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10 Minutes with Summerana Instructor Maribella Portraits

Introducing Maria Arellano of Maribella Portraits who will be our guest instructor inside the Summerana Membership this month on October 11th! We are lucky that not only do we get to watch her edit from start to finish showing us all of her editing secrets, but we also get to spend 10 minutes with her to get to know who she is!

Maria Micaela Arellano of Maribella Portraits is a fine art photographer located in Houston, Texas. Here is our interview with her:



If we ask your family, who is Maria Arellano what would they say? 

Maria is always busy, she is full of ideas and loves her business. She is driven and pushes everyone around her. She is also always stressing everyone out. 

What was your first year as a professional photographer like?

I left my job as a property manager in the fall of 2014 to focus on photography as a business. My husband and I made a deal that I would try it for 6 months and if I didn’t make enough that i would return to work. I officially started my business January 2015 and he lost about half his salary. So for me it was a sink or swim moment. I had to hustle and learn quickly in order to help my family. I failed a lot and I failed really fast, which allowed me to study, and fix issues quickly so that i could move on and earn more. It was a year of self discovery, where my style grew and changed, where  I went from shooting anything given to me, to specializing in children’s styled photography.

How would you describe your photography style? 

Edgy, stylish, artistic and dramatic, i think it feels luxurious or royal.

Tell us a little bit about your Halloween themed sessions

Halloween has always been my favorite time of year.  There is a channel, I think it’s sci-fi and every year in October they do 30 days of halloween, so that was my inspiration for capturing 30 images each year to be released one a day for 30 days of Halloween. I have to shoot these around July and August to have enough time to edit. I then teamed up with Shana Carter (Shana C. Carter Photography) and we headed over to a haunted hotel in Jefferson where we invited other photographers to shoot with us. We do ghost tours and just enjoy the spooky vibe. I look forward to it every year and so does my six year old who loves to be involved.

You are the October Guest Editor at Summerana and we are very excited to have you. What should members expect from your tutorial? 

How to play with color to create mood, take a sweet little girl from cute to creepy. Have fun bending all the rules.

If you had an unlimited budget and you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and do Halloween Sessions?

OMG so many places! But if I have to choose one it would have to be a creepy castle in France. That would be amazing! Especially if it still has its old world decor. 

Apparently ghosts don’t scare you. What do you fear most? 

Failure, but not like epic fails everyday. It’s the giving up part I think. I fail fast and I fail often, but I try to learn and move on. I guess I fear missing the passion for what I do. The challenges drive me, the day I become bored with my work I will probably quit and I just can’t imagine not being in charge. So, I guess I fear going back to a 9 to 5.

If you could have dinner with 1 person that made an impact on the photography industry, who would it be?

It’s so hard to choose one person for the industry as a whole. So I will choose 1 person for me. I love Kirsty Mitchell’s art, she created a book with a series of images called “Wonderland”. She has a body of work that is personal and she has complete control over it. My dream is to create art for art collectors not just portraits for clients. But, to create my own imagery.

What would you ask them? 

How did she fund her project? She designed and made everything and that is the kind of the freedom I want.

What is your favorite quote?

“Indecision steals many years from many people who wind up wishing they’d just have the courage to leap.” -Doe Zantamata


Watch me edit: 

Want to watch me edit this image in Photoshop from start to finish? It will be available to watch in the Summerana Membership here from October 11th-November 10th, 2019!

In this editing tutorial, Summerana guest instructor Maria Micaela Arellano of Maribella Portraits will show you her step-by-step process for editing a creepy doll composite.


“Taken outdoors with natural light. I like to create characters in scenes that can be interpreted on their own. Because I may only release one image of the entire character it is important that I give the child a backstory and I use that to create the mood and style of the final piece. In this one we used a Stella Maris Tutu’s Atelier baby doll dress because it was sweet and looked like a dress that a porcelain doll would wear. I love creepy porcelain doll imagery and this isn’t the first time I use it in my work. The first time was in my puppet doll shoot about two years ago. In this shoot however I wanted to use a sweet and innocent child against the creepy darkness. I don’t want it to be obvious at all. It worked really well because our little model actually doesn’t like scary movies or creepy things. So when I told her to pretend to be a creepy doll she gave me the most tentative and fearful face. Don’t worry, immediately after she got to be pretty and pose with a sweet smile. She was the perfect casting because she has very classically beautiful features. Walking around she really did look like a living doll.” – Maribella Portraits



You’ll learn how to create creepy eyes, create creepy skin, recreate your background, reshape your doll’s hair, body, and clothing, change the color of your scenery, how to add shadowing, how to remove/fix extra fingers that may be sticking out, how to add dimension through dodging and burning, sharpening and more… all through hand editing!

Camera settings:

  • Shot with a Canon 6D
  • 200mm lens
  • ISO 800, f2.2, 1/840

Edited using:

  • Photoshop
  • Hand editing

This article was featured in Summerana’s Magazine – The Orange Issue. See the full issue here

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