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Entries in Portland (8)


Making the climb together (Portland destination wedding photographer)

My little family and I hiked Wahclella Falls one summer, a trip the guidebooks called an easy trek for the whole family. With our baby boy in a front-pack carrier and our preschool-aged daughter in hand, we climbed the narrow cliffside to get to the falls at the top. At times it was nerve-wracking for this anxious mom, but the view was definitely worth it.

A few months later, I met Eric and Susan, a sweet engaged couple who told me their plan was to get married beside that very same waterfall. I knew the falls would be a moving backdrop to start their forever, and I was excited to photograph it.

Eric, Susan and I had an instant connection. They are two of the most kind, fun and easy-going people I’ve ever met, and it was truly a joy to get to know them.

Recent transplants to the Pacific Northwest, Eric and Susan’s entire families flew from the Midwest for their destination wedding in the Columbia Gorge. Everyone from grandma to toddler nieces and nephews made the hike like champions, and it was so cool to see their all their faces as they caught their first glimpses of the falls.

After an intimate ceremony, we hiked back down the trail to the awaiting party bus. There was dancing and karaoke that made for the most fun bus ride you can imagine.

The party kept on going as the fun group arrived at the Firehouse, a charming fire station-turned restaurant in Northeast Portland.

Today marks one year since that amazing day these two took their vows. Eric and Susan, I’m so glad you picked me to share your beautiful day. Happy anniversary! Here’s to many, many years of beauty and adventure, and making the climb together.



Kids go wild on cover of Metro Parent (Portland children's photographer)

Since high school, I always wanted to work for a magazine. It was even my major in college. I think I always envisioned it would be a very glamorous and action-packed job. I came pretty close by working in newspapers for the past decade, and while I've had my name and photos in print many times, I have always had a special place in my heart for newsstand glossies. I tell you this so you'll understand what a dream come true it is for me to have my very first magazine cover! 

I'm so thankful for the kind and creative staff at Metro Parent magazine for seeking me out for this fun collaboration. Their staff is lovely to work with, and I'm thrilled to have my name attached to such a fantastic publication. Metro Parent is colorful and full of great information about local events, people and trends. You can pick it up for free at libraries, doctors offices and other places that families tend to congregate. (Wondering where you can pick up a copy? Visit

The article is about Portland's natural playgrounds that are popping up all over town. I went out to Westmoreland Park in Southeast Portland with my kids, niece and nephew on one of those shockingly warm and sunny days in February and got some fun images of them scampering up logs and climbing rock formations. Here's a few of the other photos from that beautiful day: 

Thank you Julia, Ali, Susan and the rest of the Metro Parent team for making my magazine cover dream come true! 


My kid is totally rad (Portland styled child photographer)

My daughter is a great muse. She's sassy, energetic, sweet, funny and very dramatic.

Whenever I pull out my camera, she snaps her little body into a fresh set of angular poses. I have no idea where she got these funky moves, but they are pretty fabulous. 

One day at home, she pulled on my old-school, over-the-ear headphones and started bopping around like crazy. They weren't even plugged in, but the two of us were giggling and dancing around in a moment of sheer joy. Days later, I found myself smiling every time I saw that image of her in my head. That day inspired me to create a photo shoot that represented who she is at this moment — so full of movement, laughter and joy. I wanted to incorporate bright colors to match her personality, and it struck me that what we needed was neon.

We found the perfect ’80s-inspired outfit during our first grown-up shopping trip together. Later, I bought a boom box at a garage sale for $1 and borrowed the crimping iron from my sister (the very same one we’ve used to crinkle our hair for special occasions since 1985). My plan all came together when I remembered that graffiti wall I'd shot a senior session at a few years before.

This photo session is a celebration of this wonderful little person in my life. She started kindergarten this week and I feel like life is moving really fast. Sometimes I wish I could write down every funny thing she says, photograph every goofy smile and memorize the way she makes me feel. The best I can do is live in the moment and take photos that help me remember her this way. 

I’m bursting with ideas for more themed or styled photo sessions for kids, couples and teens, so drop me a line and we can capture the essence of your little loves. 


Losing control and giving in to Instagram

As usual, I’m a little late to the party on this one.

My wise brother pointed out how crazy it is that I wasn’t on Instagram. Me, adorer of all things photography, not on the biggest photo-sharing app out there?

I had to think about it, but I guess it was about control. I shied away from it because I felt like I only wanted to showcase my best work. I wanted the photos I present to the world to be crafted from the the best lighting, lenses and locations I can provide.  

I mulled it over and signed up recently and from day one I have been hooked. First of all, playing with the filters is super fun. I’ve spent years learning Photshop and know the value of the tool, but it’s fun and convenient to just click a button and have your photo aged or warmed up or wrapped up in a stylish frame. Like Portlandia’s “Put a bird on it” sketch, I think my new catchphrase is “Put a frame on it.”

Secondly, it really got my creativity flowing in a new way. While I don’t always carry around my beloved, yet bulky DSLR, my camera phone is never out of arm's reach. Freeing myself from uploading images and converting files has been freeing. Anytime I see something pretty, I stop and Instagram the roses. More than once I found myself actually pulling the car over to get a pretty shot. I sometimes think, what can I take photos of next?

While my camera phone will never be able to replicate my dear Nikon’s quality and features, the challenge of having fewer bells and whistles has forced me to stretch my skills and problem solve. How will I get a cool shot of that streetlight without a long lens? How still can I stand to get a photo in low light? Can I get a photo out the passenger side of a moving vehicle?

I’m also starting to get into the whole hashtag thing. Sometimes in real conversations I find myself wanting to sum everything up with a pithy one liner like #thatslife or #yolo. Hashtags are also a great way to connect in new and exciting ways. I was touring around Portland scouting out a location for a maternity shoot the other day and I put some photos on Instagram with the neighborhood's name as a hashtag — #sellwood. Within seconds, a local ghost hunter liked my photos. I found myself wondering where he was at that moment and if there was a ghost nearby I should be aware of.  

So what about you? Are you addicted to this fun and freeing app? (If you want to follow me, you’ll find me here: @jessie_kirk .)




Death and the chain studio salesman (Portland, Oregon family portrait photographer)

Getting our family portrait taken when I was a kid meant putting on my nicest clothes (usually silky shirts, floral skirts and pantyhose) and heading down to the mall. My family of five probably only did it four or five times my whole life, and it always went something like this: The photographer called me “Big Sis” and gave similar nicknames to each of my family members. He posed us in front of a brown or blue background, sometimes accentuated with texture like blinds or fabric. He put me in a pose that felt foreign to my body and I tried to sit perfectly still. Then he told us to smile. My mother never did. She has always refused to smile on command. After a few clicks of the shutter and a few variations of the pose, we were done. That's how it worked.

But for a lot of people, that in-and-out routine just doesn’t work anymore. Sears Portrait Studios and a few related chains suddenly closed their doors around the nation last week to the surprise of their customers and even their employees.While I'm sad to see any business close and people lose their jobs, the closure make sense to me. Today’s customers demand more out of their portrait experience. Their own cameras and even camera phones snap decent pictures, so they are searching for someone who can do more than just take a portrait. Many customers want to know their photographer, trust in her abilities and know that her style and aesthetic matches their own. They want their family to be treated like they are special. (Being called by name is a bare minimum.) And when it’s all said and done they want more than a few shots to choose from.

When it comes to family portraits, I think it’s an amazing privilege to capture a family’s real emotion, connection and love. I aspire to capture playfulness and fun. Sometimes my favorite photos are of people laughing, talking or making funny faces -- you know the kind of shot that a corporate studio might consider an outtake. I work hard to get a genuine smile out of everyone and I will be as goofy as need be to get there. I just love getting to know the families I photograph and have been so honored that many of my clients have become my friends. For those reasons and more big box, get-you-in-and-get-you-out, cookie-cutter photography is going out of style and custom lifestyle portraiture is becoming the new norm.

Below you'll find a few of my favorite recent family photos. I promise, no one in these photos was ever referred to as Big Sis.