Then and Now!

There are only a few friends in my world that I’m so close to that I consider family, and this post is about one of those people! My friend Cheryl and I met when we worked together umteen years ago when her now 15 year old son Justin was just a wee boy! We instantly hit it off! I often refer to her as my sister from another mister! We have so much in common and just love each other beyond words! Over 13 years ago, her family lost their home to the “old fire” in the hills of San Bernardino, and I was devastated along with her. But they rebuilt, and although those physical things are gone, the  memories live on. And their little mountain community is so much stronger & closer through it all.

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Over the years we lost touch for a while-not for any reason, other than lives get busy. But when we reconnected about 5 years ago we just picked up where we left off (except that I now had a new last name & a fun hubby) and it was seriously as if no time had gone by. We are just as close as ever and I was thrilled when she finally said “We need to update our family photos!”. It had been about 13 1/2 years since they had done professional family photos-I’ll say it’s about time for an update. That once little man who I loved coloring with is all grown up with facial hair and a deeper voice! Sheesh, I feel old!  This photo, which sits on my shelf in a little frame, was their last professional family portraits done.

I was beyond excited to be able to capture these images of this family that I truly adore! We met up at Oak Glen, which is gorgeous this time of year with the fall colors (we don’t get a lot of that around here). Of course, it’s always busy in Oak Glen when the leaves change, because there’s apple picking, live music, pumpkins, and of course amazing food! Parking is always packed & it’s tough to get photos without random people in your background. But it’s well worth the effort!

Portraits are not usually a favorite activity for men of any age-that includes teens. So, as we walked around to different spots, I’m sure that the guys were thinking “Aren’t we done yet?” However, as I was heading to a little pond area, Justin pointed out this great brick wall which was a perfect location for their photos! He has a great eye and it was awesome to have something different from the rustic leaves and bridge images.  Thanks buddy! Overall, we had a lovely day-topped off by a lunch at Apple Annie’s where a beautiful peacock greeted us at the window.

Cheryl was so much in love with her final images that she placed a large print order which included this beautiful 30 x 40 mounted print for her stairwell. This is actually the largest print that I’ve sold as most people are afraid that something this big would be overkill in their home. That couldn’t be further from the truth! My husband and I have a pretty small home with mostly small walls, and even I am planning on ordering a big canvas of our recent photo session for our dining room wall. Pictures are very important for families. Surrounding yourselves with family portraits is actually proven to promote self esteem and feelings of worth in your children. It’s so important to print your images-which is why I really encourage my clients to print & to go big!

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I’m so excited for Cheryl’s new collection of personalized wall art for her home, and I hope she doesn’t wait another 13 years before they have their portraits done again! Nah-I wouldn’t let her! Merry Christmas everyone! Enjoy this wonderful time of year with the ones you love! God bless!

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From the beginning…

I absolutely love babies! Of course that’s the reason why I now specialize in newborn photography. I was recently asked if I was interested in specializing in pet photography. I’m sure there’s a lot of work in this genre, as so many people love their pets (especially their dogs). But babies don’t bark, they don’t shed, and they don’t usually bite (but even if they do-their gums wouldn’t hurt as much). However, they do cry. pee and poop at the most inopportune moments. That being said, I still enjoy photographing babies much more than I do dogs!

Earlier this year I decided to try out something new: birth photography. This entire aspect was foreign to me because not only have I never photographed a live birth, I’ve never even given birth myself. Once I hired my first birth, my friend joked that I was going to faint in the hospital room. Sure, I was nervous to witness my first birth; I’ve never been great around blood & other bodily fluids. But I knew that once I got behind the lens, my game face would be on! I also learned so much from veteran birth photographers in local groups that I had joined. I was so ready for this birth!

The way birth photography works is that the photographer is basically on call for 2 weeks before the due date until 2 weeks after the due date. Mom needs to let me know when she has any symptoms of labor and then I head to the hospital/birth center once they are dilated to a 6. Of course, other circumstances could change this-but that’s the general idea. Once at the hospital, we could be waiting for hours for the baby to be born. Being prepared with water, snacks, extra batteries & even a blanket is vital. For this reason, birth photography is much more expensive than a traditional newborn session. But it is well worth it for those who want to document this amazing experience.

This first mom was past due, but she kept in contact with me the entire time. She checked in to the hospital on Saturday morning so I cancelled my plans for the weekend & stayed close to home with my gear ready. By 10 pm Sunday night she still wasn’t at 6 cm so it looked like another long night. However, the nurse didn’t check her for a while. Around 1 am I got a text from the dad saying she was at 10 cm! Holy cow-I got dressed faster than ever & was on my way to Redlands Community Hospital-praying no cops were around! Unfortunately, I arrived as she was giving birth and the nurses would not let me in. It was such a bummer to miss my first birth, but thankfully I was able to do a Fresh 48 which is a photo session within the baby’s first 48 hours of life. This session can be planned for or it can be in lieu of a birth session for any reason such as complications during child birth (which Dr’s won’t allow to be photographed).

Fast forward a few months and I find out that my closest friend’s little sister is pregnant with her third child (yes-that made me feel old). I’ve known this young mom since she was a little girl! She planned on doing a home birth this time, and since she lived 5 minutes from me, I figured this would be an ideal scenario for my first actual live birth session. Her two daughters came early and fairly quick so she expected her son to do the same. Isn’t it just like a guy to come in his own timing! She had a few contractions one night, but then nothing for a week! Mom was so ready for her son to be born, and I was on call-checking in with her daily. The morning after her due date she texted me and said she thinks she’s in labor but not to hurry-that she would keep in touch. I got up and got dressed then she texted that I should come soon as it was getting close. I rushed over to her house to find family there and the midwife coaching mom in the bathtub.

This brave mom was not only giving birth in her bathtub at home, but she was doing it without any pain meds. Like I said, I’ve never given birth, but after a recent gallbladder attack that ended up with emergency surgery-I’m told that what I was feeling is similar to the pains of childbirth. I never want to go through that again-well, not without an epidural!

I sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for baby James to enter this world. I thought we had a long day ahead of us, but after a few minutes, I could tell that something was about to happen. So I took my camera in the dark bathroom and was amazed at how quickly this miracle progressed. I was able to capture baby James entering this world and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced! Such a beautiful, yet physically painful time for mother and child (and dad too- as mom crushed his hand-oops).

I knew immediately that this would be something that I would offer to future clients. Going into this experience, I didn’t really know if I wanted to be on call for so long. It’s very stressful and can cause issues with scheduling newborn clients (in fact this particular birth caused a reschedule with another client-but everything worked out). But it was absolutely worth it to be able to capture these precious moments for this family to cherish for a lifetime.

This birth was so quick, and the midwife handled everything so well (being that she was not the scheduled midwife-they had several births going on at the same time-can you imagine?). I loved working with the midwife and her crew. Giving birth in your home is such a warm experience-where the mom is comfortable and safe. Right after the birth, mom and baby walked right over to their own bed.

After the umbilical chord was cut, mom was sewn up, and everyone was settled, they weighed & measured baby James. Such sweet moments when his big sisters got to watch everything. The midwife even gave us all a tour of the placenta, which was extremely educational. Things like this are not part of the hospital birth experience. If you’re reading this and considering doing a home birth, this family and I both highly recommend it. Some people think it’s unsafe, but these are highly trained professionals who know what to do and handled everything brilliantly.

I was truly blessed to be a part of this amazing experience-and for it to be my very first live birth was like a dream come true! If you are interested in documenting your child’s birth story, whether it’s your first or fourth child, whether it’s in a hospital or at home, I would love to chat with you! Let’s create a unique photographic experience with you and baby in mind.

Bald is Beautiful

Let me introduce you to my friend Carrie. She’s bald now, but she’s bald by choice. Some of the children that Carrie works with are bald, but by no choice of their own. Carrie has worked for St Baldrick’s Foundation for almost 6 years now, raising funds to help children who are fighting cancer . St Baldrick’s exists to fund research and create funding priorities that make the greatest impact to children with cancer. When I read the statistics, I just couldn’t believe that over 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year! That number is just so much bigger than I could’ve ever imagined.

Last month my husband and I attended St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event in LA and it was such a beautiful thing to be a part of. Carrie chose to shave her beautiful blonde hair off because she has spent every day reading stories of why others shave their hair in honor of a child with cancer. Carrie shares; “Since I have two small children of my own, I think about these honored children and what their whole families go through to fight cancer. I cannot imagine what I would do or how I would handle hearing my child has cancer. I decided to shave because it makes me feel like I am doing something to help these families, to advance research, and to keep me from crying every time I read a sad story about a child and their families suffering with cancer.”

I used to work with Carrie at an organization that helped those less fortunate than us and she specifically worked in programs that helped children. She’s always worked with children in one way or another, so it was not surprising that she chose to work at St. Baldrick’s. When I asked her why she chose this organization to work for, she told me this story from childhood; “Growing up, there was a young boy named Danny who had cancer and he was very sick. He would come out to play sometimes, but many times, his sister would come play with me and my sister without her brother. I believe he was only 6 when he passed away. I was maybe one or two years older than him. I remember how his death impacted my mother, even though I really didn’t understand completely what had happened to him.

Carrie’s heart for children and ultimately children who are fighting this horrible disease, led her to do an amazing thing to help even more. Carrie personally raised over $5,500 for the head-shave event; making her the 2nd highest fundraiser! The event itself raised over $34,400 so far! What an amazing organization this is and what a brave friend I have. Thank you to Carrie and all of the other Shavee’s from the event who have already done so much for these precious children! And thank you for allowing me to capture some of those moments!

If you want to know more about St Baldrick’s Foundation and this event in particular, please feel free to visit the event page: Click Here.

Top 5 things to know for baby’s first weeks

There’s way too much advice out there about parenting, and for first-time parents, it could be very confusing to decipher the good advice from the bad & the ugly. We have found 5 helpful tips from parents who walk the talk… they just might be the ticket to a successful first few weeks with baby!

1. Listen to your baby. Your baby may not be able to communicate verbally (except for that blood-curdling scream at 3 am), but they do know how to communicate with you. Tugging at their ear or quick, jerky movements can tell you that they are tired. Finger sucking & reaching with their arms or legs can tell you that they are hungry. Pay attention to your baby’s cries and movements over the first few weeks-you will probably figure out what they’re trying to tell you very quickly.

2. Breastfeeding vs formula feeding is a personal choice. Breastfeeding can be hard. It’s not just as simple as “plug & chug”! It takes time for you and your baby to get the hang of it-which is why they recommend starting immediately if that is the route you plan to take. However, breastfeeding may not be for you-and that is OK.  It may be because baby just won’t take to you. Their could even be a medical condition preventing breastfeeding. But don’t let anyone make you feel like a failure if you choose to formula feed. Do what is best for you and your baby.

3. Listen to your instincts. There’s so many resources out there on parenting, but the best voice to listen to is your inner voice. If your baby is hungry but it’s only been two hours since you fed them, and the book says to wait 3 hours, feed your baby! Listen to your instincts. 9 times out of 10, your gut instinct with your baby will be correct.

4. Don’t worry about trying to be the perfect mother. The best thing a mother can do is to try her best. Period. There’s no secret formula to being a perfect mother because there is no such thing!  Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people in your circle who undoubtedly would love to hold your baby for an hour or so. I know I would! 🙂

5. Make time for your partner & for yourself. This should be #1 on the list, as it’s so very important!  It is absolutely crucial to take time for yourself. During nap time, or when grandma offers to watch the little one, do something that you want to do. Read a book, go for a walk, take a nap! Better yet, include your spouse in this and have one of those things called… date night (what’s that?). It’s typical to give baby all of the attention during the first few weeks or even months. Make sure that you take time to show that special person in your life some much needed love & affection.

 

But, I hate photos of myself!!!

What woman hasn’t at least thought this phrase if not said it out loud? I’m guilty of it myself. In this day and age of selfies, most of us ladies are not fans of someone else taking our pictures because we can’t really control the outcome. At least with a selfie, we can angle the phone’s camera just right in order to get that perfect jaw line, or hide our imperfections. We are so critical of our bodies & how we look and so we try to avoid being in front of the camera at all costs. I have been so much better about being in photos recently as I have lost some weight & I’m starting to feel better about my body. But the really sad thing is that when I look through my older pictures so I can see how far I’ve come, I find that I rarely ever had full body pictures. Most events and outings, I made sure I was behind the camera. Well that ends now! I want to be able to look back at photos and see my smiling face & how much I enjoyed those memories.

I book a lot of newborn sessions and with these sessions I also include a few family and sibling photos. I am so saddened by the fact that most moms decline being in them. I understand that most women do not feel like they are at their best within 2 weeks after giving birth. Most women want to lose weight before they even attempt to be photographed. But professional photographers know how to pose you in order to help hide some of those little imperfections (which, by the way, nobody even notices except for you).

Well, listen up ladies…specifically those of you who are mothers. You may not particularly love having your picture taken, but guess who is going to love the fact that you are in pictures with them? You got it- your little munchkins! One day, your child will absolutely love the fact that their mom was in their very first professional pictures with them. They won’t care what you looked like or if your hair or body was perfect. They will have a memory that they can treasure for a lifetime!

Eventually, hopefully not for many, many years, these photos will be the only thing that they will have left of you. If you don’t like certain photos of yourself, you don’t have to post them as your Facebook profile picture. But you should frame them for your child’s room. Don’t rob them of these treasured memories just because you don’t like your hair or that extra 10 lbs you want to lose. They don’t care about these things. They love you and will be so proud to show off pictures of their beautiful family. Every child deserves to have pictures with their parents.

Oh and don’t forget…You are beautiful!

Twinning!

My goal for you, in each and every session, is to have you walk away with beautiful memories that were created through an amazing experience. It’s not only about the photos, but it’s about the memories that we make while creating the photos. And sometimes I get the pleasure of capturing many memories over the years for a special family. In only two short years, I had the pleasure of capturing their wedding, maternity, newborn, and most recently their first birthday cake smash! And I scored a two for one deal with this family! Twins! One of each! My husband and I have actually become friends with this family and it has been so much fun to watch their littles grow over the past year.

Meet Sean and Olivia..

If you think a first birthday and cake smash session is fun, you just wait till you have two at the same time! These two were all over our studio, checking things out and playing with anything they could get their hands on! Between mom, dad, big sister, and myself, we had our hands full! But they were so much fun to watch. Olivia was laughing, giggling and jumping around, while Sean was serious and just taking it all in.

These two have such different personalities that came out in front of the camera for sure. But they are like two peas in a pod with the love that they have for each other.

We brought out the bubble machine and they were both mesmerized by it. With an outfit change and a couple of very special crowns, these two cutie pies were ready to turn one in style! Doesn’t Sean look like a baby Magnum PI in this outfit?

Last but not least, the cake smash was so much fun! Once again, these two went about it at a different pace. Sean was clean & meticulous about checking out his cake, while Olivia just dove in! You can tell which one loves to make a mess!

This first birthday and cake smash session was double the fun and I think we probably wore the kiddos (and the parents) out to sleep through the night! Happy first birthday to my favorite set of twins! So excited to see what sort of mischief you two get into this year!

Behind the Scenes

Happy Summer!

Summer tends to be the least busy season for outdoor portraits, and I’ll give you one guess why… Well, duh- it’s so stinkin’ hot outside! I remember a few outdoor sessions that actually had to be rescheduled due to the excessive heat! I’m totally ok with having a slow summer season as I prefer to keep cool as well-but I’m not the one in front of the camera! It’s hard to look your best when your make-up is sweating off and you have to worry about sweat stains in your pits!

That being said, I figured that my slow time is a good chance to take you on a little behind the scenes tour of what I bring to an on-location photo shoot & why! Why would I tell you all about my secret weapons? Pffft-because there’s really no secret to it!

I do have an in-home studio available, but that is mostly for newborns and babies up to a year old. I also have room to do a few family photos as part of these sessions, but for my family, maternity and children’s portraits I really prefer to get creative outdoors. It depends on what the client wants (rustic, water, greenery, field, etc) but I typically choose a location that is convenient for you and me.

When shooting on location I typically have my assistant with me (AKA my husband Arlo). He helps with lighting and loading equipment and occasionally engages the husband about football (he even occasionally finds another Dolphins fan!). Sometimes he can be my secret weapon-as dad is typically the person who wants nothing to do with family portraits. No joke! It’s usually on his day off, and dressing up and posing out in a public place does not sound like fun to most guys. If he likes football, I’m pretty sure my husband can get him to smile long enough for a few pictures.

So, besides me, my husband & my camera (that’s a given), let’s get in to my bag of photography tricks. In my camera backpack I tend to bring 2-3 different size lenses to each session, although I may only use one of the lenses the entire time. It really depends on several factors:

  1. How many people I am photographing.
  2. The surroundings/location.
  3. What type of a feel do we want for the session.

I may want my zoom lens so that I can be quite a distance from the subjects so they can interact and I can capture some candids. Or, I may want to be closer to them in order to give directions or for safety reasons. It all depends. I also bring everything I need to clean & care for my camera & lenses all within the backpack. You will also see me using a funny contraption that I use each time we move around the location. I use this to adjust the white balance in camera in order to keep your white shirt looking white & not blue or green. The reason I may do this multiple times during a session is because the lighting can change due to the sun or any number of circumstances. I also keep plenty of extra memory cards & batteries in my backpack just in case.

Most shoots where I have an assistant, we will also bring my off camera flash/lighting set up. Some may wonder why I would bring lighting for an outdoor session where the sun is bright-it would appear that there is plenty of light. Well, for your eyes, that is true. But for the camera, your face could be the darkest part of the picture because sun creates shadows. Even your hair or your nose can create a very unflattering shadow on your face. So I bring lighting (with a diffuser) to give my subjects what is called fill light. This fills the darkness that shadows can bring and the diffuser helps to soften that light so that it also doesn’t create more harsh shadows. Depending on the size of the group, I may bring 1-2 light stands with lighting. The larger the group, the more fill light we need.

In addition I would also bring any props that we might use during the session. This could be a chair, step stool, apple box, blanket, toys, or any number of creative items to enhance your images. I also encourage clients to bring anything special that they may want to include in their photos. Occasionally we may also bring things like an umbrella if the weather is questionable.

I know-so much stuff just to take a few pictures! Well, that’s why you hired me-so you wouldn’t have to worry about all of this. This is also one of the many reasons why professional portraits are more expensive then just paying someone with a camera to take your pictures. We want your experience to be fun and your memories to be preserved in an amazing way. It takes a lot of time, equipment, love & care to accomplish this. I hope that you enjoyed this little sneak peek behind the scenes view of what goes into the production of an outdoor photo session. Now it’s time to come out and see it for yourself!