family pictures

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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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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Locations: the good, the bad, and the ugly

When you book a session with me I send you a personalized Portrait Session Style Guide. In this valuable resource I talk about some things that I look for in a photo location as well as outfit selection, color choices, etc. Today we are going to talk about the location selection process for your session (If you want to know more about outfit selection, check out this live video I posted on Facebook where I actually choose an entire family's wardrobe for a photo session located HERE. ). 

Here are a couple of tips when considering location:

1.) LIGHT! Light is THE MOST IMPORANT aspect of photography. If you are wanting your session toward the middle of the day, try to choose a location that has open shade. If you have an early morning session or evening session, location selection is a bit more flexible because of the sun's placement.

2.) Think outside the box!  Brainstorm unique locations that you might have special access to that most people don't. Maybe it's a private estate, country club or resort, family ranch, upscale hotel, airplane hanger, or a rooftop view. The sky is literally the limit! Spend a few minutes thinking about it and you'll be surprised what you can come up with. When you feel connected to the location of your session, your images will become that much more special!

3.) Multiple Spots! I like to choose locations that have multiple different picture points within the same location that way you get a variety of different images. 

4.) Texture!  Whether that's Wood, Brick, dirt roads, fences, old barns, rust, chipped paint, flowers, moss, vines, sand, rocks, stones, etc. All of these things translate to BEAUTIFUL photographs! 

5.) SPACE! This is something that is vitally important if you have littles that wont sit still. Think kids age 1.5-3. It is nearly impossible to take these littles to a location where they have to sit still whether that's a downtown busy street or a studio. I always recommend an outdoor spot with lots of space that is not busy (not tons of other people around), and not surrounded by other houses, buildings, or other distracting content. That way, I will be able to chase them around, play with them, get real genuine smiles without having to worry about other people, distracting background stuff, etc. 

Remember, while there might be a few exceptions, there is never really a wrong place to shoot.

Enjoy some sneak peeks from this photo session. This sweet couple has been married for 33 years. To commemorate they booked a photo session at the exact same spot they got married. This time they had their children and grandchildren join in. The results are beautiful! 

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What your photo session and paw patrol have in common...

Paw Patrol... Paw Patrol... we'll be there on the double.... 

If you are a parent, you know what Paw Patrol is. Talking about Paw Patrol (or whatever their favorite child's show is) is one awesome way I get your kids to warm up to me. Singing the theme song does get me some pretty good laughs and smiles from everyone while behind the camera. But Paw Patrol and our Photo Sessions have more in common than that!

1.) Fun! Just like each episode of Paw Patrol, I want each of my photo sessions to be fun for everyone involved! Relax! Come into the session with a good attitude. If you have a "happy heart," as I tell my 5 year old, everyone else will too. Don't worry about your kids. I've seriously seen it all and I promise your kids are not stressing me out or acting as bad as you might think they are. The photos always end up wonderful! 

2.) Short & Sweet! Each paw patrol episode is 20 minutes long and is typically comprised of two different 10 minute story lines that center around the same theme (WHY DO I KNOW THIS??? *insert crying face here*). Much like the quick and painless episodes of paw patrol... my photo sessions are also quick and painless. Something your kids, your husband, and you will appreciate. 

3.)  Musical. Bet you didn't think this one would be in here, huh? Silly songs and noises and acting goofy is one way I get some amazing smiles and laughter out of your kids (and even you parents). So once you arrive at your session, prepare to be serenaded. Ha! 

4.) Problem Solving! Each episode of paw patrol has a problem to solve. Similarly, each photo session has problems to solve as well. Not only with getting kids to smile, posing each individual family member, etc. But also solving the problem that each and every one of my clients have. That is... forgetfulness. We as humans are naturally forgetful. We try to remember but it really is hard. That's why we all agree to have more than one child (child birth hurts, ya'll, can I get an amen!?!). It is my job to help you remember. Not only to remind you right now of how incredibly blessed your life is, but remember how you and your kids looked at this time in their life, what made them giggle, the big belly laughs, how much they loved that bunny stuffed animal, or whatever it may be. It is my job to help you remember today, tomorrow, always. 

5.) Teamwork. The paw patrol team is comprised of multiple pups each serving a different purpose with their different strengths and talents. This is just like me in the sense that each client is unique. I strive to catch that individuality on camera. I do this by putting in a lot of time BEFORE each session. I have all of my clients fill out a short client information form about you, your kids, your family, your likes, dislikes, etc. Why? Because once I know who you are and who your kids are, that is where the magic happens. I can only photograph your beauty once I have discovered it. Therefore, TEAMWORK, (you filling out the forms, picking out awesome clothes, etc.) (me studying your forms, finding perfect locations, perfect light, capturing smiles, editing, etc.) is one of the most VITAL things that makes our time together successful. 

Enjoy some sneak peeks from the Curry Family Session where LOTS of paw patrol songs were sang! 

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