What a beautiful way to finish up 2019 with this gorgeous family of 5 portrait session at Harlinsdale Park in Franklin. This photo session was originally scheduled for November but we got rained out. We couldn’t reschedule right away because the family’s oldest daughter, Jessica, lives in New York so we rescheduled the session for when she would be home for the Christmas holidays. And what an amazing day it was! We could not have asked for more beautiful weather.
Merry Christmas everyone! This beautiful family isn’t able to get together often since some of them live in different parts of the country. Since they were all in town for their Christmas celebration, they wanted to be able to capture those memories in photographs, and I am so glad they did. It was such an honor to be a part of such love and laughter. I felt so at home with them that I could have easily slipped in and pretended to be another sibling. It was so much fun.
We had hoped to be able to take at least some of the photos outside, but the weather didn’t cooperate. But with the help of a large covered deck and a gorgeous red umbrella, we made it work.
I hope that the photos mean something special to them and that they can be treasured for years to come.
And I hope all of you have a very wonderful holiday season filled with lots of magical moments, laughter and love.
Here goes my annual plug in favor of sending holiday cards in the mail. In almost every other way, I tend to choose the greener, more efficient way of doing things. I loathe writing checks, and much prefer Venmo. I decide to do most things online rather than paper versions. I’m content reading an e-book.
But there is just something about receiving an old fashioned paper Christmas card in the mail. I particularly love the ones with family photos (I know…shocker.) I tape each one to our front door and admire them until well after the New Year.
But I know many of my friends and clients are overwhelmed about getting a Christmas card made and sent out, so I thought I’d offer a few tips to help you with this holiday task.
STEP 1: Getting the Photos
The most obvious choice for getting photos for your annual holiday card is to use the images from your yearly family portrait session.
You can also use photos you’ve taken throughout the year. Last year, my family went on a vacation to Toronto and Niagara Falls for Thanksgiving week. I used photos I took from that vacation (including some phone selfies!) for our holiday card, and everyone seemed to really enjoy them. So don’t think your holiday card has to be all fancy or posed. I haven’t decided this year whether to use vacation photos or the more formal ones I just took a few weeks ago of our family for this year’s Christmas card.
One of my best friends recently set up her phone to take a selfie photo of her family (including their sweet dog) in front of their fireplace. They propped up the phone on a shelf and then used a smartwatch to trigger the photo, but a timer would work fine too. She had the stockings all hung, and it looks super festive and cute. This is an excellent option if you didn’t have family photos made this year, or, if like her, you had spring photos made and want something more festive looking for your holiday card.
Another great option is to come to see Santa Claus and me at the Spring Station Middle School Holiday Market on December 7. Your $25 pre-order ticket includes admission to the Spring Station Holiday Market event for two adults and your children & digital photo downloads of your Santa visit that you can use for your holiday card! Book your spot now before they sell out.
STEP 2: Printing the Photo Cards
If you had pictures made with me this year, you could design and purchase a holiday card straight from your session photo gallery. There are lots of high-quality options, and they print and ship super fast.
If you are using your own photo, I recommend Mpix.com for all your printing needs, including Christmas & Holiday cards. They are having a 50% off sale on Christmas cards that ends today if you are ready to get it done.
And of course, there are plenty of other printing options, such as Shutterfly. I have found the print quality of cards from Shutterfly to be mixed, but with their sales and coupon codes, they are definitely a good choice if you are looking to save a few bucks.
I’m just going to remind you now that if you print professional photos at Walgreens, then a unicorn will die.
STEP 3: Mailing the Photos
I know some people insist that Christmas cards should be hand addressed and signed. I’m not one of those people. My list is huge, and in this case, I’m an advocate that done is better than perfect. So I make it easy on myself.
I either have the place I’m ordering cards from print my return address on the envelopes, or I use return address labels (this year, I got some on sale from Shutterfly).
I keep a document on my computer of addresses, formatted to print onto adhesive Avery address labels. Each year, I review the list to see if it requires changes and then print the labels to address my cards. If any cards are returned to me, I make sure to figure out why, and then edit the list accordingly for next year’s cards.
I’ve seen some people on Facebook using google forms to collect addresses of people who want to receive a card from them. That’s a great place to start if you are beginning from scratch, but be sure to save the addresses in printable form to use again next year to make it super easy for you.
Bonus tip: This year, I ordered discount Forever stamps from Ebay to save a few bucks on shipping the cards, which is good since I send out so many.
That’s it, then sit back and enjoy the rest of the holidays knowing you did your part in spreading cheer.
Gorgeous family photo session with some of my favorite people
Speaking of festive holiday cheer, check out these photos of one of my absolute favorite clients. I adore their clothing choices for this session – perfect for a holiday card, but not so Christmasy that they won’t look great hanging on their walls year-round. These kids keep me on my toes, but I adore them and always end up loving the photos of them. They are so full of life and personality, and everything I love about photographing young children.
To our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future, God bless you and thank you.
How fitting that I’m sitting here writing this blog post on Veterans Day. Jennifer wanted to schedule this session because her husband will soon be leaving for military training for six months. She wrote “I would just love some memorable family pictures that my girls and myself can look at while he is gone and just have a fond memory and smile.”
She snagged a spot that had opened up fairly last minute because I had a client that needed to change to a different date. I’m so glad she did. I had photographed the family a couple years ago and it was so great to see these sweet girls, and how much they had grown.
The day could not had been more perfect, and we had a blast exploring and playing in the leaves. I love their energy so much. I couldn’t help but smile while I edited these pictures of their sweet family, and hope that they will be able to look upon them with fond memories during their time a part.
To all of those who serve our country, and to their families who support them, thank you for your service. 🇺🇸
About 20 minutes into this outdoor family portrait session, my camera suddenly refused to take a photo. I looked down at my camera screen, and saw a warning that said I had a memory card error, and to remove the defective card. The card was somehow damaged, and could not be accessed at all. All of the photos I had taken of these beautiful girls so far, were not on the card.
That might have been a moment of panic. For an hour long session, 20 minutes of shooting is a significant number of photos. And the girls had done such an amazing job. We had sang and danced and giggled in the gorgeous light of the most beautiful yellow tree at Thompson Station Park.
But instead of panicking and mourning the loss of those pictures, I simply popped out that memory card and replaced it with another one. You see, I wasn’t worried about losing images, because my camera holds two memory cards. When I take photos, the images are copied to both cards, so that even during a session, I always have a backup. One card was damaged, but the other one was just fine, and had all the photos from the first part of the session. So I just continued shooting without issue, with a new card from my bag as a second backup.
In fact, I always have two copies of your portrait session images. Once I get home from a session, I immediately copy one of the memory cards onto my computer. The other memory card from the session is then stored in a case, not be erased until I have uploaded the session to my online gallery, at which point I’ll have a copy online and a copy on my hard drive.
And I am so glad there are, because I wouldn’t have wanted to miss one photo of these amazing girls. This is the third year now that I’ve been blessed to photograph this wonderful family. Last year, I wrote about how much I love to see repeat clients each year, and that’s still true today. Seeing how these young ladies grow and change each year is one of the best parts of my job. ❤️
I joined the MOMS Club of Spring Hill in 2009, the day after I left my job as an Engineer at General Motors. It was during the big recession, GM was bankrupt, and the plant was closing. I had a new baby, a toddler, and no desire to be transferred to another facility, so I was out the door. Honestly, I was pretty excited about it.
Since I’d had the girls, I’d been pretty torn about working full time, but also nervous about living on one income. It all worked out for the best.
I had a friend from work who had told me about his wife’s involvement in the Spring Hill MOMS Club. I’d met her a few times, and she seemed nice. I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, and a toddler who needed to get out of the house sometimes, so the day after I left GM, I showed up at one of their meetings.
It turned out to be a fantastic decision for me. It’s where I spent the next five years, eventually becoming president for several years. It’s where I met my mom tribe and the women who still get me through the hard days of parenthood. It’s a club meant for those with small children, so eventually, I “graduated” and left officially, but the women I met there are still a massive part of my life. Some I see often. Others I see rarely but follow along with their lives on social media. All of them are important to me.
These women were also hugely instrumental in me becoming a photographer. I joined around the same time I became interested in photography. And I photographed EVERYTHING…Playdates, holiday parties, and everything in between. The other moms encouraged me and let me practice. They made me feel like I was capturing something special, and not just the annoying woman who always had the camera out. My Facebook Timehop is filled with those memories, and I am so glad to have them.
At some point, it moved from just me casually taking photos at events, to friends asking if I would shoot their yearly family photos. I was grossly unqualified and had no idea what I was doing, but they encouraged me anyway. That’s when I really started to figure out my style, what I loved to photograph, and that photography was indeed something I was passionate about pursuing. Those sessions helped me practice and learn, and eventually, almost five years ago now, I turned it into a real business.
Jennie was one of those moms. I photographed a session for her family seven years ago. There are a lot of photos from that period that I look back on and cringe at, but I like looking at that session. I feel like I’ve improved a lot since then, but I feel like I can start to see my style emerging in those. They moved to Murfreesboro years ago, and I haven’t seen her in years, so I was excited when she asked me to photograph a combination Senior / Family Session.
I had not looked back at that session in years, but after I got home from shooting this week’s session, I wanted to go back and look at them. I was surprised to see that a lot fo the pics I took this week lined up nicely as a side-by-side comparison from seven years ago. They say time flies, but there is nothing like looking at photos like these to make it hit home. Was that really SEVEN years ago? And how did these babies turn into beautiful teens, with McKenna ready for COLLEGE???
We used to joke about how someday, maybe I would photograph Senior portraits for the kids. But now it’s happening already. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I swear, last week, we were handing out juice boxes at the Giraffe Age Group Playdates.
Anyway, that was a lot of rambling. Mostly I wanted to say to all my MOMS Club peeps…thanks for encouraging & supporting me all these years. And to Jennie…dang you did good, mama. You raised three amazing babies.
This lovely family just moved to Spring Hill from Chicago and found me on Google when looking for a family portrait photographer.
In my client questionnaire, Justine said that the family was a little homesick, but was enjoying getting to know Spring Hill and Middle Tennessee. What tips would you offer them for acclimating to our area? Any favorite businesses or outings? When I moved to Spring Hill 16 years ago, there wasn’t much to this tiny little town, but now there is a ton to explore and do. In the comments, tell me your favorites. Be sure to tag your favorite businesses, so she knows where to find them.
Justine also mentioned that her fear for the portrait session was that Nolan (like many toddlers) was pretty squirmy, and she was a little concerned about getting a family picture. That wasn’t an issue at all. I would say this was one of the easiest portrait sessions I’ve photographed in a while. Nolan did a fantastic job. My other portrait sessions of the day both included two very young siblings. One toddler is generally very easy to photograph. It’s when you start trying to get two or more of them together that it gets more challenging.
🍁 Great Opportunity if you haven’t booked fall photos!
I’ve had a client who had to reschedule a session, leaving an opening for a family session at Chapman’s Retreat Walking Trail (shown below) on November 10 at 3:15 (magic hour!!).
I also have a 1:15 spot open for that day. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
In case you haven’t heard me preach this before, contrary to popular belief, October is NOT the best time for fall color in Middle Tennessee. Early November is. Of course, I can’t promise anything, but there is a good chance this might be one of the best weekends of the year for Fall photos, and I have two spots open. Don’t wait.
I can’t even with the cuteness in these photos. The girls were just everything. ❤️
In online photography forums, you can read a lot about finding your ideal family portrait clients. I don’t know precisely how to put into words what defines a perfect client for me, but I know it and get excited when I see it.
Isla (3 years old) and Evie (1 1/2 years old) are at my absolute favorite ages of children to photograph. They brought their special Panda lovies to the session. I adore capturing young children with their special objects. The girls were so much fun to be around – wild and free and full of wonder about their world, which is everything I love about photographing kids this age.
Mom and Dad were more interested in capturing authentic, emotional images than in Pinterest perfect posed shots, which is the best kind of client for me. We danced and played and had a fabulous time.
This is a family who thought about the constraints of studio portraits with very young children and realized what a nightmare that could be. One thing that is extremely important to me is that family portrait sessions not be a stressful experience for families. I want to make it fun for the children, and for happy memories to be associated with the photographs. What good is a beautifully posed image if the memory associated with it was of a horrible experience?
I want to point out, though, that creating an enjoyable experience does not mean that everyone is happy for every minute of a session. It’s important to note this because I don’t want parents to become stressed out if there is a tiny bump in the road. Toddlers and preschoolers, by nature, have SO MANY EMOTIONS and not enough words to express them. I do not expect, nor need them to be happy and joyful every minute of a session.
First of all, that’s not real life. Second, the pouty moments are beautiful too. And third, and most importantly, toddler moods are like Middle Tennessee weather…if you don’t like it, wait a few minutes and it will change. As long as no one over reacts to momentary grumpiness, they will typically forget the mood in a manner of minutes…especially if we move on to a new activity…which I will generally do if they become impatient with what we were doing.
Can we talk about these outfits for a minute? These girls (mama too) look fabulous!! The color combinations are gorgeous! The cheetah print and floral prints are so fun and coordinate beautifully together. I talk about adding texture to clothing choices in my online “What to Wear Guide.” The girls’ vests accomplish this perfectly and are so adorable. The sisters were coordinating but not wearing the exact same outfits, which I prefer. But most of all, the girls seemed happy and comfortable.
Don’t be surprised when these images end up in my guide, once I have time to slow down and stop editing. LOL
I first met this beautiful family a little over 2 years ago when they booked their first extended family portrait session with me. Sherri had booked the session and wanted to have a big family portrait session with all her grandbabies. I remember that she had said in her booking paperwork that she wanted to capture “”love, happiness, grand-babies & family.”
Now it’s been over two years, and there is still plenty of love and happiness, and even more grandbabies to include. One of my favorite parts of this job is that I am able to witness families like Sherri’s grow and change over the years. What a beautiful family they have created. I love being able to capture a little of that beauty for them to keep.
There are sooooo many things that go into creating photos at a portrait session. Equipment is just a very small part of that. I always hesitate a little to share too much about what equipment I use, but beginning photographers can put too much stock into that, thinking if they go out and buy the right thing, that their photos will look like they want, which is not at all the case.
With that being said, what equipment a photographer uses, and in particular what kind of lenses, does really contribute to her overall style. So I thought I’d take a moment to tell you about my favorite lens.
There are two main types of lenses: zoom lenses and prime lenses. If you have a entry level DSLR, then the lens that came with it (which we often refer to as the “kit lens”) is probably a zoom lens.
Zoom lenses provide ease in mobility…you can zoom in and out from where you stand. Prime lenses do not zoom to move in and out – you have to move your feet. However, the benefit in using this type of lens is that a detailed and sharper image is produced. The focus is quicker with this type of lens and will allow more light in your camera.
Why I love my 85 mm 1.8
I absolutely love the creamy backgrounds I can get with this lens. It’s super sharp, fast, and the 85 mm focal length is perfect for flattering portraits.
Why it doesn’t stay on my lens all the time
If you’ve had a portrait session with me, you’ll notice that I switch lenses A LOT. That’s because I do generally only photograph with prime lenses. If I’m shooting with my 85 mm, and your toddler comes to close to me, then I’ll be photographing their nose hairs and not much else. I can’t zoom out with my lens, since it’s not a zoom lens. So I either have to back up, or switch lenses. Also, I want to give you a variety of images for your gallery so I don’t always use the same lens. For example, if I want a wide photograph that takes in the entire scene, I’ll switch to my 20 mm lens that will include a lot more of the background in the photo than my 85 mm would. Here is are two photos taken from relatively the same spot.
The first is with my 85 mm and the second is with my 20 mm. You can clearly see the difference. Notice how with the 20 mm, you can see a wide view of the town in the background that you can’t see with the 85mm. I also stepped a lot closer to Gabe to get the second shot with the 20 mm lens.
A suggestion for new photographers:
My 85 mm is by far not the most expensive lens out there, but it isn’t the cheapest either, and not what I recommend (yet) for those trying to learn photographer. But I DO usually recommend that new photographers consider a prime lens. But instead of an 85 mm, i recommend the much less expensive, 50 mm (sometimes called a “nifty 50” or a 35 mm. Either of these will be a good overall lens that will perform way better in lower light than your kit lens. Are you into photography? What’s your favorite lens? If you are interested in learning more about photography, ask me about my photography workshop for moms.
Gabe’s Senior Portrait Session
One thing I love about shooting Senior Portrait sessions, is that I am able to use my favorite 85 mm lens a lot more than I can at a family session with little kids, because I have more control over my subjects, who generally stand where I tell them to (unlike an energetic two year old.) I also love that Senior Sessions allow me to play with creative backgrounds and framing more than I typically can with younger kids.
I have to brag a little on the guys I’ve photographed lately for Senior photos. They’ve done an amazing job, Gabe included. It’s no secret that the guys are normally having these photos done just because mama wants them, but that hasn’t stopped the guys I’ve photographed lately from doing a fabulous job. Their mama’s should be very happy & proud of their young men.