Many may know the three qualities I aim for every portrait session is for it to be warm, playful and authentic. I love capturing children just as they are. Sure, the smiling straight at the camera photos melt my heart. But the smolder? The 'big cheese'? The concentrated explorer? I love those faces, too. Following Simon around the trails, throwing rocks in the river, playing in leaves, and diggging in the river bank- it was just so him. And I'm glad I was able to capture this adorable, redheaded adventurer in his element. So, enjoy the yellow leaves, the autumn glow, and the many faces of Simon ;)
When my student-teaching abroad plans suddenly fell apart (things were getting a little too dicey near the international school I was going to be student teaching at in Kenya), I felt like I had been robbed of one of my ‘great life experiences’. After resurfacing from my sulking I was hit with a scary, basic truth: I had nowhere to live!
Eastern University didn’t offer half-semester housing (understandably) and, even if they did, my roommate had already shuffled rooms so that she wouldn’t be alone once I left. It was too short a time to rent an apartment and too long for a hotel. Plus, let’s face it, I’m not someone who thrives with independent living (AKA: I’m a big ole’ baby).
I decided to put out feelers for a room to rent, and asked the children’s ministry director (I think that was her title! - sorry if I’m misremembering!) who I worked for once a week if she might have any leads. She called me back that day and offered up a room in HER OWN HOME and this remains one of the biggest blessings of my life.
I always loved interacting with Cindy. A woman of the Lord who brightened any room with her glowing smile. And her family? Just as lovely. Cindy and her husband Peter have four daughters but the older two where off at college, so besides brief visits, I mainly got to know Susie and Amy. I was blown away by how welcoming the Eichlings were from the get-go. Their hospitality and graciousness was so genuine and so refreshing.
Even though those few months of student teaching were exhausting and, at times, overwhelming the Eichling home was always a respite. They modeled family devotionals and prayer in ways that I had never seen. Everything about family dinners seemed intentional, relational, and Christ centered. We would listen to Peter read from a devotional book, share how we had purposeful focused on that month’s fruit of the Spirit, and pray for each other. It probably seemed like any every day occurrence to them, but it molded into my heart a vision of what I would like MY future dinner table to look like.
And now at dinner we have a little Preschool devotional we read, and we sing, and intentionally pray, all because they opened my eyes to what family fellowship could look like.
More than just dinner was the patience they modeled in so many situations where I would have been accustomed to... impatience? ;) Their calm demeanor and gentle advice. My heart really felt at rest walking into their home.
There was also such a natural JOY in there home. Quick to celebrate. Quick to encourage. Their priorities were so, so right.
Even though we’ve drifted over the years (but thank goodness for Facebook! ;), I am absolutely convinced God put them in my path at precisely that season of my life. In little ways they have helped shaped the daily structure, and the warmth of my family’s home. Cindy has made a lasting impact on how I mother my children, and how I seek to be generous.
Thank you all for blessing me so greatly. So very thankful you took a chance and opened your home to me.
PS: Thank you for teaching me to play Settlers of Catan. It remains my favorite game and, not to brag, but I’ve gotten pretty awesome at it ;) ;)
For my memory of Allie I wanted to share a photo I stumbled upon in my 2004 scrapbook. This (oh, so flattering) snapshot squeezed at my heart as I recalled us filling out crossword puzzles on the beach. Haha! Oh, man. We were such old souls sometimes, but Allie could turn around and be so goofy the next minute. Next month I’ll share one of my favorite silly moments of her from that summer. She’s still making me smile <3
Every once in a while a client will request a location that just makes my heart SQUEAL!! It's no secret I love sunflowers- they are constantly on my kitchen table, seasonally in my garden (if I can call it a garden??), and even (surprise!!) in my logo. So when this sweet senior requested part of her session take place in a sunflower field I honestly did a little dance.
This natural beauty was so down-to-earth, genuine, and easy going. I enjoyed so much of our time together! I was truly impressed by her violin skills (yes, she actually played for me!) and loved hearing about her future plans and dreams.
Good luck in all you do, Sarah. I know you're going to shine! <3
Recently I've had to trim down my schedule to make quiet, purposeful time with my kiddos. It's so easy to be busy- and busy with 'good things'. But I'm learning that a jammed-pack schedule of 'good things' isn't always what my kids need. I know this season in my life is so fleeting. Before I know it my babes will be at school 5 days a week and my heart will be aching for these days.
Mornings where we could sit and chalk for hours at a time. Have a dance party. Share a snack outside. Snuggle on a rocking chair. Maybe go to the library. Maybe not. We've got no plans. We'll see.
Sometimes I try so hard to expose my kids to so many 'good things' that I forget to just savor this brief moment. Every now and then I get that right. Today I did.
So here's to soaking up their messy hair, chalk-filled bare feet, and crazy dance moves.
My heart needed to stop and see it all today <3 <3
I’m not brave by nature. I always wanted to be one of those girls who boldly said what they needed to without hesitation. Instead, I often play the woulda-coulda-shoulda game. Knowing my stance, wanting to share my thoughts, but instead watching idly by on the sideline.
So I did something that terrified me.
I was brave.
I had been longing for a photography friend.
Extra points if our personalities meshed.
Super extra points if we had lots of similarities.
I knew Danielle by name (I think we were briefly introduced as ‘the other photographer’) at my old MOPS group on the other side of Rochester. So BAM! Right off the bat- I surmised that we both have kids, similar values, and a need for ‘mom time’. So, feeling like a grade A creeper, I messaged her and asked if she’d like to get together to talk shop sometime.
And she did!!
(I’m sure you could gather that- or this would have been a really depressing story!)
We met up for dessert and immediately I felt like I was catching up with a lifelong friend! Danielle is genuine, generous, and just about the easiest person to talk to! We sat together, comparing notes and daydreams and I couldn’t help mentally happy-dance that I’d been brave. Because this girl is awesome!
We try to meet up once a month to encourage each other, craft, chat, and just hang out! Besides my parents, Danielle is who I FaceTime most. I’m always so excited to see what she’s doing with her business and it feels so wonderful to have a friend that is genuinely interested in mine, too.
She helped me turn my business from one that was running me ragged to one that I adore! And she’s been cheering me on ever since!
Thankful for a dear local photographer mama friend who will guide me, pray for me, and tell me when my white balance looks off ;)
PS: Take a moment to check out Danielle’s beautiful work!
This month's Allie Memory:
In line with my big-ole’-scaredy-self story I’d like to share a time when Allie helped me be brave. And to some, this may not seem like a big deal, but I was terrified to learn how to dive. Something about purposely jumping face first made my survival mode kick in hard. And that mode usually kicked in about halfway through a dive- which essentially meant: belly flop.
When Allie learned my 17 year old self had never, ever dived she didn’t make me feel dumb for being afraid, but she lightheartedly told me she was confident, 100%, that I could do it. And that’s thing about Allie. You just trust her. She never had an ulterior motive, she wasn’t trying to pressure me, she was simply confident. And it made ME feel confident. So my friend spent her afternoon off from lifeguarding- at the pool with me. Where she patiently taught me how to overcome this lifelong fear I’d built up. And wouldn’t you know- she even made it fun??
Actually, I bet you could’ve guessed it. Because that was so Allie.
When my 10 year old cousin asked me to teach HER to dive two summer ago- I did- and thought of Allie the whole time. <3
I had the pleasure of photographing this little cutie as my first session of July! I loved so much about our time together- learning that Nathaniel + his daddy share a birthday, seeing how precious David is as a big brother, and getting to photograph Nathaniel's ADORABLE squishy face!! So darling!
When mama told me her vision for a baseball session I was so excited!! I had been waiting for this very session (and had a sweet baby-sized bat just waiting to be used as a prop!) I love how timeless this session all flowed together.
Personal, authentic, and timeless <3
I loved these images and hope you do too!
Just over a month ago my dear friend, Allison Warmuth, was killed in an accident in Boston. When I first began to grieve for her, ‘Allie-Memories’ flooded over me. I found that random things would trigger the recall of a once forgotten memory. And those were painful, but somehow soothing as well.
When I wrote a blog post in her honor, sharing my heart, I kept wondering – did she know? Did she know how much we cared about her? How much she touched us? Impacted our lives? The doubt swirled around in my mind… I must’ve at least told her how I attribute the fact that I ever dated my husband to her match-making…. Didn’t I?
In my weary search for some sort of elusive closure it dawned on me to read through our old Facebook messages. That’s where I found it. Sweet truth amid the pain. And that’s when an idea was formed- and it settled into my heart. A simple little idea- for Allie.
I could never tell all the people in my life ALL that they have meant to me. I am overwhelmingly blessed. But I could tell one. One person. Some of what I adore, what I cherish, or how they changed me.
For the next year I’d like to shine a light on someone each month who I am so grateful for, but who may not even know the extent of it. I’d like to call it #ForYouForAllie. In no specific order, just whoever “God sticks … in my mind”.
I’d be honored if you, whoever you are, would share a quick memory, or a ‘thank you’, or whatever you feel is right, with someone God has placed on your heart #ForYouForAllie.
At the end of each post I would like to share a memory of Allie, however elaborate or simple, because - trust me- she is stuck in my mind <3
I have always enjoyed working with kids- but Catherine made me yearn to be a teacher. She pushed me so far (but so lovingly!) out of my comfort-zone that I’d sometimes feel nauseous. When I was content to standby as an assistant she handed me a blank lesson plan and told me I was teaching once a week. She poured over those lesson plans- challenging me, adding scripture, and somehow always seeing the good.
Her passion for Children’s Ministry is something I have seldom seen rivaled. To teach children The Truth, in an amazingly FUN way- I didn’t even know it could LOOK like that! Catherine would write catchy songs, dress up in costumes, play games, and be silly- all as she shared the Gospel. She’s emphasized the importance of memorizing scripture in an exciting, encouraging way. I still have our weekly verses stored in my heart.
Her humble, beautiful, friendly personality won us all over – and her God-given gift of teaching sparked a passion in me that has never gone out.
I remember Catherine sharing a story about how she was babysitting one day and the baby was uncomfortable and wouldn’t settle. So she prayed. And sang hymns. (I’m pretty sure it was for hours.) And this may sound silly but it was the first time I had ever heard of someone comforting a baby this way. Now twelve years later, when my own sweet babies won’t settle and I pray over them or sing hymns about their Father to them, I think of Catherine. Every. Single. Time.
Catherine is like a life-camp-counselor. She could even make cleaning fun. Every day we would bounce out of bed eager to see what she had in store for us. Sometimes it was simple, other times elaborate, but it was always wonderful. From running in formation while shouting cadences that ‘We are soldiers of the Lord!’ (We were preparing for our ‘Lord’s Army’ theme), to helping me troubleshoot how best to reenact God using Elijah to call down fire (sparklers- if you’re wondering ;), it was some of the fondest memories of my life. I often joke that I have never been so poorly paid, but so thoroughly JOYFUL, as I was my summers on CE.
One of my clearest memories of working at camp is Catherine having us sing “Now Unto the King Eternal” in a round. It spoke to my heart and I find myself frequently humming that hymn to this day despite having never heard it sung again.
Catherine saw the hand of God in every situation we encountered. When she had to have her heart monitored she told us how neat it was that our theme was all about Jeremiah 17: 9 – and now she had the perfect analogy for a ‘sick heart’.
She is doing great work for eternity. She always has been.
My son constantly listens to her CD, Word on the Street- this editions is teaching kiddos about the book of Ephesians. And I am always refreshed by her honesty, humility, and encouragement each and every time her face pops up in my newsfeed.
Catherine, I am grateful beyond words that you were placed in my path. The Lord has used you to shape key parts of who I am as a person, and often, as a mama, and I am eternally grateful for that. I love you, sweet friend, and I hope our paths will cross this side of heaven <3
My memory of Allie is actually tied into Catherine. You see, Catherine had all the Christian Education workers walk around with a blank piece of paper taped to our backs so we could anonymously encourage one another. It was a favorite camp-tradition of mine. I displayed my completed paper in my classroom but upon walking in the next morning I noticed one more sweet note had somehow been snuck in during the night. It read:
“Hey Sweetie! I think you’re great! You make me laugh, and you are so beautiful. These kids are so lucky to have you. <3 Allie”
There are perks to your aunt being a photographer- as (hopefully!) evident in the upcoming photos - which are simply oozing with my niece's cuteness, if I may say so myself! <3
But it also sometimes means that your 6 month session occurs much closer to your 9 month milestone than your 6. But, sweet Hayley, these were worth the wait!! I just adore your smiley, silly personality and truly ADORE photographing you, beauty girl!
I'm so glad you're my niece- I love ya so! <3
When I purchased my first ‘nice camera’ I had two goals in mind:
Initially, I was thrilled with my camera and everything it was producing. Then I began looking at my images with a critical eye- instead of my gushy, emotional, mom-goggles (hey, those are okay sometimes, too!) And I realized I was not where I wanted to be and I had no idea who to ask to get there!
So, if this is you, or you’re just considering purchasing your first DSLR, here is some insight that I wish I had when I first started out.
First off, the thing I wish I knew was that purchasing a nice camera doesn’t automatically mean you will get the results you envision. (Breathe in, breathe out- you’ll get there!) Further, this is actually a GREAT thing- your camera can do more than you imagine- you just have to learn how to ‘tune’ its settings.
How to Beat those Fuzzy Images
On the top of your camera you will see a dial. It’s most likely set to ‘Auto Mode’ which for Canon users is a green rectangle and for Nikon users literally says ‘Auto’. This means you are letting the camera do all the decision making and it is making its best guess at what you want it to do every time you click. If you rotate the dial to ‘TV’ on a Canon or ‘S’ on a Nikon it changes into Shutter Priority Mode. You are still letting the camera do much of the guess work but now you control the shutter speed- basically how FAST you want the camera to take a picture.
Every camera is a little different but on the right side of your camera you will have another dial that will change the number of your speed. If you have active kiddos, rambunctious furbabies, or a squirmy new babe this is the easiest way to ensure that they are in focus.
I typically keep my shutter around 200 for images of my kiddos and my clients. (That number is really 1/200, meaning it is capturing the image in one two-hundredth of a second).
Getting that Beautiful Blur
This is achieved based on your Aperture. (Don’t be afraid, it’s not as scary as it sounds ;). So you know how we repositioned our dials? Now set it to Av (Canon) or A (Nikon). Now the camera is letting you adjust your depth of field (Layman’s terms? How ‘blurry’ your background is) while guessing your shutter speed once again. Please note, your images may be out of focus in this mode if you’re shooting a moving model so I suggest practicing on a person (or object) that will stay put for you. The lower you set your aperture the more bokeh (blur) you will create. There’s a happy medium here because you run the risk of losing the crispness of your subjects if you shoot too wide open. Practice, practice, practice!
Also, I highly recommend using a prime lens (non-zoom lens). I personally find them much crisper and you can purchase a 50mm 1.8 for under $100. That was my first prime and it was perfect for starting out!
Now you may be asking, what if I want the beautiful bokeh AND control of my shutter speed? Well, then my friend, you want to switch your dial over to M (Manual) where you will be setting everything up yourself! (You can still leave your ISO on auto to start).
Adjusting + Editing Images
I cannot recommend Lightroom enough for beginning your editing journey. If your exposure, white balance, crop, etc is off you can easily adjust for it. It is a lot more user-friendly than jumping straight in to Photoshop and can handle a multitude of basic edits. You can actually ‘rent’ Lightroom and Photoshop from Adobe for $10 a month. They usually offer a free trial month if you’d like to play around first.
A SAFETY PLEA
In a digital age, it’s easy to see images through Pinterest or social media of adorable babies in creative set-ups and think ‘I can do that myself’. (Especially if you’ve just been gifted a camera to take photos of your precious new baby).
Unless you have really researched the safety measures put in place, PLEASE do not try to recreate it on your own. In many, many instances the image is actually a composite (two or more images combined in Photoshop to appear as one image) and that newborn is not actually dangling from a tree limb, left alone on a high object, holding his head up alone in the ‘froggy pose’, etc.
There absolutely ARE adorable set-ups you CAN safely do at home but PLEASE research the difference.
Give yourself GRACE
I myself am forever learning how to improve my photography. As my mother’s favorite poem warns:
“If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
A humbling yet encouraging reminder, don’t you think? Give yourself grace. Even the most acclaimed photographer would not excel at absolutely every area of photography and editing. There’s always something to learn :)
Even being a photographer I still enlist the skills of others to capture our family’s portraits. It’s just too much to coordinate everyone, keep my kiddos attention, get them to look at the camera, keep them happy, all while still looking semi-sane in the photograph as well. Swap with a friend, hire a professional- just GET IN THE PICTURE! Because you were there, too- and your loved ones want to remember it!
Along with giving yourself grace, I want to include- don’t put pressure on yourself to capture EVERYTHING. You will burn out!
Yes, document the beautiful life you’ve been blessed with- but also remember to LIVE it ;)
I had my two favorite ballerinas in the studio last week! I loved seeing their sweetness, spunk, and a never-ending supply of fresh dance moves and poses. Always a treat to catch up with these little ladies and their mamas. Thank you for coming out!! xoxo
Behind the Lens:
Jessi lives near Rochester, NY with her handsome hubby and their three 'Lovebugs'.