Creative Portraits: 2019 Year End Review

They say, “time flies when you’re having fun”, but this year definitely didn’t fly and it definitely wasn’t much fun.

This year, needless to say, was a real eye opener for me.

If you recall, in my 2018 Year End Review, I dedicated 2019 to “Building” both my Creative Family Portrait business as well as the Creative Portrait on Patreon platform for photographers, and while building did happen, it wasn’t quite what I expected.

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

CLICK HERE to see my Year-End Review for 2018

After discovering my love for Composite Photography back in 2014 then strategically stumbling into a Creative Family Portrait business, which I’ve managed to grow over the past 5 years, I have figured out the two basic keys to success.

  1. You gotta be Different and Creative.
  2. You gotta have a good grasp of Business.

2019 helped me realize I’m not as good at the business thing as I thought I was, which I hope to reveal as we go through this year-end review.

Let’s jump into this and I’ll let you know my 2020 Theme at the end.

My First Composite

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

jason ulsrud first composite photography of family at christmas

The one thing that’s always attracted me to Compositing is having the ability to create things and worlds you could never capture with photography alone. Or in my case, to combine moments together within one amazing portrait.

Composite Photography is my Jam!

January 2019 Portraits

Wikipedia defines “portrait” as a “painting, drawing, photograph, or engraving of a person, especially one depicting only the face or head and shoulders.”

To me, portraits are a depiction, representation, or reflection of everything from people, to animals, to buildings, to cars, to anything designed to “portray” something or someone.

After finishing several family portraits in 2018, the slow down of January was welcomed and allowed me to focus on a couple of shadows tutorials I had been wanting to put together.

shadows tutorial for composite photographers

how to create realistic shadows for composite photographers

I was building on my 2019 theme of “Building” Creative Portrait on Patreon, so everything was on schedule.

February 2019 Portraits

As no business continued to pour in I decided to keep busy with “Building” my Instagram and see if posting every day for 12 months would help me build my followers.

CLICK HERE to see all my Instagram photos.

This was a pretty cool adventure that led me into exploring some new coloring techniques and ways of editing, which I would eventually apply to my Creative Family Portraits.

March 2019 Portraits

With a booming economy and slow business, I continued to throw myself in 100% on the Instagram goal of posting one photo every day for the next year.

Of course, like a kid in a candy shop, I bit off more than I was willing to chew and by the end of March I was getting bored with posting Instagram photos and they weren’t making me much money.

April 2019 Portraits

Thanks to Texas School of Professional Photographers and a very sad but rewarding Creative Family Portrait project, April was full and rewarding.

As a first time instructor at Texas School, I had no idea what to expect or what the hell I was doing. But thanks to an amazing class of really talented photographers, we had the best time ever and created a pretty dope portrait along the way.

composite photography from jason ulsrud class at texas school of professional photography

Another portrait project I completed in April was for a family whose husband/father/grandfather was terminally ill and I was commissioned to create one of our crazy family portraits with him looking like he did before his illness. While all our portraits have great meaning for me, this one had a special place in my heart.

creative family portrait composite of behringer family in dallas

The night following the BIG Reveal of this family’s portrait, the man passed away, helping me realize how important our portraits are to the people we create them for.

Also, I created a portrait of my two boys, Luka and Niko, based on seeing a bunch of seagulls flying around at White Rock Lake here in Dallas, TX. I thought it would be super funny if the seagulls were attacking people by dive-bombing them with their poop, so I brought that vision to reality.

composite photography portrait of boys fishing by jason ulsrud of photillustrator

This is one of the first portraits I created using many of the techniques I discovered with my Instagram photos.

May 2019 Portraits

A year after my double hip replacement surgery I decided it was time to create an image thanking those who helped me both financially and emotionally. So, I created a Composited Portrait that represents me maximizing my new hips.

photo composite photography of jason ulsrud photographing wildlife

Additionally, you can join me over on my Patreon to see and learn how I make these crazy Creative Portraits.

June 2019 Portraits

June was occupied by personal travel to Zion Canyon in Utah, which gave me the chance to try out my new Insta360 camera.

July 2019 Portraits

I’ve built my Creative Family Portrait business off donating to silent auctions among other things, but every once in a while we have to create a portrait that’s not necessarily creative and that makes us no money.

classic family portrait by photillustrator

The reality of the Creative Portrait business is that not every portrait you create will be creative and awesome.

August 2019 Portraits

As the summer steamed along, July brought me two more family portrait reveals that I really enjoyed.

rita han creative family portrait by jason ulsrud of photillustrator

composite photography of dallas family portrait by jason ulsrud of photillustrator

September 2019 Portraits

September was super slow for business and portraits.

October 2019 Portraits

When things aren’t going my way and I’m struggling my philosophy is, “Just keep making awesome pictures.”

So, I did just that and created this portrait for Halloween.

halloween kids portrait of little girl trick or treating with Hershey candy

This isn’t your typical Halloween type of Composite, which is exactly why I love doing these types of portraits so much.

They’re different!

November 2019 Portraits

With 4 massive family portrait jobs now on the books, I decided to start posting on Instagram again.

before and after photoshop edit of chevy van for instagram

before and after of photoshop edit of grain bin for instagram

I have to admit, I love creating these images, which are transformed from flat and bland to amazing.

December 2019 Portraits

Finally, December was a busy time for me working on several large scale family portraits, a Santa portrait, and the portrait for our Christmas card, not to mention a client portrait we finished and delivered just in time for the Holidays.

creative portrait of santa stuck in the chimney

portrait of santa claus by photillustrator

creative holiday cards and christmas cards by photillustrator

As always, our Holiday cards are a big hit with our clients and provide me another way to show them how different we really are.

creative family portrait of corcoran family in dallas texas by photillustrator

There simply isn’t anything better than delivering an awesome family portrait to an awesome family.


Time to Move On

I have to admit, 2019 Sucked but I’ve learned a couple of valuable lessons along the way that I believe will transform 2020 and beyond.

One… I learned that I need to put way more attention into my business and that being successful in spite of oneself will only go so far.

Two… I learned that I need to have laser focus on my destination, which requires me to have a clear destination to focus on.

I’m sure you’ll be hearing much more about this stuff in future posts.

Stability in 2020

This years theme for me is “Stability”, which will require me to focus on a specific destination and eliminating all distractions, while strengthening myself in business.

Now, let’s move on and start Rocking 2020!

Comments (2)

I discovered you a couple months ago and I’d love to see the success of your artwork continue. Good luck this year. I am in the early stages of a new evolution as well. Here’s to laser focus! 😉

I’m with you Molly. Let’s crush 2020 together!

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