Member, Professional Photographers of America

Hard Earned Cash

Most of us work hard for our money.  Most of us need our money to stretch as far as it can possibly go.  However, we all have different priorities as to where we will spend our hard earned cash.  

Let's just take an example from my own family.  One of my kids LIVES for all things XBox!  To this kid, XBox is the very reason he wakes up each day!  He works hours upon hours to get a nice check just so he can spend money on games and gear for the XBox.  No one else in our family understands this.  The XBox is not important to anyone else in this house.  The XBox is his number one priority at this stage in his life.

My oldest son seems to spend all of his hard earned cash on underwear.  My youngest boy prefers to spend his money on anything hunting or fishing related.  My point is this...we all have different priorities.  There's no wrong or right choice.  It's just what's important to you.

I obviously value professional photography and professional wall art.  I am proud of my family and I want to showcase that in my home by hanging their portraits on our walls.  I want guests to visit and walk over to them and look at them.  More importantly, I want products that will last a lifetime.  I want wall art that will be around for generations and generations.  Just think about the old photographs your family has.  Which photographs are still in good condition after 5 years?  10 years?  20 years?  50 years?  I can tell you exactly which ones because my grandmother is a HUGE genealogy fan!  The photographs that last are those printed at professional labs rather than consumer labs.  It has always been that way and it was more than likely always be that way.  

I'm not saying that I ONLY print photographs at professional labs.  All the snapshots on my phone are printed at consumer labs - Shutterfly or Free Prints to be honest.  But all of our professional portraits that I hang on our walls and display as wall art, are printed at a professional lab.  What's the difference you ask?  A lot!  And we as consumers tend to go for the "cheapest" and most convenient option, such as a disc of images (that won't last a lifetime by the way and neither will cheap prints).

Let's think about little things, like an oil change.  When I get an oil change, I go to someone that can do it quickly without breaking the bank.  However, as things become more important to me and my family, I tend to spend some more time and money.  

Let's use tires as an example.  When I was a teenager I had a front tire blowout at a high rate of speed.  The car went off the road and flipped several times, end over end.  I survived thank goodness and my worst injury was a broken femur.  Tires are not something I purchase based on price or convenience.  I choose to go to someone I trust 100% to make sure my tires are going to be as safe as possible for me and my family.  

Let's jump to photography.  Where is that on your list of priorities?  Is the product something you want done as cheaply as possible with the greatest convenience?  Is your idea of family photos showing up at a location with little guidance from the photographer as far as planning outfits, locations, etc, receiving a disc of images, and then going to WalMart of Shutterfly to have them printed?  Or do you expect more from a professional photographer?  I personally expect guidance in planning, answers when needed, with the end result of professional wall art hanging on the walls in my home.  

Often times you get what you pay for.  Photography isn't any different.  

Big Family Session? No Problem!

When was the last time you and your entire family got together for a family photo session? If you have a big family it may have been years since your last photo was taken. While arranging these types of shoots can be difficult, they are worth it!

Our very own large family portrait.

Our very own large family portrait.

Whether you’re introducing a new family member or getting ready to celebrate a family milestone, you’ll want memorable photos. So just where do you begin when planning for a fun shoot you want your family to enjoy?

Large family portrait of the LeNoir Family.

Large family portrait of the LeNoir Family.

A lot of families often ask about location, wardrobe and pose ideas. This is always the fun part for me because I get to see the personality of the family come out. Shutterfly created a great resource that helps with all these topics. You can check out their large family photo guide and share it with your family to brainstorm more ideas.

Higgins Family large family session.

Higgins Family large family session.

The most important part to remember is that I’m here to make your photo session unforgettable. Whatever makes your family feel comfortable is exactly the direction you should go!

Large family session to celebrate grandma's 75th birthday...

Large family session to celebrate grandma's 75th birthday...

...and another celebrating grandma's 85th birthday!

...and another celebrating grandma's 85th birthday!

Life After Graduation

Last night was a night to remember for all the high school seniors that graduated.  It was also a night to remember for all the parents, family, and friends.  It is an extremely emotional transition into life as an adult.  Two of my own graduated last night so I can definitely vouch for this!  

I feel like I need to give some advice for the graduates, but I just can't find the right words.  Each time I type something out, it sounds cliche and honestly does not feel like something I would truly say.  So after I type out these words of wisdom I just erase them and walk away.  Graduation was last night and yet I still find myself wanting to give them some advice.  But how, when I can't seem to find the genuine words to summarize my thoughts?  

I finally realized that I am better at writing lists than writing a summary.  So I came up with a list  with five words of wisdom for life after high school graduation.

1.  Some friends will drift away.  As you advance through your life you will realize that friends come and go as you change classes, jobs, careers, etc.  It is just the way it goes.  We need different friends in our life at different points in our lives.  The people who are worth keeping around, will always be there when you need them to be.  Personally, I've had several good friends throughout my life.  I have a small handful of true friends that are always there for me.  We don't talk every day.  We might not even talk for an entire month.  But when I need them, they are always there for me.  THAT is a friend.

2.  Money suddenly has more value.  When you were in high school, your parents probably bought most of your stuff - clothes, shoes, cars, etc.  For example, when I take my kids shopping for shoes I always hear, "but they're only $80."  Somehow $80 seems like a lot more money when you realize you've had to work for 9 hours to make that much money!  

3.  Stay healthy.  Your body is the best it has ever been at this point in your life.  Stay healthy!  Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to maintain your health.  It is so much easier to stay healthy rather than make a move to a healthy lifestyle change later on in life.

4.  Being "grown-up" is not all it's cracked up to be.  Now that you've graduated, you will begin taking on many responsibilities.  With this comes the responsibility of bills.  The bills come week after week, month after month, and year after year.  I am now 38 years old and the bills have yet to stop coming!  There are many perks to being an adult.  One of them is not bills.

5.  LIVE!  Live your life to the fullest!  Don't rush into marriage and a family.  There will be plenty of time for that, I promise.  Take time to do all the things that you want to do.  Travel with friends.  Go to college.  Start a career.  Live your life.  Fly!  Take this time and just do you!

Congratulations to the Class of 2017!  I wish you all the best in all that you do!  

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.
— Brian Littrell

Five Tips for Finding the Perfect Location!

I've been looking at images on Google for over a year now and wondering what it actually looks like in person...and how portraits would turn out at this particular location.  I finally had the chance to try out this location when a family contacted me about a family session.  We were discussing possible locations and nothing was really jumping out at her as a "perfect" location.  I told her about this new location and asked if she'd like to be the first client to be photographed at this location.  She loved the idea after I showed her some of the images from Google.

Now anytime I decide to actually use a new location, I have to actually go to the location and get out and explore.  I want to find spots that will provide a great location for the upcoming session.  I have to consider many factors, such as lighting at different times of the day and backgrounds.  I also look for any safety concerns and consider those with the ages of the clients.  

Choosing the "perfect" location can often times make or break the session.  We obviously don't want to break it!  We want to MAKE it!  Here are the most important factors I consider when choosing a location:

1.  TIMING   I will always suggest to clients that they either choose a time in the very early morning or an hour before sunset.  I'm not a morning person and honestly 99% of my clients would rather have a session in the late afternoon.  Most first time clients want to schedule a session around noon because it is so bright outside.  The problem with noon sessions is the simple fact that the sun is so high in the sky and casts very harsh shadows during this time of the day.  As the sun lowers in the sky, it allows the light to fall softly leaving less shadows.  If you absolutely have to schedule a session when the sun is high in the sky, you will either need to find a very shady area or find a photographer with an amazing flash system.  

This session took place around 6:00pm, which was about an hour and a half before sunset.  Notice how there are not any harsh shadows.  The light is softly falling on each of the family members evenly.

This session took place around 6:00pm, which was about an hour and a half before sunset.  Notice how there are not any harsh shadows.  The light is softly falling on each of the family members evenly.

2.  SAFETY   When considering a possible location for a client I take into account the ages of all the subjects that will be at the session.  The last thing I want is for someone to get hurt because I put them in a potentially dangerous situation.  This family has an adorable baby girl that is just a few months old.  They typically use a stroller when they are out.  This particular location has stone steps that you must walk down to get to the location.  This is important to know ahead of time so the family can be prepared since strollers and stairs are not a safe combination.  

Notice the stone steps the family is sitting on.  It would not be safe for a stroller to travel down (or up) these steps.  If I did not know about them before the session, I wouldn't have been able to prepare them for this potential hazard.

Notice the stone steps the family is sitting on.  It would not be safe for a stroller to travel down (or up) these steps.  If I did not know about them before the session, I wouldn't have been able to prepare them for this potential hazard.

3.  PRIVACY   Another factor I always consider is the amount of privacy the location has, or doesn't have.  Some clients are more bashful than others and don't like others watching them during a session.  Some clients have children that are easily distracted by surroundings that are too busy.  Privacy is a VERY important factor for certain sessions, such as a bridal session.  I often tell my clients about the activity level of locations so they can determine if the privacy, or lack of, will be an issue for them.  As a photographer, I can work around others that pop up in the background occasionally.  It honestly just depends on their comfort level and how distracted the surroundings will make them.

This session took place on a chilly day in April.  There were a few hikes that walked through during the session, but it was pretty much secluded without visitors.  I imagine this location would be very busy during the Texas summer months!  

This session took place on a chilly day in April.  There were a few hikes that walked through during the session, but it was pretty much secluded without visitors.  I imagine this location would be very busy during the Texas summer months!  

4.  PERMITS/AVAILABILITY  Different locations have different requirements.  While some parks are completely free to use whenever you'd like, others ask that you ask for permission prior to the session.  It is a good idea to look at the calendar of events for a particular location prior to booking the session.  For example, Cameron Park in Waco hosts many events.  It is important to know this prior to showing up for a session.  Early in my photography career, I planned a session at Cameron Park for the early morning.  I was greeted at the entrance with a barricade!  There was a special event taking place that made this location closed.  I was so embarrassed!  Luckily I know the area pretty well so I was able to suggest a nearby location and have the session.  I learned a VERY important lesson that day!  

This session took place at Mother Neff State Park in Eddy, Texas.  It is a State Park, which has an entrance fee.  It is important to know about this prior to the session so the client will be prepared to stop at the gate and pay the entrance fee.

This session took place at Mother Neff State Park in Eddy, Texas.  It is a State Park, which has an entrance fee.  It is important to know about this prior to the session so the client will be prepared to stop at the gate and pay the entrance fee.

5.  VARIETY   Another factor I consider when suggesting possible locations for clients is the overall variety of background.   I always ask my clients what type of setting they are looking for and then suggest places around that idea.  However, I like to expand upon their initial idea when we are at the location and walk around to new areas to provide them a variety of background options. 

The actual area we used at Mother Neff State Park was small in size, but from photographing the family from the different areas was essential in providing them a variety of different backgrounds for their portraits.  Notice how all five of these photographs have very different backgrounds, yet they are just steps away from one another. 

The actual area we used at Mother Neff State Park was small in size, but from photographing the family from the different areas was essential in providing them a variety of different backgrounds for their portraits.  Notice how all five of these photographs have very different backgrounds, yet they are just steps away from one another. 

In summary, to get the most out of any location for a photography session, one must visit and assess the location weeks (perhaps even months) before the actual session date.  If you take the time to do this carefully, you will avoid wasting everyone's time and avoid disappointments from assumptions.  When I walk a location, I imagine different poses in various locations for different types of clients.  This helps me when I later plan a session at the location.  

If you'd like to learn more about Mother Neff State Park, you can read more here.  There are a lot of hiking trails and camping sites!  

Gifts for Grandma

Happy 85th Birthday!

On May 19th, I drove across Limestone County to meet a family that was gathering to celebrate their grandmother on her 85th birthday.  It would prove to be a challenge as there were would be three different families and a grand total of twenty-nine family members in the group.  This also includes EIGHT grandsons, all five years old and younger...and two are just months old!  But I do love a challenge!  

Happy 85th Birthday!!

Happy 85th Birthday!!

After the whole group portrait, grandma really wanted one photograph with her grandsons...but eight grandsons were not loving this idea at all!  So we just went with it!  

A hilarious peek at the photo with the eight grandsons and grandma.  They were NOT about cooperating for this photograph at all!  

A hilarious peek at the photo with the eight grandsons and grandma.  They were NOT about cooperating for this photograph at all!  

After the photographs were taken, there was still time to capture some candid photos of the family just enjoying the day as they went on the paddle boat, drove little motorized cars, swung on the rope swing, played horseshoes, and disc golf.  Grandma had a constant smile  on her face as she enjoyed the day with her family.  I am glad I was able to be there and capture these memories for everyone.

Happy 75th Birthday!

Almost one month later on April 15th, I drove to Thornton to meet another amazing family that was gathered to celebrate thier grandma's 75th birthday.  This too had a beautiful setting near the water.  There were twenty family members plus one fur baby that came together to celebrate grandma's 75th birthday.  

The whole group photograph of the family celebrating grandma's 75th birthday.

The whole group photograph of the family celebrating grandma's 75th birthday.

Grandma also expressed to me that the one photograph she really wanted was one with all of her grandchildren.  Unfortunately, there was one granddaughter that could not be at the celebration.

Grandma really wanted a photograph of her with her nine grandchildren.  She has one more granddaughter, but she could not attend unfortunately.  

Grandma really wanted a photograph of her with her nine grandchildren.  She has one more granddaughter, but she could not attend unfortunately.  

After all the different photographs were taken, everyone promptly went into the house and changed into different clothes.  It was seriously the quickest I've ever seen a family change!  By the time I walked up to the house they were all changed!!  I hung out with them for awhile and captured some photographs of them just enjoying the company of one another.  

Both grandmas chose FAMILY PORTRAITS as their gift from their family.  These families have so much love for one another and I am beyond blessed that I was able to have the experience of witnessing these celebrations.  I hope both grandmas had a birthday celebration they will never forget.  

 

 

Prom...and Prom Dresses

Prom is such an exciting time for many young adults, especially seniors.  My son is a senior at Riesel High School and I was lucky enough to boss them around for an hour or so and take photographs of them.  While I like seeing the young men all dressed up in tuxes, I absolutely LOVE seeing the young women all dressed up in beautiful gowns.  

As a mom of son, taking him shopping for a tux is relatively simply.  We pull up to Squire's, walk in, and tell them what color the date's dress is going to be.  They do the rest.  Super easy!  On the day of prom, everyone knows what color the tie and vest will be, but pretty much all tuxes are the same.  

My son <3

My son <3

I have a daughter, but she's not prom age yet so all I have to base my experience on with getting young women ready for prom is what I've seen with the dates my son has had for proms.  They spend a day (or two...maybe three) shopping for gowns.  Maybe they go with friends at first to narrow down the choices and then bring mom in for the final selection...and payment :)  Some gowns are modestly priced, while others are rather expensive.  They take a small sample of the fabric or even a close up photo with their phone to send to their date so they know what color to coordinate with.  The date doesn't see the dress until they meet up to go to prom.  As you can see...it's all about the dress!

I am always amazed at the beautiful dresses these gorgeous young women find and how amazing they look in them!  Just take a look for yourself.

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tyler_and_oryenne_riesel_prom_smith_family_photography
kaylyn_riesel_prom_smith_family_photography
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Bluebonnets! A Texas Tradition.

I moved to Texas in the summer of 2007 so I experienced bluebonnets for the first time in the spring of 2008.  I was amazed at how beautiful all the highways became as purple flowers bloomed and lined the highways for all to enjoy.  Surprisingly, this was the first year that I offered Bluebonnet Limited Edition Sessions.  I just assumed that people just took these photos very quickly on their cell phones and moved on down the road, but I quickly realized that this was not the case.  So many people want professional photographs of their loved ones in the bluebonnets!  They want WALL ART of their loved ones in the bluebonnets!  

After three years of clients asking me if I offered Bluebonnet Sessions and me telling them that I did not, I finally decided to give it a try and I must say, I was impressed.  I only offered four sessions and they filled up quickly!  I'm in love with each of the sessions and I'm going to give you some tips to taking your own bluebonnet photos that you can use now while we still have some as their season is coming to an end.  

Tip Number One.  Photograph in the early morning or late evening hours.  I know these hours aren't ideal, but once you experience the light at these times of the day you will never go back to noon bluebonnet photos.  I've had a number of clients that are amazed at the difference this makes!  This portrait of the Loewen Family was taken around 9:00 am on a Monday morning.  Dad JUST got off work and their baby normally naps around this time, but they are very happy they adjusted their schedule for one day to make this happen.

Loewen Family at the abundant bluebonnet field at Spring Valley Elementary in Hewitt, Texas.

Loewen Family at the abundant bluebonnet field at Spring Valley Elementary in Hewitt, Texas.

Tip Number Two.  Take your bluebonnet photographs when they first bloom before they get trampled down.  I prefer to take them at my husband's family ranch in Limestone County for a few reasons - the patch is on private property so I'm the only photographer that uses this area for photographs and it's safe.  It's away from roads so little ones are not going to run around accidentally run into traffic.  I encourage kiddos to have fun at their sessions and this is the perfect place because there is an abundance of area to run around and enjoy themselves to let loose some energy between poses.  This portrait was the first bluebonnet session of the season.  Notice how full and tall the flowers are!  It makes a difference, trust me.

Johnson Family at a fresh bluebonnet patch on private property in Limestone County.

Johnson Family at a fresh bluebonnet patch on private property in Limestone County.

Tip Number Three.  Always bring a blanket or stool to sit on.  Some people do not like to sit in the flowers.  It can be overwhelming when they are almost as tall as you when you're sitting down and they are completely surrounding you.  I always bring several different things to sit on - a blanket, a metal bucket, and a wooden crate.  Sometimes I also bring a red wagon.  Baby Caleb loved the red wagon!

Baby Caleb enjoying a wagon ride in the bluebonnets.

Baby Caleb enjoying a wagon ride in the bluebonnets.

Tip Number Four.  Get on their level.  Often times people stand above the person/people being photographed and just snap a quick photo.  That works for a quick snapshot, but if you're wanting something a little more posed try bending down and getting on their level.  During sessions I squat, kneel, even lay on the ground to get different angles.  For a group portrait such as this one of the Schmedthorst Family, I wanted all of them looking directly at me so I could see their faces.  This meant I had to sit down and get on their level.  Since mom was in the middle, I needed to be level with her.  

Schmedthorst Family in a patch of bluebonnets at eye level.

Schmedthorst Family in a patch of bluebonnets at eye level.

Tip Number Five.  HAVE FUN!!  AND STAY SAFE!!  Before sitting little ones down, do a quick check for ants, snakes, and other creatures.  You can't see them all, but you can check the immediate area you are going to use.  I've learned this lesson the hard way...and continue to learn this lesson the hard way (I'm pretty stubborn apparently).  I always check for my clients, but obviously never check where I'm standing or sitting.  More than a few times I have stood in a fire ant pile to get that "perfect" shot.  One time, I even SAT in a fire ant pile!  So be mindful when entering a patch of bluebonnets and remember that insects and creatures call that patch home.  

Due to the great success and demand of this year's Bluebonnet Limited Edition Sessions, we will offer them again next spring.  Mark your calendars because we will begin booking them in February of 2018.  The best way to be notified of special sessions is by subscribing to our newsletter.  You'll receive our monthly e-newsletter, blog articles, special deals, and be notified of bookings before I post them on my page.  If you'd like to subscribe, just fill out this quick form.

Priorities

Priorities.  Such a big word!  We all have them and they vary significantly from person to person and from family to family.  There's no right or wrong.  It's simply a matter of perspective.  

I found myself looking at my own priorities this past weekend and I realized that I had a different set of priorities for myself, my family, and my career.  They all weave together, yet remain separate.  Here's the list I came up:

Myself:  My health is my priority - physical, mental, and social/emotional.  I don't like feeling less than 100%.  

Family:  Anyone that knows me knows that I care deeply for my family.  I'd seriously be lost without them!  A priority for my family is to remain close and capture all the memories that we can while we can.  Sometimes memories are captured on camera, yet other times the memories are just captured in our minds.  

Career:  I made the decision in 2012 to resign from teaching and stay home with my children.  This meant our family's income was going to drop.  I started my photography business as a side job to earn some money to supplement my husband's salary.  Since that time, my business has grown more than I could have ever imagined and it is now a sustainable source of income.  It is now my full time career.  The entire reason for working at it so hard is to help provide an income for my family that will enable my husband and I to give our children everything that they need...not want...but need.  It is my priority to make sure that I am contributing financially to our household.

I challenge you to think about your priorities.  What is it that you value for yourself, your family, for your career?  Do your actions reflect those priorities?  How do you know? 

I'm friends with many of my clients on social media.  I hope they see these priorities in my life and realize that I am a genuine, caring individual that values everyone because I believe that everyone I come in contact with has something to teach me.  We all learn from one another...sometimes we learn lessons from others....sometimes we learn facts....and sometimes we just learn how to be a better person.  

I truly appreciate every one of you and I want you to know that I have learned a lot from each of you.  I LOVE learning!  After all, I'm an educator at heart.  

Location Is Everything

Everyone has that ONE place that they just love.  For some of us, it's our home.  For others, it's someplace we visit.  For me, it's my husband's family land in the community of Thiefneck.  If I could only use one word to describe this piece of property, it would be "peaceful."  

For the past seven years I have been enjoying this property at various family functions, such as the family reunion.  And three years ago, my aunt invited me to use the property for photography sessions.  Since this time, many families have enjoyed creating memories at this property.  One such family is the Higgins Family.

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This is my favorite location for photography sessions...hands down!  There are so many different places to take photographs, which provides an array of background choices for my clients.  Recently the future of this land, the future of the families that call this area home, the future of the businesses here, the future of the wildlife in this area, and the future of all the other families that just enjoy this area is at stake.  There is a High-Speed Rail that has hopes of taking this land.  

As with every controversial issue in the world, there are people for and against the issue.  Obviously I am against this high-speed rail.  I SEE the happiness this area creates for families.  I SEE the memories that are created and captured.   I HEAR the laughs as the children play and families joke with each other.  You can read more about this project here, both against the rail and for the rail.  But before you make a decision based on what you read about the issue, take a look at what I SEE and HEAR when I visit this property.  

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Parties at My Little Play Place!

If you have very young children, ages 5 and under, you are seriously missing out if you haven't been to My Little Play Place in Waco!  It is like Disneyland for babies and toddlers!  There's so much for them to do - and the moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers can play with the kiddos, sit back and relax, catch up on emails, or visit with other adults.  It's a win, win for everyone!

Take that awesomeness and combine it with one of the many parties that My Little Play Place throws throughout the year, now you have DisneyWORLD!  

Throughout the year My Little Play Place throws parties (usually with a holiday theme).  They've had Valentine's, Easter, Halloween and Christmas parties - as well as a Super Hero party.  There is a small fee to participate in a party of $4 per child in addition to the regular play admission.  That extra $4 will grant your child access to crafts, cookie decorating, and a photograph.  I'll be honest...the kids LOVE the cookie decorating the best and the parents LOVE the photographs!

Sadie is enjoying the cookie she decorated so diligently!

Sadie is enjoying the cookie she decorated so diligently!

As a parent, I want photographs of my children with various holiday themes, but I don't want to pay for a whole session (or even a mini-session) centered around that holiday theme.  I want one photograph of my child on Valentine's Day.  I don't need five.  For me, THIS is the reason the parties are so worth it!  My kids LOVE the play place, but combine it with a party and it's seriously a super fun day that you guys won't soon forget.

The next party is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9th.  We will be celebrating Mother's Day!

If you have any ideas for future party themes, please share them!  Jamie at My Little Play Place and myself are always looking for new ideas.

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Creating More Than Senior Portraits

On February 25th, Smith Family Photography had a Senior Model Day.  If you'd like to learn more about our Senior Models, you can read more about them here.  

This was the first Senior Model Day for the Class of 2018.  Each model will receive another senior session in the fall, as well as receive a free session for their senior prom.  They can also earn another senior session for the spring.  This program benefits the seniors and their families by providing them with discounted sessions, but it also benefits Smith Family Photography by providing us with opportunities for marketing materials.  

We strive to provide seniors with quality prints and products that will last a lifetime, if not longer.  I feel like they should receive personalized items that showcase their personalities.  For this reason, I put create collage and announcements.  They make great gifts and many clients prefer our announcements/cards over the ones the school offers to students.  

Personalized collage for Jazzmine

Personalized collage for Jazzmine

Personalized collage for Tyler

Personalized collage for Tyler

Personalized graduation announcement for Jazzmine

Personalized graduation announcement for Jazzmine

Personalized graduation announcement for Tyler

Personalized graduation announcement for Tyler

Success if liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
— Maya Angelou

If you're senior is interested personalized items such as these, feel free to send us a message.  We'd love to photograph your senior and create products for them!  You can contact us in many ways.  Give us a call at 254-275-8238, or send a text to that same number.  You can also email us at ajsmithfamilyphotography@gmail.com.  You can even message us through our Facebook page by clicking the  button below.  

 

 

Photograph A Day Project

Year after year I make goals, not resolutions, for the upcoming year.  Some I keep, others I do not.  When I was sixteen and bought my first car I set a goal...to keep my car clean.  Well, I'm now thirty-eight and my car is NEVER clean!  Not sure that goal will ever happen.  

One of the goals I set for this year was to participate in a 365 Day Project for my photography.  These projects look fun and year after year I set a goal to do one.  I thought about why I was having such a difficult time meeting this goal and I finally realized the answer!  The problem I run into with these projects is that I find them so restrictive.  There is a set theme to photograph each day.  If I am going to photograph for myself in a creative way, I want to determine the theme or subject.  

I am going to begin a 365 Day Project (well it will be less than 365 days now since it's the beginning of March) and photograph something I find beautiful each and every day...just one thing that catches my eye and makes me stop what I'm doing just for a second and admire the beauty that surrounds us every minute of each and every day.  

You might be wondering how I will hold myself accountable with this goal since I seem to fall WAY short of this goal every year.  I am going to make a Facebook group to share these images.  You can join if you'd like and share your own photographs!

When doing something you love for work, it's so important it never becomes work.  If it does, it will burn you out.  So whatever it is that you love doing for you, keep doing it for you even if you make money from it.  

I'm off to find something to photograph!

Somewhere something incredible is waiting to be known.
— Carl Sagan

Meet Our 2018 Senior Models!

This coming Saturday is the 2018 Senior Model Day!  It was very tough to narrow the selection down to only three wonderful young adults!  I am looking forward to working with them throughout their senior year!

Without further ado, HERE are the Class of 2018 Senior Models for Smith Family Photography!

Jazzmine

Jazzmine attends Groesbeck High School and she sounds like a super fun young lady!  In her free time she enjoys taking photos, shopping, working with the youth outreach, and hanging out with her friends.  She describes herself as optimistic, fun, ambitious, genuine, helpful, stylish, unique, and most importantly a team player.  Jazzmine told me that senior photographs are important to her because she likes to capture important moments - every moment captured tells a story.  When I asked Jazzmine why she would be an awesome model her answer amazed me!  She said she loves who she is and she's not ashamed for the world to see the beauty that God created in her.  She's comfortable and confident in the skin she is in.  How amazing is that?!?

jazzmine_class_of_2018_senior_model

Tyler

Tyler attends Riesel High School and is an awesome young man!  I know who he is, but I don't know him yet.  I know his mother and so I see him through Facebook :)  He loves to fish, run, play the alto saxophone and bond with others.  Tyler describes his personality as intelligent, understanding and laid-back.  From what I've seen, I definitely agree!  Tyler told me that senior photographs are important to him because his family didn't do a great job of preserving memories, specifically in the form of photography, when he was younger.  His family wants to change that for Tyler's senior year.  I think that's awesome!  Tyler will be a great senior model because he is very flexible, open, and has a good understanding of how to dress...and he's comfortable in front of the camera.  

tyler_class_of_2018_senior_model

Lexi

Lexi also attends Riesel High School and has such a fun personality!  Lexi likes to hang out with her friends in her free time.  She describes her personality as crazy, but fun...all in a good way!  Lexi says that senior portraits are important to her because they will capture memories of her during her senior year.  She says she'll make an awesome senior model because she has a fun personality and isn't shy in front of the camera.

Top 5 Reasons to Have an Engagement Session: Harlie and McKenzie's Engagement

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Harlie and Mckenzie during their engagement session, which was included in their wedding package.  We had an absolute blast during the session, which was FULL of laughs!  

Harlie and Mckenzie have known each other a long time because her mom and his dad used to high school rodeo together.  Due to this, their families have pretty much always known each other.  During Harlie's freshman year, which was Mckenzie's sophomore year, they were in Spanish class together.  On May 29th, right after school released for summer break, they began dating.  Their first date was to the local Chinese restaurant in Mexia...more than likely :)  Harlie said that was almost six years ago so she could be wrong :)  

Harlie and Mckenzie's wedding will take place in Thornton.  The chose that location because it's really relaxed and close to family.  As far as a honeymoon goes, they're still planning that!  But one thing's for sure, they WILL stay in a bungalow on top of the water somewhere!

I love shooting engagement sessions before the wedding for several reasons, but I managed to narrow it down to five reasons.

1.  The couple has nice photographs before they start getting busy with all the wedding planning...and life in general.

2.  The couple has a chance to take creative photographs and just let loose...enjoying this time making memories.

3.  You can also use the photographs for your actual wedding.  Think Save the Date cards, wedding invitations, thank you cards, reception decorations, etc.  

4.  Practice!  The big day is quickly approaching and an engagement session gives you practice being in front of the camera.

5.  Meeting the photographer...and the photographer meeting you!  Both parties get to know each other and begin to feel comfortable with one another BEFORE the wedding.

DIY Wall Gallery: Part Two

In case you missed last week's blog post about my own diy wall gallery, you can read that here.

In this week's blog post, I am going to walk you through the process of making your own wall gallery of your family - step by step.

Step One.  So, you have a wall in your home that is the perfect space for showcasing your family's portraits.  It's a wall that is a focal point in your home.  It's a wall which friends and family love to look at when they visit.  Some people like their photographs to be very organized, while others just like to throw them on the wall.  Whichever your style is, there is a wall gallery design for you.  The great thing about wall galleries is that there is no wrong way to put one together.  It is YOUR wall gallery - your vision.  Where is your wall?  What colors surround this area?  

Step Two.  Now that you have the wall picked out, what type of layout do you want?  What layout appeals to you and showcases your portraits in a way that pleases you?  There are many ideas online that you can use to find ideas or you can come up with your own.  Consider the size of the wall.  Does it have more of a horizontal or vertical layout?  

Step Three.  You're making good process with your wall gallery by now and you have a pretty good idea as to what it will look like when it's all said and done.  But there's one more thing to consider with regards to the layout.  Do you want this space to include other pieces of artwork, such as metal art, other framed art, mirrors, quotes, etc?  If so, how do you want to incorporate those into your gallery?

Step Four.  Now it's time to decide which portraits you'd like to include in your wall gallery and are there any that you want to be the main focal point of the wall, such as a family portrait.  This main portrait should be larger than the others so that it is the main focus.  Consider a piece that is at least 16x20 in size.  Anything smaller, such as an 8x10, means that your other supporting portraits will more than likely be smaller and they will be too small on the wall. You want visitors to be able to SEE your family without having to pull out a magnifying glass or getting right up to the wall.  They should be able to see the portraits from a distance.

wall_display_guide_smith_family_photography

Step Five.  You have the layout, design, and portraits chosen.  Now to consider the frames you'd like to use.  Don't be afraid to think out of the box with this step!  There are so many unique ideas for frames.  You can use old wooden windows, make your own with barn wood, embellish the frame with various items, custom paint a frame, etc.  The sky is seriously the limit!

Step Six.  It's time to hang your portraits on the wall!  Many store bought frames use sawtooth hangers.  If you make your own frame(s), I suggest using a wire hanger.  It is much easier to hang and straighten on the wall.  

Step Seven.  Stand back and admire your beautiful family!

For more reading about diy wall galleries, check out this board on Pinterest.

If you make your own wall gallery, I'd LOVE to see a photo of it!

DIY Wall Gallery: Part One

We had our family portraits taken in September.  I had them printed with the idea of creating a beautiful wall gallery to show off my family.  I looked and looked at TONS of wall gallery ideas and just when I would choose one, I'd second guess myself.  I just couldn't find something that I absolutely loved, that is until I went to the Jewett Flea Market.  

wall_gallery_ideas

As my husband and I were walking through the flea market, we stumbled upon a vendor that had a large assortment of old windows.  I immediately had an idea!  An old window would make a beautiful and unique frame for our large family portrait that I had printed.  I looked at every window there and found one that I loved and my husband had to make sure it was the right size - since he's the one that's good at math!  

old_window_photo_frame_wall_gallery

I began thinking of how this wall gallery would look.  I knew I wanted the large family portrait as the focal point of the wall, but we also have 9 kiddos between us.  I knew I wanted each child to have their individual portrait framed surrounding the large family portrait.  

 I now had a rough idea as to what I wanted the wall gallery to look like, but what color would I want this gallery to be?  After all, the wooden window frame had to be sanded and painted.  I considered the decor and colors of our living room and furniture.  I needed the gallery to coordinate with those colors.  I decided on a dark gray color.  I found gray barn wood frames at Michael's craft store on sale.  

8x10_frames_wall_gallery_michaels

Now that I had the individual 8x10 frames for the kids' portraits, I had to get the wooden window prepped and painted for the family portrait.  I began by sanding the wooden window to remove the flaking white paint.  After the window was sanded, I taped off the glass to keep most of the spray paint from getting on the it.  I had to paint the window with three coats for even coverage.  After the paint was dry, I removed the tape and had to scrape the glass with a razor blade to remove the over-spray from the spray paint, as well as the old white paint that was splattered on the glass originally.

I had the window, I had the 16x20 print, but I still needed a mat for this frame.  I know I did not want a plain white mat for this frame.  A white mat just seemed so "right" and I wanted something unique.  I decided to use fabric for the mat.  I bought one yard of fabric that was gray with a slight texture, nothing that would be too busy and take away from the portrait.  I used posterboard for the backing and wrapped the fabric around that so I could place the portrait in the window.  

The last step in putting the wall gallery together was to find a sign of some sort that would pull it all together.  I looked at three stores, but found what I was looking for at Hobby Lobby.  I am so in love with this wall gallery!  

family_metal_art_wall_gallery_hobby_lobby

Check back next week for the second part to this blog post, a step by step guide to making your own wall gallery on a budget.

smith_family_wall_gallery

 

 

 

My Latest Personal Project

I consider myself to be a creative person.  My mind is always racing and I'm constantly asking myself, "What if..."  I find the world fascinating in all aspects - it's beauty, how we think, why we do what we do, and what can I do to make the world a better, nicer, place.  I have never been able to work at a repetitive job...EVER!  Some people love those types of jobs, however I need each and every day of my life to be completely unpredictable to a certain degree.  I enjoy problem solving and being flexible.  THAT is why I ALWAYS wanted to work in education!  Whenever people would ask me why I wanted to become a teacher, my response was always, "No two days are ever the same."  Obviously there are many other reasons as to why one wants to become a teacher, but to me that was one of the perks.  I loved walking into the classroom and having to be on my toes all day long ready to help my students conquer whatever obstacle they were facing that day.  

I worked in a very demanding school district in Texas and it seemed the administration cared less and less, each and every school year.  Eventually this affected me in a negative way.  I began to count the hours of the day and countdown the days until summer break.  There was an enormous weight on my shoulders and I did not feel appreciated or valued as a human being.  The administration always wanted more out of my bucket, but they weren't adding anything into my bucket.  Eventually, my bucket ran dry and I resigned after five years of teaching.  You can read more about my struggle here.  

As a creative individual, it didn't take me long to realize that staying at home with my newborn was going to be an adjustment.  I went from twenty five-year-olds needing my attention throughout the day to having one newborn that demanded my attention during the day.  I soon realized that I needed to find something to do just "for me."  I told my husband that I wanted to buy a camera and practice photography.  At the time I wasn't thinking of starting my own business, but I certainly did want a hobby.  I soon realized that I could make people happy by providing them with a fun, comfortable experience while having their photographs taken.  

The first year I opened my business, things were slow...until the fall season hit.  I was suddenly swamped with requests and I didn't want to turn anyone away so I just made it work.  After surviving the fall season I knew I had to do something different if I was going to continue this business venture.  I would need to find something I was passionate about and vow to do a personal project each year to keep reminding myself that I originally began practicing photography as a hobby - something that brought me peace and made me feel alive.  So each year I try to work on a personal project.  I'll be honest, it almost always revolves around breastfeeding.  

There is so much stigma in our society with regards to breastfeeding.  Some people think it's just plain disgusting.  Others think it's a beautiful, natural way to feed a baby, but it should be done in a private location - or at the very least with a blanket covering the feeding baby.  And there are others that have no issue with it at all.  Obviously, I fall into the latter category and will work my tail off to help normalize breastfeeding so that it is not an issue at all - it is just viewed as a mother feeding her baby.  The more breastfeeding is seen in public, the more normalized it will become.  THAT is the goal of my latest personal project.

I'd like to give a special THANK YOU to the lovely breastfeeding mama (and model), Amber Brown and her son!  So stunning!

Meet Mr. and Mrs. Jackson!

Meet Spencer and Cheyenne Jackson.  They tied the knot on January 7th, 2017 at the historic Allen House in Marlin, Texas.  The Allen House was built in 1911 by Dr. Walter Hanz Allen and his wife Nettle Falconer Allen.  Today the house operates as a civic center and provides a unique atmosphere for weddings, receptions, retreats, and many other functions. If you'd like to learn more about the Allen House, you can read more here.    

The historic Allen House in Marlin, Texas.

The historic Allen House in Marlin, Texas.

Spencer and Cheyenne met at his brother’s wedding in 2015. A little over a year later, Spencer popped the question on a cliff at Circle Point in Cameron Park in Waco, Texas.  Cheyenne excitedly said, “YES!”

They had an eventful first date in Waco as they began to get to know one another over dinner, followed by a movie.  They ended their night with a little game that’s native to Wacoans – tortilla tossing off the suspension bridge at Indian Springs Park. 

Spencer and Cheyenne decided to have a small, intimate wedding on the front porch of the historic mansion lit by candles.  The wedding was at 6:00 pm so it was very dark outside, but the lights from the candles and porch lights cast a very romantic, candlelight for the ceremony.  Did I mention it was FREEZING?  It was seriously like 25 degrees outside!  The fact that it was so cold seemed irrelevant because the ceremony was so beautiful…a true love story.

Spencer and Cheyenne's wedding on the front porch of the Allen House.

Spencer and Cheyenne's wedding on the front porch of the Allen House.

A happy marriage is about three things: memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes and a promise to never give up on each other.
— Sarabhi Surendra

I wish you both the very best!

Lifestyle Newborn Photography

As 2017 begins, a few changes have been implemented.  One of which is the type of newborn photography that we will now offer.  Rather than posed newborn photography sessions, we will instead do lifestyle newborn photography sessions.  What does this mean?  Well, the sessions typically take place at the home of the client and the images are simply images of one's real life.

Lifestyle photography is a kind of photography which mainly aims to capture portrait/people in situations, real-life events or milestones in an artistic manner and the art of the everyday. The primary goal is to tell stories about people’s life or to inspire people in different times.
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifestyle_photography
collage_lifestyle_newborn_photography_smith_family_photography_texas

I love capturing the love a family has for one another!  My number one goal is to provide families with a portrait that shows everyone that views that portrait the love that family has for one another.  If I don't provide this for my clients, I don't feel that I've done my job very well.  I find it extremely rewarding when clients specifically tell me that I captured the personalities of their family perfectly.  THAT is why I do what I do!