Storytelling Session: A Paper Anniversary

When Gentry emailed me to ask about doing a session to celebrate her and Derek's first year of marriage I practically bounced out of my chair of excitement. I knew right away that this would be such a fun session! She told me that they had really wanted to have their two dogs in their wedding, but for a number of reasons that ended up not being practical, so to celebrate their first anniversary (which is paper - how perfect is that for photos?!) they really wanted to do a Storytelling session that could include the dogs. So a few weeks ago I spent a Wednesday afternoon with them, documenting their usual Wednesday routine; walking the dogs, going to the farmer's market, and then cooking a yummy dinner with the fresh produce they picked up. 

I love that Gentry and Derek made it a priority to document life as newlyweds. That stage in life is so special and I know they are going to treasure being able to look back and see what life looked like when it was just them and the dogs. Here are some of my favorites from their session:


Storytelling Session: A Morning with the Crouches

Back in March I auctioned off a Storytelling Session as part of a fundraiser for a dear friend who lost her hand in a terrible workplace accident, and I was so excited when the Crouches ended up winning that item because I knew a Storytelling Session with their fun crew of 6 (and the world's sweetest dog) would be a great time. 

We scheduled the session for a Sunday morning in August to document their typical Sunday routine of slow mornings, pancakes for breakfast, and books and toys and cuddles on the couch. Nothing fancy or flashy, just real life, sweet moments, and so, so much love. 


On Storytelling and Photo Albums

As a child, I loved looking through photo albums. I still do, actually. There is nothing like pulling out an album and taking a trip down memory lane. My mother passed away before I was married and had kids, but I am fortunate enough that she was quite diligent about keeping personal photo albums for each of us kids in addition to some family albums, and those albums now serve as a way for me to explore the stories of my own childhood and share those stories with my kids.


As much as I love photo albums, I also know that they take time to put together, and for a lot of us, especially moms with young kids, time is not exactly something we have in excess. So when I started my business, I knew right away that I wanted to include albums with my Storytelling sessions, because the last thing I want is for clients to invest time and money in a session and then for those photos to exist only on a hard drive or in a Facebook album. I truly believe that every family’s story is unique and beautiful and deserves to be told in a beautiful album.


The album included with a Storytelling session is a beautiful, linen-bound book with thick, lay-flat pages. They are sturdy enough for curious little hands to handle, and the color and quality of the press-printed pages are just incredible. I always let clients select their favorite images of the gallery and take those selections into consideration when I design their album, arranging the photos in a way that highlights those favorite images and makes the story flow naturally from one page to the next.


My hope when you book a Storytelling session is that these photos will become a family treasure, something to be enjoyed for years to come. And including an album is a way to make sure that goal is met.


Are you ready to see your family’s story documented and displayed in a beautiful photo book? Contact me for more information on how to book a Storytelling session!

Storytelling Session: A Morning with the Hills

A few weeks back, I had the absolute joy of spending a Tuesday morning with the Hill family. Their son and my son have been in the same class at preschool this past year, and after seeing the Day in the Life pictures I took for the class, Heather approached me about doing a Storytelling session for their family. And you guys, we had such a fun morning! There was pancakes, and playing outside, and a family dance party in the living room, complete with everyone singing "Sweet Caroline" to the darling baby of the family (I'll give you one guess as to what her name is...).

I'm so grateful for people who are willing to be vulnerable enough to invite me into their home and letting me document their real life! I don't care about messes on the kitchen counter, or the inevitable toddler meltdown when the syrup gets taken away. Those things are part of what life looks like right now, part of the story. And so without further ado, here is a glimpse into a morning with the Hills:

Welcome to the World fusion films

Over the course of the spring and early summer, I have been doing a number of portfolio building sessions to experiment with adding video to my Welcome to the World sessions, and I have to say that I am absolutely hooked! I started dabbling in video last year, creating short films for my own family and I'm excited to be able to start offering it to clients as well. To me, video is a natural extension of documentary photography; it captures moments authentically as they happen, and you get to preserve not only the visuals of those moments but the sounds and movements as well. And especially for these hospital sessions, it is just priceless to be able to capture baby's yawns, stretches, and all the cute newborn sounds. 

For the Welcome to the World sessions, I have been creating fusion films, which are a mix of video and still images edited together and set to music. Below is the link to my most recent one of sweet baby Ellie. Make sure to watch in HD! 

I plan on offering fusion films as something you can add on to your Welcome to the World session at an extra cost. And, at some point, I would love to be able to also offer family film sessions; documentary style family sessions with the goal of creating a 3-4 minute video of what life looks like for you. There would be some regular still images as well, but the main product would be the video. If you are interested in something like that, let me know as I will need a few families to practice on. 

My Favorite Photography Project

I'm about a month into this year's run of my favorite photography project; 100 Days of Summer. Each year for the past 3 years, I have taken (at least) one picture every day for the roughly 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day to document our family's summer time adventures. But first, let me back up a bit. In 2014, I completed a Project 365, which consists of daily shooting for an entire year. One picture, every day, for a year. That project was so much fun and such an incredible way to learn and grow and push myself creatively, but by the end of it I was exhausted and barely wanted to pick up my camera. So after a few months where I only took pictures sporadically, I wanted to get back in the grove the following summer and decided to do the 100 Days of Summer project as a more manageable project. The timing that year was perfect, as we had just had our second baby at the beginning of May and I knew I would be wanting to take lots of pictures those first few months when she was growing and changing so quickly. At the end of the summer, I was so in love with the images from the project that I decided to make it an annual thing. So here we are, well into year 3 and I thought it might be fun to share some tips with you for how to do a similar project for your own family.

1. Plan ahead. At the beginning of the summer, make a list of things you would like to do that summer. If your kids are older, this is a great opportunity to involve them! Maybe you already have things planned; camp, trips to the beach, visiting family. Add those to the list as well as all those small, everyday adventures that you associate with summer; cooking s'mores, going to the pool, catching fireflies, eating watermelon outside. A list like this is great, not just to get ideas for your photography project, but to keep on hand for when your kids inevitably complain of being bored (or is that just my kids?!) I like to keep a separate list of things my oldest can do on his own, so I can tell him to go pick an activity of his list if he needs some ideas. 

Planning ahead also goes for each day. If you are going to the pool in the morning and going blueberry picking in the afternoon, decide ahead of time where you want to take your picture for the day so you don't have to lug your camera around all day. Unless of course you are shooting with you phone, in which case you will probably have it on you all the time. This leads me to my next tip:

2. Choose your camera. Do you have a DSLR sitting on your shelf that you have been wanting to use more? This is a great time to bring that out and get lots of practice! Are you home by yourself with 4 kids under 5 all summer? Maybe you need to give yourself a break and make this easier by using your phone. You can also mix and match however you want. The best camera is the one you have with you, as they say! 

3. Create variety in your images. Let's say you are taking pictures of your kids coloring with sidewalk chalk. After you get a good picture, try challenging yourself by changing up your perspective, for instance standing directly above them and shooting down, or move in close to get a detail shot. 

If you are spending several days in the same place, like a week at the beach, you also want to think about creating variety in the images from that week. When we go to the beach, I could definitely take 7 pictures 7 days in a row of my kids building sandcastles, but that would not provide an accurate picture (pun intended) of everything we did that week. Instead, try to mix it up by getting a variety of images that together tell the full story. 

I also like to look at my images week by week or over the course of the first few weeks and see if there is a good variety. When I was just looking at my pictures from the first month for this year, I noticed that I don't have nearly as many detail shots as I usually do, so that is something I will keep in mind over the next weeks. 

4. Print your pictures! I cannot emphasize this enough. Pictures should not live just on your harddrive or your Instagram account. My kids love to look through the photo books from the last few summers, and I'm already excited to put together the one from this year. I like to use Artifact Uprising, but there a several other great options out there. And you can always look for coupon codes to make it more affordable! 

5. Have fun. Summertime is fun, and this project is not meant to be something to stress about. If you didn't get a good picture one day, or didn't even manage to get your camera out, just take two pictures the next day or use one from the previous week. The rules are only as strict as you make them yourself. And if you are feeling inspired after reading this and want to get started now, just do it! It does not have to be 100 days, you can do 50 days of summer. Or challenge yourself to see how many days in a row you can keep going. However you do it, I hope you have fun documenting your own family's summertime adventures!  

Why should you hire a hospital newborn photographer?

Recently I have had several prospective clients who were considering a Welcome to the World session bring up a common concern; What if I don’t feel like being in pictures right after having a baby? “I just feel kind of gross after giving birth, so I’m not sure I will feel up for a photo shoot”, one mama told me. And I get that, I really do. Having had two kiddos of my own, I definitely sympathize with those women who don’t feel their prettiest after squeezing a human being out of their body. Now, some women feel awesome after giving birth, all empowered and feminine and strong. If that is you, well then this blog post isn’t really for you. You can still read along, though, and enjoy the pictures. But for now, I want to speak to those mamas who either have already gone through the experience of labor and delivery and know that they will feel gross and unattractive and just plain exhausted, and to those first-time mamas who worry that this will be their experience.

Having just had a baby is a vulnerable time. You are just getting to know this tiny person, who is completely dependent on you for his or her every need, and at the same time you are getting reacquainted with your own body, recuperating after labor, maybe even recovering after a c-section, which is a pretty major surgery, figuring out breastfeeding, and, if you are not a first-time mom, trying to balance loving several little humans all of whom crave your attention. Plus, you likely have a line of family members and friends lining up to come visit to meet your newest addition. There is a lot going on. So why should you consider adding a photographer to that mix?

Well, I believe there are a couple of reasons.

1.   This is truly a once in a lifetime moment. Whether this is your first or your fourth baby, the birth of your child is without a doubt one of the biggest days of your life, and big moments like that are worth capturing. Your family changes forever the day that new life is born, and having someone document those first moments together is priceless.

2.   As once in a lifetime as those first days with a new baby are, they are hard to remember. Between hormones, exhaustion after labor, the steady stream of visitors, and lack of sleep, you will find that those days in the hospital go by in a blur. Having a visual reminder of what those days were like will help you recall the beauty and intimacy of that time you and your new baby spent together as you were just getting to know each other.

3.   While you might not feel your prettiest, and while I understand that you want to look good in these pictures, at the heart of it a Welcome to the World session is not about you being pretty. It is about you, it is about your family, and is is about the new life you brought into the world and the immense love you feel for each other. And that is what those pictures are going show. Sure, they may also show some puffiness on your face or that your baby still had quite a lot of that red newborn look going, but I am certain that when you look back at the pictures, none of that is going to matter to you. And also, I promise that you will look much prettier in a picture I capture with my camera than in the one your father-in-law snapped with his iPhone. Having a professional taking your photo just makes a difference.

Finally, I will just be really honest with you. Not getting hospital pictures done when we had our babies is one of my greatest regrets. Sure, I took some pictures in the hospital, but I really wish I had invited someone to come and document those fleeting days, because truthfully, I don’t remember much from those first few days with my little ones (and as we just went over, all those hormones kind of mess you up, which also greatly affected the quality of any pictures I did manage to take). And I would hate for any of you to end up with the same regret because you were worried about not looking pretty enough. Because let me assure you, when you look back at those pictures, you are not going to think about how messy your hair was or how uncomfortable your boobs felt. Instead, you are going to remember what it was like when you first held your child in your arms and what it felt like to fall in love with that tiny human. And that is all that matters.  

Welcome to the World, sweet Gabe!

It is hard to believe that is has been two months since that freezing cold Saturday morning when I headed to the UVA hospital to photograph newborn baby Gabe and his sweet parents. And while the weather outside was somewhat frightful on that day, there was only love and joy and oh so much cuteness in that little room. 

No matter how many times I do this, I don't think I will ever get over what an honor it is to be included in such a special time for a new family. There was no doubt that Gabe's parents were absolutely head over heels in love with him, they couldn't keep their eyes off him, and I loved getting to document these moments as the three of them were just getting to know each other.

A Morning at the Market

Saturday mornings at the Charlottesville City Market is one of our favorite family traditions. Most Saturdays between April and December, the kids have a quick breakfast at home, parents grab the first cup of coffee of the day, and then we head off to the market. Not only do we buy most of our fresh produce there, selecting from a beautiful variety brought in by local farmers, but we always enjoy second breakfast or special treats there. Whether you are in the mood for donuts, coffee, breakfast sandwiches, baked goods, Filipino noodle bowls or tacos, you can find it at the market.

Mornings at the market are a beautiful mix of comfortable routine and a constant influx of something new. Visiting vendors, the changing seasons with their rotation of produce available, or on this particular morning a barber shop quartet walking around and sharing their music with us; no two mornings are the same, and yet the routine is pleasantly familiar. It is part of what keeps us coming back, week after week. 

Do you have a favorite family tradition you would like documented? Contact me for more information about Storytelling Sessions! I would love to help you preserve your family's memories. 

Welcome to the World, Eloise Mae!

To my fellow mamas: do you remember that moment when you watched your husband with your new baby and fell in love with him all over again? I know I do. And a couple of weeks ago I had the honor of capturing just that look on a new mamas face when I got to document the very first days for the Sefters. Those first few days as a new family in a hospital are so precious, whether it is your first baby or you're seasoned parents, and I loved capturing these memories for the family to enjoy for years to come. 

Are you expecting a baby or do you know someone who is? These sessions would make a fantastic gift that will be treasured for years to come. Check out my session page for more information and or contact me for more details!