Family Portraits at Home :: The O. Family

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Life can be so busy when you’re a parent.  Add those kid schedules into the mix and life gets more complicated, right?  That’s why we often plan family portrait sessions several months in advance.  It makes life easier for everyone!  And, when you decide to do your family portraits at your home, there’s another bonus!  I come to you — and you DON’T HAVE TO TRAVEL.  Yep, one less thing to do the day of your session.  How’s that for being efficient and minimizing stress?

The day of the O. Family’s portrait session, I arrived at their home and set up my equipment while the family finished getting ready.  We chatted a little to review what the family wanted regarding their portraits.  And then we got started!  Here are some awesome highlights from their session:

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Before the family portrait session started, I walked around the house to get a feel for the landscaping and which areas might look nice. This was where we ended up starting. I love how mom is holding both of her kids’ hands. <3
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I love the landscaping!  it’s all gorgeous, really. But this looked so nice, I had everyone gather on the stone steps. We did a series of portraits here in this location, but this was my favorite to share with you!
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Then we walked around to the back of the house, where there was this nice landscaping with stone steps leading down to the yard. I had the family sit on the rocks by this tree. This is another one of my favorites — I love how the house is included, but nature dominates the background, so it has a nice blend of architectural and natural elements. And, bonus for my subjects — we were in the shade, where it wasn’t hot! (er, *AS* hot).
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A sibling portrait, which I thought was cute….
family portraits at home in ann arbor, michigan, ann arbor portrait photographer on location michigan portrait photography
And then we did some mother daughter portraits. This one looks so lovely, don’t you think?
family portraits at home in ann arbor, michigan, ann arbor portrait photographer on location michigan portrait photography
Mom spontaneously gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek, and I am so glad I caught that moment for them 🙂
family portraits at home in ann arbor, michigan, ann arbor portrait photographer on location michigan portrait photography
Then it was time for the father son portrait. They goofed around a bit too — but settled in for this nice portrait of the two of them.
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Someone’s girlfriend made a cameo appearance towards the end of the portrait session (requested by Mom, naturally!).
painted portrait of couple with flowers, michigan portrait photographer, dexter mi
And last but not least, Mom and Dad. This is a painting created from a portrait that I took.
While I do have traditional training so far as painting goes, I’ve really enjoyed learning to paint digitally. For one, there is less mess. It’s so much fun to create these painted masterpieces for my clients — they LOVE the results, and I really enjoy being able to provide this unique style of portrait art !

If you’re interested in scheduling a family portrait at your home, please don’t wait to get in touch!  We can start the planning process now, and reserve your date in advance so that the whole family has it on their calendar.  Yes, it’s crazy to coordinate calendars these days, but when you plan ahead, you can make sure your family portrait session becomes a priority!  Call Betsy at 734-424-0472 or contact us via our web form today!

Tips for Getting a Family Snapshot with out of Town Relatives

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My family loves photos. Maybe that’s part of the reason I was drawn to photography, right?  Anyways, my mom has a standing request when it comes to family.  When we have relatives visiting from out of town, she wants a family portrait.  Specifically, she wants me to take a portrait of everyone.  Sometimes we’ve been able to go more formal or planned with the portrait session, and other times, it’s on the impromptu side of things.

And that’s where this family snapshot was on the spectrum.  Desired, but spur of the moment, as our weekend plans had been put through a blender and the timing was just not conductive for a true family portrait.

Seriously, I think it took me longer to pack my gear before our trip than the photos took for me to take.  I spent less than five minutes taking snapshots of the kids, and about five minutes max taking a group portrait of the entire group.

Pre-session planning?  Non-existant.  Coordinated clothing?  On hand, but not being worn.  Relaxed session with lots of time for getting people to warm up and smile?  Nope, no time for that.  You name it, we covered the list of what not to do when planning your family portrait session.

But that’s okay.

Because this wasn’t a family portrait session.

This was a family snapshot.

Sometimes you need to document those moments — and there isn’t time for anything better.

So, what can you do to get a family snapshot with your out of town relatives?

First of all, relax.

  1. Don’t worry about getting it perfect.
  2. It’s okay if not everyone matches
  3. If your kids don’t have their shoes on, don’t sweat it.
  4. Do what you can with the time you have.
  5. Document your family with a snapshot, and know that it will be enough.

Seriously.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Not every family photo will be elegant.  But it will be real and authentic.  This family snapshot isn’t a portrait I would call award-winning.  But it does capture the moment, the spirit of our crazy busy weekend together with my out of town relatives.  People are looking at the camera.  Almost everyone is smiling.  And that’s life.

Sometimes you take what you can get, and have to remind yourself that it will be enough.

You don’t have to do perfect.

kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
I piled the kids on the swing for some quick snapshots while we waited for everyone to gather for the main photo. These three were ready.
kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
They were happy to smile for the camera….mostly, lol!
silly photo kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
And then came the real highlight. Kids always love those silly pictures!!
kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
The littlest cousin was ready for his photo, so we added him into the bunch.
kid snapshot outdoors family photo michigan photographer
No smiles from him, but looking at the camera — that works for me! We were tight on time, as I mentioned.
out of town relatives snapshot of group outdoors family photo michigan photographer
And here’s the whole family snapshot, with everyone. It’s not going to win any awards, but this is a precious portrait because of all the out of town relatives we managed to get together in one photo. Sometimes that’s what matters.

You know when I mentioned that family photos tend to happen every time we have out-of-town relatives visit?  Well, I wasn’t kidding.  And I’m thankful I have these, to show you how different styles of family photos can be valuable and precious — whether they are true studio family portraits or simple family snapshots on the fly.

Here’s a set of family photos from when my cousin and her daughter were visiting from out-of-town. Naturally, we did a portrait of my grandfather with (some of) his great-grandkids.

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Cousins together for the first time. They were happy to smile for the camera as long as I let them do a silly picture at the end!
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
Great Grandpa with his oldest great-granddaughter.
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
While not all of the great grandchildren, this was everyone there at that point in time!
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
And the four generations all together!
extended family portrait outdoors chelsea mi photographer dexter mi family photographer
My cousin and I got a photo together too. Again, these were a step above snapshots, but as you know — a photograph can be priceless when you have memories connected to it!

This last family portrait I’m going to share is the most formal.  We did a studio portrait with three generations of extended family.  My mom has a set of these displayed in her living room as canvas gallery wraps — they look gorgeous.  We used the portrait of my kids for part of our Christmas card :).

extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
Here’s a more formal family portrait that we did a few years back. That checklist of things to do before a portrait session? Complete! My mom has this hanging in her family room, and while it no longer shows everyone in the family, it is still a valuable family heirloom.
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
This portrait is also hangs on the wall next to the one above. Love it!
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
And one of my parents with their grandkids at the time. My mom was over the moon when she got to see the sneak peek from her portrait session for the first time. <3
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
And here’s my family from that same session. I can’t believe how much the boys have grown!!!
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
Those smiles are so cute!
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
This is one of our all-time favorite portraits of the boys with their dad. It’s a bit silly, maybe even worthy of the “outtake” status,… but I always include family portraits like this because it shows the loving and fun dynamics of a family relationship
extended family portrait indoors studio portrait dexter mi photographer ann arbor family portrait
And one of me with my boys. So sweet.

So, there you have it.  Family photos don’t always have to be perfect.  But they will always be representative of your family.  Make the best of the situation, get as many smiles as you can,… and if at all possible, have a family portrait photographer do your next family portrait.  Because I know from experience.  When you’re in charge of taking the picture, it’s a more stressful environment.

That’s why I do this.  I want my clients to be able to have memories of their family — without having to go through the stress of getting everyone posed for a family photo.  When you tell people to just listen to the photographer — you get to hand off the responsibility. It’s no longer your job to make sure everyone looks good, or that everyone is smiling for the camera.  That’s my job.  Your job is to relax and trust me to create images you will want to give to your grandchildren one day.  For more information about scheduling a family portrait session, call 734-424-0472 or contact the studio via our website.  I’ll walk you through the whole planning process and make your next family portrait the most relaxing one yet!

Getting Kids to Smile for a Family Portrait at Island Park in Ann Arbor

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This summer I photographed the Holler family at Island Park in Ann Arbor.  I had been talking with Marcy about outdoor locations for their family portrait session… and we settled on Island Park.  Why?  That’s where she had her senior portraits done way back before kids!  (Marcy and her husband Jacob have three adorable girls that did a great job during the session)

The day of the session came, and the weather was great.  We met during the morning so it wasn’t too humid and hot out …and I kept everyone in the shade to help with the heat too!

Now, sometimes, kids smile right away, and other times, kids just don’t feel like it.  Well, Isabelle, the big sister, was a pro.  She made sure to smile for the camera, and was a delightful conversationalist!  Her twin sisters, though, fell into that other category.  Some people might find that to be a problem.  But not me.  It’s just a matter of finding the right way to break through that shell and find the smiles I know are waiting to be shared.

Evelyn and Sadie, even when not smiling, were such sweet girls.  And about halfway through the session, I found the magic key to unlock their smiles!  Honestly, I don’t even remember exactly what the secret was — but it involved me being super silly, making crazy sounds, and waving one of my hands in the air while holding my camera with the other.

Whatever I did, the girls loved it!  We got some adorable smiles, and as you might expect, some cute waves too.

In all seriousness, this session was a breeze.  I never worry about a situation like this because 99.99% of the time, I can find a solution.  And for that 0.01%?  Well, honestly, that’s so rare…. but unless they’ve fallen asleep during their portrait session… I am always confident about getting adorable portraits of that child in a more serious or candid style portrait.  Life is all about adapting and rising to meet whatever curve balls are thrown your way, right?

So, enjoy these portraits of of the Holler family 🙂

island lake park ann arbor michigan family portrait session kids portraits outdoors family photographer
We walked along the path and found this nice little set of stairs down to the river’s edge. I had the girls sit on the steps for some portraits, and then I gathered everyone together for a standing portrait right in the same spot! Someone else visiting the park had forgotten an inflatable rubber ducky inner tube float, so I used that to get the twins’ attention for this portrait. Isabelle got a kick out of me holding the duck over my head and being silly!
outtake from family portrait session, taken just before a posed portrait. family portrait photographer ann arbor michigan photos of family
Then we moved onto another spot at the park. We went down a side trail to find this cool little spot. I included this outtake because sometimes it’s helpful for you to see what really goes on right before a great family portrait. Seriously, it’s okay if your kids are being kids. I have kids of my own, and appreciate the nuances of herding cats ;).
child portrait photographer, girl showing shell, black and white photo, location kid portrait
Here’s the shell that Isabelle found at the second spot… she was so excited!! And yes, she asked me to take a picture, ….for which I am a pushover 🙂
family portrait by huron river island lake park ann arbor mi photographer michigan family portrait photographer
After some arranging and making sure the kids were happy AND safe, we took some more family portraits. I love how this portrait turned out… even though the twins aren’t smiling, they are definitely engaged and looking at the camera, so we’re all good, right?
candid family portrait island park ann arbor michigan portrait photographer family portrait by huron river in ann arbor michigan
Sometimes it’s nice to have a more candid portrait, where no one is looking at the camera. I like how the entire family looks like they’re having fun. Even the twins are giggling a bit. Dad for the win!
family portrait by the huron river in ann arbor michigan, family sitting on a fallen log, outdoors portrait session family photographer
This is my absolute favorite portrait from the Holler’s family portrait session. It’s also around the time that I figured out my crazy trick for getting the girls to smile. Coincidence? Maybe not. Anyways, I love how the family is framed by the Huron River, and that you can even see some of the Ann Arbor skyline peeking above the trees at the horizon. Lovely!
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On our way back to the car, we tried for one more group family portrait — by this bridge. The twins were getting a little bit wiggly by this time, so we decided to call it quits and head back to our cars. On the way, Isabelle kept up a great conversation with me…such an adorable girl!
twin girls child portrait island park ann arbor michigan child photographer location child portraits
On a whim, we decided to take a few photos of the girls…. in this patch of grass right near the parking lot. The girls were very happy to be free from mom’s and dad’s arms, and they were very intrigued by the branch with dead leaves that Isabelle found for them. Such a sweet candid portrait of the twins… I love this whole series I’m about to share with you 🙂
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Amazingly, we managed to get very cute portraits of each girl on her own. By this time, I didn’t have to make my own silly faces, because the entire family helped get each girl’s attention when it was their turn. Love that light highlighting those curls!
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So far, so good. The sun went behind some clouds, so that gorgeous highlighting was gone, but this expression is so adorable I just had to share!
child portrait photographer location portrait session island park ann arbor michigan child portrait photographer little girl sitting in grass and smiling
And finally, this one. She wasn’t ready for the session to be done, in all seriousness. After we got these portraits of her, and we ended the family portrait session for real… Isabelle asked for one last portrait of her beside a tree. It was so sweet!

If you want to have a family portrait done, but are worried about whether the photographer will be able to get your kids to smile, don’t be!  Get in touch with me and we can go through all the details, and I’ll be more than happy to work with you to create a family portrait session.  Contact the studio at 734-424-0472 or via our web form today so we can get started!

A Relaxed + Crazy Fun Family Portrait Session in Ann Arbor!

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What family portrait session would be complete without a little bit of crazy?  Because, honestly, that’s life with kids.  Fortunately, part of my job is to make the portrait experience be fun for the whole family… and we definitely succeeded during this portrait session.

When Cynthia and I chatted about what she wanted from her portrait session, she told me she was really just looking for one good portrait of everyone together. Well, I think we accomplished that — and more.  The kids definitely had me improvising, but that’s what I love about working with little ones!

We planned the family portrait session to take place at their home in Ann Arbor.  So, on the day of the session, we started out the session in the family room, and when I asked Samuel, Joseph, and Elijah to sit on the couch for me… the older two boys listened a bit better than their younger brother.  No worries.  He got to hide behind the couch for some portraits.  I convinced him to come out for a few portraits to check and see if my camera was working — and told him that he was invisible for my camera’s pictures.

That trick lasted pretty much the whole session…. and didn’t get old!

Once the rest of the family was ready, I photographed everyone on the couch before we headed outside to the backyard.  We did a series of portraits outside…. most of which were casual and on the fly.  I try to get a couple posed family portraits during a typical session, but am totally willing to create family portraits where kids can be kids.  Ryan and Cynthia were so patient with their kids’ antics, and I am glad they trusted me with creating their family portrait.

By the end of the session, I could tell that we were losing the two youngest kids.  It’s hard to try and sit still, right? I used a few tricks to get a few last portraits in, and then we called it quits.

Well, almost.  We realized that Liliana hadn’t been wearing her bow during the portrait session — so Cynthia asked if we could give it a shot.  Of course, I said yes!  It didn’t take long for someone to figure out how to take off the bow, but I captured several adorable portraits of her wearing it.  After a few more rounds of Mom putting on the bow, snapping a photo, and seconds later Liliana pulling it off…. we were all set.

I hope you enjoy these family portraits as much as I enjoyed creating them.  It’s always so much fun to work with kids — I love their energy and vibes!

 

family portrait session outtake, boys full of energy smiling for camera, ann arbor family portrait photographer on location
An outtake from ourcrazy but fun session! These boys were so full of energy — I loved it!
candid smile toddler boy portrait on location in ann arbor mi
This little guy was adorable… but definitely a wiggle worm!!
family portrait in living room, location portrait photographer natural light, ann arbor michigan
We got the whole family to fit on the couch for a portrait — the boys were really excited when I told them they could stand on the couch “just this once!”
boy outdoors smiling for camera, family portrait photographer on location in ann arbor mi
The older brothers had really great expressions — what fun to photograph them!
boy being silly for camera, family portrait in backyard, family portrait photographer ann arbor mi
Sometimes I think you just have to share the goofy shots. And these boys definitely loved being silly for the camera.
family portrait on location in ann arbor, in backyard of house, michigan portrait photographer
I really loved this family portrait. It took a lot of kid wrangling because one of the boys was getting antsy. I captured this shot by having everyone else sit for the camera, and then let the wiggle worm run and sit down “just in time” for me to take the photo. I also had him convinced that my camera thought he was invisible. He was so proud that I kept “missing” him in the photos! 🙂
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And then this little lady decided it was time to start moving. Naturally, right?
baby girl with boy, natural light portrait, location baby portrait photographer ann arbor mi
Mom wanted one portrait with this adorable bow, so we reconvened for one last set of portraits. The bow didn’t stay on long… but it was long enough to get the shot!

If you have been putting off planning a family portrait session because it seems too stressful, or you’re worried your kids won’t be able to sit still…. please don’t wait any longer!  I love working with kids who are on the move, and it’s part of my job to create great family portraits while your little ones are on the move.  Contact the studio today at 734-424-0472 so we can chat about your family and what kind of family portrait you’d like me to create for you!

A Family Portrait for the Snyders with their dog …and sunny skies!

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Last week I had a family portrait session here in Dexter — and the weather forecast was looking rainy as all get out. After conferring with Angela, we decided to go ahead with the session even if it ended up being indoors at my studio. Work schedules can be so tricky to work around, and they hadn’t had a family portrait done in a long time, so this family portrait would be happening, rain or shine!

When Roger and Angela Snyder showed up to my studio, the sun was shining, the sky looked gorgeous, and everyone was happy to be outside. What luck!

After saying hello to my clients, I knelt down to greet the littlest member of the Snyder family — an adorably sweet miniature pinscher. She greeted me happily, although I have a hunch she was more interested in the smells of my dog, than in letting me pet her.

That all changed when Roger gave me the bag of treats. Can we say treat motivated? I love that — it makes my job easier! Although, I have a hunch that the pup would say I was too stingy in doling out treats. 🙂 We chatted briefly about Angela’s vision for the session one last time. She didn’t have anything specific in mind, aside from wanting a photo of her and Roger walking away in the distance.

I knew the perfect spot for that photo!

So we worked our way around the edge of my woods, where there is a nice place for walking. Yes, we took some portraits on the way, both with and without the dog. Since she’s such a small pup, I offered to multitask and hold the leash while photographing Roger and Angela. Though, I had to laugh to myself a bit as I took pictures with a leash in hand! There’s no way I would have done that with a large breed like my 75 lb Labrador! I guess, another convenience of the miniature breeds, right?

The session went very smoothly, and the sun stayed out the whole time. It was fantastic. I am so glad we decided to pull through regardless of the weather!

Here is a sneak peek from the Snyder’s family portrait session. So many awesome ones, don’t you think?

Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
Angela mentioned she loved water, so naturally I had to include the lake!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
And a farther back portrait from the same setting. This would look great as a canvas, don’t you think?
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
Here’s one of the portraits where I was both dog and camera wrangling!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
Angela mentioned to me that she wasn’t a fan of super close up portraits, so we did quite a few wide angle ones like this.
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
And finally, the important series of photos — walking off into the distance! I love the light here, it’s just gorgeous. I opted to let the natural light speak for itself in this series.
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
And walking closer…
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
…and closer…!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
Here’s a little outtake from the session I caught Roger and Angela as they were having a laugh!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
And then we created this portrait. I guess that rain came in handy, because the grass looks so lush and green!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
What gorgeous light on these two. Don’t Roger and Angela make a great couple?
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
A little more greenery…
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
I love this portrait!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
I couldn’t decide between that last family portrait and this one. Gorgeous, right?
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors
I love the wide open feel of these portraits. Angela and Roger did a great job during their family portrait session!
Family portrait photographer dexter mi ann arbor mi outdoors star wars themed
What a gorgeous day,right? Okay, okay. In case you’re wondering what’s up with the Star Wars shirts, Angela requested this portrait and outfit specifically to play a joke on her mom. What fun!

If you haven’t had a family portrait done in a while, please contact me at 734-424-0472 so that we can plan a session that will be perfect for you and your family. I’m happy to work with you whether you have a clear and precise vision for your family photos or if you simply know “it’s been a while” and you simply want a great looking family portrait to put above the fireplace!

Family Photos with Baby + Dog :: A. Family

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I photographed the A. Family when this cute little girl was just a newborn. And now here we are, doing a family portrait already… she’s grown so much!  There is nothing more exciting than getting to watch my clients’ children grow up into their own little selves.  Oh, I guess there’s one thing almost as good… and that’s when my clients bring their pets to the portrait session.  I love including animals in family photos (or any type of portrait photo, for that matter!).

infant portrait, digitally painted by photographer dexter mi
I based this digital painting from several photographs we took during the outdoors portion of their family session. It was really fun to create this, and I especially had fun painting the background of the piece.
family portrait with baby girl outdoors dexter mi
Here’s one of the portraits I am talking about. Adorable family portrait, no? You’d never know it was buggy out by their great smiles 🙂
mom with baby girl, portrait session outdoors dexter mi
We got this portrait of mom with baby girl before deciding the bugs were too thick outside …at least in this spot.
family portrait with baby and dog in grass. dexter mi photographer
Before heading into the studio, we did one last set of images out in the grass. I was hoping the bugs would be fewer in number here, but no such luck. They were great sports though! Love this one.
family photo in studio with baby and dog, dexter mi photographer
And after a bit of a break for baby, we started in on the studio portion of the family photo session.
baby sticking tongue out with mom giving her kiss, dexter child photographer michigan
It’s always cute to capture some of those silly baby faces. I love this one of her with mom!
baby smiling while mom holds her, dexter michigan baby photographer
And an adorable baby portrait where she’s all smiles!! I love it.
baby sucking thumb in dad's arms, dexter michigan photographer
Dad’s turn to hold her came next. At this point, she was more interested in her thumb. Too cute!
dad with baby, family portrait photographer dexter michigan
She was getting a little wiggly at this point, but we managed to get this one with dad and babe in arms.
mom and dad looking at baby during family portrait, michigan dexter photography session
Oh my gosh. I totally love this photo. She is looking so sweetly at the camera, and mom and dad are so happily looking at their baby. Love it!!!
outtake from photo session, prepping for baby portrait session dexter mi safe photography
This one is an outtake from the family photo session, but I wanted to share it with you because it’s important to know how much prep work goes into some of these photos. With little ones, we’re always VERY careful about keeping them safe. And then you can’t do a portrait like this with just any dog. They have the calmest, sweetest dog ever. Dad stayed right nearby the whole time, with his hand on his kiddo to make sure she didn’t fall over. That’s when Photoshop comes in handy — I do a little magic and you end up with a safely created portrait.
baby portrait studio dexter michigan photographer. baby girll with chocolate lab dog pet portrait
Seriously. Adorable. Isn’t this the cutest baby portrait ever??? I love how it turned out. And as I mentioned a minute ago, dad was holding onto this kiddo because she’s not quite ready to sit up yet. Sometimes Photoshop magic just makes sense. Safety first.
chocolate lab portrait in studio, pet photographer dexter michigan
And to finish things up, I took one portrait of this well-mannered chocolate lab all by herself. She is really such a sweet pup!!!

I’d love to talk with you about planning a fun family portrait session — whether or not you have pets to include! Call the studio today at 734-424-0472 to start planning for your next family photo.

Plan Ahead: Family Photos for Holiday Greeting Cards

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Growing up, my mother always sent out a Christmas letter — complete with family photo.  We would contribute to this family tradition by telling my mom what we wanted to share in the letter.  Not all of our input made the cut, but it was definitely a personalized yearly greeting that our family and friends enjoyed receiving.

Plan Ahead for the Holidays... Tips to Get a Jump Start on Your Family Photo Greeting Cards - Betsy's PhotographyWhen Steven and I got married, I knew this was something I wanted to turn into a tradition for us as well.  So, every year since we’ve been married, I’ve created a holiday greeting card or letter.  The year, I stuck with the format from my childhood: a letter on 8.5″x11″ paper, detailing all the new events of the year, and a separate photograph greeting. Do you remember those long envelope-sized photos?  They had the greeting printed on the right quarter of the photograph. And then I discovered the thrill of designing a custom holiday greeting card.  A greeting card can incorporate photos and text, which streamlined the assembly process.

So, that’s what we do to this day.  And I offer custom greeting card design services to the families I photograph too.  There’s something nice about having someone else do the grunt work for you — just saying “these are the photos I like, and here is what I want it to say.”  A far cry from the days of my childhood, when we would all spend hours composing the text, proofreading, and re-wording to fit it onto a single page… then having to assemble all the components to fit in the envelope.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m writing about this so early, right?  I like to let the various seasons be celebrated in their time, and I’m not one to jump the gun on decorating.

But, with family photos being included in the holiday greeting cards, you have to plan ahead.  In fact, sometimes families will take their holiday picture in the summer, during a family vacation.  This year, my goal is to capture the fall colors in our family picture. I’ve been watching the weather, the leaves, making sure I don’t miss that narrow window of opportunity, when the leaves are golden but still mostly on the trees.

Now, since I promised you some tips for getting a jump start on your family photo greeting cards, here they are:

Tiny Prints Holiday Cards1 . Plan your family photo in the summer or fall.

There is no reason to be stressed out and trying to get a last minute snapshot of the family for your greeting card.  If you have kids, your stress may be reflected in their willingness to cooperate for the photos.  And you probably don’t want a family portrait with unhappy faces, right?

2. Hire a pro; outsource your picture-taking.

Let’s face it, sometimes it is tough to get your own kids to smile for the camera.  A non-parent can often elicit better smiles and expect better behavior.  I know my mom gave up trying to teach me flute; I just wouldn’t listen to my teacher because she was also my mom (sorry mom!).

3. Ask everyone about their highlights of the year.

In our greeting card, everyone gets a little blurb, one or two lines about what’s going on in their life.  As my kids get older, I’ll begin asking them what they want to share — and an “I don’t care” answer means mom gets free reign (kind of)!

4. Have a second set of eyes check your work.

I can’t tell you how many last minute typos we’ve caught over the years, just by having another person look through the text of a card.  One year, a relative discovered their card had a typo too late — and ended up gluing a strip of paper with the correctly spelled word to every card.  Not a fun task!

5. Order your cards early – before the holiday rush.

While there’s no set date you need to get your cards, I like to finish mine by the end of November, so I can get it ordered at the beginning of December.  That way, I can focus on holiday parties, planning, and the like instead of rushing to get our greeting cards out.  There has been a time or two where we got caught with too many holiday “to-do” items — and the greeting card went out as a “New Year” card instead of a Christmas one.

6. Keep in touch with contact information.

It can be hard to keep peoples’ contact information straight, with families frequently relocating or changing email addresses.  I like to include our mailing address, email addresses, and phone numbers in the card — that way our friends and family can update their contact book with any changes.  Plus, you can share your blog or facebook profil if there’s more you want to share than will fit in a letter or card.

7. Use an online service.

Sometimes it’s tough to get a jump start on things like this — it’s just easier to deal with the immediate needs, particularly if you have a lot on your plate.  Maybe your plans for a family portrait (professionally done) fall through, or you need to pull together a quick last-minute card on the fly.  Either way, you can use a service like Tiny Prints #afflink.

Hopefully these tips have been helpful for you, and perhaps inspiring, even?  I’d love to hear about any family traditions you have for the holidays… particularly if you grew up helping with some sort of annual greeting card or letter.

 

10 Things to Consider When Planning Your Portrait Session

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One of the things I frequently hear when helping my clients plan their portrait sessions is the desire for individuality, for the pictures to reflect who they are and what they enjoy. I love finding ways to incorporate hobbies and the like into portraits! Here are 10 ways you can make your portraits reflect who you are and what you love.

1. Pick a place that is meaningful to you.

I love creating portraits on location, especially when the setting has memories attached. Like an engagement portrait session at the Arb where a couple met, or a senior portrait session on the football field for an athlete. Location is a big part of pictures. So when it evokes memories, that’s a great thing!

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2. Bring your pet along.

Pets are a big part of peoples’ lives. So, including them in portraits is a natural way to add more personal meaning to photographs. I’m not one to shy away from being around exotic pets, so I’d be thrilled to photograph atypical pets as part of a portrait session. Usually, though, I end up working with the more mundane (but still lovable) four legged furry friends. Dogs are the most common pet my clients bring, but I’ve also done portraits with larger animals like horses (outdoors, of course).

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3. Include your instrument.

As the daughter of a professional musician, I enjoy when my clients want to document their love of music. Smaller instruments can be easily brought to the studio, but I’ve also gone on location to photograph less compact instruments like an alphorn, or chimes.

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4. Show off your sense of style.

I’ve worked with a number of high school seniors who were interested in fashion and clothing design. Naturally, their portraits included several outfits to showcase their sense of style. Sometimes people have a signature hat they always wear, or a wristwatch that is particularly meaningful. items like these can be easily incorporated into portraits either on location or in the studio.

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5. Wear sports paraphernalia.

If you’re a die hard sports fan, there is no better way to show your true colors than in your portraits. I’ve done University of Michigan themed family portraits  — that was fun! High school seniors might want to include their letter jacket, a jersey, or other another sports item (helmet, stick, glove, etc).

Family Portrait Photography - Peony Garden Portraits

6. Choose a specific time of year.

If you love a certain time of year, it makes a lot of sense to plan your portrait session during that season! I’ve done family portraits in the snow, high school senior portraits in autumn, you name it. We can plan ahead to make sure we keep on top of the weather (sometimes it’s tough, for example, to get the fall colors in your portraits).

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7. Coordinate your accessories.

I have had clients personalize their portraits in more subtle ways too. Coordinating accessories isn’t something that really sticks out as a way to personalize your session, but it can really make a difference. I had one high school senior who made her own jewelry — she wore it for her session. A family who loved wristwatches decided they would wear their favorite watches. It’s all in the details. And if the details mean something to you, so much the better!

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - BPhotoArt.com

8. Incorporate a hobby.

While I’ve photographed family hobbies (such as golfing, see 7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Portraits), more frequently this is something high school seniors really want.  Whether they’re an aspiring artist, a fan of photography, or just an outdoorsman — seniors love to make their portraits communicate interests and hobbies.

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9. Plan a candid session.

More photojournalistic in nature, candid sessions focus on capturing personalities and interactions. The photos forgo careful poses in favor of flow.  For these types of sessions, we’ll often walk around downtown, or through a park, pausing at select areas to create some candid portraits.

Sibling Portrait at Mill Creek Park

10. Be silly.

Along the lines of candid captures — I love “forcing” silliness.  It lightens the mood for everyone, even if we’re doing a more posed and formal portrait.  The more relaxed you are during your portrait session, the more you will love the results!

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So, there you have it. 10 things to consider when planning your next portrait session!

10 Things to Consider When Planning Your Portrait Session - Betsy's Photography bphotoart.com

How Newborn Portrait Sessions Are Unique

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It’s so fun to watch families grow.. whether you get to see little kids getting bigger — or get to meet new little ones right after they’ve arrived into the world.  I have enjoyed documenting this family for a number of years, and watching (now-big-sister) A grow from a newborn into a toddler.   And that’s who is the star of the show in these photos… A’s little brother, S!

A little further on I’ll share all the photos from their session, but first, let me explain how newborn portrait sessions are unique.  Newborn portrait sessions are a bit different than most portrait sessions… in three ways:

1. Newborn portraits take longer.

Babies are unpredictable.  They have no schedule, persay …or if they have one, it changes in the blink of an eye.  I block out three hours’ time for each newborn session.  While we don’t use all that time for photographing, it does allow baby time to nurse or feed, be diapered, and tended too.  If baby is cooperative, we finish with plenty of time to spare; but if baby has different plans, the generous time allotment keeps everyone calm and non-stressed.

2. Scheduling during naptime is ok.

Often, with newborn photos, baby will sleep through most of the session (and the portraits). It’s actually not a big deal, because sleeping baby pictures capture the reality of a baby’s days.  Babies sleep a lot.   As newborns get bigger and lose that “new baby” look, there will be plenty of opportunity for wide awake (even smiling) pictures.  So for newborns, it’s ok to capture that fleeting time where baby sleeps incessantly.

3. It’s best (easier?) to stay indoors.

Newborn sessions are the only type of portraits that I recommend my clients stay indoors — either at the studio, or at baby’s home.  Why?  Well, when we’re documenting a newborn baby’s first weeks, things are going to be intimate, close up, and focused on the family.  There isn’t really a need to incorporate the vast outdoors (in which baby will visually “get lost”).  On top of that, it’s just easier when you eliminate variables like the weather and temperature.  The studio is nice and warm for newborn portraits, there are comfortable chairs for nursing baby, and a changing table with supplies is at the ready.  You don’t have those luxuries when you venture outdoors.

Now, as promised, onto the photographs from Baby S’s newborn session.  I love including the whole family in newborn portraits …it is great to see the older siblings dote on their “baby.”

There is no better way to capture baby milestones on camera than to document baby’s first year than with a first year photo album.  Actually, I like to create a series of albums, one for each of the “milestone sessions” (e.g. newborn, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 1 year).  Here is the newborn album that I designed for baby S. …similar to his big sister’s, but different, of course!

It’s hard to pick a favorite image from this session… babies are so adorable, and I love every aspect of newborn sessions.  But I think my favorite picture is the one of big sister A giving baby S a kiss.  Sibling love is so adorable!

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But then there’s this one.  And I love the lines created by the fabric draping down to the floor.  Newborn portraits as art. Peaceful.  Timeless.

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Babies grow so quickly.  It’s hard to believe that my second son has almost exited the newborn stage… Newborns are so tiny, so transient.  Get those snuggles in!

Peony Garden Family Portraits

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Nichols Arboretum, or the Arb, as it is affectionately known by Ann Arborites, is a wonderful park to visit. It’s one of my favorite places to do family portraits (or any kind of portrait photos, for that matter). And if you’re so lucky as to visit when the peonies are in bloom? Well, then you’re in for a treat.

This family portrait session was planned not only in the Arb, but in the peony garden. And if you know anything about plants, some are limited in how long the blooms are vibrant and fresh. So we planned this family portrait session carefully, based on advice from the peony garden’s website. The peak bloom time is usually late May to early June — but depends on the weather.

Fortunately, the peak bloom time coincided with this family portrait session, and we even had a wonderfully sunny day. During the summer months, I try to plan portraits like this during the earlier morning hours so it hasn’t had a chance to get muggy or sticky out. And the weather on this particular day was great. I love how everything turned out, and that the entire family coordinated to wear University of Michigan attire.  Since, as you know, Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan.

All of these images were also compiled into a custom-designed coffeetable photo album. I think albums are a great way to tell a story, to include more images than you could feasibly display on your wall. And, it’s a great place to include those silly outtakes that I always think have such personality.

 

7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Pictures

posted in: Photography | 26

While I love photographing all kinds of families, the sessions that really stand out are the ones like these family pictures. Not only were the family pictures taken at a meaningful location, but we were able to incorporate some unique elements to personalize their family portraits. And that’s what makes this so much fun. No matter how many times I photograph at a given location, the people, their personalities, and their interests are always so unique.

A little further on, I’ll share some tips on how to personalize your family pictures, but first, let me share these family portraits! The family portraits were taken at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. We originally planned to use the lovely greenery at Barton Hills as a setting for the family pictures — the grounds of the country club are truly lovely when in bloom; even throughout the summer months you know it will always be gorgeously green at a top notch golf course like Barton Hills.

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com

On this particular day, I’d been watching the weather like a hawk (I tend to reschedule if there’s bad weather). Fortunately, the rain let up, and we had a wonderfully sunny afternoon and evening — just a little damp.

As we walked to one of the spots for taking pictures, I had a sudden inspiration. A golf cart was sitting, empty, almost asking to be photographed. Since I knew this family was fond of golf, I suggested we add another series of family pictures with the golf cart, and the idea was received enthusiastically. The series of family pictures with the golf cart turned out to be my favorite, and the family ended up liking one of the portraits so much it will be on display as a wall portrait in their home!

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - BPhotoArt.com

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

How to Personalize Your Family Pictures

Now, I promised tips on how to personalize your family pictures, so let me get started with some suggestions for the next time you plan a family portrait session. You could probably adapt these for spur of the moment family snapshots too.

1. Include your family in the planning process

Sometimes I work with families who are totally nonchalant about their portraits, aside from wanting “something nice” as an end result. But, usually, families have an idea in mind for their family pictures. I like to hear from everyone — including the kids, because the more involved the whole family is with the family pictures, the better the portrait experience will be for everyone.

Kids like to have a voice. So, even if their opinion is less influential than, say, mom or dad’s… I like to hear everyone’s thoughts. Often we can work in some elements that will make everyone happy.

2. Your family pictures should reflect your style and show your personalities

Plain and simple — generic family pictures aren’t as memorable ones. You want your family pictures to be a window into your family’s dynamics and show you as you really are.

For families who are more laid-back and casual, I’ll usually recommend relaxed clothing and a more impromptu portrait style. It’s better, though, to plan a formal and elegant session for a family who is more conventional and “proper.”

extended family portrait - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
Clothing and location can really affect how formal or casual a family portrait ends up being.

3. Choose a location that is meaningful

Even if you don’t have a specific park, country club, or spot that your family finds meaningful, there are still ways to personalize your family pictures through your choice of location. If your family likes to do a lot of things outdoors, I’ll typically suggest a park with lots of natural scenery.

There’s always the option of having your family pictures taken at your home, or on your property. I love this choice, honestly, because it’s fun for me to include the house as a background element, or pets that may not have ventured off the premises for a different location session.

Family Picture with dogs - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
Bringing multiple dogs and a baby on location would have been tough, but worked beautifully at my client’s home.

4. Incorporate your family’s interests and hobbies

This tip works whether you’re outdoors on location or inside at the studio. Find something your family enjoys, and include it! As with the family pictures above, a shared love of golf can really enhance the creativity of a family picture. Other ideas on how to personalize your family pictures can focus on the pets you have, the sports team you love, the city where you live, or the horses you ride.

family portrait with horses - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
When you enjoy something, it’s always great to capture that memory in a family portrait.

5. There is no right or wrong

When planning your family portraits, remember — there is no right or wrong. What works best for your family will not work well for another. You can be inspired by what you find online, or what you pin on Pinterest, but ultimately, you need to think about how to personalize your family pictures in a way that makes sense for your family.

formal generations portrait - BPhotoArt.com
Formal portraits do work best for some portraits, but there is no one size fits all solution.

6. Flexibility is important

It’s important to be flexible on the day of a family portrait session. I often find the parents are very stressed out about getting good pictures, or making sure their kids behave, so I will do my best to put everyone at ease. The more relaxed everyone is, the better the family pictures will be.

And, speaking of going with the flow, remember that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. But, that’s ok. Honestly, some of my favorite photographs and portraits have been the result of the need to make a spur of the moment adjustment or change.

family portrait outdoors winter - BPhotoArt.com
Children can be unpredictable, but sometimes their personalities really come through even if they’re not smiling for the camera.

7. Have a little fun and be silly!

I am a big proponent of being silly and having fun during any portrait session. Whether the funny faces end up as outtakes, or you ultimately choose to include the silliness in an album or wall portrait, pictures that let you (and your kids) have fun will really bring out your personalities.

Making Funny Faces for the Camera - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
This family picture of the kids was potentially an outtake, but helped them relax!

Have Ideas on How to Personalize Your Family Pictures?

This list of tips on how to personalize your family pictures is by no means all-inclusive. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works — or doesn’t — for your family. Or, if you have any memories of past family picture experiences to share, I’d love to read them!

Documenting Generational Family Portraits

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I really love documenting family memories. And while it is fantastic to plan outdoor sessions with a relaxed feel, there’s something to be said for the more “formal” generational family portraits. Keep in mind, I don’t mean stiff and overly posed. I’m talking about extended family portraits which span generations.

For this generational family portrait session, I helped plan a lovely series of images in studio. Coordinating 16 people for a portrait can be complicated, but fortunately for my clients, it comes easily to me! This family was really a pleasure to work with and create portraits for. Everyone was so cheerful and laid back, I didn’t have much to do in terms of helping them relax for the portraits! It’s always great when personalities shine through — especially in photographs, don’t you think?

At the end of this post, I’ll share some tips for documenting generational family portraits and important milestones (like new additions to the family). First, let me share these lovely family portraits with you. Here’s the complete generational family portrait, with all the extended family groupings included. I love images like this that span multiple generations. Besides, they’re great for documenting a growing family as well (see the adorable new baby!!).

Generations Family Portrait in the Studio

Whenever I plan an extended family portrait, I ALWAYS recommend doing smaller family group portraits as well. Why? Well, because I have everyone in one place. That’s usually tricky to do, right? Everyone is in different places at the same time because of schedules. It’s best to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself. Plus, this way I can offer my clients a lovely portrait to pair with the main generational family portrait when it comes time to creating wall displays. These smaller family portraits are going to look great on the wall next to the generational family portrait!

Family Portrait in the Studio

Another portrait that I highly encourage is one of the grandparents, like this portrait below. In organizing my own personal family photographs, I’ve noticed that as a couple grows older together, they become more focused on having professional portraits to document their children and grandchildren rather than themselves. I totally get this.

But, all the same, kids and grandkids appreciate having the portraits to document how they remember their grandparents. So don’t forget to include this portrait in your next generational family portrait session. Another cute one along these lines, if you have reluctant grandparents is to do a portrait with grandparents and grandkids all together. What grandparent doesn’t want to have a portrait of them with their grandchildren, right?

Grandparent Portrait in the Studio

And here are some more portraits of the smaller family groupings. I don’t think I’ve mentioned clothing yet — but notice everyone is NOT wearing the same color. Sometimes my clients want matching outfits, and I’m happy to do so. But, choosing outfits in complimentary tones works really well visually while still preserving a sense of individuality. I love the shades of gray, white, and black in this image …and denim jeans usually go well with everything too.

Family Portrait in the Studio

Family Portrait in the Studio

Tips for Natural Looking Generational Family Portraits

As promised, here are some suggestions for when you plan your generational family portrait. I typically go over this sort of thing in more detail during the planning stage of a portrait session, so don’t get overwhelmed thinking you have to have all these things decided ahead of time. It’s my job to help guide my clients in the right direction.

Who are you going to include? Sometimes families will decide to do sibling portraits, grandkid portraits, and on rare occasion some families ask me to do a second shot of the portrait without significant others (“just in case”). If that’s important to you, please let me know. Generally, though, I always suggest including significant others and spouses in the images because I feel they help document that time in a family’s life. And no one likes being asked to step out of a photo 😉 because they’re “not family.”

Where will your family portrait be? I’ve planned portraits in the studio, at clients’ homes, or even at a location outdoors that has special meaning for that family. My favorite generational family portrait on location? It was done at the family’s farm house that had been passed down through generations.

What will you wear? Make sure to plan your attire so that it will work for your family. You don’t want people feeling uncomfortable or stiff because of the clothes they’re in. I’d much rather plan a more relaxed generational family portrait with casual clothing if it means that everyone will be relaxed and interact cheerfully for the the camera!

What about pets? Sometimes there are family pets that need to be included too. I’m happy to accommodate these requests, but it does help me to know ahead of time whether that pet is a lap dog …or a horse. So, don’t feel like you have to exclude your animals from the portraits — they’re a part of the family too, after all!

Resources for Documenting Family History + Genealogy

Here are some resources if you’re interested in documenting or researching for family’s history. It can be fun for kids to learn from their elders by “interviewing” them about what it was like growing up — whether it is 20 or 50 years ago, the differences are still amazing. Links will open in a new window for your convenience. (Also, check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board).

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Family History + Genealogy on Pinterest.

What About You?

What are your favorite family memories? Are there photographs you treasure because they capture a moment in your family’s history as you remember it from childhood? Do you have generational family portraits that are special to you? Or maybe you don’t have many photographs from your family history… does this make you feel a more urgent need to document your own family’s milestones and memories?

As always, I welcome your comments, thoughts, ideas… and if you are looking to plan a professional family portrait, I would be more than happy to talk with you about how we can best document your family through photographs.

Extended Generational Family Portrait in the Studio

Family Portrait Album

posted in: Photography | 1

Now that the design is finished, I wanted to share this family portrait album with you! Typically I will also design a full color cover for portrait albums, which looks really gorgeous on display. This slideshow only highlights the album pages, so here is a peek at the cover design. Keep in mind, the left side of this image is the back cover, and the front cover is on the right side.

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Welcoming a New Baby

posted in: Photography | 2

It is always wonderful when I can be a part of welcoming a new family member. Sometimes my clients bring in tiny newborns, and sometimes life is so crazy that I get to meet the babies when they are a couple months old. Either way, I love creating these family portraits because the portraits are a celebration of change and growth — family growth! Here are some portraits from a recent family session. We created a whole range of portraits, including both family groupings and individual newborn-esque portraits. I love sessions like this!

 

Our Fall Family Portraits

posted in: Photography | 0

Well, I am sad to say these images were caught in the blog-void since this past fall.  Fortunately, the images were of my own family, so I don’t feel as bad.  This way, though, I can wish you a happy new year and send some good vibes your way for 2013!

I enjoy planning our family portrait each year, and try to find a way to make each one unique.  Fortunately, with a growing toddler, it is pretty easy to do that.  …since kids grow so much from year to year.  That aside, we planned an outdoor portrait at a park in Jackson.  While I was hoping for more vibrant fall colors, we came across this lovely water feature and decided it would make a great setting for our portrait.  Yes, this is the one that went on our Christmas card.  And yes, that is a watering can in the portrait with us.  Sometimes a happy kiddo is more important than a superfluous prop in the portrait.  It’s all about picking your battles… and in this case I think we all came out on top.

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Family Portrait

posted in: Photography | 0

Ian, Kate, and Greta came to the studio to do some simple and sweet family portraits. Here are a few of the favorites from the session, plus an outtake that I couldn’t resist including. Greta was a blast in the studio, even though she was pretty much constantly on the move. Fortunately, I’m used to that, and have some nice tricks up my sleeve for creating nice portraits of toddlers on the fly. I think we ended up with some nice family portraits — here’s one of the family favorites.  Greta had such great expressions, and a wide variety of them too. I love working with toddlers!

Angel’s Winter Family Portrait

posted in: Photography | 5

It’s hard to believe how quickly the little ones become big kids! Angel invited me back to her home for another family portrait session — this time with to include their new family members (another gorgeous little gal and some adorable doggies too). Since we did their last family portrait (when big sis was a baby) during the summer, Angel thought it would be a nice contrast to do this one during a nice winter snow.

It will be really fun to see where the wall portrait of the whole family ends up in their home; and I know they will enjoy the album with all these portraits that I designed for them.

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