family photos

How to Have a Stress-Free Photo Session Every Single Time!

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“Busy season” is upon us and my days are filled jam-packed with photo session through December. Everyone longing for that perfect Christmas card photo or that perfect family portrait with those changing fall leaves! Not to mention that in fall life just gets busy! Which means, that you, your hubby, and your kids are living life in stress mode!

Stress mode is NOT a good mode to be in when you come to a photo session. I mean, unless you want stiff posing, fake “cheese” smiles, and crying pictures. Which… if that’s what you want… i’m not your girl! However, if you want the photo session to be relaxing, encouraging, fun, and life-giving, then look no further!

Stress-free photo sessions are my jam! It doesn’t matter what type of photo session you are booking! I want the experience to leave you feeling refreshed and not stressed. I want the images to give you hope and encouragement…

Therefore, i’m giving you my BEST TIPS to help your photo session be as stress-free as possible! Here we go!

1.) Think ahead

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I realize that you might not really think about your October schedule until August or September. I, however, have my October schedule almost completely full 3-6 months in advance. And if you want an evening or a weekend… BOOK EVEN SOONER! Those spots are PRIME SPOTS because most of my clients work and are only available weekends. Plus, weekdays are full of school, evenings activities, and trying to get kids motivated and ready after school when they just want to play is never fun! So, get ahead of the game and book your Session WAYYYYY in advance! These months typically book the fastest: May, June, September, October, November. Also, make sure you take into consideration the time of year! An outdoor session in January when it might snow with your 3 month old is probably not a good idea!

2.) BUY YOUR CLOTHES

I do everything in my power to enable you with the tools you will need to feel “ready” for your session by the time it comes. Style Guides, Questionnaires, Blog Posts, Videos, etc. However, if i’m being honest, if you try to come up with 8 peoples outfits in 2 days, it’s going to be stressful! Make sure that the minute you book your session (and probably even WAYYYYYYYY before that) you plan/shop for your outfits! Plus, the more time you have to warm your husband up to the idea of wearing a sport coat and get your kid used to wearing a “itchy sweater” the better. Check out this blog post I wrote about my FAVORITE places to shop for photo session clothes and this live video below on what clothes look best on camera.

3.) EXPECTATIONS

Let’s chat for a hot second about expectations! When you are prepping for your photo shoot… make sure to lay out your expectations for your guy, for your kids, and for yourself! The sooner the better! I’ve noticed that if you take the time to lay out what to expect and set realistic expectations it really empowers them to handle the whole entire process better. Here are some typical things to expect:

  • You will ask your hubby’s opinion on outfits, tell him to pretend to care (and because he really doesn’t, feel free to email me, text me, or facebook message me for my opinion if you want ;) )

  • The day of the session, you will probably be feeling insecure, nervous, and a little stressed because you haven’t been in front of a camera in a year and you don’t like ______________ about yourself, so warn your hubby ahead of time that now is not the time to get mad and grumpy at you for planning this in the first place.

  • Let him know that the kids might cry a time or two and that’s okay! It will be okay! Plus, if you don’t normally bribe your children, now is great time to let him know that it may happen….

  • Tell your kids this is going to be fun! Let them know we are going to play games together, give tickles, etc. Your attitude about all of this DIRECTLY affects their attitude of it all! Start introducing different types of bribery to see what will work!

  • Explain to him that getting kids ready for a photo shoot is NOT easy and you are going to need his help by doing __________________. Whether it’s helping get them bathed and dressed or keeping them clean after you get them dressed.

  • Learn more about prepping your man by checking out the “Grumpy Guys blog post here!” 

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4.) Involve your hubby!

You know how when already have a toddler and you are having a new baby in the family how you ask for that toddler’s help after the baby arrive’s (ex: can you be my big helper and go get a diaper for mommy!, etc.). Plan on doing the same thing for this! Both men and children react better if they are involved or at least FELL involved in the process. Nobody likes being told what to do, especially if it seemed like a waste of time. Let’s be real, if my hubby told me I had to sit and watch golf with him for the next 2 hrs, while the kids are screaming and crying and I couldn’t leave or be on my phone, and have to keep a smile on my face the whole time, then I would be really ticked.

So let’s start including our hubby and kids in the process.

  • Tell him why photos are important to you… and “its for the Christmas card” or “to post on social media” doesn’t count! I’m talking about digging deep and telling him why having photos of you during this stage are important. Maybe you tried to get pregnant for years and never thought it was going to happen… maternity photos are always going to remind you of that blessing. Maybe its because your kids are driving you nuts, your tired and weary, and you find that when you look at photos of them it re-energizes you and keeps you invested in that relationship. Maybe its because you were adopted and don’t have any photos of your past to call your own. Maybe you want your kids to see photos of them hanging all around your house so that they have confidence and know that they are loved. Whatever the reason, explain it to him! Because he loves you he will see that your reasons for wanting photos aren’t superficial and he will care about it more!

  • Show him why you chose me! Take him to my website, have him watch my branding video, or show him that one blog post that you loved so much! Take him to my facebook and show him how each week I post about authentic motherhood and how every time you read it you feel like I get you, like you aren’t alone, and it encourages you! Show him the sneak peeks and the live videos and all the things that when thrown together made you say, “I choose her!”

  • Have him fill out the questionnaire with you! If you’ve been a client of mine in the past you KNOW that after selecting a date and time! I send you a bunch of resources that will help you plan your shoot (because knowledge is power, right!?!) but I also send you a questionnaire and I ask you to fill it out together! Why? Because it really gives your significant other insight into your life and you into his. It forces you to pause, take a deep breath, and remember your story. Remember why you chose each other and why you continue to choose each other every single day. It develops feelings of connection and empathy in you both as you open up. It allows you step out of autopilot and have a special moment where you fall back in love with each other all over again! On this questionnaire I ask a variety of questions about your past, present and future. Not because i’m giving you busy work…. but because as a creative i’m inspired by your story! I allow your story to change details about the session! The poses I choose, the social prompts I use to get certain expressions, the location, etc. All of it is used to create a session that feels like you as a couple… you as a family!

Involve your guy in the process and he won’t just pretend to care, this whole thing will become not just YOUR thing but his too!

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5.) Set the Scene

Before I took my kids to their first parade, I was trying to tell them why we were going and what it would be like. I mentioned how the people throw candy at you and you get to bring it home! A couple hours later my daughter was FREAKING OUT, not wanting to go! I was so baffled and couldn’t figure out why! Until finally she said… “You said people throw candy at us… thats mean!” Hahahahhahahaha!

We are responsible for our kids view of photo sessions! If you act stressed out about it and make it not fun for them then they will NEVER want to do photo sessions again. If you relax, it will be so much better! FOR EVERYONE! Try not to worry about the faces they make, if they dripped water on their pants, or whether or not their listening. Trust me. I do this all the time! Your kid is fine and 100% Normal! Let me handle it! Unless your kid is screaming profanities at you and trying to hurt people, I can handle it!

Make sure you set the scene for your kids ahead of time! This is what i like to call “creating magic” in the minds of your kids. I want you to get them so hyped up about this session that a stranger would think they are going to freaking Disney World. A week or so before the session start telling them about it. Show them pictures of me on my facebook, or my website. Show them how I took pictures of other little kids and look at them laughing. Tell them we get to play games, tickle each other and have fun! Make this photo session look like its going to be so much fun!

6.) Day of the Session

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When the day of the session arrives this is your goal… KEEP THE KIDS HAPPY! Do whatever it takes to keep your kids happy. Give them lots of play time and one-on-one time before the session. Make sure they are fed and try to get them to nap. Even if that means driving them around in a car for a few hours. Remind them again about what’s going to be happening and how its going to be awesome. And bring whatever you bribed them with WITH YOU! If you promised them a paw patrol character, buy it ahead of time and keep it in the car. Kids brains doing know how to process delayed gratification and so we must immediately reward them with things as soon as it happens. For younger kids, I even recommend bringing gummi snacks, goldfish, puffs, or some sort of small bribe that you can give them in between shots! Just make sure its not something that will melt or bleed color onto their clothes (like m & m’s). Word to the wise, if you do not want them to have a sucker stick hanging out of their mouth… don’t give it to them during the session! If you don’t want them to be holding the toy in all the images, do not give it to them during the session! Know that I typically do anything that involves kids first so that they can be done ASAP and have their rewards!

7.) Expectations (AGAIN!)

Alright, now the session is done so it’s time for me to hope that you have reasonable expectations for me as well! ;) Did you know that I cull (go through and decide which photos are keepers) around 20,000 photos a month and edit on average around 10,000. Please know that I have around 5-7 people on my list to edit at one time. And that skin-smoothing software that you know and LOVE for me to use on your photos takes a little bit of time to run. That being said, I do post the turnaround time in 4 different emails prior to the session and typically tell you at the session as well in order to make sure we are ALL on the same page! :) Just know that I work every waking minute for you guys and I KNOW how badly you want to see those photos! <3 Trust me! I have a 100% guarantee that you will love the photos! And giving you an unforgettable experience and high- quality photos is what i’m known for! So take a deep breath and know that they are going to be awesome!


Hopefully these tips will ensure a successful, stress-free photo session for you! If you are interested in booking, please contact me here!

Best of Luck!

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Grumpy Guys- How to prep your man for a photoshoot

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Let’s be honest… I don’t know if I’ve ever met a man in the world who is EXCITED about pictures. Whether its his wedding day, an engagement session, newborn session or family pictures… feeling apathetic about the session is pretty typical. Most of the time they don’t see why its necessary, they would rather spend their money elsewhere (or not spend it at all), they don’t like how stressed their wives get about every single detail beforehand, and really…. they kinda think its a waste of time… and definitely not something they would call “fun.”

Even when it came time for me to do my OWN branding session with my husband and kids… don’t think I didn’t hear groans about money, and time, and importance and blah, blah, blah! You can only imagine my reaction when my hubby questioned the necessity of photos! Lol, It wasn’t pretty!

Because ultimately, I know that BOTH you AND your man’s attitude determines SO MUCH about how a session goes. The kids notice, I notice, its noticeable in the poses and the lack of connection, its noticed in their eyes. Turns out “i’d rather be anywhere but here” is pretty evident in photos! :) So I knew I had to get my man not just on board about the photos (frankly, he had no choice, lol) but at peace with them!

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Thankfully, as a photographer who has had MANY, MANY sessions over the last six years, I have a few tips and tricks up my sleeve for getting guys to cooperate… and now i’m here to share them with YOU!

1.) Empathy

Typically, guys walk into a photo session grumpy because they’ve had a bad experience in the past! Whether its a drill sergeant photographer on their wedding day, an unorganized session, a session where the kids screamed and cried and the photographer didn’t know how to handle it, a surprise $500 fee at the end to actually receive the pics, or a 5 hour photo session straight from Hades… all of these are enough to tarnish a man’s view of photo sessions forever!

Try to understand where your man is coming from and then let him know that you get it…. that sometimes sessions have stressed you out to. But that the reason you chose me is because a “stress-free” experience is what I deliver my clients in every single step from booking to session to delivery! One of my favorite compliments ever that I typically hear from a husband of an expecting woman (because they got married most recently and it’s fresh on their mind) is, “I wish you were our photographer on our wedding day!” Seriously, i’ve heard this MULTIPLE TIMES! I always tell him, “I know, its such a shame that photo sessions have such a bad rep! Now go everyone you know about this experience so we can change that.”

So sit down with your hubby, listen to his concerns, take them into consideration and have him watch this video that is LIVE right after I finished a family photo session where the dad himself unrehearsed has something to say to allllll the other dads (around 1:55 on video)!

2.) Expectations

Now that you’ve let them know you understand their pain… they will be more likely to listen! So here’s what I want you to do! Men are a lot like toddlers! But don’t tell them I said so! ;) I’ve noticed that if you take the time to tell them what to expect and set realistic expectations it really empowers them to handle the whole entire process better. . Here are some typical things to expect:

  • You will ask his opinion on outfits, tell him to pretend to care (and because he really doesn’t, feel free to email me, text me, or facebook message me for my opinion if you want ;) )

  • The day of the session, you will probably be feeling insecure, nervous, and a little stressed because you haven’t been in front of a camera in a year and you don’t like ______________ about yourself, so now is not the time to get mad and grumpy at you for planning this in the first place.

  • Let him know that the kids might cry a time or two and that’s okay! It will be okay! Plus, if you don’t normally bribe your children, now is great time to let him know that it may happen….

  • Explain to him that getting kids ready for a photo shoot is NOT easy and you are going to need his help by doing __________________. Whether it’s helping get them bathed and dressed or keeping them clean after you get them dressed.

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3.) Involvement

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You know how when already have a toddler and you are having a new baby in the family how you ask for that toddler’s help after the baby arrive’s (ex: can you be my big helper and go get a diaper for mommy!, etc.). Well, men react better if they are involved or at least FELL involved in the process. Nobody likes being told what to do, especially if it seemed like a waste of time. Let’s be real, if my hubby told me I had to sit and watch golf with him for the next 2 hrs, while the kids are screaming and crying and I couldn’t leave or be on my phone, then I would be really ticked.

So let’s start including our guy in the process, even if they don’t THINK that’s what they want!

  • Tell him why photos are important to you… and “its for the Christmas card” or “to post on social media” doesn’t count! I’m talking about digging deep and telling him why having photos of you during this stage are important. Maybe you tried to get pregnant for years and never thought it was going to happen… maternity photos are always going to remind you of that blessing. Maybe its because your kids are driving you nuts, your tired and weary, and you find that when you look at photos of them it re-energizes you and keeps you invested in that relationship. Maybe its because you were adopted and don’t have any photos of your past to call your own. Maybe you want your kids to see photos of them hanging all around your house so that they have confidence and know that they are loved. Whatever the reason, explain it to him! Because he loves you he will see that your reasons for wanting photos aren’t superficial and he will care about it more!

  • Show him why you chose me! Take him to my website, have him watch my branding video, or show him that one blog post that you loved so much! Take him to my facebook and show him how each week I post about authentic motherhood and how every time you read it you feel like I get you, like you aren’t alone, and it encourages you! Show him the sneak peeks and the live videos and all the things that when thrown together made you say, “I choose her!”

  • Have him fill out the questionnaire with you! If you’ve been a client of mine in the past you KNOW that after selecting a date and time! I send you a bunch of resources that will help you plan your shoot (because knowledge is power, right!?!) but I also send you a questionnaire and I ask you to fill it out together! Why? Because it really gives your significant other insight into your life and you into his. It forces you to pause, take a deep breath, and remember your story. Remember why you chose each other and why you continue to choose each other every single day. It develops feelings of connection and empathy in you both as you open up. It allows you step out of autopilot and have a special moment where you fall back in love with each other all over again! On this questionnaire I ask a variety of questions about your past, present and future. Not because i’m giving you busy work…. but because as a creative i’m inspired by your story! I allow your story to change details about the session! The poses I choose, the social prompts I use to get certain expressions, the location, etc. All of it is used to create a session that feels like you as a couple… you as a family!

Involve your guy in the process and he won’t just pretend to care, this whole thing will become not just YOUR thing but his too!


Best of Luck!

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Family Photo Session in Smokey Mountain National Park, Tennessee

This family photo session in Smokey Mountain National Park is extra special! We were on a family vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee with EVERYONE! Which, for my immediate family is 23 people! 8 adults, 3 teenagers, 5 kids, 3 toddlers, and 4 babies all shoved into one GIANT cabin! Thankfully this cabin was unbelievably huge and AH-MAZINNNGGGGGG!!!! Fully equipped with 3 different decks, home theater, pool table, air hockey table, indoor heated pool, and 6 bedrooms… one for each family and then all the kid boys in their own room and all the kid girls in their own room! It was wonderful to wake up and drink my morning coffee to this view every single day!

A few days before the trip my sister asked if I could do family photos for them while we were there and of course I’m like, “photos in the Smokey Mountains!?! Yes please!!!!”

So one of the days we were there, we went out to take pictures! But of course, family pictures are never as easy as they seem! Picking out clothes, doing everyones hair, getting everyone dressed, keeping those outfits clean, getting yourself ready, convincing your husband not to be grumpy, loading everyone in the house, bribing them to be happy… but Amber handled it like the amazing mom that she is!

So we went out to a flowery field and we played! Because one of my goals is to remove the stigma from family photos by making them FUN! That’s right… not just tolerable…. but FUN! And we most definitely had fun during this session! Enjoy some of my favorites from this family photo session!

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The Future of Photography- Central Illinois Lifestyle Family Session

You know what’s better than fighting over outifts, threatening your kids, bribing them, doing the same thing with your husband, all to get a bunch of fake smiles? Not doing that.

As an artist it is important for me to do “creative projects” a.k.a projects that are unpaid, are completely my own, that inspire me, challenge my creativity and come straight from my heart… And that’s EXACTLY what this session was.

I approached my friend Shannon about doing this for me with her 2 year old son Judd and she was willing!

At first her objections were those that I hear most with these types of sessions… I don’t have a headboard… my house isn’t finished… my comforter isn’t “pretty”, etc. I told her that I thought headboards were distracting anyway. And that it would be perfect! I just told her dress comfy and maybe get a couple of throw pillows. (Which, shoutout to Walmart for having these AMAZING throw pillows below!) So she complied ;). Thanks, Friend.

The results were amazing. Pure joy, no frustration, playfulness, connection, interaction, bonding, gratefulness, and NO bribing!!!! WHAT!?!?! I know right. In fact, Judd didn’t WANT to stop playing with momma on the bed to get pictures.

My whole experience boasts of being a holistic one. Everything from the process before the session to the session itself, to photo delivery is designed to make you reflect, bring you joy, remind your heart to be grateful, and give you endurance to keep investing in these special relationships day after day.

I think this… lifestyle sessions--in your own home…  is the FUTURE of photography. Outdoor pictures are beautiful and you absolutely CAN get amazing and playful shots that highlight your connection while outside in these environments. But there is something about being in your home, not a studio, in comfy clothes that makes kids happy and bonus: cooperative. The whole vibe of the session is relaxing and truly fills you with an overwhelming thankfulness. I hope this session inspires you to do one of these for yourself. I would love to show you the beauty that exists in YOUR everyday life.

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Military Family Photo Session

I've known Heather and her family for two years now but it feels like forever. But even more than that, Heather, has been a part-time Nanny for my family for a little over a year and we love her to pieces. When they announced last year that they were going to be moving because her husband was going into the military, I knew we would miss her dearly. The weekend before she finally moved we met at the train depot here in Lincoln, Illinois to do one last photo session! The results = perfection! 

Enjoy these sneak peeks from this military family photo session! 

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