The Heart of a Photo Shoot

Today’s a long one, but I really have tried hard to put into words my goals for a photo shoot… and why photography is so important to me.

When I first began shooting projects for clients and for my portfolio, I was very much in an experimental mode.  I eagerly looked at other photographer’s work for inspiration and I sought to have a game plan for each of my shoots.  And yet I found myself left cold by not only a lot of what was out there, but also by what I was capturing in my own shoots.  I saw a lot of beautiful pictures, where everyone looked glossy and perfect, very well-pressed and combed to be sure, but I didn’t feel a lot of soul in the photos.

I slowly came to realize that for me, photos that merely answered who, what, where, and when didn’t do much for me emotionally.  I couldn’t connect to them–no matter how stunning the child or how perfectly staged the shot, or how much it looked like an ad from an Anthropologie catalog.  And yes, I do love the work in Anthro… but for my own work, it just wasn’t “me” and I when I tried to stage my shoots to be like what I thought the families wanted or to be like a magazine ad, I was left frustrated with the outcome.

I realized that what really interested me about photography was the way it can crystallize the essence of a person, or a relationship, in just a split-second of time.  And for me photography represents an art that I can pour not just my head but also my heart and feeling into.  I love the challenge of capturing the emotional connections between mother and child, brother and sister, husband and wife… and answering the “how” and “why” questions.  How do these people connect to one another and interact?  How are they different from other families?  Why are they special?

In August I was then introduced to a new method called Beloved.  While originally geared toward couples, I’ve seen Beloved have powerful results in my most recent family sessions as well.  With my most recent sessions I finally had the courage to embrace the Beloved approach. By forsaking the most traditional posing and embracing an altogether different methodology in my photo shoots, inviting the participants to engage in games, invitations to relate to one other, and reflection, I am finally feeling like I am seeing into the heart of people, into the heart of a family… past the “camera smile” that is a bit too wide and doesn’t quite reach the eyes and instead capturing moments of genuine emotion.  And because each relationship is so different one from another, and each couple and family so unique, every session is different and beautiful in its own right.

Beloved may not be for everyone.  It requires a certain openness toward one another, a willingness to open yourself to something “different” and even the courage to see a side of yourself that you may not always let down your guard to reveal in photos.  But the results can be so powerful and so beautiful, I think.  There is something so affirming to see, captured in a print forever, just how you are loved, and how much you are loved.

I am still growing in this method, and learning how to balance traditional posing options with the Beloved approach, but I am so excited to see what this year brings as I dive deeper into this, and I am grateful for the people who are coming along with me.

Here are some moments from my most recent mini session… Mom/Dinah works in children’s ministry at our church and is such an encourager and joy to everyone, and her men form her “team” (rarely is there a night you won’t find them on a court somewhere!). And the foundation of everything for this family is their faith in God.  I love some of the moments we caught in just our 30 minutes together for the mini session…

Blessings, friends…

photo of three brothers

Boys will be boys!


Mama and her crew


I love this photo of this couple, sharing a laugh together, their enjoyment of one another evident.


Maple Valley family photography: Sneak Peek J Family

One of my favorite families in the world joined me at Lake Wilderness for a mini session on Saturday.  Their adorable 2-year-old is a photographer’s dream…making life quite easy!  I mean, really, how could the pictures *not* be cute?  And mom and dad aren’t too shabby either… I didn’t realize until later they were celebrating an anniversary! And here they are looking as cute as I imagine they looked on their wedding day.

photo of toddler holding parents hands

A family affair.


The cutest toddler smiles!


Beautiful family