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A Royalty Photoshoot at the World Renowned Bradford Portrait Studio

It all began when my mom and uncle Ronnie attended a work function which included a formal dinner and a company wide charitable auction. There were plenty of great items and experiences at the auction such as new electronics, vacations and even a car but there was one thing that no one had even bothered to place a bid on.

For $500, one lucky bidder would win a family photoshoot and portrait by a world-renowned photographer that is originally worth $5,000. Without hesitation, my mom and uncle raised their joint bid card for the opportunity to walk away with this incredible experience, in hopes of gifting it to my grandma and papa. "Sold!" shouted the auctioneer and they each dished out half the $500 for the opportunity of a lifetime and gift that my grandparents would treasure forever.

After winning the portrait certificate, we decided to make a family vacation out of it, and thus the trip to Florida over the 4th of July was born. We would spend a few days traveling along the Florida coast from my aunt and uncles home in Hollywood Beach, all the way up to Vero Beach with a stop at West Palm Beach in between to take part in the photoshoot.

Our photo would be taken by one of the most respected portraitures in the world—Bradford Rowley. His portraits hang in some of the most wealthy homes in the United States and people travel all over the world to visit him. His style mimics paintings and is distinct enough to become known as the "Bradford Look". His work was appreciated so much, that he actually joined the presidential club of the top 50 photographers in the United States. Holy crap.

According to the website, there are strict dress code rules when participating in a photoshoot with Bradford. Due to the level of sophistication that accompanies his work, formal wear is required, no exceptions. That means tuxes for the guys and gowns for the ladies. Absolutely no patterns would be tolerated and light colors are completely out of the question. There are good reasons behind these rules—all dealing with the lighting, exposure, background contrast and editing process in general. Knowing we had no other choice, we all started to do some online shopping to get our day-of wardrobe in order.

I hit up because I'm no debutante and didn't have a single nice dress I could wear in the photo. Luckily I found a gorgeous floorlength, sweetheart neckline, strapless gown in black for only $40. Forty freakin dollars guys I kid you not. When it arrived, I was amazed at how beautifully it fit. It fit like a glove, hugging my curves and giving me a sexy yet polished silouette that would end up looking absolutely stunning and flattering in all the photos we took that day. You can find the dress I wore here (it comes in red too!)

The morning of the photoshoot, we all woke up eager and excited to get dolled up. I don't think any of us have had the chance to look this good in a long time. We met downstairs in the lobby of the hotel, men looking dapper in their tuxes and the ladies looking glam in our gowns. I had originally curled my hair, but the heat and humidity had melted them into long loose waves, which I wasn't completely mad about.

I decided to wear a pair of all black pumps, giving me a good 4 to 5 extra inches which ended up helping my posture throughout the shoot. I went natural on the makeup and classic on the jewelry, only sporting chandelier drop pearl earrings (which ended up not even being visible in the photos).

We made the short drive to the outdoor styled mall and drove along a palm tree lined street which sported rows of luxury cars alongside the narrow road. We passed designer name stores that we would never in our right minds enter such as Prada, Gucci and Chanel. We were clearly out of our element, but enjoying the moments of feeling like the upper half, living like royalty.

We definitely received some confused glances as we strutted our way down the street and towards the studio, yet were surprised to find that several people walked past nonchalantly, as though they see this kind of activity regularly. Since we arrived early, we decided to take a few photos of our own as Bradford set up the equipment, before finally making our way to the studio

We were soon called in to begin getting ready for our photos so we head into the foyer and were greeted by a lovely studio assistant who immediately offered us water, both still and sparkling. She showed us a room off to the right that had a large mirror which we were allowed to use to touch up our hair and makeup as well as keep our purses and stuff nice and secure while our photos were being taken and developed afterwards. Once we were satisfied with how we looked, we were brought into the studio to begin shooting.

Bradford himself came out of the studio, wearing an expensive looking patterned button down and a smile. He warmly introduced himself to the group and shook each of our hands while asking us our names and relation to one another. With this knowledge, he arranged us around two chairs which would house my grandma and papa for the duration of the shoot. They were going to be the focal point of the photo with the children and grandkids standing around them. After placing us in the perfect position against a seemingly plain backdrop, Bradford took his place behind the camera and began his work.

It took a few adjustments here and there along with multiple "chin slightly down/up" cues for him to take a round of shots that he thought were good enough. I was actually quite surprised with how quickly the whole process was. After the group photo was finished, he took seperate photos of just my grandparents alone and the grandparents with the grandkids. After a short amount of time, we were all finished and just like that we could finally let loose completely.

Maybe 15 minutes after that, a few of us were called into a viewing room to review the photos and make our selections for the final portrait. It was during this time Bradford went over with us the pricing and editing options along with framing opportunities. Once our selections were made, we were on our way to the beach for one last family photo before leaving West Palm Beach for the day, feeling glamorous and satisfied with ourselves.

We had the best experience at Bradford Portraits and realize that it was a once in a lifetime affair. I am beyond excited to see how the portrait turns out when it is completed in a few months. Yes I said months. The editing process is long and detailed and Bradford clearly only wants to offer his best work, so time is needed to make sure everything is perfect. I'll be sure to update this post or create a new one with the results.

If you are planning a shoot with Bradford and have any questions about the process, please feel free to drop them in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer them completely.


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