Cozy winter moments with a family of four home session

Y’all, I think I survived the busy season.  It was busy, but beautiful and I just absolutely love all the wonderful families I’ve met and photographed over the past few months, and throughout 2017. While there is no more opportunity for Christmas photos, I am still taking orders for custom photo books for past clients, that make great gifts for the holidays.  I’m also booking January – June of next year on my online booking calendar.  

Please don’t let winter scare you away from scheduling family portraits. Just look at this beautiful family I met yesterday in Chapel Hill at their family home. It was just a gorgeous piece of property with the sun shining just right through the trees on this chilly winter evening. I wanted to take these sweet boys home with me.  Gillan was so much fun showing me around his land and playing hide and seek with me.  I just adore the way three year olds are so in love with exploring the world around them.  And he is obviously such an amazing big brother to little Tucker. And oh my gosh…baby Tucker!  Just look at those adorable cheeks and that smile.  What perfect little boys. 

Let’s be silly – Family Portrait Session at Harlinsdale Farms

If I had to say what age group is the most challenging for photos, I’d have to say it is big kids / tweens.  Most people with toddlers, assume their toddlers are the hardest.  Some photographers might agree, but not for me.  Toddlers are fast, and always do the unexpected, and will never ever stand in the spot you want them to stand in, but they are always, without fail, 100% authentic. 

But by the time they become big kids, children have been conditioned to act in a certain (wrong) way for portrait sessions.  They “behave” and stand wherever you ask them to, with this forced, uncomfortable smile on their faces, talking to me through clenched, smiling teeth when I ask them questions.    

So I’ve had to find ways to overcome this.  

Usually, this means playing and being silly. 

Sometimes I think parents must think I’m nuts to have somehow turned their well-behaved children into giggling, energetic goof balls by the end of the session, but honestly I prefer that to stiff children I see at the beginning of a session.  I am so thankful to the parents in this session because they stood back and let me guide the children in play and silliness instead of trying to force a certain pose or photo that they had in their heads. 

My guidance varies depending on the family, but for this session we discussed what vegetables are gross, embarrassing moments (they preferred to tell me one of a friend’s moments instead of their own, but it still worked), and whether or not Daddy is a good dancer.   We raced, played tag and roughhoused.  It was perfection. These two twins were just so much fun to watch. I loved seeing them interact with each other and trying to capture the connection between them.  And those Freckles!!!  ❤️❤️❤️

Capturing the Moments – Harlinsdale Farms Family Portrait Session

I just love this session.  The colors, the light, the giggles….and it reminded me of the connection between my own girls.  I hope that my client loves them as much as I do.  I try to capture the kind of images that I want for my own family…not just posed photos of everyone looking at the camera, but those moments between a family….a look, or a giggle, or they way they are naturally holding hands as we move on to our next spot.  In one of the images below of the father and the older daughter…they thought that I was only shooting pics of mom and younger daughter, but I saw them hanging out together and just had to take a moment to capture them too when they weren’t looking. My absolute favorite images are at the very end of the session, when the girls were just playing with each other.  That pure joy that you can see on their faces is just the kind of thing that truly inspires me.  They are absolutely stunning. 

Harlinsdale Farms had no less than 10 other sessions going on while I shot this one…probably more like 15.  It was insane, but it was SUCH a gorgeous December day.  The trick to shooting in such a busy place is to find where you want to shoot that is in the light you want to shoot and try to frame out any unwanted people or elements.  That’s not always possible though, especially when you are trying to capture a real connection between active, moving children, so that is where photoshop comes in, to eliminate unwanted people in the frame when absolutely necessary.

I also want to take a moment to point out that these images were shot when Fall was completely gone.  There is pretty much no more leaves left at Harlinsdale and everything is mostly dead.  This is a winter session for sure, despite the warm weather, but I absolutely adore it.  I point this out because so many people are dead set on shooting “Fall” portraits. Well sadly that really pretty season only lasts for a few weeks, but I 100% believe that beautiful images can be created any time of year.  

Laurel’s Lifestyle Newborn Session

Gah, I don’t want to leave this baby.  Can she just come home and live with me?  (Her mommy says no.) 

I’m so glad I was able to spend Thanksgiving with her though.  We have so much to be thankful for this year.  My brother and his amazing wife are just wonderful parents to this sweet girl, and she has her big canine sister Barley looking out for her.  My girls are just head over heels for their new cousin, and I couldn’t help including a few pictures of them with her at the end of this post. 

I could take photos of her all day long. Also, I just love her nursery. Deb did such an awesome job decorating it.  

One thing you absolutely must tell me before your family portrait session.

Whenever you book a family portrait session with me through my online calendar, I ask that you answer a few questions to help me prepare for the photo session.  The only question that is not optional is the names and ages of the people being photographed (because I study the names in advance).  I understand that my clients are very busy, so if you don’t have time to give me a detailed description of little Sally’s likes and dislikes, that’s OK.  It’s great for me to know that Johnny loves Dinosaurs or Ann’s favorite TV show is Paw Patrol.  Those things help me to have conversation starters with the children, and sometimes help to get a genuine smile.  But if you don’t have time to put that, it’s OK…I’ll wing it.  

I really love knowing why the photo session is important to you.  I remember one family who told me about the rough year they’d each had individually, but that they wanted this photo session to show how they were always there for each other in the rough times and the good.  I don’t know why knowing these things helps me with a session, but somehow they do.  I guess I feel more connected to the family.  I’ve always loved the quote, “I don’t shoot what it looks like…I shoot how it feels.”  The more I know going into a session, the easier it is to capture the feelings

But again, I can get away with not knowing these things if you don’t have time to fill out a detailed survey. But there is one thing that I absolutely NEED to know before your family session.

If you have a child who is very shy, I absolutely need to know this in advance.  The reason is that when I read that your child is shy, I automatically know I need to approach her differently. While her sister is chatting my head of about school, and vacations, and puppies, I approach her cautiously, quietly, trying not to overwhelm her.  I’ll let her get use to me before I really approach her at all.  Then I’ll maybe ask her a few quiet questions and feel her out.  I might let her see my camera…or whatever it feels like it might take to help her feel more comfortable.  I have all of this in my head before the session, because you’ve told me before hand what your little one needs.  It didn’t take much to tell me this…just a few words, but it makes all the difference in the world because if I approach her the wrong way, she could get overwhelmed and shut down.  And that’s definitely not what I  want. 

So take a look at the pictures below.  Can you tell which one is the shy sister?  No?  Good. 

And I just want to say that all three of these little girls were amazing.  I had so much fun with them.  They are totally my happy place. So much energy, and wonder and joy.  They were just perfect. 

Extended Family Portrait Session at the Factory at Franklin

Pam contacted me for a portrait session after I had photographed her grand-daughter Lily at Spring Meadows Academy.  She wanted to have photos made with all of her children and grandchildren for Christmas.  We had originally chosen an outdoor location, but then decided to move it to the Factory at Franklin because of the cold.  The Factory is great because it has some outdoor locations, but then if you get cold, you can go inside for some shots to warm up. 

Can I just say that I am falling in love with the color Mustard?  I’ve always loved blues in my photographs, but I’ve had several clients lately who have used mustard in their wardrobe choices, and I just really love the pop of color it brings.  

I’m going to be real here for a minute…groups this large are hard.  Especially with so many young children.  My passion has always been for candid images, but with a group this large, the sheer amount of combinations you want to try to get leaves little room for just letting the children play and capturing what happens, but I do try to fit those in anyway.  Some of my favorites from this session were at the very end of our shoot when the kids were playing on the chairs in the factory. 

But these adorable kids did an awesome job and were so patient.  I think my absolute favorite is the photo of all of them taking a sucker break on a long bench.  All my little clients know that I travel with Yummy Earth Organic Sucker in my bag, and I’ve never minded including suckers in the photos sometimes, but I kind of adore the suckers in that photo.  All the kids are doing their own thing and enjoying their break…not posing at all, just staring at the ceiling or whatever.  And then there is 12 year old Dahne just looking at me like “how did I get stuck with all these little kids?”  LOL  I guess if you know my style, it’s probably not surprising that I love that photo. What about you? What kind of photos are your favorites?

Chelsea & Molly – Mother Daughter portrait session with extended family

I don’t get to see Chelsea enough these days, so it was so good to hang out with her for her annual family portrait session. For the past two years, I have taken photos of just Chelsea & Molly, but this time, they decided they wanted to include Chelsea’s parents and brother in the session.  Are they just a gorgeous family?  I adore the colors they chose to wear for this session…and Chelsea’s beautiful scarf really brings it all together.  

I cannot get over how old Molly is getting. All my photo babies are growing up.  🙁  Sometimes with tweens, it can be difficult to get real genuine smiles and expressions at photo sessions.  By now, they have begun to get that uncomfortable feeling that we as adults sometimes get when a camera is in our face, and adopt the cheesy fake smile. This is primarily our fault as adults for screaming at them for years to “smile and say cheese.”  But this time, I had a game plan and brought a secret weapon…my 9 year old. Her methods are unconventional as she stood behind me for half the shoot singing ridiculous songs in a loud obnoxious voice for Molly, but she did manage to help me get some genuine smiles and laughs, so I’ll call it a win. 

I just adore these two and love photographing them.  Such a gorgeous mother / daughter combo both inside and out.  <3

Way too easy photo session with Alys & Grayson

I’ve been taking Grayson’s photos for literally his entire life, since the exact moment he was born, and I always look forward to their annual photo sessions.  It almost didn’t happen this year because Margaret didn’t get on my Fall schedule in time, but I had a cancellation for this past weekend and when I posted the open spot on my booking calendar, she jumped at the chance.  I’m so glad she did because I just adore these kids.  

You guys know that toddlers and preschoolers are my favorite age to photograph.  I love everything about them, and especially their wonder with the world around them and their straight up inability to be anything but 100% authentic.  They are always amazing, and adorable and full of life.  They are not, however, usually cooperative.  And that is completely OK with me.  I try to alleviate parents fears about little ones “mis-behaving” and let them know that I do not expect, nor need, cooperation.  My goal is to capture them being themselves, and exploring the world around them.  To get family shots, sometimes that takes a ton of shots just to get one good one.  Siblings shots are also challenging, so I guide them to play games together in order to get them in the same frame, having fun.

But I swear, Alys and Grayson just don’t require any of that.  For the second year in a row, 10 seconds into shooting, they give me a beautiful, adorable hug where no one seems to be choking anyone (seriously…95% of the time when I ask siblings to hug, someone gets choked.)  They would even stand in the pretty light for me so I could get portraits in the exact spot that I wanted. I feel like these two maybe should go into modeling. Like for real.  I know I could just photograph them all day long. 

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

It’s only reasonable that I’m going to Disney World

I just love working with repeat clients.  It’s so much to see the children grow from year to year at their annual family portrait sessions. Scarlett & Jackson are two of my favorite repeat clients.  The two of them are just so full of life, and wonder and energy.  We have so much fun playing & exploring together.  I just love the dynamic the two of them have together, and they always keep me on my toes. I find myself smiling as I’m editing their photos because of their adorable faces and their beautiful spirit. These two definitely embody what I love about children’s photography.

In addition to their family portrait sessions, I have also regularly shot birthday parties for this beautiful family.  You may remember Scarlett’s gorgeous Fairy Birthday Party, or her adorable Strawberry Shortcake Birthday Party.  Or big brother Jackson’s amazing Star Wars Birthday Party a few months ago.  Nicole throws the most amazing children’s parties, but I imagine they are a LOT of work.  While chatting at their family session, I learned that this year, instead of a birthday party, Scarlett has chosen to go to Disney World instead!! 

So, I think it’s only reasonable to assume that I’m going to Disney World to photograph Scarlett on her birthday, right?

(Good thing we are already planning a family trip to Disney ourselves, otherwise Nicole might find me hiding in her trunk.)  😉

Family portrait session for a survivor

Elizabeth Yancey is one of the strongest women I’ve known. Exactly one year ago from the date of this session, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Over the past year, I have watched her kick cancer’s butt, all while being an amazing teacher, mother, wife and human being. She is such an example of faith and grace and courage.

I chose the date of the session for her but didn’t know at the time that I had chosen this anniversary. But what an honor it was to be able to capture this milestone for her and to photograph a true survivor.

I had such a fun time photographing the ‘Yancey Clan.’  I always marvel at how beautifully different each sibling in a family can be, and these are four amazing and unique children. 

Whenever someone books a session with me, I ask a series of questions.  Clients do not have to answer most of them, but it does make it so much easier for me.  My goal when I photograph a session is to capture your family in a way that really highlights who they are as individuals and as a family.  It really makes it easier on me if I know a little about them before I try to do that.  Elizabeth thoughtfully answered each question, and that really gave me an advantage at the session.  I knew the kids a little beforehand, but her answers helped me to know how to approach them.  I knew that Wylie would be the easy one.  I knew that Moses would have to be coaxed out of his fake smile, but that being silly and letting him be active would be a good strategy.  I knew not to overwhelm Nonie, as she is shyer than the others so I approached her quietly.  I knew Wesley would warm up as the session went on (and boy did she!! Peekaboo!).  

But most of all, I knew what these pictures would mean to Elizabeth, as a way to mark this milestone and show that they “not only survived but are thriving.”  

Please take a moment to vote for Elizabeth’s favorite charity and read her story on  

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The entire time I’ve been editing this session, I keep thinking about Christmas.  The lovely reds in the clothing they wore for their family portrait session just put me in the holiday spirit.  Can’t you imagine how beautiful they will look on a Christmas card??

I know this is going to be a controversial statement, but when it comes to Christmas, I say bring it on!  I have a friend who put up her Christmas tree this week.  She wouldn’t normally do that, but when her three year old begged her to go ahead and put it up, she couldn’t say no to his sweet little face.  She posted about it on Facebook and got a lot of crap for it from some sad, scroogy people (Y’all know I love you anyway.)  We need more joy in this world, and if a Christmas tree brings some of that, then just go ahead and put it up.  And if it’s not a source of joy for you, then don’t put it up.  To each her own, but stop scrooging other people.  And yes, I made up that word. LOL

Ok so back to my beautiful friends here….I’ve been photographing them for years and years. They have been through so much lately as a family and I’m so glad that they could take some time to be together and create these memories.  I think that it’s important even during the rough times to stop for a moment and capture what matters most to you. 

My sweet friend Zaffer is autistic, which can lead to some unique challenges in taking family photographs.  Over the years I have learned more and more about what works for him, and we are sure to take his needs into consideration for the session. It’s always worked out well enough, but I was so blown away with how wonderfully he AND his sisters did for this session. It’s ALWAYS an adventure photographing three young children, even without special needs, but they all just knocked it out of the park this time. Looking at his beautiful smile just makes me all teary eyed. 

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Laurel’s First Day – My New Niece

I may be a little biased, but Laurel Caroline Rogers is absolutely perfect. It was so hard to leave her in Ohio, but thankfully I will see her again before too long when we go to Ohio for Thanksgiving (so expect more photos of her).  

My girls just adore their “Uncle Boy”, which is what they have always called him, because I always called him “Boy” when we were growing up, and still do.  “Aunt Deborah” has been in my girls lives since they were born, and she has always been so good to them and spoiled them rotten.  Both girls were in their wedding when Megan was about three years old and Kayla was one and a half.   Kayla did a very poor job at her flower girl duties, but she was adorable anyway.  I’ll never forget that right before the wedding, Megan was asking about our hometown and when me and “Uncle Boy” were kids.  I was telling her stories, and at one point she said “But where was Aunt Deborah?”  It was foreign to her that Aunt Deborah had not always been part of our family.

So Megan & Kayla are now just over the moon about their new baby cousin, and I can’t wait to spoil her rotten, just like my girls have been spoiled rotten by their aunt and uncle (also there will be loud obnoxious toys…paybacks). 

The girls weren’t able to come with me to Ohio for Laurel’s birth, so their first meeting with their baby cousin comes compliments of a video call.  This was one time I was very thankful for modern technology because at least they were able to be part of the story in some way.

Speaking of being part of the story…I am so use to trying to be a fly on the wall while photographing birth stories, capturing another family’s special moments.  But it occurred to me as I was sitting in the waiting room at the hospital in the middle of the night waiting on Laurel’s birth, that this time, I was also part of the story.  So I have tried to include a few photos that showed that…several of my gear and of my feel waiting in the waiting room.  And at the bottom of this post you’ll see me and my sweet niece compliments of a good ole modern day phone selfie.  My brother did offer to take the camera from me and take some photos of me and Laurel at the hospital, but I ended up liking the phone picture better. 

So about three more weeks until I can see her again! I can’t wait!

Birth of Laurel Caroline Rogers

This definitely ranked as one of the most awesome nights of my life. My baby brother and his amazing wife asked me to photograph the birth of their daughter.  Every single birth I have witnessed is a gift, but this one was especially meaningful to me. To be able to capture my niece entering this world was truly beautiful. 

I am so proud of my brother, and so happy that he has found such an amazing wife.  She was a rockstar during delivery. 

Deborah planned to be induced on Saturday, but on Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from her.  She said that her blood pressure was up a little, and that the doctors had decided to admit her to the hospital and go ahead and induce labor.  So I threw some things in a bag and jumped in the car to make the six hour drive to Columbus, nervous the entire time that I might miss it. 

As I got closer to Columbus, I heard from Tim that they did not plan to put Deborah on Pitocin until about midnight, which thankfully meant I likely had plenty of time to make it to the hospital. When I arrived around 9 p.m., Deborah had begun to have really strong contractions that were progressing nicely.  She ended up not having to have Pitocin at all.  Around 2 a.m., the nurse said that she was ready and called for the doctor.  Deborah did an amazing job, and brought Laurel into the world at 2:37 a.m.  

They had chosen not to find out the baby’s sex before delivery, so up until that moment, I didn’t know if I would have a niece or nephew.  It was really awesome when the doctor held out the baby for Tim to see and then announce that it was a girl.   She weighed 6lbs 14oz and was 20” long, and is absolutely perfect.

I am so thrilled to be an aunt and cannot wait to spoil that little girl rotten.  I know that Tim & Deb are going to be amazing parents to that sweet girl and she is very blessed to have them as parents. 

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