5 Tips For Photographing Kids

Blake and white photos are just the best, aren't they?  I know a lot of people prefer color (I always ask my clients and they generally tell me so anyway), but the timelessness, emotion, and classic look of a black and white image just does it for me.

Several weeks ago, I partnered with Austin Moms Blog for some summer mini-sessions offered to AMB readers...nine to be exact.  I loved how they turned out, but wouldn't you know, the black and white were my faves of all the kids...even in a setting where the vivid colors of the watermelon were one of the main components of the shoot.

Here's a few of my favorites:

Photographing children is both super rewarding AND challenging...and maybe a bit more on the challenging side at times.  Having the experience of both photographing my four children over the years, as well as shooting numerous children/family clients, there are some key pointers I use every single time that help the whole shoot run smoothly and produce the best images possible.


1.  Eyes are key.  Make sure at least one of your focus points is always on the eye closest to you.  Children's expressions come from their eyes...capture that and you're already ahead of the game!

2.  Safety first.  I have a horror story of trying the get the "perfect shot" of Tyler Bree when she was about three years old.  She fell backwards off a 4 foot drop into thorns and brush...I know, so bad...but I sure learned that hard lesson.  No matter if the shot is amazing, do not EVER place the child in harms way.  Not even a tiny bit.  Never.

3.  Connecting with them builds trust and genuinity.  I had a shoot the other day where one of the kids was NOT having it.  His mother was frustrated, he was moody, and the whole thing went south really quickly.  I gave him a little break and then said, "Hey, why don't you and me just walk over this direction for a bit and see what we can find."  Making him comfortable with me without a camera in his face allowed him to relax and let his guard down...and subsequently produced some of the best shots of the entire session.  Take the time to build trust, even if it's just a little wink to let them know you "get it".

4.  Be patient.  This tip applies more so with little ones...babies and toddlers.  It can seem as if you'll never get "the shot" as they're fussing, moving, drooling, basically doing everything that's NOT preferred in a picture, but hang in there and wait. Keep your finger on the back focus button and just be a silent observer.  Remember, patience is a virtue.  (Not one that I'm very adept to, but you know...)

5.  Candid is sometimes (actually quite often) better than posed.  This tip goes right along with the above.  Children rarely enjoy posing (for very long, at least), so being able to recognize when those precious candid shots may present themselves is golden.  This is magnified where siblings are involved...love and relationships are the perfect backdrop for candid facial expressions, positions, and general hilarity.  A great candid shot edited in black and white???...Stick a fork in me, I'm done.


I hope these tips come in handy whether you're photographing your own children or with photography clients.  It's always a learning experience for me, so I'd love to hear some of your tips as well for photographing kids!

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DIY Industrial Rustic Shelves

You know, there's nothing like planning a party at your house to get your butt in gear with cleaning, decorating, etc.  In our situation, that party was last Thursday and we were down to the wire making these industrial-rustic shelves for the study and the two barn doors (all reclaimed wood) for our living room...see below BIG REVEAL video for the doors.  And when I say we, I really mean Blake.  He's been such a rockstar the past week...not that he isn't usually...just more on a Justin Timberlake level rather than an N*Sync level.  (Is that even a good analogy???  Probably not, but you get the picture.)

Our plan is to have two sets of these shelves on either side of our east-facing study window, but we started for now with just one.  I've outlined all the steps and the exact parts (how many and what size) you'll need to make your very own.  They're not too difficult to build, but it sure is helpful to know all the working parts ahead of time rather than trying to figure it out as you're standing in the aisle at Lowes with four children who are loudly voicing that they're so over this DIY thing.

Okay, starting out...you'll need to buy the following pipes.  You can find all these at your local hardward store, such as Lowes or Home Depot.  To be clear, this list is for ONE set of shelves only, so double if you're building two.

8 - 3/4" diameter, 12" long galvanized or black iron pipe
(We went with the galvanized because we weren't sure of what finish we wanted, but then decided to spraypaint them black, black iron piping is cheaper by the way.)

4 - 3/4" diameter, 18" long pipes

2 - 3/4" diameter, 6" long pipes

8 - 3/4" Foot Plates

4 - 3/4" diameter Tee Fittings

2 - 3/4" 90° Elbows

2 - 3/4" Couping Fittings

Then for the three levels of shelves, you need to get the following wood:

1 - 2x12x10 wood board

Cut this board into three 3 foot long pieces.

We used the same stain (below) we used for our fence to stain the boards...I really liked how they turned out, but obviously you can do any kind of stain here.  Or paint would give a whole different feel to the shelves as well.

Once you get all your piping assembled and the wood cut and stained, it's GO TIME.

You'll need to have 32 of these wall anchors (below) that hold 77 lbs a piece, so you don't necessarily have to get them in a stud.  But depending on how heavy of stuff you plan to put on the shelves, you may want to get the kind that hold even heavier weight...although 77 lbs for each of these is even overkill in my opinion.

Using the picture below as a guide, assemble the piping.  Once assembled, hold it up to the wall in whatever positioning you'll want it, and have some one pencil in the holes for the wall anchors.  Screw all of them in (we used a drill to first make the hole) and make sure everything is tight.

Then all that's left is placing the boards on top and you're good to go!

Also, I wanted to post our barn door big reveal as promised, so here's a little video of our finished (for now) living room.  (Next project is ripping up that carpet!)

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Just Dance

^^^ Disclaimer: My irises are nowhere near that bright blue...shout out to you, Amaro filter. ^^^

This year dance auditions were different.  Even though they only happened four days ago, the difference began at the start of summer.  As we wrapped up last year's competition season (in July at Nationals), several thoughts went through my head...none of which, mind you, I shared with Tyler Bree.  They went something like this:

-Wow, this first year of Tyler Bree on team was a whole new world to me.  It's a lot of money, a lot of time, etc...is this going to be her "thing"???  If it isn't, there isn't much time left in her schedule to explore her other talents/skills.

-Auditions are only a month and half away.  What if Tyler Bree thinks this is all for fun and doesn't work hard to improve for next year?  What if my uber-competitive streak didn't get passed onto her? (the jury is still out.)

-How hard do I push her?  I didn't push much last year, but heck, if we're going to be shelling out this much money and time, we need to be "all in" and some pushing/motivating/encouraging needs to take place.  But she's only (almost) nine years old.

-As long as she says she loves it and wants to audition, then I'm totally behind her.  I'm love watching her dance...
but what if, what if, what if....you get the picture.

So this summer I've pushed some.  Not much...just reminders to practice and stretch...and some remarks here and there about setting a goal for making team and what dedication and hard work look like at her level/age, you know...trying to be a good parent and stuff (which was met with luke-warm response at best, flat out refusal to practice at worst).  She also took several private lessons to help with some of her technique, as well as watched youtube how-to's on specific skills.  I was skeptical how it would be come audition week...would she dig in her heels at the first hint of my "get your booty in gear" pep talk?

Cut to last Thursday night when she and about 50-something other little girls learned the three dances with which they were to audition on Saturday.  Under two days to attempt to master three dances...no small feat.  Pressure was on...mainly just on me.  And when I say pressure, I really mean worry.

All day Friday I started, restarted, and started again her music as she practiced each dance over and over in our vacant upstairs playroom.  I knew then I was walking a fine line.  I had to find the balance of encouragement and motivation, while actively critiquing her dancing.  Not only did I wish NOT to put unnecessary pressure on Tyler Bree (both because of her age and her sensitive personality), but I wanted her to have fun AND know that we were proud of her hard work no matter the outcome.
Key word:  HARD WORK.  That's all I was asking from her.

And let me tell you what.  To my surprise, this girl delivered.
Not one time did she complain or tell me she was "done"...even though I could see the fatigue in her eyes.  I truly did not know if she had it in her (it pains me a bit to say that, but I'm being truthful), which made the day of auditions even sweeter.

I've written here before that I'm pretty much the furthest thing from the typical "dance mom"...which is why if you know me and/or have read my "worst dance mom" posts, I would have been unrecognizable to you last Saturday.
I had to reign. it. in.  People...the crazy wanted to come out.

Never (to date) in my mothering of four have I felt this for one of my children...pure, acute, crazy nervousness.  She was calm and collected each time I watched her wave to me then disappear into the audition room, while I was left a  pacing wreck who couldn't hold a legit conversation with a fellow in-waiting dance mom, until she came back out (closed auditions).  I kept asking myself "what changed?"..."why am I being like this?"..."I'm the worst dance mom ever, remember?"

And then it hit me.  I desperately wanted my sweet, innocent, and naive daughter to have a rewarding experience...one that would teach her a lesson about hard work and dedication and goal-setting.  One that would boost her fragile self-confidence.  And one that would, at the most basic level, make her happy.  There will most certainly come times in her life where hard work does not pay off....but I prayed that time could be some day in the future...not now.  Not this first "big" thing to her.

Who knows what the future holds with Tyler Bree's dance talents.  It's not that important.  What is important are the lessons learned and memories made last weekend, on both hers and my part.  I will never forget Blake and I waking her up in the middle of the night to tell her she made the team she had been shooting for...thankfully, we had the presence of mind to video her groggy excitement.  She was so very proud of her accomplishment and I was filled with gratitude that our prayers were answered.  In the big scheme of things, I know making dance team is pretty trivial...but I hope Tyler Bree will be able to draw from this experience with future tests and trials in her life when things don't come easy.

And I never thought I'd say this, but you'll never guess what...

Those huge, obnoxious rolling dressing room/studio, clothing rack thing-a-ma-jigs that only real dance moms have are actually looking pretty nifty right about now.

Seriously...who AM I?

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Camel & Black Is Where It's At

Outfit details:  Anthropologie jacket // Bebe pencil skirt // Kork-Ease wedges (my fave) // Madewell tote // Bon-Look Honeybadger glasses // Monogram necklace c/o Personalized From Me to You

Happy Monday, friends!
^^^ What I wore to church yesterday...I think camel and black are the perfect neutral combo.  It's so against my upbringing.  And p.s. my new loves have pretty much NOT left my feet since arrival in my mailbox. ^^^

I feel both renewed and run-over this morning.
Renewed by the way of dance auditions being over and done with...stressful to say the least.  I want to devote a full post to what kind of experience Tyler Bree and I had this past weekend (where I asked myself multiple time, "who AM I???"...apparently a dance mom, that's who.)

And run-over because man, I've got to get it together.  I've been getting plenty of sleep but wake to feel completely out of energy, sluggish, etc.  I know why, too.  After I came back from BlogHer, I never resumed my running regiment.  I had just gotten back into to it, so it shouldn't be too hard to catch up...only if I could only pull myself out of bed.  Zzzzzzzz.  Exercise is part of the answer.  And maybe something else too in the form of supplements, etc.
I know there's Plexus and Spark out there...anyone use those or have other suggestions???

This week I'll also be sharing the first of two DIY home improvement projects (we finished last night).  I'm super excited about them and can't wait to share with you!!!!

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Things Of Which You Should Be In the Know (part 2)

1.  Do you use Ebates for your online shopping yet?  Most people can't believe there's no catch...but I assure you, it's straight up a check in your mailbox for online purchases....so easy...and quite a no-brainer if you ask me.  Today, Gap's having an Ebates Friends & Family sale of 40% off your purchase using the code GAPEBATES.  If you don't currently use Ebates, you can sign up HERE.  They also give you a free gift card of your choice for signing up!

2.  Let's talk Fall 2014 trends.  Fall style is my absolute favorite and my cool-weather-loving self gets giddy every year when the "September issues" come out!  One I subscribe to and seems to be always on point is People StyleWatch magazine.  Three fall trends this year that I think are most applicable to everyday wear are PLAID, CHUNKY SWEATERS, and BOLD COLORS.  Pretty simple to incorporate into your existing wardrobe, right?  Here's a few specifics that I have my eye on...just click on the image for details:

3.  If you could re-visit ONE summer vacation destination you've already been to in your lifetime, what would it be?  Mine would be the coast of Maine.  We visited there with my family when Blake and I were engaged and it was stuff taken from a storybook, I tell ya'.  The home at which we stayed backed up to a babbling brook that lulled us to sleep each night, and during the day we could follow the brook about a quarter mile to where it emptied wide open into the ocean.  Just breathtaking.  We went whaling, ate tons of fresh lobster, hiked on a secret island...it was just wonderful.  I highly recommend staying in or around the coastal and picturesque town of Camden, Maine if you ever should find yourself so lucky.

4.  My all-time favorite book series Outlander has been made into a mini-series on Starz...have you seen it?  The first episode doesn't technically debut until Saturday, but Starz released it early to satisfy all the die-hard fans out there clamoring to get a sneak peak.  Actually, I think they did it so people would love it, want more, which they hope will result in subscribing to Starz.  Suckers.  No really, it's worth it...heck, we ordered Starz as soon as we found out about it!
Side note:  If you have read the books and/or have watched (or will watch) the show and happen to not think it's the best thing to ever come into your life...please don't tell me.  I take it personally.  :)

photo credit: Starz website

5.  I'm really excited to show some cool home updates we're currently in the process of right now...and when I say "we're"....that totally mean just Blake.  I think I've finally got the living room planned out and the industrial shelves for our study will be up by the weekend...stay tuned for the big reveals.  It's so satisfying to actually convert some of my longtime favorite pins on my "For The Home" Pinterest board into reality.  Pinterest, I love you.


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What Late Summer Looks Like

Summer is winding down around here...

I went school shopping last night for my kids.  That in itself was both terrific because I was able to do it in peace and quite sans kiddos (check out Target's awesome deals this week here)...AND terrible because I love having my kids home during the summer and it breaks my heart a little bit that we're going into another year of their lives....another year closer to when they leave me.  Forever.  Whaaaaaaahhhh!!!

Speaking of the end of summer, we hung out with my mom this past weekend and just enjoyed being out in the country, helping her out with some stuff around the place (as she desperately needs since my dad's been gone), and cooking some homemade bread (this recipe is my current fave).  Pretty much a perfect, late-summer day.  August weather has been good to us Texans so far (an anomaly around these parts), so we'll take all we can get before the brutal heat rears its ugly head.
I think I might have just jinxed us.  I'm sorry summer...keep doing what you're doing.  

How are you winding down the end of summer???
One last vacation in the cards?
Or are you full on in back-to-school mode?

I think I'm a little in between...hanging on for a bit longer.
Happy Tuesday!!!!

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Love At First Wear

Last winter, my friend Kiley told me about some cute wedge booties she bought out of desperation when on a trip with only tremendous blister-inducing shoes.  She had gone into the local Nordstrom and found these booties she fell in love with called KorkEase.  I had never heard of them before, but made a mental note to remember the name, as she clearly thought highly of them.

Cut to earlier this summer when searching for some new shoes (as three of my favorite pairs had broke in recent months), I came across these KorkEase wedge sandals...and I guess you could say it was love at first sight.  True story.

But it wasn't until last week when Blake gifted me them for my birthday present that it was truly love at first wear.  These babies are SO dang comfy, which absolutely blew my mind...I mean, how can they be so cute AND not hurt my feet in the least?!?

I would love to get the booties for fall/winter and then I'd never have to change my footwear again...okay, maybe a little exaggeration, but I'm telling ya'...

I'm in L-O-V-E.

Shop KorkEase lovelies:

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