clemson university

Anna | Miss Clemson University 2019 Portraits

Just a few days before the Miss Clemson University pageant, Anna was on the sidelines with the rest of the Rally Cats dance team as Clemson won the 2018 College Football National Championship. After a super cool Michael Jackson jazz dance, the most picturesque entrance in her evening gown, bringing in the most ad sales, and taking home the philanthropy award, Anna was crowned Miss Clemson University 2019.  She represented Alpha Delta Pi. Not only does Anna come from a family with lots of Clemson Tigers, her great-aunt was the very first Miss Clemson College in 1962!  

We chose the first date that we knew the football stadium was open to the public.  It was the middle of February, but we were lucky that this was a 60-degree day in the middle of an otherwise cold and dreary month.  We took photos all around the parts of campus that are close to Anna’s heart, including the stadium and Fort Hill (John Calhoun’s mansion), where her grandmother used to be a tour guide.

I was able to use the time Anna was changing outfits to do some detail shots with her crown and sash, as well as the adorable crown box from Crown Couture that came with them.  I even got to use her Rally Cat poms for a few shots!  One of the last shots we took was the one I’d been thinking about for weeks: in front of the bleachers that said “Clemson” with her gown floating behind her.

I had such a fun time with Anna and her mom on this perfect day, and I can’t wait to hear about Miss Clemson University’s adventures over the next year!  I hope you love Anna’s Miss Clemson University portraits as much as I do—she was so much fun to have in front of my camera!

Tara, Miss Clemson University 2018

One of my first Clemson portrait sessions was for my friend Tracy when she was crowned Miss Clemson University 2016.  Two years later, I got to cover the pageant and see Tara become Miss Clemson University.  As the representative for the Clemson Rally Cats dance team, she had such an awesome dance routine to a Gloria Estefan mix, taking home the overall talent award in addition to the crown.

I finally got to get to know Tara on what was probably the most perfect day ever for a portrait session—it was a quiet, 65-degree and sunny day with the trees and flowers in full bloom.  Tara is a health sciences major and a sister of Alpha Delta Pi.  She was the 2016 Distinguished Young Woman of America.  A few weeks before our session, she was on the basketball court with the Rally Cats when Clemson men’s basketball team made it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in over 20 years.  A few days after our session, Tara and the Rally Cats went to Disney World to compete at Nationals.

Of course we had to have some photos of Tara in the stadium with her Rally Cat uniform, where she also posed for some pictures with excited Clemson fans who had come to take some pictures with Howard’s Rock.  When we were taking pictures over by Tillman Hall, there was a group of little girls playing on Bowman Field who kept running up to us, then saying to each other, “I think she’s a REAL beauty queen!”  They finally came close enough for Tara to show them the crown.

Here are some of my favorites from this beautiful day with this sweet lady!

For more information about Miss Clemson University, visit my Miss Clemson University page or contact the Clemson University Mortar Board.

Spring 2017 Clemson Graduates

Spring 2017 Clemson Graduates

Highlights from Clemson's spring 2017 graduating class.

Tracy

This is one of the few shots I've ever posed Tracy for.

This is one of the few shots I've ever posed Tracy for.

I’ve known Tracy for a few years; our moms met through a mutual friend after we both committed to Clemson, we both danced there, and she helped me get my grade back up in the hardest psych class I ever took.  She was active in Clemson Miracle and helped raise something like $71,000 for Children’s Miracle Network.  And oh yeah, she competed to be Miss South Carolina and was Miss Clemson University.  So she’s pretty cool.

I had thought about asking Tracy if I could do her portraits so I could practice, but I wasn’t expecting her to ask me to do her portraits because I knew she had studio headshots done prior to competing for Miss South Carolina by someone presumably better at portraits than I was.  I’d never tried doing glamour shots and I don’t have much experience with indoor portraits and setting up artificial lighting.  She said she liked the work she had seen from me and would feel more comfortable if she knew the photographer, which I totally understand, and I thought it would help to get some portrait experience with someone I knew and someone who I wouldn’t have to pose much.  She also wanted portraits done on Clemson’s campus, and there aren’t a lot of professional photographers who actually live within 20 minutes of the campus.

We had the Miss Clemson session on what I think was the first nice day of 2016.  I eventually got tired of the lens I was using and ended up using my least favorite lens at the time—the 50 mm f/1.8 lens.  For the record, this is a good lens for portraits, but doesn’t always focus quickly enough for action shots, so I didn’t like it before I started doing portraits.   It was much sharper than I realized, since I bought it to use in difficult lighting situations and we were now outside on a sunny day, so that made me very happy.  Tracy’s session was the first portrait session I really felt confident editing and made me feel more ready to take on a spring graduation season.  She told me she wanted me to do her graduation portraits in the fall, and I was excited to do it all again with everything I had learned since that session. 

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This is both of our favorites, and the one she uses for her autograph cards.

This is both of our favorites, and the one she uses for her autograph cards.

 

Tracy texted me in July saying that she had gotten in touch with someone in the athletic department about when the stadium would be open for her to have Miss Clemson pictures.  The stadium is open during weekly business hours (which are difficult for me because of my job) and until 4 on the days after home games, so we decided to combine her Miss Clemson pictures with her graduation pictures and scheduled to have the session after the first home game.  At that time of year, 4 PM is not ideal for taking outdoor pictures because the light is still so harsh, so we decided to go to the stadium at 3, get something to eat, and then head back out at the golden hour (softer lighting as the sun is going down).  She asked me that a few hours before if she could get some pictures in her evening gown to surprise her mom for her birthday.  She showed up at the stadium in her gown and crown and everyone, including the security guard, got excited and wanted pictures with her.  Someone asked if he could have a picture with her for his daughter, and she offered him an autograph card, which happened to be my photo of her.  I guess having my picture signed and handed out is a cool milestone for me. 

The security guard eventually went from “you’re not allowed on the field” to “I’ll ask them to stop watering the field for a few minutes if you want to go down there.”  That’s the only portrait session where I got to go on the field.  I was scared when I remembered that the dress she wore to the Miss Clemson pageant was white because white is a difficult color to photograph without blowing out the details, especially in that lighting.  I caved in and used a flash, and I was happy with it.

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Trying not to drag that white gown through the trash that was left in the bleachers from the game the day before

Trying not to drag that white gown through the trash that was left in the bleachers from the game the day before

Trying to incorporate the cap before getting kicked off the field

Trying to incorporate the cap before getting kicked off the field

"You have to come back up now!"  "Do I have time to stand on the paw?"  "No."  "That's a paw.  Go stand there for a sec."

"You have to come back up now!"

"Do I have time to stand on the paw?"

"No."

"That's a paw.  Go stand there for a sec."

She changed out of her evening gown in her car (???) so she wouldn't burn up.  Turf fields at the beginning of football season are the worst, and I can't imagine how bad it would be in that gown.

She changed out of her evening gown in her car (???) so she wouldn't burn up.  Turf fields at the beginning of football season are the worst, and I can't imagine how bad it would be in that gown.

I was trying to be artsy before I burned up.

I was trying to be artsy before I burned up.

We both probably would have overheated if we’d been out there any longer, since Tracy was in a floor-length and long-sleeved evening gown and I was trying to get detail shots on the hot brick.  We went to McAllister’s where there was AC and headed back out to recreate some of our favorite pictures from the last session. 

This is the most fun picture I have at the carillon bell.

This is the most fun picture I have at the carillon bell.

This is the most fun picture I have at Sikes.

This is the most fun picture I have at Sikes.

Revisiting her autograph card picture, except the fountains weren’t on this time.

Revisiting her autograph card picture, except the fountains weren’t on this time.

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This is one of the best sunsets I've ever had for a portrait session.  I'm not the greatest with flash, but I had to get some of that color.

This is one of the best sunsets I've ever had for a portrait session.  I'm not the greatest with flash, but I had to get some of that color.

Not my best shot, but I do this shot with everyone now, so it would only make sense to do it again with her since she was the first one I did it with.

Not my best shot, but I do this shot with everyone now, so it would only make sense to do it again with her since she was the first one I did it with.

I (logically) set aside January for the side of photography that doesn’t involve my camera, since nobody wants outdoor portraits in January.  One of my fraternity brothers from college messaged me and told me that she was the director of this year’s Miss Clemson University pageant and asked if I wanted to be the photographer this year.  It was just a few hours after my Registered Behavior Technician exam in Greenville, but the timing worked out just right.

She led the opening dance number looking like a runway model.

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I took this as she was thanking me for perfectly exposing a white evening gown outside in midday.  No pressure here!

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After reflecting on her experience of holding the title of Miss Clemson University for the past year, Tracy crowned Brooklyn Garrett as the new Miss Clemson University.

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Miss Clemson University 2015, 2016, and 2017--yet another cute pageant photo idea I wouldn't have come up with myself.

Miss Clemson University 2015, 2016, and 2017--yet another cute pageant photo idea I wouldn't have come up with myself.

If Tracy hadn’t asked me to do her pictures, I would not have had the confidence to put myself out there as a portrait photographer.  Being a portrait photographer is not something I saw myself doing, but it's been a wonderful experience to connect with people and share their stories through my photos. Also, I most likely would not have had this experience of shooting the Miss Clemson University pageant if it wasn't for Tracy.  I can thank her for believing in me when I didn’t have a lot of portrait work that I was proud of yet, for being open to me experimenting, for continuing to come to me when there are other photographers who know more about pageants than I do, and as always, for being a friend.  I may not have an auditorium full of people who will hear me talk about Tracy, but my blog is the best I can do.      

Tracy and I with the ticket that has my photo of her.  

Tracy and I with the ticket that has my photo of her.  

To read more about Tracy's work with Children's Miracle Network and her time as Miss Clemson University 2016 and Miss Greater Easley 2015, to to tracyelizabethmcgee.com.