“Being a black dad means having the awesome opportunity to influence how my daughter perceives black dads and black men generally. My hope is that my daughter will grow up to associate black fatherhood with love, strength, courage, and sacrifice, rather than tropes. While I hope my daughter will be able to walk through this world with self confidence and comfort in her own skin, I also have fears of negative external messaging and my daughter internalizing it – that’s why I will consciously nurture her ability to love and trust herself.”
“I am fighting against history, statistics, stereotypes and media portrayals, and I must raise my son to live in an unequal and unfair society; a society which is predicated on the power and views of people who historically don’t look like us.
I fear that people who don’t look like my child may pre-judge him and his intentions before ever getting to know him. I also fear that, as the result of potential discrimination he may face, he may think of himself as unequal to other kids his age.”
Last week I attended The 2nd Annual Photo Cookout, the ONLY photography conference with an all-Black speaker lineup. This year’s conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
All-Black Speaker Lineup
When I attended last year’s conference, I went in feeling confident that my dollars were going to support an important cause. I wanted to help be the catalyst for a much-needed change in the photography industry…to send the message that racial diversity is important to me and my business despite the lack of Black representation on most photography conference and ambassador lineups.
The Family Vibe
What I didn’t expect was how deeply this conference would end up changing me. After checking in at the hotel under the event name “Colvin Family Reunion” (named for The Cookout’s Founder, Dr. Tomayia Colvin), I truly did start to feel like I was a part of the family in every respect. So this year I came fully prepared for all the hugs, warmth, and excitement that can only happen at a real Family Cookout. And my friends, this community of photographers did NOT disappoint!
Quality Education and Top-Notch Sponsors
On a business and technical level, the educational value was also extremely on point. Even though I’m not a wedding photographer, I especially love to learn from wedding professionals because (in my experience), they tend to take the business end much more seriously than a lot of family portrait photographers. Some of my favorite classes included topics like “Capturing Cultural Weddings”, “Nailing Branding Portraits”, “Connecting with your Clients”, “Kick Ass Album Sales”, and I was even invited to speak on a panel about the importance of Self Care and Mental Health for photographers and other creative professionals (yes, I know I’m not Black…that’s just Tomayia Colvin’s community spirit coming through). Not only did I get to learn from some of the best photographers in the industry, but I also had some amazing networking opportunities! Shout out to my favorite photo lab, Millers Professional Imaging, for not only featuring my work in their gorgeous product displays, but also for treating me and several other brand ambassadors out to dinner one night! And I can’t wait to share more details about some of the other brand collaborations I’ve got up my sleeve in the next few months, as a result of this conference! 😉
Now you know I’m a natural light photographer, through and through. But this year I was really eager to try my hand at using continuous lights, which were very generously provided on site for us to use by Light and Motion. All of my indoor shots featured here were shot with these lights and they were AMAZING! Super easy to use, even for a lighting newbie like me.
Real talk: I honestly hopped on the plane to New Orleans before the conference and told my friend that maybe I didn’t need to go to the same conference again next year. Maybe it was time to branch out again and try other conferences. I told her NOT to let me buy my ticket right away so I could have time to really think about my goals for next year before jumping in feet first again. The Cookout is the first conference I’ve attended twice in a row, and what can I say? I like to shop around.
That Second Line, tho
Yeah, that resolution lasted all of 3 days before I finally caved and bought my ticket for The Photo Cookout 2020 (LOL!). This community has officially become a family to me, and I wouldn’t miss the chance to see them for the world. Trust me when I say I have not experienced the same level of warmth and mutual support at any other photography conference out there. Plus, this year Photographer’s Edit allowed us to have a true New Orleans experience by sponsoring a Second Line Parade…so you KNOW next year’s sponsors are going to have to step up their game even more in Chatanooga! 😉
Will I see you at next year’s Cookout? Click the link to grab your ticket before it sells out!
I totally get it. Your little one just arrived, and your whole routine has turned to utter chaos. When your days and nights are all mixed up and you can’t remember the last time you slept or even showered, the thought of taking photos in your home can feel overwhelming (to say the least). As a mother myself, my primary goal is to help you feel totally relaxed and comfortable so that we can get gorgeous candid photos of you with your loved ones.
I typically try to work with newborns between 5-10 days old, to help them stay nice and sleepy and relaxed during our session. Newborn sessions tend to last about 2 hours, due to the need for babies to take more frequent breaks for eating, soothing, and diaper changes.
When I get to your home, the first thing I’ll do is take a quick walk through the house evaluating the light and deciding which rooms make the most sense for us to spend our time. This could be your child’s room, your bedroom, living room, or even kitchen. Please do your best to clean up any clutter in these rooms as you are able, before I arrive. If additional styling is needed, you and I will work together to create an atmosphere that is both authentic and polished. This is a JUDGMENT FREE ZONE! I promise you that for every gorgeous, magazine-worthy photo on my website of a blissful new mom cuddling with her tiny newborn, there are piles of just-used breast pump supplies, hastily discarded Amazon boxes, and other secretly stashed clutter hidden just outside the camera frame.
What to Wear
Above all else, I want you to feel comfortable and be yourself! Having your picture taken can sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. I don’t want clothes to add to that feeling. Try to pick clothes that fit you well, fit your personal “style”, and make you feel gorgeous. Keep in mind that you’ll be holding your little one, and I might also ask you to sit, stand, or lie down during our session. Wear something that lets you move freely and feel relaxed.
Please wear tightly woven shirts, sweaters and dresses; otherwise it can appear see-through in photos. Feel free to dress in layers such as slips and undershirts to avoid exposing too much. Moms, you’re probably going to feel most comfortable in your maternity clothes, and I just want you to know that that’s TOTALLY OKAY and actually really common. I especially love photographing new moms in a beautiful, flowy maxi dress. Just keep in mind: if you don’t want to show off cleavage, steer away from low-cut tops and button-downs, especially if you will be with young children who may keep you too active to notice if your top is staying in place for your photos. I’ll also try to remind you to take off the hair elastic from your wrist before we start, but just a reminder that you might not want those in your photos. Same goes for your Fitbit or giant Apple Watch…might want to stash these out of sight before we start. Dads, please remember to remove all wallets, keys, and phones from your pockets before we start. And again, comfort is key here…a nice set of jeans with a casual button down or solid tee looks great for photos.
As far as what colors to wear, try to avoid bright white if possible, as it can make people look washed out or it can stand out as too bright in some lighting situations. Neutrals (black, grey, browns, cream, or even denim) and solid colors always look timeless and classic in family photos. In general, darker colors tend to be more slimming. I personally love the pop of a rich jewel tone in family photos, like navy, cranberry, emerald green, goldenrod, purple, etc.
Unless you usually match each other every day, try to focus on coordinating colors instead of going for an exact match. Try choosing 1-2 colors as your foundation and then mixing different patterns, textures, and even some contrasting accessories for a look that is pulled-together but also reflects your personal style.
Since we’ll be hanging out in your home, shoes/slippers are totally optional. Just make sure you’re both on the same page as a couple before we begin. If you’re going go barefoot or wear socks, just make sure your feet are photo-ready since I’ll be shooting from a variety of angles.
This next point is so important it gets its own paragraph: IF YOU HAVE ANY VISIBLE TATTOOS I’D LOVE TO INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR PHOTOS! Please let me know so I can work them into our session.
My style is really relaxed and candid. Parents, please prepare to be in your newborn’s photos. I strongly believe in the importance of capturing these early days of bonding and snuggling! I’ll also get some solo shots of baby, but keep in mind that I don’t do a lot of posing or bring props, the main focus is on you and your baby.
Feel free to set aside 1-2 special items you would like to include in your photos, such a special blankets, stuffed animals, or other objects with special meaning to your family. This is a great opportunity to include a family heirloom or handmade blanket in a few photos. Please try to refrain from very large or “gimmicky” hats or headbands…I want to leave you with classic, timeless images that focus on your little one’s sweet features!
How to Prep Your Baby
Babies tend to photograph best in a simple, neutral colored onesie or in a wrap. While I love an adorable ruffly dress or pants set on babies, more often than not they tend to draw attention away from your newborn’s sweet, tiny features that we want to capture during your session. This the only time I actually break my own rule against wearing white…a simple white onesie looks great on a baby!
Please try to prepare your baby by feeding and changing him or her before our session. A full belly equals a happy, sleepy baby! If you’re bottle feeding, you’ll probably want to keep an extra bottle ready and nearby during our session. It’s totally normal for your little one to feel extra hungry during our session. We’re going to be moving around quite a bit, plus they tend to have a ton of back-to-back growth spurts during those first few weeks. Even though I know most parents prefer to establish a routine early-on, try to stay extra flexible and just follows baby’s cues as much as possible while we’re taking photos.
Your baby just spent the last 9 months in a really warm and cozy bath-like environment. Skin issues are totally normal for newborns…it just is what it is. Your baby might have acne, flakes, stork-bites, birthmarks, blocked tear ducts, jaundice…I’ve pretty much seen it all. A warm bath (or wipe-down with a wet washcloth, if your baby’s cord stump hasn’t fallen off yet) the night before our session, followed by a light layer of non-irritating lotion is the best way to prepare your baby’s skin for photos. Try not to pick at all those little skin flakes!!! In my experience, the more you pick at it, the more it multiplies. During and after your session, we’ll chat about how much you want me to edit out…some parents love to remember every little detail, while others prefer a more polished look.
I love including pets in family photos! I’m totally used to meeting the full range of shy, excited, nervous, or even territorial fur babies during in-home sessions. You know your pets best, so I’ll leave it up to you how you’d like to handle this part. Some families find that adding an extra element to the session just causes more stress, while others are totally fine letting their pets roam free. If you do want to incorporate them into your photos, just try to keep some extra treats handy.
Breastfeeding portraits are available upon request, and unless I have your explicit permission, these will remain private for only your family to view and share. I love to capture these personal bonding moments between mom and baby, and I promise to be discreet if asked to photograph this time.A Word About Pinterest
A Word About Pinterest
Trust me, I am a Pinterest junkie! It’s a great place to go for inspiration…but please keep in mind that our primary focus is to capture YOU and YOUR family! I’m happy to review one or two favorite poses you’ve found online, but then we will put our own unique spin on them to create something that is fresh, authentic, and above all else, inspired.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have our family photos taken by some pretty awesome photographers. Here are some of the most important things I’ve had to learn over the years…as a photographer, a client, and a mom! (Image credits in no particular order: Terri Collins, Elaina Borchelt, Emily Lam Angehr, Melissa Stottmann, Desiree Jones Hoelzle, some random person at a party, and my trusty tripod)
You DON’T Need to Lose Weight First Friends, you DON’T need to lose weight before your next photo shoot. I have been a lot of different sizes in our family photos over the years, and I am so grateful that my kids will have memories of ME in the photos as they were growing up! A great photographer will be able to pose you and engage with you in such a way that the first thing you’ll see in your photos is your own amazing smile. Sure, you might notice the extra rolls a few seconds later; we ALL have our little body hang ups. But a really great photographer should make your insecurities feel secondary to the joy you feel when you see your photos.
You DO Need to Whiten Your Teeth As a photographer, editing darkened or yellow teeth just about sucks the life out of me. Brightening up your smile is so affordable these days. Take care of your teeth. Brush, floss, and maybe even invest in some Crest White Strips or something. We ARE going to smile and laugh during your session, so make sure your best feature (YOUR SMILE) is camera ready!
Do Your Hair (Or Get it Done Professionally) Like a great smile, good hair cannot be faked. Consider getting a professional blow-out before your session…or at the very least please make sure your hair is dry, styled, and soft to the touch. You don’t want to look uptight in every photo because you’re too worried about the wind blowing the wrong direction or that your kids hugged you too tightly and messed up your perfect ‘do. A great stylist will help you create a style that is both gorgeous and touchable. As for fresh cuts, I always try to schedule our hair cuts a few weeks before our family photos to make sure I have time to grow out or hide any accidental weirdness. Don’t tempt fate by scheduling a hair cut the day before our session…that almost never ends well!
Moisturize That Skin! Start about a week before our session and focus on your knees, elbows, cheeks, chin, and nose. This goes for both kids AND adults! Especially if your child is teething, drooling, or has recently had a cold, moisturizing around the affected areas a few nights ahead of time can make such a huge difference. I’m no doctor, but I’ve also found that a little Neosporin can help to lessen the appearance of acne scars or fresh boo boos.
Bring Extra Clothes and Warm Layers Listen. As a mom myself, I know that kids get messy. They poop. They pee. They drool. They wipe their snot everywhere. They spill stuff. And Murphy’s Law says that they’re going to do ALL of those things in your car on the way to your photo shoot. Always bring extra clothes. Always.
Also, as the weather starts to get chillier (September through March), please remember to grab a blanket, coat, hat and mittens for your little ones. Trust me when I say that blue hands and lips are REALLY hard to edit.
Choose a Photographer Whose Style You Love Pay attention to the photos your photographer shares on their website and social media. If you prefer photos that are super polished and perfectly coordinated, go with the photographer who shows that style. If you prefer photos that are a little messy and full of fun, choose that photographer. If you want really artsy photos with dramatic light, choose the photographer who shows that in their portfolio. Photographers are artists, and most of us specialize in a specific style. Don’t assume that anyone with a camera can read your mind and magically deliver all the images you’ve seen on Pinterest.
Don’t Rush Around Too Much On Photo Shoot Day I get it, weekends can be hectic. But please remember to leave some wiggle room in your schedule to unwind before our session. Moms, dads, and kids can ALL get grumpy when the day has been too busy, and you don’t want that to show in your photos. Just for this one day, treat yourself to some quality down time before we meet up. Leave enough time in your schedule that you can leisurely drive to our meetup spot AND still be early. Have a snack, drink some water, maybe even grab a quick nap before your hair appointment. Don’t try to squeeze in our session between Tommy’s soccer practice and Suzy’s birthday party.
Be Prepared to Print Your Photos Right Away Otherwise I promise you they will hide in a folder on your desktop until your baby is ready to graduate. (Case in point, I STILL need to print this gorgeous photo of me with my littlest, and he just started kindergarten a few weeks ago!) As a busy parent, I know that life doesn’t magically slow down. Let your photographer help you make the decisions about how to print your photos right away, so you can see your babies’ beautiful smiling faces on your walls every day!
Hire Someone Who Gets Your Kids I’ve worked with photographers who didn’t get my kids, and the whole process kind of sucked. My kids can be weird, they can be super chatty, they can be uncooperative, they have meltdowns over dumb stuff…and if my photographer doesn’t keep them engaged and having fun, it’s not only going to show on their faces, but it’s also going to show on MY face that I’m stressed out and annoyed. I’m super picky about who I let work with my kids, and you should be too! Book a photographer that you trust will understand how to work with your kids. Read their Google reviews, see if they have some behind-the-scenes videos of them working with other kids, see if their portfolio looks like the people are genuinely having fun, read their About page on their website and see if they have other experience working with kids, ask if you can schedule a quick chat on the phone so you can feel out their personality. In my experience, happy kids = happy parents = happy photos.
Communication is Key Photographers are good at a lot of things, but we are not mind readers. If you notice something in the background is going to bug you, ask if you can move it. If you were really hoping for a specific pose or type of image, speak up and let your photographer know about it. If dad’s a little self-conscious about his bald spot, mention that you’d prefer not to have any photos taken from above. If you know you’re going to throw out your back if you have to sit on the ground, let your photographer know about it before she asks you to sit on the ground! I once did an entire session for what I thought was an “uncooperative” baby, and then at the end the parents casually mentioned that the baby was actually deaf! That would have been REALLY helpful to know before I wasted my time clapping and making silly noises the whole time! Please…help us help you.
The fall is such a beautiful time to capture your family – especially outdoors among the changing trees and fallen leaves. But, if you’re like many families, figuring out what to wear can be tough! I promise, it doesn’t have to be hard to choose outfits that you’re going to love for your session – and that will help us create portraits you’ll love for years to come!
Colors Autumn outfits are lots of fun to put together because you get to wear beautiful colors, warm layers, and cute accessories. So let’s start with a color scheme. The fall basically asks for warm colors – especially jewel tones! Rich tones like dark purple, emerald green, navy, and mustard yellows can be perfect for this time of year. You can even still pull off a nice neutral shirt or sweater for a great pop against the red and orange leaves around you. Don’t be afraid to wear those warm, jewel inspired colors for your session. It helps create a rich scheme of colors for everyone’s outfits!
Comfort We’ve picked out a color scheme, yes! Now we can start talking about what to wear. If you know anything about my photography style, you know that we are going to PLAY. In the fall, we just might jump through giant leaf piles, decorate pumpkins, and race across hay bales together. So wear clothes you’re comfortable moving in. Nice jeans with cute fall boots and a good sweater is a great option! Dads, a casual button down or a warm sweater is always a great option. And encourage your little ones to wear comfortable (but nice!) shoes, leggings and tights, and sweaters they like.
Layers The fall is a great time to create fun layered looks too. Plus, it helps keep everyone warm if they’re not just in a t-shirt and short dress! When it’s chilly outside, warm kids mean happy kids – trust me! So feel free to layer – add a t-shirt to start, then put a button up or a sweater over top. Find a cute jacket you like that coordinates with everyone else’s outfits, and even consider a scarf or hat as a fun accent for the outfits. Very little ones (babies and toddlers) get cold hands much faster than us grown-ups, and over the years I have learned that blue hands are VERY hard to edit – so be sure to grab a cute coat and mittens for your littles in case the weather takes a chilly turn during our session!
Skin Care Finally, I have one more tip to help everyone look and feel great for your fall portraits. The winter air comes in quick in our area. So I highly recommend that you take the time to moisturize kids’ cheeks and noses as the weather gets more crisp. Aquaphor and Vaseline are both great options to prevent chapped skin and lips. Saline spray is also great to prevent runny noses during cold season.
Choosing what to wear for your portraits this fall should be fun! Using the tips above, create a few outfits you like for your family. I am more than happy to talk with you about which you’d like to pick as your final choice! Happy Fall, everyone!
The fall is all about family time to me. As a family, we love going out to our favorite Philadelphia area orchards for apple and pumpkin picking, hayrides, and corn mazes, simmering delicious soups in the crock pot, and cuddling up in cute sweaters and blankets together. I love photographing families in the fall because our sessions are always so cozy and fun – and when everyone’s having fun, we can get some truly beautiful portraits of you and the people you love the most!
When to book: Fall is the perfect time for outdoor family sessions, which is why the calendar fills so quickly. The temperatures are pretty much perfect for everyone in the group and we have so many options for gorgeous backdrops! If you want the true, rich colors of the fall, mid-to-late October is the best time of year for family photos. That’s when the leaves have truly changed and we can capture the season at its peak beauty. My schedule books up quickly so make sure we talk soon if those are the colors and overall vibe you want in your photos!
Where to go: I love photographing families just enjoying the change in seasons. For some, that might mean jumping on hay bales or having a giant family leaf battle. Other families might love a hike the woods with a stop for a cozy picnic and cuddle on your family’s outdoor quilt. And still for some, it’s about just enjoying a warm coffee or hot cocoa in the city. Whatever your family loves doing in the fall, let’s take the time to capture it. Just keep in mind, some of the more popular locations around town may be extra busy or even require a permit (but I’ll help you navigate all of that as we start to plan your fall session).
I can’t wait to help you plan your fall family session! Be sure to contact me soon to get your session on the calendar!
“I know all too well what NOT having a father, particularly in the Black community, will do to boys. So, it is vital for me to remain in his life. I’ve been impacted by the Black Lives Matter movement in such a positive way, like being more informed about my rights, police incidents, and also how to protect myself from being preyed on by a racist country. My hopes are really high for my son. I can tell by his excitement and smile, that having me in his life will cause great things to happen for him…and me.”
“Unfortunately, being an active Black dad today is a revolutionary act. There has been such a strong systematic attack on us that society struggles to challenge the narrative of the “absent father” stereotype. I’ve never accepted the narrative that Black lives don’t matter. I have Black babies to raise and we are less interested in convincing white folks of our humanity than we are focused on building Black capacity. We command respect. “My greatest fear is that our children might adhere to any prefabricated narratives of Black existence that puts limits on them, especially those narratives that destroy us.”