Creative Portraits: 2018 Year End Review

Now that 2018 is in the books it’s time to look back at all the crazy portraits I created and the roller coaster ride that made up 2018.

I had no idea the ups and downs this year was going to bring.

If you’re new to Photillustrator, I really like the idea of setting a theme for the upcoming year, as I did in 2018 when I dedicated my year to growing. That’s growing both my creative family portrait business as well as starting the Photillustrator Masters project.

CLICK HERE to see my Year-End Review for 2015

CLICK HERE to see my Year-End Review for 2016

CLICK HERE to see my Year-End Review for 2017

Starting 2018 I had finally decided to bite the bullet and start creating Compositing courses to show photographers how I create my crazy family portraits. I say “bite the bullet” because I knew it was going to take a ton of my time, which is time I wasn’t sure I wanted to give.

Anyway, here I am at the end of 2018 and what I thought would be a year of growth, really turned into a year of growing and surviving.

Let me explain as we go through my 2018 year of Composites.

My First Composite

As I do every year, I like to share my very first ever Composite so you can see where this crazy ride all started.

jason ulsrud first composite photography of family at christmas

The first couple of years doing these Composites I was really hard on myself and truly thought this image SUCKED.

Looking back now, however, I don’t think this Composite is half bad considering it was my first ever and I didn’t know anything about layers or working non-destructively. In fact, I barely knew what Composite Photography was.

What do you think of my first ever Composite? Good? Bad?

January 2018 Portraits

January started off with the delivery of what would become one of my more popular portraits throughout the year.

family portrait composite of family in kitchen in dallas tx

This family portrait called “NomasNOT” was featured on the cover of a local magazine here in Dallas and is frequently mentioned by new clients as one of their favorites.

While hand stitching the kitchen using several different photos is challenging, I really like family portraits done inside.

February 2018 Portraits

The start of a new year is always slower for the release of new portraits and as you can imagine, it’s also a time of getting ready for the year to come.

2018, however, presented a new obstacle for me as I was learning about a physical problem I was having in my hips.

March 2018 Portraits

Since I had dedicated my year to creating Compositing courses, I threw together a Composite of my little family to demonstrate how to cut out elements from a photo.

composite photography portrait for tutorial on extractions

While this portrait called “Knocked Out” doesn’t necessarily depict a story specific to us, it does portray our unique personalities and interests.

Fun Fact: I got kicked off the Dallas Museum grounds for doing the photography of the sculpture with a tripod, but fortunately I already had the images I needed for this Composite.

April 2018 Portraits

I have built my Creative Family Portrait business largely by doing Live and silent auctions, which is where this family portrait came from.

composite photography family portrait of dallas family jake and libby smith

This portrait is called “Family Magic” and features one of my favorite homes to date, mostly because of their awesome screened-in porch.

One of the coolest things about this portrait, in my humble opinion, is how the interior of the house looks so good with the exterior of the house.

May 2018 Portraits

May was my magical month of going through double hip replacement surgery, but not before I was able to complete and deliver this awesome family portrait.

rich and mandy childs family portrait by dallas portrait photographer jason ulsrud

This portrait is called “Childs Play” and was super challenging given the small space we had to work within their backyard, or should I say “backpool”, because their pool was their backyard.

That said, I love how amazing their pool looks in this portrait and how we were able to create a fun story for their family.

Now, on May 21st, I checked into Medical City Hospital in Dallas, TX to have both of my hips replaced at the same time. When I first met with the surgeon who would perform my hip surgery, he said there was no way he’d do both at the same time because of the higher risk of bad stuff happening.

After a bit of talking and letting him know I was self-employed and a cash patient, he submitted to my demands and agreed to replace both hips at the same time.

Boy, was I in for one of the hardest experiences of my life.

June 2018 Portraits

Before going into surgery I told my portrait clients I would be out for 2 to 3 weeks for rehab, then I’d be back to work on their portraits, which I thought was plenty of time.

Despite rehab being MUCH harder than I expected, I managed to deliver this portrait by the end of the month.

photo composite portrait of jose loza and tracy herron of dallas tx

This family portrait is called “Watermelon Martinis” and was super challenging to create, mostly because I could barely walk at the time we were doing the photos.

Oh, also in June, we traveled to Georgia for a 3-day family portrait project.

July 2018 Portraits

Continuing to work on my Photillustrator Masters project, I released this portrait to show photographers how I create my Cartoony Characters.

composite photography of belvoir winery in liberty mo

This Composited Portrait is called “The Belvoir Nightmare” and was super fun to create along with my boys Luka and Niko, and my mom and her best friend Sandy.

I’m telling you, we laughed so much doing the photos of mom and Sandy.

Also, in July, my wife Taren and I traveled up to Kansas City for a family visit and to Colorado, which is one of our favorite places to be, and while in Vail, Taren had me hiking all over with my new bionic hips.

August 2018 Portraits

Despite learning to walk again with new hips, traveling, working on portraits, and maintaining my Photillustrator business, I still managed to complete this Composite for a step-by-step course called Mowing Wars.

composite photography portrait by composite photographer jason ulsrud

My intention when starting the “Mowing Wars” project was to create a simply Composite to show photographers just getting into Composite Photography how to create a simply Composite.

Unfortunately, my ADD makes it super hard to stop at simple, so this Composite turned into an Intermediate Compositing Course for photographers.

September 2018 Portraits

Since 2017 when I realized I could create crazy family portraits for a living, I asked the universe to pile them up and give me a lot of work.

In my mind, I thought this meant success.

The only problem with my plan was I didn’t stipulate how I wanted all those portrait jobs to come to me, so the universe piled them up on my while and because I was going through my hip surgery and rehab.

I admittedly was overwhelmed, but I learned a super important lesson through it all.

Too much work comes at the sacrifice of service.

Not Good!

October 2018 Portraits

Working hard to finish up the Composited Portraits I had on my plate, I delivered this fun portrait.

family portrait created using composite photography

This Composite is called “Last Bite” and turned out to be one of the most challenging portraits I’ve ever done because of the hardwood floors.

Without going into details, stitching a hardwood floor together isn’t a lot of fun.

Remember me saying we traveled to Georgia for a family portrait project a few weeks after my hip surgery?

This family portrait called “Baxter Bash” was that project.

composite photo of baxter family on the lake in georgia

Before starting this project, I told my clients I had high hopes for their portrait and would be using it in PPA Competitions, so the pressure was on to create an amazing family portrait.

What do you think? Is competition Worthy?

November 2018 Portraits

Now is about the time I remember telling myself to be careful what I wished for because I was beyond busy.

November started off with the delivery of one of my favorite portraits to date called “Grand Slammed”.

family portrait of marc and jeanne katz done with composite photography

I’m not entirely sure why it’s one of my favorites, but I think it’s because it came together super easy and I revisited some of my old illustrating techniques, which I really missed.

I also delivered a fun family portrait of another kitchen interior called “7 Year Itch”.

composite photography portrait of family in kitchen

This Composited Portrait was super challenging because of some technical lighting issues, which included having shadows a little harsher than I usually like.

Finally, I different Bat Mitzvah portraits to one of my favorite clients whose daughter had a unique vision for her portraits.

composite photography of girl golfing

composite photography of girl cooking

bat mitzvah portrait by photillustrator

photo composite of girl with dogs in shower

composite photography of family with dogs

Challenges for this project included timing and getting the album delivered in time for their big event, and thanks to Anthony at BWC, it all worked out.

December 2018 Portraits

From my experience, Decembers are always a push to the end with wrapping up family portraits, ordering Holiday cards for clients, and getting my own Holiday cards created, ordered, and sent out.

This December was no exception with the delivery of an amazing portrait called “The Race” to an amazing family here in Dallas.

composite photography portrait of the brown family by photillustrator

This is another portrait I had high hopes for from the beginning because of the elements that were to be featured and the characters we had to work with.

I really love how this portrait turned out.

Another portrait delivery in December included a super fun family portrait that featured a cat flying through the air.

composited portrait of family in front yard with flying cat

This Composited Portrait is called “Launched” and turned out to be challenging because of the different perspectives of all the people.

Running out of time, I threw together our Holiday Cards this year and I honestly can say I was very unhappy with how they turned out.

creative holiday card by photillustrator

Next year I plan on planning ahead and doing something super cool and different for our Holiday Cards.

With only a short time left in 2018 to wrap up one final family portrait, I decided to commit to Karen Alsop’s Heart Project and create a special Holiday-themed portrait for a little boy named Aiden who is battling cancer.

photo composite of aiden for the heart project by photillustrator

I spent 2 solid days photographing and editing this amazing image even though I had another portrait deadline looming.

I think this was too important to pass up and I’m super happy I did it.

Lastly, and certainly LEASTLY, I wrapped up my final family portrait of the year.

stupid horse picture

I said “leastly” because after putting in ungodly amounts of work into this portrait and making several trips to photograph different elements the client added to their portrait, my client decided they didn’t want to pay for the second half of their portrait.

Now, they want their portrait, they just don’t want to pay for it.

I’m sure they have their reasons, but it’s super frustrating to put this much time and energy into something, only to go to waste in the end.

Hopefully, this isn’t a sign for what’s coming in 2019.

That’s a Wrap

Ok, so there you have it. 2018 is a wrap and I learned a whole lot to care me into this next year.

My theme for 2019 is “BUILDING” so this year is dedicated to building my Photillustrator business and well as building the Photillustrator Masters project, which I have a lot of great announcements coming up soon.

Now, what’s your theme for 2019?

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