Eggnog and Cookies

How do you  make  bribe  encourage your kids to get along, look happy, AND look natural in front of your camera when you photograph them all the time and they are not having any of it???  You work the entire shoot around drinking sweet thick eggnog and eating fresh out-of-the-oven, melt-in-your-mouth gooey chocolate chip cookies you made from scratch.  That’s how!  😛

So for my Styled Christmas Shoot of my kids, I am proud to say that all my props (excluding ingredients for the food) cost $8.  The basket, bottles and straws were in the dollar section at a local store.  The baker’s twine I already had, and the large glass bottle was a gift.  Clothes were a mix of things we already had and a few items that tied everyone’s colors together.  Total cost was $50.

The reason why I’m mentioning this is to show that you don’t need to spend a lot to have props in your shoot.  Props can provide you with something to do, something to hold, and basically, a reason to not look at the camera — in addition to providing a secondary purpose, like being good bribery material (hee hee).  [To see another Styled Shoot created on a dime, see my Train Station Shoot.]

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones this holiday season!



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Growing Up Boo

I call my boy BubbaBooBoo Bear.  He is my favorite boy in the World.  And the World is a very big place, so that is saying a lot!

Boo turned eight, so I had his birthday photoshoot recently.  It was an hour where we got to spend quality time together doing whatever he wanted.  For this year’s birthday shoot, he chose his own outfit and decided to go to a playground to run around, so that’s what we did.

Boo has grown so much over the past year.  Just look at his face from last year’s shoot at a library!  He had missing teeth, no glasses, and rounder cheeks.  He still likes to tell me details about his day at school and appreciates a good joke.  He never turns down an opportunity to have a race or play Monopoly.  He still thinks I’m the coolest person in the World (YESSSS!!!) and is determined to live next door to me when he’s an adult.  🙂  He still holds my doors open and carries my bags when we are out.  He tells me I look good in something, even when I am sure I don’t.

My Boo makes me proud to be his mommy, and these annual photoshoots are more than just capturing photos.  <3



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Photography Projects for Kids

I love kids.  I just love ’em!  A child’s laughter is THE best sound ever.  (Ocean waves come in #2.)  I love how kids are real with you, which makes “I hate (fill in the blank)” sting a little and “You are my best friend in the universe” mean so much.  I love running around with them, playing games, and making jokes.  My husband rolls his eyes when I show my kids “see-food” during meals, but it makes them laugh so hard!  I just tell them they can only do that with mom and that other people may think it’s impolite.  Fingers crossed that they’ll remember it.

So I probably don’t need to say this, but…  I love photographing kids and families because it combines two things I love so much:  kids and photography.

I also think it’s important that kids exercise their creativity, so I always encourage my kids to draw, paint, build, tell stories, write books, and now, experiment with photography.  My two youngest (they are 4 and 7) have children’s camera.  They’re more like a toy, but they practice composition and put thought into what they want to photograph.  My oldest (she is 9) has a digital camera, and she takes a lot of artistic photos with it.  We also have an instant camera (one that prints each image onto a small 2×3″ print) and we bring it on trips, so the kids can stick it into their journals.

The point is, kids can learn photography at an early age.  This doesn’t mean you should give them an expensive DSLR and pray they don’t break/lose/throw/sit on/drop it.  There are activities you can do together that can help them appreciate photography as an Art and a storytelling tool.

Here’s an example…

This past weekend, I had a “mommy date” with my son, Ian, who is 7 years old.  We bought…er, I mean, adopted a monster, named Domo, who looks like a furry chocolate bar.  My kids love him, as do I, admittedly.  (He’s especially cute in a mini Cal shirt!)

During our date, Ian and I got yummy drinks and then took Domo on a photoshoot.  Ian calls it a “Domo-shoot”!  Ian directed Domo and I pressed the shutter.  We laughed and laughed at all the things Domo could do.  (He apparently isn’t great at jumping, but he is super adventurous with tree-climbing and hiking up a hill.)  We had such a great time.

What kind of photography-related activities do you do with your kids?


“Um, how do I get down?”

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*sniiiffff*  “Ahhhh, that’s nice.  WAAA-CHOOOOOOO!”


“I need to work on my tan.”



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“Hike, 1, 2, 3…”


“Weeeee, this is fun!”


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My Final Shoot


Recently, I went to my son’s soccer game where I brought my camera for the first time.  When I returned home, my vision was suddenly hazy.  Everywhere I looked — the kitchen, the livingroom, outside — there was incredibly dense fog.  Nothing was clear.  It was so bad that it looked like my house was on fire from all the smoke, but I knew there was actually nothing there.  It was really scary.

Hours went by and nothing I did helped my vision.  So I cried.  Hard.  Was this going to my be vision from now on?

I thought I had just had my final photoshoot.  I was glad it was of my own child, but was sad I wouldn’t be able to continue my business… a business dependent upon my ability to see!

My mind raced with things I needed to do, like contact my clients who had booked photoshoots to tell them the news and refund their money.  Then my thoughts snowballed.  How would I take care of my kids?  How would my husband continue to work away from home when I could no longer drive or take my kids to school?  Wait a minute.  Will I ever see my children’s faces clearly again?!! 

[Just a bit of background:  I have retinal issues with both my eyes, so losing my vision is not farfetched.]

Long story short, I saw two Opthamologists in one week, and they came up with two different diagnoses — the final one being the correct one.  It appears that the foggy vision can be controlled and was temporary — however, the lesson it taught me was permanent.  Everything changes; nothing stays the same.  So be grateful for the things you have and don’t dwell on the things that aren’t going right because everything changes.

On the nights I’ve been able to control the foggy vision, I spent minutes gazing at my children’s faces.  Minutes may not sound like a long time, but you try it!  Sit in front of your child and hold their faces in your hands.  And just look at them.  REALLY look at them!  Your child will probably think each minute is an eternity, as mine did.  Ha!  But I am so grateful I can see their cute little faces, dried-up food smears and all!

So go out there and do something you love.  Or do 10 things you love.  And be grateful you can do them.



Below are some photos of what I thought was my FINAL photoshoot.  My 7-year old son scored a goal during a Soccer game, and I was there to see it and capture it with my camera!












Final Thoughts:

I know my experience may sound a bit dramatic because there are plenty of people who have lost their vision or acquired debilitating diseases and injuries, and they are doing great.  I am inspired by people who go through a loss and come out stronger.  I am in no way saying that my World would stop revolving if I had not gained my vision back.

What I was reminded of was how anything can change at anytime, including my ability to be a Photographer and ability to see my children’s faces!  It may not be right now, but perhaps some day.  It is up to me to make the most of what I do have, right now.

The lesson I learned seemed important to share with others because, in my opinion, we all can use a little reminder to put down our phones when we are with our loved ones or take an extra minute to enjoy the world around us.

The Worst Client

[Before you read this, please know that my husband and I joke around… a lot.  Have you read The Unlucky Spouse?  I’m saying this off the bat because I don’t want someone to be offended by this post.  He is no ordinary “client”!  🙂 ]

Yesterday, I took time out of my morning to take some updated head shots of Lawrence.

I posted some of my favorites on my blogsite, as I do with my regular clients, and then excitedly texted him at work, so he could see it.

Here was one of the head shots I posted:


My witty husband responded with an email that read:

“Thanks for the photoshoot this morning, but can you…”


You see, he found it utterly amusing (insert eyeroll here) to be “a bad client” with his Photoshop demands.  He knows I keep things real in my images and wouldn’t normally make these kinds of edits.  I guess this kind of humor is the result of being married to a Photographer.

I considered retorting with a serious response or no response at all, but this joke deserved a joke in return.  So…..


I sent him this email reply:




With this attachment:



We both had a laugh-so-hard-we-wanted-to-cry episode after he saw my skilled Photoshop work!

What’s life without some good laughs, right?  🙂

[If you found this remotely entertaining, you may want to check out my Worst Photoshoot Ever!]


I rarely have the luxury of having an extra set of hands with me on a shoot, unless it’s a mini shoot of my own monkeys and my husband is around.  (This is another reason why he is The Unlucky Spouse! ;))

My kids are used to having spontaneous mini shoots now and, strangely, I think they are starting to like it!  Just this month, they started asking me, “Mom?  Can you bring your photoshoot camera?”  Jaw-dropping!

Here are some behind-the-scenes images taken by my husband with his smart phone.  I was so excited that he took these because you can get a good sense of the environment and also see from where I am shooting in these shots.


Behind-The-Scenes #1:   (That’s me on the right side in grey and red.)

This is what I shot:

The next set is my favorite because you can tell from the behind-the-scenes shot that I had to get a little inventive.

There wasn’t much to work with!  Just dirt, little grass and lots of dried prickly plants.

Behind-The-Scenes #2:

This is what I shot:

Then I went to the left side where I could climb into the prickly plants.  I wanted my Mia cat to look like she was sneaking around in the grass.  Once I was in position, I told her that she (a cat) heard a noise, and she acted that out.  She was so believable, it was uncanny.  Meow.

I visualized these images before I took them, so I knew how to set my camera and knew what angles to take them.  There is something super satisfying about photography when you capture the shots that you envisioned. 

Happy shooting, my friends!


The Unlucky Spouse

Most days, I whole-heartedly believe that my husband is incredibly lucky to be married to a Photographer.  He gets free portraits!  Do you know how much money he saves?!!  😉

But then there are times — and those come few and far between — that I feel maybe, just maybe, he is not so lucky.  He has to be my model when he may not want to.  He has to be my subject when I want to experiment with light, with new equipment, with a new style of shooting.

This weekend, we attended a good friend’s wedding.  It was so beautiful to watch the union of two very much in-love people tie the knot.  That also means there was a lot of time waiting.  So what is a Photographer with a camera to do?  heh heh.

I’ll explain more.

Here is the groom’s parents who both radiate extreme pride… (I love this shot!)

And here is a shot of the incredible bride and a very happy groom…

I can photograph them all day…okay, more like all WEEK (did you see the bride’s dress?!!), except this was my view most of the time…

So I took lots of shots of light fixtures.

And although they are beautiful (who doesn’t love crystal chandeliers?!!), it wasn’t enough.  I’m a Lifestyle Photographer.  Gimme a person!

Enter husband.

Ahhhhh…..better than light fixtures.  Better than backs of vendors.


See?  This isn’t all just for fun.  I’m going to throw in an actual tip!  🙂


When photographing adults, their hands need to have purpose.  Their hands don’t have to be busy crocheting or playing thumb war; they just can’t hang straight down in a limp way.


When I told the hubs to have one hand in his pocket, here is an example of the RIGHT way and the WRONG way to do this…


Can you tell we had fun with this?!!

This was a ramp that the caterers used to bring in the food.  Voila, a good shooting location!  😉

Even with my heavy camera, we pulled off a few “selfies”…

A want to give a big THANK YOU to my husband who was such a trooper for being my model this weekend and a special thanks to all the martinis that helped make these photos possible.  Haha

Have a great weekend, my friends.  And, as always, whatever you photograph, have fun doing it!



Tea Party and Tutu

If you read my post, The Curse of the Professional Photographer, then you know why I don’t bring my camera with me when I go out and why I usually photograph my kids with my iPhone.  Sad, isn’t it?

Well, last night, I took my 3-year old monkey out for a real photoshoot.

It was an impromptu styled shoot that I threw together by grabbing things as I went out the door.  How’s that for planning?   😉

If you are a parent, you’ll know what I mean when I say that photographing my own kids is THE hardest to photograph!

With that said, I feel giddy about this shoot because it shows Ava’s personality really well.

This girl loves to dance, laughs really easily, and has a great imagination.  I am so in love with her.

How is a Styled Shoot different than a Lifestyle Shoot?

A styled shoot for children/families operates pretty much the same as a regular lifestyle session, except that there is set-up work involved.  The kids would be able to play as they normally would, but the “styled” part of it provides them with an activity, which brings everyone together AND gives your shoot a theme.


I am so inspired by styled shoots.  If you are a client with an upcoming shoot, please don’t hesitate to run ideas by me.  Together, we can come up with something that is fun and fitting to your group.

The Curse of the Professional Photographer

Once you’ve been a professional photographer for a few years, some things become automatic.  You critique images you see, whether you want to or not, and do it mostly in your head because it happens so often.  Wherever you are, you spot where the “good light” is.  This is a great asset as a professional when you are on a client shoot — however, when you are shooting for personal reasons, like photographing a casual BBQ with friends, it can be a curse.

So why do I not like bringing a camera when I go out?  I’ve become critical of what and how I shoot.  And I have a higher standard of what constitutes a decent image.

When I’m out with my family, I want to enjoy them.  So if I bring a camera, it’s better to wear my Mom Photographer (or “Momtog”) hat, not my Professional Photographer hat.  But that is hard to do.

Here is an example:

Below is a photo I took last week during our vacation.  For most of our stay there, I left my camera at the beach house.  One day, I took my camera with me to capture our easy-going beach lifestyle, so I wore my Momtog hat.  I took photos as any parent would take of their kids.  I didn’t pressure them to be subjects in a photoshoot.

Looking at the photos today, I cringe.  I am fighting the urge to delete them from my hard drive.

What Most People See

“Siblings standing in the water at the beach on a sunny day.  They are happy and hugging.  It’s a Keeper.”

What a Professional Photographer Sees

Yep, all of that goes instantly into my head….and MORE!  I just ran out of space.

Am I being too critical?  Maybe.  But this is all automatic.  I am not trying to find things wrong with this photo or any other photo.

I still remember how it was before I started my business when I’d look at personal photos and be in love with how it transported me to that day.  And that was it.  Was something crooked or was something cropped unaesthetically?  Who cares.  I didn’t.  Did I shoot mid-day in the harsh sunlight?  Most definitely. 

Before becoming a Professional Photographer, I enjoyed more photos that I took on a casual day.

The takeaway:

Know your camera, learn photography rules, hone your skills, develop a more critical eye, so you can improve and grow as a photographer.

When it comes to personal photos, capture your life on camera, however it happens, and know that not every photo needs to be a work of art.  It is better to capture moments than miss them.

Styled Shoot: Little House On The Prairie

I reserved this past weekend for doing taxes, but since I finished them a whopping 3 days early (impressive, right?!!  ;)), I had the weekend open!  I decided to take Mia, my 8-year old, out for a spontaneous styled photoshoot!

Styled shoots are pretty much the opposite of Lifestyle Photography.

Instead of capturing what naturally unravels, I am posing and sculpting scenes.  I find this to be a refreshing departure from my usual style.  I could tell my model what to do and position her exactly where I want!

So I opted to take Mia to an old schoolhouse and barn for a country themed shoot.  At one location, I gave her pigtails, which reminds me of Little House On The Prairie.  (Does anyone remember that show or am I the oldest person who reads my blog?!!)



Photography Info:  You can style any shoot pretty much.  As long as you have willing participants, you are golden.  Families with children under 5 years old, for example, may not be the best subjects for a styled shoot.  Other than that, just have fun with it!


Enjoy your day.  Every day.