10-on-10: a special invitation

It’s been quiet on the site lately, and for good reason. Life is made up of different seasons, and while we have enjoyed times of health and abundance and new life in the past, February and March were not that for us. We battled some serious medical issues with our kids, and today we said goodbye to my father-in-law at his funeral, after he passed away only 37 days after being diagnosed with cancer.

I cannot even put into words all that has gone through my mind in the past month and a half… fears of losing my second-born as I struggled to watch him breathe, processing a diagnosis for my father-in-law that we never saw coming, and then realizing that his time with us would be far shorter than any of us anticipated–all of it was gut-punching and breathtakingly fast and has left us reeling a bit.

In the midst of it all, though, I have found solace in the tiny moments of joy that I see around us, even in the midst of pain. And more than ever, I have been thankful that my children and I have many photos celebrating our loved ones and their place in our lives.

As I thought of my father-in-law, Bill, I knew there were a few photos that I had taken last year that really captured my favorite things about him: his love for my kids, his smile, his vibrancy. As I went on my computer to find them, I realized they were taken last year on April 10. I don’t take nearly enough photos everyday of my family, but on the 10th of each month, I’ve made it a discipline to cart along my “big camera,” even when inconvenient, and force myself to take 10 photos. I am so grateful now that I was “forced” to do this, and that my littlest one will have some images that show just how his grandfather delighted in him.

These photos would likely not exist without 10-on-10. And likewise, I have some true gems from last year that I was “forced” to take because I was participating in Project 365 (a picture a day, everyday, for a year). 

10-on-10 is the easiest personal photography project I have undertaken. Ten photos on the 10th of the month. It is achievable, contained to less than 24 hours, and even though it may seem like these photos are unimportant, you cannot possibly foresee now just how important they may be in the future. At the very least, your children will be able to enjoy seeing a glimpse into your everyday life and know just a little bit more of you, even if you are just chronicling a “boring” day.

If you feel ready to take on something even more ambitious, try the photo-a-day challenge. I let my Project 365 slip this year, but I’m ready to tackle a photo-a-day again for the next 100 days, for the Choose Joy 100 Day Challenge (yes, I just made that up). It just so happens there are 101 days between April 10 and my anticipated due date for baby #4, so it seems fitting to approach the next 100 days as I ready for this child with a heart of gratitude, joy, and hope.

Because for me, that is what a personal photo project is all about: each photo should be an affirmation of the joy, love, hope, and faith that embody your everyday. This is why I am so passionate about photographing your “blessed everyday”–because I love seeing the real-life, unvarnished love that we share as families and humans.

Please join me for one of these challenges (10-on-10 or the Choose Joy 100 Day Challenge), and please comment below if you do so! Embrace this opportunity to celebrate your lives and your loved ones. Your photos don’t have to be award-winning or meet some invisible standard; just let your love and “you” shine through.

In the meantime, I want to share the photos that I am now so grateful for, from last April’s 10-on-10 collection.

photo of grandfather with toddler photo of grandfather with toddler, Maple Valley family photographer Covington_MapleValley_lifestyle_photographer_3

My Interview at Life as a Sports Mom

Sara Arrigoni, photographer at The Blessed Everyday

photograph by Elizabeth Wendland, lifeasasportsmom.com

I’m thrilled to be featured today over at the new “Life as a Sports Mom” blog, with a detailed interview with my dear friend, Elizabeth Wendland. You’ll recognize Beth from our 10-on-10 posts, but today she did something much different, as I share my thoughts and experiences on a variety of photography topics! Beth and I have been friends now for a number of years, since we originally met through a photography workshop. Since then, we have both taken slightly different paths with our photography, and it was an honor to chat with her about my experiences and passions as a marriage and family photographer.

I’ve shared a lot on my own blog before, but never quite like this.  You won’t want to miss Beth’s post today!

Please head over and leave a comment to tell her I sent you! 

The first 100 days: 5 things I’ve learned so far on my Project 365

instagram grid of pictures

A sneak peek at my first 100 days of Project 365, as captured on Instagram.

I can scarcely believe it, but today marks day 100 of my Project 365! I’m pretty excited about this milestone, and I’ve also learned a few things along the way…

In previous years, I have attempted one Project 365 (which lasted about four days before I went down in a ball of flames) and one Project 52 (a picture a week). Both times were failures, and yet this time I’m succeeding! What changed?

This time I am committed; I am going to do this. And I have found a few strategies that help me…

Five Things I’ve Learned in the First 100 Days of Project 365:

1. Accountability is key!
I forced myself to be more accountable this time by joining Instagram and posting daily. Knowing that I have told other people that am participating in Project 365 and that I will have people to answer to if I don’t post has really helped me along. There have even been a few 10 p.m. text messages asking, “Where’s your pic for today?” that saved me from forgetting a day!
2. An iPhone picture can be a worthy way to capture your life.
Very few of my Project 365 photos have been taken with my DSLR. At this stage in my life, I don’t take out my DSLR often, for a variety of reasons (I don’t want my kids getting “camera fatigue,” I don’t want to have to worry about it with three kids getting into everything; the phone is nearly always with me). And even with just my phone, I have captured some precious memories.
3. Choosing a theme or particular challenge can provide inspiration.
There are a variety of photo “challenges” out there that offer prompts for your Project 365. Some people find these really help. @ClickinMoms on Instagram has a weekly post listing your prompts for the week. I haven’t done the prompts, but I have decided to challenge myself with certain areas of my photography (i.e. a meaningful “headless” photo, or use negative space creatively) to make my Project 365 more than just a series of snapshots.
4. Embrace the imperfections and even the “boring” days.
Not every day is going to be one that you deem photo-worthy, but that’s sort of the point. Project 365 isn’t a highlight reel; it’s a documentary of a year in your life, boring moments and all. Accept that not every photo is going to be a prize-winner, and not every day will be full of exciting moments. Embrace your reality.
5. Project 365 is really a project of gratitude and celebration.
Most importantly, recognize that Project 365 is really about celebrating the little things (and little ones perhaps!) in your life and honoring them, and about reminding even yourself that there are details and moments worth noticing everyday. Project 365 is awesome because it is helping to train me to look at the world with more gratitude, respect, and love.

Are you following my Project 365? Tomorrow I’ll post 10 of my favorite photos, but if you want a sneak peek, go follow me @theblessedeveryday on Instagram, where I share my daily photos, and search #365blessedeveryday.

(And please link up with your Project 365 if you are participating, too!)

Behind the Scenes of a Bountiful Family Session

Today I’m sharing a special family session from last fall to give you a behind-the-scenes look at a Beloved family session, which I call my “Bountiful” family sessions.

Often I find that people schedule family photo sessions because it has been a long time since they’ve had updated photos, or maybe a specific event like the birth of another child or a particular milestone is triggering them to feel like they “should” get pictures done–or maybe it’s just that they want to be sure they have an updated Christmas card photo. 🙂

But really, a family photo session you are investing in should be so much more than just a snapshot of your kids’ gap-toothed grins or your latest haircut.  Your family photos should tell the story of who you are as a family. 

It is always my goal to get photos that reveal the personality and character of the individuals and of the family as a whole. This particular family loves the outdoors and being active, and the young siblings have the sweetest relationship, all of which was important to capture during their session.

In my sessions, I do have some posed photos, but I also seek to engage everyone to get more authentic expression, and we also have some playtime and relaxed moments, too!

I love these images, particularly of brother and sister, and that mom and dad were able to have a few moments together as well. Often parents of young kids haven’t had any photos together since their wedding! In these photos, the love between all members of the family is so evident. Their postures are relaxed and open. And the photos in the sand capture the carefree playfulness of toddlerhood.

siblings on the docksiblings on the docklittle boy on the beach siblings playing in the sandlittle girl on the beach little boy on the sand girl dancing in the sand dancing girl in the sand little girl all smiles couple laughing couple and marriage photographer

Tell me, what are your favorite images from this session? I’d love to hear what resonates with you! And what are the special “quirks” you’d want captured in your family session?

Maple Valley/Covington Family Photographer: Featured on the Beloved blog!

family photograph on the beach

I am so honored to have one of my recent family sessions featured on the Beloved Collective blog.  What is the Beloved Collective? Simply put, the Beloved Collective is a group of artists passionate about celebrating photography that captures the heart and soul of people. The Beloved genre and accompanying techniques launched a few years ago, and I was one of the “early adopters” and remain one of only a handful of certified Beloved photographers in the world.

With the Beloved techniques, we seek to go beyond the standard posed photo session into something more revealing and more authentic to our subjects. I am always hoping to reveal a glimpse of the people inside, to go beyond the “camera smile” to see into people’s hearts. I want you to look at the pictures of your family and say, “That’s so ‘him.’ You really captured his essence.”

I have the most freedom with my techniques when interacting with longtime couples, but in the sneak peek over on the Beloved blog, you’ll see a bit of what happens when I get out with families, too! I dub my Beloved family sessions “Bountiful” sessions, and I truly hope they are overflowing with love and authenticity.

I would love it if you would head over and tell me what you think!

And tomorrow, I’ll show more from this fun family session…

5 Tips for Picking Outfits for Your Family Photos

A few months ago, I was so excited to have my dear friend Beth Wendland in town for a visit and to take my own family photos. Just like all of you, I am not immune to a bit of nerves at the idea of being on the other side of the camera, and selecting outfits is the major concern for most clients. So much was running through my head, and I’m sure many of you have shared the same questions: How to hide the baby weight I’m still carrying? What will look best in the photos? How do I select outfits without breaking the bank on a new wardrobe for all of us? As a client, I faced these questions, and as a photographer, I know how it is to be on the other side of the camera, too.

Today I’m sharing my top 5 tips for picking outfits for your family photo session, and I’m sharing one tiny sneak peek from my own family photos… but you’ll have to visit Beth’s blog post today to see more!


mother and baby

A tiny sneak peek from our session. Here you can see the coral and blue I incorporated into our family portraits. To see more images, you’ll have to visit Beth’s post today, too!

My Top 5 Tips:

1. Choose your photographer carefully based on their style, and make sure your color palette and outfit selections complement that style. 

This sounds straightforward, but really, choose carefully. I chose Beth not only because she is a fantastic photographer and friend, but also because her style–rich, vibrant color–reflects my own preferences as well as my family and home decor. We are a casual, active family, and I think all of us have a bit of sass. Also, our home decor is fairly neutral, but with pops of color here and there. I wanted photos that reflected our personality and would fit in well in our home, and that’s why I chose Beth. Of course, it only made sense then to choose colors that played to her strengths, too.  I love her use of vibrant color in her photography, so it would have been silly to choose monochromatic greys and whites!  Let your photographer excel at what they do best!

2. Dress the toughest person first, then design the rest of the family around them.

In most families, there is one person who is a bit tougher than the rest to dress, either because of body image issues (ahem, that would be me), stubborn kids (maybe your teenager is balking at dressing up), or perhaps a husband whose wardrobe is smaller than your own. Often times, the tough customer is actually mom, the person who is signing up for the photo shoot!  But whatever the case may be, start by selecting the “hard outfit” first. A lot of people reverse this, and instead focus on the kids (“Little Susie has a beautiful dress to wear, and I can figure out what I want later”) and then end up frustrated as the session date approaches. Instead, realize that your kids will probably look cute in whatever you choose–and often our little ones have more choices than us anyways! Find something that satisfies your family’s toughest customer, and the rest of your decisions can follow.

For my session, I dressed myself first. I chose something that suited me and that I would feel comfortable in, but that also covered up my “trouble spots” that I feel less confident in since having the baby. Also, since I knew that I might be playing with the kids and holding the baby, I opted against the dress I first considered in favor of something that I could move more freely in.  I’ll never forget a session I did where the mom had told me beforehand in our pre-session consult that she wanted photos showing her active family, but then she arrived in a fitted white dress… we made it work, but it definitely altered my plans for the session!

3.  Choose two colors as a guide for the outfits, and then mix and match prints and solids for an effortless yet coordinated look.

Often people reflexively want to select one color, or one print and have every member of the family wear the same thing. (“Denim shirts for everyone!”) However, this results in a very forced, matchy-matchy look in photos. Instead, choose two complementing colors, and mix and match a few classic prints and solids. For my own shoot, I chose coral and blue. I wanted something fresh that would work with the fall colors outside, and by mixing solids with simple prints, I ensured that things wouldn’t be too busy or clash. Avoid prints that are very small or with too much going on–you don’t want your outfit to look like a “magic eye” poster.

4.  Dress for the season and the weather.

This is another tip that sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many children I photograph with chattering teeth because their holiday dresses are sleeveless and we are shooting in early December! Nobody photographs well when they are uncomfortable due to the temperature, and it just looks plain silly in photos when the weather obviously conflicts with the wardrobe choices.

5. Choose clothes that reflect the best version of the real YOU and your real family, not an idealized magazine ad.

I cannot emphasize this point enough! At the core of my own photographic philosophy is the belief that our sessions should reflect reality–not a varnished version of what we *think* other people want. Life would be boring indeed if every family showed up to photo sessions looking like the same J. Crew ad! When choosing to invest in family photos, invest in clothing and a photographer who will help showcase the real beauty of you and your family. You should look like the best version of you: confident and radiant and maybe a bit more polished than your day-t0-day look, but still recognizable as you. You and your family will all look best when you are comfortable and happy in your own skin, and your clothing should be a reflection of you.

My own family photos feature some images of Seth cuddled close to me in his ring sling. It may not be what every family would choose, but it reflects me and our family. Everyone who knows me knows I love babywearing, and it’s a major part of my motherhood and my kids’ babyhood that I wanted chronicled. Make sure your own family photos reflect what is important to you.

So how did all of this play out in my own photo session?

Well, to see a complete sneak peek from my own family’s photo session with Beth, you’ll have to head over to her blog today to check it out!

Please, tell us what you think! We love to hear your comments!