Christmas Eve-Eve Extended family Portrait Session

The hardest part about this extended family portrait session was deciding which pictures to share. For my large group session the day before, the weather was rainy and awful. We made do with a large covered balcony and some indoor shots, but I was very happy when the weather turned gorgeous for this session.

Sometimes clients are hesitant to book a winter session for fear of bad weather, but this session is a perfect example of how, in Middle Tennessee, any month can be wonderful for outdoor family photos. It was truly the perfect day.

To be honest, a lot of times large family portrait sessions aren’t my favorite. I enjoy them, and wholeheartedly believe they are important for capturing priceless memories. My only complaint is that often, because of the number of people being photographed, there isn’t a lot of time for candid, natural moments. You spend so much time getting all the required combinations of people, that there isn’t a lot of time left to run, jump & play with the kids.

But this session was absolutely perfect. The group shots went quickly and the family so fun and relaxed. We had plenty of time to explore and play. I loved the dynamic with this family, from the silly men to the sweet way that Kalei and Reed looked after their baby cousin, Alice.

I hope that they love this portrait session as much as I do and that the photos will be a cherished reminder of a happy Christmas for years to come.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas making memories.

Family Portraits After Loss

It’s a very personal thing to photograph someone. It’s especially personal to photograph them through loss and grief. So when Brandilee told me she wanted family photos, and wanted to find a way to include Finn in them, I wanted to do the best I could to make that happen for her, but wasn’t really sure the best way to do it.

I can’t even imagine what it might be like to lose a child myself, but I can guess that every first without your little one is incredibly difficult, including the first family photos after loss. I am thankful to have been trusted with this task, and hope that I was able to honor Finn’s memory while capturing the beautiful lives of his loving brothers and parents.

There really wasn’t much on the internet that I could find on honoring the loss of a loved one but Brandilee had made two requests so that was where I started.

The first thing she wanted was to photoshop Finn into some of the photos in a transparent way, symbolizing that his spirit was still there with them. I used photos from my family session with them from two years ago, and tried to blend it into a photo from this session.

The second thing she had requested was to include a framed photo of Finn with this family portrait session. So we printed her favorite image from that session two years ago, and she found a frame she like to put it in. The print was an 11×14 and I believe the frame was 16×20 inches.

One issue we ran into with the framed portrait was glare on the glass of the frame. Looking back, I wish I had asked them to remove the glass for the photo session. However, since I had the original image that the print was made from, it was pretty easy for me to photoshop the glare issue by covering up the reflection with the actual original image.

The last thing we did to include Finn in the photos was suggested to me in a forum of photographers who volunteer with The Gold Hope Project, and it’s actually my favorite. They suggested that we include a “stuffed animal or other object” that was important to the child whose memory we are honoring. What better way to remember Finn than to include his stuffed Avocado in the pictures?

One very important way that Finn’s family is honoring his memory is to be intimately involved in the continued fight against Rhabdo, the rare cancer that took Finn (and Sophie). If you want to learn more about their fight and the very important research going on at the Mayo Clinic, read this link on their blog.

To contribute to this incredible work please go to the following link: http://philanthropy.mayoclinic.org/donatemc.

Select “Other” under “Designate My Donation” and type in “Pediatric Rhabdomyosarcoma Research – Granberg/Gargollo.”

Typing in “Finn Schafran” when given the opportunity to enter in who’s memory this gift is for will help us continue to track Finn’s influence in this research

Learning new things – Indoor Portrait Session in spring hill

I am so glad this family chose to have an indoor portrait session this year, as it allowed me to test out new skills I’ve been working on learning. For most of my photography career, I’ve considered myself a natural light photographer. Most of my family portrait sessions are outdoors, but I also love shooting indoor portrait sessions for families and newborns. I’m obsessed with light and love exploring all the ways I can incorporate natural light into my photography.

But sometimes, natural light doesn’t give me what I want. I love using natural light at indoor portrait sessions, given that there are enough windows (and daylight) to allow enough light to enter the rooms. But sometimes, I find that light lacking. I can generally make do with the light available, but sometimes it’s just not the prettiest, and I wish I had more control over the light.

My journey to flash photography

So I set a goal to become more comfortable using a flash, when necessary. It started last summer when I somehow let one of my best friends talk me into photographing her sister’s wedding. (I don’t shoot weddings). I knew that shooting a dark reception would require flash, so I started working on getting better at using one. It was a learning experience and got me more comfortable shooting other dark indoor events, like this Quinceanera.

But at this point, I was only using flash when I had no other choice. I decided it was time to start creating my own light when maybe the natural light was passable, but not the prettiest, like sometimes at indoor sessions. So I’ve been taking an online class on off-camera flash and playing around with using a flash in more circumstances.

An indoor portrait session – the perfect time to use what I’ve learned

This family indoor portrait session was the perfect chance to use some of the things I’d learned. I met this family at their outdoor winter session two years ago, that ended up being one of my favorites of the season. I loved being able to photograph this beautiful family again – this time in their own home. It’s so much fun to have the kids show me their rooms, and get to know another side of them just by exploring their environments.

The living room was a bit dark, so I used off-camera flash for the photos we took in there. Abigail’s room had beautiful window light, so I just used the natural light in her room. But Eliot’s room faced another direction was a bit darker, so I did use the flash in her room. The flash was a great option that allowed me to get some fun action shots of her jumping on her bed. The movement might have been blurry without the flash in the darker room.

A chance to get creative

I was happy to be able to increase the available light in the house when I wanted to, but the most fun came when we went outside! I was always jealous of wedding photographers who post the fun rain shots with flash because most of my clients postpone their sessions when it rains. (It’s easier to defer family photos than your wedding day). But since this was mostly an indoor session, I was kind of hoping for rain so I could give it a try. The girls were kind enough to go out in the rain with me to get the shot. I wish it had been raining harder, but even the sprinkling gave a fun look to our umbrella shots.

I wanted to get a photo of Eliot riding her bike because that is something she does a lot at home, and I wanted to capture that time for her family. Since it stopped sprinkling, she grabbed the bike for a few shots. Usually, it would have been getting too dark outside for me to get a good picture, particularly of a moving child on a bike. But adding the flash allowed me to not only capture her movement with plenty of light, but it also allowed me to balance the cool, moody clouds in the background.

So I think I will begin to consider flash more as an option, not only for indoor sessions but for fill light or fun effects at outdoor sessions as well. You can still expect most of my shots at outdoor photoshoots to be with natural light, but don’t be surprised if I pull out the flash once in a while.

Time is running out to book your 2019 family portrait session

Speaking of sessions, if you haven’t booked yours for this year but intend to, please don’t wait. There are only a few spots left, and I don’t want you to miss out! I hate turning people away in the fall, but editing a session takes a lot of time, and there are just only so many I can do. You can choose a traditional outdoor photo session, or schedule an indoor portrait session like this one. Book yours today.

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.

Anthony J. D’Angelo

Yes, Bring the Dogs

Harlinsdale Farms family photo session with Dogs

I welcome clients including their pets in family portrait sessions. After all, they are a part of the family too.

Robin & Miles wanted to include their dogs Harley & Cassie in their portrait session, and the Park at Harlinsdale Farms was the perfect spot for including pets.  Robin is originally from Kentucky and wanted a location with a rustic feel, so Harlinsdale was perfect and a welcome spot to bring dogs. 

One reason I love to include dogs in a session, is I think it helps the clients to feel more relaxed.  It’s easier to capture candid moments when there are sweet doggies to play with during the session. Some clients worry that the dogs will be a distraction. I haven’t really found this to be an issue.  Assuming the dogs are friendly, I am generally able to include photos both with and without the dogs. For this session, my 10-year-old “assistant” actually joined me at the shoot was able to help with the dogs when they were not being included in photos.  If you would like to include your family dogs in a session, just let me know ahead of time and we can choose an appropriate place, and I can even bring my young assistant if you think that will be helpful.

Harley and Cassie were the sweetest dogs and I really enjoyed getting to know them and their lovely owners on this gorgeous day.

What to wear to a family portrait session

Confession time – I’m not very good at picking clothing for family photos.  I’ve never felt like I was very good at fashion, but I know what I like and what I don’t like to see in family portrait sessions.  And I know that several of my friends are REALLY good at picking family session clothing.  One of those friends is Christy – I am always so impressed with her wardrobe choices for her family photos, so I asked her how she goes about choosing photos for a session for herself, her husband, and their three adorable little girls.  She had some great advice to share:

“I typically start with one outfit I love.  One year I loved this purple sweater that Hannah had, it looked great on her.  That year purple was our color and everyone else’s outfit was picked to match.  Last year I had a floral dress I loved, so I pulled colors out of the dress for each of the girls to wear.  I try not to pick more than one or two patterns, or any pattern that is too small or busy.  Most of the time we have what we need in our closets already.  I usually only buy one or two outfits for a shoot.  Old Navy is a great place to get coordinated outfits. They sell lots of solids which always look great in photos!  Little touches like matching bows or denim jackets helps tie everything together.”

Here are a few more do’s and don’ts I have for choosing clothing for your family photos:

DO:

  • Do pick 2-3 colors & find outfits for those colors. 
  • Do shop your own closet first.  What do you love to wear that is your signature style?  
  • Do be yourself.  If you are a blue jeans kind of mom, then wear blue jeans.  Don’t feel like you have to be fancy.  Be you.
  • Do make sure everyone feels comfortable in what they are wearing.  
  • Do make sure everything fits appropriately….this is not the time for squeezing into something, or for buying clothes big so the kids can grow into them. 
  • Do consider scarves, jackets, accessories and other things that add texture & interest to the outfits.
  • Do avoid graphics and distracting logos.  That “Big Brother” shirt is cute, but unless he’s standing perfectly still, you won’t be able to read it well in photos. 
  • Do expect you child to run, jump and play at the session.

DON’T

  • Don’t force your kids (or husband) to wear something they hate.  We want them to be comfortable at the session. 
  • Don’t wear florescent colors.  They can reflect onto skin tones. (My favorite colors for sessions are jewel tones…blue, plum, teal, burgandy, mustard yellow, etc)
  • Don’t use giant bows…it distracts from your daughter’s beautiful face.  Smaller ones are great, BUT only if she wants to wear it. Let’s not spend the entire session trying to force her to put her bow back on.
  • Don’t be afraid to incorporate patterns, just don’t go overboard.
  • Don’t try to be too matched.  Coordinated (but not matched) looks best. 
  • Don’t wear a shirt that wrinkles super easily (I see this a lot on men’s dress shirts…it’s pretty impossible to photo shop out.)
  • Don’t forget about your nails. (I often see chipped nail polish on little girls.)
  • Don’t forget about shoes…especially for the little ones.  If the weather is appropriate, barefoot is a good option for the kids.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask me if you are unsure about something. 

And didn’t Christy do a fabulous job?  They look like they belong on the cover of a magazine. 

Bonus before and after editing shot below. Can you find it?  I kinda love the before.  😂

Have you booked your family portrait session yet?  There are only a few spots left for spring, so don’t wait to book your session.

Yes to Puppies at family portrait sessions

I am often asked, sometimes hesitantly, if it’s ok to bring the family dog to a photo session.  The answer is always, one million times, yes.  Unless your dog is a terrifying, savage beast who is going to maul me, then perhaps not.  But for cute, adorable puppies, always yes.  

Here are my top 10 reasons to bring your puppy to a photo session:

1.  They are adorable. 

2 They help to get for real, not fake smiles from your children.

3. Puppy kisses.

4. They are part of the family, so why wouldn’t you?

5. Tiny kids holding puppies is adorable.

6. Tweens & teens holding puppies is adorable.

7. Grown ups holding puppies is adorable.  

8. Puppy kisses.

9. Taking the puppy for a walk is a great photo op, and a real moment.

10. Puppy kisses