Jess Buttermore + The Story Behind

As you browse through Jess Buttermore‘s feed or a collection of work on her site, it is easy to see the things that are important to her in the creation of her work: light and connection. And while we could just have easily pointed to any of the gorgeous photos featured on her feed and asked for a walk through, this one called out a bit louder to us and after reading her breakdown of her process, now we know why. As she walks you through her technique today, it will become easy to see why emotion drives her images and how the effects of her passion for the emotive are wildly evident throughout her work.

Can you tell us “The Story Behind” this shot?

My husband and I truly enjoy taking our three young children out on adventures to explore this gorgeous corner of the world we live in and we do so every chance we get. When we realized there was a nice weekend ahead (a rarity for Pacific Northwest winters) we put our heads together and decided to head north to a state park. After spending the day exploring, we were just unpacking our overnight bags when the light caught my attention. I looked out and noticed the fog rolling in so we quickly bundled up the kids and headed for the water’s edge.

DSLR, iPhone, instant or film?

DSLR (Nikon 750 + Sigma Art 35mm 1.4)

What were your camera settings for this image?

D750, 35mm, f1.8, ISO 200, 1/1000s

What speaks to you about this image? What specifically made you press the shutter?

This image encapsulates all four things that are important to me when I create an image: light, emotion, movement, and the scene. Like many photographers I love shooting during the golden hour, which is when this photo was taken. I shoot to create authentic emotionally-driven images. When you look at an image of mine, I want you to truly feel something, like you were standing there with me. I want you to practically be able to hear them laughing. When I see that through my lens, that’s when I click. This image is what truly living in the moment looks like to me. Fresh air. Pure joy. Love and light.

Did you have any lighting challenges/How did you light the image?

On this particular evening, the lighting conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only did a get a gorgeous sunset, but the fog rolled in and acted as the perfect diffuser, giving the image almost a magical vibe.

Did you use any special techniques?

I did not use any special techniques with this image. Just bumped my shutter speed up a notch to be sure to capture the moment crisply as they were running and bouncing about.

Was this photo happenstance or did you visualize it prior? If so, how did you envision the image and set up for it?

There were a few things I did to help this series come to fruition. First, I bundled the kids up so they would be warm and comfortable, allowing them to play uninhibited and without direction. I chose wool knit hats to add texture to the images and made sure their clothes were neutral with complimentary colors. Then I brought them to the beach and let them take the lead from there! I was careful to just let them play while I positioned myself facing the sunset and fog and shot quickly before the fog surrounded us too much, as I didn’t want to compromise clarity.

Did you use a preset to edit this image, your own selective edits or a combination of both?

I do not use presets. I edit my images for toning, contrast and clarity in Lightroom and then import the image into Photoshop for any last touchups, such as to remove distractions like blemishes or the occasional passerby.

How do you get images to pull together in such a cohesive manner?

Photography is how I tell my story. When we arrive at a destination, I certainly already have a vision of the type of beauty I hope to capture during our time there. We’ve done our research and I often shoot with intention. I believe it’s what makes my photography recognizable to you and to my own heart. The trick though, is to just be in the moment. Abandon the feeling that you have set a scene. Just collect shells with your kids. Help them climb the tree. And wait. Wait for the right light and document your family just being together. That’s when the magic happens and what really allowed me to hone in on my own personal photography style.

Thank you to Seattle’s Jess Buttermore for walking us through this sweet photo of her babies. You can find more from Jess here:


  • March 21, 2018


    This is so beautiful! All of your work is inspiring, it’s so refreshing to hear a photographer speak from her heart and let us in on how your vision comes to life!

  • March 22, 2018

    Megan Boggs

    Loved reading about you and your amazing work Jess!! Thanks so much for sharing!