Bat Mitzvah

*Special thanks to Arianna’s Mom Lizzy as May’s guest author for this special blog.

The Bar & Bat Mitzvah is the moment in the Jewish life cycle that most deeply defines who Jews are as a people.  The Bat & Bar Mitzvah ceremony celebrates the link in an unbroken chain of thousands of years of Jewish tradition.  The words Bar & Bat Mitzvah literally mean “Son & Daughter of the Mitzvah.”  In addition to meaning “commandment” the word Mitzvah also means “connection.”

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (15)
Temple B’nai Shalom, East Brunswick, NJ

When a child reaches to the age of Bat & Bar Mitzvah, she/he assumes a greater maturity in her/his connection to Torah, to her/his own Jewish identity, to the Jewish people as a whole.

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (10)

According to the Torah, a Bar & Bat Mitzvah is a young man who has reached the age of 13 and a young woman who has reached the age of 12 (the beginning of her 13th year).  It is taught that at the age of 13 young men and women are endowed with a greater capacity for both seeking to do good and seeking selfish pursuits.  This age marks the young adult’s arrival at the crossroads of moral and spiritual decision making that is engaged in by mature adults.

As a community we celebrate the Bat & Bar Mitzvah in order to help our young adults become aware of and draw meaning from this significant transition in their lives.

But perhaps the greatest challenge is to make the day unforgettable not for the guests but for the real center of attention – the Bat Mitzvah girl or Bar Mitzvah boy. For many, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience determines their attitude to Judaism, if the event is meaningful and inspiring, their Jewish identity will be reinforced and they will be proud of their heritage.

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (11)

As for everything else, children look to their parents for guidance on how to view the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. They take their cues from us, and our attitude will define theirs. By the parents taking time to understand what a Bar/Bat Mitzvah really is, they can develop an approach that will highlight the uniqueness and power of their child’s special day.

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (17)

When planning the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, remember that the really important stuff begins after the fanfare has died down. People will forget who the caterer was a week after the event, and the table decorations will mostly be destroyed by the time the main course is served. But the values you pass down to your children are eternal. That is a gift that they will cherish every day of their lives – the gift of spiritual maturity.

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (12)

Planning my daughters special day was equally nerve racking as it was exciting.  Every step we experienced together created a special bond between mother and daughter.  Together we studied, chose catering halls, her theme and all the other small details that need to come together to make her day be special for her.

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (13)

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (14)

Getting ready for her Bat Mitzvah started off very early, but we were excited. She had gotten her hair done and had her first experience having makeup done professionally. At that moment I truly saw what a beautiful young woman she has become.  It’s a feeling of pride and love that has no words to describe. I am so glad she enjoyed herself getting ready for her big day and didn’t fall asleep during this process, even though I did see her do a lot of yawning.

We arrived early at the synagogue to prepare ourselves for her service. The Rabbi was there to great us and even let us take some pictures with him and the Torah! Soon family and friends started to arrive and the reality started to sink in that in a few moments my child will have moved into religious adulthood.


(Hair and makeup done at Salon DP Lorana, East Brunswick, NJ)

Arianna had started her religious learning a little later then most due to our moving, which made things a little harder for her since she needed to play catch up. But with hard work and perseverance she overcame and was amazing. She had to learn how to read prayers in Hebrew, which we don’t speak, and lead an entire service in front of many people. Which is scary for most adults, but at 13 she took to the challenge and succeeded. We are all very proud of her.

Arianna Bat Mitzvah (16)

(MuSen: I had the honor to capture Arianna’s Bat Mitzvah this May. It was photographed in both lifestyle and documentary styles. Documentary style refers to the style that photos are taken without photographer interactions; vs. Lifestyle refers to the style that photos are taken with the instruction of the photographer to create a perfect harmony for candid moment. I truly enjoyed this session and wish to promote both styles even more. )

What is composite – a unique Twins First Communion Session

I had the honor to capture a unique First Holy Communion portrait session for a pair of girl/boy twins back in early May. In this session, I used digital backgrounds frequently. Such technique is referred as “composite”.



My session always starts with pre-consultations. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for me and for my clients. Very often, clients’ dissatisfaction arises when photographers failed to meet their expectations. And in most cases, it is because expectations have not been communicated well before the session. I can communicate with clients in various ways – emails, texts, instant messengers (Facebook, WeChat, etc.), phone calls, or even in person meetup. I encourage clients send me favorite images they collected elsewhere or from previous portrait sessions to help me understand their preferred styles. (A picture says a thousand words. It helps to facilitate communication. The exercise here is not the same as trying to imitate other photographers’ works.)



For this First Communion session, Mom sent me images she collected from Pinterest. They are mostly outdoors. For example, a girl sitting on a flower swing in her First Communion dress, a boy praying under the sky in his First Communion suit, etc. I clearly understood what she wants but also realized there was a challenge: those outdoor locations and props are difficult to find around us and weather had not been in our favors to conduct a session outdoor.



The thought process led to the decision to utilize digital backgrounds. A wise use of digital backgrounds can help clients to achieve certain desired realistic looking outcomes without having to go through the extra miles and thus save both the photographer and clients time, energy, and costs. The entire session was then set up indoor with a dark gray muslin backdrop as the main theme. A few images were taken with a beach backdrop. There are two reasons to choose dark gray – it is a medium color between white (the girl’s dress color) and black (the boy’s suit color) and it also is a preferred background color for preparing digital cutouts to be used with digital backgrounds.



Most of the session images were delivered on traditional, classic dark gray background. Some are on the beach background. Each image was touched up lightly (in order to preserve children’s natural beauty) with color correction, skin tone balance, and blemish removal. Selected images were given black/white and/or light cast effects for a different look and feel. Qualified poses were further edited with digital backgrounds.



There are two types of digital backgrounds. One is a flat wallpaper type. And the other is called 3D or with layers where you can insert your subjects. Some 3D digital backgrounds even come with more editing tools to give your images more dreamy and realistic look. In my session I used both. Please always remember to obtain your digital backgrounds from a reputable source and pay attention to terms & conditions of use, especially if it is provided to you free of charge. Things like whether it is allowed to be used for commercial purposes, whether attributes are required, so on and so forth, need to be checked before you decided to use them. Just like photographers don’t like their work to be stolen, you don’t want to steal other people’s work even sometimes you might not do it intentionally, thus obtaining them from a reputable source can give you a peace of mind.

Most of the time, I start with a pose I like, and find the digital backdrops suitable for the pose. I let pose lead to backdrop choice instead the other way around. It gives more natural feel that way.  This is an example of a 3D digital backdrop. Subject is inserted into the layers.
Sometimes I would purposely pose my subject in order to be able to use certain digital backdrops. In this example, because Mom wants a floral swing look, we posed to make this happen.
One trick to make composite images look realistic is to identify the light source and play with shadows.
I found a digital backdrop to work with this sitting pose. This is an example of a flat wallpaper backdrop. Again, I played with shadow in order to make it look more realistic.
Flat wallpaper
3D Layered


TwinFirstCommunion-6Other composite techniques involve applying overlays and digital props.

An example of light cast effects. The process is actually more complex than it appears. After identifying the suitable light cast pattern, a series of modification techniques such as layer effect, image distort, blurring, gradient filtering, etc. were applied to achieve this look.
The bouquet is a digital prop. It was post edited into the girl’s hand.

I don’t recommend anyone to go overboard with composite. There are many other techniques and approaches to make images interesting and beautiful.


Detail shots add lots of interests to a portrait session. I always love to include them.
An elegant Black and White effect


Shoot at different angles, try different poses, capture subtle expressions. And don’t forget to play fair among siblings. I make sure to capture equal amount of images and poses with each one of them.


To book a portrait session, visit here for more information.

For a list of MuSen’s digital services, visit here.

Interested in finding out what the parents say about MuSen? Read their testimonial here.