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Reasons to Do Your Senior Session Before the Fall


Reasons to Do Your Senior Session Before the Fall

1. We always think that senior year will be lighter in course load, activities etc. But it's actually just the opposite! Let's do your photos when you aren't stressed, the weather is warm and you're well rested!

2. You will have your photos in time for Senior Ad features (many performing arts have these features in their programs to pass out at concerts etc). Usually these are requested in the fall and many scramble to come up with a decent photo. Let's give the Senior Features the best image of you as your parents congratulate you!

3. Flexibility in weather if rescheduling needed-once we get to the fall, the weather can snap cold quickly or we could fight rain and we don't have a lot of options left before snow fall to reschedule. If do photos in the summer, we have ample time if weather causes us to reschedule (heat, rain etc)

4. Flexibility in MY schedule to suit your needs. As a teacher during the school year, my weekday evenings are limited and weekends are juggling my husband's schedule with his choir director duties. It's a tighter fit, and it can be done, but if lots of flexibility in scheduling is what you need, summer is your time!!

5. Plenty of time to shop for your outfits/shoes. Need I say more? :)

6. Flexibility in scheduling of your hair/makeup artist. If you are using one, wiggle room in your timeframe is always helpful here. :) 

7. Facilities we may want to use are more available. I've had several requests for use of a school's auditorium or stadium facilities and we can maneuver around practices or performances because we can shoot during "off season" or "off times". 

These are just a few reasons to consider when scheduling your senior session(s). Ultimately, do what's best for you and your family-I'm happy to come alongside to be a part of the fun!! 



5 Reasons Why You Need a Pro for Your Senior Photos


5 Reasons Why You Need a Pro for Your Senior Photos

5. Gear and knowledge of said gear.

This is probably self-explanatory, but to shoot on high quality equipment, a photographer needs to know technically when to adjust their F-stop, ISO, shutter speed and how to work with all kinds of light. As clouds shift the sun's rays, or you head indoors for part of your session, a photographer shifts their settings to give you the best possible outcome. Higher quality equipment can render better results, but it's ultimately up to the user of the equipment to make it the best. (ie-if you can't remember your music note names or fingerings, even a $10,000 instrument won't work the way it's intended nor sound good.)

4. Location, Location, Location.

As someone who's been shooting all over Des Moines, when a senior comes to me and says they want X type background at Y time of day, I know where to go and what the light will be like when we get there. I can also manipulate light (because I can manipulate my camera's settings) if it's a new spot to me but is unique to you and helps tell your story. I'm also totally comfortable picking up the phone and asking permission to shoot in a venue that would help tell your story. You want to use your school's stadium? Email the Activities Director. Want to use a performance hall? I've got their number or can find it for you! You want a horse in your session? I probably can make that happen, though you might want your own horse in your photos to make it more meaningful!

Emalyn often performed at Hoyt Sherman, so I placed a call to their head office director and attained permission to shoot throughout their main hall and stage area.

Emalyn often performed at Hoyt Sherman, so I placed a call to their head office director and attained permission to shoot throughout their main hall and stage area.

3. Light and knowledge of how to work with it

I've touched on this above because it plays into your location, but knowing where the sun will be at our outdoor session at the time of day we will be shooting is a huge advantage. I'm not going to start a session 15 minutes before sunset! (We'll be wrapping things up then.) I also have the gear to do indoor on-camera-flash and off-camera-flash effects to make dramatic images that stand out from your peers'. 

2. Posing

I've invested countless hours on so many posing classes over the last 7 years to encourage a flattering form no matter your shape or size. While I'm manipulating all the aforementioned gear, I'll be reassuring you that you're looking great while I make a few tweaks to highlight your best features. I know how to stylize the props you bring to our time together in a classy way (without the cheesy) to memorialize your high school career interests. 

Natalie loves vintage trucks and after a few phone calls, I was able to secure a gentleman near our shooting locations that we could pick from three trucks he had at his farm and was willing to park them in his field for us to use!!

Natalie loves vintage trucks and after a few phone calls, I was able to secure a gentleman near our shooting locations that we could pick from three trucks he had at his farm and was willing to park them in his field for us to use!!

1. Experience

I knows what's relevant to you and can make it work well to your advantage. Additionally, as an LLC, I have access to heirloom quality albums for generational keepsakes. Most printers of these high quality albums will only work with registered photographers. Being an LLC gives me that advantage for you. And while all of this is going on in my brain shooting you, we're able to keep a session flowing smoothly, still operating gear, posing, lighting, and maintaining conversation to keep you comfortable and posed naturally.

Every senior session, I learn something new about life in Des Moines-be it geocaching (Michaela!), motorcycle riding (Natalie!), different aspects of track and field (thanks Hannah! #proshotput), different majors at colleges across the country, different places my seniors already have jobs (thanks Lizzy!! #BlankParkZoolettucelovers). It's so much fun for me to go out on an adventure with you and my camera! :)

I love what I do and I love showcasing YOU!! Class of 2018, let's do this!! 



How to Prepare for a (young) Family Session


How to Prepare for a (young) Family Session

I've shared about our family's adventures in front of the camera when Laidy was two and when she was 6 months, so I thought it time we update things as a family of four! If this helps any mom of Little Folks, then the time taken to write it is well worth it! (Plus, I wanted to show off our adorable little people and a bonus good hair day for me-finally found hairspray that holds!!)


-gathered any props we needed (chalkboard for "7 Months" for Lochlyn, Ella's sweater, harness, leash and treats)

-gathered clothing choices and laid them out, including shoes for Laidy 

-showered and shampooed me and Laidy so we'd just curl hair the next morning

-took the night easy since we'd encountered illness the previous week and I wanted to lay low


We scheduled our session to start at 10:00 so we wouldn't have to race out the door as if it were a school morning. Lochlyn's feeding schedule miraculously lined up nicely (anyone else have trouble getting a second child on a schedule?) and we brought ample snacks to placate/bribe/feed Laidy and myself. #nursingmomprobs This was the first time that Gerard held an opinion about where we should do our session, so when he offered the capitol as an option, I went with it. 

We met Austin at the west-facing steps of the capitol and yes, it was a terrible time of day for lighting because the sun was peeking around the corner making things quite bright on the west side. Austin's a pro and that's why we pay him the big bucks to leverage light well. Eventually, we went inside to warm up and use window light too. I've never been inside the capitol building itself so it was a great education for me (and for future sessions with my own clients!). 

Talk about gorgeous. (And I'm not just talking about the window light. Who is that lovely little lady?!)

Lastly, on our way to the car to get snacks, we had to document the Des Moines skyline for a few reasons. Mainly, Laidy has had this obsession with the helicopters at our area hospitals since Lochlyn was born and she's convinced that the Principal Building (the one with a diamond shaped top) is the hospital. We can't get her to believe to the contrary, so we'll embrace it and document it! 

After our session was complete, we had our taxes done, headed home for lunch, and a nap for everyone. This is how teachers schedule their "days off" after a week of conferences. #adulting 

Hope this helps other families with Littles!!


How to Return to Work


How to Return to Work

I've tossed the idea of this post around in my head since I returned to work last September after Lochlyn's birth. And I wasn't sure if it was appropriate blog fodder for this, a typically photography-leaning blog. BUT, then I remembered my audience and that several of my families and brides are blessed to be having babies this year and those Mamas will most likely be returning to work. So, here's how I tripped and stumbled my way back to my career after a wonderful maternity leave....

Lochlyn was born July 16th and I found myself counting out the 6 weeks the day after he was born. I'd be returning to teaching the second week of school and in my heart, that didn't sit well at all. I knew immediately, I'd be requesting the extra time to get him through his 8 week vaccinations and taking some Deduct Days (days without pay) to make it happen. That time was approved and I'm so thankful, because in that extra time, I was able to fly home to California so my Grandma, Mom and Aunt could meet Lochlyn. 5 days before I was to fly home, Grandma started hospice care and the urgency of the trip, the nature of it, entirely shifted for me. I was no longer fearful of flying on my own with a newborn-I just needed to get home. Flying with a newborn is for a whole other post, but I strapped him to my front and my one bag on my back and off we went. 

this was the family that gathered for Grandma's funeral the following month in October. I worked for a few weeks, then had almost a full week of bereavement leave. Like I said, tripped and stumbled back to work....

this was the family that gathered for Grandma's funeral the following month in October. I worked for a few weeks, then had almost a full week of bereavement leave. Like I said, tripped and stumbled back to work....

Upon returning, the physically and emotionally grueling nature of the trip had me down with a fever and virus of some kind but I still wouldn't change my decision to go. That fever kept me home an extra day of maternity leave and I returned a day later than I anticipated. So, I started my routine back to work on a Thursday. I recommend starting mid-week (not returning on a Monday) so you can get back into the groove as gently as possible. I'm thankful I did this too, because there was some miscommunication about where I would be pumping so I had to punt the first day back. The room I was in was not going to work in the long run, so our building's custodian brainstormed the next morning and I landed in our school's concession stand! How to Be A Band Director 101: be best friends with your custodian. THEY KNOW EVERYTHING! 

So a few bullet points (since I like lists) of things to consider while preparing to return: 

-Communicate prior to your return where you will pump and what your schedule will be with your colleagues. 

-Make that pumping schedule be every 3-4 hours. Lochlyn ate so often that I had pump times of 7:30am, 10:50am, 1:20pm, and 3:25pm. Around the 6 month mark, I dropped the 3:25pm pump when we started introducing people food.

-As a teacher, we have a bell schedule, but if you don't have periods of your day dictated to you, set alarms on your phone or computer to remind you to go pump. Otherwise, the "girls" (ahem) probably will. 

Lastly, a list of things I have in my pump bag or on hand to make things run smoothly at work: 

-pump (obviously. we got our's from the hospital when we delivered and covered by insurance. I have one from when Laidy was born and one from when Loch was born. It's great to have one at home and keep one at work!)

-a sign to tape on your door over the doorknob so no one unlocks and walks in on you!


-antibacterial-for hand use prior to pumping

-kleenex-my nose always runs when I pump, or I'm fending off allergies.

-travel size deodorant-the concession stand can get HOT with the popcorn machine, vending machine, and nacho cheese machine always running, so it's often like a sauna in there!

-spare pump parts-flanges and bottle lids especially

-nipple cream

-other toiletrees?

-cell phone-for a timer of roughly 20 minutes

-water bottle-you will never know thirst like the thirst of a nursing mama.

-chair with a back-20 mins 3-4 times a day can do a number on your shoulders and neck!

-table space-to lay things out-especially for lunch time!

-microwave-for a hot lunch!

-cleaning wipes for parts or disinfecting your table top before laying items out

-battery pack-in case your building ever loses power

-pump bra-if you want hands free while you eat lunch. I've found that this really helps reduce tension in my neck and shoulders.

-pitcher of water in fridge if a sink isn't nearby to refill water bottle

-plastic ware for lunch! There's nothing worse than hooking up to the machine, heating up lunch and realizing you have nothing with which to eat it!

-paper towels-to wipe any drops/spillage and wipe hands after applying cream

Before Laidy was born, friends would ask if I planned on nursing and I'd respond, "If all parts work. I'll do the best I can." Now having nursed two babies, I'd say that even when the parts are working as you'd like them to, the pressure to produce enough is always there and it will push you beyond what you thought was your best effort. Even having some extra stored up in our freezer, I felt the pressure to produce upwards of 18oz a day and it wasn't a good "Pump Day" if I didn't. I have pumped in a car in numerous parking lots, while driving, half way through wedding photography coverage, in two different storage closets at church, at work while study hall students are on the other side of the razor thin wall, in airports with a cover on, in between trips to the bathroom sick with the stomach flu, while in the bathroom sick with the stomach flu, by the light of the vending machine, by light of my cell phone flashlight so as not to wake my husband, and I have shamelessly asked our superintendent for a "pump room" in our middle school's renovation plans. (I later realized that I had referenced a function of my boobs to the head of our school district and was very much filled with embarrassment.) 

As most moms will tell you, 'You just do what you gotta do.' and I would add that Motherhood has taught me how to make what you have work-improvisation to the extreme. Eating my lunch yogurt with a knife. Pumping one side at a time because I forgot to pack a second shield. It's not easy, nor is it fun, but I definitely couldn't have done it without support. 

A few people stick out as my cheerleaders in this endeavor.

-Gerard-spousal support is critical. I've jokingly said that I'm in charge of input, he's in charge of output. Gerard has cooked a large majority of our meals while I'm feeding Loch and kept my water bottle full. So, he's in charge of MY input while I'm in charge of Loch's. 

-My sister (pictured above)-has abundantly donated to our freezer stash when Loch decided to have growth spurts every other week and I couldn't keep up. We've used not even 1/4 of her deep freeze full of breast milk!! It definitely pays to be pregnant at the same time as a sibling who produces really (really) well!

-Our childcare providers. They are angels to our kids and have loved them through rough days, homesick days, congested days-"everything" days. I've never second guessed our decision to have Loch and Laidy where they are and they've truly been as happy as I when that first shipment of my sister's milk came in the mail!

-My "pump partner"-a fellow teacher and I have pumped together every morning before school and at lunch since she returned from her maternity leave in October. We've complained to each other, encouraged each other, swapped horror stories, sleep deprived stories and are watching our babies start to crawl at the same time. At first, I wondered what it'd be like to pump sitting next to somebody (the whole modesty thing, you know) but it's been so nice to not be an island and alone in that concession stand! Thank you, friend!!!

Hope this helps those getting ready to return to work after a baby and always feel free to send questions my way. If there's anything I can do so that you have a smooth transition back to work, let me know! :)



New Approach to Newborns


New Approach to Newborns

There's no other way to start this post perhaps, than to say I sold my bean bag. The huge posing bean bag I would lug to newborn sessions and try to squeeze through the new parents' front door of their home. 

The winter season is always a time of reflection for most photographers as we put the busy fall season behind us. A time to reevaluate, strategize and plan out the coming year. Several things contributed to the decision to the selling of the Posing Bean so I'll seek to explain as concisely as I can...

A family client that I've photographed before emailed and said that while she wanted newborn shots of her newest addition, she also needed more than 10days/2weeks to get settled with a third child and her older twin boys. 

Another client emailed a month later and while we had the session time and day scheduled, her newborn needed to go in for some tests at the last minute and we needed to postpone a week. That postponement brought us to photographing her past the 2 week mark as well. 

And yet a third client contacted me and said that her two older children definitely needed to settle into their newborn sibling and needed a few more days. Then illness hit their home as well and we photographed their family well past the preferred 2 week mark too. 

What's so important about the "2 week mark"? After 2 weeks or so, a newborn is more difficult to get to curl up in those Pinterest-worthy poses. And thankfully, these new-again Mamas were flexible and wanted to document the entire family at this stage in their history. Crazy, chaotic and maaaaybe a few of a sleeping babe if we could squeeze it in. 

As I got to experience the freedom of not lugging the Posing Bean into these homes, it felt more right to me than ever before. While the new-again dads were more than happy to help me carry gear in, I could also see some gratefulness on their faces when I would tell them it was just me and my camera bag. When something feels so right in your gut and your heart is at peace and the Posing Bean sold within minutes of posting to Facebook, it solidified my new approach to photographing newborns. And thus, my Newborn Lifestyle session was born (pun intended). 

Johnson POST-36.jpg

If you would like the baby-in-a-basket, or baby-hanging-from-a-hammock, I can happily refer you to friends of mine in the industry who specialize in this style and ROCK it! I greatly admire their ability, their patience, their sweat droplets as they pose those precious little ones. They are comfortable doing that style and it is a strong suit of their's! If you would like more of a lifestyle approach, with a few of sleeping-baby, swaddled-baby. curled-up-baby, and their teeny details, I'm your gal!