A few years ago, my friend Stephanie from college hired me to do a portrait session for her oldest daughter Logan as she was about to start middle school. She wanted the session to focus on Logan as she made the transition from elementary to middle school, and I thought it was a great idea. We do milestones sessions all the time for babies, and then again when kids are seniors in high school, but those middle years often get left out. We need to document the lives of our tweens and younger teens too. I’d love to see more clients interested in photographing tweens
This year, Stephanie contacted me again, and this time it was a big year for both of her daughters. Logan is about to start high school, and her little sister Molly is about to start middle school. So she wanted a session for both of them to document this transitional time period in their lives, and I was super excited to get to hang out with both of them. They are really fantastic young women and we had the best time. They are both gorgeous and were so easy to photograph.
I couldn’t get over what fantastic weather we had for this late July session. I was a bit worried it would be insanely hot, like it typically is this time of year, but we got so lucky with a beautiful mild evening. Preservation park has definitely become one of my favorite places to photograph sessions. My only complaint is that it’s quite a bit of walking (and up a giant hill) to get to the spots I really like to shoot at.
Since we do’t often think of doing a special photo session for younger teens or tweens, so I wanted to outline a couple reasons why you might want to consider one.
Reasons for photographing tweens & Teens
They are changing so fast. We typically book lots of photo sessions for our babies and toddlers because “they are changing so fast” and we want to document all those seasons and changes. Well, that’s happening now too. It seems like you look a way for a moment, and when you look back, your baby is gone and somehow a young woman is standing in her place. #dontblink
Even if they don’t admit it, they enjoy the extra attention. I don’t actually know this for sure and it’s probably not true for every kid, but I think most of them welcome the opportunity to be made a fuss over just a little bit. Especially when they figure out that my sessions are pretty laid back and casual and we are just gonna hang out and chat.
They are really becoming amazing, unique human beings and a session is a chance to get to know them better. We joke a lot about how tough it is to parent teens, and believe me, it is. But also, it’s so freaking cool to be able to have these real, meaningful conversations with these amazing people that you MADE. A photo session is an opportunity to stand back, take a deep breath, and appreciate your beautiful creation.
Maybe the photos will help them to see what amazing humans they are, if they don’t already know it. As tough as it is to parent a teen, it’s probably even tougher to be one. Maybe the photos will help them see how beautifully made they are, if they don’t know it already.
Before you know it, it will be time for that Senior Portrait session. As my friend Michelle always says, “the days are long but the years are short.” Before you know it, this season will be over, and you’ll wish you had documented it.
So there you have it…5 reasons to either pick up the camera and get photos of your “big kids”, or hire a professional for either a family portrait session or a session of just your older kids. Did I miss any?
I’m going to start this off by saying I can’t believe I’ve never been to Point Mallard Water Park before. I had some friends go last summer, but I couldn’t make it. After going there, I don’t understand why it hasn’t been a place that we go several times each summer. I’ve heard a few people talking about it, but in general, it feels like one of the best-kept secrets for a day trip from Spring Hill. Or possibly maybe I haven’t been paying attention and am the last one to figure this out. Either way, I am really glad my friend Christy decided we should go yesterday, despite the iffy chances of rain. (Note: Megan isn’t really into waterparks and had the option to spend the day with her daddy alone, so it was just Kayla and I and our friends.)
So where is it?
The water park is in Decatur, Alabama….which is sort of Huntsville. Our plan for if a downpour began and ruined our waterpark adventures was to go to the Space & Rocket Center instead. It takes about an hour and a half from Spring Hill. Christy picked Kayla and me up around 8 and we stopped for gas and for breakfast and still got there about 15 minutes before they opened at 10 am.
This is the really cool part. Admission is generally $20 for adults (12 and over) and $15 for kids. But Monday – Thursdays (excluding holidays) are half-price days. So it was only $10 per adult and $7.50 per child. (Please check their website before going to double-check prices and half-price days.) Just as a comparison, Nashville Shores is generally $36.99 for adults and $28.99 for kids, though you can sometimes get deals for tickets for $24.99. That’s a big difference. And spoiler alert, I liked Point Mallard better than Nashville Shores.
What we liked about point mallard:
The park was clean and updated. I was shocked when my husband said he used to go to Point Mallard as a kid. The place did not seem old to me at all.
It wasn’t super huge, but had pretty much everything you’d want in a waterpark…a wave pool, lazy river, kids play zone and multiple water slides.
The park is situated on a gorgeous lake. It’s a really beautiful spot, and they even have a little sandy beach on the lake.
It was not crowded at all. Since this was my first time there, I’m not sure if that’s what it’s always like on a weekday (we were there on a Monday) or if the threat of rain kept the crowd down. Either way, it was awesome. The girls never waited to get on a waterslide, and we never felt crowded.
There were several options for food. There was a pizza place, a barbecue place (which I’m not sure was open when we were there) and a place with all your standard park foods. I had a hamburger and fries and Kayla had chicken nuggets. It was nothing special but good enough. We also bought ice cream cones and I remember thinking that the $2 a scoop price was reasonably priced for a place like that.
You can bring your own floats. I didn’t actually know this before we went and I told Kayla she had to leave her banana float at home, but I had I known it was allowed, this would have been a bonus for her.
What we didn’t like about point mallard:
There are two sections to the park and they were kinda spread out pretty far. This is probably good when it’s crowded so it doesn’t seem so cramped, but the first time we walked between the two sections, we did so barefooted and I regretted it. The ground was really hot and there were also sections where the road was gravel and my tender feet did not appreciate it. Then we left out of the exit in the second section and had kind of a long awkward walk back to our car near the first section. Next time we would probably park closer to that second section near the wave pool.
You could only use goggles that didn’t cover your nose. This wasn’t a big deal and I’m sure there is some safety reason I don’t fully understand, but it annoyed Kayla slightly. It was also clearly stated on their website which I didn’t read before we went.
You have to rent wave pool floats. At waterparks I’ve been to in the past, the big innertube floats for the wave pool are just available for anyone to grab. At Point Mallard you have to rent them for $5. One of Kayla’s favorite things to do is to ride on the float in the wave pool so I rented her a float.
We all had a great time at Point Mallard. The ride didn’t seem that long and I thought it was a better park overall than Nashville Shores. We are definitely adding this day trip to our normal rotation.
Every client is unique, and it’s important to me to capture that uniqueness in my portrait sessions.
If you’ve ever booked a session with me, and you’re the type of person who actually does read a contract before you signed it, you may have noticed this paragraph in my client agreement:
Each session is as different and unique as the beautiful families being photographed and I do not aim to copy or recreate Pinterest images. Before booking a session with me, I want to make sure that you are familiar with my style, and that my style is what you are wanting for your images.
This statement isn’t just arbitrarily in my contract. It’s there because I want you to understand that our goal with a session is not to recreate some scene that you saw on Pinterest, or even to copy a photo you saw on my website that I took. Our goal is to create images that are as unique and beautiful as your family.
Finding what makes families special and unique is especially fun when I get to photograph clients in their home. Details like a baby’s nursery, knick-knacks or books displayed throughout the house, cherished toys, and a family’s pets are all items that can be photographed that tell part of a family’s story. I look for those types of things as I am photographing. For example, both of Evie’s parents are Chemistry professors at Vanderbilt. So when I saw a set of Science Board Books sitting on the nursery table, I knew I wanted to include one in the photos. Mom and Dad said “Quantum Physics for Babies” was their family favorite, so I asked them to read to baby Evie for a few shots.
Other things I made sure to include in photos were the cat and dog (who Lauren had said were a huge part of the family), a blanket made by Grandma, & the stuffed Bunny Evie got for her first Easter.
And I’m convinced that in 20 years when families look back on these photos, they will be glad to have those details captured instead of someone else’s idea of a pretty Pinterest scene. 😍
A few times, I’ve been approached by a mom who needs to book a senior session for her child (or in this case, children) for graduation announcements and all that fun stuff. But then she’ll also say that it’s been a long time since they’ve had family portraits done and that she’d like to get a few photos with everyone in them.
I’m sure that other photographers may disagree with my approach to this, but I am 100% OK with combining a senior session with a family session. I charge a set fee for a one-hour photo session for up to 6 people, so it is really up to the client on how they would like me to prioritize that hour. I always do individual shots of each child at a family portrait session, so it is pretty easy to combine the two types of photo sessions.
Combining sessions might not be the best option for you if your senior is very shy and maybe might take a while to relax at a session, allowing me to get natural images. But that wasn’t the case for Sarah and Jacob. It also might not be best if your other children are very young toddlers and may need extra time for getting family shots. But Eli was just old enough to be pretty easy to work with, so this was an excellent option for their family. I feel that we easily got enough photos for the twin’s senior portrait needs, and also the typical family sessions shots.
Beth had let me know that she had these adorable shirts that she wanted to get a photo of the kids in at the beginning of the session. So we planned to get these in first and then let them change for the family session. Aren’t these just so cute?
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?
Last night was actually the first time I had met Brandilee and & Dan, but I’ve known their oldest son, Gavin, for several years from my daughter’s school. I’m at school quite a bit volunteering with the PTO and have gotten to know Gavin through my time there and he is such a sweet boy. My first experience with the rest of Gavin’s family was this past May at the Special Olympics. Gavin has Cerebral Palsey and was competing in one of the races. I had been asked to photograph the event as a whole, but was of course drawn to events where our own Cheetah’s were competing, so I was focused on Gavin’s race. As he started getting closer to the finish line, Gavin started having a little trouble when his two little brothers came in to give him a hand. It was the sweetest moment, and the three of them just won my heart right then and there.
It wasn’t until after the race that I learned that Gavin’s two-year-old little brother Finn was battling a rare form of bladder cancer. I have followed their story since then through posts from mutual friends and through their blog. You can read more about their journey on their blog, “Finn’s Fans”.
In the past, I had photographed a few other families dealing with childhood cancer, and it was good to feel like I could do something for them, no matter how small. (If you remember those sessions, you may want to know that little Arya is doing great and Katelyn is about to finish up her last chemo treatment!) So I was really excited about the opportunity to finally meet Gavin’s little brothers and his sweet parents.
Finn recently had surgery to remove his bladder and the surgery was a great success, but his fight is not over. He will be starting chemo again soon to fight any remaining cancer cells that might still be there. I am glad we were able to fit in a session before chemo started for him again.
It was a perfect evening for a session and it’s finally starting to feel like Autumn. We played with the leaves and the boys were particularly fond of gathering sticks. Four-year-old Everett even made a really cool fire pit with his sticks. I think he’s probably on his way to a position in the boy scouts. My favorite moment was when I asked the three boys to race towards me for a photo, and when we said go, Finn took off in the opposite direction. Gavin thought it was pretty funny too.
The courage & faith with which this family fights their battle has been very inspiring to me, and to many others who have been praying for them. Please keep praying for Finn and his family as they continue on this journey.