Creative Portraits: 2017 Year End Review

As I close out 2017 and look back on the portraits I’ve created, I can’t help but think out great of a year I’ve had and how far I’ve come since starting this crazy journey.

To be honest, I had no idea what would happen and where I would end up.

If you recall from my Composite Photography: 2016 Year-End Review, rather than setting goals for the year, I like to give my years themes, with my theme for 2015 being the “Year of Learning” and 2016 my “Year of Proof of Concept”.

CLICK HERE to see my Year-end Review for 2015.

CLICK HERE to see my Year-end Review for 2016.

After proving people did want and were willing to buy, my Creative Portraits in 2016, I set my theme for 2017 to be a “Year of Expansion”.

What does that mean, you ask?

Well, when I started the year my idea of “expansion” was to not only further develop my skills with my Creative Family Portraits but to introduce other related portrait products which would generate more income.

However, by the end of 2017 my idea of “expansion” had drastically changed.

I’ll “expand” on how it changed after I break down my year’s work.

My First Composite

As always, and in full transparency, I like to share my very first Creative Portrait, which was of my family back in December of 2014.

jason ulsrud first composite photography of family at christmas

While this portrait can’t at all be considered even “decent”, it’s one of the most important portraits I’ve created to date.

It’s because of the Composition.

Even though I had no idea what I was doing in Photoshop, and the photo of Niko flying the drone is blurry, my signature Composition was noticeable at the very beginning.

Pretty cool, huh?

January 2017 Portrait

With only one Creative Portrait on my books, January 2017 got off to a pretty slow start.

creative portrait of lloyd family by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

This family portrait called Kitchen Chaos was the very first Creative Portrait I did inside, which presented a lot of challenges when it came to stitching together the scene.

As you can imagine, another big challenge was working with the large bird, which is why I’ve always said, Composite Photographers have to be more well-rounded than your average photographer.

February 2017 Portraits

February brought me the completion of two different Creative Portraits starting with this portrait of the Spicer family called Pool Party.

composite photography family portrait called pool party by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

As I create more and more Creative Portraits, I’ve come to recognize specific points where my technique and portraits noticeably improve, and this portrait of the Spicers was one of those points.

baby announcement portrait by dallas portrait photographer

I’m a bit ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), so when things slow down I have to keep myself busy, which is why this Composite Portrait called “Big Sis” came to be.

This portrait was a Uniquely Different way to announce the coming of their new baby, which is also in one of the frames on the wall.

March 2017 Portraits

Still struggling to get commissioned work, my theme of “expansion” wasn’t going to well to start of March, which brought me the completion of two more Creative Portraits.

family portrait for debbie and allen baker by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

The second commissioned portrait to be done inside, theTidy Baker came with a ton of artwork as each chandelier had to be knocked out by hand.

I’m learning at this point, there is no easy way to stitch many images of an interior together.

New Promo Idea

With the “Tidy Baker”, March also brought to life a new idea I had to record the reactions people had to the BIG Reveal of their portrait.

While this idea hasn’t been easy to execute and it definitely needs quality improvements, I LOVE this idea.

My second portrait this month, called Oh, Crap! was created as a goof towards the local Dallas PPA print competition.

composite photography of backyard scene by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

Having entered in 2 or 3 Composites into the Dallas PPA print competition and getting NO LOVE, it quickly became obvious that the judges had an affinity for amateur photography of birds on sticks.

So, I thought, let’s put an end to this nonsense and kill the bird.

This portrait was originally supposed to be titled “Death of a Bird on a Stick”, which would have been more obvious, but I liked Oh, Crap better.

BTW, I won first place in my category with this damn bird picture.

April 2017 Portraits

Still slow, April brought me two more commissioned Creative Portraits starting with this one called Our New Home.

family portrait composite photography of ruff family by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

This family portrait actually started around September of 2016, but since it was designed around the construction of their new home, the final portrait wasn’t completed and delivered until now.

The Ruff family and friends totally loved their Creative Portrait by Photillustrator, which is quite evident in this Reveal Video.

Another commissioned family portrait I completed in April was for the Chen family and is called “Tennis Time”.

creative family portrait of tennis by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

This portrait turned out really good considering the first idea was for them to be in a ski resort playing chess, which I just couldn’t get behind, so I presented the family with the more fun idea of tennis, which they all love playing.

rick fairless of strokers dallas photographed by dallas photographer jason ulsrud

Because 2017 was going so slow, I thought there was no way I’m just going to sit around and “HOPE” it gets better, so I gave my good friend Rick Fairless of Stroker’s Dallas a call to see if he had any photography he’d like done.

strokers dallas

strokers dallas

Of course, he did, which was of this cool new bike build he was working on for a national campaign for Allstate Insurance.

Quick note: I did not get paid for these photos and accepted the work because I’d rather work than not.

May 2017 Portraits

Fortunately, May brought with it one of the most important Creative Portraits I’ve done to date, which is called Behind the Egyptian.

family portrait of the campisi family in dallas texas by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

The Campisi’s are a well known Texas family who owns a chain of pizza restaurants called Campisi’s, which resulted in some great visibility for my work.

I have to say, this family portrait was a game-changer for my business, which definitely has seen a boost since this BIG Reveal.

I was also commissioned to do a more traditional set of portraits by my client who had commissioned me to create their family portrait called Flying through South Dakota.

bundy moore

tim moore bike

tim moore bike

I was happy to do this series of portraits for my client since these were a special gift for her husband.

composite photography senior portrait of emily pratt by portrait photographer in dallas

Sometimes I like to use my talent for good and not get paid, which is why I did this portrait of my wife’s daughter Emily for her Senior Portrait called Room 4 Rent.

I know, it’s not traditional, but I like the story it tells.

June 2017 Portraits

May brought be ZERO finished commissioned work, but I did complete a year-long project that had been sitting on the back burner.

composite photography of the dallas zoo and cesare family by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

For this Creative Portrait, called A Day at the Zoo, I was giving full access to the Dallas Zoo to photograph anytime I wanted, and the result turned out Amazing!

Everyone enjoyed the portrait and now it hangs on the wall at the Dallas Zoo’s main office.

Also in June, the baby who was announced in “Big Sis” earlier was born and I was asked if I could do the newborn portraits.

newborn portrait of turner by dallas portrait photographer

dallas newborn photographer portrait of newborn

newborn photo by dallas portrait photographer

newborn portrait if turner

Of course, I said yes and thought this would be a perfect opportunity to “expand” my product line and increase my revenue with newborn photography.

So, I got on Amazon and went to JoAnn’s Fabrics, and spent a lot of money for equipment and props to become a newborn photographer.

I have never done a photo shoot this hard in my entire life.

Because I have nothing Different to add to photographing newborns, and it completely sucked doing it, I quickly committed to NEVER photographing another newborn, unless of course, it’s a Creative Portrait.

July 2017 Portraits

July brought me some recurring Commercial Photography work with ORIX and an Editorial Portrait for one of my first clients who commissioned me to create White Trash.

tara durham portrait by dallas portrait photographer

A simple Editorial Portrait, nothing difficult, but it got the job done.

orix foundation portrait of paul quinn

orix foundation

This year’s set of ORIX Foundation portraits aren’t near as good as last years portraits, and unfortunately, I think the client thought that too.

Most of the times you hit, but sometimes you don’t.

rick fairless of strokers dallas

storkers dallas allstate bike

Additionally, the final portraits of Rick Fairless’ Allstate bike were completed moments before shipping it off to the East coast for its revealing.

August 2017 Portraits

While I didn’t have any portrait completions for August, I spent this entire month in Discovery Sessions, Approval Sessions, Photo Sessions, and working on getting new clients.

Believe it or not, 80% of what I do has nothing to do with actually making Creative Portraits.

September 2017 Portrait

After spending the first half of the year biting my fingernails and thinking I would never work again, in September I revealed the Fine family’s portrait called Stealing the Show.

dan and stephanie fine creative family portrait by photillustrator

You may recognize Dan and Stephanie Fine from the Campisi’s BIG Reveal video, which is why they commissioned me to do their family portrait.

Every once in a while a client comes along who becomes instrumental in the growth of your business, and Dan and Stephanie are definitely those clients for me.

October 2017 Portraits

October was a great month with two commissioned family portraits being revealed, starting with the delivery of NBA and Olympic Champion, Tyson Chandler and his family.

creative family portrait of nba champion tyson chandler and his wife kimberly chandler

The Chandler’s family portrait, called Game On, took us to Los Angeles to spend a couple of days with the Chandlers.

The Chandler’s portrait was also the first portrait I had to have a crate and shipped, which was an experience I hope to have many more times through 2018.

crating of tyson chandlers family portrait by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

Also in October, I revealed the portrait for Kim and Dan Garrett who commissioned me to create this portrait called Ranch Life.

dan and kim garrett's creative family portrait out at their ranch

There’s always at least one thing I love about each portrait I create, and for this portrait, it’s Wilbur the donkey.

I LOVE including animals in my portraits.

November 2017 Portraits

November was a great month for me and with it brought 3 commissioned portrait reveals, starting with this portrait called “Backyard Bliss”.

composite photography of family portrait with cats

With this Creative Portrait, I learned not all ideas are good ideas and sometimes elements that are asked for end up on the cutting room floor.

Or in this case, in my Mac’s trash can.

Regardless, Tonya and Debbie loved their portrait as you can see in their Reveal video.

creative family portrait of glazer family by dallas portrait photographer jason ulrud

My second commissioned family portrait from the Glazer family, “Where it Counts” was a fun story that turned out fantastic.

I really LOVE this portrait and how it turned out.

composite photography portrait of mindy and glenn stearns by composite photographer jason ulsrud

The BIGGEST commissioned portrait I’ve ever had, Mindy and Glenn Stearns flew us out to Newport Beach, CA to capture their family portrait in the final days of their amazing California home.

Having only two days to get all the photography I would need for their portrait, I will say you’ve gotta know exactly what you’re doing or it won’t work out.

This is where EXPERIENCE pays off BIG!

December 2017 Portraits

Finally, December brought another two commissioned reveals just in time for the Holidays and for my clients to order Holiday cards.

composite photography portrait of lay by dallas composite photographer jason ulsrud

For this Creative Portrait, called “Layed Out”, the Lay family, from Frito Lay, wanted a family portrait that was Different.

Having gone through many scheduling issues and last-minute concept changes, this portrait shows the Lays in a completely Different way.

creative family portrait of danny lovell and amber lovell

The last commissioned portrait reveal for 2017 goes to Danny and Amber who loved Dan and Kim’s portrait, Ranch Life, so much they asked me to do something Different for them.

This is also the first stretched canvas print I had framed, which I can confidently say “I LOVE”, and will do for all my portraits from now on.

The very last portrait I’ll share with you in 2017 is my family’s Holiday card, which includes not only myself and Taren, but my boys, Luka and Niko, her daughter Emily, and my mom Dee.

photillustrator uniquely different holiday cards

A Year-End Summary

Looking back on 2017 now seems like a lifetime ago and I honestly don’t even feel like I was the one who created all those Awesome Creative Portraits.

Here are 3 things I’ve learned through 2017.

STOP screwing around doing anything other than Creative Portraits

I need to focus on and direct better Stories

I MUST travel more doing these style of family portraits

All-in-all, 2017 went better than I thought it would in June, collecting a few thousand more than in 2016, but more importantly than the money, we connected with some great clients and even celebrities.

2017 is officially a wrap, and now it’s time to get working on 2018. See you in another year with more AWESOME Creative Portraits and Stories to share.

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