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The time my daughter was right...

Today was one of THOOOOOOOSEEEE Days of motherhood!

The kind where your kids wake up fighting, nobody’s sleeping, and you are literally counting down the minutes until bedtime because it seems like every stinkin’ one of them has lost their stinkin’ minds! 

But then this happened…

My 5 year old hit her sister… AGAIN… for like the 2385273504th time today! 

It took every ounce of self-control in my being not to scream at her. Seriously, SHE KNOWS BETTER! But instead I sighed (one of those “better get right with Jesus before I kill my kid sighs…”) and I sent her up to her room. I waited until her wailing, stomping and fit throwing stopped and I went upstairs to chat.  

Instead of finding her in her own room, I found her in mine. Because kids… 😬

She was sprawled out on the bed, all teary-eyed and red-faced, holding a picture of my husband and I. Not sure what was going on with the picture, lol, the last couple of weeks I’ve found her after moments like this, holding it. But I ignored it and I scooped her up in my arms and I patiently talked to her about the importance of how we treat others, why she got in trouble, and what we should do differently next time. 

 As we were leaving my room, she placed the picture of my husband and I back up on our dresser. Curiously, I asked her, “How come you always grab this picture when I send you upstairs to calm down?” Her response was incredible... she said, “Because, mama, when I’m in trouble and feel sad and mad… this picture reminds me of how much you love me.”

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Talk about heart-melting. I think I had to literally pick my jaw up off the floor as I wiped my sobbing tears from my eyes… 


It was one of those mom moments where you go from irritated and exhausted, to, I love you so much I could die in like 5 seconds flat. 

You guys…  my 5 year old just described the importance of pictures better than I ever could. As a photographer, I always hope that people know that pictures are not JUST for social media. No, they are SO MUCH MORE important than that! 

They remind us that no matter how alone we feel in the world, there is a community of people that love us and cherish us and will always support us. 

Pictures remind us where we come from. They tell a story. They have the ability to make us laugh and make us think. They trigger emotions and inspire actions. Pictures can indeed, change the world we live in because they change people.

I just had to share this amazing mom moment with you guys! 

I hope you have a good day with a little bit (or a lot) of Rest & Relaxation *just* for you mama! 

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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One of the hardest things about motherhood....

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One of the hardest things about having kids is knowing that they were never meant to stay in your arms. 

While we will forever be changed by the days they explored the world safely within our reach, they were meant to walk, and run, and discover for themselves. They were created to touch, see and feel. Our arms will always be outstretched to hold them, but a mother also knows that motherhood, with each passing day, is a gradual process of letting go. 

One day they will find it better to sleep in their own bed instead of mama's arms and they will sleep all night long! One day they will have more friends than just mommy & daddy. One day they will pick out their own clothes & take care of themselves. And while we are their voice right now, one day they will have their own voice. 

Time may be a thief but it is also a joyous gift. And as momma's the greatest gift in our lives is the time spent with them. <3

Hold them a little longer today, mama's. As you already know... it goes WAY. TO. FAST.

Above is Murphy as a newborn. Enjoy some of the images from her 6 month session below!!!!

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Avery's First Birthday Photo Session-- Photos by Ariel Studio, Lincoln, Illinois

First Birthday’s are a busy time for momma’s! Trying to plan that first birthday party and then all the emotions that come with your baby turning ONE! I make it my mission as your photographer to make your life easier, not add to your stress! That is why for your first birthday session I provide the cake, the stand, the décor, the outfits, the props…. EVERY. SINGLE. THING. All you have to do is tell me what colors scheme you want and bring your ADORABLE baby! I take care of finding the outfits, ordering the cake, picking up the cake, finding the perfect props, etc. :)

Sweet Avery just turned one and every single image is so beautiful I think I can literally hear my jaw hitting the floor. I am a people-centered photographer. What I mean by that is that I like my subjects to be the focus of all of my images, not the background, not the props, not even the sky (when we are outside). When people look at this image, I want theme to see YOU first. <3 Clean, Crisp, and Timeless is always my motto!

Cake below was made by Emily Jackson out of Mount Pulaski, IL. Enjoy these sneak peeks from Avery’s First Birthday Session!


Staci & Kevin's Intimate Wedding at Lake Bloomington in Bloomington, Illinois

August & September have been a busy month for me. I’ve been in the process of rebranding my business, streamlining processes, client management systems, questionnaire designs and so many other things. Not to mention that August was probably the BUSIEST month for me with number of sessions so far in 2018. Staci & Kevin’s wedding was something I desperately needed. Because when I photograph a wedding, I get to step out of the crazy of everyday life and completely immerse myself in other people which is something we all need sometimes. After being so focused on our own lives, it is such a gift to be able to spend an entire weekend putting two other people FIRST. To wonderful opportunity to forget anything and everything that’s happening in my own world and be invited in to one of the most important days in someone else’s world.

Staci & Kevin’s wedding was so beautifully coordinated. It was held at Lake Bloomington in Bloomington Illinois. They had a rich color palette filled with blush pinks, whites, tans, and succulent greens. Blush pink roses intermixed with white roses and baby’s breath. Hints of lace. Succulent greens vines, over white washed wood. Every single detail of their day was stunning.

The day started at Magnolia Salon in Bloomington, Illinois. Let me just say, that I have been in a LOT of getting ready places and this one was BY FAR my favorite getting ready location I’ve ever been in. The paint colors, the decor, the mirrors, the chairs, the beautiful hard wood floors and gorgeous one-of-a-kind woodwork were just a few of my favorite things. Not to mention the white rustic fireplace and floor to ceiling windows giving the whole entire salon a bright and airy feel. I’m not kidding. This place looks like it was decorated by the actual Chip & Joanna Gaines. Not only that, the owner & bride’s sisters-in-law to be, Jessica Yamada, was sweeter than pie. She was friendly and made everyone feel relaxed and stress-free. Just what you want on a wedding day!

The next place we went to was Ewing Cultural Center. While I have done regular photo sessions here before, I have always DREAMED of doing wedding photos here. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single square inch of this place is jaw-hitting-the-ground gorgeous! It is impossible to get a bad backdrop! This was the PERFECT location for the bride and groom’s intimate first look moment! The groom started the first look by reading a sweet letter that his bride had written him all while his bride came down a set of historic stone steps, making her way toward her groom. Once she tapped him on the shoulder, he turned around and all the hugs, smiles, and joy ensued. After the first look we spent some time getting some bride & groom shots as well as some shots of the bridal party before heading to our next location!

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The next stop was Lake Bloomington where the ceremony took place outdoors. The view of the lake from their ceremony was breathtaking. The couple was married under a white arbor traced with beautiful green vines and pinecones. The ceremony was quite intimate with a guest list only around 50 people long, filled only with the closest friends and family. The guests sat in white chairs with the end of each row adorned with bouquets of babies breath. After the ceremony, the reception took place in a cabin just a couple yards away from the ceremony location. There were white tablecloths, blush pink and white centerpieces, and mason jar mugs that also served as gifts for all of their guests. The mugs were craved with the couples names and wedding date. The desert table was decorated with a beautiful tiered wooden cupcake stand filled with delicious chocolate and vanilla cupcakes made by Sam Danosky, a baker located out of Lincoln Illinois. After the traditional reception festivities, I grabbed the couple and we snuck outside by the lake to get some last pictures taken in the last 10 minutes before the sun disappeared on their beautiful wedding day.

Staci and Kevin! Congratulations! I wish you two a lifetime of happiness and love! Thank you so much for choosing me to document your wedding day. Enjoy these sneak peeks!