I really can’t imagine what it must be like to be a senior during this pandemic. My heart breaks for them and all the experiences they have missed out on. Those lost memories are not trivial things. My sincere hope for the class of 2020 is that they are able to find some happiness in their day to day lives while maintaining hope for the future. I am confident that these young men and women will become the most resilient and resourceful generation yet. I have great confidence in them and can’t wait to see what their futures hold.
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.
This gorgeous family traveled from my hometown, Elizabethton TN, for their family portrait session, and I am so glad they did! Whitney is the best friend of my amazing sister-in-law, which kind of makes her like extended family. You might recognize sweet Zoe from photos I’ve taken at my niece’s birthday parties and other such events.
But this is the first time I’ve been able to do an actual family portrait session for them. They combined our session with a weekend family getaway to the Opryland hotel, which I thought was a fantastic idea. They were able to visit the ICE! at Gaylord Opryland and all the holiday fun at the hotel. Then, before returning to East Tennessee, they met me at Winstead Hill Park in Franklin for a fun fall family portrait session.
The weather was gorgeous, which was my one fear… I wasn’t sure how we would reschedule if the weather didn’t cooperate, considering the 5 1/2 hours they traveled to get here. But we couldn’t have asked for a better day, and they were so much fun to photograph. Zoe is a natural in front of the camera and so much fun to be around. As a side-note, I love the rose pink color of your outfit and think it worked perfectly for fall photos.
I know not everyone agrees with me, but I’ve always enjoyed throwing birthday parties for my children. They’ve run the gamut between elaborately themed parties that I’ve worked on for months, and more simple ones, and I’ve enjoyed them all. This 10th birthday party of Kayla’s was one of the simple ones. We rented a room at Above All in Franklin. Kayla actually wanted a S’mores Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory as her birthday cake. The mommy’s at the party thought her selection was perfect, but as expected, not all the children agreed. Good thing we also bought a cookie cake for her friends. Photographing your child’s birthday party can be intimidating so today, I want to give you a few tips.
Whether it’s a simple party or an elaborate one, it’s important to capture those memories in photographs so we can enjoy them for years to come. Here are 10 tips for photographing your own child’s birthday party.
- Consider hiring a professional photographer to capture the event. This will allow you to enjoy the party without having to worry about capturing pictures. Plus an experienced photographer will be able to capture moments that you will treasure for a lifetime. If you don’t have the budget for a professional, consider designating a close friend or family member as the event photographer so you can focus on your guests.
- If it’s a surprise party, be sure to have guests in location ahead of time so that you can capture some photos of them waiting on the guest of honor. Make sure you know when and where the birthday child will enter the party location so you can capture that first moment of surprise. If there is a performer or entertainer, be sure to be in a position to capture the children’s reactions when they arrive or perform.
- Remember to capture little details of the party decor and food. It’s likely you spent lots of time and Pinterest research on all of these little detail so don’t forget to capture them. Some of this can be done before the party begins. (I didn’t spend any time researching this Cheesecake, but I’m glad I have a photo of it anyway. LOL)
- Don’t photograph little kids from your grown-up height…get down to their eye level for better images. This isn’t too hard when you are short like me.
- But also, think of unique perspectives that will allow for interesting ways to photograph the party. Getting up high or down low can make some fun images.
- Make a rule that no one gets cupcakes or cake until you get a group photograph. This is a great way to encourage everyone’s prompt participation. You will love having a picture of all your child’s guests in one shot.
- Put some thought into where the birthday child will sit for special moments like blowing out the candles. Think about which seat has the best lighting (light coming in through a window is beautiful). Also, think about where the person taking the pictures will sit or stand so as to be able to get pictures of the birthday girl without being blocked by other photo guests.
- If you have a numbered candle, make sure it is facing the photographer and not the child. This may seem picky, but it’s great to have the number readable in the image – especially years from now when the grown child may not remember how old he/she was in the photographs. We didn’t have any numbered candles for Kayla’s S’mores cake, so that wasn’t a concern at this party, but all my friends know I want the number facing me. I’ve taught them well. LOL
- Be sure to get a few family pictures. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the party and forget, but you will appreciate having these milestone pictures of your family each year. If the party is not a surprise, its a good idea to get these family pictures a few minutes before guests start to arrive. Apparently, I didn’t follow my own rule here, so big photographer fail. For some reason, I find that harder to remember to do when we are at a place for the party with a scheduled time, and not at home. So I will have to work on that for next time.
- Get into the middle of the action and keep your eyes open for authentic moments. The focus is obviously the guest of honor, but don’t forget to capture reactions from party guests and family members as well.
So that’s it…a few simple tips and you are ready to photograph your child’s birthday party. But if you’d rather leave the photos to a professional, contact me today to schedule an event session for your party.
“The laughter, the fun, the hand-holding, the love.”
Things get pretty boring and lonely for a mostly outdoor family portrait photographer in the south in the month of July. For some reason, most people don’t think first of July as the best time to book family portrait sessions. I get it. It’s hot. SO HOT. And there are only so many clothes you can take off before it’s a different kind of photography all together. But it was perfect for this family session combined with a One-Year Cake Smash birthday session. ☀️😉
But this portrait session shows how perfect a July photo session can be, and I am so excited about sharing it with you. I generally love all my sessions, but once in a while, I get one that just feels like magic.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you can probably guess that those sessions almost always involve young children. It’s no secret that the 1 – 6-year-old crowd is my favorite to photograph and this beautiful family had an (almost) one-year-old, a four-year-old and a six-year-old. I had taken their photo with Santa last year at Spring Station Middle School’s Holiday Marketplace, and they loved the Santa photos so they booked a family session. (Yes, Santa and I plan to be back at Holiday Market this year.) July was chosen in order to celebrate sweet baby Reya’s first birthday with One-Year Cake Smash photos.
It is so important for me to get to know my clients because taking photos is such a personal thing for me. The first step of getting to know a client is an online questionnaire they fill out when they book a session with me. Casey did a fantastic job of giving me a head start in getting to know her beautiful family. The answers don’t have to be too long…just enough information to give me a feel for each family member and to help me envision how to capture them for who they are.
Before each session, I study those answers and make notes for myself as I plan out the session in my head. I note things like the fact that Monroe is very outgoing and loves soccer and dancing, while Everly can be shy and loves unicorns and all things pink and glittery. These little things may not sound like a lot, but they help me get a feel for the girls, and to guide how I connect with them at the session.
But the thing I loved the most about Casey’s answers, is that when asked what she wants to remember about her family right now, she said “the laughter, the fun, the hand-holding, the love.” I wrote that at the top of my notes because it just seemed to perfectly sum up my desire for every family session. I hope that she can see all those things in the photos below. ❤️
Watermelon instead of cake for a one-year cake smash? Yes, Please!
Oh, and I just LOVE Watermelon as a replacement for a one-year cake smash. Reya seemed to dig it too because she was LOVING every single bite of it. There is just nothing cuter than a naked baby eating watermelon. I enjoyed getting big sisters in on the watermelon eating fun as well. Do you think it would be weird to bring along a cooler full of watermelon to every summer family session from now on and hand them out instead of my usual suckers? 🍉
If you’d like to schedule your own summer fun family session, you can book online now (and feel free to bring watermelon!!). I can usually fit in a summer session pretty last minute. But please note, if you are like the other hundreds of people that really want Fall instead, those are selling out fast so don’t wait toFamily Portrait Session at Winstead Park with Epic One-Year birthday Watermelon “Smash”If you’d like to schedule your own summer fun family session, you can book online now (and feel free to bring watermelon!!). I can usually fit in a summer session pretty last minute. But please note, if you are like the other hundreds of people that really want Fall instead, those are selling out fast so don’t wait to
Isn’t it funny how a smell can take you back to a time 30 years ago? That’s how I felt at this session at Aspen Grove Park in Franklin, TN this week when I arrived early (like I always do) to take a walk before my clients arrived. It was an absolutely perfect spring day, and as I walked down the trail, I was overwhemed with the scent of honeysuckle. Honeysuckle is one of my favorite smells (I even use this in my kitchen), and it takes me back to my childhood in the mountains of East Tennessee when me and a neighborhood friend use to spend hours and hours walking through the hollows and back roads just talking and enjoying the sunshine.
It was the perfect day for a family session for this handsome family. Dad had purchased the session as a gift for mom this past Christmas, after she had hinted strongly that what she wanted was to capture her families special memories in a portrait session. This was especially important now, because her oldest, Porter, is graduating from high school this week.
We all know how quickly time flies. A portrait session gift certificate is a perfect gift for moms who want to freeze time forever, if only in photographs.
I cannot believe that it’s already been one year since this sweet boy was born. It seems like I was just photographing his newborn photos last week. I wish that the weather would have cooperated better for this session, but we made it work. Isn’t William just the cutest thing in those little suspenders and button up shirt? And oh my gosh…those eyes! I could photograph those eyes all day long.
This session was the last in William’s milestone package. My milestone package is intended as a great way to document a baby’s first year of life and includes four portrait sessions with all the digital images of your photos from each session. You can learn more about it on my pricing page. I just love being able to capture multiple sessions for a family after a baby is born. There are some many huge changes that a family goes through during that one year and it’s such a magical time of growth and wonder.
And aren’t their outfits adorable? I love the colors, the textures and of course, Charlotte’s boots are to die for. The coats are great too, which is definitely something to pay attention to for portrait sessions in March when the weather can be so unpredictable. I cannot wait to see how these two beautiful babies grow over the next year. ❤️
I’m not gonna lie, this one was chilly. Only a week earlier I shot a session at Harlinsdale when it was 70 degrees outside, but we all know how quickly Tennessee weather can change, and change it did.
But that didn’t stop my adorable new friend Porter and his family from having a great time and rocking their family portrait session. I actually love cold winter sessions because I think they show a level of coziness and closeness in a family…all bundled up together to keep warm. And isn’t he just so adorable in his winter hat?
Sarah and John were just fantastic. I love how they went with the flow and played with and entertained little Porter instead of expecting him to pose for too many photos.
Sometimes the parents of toddlers can feel like a session isn’t going well because a little one maybe just wants to be in mommy’s arms. Or perhaps the opposite and he doesn’t want to be held. Or he or she is on the move and doesn’t seem to be “cooperating” for poses. This can be stressful for parents because they might be used to a more posed type of photography, possibly in a studio. I try to reassure them that pretty much whatever their toddler does is absolutely beautiful.
Sometimes we make tiny adjustments. For example, Porter was getting distracted by a guy on a motorcycle, so we just moved to another part of the park where he couldn’t see the bike. But for the most part, I just want toddlers to be themselves and for parents to let them. And Sarah and John did a fantastic job of that. I love how playful they were together…so many hugs, and tackles and hide-and-seek. This way, it doesn’t feel like a job, but just like having fun while someone happens to take photos…and that’s precisely the way it should be.
Sarah wanted to include her extended family in the session. This was a celebration of Porter’s birthday, and she wanted to have all his grandparents and uncles in some of the photos, but she was afraid that they might distract him while we were trying to get pictures of just their immediate family, so she had the extended family come at the end of the session. That worked out great as an option, and my favorite part was when Porter got so excited at seeing his grandparents and ran to them for hugs with such joy on his face. It was just absolutely beautiful.
Once upon a time, Spring Hill was a tiny little town, and about the only restaurants were J.J.s Barbecue, the Poplar House and the Old School Restaurant. At that time, I worked as a Quality Engineer at GM, and we had sort of a tradition in my work group.
It would happen on those rare beautiful days, when it wasn’t too hot, or too cold, when Spring was just on the horizon. You know the kind of day…where it is just too beautiful to stay stuck inside a dark, giant auto plant. It’s the kind of day where teachers choose to take extra recess time, and even adults get cabin fever and just have to go outside.
On those rare days, someone (not always the same person), would come one by one to each of our cubicles, and say simple “Huffs today.” Then, at lunch time, me and the boys would pile into a vehicle or two, depending on how many of us there were, and head out to Huff’s Grocery, in Burwood. Usually, my friend John would drive, and I would instantly regret allowing him to because he drove like a teenage boy with something to prove. But with the windows rolled down and the wind in our faces, it was hard to care too much about being responsible.
It was too far of a drive to go regularly for a working lunch, which is why it was reserved for those special days. Driving on the back roads and taking the long way was part of the fun. (Saturn Parkway didn’t go that direction back then anyway.) To be clear, Huff’s isn’t really a restaurant at all, but a little gas station with a few groceries, in the middle of nowhere. (At least it use to be in the middle of nowhere, but I haven’t been there for years. With the parkway it could now be a booming exit.) It reminds me of the salvage store that was near my rural home growing up…where you can get the necessities you need when it’s too far to drive to Kroger.
But they made the BEST sandwiches. They had a little paper menu where you’d choose white or wheat bread, then choose your meat, cheese and condiments. Nothing fancy at all, but it was SOOOOOO good.
Then we’d take our sandwiches, with a bag of chips and a can of soda and go sit out on the front steps of the store. And we’d sit and just enjoy the day, and our sandwiches, with the sun on our faces, and take our own sweet time getting back to work.
So you are probably wondering what any of that has to do with photography. Well, when this family booked their January family session, they were concerned about whether it would be too cold. Not a problem because they got one of the most beautiful days of the entire year.
And as I got to the location early before our shoot, I kept thinking about how it was a Huff’s day. And ever since, and especially as I edit the photos of this beautiful family, I keep craving a Huff’s sandwich, which I have not had in years. But the beautiful weather only lasted a couple days, and now it’s all winter again. Boo. But maybe soon, it will happen again and I can go to Huff’s. Who wants to go with me?