Happy Birthday Teddy!

So, in classic mom mode, I completely forgot to blog about Teddy’s birthday, even though it was 2 months ago (Seriously, how has it already been 2 months??). Second kid problems, right? Regardless, Happy Birthday, Teddy!

This little boy is actually a huge part of the reason that I became a photographer (and subsequently dragged Jeremy along with me! Haha). 3 days before Christmas 2015, I had what was supposed to be a routine echo scheduled. I was told that something looked a little off, but the doctor was fairly sure it was a variation of normal. But he wanted to get a fetal cardiology specialist in to make sure everything was fine. They told me it was probably normal, but just wanted to make sure all of our bases were covered. After being reassured, I decided to go to this particular appointment by myself.

The half hour echo stretched to one hour. Then to two. I dozed in and out in the dim room, pregnant and tired (I had an 18-month old at home already!). Finally the cardiology specialist finished and left the room to analyze the images. A technician came in a few minutes later, and I asked if everything was good and if I was free to go. “Um… you really need to speak with the doctor.”

My heart stopped. “But everything’s ok, right?”

She didn’t meet my gaze, “The doctor really needs to be the one to tell you.”

The next 15 minutes was agony. Hormonal and pregnant, I cried by myself in the exam room, waiting for the doctor to come back.

When she finally did, it was to explain that my unborn son had a congenital heart defect – an anomalous pulmonary artery off the right artery. In plain terms, his lung was attached to the wrong part of his heart, so his lung would be getting blood that had already been oxygenated, and if it wasn’t fixed, he would only have a 30% chance of making it to his 1st birthday. I was told that while he was still in utero, he was safe, but after he was born, he would start to get very sick if they didn’t perform open heart surgery as soon as possible.

After calling Jeremy and filling him in, I called my mom and cried my eyes out. This baby, this tiny, unborn baby that I had been entrusted with, that I already loved with all my heart, was going to need open heart surgery when he was just a few days old. I had to pull the car over because I couldn’t see straight.

Fast forward 4 months, holding this little boy in my arms for the first time, being told I could only hold him for 10 minutes, and then they would have to take him to a neighboring hospital for testing. 4 days after he was born, he underwent open heart surgery. I spent every day of the next 2 and a half weeks at the hospital, holding him as much as they would let me, going with him to x-rays, echos, listening to the endless beeping of the different machines and monitors he was hooked up to. One thought ran through my head on repeat while we waited to see how he would do, if he would recover, if he would have other complications – what if this is all I get? What if this is the only time I get to spend with him? What if this is it?

I had this inexplicable urge to capture as many moments as I could. I took photos of him with all of the tubes, monitors, everything. I knew it might be upsetting to some people, so I never posted it. But I kept it for me. Just in case. Every day, a new picture. Every time another monitor, tube, or wire came off, another picture. Pictures as he met sister, Me-Ma, uncle for the first time. Photos of our kids MATTER. (Want tips for taking better photos of your kids?) The urge, the desire, the pressing need to keep documenting love, life, moments hasn’t let up since then. If anything, it’s become stronger. I have to take these pictures. Mark these moments. Hold on to these emotions and memories forever.

Teddy will never remember his first hospital stay, but I will never forget. It will be engraved in my heart and mind forever. And now I have pictures to show him when he’s old enough to ask about his scar. To tell him that he is the strongest, bravest little boy that I know. And I am so proud to be his mama.

On the day he was released from the hospital, Charlotte and I walked around the cardiology ward and handed out felt hearts to all of the nurses and doctors we could find who had taken care of Teddy during his stay to pin to their scrubs. To this day, Charlotte and Teddy still hand out felt hearts to people – mostly to strangers. People who stop and talk to them in the line at the grocery store, someone who opens a door for us, the robbers on the train at Knott’s Berry Farm. For a little boy who was born with a defective heart, he’s got one of the biggest, warmest ones I’ve ever seen. He never goes to bed without giving his sister a hug and a kiss. And he climbs out of bed a MINIMUM of two times every night for “one more kiss. One more hug.”

Teddy, you are so strong, so brave, so loving and kind. From the day you were born, it was clear to your dad and me that you were never going to let anything slow you down! You look up to your sister so much, and you want to be a part of everything she does. You love cars and are obsessed with trains. Basically anything that moves! You love the Octonauts, the aquarium, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Every time we go, you ask to go on all of the biggest rides (we took you on your birthday, and you got really mad when we wouldn’t let you go on Exelerator!). I can’t wait until you’re big enough to take you on all the big ones, little boy. I know you’re just gunna love them! I love that you ask to go on “the coal mine ride,” even though it scares you – you are SO BRAVE and ready to take on any challenge! We love you SO MUCH, bubba. Happy Birthday, Teddy!

(Also, be sure to check out Charlotte’s 4th birthday from a few months ago!)

Great Mother’s Day Gift Idea!

I have two wonderful children, but you know what I never did?! I never got maternity photos taken! I never got newborn photos taken! In fact, I never had any kind of professional photo shoot done until Charlotte was a year and a half, and the only reason I did it was because my brother gave me the session as a birthday gift! (And this was before I became a photographer, so this was a super big deal for me!) To this day, it is such a huge regret because those are pieces of time that I will never get back!

Spring is sprung Mommy and Me Session

To this day, that photo shoot from my brother is one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten!

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For those of you that don’t know, my son was born with a congenital heart defect, and my time spent in the hospital with him while he recovered from open heart surgery is actually what sent me down this path to pursuing photography. I realized, sitting there in the hospital with this tiny baby in my arms, that if I lost him, all I would have left were the photos. Yes, it’s a little morbid, but it’s the epiphany that changed my life!

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Now my mission is to give others the gift of memories that can be cherished forever, by generations to come! I love to capture the love between people, the connection and the bond that people share. I love capturing raw, human moments that naturally happen during even the most well-run session. I want to capture laughter, love, and light!

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Mother’s Day is May 13th this year, and if you haven’t come up with a Mother’s Day present for your mom yet (or a present for your wife, gentlemen!), consider giving her the gift of memories by booking a photo shoot with a local photographer whose work you know she admires! Those memories and moments last a lot longer than a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers – I promise!

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(Images in this post are from Lizzi’s Mommy and Me Session. Flower crowns designed and made by me.)

Love Notes to Myself

If I could write a letter to younger versions of myself, here’s what I would say…

A photo of a woman in her 20s at the beach. It's a closeup of her shoulders and head. She has brown hair, blue eyes, and her hair is braided.

Dear 18-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. You may not be going away to college, but you will still graduate. It’ll take 10 years instead of 4, but you will persevere. Take it slow, only take on what you can handle. You’ll get there eventually. Leaving high school means losing touch with people, figuring our who your true friends are, and learning to embrace parts of yourself you never wanted to shine a spotlight on. You’ll keep touch with those you were meant to keep in your life. And the new friends you make in a few years will be some of the best, truest, most amazing ones you’ve ever had.

A white chihuahua on the beach, with her ears perked up as she looks at something in the distance.

Dear 20-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. You may be sleeping on the floor, living in a 2-bedroom apartment with 5 guys and another girl, but this too shall pass. You will meet some amazing friends who will invite you into their home, share food with you, and help you get back on your feet. In 8 years, you will be photographing their newborn baby boy for them when he’s less than 24 hours old. That camera you use every day? Don’t put it down. Take it with you everywhere, photograph everything. The things you are learning now will serve you later when you realize where your passion truly lies.

A man and his infant son on the beach. Dad is holding baby, who has a binky in his mouth.

Dear 23-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. Breaking up sucks. Divorce sucks worse. You don’t know it yet, but the man that helped you through the worst of it? He’s the one you’re meant to be with. You will have 2 beautiful, wonderful children together. Just follow your heart. I know you were just crushed, but don’t be afraid to dive in head first – it’s the only way to love.

A toddler sitting on a large boulder on the beach. He has a binky in his mouth and is pointing out at the water.

Dear 26-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. You’re terrified, scared of losing this precious baby who’s life has been entrusted to you. He’s going to ok. He has open heart surgery at 4 days old, and comes through with flying colors. He is growing into the most amazing, brave, silly little boy, and I’m pretty sure he has no idea he’s any different than any of his other friends. You will get past the postpartum depression and come through stronger, with more self-awareness, and the ability to grant yourself some grace.

A little girl at the beach. She is wearing a rainbow colored dress and is brushing her hair out of her face.

Dear 27-year-old me:

It’s gunna be ok. Washington wasn’t a mistake. It was one big learning opportunity. You’ll learn to finally put yourself first sometimes. You’ll learn not to let others walk all over you. You’ll learn to stand up for yourself and your family. Sometimes doing the right thing means someone gets hurt, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still the right thing. As a kid, you thought things were black and white. Right and wrong. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you, and that’s ok. Don’t put down that camera. Keep pushing, keep striving. You got this.

It’s gunna be ok.

 

Roll With It

Something I have learned and relearned over the years in various forms, disguised as a new scenario or situation is that things don’t always go according to plan. How do I handle it when things don’t happen the way I imagined? I roll with it!

A 1-year-old boy sitting in the grass holding a baby bottle. He is wearing a shirt that says "Wild One."

This little cutie pie just turned 1, and we had the best session planned! It was supposed to be 76 degrees, great day for a session in the park. When we got there, the wind started to pick up, and was blowing in the opposite direction from where I normally prefer to shoot!

A family photo shoot in the park. Mama and Daddy are snuggled together on a blanket, with little boy on Mama's lap and little girl on Daddy's lap. Their shirts read "Mama Bear," "Papa Bear," "Sister Bear," and "Wild One."

Because of the wind, I had to shoot the opposite direction or Brooke and her daughter’s hair would have been all over the place! Because we were shooting the “wrong way,” we had to shoot in the shade. Which meant that it was much colder, and when you add the wind in, it got pretty chilly for these little babes!

A man in a shirt that says "Papa Bear," holding a little girl in one arm and a little boy in the other.

So all they wanted to do was snuggle up with their parents! (And see that wind blowing baby boy’s hair around? He looks like he’s got a little mohawk, which I totally love!)

A picture of a little boy in a "Wild One" shirt being held by his Mama. They are both giggling.

It was so chilly that we had to wrap them up in a blanket in between sets so they wouldn’t get too cold! But it sure was cute watching them snuggle up together!

A picture of a brother and sister snuggling up together in a blanket. The girl is chewing on her thumb and the boy is chewing on a baby bottle.

While the kids were getting snuggly, the wind died down for just a moment or two, so I took the opportunity to grab a couple shots of Brooke and Vic!

A picture of an engaged couple standing belly to belly, holding each other, smiling at the camera.

A picture of an engaged couple in a park, standing belly to belly, holding each other. The man is snuggling close to the woman, who is looking and smiling at the camera.

A picture of an engaged couple in a park. They are facing away from the camera. The man is snuggling close to the woman, and she is turning her head back toward the camera. They are holding hands.

When the wind picked back up again, everyone started getting shivery, so we moved back over into the sunshine to warm up and snag a couple more pictures. Once everyone was warming up in the sunshine, the kids were much happier posing, and we got some more great photos before the kids decided they were tired and called it quits.

A picture of a little boy in a Wild One shirt crawling towards the camera.

A picture of a mom snuggling with her baby boy, who has a huge smile on his face.

One of my favorite things to do at the end of a photo shoot? Head over to a playground, and get some candid shots of the kids playing!

A picture of a smiley baby boy.

With photography, as in the rest of life, when things don’t go as planned, you just have to roll with it. And if you can do that, you can still make some magic! Have a plan, have a backup plan, and if everything changes, just go with the flow. Try your hand at something new, look at things from a new angle, and in a pinch, just make it all work! Magic, magic, magic baby!

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Happy Birthday Wild One! You are so much fun, so cute, and despite the wind and the chill, I had SUCH a great time photographing you and your family! You have the most infectious smile, and are such a snuggly little mama’s boy. You guys are the BEST!

Model Call

I am opening up a model call! I am seeking several models to help build my portfolio! The model call is got seniors, engagement/couples, maternity, and newborns. If you (or someone you know) is interested, please fill out one of the attached applications below and email them to me at elle.kennedy.photography@gmail.com

Senior Model Call

Senior Model Call:

The transition from high school to college is a huge milestone in a young adult’s life, and is a great chance to capture your young adult’s personality, likes, and hobbies as they make this transition and discover who they want to be as adults. We will work together to personalize your senior’s session to suit them – giving you beautiful heirloom images to cherish, and also giving them professional photos that can be used as headshots as they transition to making their way into the working world.

Download, fill out, and email this application to elle.kennedy.photography@gmail.com to apply for a free senior session for your high school senior! (Note: This is open for current high school seniors, and juniors going into their senior year in the fall)

Senior Model Call Application

Elle Kennedy Photography is having a Model Call for high school seniors, engagement/couples sessions, maternity, and newborns. To apply, please email elle.kennedy.photography@gmail.com

Engagement Model Call:

Congratulations on your engagement! Being engaged can be a whirlwind of activity, decisions, and chaos as you prepare to merge two individuals into a family unit with the bash of a lifetime, celebrating your love with those closest to you! As you prepare, I want to help you take a step back, breathe deep, and just enjoy this fleeting time in your lives. Engagement photos are a great way to step outside of the chaos of planning a wedding and just be with your partner for moment, while creating beautiful images to cherish for the rest of your lives.

Download, fill out, and email this application to elle.kennedy.photography@gmail.com to apply for a free engagement session!

Engagement Model Call Application

Maternity Model Call

Maternity Model Call:

Pregnancy is such a fleeting but momentous time in a woman’s life. The transition from womanhood to motherhood is such a beautiful transition, and being able to honor that with gorgeous photos that celebrate both you and your baby is a perfect way to memorialize this phase of your life!

Download, fill out, and email this application to elle.kennedy.photography@gmail.com to apply for a free maternity session!

Maternity Model Call Application

Newborn Model Call

Newborn Model Call:

Babies are only little for such a little while. Soon, it’ll be hard to remember just how tiny those little fingers, toes, and lips were. As they grow, and you encounter each new exciting milestone, the newborn phase will seem simultaneously like it was only yesterday, and like it was forever ago. Let’s memorialize these special, fleeting days with a newborn session designed to remind you of your first days with your new little snuggle bug, and just how amazingly tiny they were and how wonderful you felt during those first few kisses and cuddles!

Download, fill out, and email this application to elle.kennedy.photography@gmail.com to apply for a free newborn session!

Newborn Model Call Application

General Information:

I will only be selecting 2 or 3 models for each style. Senior, engagement/couple, and maternity sessions are 1 hour long. Newborn sessions are typically 2-4 hours (depending on how cooperative the baby is).

In order to be selected for the model call, you must be willing to sign a model release (allowing me to use photos from the session on my website, social media platforms, and in future advertising). You will receive 10 digital images from your session. Additional images will be available for purchase, if desired. Photo shoot will take place in either Orange or Los Angeles County.

Please feel free to share this with your friends and family who might be interested, too!

Happy Birthday Charlotte!

Last week was my daughter Charlotte’s 4th birthday. She asked for a tea party for her birthday, and we gladly obliged, complete with iced tea (hot tea and a bunch of 2 and 4 year olds? Yikes!), scones, and mini cupcakes! Plus, a couple other favorites like waffle sticks and all the berries they could stuff in their mouths, haha.

While I did snag a couple of pictures of the food table before the kids demolished it, I decided to set my camera aside during the party and just be present instead. Part of me wishes I had pictures of her and her friends at the party, but I know in my heart that if I’d been behind the lens the whole time, I wouldn’t have been present, and probably would have started annoying the kids, who honestly just wanted to play.

But it all ended up being ok, because when the kids woke up from their naps after the party, Charlotte came and asked me if I would take her picture like last year! My mama photographer heart MELTED! Last year, we dressed her up in a Rapunzel dress, a tiara, and little high heeled shoes, took her to a meadow and gave her a handful of wildflowers, and went nuts. This year, she wanted to wear her fancy dresses (Me-Ma sent her one for Christmas and another for her birthday) and her Rapunzel dress, so we had a couple of outfit changes. We actually went to the same meadow as last year, too, but because we’ve gotten all of half an inch of rain this rainy season so far, the meadow looked… well, dead, haha.

That being said, we had a blast, and I absolutely LOVE the photos I got of her. (Totally biased, don’t care!)

A photo of a little girl in a sparkly purple dress in a meadow.

A photo of a little girl in a sparkly purple dress in a meadow.

A photo of a little girl in a sparkly purple dress in a meadow.

A photo of a little girl in a peach colored dress in a meadow.A photo of a little girl in a peach colored dress in a meadow.

A photo of a little girl in a sparkly purple dress in a meadow.

A photo of a little girl in a peach colored dress in a meadow.

10 Tips to Take Better Photos of Your Kids

Let me tell you: photographing kids is not for the faint of heart! When they aren’t moving (well, let’s face it – when AREN’T they moving?), the photo still isn’t great because there’s junk in the background, or the light wasn’t quite right, or you got a big ol’ lens flare going on, and the whole photo just isn’t quite good enough to make the photo album cut.

But I’m here to give you 10 quick, concrete tips to help up your momtography game and take better photos of your kids TODAY! No fancy camera or editing software needed!

1. Get On Their Level

My number one tip for photographing kids is to get on their level! Bend down, squat down, lay down, hunch over, whatever it takes to bring your camera down to the same plane as their face. Your photographs will be 10x more dynamic when your littles are looking straight at the camera instead of up at it.

A photo taken from an adult height, looking down. The child in the photo is feeding a lorikeet at the zoo.

A child feeding a lorikeet at the zoo. Photo is taken at child height so you can see the background.

2. Get In Close

Another tip you’ll see on virtually any other list like this is to get close. Fill the frame up with their adorable little faces. This serves two purposes. 1. Aren’t they the reason you’re taking the photo in the first place? 2. It’s easier to get rid of unwanted background if it isn’t there to begin with. Imagine you’re shooting a photo in your house, laundry on the couch, toys on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink (oh wait, just me?). Pull back away from your kid, and all that stuff is now in the picture, and no one wants to post THAT photo on social media. Instead, get in closer, fill up the frame with that cute little smile. No one needs to know you haven’t tidied the house in 2 weeks!

A photo of a little girl spinning in a circle, taken from far away.

A photo of a little girl sitting on a log. The little girl fills up the frame.

3. Pay Attention to the Background

This one is very closely related to the last one, and is essentially another way to solve the same problem. If you want to take some more pulled back shots of your kiddo, pay attention to what else is occupying the frame with them. Can you move a chair out of the picture? Can you scoot some toys to the side? Shoot the picture from a slightly different angle? This tip applies equally when shooting out and about too. Choose your shooting angles means not needing to crop your photos, or try to edit objects out later (infinitely harder if you are a momtographer with no access to editing software!).

Photo of two kids and their dad staring at a shark tank.

Photo of two kids staring at a shark tank.

4. Light From Behind

When you first start photographing your kids, your first instinct is probably to have them face the sun, so that you get all that light on their face. However, this can create “hot spots” where the highlights get blown out, and it is extremely difficult to edit later. As well, it can create really dramatic shadows across the face that is distracting from the overall image.

Instead, have the sun behind your kiddo. They will get a nice even shade and skin tone across their face (no hot spots, no dramatic shadows). The additional bonus is you often get this awesome glowy light in their hair if you can do a true back light properly (get their head or shoulders directly between your camera and the sun). They look like little angels!

A photo of two sisters sitting back to back on a log.

A photo of a girl sitting on a rock, lit from behind.

5. Avoid Sunflare

While some photographers like sunflare, I personally don’t. Now, sometimes it can add a little something to an image, for the most part it is just distracting, and looks a little amateur. Sunflares are caused when light goes directly into your lens, causing sun spots across your image. They are fairly easy to avoid, however, and the key is to shade your lens. Sometimes it can be as simple as cupping your hand around end of the lens (make sure your hand doesn’t end up in the shot!). They also make “lens hoods” for lenses that do this for you. Another method is to simply shoot from the shade. If you are standing under a shady tree, you will not get sunflare, even if your subject isn’t in the shade. Lastly, if you have a helper, friend, or partner with you, have them hold something up (like a piece of cardboard or something similar) to block the sun directly on your camera.

A photo of a little girl in a Rapunzel dress and a tiara, with sun flare on the right hand side.

A photo of a little girl in a Rapunzel dress and a tiara.

6. Shoot During Golden Hour

I don’t often get a chance to shoot my kids during golden hour – mainly because I am NOT a morning person, and my kids still nap. By the time we get up and anywhere in the morning, golden hour is long gone. And in the afternoon… well, same. Golden hour is the first hour or so when the sun rises in the morning, and the last hour or so before the sun goes down in the evening. If you have a chance to shoot during these times of days, the sun gets this wonderful golden glow that adds just a little extra touch to those photos.

A photo of a little girl laying on her tummy in the grass with her feet up.

A photo of a little girl hugging a light pole.

7. Get Them Laughing

Ever mother knows this to be true: A baby laughing is the best music in the world, and a kid laughing makes the best photo in the world. You know your kids better than anyone else on the planet, and you know what kinds of things make them laugh and smile. At the dinner table, it might not be appropriate to make farting noises and blow raspberries, but for good photos, sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered!

A photo of a little girl in a purple dress sitting on a bench.

A photo of a little girl in a purple dress sitting on a bench and laughing.

8. Capture the “Real Stuff”

Despite our most heroic efforts, sometimes our kids just don’t want to cooperate with us when we want photos, and that’s ok! They’re kids! Right now, they just want to play (and honestly, can you blame them?). So ride that wave, honey! Let them play, let them cry, let them dance – and just keep rolling! Some of my favorite photos (both of my kids, and ones I’ve captured for other people) were when the kids were done posing, so we just let them be kids!

In fact, before I was a photographer, we took our daughter for a cake smash photo shoot. Within a minute of the start of the session, she slapped the top of the cake and got frosting all over her hand. She took one look at her hand, started crying, and didn’t stop for the rest of the session… However, the Katie Trottino (bless her!) didn’t stop rolling! And in between the tears and the sad faces, she caught some wonderful shots of my daughter that capture her personality perfectly! (And yes, she did send us a couple of her crying as well, and I love those just as much! Especially because it reminds me of how much she HATED getting her hands dirty back then!)

A photo of two kids brushing their teeth. One is sitting on a toilet seat, and the other is making a crazy face.

A photo of two kids drinking water. One is far away leaning on a wall, and one is close up, with a yellow cup covering his face.

9. Take in the Details

When you are getting close to your kids, don’t be afraid of getting real close (especially if you have a camera that can handle it). Crop those photos down so all you see are their perfect little details. They won’t be this small for long, and you will love looking back and seeing just how tiny their toes, fingers, lips, ears, and eyelashes were! Favorite photos from newborn sessions are often the detail shots!

While on the topic of details, don’t forget other details: their favorite dress, the only pair of shoes they would agree to wear out of the house, their trusty stuffed animal, the ball they can’t leave home without… Photograph those things on their own, and with your child. They probably won’t have these things forever, but looking back on them will bring you so many happy memories (even if right now you secretly want to throw away that Peter Rabbit toy that tells the story over and over, because your kid keeps turning it on every 5 seconds… no? Just me? Oh, well then…).

A photo of a little boy being held by his dad at the beach. His toes and feet at in the foreground.

A black and white photo of a boy staring out of a window holding onto a ball.

10. Break the Rules

While these tips can be very helpful to get your photographs looking a little more polished right off the bat, you have to remember that sometimes rules just need to be broken! Here are examples of me breaking all those rules I just taught you, haha.

A closeup photo of a little girl's face looking up at the camera.

A photo of a little girl walking along some abandoned train tracks, overgrown with grass.

A photo of a little girl standing on a rock at the beach, holding her hair out of her face.

A photo of a girl in a Rapunzel dress and tiara, spinning in a green meadow.

A photo of a little girl in a purple dress in a yellow field, frowning.

Wrap Up:

Were these tips helpful for you? Do you feel more confident taking photos of your kids? Do you have any other tips or tricks you would add? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Great Locations for Photo Shoots in Southern California

Every photographer I know has a list of dream locations they would love to shoot a session at. Of course I would love to shoot in Paris, London, and Ireland, but there are also plenty of places closer to home that I’d love to explore with a photo shoot.

If you are scheduling a photo shoot with me, keep these locations in mind, as I think they would make wonderful backdrops, and they could be a lot of fun! I’ve included links so you can get a little more information about the location, if it interests you.

In no particular order:

La Tour in Laguna Beach: A castle tower built into the side of a cliff right on the beach in Laguna Beach. It reminds me of Rapunzel’s tower, and other photo shoots I’ve seen done there are just fabulous!

Huntington Gardens in San Marino: 12 distinct gardens spread over 120 acres, including a California garden, a Japanese garden, a desert garden, a conservatory, and a rose garden, this would make an AMAZING backdrop for engagement photos especially.

Corona del Mar Tide Pools: The first time we ever did a family photo shoot done, we had them taken at the Corona del Mar Tide Pools, and I love them so much! I would love to do a session here as a photographer, too!

Huntington Beach Pier: I grew up in Huntington Beach, so I have a rather strong attachment to this particular pier. In fact, my first real job was at the Ruby’s at the end of the pier! But is also makes a wonderful photography backdrop!

The Lighthouse in Long Beach: I’ve done a photo shoot in downtown Long Beach, which turned out beautiful, but we didn’t make it down to the lighthouse for photos. I’d love to go back for another session and make sure to include the lighthouse!

Walker Canyon Poppy Fields: The poppies only bloom for a couple of months each year, but they are absolutely spectacular!

Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach: I love the aquarium – it’s one of my favorite places to go, and shooting an engagement session there would be so much fun!

Huntington Beach Central Park: I have done a family photo shoot here before, which was great! But I love how big Central Park is, and there are so many more areas to explore and shoot! I’d love to do another one!

Griffith Park in Los Angeles: Griffith Park is so beautiful, and how have I lived my life in California and never been!?! And to do a photo shoot there would be amazing!

Los Angeles County Museum of Art: The iconic light posts are absolutely sublime, and I love them for a great funky urban photo shoot!

Los Angeles Arboretum: The arboretum is beautiful and would make such a fantastic backdrop for an engagement shoot.

Disneyland: With plenty of options for fun, funky, silly, sweet, and adorable photos at Disneyland and lots of different backdrops to take advantage of all over the park, engagement sessions at Disneyland are awesome!

Crystal Cove State Park: Beautiful beaches with tide pools, and also hiking trails that include wooded areas, desert areas, and spectacular ocean views along the bluff trail.

Quail Hill Trailhead: Give me all the meadows with hill and mountain backdrops!

These are the ones that I can think of off the top of my head, but I will update this list as I think of more or if I get to shoot at any of these locations. They all seem like so much fun, and are so beautiful!

Why Photos of Our Kids Matter

Child photography is my absolute favorite! I love taking pictures of my own kids (totally biased, but they are my favorite subjects), and I especially love looking back and seeing how much they have grown and changed.

Hazel - Edited

It actually makes me a little sad that I don’t have more photographs from when I was a little girl. Back then, my parents didn’t have fancy expensive cameras, and most of the photos they took were on disposable ones. You never knew what a photo was going to turn out like until you got the film developed, either, which was one part exciting and one part nerve-wracking. It meant that during special occasions, you really only got one shot to get a good photo in, and you couldn’t really have any do-overs.

I remember going to the grocery store and turning the film in to have it developed. I loved coming back to the grocery store, opening the big drawer in front of the photo development counter, and flipping through all the packets until I came to the one with our name on it. I loved looking through the different photos and telling my mom which ones were my favorite.

Violet - Edited

But despite my memories surrounding the photos, we just don’t seem to have many of them left anymore. I know my parents probably took a decent amount of photos over the years, but because this was all before the digital age of photography, they went missing, got lost, boxes of photos got ruined or misplaced while moving. Now, I really only have a handful of photographs of me as a little girl.

I would LOVE to share photos of little me with my kids (especially my daughter, who will happily look at photographs with me for HOURS).

A photo of a little girl in a sparkly purple dress in a meadow.

Now that I have kids of my own, I realize the importance and feel the weight of the pressure to take pictures of them while they’re little. I don’t want them to feel like this when they are older and have kids (or grandkids) of their own.

A picture of a little boy in a Wild One shirt crawling towards the camera.

I love taking these photos of my kids, but I recognize that these photos are not just for me. They are for my kids, their kids, and future generations. They are also for my parents, Jeremy’s parents, and our grandparents. They are for friends and loved ones across the United States and around the world who don’t get to see them every day, and love the little peeks inside our life, our world, and enjoy loving them from afar.

As much fun as I have actually photographing people, my favorite part of any photo shoot is actually when I hand the edited photos over, and watch you post them on facebook, instagram, and pinterest. I love watching your loved ones, relatives, and friends like, comment, and heart your photos. I love seeing how much other people love you, and love seeing great photographs of you.

This world needs more love, and if my photographs can help bring people together, create conversations, reignite friendships, and celebrate the love people have for each other, well, then I have done my job.

 

If you’d like to book a child, family, or couples session with me, I’d love to talk to you! I am still accepting dates for spring and summer sessions, and would love to work with you to create heirloom images that will bring your family joy and love for years to come!

You can find my email address and phone number over here.

How to Prepare Your Child for Their Session

You’ve booked a photo session for your child. You’re so excited to create heirloom images to cherish forever! You’ve picked out the perfect outfit, you’ve had your pre-session consultation, and you are ready to go!

But you’re scared your child won’t want to cooperate, won’t sit still, won’t pose… You’re scared you’ve wasted your time and money, and won’t get any good photos out of it.

So how can you prepare ahead of time to ensure the best use of your time (and money) for your upcoming session? Start by preparing your child.

Talk to Them

If your child has never done a photo shoot before, they might get nervous and scared. Reassure them that it’s going to be fun! You’re going to go have some fun together, and there just so happens to be someone there to take some pictures. Let them know the photographer may ask them to do something specific (jump in a puddle, sit on a stump, look at mommy), and might ask them to hold a pose for a couple of seconds.

Bribe Them – Just a LITTLE!

Now, we aren’t talking about big bribes like a new toy or a trip to Disney World! No! A lot of times, a mini marshmallow or a Cheerio will be all that’s necessary to coax a great, authentic smile out.

Many child photographers will have a small bag of bribes on them, just in case. And while I always ask before giving any food to a child, be sure to communicate with your photographer if you have any food allergies or preferences BEFORE the session, so if the photographer plans to bring bribes, they have an opportunity to choose something appropriate.

If you are going to bring your own little bag of bribes to a session, remember to choose something small enough that it won’t be noticeable on camera that the child has something in their mouth. Also, nothing with artificial colors! You don’t want to ruin a photo shoot with a purple tongue or blue teeth!

Know My Tricks

Children have shorter attention spans than adults do, particularly if it involves something they’re not interested in doing. Because of this, I have my own set of tricks that I use to help keep the photo shoot on task and as productive as possible. By being aware of what some of my tricks are, you can help prepare your child ahead of time, and help encourage them to cooperate during the session.

Some tricks I may use to keep your child on task or posing will be:

  • Ask them to look at you, a rock, a tree, my hand, etc. We don’t want the child looking directly at the camera 100% of the time, and we also don’t want them looking at the ground 100% of the time. A nice mix of directions makes for a more interesting set of photos.
  • Ask them to try something fun, like climb a tree (for older kids!), stand on a tree stump, smell a flower, etc. By asking them to do new, novel things every minute or two, rather than taking 20 variations of the same pose, we help stimulate the part of their brain that gets bored easily.
  • If I need them to hold a particular pose so I can frame the shot correctly, I will ask them to freeze for 3 seconds and count slowly. If your child (toddler age) doesn’t “freeze” well, try making this into a game to play before the session so they know what to expect when the time comes.
  • Set them free. Occasionally, some children just aren’t interested. They are too focused on something else to participate in the photo session. When this happens, I like to set them free to explore a little, and stay close to the action to make sure I still get those magic shots when they happen. I wrote an entire article on just this tip, if you want to read more about the how and why.

Relax

You are probably going to be way more emotionally invested in this photo shoot than your child is. That’s just the way it is. So during the session, I don’t want you to stress about posing or getting your child to smile just right.

Your job during the photo session is to help encourage your child, and let them know what a great job they are doing! Enjoy watching your kid pose and strut their stuff for the camera. With your enthusiastic praise, your child will open up and be their true authentic selves for the camera.