Member, Professional Photographers of America

With You I Am

When I meet a couple at their engagement session I learn about them - and how they feel about each other - just by watching them interact with one another.  I absolutely LOVE this part of my job!  

When I met Tobie and Chad in November of 2017, I could instantly tell how they felt about one another.  They genuinely love each other on a deep level.  They have the type of love that is full of compassion, support, respect, and encouragement.  When I asked Tobie to tell me their "story," she explained this very type of love.

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Tobie and Chad met unexpectedly in July of 2014.  Tobie was a single mother of eight month old twins, a full time college student, and she also worked part time.  One day her storage building was vandalized and had her belongings stolen.  

During this time, Chad was an investigator for the county.  Any guesses how Chad and Tobie met??  You're right!  He picked up Tobie's case!  He worked really hard to recover her belongings.  Even after most of her belongings were recovered and the case was closed, Chad continued to text Tobie.  She was focused on her twins and school at this time in her life so she had to blow Chad off several times.  However, Chad was not going to give up on Tobie.  He continued to reach out to Tobie and after a month, they finally decided to go on a date to the Prairie Hill Drag Races.  They had an amazing first date and were inseparable from that time forward.  Maybe it was love at first sight?  Fate?  Call it what you want, but they were meant to find each other.  

After six short months Chad decided to apply for the DPS Academy and Tobie applied for the OTA school.  They knew that realistically only one of them would be chosen to advance their careers at this time since only one thousand applicants are chosen for the DPS Academy and only two hundred applicants are chosen for OTA school.  Any guesses who was chosen?? 

THEY BOTH WERE!!  

Before Chad left to the academy, he purchased a home for them, even though he would not be living there while he was at the academy.  About one year later, Chad graduated the academy with Tobie in the audience supporting him.  Earlier that day she took her first final in the OTA program and drove straight to Austin to watch Chad graduate.  

After graduation from the academy, Chad was stationed in Corpus Christi for a year and a half.  Tobie and the kids saw him once a month.  Tobie says that their relationship had never been so strong.  They never doubted their future together even though it was difficult living apart.  

In April of 2017 Chad was stationed in Limestone County and Tobie graduated one month later in May.  They purchased their dream home soon after and have plenty of room for their cattle, which is a big part of Chad's family.  

Chad popped FINALLY popped the question in September of 2017 on a family outing.  They loaded up the truck and went to the river on Chad's grandparent's land.  Tobie and Chad sat on the tailgate as they watched the alligator gar with the noise of the kids playing in the background.  Tobie was taking photos of the kids as they were playing.  During this time Chad says, "Let daddy take picture with y'all," and told Tobie to turn around and count to three before she turned around to take his photo with the kids.  When she turned around, Chad was on one knee with the kids posing behind him.  Tobie caught the exact moment!  

Chad's proposal to Tobie 

Chad's proposal to Tobie 

It was far from what most people would consider perfect, but it was better than Tobie could have ever imagined.  They were at their special spot with their three most prized possessions.  Tobie told me that they are "far from perfect, but God blessed the broken road."  She explained how they have had to endure several struggles to become what they are today.  They appreciate one another because they know what it's like to not be appreciated.  Together they make a family...a whole family.  They have kept the Lord their number one throughout all their trials and tribulations and thank him every single day for their life together.

Chad and Tobie are engaged!

Chad and Tobie are engaged!

A Letter to All the Beautiful Mothers

I absolutely LOVE photographing people!  I love watching the way they interact with one another.  I love watching them be genuine with one another.  I love it when I can SEE how they FEEL about one another!  However, there is one thing that I do not like and that is when I hear beautiful mothers talking about how they don't like certain parts of their bodies.  You are BEAUTIFUL!

Women, sometimes men, but mainly women, put so much time and effort into planning their photo session.  They have to go shopping for the perfect outfits, bribing kiddos to cooperate (and husbands too), making sure everyone stays in a great mood, choosing a location that fits with what you have in mind for your wall art, etc.  I notice, believe me...I NOTICE.  I love that you put so much time and effort into your session before it even began!  I want nothing more than you to absolutely LOVE and CHERISH your photographs because they will last a lifetime and the generations to come will LOVE and CHERISH them as well.  

Photography is the memory of our lives.
— unknown

But...

...so many BEAUTIFUL mothers ask me to...

  • "Can you make me look skinnier?"
  • "Please hide me somewhere behind my kids."
  • "I just want photographs of my kids.  I need to lose 10 pounds before I am in them."
  • "Can I see what the photo looks like on your camera?  I hate the way I look."
  • "Photoshop me as much as possible!"

...the list goes on and on.  And it makes me sad.  This makes me sad because you can't even recognize your own beauty.  I'm not talking about being the perfect size, with perfect makeup and hair, and gorgeous clothing.  I'm talking about YOU!  I'm talking about the way you LOVE your family.  I'm talking about the way your family LOVES you.  The way your family looks at you is breathtaking!  

Life is not perfect.  It isn't meant to be.  Life is messy, yet beautiful.  Life is meant to be enjoyed.  Life is meant to be lived in moments.  Moments are meant to be photographed and documented.  

I can promise you this, I was THAT mom.  I have TONS of photographs of my kids, but where am I in these photographs??  I was hiding.  Every single time the camera came out, I ran.  I needed to lose weight.  My hair wasn't fixed.  My outfit wasn't picture worthy.  But my kids...they were adorable!  And all I think when I look at those photographs is how I miss holding them in my arms, getting slobbery kisses, giggling with them as we played, and snuggling.  I can never get that time back.  I hold onto these memories, but at some point they will be lost in my mind.  Lost for no one else to SEE.  My own kids won't even SEE us interacting with one another. 

But I'm certain that IF I did allow myself to be photographed with my children, they wouldn't look at them and laugh at my hair or outfit.  I'd like to think they would cherish those photographs because they are documenting a moment in time between us...our beautiful family.

So to all the BEAUTIFUL mothers out there...BE PHOTOGRAPHED!!  As difficult as it may be, do it for your children and your grandchildren.  You won't be sorry...I promise.  

I stepped out of my comfort zone and was photographed.  I'm not as thin as I used to be.  My hair was not perfect.  But our foreign exchange student said it best..."I will never forget that family picture."  I am glad I am in this photograph...for my memories and the memories of my family.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and was photographed.  I'm not as thin as I used to be.  My hair was not perfect.  But our foreign exchange student said it best..."I will never forget that family picture."  I am glad I am in this photograph...for my memories and the memories of my family.

Princess Storybook Sessions

Once upon a time...

...my daughter Lily told Sadie that she was Elsa, the Ice Princess.  As I was cleaning the kitchen, listening to the girls play as they imagined they were different princesses, I suddenly had an idea!  Why not dress them up like princesses for photographs and make them a hard cover book with the images?  

I started to toss this idea around more and more throughout the summer.  I began looking at dresses.  I was convinced that the girls would love this project!  There was just one small problem.  Time.  There never seems to be enough of it when you have seven kids living in the house!  

One day, out of the blue, one of my lovely clients messaged me asking if I offered princess sessions.  Her daughter was turning four and wanted a Princess and the Frog themed birthday party so her mom thought it would be a great idea to have a special session just for the occasion.  

Immediately I said, "YES!"  This was so amazing!  I was trying to find the time to do this personal project and a client was asking me about the very same type of session!  I offered to do the session as a modeling session IF she would share the session time with Lily.  Being as sweet as she is, Tana agreed.

We met at Cameron Park with girls that looked like beautiful princesses and took lots of photographs!  They had a great time having their photographs taken like princesses, but they also enjoyed playing with each other.  

I have since decided to start offering Storybook Sessions.  These special sessions will include a Hard Cover Book of their images to cherish forever. 

...and they lived happily ever after.

Princess Storybook Session

Layla's Hard Cover Book

...and they lived HAPPILY ever after

I love weddings!  Each and every wedding I have photographed over the past three years has been completely different.  No two weddings have been the same.  The details are all different even though they might be the same in theme.  Each ceremony "feels" different.  I'm not sure how to explain this aspect of a wedding since it's just something one experiences.  Some feel more serious, while others feel more casual.  

I first met Brittany and Andrew in October of 2016 when we met in Hillsboro, Texas for their engagement session.  I knew their wedding was going to be very special based on their interactions with one another at this session.  I'll never look at a fire truck the same way again!

"Burning Love" by Elvis Presley

On October 7, 2017 I photographed the wedding of Brittany and Andrew at The Eagle Historic Warehouse in Hillsboro, Texas.  During the entire event, I couldn't help but smile.  There was so much happiness!  It just felt...different.  As the evening progressed, I had a conversation with the other photographer, Angela, and we actually discussed how HAPPY everyone was.  They smiled...a lot!  They laughed...a lot!  And they loved...a lot!  

The secret to a happy marriage is to choose LOVE everyday.
— unknown
The bride and groom showing off their FUN personalities before their wedding!

The bride and groom showing off their FUN personalities before their wedding!

More laughs by the happy couple!

More laughs by the happy couple!

I absolutely LOVED the cake images!  These images sum up their relationship perfectly!  Always having fun and laughing.

I absolutely LOVED the cake images!  These images sum up their relationship perfectly!  Always having fun and laughing.

It's official!  Game over.

It's official!  Game over.

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting in capturing the memories of the Raley Wedding.

Happily Every Masters

#HappilyEverMasters  

That was the catch phrase for a beautiful day in September.

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On September 30, 2017 McKenzie and Harlie were married at the Thornton Rodeo Grounds in Thornton, Texas.  Everything about their wedding was GORGEOUS!  I heard SO many guests compliment her dress, which was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!   

Harlie received so many compliments on her stunning wedding dress!

Harlie received so many compliments on her stunning wedding dress!

When I meet engaged couples I like to hear "THEIR" story - how did they meet, what was the first date, how did he propose, etc.  I first met Harlie and McKenzie at their engagement session in February of 2017.  At that moment I just knew their wedding was going to be spectacular!  They just had a chemistry together that others can see and feel.  It's difficult to explain, but can definitely be experienced.  

Engagement Session - February 2017

Engagement Session - February 2017

At their engagement session I learned that they were high school sweethearts and both attended Groesbeck High School.  McKenzie was one grade above Harlie, but they were both in the same Spanish class while she was a freshman and he was a sophomore.  While they knew each other at this time, they weren't dating.  However, just as the summer began they did start dating.  One of their most memorable early dates was after Harlie's sister's softball game.  McKenzie picked Harlie up so they could hang out.  McKenzie was driving his 1992 Ford single cab pickup with a standard transmission.  While they were on the way back to Harlie's house, McKenzie said he wanted her to try to drive his truck.  Harlie, being the go-getter she is, jumped at the chance.  She stalled the truck about four times and blinded herself when she accidentally turned on the bright LED lights on the gear shifter!  She jumped out of the pickup and said she would never drive that truck again and they laughed the rest of the way to her house!  

Nearly six years later, McKenzie proposed to Harlie in their living room just a few days before Christmas in 2016.  It was a quiet proposal with just the two of them in the living room.  Harlie said is was sweet and romantic.  Just the two of them.  In their living room.  With their ugly oversized Christmas tree they chopped down a few days earlier.  It was definitely not the envisioned proposal (public with someone photographing the event), but it was definitely the perfect proposal!

This Christmas tree was the perfect backdrop for the proposal!

This Christmas tree was the perfect backdrop for the proposal!

Harlie and McKenzie informed me that it was great being high school sweethearts for a lot of reasons, but mainly because they learned so much about each other through those high school years.  They never had to introduce those awkward puberty days to each other because they were experiencing them together!  They went on to say that it makes them feel accomplished in their relationship when they look back and see how far they've come in relation to all their friends' relationships that have ended.  They've made it this far because they communicate with each other.  COMMUNICATION IS KEY!  Harlie explained that McKenzie is terrible at communicating at times so she has to make sure she is asking questions and updating him throughout the day to keep the line of communication open.  

As I write this at the age of 39, Harlie's words are running through my mind, "Communication is key."  When McKenize is not communicating as well as she'd like, she picks up the slack and makes sure she takes the active role of initiating the conversation.  This is so important!  It's so easy to sit back when your partner is sitting back.  But we all know when both people in a relationship sit back and no one takes the wheel, a wreck is inevitable.  

So today I challenge you to take the active role in your relationship and COMMUNICATE!  

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting with capturing the memories from this special day.

We've Been Featured!

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We received an awesome email a few weeks ago from BasicInvite.com, a custom card company. 

The email said, "I wanted to reach out to you because your photos are fantastic and we would love to do a post on our blog featuring you.  BasicInvite.com is a custom card company that allows customers and photographers to instantly personalize everything from wedding invitations to holiday cards. We would be honored to be able to work with Smith Family Photography."

How exciting is that?!?  I replied and told them that I would love the opportunity to write a blog post for them.  It took me a few days to think about the topic.  I finally decided to write about our business and what we do to MAKE a session.  I used images from a session taken during this spring at Mother Neff State Park with an amazing family.  

I’m in love with your style, and all the moments you decided to share with us.
— Makenzie with BasicInvite.com

You can view the featured blog post on BasicInvite.com, which can be found here.  And while you're there, check out their awesome products!  You can save 20% by using the following code.

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A 200 Year Old Portrait

We've all heard the saying, "A picture lasts a lifetime."  But do they really?

My grandmother's favorite hobby is genealogy.  She has binders full of family trees and old photographs.  I must admit, I find these binders fascinating!  I love looking at the old photographs.  Although they differ so much from our current photographic style, they are still full of emotion.  And I can't help but wonder if my own photographs will last that long.  

There is a lot that goes into producing a photograph that will last a lifetime, such as the quality of the paper, the ink, and the elements (humidity, sunlight, etc).  As you've heard me say before, professional labs are worth the extra cost - they are worth the investment.

One of our latest products is an Art Print.  These prints are printed on fine or linen paper.  The awesome quality of Art Prints is their longevity.  They are made to last.  They will last 200 plus years with less than 8% color fade during this time.  Ah-mazing!  

And now you can try one for FREE!  After you have booked five sessions, you will receive a coupon good for one complimentary 11x14 Art Print from your next session.  I can't wait for you to experience them for yourself!  They truly are an investment for your family's memories.

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why, Why, WHY?

Beware.  This post contains a rant.

Digitals versus Prints.  That is the debate among many photographers.  Each has their own business model and beliefs about what a photographer provides their clients.  I personally choose to offer both, prints and digital images, however I specialize in offering a selection of professionally printed wall art as opposed to a disc of images.

I have this belief for several reasons, which I have discussed in another blog.  You can read more about those beliefs here.  But this post is not about my beliefs regarding this matter.  

I know why some clients choose digital images.  They like having the ability to print the images as they wish.  Others like to have a hard copy for safe keeping.  I completely understand both of those reasons.  However, I hear stories from other photographers about clients completely editing the images they've received from a photographer and/or slapping Instagram filters on them.  I do not understand this at all.  Why hire a photographer if you're just going to edit the images yourself?  

We don't hire a dentist to clean our teeth to just go home and clean them ourselves.

We don't hire a hair stylist to cut our hair just to go home and cut our own hair.

We don't hire a mechanic to change our car oil just to go home and change the oil again.

The list goes on and on...

So why do some hire a photographer just to go home and edit their images after a photographer has already done this?  

Most of the time this is actually illegal per the copyright terms within a photographers contract.  A photographer also has a certain style with regards to their editing - they only produce a certain type of photograph.  They are typically hired for this particular style.  When someone alters this photograph, they are altering their style.  Therefore the photograph no longer accurately represents their work as an artist.  

That is all.  End of rant :)  

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

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Crock Pot Salsa Chicken Saved My Day

We have six kiddos living in our house.  24 hours a day.  7 days a week.  365 days a year.  So many look at us like we are CRAZY!  But the crazy thing is that I love having a large family.  Not just love it, but LOVE it!  If I could make those capital letters in LOVE even larger, I totally would.  

When May 2017 rolled around I began to panic because two of my kids were seniors and would be graduating at the end of the month.  I flew into a bit of an "empty nest" fear.  I know this made no rational sense since I still had four kids at the house, but it is what it is.  I thought the oldest two would leave and never look back so what's a mom to do besides sign up to be a host mom for a foreign exchange student.  

Fast forward to today, mid-September, and we now have SEVEN kids living in our house.  My six children (because my graduating boys did not leave after all) plus an awesome foreign exchange student.  Needless to say, my fear of having an "empty nest" is gone.  

Even though the empty nest never came, I am still dealing with restructuring my days since they kids are in school and I'm working from home, without constant interruptions from the kids.  I've been reading a lot about how to be productive with my workday and I've learned a lot!  This week has been super productive and I am loving my workdays!

I began by breaking my days into 5 chunks of time.  First and foremost, I know I wanted to make sure I was not working when my family was home and interacting with one another.  So from 3 pm to 8 pm Monday through Friday I am completely present with them.  Driving them crazy I'm sure.  

Beyond that, I needed to break my work into chunks of time.  This is the schedule that I found that has worked well for me with my tasks:

  • 8 -10 am:  housework
  • 10 am to noon:  office work (emails, blogs, receipts, etc)
  • noon to 1/2 pm:  edit sessions
  • 3 to 8 pm:  family time
  • 8 - 11 pm:  edit sessions

If I finish a task early, I can go onto the next task or take a break.  But I can NOT go over the allotted time for a task!  My husband is having a difficult time with this schedule because he'll ask me to do something and I tell him that I will do it the next day during office hours.  I have to do this schedule to avoid burnout and to keep my stress to a minimum.  I've found that I am not productive when I bounce from task to task.  

I start each week with 5 post-it notes in my notebook.  Each one is labeled a day of the week.  I write office tasks on each one for the corresponding day.

Another lifesaver has been the CROCK POT!  Seriously.  It is AH-MAZING!  You just throw the ingredients in, turn it on, and it's ready to eat in 6-8 hours.  I made the BEST chicken tacos the other day (the kids ate it and didn't complain so it passed the test) and thought I'd share the recipe :)

Easy Crock Pot Salsa Chicken

Serves 10 (perfect for big families...or families with boys that eat a lot)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

32 ounces salsa

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained

flour tortillas

sour cream

guacamole

lettuce

tomatoes

cheese

salsa

1.  Put first four ingredients into a crock pot.

2.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.

3.  30-60 minutes prior to serving, remove chicken, shred and return to the crock pot.

4.  Add desired condiments.

This recipe was found at www.food.com/recipe/easy-crock-pot-salsa-chicken-16687

If you try this recipe, I'd love to know what your family thought of it.  Just drop a comment below!

Jessica and Matt's Love Story

Jessica and Matt...soul mates.  

Some people believe in love at first sight.  Others believe in the idea of soul mates.  Jessica and Matt are soul mates.

Jessica and Matt

Jessica and Matt

I've photographed their family on multiple occasions over the past few years and when they asked me to photograph their wedding on August 12, 2017 I was honored...and surprised!  Surprised because I honestly thought they were already married!  

Jessica and Matt's love story began with an online dating service, Christian Mingle.  Matt's profile said he lived in Waco, Texas and he caught Jessica's eye.  She's been hurt in the past so she was cautiously, yet optimistically, looking for her Prince Charming.  They began talking on the phone and she realized that he did not live in Waco after all, he was actually living in Wisconsin where he was born and raised.  Jessica admits that at that moment she thought to herself, "Great, I finally meet someone that seems nice and normal and I've actually been catfished."  But Matt was not being deceitful.  In fact, he said he lived in Waco because he was moving to Waco in the near future as he already put in a job transfer to the Waco area.  He originally wanted to move to Waco to be closer to his two daughters.  Meeting Jessica was just one more reason to make the move.

Before Matt was transferred to Waco, he spoke to Jessica daily for several months.  Both of them explain their relationship as a "good friendship."  

Matt eventually moved to Waco and Jessica helped him get situated into his new place.  She helped him unpack and get him settled into his duplex.  Jessica even showed Matt around Waco.  She took the time out of her day to make sure he knew how to get to his office, as well as other places he would have to go to.  Matt admits that he couldn't believe how thoughtful she was during this time.  He found himself not being able to take his eyes off of her.  She was absolutely beautiful and he was mesmerized by her gorgeous smile.  He knew he was starting to fall in love.

Over time, Matt earned Jessica's trust and friendship.  Eventually he also earned her heart.

As time went on, Matt knew he wanted to ask Jessica for her hand in marriage.  He asked her three children for their blessing and with their approval, he began planning.  During their family vacation in Wisconsin, Matt would put his plan into action.  He gathered all the children onto one side of his parents house and he got down on one knee.  They all called for Jessica and when she walked to the side of the house, she said, "YES!"  

Jessica and Matt decided to take the engagement slow.  Neither one saw a need to rush into marriage.  That is until Jessica became ill.  She was hospitalized and Matt was her angel through the entire ordeal.  She realized that Matt was her Prince Charming and she didn't want to wait any longer to become Mrs. Leonardelli.  They began planning their perfect wedding.

The details of the wedding were absolutely stunning!  Everything was so thought out.  Jessica planned out everything meticulously and credits Google and Pinterest for all the ideas.  Everything worked with the venue, Castle Heights Bijoux Events Center, perfectly!

Jessica's favorite part of their wedding day was having her dad there to walk her down the aisle and hearing the vows Matt wrote to her, as well as saying her vows to Matt.  Matt's favorite part of their wedding day was also the vows.  

Quotes From the Bride and Groom

Ladies, wear waterproof mascara! You WILL cry!
— Mrs. Jessica Leonardelli
There’s a belief that soul mates are tied together by a cosmic string. One way or another, they will always find each other. From Wisconsin to Texas, our string pulled us together.
— Mr. Matt Leonardelli
wedding_castle_heights_bijoux_event_center_smith_family_photography

Special thanks to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting in capturing memories at Jessica and Matt's wedding on August 12, 2017.

Wedding Day Photography Timeline

We have several upcoming weddings and with that comes many questions from the bride concerning the timeline for certain photographs during the day.  So here it is....

How much time do we need for wedding day photographs?  Here is a rough guide to answer this question. 

  • Getting Ready:  30-45 minutes with both the guys and the girls.  I always stay with the bride and the second shooter always goes with the guys.  Some choose to skip photographing this time, but you can really get some great shots with lots of emotion!  
  • Bride and Bridesmainds/Groom and Groomsmen:  30 minutes, before the ceremony if possible.  Again, this is just one chunk of time since there are two photographers.  This time is great for getting many of the wedding party shots out of the way so guests don't have so long to wait for your arrival to the reception.  
  • First Look:  30 minutes with just the bride and groom, typically right before the ceremony begins.  The first look is completely optional.  Some couples like to keep things traditional and not see each other before the ceremony.  Either way is perfectly fine...it's YOUR day!  If you do decide on a first look, I highly recommend keeping this to just the couple.  Use this time to enjoy each other before the wedding ceremony.  The actual first look only takes about 10 minutes so you'll have plenty of time to have other photographs taken of you two as a couple.
  • Whole Wedding Party:  30 minutes if you've already taken the bride/bridesmaids and groom/groomsmen photographs earlier.  If not, you should plan for about 45 minutes here.  Again, this varies based on the number in the wedding party as well.
  • Immediate Family:  15 minutes, but this can vary based on how many groups you want to have photographed.  It typically takes one and a half minutes per small group and three minutes per large group.
  • Details:  Detail shots are taken throughout the day so we don't actually "plan" for those.  We just work those in as we can.  Often times we do these if we finish early with the getting ready photographs or even during the reception.

Now knowing this, when should you ask us to arrive?  I suggest you figure out what time the ceremony will start and then work your way through the suggested timeline above to ensure you have enough time for us to capture all the moments you'd like photographed on your wedding day.  Most of our clients opt for a "fake send off."  They are able to have the send off photographed, but then come back into the reception to continue enjoying the company of their guests.  This saves them money by not having a photographer stay the entire length of the reception, but ensuring that they capture all the big events from the day.  

Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.
— John De Paola
Going To The Chapel Of Love By: The Dixie Cups

 

 

Let's Make a Deal!

Smith Family Photography values the feedback of their clients.  That is why we are asking for Google reviews.  Your reviews help potential clients find a photographer that meets their needs.  We've been thinking of ways to thank our clients for leaving feedback via Google and it suddenly hit me!  

After your session, you will be emailed asking you to consider leaving feedback.  In exchange for your feedback, we will make you a slideshow of your favorite images from your session (a $20 value), which can easily be shared via social media.  This is a great way to share your images with your family and friends!  

We also have a reward system for referrals.  You will earn a $10 credit for every referral that books a session with us and the person that you referred will save 10% off their session fee.  You can read more about our reward system here.  

What do you say...do we have a deal?

Example of a slideshow you would receive after your session in exchange for your Google review.

Dear Senior, Be Photographed!

During my latest senior session I heard her tell her mother that she did not want to have senior photographs taken.  This immediately made me think about my senior year of high school and how I did not want senior photographs taken.  When I was a senior I just felt like the photographs were a waste of my time.  Just seemed pointless.  Until later in life that is!  Now I wish I had them taken!  And that is exactly what I told Becca at her session.  To those seniors that think they don't want to "waste their time" on senior photographs, I promise you...one day you'll wish you had them.  And then it's too late.

1.  Celebrate!  Your senior year is BIG!  You are leaving childhood and entering adulthood.  You have worked your entire life for this moment.  You have slowly developed into your own self...a unique and amazing individual.  Celebrate this turning point in your life by having yourself photographed.

2.  Express Yourself!  By this point in your life you've found hobbies and other areas of interest that consume a great deal of your time.  Take advantage of senior photographs to showcase these interests by bringing uniforms or props to your session...or even using a location that is special to you.  Make the session all about you!

3.  Memories!  I'm sure you've heard it time and time again, but the years really do fly by.  Right now you're a senior in high school getting ready to graduate.  But before you know it, you're 28 attending your 10 year high school reunion and all you have are the goofy yearbook photos.  Your kids will want to see you...your personality...when you were their age.  I don't see many personalities in the staged senior portraits for the yearbook.

4.  Prime Time!  Everyone looks amazing when they're 18.  So young and full of energy!  You're also more than likely (not all the time) in the best shape of your life.  Document this!  

5.  Gifts!  Use your senior photographs as gifts for friends and family.  We offer albums, books, wall art, cards,  and prints just to name a few of the items.  When my own kids graduated high school last year, we sent everyone that gave them a gift a print for them to keep as a keepsake.  It is full of meaning...and memories.

BE PHOTOGRAPHED! It's better to be photographed than wishing you'd been photographed.

senior_session_with_horse_smith_family_photography

Simple Guide for No Regrets

If your walls could talk, what stories would they tell or would they be silent?

Over the past three years I have heard the same regrets over and over...  

  • "I have so many photographs of my oldest child, but I hardly have any of my younger children."
  • "I wish I would have taken more family photographs that included the parents and grandparents."
  • "I'll just wait until I lose some weight."

Procrastinating is easy.  The truth is that life doesn't pause for us to lose weight or give us extra time to take family portraits.  We are only given so much time.  

I've been thrilled with the recent increase of families that are including grandparents in their family sessions!  I hope this trend continues because I truly believe these photographs will be cherished for YEARS to come.

I've also made it a point to have parents get in a few of the poses with their children, as well as have parents take a few photographs with one another.  Many couples haven't had their photograph taken since their wedding!  

Below is a guide so that there are no regrets later.  It's not a program.  There's no contract to sign.  Just have your family photographed!

One day, you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.
— Paulo Coelho

New Product Alert: Hard Cover Books

We are excited to announce a new product - Hard Cover Books!  These books are perfect for almost every client because it allows you to show your friends and family all the photographs from your session in a professional quality book.  It will be a true keepsake for your family for years to come.

Each page of the book is designed and then placed inside your online gallery for you to view prior to purchasing.  The pages are professional matte paper that is known for its archival quality and timeless appeal.  

The covers include a variety of eurohyde or art cloth covers and are customized with foil stamping.  You can even add a custom cover with an image from your session for an additional fee.  

Foil Stamping on the cover

Foil Stamping on the cover

Another option to the cover is opting or a windowed cover.  This further allows you to customize the cover on your hard cover book without an additional fee.

Windowed Cover

Windowed Cover

I will have a sample hard cover book for you to look at during your session, as well as a Canvas Gallery Wrap, a Wood Print, a Vivid Metal Print, prints from various labs and cards.  If you've had a past session, but are interested in a Hard Cover Book, please let me know and I can design one for your past session.

It's Time for a Transition

I began my photography business for several reasons.  One of which being a particular need that I had as a mother of 6 children.  I needed a professional photographer that could provide my family with professional wall art that did not cost an arm and a leg.  Many photographers charge per person, which is costly for a large family.  I don't really understand this extra charge from a photographer's standpoint.  Our large family isn't eating a meal with you.  We aren't asking for a full 2 hours of your day.  Our session will be the same amount of time as any other session.  So why the extra charge?  For this very reason, my session fee is the same for 1 person as it is for 10 or even more.  

The other reason being I HATED receiving a disc or an email with photographs that were for the most part, unusable in my opinion.  Sure I had 80 images on a disc with a print release, but out of those 80 I could barely find enough to fill the frames on my walls!  I would then upload those few images to a consumer retailer, such as CVS or Shutterfly, only to have those products again not meet my standards.  Those products began fading after a few short months of being on our walls.  The colors looked nothing like they did on my computer screen.  I wanted high quality wall art that would last a lifetime.  

I am constantly striving to find ways to better meet the needs of other families that are like ours - they want high quality wall art without going into debt to do so.  As expenses continue to rise, I am forced to find ways to cut expenses so I don't have to raise the price of the session fee.  During this time, I found a new program that bundled online galleries and custom mobile apps!  I have to admit change is hard, but I am determined to learn a new program to keep the session fee as low as it can possibly be so I can still offer my amazing clients the same great wall art options through an online gallery.  

Perks

  • You can view the images in your online gallery as a slideshow with music!

  • You can actually see the images on a wall so you know what size would look best!

  • You now have the ability to crop your images!

Cons

  • It's a new program so I am learning too!  

Click here to check out a sample gallery with in the NEW program!

Here is the way a 16x20 piece of wall art would look on this wall.  

Here is the way a 16x20 piece of wall art would look on this wall.  

Here is that same image as an 8x10 piece of wall art. 

Here is that same image as an 8x10 piece of wall art. 

We are transitioning to this program slowly, but it will be fully switched over by July 27th, 2017.  After this time, any prior custom mobile apps will no longer be available UNLESS you contact me asking for me to put together an app in the new program.    

We can't wait to hear what you think of these exciting changes!  My favorite thing about this new program is the ability to see photographs in various sizes on walls.  You can even send me a photo of a wall in your home and I can upload that for you!  This makes is so easy to ensure that you are investing in the size you truly want to showcase your family in a particular room.

Today Was A Fairytale

But can you feel this magic in the air?
It must have been the way you kissed me
Fell in love when I saw you standing there
It must have been the way
Today was a fairytale
It must have been the way
Today was a fairytale
— Taylor Swift

Ron and Beth's wedding on June 3, 2017 was in fact, a true fairytale.  

On February 13th, Beth contacted me about photographing their wedding.  At that time, she described their relationship as a fairytale.  She actually told me this in a message!  

I am so excited! This is our second marriage but I feel like it’s already been a fairy tale and I’m 20-something instead of 40-something!
— Beth

Their wedding day truly lived up to this title!  They were getting married at the Chapel at Caliber Oak in Salado, which is absolutely beautiful.  They planned for an outside ceremony with the reception inside.  The weather was stormy most of the day and arrangements were put in place to move the ceremony indoors if that was needed.  The storms stayed away for the entire ceremony so Beth and Ron were able to have their perfect outdoor ceremony.  Everything went as planned - perfectly!  It was a fairytale wedding.

ron_and_beth_westhoff_wedding

Ron and Beth knew of each other for a very long time.  Ron's mother worked with Beth years earlier.  Neither thought they'd end up married!  About six years ago they were hanging out with the same group of friends...all married couples.  Ron and Beth were the only single ones in the group.  They ended up going out to eat once alone, then they went to the movies a few times alone, and then dancing.  The rest is history!  Their age difference of six years was a joke between them in the beginning, but they they soon got over that and were inseparable. 

Their first "real" date was dinner and a movie.  Beth explains that Ron was a true gentleman that opened the door for her and treated her with respect.  This was new to her.  As the date progressed, they laughed and talked about how they both just wanted to be happy.  Their relationship just grew from there.

On Christmas Eve, Ron proposed.  They just returned from his parent's house and he was unloading the gifts from the truck.  When he came inside, he set the gifts down (or at least she thought he was setting the gifts down), but instead she saw Ron holding a Boozer's Jewelry sack.  He approached Beth and told her to close her eyes.  She closed her eyes and he proposed.  Of course she said, "YES!," and hugged him!  She says she was caught totally off guard and it was absolutely perfect.

wedding_ring_westhoff_wedding

One night after the proposal Beth couldn't sleep.  She decided to do an Internet search for "small church Salado."  The Chapel at Caliber Oak popped up and she immediately sent an email right then...at 2:30am!  Just a few minutes later, Rick replied and told them that the venue was available because someone had canceled.  When Ron and Beth visited the chapel, they instantly knew that was the perfect place for their fairytale wedding.  She said it was truly magical!

chapel_at_caliber_oak_salado_texas

Beth says her favorite part of their wedding day was seeing Ron's face when she walked out.  She saw the smile on Ron's face and it matched the smile in her heart.  She knew it was the beginning of their forever.  

first_look_ron_and_beth_westhoff_wedding

Ron says the favorite part of their wedding day was when the minister said, "You may kiss your bride."  

you_may_kiss_your_bride_westhoff_wedding

They both waited a long time for the happiness they now share.  Their long journey has definitely been a fairytale with a happy ending.  Everything was absolutely PERFECT!

Thank you Ron and Beth for asking me to help capture the memories on your wedding day.  And a HUGE thank you to Angela Bailey with Angela Bailey Photography for assisting in capturing those memories!

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