Forget losing weight for your photo session. Read this instead.

losing weight for your photo session

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they’d book a session after they lost 10lbs, I could start giving my photography away for free. (Wish I could do that, by the way. That’s my dream: to be independently wealthy and just to photograph people for free because I want to. But anyway… I digress.)

The point being, we ladies are almost never happy with ourselves.

We’re never thin enough. Our boobs are never big or small enough. We don’t like our baby pooch. The love handles didn’t used to be there (you know, when we were 20.) There’s that pair of jeans Jennifer Lopez rocked and that we would love to wear in our session so we’ll wait until we fit into them.

Hey, I’m NOT judging. Been there, beat myself up about that.

I’m sorry to have to break the news to you but life don’t care about your tummy jiggle. Your kids are growing up every day. They’re changing. The baby fat on their face is thinning out, their baby teeth are being replaced by these crooked things that don’t seem to fit well in their mouth, that cuddly toy they took everywhere last year has been replaced by the iPad, they used to snuggle with you and now they squirm in your arms, embarrassed. Need I go on? K. You get the point.

losing weight for your photo session

Newsflash: you’re growing older too.  You may or may not lose that 10lbs but you will gain crow’s feet around your eyes. Dig into your shoebox or back into your Facebook archives 5 years and find a picture of yourself. Go on… go do it and come back here after. How you feeling about that photo, hmmm? If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking “wow, I look so much older!” or “that arm fat really didn’t used to be there!”

And so, that’s how you’ll feel in 5, 10, 20 years time looking at the photo of yourself that you’re taking today. But if you don’t take it? You.are.missing. You have all those pictures of your kids on the soccer field, your husband with your daughter on his shoulders, your husband teaching your son how to fish… and not a single decent one of you. Not to be morbid but what if you died tomorrow? What visual memories would your children have of you as you are with them and for them and to them right now to hold onto for the rest of their lives?

What if you live and 20 years from now you realize these were the best years of your life and, visually, you’re not “in” them?

Here’s something a very good and wise friend of mine, Elena, wrote a while back and shared on Facebook. 

Listen. Listen. Being photographed is not about whether you look good. It’s not about looking good. It’s not even about you–it’s an act of generosity towards those who love you. It’s about being here. In the moment. With the people who matter doing the things that are important to you. Living the moment with your heart your soul everything you have. Being here is what matters. You were here. And the photograph will be that memory for you when you need it or maybe even when you least expect it. This photograph is this precious moment held fast in your heart and mind for as long as you wish it. You will see yourself then and you won’t care about whether you looked good or not. All you will see is beauty and perfection. Don’t miss this chance to be present to be known to be here to be generous because you think you don’t look good in photographs. You are here. Stand up and be counted. You are worthy.
Does that mean you shouldn’t lose the weight? Heck no! If it makes you feel more comfortable, if it makes you healthier, if it gives you more energy, if it makes you happier, go eat that salad and take that Orangetheory class. But don’t stop showing up in the meantime.

Here’s an offer you cannot refuse

Take the photos and, if you lose the 10lbs before next fall family photo session, I’ll re-take your session for free and you can swap-em-out on your walls.

losing weight for your photo session


Just to be clear, none of the moms I included in this post need to lose 10lbs. I just wanted to share a broad snapshot of different moms who have had beautiful moments with their kids, so you can be reminded of what you’re missing.

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4 ideas to make your Fall family photos fun again

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It’s the morning of your scheduled family photo session. The kids seem to have picked up on the importance of the day because they’re extra cranky. Your husband is asking when it will be over (before it’s even begun) because his favorite team is playing that afternoon and he doesn’t want to miss kick-off. You stand in front of the mirror in your bedroom, trying on this outfit and that, self-critiquing every lump and bump until you’re convinced you’re going to look fat and ugly. Everyone seems to be in a bad mood – yourself included now – and you’re wondering how you’re going to get everyone to smile for the family Christmas card photo.


For the love of God… STOP!

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Your photo session doesn’t have to be a chore.

Let’s put the fun back into Fall family photos.

Here are just 4 inspirations for sessions that will get everyone involved, and allow me to capture the best of you all, complete with real smiles, connections, and genuine hugs.


Make sure you read all the way to the very end for an awesome, free tool that will help you plan your best-ever, most-fun family photo session yet. There might even be a session discount involved.

ONE – Make it a stay-cation

Home is where the heart is and where all your memories are made. It’s easy to prep for a session at home because there’s no leaving and getting there, no worries about bathroom breaks or activities. In fact, you can build your favorite fall activities into your session. Like this family who wanted to drink hot chocolate and toast marshmallows around the fire pit in their back yard. We literally did their whole session last year right around that fire. And they had a blast. What fun activities that your family loves to do together could you do in the comfort of your own home?

Fall family photos Folsom Memories by Michelle

TWO – Showcase your family’s talents

This family’s kids were budding musicians and so they decided to bring their instruments to their session last year. Not only did this give the kids something fun to do and show off but it also provided an opportunity to document what the children were interested in at this time in their life. Whether it’s an instrument, a soccer ball, a bike, or maybe even mom or dad who plays the piano while the family sings along, what could you incorporate into your session for lots more fun and personality to shine through?

Fall family photos Elk Grove Memories by Michelle

THREE – Make it a family get together

Does your extended family get together around the holidays? If so, it’s a great opportunity to capture brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents together. This family with German roots had me document their annual family celebration last December. We captured some beautiful moments of them all in and around the family home where they grew up in Sacramento. I especially love grandparents being involved in family sessions. When was the last time you got a great photo of your own parents with your children to remember their special relationship by?

Fall family photos Sacramento Memories by Michelle

FOUR – Document your own family traditions

Fall is full of Holiday events and traditions that get you all interacting and having a blast. This family asked me to capture their annual Christmas tree hunt at Harris Tree Ranch in Pollock Pines. But I know there are tons of other events and rituals that Sacramento area families take part in at this time of year, from trips to Apple Hill, to pumpkin carving parties, rides on the Polar Express, and visits to see the NutCracker ballet. Whatever it is that your family does to celebrate the season, can be a great opportunity for a photo session where your smiles are genuine and your memories real.

Fall family photos El Dorado Memories by Michelle


Want help coming up with some ideas of your own?

Click here for my FREE Session Planning WizardAnswer some questions about your family that will generate inspiration a-plenty and I’ll send you three session ideas AND a discount for your family’s photo session this Fall. Win/Win!


You might also want to:

Or just get in touch with me already. If you made it all the way down here, you’re either impatient (in which case, cut to the chase) or you’re super-absorbed by my delightful words (in which case, let’s just hang out!)


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6 reasons to have your newborn photo session at home

One of my favorite sessions to shoot is a newborn session at home. Or, what I call a “Welcome Home Baby Session”.  There’s something magical about those first few weeks at home. Your love and wonder for this new member of your family is so on the surface, exploring their temperament, discovering their likes and dislikes, tweaking your life and your routines to fit them inside of your family cocoon. I remember my daughter’s first weeks at home in a way that is almost physical; warmth, soft light, happy tears, cuddles, bleary eyes. And yes, so, so many diapers and baby wipes and bottles.

Shooting at your home gives you so much space and flexibility. We schedule plenty of time. You can break to breastfeed, or we can photograph that wonderful connection between you and your child while you do. You don’t have to shush your child to sleep to get a shot. It’s all part of the shoot, the crying and the shushing and the feeding and the stuff you’re already doing. No need to put on a show. No need to worry about nap times or misbehaving siblings. It’s all perfect. Even the discarded burp cloth. It’s all part of your story.

Here’s just 6 of the reasons why I think you should schedule an at home “Welcome Home Baby Session”

1. You don’t have to physically get yourself, your baby, your husband, and any other kids, up and out the door.

If you’re new to this parenting thing, the time it takes to achieve this previously-simple feat cannot be overestimated. If you’re a pro, you know this: it doesn’t matter what time you get up or start the process, you will be rushing around at the last minute to get out the door, you’ll be stressed, you’ll probably forget something (likely brushing your hair), and everyone will be grumpy and resentful as a result. But oh… here’s a camera… SMIIIIIILE! Nope. Not happenin’ So, stay home and wait for me there. If you’re running a few minutes behind, I photograph and watch the baby and other kids while you run a brush through your damp hair – and allow dad to gulp down that last, sweet, sip of coffee. We can just ease ourselves into this. Ahhhhhh.

2. You have everything you need, right there.

Newborn sessions at home Memories by Michelle Photography

Diapers, changing table, change of clothes, favorite blankets, bottles, formula, binkies, rocking chair, a quiet place to breastfeed, a bathroom, toys for the other kids to stay occupied with… need I go on? Don’t stuff the diaper bag with everything but the kitchen sink and bribe your other kids with promises of candy or ice-cream. Home has everything you need in the eventuality of almost anything that might happen. Taking the stress out of this photo session is good for everyone. Babies and kids feed off our moods. When we’re comfortable, so are they – and that comes through in your photos. If you have other children, they can go off and play without you worrying a bout having to entertain them the whole time.

3. This is your baby’s home.

It may not be something from the cover of Better Homes & Gardens but it’s the place where he or she will grow up, the place that will hold all the sweet memories. Memories of midnight feedings and sticky-finger crawls, dribbling first solids and wobbly-legged first steps. Don’t you want to capture that? Wouldn’t it be great to accompany that “remember when…?” with a picture of that exact spot in the house, that exact mural on the wall, the exact pattern of the crib bumper? I can photograph the little details of your life that knit you all together as a family, as well as your loving and smiling faces.

4. Baby is cute but he/she didn’t get here alone. 

Your baby is part of a family, no matter how big or small. Photos of them wrapped up in a beautiful muslin shawl are gorgeous and precious but they don’t need to be the only photos you have taken of your newborn. The interactions, love, attachment, and rituals of everyone at this special time in your family’s life, are just as important. Big sister carefully holding baby with love is important. Daddy’s shushing and hugs are important.

5. These little things you do, you’ll only do for such a short time

You will be a parent for 40, 50, or possibly more years of your life. Only 10% of those years are spent parenting a child. An infintisimal percentage of that time will be spent as the mom or dad of a newborn or baby. Less than one year out of 4 or 5 decades. Although those days of sleepless nights may feel long now, in the grand scheme of things they are but a blip on the radar of life with this little human you’ve made. The morning snuggles, the nightly rituals, the reading, the juggling, the crying, and yes even breastfeeding one baby while potty training their older sibling… those memories gain value over time, as they become blurrier and blurrier and you’re struggling to remember how they smelled, the names of the books you read, the sound of your partner’s voice through the bedroom door as he sang a lullabye. Capturing a slice of that, in the place where it all happens – home – can take you right back there, with a single image.

6. There is no perfect time to schedule your session.

There’s no right age or timeline for your session as there can be for those curly-q newborn portraits. The day after you get home is fine. Three weeks after you get home is fine. Three months works ok too. Of course, baby is growing every day and what we capture and how we capture it will change, along with your routines, depending on when you schedule your session. But, with this style of session, there is no “perfect” time. Just the perfect time for you. Just because I call it a “Welcome Home Baby Session” it doesn’t mean I have to be standing on your front porch when you pull up to the curb, freshly home from the hospital (although that sounds pretty awesome… I’d love to do that!)

 Welcome Home Baby sessions can be booked as a stand alone session or as part of a First Moments package

First Moments packages include 3 sessions of your choice scheduled anytime from maternity to baby’s first birthday, plus other goodies like a custom-designed Baby’s First Year keepsake book with your favorite images. All sessions and packages include all the digital you never have to bite your names

All sessions and packages include all the digital images. You never have to bite your nails to the quick while breastfeeding and trying to star your favorites at midnight from your online gallery.  Sweet!



Let’s chat about scheduling your newborn photo session at home

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5 tips for researching family photographers

How do you find a photographer that’s right for you?

Northern California Documentary Family Photographer Pacifica Rockaway Beach Photography_0023

The one that not only gives you photographs you LOVE but whose personality jives with yours and your family’s and who makes your session experience something the whole family can look forward to vs. stressing out about every year.

What? You didn’t think that was even possible, did you? It is, you know. When you find the right fit, having your photos taken is fun, an opportunity to reconnect with your family and celebrate who you are this moment in your life.

But Googling “Sacramento photographers” and then sizing up the laundry list of results based upon pretty pictures and price alone is likely going to leave you disappointed at the end of the day.  You need to know what you expect from a photographer and if they’re the right person to meet those expectations.

You’ve got to do a bit more research.

So, grab your notepad, here’s 5 tips to help you research photographers.



When doing a web search, be as specific as you can about the type of photographer you’re looking for. Are you looking for a family photographer, a child photographer, a maternity photographer, a newborn photographer, or a wedding photographer? Not all photographers are good at photographing every kind of subject and many specialize because of this. Someone who takes a-mazing wedding photos might be terrible with children. One of the most successful wedding photographers in the industry right now, Jasmine Star, readily admits she sucks at taking family photos.


When you get to their website take an emotional stock. What feeling do you get from the site? Is it professionally put together or does it look amateurish? Does the site itself say anything to you about the type of photographer you’re going to get? Warm and friendly? Modern and minimalist? Soft and whimsical?


Find out who is in their portfolio. Whatever a photographer photographs most, is usually what they’re most comfortable with and best at. If you’re looking for someone who is really great with your 2 year old and this photographer seems to only take photos of families with older children or couples, you might want to either think twice about hiring them or be sure to ask lots of questions about their experience with younger children when you call.


Picture yourself in their photographs. When you’re looking at the portfolio, don’t just make an assessment of whether or not you like their work or what your determination might be of their technical expertise. Picture yourself, your family, your children, in these backdrops, locations, and angles, doing the kinds of things the people in the photographs are doing. Are they perfectly dressed, posed and looking at the camera? Are they more relaxed and casual, the moments captured more natural and authentic? Think about how you would feel to be photographed this way.  Does it make you happy to think of your final photos looking like this or does it stress you out to think about having to coordinate your outfits and get your kids to sit still?

There’s a strange acceptance that photo sessions are going to be awkward and uncomfortable no matter who you choose. I disagree wholeheartedly: you just haven’t found the right photographer. Keep looking!


Get to know them through their blog. The “About Me” page on their site is definitely one way to get a feel for who this person is and what it would be like to work with them, but I like to head over to a photographer’s blog for a better idea. Not only do you get to see their latest work (busy photographers are notorious for not keeping their portfolio updated) but you’ll also get to see what they write about their clients. Why does this matter? Let me give you a couple of examples.

Fer Juaristi ( is a Mexican wedding photographer whose work I greatly admire. He has the most amazing eye for composition and I’m constantly inspired by him. But look at his blog and you’ll see that he writes absolutely nothing about his clients when he posts their sessions. It’s all about the photos. And, having met him at a conference recently, I know for a fact that he is not interested in getting to know his clients and becoming friends. He’s a warm, goofy and hilarious guy, don’t get me wrong, but he prefers to show-up raw and spontaneous, focusing on composition, not a personal connection with his subjects. His connection comes through his lens not through his relationship with his clients. And this is perfectly expressed in his blog too.

In contrast, Australian photographer Liz Arcus ( posts anecdotes and sometimes even audio interviews of time she has spent with her clients. Liz and I met through a conference I attended in 2013 and I know from speaking with her personally that she invests a lot of time getting to know her clients to reveal their story through her photos.

Both photographers are wildly different in their approach and style. Neither are wrong. The question is: which approach and photographer is right for you?



I know, you’re busy. But good photography is an investment and when you make that investment you want to be sure that you’re going to love the outcome.

Would you buy a new sofa without sitting on it? Probably not. It not only has to look good in your living room it has to feel good when you’re hanging out watching TV.

You should at least do as much research on the person who will capture your family’s memories as you would for an inanimate object in your home, yes?




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How (and why) to love yourself more in photos

This post is one of the emails in my “Your Best Family Photos” e-newsletter.

I’ve had so many positive comments about it that I thought I would share it here on the blog.

If you’re not already signed-up for my e-newsletter please click here to do so.

You’ll get lots of my insider-tips on choosing a photographer, dealing with your kids, picking a location, how to be a natural in front of the camera and so much more! 

(And I promise, it’s not an ongoing advertisement for my services. Sign-up and you’ll see.)





I’m not going to lie. In nine of out of every ten photos I see of myself, I can find something to dislike intensely. 

I look overweight, my nose looks too big, I have shadows under my eyes, lines around my mouth, my neck is sagging, or I have some goofy expression on my face that I consider unflattering.


I use this photo on my website for my About Me page specifically because, even though I hate my double-chin and yucky posture, it's such an "us" moment between me and my daughter.

I use this photo on my website for my About Me page specifically because, even though I hate my double-chin and yucky posture, it’s such an “us” moment between me and my daughter.


As women, we are pretty much conditioned to find fault with our physical appearance, aren’t we? 

Even now, as I approach 40 and feel more comfortable in my skin than I ever have, I still find it hard to appreciate my own likeness. And it’s tempting (as someone who knows how) to interrupt a moment with my daughter to re-pose myself or to automatically discard an image of our family captured at a precious moment, because I would prefer to look different in it.

But as I look back over my favorite photos of my own mother while I was growing up, I find very few that I treasure that have ANYTHING to do with how thin or beautiful she looks in those shots.


Some fun photos of my own mother from my family albums


The photos that draw me in are those that communicate a feeling from that moment in time and that remind me of the precious nature of my relationship with her. Her hands, her easy laugh, the tears in her eyes when she received my huge bouquet of flowers on her 40th birthday.

Back when pictures were captured on film, there was a different sort of acceptance in the results. Images that are all-too-easily deleted now through the click of a button, did not used to reveal themselves until printed. And holding something tangible in your hands makes it much harder to toss into the garbage with yesterday’s leftovers.

If my mother had of been able to quickly review and delete a digital file of many of those images at the time they were taken how many of them would I be deprived of now?

I love the flexibility of digital photography but worries me is this:

If we are trashing every photo in which we find ourselves to be physically imperfect, we will erase priceless memories of who we really are to our children.

Worse still, I have friends who won’t even GET IN the photo with their children because they don’t like the way they look on camera. But, don’t worry, they’ll do it when they lose ten pounds.

Hey, I’m not saying you can’t lose that weight. Nothing wrong with wanting to be healthy and comfortable in your own skin. I’m just saying that, while you’re doing so, your kids are getting older. Moments and milestones are being passed. Moments that don’t come back (unlike the pounds on the scale.)

Add to this that, more-and-more, it’s mom who is now the one behind the lens, and you’ve got a recipe for all-but deleting ourselves from our family history.

(You know, all except for those shots of us looking hot right before the Christmas party.)

My goodness ladies! What the heck are we thinking?

As the photographer for our family, I have come to recognize that, unless I ask for my husband to take a photo or hire a photographer to do so, I just won’t be in any photos with my daughter. And that really bothers me. What happens if the unthinkable occurs tomorrow and something happened to me? Or her? Where are OUR moments?

So, when the moment DOES arise for me to get a photo taken of me and my family by someone else – a friend, a family member, or my husband – I have had to let go of how I look and how I’m posed and (for me also) how the photo is taken and just be thankful that I’m visually captured as in our lives at all.

Instead of looking at the back fat or the nose dimple, I look at the expression on my daughter’s face, our body language and the way it communicates that unbreakable bond that we have together.

What this all leads to is this.

My plea to you as a fellow mom, to love yourself in your photos the same way your children do.  To love who you are to them and to your husband and judge photos not on how you look in them but how you felt in them.

You can do it.




p.s. You might enjoy a little humorous take on this subject from a mom who decided to embrace her post-baby muffin-top. Click here for her video and a good chuckle.

p.p.s. Again, if you want more fun, thought-provoking and, quite frankly, plain useful emails like this one delivered right to your inbox, all you have to do is click here to sign up.




Michelle McDaid is a writer and a lifestyle and documentary photographer based in Sacramento, California (and willing to travel), focused on telling the real life, emotional and joyful stories of families and children. 

If you would love to tell the stories of the special little moments in your life in words and artistic images, please email Michelle to learn more about sessions and availability: or click here


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