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top 5 list

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 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.


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

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.

5 Ways to Blend Families With Children at Weddings

Blended Families. Woven together by choice, strengthened together by love, tested by everything, and each uniquely ours.
— unknown

On November 5, 2016 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding ceremony between Robert Hickman and Brandy Vincent.  This was much more than a wedding ceremony between a man and a woman that completely and utterly adore each other - this was also a union of a blended family.  


You see, Robert has one son from a previous relationship and Brandy has two children, a daughter and a son, from a previous relationship.  I have known Robert for several years.  We first met when his son and my son played little league baseball together in Mart, Texas.  I later met Brandy through Robert guessed it...through little league baseball!  From the very minute I saw Brandy, Robert, and the three children interacting, I knew they had something very special.  Something that not every blended family has - unconditional love for one another.  


At the wedding rehearsal I wasn't shocked that their children were involved in the wedding ceremony.  Their two sons were groomsmen and their daughter was a bridesmaid.  But something else that happened made this a very emotional event for all of them!  During the rehearsal Brandy told her two children that THEY would be walking down the aisle to give her away during the ceremony!  I can't even begin to explain the emotions!  There were plenty of happy tears and even more hugs.  This very moment was the highlight of the entire wedding rehearsal.  

Throughout the entire wedding ceremony the children were included and I personally feel that including the children in the process helps them feel like they're part of the new family that is being created through the marriage.  Brandy and Robert did an excellent job at planning their wedding.  Everything was absolutely beautiful!  But the one thing that stood out to me was the way they used this ceremony to create a new family by including them in the blending process.  I came up with 5 ways to blend families with children at weddings.    

1.  If they are old enough to do so, let them help with the planning.  One way you can let your children help with planning the wedding is by letting them help pick some of the music for the reception.  Kids LOVE music!  Many girls also LOVE crafting!  If they do, let them help assemble decorations.  There are a gazillion ways your kiddos can help when it comes to planning the wedding.  You know your kids better than anyone else so give them a "job" and let them run with it.

2.  Let your children invite some of their friends to the wedding.  Being a part of a wedding as an adult can be stressful.  Being a part of a wedding as a child can be stressful as well.  If you let them invite their best friend, they will have their support system right there.  Obviously this is also dependent upon the age(s) of your children.  Having a friend there gives them someone to feel comfortable with...someone to talk with...and laugh with.

3.  Include the children in the actual wedding ceremony.  As I already mentioned, Brandy and Robert included all three of their children in the wedding ceremony.  It made them feel as if it was a family event rather than an event between the adults.  


4.  Create an event during the ceremony that includes the children.  A popular event during the ceremony that includes the children is a sand ceremony.  Robert and Brandy chose to do a candle lighting ceremony which involved the children.  Creating an event during the ceremony that includes the children is in essence sharing the vows with the children.


5.  Give the children a REAL role in the wedding ceremony if they would like one.  I touched on this point earlier when I discussed how Brandy asked her children to walk her down the aisle and give her away during the ceremony.  Depending on the maturity level of the children, allow them to have a REAL role if they'd like one.

Celebrate the presence of children at a wedding where families are being joined and blended. Remember, you’re not just getting married and perhaps gaining some new children in the process or bringing a new spouse into your life — your children are gaining a whole new family through your marriage.
— S Malone

The First Look

Love is when you look into someone’s eyes and see everything you need.
— unknown

A wedding day can be described as beautiful, timeless, romantic, fun, exciting, precious, emotional, traditional, and memorable.  Some might add that a wedding day can be chaotic, stressed, busy, frantic, and nerve-wracking.  And for that very reason, some couples choose to partake in a First Look Photograph Session either before their wedding day or on the day of their wedding.  

On October 1, 2016 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Kenley Crowe and Joanna Richardson at Common Grounds in Waco, Texas.  They opted for the First Look Session before their wedding...and it was an amazing experience!  Seeing the look on both of their faces as the anticipation built as Joanna slowly walked to meet Kenley was priceless - almost as priceless as seeing the look on his face when he saw Joanna in her beautiful wedding dress for the very first time.  So much emotion.  It was just those that moment...on a day when so many others would be around them on their special day.  

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Some might say that a First Look Session ruins the anticipation of the groom seeing the bride for the first time as she's walking down the aisle.  However, I can attest that this is not the case.  Even if the groom sees the bride at a First Look Session, he is still overcome with emotions as he watches his bride walk down the aisle on her father's arm.

I decided to compile a list of the five reasons couples would choose a First Look Session.  Keep in mind, these are just a few of the reasons why some choose this type of session.  Ultimately, each couple knows what they want on their wedding day.

1.  Convenience and Time.  Traditional weddings usually do the bridal party photos, as well as bride and groom photos, right after the ceremony.  They are often rushed as they don't want to keep their guests waiting too long to begin the reception.  The First Look Session allows the bridal photos to be taken before the ceremony so guests do not have to wait for the bridal party to arrive at the reception.

2.  Alone Time.  Wedding days are filled with friends and family members surrounding the bride and groom.  The First Look Session gives the bride and groom a small amount of time to just be with each other before the ceremony begins. 

3.  Reception.  First Look Sessions allow the wedding to run smoothly from the ceremony to the reception.  There is not any downtime due to bridal photos.  This is more pleasant for guests.  Traditional weddings typically have guests waiting an hour or so while the bride and groom are having bridal portraits taken.  

4.  Better Photos.  As a photographer, I feel that First Look Sessions allow me to spend more time with the bridal party.  Therefore, the photos are not as rushed which in turn makes for better portraits.  

5.  Family and Friends.  The First Look Session allows the bridal party to spend more time with family and friends during the reception since they aren't missing out on this precious time after the ceremony taking bridal photos.  

I'd love to hear from you!  What are some other pros of having a First Look Session?

- Special thanks to Kaitlynn Phillips with Kaitlynn Phillips Photography for assisting with the Crowe-Richardson Wedding -

Songs That REALLY Click: Top 5 Songs About Photography

I listen to a lot of music!  I take a lot of photographs!  I have heard a lot of songs about photographs!  I have decided to share my "Photograph Playlist," which includes my favorite FIVE songs about photographs.  These songs vary by genres so you're sure to find one that you love.  

Without further ado, here are the top five songs that REALLY click: 

1.  Photograph by Charlie Robinson.  

2.  Picture by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.  

3.  Photograph by Nickelback.

4.  Photograph by Ed Sheeran.

5.  Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel.

There are a lot of songs about photographs!  You can find several more here.  I'd love to hear from you...what is your favorite song about photographs?

Top 5 Tips for Taking Vacation Photographs

Our summer family vacation is always over the 4th of July.  We enjoy finding new places to watch the awesome firework displays.  Often times we spend this time in the Arlington area and watch the fireworks from the Rangers Ballpark.  In my opinion, baseball on the 4th of July is just about as American as it can get.  Add fireworks to that and you have a PERFECT 4th of July! 

This year we decided to change it up a bit since some of our children are still very small and don't quite enjoy the game yet.  We went to Port Aransas, Texas.  We've never watched a firework display from the beach so that is what we set out to do.  We were definitely not disappointed! 

Our vacation lasted five days and many memories were made during this short time.  Of course I brought my camera and all of the older kids have cell phones with cameras.  Let's just say that several hundred photographs were taken by our family! 

Before we set off for the beach vacation, I did some research about tips for taking vacation photographs.  I found a large array of tips, however one concept in particular stuck with me.  LIVE!  Don't watch your vacation through a lens, but LIVE your vacation!  That was a completely foreign concept for me as a photographer and as a mother.  I have always been the one with my camera ready to capture the kids' cuteness and as I reflected upon this idea I realized that I have thousands upon thousands of photographs of my kids, I only feel that I "lived" a handful of those.  There are so many cute things that I captured in film and/or digital format and many of them do not have a story to go with them.  I was simply pushing a button.  I made a decision at this point and that was to keep the camera handy, but not keep it ready at all times.  However, before I could do this I needed to narrow down instances when I would like to take photographs during our vacation.  I came up with a list of five tips for taking vacation photographs that I'd like to share with you. 

1.  Be prepared.  Before you pack your camera, consider where you are taking it.  We were going to the beach and I know that sand is an enemy to my camera.  For that reason I chose to leave my camera in the house rather than take it to the beach with all the sand. 

The view of the beach dunes from our back door during sunset.

The view of the beach dunes from our back door during sunset.

2.  Be creative.  Be creative in how you pose your family members and/or the angles of your shots.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  Lay down on your tummy to get a direct view of someone or something or get up above them to get a bird's eye view.  The sky is the limit! 

Our oldest, William, took this photograph of the two youngest, Lily and Sadie.  The color was very blue due to the lights in the Texas State Aquarium, but he changed it to black and white.  Don't be afraid to experiment and get creative!

Our oldest, William, took this photograph of the two youngest, Lily and Sadie.  The color was very blue due to the lights in the Texas State Aquarium, but he changed it to black and white.  Don't be afraid to experiment and get creative!

3.  Candids.  Candid photographs are real and allow you to feel and see with atmosphere and mood of a particular moment in time.  These are not staged, but instead real photographs without any prompting.  My kids LOVE taking these types of photographs and they are often SUPER close to the subject...usually a person.

Candid photographs of me and my husband, John, eating Oreos while visiting the USS Lexington.

Candid photographs of me and my husband, John, eating Oreos while visiting the USS Lexington.

4.  Keep the camera handy.  You never know when the unexpected is going to happen.  Often times these unexpected events are awesome once in a lifetime experiences.  If you can capture them, they will be treasured forever.  Keep the camera handy, but don't keep it in your hands at all times.  It's not the end of the world if you don't capture your daughter petting a sting ray.  Sure, it's cool, but living in the moment is so much more important.

Our youngest making an unexpected kissy face while visiting the Texas State Aquarium.

Our youngest making an unexpected kissy face while visiting the Texas State Aquarium.

5.  LIVE!  Do NOT live life through the lens of your camera.  Do not be scared to put the camera down and live life and enjoy your vacation.  You will still have the memories, even if they aren't recorded on your SD card. 

I’m living inside the moment, not taking pictures to save it.

—Drake, “The Resistance”

While we were on vacation, I put down the camera.  I took less than ten photographs the entire trip.  I decided to pass the camera to the kids, who enjoyed playing the part of the photographer.  The camera was passed between four children and each has their own style.  The camera was not allowed at the beach.  It only came with us when we visited the USS Lexington and the Texas State Aquarium.  We LIVED our vacation and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Didn’t have a camera by my side this time,
hoping I would see the world through both my eyes.

Today I finally overcame,
trying to fit the world inside a picture frame.

Maybe you should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes;
it brought me back to life.

—John Mayer, “3×5”

I Love Weddings! Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Weddings

I just love weddings!  Plain and simple.  It seems almost everybody loves weddings and many people have their favorite parts which are their favorites for very different reasons.  Weddings are incredibly emotional and bring out so many emotions in each of us. 

I recently photographed a wedding in Groesbeck, Texas and as I worked through the images I felt an array of emotions which compelled me to write this list...The Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Weddings!

1.  LOVE!  I love weddings because there is so much love and happiness all around!  The bride and groom are happy.  They are filled with a tremendous amount of love.  The family and friends are also happy - happy for their loved ones that will soon be united in marriage.  At this wedding, the venue changed slightly due to flooding in the area.  The wedding was supposed to be outside, however the grounds were very soggy and the weather on March 19th was pretty windy and chilly as well.  This caused the wedding to move inside a small building.  To some this might have caused the bride to become upset, however Courtney had a carefree attitude and was determined to make the small room absolutely beautiful for her wedding day.  When I showed up the day before to look at the venue, she was super calm and just told me, "When you get here tomorrow this room is going to look so's going to be crowded, but it will be beautiful."  When I showed up on the wedding day and saw the small room, I was honestly shocked!  I NEVER would have imagined it would have looked so amazing!  Love kept her calm.

The Visitor's Center at the Historic Old Fort Parker site in Groesbeck, Texas was a wedding venue.  The wedding had to be moved indoors due to recent flooding on the grounds.

The Visitor's Center at the Historic Old Fort Parker site in Groesbeck, Texas was a wedding venue.  The wedding had to be moved indoors due to recent flooding on the grounds.

2.  THE DRESS!  I love seeing the bride's dress at a wedding!  There are so many beautiful dresses out there that and bride's look absolutely stunning in them!  Courtney wasn't any different!  The look on the groom's face when he sees his bride in the dress is priceless.  Many people don't notice this since they are all looking at the bride as well.  Seriously, how can you not look at her as she's coming down the aisle?

A beautiful bride in a beautiful dress!

A beautiful bride in a beautiful dress!

3.  DYNAMICS!  I'm a people watcher.  Everywhere I go, I watch people.  I am intrigued by the way they interact with one another.  As a photographer I get to watch people and photograph them interacting with one another.  I can honestly say that in two years of photographing families, I have yet to find two that are the same.  They might look the same at the surface, but their mannerisms and behaviors towards one another are completely different.  This isn't a bad thing at all!  Imagine how boring this world would be if we were all the same?  This wedding was not only a union of a couple, but a union of a young family.  Courtney has two children that Dustin married as well.  Watching him interact with those young boys melted my heart.  They are so lucky to have a man in their lives that cares for them that much.  It is obvious just how much those young boys are loved by their parents, family, and friends. 

The first family photograph!

The first family photograph!

4.  KIDS' REACTIONS!  Look at the photograph above.  The look on the boy's face says SO much!  Again, I'm a people watcher so I love watching facial expressions.  This image cracks me up because the young man looks like he is telling the world, "This is MY mom and I will ALWAYS be here for her!"  His mouth is clenched and his eyes are almost glaring at me.  Either he really dislikes me (which I doubt because everyone adores me (: ) or he's giving the world a secret message that he protects his mom.  I'm pretty sure she feels the same way about him too!

5.  THERE'S ALWAYS ONE IN EVERY CROWD!  At every wedding that I have attended, there is always one guest that is the entertainer.  I LOVE watching them!  They just have a fun attitude that draws attention.  Well, this wedding there were TWO entertainers!  Courtney is a lucky lady because she both of them as dads!     

When Courtney danced with her dad, they had an upbeat song which was fun to watch them dance too. 

When Courtney danced with her dad, they had an upbeat song which was fun to watch them dance too. 

Courtney's dad striking a pose.

Courtney's dad striking a pose.

Two fathers, both with big personalities!

Two fathers, both with big personalities!

I am sure you have your own top 5 reasons why you love weddings and I'd love to hear about them!  Feel free to comment below.



Top 5 Reasons To Hire a Birth Photographer

The birth of a baby is truly amazing!  There are so many emotions - nervous, scared, anxious, excited, happy, and overjoyed are just a few that come to mind.  Each doctor's visit means you are one month, week, or day closer to meeting your new baby.  The emotions continue to build.  The big day FINALLY arrives!  Every labor and delivery is different.  Some progress quickly, while others progress slowly...and at any moment things can change.  This is such a big day for your family as a whole!  Your lives will be completely changed forever. 

What will you remember from this day in a year?  5 years?  20 years?


Technology has made it possible for so many of us to own a smartphone with a decent camera built in to it.  This makes is so easy for us to take photos of all sorts of things that happen in our lives each and every day.  What about all the "big" things?  Weddings, senior years, first birthdays, and family photographs?  We usually hire a photographer to photograph those big things in our lives for obvious reasons. 

What's more live changing than a birth of a child?  Looking back on all of the events within my own family, I can say that the birth of my children has been the most life changing event in my life - even more so than marrying my husband!  Our entire family as a whole changed at the moment a new baby entered our lives.  For this reason, I have compiled a list of the Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Birth Photographer.

1.  To document the birth of your child.  This is probably the most obvious reason that anyone would want a camera in the delivery room.  After all, this is the ONLY time this child will be born.  When they ask about the day they were born, what details will you remember?  What would it be like if you could show them what it was like when they were born?  After each birth session, the moms cry when they see the photographs.  The emotions are captured and it truly is amazing to SEE and FEEL the emotions from that day.  Words cannot begin to describe the day.

Dad holding mom's hand, supporting her during the birth of their baby.

Dad holding mom's hand, supporting her during the birth of their baby.

2.  To remember more than bits and pieces.  During the labor and delivery of your child, you are focused on one thing - bringing your baby into this world.  There are so many details that you do not see and comprehend at that moment because of the task at hand.  The look on your husband's face while you are laboring and the look on the face of other family members as they meet the new addition.  You spend the majority of the time in the delivery room in pain and often times your eyes are closed.  How can you possibly notice all the details from the day?

The beautiful baby girl!

The beautiful baby girl!

3.  A professional photographer knows how to get quality photographs.  Delivery rooms have poor lighting that can negatively impact the quality of photographs.  As a professional, I have studied and practiced various conditions with my camera.  I know what settings to use to produce photographs that are of professional quality. 

Proud parents are SO in love with her!

Proud parents are SO in love with her!

4.  Let me take photographs so dad can help you.  You will need your husband's support during the birth of your child.  You will more than likely want his hand to hold and comfort you during the labor process rather than him standing next to you with the camera.  I'm sure dad would rather experience the birth with you rather than trying to figure out the camera settings and checking to make sure that the photograph turned out.  A birth photographer allows dad to be 100% present in the birth of the child.

Precious baby girl holding her daddy's thumb.

Precious baby girl holding her daddy's thumb.

5.  This is an experience for BOTH of you.  Are you going to remember, or even notice, the look on dad's face the first time he sees your baby?  You obviously won't remember the look on your own face since you can't see yourself.  What about the look on dad's face when he holds his child for the very first time?  When you hold your baby for the first time?  Hiring a birth photographer allows you both focus on the entire experience AND have the details documented.  Looking back on those photographs will be priceless!

Mom and daughter bonding.

Mom and daughter bonding.

I have had five children and I never had a photographer in the room.  My oldest child is 17.  I remember very few details other than the "big" ones.  The one memory from that day is a photograph that was taken after our son was born by my mother-in-law.  This photograph was of my husband holding our son for the very first time.  The look on his face, the love in his eyes, cannot be described by words.  My youngest child is 2 and again, I seemed to have only remembered the "big" details.  In just two short years, those tid bits of memories are gone. I'm scared to ask, "What will I remember in the next 10 years?"