Hannah’s First Communion Portrait Session at Catholic Church of the Nativity

First Communion Photos at the Catholic Church of the Nativity in Spring Hill TN

Two years ago, I shot Haley’s First Communion Photos.  This time, it was middle sister Hannah’s turn.  

It’s always emotional for me to photograph special milestones for children I’ve known all their lives.  But for Hannah, it felt especially so.  I started this journey to becoming a professional photographer by photographing sessions for friends of mine who would ask. It just so happens that Hannah was the very first newborn I ever photographed.  Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing and if I were able to shoot it over again today, I imagine the photos would look very different (and I hope much better).  But most of all, I remember how it felt. 

I remember a moment where Hannah’s dad was sitting on a bench and holding her on his lap and talking to her as I photographed. She looked up at him with such wide, loving eyes and it was the sweetest moment.  Later, Brian said that he felt that was the moment he really bonded with her.  And I was able to be there and capture it in photos. It was really a milestone in my journey to becoming a photographer because it was the first time that I really felt like I was a part of something special, and not just taking snapshots. 


That was almost eight years ago, and now here she is looking like a young lady and celebrating her First Communion.  I just can’t.  Before I know it, I’ll be shooting her prom /graduation/wedding photos.  How do we slow down time?

But also, isn’t she absolutely stunning?  💕

It sure looks like they had fun!

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
― William W. Purkey

As I was editing some of these photos this morning on the couch while enjoying my morning coffee, my nine-year-old was snuggled up next to me watching TV.  She was looking at the photos as I scrolled through them picking my favorite ones. As she looked, she commented, “It sure looks like they had fun!”  I took it as the ultimate compliment because above all, I want kids to have fun at my family portrait sessions, and I want the photos to show that they had fun. 

For me, giving clients an enjoyable experience is as important as the photos themselves.  My reason for that is, if you get beautiful photos, but the experience in getting those photos was miserable, then what kind of memories are you going to have associated with those pictures?  And isn’t that what family photography should be about….capturing beautiful memories?  

Maddie & Reagan can certainly teach us all about having fun.  They were so full of joy at this session. It’s so fun to watch because it wasn’t too many years ago that Reagan was an extremely shy little girl who would barely look at me.  Now she’s dancing like nobody’s watching.  And how completely beautiful is that?  I mean, can you even look at these photos without smiling?  When I grow up, I want to be just like these little girls. 

Through the Years – Getting to Know my Clients and their Needs

One of the things I absolutely love about my job is having the ability to experience my little clients growth each year through my photos.  This is one of the families that I’ve had the honor of photographing a couple times each year, for quite a few years.  In fact, I was there for the birth of two of these beautiful children.  Their most recent session was this past Fall, and I always enjoy seeing their beautiful smiling faces.

One thing that can be beneficial in keeping the same photographer from year to year, is that it can be helpful for the photographer to get to know your kids in order to get the most out of each photo session.  This can be especially true with a special needs child.  My buddy Zafer is autistic, and I’ve been photographing him for many years.  Having known him since birth, I’m able to understand how to make him most comfortable at each session.  I’m really pleased with the photos I captured of him this week that show his beautiful personality.  We do fist bumps a lot because I’ve found that helps to get him to look at me and he enjoys it.  I also have no issue with letting him to play on his IPAD during a session.  It brings him joy and I just love the photos below of him smiling from ear to ear while he watches it.  And if he needs a break, that is no problem and I can spend some time photographing his sweet sisters while he rests. 

It’s important to let your photographer know if you have any special concerns or needs during a photo session so that those needs can be met, no matter what those needs may be.

I believe strongly that EVERY family can have beautiful family portraits. The biggest concern I hear is that parents are concerned that their child, for whatever reason, won’t stand still and pose at a photo session.  I promise you…it will be fine.  There are ways to make it work.  I expect very little in the way of standing still and posing at a photo session anyway. The only real goal is to capture photographs of your family as they are now, and nothing is more beautiful than that. 

The In Betweens – which is not an alternate universe on an episode of Stranger Things

I adore this photo of my friend Jenn and her husband Jonathan. I snapped it in what I refer to as “ the in-between”, which sounds like an alternate universe in an episode of Stranger Things, but it’s really just the moments between posing at one of my family sessions.

I love the in-between moments.

Posing is probably too strong of a word.  I don’t really pose.  I guide.  I may have you sit in the pretty light with your family, then when your feet look awkward, I’ll ask you to move them.  Then I’ll ask you to interact with your family. Or for kids, I’ll ask them to run, jump or play.   I don’t really consider it posing as I’m not looking for a super choreographed look with every arm and chin position carefully planned.  I’m more looking for interaction and emotion.  But still, it’s kind of posing because you are doing what I’m asking you to and you know I’m taking your picture.

Which is why some of my favorite photos are taken in the in-between…when you don’t think I’m gonna snap a picture.  You think you are just being, and not being photographed.  I’m tricky that way, because at a session, I’m almost always looking for the in-betweens.  Maybe I’m photographing Mom and the older sibling while Dad is off entertaining the younger sibling while they wait on me.  Sometimes I see that as the perfect opportunity to “sneak” a picture of dad and the youngest…because they are just having fun and not acting for the camera.  Or maybe your entire family thinks we are done with the session and we are just chatting and walking slowly back to the car….that’s the time when I sneak some of my favorite shots.  

That’s what happened here with this photo of Jenn & Jon.  You see the series of photos near the end where their adorable boys are laying on the quilt on their bellies and giggling? (Side note:  I almost named this blog post “Can they be any cuter?”)  Well I was laying in the grass in front of them taking their photos and they were being so ridiculously cute and adorable.  So when I took a second to look for the in-betweens, I caught mom and dad smiling admiringly at their precious babies, and captured this picture.  It only took a second, and they probably have no idea I took it.  But it’s one of my favorites from this session. I love how she’s standing kind of behind him, leaning into him naturally with her chin on his shoulder.  If I had told her to do it, it would probably looked forced and ridiculous, but when they fell into it naturally, it’s beautiful.  

What about you?  Do you prefer more posed photos, or do you like the in-between?  

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.

Light & Childhood: My Favorite Props

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.” – Elizabeth Lawrence

These photos were taken at one of my favorite locations to shoot family portrait sessions. It’s nothing special really. There isn’t any fancy architecture or beautiful landscaping.  There are sometimes wildflowers, more often weeds.  There is a simple walking trail (with a painted bike path stripe that tortures me in my sleep because I’ve removed it in photoshop so many times.)  Often, when I suggest this spot to people, they don’t get too excited about it.  It doesn’t sound like much.  But it has lovely light and some variety for different seasons and weather, and that’s why I love it. 

Mostly I love the way the light filters through the trees and creates the loveliest bokeh.  

I’ve never been into a lot of props (unless it’s something meaningful to the child or family such as a lovie) or fancy backdrops.  I think the people should be the primary focus of a photograph.  Not that an interesting location can’t add to that story…it definitely can.  It’s just that I believe the most important elements of a family photo session are light, and an atmosphere that allows you to capture a little bit of that childhood.  

What lets you capture that childhood varies from session to session, but it might include running, skipping, jumping, twirling, blowing dandelions, silly jokes, telling secrets, and tickle fights.  For aren’t those the things that childhood is made of?

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.

The best thing you can do to help me at a Family Portrait Session

You might be surprised when I tell you how you can best help me at your family portrait session….

Do Nothing. 

Yep, that’s right.  Most of the time, it would be best if you just didn’t do anything.

  • No yelling at the kids to smile. (Especially when you are standing 10 feet away from me. If you really want to help get a baby or toddler’s attention, be sure you are standing right behind me.)
  • No telling the kids that their smile looks fake. (Even if it does…it almost always does when their between the ages of like 5 and 99…at least at first. Just let me deal with that.)
  • No yelling at the kids to behave. (Behaving is over rated anyway…I’d rather have real.) 
  • No yelling at the kids to put the stick down. (It’s just a stick.)
  • No yelling at the kids to act like they love each other.  (They do love each other, they just don’t always like each other.  Both emotions are fun to photograph.)

You know rationally that none of these things will help.  But it’s so hard not to…I get it.  I do the same thing when trying to photograph my kids.  But they will just get annoyed with you and frustrated at the photo session and if they aren’t having fun, it will show.  

Michelle did an amazing job at this session with her two beautiful daughters.  You know what she did?  Absolutely nothing. I barely saw her, as she was on a bench chilling a ways from us during the session and that was 100% the best thing she could have done. (Sometimes it can be a great idea just to walk away and give the kids some space.)  If she had gotten too involved, she may have become frustrated when I took the first picture below.  But if she’d have said something, I may not have gotten the second photo. Both are genuine photos of her girls..taken only seconds a part.   

So when you have the overwhelming urge to direct your kids at a photo session, just try to give me a little time and little patience, and above all…remember that I take hundreds of photos.  Some may come out like the one on the left below, but some will most definitely come out like the one on the right.  It’s all good, and they are both beautiful.

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.

All in the Frame – Lifestyle Newborn Photo Session

“A new baby is like the beginning of all things – wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.” – Eda L. LeShan

When I first took the leap to being a professional photography, I honestly dreaded newborn sessions.  I felt like I had found my style and my passion in family photography, especially with young children.  I prided myself on capturing real, candid moments.  I loved directly families into the beautiful light, and capturing what unfolded between them.  

Most newborn photography I had seen at that time was so different than what I loved to do.  It was beautiful, but very posed, with lots of bean bags, and props.  I thought that’s what I had to do too…that that’s what it meant to photograph a newborn.

Thankfully, I started educating myself and following lots of other photographers and found that there is definitely more than one style of newborn photography, and I could absolutely bring what I loved about family photography into a newborn session. Step one was dropping any expectations of forced posing (especially when there are big siblings involved) and to focus on capturing that connection between family members, which is what I love to do. 

And what other amazing time to capture that beautiful love and connection than during baby’s first days at home?  It is seriously such a magical time that goes by amazingly fast, like a dream.  What an honor to be able to freeze time in a sense in those early moments that define a family. It is so special for me to be brought into these moments of my clients lives, and to see their family grow.  I was there for the birth of both of these beautiful children and I can’t tell you what it means to me to have a job that allows me to be part of something like that.

My favorite newborn sessions are when there is a big brother or sister involved.  This brings a sort of beautiful chaos to the session that I actually love so much.  One piece of advice I had read when I began to study lifestyle newborn photography was to go with the flow, and to just get them all in the frame and see what happens. 

You can see both of those concepts in action in these photos.  It’s generally impossible to get a 15 month old to pose for anything.  But just like in a family session, we go with the flow and find things she likes to do to keep her happy and occupied I capture these moments between the family.  (Notice the sprinkles on baby brothers belly to capture her interest? LOL)

These are the type of images that mean the most to me as a mother, so I hope that I am able to capture images that are meaningful to my clients. 

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.

More Beautiful Moments

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.”~Henri Cartier Bresson

It’s been almost two years since I last photographed this beautiful family.  We were scheduled for a session on Monday, but it was rainy and yucky, so we moved the session until Tuesday, and the day was just gorgeous.  Now, as I’m editing the photos, there has been snow flurries.  That’s Tennessee weather for you.  I’m often asked what happens if weather is poor when a session is planned.  The typical answer is that we will reschedule for a soon after the planned date as possible.  Another option is to have the photos made inside, and I have also done fun rainy day sessions with umbrellas, but the typical action taken is to reschedule.  

I love all my clients and all my sessions are special to me.  But every now and then, I photograph a session that really moves me, and this is one of those sessions.  Just knowing how far this beautiful family has come over the past two years, and to be able to capture sweet Arya playing with her adoring big sister Lucy, dancing the chicken dance and practicing her sign language…it’s just truly beautiful. 

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.

The love of a family – extended family portrait session

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.”

I’ve known this family for many, many years.  I became friends with Shelly in college and am fortunate enough to live in the same town with her now. I’ve always admired Shelly’s parents…they were always so welcoming to our large group of friends and I always really admired how close they were as a family. I’ve been photographing Shelly and her boys for several years now, but when Shelly told me that her entire family was interested in an extended family session, I knew that I really wanted to try to capture that bond between them.  

It was a gorgeous spring day and the weather could not have been better for a portrait session.  Though if I had one complaint, it would be that there are still not leaves on the trees, which I guess is to be expected this early in the spring season. But I do prefer shooting with full trees as a backdrop to let the beautiful light filter through the leaves.  But there was a gorgeous sky and a magical sunset and as I’ve often said, all I really want for a session is beautiful light. 

I don’t think I’ve seen Shelly’s brother Ryan in about 20 years, but it was so much fun to meet his wife and two kids.  They were just the absolute best kids to photograph…so full of personality and so completely adorable and sweet with each other. I enjoyed capturing the children interacting with their cousins and playing together.  I got a kick out of how little KD had this gentle way of keeping the boys on task.  I just couldn’t help smile while editing this session, and had a hard time picking my favorites for the blog preview.

In looking at these photos, I thought this might be a good time to talk about what exactly is “Lifestyle Photography.”  I think it is a good idea for clients to understand what that means coming into a session, and how I approached these images. I think that one of my favorite photographers, Lisa Tichane, explains in well in this article from Clickin Moms (one of my favorite photography resources).

She says “My own take on lifestyle photography is a mix of authentic and staged. What I am shooting could actually happen in real life (this is the core definition of “lifestyle” in my opinion), however I would never have captured such a variety of images in such a short amount of time if I had not interfered. During a session, I create a diversity of opportunities that will generate real-life type of images which might not have spontaneously happened at that specific moment if I hadn’t been there to jump-start them.”

What I wanted to point out about these images, is that it helps me to know a little about my subjects in order for me to guide the session into producing those real-life type images.  Yes, I had the advantage here because I’ve known Shelly’s boys all their lives, but I had never met their cousins KD and Judah before.  But what helped me immensely were the questions that Shelly answered for me before the session. I knew a little about their personalities while I was planning my session, and knew that they would be OK in being close and loving for some images.  That wouldn’t have worked for all siblings and knowing a little about their personalities before hand helps me to know how to guide them before I get to a session. 

Another thing that helps, especially for a session with this many people, is knowing what the client’s priorities are for a session.  Shelly especially wanted a photo of all the kids with their grandparents, so we mades sure to make that a priority. 

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.