The lights of my life

All the twinkling lights of the season had me eager to get my own sweet kiddos in front of the camera. This can be tricky, because my kids sometimes love to avoid my camera and I.

But this attempt was a success, thanks to my little blessings.

My plan started with two strands of white Christmas lights that I strung (with temporary decorating clips) to the wall and floor. I selected a blank wall at random. My home has many blank walls from which to choose because I haven’t yet decorated it, even though I moved in more than two years ago.

placed a little wooden chair about three feet in front of the lights, not knowing yet if I’d use it or not. 

Then I waited for the magic moment (aka, after homework was finished and kids were bribed). I used a single ring light offset to the right of the subjects.

Oh dear goodness, the results were magical. At least in my opinion, but hey, they are my kids. I would truly love any photo of them. 

The more the merrier

I’ve known this gorgeous mama (lady in white) for so many years now – seriously, since adolescence – but, this is the first time I’ve gotten to photograph her mega awesome family.

We grew up together in Morganton, NC and she is one of my sister’s closest friends. Today she is a mama of three, soon to be four, and she’s doing the whole parenting/busily practicing law thing so gracefully. 

I always knew she could juggle a lot. She grew up in a house with numerous siblings and during our teenage years we waited tables together, a job she handled with skill and speed. Maybe she’s just born with it – the ability to be busy and own her life’s balance beautifully. 

Watching her with her children during the session, I noticed she is a very collected mama. A very nurturing, caring, easygoing mama. I was impressed to say the least. We had the additional company of cousins during the session. It was an event worthy of the tagline, the more the merrier.

I certainly appreciated the crowd’s energy and enthusiasm, including some fun photo ideas, and their patience and good spirits in the chilly, post-Thanksgiving morning weather. 

It can be challenging to be a good sport while being photographed in the cold, but every single one of these subjects nailed it.

Organized by the mama-to-be as a gift to family members, their session I’d say was a success. I cannot wait to meet baby #4 in the coming months!

Childhood is fleeting

This weekend my camera and I were blessed by the presence of Eudora. She is one of my favorite subjects of all time as she is ever the entertainer and gives me great smiles.

There was a moment in our Sunday photo session at Brightleaf in Durham in which I was reminded just how fleeting is childhood. 

We had crossed the train tracks to take photos amongst some nearby fall foliage. We were safely away from the tracks when we heard the train headed our direction. What luck, I thought! Eudora will get to see the train pass by!

This vivacious little goofball, who moments earlier was energized and owning the camera, had retreated into an innocent, frightened (not amazed, as I had hoped) shell. She was rightfully terrified of the loud noises from the train. I was shocked and instantly felt horrible for subjecting her to those decibels. 

We raced away, far, far away, from the train and the tracks as fast as our legs would carry us, all the while Eudora plugging her precious ears. 

She recovered instantly, because she is brave and strong and amazing, and because children are so blessedly resilient. She and I are still friends, though trains and her are not.

And of course, she nailed the remaining portion of her session.

Our shared train experience reminds me of the fleeting nature of childhood and its innocence, and how one day, not far from now, Eudora will no longer be afraid of trains and loud sounds but will have new and exciting challenges to face. 

I trust she’ll tackle them well. She’ll handle them like a boss, just as she did this incredible photo shoot.  

(Note: That snazzy little dress she’s wearing – a tribute to Mo Willems book “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.” 100% adorable and I wish I could pull that look off myself)

Fall portraits in Duke Forest

The Bisanar family is always a favorite of mine to photograph – they make it so easy. They know what they want out of a photo and they come prepared, well-dressed, even when I ask them to hike into Duke Forest.

They have two children the same ages as my two eldest kiddos and they are sweet and funny and playful. They are not a hot mess like my family. Seeing their family answers many questions I have about what it would look like if I brushed my children’s hair or had them wear matching shoes. It truly quenches my curiouosity.

I get to hang out with the grandparents, too. They have an incredible sense of humor and are always game for whatever I throw their way.

Our most recent portrait session brought us deep into Duke Forest, amongst beautiful fall leaves and afternoon sunlight. There were so many unbelievable natural backdrops that helped make this session a success. Plus, the Bisanars rocked their smiles. 

Until next time!

Let kids be kids

Would ya take a look at these two sweeties, Cameron and Mia? Their relationship is nothing short of incredible. They like to make one another laugh and they play together pretty seamlessly, despite the 4 years of age between them. 

Photo of Cameron and Mia

We had plenty of fun together during our Sunday afternoon family photo session, and these two had gorgeous smiles each time I aimed the camera their way. But, they were truly at their best when I asked them to do what kids do best — play:  they raced through the grass, they rolled around on top of one another, and they told me their favorite jokes. Sometimes, you just have to let kids be kids. And this applies to “serious” photo sessions too.

No need to say sorry

13055580_1102154663140949_8544702587552633492_nA few days ago I was packed up and ready to leave the house for a session when the client called to cancel. Fortunately (and surprisingly) this has been one of the few cancellations I’ve ever had.

The client was up in arms, distraught, apologetic and full of guilt. She thought she had committed the worst of crimes, and all due to a sick baby.

As a mother of three who has taken children, babies and family photos for years, I am very aware of the work it takes to make clients comfortable in front of the camera. There are a lot of games played in between the flashes of camera. We take a lot of breaks in order to get the shots I need.

Comfort is key. If the family I’m shooting or a newborn is uncomfortable, we are facing an uphill battle.

The last thing I would want is a baby that doesn’t feel 100% to have to sit through a photo session, and a worried mama anxiously awaiting the session’s end. I want my sessions to be fun and full of good memories.

So please, please, please families, if you are not feelin’ it, just say so. I understand. Feel no guilt. You do not have to apologize. We’ll reschedule.

Client comfort comes first :)

 

My newest assistant

Today’s morning photo session with the lovely Herndon family was a delight. We had perfect fall weather and enjoyed gorgeous scenery at Yates Mill Park in Raleigh. Molly and Jason (mom and dad) are always good sports and their two sweet daughters – Madeleine and Avery – have smiles that melt my heart.

Madeleine and I shared a special few moments today when she asked to take pictures with my camera. And who could deny that request!?

She’s nearly three years old and super friendly, offering hugs to me throughout the session. So of course I let her control the camera, just a little bit. Here is what she produced:

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For a three-year-old, isn’t she amazing!? I asked her if she wanted to be a photographer when she grows up. The girl has talent, already.

“No, I want to be an Octonaut,” Madeleine replied.

And that’s why I love toddlers. They have dreams. Big, glorious, superhero-sized dreams.

But if that falls through, she has a future in photography.

A magic smile

There is this crucial thing in outdoor photography known as the magic hour. Essentially it’s this breathtaking pocket of daylight found at both dawn and dusk that provides “magic” light that brings photos to life.

It’s amazing and somewhat hard to come by for family portrait photographers. Our session hours revolve around the lives of the families we photograph.  We can’t really photograph a family at sunrise.  We must avoid naptime, and dusk usually occurs near dinnertime.  Families are busy and we understand that.

Often, my sessions must be scheduled midday, even though a 12 o’clock bright sun can be disastrous for a photo.

For Avery’s midday, sunshine-filled session I couldn’t rely on magic light.  But Avery gave me a gift that day — her magic smile.  Just look at her gorgeous expressions.  She worked the camera!  I love this sweet, 6-month-old baby girl.

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A different day, a different toddler

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Meeting a new family is always exhilarating and always keeps me on my toes. As a photographer, I go into each session confident with expectations on lighting, posing and the technicalities of my camera. But meeting new families creates an ever-changing environment in which to work.

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I get excited to learn – if the family has children – the kids’ names and ages. Before shooting the King family’s session, I discovered their daughter, Dolan, was almost exactly the same age as my daughter.

Oh, this should be a piece of cake, I thought. Relating to Dolan will be exactly the same as relating to my daughter. Dolan will offer smiles galore at the mention of puppies and chocolate, just like my daughter.

But, in the world of photography and families it doesn’t quite work that way. Each child is so very different, and each child performs differently in front of the camera. Some choose not to perform at all.

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Lucky for me, that wasn’t the case with sweet Dolan. She and I made friends quickly, though of course it was a different friendship than the one I have with my daughter.

Dolan led us all through the park, as if she knew the way, as if she had been there many times. Dolan’s favorite game was throwing sticks and rocks in the river to watch them make a big splash. Dolan loved finding structures to climb – rocks and steps and bridges. We held hands on the walk back to our cars.

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I treasured my time with this sweet two-year-old gal!

Summer perfect

I have a sister who lives on the West coast.  It feels like a lifetime away since we only see each other once every few years.

So I could appreciate when a client contacted me to request a photo session for a visit from her sister who lives on the West coast.  I said, yes! Let’s make it happen! Of course we need to capture the memories of that visit with your sister and her sweet children!

We selected the day, we prayed for rain to hold off, we fought mosquitoes. My client and her sister showed up at the session location – a downtown park – on time, impeccably dressed and with four precious kids on their best behavior. I was clearly impressed.

The children were so fun to work with and they truly made this session seamless. They posed as if they’d done this before. They smiled the perfect smiles. They were well behaved. The photos capture just how wonderful a family this is.

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