Posts in PHOTOGRAPHERS
Creatives and Burn Out: You Are Enough
 Adventuring in Lawrenceville with a beloved friend! photo cred: Mary Kuehn (the friend, lol)

Adventuring in Lawrenceville with a beloved friend! photo cred: Mary Kuehn (the friend, lol)

Hi friend! This is a personal blog post, which I love to do every once and a while. Transparency means so much when getting to know your photog! If you want to see more portfolio-like content, click on over here!

When people talk about burn-out, it's generally meant that they feel overwhelmed, over scheduled, stressed out, in a rut, passionless, cynical, "over it", hopeless, on and on. It might seem like someone who's in a creative field - who's constantly CREATING something new, something fresh, something exciting - would find it hard to reach that place, right? Maybe you are a creative reading this, and find yourself comparing your work to others, struggling to find your passion, not looking forward to things you used to? Maybe you haven't blogged in two weeks (ahem) and you are just wanting a break to actually be at your house and spend time there, maybe even clean it? (that always gets pushed to the bottom of the list!)

Burn-out is real, and burn-out is relative. Not everyone can produce the same amount in a day, whether that be photos, social media content, articles, products, whatever whatever whatever! I often have to check my heart to not only stop myself from judging MY performance against others, but others against mine! How terrible does that sound? If you are treating others, and yourself, based on what you/they produce, you need to check that at the door. Give yourself, and others, grace! It's okay to leave a few things unchecked on your to-do list. Nothing is as urgent as taking care of yourself and your soul.

I feel that transparency and self-care, along with ALLOWING yourself to put on the brakes every once and a while is NECESSARY - and definitely something I struggle with a lot. Get coffee with me, and certainly you will hear the phrase "I never feel like I'm doing ENOUGH." And I know a LOT of other people that feel this way too. You set a standard for yourself, and if you don't meet it, you "fail." But I realized recently that standards HAVE to be fluid. Your "enough" is based on a million things that are NOT constant like time, energy, commitments, health, family... so why should your standards be rigid if the rest of your life is not? 

If you a religious person, you may have heard the phrase that "Jesus is enough." That sounds amazing and is probably on a t-shirt somewhere, but what does that actually, tangibly mean and how do I live my life showing that I believe that? I'm sure the answer is different for everyone, but what I've found is that to embrace that God is enough and not rely on yourself means that first you set realistic standards of what you CAN do. Be honest with yourself. Then, you do what you CAN in a day given all the factors against you. At the end of the day when you're looking at all the things you didn't get done but wanted to, you then CHOOSE to not worry, be thankful for what you DID get done, and literally just relax and take time to recharge. Some pastors call that "resting in grace" - and I had to figure out what that tangibly meant. I spend so much time and mental energy thinking about what I HAVE to do, that figuring out what I WANT to do with my free time (that I have to MAKE) was a challenge. But now, I realize that's what "resting in grace" means for me: just rest, and stop freaking out, because God's got you and it's going to be okay.

You may know that almost 3 years ago now I lost my father to a really aggressive cancer. I often think about how he worked so hard as a mechanic his whole life, with the goal of retirement and adventuring with mom, taking trips, and filling his time with memories. Luckily, dad also knew how to enjoy life right where he was, and often took trips and had adventures (not to mention a million hobbies) to enrich the everyday life instead of just grinding away for that "someday." It took me way too long to realize that this is the key to happiness for a "type A" like myself - make time for rest and fun in the here and now.

Before he passed, I inherited his old Canon A1 film camera, and recently committed to learning how to use it and shoot on film. It's a completely different beast than digital, and the thing I've loved most about film is that it FORCES you to go slow, wait for the moment, notice all the details, and value the experience. Digital cameras can rapid-fire off shots like a machine gun, and while that's definitely my go-to for client sessions to ensure I don't miss anything, film has been an amazing antidote for burn-out for me because of all the reasons above. Any time I go on an adventure, the film camera comes along - not so I can "work", but so I can be more present. I'm still not perfect at it, but I'm having a great time with it, and it's a way to keep dad with me in those adventures he loved so much too.

If you are experiencing burn-out, I encourage you to tap into your curiosity. Learn something, pick up a new hobby, inject some "different" into your life. It will give you a distraction, a spark, a reprieve, and you just might discover one more thing that you're awesome at! Hope you enjoy these highlights from a few of my adventures this summer, all shot on film and with dad's A1!

 My husband Brandon in the Greenhouse at The Frick in Pittsburgh.

My husband Brandon in the Greenhouse at The Frick in Pittsburgh.

 Friends Liz and Adam exploring The Frick with us!

Friends Liz and Adam exploring The Frick with us!

 More candids in the greenhouse at The Frick!

More candids in the greenhouse at The Frick!

 Brandon waiting to board the Assateague Adventure boat on our trip to Ocean City.

Brandon waiting to board the Assateague Adventure boat on our trip to Ocean City.

 Skimming for critters in the bay at Assateague.

Skimming for critters in the bay at Assateague.

 Found a lot of minnows!

Found a lot of minnows!

 The bay side of Ocean City, Maryland.

The bay side of Ocean City, Maryland.

 Fenwick Island lighthouse in Delaware.

Fenwick Island lighthouse in Delaware.

 Pier at Ocean City.

Pier at Ocean City.

 My best friend's amazing daughter who let me braid her hair in a crown 'cause she's a princess!

My best friend's amazing daughter who let me braid her hair in a crown 'cause she's a princess!

 My mom Judi and her grumpy pup Digger.

My mom Judi and her grumpy pup Digger.

 Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls in Armaugh.

Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls in Armaugh.

 My gorgeous friend Mary and I (behind lens) being silly creatives together in Lawrenceville!

My gorgeous friend Mary and I (behind lens) being silly creatives together in Lawrenceville!

 More gorgeous Mary laying on the ground by ice-cream-esque lines in a cemetery because why not?

More gorgeous Mary laying on the ground by ice-cream-esque lines in a cemetery because why not?

 The street art in Lawrenceville is pretty colorful and amazing.

The street art in Lawrenceville is pretty colorful and amazing.

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Timing Your Spring Senior Session
 high school senior model with denim jacket in front of flowering dogwood tree

If you want jaw-dropping senior photos, start planning right now! The trees are starting to blossom and nights are coming later, which means that you can get the same color-injected, gorgeous backdrops featured here! Ever wonder how photographers get that warm, deliciously amazing light that makes their photos glow? I certainly did. After lots of soul searching this month, this webinar watching, cash-dropping light chaser vowed to stop saying to myself "I'll just fix it in (computer software of choice)", and decided to get. that. glow.

It all starts with paying attention. If you are planning a shoot, look up when sunset is, and plan your shoot an hour or two before that. Carrie was graciously flexible and patient and we adjusted our start time to make sure her photos would be kick-you-in-the-face gorgeous. Usually somewhere between 5pm and 7pm is a good place to start!

HOW $20 DRASTICALLY CHANGED MY PHOTOS

Photography is expensive. Gear is pricey. Time is valuable. The cost of both is critical is this business, but some simple, good decisions can help you reap major benefits! I bought this $20 reflector in keeping with my vow to never "fix it in (computer software)" again. It makes a HUGE difference in lighting your portrait subject's face, and gives you the freedom to position your new friend in front of those beautiful golden backgrounds and still make sure the light is just right. Plus now you can call yourself a light bender and that sounds kind of cool.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these shots of Carrie's senior session! She is quite an amazing lady - manager of a baseball team at school, a solid member of the volleyball team for years, an advocate for MS, exchange program participant, AP class all-star, and lover of ice cream! Meadows, anyone?
 

 high school senior model behind volleyball net with Westchester University college shirt
 high school senior model posed with purple volleyball wearing a west chester university college hat
 high school senior model with off the shoulder yellow lace top posing in front of arches at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania
 high school senior model with yellow lace off the shoulder top holding melting ice cream with rainbow sprinkles in front of the meadows ice cream store in Indiana, PA
 high school senior model with denim jacket in front of flowering dogwood tree
 high school senior model standing in front of covered bridge wearing a floral summer dress
 high school senior model twirling floral summer dress on a back country raos with trees
 high school senior model wearing light blue shift dress and blue floral heels looking over shoulder and laughing on top of a parking garage in the city
 high school senior model in light blue shift dress standing on top of parking garage overlooking city of Indiana PA
 headshot using reflector of high school senior model in light blue shift dress standing on top of parking garage overlooking city of Indiana PA
 top down shot of high school senior model laughing in light blue shift dress standing on top of parking garage overlooking city of Indiana PA
 
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Did You Forget to Tell Your Photographer Something? | Hippie Wedding at Phipps Conservatory, Pittsburgh PA
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Lately everything is "bespoke" (what happened to the word "custom"?), and weddings are becoming bigger and better than ever with curated details and surprise events that make it a truly unique and personal experience. But, in all that planning, did you forget to tell your photographer about any special details that are significant to your wedding? Not only is it really important to have great communication with your photographer because of personality (if you're a regular around here you know why!), but its also good to keep us in the loop so we can be prepared with the right gear (and literally be in the right place) to make sure every little detail and moment that is important to you is captured to the best of our ability.

Each region of the country (and world!) has different wedding traditions, and while your photographer is prepared for the "normal" wedding day, you can generally assume that anything that makes this wedding unique to you is something that you need to tell your photographer. Is your dress your moms? Wearing grandmas ring? Do you have a crazy Aunt Betty who is a photo nut and will be at your photographers hip each moment? Grooms, are you planning a surprise fireworks show? Are you pulling a rubber chicken out of your bride's dress when you go all "Mission Impossible" under there for the garter? Do you have super cool food options like a food truck instead of the stuffed chicken a la buffet? Tell me! Part of the fun of planning weddings now is that literally anything goes. And I want to be ready to rock it so you can always remember it!

Here are 5 big areas you should cover when you sit down to meet your photographer:

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Family Photos

If it's important to you (or your mom, dad, stepmom - whoever!) to get a photo with a specific combination of family members, you MUST give your photographer a list, especially when blended families are involved. There's nothing worse that leaving someone out or hurting someone's feelings over wedding pictures. Sit down with your fiancé and your family AND his or her family and ask about any family photos they need to have. If the list gets out of hand, just pare it down. You and your fiancé are the boss! It's YOUR wedding! Your photographer will absolutely do everything they can as time allows to get all of the shots, but he or she has to know what shots to get in the first place. And trust me, don't wait until the day of the wedding to just shout out combinations of aunts and uncles. You will be distracted and pulled in a million different directions, not to mention timelines can be tight to fit in portraits and travel to the reception. Don't let that stress you out - let me handle it! 

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Time Line

Speaking of the time, it's essential you tell your photographer the timeline of your wedding. If you are doing a first look, getting ready in a different location other than the church, or if there is a good amount of travel time from location to location, these are all things that your photographer will be grateful to know ahead of time! If the logistics and scheduling of everything is giving you a headache, let your photographer and DJ help. We have been to hundreds of weddings and can tell you how much time things take, including those sneaky time-suckers like receiving lines that you may not have thought about. Just as important, if a time or location changes, even day of, your photographer should be in the know about that too. We are constantly keeping track of the time (I have a watch in my camera bag in case my phone dies) and trying to fit in everything you want to do while keeping a fun vibe (but on schedule!), so delegate that stress to us!

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Lighting

A lot of churches frown upon using flash, so be sure to check with the little old church secretary (I can say that because I'm basically my church's secretary lol), and see what the officiant's preference on flash is. If your photographer is used to using flash everywhere, it's definitely worth bringing up. Most photographers have lenses that are up to the job no matter what the lighting is like, but just make sure they know in advance so they can pack correctly.

Also. Sparklers. Please, please PLEASE tell us when you are using sparklers, or even glow sticks (that was a rad wedding!) for an exit. If there's fire or other low-light fun things happening, we've gotta know so we can be in place with the right gear. It's helpful, too, if you can take your time walking through all the beautiful sparks instead of sprinting the heck outta there! Your honeymoon can wait 30 more seconds, I promise ;)

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Special Details

One of the things that make weddings so dear and personal are details. It's really a great way to infuse your personality, family, history, and anything significant to you into your wedding. My rule of thumb when photographing weddings is that if you made it or paid for it, I'm going to photograph it! But if there is something very important to you that may not be on display or obvious, make sure to let us know so we can snap a pic!

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Surprises

I love it when grooms and brides surprise each other with things during their wedding. Be it a gift or prayer before the ceremony, a note, a fireworks show, a game during the reception, a choreographed dance, whatever, let us in on the secret! We promise we won't tell, and you can be sure that we will be in the right place at the right time!

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It's my goal to teach you that your photographer is so much more than a lady or dude snapping photos on your wedding day. Something that is so intrinsic to my personality and my only really true passion is service, and it's essential to being a good photographer. Your photographer should be there to calm you down, keep you on track, encourage you, direct you, create with you, laugh with you, and take care of you. The more information you can give us, the better we can serve you - and that's what it's all about!

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The Advice You Wanted Most and All Of Your Favorites | Indiana PA Wedding, Family, and Senior Photographer
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2017 was such a great year of learning, both for me and for you! This year was the launch of some big things around here, my favorite being this blog! For the past 40 weeks, we have spent a few minutes together every week, sometimes featuring guest writers, but always showing off the vibrant and genuine heart and soul of my favorite people - YOU! Your love and support is literally everything to me and to the success of this fun little venture. It is my hope that through this special platform, we were able to connect in a way that goes way beyond showcasing my work, but that it was literally time spent creating value for YOU. Whether that be through advice for brides, answers to frequently asked questions, tips, tricks, and ideas, or just through the honest, thoughtful, genuine, voice-filled writing that shows you more of me, my family, and my heart. It is my hope that hanging out here every week has helped you learn, prepare, relax, and trust anything and everything about having photos taken and most of all, memories made.

Mushy stuff aside - remember those superlatives in your high school yearbook? Most likely to succeed? Biggest class clown? Prettiest eyes? Nicest smile? As a year end treat, I've wrapped up all of your favorite blog posts, shoots, and moments of 2017 to romp through all over again, as shown by page views analytics data! This year alone brought almost 10,000 views to my website since May, and I am so looking forward to an even bigger and more vibrant 2018!

 MOST VIEWED BLOG - What to do with your wedding dress after your wedding

MOST VIEWED BLOG - What to do with your wedding dress after your wedding

 MOST HELPFUL BLOG POST - Make your handwriting a font

MOST HELPFUL BLOG POST - Make your handwriting a font

 BEST BLOG FOR SENIORS - Who to bring along on your senior session

BEST BLOG FOR SENIORS - Who to bring along on your senior session

 BEST BLOG FOR FAMILIES - Are Your Kids Old Enough For Family Photos?

BEST BLOG FOR FAMILIES - Are Your Kids Old Enough For Family Photos?

 BEST BLOG FOR BRIDES - Not Your Average Wedding Tips

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDES - Not Your Average Wedding Tips

 BEST BLOG FOR BRIDESMAIDS - 10 Lessons for Bridesmaids

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDESMAIDS - 10 Lessons for Bridesmaids

 MOST PUBLISHED WEDDING - Dan + Danielle | Car Themed Wedding at Farm on the Ridge

MOST PUBLISHED WEDDING - Dan + Danielle | Car Themed Wedding at Farm on the Ridge

 MOST LIKED WEDDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Wayne + Cortney | Gatsby Themed Wedding at People's Natural Gas Park

MOST LIKED WEDDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Wayne + Cortney | Gatsby Themed Wedding at People's Natural Gas Park

 MOST READ PERSONAL BLOG - Why You Need Marriage Counseling

MOST READ PERSONAL BLOG - Why You Need Marriage Counseling

 MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPERIENCE OF 2017 - Winter Wedding in the Poconos

MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPERIENCE OF 2017 - Winter Wedding in the Poconos

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One Trick To Maximize Your Time with Emails
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Do you find yourself sending the same email over and over again? Perhaps to answer the same question from client after client? Maybe you're a teacher asking the same question to parents? Are you starting a business and curious about a free way to manage your client correspondence?  If you're a gmail user, I am about to change your life. (Click here if Outlook is is your host!)

CANNED RESPONSES

When I found myself searching back through my outbox to copy-paste the same message I typed to inquiring clients time after time, I thought to myself "there has to be a better way." After a quick google search, I found that Google created a "lab" (mail plugin) that allows you to create "canned responses", that is, a pre-generated message that you can select from a list. This is not an automated response, but rather a list of messages that YOU typed that YOU can pick from when sending or responding to an email. The set up is very simple:

  1. Login to gmail
  2. click the gear icon to bring up Settings
  3. click "Lab" link at the top
  4. scroll down and click "canned responses"
  5. click "enable" button
  6. Write your email as normal, including the subject
  7. Click the drop-down arrow in the bottom right of the email window, revealing "more options"
  8. Hover over canned responses, then click "new canned response"

That's it! To make more canned responses, simply repeat these steps. To USE a canned response:

  1. Click the "compose" button to open up a new, blank email,
  2. Click the drop-down arrow in the bottom right of the email window, revealing "more options"
  3. Hover over canned responses, then under the "insert" section, click the response you want to use

To CHANGE or EDIT your canned responses:

  1. Click the "compose" button to open up a new, blank email,
  2. Click the drop-down arrow in the bottom right of the email window, revealing "more options"
  3. Hover over canned responses, then under the "insert" section, click the response you want to EDIT
  4. Make your changes
  5. click the drop-down menu again, and click the name of your response under the "save" section

FOLLOW UP EMAILS

Sometimes people don't get back to you right away, but you still want to let them know that you are here for them, or perhaps need to kindly, and in due time, prompt them for an answer. Here, canned responses are also great! But, when coupled with another great FREE tool, Wunderlist, it's an awesome way to make sure no-one slips through the cracks. When a client emails you, and you send a canned response back, create a "to-do" item in Wunderlist. You can lump these "to-do" items together into one or multiple lists. I use the date of the client's wedding as my list name. Then, you can even group lists into a folder (ex. 2017 weddings, 2018 weddings, etc.) The best part about this is that when you create an item, you can fill in loads of details (like email, facts you learned about the client, anything!) and then set a reminder when the item is "due." For me, I set a reminder a week from when I am entering it, that way I know when I should send a follow up email.

I might be a genius. Or I might just be insane. Either way, I hope those tips are helpful!

CLIENT EXPERIENCE

It might not be shocking that the secret to maximizing your time is trying to automate as much as possible. But what about the heart, the feeling, the customer experience? It's something that's not only trendy, but so so crucial to any business person or anyone that works with people on a daily basis. Everything is about the relationship, and the trick is finding room in the automation to make sure that your client knows they are cared about. For me, that means writing with a clear voice that's not professional and stuffy, but personable and fun. It means leaving gaps in those canned responses to insert names, details specific to the client, and always including an invitation for an in-person meeting.

The bottom line is that we all care about the people we interact with or provide a service to. It's easy to get caught-up in logistics, but we have to always zoom out and look at the big picture (pardon the photo analogies, it's ingrained). We do the things we do because we want to care for the people that God put on this planet to do life with us, and we want to work and use our abilities that He gifted us to fulfill His purpose. And for me, that means having less screen time and more face-to-face time.

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Evan + Kim | Fedora and Suspenders Wedding at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall
 Double exposure of bride and groom and church

Evan and Kim's gorgeous fedora and suspenders wedding at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall was an absolute blast right from the beginning. These two were high school sweethearts - I actually photographed Evan's senior photos and snuck in a few of his then-girlfriend Kim. It it so honoring to me that these wonderful people showed so much loyalty to my business, not only recommending me to other family members for senior portraits, but being blessed to shoot this super fun wedding so many years later! During their engagement shoot, we had to make some time for some funny shots that really let their personality shine. You'll have to check out the one with the tractor

Their wedding was just as fun and carefree. When I asked them what they were looking forward to the most, they said "partying and having fun!", so I made sure to capture lots of laughs. Kim was absolutely stunning in her mermaid-style gown from White Lace Bridal. Her "anything goes" easy personality made her willing to sit, jump, twirl, and get picked up by her hubby in that gorgeous dress too. After spending just a little time with there bridesmaids, who looked stunning in their gowns from Pine Ridge Bridal, I could see why they were all friends. These girls were so sweet and accommodating, willing to help me fluff dresses, hold lists, and anything else I asked of them. 

I was particularly spoiled this wedding because I was able to shoot with the amazing Nathan Ballash of Ballash.s Photography who spent time with the guys in the morning, getting some awesome shots of their suspender and fedora hat wedding day style! 

HOW TO BE AN AWESOME SECOND SHOOTER

Today, most couples want all of their bases covered when it comes to photography on this special day that a lot of thoughts (and dollars) were poured into. I was so excited that Nathan was able to be my amazing assistant for the day. Being thoughtful and attentive is a must for a second shooter. Listen to some of the amazingly mindful things Nathan brought to make my day, and everyone else's, easier:

Second Shooter selfie with bride and groom
  • Shared location details with the "Find my Friends" app so we could keep tabs on each other while we shot at separate spots around town.
  • Familiarized himself with my shooting style (I shoot primes) and brought zoom lenses to offer variety and versatility.
  • Held all of my crap. And kept track of my car keys. He was basically my purse.
  • Noticed needs I didn't even realize I had. Like shading me with my reflector when I was shooting in the sun.
  • Learned my "modern" posing style and confidently stepped in (but not in a bossy way) to do more classic posing when I was done.
  • Offered (and set up) a lighting system for the reception that was totally different than mine so I could try something new!

I feel like the fun, love, and thoughtfulness shown by everyone, vendors and bridal party alike, really show in these photos. I hope you enjoy these highlights of Kim and Evan's best day ever!

 Bride wearing veil clasping necklace before putting on wedding dress
 Mermaid dress from While Lace Bridal in Indiana PA
 Bridesmaids in Pine Ridge bridal dresses attending to the bride as she puts her dress on
 Groom wearing fedora hat getting ready before wedding ceremony
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
 wide shot of church and wedding guests during ceremony in Ebensburg, PA
 Bride and groom exchanging rings during wedding ceremony
 Bride and groom walking down steps outside of Ebensburg PA church as guests blow bubbles
 formal family portrait during wedding in Ebensburg PA church
 Bridal party walking and laughing in front of old Cambria County Jail in Ebensburg, PA
 Bridesmaids posing for a silly group shot at Old Cambria County jail in Ebensburg, PA
 Groomsmen throwing groom up in the air in a basket toss while ring bearer runs away
 Bride smacking groom in the face with bouquet at Old Cambria County Jail in Ebensburg, PA
 Groom throwing bride over shoulder and smacking buttFedora and Suspenders Wedding
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
 black and white close up of bride and groom at Lake Rowena in Ebensburg, PA
 close up of wedding bands
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
 yellow icing small cake with yellow roses and ruffled fondant
 Bride and groom cutting cake at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall 
 Bride and groom smashing cake in each others faces at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet hall
 Bride and groom with icing on their faces after cake smash at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall
 Bride and groom sharing first dance under sweeping tulle and lights at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall
 Father daughter dance during wedding reception at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall
 Mother son dance during wedding reception at Carrolltown Fire Co. Banquet Hall
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
Fedora and Suspenders Wedding
Authenic Posing: How To Get Kids To Smile For Photos
 Boy with blonde curly hair smiling at the camera

I started my photography journey humbly enough, working as a seasonal employee at the MALL portrait studio. I can't knock it too much, though - I really did learn some pivotal PS skills, great customer service, but perhaps the most valuable of all, I learned tips on how to make kids smile! Of course it's different for every kid, so don't be discouraged by blank stares or "who the heck are you" expressions - SOMETHING will work!

WHAT TO SAY FOR SMILES

 Group photo of young children playing the the leaves

"Say cheese" is so cliche and it DOESNT WORK. Kids are rehearsed smilers, so you can often get that wide toothed, looks-like-their-dentist-is-pulling-their-lips-open kind of plastic smile. Try having your kiddos say these things instead:

  • "Boogers" (popular with boys!)
  • "Dirty diapers" (also, boys)
  • "Mommy/Daddy stinks" (are the parents cool?)
  • "Hurry up lady" (works great with older kids - maybe because they are getting a free pass to yell at you?)
  • The name of their favorite TV Show/Movie (Power Rangers! Come to think of it, this would work for one of my wedding couples next year!)

PLAY A GAME

I like to put something (a toy, usually) on top my head and have kids "blow it down" on the count of 3. Ideally, it's a rubber duck, and when you say "3" you shake your head to make it fall and the kids laugh hysterically. My camera bag has lots of weird things in it! You can also use jangly keys or anything else that makes noise if you're having trouble getting their attention. Another strategy I've had success with in the fall is having them throw leaves in the air on the count of 3. The count to 3 thing is vital - they sit still anticipating it, and often they are so excited they are STILL and SMILING before the promised action happens.

PRETEND TO SNEEZE

Another tactic to use with the duck/toy/keys/whatever. Put the item on your head, and instead of telling them to blow it down and starting that magical 1...2...3...., instead say "I hope this doesn't fall down" and go "aaaa.....aaaaaa....achoooo!" This variation works better when the kids are very small and may not understand your instruction, but totally get when you're being goofy.
 

 large group photo of young children sitting on hay bales on a farm

TICKLE THEM!

I like this strategy when the parents are holding the kids or they are nearby. A simple "I'mmmmm gunnnaaa tickle youuuuu!!!" and then making a goofy sound while tickling their belly sometimes gets to grumpiest little one to crack a smile. Even better when you have have an assistant do this so you don't have to jump back and forth from tickling to standing the appropriate shooting distance away. 

BRIBE THEM WITH CANDY

So while I don't normally endorse bribery (and discourage parents from doing so too - after all, we are going for "authentic" here!), I do think rewarding good behavior is always a nice gesture at the END. A while ago I saw this method of attaching a PEZ dispenser on your camera's hotshoe to gives kids a fun focal point, and a sweet treat to look forward to. Check out the video to show you how: 

 family of four children in close pose as if they are hugging

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, EMBARRASS YOURSELF

Kids like to laugh - at other people. When the above methods don't work, I resort to the "pig nose" (push your nose up like a pig and snort. yep.), or the "raspberry" - you know, sticking your tongue out and the like.

Ans always, always make time to be silly. Kids love to run and jump and laugh and play - so if you are willing to do that too, you will be much more than "the camera lady/man" and your photos will be much more than "nice pictures."

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