once the first gift is opened, any other person can claim that gift rather than pick from the pile –  so you could get the gift you’ve bought if you’re lucky (and if you draw the long straw and get to choose last).  If you’ve bought something wonderfully thoughtful  – all the better. I mean, haven’t we all at some time wished we could have gotten the present which was just opened by someone else? Or aren’t ‘bad’ gifts really quite good gifts – just going to the wrong person?

It got me thinking about the gifts I’ve given and received over the years. I am sure we’ve all had that feeling of seeing our lovely, thoughtfully selected gift opened and greeted with a less than enthusiastic reaction. And there have been times I’ve opened a gift and truly remarked “Oh, you shouldn’t have…” and really, they shouldn’t have thought I would, in a million years, use whatever the gift was.

I just have to share my worst ever gift with you and hopefully I can find a home for it after 17 years languishing in a cupboard. For the birth of my second daughter,  I got this Waterford Crystal paper weight/ornament in the shape of a baby’s bootie. Even now, after the demise of Waterford has given the item collector’s status and as my daughter nears her 18th next summer, I still can’t see its’ merit and neither can she. But I know that somewhere out there, someone would just love to have this Waterford Crystal paper-weight-baby’s-bootie and so I am on a quest to find someone who will love it dearly and give it a good home.

Gift giving is hugely important to all of us, let’s not pretend it doesn’t matter  – and in the next seven days we’ll all invest a lot of time, care, consideration and moolah in “the perfect gift”. And in some sense, every gift is the perfect gift – we just have be giving it to the right person!

So Happy Christmas – enjoy your family & friends and don’t fret too much about the gifts – it’s having great laughs and making precious memories that really matter for all ages.

{Oh, and if you want to claim my Crystal Bootie- just post a comment to this thread and state your case – the best one will get to give it a new home.}

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Filed under Christmas, Generations, Humour, Life, Shopping

Children & Animals – all in a day’s work.

There’s an old adage about never working with children or animals. But children and animals are at the very centre of our portrait work, so that adage can’t apply here.

To be honest there are occasions when things don’t go according to plan. Or to be more accurate – sessions do go pear-shaped.

One client recently captured a classic moment in the camera room and I’m showing it to you here along with my photograph of the same family with their pet – who also decided to lie down on the job!

All in a day’s work..

The real work of capturing small children at their best involves managing these situations and coming through them with a smiling & happy child.

Sometimes a child can be feeling unwell, sometimes they can be tired (so picking the right time of day for young children is really important) and sometimes we are being treated to a performance.

The skill is to know which scenario we are dealing with. Then we work with the child & their family and manage the child back into the picture or else to defer the session and try again another day. The latter is thankfully a very rare situation.

The years of experience we have helps us take a child from melt-down to portrait magic. The melt-downs are usually just storms in a teacup which can be diffused very easily with a bucketload of  patience.

The little girl on the floor in this picture was sitting up with her sisters within the following few minutes and we have beautiful, happy images for the family.

How did we do it? Well, that is one of the secrets of our success.

Children? Animals? All in a day’s work.

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Filed under Humour, Life, Photography

Why do you…..?

Why do we do the things we do? Photography portrait businesses like ours are relatively uncommon in Ireland – or anywhere – these days. You don’t see a studio on that many high streets anymore – certainly there isn’t one in every town or even every city.

Coming to a portrait studio is not something that you’ll do every week or even every year – and some people never commission a professional portrait at all.

Knowing this, we sometimes reach out to the public and encourage them to participate in one of our events – like our current Grandparents Celebration – to give people the opportunity to avail of a particular portrait experience with no financial commitment. In some ways, it’s like any kind of sampling – just like trying out the taste of a new food in a supermarket before you decide that you like it and you may – or may not – go on to buy it and become a loyal customer.

So, to answer the question of why we offer our time, talent, facilities and a gift portrait during our Grandparents Celebration in particular – it’s because we know that portraits between the generations are some of the most fun and most rewarding sessions we ever do. And the portrait becomes so important to the families and the grandchildren – it’s quite remarkable. But generations portraits are not easy to organise for the families so it requires a committed group of people to arrange the session.Working with large families & groups requires quite a big studio and a good eye for arranging a pleasing composition – which are two things we have in spades.

Of course, we hope that having produced a beautiful portrait that the family will go on to become or remain loyal clients – and many do. Some don’t. Such is the natural ebb and flow of business.

Personally, I never met either of my grandmothers. One predeceased my arrival on the planet and I have one distant snapshot of me as a 6 week old bundle on the knees of my paternal grandparents in Longford. By the time I turned two in New York, they were both gone. Now I envy my own daughters’ relationship with my mother, their only surviving grandparent. This year’s gift to her {and to me}  will be a portrait with her 7 granddaughters, something she doesn’t have.  Oh, the cobblers children will soon have shoes…

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Filed under Generations, Life, Photography

Goodbye Mr Jobs…

A Beautiful portrait of a Wonderful Human Being.

If you have 15 minutes to spare – spend it listening to and looking at this 2005 speech to a graduation class in Stanford University.

You’ll notice that as he talks, he un-selfconsciously touches his hand to his chin quite often – which makes this portrait of him even more compelling to me. It’s so simple and yet, quite clearly so true to the man.

Goodbye, Mr Jobs. I never knew you and yet, in some way, I knew you very well.

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Filed under Life, Photography