Birth Becomes Her

By now, I’m pretty sure that most, if not all of you know just how much I love photographing all things baby! I have recently added birth photography to my specialty services and I am absolutely loving it! For those of you who didn’t know that birth photography was a thing; you’re not alone! A couple of years ago, when a client mentioned it to me as something I should check into, I almost gasped. Not only had I never experienced birth myself, I had never even thought that someone would want to have photos of such an intimate and vulnerable time. Boy was I wrong! There’s some amazing mothers out there who know exactly what a sacred experience birth is, and they want every moment of it captured.

Forrest Birth-8

My first birth was about 2 years ago-and then a few months after that I photographed my first home birth. These two very different experiences helped me to see that not only would I not faint while capturing a new life brought into this world; but that I would soon come to absolutely love being a part of the process! I recently partnered with a local birthing center and was so blessed to be able to be a part of this most recent birth. Mom has quite a beautiful story about her first birth experience and why she chose to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) in the most natural way. I’ll share my experience of that day, but first I want to share mom’s experience in her own words…

“When I pictured birth for the first time, I envisioned a quiet space with just Mitch and I as we brought a new soul into this world. He would be my only support, and I would use all of the breathing exercises, meditations, and positions that I had read about. Of course, this romantic vision of birth didn’t happen. My son had flipped head down, and the hospital we were at, like most hospitals, gasped at the idea of a breech birth. A cesarean became our only option for a safe and healthy baby and mama. While I was absolutely in love with this beautiful new human, I was heartbroken at the loss of my process.

As I began my journey with my second son, I still had an attachment to this natural birth. I longed for the process, for the ability to try, and to show that I, and my body, could do it. The vision changed quite a bit along the way. VBAC’s tend to come with a few more precautions, and contingencies. My main goal was to stay out of the hospital, but instead I managed to find so much more than I ever could have expected.

I found this collective of women supporting women, this village of women who truly love and care for others. I felt so supported, nurtured, and connected. I have been searching for the words to describe the feelings of this magical day, and they are still floating around me most days, but for now I can say that I am overflowing with gratitude and love for all of these women!”

Erika was an absolute rock star in the birthing room, as I’m sure she is in life as well! At one point, she threw her hand up in acknowledgment of being just that! Her 2-year old would come in to comfort and encourage her every so often, and dad was there with her the entire time. But the connection that I was enamored with was that between mom and her doula; Jasmine. I was able to capture a few of those intense moments-but if any of you are wondering why you would want a doula for your birth, you need to experience it for yourself. She was absolutely 100% there for mom-who took full advantage of that. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain that a mother experiences during natural child birth, but that pain seemed to be minimized by the concentrated efforts of this birth crew.

I was impressed by the entire birth experience that was provided during the 5 hours that I was included in. When I arrived, mom was in great hands and went from using the ball, the bed, the ground, the bathtub, then eventually back to the bed where she remained the rest of the process. And though she was at a birthing center in the care of a licensed midwife and several other qualified technicians, she seemed to have every comfort of home. The room was dark, and music was playing in the background. Shoes were removed before entering the room, and voices were muffled to give her the most calm experience she could have and concentrate on her main task: bringing life into the world. Complete and utter joy was seen on the faces of mom and dad when they welcomed their brand new baby boy into the world!

Words can’t describe the beauty experienced in witnessing the entire process from labor pains to the actual moment you hear that first cry; but my hope is that photos will help to better express that. When I delivered the photos of the birth to mom, she said that it brought her back to that day-and the emotions and tears welled up all over again. That is why I love what I do so much. I get to meet amazing people who allow me in to their personal moments in life in order to preserve those memories forever. It may not have been in God’s plan to give me children of my own, but I am so blessed to be able to be a part of so many new little lives in so many different ways! Thank you to each and every one of you who welcome me into your birthing rooms, homes, families, special events, and lives. You make my heart full.


Rainbow Baby JJ

Although all of my clients are special, some are extra special because I have a connection with them. Baby JJ is one of these special people because I have known his dad for well over 12 years! We used to work together-this was before either of us met our spouses and before he had his two boys. Recently, I was fortunate enough to photograph his newest son Jameson Joseph, and it was surreal to see him as a dad! Although he’s been a dad now for 6 years, I really only get to see that on social media. This time, they were up close and personal in my home studio!


During the session, JJ’s mom shared with me that he is actually a Rainbow Baby 3 times over. For those of you who have never heard the term before, a “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss.  JJ’s parents Casey & David miscarried 3 precious babies prior to his arrival. This was obviously very hard on the couple, but they did not give up on a miracle. And big brother Wyatt (who just turned 6 the week after these photos) was super excited to meet his new best buddy!

During Jameson’s pregnancy, pretty much anything that could go wrong went wrong. Mom remembers experiencing morning sickness all the way through her second trimester. She was diagnosed with Antiphospholipid Syndrome (a blood clotting disorder, that likely contributed to the previous miscarriages). She also had increased amniotic fluid for most of the pregnancy which can cause so many problems for baby and mom (including pre-term labor, which mom was already at risk of). She had to have weekly hormone shots to help keep the pregnancy viable, as well as regular glucose tests. Mom developed preeclampsia and also had to have regular stress tests because it was considered a high risk pregnancy. Jameson was a very big boy (which they don’t have a reason for) but they couldn’t get him into position even after 3 tries to turn him-he eventually ended up breech. They had to perform a c-section in order to deliver Jameson safely. He was born a healthy and happy boy on Thursday, November 16th (at 37.5 weeks) weighing in at 9 lbs 6 oz, and 20.5 inches long!

On top of the scary things during pregnancy, dad started having chest pains and not feeling himself the week after this photo session. He was hospitalized and they found out that at only age 36, he has acute coronary disease and had to have 2 stents put in. The Dr opted not to do open heart surgery because of how young he is, and instead recommended a vegan diet in order to clear out his arteries and live a healthy life. David and Casey are such troopers and have gone head-on into this new healthy lifestyle because they know how important it is to stick around to watch their kids grow up. This is just a reminder of how precious life is and how we all need to take care of ourselves-we’ve only got one life!

So why do they call babies like JJ a rainbow baby? In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. What a beautiful analogy to a traumatic yet hope-filled time in this family’s life! And although this little guy didn’t sleep for most of his session, there wasn’t even one peep out of him during the entire 3 hours! He finally fell asleep at the end of the session, but he was such a joy to work with. I’m so excited to photograph JJ and throughout this next year as mom has signed up for the “Watch me Grow” plan. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming year for more of this handsome boy-can’t wait to see what’s in store for him and his family!

Conquering Giants with a Pony

I had the privilege of not only getting to spend some time with a remarkable young lady, but also to be able to photograph her. Meet Saleen; a 12-year old little firecracker who has overcome some pretty tough obstacles in life with the help of her 4-legged friend “Tilly”.

Saleen4x6 (1 of 2)

At first glance, Saleen is an average 12-year old. She enjoys many of the same things that other little girls do. She’s in 7th grade, loves school and gets excellent grades. She has an older brother who is 22, and she is super excited to be an aunt in January (ok, so most 12-year-olds don’t become an aunt-but you know what I mean!). Her family has 3 horses, 2 dogs, and a turtle. However, there is something quite unique about this beautiful girl. When she was born in Anchorage, Alaska she was born breach (feet first) which caused complications.

Saleen4x6 (2 of 2)

Due to this birth trauma, Saleen had to undergo neurological and hormone tests. They discovered that she had cysts on her spinal cord due to a blockage of the cerebellum which she had to have surgery to remove.  The trauma also caused her pituitary to not produce certain hormones. She doesn’t have her C5 nerve, and her C6 nerve was damaged. These nerves are integral in providing control and sensation to different parts of the body: specifically the hand and arm. This has caused her to have limited use of her right hand.

Due to Saleen’s birth injuries, her family moved back to California to have access to the best care with pediatric endocrine specialists, pediatric neurology doctors and physical therapists that specialize in pediatric hand & shoulder therapy. This move also gave her a chance to be with her grandparents again. Eventually, she had the opportunity to begin pony therapy-which would soon turn in to a great love of hers. Saleen has been riding since she was 8 years old, and it is her favorite thing to do.

Saleen’s mom came to me earlier this year to take her head-shots as she was entering the Little Miss Rodeo contest for Banning’s Stagecoach Days. I was more than thrilled to work with this gorgeous girl- and wouldn’t you know that she won! It was so exciting to go out to the rodeo and see her ride her horse with pride. What a brave and beautiful little girl who doesn’t let these obstacles in her life hold her back at all.

Saleen rides her pony “Tilly” in Gymkhanas in Cherry Valley and Yucaipa and she is the current 2017 Little Miss Rodeo Queen for Banning Stagecoach Days. Saleen says “My pony takes care of me and we make a great team”. What proud parents she must have. Saleen, thank you for inspiring us all to have courage no matter what life brings your way! Ride on and dream big!


Inspiring Illusions

Danny Ray is a Christian Illusionist sharing God’s transforming message through captivating illusions. But he’s so much more than that to my husband and I. Danny isn’t just a friend; he’s family. No-not by blood; well, that’s not true-there was some blood shed on the cross by a man that saved us many years ago…and that makes us part of the family of God.

I’ve known him and his (at the time; soon to be) wife Kim for well over 20 years now. I bet you can’t guess that we met at church. 🙂 At the time we were youth leaders. After they married, they moved to Colorado where he attended seminary. It wasn’t until they moved back that I started to truly bond with them. We worked together with the youth, and eventually Danny became the youth and college pastor at our church. Several years later he took the chance to follow the calling that was put on his heart to reach out to many people that he couldn’t necessarily reach through a church setting.

In 2003, Danny left his position with the church to start a ministry that shares the gospel with people all over the world in a very unique way: through illusions! What started as a hobby for Danny as a young child; as he performed magic tricks at a local restaurant, has now become a passion that touches the lives of thousands of youth and adults alike. Danny creates moments of astonishment with captivating messages that still completely blow my mind! He used to call me to come see his new illusions because he said I had the best reaction. That was until he met my husband-yeah, I’ve got nothing on him!

When I met the love of my life, Danny Kim were one of the first people in my life that I introduced him to. In 2010, Danny performed our wedding ceremony on a beautiful day at Corona Del Mar Beach. To say that this guy is a huge part of our lives in an understatement. I was beyond thrilled when he asked me to shoot his recent head shots. But these photos were much more than just head shots or photos for a business portfolio. I mean, c’mon, he’s an illusionist!

Danny Ray Selective Color Cards (2 of 2).jpg

We spent a good 4 hours, with a total of 6 people on this fun photo session. Danny is definitely one of those creative genius types who has grandiose ideas. Some of which are totally fun and had me excited or even laughing (and all of us working hard). And some of them, well they just didn’t make the final cut! Now remember, I cannot reveal a magician’s secrets-so don’t even ask how we did these amazing photos! I could tell you, but then…well I’d have to kill you-and I just don’t want that on my conscience!

Danny Ray Levitate (with shadows bw)

We had such a blast working with Danny again-and it was worth all of the effort to see how pleased he was with the final images. I feel like I put even more pressure on myself when my client is someone that I’m close to. Don’t get me wrong, I work just as hard for clients that I don’t know, and I want nothing more than for every person I photograph to walk away loving their photos (and the experience). But I don’t see most of my clients on a weekly basis-where if they weren’t happy with their photos, they don’t really have the chance to give me the stink eye…haha!

Danny Ray Teeth white (1 of 5)

After I finished the edits on these photos, Danny got the call to perform once again at the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. He was so jazzed that now he has updated photos to use. Surprise-he’s performing the week of Halloween and the images needed to be themed…and they needed them within a week! No problem! Thankfully we were able to get some fun images that work for the theme!

If you are curious what this get-up is all about, you will have to come check out Danny Ray when he performs at the Magic Castle. That is, if you know someone who can get you in! It’s very exclusive! But don’t worry, he has performances all over the country. Actually, he’s performed in multiple different countries as well. You can find out more about Danny Ray, where he performs and even purchase a copy of his amazing book Magnificent Mark here.

I can’t wait to work with this guy again in the future. But for now, I think I’ll just stick to babies! 🙂

There with you from the start…

I’ve always loved when I’m able to see something all the way through. You know what I mean, right? Like when I was working with troubled youth years ago, and I wonder how they’re doing now when they pop up on Facebook happily married with a beautiful family! Or when you start a project at a former job, and you still see the fruit of it growing in the community today. Or when you pray for something/someone and that prayer is finally answered. Maybe that’s just me…but I love to see the follow through.

It’s kind of how I feel about some of my clients who have come full circle with me. I met Nick and Erika in October of 2014. Erika’s mom used to work with me on the State Campaign while I worked at United Way. We had a blast talking about Dancing with the Stars, and kept in touch through Facebook. I was very excited when she contacted me about her daughter’s engagement! I took their engagement photos at Ford Park in Redlands and that’s where it all began!

After our session, I mentioned to Erika that I would love to work with them again…I was very fortunate to do so in Spring of 2015 for their beautiful wedding held at Edward’s Mansion in Redlands. It was my honor to be a part of their special day and I still think of their group portraits as some of my favorite wedding memories ever!

You can probably imagine what comes next, right? Yes, they adopted an adorable dog named Irwin! 🙂 Well, then I was over the moon excited to hear the news in 2016 that they were expecting a baby girl! Erika booked me for her maternity session for this past January and she had the brilliant idea to go back to where it all began…Ford Park! I can already see future family sessions in the plans…with Irwin too! Of course we had to capture some images of them on the same bench where the ring shot was taken. I think we all got a bit emotional over that (ok, maybe just Erika and I).

Little Ava sure took her sweet time gracing us with her presence, but when she finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to get her in my studio in all of her cuteness! She was such a sweetie-giving us smile after smile, and even Grandma joined in on the fun during her session-giving us 3 generations of women.

I’m so blessed by being able to capture the special memories of this wonderful family and I look forward to doing so for many more years (and maybe even many more babies) to come! Thank you for bringing me along for the ride! Welcome to the family Ava!

10 Tips to Improve Phone Photos

I occasionally run into people who ask me what kind of camera I use, how much it costs (yes, they actually ask that), or comment on how they could take amazing photos if they had a camera as nice as mine! I usually laugh, because it’s not the camera that takes the photo, it’s the person using it. And although my images taken with my Canon 5d Mark iii are much better than when I used a point and shoot camera, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take fabulous photos with something you already own!

Since I can’t follow you around every day, capturing those special moments that may happen (and you can’t afford to hire a photographer on a daily basis) I wanted to draw your attention to a piece of equipment that most of you have already. This device that has become somewhat of a permanent attachment to most of our hands, can actually take some pretty awesome photos as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. Of course you all know what I’m talking about…your smart phone! I currently have the iPhone 6S, and though I will be sharing a few tips that are specific to the iPhone, all smart phones can do just about the same thing (you just need to modify).

#1 Lighting is key! Lighting is very important no matter what equipment you are using. It’s vital that your subject is well lit so the focus is on them. When using a camera on your phone, try to make sure that your subject isn’t back-lit. This means that the sun/source of light should not come from behind your subject. If you want to take a picture of someone in front of the sunset, even if you turn the flash on, your subject will be too dark. Instead, angle your subject so that the light is coming from behind your head-or at least from the side (if it’s a selfie, the light should be in front of you). These pictures show exactly what I mean. The first one, you can see the sunset, but not me. The 2nd is turned just slightly so that the light shows on our faces (excuse our day at the pool attire).

#2 Keep your hand steady! Sadly, a lot of the photos I see on Social Media are blurry. The most common reason for this is that the camera was moved during the process of taking the photo. Try to keep your hand steady when you push that button. Get a kickstand and use the timer if you’re just too heavy handed. The 2nd most common reason for picture blur is that your subject is moving. This is hard to prevent using a phone, but you can try to lessen blur by following your subject with the phone and snapping your picture in the process. It won’t always help it, so chances are, moving kiddos will be blurry. This is an example of what happens when your subject and your camera are moving! 🙂


#3 Flash is not always your friend! Most of us have cases on our phones which actually makes the flash bounce off of the case and pretty much ruins your image. Other times the flash makes your subject have yellow skin (or very pale skin) and red eyes. As a rule, I tend to not use the flash on my phone unless I’m doing a selfie after dark. Some phones do not have this option, but the iPhone 6 & up do-and it’s fantastic for most dark situations. This was taken on vacation after dinner and it brightened our faces and even showed the lighting around the pool in the background.


#4 Get close to your subject! Using the zoom feature on your phone camera will not always produce the best results. In fact, just don’t do it unless absolutely necessary! It’s almost always better to crop after taking the photo then using the zoom. If you want a photo of an actual person or animal, get up close to them-fill that viewfinder! If you use the zoom feature, chances are high that your image will be grainy and you just won’t like the results. Trust me on this.


#5 Edit, don’t filter! The big fad lately is using filters on photos…Don’t do it! A filter is obvious and changes the look of the entire photo. Instead, go into the editing tool and bump up the shadows (if too dark), lower the highlights (if too bright), and play with the saturation and hue of an image until you get it just right. Your image will look great and no one will know that you edited it. If you use a filter, like I did on these, they will know. HAHA!

#6 Angle matters! The angle of your vantage point is important. Do not shoot from the ground up unless you are doing so in an artistic way. Women especially, will not like photos of themselves from this angle. If at all possible, raise yourself slightly above your subject for the most flattering shot. Most young ladies have perfected this angle with the selfie. They have figured out that when you hold the camera up, it gives a more flattering viewpoint. But take care not to hold the phone up too high, as this just makes the subject look awkward. I’ve seen this with selfies the most. Trust me, we don’t want to see the top of your head-we prefer to see your eyes and lovely smile!


#7 Keep your lens clean! Because we take our phones everywhere (yes, even there), it’s important to keep them clean. This is especially true for the lens of your camera. It’s very easy to get food or dirt on the lens, so I clean mine every few days (when on vacation, I needed to clean it almost daily). You don’t want to find out after it’s too late that a crumb or a fingerprint ruined the photo of your Aunt Betsy doing a hand stand!

#8 Focus on the subject! Your subject is the person or thing that you are photographing. Sometimes your subject is a baby, your pet, or even a mountain. Regardless of your subject, you want it to be the most interesting point of the photo (you want the eyes to go directly to your subject)-so it’s important to make sure that your focus is clear. Some phones are different, but for the iPhone you just need to touch the screen in order to make it focus on a certain part of the image. This also brings up a tool to brighten the image before capturing it. Using Depth of Field in my camera can give that blurry background effect, which puts focus on your subject. The iPhone 7 portrait mode can actually help create this effect-but be careful, as it’s not 100% accurate and can blur out things you want to be clear. But it’s a fun new feature. And your subject does not have to be centered-in fact it’s often best not to center your subject. Can you tell the subject in these images?


#9 Be creative! Although there are many rules in photography, it is artwork, so those rules can be broken. Making sure your subject is in focus shouldn’t be a rule that you break, but  changing your perspective to look from the ground up to capture something artistic can rock! Look for repetitive patterns in things, don’t be afraid of empty space, use symmetry, capture small details, play with reflections, and most importantly, have fun!

#10 Put your phone away! This is the best tip I can give you. Though pictures are important, I mean come on, I’m a photographer; living and enjoying life is much more valuable than anything on your phone. That food tastes much better than it looks, so put the phone down, eat the food, and chat with your friend/spouse/child! Enjoy life, my friends. It’s fleeting. With that being said, get off your phone…this blog post is toast! 🙂

I want the dress, but not the price-tag!

A young lady was shopping and saw a beautifully crocheted dress that she loved. She asked the dressmaker how much it would cost to have her make her a dress like it. When the dressmaker told her that it was XXX amount, the lady was shocked- how could a simple dress cost her so much? She proceeded to tell her that she charged too much. The dressmaker asked her “Then what do you think I should charge?” The young lady replied that it should be X amount because the yarn only costs such & such amount, buttons this much, ribbons this amount and scissors only cost this much. Even though this amount was much less than she normally charged for such a nice dress, the dressmaker agreed on the client’s amount, took her money and a few days later a beautiful package arrived on her doorstep. The young lady opened the package expecting to find her beautiful dress and instead found yarn, buttons, ribbon and a pair of scissors. The young lady went back to the store with her box of items and yelled at the dressmaker “How could you do this to me? I asked you for a dress & you sent me yarn, ribbons & buttons?” The dressmaker looked back at the young lady & said “My dear, you got exactly what you paid for. If you want me to actually make you the dress, that comes at a much higher cost”

Why am I sharing this story about a dress on my photography blog? That’s a great question! The answer is simple- we get what we pay for. As a business owner, I often get inquiries from people who do not become clients because they feel that I charge too much. The problem is that most people do not realize just how much goes in to something that is custom made; whether it be a dress or a family portrait. Also, with a camera in every phone these days, most people don’t realize that it’s not the camera/equipment that creates the gorgeous photos, it’s the talent of the photographer. A pair of scissors doesn’t make you a seamstress any more than a nice camera makes you a professional photographer.

So many times I have gone out & purchased the cheap shoes because I don’t want to pay extra for the good quality ones. My husband used to give me such a hard time about my shoes. I used to shop at Payless relentlessly. And guess what? I always complained that my feet hurt! The shoes I bought at Payless always fell apart on me. So, I would end up buying more shoes anyway-spending the same (if not more) money than I would have if I had just went with the quality shoes in the first place (don’t tell my husband that he was right)!  Once I bought my first pair of shoes that cost me over $100 [gasp!] I knew exactly what the difference was: quality! My feet now thank me-and my husband!

There’s a lesson in these stories. You get what you pay for. I know that custom photography is not for everyone; people place their value in different things. Some people are the first in line when a new iPhone comes out and don’t even blink at spending hundreds on a phone. For others, designer handbags are what is important. For me, I put value in the artwork that my hairstylist does so I pay her more than I ever thought I could (because I see the difference in her trained work versus what I used to do on my own). For some people, they value their memories and are willing to pay to archive them in a very special way.

I have to say that if you value photography for what it truly is: artwork; you will come to realize just how much goes in to capturing each and every one of your precious memories. And when you choose a photographer who has invested so much time into her own craft, does the research to find the best professional labs that offer the finest quality prints and products for your hard-earned dollars, when you find someone who takes the time to get to know you and your family, someone who plans your fabulous custom session and presents you with beautiful artwork that you will pass down from generation to generation, you won’t blink when you get your invoice. My goal is for each of you to leave with a smile on your face, joy in your heart, and memories on your wall.

If you would like to invest in your family’s memories and work with someone who truly cares about your wants & needs & will do anything they can to meet your goals, contact me or anyone other full service photographer who offers custom services. We would love to take care of you and your future memories to come. Happy 2017!