BE INSPIRED Session featuring Meysenburg Photography

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Is this personal work or client work?

This was kind of both. This mother is a friend who wanted me to do a motherhood session so very much.  We ended up trading artwork her husband painted for this session.  So it really allowed me the freedom I was craving.

What about this session was most memorable?

I think what was most memorable about this session, is how much this mother loves her children!  I had her fill out a questionnaire prior to the session, which is the best preparation I can have as a photographer and with my own process.  Through her answers, I realized that her love is not a one size fits all kind of love.  And she has five children. It would be easy for that to be the case. I realized very quickly her bond with each child was profoundly different from one another. Beautifully so.  And inspirationally so.  That right there was instant inspiration.  I realized I wanted to document her with each child, and for it to be deeply authentic to their own connection.  I absolutely wanted there to be movement. Constant movement to allow for authentic gesture and to allow for true quiet moments of catching their breath and breathing together. There were quiet moments.  There were loud and chaotic moments.  There was endless laughter.  It was a messy, lets do this on your lunch break with all five kiddos and see what we come up with kind of session.  That turned out to be the most meaningful work I’ve ever shot.

Where there any hurdles?

The greatest hurdles were finding the sweetest lighting scenarios quickly and getting five kiddos in order and in the vicinity of the best light possible.  Thank goodness they had plenty of options for good light.  I finally focused on the master bedroom window light.  I asked that their mattress be pushed up next to the window prior to the shoot dressed with white sheets.  I love the connections created throwing pillows on the bed, nursing, and snuggling with mama.

Give us your best photographer/session advice.

For indoor sessions, I like to plan them over the lunch hour.  Anywhere from 11am-2pm.  That gives me the most options for even light.  And I find that even though I’m drawn to the rooms where the sun is touching them the most, the softest light opposite the sun during the middle of the day, creates the most flattering images for my style.  Secondly, and most importantly, I completely relax when I shoot.  Up until the moment I walk in, I may have some anxious energy deciding how I want to shoot and the story I want to tell.  But as soon as I walk in that door, I let it go.  I almost completely go blank in my mind.  And feel the images that are to come.  I’ve already prepped and planned in my mind for days.  Now, I am completely present. No matter what happens, it’s fine.  No matter what doesn’t go as I’ve asked, it’s fine.  Is there a crying baby? It’s fine.  Snuggle up to mama and nurse.  By the way, there was no crying baby.  This one was happy as could be.  Is there a little that wants nothing to do with getting up on the bed, and only wants to throw pillows at the photographer? That’s perfect! 🙂 I won’t push. I just embrace each and every moment like they were meant to be. Truly present. That is my best advice.

What gear was used to achieve these?

I shot with my Nikon D4, 35mm f/1.4 Nikon lens.

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About the photographer:
Hi there, I’m Bethany. Kansas family and wedding photographer. I started my business 12 years ago but I have to say, every year it feels brand new and exciting. Most days you can find me in skinny jeans and a comfy oversized sweater, looking for my cold cup of coffee and doing the mama daily. I am mostly known for being a home body alongside my handsome hubby and two boys. I’m a lover of nature, comfort food, and my boys’ laughter.  I love serving the world by showing mothers they are making a difference in the lives of their tribe. That all of their loving is not in vain. The things I am most passionate about in life are my faith, my family, my work, and waking up slow.

Home Is Where Your Heart Is featuring Always Matilda Photography

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Walking into a client’s home and documenting their family makes me SO nervous.  To me, a home is a sacred space, it is where a family should feel safe and comfortable and protected.  When families allow me to come into that space and document the every day of their lives, it’s like inviting me into their family, and I take that responsibility heavily.

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The moments that I capture are the moments that I know I wouldn’t want to forget.  Something simple like my kids’ first room, or their big kid bed, or the way their hair shines in the sun.

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I like to pull kids away and just let them do their thing, I want to see their authentic personalities in the photos.

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Following the kids around also helps get honesty from them.  Rather than directing and posing, allowing them to lead the way makes my images feel organic and I thrive on that.

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Of course, I always like to include images of the entire family, with everyone looking and smiling, but I much prefer the breath of fresh air in between those images.

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authentic • organic • honest
what more could I ask for?  Home is, after all, where our story begins.

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Tis The Season (Creating the Perfect Christmas Card) featuring Momma Got Soul Photography

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Yup, it’s that time of year again. I know it’s only Halloween and I can’t stand the early holiday talk anymore than you, BUT as a photographer I have to start the conversation. I know many photographers are in the throws of mini sessions galore this time of year. There are gorgeous set ups of beds with white linens and beautiful settee’s in a field with a Christmas tree. The time is set for warm back lite images that just make you want to swoon. You gather up the perfect matching, but not too matching outfits for the entire family. Bows for the girls hair and bow ties for the boys. You rush your family out the door, probably after some choice words with your husband if you are like me and my family, to get to the location and find that your son has used his shirt sleeve as a snot rag and your daughter through the bow out of the car door before you left the house. You sit on the couch, try to play with your kids to make them happy and giggle, tell your husband no matter what don’t stop smiling and in 20 mins it is all over. Your fabulous photographer, got beautiful images of you and your children to send to friends and family, and you are thrilled that the excursion known as family pictures is finally over so you can take off your spanx and have a beer (or maybe that’s just me minus the spanx).

What if I told you there is another way? “What” you say, how can that be?  What if I said you could have a relaxed session, where you could just be you? Your kids could just play like they normally do, in the comfort of your own home, no fights with the kids and husband over what they are wearing, no rush, no stress…… It’s really possible.

Have you ever thought of telling a story with the picture you send to friends and family for your holiday card? Something that represents your life at this moment in time. Do you remember when we actually wrote in our cards? We often would write a little story about the highlights of our year, where the kids where in school, what their favorite activities were.

This is one of my favorite clients Christmas card pictures last year. Her one year old daughter had just learned to float on her back and the majority of her family lives up north. She wanted to show how they spent every afternoon in the pool because her daughter was obsessed and to brag a little that they were swimming here in sunny Florida in the end of October. This was their life at that point in time.

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This would be a perfect holiday card image as well. It shows how their 9 year old boy spends so much time building lego sets and their daughter totally runs the show. This is their real life

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This is my holiday card from last year. While it’s not a true documentary photography since I staged it and took it with a remote, it totally tells the story of my life at that stage (and still at this stage). My son jumping on the couch with his pants on backwards, my husband who is always so thrilled when I break out the tripod and even more happy that my son is jumping on the couch, my daughter who had just woke up from a nap and was not happy about it and me…… This to me is real life and while those pictures in the field are absolutely gorgeous, are they real life? Do they preserve the memories of where your life is right now to share with your friends and family. Sometimes it’s ok to have more than just a pretty picture.

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So this year think about seeking out a documentary photographer for you family photos. Have them take pictures in your home of your crazy bedtime routine where your 3 yr old runs through the house screaming in nothing but a shark towel after a bath and your 5 year old is jumping on the bed in their pjs. What about showing your friends how every sunday morning you make breakfast with the whole family, or lay about in the living room playing chutes and ladders. Maybe every October the family goes to pick out the biggest pumpkins to paint and decorate or start your holiday decorating in  November.

Just food for thought on a different, less stress way to do holiday cards.

Want to see more of my work? Feel free to stop by my facebook, instagram or website and make sure you say hello!

Want to see more from the family session above? Check out the {E} family!

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REDEFINE | FILM PHOTOGRAPHY featuring Maria Manco Photography

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“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “

Why are you passionate about film photography?
In a world where everything is instant I love having the delayed gratification of waiting for my film to be developed and scanned to see my results. Film has made me SLOW down, really wait for the moment and be intentional with what I shoot and when I click the shutter. Most importantly, I feel like film has given me my life back. Because I am not spending hours on my computer culling and editing 100s of photos at a time, I have time to do the other things I love to do – read, exercise, SLEEP!, and most importantly, be more present with my kids.

When did your love for film start, before or after digital?
After. I started film photography this past May and fell madly in love with it.

What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to start shooting film?
From the get-go, before I even shot my first roll, I signed up for the Embrace the Grain workshop. It gave me the solid foundation needed to hit the ground running and minimize my mistakes. I really recommend taking a class or getting a lesson from another photographer from the very beginning. There is a lot to figure out with film and it can seem foreign and difficult at first, but once you start you realize it’s not as bad as you initially thought.

What were the challenges for you in the beginning?
Slowing down. With digital it is so easy to shoot hundreds of photos of one session or family outing. I would even easily shoot 20-30 photos of my kids coloring in one sitting. With film you need to plan out your shot, think though your settings, your composition, and wait for the right moment. You don’t want to take multiple photos of the same scene, that is wasting money and makes for a boring scan day. You need to get used to taking one or two shots and putting the camera down.

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About the photographer:
I am a natural light lifestyle photographer in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a stay-at-home who found my passion for photography after my first child was born 5 years ago. I love capturing the every day moments and connections of family and home.
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REDEFINE | Intentional Documentary Photography featuring Marie Masse

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Share with us a bit about intentional documentary photography.

Imagine being the client. You get the email, “Your gallery is ready.” As you click through to view the photos, you feel the experience of whatever we’ve photographed again. Each photograph is a part of the story… your story. Your senses come alive with all the feels – from the sounds, smells, touch, taste, sight to the emotions you may never have even thought twice about before. Most importantly, the photos are recognizable from the scene to the mannerisms and details of each person. And the kicker… it didn’t even feel like a photo shoot.

Today and in 25 to 60 years from now, each time you look at those photos on your walls, the memories are crystal clear. The pictures aren’t just pictures; they are the face of a deeply rooted story. When you tell the story to others, they can actually see it too.

That’s what I strive to do for my clients. My approach is to first understand my clients as a unit and as individuals. I use what I know about my clients to create an environment for my clients to live the story in front of my camera, so I can photograph freely.

Why are you passionate about intentional documentary photography?

Oh my, where do I start? Change and loss. I love my current life and try to appreciate it as best I know how. My confession: most of the time I feel like I’m living for the future… for when I “get there” (whatever that means). Constantly working towards something – whether it’s for the family you’ll have one day, the forever home, the ideal status in your career – you can accidentally forget about today. It might sound cheesy, but one day, you’ll appreciate the season you’re in right now. Only, right now will be in the past and sometimes the story and the people of right now are gone. Too late.

My childhood was a freakin’ dream with countless adventures with pretty much no photos to show for them. It really kind of, well, sucks.

My parent’s photo albums are full, but they don’t actually represent my memories. I’m on a mission to change that for myself and for those I work with.

When did you first realize you liked intentional documentary photography?

I NEVER wanted to photograph people. As a total amateur with my entry level DSLR, I started a 365 project that lasted 3 years and 3 months. There were some set-up photos in that project, mostly in my first year, but most were true documentary to whatever was happening that day.

It was in the second year of the project when I started my photography business after a compliments pouring in from friends and family. Instinctively, I gravitated to “posing” my clients (If you even wanna call it that. I was never good at posing). I think this was because I had no pre-session workflow, so when I showed up, clients NEEDED my direction. I even had my husband create a PVC backdrop stand and I’d create props like a sign that read, “this is our happily ever after.” The more I photographed, the more I felt out of my element.

People commented on how “real-life” my 365 photographs are, but the work I was giving clients was not even close to that. It was all fake! This realization honestly just hit me one day. I decided I’d rather not take on any more paid clients than to continuing losing a piece of my integrity and philosophy with each shoot.

What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve intentional documentary photography?

  1. Pay attention to the photos you shoot for you – you have an inner-message or voice inside. What do you frequently scan scenes to photograph? What details pull you in? Why?
  1. Now, take what you know about yourself and ask yourself: Is my photography a representation of my inner-message? If not, it’s ok if you’re still working to nail the heart of your photographs… I feel like I’m a constant work-in-progress! The difference, I’m now in-tune with what I want to be saying in my photographs.
  1. Know that your inner-message or voice will inevitably evolve as you grow and experience new things in life.
  1. We’re already on #4 and STILL on the topic of your voice. Do you see how important it is? Take your voice and think about who can most benefit from the photographs you are making. How will your photography experience transform their lives (beyond pretty pictures)? This is marketing 101.
  1. Take time to listen to what’s going on in your clients’ lives today. Learn about experiences that have made an impact on who they are. Use this information as a baseline to intentionally document (savor + preserve) a part of their life (the story, loved ones) to create a deeply meaningful series of images for your clients.
  1. Take control of the framework for the session. Instead of playing the role of the client-pleaser (I’m totally guilty of this!), pull the reigns in on the planning process. #5 is incredibly important if you want to fully photograph freely during your sessions without direction AND nail recognizable photographs for your clients. I loving call this: be the chef; not the order-taker.
  1. As you’re shooting, trust your gut. Stop worrying about “rules.” Am I allowed to move this water bottle? Can I flick the lights on? Should I even talk to them… what if I interrupt? Can I photograph some details… omg I might miss a moment?! Just keep clicking, just keep clicking (to get SOMETHING… even though not much is happening).

Relax already! Be genuine and real with your subject and they will reciprocate. If you’re worried about missing a moment, you will. Believe moments will present themselves, because what you focus on, you find. If you’re not sure of what that moment you’re looking for is, go back to steps #1 and #5. It begins within yourself paired with deeply understanding your clients.

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About the photographer:
I photograph undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (such as the story of a couple before starting a family or couples thriving as empty-nesters – a dream project series I want to start) so clients’ old box of photos is becomes a meaningful, visual diary of their life… their legacy to leave behind. Additionally, I help documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow and up their marketing game, so their portfolio continues to fill with sessions that represent their voice while earning a living. (Learn more here)

Who Do I Choose? featuring Momma Got Soul Photography

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It’s that time of year again, fall family photos. It’s like tax time to an accountant. It’s the photographers busy season. For photographers it mean lots of late nights, extra coffee and the feeling of not being able to get it all done.

This year I embarked on a new journey in my business. Well it’s not really new, not even really new to me, but it is something that I had kinda gotten away from and found myself gravitating back too. You see I am a documentary photographer at heart and while I love a good portrait, I love a good story even better. I love a picture that tells a story. One that you know exactly the feeling when you see it or it strikes a memory for you and makes you feel something. This is the photography I want to take. I love a pretty picture of a gorgeous family in a field on a couch as much as the next person. I have images of my own family like that hanging on my wall, but the images that really mean something to me that I will cherish to show my grandkids, show off my beautiful, chaotic life so much more than that.

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So how do you know if hiring a documentary photographer might be right for you?

How do you pick the right photographer that will exceed your expectations and tell your story how you want it to be told?

Well, some good places to start is by looking at their portfolio. Do their images speak to you? Do they make you feel something? Do you look at them and think, wow I want images like that? Do they fit in your budget? Remember that cheaper doesn’t always mean better, but we all have a budget to work within. Do you want digital images only to put on your computer, prints to hang on your walls or an album to pass along to future generations? What about a keepsake box with loose prints? Maybe you want both? Does your photographer blog their session so you can share that with friends and family? These are all good things to keep in mind.

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So what about documentary photography versus portrait photography? Well here’s a fun little quiz that might help point you in the direction you are looking for!

Want to know more about documentary photography? Check out my  June Monthly Contribution here at Dear Photographer  or come check me out at Momma Got Soul Photography . Feel free to check out my facebook and instagram too!

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BE INSPIRED Session featuring Ashley Walker, Photographer

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Is this personal work or client work?
Personal!

What about this session was most memorable?
Ah, the most memorable part of this session was seeing the excitement on my daughter’s face when she realized ice cream was involved! She LOVES ice cream, y’all! LOVES. IT. This kind of treat is usually reserved for great-grandma visits, but because she’ll be turning 4 soon *cue ALL the tears* I thought it be okay to give in 🙂

Were there any hurdles?
Oh, of course there were hurdles!! Stella-Blue is my toughest subject. Always has been. She seems to harbor some sort of strong dislike for my camera…eh, ANY camera really. Combine that with an everlasting need to remain in motion and you’ve got yourself one extra-entertaining session.

Give us your best photographer/session advice.
Just go with it. My lively girl has taught me so much. Patience being the first and exceeding expectations coming in a strong second. Friends, I used to always go into sessions with a strong game plan…and I would always walk away with disappointment. Now I’m not saying I don’t have a game plan currently, but I mean, I had the MOST unrealistic predictions for my shoots. Every pose had to be exactly as I had seen it on, dare I say: Pinterest *currently cringing*. Every location had to be the most magnificent place on earth (or in South Louisiana, mainly. So I thought). And every family/client should just be flat out perfect and always looking my way. If none of these things lined up – the session, in my eyes, was a failure. Gees!! No wonder I wasn’t a fan of my own work – It wasn’t REAL. It took me a little while to see the problem with all of this, but when I did – ah! It hit me BIG. It hit me as I was standing out in a field with my family (who were none too happy to be in my company btw). Trying to *unsuccessfully* photograph my Baby Blue had taken its toll within a matter of minutes. I couldn’t look at the photos once we were finished – it was too much to deal with, but of course I did eventually take a glimpse. And oh my!! That craziness was one the best things that has happened to me! It brought me into a more authentic way of working. And it shoved my family into a more genuine way of living and interacting.

What gear was used to achieve these?
Canon EOS Mark II body + Canon EF 85mm 1.2 + Canon EF 35mm 1.4

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About the photographer:

Ashley Walker is an artist, wife, & mama living along the bayous of South Louisiana. While specializing in documentary and lifestyle happenings, she also has some major love for senior girl photography!

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