Monday, December 31, 2012

Mamma did WHAT? A year in review!

Well, another year has come and gone...and what a year it's been! Here's a look at 2012. I will fondly remember you!!

Mamma got to SING!

I have performed more this year than ever, I think! I'm going to highlight several experiences, but this is a tribute to all the singing/hosting opportunities I've had!

January - Leading Ladies Concert
(Stephanie Sanchez, Me, Francesca Camus, Kellie Wright - W.O.M.A.N.)

March - The Very Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber Concert
(Me with Jordan Bondurant - "All I Ask of You")

November - Showstoppers
(Don't Rain on My Parade)

I am now a rotating host at Talk of the Town and Hit Parade -
Weekly Variety Shows at Sams Town and The Suncoast

 Mamma Got a VACATION!

For the first time in our married life, my hubby and I got a real, 2 week vacation all too ourselves. Our first week was spent in Orlando at Disneyworld and Universal Studios, then I joined Steve on a cruise for a week. It was magical.

Magic Kingdom!

Animal Kingdom!
Competing in American Idol Experience @ Disney's Hollywood Studios
Yes, I won my round. :)
(we didn't take pictures on the cruise, busy doin' a whole lotta NOTHING! It was magical.)

Mamma got to sing with FAMOUS PEOPLE!

This year I was asked to perform in 2 choirs backing up 2 different celebrity icons. It was amazing.

With Jennifer Hudson at the Smith Center Opening Gala
With Barbra Striesand at the MGM Grand Arena
It's hard to see, but I swear I was there!

Mamma got her HUR DID!  (Hairspray)

I single handedly organized the costuming of this show AND did much of the construction. I'm still tired from it...

Mamma got CRAZY!

I did a show. A real theatrical production with rehearsals and sets and costumes...the real deal! I played Irene in Crazy For You. It was a blast. And, sigh, I did the costumes.

Evan Litt and the gown, the perks of costuming myself!
In my "naughty" red dress!

Glenn Heath and Myself!


Yes, I know you know - we got to spend 2 whole months living in Bermuda. It was amazing. Such a wonderful experience for our family.

Our reason for being there - ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Mamma got HER OWN SHOW!

That's right, folks! I have my own monthly cabaret show and I love it! It's super fun to pick themes and invite guests and sing my little heart out! It got off to a slow start, but Decembers show was gangbusters! So much fun. :) Oh, yeah, here's some lovely thing the local critic said about me and the show: 

"Tonight at 10 brings Sandra Huntsman. Community musical lovers know her from a score of shows at Signature Productions and Super Summer Theatre. She hopes to appear on a monthly basis, and if her premiere set is any indication, her run should last forever.
Huntsman's act - which will feature different themes and performers with each installment - is enriched by a variety of entertainers. She obviously recognizes talent. Her latest show included hubby Steve Huntsman and Brandon and Kelly Albright, all well-known local names and, even better, dynamo singers. Despite their ability to zoom freely up and down octaves, they choose to put lyrics at the center of a song; their melodies are transformed into playlettes. And when the four belt full throttle, yikes, better to cling to your seat.
Also on hand was area singer and master of ceremonies Lou DeMeis, whose vocal abilities and nuances in phrasing managed to make the title song from "Camelot" sound new.
The anchor of the evening, though, remained Huntsman. Her clear, sensitive soprano is not just well-trained, but expressive. She becomes one with her material. She focused on songs from musicals she's never been cast in, and all I can say is, hey, casting directors, grab a ticket and come take another look."

My ad for the show..

Kellie Wright and Me - finally a duet!

Me and Lou DeMeis...what a great guy!
Next Months Theme
And, last but not least....

Mamma's family ROCKS!

As much as I love to sing and perform and travel, my heart and core will always be my family. And we had such a great year! The kids are growing into such interesting souls and we have really good times together. Going to Bermuda for 2 months did so much for our family and I cherish every moment we have together. I really do! I adore them all! And, we take killer family photos.

So here's hoping your 2012 was a year to remember and looking forward to 2013. I know it's going to be another great year for us!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How Do We Do It? - Part 2

Hi there! Just following up from THIS POST regarding our family photos!

Today I am going to discuss location, photographers, posing and editing!

FOUR: Location, Location, LOCATION!

This years photo shoot location didn't turn out the way we planned whatsoever, but I'll get into that in a minute.

Finding a location might be the most difficult of all. You need an interesting place, with good light and permission to do it there. And sometimes, you're in public. For two of our earlier photoshoots, the location set the tone more than a theme. Our first "fun" photo shoot was in 2008 at the "new" shopping center, Town Square!

Fun with light pole and even a trash can!
Sometimes we had to work around...65% off signs! We edited it out in other images. 
We returned for my princess photo shoot a year later!

In 2010, we ventured out to Nelson, NV. There we payed a $25 fee which I felt was very fair. And though there were a number of other shoots going on and people, it wasn't quite as crazy as a public shopping center.

Here, the location was often the star of the show!

You'll see a bunch more from Nelson under posing. 

For 2011, we had a bunch of props, so we just headed out Apex to the desert and set up! We ended up under some high power lines which was not awesome...I kept feeling the electricity! It was bizarre, but made for some great photos!

This year, we drove around for 2 days looking for a location! We headed up to Mt Charleston first. Dead and boring! And cold. Brr! We usually do pictures a little earlier in the year. Then we drove to the Red Rock area and looked around a lot! Nothing we loved. We had to get back to pick up kids from school. The next day we went back. The location we loved at Calico Basin was off limits. Poop! Then we found another place off the road and we decided that was it...until our brother in law wasn't able to let us use his truck at the last minute. Double poop! We tried to figure out another truck, but it wasn't happening. So we decided just to set up in our backyard and do a lot of editing. Which was nice to not have to travel in hair and makeup and wardrobe, but man...the editing....oy!

Ultimately, when it comes to location, do your research and scout around. And, be willing to go with the flow. Think about the people in your family - a bathroom nearby would be good for small children. I also bring water and snacks when we're on location. Also think about lighting and time of day - this is where your photographer comes in handy. We should have started our Mad Tea Party shoot an hour earlier - we ran out of light and didn't do some of the photos we had wanted. 

Also, we like outdoor locations because the lighting is just the best.

FIVE - Photographer

Having the right photographer is ideal. We're lucky that my husbands sister Sheree is a great photographer! She really works with us a listens to what we want, but uses her editing eye to get the best angles and lighting. We pretty much pose ourselves, which is discussed in the next section, but she's our eye to make sure everyone is seen and framed correctly! Check her out! 

SIX - Posing

This is possibly the hardest thing to conquer. We are very fortunate in that our kids love to take photos and are very outgoing. Chloe and Piper love Americas Next Top Model and Project Runway, so they really "try" to pose and SMYZE! Even Ryder knows how to rock it and Lola - well, she still just has fun. We make it like a holiday and keep them involved in the whole process - and keep in mind their personalities as we dress them. Making them comfortable really helps!

When it comes to posing, think of levels and dimensions. And interest. Not everyone has to be together. Olan Mills clumps - BORING!

Bathtubs, some sitting, some standing - even Ryder's out in the corner. I'm holding Lola's hand to keep her still. I think it really works!
Not every photo has to be smiling or looking at the camera! This one is one of my all time favorites! It's a simple line up with an interesting background. We aren't all looking at the camera. And Lola's just being a baby! 

I love the little things about this one - my red shoes, Chloe hodling her skirt, Piper's distant stare, Steve and I holding hands, Lola just being a baby...yes. My favorite. It's not too posed or contrived.
We repeated the lineup a bit this year...
Love this one, too! The pairings make this interesting! And we had no idea the kids were doing all that on their own.
Sometimes it's great when they look like a candid moment...because they kinda are! I love it when Sheree tells us to just interact and then catches a moment. 

Sheree told us at to "laugh" at Ryder...and it worked!
Caught in a laugh. I LOVE this photo.

Movement is FANTASTIC! 

Just walking over the bridge! It's OK that we aren't looking at the camera...I like the candid moment.
Use your environment! We've sat on cars, bathtubs, curbs - I love this one just leaning up against the wall! 

Again, TOTALLY cool that we aren't all looking at the camera. Get a variety! And we always tell the kids if we're "serious" or "smiling" so they know. Of course, Lola usually just smiles, but it's endearing because she's the youngest!

Even this "regular" photo is interesting because of the levels and groupings.

3 - 2 - 1 groupings! And levels. And a color palette! And something interesting in the background. Not boring at all!

One last trick - my husband will often put together a posing guide - he'll search the internet for interesting poses and makes a collage. He uses these when he's posing cast photos a lot - because he does really crazy cast photos... but they help the actor/model/family member know what to do.

Here's one for fun as an inspiration! 

My best advice is to get your family involved, have fun, and keep the atmosphere light. And keep it simpler if your kids are younger. Gauge your own family and be able to go with the flow! Really, we have a BLAST doing our photos, and I think it shows.

SEVEN: Editing

This is another area we are lucky to do ourselves. We've been working with photoshop for years, so we edit our own photos. Sheree loves that, too, because it takes HOURS to edit photos! Most of the time it's just playing with exposure and setting and then adding fun effects! But when we add in circus backgrounds:

it becomes a really arduous process.

This one, the first from our shoot, took 2 hours. For ONE PHOTO! Mostly because we had to edit out the background, which meant painstakingly cutting out the entire family and all of the tables and props! Here's the process....

The raw, unedited original.
Seriously. 90 minutes just for Steve to cut it out! And then he plays with color, exposure...etc.

Select a background...
Put them together!

And sometimes we have several variations of one this!




The "bus" photo underwent quite and edit, too!

Editing makes a good picture GREAT! Your photographer should be a great editor as well. But if you want extra fancy stuff, plan on paying an extra fancy amount! Again, it's a lot of work. But so worth it for those fun family photos!

Feel free to ask me any questions.  And enjoy!

How do we do it? Part 1

It's that time of year again! We had our Huntsman Family Photo shoot this week. It's quite the event at our house, which involves a day off of school, much planning and prep and a lot of fun! And here is the final outcome:

I love how our Mad Tea Party turned out!

There will be more, but editing them this year takes FOREVER! So once they're all done, I'll dedicate a post to our photos.

Now, every year when they come out, I'm bombarded with requests for help and advice and ideas for family photos. So here's how we do it! I'd like to point out that my husband and I have several talents, aptitudes and abilities that hugely factor into the outcome of our photos. We do almost everything ourselves and spend a LOT of time planning and executing our photo.

I'm also going to show you some previous photos that might inspire without so much drama.

So, here goes!

Pick a Theme - and let it evolve. If you want a theme. Not every family photo has to have a theme.

This year, we decide in August, while in Bermuda, that we would do a Mad Tea Party Theme. Originally we were all going to be characters - Dad was the Mad Hatter, I was Alice, Lola was the Queen of Hearts, Ryder was the White Rabbit, Chloe was the Cheshire Cat and Piper was the March Hare. But ultimately we decided just to be mad versions of ourselves. We always find ourselves walking the line of being too theatrical. We do want to be ourselves in the photos, just editorial versions!

Last year was Vintage Circus - and we did have characters, but again, they didn't take over ourselves and become too costum-y. Example:

Chloe - The Lion Tamer

Lola - A Clown

Ryder - Circus Roadie

Sandra - The Impressario

Piper - Tightrope Walker

Daddy was the Ringmaster, but I can't find a photo of just him. But notice how we didn't get TOO costum-ish. We do editorialized versions, inspired by characters. No, we wouldn't wear these clothes on the street, but we don't look like actual circus characters either.

You don't have to go so editorial, either.

This was from 2010 and we went with a color palette and atmosphere. It was something of a metro-country look. Two different styles that meshed really well together, especially with our location.


This bounces directly off of your theme and/or color palette and atmosphere. This is where things can easily go horribly wrong! We'll get to location in a minute, but the two go hand in hand, so think about balance.

OK! So let's start with a non-character inspired shoot. Or, if you don't pick a dramatic "theme" such as Mad Tea Party or Vintage Circus. Your wardrobe is more personality driven. You need to pick a color palette! I don't mean "BLUE" and EVERYONE only wears blue. Don't be totally stuck with one color. It will end up looking cheesy if everyone is in aquamarine shirts. Pick a few colors - this year we wore blue, pink and green.

But see how used different shades and patterns? Don't worry if a pop of red works it's way in or you have different shades of pink. Everyone is coordinated but it doesn't look overworked. And please, PLEASE - don't put everyone in denim shirts. The 90's are over, folks.

Sometimes simple is just nice...this is from way back in 2006! Black, white and blue!

Now, for our very themed photos - first, within our theme, there are color palettes and sometimes repeating patterns:

Here we have a white/ivory, black and red palette. With some grey, and lots of pattern! Stripes and plaids. Made for an interesting shot. And while I was worried that Lola's brown boots would be ugly, they gave it a sense of authenticity.

How do we get our wardrobe? Believe it or not, I RARELY sew anything from scratch. Everything in this photo was pulled from our personal clothing or purchased at Savers. We spent less than $100 on this shoot. Including shoes, accessories and props. I didn't buy anything! I had the striped top which I just had to cut down a bit because it was a mock turtleneck, had the corset that I found at Savers a while before for like $8, also had the shoes - a previous Savers purchase as well. The leggings were from my old rockstar character from my birthday service. I made the skirt with some fabric I had - just added a waistband to some long fabric and gathered it up. The gloves were from some other costume and they were 2 left gloves, but I just cut the tips off of the fingers and you would have never noticed. Other things I altered were Chloe's vest (it was a womans size, so I took it in), Pipers dress (also a woman's size), Ryder was wearing girl pants, just don't tell him, I had to make Lola's red petticoat smaller and Pipers Belt/supsenders were an arts and crafts project. Steve wore a hooded vest under an old tailcoat that we took the sleeves off of and added the suspenders to the front.

LAYERING is a huge tip! Layer those costumes up. Keeps it interesting. Don't be afraid to mix patterns and colors, but use and editing eye.

This years photo was an excellent course in costume editing, and me happening to pick up some random items at a good price when I saw them.

Here's a rundown from left to right. We didn't do quite so well on costumes this year, we spent a bit more, but they also evolved a lot. Originally we were going to be much more costum-y, with big hats and lavish gowns, but as we gathered, we ended up going more editorial, which I am happy about. A lot of our original plans changed, it's important to go with the flow.  So, L to R:

Lola - Originally Piper was going to have a feather skirt but we found her pink petticoat, so we decided to give it to Lola. And we also had found a beautiful gown for a song at Savers that she was going to wear with some funky alterations, but she hated it and ultimately we ixnayed it - we didn't want to have a grumpy girl on photo day. So a chartreuse long sleeve t-shirt (worn backwards to hide the graphic on the front) and fur vest from Target were a last minute replacement, meaning I had to make the skirt from scratch, but it was easy enough.

Ryder - Don't tell him, but he's wearing girl pants again. The girls section just has more interesting textures! I had to take them in for his skinny bum! Then his vest is actually a womans vest that I took in. His shirt was dyed and his tie was from an old costume of ours. We had purchased a coat for him, but it didn't dye well so we just ditched it. Oh, and his boots came from Savers along with the rest of his costume.

Chloe - Chloe is always a challenge because of her extreme skinniness! She's wearing 2 pairs of leggings - the pink striped ones are size 6's - and she's wearing a 6x t-shirt with attached ruffles under her jacket. Her jacket is a woman's size that I took in at the shoulders and sleeves/side seams. Then that belt - well, it was a find! I was going to make her a little corset, but we found that belt and that was it! Her boots were a Savers splurge at $15, but that's good for boots and she can wear them all the time. She's wearing 3 of my necklaces.

Piper - Piper's was a last minute save! We had a hard time finding a top for her. The pink petticoat was a 70% off post halloween costume that we cut the top off of and the skirt was a woman's skirt that we took in and played with. The striped socks were from her halloween costume. She went through several tops until I put that green one on her - it was a one shouldered dress that I found at a store and grabbed for another project but didn't use, so we took it in, cut it off and voila! She had a top! We layered it with 2 of my necklaces and some bracelets.

Me - I was the first one to have a costume and the last one to change it almost completely. I had a purple princess costume I had never finished, so I was going to alter it with another dress. We had decided to use the black boa with it and I found the lace jacket (which I bought at full price! Yikes! But sometimes you have to when you're looking for something specific, you have to!) Once all of the other pieces for everyone else were coming together, I started to feel like I would be too much! So Steve and I started thinking and I put on a dress I had just bought for a concert, which I liked but ultimately didn't think was quite so flattering. I had also bought that pink one for the concert but didn't use it because I thought it looked too juvenile  So I tried it on and it worked! It was actually 2 dresses put together - it was too short on it's own so I purchased 2 of them ($6 ea) to make it longer and I had to put in a new zipper. I bought the teal tights at Target and got to use my new blue shoes and I ended up loving the look. The earrings were from Susie's Deals - $4!

Steve - He found the pants months ago but put some dye on them to take them from Kelly Green to the color you see. The vest was a costume piece we had and his scarf was from Savers. His coat and boots were an early Christmas gift from me when we were in LA. He also has on a tank top to add that bit of color at the waist. Layering!

So, yes...we spend hours shopping, altering and trying on. It's really a lot of effort! We spend LOTS of time researching for inspiration as well - google image search, pinterest....lots and I'll show you some for this shoot in the next section.

THREE: Hair & Makeup (because it goes hand in hand with wardrobe)

Once we FINALLY had our wardrobe pretty much figured out, I started looking for hair ideas. Here's some I found on Pinterest:


 I used a hairpiece on her because her isn't long. She loved it!


Yup, Christina Aguilara from the Lady Marmalade video. Of course we did with out the crazy jewelry. And I braided her wet hair the night before in dozens of tiny braids to get the crimped look. She also loved it!


I used this for my eye makeup! It was so nice to follow and turned out great.

Well, I think that's enough for today! Next we'll discuss Location, Posing and Editing!