Family vacations can be stressful enough without the added headache of capturing all those memories. But, since capturing those memories are a must, I thought I'd share a few thoughts to help you on your way to great, less-stressful, vacation photography.
Oh, and enjoy some of my various vacation photos from over the years. :)
How many of you have nice, semi-pro (or even professional) cameras but still feel like you have no idea what you're doing? Yep, I thought so.
This morning I thought I'd share my favorite photography books and magazines NOT specifically geared for the professional photographer. If you're ready to start unlocking your photography potential - then read on!
*Finding Beauty in the Ordinary photography receives nothing for promoting the following books and magazines. They are merely books I own and love and magazines I've subscribed to for years.*
We'll start with books.
If, like me, you find it hard to find the time to sit down with a book, I strongly recommend you look into photography magazines. There are many, many options out there. The ones that follow are my personal favorites.
I hope you this post helps you find something to unlock your creative, photography spirit.
Newborn Portrait Session Prep Guide
Family portrait sessions require a little prep work - fixing hair, putting on a tad more make-up than usual, choosing outfits. But, newborn sessions are in a whole other ballpark. You take a new baby, (often) brand new, exhausted, parents, and hormones and emotions that are usually still a bit out of control - and then you add another new person (me) who shows up with 4 bags of "stuff". It's a stressful situation. To help alleviate some of the stress, I've developed (and tweaked) my Newborn Portrait Session Prep Guide. Each Pensacola, FL area parent who books with me is sent a link to to the prep guide. Knowledge is power! And knowing what to expect from your session and what I need from you before the session will help insure that everything goes wonderfully!
First things First -
Let’s get you on the books!
Your first few days & weeks as new parents are incredible, and exhausting, and fleeting! The last thing you need on your plate is the added stress of researching and booking the perfect newborn photographer! This is one of the reasons I strongly recommend you schedule your newborn session BEFORE your baby is born. This ensures you a spot on my calendar and takes the stress of finding the right photographer off your plate as new parents.
Contact me as early as you’d like (I’ve had moms contact me as early as 10 weeks along).
As soon as your retainer is paid and contract is signed, your due date gets penciled in on my calendar. Then, once baby arrives, you can shoot me an email, text or phone call to arrange your session date and time.
So, what if you waited and baby is already here; should you still call? Will I still take your session? Of course you should still call! I will always do my best to work in last minute newborn portrait sessions in the Gulf Coast. I've photographed newborns as old as 24 days. Older newborns usually aren't able to be posed as tightly and curled as younger, but that's ok!
I am proud to provide your newborn portrait session in the comfort of your own home! I bring the entire setup to you – lighting included. You have enough going on without having to worry about getting your brand new baby out of the house! This also works well because baby remains in a familiar environment – everything smells like home because it is home. This also gives you the opportunity to comfort baby how and where you always comfort baby.
Also, if the weather permits and you’re comfortable with the idea, I LOVE to take a few newborn pictures outdoors – especially family pictures! Babies love warmth and most of the year, the Florida panhandle provides us with an abundance of that.
So, don’t worry about cleaning up because I’m coming over. I need less space than you think and I’m more than happy shifting furniture around if I need to (and I promise to move it back when I’m done).
When will I schedule baby’s session?
Traditionally, newborn sessions are done before baby reaches 2 weeks old (between 5 & 9 days old is best). Newborns grow and change FAST and we want to try to capture them during the super sleepy, curly stage. After 2 weeks, babies are more easily disturbed while sleeping as well as learning how nice it feels to stretch out.
So, yes, under 2 weeks is preferred, but this isn’t to say that newborn portraits can’t be done on slightly older newborns! I’ve photographed newborns from day 5 – day 26 and always managed to get the sleepy, curly poses the parents wanted. Just remember that older newborns require more patience and usually more preparation.
Day of preparation
Full babies are happy babies. And happy babies are sleepy babies. And sleepy babies is what we want!
So, how do you get there?
Please don’t be offended if I ask you to turn off the ceiling fan(s) in the area I’m photographing baby in. Newborns are used to being all bundled up and warm, so whatever we can do to help with that is good. I’ll also have a heating pad that I sometimes use to warm the blankets before I put baby on them.
Please do whatever you can to help keep noise to a minimum during the portrait session. I’ll have a white noise machine with me, but it can only block out so much.
*If older siblings are being photographed along with baby, I recommend we plan on taking their portraits at the beginning or end of the session so they aren’t stuck waiting around. After their part of the session is over is a great time for a family member or sitter to take them to the park.
A Little Patience & Relax
Many parents are very surprised (and a bit daunted) when they see that my newborn portrait sessions include up to 3 hours of my time. That’s a lot of time. BUT, it’s pretty much guaranteed I won’t be shooting the entire 3 hours (this isn’t a wedding, lol). I allocate 3 hours because it often takes a bit of time to get baby to sleep, plus we’ll have potty breaks (or potty clean up breaks), feeding breaks, and just snuggle breaks. So relax, put your feet up, take a shower, take a nap, update your Facebook, whatever. Many parents take turns hanging out with and spotting for me so they each get a little break.
*Oh, and a recent client suggested I make sure to mention - baby will most likely cry. He/she is perfectly ok! Think about it - you and I can discuss when things are new or different, but baby's only way to communicate is to cry. Oftentimes, I'll continue to wrap baby while they cry and you'll see that as soon as they're snug and secure, all crying will stop.*
Newsflash, babies poop. And pee. A lot! They even spit up. And baby’s going to be naked a lot. No worries; I’m prepared. It’s part of the gig! I bring extra tri-fold diapers (old-school cloth diapers) to help with clean up. This is also why I was ALL baby props and blankets between each session. If you had some rags, or paper towels, or wipes available nearby that’d be awesome too. Who knows, maybe we won’t need them.
*If you want shots with baby in his/her diaper, then I strongly suggest getting a cloth diaper or diaper cover in a solid color. Editing Elmo and Big Bird off newborn Pampers is time consuming and not always easy to do. J
Don’t worry, this is not a PSA about why you should or should not circumcise your little man. This is a plea to please let me know if you are planning to (this can be something we discuss before baby even arrives)! Circumcision often leaves the area raw and a bit painful for a few days after the procedure which can make posing and keeping baby content during their session difficult or impossible. Because of this, baby’s newborn session needs to take place BEFORE the procedure or at least 5 days after. (Before is definitely my preferred option.)
If I should arrive at your home and find baby freshly circumcised, I’ll be forced to reschedule your session. Baby’s comfort and safety is my highest priority!
Sibling & Parent Portraits
If baby has older siblings that you’d like photographed with the newborn, we’ll do these at the beginning or very end of the session (preferably first). I recommend having children in coordinating outfits with no logos. Little boys looks adorable shirtless for pictures with the new baby and little girls looks so pretty in simple cream or white (I can even use one of my newborn wraps as a simple top for big sister).
*Please make sure to let me know on your Newborn Client Questionnaire or via email, text, or phone call if you’d like siblings included in the session.
I strongly encourage parents allow me to capture their portraits with the new baby. Trust me, someday that selfie isn’t going to cut it when you’re looking for a picture of you with the baby! No need to get all dressed up: brush your hair and put on a tad of makeup and a clean top and you’ll be all set! Maybe check that your nails are clean. This is a great “excuse” for why you need some extra alone time and a long shower that morning! Feel free to blame me!
I promise you won’t regret it.
One final note…
Props & Requests
My newborn photography consists of posing on white or light colored backgrounds with very simple props – hats, wraps, or little pants – or au natural. And my posing style is simple – keeping baby in a more comfortable/organic pose. I want the main emphasis of the portrait to be baby itself. To this end, yes, I’ll definitely try to incorporate your requests into the session as long as baby’s safety is guaranteed.
If you see a specific item in my albums that you’d like me to be sure to bring, just let me know!
It’s been a while since I’ve taken the time to show off some the awesome photography products that we carry. Plus, since I’ve added a few more goodies, what better way to introduce them than to show them off!
Since it is the Christmas season, I am going to start off with these super cute, and affordable, custom Christmas ornaments. On the left is a bamboo ornament that comes in your choice of 13 sizes & shapes (the one show is 4″x2.5″). They’re ~1/4″ thick and show the beautiful, natural grain of the bamboo through the image. On the right is a sweet metal ornament that can be ordered in the design shown or a snowflake.
These ornaments not only look lovely on your own tree, they make a fantastic gift for grandparents!
Next up is an item I’ve been proudly using for 2 months now: a custom cell phone case.
What a great way to show off your babies – without having to even unlock your phone screen.
Cases are black rubber grip with interchangeable photo inserts. These aren’t sold as “protective cases” like Otterbox, Lifeproof, etc – BUT, my toddler has dropped and thrown my phone multiple times on quite a few different surfaces, and so far, no damage has occurred to my Samsung S6.
Cases are available for the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPad Mini, and iPhones 4, 5, 6, & 6 Plus.
The base order includes 1 case and 1 insert – additional inserts can be added to your order or ordered at a later date.
The gorgeous picture above is my 2nd favorite new product: the 3″x3″ accordion mini album. This beautiful, sturdy mini album comes with your choice of up to 10 customizable panels and your choice of cover: fabric, leathers, suede, or (my personal fave) custom photo. Accordion Mini albums come in sets of 3 boxed up in a little manilla colored box – PERFECT for grandparent gifts (can you not just picture grandma whipping this out of her purse to show off to everyone) or as a display in mom or dad’s office!
Next up, you can NEVER go wrong with a custom, 1 1/2″ gallery wrap canvas! It’s classic, it’s sturdy, and you don’t even need a frame.
Each gallery wrap canvas is finished with saw-tooth hangers and corner bumpers.
I’ll wrap up with something many of us are knee deep in this time of year – Christmas cards.
I am proud to offer, high quality, customized Press-Printed & Foil Pressed greeting cards in a variety of sizes.
Custom designed cards are perfect for new baby announcements, Birthday invitations, Graduation announcements, Christmas cards, etc.
So, now you’ve seen the beautiful, high quality, and affordable products we carry for our clients. But, just because you don’t see it here doesn’t mean we can’t get it. So, if there’s ever something special that you have in mind, just ask!
What’s the cause of one of mom’s biggest stresses before a Family Portrait Session?
If you answered “What do I/we wear?” – then you’re right! More than half of my clients like to run clothing ideas by me or get my clothing suggestions before a session. And you know what, I LOVE that part! I’ve even received texts from dressing rooms.
But you know what, it makes sense. In color photography, one of the first things our eyes are drawn to are the clothes.
There are 3 Big Trends (we’ll call them the Big 3 from now on) in family portrait clothing coordination, especially for beach pictures. I’m sure you’ve seen them: white shirts and jeans, white shirts and khakis, or all white. Don’t get me wrong, I get it; these are clothes that everyone has. No one needs to go shopping, mom doesn’t need to stress, etc. I’ve shot these pictures. I’ve actually been IN these pictures.
These pictures are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them (outfit-wise) – everyone looks happy and coordinated. But there’s no wow factor either – nothing to set you apart from the hundreds of other “family beach pictures”. Consider adding some color to your portrait session! This doesn’t have to involve a family wide shopping trip – if you want to go with one of the Big 3, add a funky belt or shoes, colorful jewelry, or a scarf.
Another idea is to put the adults in one of the Big 3 options and have the kids be the pops of color.
If you’ve decided to add color for the whole family, don’t be scared! I’m here to help! An easy idea is to find an patterned item of clothing that you love and then use the colors in that item to pick outfits for everyone else. And don’t hesitate to ask your photographer for suggestions – he or she knows the area where you’re shooting as well as the time of day. I even have a Pinterest board specifically to help with color combination ideas here.
The second biggest decision to make when booking is where to have your portrait session. My coverage area extends from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach through Pensacola to Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach as well as north to Cantonment and Milton.
I have my favorite locations in every area. But, there are plenty of times a client comes to me with a specific location already in mind.
Where we take your pictures has a lot to do with determining HOW your portraits will look in the end. Is it in an open field or beach (bright, open), urban/ warehouse area (dim, grungy, edgy), or in your home (personal)? I want the location of your session to be about you which I why I really like your input on where we shoot. As I said, I have my favorite locations and can definitely make suggestions, but at the end of the day, this is your session and YOU need to be happy with the look of your pictures.
Now let’s talk about the two most requested location types as well as thoughts on what kind of clothing to consider and the best times of day to shoot based on each location.
What to wear for a beach session?
Think about the colors that are already there – blues like the sky, greens and yellows of the sea oats and sea grasses, and teals like the Gulf itself. Another fun way to go for a sunset session would be to wear warm colors – reds, orange, pink as compliment to the beautiful sunset colors.
Best time of day for beach portrait sessions – Beach portrait sessions have the most beautiful light in the hour after sunrise or within an hour of sunset. The combination of our beautiful, sandy WHITE beaches and the glaring sun can lead to harsh (read: unflattering) shadows and squinting during daytime sessions. Overcast days are another great option for beach portrait sessions.
Parks – If we’re being honest, parks are MY favorite session location. There are so many great parks in Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, and surrounding areas! Every area photog has their favorites. Park setting suggestions are great for the area forts as well!
My only “what-not-to-wear” suggestion is red. Unless we’re shooting for Christmas pictures, you want to avoid red when in a primarily green location. I’m sure you can figure that one out. If you’re into neutrals, that’s beautiful, play with blacks, browns, blues, whites. Parks are also a great place to really play with some color: purples, yellow, pinks, bright teals – they all look great in a park situation.
Park sessions can offer us a little wiggle room as far as session time also. Depending on the amount of available shade, we can make many times of day work.
Most importantly – be comfortable. Make sure your kids are wearing something comfortable. And pick a location that you love!
And I’d love it if you’d let me show you why!
I’m what many in the industry call a “shoot and burn” or “turn and burn” photographer.
What’s that mean? The simple answer is that I provide some of the high resolution digital images to my clients as part of the session fee. Digital images are what my clients want, so that’s what I provide. I also make it a point to let my clients know about the professional print products I offer! I do this for 2 reasons:
In order to put my money where my mouth is, I chose the 2 portraits that had gotten the most love on my Facebook and Instagram accounts from this summer’s Orange Beach, AL Portrait Sessions and had 5×7 size prints made by my Professional Lab of choice (Millers), as well as 4 of the most common stores the average consumer uses for prints – Walmart, Target, CVS, and Shutterfly.
These are the images I chose.
Are you ready to start the comparisons? We’ll start with the portrait of the little girl with the sailboat in the background.
I’ll sit here a minute while the shock wears off.
I have to admit I even I was surprised at the extreme difference in these pictures. I knew they’d be off, but I didn’t expect it to be this crazy!
Let’s break it down –
Here’s a close up of the images laid one on top of the other on a white piece of card stock. This let’s you get a really good look at the color differences in the sky!
Ok, on to the second image.
The differences in these prints is MOST noticeable in the skin tone and sky color.
OOO look at all the pretty blues and greens. lol
Ok, obviously, these labs are fine if you want snap shots or need 1 hour pictures printed for a school project or something where the quality isn’t that important to you. I’m in no way saying they don’t have their place in the market. But, if you’ve paid a professional photographer to take portraits of your family, consider getting professional prints made. The professional labs that I use print on archival quality paper that is made to stand the test of time.
**Disclaimer** Obviously, lab results will vary based on location. This post was not made to bash any discount labs, but to educate clients and other professionals. If you do choose to order from one of these discount printers, please do not select the “color correct” box!
Part I - Where are your pictures?
In this three part series, we'll discuss what to do after your portrait session is over! Part One will talk about what you're doing with your digital files. How are you safe keeping them? Part Two will discuss how where you have your pictures printed matters. And Part Three will give you ideas about how to best display your portraits after you print them.
Did you know that over time, CDs and USBs can become corrupt and unreadable? What would you do if your hard drive crashed? Yes, you'd most likely lose important documents, but you'd also risk losing all of your family's pictures. Did you know that most professional photographers only keep client's images for a couple years? We just don't have the storage space - plus, when we save files it's on at least 3 different devices.
We hear it and read it all the time. "Do I get the digital files?"
In many cases, the answer is yes.
My question to you though, is this - What are you doing with those digital files?
Are you ordering professional quality prints and albums from your photographer? Or are you trusting the nearest big box store or corner drug store with your printing needs?
If you actually order prints, what are you doing with them? Are you displaying them on the walls of your home? Are you adding the prints to baby books or photo albums? Or, are they just getting dumped in a photo box?
I would like to bet that if I stopped 10 random people and asked them what they do with their digital files, more than half of them with answer me with, "They're still on the CD/USB the photographer gave me," or, "I shared them on Facebook," or if they downloaded the files, "They're in a folder on my hard drive."
Say you get the digital files from your photographer. Did you read your contract and/or print release? If you have a professional photographer, at least one of those documents will have instructions on how to safe guard your images. My personal Print Release card contains the following statement: "All digital media can become corrupt over time. I highly recommend that you download the images off the CD/USB onto at least one computer to ensure the safe keeping of your images." My Portrait Contract has the following clause: "FBO Photography is responsible for providing storage of their images for one year only. After one year, images may be deleted or removed. Client releases FBO Photography from liability of photo storage after one year."
This is not to say that I actually delete client's files after a year, but it does mean that I could. And I know several professional, top of their field, photographers who do.
*The pictures throughout this post are of my family. Some are professional portraits, and some are just snap shots. But all are memories that I'm not prepared to lose.*
I thought we'd have a little fun today! I know most people, myself included, want their pictures to be perfect the first time, every time. But that's not realistic. Life's not perfect - there are bumps in the road, "grin and bear it" situations, and moments when we're just done. Many times, photo sessions have those same moments. As a photographer, we have 2 choices: 1 - get annoyed and risk making the situation worse or 2 - roll with it, take the shot anyway because it's great to laugh at later, and know that moods can change on a dime.
So, in that spirit, below you'll find a collection of some of my favorite "take the shot anyway" moments. They're good for a laugh, and in some cases, they remind me of how far I've come since starting my business.
Babies - some of my favorite subjects to shoot and definitely some of the BEST sources of photo shoot outtakes there is! There will be tears, there will be bodily fluids, and there will be some crazy expressions.
Working our way up from babies, we have toddlers and young children. Many times they're even less predictable than infants. If nothing else, their melt downs are more dramatic!
There are two types of photographers - photographers who LOVE photographing teenagers and photographers who HATE photographing teenagers. I'm in the 1st group, and they usually leave their session convinced I'm a complete dork. It's by being my dorky, silly, jokey self that gets those great candid smiles mom's looking for! And that look - you know the look - I get it too! Check it out!
Sessions with pets can lead to some GREAT outtakes as well! In this one, the dog yawned just as I took the shot. I kept it because it looks like it's about to eat its owner's face off. Don't worry, Stella (the dog) was actually awesome!
I'll finish this post with pictures of my own family! These are from a session I did 2 Easters ago in an attempt to get "one great shot" of my step daughters with their dad.
This is real life. Embrace it!
What You Need to Know to Have an Awesome Portrait Session
Makeup’s easy, so we’ll start there. Makeup is a great prep for your session. Even if you usually wear very little or even no makeup, applying some makeup for your session is a good idea. On the flip side, don’t go overboard and pile it on too heavy either. Clumpy mascara and thick foundation will show.
Location, location, location. Let’s talk about location options and how you can choose outfits to suit the location. Where we take your pictures has a lot to do with determining HOW your portraits will look in the end. Is it in an open field or beach (bright, open), urban/ warehouse area (dim, grungy, edgy), or in your home (personal)? I want the location of your session to be about you which I why I really like your input on where we shoot. I have my favorite locations and can definitely make suggestions, but at the end of the day, this is your session and YOU need to be happy with the look of your pictures. The options are boundless.
Below I’ll list some of the most requested location types as well as thoughts on what kind of clothing to consider and the best times of day to shoot based on each location.
The Beach - Pretty much every family I know has a family portrait taken on the beach. It’s a classic for a reason. If you choose to go the Beach Portrait route, this is the place to break out your summer & spring outfits - and to lose those shoes!
What to wear for a beach session?
Urban areas - Urban areas can be VERY versatile and fun. Glam it up for contrast, or grunge it down to play off the area.
What to wear for an urban session?
Lastly, let’s go over a few tips about posing to please. I want to keep this simple, because most of these are common sense and things you already know. You just forget to think about them when you’re in front of the camera. Luckily, your photographer should be looking out for them and directing you into pleasing, natural poses.
boxy pose vs "S" curve
Below are a couple of examples of what a few tweaks in posing can do!
I hope you enjoyed this and realized how easy it really is to get the great family portraits that we all want! Keep an eye our for our third installment where we talk about sessions with children - what to do, what to expect, and what not to do to get the pictures you'll love!
None of the above three images are mine. What? Why would a professional photographer begin a blog post with another photographer's work? Easy. I want you to understand that I do not and will not take pictures ON train tracks. I admit this happily and wholeheartedly. So, these are the only ones you'll ever see me post - well, unless I take a trip by rail. Then, I might post pictures from the train.
I've heard the arguments: "They look so cool!" "Everyone else is doing it." "My baby or senior would look bada$$ up there." "My husband will come along and help me 'spot' for you."
And I've seen Facebook posts from friends and other photographers who made the decision to take the chance. It makes me shudder. But me...
NOPE, not going to happen. No exceptions, no ifs, no ands, no buts, and no amount of money will entice me to shoot on the tracks.
"But why not," you ask?
Well, not only is is dangerous as all get out, it's also quite illegal! Did you realize that railway laws are not local city or state laws but are actually FEDERAL laws? So, if you're caught on the tracks (and don't get killed by a train) you can be fined up to $10,000! That fine isn't just for the photographer; every person out there from the "model" to the photographer to the "spotters" receive that fine. I almost forgot to mention that this holds true for ABANDONED tracks as well.
Photographers taking pictures on and around train tracks has become so much of a problem that Union Pacific Railroad and Operation Lifesaver released the following:
Operation Lifesaver has six "must-know" tips for professional photographers considering a photo shoot near the tracks:
If the possibility of a $10,000 fine doesn't bother you, maybe the following articles will help you see why I so strongly feel that the risk isn't worth it.
10.14 Santa Barbara county, CA - 1 killed & 2 injured while taking photos on a train trestle
7.14 Train runs over photographers on trestle in Indiana, they miraculously survive
6.14 Missouri photographer hit and killed by Amtrak train during photoshoot
6.14 Florida photographer lucky to be alive after being hit and drug by train
2.14 Professional video crew member for "Midnight Rider" hit and killed in Georgia
12.12 California high school photography teacher hit and killed while photographing train
So, you know what? I like you! Let's not risk either of our lives or our bank accounts. Besides, train tracks have been DONE! Let's find somewhere new for your session!
Amanda is the prop buying, location scouting, ponytail sporting, flip flop wearing, owner/ operator/ and woman behind the camera for Finding Beauty in the Ordinary Photography.
Newborn Portrait Photography
Family Portrait Photography
Maternity Portrait Photography
Senior Portrait Photography
From Gulf Shores, AL to Navarre, FL. Covering the areas of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Foley,and Elberta Alabama and Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Pensacola Beach, Milton, Pace, and Cantonment Florida.