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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by these crooked things that don’t seem to fit well in their mouth, that cuddly toy they took everywhere last year has been replaced by the iPad, they used to snuggle with you and now they squirm in your arms, embarrassed.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.

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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.

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Convinced?


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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Sacramento Parent Magazine cover shoot with Scott Moak of the Kings

I love to work with local and regional publications. To book me for an editorial shoot click here | Or to learn more about my family sessions, where I capture regular families like yours at play click here

I’m thrilled that, quite often, my work with families leads me to work with local publications to photograph local celebrities and philanthropists. My work has been featured in Folsom Style Magazine, Comstocks Magazine, and I am a regular contributor to Sacramento Parent Magazine.

Which was how I got to work with Scott Moak, who works both in front of and behind the scenes at the Sacramento Kings as both the in-game announcer and the head of the King’s Foundation.

Scott is a really, really great guy with an incredible outlook on life, believing that doing the right thing brings its just rewards in time. He’s also brimming full of gratitude for his smart and beautiful wife, Stacy, and their two kids, who I got to hang out with at a park in West Sacramento for our cover shoot.

You can read the full article here and I hope you do because you’ll find there’s more to Scott than his incredible game-time energy. He’s the guy you just want to hang out and have a barbecue with on a sunny Sunday afternoon, chatting about everything and nothing in particular while your kids run circles around you.

As always, the magazine’s space limits the images that can be published, so I’m sharing some more here from our fun shoot in some winter sunshine.

 

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Dear 2015

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2015: Goodbye. You were quite possibly one of the most difficult and challenging years yet.

You were the year of  heartbreak and hard choices, of anger and frustration. Of many moments where I saw the worst in myself and just as many when I found the best.  In your 12 months I realized the love and support of family and friends in ways that make me feel so incredibly blessed. I met new people that inspire me and found new things to be inspired by in those I have known for a long time. I have cried more than I have ever cried in your months. But many of those tears were tears of release as walls I have built around my heart slowly crumbled and I found new capacities for love, acceptance, and joy.

And yet in the face of your challenges I have learned more about myself in your passing than I did in all the four decades preceding you. I found the clarity to toss aside old stories about myself that were no longer true (if they ever were) and began to let go of beliefs that keep me stuck. I started new daily rituals of journaling and meditation, entertained concepts and philosophies that I previously would have scoffed at, and discovered ways to nurture my inner life that have helped me experience greater peace and presence than I ever felt before.

I delved more deeply into my art and spent time reconnecting with the little girl who loved to draw, paint, play music, and create-create-create. I started to learn the guitar, pulled out the watercolors and pastels, and took photography classes that asked me to be vulnerable and wholly myself. This last part was surprisingly hard. How do you forget to be yourself? Little by little, day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year, it turns out, in the little ways you give up a little more of yourself every time you accommodate other people for the wrong reasons. Inside, under all the layers of stuff built up over the years, I uncovered that same little girl who still wants the same things: to love with abandon, to choose joy every single time, to explore each nook and cranny of this beautiful world; to live an uncommon, creative and passion-driven life.

I have re-learned through this process that I am strong. Not in the ways I was 20 years ago, boastful, ignorant, and naive. Now I feel the strength from a different place: from the hope and dreams inside of me that always find a drop of water in a drought to sprout anew; from the deep love and compassion that still stirs inside me even when I am feeling hurt and broken by the actions of others. I am unbreakable. I am resilient. I will always get up. I am a tidal wave of dreams, desires, hope, love, compassion, and joy that cannot be held back by disappointment, fear, negativity, or pain. There is a fighting spirit inside of me that is irrepressible, no matter how tired or weary I sometimes feel. I have learned that it may come and go in cycles but that there is always more energy and passion building up to replace that which has been lost.

I am, too, imperfect. And I have seen my faults in harsh light this year, the mistakes I have made, the wrong paths I have chosen, the time I have wasted. But I have seen now that I have the capacity to expand myself infinitely beyond them, making different choices, exploring different paths, embracing discomfort along the way – and that this journey beyond will never end. Knowing this, I choose to love and accept myself despite those mistakes, maybe even because of them, because all of them brought me here. And will take me to the next place. And the next.

I am thankful for another year, another opportunity to continue this exploration we call life. With renewed curiosity, a full heart, and a deep well of strength, I am ready to face whatever 2016 brings.

Happy New Year to any and all reading this.  I wish you the kind of year where, even when life throws its worst at you, you can emerge with a deeper sense of gratitude and peace than you ever thought possible.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Michelle

-x-

Dear 2015

I asked my daughter to take a picture of me especially for this post. She got to pick what I wore, where I stood, how I should look at the camera. I love the way she sees me: soft and natural.

1 Comment

  1. Josh Solar

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

    Reply

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Brave Isaac – A Sacramento Parent Magazine editorial shoot

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Click on the image to read the full article online

 

For the last 2 years I have photographed 100 children in 5 hours at the Sacramento Parent Magazine’s annual Babies n Bumps event. All the kids get a mini photo shoot, their parents get to purchase their favorite pictures, and each child gets entered into a competition to win the magazine’s cover kid contest. (And me and my assistant collapse onto the couch with a glass of wine when it’s all done.) I’ve met some really great kids at this event and although it’s hard work keeping my energy at 150% that entire time, it’s also a ton of fun.

One of the little boys that made it into the Top 10 in 2014 was 2 year old Isaac. We loved his curly brown hair and chubby cheeks.

What we didn’t realize was that, at the end of that same year, Isaac was diagnosed with childhood liver cancer and went from a regular toddler to a kid fighting for his life seemingly overnight.

Having come out the other side of those grueling treatments this year, his mom got in touch with me and Sacramento Parent magazine to see if we would like to share their story.  Of course we wanted to meet this brave kid and so, a couple of months ago, I went out to the family’s home in Roseville to see how Isaac is doing. The result is a 4 page article in the December issue of Sacramento Parent magazine.

One of the things I was most struck by when talking to Isaac’s mom, Rosselyn, was how much Isaac’s battle affected both her and her elder son. Of course it’s natural for us to focus on the child who is sick, what they need, what they went through, and their recovery. Meanwhile the stories of family members sometimes go untold, at least from the perspective of the lasting impacts. Isaac’s brother, Christian, gets incredibly worried and anxious every time Isaac gets so much as a cold now, and Rosselyn continues to fight the fears about his ongoing health and prognosis. Thankfully things are looking good for Isaac right now but, as a mom myself, I understand that niggling fear in the back of your mind that something could take a turn for the worse. I also empathized with the sense of powerlessness and helplessness. We do everything we possibly can to protect and look after our children and then something like this rips that illusion of control right out from under us.  Immediately our fates – our hearts – are in the hands of surgeons and doctors and nurses and odds and percentages. It’s a scary place to be.

As for Isaac… he’s just like every other little boy these days, playing in his front yard with his brother, and goofing around with his toys in his room. But by far my favorite moments were at the end of my time with him, when he grabbed the very blanket that had been his comfort during his treatments, and cuddled-up on the couch with it.

 

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5 tips for researching family photographers

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

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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.

 

ONE

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.

TWO

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?

THREE

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.

FOUR

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!

FIVE

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 (http://ferjuaristi.com/blog/) 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 (http://lizarcus.com/) 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?

 

IN SHORT, BEFORE YOU PICK UP THE PHONE OR SEND AN INQUIRY EMAIL, DO SOME RESEARCH.

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?

MICHELLE

Blog-Photo

 

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Living in the moment and letting the dishes wait

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The big, plastic bowl is between my legs jiggling back and forth as I stir the batter vigorously with my inexperienced little hands. I’m so small that my feet barely dangle over the edge of the countertop that I’m perched precariously on top of. It’s raining but inside it’s warm and cozy, the air rich with the smell of butter, sugar and my mum’s cup of instant coffee which she’s sipping as she stands next to me. Her gentle voice offers me encouragement to keep stirring and, every now and then, she puts her hands over mine to give the movement a little more oomph.

There’s cake mix on my bare thighs, flour on her shirt and we both occasionally dip our finger into the bowl for a taste test. We giggle like school girls because it always feels just a little naughty.

I remember her wavy blond hair, her pink cheeks, her easy smile, that loving look on her face whenever we exchanged a glance that said “isn’t this FUN!?” and most of all, I remember her hands. I used to love looking at them, hoping one day that the chubbiness of my own fingers would transform to be as long and lovely as hers. (They never did.)

She is so beautiful in a way that transcends any physical description I could write of her. It would miss her comforting smell, the sound of her laughter and the feel of her stolen kisses on my cheek. But that memory of us baking cakes in our tiny little kitchen in England drops me right back into that moment and I can feel it all again as if it were yesterday.

My mother was too lost in the joy of working with me to care about whether raw egg was going to make us sick, or if my little hands were completely clean, or even about the flour which also made its way to the floor. How the cake turned out wasn’t the point and, as for the mess, she’d just clean it up later.

These are some of the strongest memories from my childhood. The ordinary tasks I shared with my mother, everyday things that she turned into an opportunity for us to play and connect.

My mother taught me that mess you make in the process of having fun is simply the evidence of a life lived joyfully. A life in which you give yourself permission to let the unrealistic, Pinterest version of life go, in favor of putting the most important things in life first: the people you love and the ever-so precious time you have to spend with them.

Like my mum I’ll put snuggles on the couch over clean dishes any day and ignore the pile of laundry to join in with my daughter dancing to One Direction in the living room.

I believe in putting fun first, spontaneously grabbing the hose and dousing dad in the back yard when he’s not paying attention, and worrying about the aftermath later.

Let’s get lost in these bright flashes of life together and then I’ll photograph that.

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I wrote about these childhood experiences recently as part of a month long project to really get to the bottom of what makes me tick as a photographer. What do I want to capture and why? My mother is such a strong influence in who I am and the top-billing star in all my childhood memories, those moments so vivid to me in heart and head, and yet I don’t have photographs of those simple tasks we shared. I don’t want that to be the case for my own family (or my client’s) and so this story urged me to set-up a tripod and capture my daughter and I baking a cake in our kitchen recently.

In my head I had imagined billowing clouds of flour and cake batter on the ceiling but my daughter is now almost 6 and far too by-the-book to even consider getting her pretty apron dirty – although I reminded her that is the point of the apron, she could not be swayed. At one point I put a dob of cake batter on her cheek, just to get her to loosen-up but she screamed like a banshee and demanded I remove it immediately.

All of which was perfect because, even as I try to share with her the stories of my own childhood, she is right in the middle of creating her own.

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At this point I think it’s no secret that I would love to create a photo documentary of you and your kids doing something that you love to do together. It doesn’t even have to be all of you together. Maybe there’s something special that you alone do with your children and that you’d love to record for them to look back on?

For the next week, pay attention. Whenever you find yourself stopping and wishing that you could press pause for a moment, stop your babies from growing up so fast, record those silly faces, them playing together in their bedroom, whatever that is… when that happens, just notice. Notice and think about how incredibly awesome it would be to have an album full of pictures of all those details of their childhood. Then, yes, please call me.

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