Happy Fall! The season for family photos has officially begun with the Woodard Family. You may remember mom, Keilah, from my recent personal branding session with her. And if your local and her face is familiar it’s because she’s the awesome mom behind Sacramento Sidetracks, a website that keeps Sacramento families up-to-date with all the latest events and kid-friendly activities.
“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” ― ANAIS NIN
November the 24th will be the date of my final session for Memories by Michelle.
In the last 10 years, I have photographed so many wonderful families, growing as a photographer and a human being in ways that I could never have imagined. Photography has opened the door to so many incredible people, relationships, and places.
In this decade of exploration, I have had the incredible privilege of being chosen to capture engagements, weddings, births, a baby’s first moments, birthdays, anniversaries, reunions, international adoptions, and a soldier’s welcome home.
I have been proud to be chosen by Make-A-Wish to photograph their brave, young wish recipients on multiple occasions, as well as by the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters to photograph the relationships between children and their mentors. I have also fulfilled a life-long dream of being published as a writer and photographer in various local magazines and seen my images grace many covers.
On the personal side, I have learned so much by being part of incredible creative projects like Sham of the Perfect (which also sunsets this year) and taken more photos of my own daughter than is reasonable. (But which, I’m sure, I’ll never regret being able to look back on.)
And yet, in many ways, Memories by Michelle never grew the kind of strong roots I dreamed of.
There comes a point in a business’ life-cycle where, if new customers are not flowing in regularly, you have to decide if you want to invest more time and money trying to generate more bookings so you can cover expenses and come out on the other side with some money in your pocket. And then (having a full-time job) whether you have the bandwidth to devote to those lead-generating efforts as well as handling any additional business you generate.
Ultimately, the conclusion I came to was, sadly, no.
For these – and many other reasons – it’s time to say goodbye.
Leaving behind MbyM offers an opportunity to create space for something new. Which may or may not be photography related. Last year I dove into acting classes for the first time (so fun!) I also miss the swing dancing lessons I used to go to weekly and would like to get back to them. I have still never truly fulfilled my dreams of being a published writer with a book on a bookshelf. I’d also like to enjoy weekends around my favorite season – Autumn – just exploring with my daughter, who I only see 50% of the time these days. Time is precious. Opportunities and dreams abound!
Inshort, I don’t have a plan for the space in my life that Memories by Michelle will vacate. The plan, itself, is to create some space and see what happens next!
As to what I’ll do with my cameras and equipment… they won’t sit idle. Once things settle, I’d like to pursue some personal, creative ideas, and I may still take-on the odd photography commission if it works financially and seems like something that would be creatively fulfilling too. If you know of something or have something in mind, especially if it’s commercial or non-profit related, I’m open. But I won’t be booking regular sessions after this November.
I have loved and appreciated beyond words the time I have spent with every one of you, the trust you have given me, the intimate spaces of your life have welcomed me into, and the support you have shown for my photography.
If you would like to join me one more time, this Fall, for a family photo session, please see Fall 2019 details, below.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone – families, individuals, charities, and companies – I have worked with and who have supported me. The moments we created together have been rich and fulfilling and I will carry them with me forever.
I first photographed twins, London and Katana, for Sacramento Parent Magazine’s cover kid competition about four years ago. They won – of course – and we got to hang out again a year later at a local kid’s clothing store for a subsequent shoot that was featured in the magazine.
Since then, these girls have gone on to have fun careers in modeling and acting, with London embracing modeling and Katana preferring acting roles. The two have such different personalities and you get, after spending time with them, why their energies pull them in different directions. London has an intensity and focus that works well for photography while Katana is more physical and curious.
Mom, Breata, contacted me recently for updated headshots of these awesome kids and we met at William B Pond Recreation area at sunset to capture that spark of uniqueness in each of them.
What a fantastic afternoon I had with these three ladies in Old Sacramento this month!
I had met mom, Kate, when I photographed her and her husband for some headshots late last year and was so excited to meet her mother and her daughter, Izzie, in a session orchestrated by Izzie from the East Coast, where she now lives.
Mother-daughter relationships are especially close to my heart because of my own experiences as a daughter and a mother to a daughter, so it was wonderful to see these three smart, witty, and formidable women together, laughing and sharing stories about the past.
It was interesting too to see how similar grandmother and granddaughter are; outgoing, talkative, and vivacious, while Kate’s personality is much more thoughtful and subdued, soaking up their laughter and energy. I loved watching her watch them, enjoying their constant laughter. This, too, reminds me of my own life, where my daughter and mother are thick-as-thieves and I have often found myself being the one quietly watching them together.
Multi-generation family sessions are a wonderful gift to yourself and your family. We spend so much time photographing the youngest members of our clan – and for sure our little kids are cute – but we need to keep remembering to document the love we share with those a generation or two above us.
I have been photographing the Rogers family since their son, Nicholas, was born 6 years ago. Mom, Sara, and I calculated during our recent session that we have had probably more than 10 photo shoots together since then!
Arriving at their beautiful Craftsman home in East Sacramento, I see my photos on every wall. As a photographer in a mostly-digital world, I can’t tell you how satisfying that is, to see your photos printed and hung, to know that the moments you captured are seen and enjoyed by the family every day. I am definitely a digital file hoarder myself (my eleventy terabytes of storage give me away, so there’s no point in lying) so I get why folks want to know they have that file. But there’s nothing that replaces the images on the wall where you pass by them in the morning, sleep in your eyes, or during the day with a laundry basket cradled in your arms. You can’t get that from a digital image that you have to sit down at a computer and purposefully open and then stare at. Does anyone actually do that?
Our session this January started at their home, where I got to meet Sara’s dad (aka: Grandpa) and spend a little time capturing him with Nicholas. Then Sara, Jeremy, Nicholas, and I all took a walk through their awesome little neighborhood and stopped at some alleys with cool murals and rusted, corrugated metal walls.
I loved the combination of capturing them getting ready to head out the door, some portraits, and some more documentary-style shots of them on their walk and thanks to places like KreAdiv Collective you can get a physical portrait or the digital one.
I talk a lot about how my sessions can be a little bit of everything if you’re willing to play along with me and Sara and Jeremy are a great example of a family who are always willing to do that. The result is that they get their family-together shots, their portraits, but also the moments that otherwise get lost on the cutting room floor, the ones that remind us in 20 years of what it was like to be us at that moment in time.
Family sessions don’t only have to take place in Fall
When your photography mentor, the person who has pushed you the hardest throughout your career to up your game, has believed in you and your potential even when you were ready to throw in the towel, and who herself has a successful decades-long photography business built on a reputation for beautiful, high-quality images, asks you to take her family photos… first, you vomit into the toilet, then you hover over the “n” button on your keyboard, before scolding yourself for being a coward and then saying “absolutely, I would love to!” (Closely followed by a large glass of Chardonnay to slow down your heart rate.)
Lisa Richmond is an incredible person: caring, driven, creative, dedicated, funny, a true professional. And, in truth, despite my nerves, I was honored to have been asked to photograph her and her family this past December.
Lisa is also a take-charge type person (we have this in common) which meant that I had to walk into this session ready to run it and run it my way. We are both awfully nice people but, when we sense that their is a vacancy of leadership, we’ll step into the space and do our thing. So, I was determined that, no matter what she and her family ended up thinking of the photos I delivered, I would succeed or fail on my own merits. That meant no doubt, no jitters, no second-guessing myself, forgetting who was in front of the camera and focusing on getting in the flow.
It helped that Lisa chose the location (I had to give her something, hehe) and that the light there on this particular winter afternoon was absolutely magical. It also helped that her entire family laughed more than any family I have ever photographed, ever. Sure, there was some element of awareness around how their position and reactions would play to the camera but, in general, I don’t think I have ever been with a family for whom laughter was so clearly a natural part of who they are together.
Jaz and Ember are both in boarding school on the east coast (cool fact: the same boarding school that Lisa attended as a teenager) and so I know this session came at an important time for her, coming to terms with the empty-nest syndrome earlier than many moms who typically don’t see their kids fly the coup until college.
I also know that the girls miss home. They love spending time with their friends but not being able to “escape” (their words) from the drama of school can sometimes be hard
I hope these photos give them all a little comfort when they’re missing one another.
Our session ended with some photos of Lisa for her website, camera in-hand, as I’m usually experiencing her.
I loved every minute of photographing Lisa and her family. They made my job easy. The best reward was Lisa’s smile and thanks at the end of our session, her appreciation and recognition for the energy I put into my sessions to help my clients be in the moment, let go, and have fun.
This morning, I got an email from her after she saw her photos for the first time…
omg… just took a quick run through. I am absolutely never letting another year go by without doing this. I LOVE SEEING my family….we’ve grown so much, we’ve worked so hard. and we are still laughing.. and you caught it all. Thank you from the bottom, top and middle of my heart.
Now booking newborn sessions and weddings for 2019
I'm Michelle and I love vampires (before they were cool), peanut butter and that deliciously off-balance feeling you get when you step off a plane in a new country. I'm also a mum, a writer and a visual storyteller.
Click here to learn more about all that.
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