May 31, 2017

Congratulations Class of 2017!

Another school year has ended and another class of young people have graduated and will go out into the world to learn about themselves and discover their purpose.  Congratulations to these young men and women from the Class of 2017!  What a special group of young people you are.  I feel privileged to have been able to document this pivotal stage and can't wait to see all they great things you do in your lives.  The world belongs to you!
xo
Mara

Olivia

Katie

Marissa

Jared

Emma

Shannon

Tatum

Annie

Mackenzie

Elliott

Annie


Josh

Avery

Cade

Patrick

Holly

James

Carter

Emma


John

Christian

Trey

Mikey

Joey

Brooke

John


March 3, 2017

Organizing and Displaying Your Family Photographs

Last month I hosted a mother’s night out event for North Central Parenting Group and gave a short presentation about how to organize and display your family photographs.  The women who attended gave great feedback and made it apparent that the number of images they have of their children is overwhelming and causes them stress. 

The perspective I have on this subject comes from having one son who is grown and in college and another who is two years away from leaving our home.  My children were babies before there were iphones with cameras.  In order to take pictures we had to plan to bring the camera, remember to get it out, load a roll of film in a camera and then take it to get developed which usually yielded about 10 acceptable pictures from a roll of 36.  I know it seems like it was the “olden days”, as my kids like to point out, and that we have come so far since then.  But, one positive of the old time technology of film was that we had far fewer pictures to decide how to display.  We threw away the bad ones and stuck the rest in a photo album (maybe a scrapbook with cute sayings and stickers if we were crafty).  Once every year or two we had our children professionally photographed, ordered one or two portraits (and maybe an album if they were really cute) and hung them up in our house.  Even in my home, and as a professional photographer I only have portraits of my kids from about every year or so. 

The dawn of digital has led to an extreme increase in the number of images that are produced documenting one child’s growth from newborn to adulthood.  Whether they are snapshots that parents take of their child or professional images, it is likely the number is in the thousands by the time the child reaches the age of two.  With the daily duties it takes to raise a child in today’s world (doctors appointments, parenting classes, play groups, feeding, shopping, bathing, getting them to sleep, getting them in the right music/gym/mom and tot class) this only adds to a feeling of anxiety.  What I would like to do here is give you a way to organize and display the images of your family and children, and perhaps rethink why and when you have them photographed in the first place.

First, let’s address how many of your own snapshots you take of your child.  Every time you go to a park, playgroup or the zoo, do you feel like you need to whip out your phone and document it?  What is the purpose?  Is it to share on social media?  By the way, that is just fine, but it will lead to your device being completely jammed up and more work for you in the end.  So, when should you bring out your phone or camera and document those fun, spontaneous moments so that you can remember?  I would say holidays are a good place to start.  And vacations.  And family visits. And birthdays.  But if you have 25 from each of those events you would have around 200 per year.  That is too many.  So here is a guide to get your existing snapshots organized.  Then stop taking so many from here on out.  Rather than pulling out your phone all the time, maybe just enjoy the moment.  Childhood goes quickly.

So you have a year or two or three worth of snapshots of your child or children. Where should you start?  What can you do with them? 
1.                     Get all the images off your device.  Do this once every month or so.  Download them to your computer and also save on an external hard drive because computers crash and that is sad.
2.                     Put the images in a folder labeled with whatever event it is (Halloween 2016, Johnny’s First bday, etc.). 
3.                     Work backwards so you are not overwhelmed.  Since it is only March of 2017, 2017 should be easy and not overwhelming at all.  Next do 2016 because you can complete that one and make a scrapbook.
4.                     Go through each image you have by labeled folder and delete the ones you don’t love.  Be brutal and only save a few from each event. (you don’t need 25 from Halloween, First bday maybe that many, but not every playgroup).  Go through again and delete more.  Your goal is to end up with around 60 per year. 
5.                     Once you are finished with one year, make a book.  If you have a Mac, ibook is a really simple, easy way to make a scrapbook with text.  And you simply click and order and it is delivered in about a week.  If you don’t have a Mac, get one.  Just kidding, but they really are best for consumers to organize and arrange their own images.  There are other sites where you can make scrapbooks and albums like Snapfish.  Now you have a year of images in a scrapbook and something you and your family can look through together! 
6.                     Other ideas for displaying your images that you absolutely love are: a calendar (makes a great gift for grandparents who still use paper calendars), small frames around your home, bulletin boards, digital frame, prints to be put under glass on a table in your home. 

Hopefully, that helps.  This project is not meant to be done all in one night!  And your scrapbook does not have to be a work of art or something you have seen on Pinterest.  Just do the best you can.  Work maybe an hour while the kids are napping or in the evening after bedtime a couple of times per week until you are caught up.  If you start this now and limit the number of images you take throughout the year, it will never get out of control again!  Now, onto what to do with the professional images.

If you go by what is all over Pinterest and Instagram and Facebook, it seems like in order to be a good mother, you need to have your children photographed every few months in some kind of very staged and themed set up.  Whether it is a newborn wearing a hat to make him look like a bear cub, a baby smashing their first birthday cake or kids in their Halloween costumes, Christmas outfits, with Easter bunnies, or in a lemonade stand, it seems like a child is professionally photographed at least 8 times by the time she reaches her second birthday.  What I challenge you to think about is, what is the point to all of these sessions?  Do you have a goal from each one or do you just gather these hundreds or thousands of images on your hard drive and share them on social media, maybe print a few holiday cards or birth announcements and then feel overwhelmed about how to actually showcase your favorites (if you can even decide which ones those are)?  If you are paying for all of these sessions, maybe take that money, save up and invest in excellent portraits of milestone ages (see below) and do all the other pictures yourself.

There are a couple types of professional photographers you may have encountered.  The first will help you choose the images to display and deliver final portraits and/or albums to you so all you have to do is hang them up.  That is super cool and leaves no work for you!  If that is the type of photographer you have worked with, you can skip down to where I discuss milestone ages. 

If your photographer did not help you to choose which images to print or print them for you, you have some work to do.  First, you need to decide which one or two from each milestone age to have printed.  I would suggest that you choose one larger and one smaller (one main wall portrait and one smaller, or a triptych that tells a story).  You can do a smaller desk portrait of one or two and an album with the others.  Once you have picked the couple of favorites you would like to have printed as portraits, you will need to choose the size and lab.  Remember, cheaper labs like Walmart and Costco will look cheap.  If you want to start a beautiful gallery, choose a quality lab.  Tempe Camera is a local lab that will help you to size, crop, and print the images and offers different types of fine art paper options.  I have listed contact info and other resources for this below. 

If all that work stresses you out, going forward you might want to rethink your choice of photographer from one who simply gives you the digital files and doesn’t offer any help with regard to which images to have printed and how or where to print them.  If you are like me, I don’t like to pay for a service only to have more work to do.  I would rather spend a bit more and have the professional use their professional skills and resources to help me have something of excellent quality.

Remember, your child is growing and from birth to senior portrait if you have her professionally photographed once per year, you will have 18 portraits by the time she graduates from high school.  Your goal should be to add to your gallery rather than replace precious portraits from the younger years.  So, what are the milestone ages that you should have your child photographed?  In other words, if I were not a professional photographer, what ages would I pay to have a professional photographer document my children and pay for beautiful portraits to add to my gallery? 

Here is my list of milestone ages to have your child photographed.  Obviously, space apart for development according to when you had your last session.  These can be done as a separate portrait if you have larger walls or combined with siblings to accomplish two things at once (except maybe when they are really, really impactful on their own like toddler, missing teeth and senior portraits):

1.                     Infant (0-6 months)  Some people like the brand newborn, but I prefer when the baby can actually track, is chubby and has a face that will be recognizable later in their life.  Plus, you feel a little less stressed at the session when you are not one or two weeks post partum. 
2.                     Toddler (12-36 months)  Walking around, talking and able to communicate a little and engage.  Has a variety of expressions and a developed personality.
3.                     Small Child (4-5 years) Still has a bit of a baby face.  Very well developed vocabulary and interests.  Usually preschool age before front teeth fall out.
4.                     Lost Teeth (6-7 years) One of my favorite ages and a great transitional portrait from a small child to the one with the big teeth. 
5.                     Big Kid, Tween (9-12 years) Once you have an 18 year old, these kids will look little to you.  I actually also like braces because the kids still look little while they are wearing them.
6.                     Teen (13-16 years) This is a good age because you have a kid who is still a kid but thinks and acts like they are not.  They have their own defined personalities and opinions (whether you like it or not).
7.                     Senior Portrait (17-18 years) This is the last portrait of childhood.  They are graduating high school and about to embark on their own life, away from you. 

I find it helpful to think about creating a portrait gallery that you will add to over time rather than just do willy-nilly sessions with multiple photographers who all have different styles.  For those of you who like consistency and would like a photographic style that will stand the test of time, choose a photographer whose style is more classic and will pleasing to you in the long term.  There are many trends in photography.  By definition, a trend will go out of style, so it is best to stay away from photographers whose bulk of work is made up of images that are very trendy.  For example, one trend is to severely back light a subject, obscuring the face in favor of the sun shining behind her.  Another trend is to dress up newborns in funny hats or contort them or put them in bowls or baskets or slings.  Props are also distracting.  If you want something in the image to represent your child’s age, I recommend something meaningful to you and them, like a favorite blanket, doll or book.  I tend to gravitate toward a style that will be pleasing in 50 years or would have been 50 years ago. 

            One element of creating pleasing wall displays is to frame the portraits in an elegant aesthetic that will frame and highlight the images and blend with your décor.  Professional framing can make a big difference in how finished your display looks.  Cheap framing looks cheap and can ruin the actual portraits over time.  Choose a professional frame shop (not Michael’s or Aaron Brothers) that specializes in framing art and knows conservation methods.  It does not have to be expensive and you can limit the cost by choosing frames that are smaller and less ornate. 

            In order to determine what sizes and displays would be appropriate for the professional images of your children and family, your home décor and space should be taken into account.  You don’t need to have a dedicated wall upon which to hang all of the professional images you choose to have printed as portraits.  Here are some ideas for display that I have seen and use myself: 

1.     One significant size portrait in a defined space or over a piece of furniture (sofa, console table, fireplace, entryway, between two light fixtures).
2.     Different sizes and orientations down a hallway or up a staircase.
3.     Gallery wall as a showcase wall – small or large with multiple images in different sizes and orientations in a family gathering spot. (These are the images that make you happy so you should see them often.)
4.     Casual leaning on top of a bookcase or shelving.
5.     In a bathroom – water or beach images work well here.
6.     Child’s bedroom – infant images for nursery and other happy images great in here as well.

I would also recommend having albums created from your professional images as well.  As mentioned above, you will not frame all of the images from your professional images as portraits for your walls, but having albums and books will document these sessions for you so that over time you have a great representation of your child’s growth.

In my studio, I offer the full service experience because I believe you should have beautiful, timeless images of your children and you don’t need any extra work in your busy life.  From talking with you prior to your session in order to understand your goals (or just help you define what those should be), to expertly photographing your child, to helping you choose the best images for display and where they should hang in your home, to printing your portraits in the most beautiful and archival manner, to helping you choose the frames that will best highlight your portraits, it is a full service, stress-free experience.  The only thing left for you to do is pay and hang your portraits on the wall.  I charge appropriately for what I give you but feel strongly that you definitely get what you pay for.  When you account for money that you might spend on mini sessions throughout the year, where you don’t love any images and then your time you have to spend to figure out which one to print, where to take it and the cost of printing and framing, a full service experience by an expert photographer is well worth the price.  But, if you choose to go elsewhere I will not be offended.  Everyone has different tastes and different budgets.  If you need resources to be able to print and display the images of your children, here you go:

Printing – I recommend an art paper for quality and timeless feel.  If you choose to print on a canvas, framing it will look more finished and refined. 
1.     Tempe Camera will sit down with you and help you size and choose an appropriate medium to print images, either professional or your own snaps. www.Tempecamera.biz 606 West University Drive, Tempe AZ 85281 480.966.6954
2.     Artifact Uprising – if the images are already sized and ready to go this is nice quality but no one-on-one help.  www.artifactuprising.com
3.     Cheap labs look cheap.  You get what you pay for.  Walmart and Costco offer cheap canvas wraps that will likely fade in a few years.

Albums – Create scrapbooks of your own snaps or of professional images that you are not going to hang on your wall (if photographer did not offer album).  
1.     Ibooks is a great resource if you have a mac.  You can create book and upload right from iphoto. Perfect for your own snaps.
2.     Snapfish and other online sites have album options perfect for you own snaps.
3.     Artifact Uprising – higher quality albums for professional images.  You have to do all of the layout and design work but not too complicated. www.artifactuprising.com

Framing – professional framing adds a finished element, incorporating your portraits with your hoe décor and personal style.
1.     The Art of Framing 5018 North Central Avenue 602.277.3112.  They have a wide variety of cool frames and will offer help in which ones will look best within your budget.  Choose archival mattes and uv glass for great preservation.
2.     Michael’s and Aaron Brother’s are not great.  Not archival materials and glass with chemicals.

in a hallway

same family hallway

more from this lovely family

accent wall behind couch

small hallway

in a bath

leaning on a bookcase

accent wall in a living room/entry

up a staircase

over a console table

under glass on a table





March 1, 2017

Family Portraits Help Children's Self Esteem

Years ago, most people had portraits of their family and children hanging in their homes.  Although some people went to very high-end studios and had beautiful portraits gracing the walls of their homes, not everyone had the most beautiful or the best quality portraits.  Some people went to chain studios like Olin Mills, but most everyone had portraits hanging on their walls.  It was what people did. 

That is not the norm today.  Although our children might be the most photographed generation in history, many people don’t hang portraits of their families or children on the walls of their home anymore.  Many people don’t even print them or create albums.  Is this lack of a portrait wall in our homes harmful to our children? 

Many psychologists and parenting experts have confirmed that having photographs of your children, especially those where they are part of a family unit, helps them develop a healthy self esteem. 

“I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit.  It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit, “ says David Krauss, Ph.D., a psychologist, author and pioneer in PhotoTherapy since 1977. 

A family portrait is a visual reminder that they are part of that family unit.  Not only does the family portrait confirm that the child is valued within the family, but it gives the child a sense of history and belonging, which is paramount in developing a sense of self-esteem. 

“Family photography lets children learn who they are and where they fit.  They learn their genealogy and the uniqueness of their own family and its story.  When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves, ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that why I belong here.  This is where I come from,’” explains Judy Weiser, Ph.D., a psychologist, registered art therapist, author and one of the earliest pioneers of PhotoTherapy techniques. 

In this digital age we take hundreds if not thousands of images of our children every year.  We have them on our phones, our computers, and all over our social media.  But, how many are actually hanging on the walls of our homes?  Even if you choose to have a professional photographer document your family, there are many photographers that only offer the digital files, leaving it up to you, the parent, to get them printed.  This creates extra work for you and decreases the likelihood that portraits will ever be made.  Because, let’s face it, how many of us love adding tasks to our already foot-long list of projects and things to do?  And, how are you supposed to know where to get your portraits printed, which size is best and how to best display them.  This is what the professionals are for, right?  So, how much does it really matter if they are on your computer, Facebook page, and digital frame but not actually printed and hanging in your home? 

“My bias is very simple.  I think they (family photographs) should be on the wall,” says Krauss.  “I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family portrait someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort.  It says we love you and care about you.  You’re important.”  Krauss recommends having printed family photographs in living spaces where children can see them, the importance of which was echoed by other experts. 

“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, Ph.D., a psychologist and school counselor who used photography in his work with trauma and abuse victims to help them recover.   “Touching the photograph where a face is smiling, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it.  There is a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience.  That is a bit lost in the move to digital.  You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.”

David Walsh, Ph.D., a psychologist, author and founder of the National Institute of Media and the Family, agrees.  “One of the reasons that photography is so powerful is that we’re a very visual species. We have, of course, five senses but we have more brain cells dedicated to vision than all of the other senses combined.” For that reason, Walsh says, printed images are particularly powerful in reinforcing one’s sense of belonging.


The overwhelming message is to print family photographs and hang portraits of your children and your family in your home, in an area where the children will see them on a daily basis.  In order to do this you need to find a photographer who will understand how important this goal is to you.  Find a photographer who offers beautiful products.  Find a photographer who will help you choose which sizes and products will work the best with your style and in your home.  Find a photographer who will meet with you prior to the session and find out about your children and family so that the end result will be timeless and excellent and worthy of having a place on a wall in your home.  Find a photographer who will help you create a beautiful visual legacy.  Find a photographer who cares as much about helping your children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem as you do.

July 15, 2016

Lovely France, My Heart Breaks for You

I am so sorry for what is happening in our world.  Every time I hear of an attack, mass shooting and hateful action against innocents, my heart breaks a little more.  Pretty soon I am afraid that I will be sad more than I am happy.  The church shooting in Charleston last year, the Boston Marathon bombing, the Orlando mass shooting this summer, the slaying of school children in Newton, the Paris attacks, Brussels attack, the police killings in Dallas, and now Nice.  It goes on and on and on and on. It doesn't matter who is doing the killing - angry teens, the mentally ill, terrorists, homophobes, zealots, or racists - it is all murder.  I fear that as our children listen to the constant barrage of this news they become desensitized to it and it will just be a part of life in this world.
Last month I was in France.  We flew into Nice and had one of the happiest weeks of my life.  We spent a week in one of the most beautiful places in the world with wonderful, kind people, full of life and love.  I can't imagine their heartbreak and sadness in what has happened.  The images below are from my trip and I hope convey the peaceful feeling and warmth that I felt during that week.  My wish is that the peace of the South of France be felt my all, and that the hate and fighting and blame and rhetoric and anger and killing stop.  















June 19, 2016

Remembering my Mother.

My mom with my boys a few weeks after she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.  She died about 11 months later.  My goodness they look too young to watch go through something so sad.  And, she looks so beautiful here, not sick. This is how I hope they remember her.
Today is Father's Day.  Today I celebrate my own father and my husband for their commitment to my boys and to me.  But it is also the day my mother died.  Last Sunday was her 70th birthday and today is the day she died.  One week apart, a week after her 63rd birthday.  Sometimes I forget she is gone.  Even now, after seven years I will wake up in the morning and have to remember that my dream isn't real, that she is not living and we can't talk and laugh and cry and drink a margarita or some wine together and we can't hug each other.  But, most days I remember.  It doesn't hurt so much any more to be a motherless daughter.

I don't usually cry anymore when I talk about her like I did in the first years.  My sadness is more a dull ache, like the place where I cut my hand a few months ago and had stitches and healed, but still hurts sometimes.  It is not the slice and throb that it first was when the glass sliced my hand and the stitches were new.  The ache is more an abstract longing for her being able to see Nick graduate and her excitement that he is headed to Florida for college and new adventure.  It is more the yen to hear her raucous laughter as she told something she thought was utterly hilarious.  It is the hope that my boys will remember her voice as she told them something was "disgusting".  It is remembering what fun we had together when she came to visit me when I was studying abroad in Spain and we traveled around together, and knowing that we will never take a trip together again.

I often look at the photograph of my own grandmother who died when I was nine.  I wonder about her.  I wonder what she loved, what made her happy, and sad and angry.  I wonder many things because I never knew her.  But I feel like I know her through the portrait I have on my wall.  I feel like I know a little something of her.  I hope that my boys will remember their Gram through the image of the three of them together.  I hope they will remember her laugh and her voice and the special things she did for them - like get Nick 11 scoops of ice cream on his 11th birthday, a few months before she died.  I hope that Johnny will remember her because he was not quite nine when she left, the same age as I was when my own grandmother left me.

My mom and me on my wedding day almost 22 years ago. She was 48 years old - just a few years younger than I am today.  It is still seems crazy that she is not here anymore.