Birth Photography Day: The Birth of Llewyn

Birth Photography Day: The Birth of Llewyn

Today is Birth Photography Day! 

If there is anything I know for sure, it’s that birth is amazing, empowering, downright magical, and photos of it should be shared with the world. Today is dedicated to just that. 

I first met Janet through my best friend (who also happens to be an amazing doula with Team Doula). From the moment we met, we clicked and I was so excited to have the opportunity to photograph the birth of baby boy (who was *almost* my birthday buddy).  While every birth I photograph is magical, Janet’s birth really was a birth-day celebration and i was so glad to be a part of it. 

However, I don’t want her experience only told from my perspective, so I am honored that Janet, was willing to write share her birth story and her experience with birth photography with us. So enjoy <3

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 Almost 12 weeks ago, I had the privilege of welcoming our second baby into the world. Being that this was my second pregnancy, I felt that I was much more prepared to advocate for the birth I wanted—which is the very least every birthing person deserves. They deserve to be heard and for their desires to be validated. Delivery should not be something done to them, but instead should be a beautiful process through which they are empowered.

By some grace of God, we were able to conceive our second baby on my very first ovulation after having our first baby—when she was 15 months old. The stars were aligned, and the universe was on our side. Less than two weeks later, we got our positive pregnancy test. Excited, I snuck away from my desk at work to secretly phone my OB’s office to schedule our first prenatal appointment. I had romanticized in my head how the phone call would go, which included a cheery receptionist saying congratulations and getting me in to see my OB around the 8-12 week mark. Instead, the receptionist hurriedly asked “when was your last period?”

I replied, “well that was in August 2016, but I have positive ovulation tests indicating that I ovulated on October 16th, and I got several positive pregnancy tests on October 30th”.

“Well if you don’t know when your last period was, I am going to have to ask the nurse what to do.”

“No. I do know when it was, and I know when I ovulated. I haven’t had a period because I am still breastfeeding.”

“We are going to have to have the nurse call you back.”

Disheartened is putting it gently. Even more so when they had me go get blood drawn every 48 hours until they saw my HCG doubling to confirm my pregnancy, and then had me going for more. I had no time off left and was at one point berated at the blood lab for having my maiden name on my medical card. Fear was setting in. Was something wrong with my pregnancy? I couldn’t get in to see my doctor. I called and asked that they look at my HCG results and the nurse finally scheduled me for an appointment, for an ULTRASOUND at 6 WEEKS. Are you kidding me?? What are you even going to see that early? There must be something wrong.

I made an appointment with a home birth midwifery practice. After meeting with an amazingly experienced midwife who has attended over one thousand births, my feelings were validated. I was assured that these blood draw appointments were ridiculous, and unnecessary since they had already found my HCG to be doubling. There was nothing to be concerned about right now. It was likely that the OB practice didn’t believe that I knew my body enough to know when I was ovulating, and that I was pregnant. But the midwives believed me. I cancelled the ultrasound appointment. I decided to move forward with my longtime dream of having a home birth. I met with an amazing team of doulas who believed in my ability, too. They would support the birth I wanted. They helped me find my empowerment.

I was thrilled that my dream was going to become a reality. I wanted this glorious event captured so that I could remember it forever. I wanted someone with a unique creative vision to document my baby’s birthday as a story. I was introduced to the award-winning photographer Gabriella Hunt. I poured over her work after our meeting and was in awe. She had the unique vision I was looking for. She specialized in documentary and birth photography. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but it was exactly what I had in mind. Her birth photography wrote the stories of women transforming into mothers. I saw their strength, as their bodies reached the pinnacle of vulnerability—they were beautiful and fierce. I wanted to see myself in that position. I wanted to see my experience through the eyes of someone else. I needed this story to be recorded, so I could feel validation that my first birth should have and could have been as empowering as my second birth would be. Maybe other women could avoid my poor experience with my first birth, seeing the beauty of my second birth.

Eventually, nine days after my due date, I went into labor. Gabi arrived and she somehow blended into the background of the busy scene at my home. We had our parents and my sisters present, and she was able to capture the chaos of the day, as well as the quiet moments of waiting. She was a crucial member of my birth team. Through her work, I was able to see that my home became a birth-center of its own—complete with waiting room, nurse’s station, and delivery suite. While my head was buried in pillows during transition, she allowed me to see how I was quite literally embraced in my moments of uncertainty by my loved ones. I have photographs of my amazing doula Kara supporting my body to do the incredible. Of my husband Tim kissing me through contractions. Of my sister squeezing my hands to get me over the waves. Of my beautiful Llewyn coming earth-side into my mother’s hands. I am grateful for my amazing birth photographer. Her presence allowed me to see the beauty that I could not. 

You can watch Janet’s birth story slideshow below 🙂 

p.s. If you are wondering why they made today birth photography day, it is because of these particular numbers’ significance within the birthing process (10cm dilated and 9 months gestation). 

This year, Take a Different Approach to Family Holiday Cards

This year, Take a Different Approach to Family Holiday Cards

I know it’s only September, but it is getting to be that time of year. You know … holiday card time. It’s the time of year where we reconnect and update family and friends on what has been going on with our lives over the past year–to share a piece of ourselves with those we care about most. The best part about this is that each card is as unique and special as the family giving it. 

So why do we spend so much time planning out holiday cards? It’s simple: connection. 

However, if the purpose of sending out holiday cards is connection and to share ourselves, then why try so hard to look like everyone else? Why send out cards that we’ve seen 100+ times on Pinterest, instead of images that best represent our families? Why try to look like everyone when it’s our unique qualities that make us who we are? If we are being honest, my favorite holiday cards aren’t the ones seen on Pinterest; my favorites have always been the ones telling some sort of story. I love the cards where I learn a little bit about the life of the family sending them to me. 

So what if this year, you did something different?  What if the photos featured on your cards were ones of your beautiful everyday life? Or of your family participating in your favorite activity or favorite holiday traditions? 

What if we exchanged the stress of choosing outfits, wrangling kids up in hopes that they smile, or bribery with candy/presents (desperate times call for desperate measures) for photos of your family being unapologetically themselves. 

Think about how freeing that could be. 

This year I challenge you to do just that, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some great examples of holiday cards from people who decided to trade traditional, posed holiday card photos for those that had a story, reflected their family’s personalities, and are filled with meaning.

Photo by Gabriella Hunt  |  Gabriella Hunt, Photographer

Photo/card by Courtney Maltman  | Momentologie Photography

Photo/card by Marie-Pierre Castonguay  |  Marie Pierre Photography

Photo/card by Karyn Novakowski |  Kin and Kid Photography

Photo/card by Christine Wright |  Christine Wright Photography

Ready to try something different this year and take the challenge? Great! Let’s chat and book a session that will produce images that best represent your family and will mean something. 

Embrace Your Uniqueness: Family Photos Should Not All Look the Same

Embrace Your Uniqueness: Family Photos Should Not All Look the Same

In a field of horses, be a unicorn. It’s a saying I am sure we have all heard at least once in our lives (especially if you live at home with a unicorn-obsessed 4-year-old). It’s strewn across shirts, mugs, etc.. Honestly, I can see why; the message is everything we want for ourselves and our childrento stand out from the crowd by embracing your true unique self.

Ultimately, it’s the result of a larger movement slowly taking hold and calling us to actionit takes an immense amount of courage and it is certainly not easy. It’s calling us to unapologetically embrace our true self. Our individuality is the core of who we are and if we can embrace it, the possibilities are endless. Instead of living for what we believe others want us to do or who they want us to be, we can begin to live our lives for ourselvesletting go of what is expected and embracing what ignites our soul.

Conflicting Messages

Why is it so hard to embrace our uniqueness and become the magical unicorns we are meant to be? Simple: being true to ourselves and loving who we are means we also have to open ourselves up to vulnerability, and that is scary as hell. However, we all know anything worth doing doesn’t always come easily, especially when the world around us sends conflicting messages.

Your house has to look like the embodiment of perfection, but embrace the mess and make memories. You need to be a size 4 with flawless skin and on-point fashion, but you are perfect as you are.

It’s no wonder we struggle every day. If we as adults struggle with these conflicting messages, imagine the struggles our children will have. Not long ago, I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and one phrase that keeps sticking out in my mind is, “You cannot give your children what you do not have.” If we don’t show our children that we ought to embrace our uniqueness instead of shy away from it, that self-love is essential, and that vulnerability is strength, how will they ever know ? It starts with us.

Family Photography

We see conflicting messages within family photography as well. We hear phrases such as, “Capture these memories now, your kids won’t care about what you look like. They find you beautiful just the way you are.” or “Your kids will just want pictures of mom and dad, when you are no longer around. It doesn’t matter if your makeup is perfect or your hair is slightly out of place.”  However, it’s hard to believe the sincerity behind these messages when they are presented next to the same pictures we see day in and day out of “Pinterest Perfect” families with perfectly coordinating outfits and picture-perfect moments. Actions speak louder than words; if we want to embrace the “unique” in all of us, then we need to start showing uniqueness.

This is why I choose to photograph the way I do. I struggle every day with self-love and embracing my individuality. I live my life every day trying to be unapologetically me, embracing the beauty in real life, and telling myself “I am enough” in hopes my children will see and believe that as well. They are my greatest motivator. Ultimately, I want them to embrace their imperfections and know they have value no matter what they do. For them to see who they were and are slowly becoming, knowing that is enough. I want this for you as well.

I get it, it’s hard to embrace who you are, especially when everyone around you is desperately trying so hard to be like everyone else. I’m here to tell you to look beyond “picture perfect”. Photos do not have to look like the ones on Pinterest to be meaningful and beautiful. Photos of your family being themselves, as they are, is enough. We tell ourselves to be a “unicorn in a field of horses,” but why do we keep choosing to be a horse?

Family photos should be meaningful and unique to the story of our lives. They should be of some of our most cherished memories. Matching outfits and perfectly posed photos capture a very polished still of your life at that time. But life is rarely “polished”. They provide us with a glimpse of photography and fashion trends of the time (which may make for some good laughs in the future), but these photos will never provide us with the insight of who we were and what made us “unicorns”. When I think back to the photos of my mom growing up or images of my childhood self, it was the candid moments from our day-to-day that gave me a true sense of the people we were.

So I want you to join my movement. I want you to stop trying to be like everyone else and be “unapologetically you”. I want us to flood the internet with photos of REAL, AUTHENTIC family lifethe moments that make up your life’s story. Let me help you do that with a documentary family photo session. Forget “Pinterest perfect”… real is perfect. Together we can show this to the world and change it for the better.

 

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

P.S. When you post your photos online use the hashtag #RealLifeROCs. This way, we can all find and enjoy a glimpse of the beauty that is our everyday, together.

 

Basic Composition: Framing

Basic Composition: Framing

For the last few months, our photographic challenges have focused on composition. This is because composition is one of the most important aspects of a photograph. These rules are there because they give your photos balance and help your viewer easily (and quickly) understand what is important within the photo you have taken.

This month we will focus on Framing. Framing is a compositional technique of drawing attention your image’s subject by blocking other parts of the image with something in the scene. It can help give your image a sense of place and time—adding meaning to your photo. In addition, framing can also be a very strong storytelling technique—before you begin to frame your images, it is important to consider the effect it will have on the story you are trying to convey. For example, while framing a subject can allow you direct the viewer to exactly what you want them to look at, it can also give the viewer a feeling of  interrupting, or peeking into, a private moment.

Almost anything can be used to frame items and people within a photograph. Below are a few framing elements (both literal and non) that can be used:

  1. Light and shadow
  2. Architectural elements (windows, doorways, etc.)
  3. Environmental Elements (leaves, people, etc.)

As you can see, frames are everywhere and just about anything can be used to frame your subject. However, before you do so, it is important to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will this add or take away from the image I am trying to create?
  2. What is the story I am trying to tell?

How we choose to frame cannot only impact the how easily the viewer can interpret the photo (framing can add visual clutter if the photographer is not careful), but it can also affect the story being told. Therefore, it is important to be selective on what you choose to frame.

Five things to know about framing:

  1. A frame does not need to surround your subject
  2. The edges of your frame can vary – a building edge can create one side, while a passerby head can create the other while a light-colored floor could make up the bottom.
  3. Framing can be symmetrical, but it does not have to be
  4. A frame can be created by simply getting close to your foreground.
  5. Trees, doorways, crowds, windows, and any other everyday objects can make good framing objects.
  6. Contrast between light and dark can create some interesting frames of your subject.

Like the rule of thirds, minimalism, and other compositional rules, framing is just tool. If used properly, framing can help you add something to your imagery. While it is important to be aware of frames while you are photographing, it is equally important to remember not every photograph needs a frame.

Want to learn more about photography basics, participate in monthly challenges, and receive constructive criticism on your images?

Join our Facebook group, Capturing Life: A Rochester Parent Beginner Photo Group. Be sure to answer the questions so one of our admins can let you in!

A Whole Different Kind of Remembering

A Whole Different Kind of Remembering

Last year, I spent a 1/2 day documenting a typical evening routine for Melissa Norton and her adorable family. Since then a lot has changed: Melissa and her family added a new family member and they moved into a new house. Recently, I asked past clients if they would be willing to write a blog post about their experiences for my site and Melissa was the first one to volunteer. Below is the post she wrote about her experience. Thank you, Melissa, for your kind words and I look forward to working with your family again in the future <3 

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Documentary Photography sounds like something National Geographic does to capture moments that reflect a topic they are covering. Never had I thought of Documentary Photography as pertaining to capturing MY moments, in MY everyday family life. Moments that happen every day, the ones we forget to remember how special they are, how special each moment is. Gabriella and her style of photography captured those moments for my family.

Having Gabriella come into our home, almost as a fly on the wall, was something we had never done before. Sure, we’ve had a photographer come to our house for newborn pictures and met another at a park for family pictures, but this was so much different; it had a deeper meaning. We love our newborn and family photos, but it is so unique to have candid shots of what seem like mindless, everyday tasks. The things we do every day without taking a step back to see how special those moments are and how one day we will think back to bath time, brushing teeth, and story time. Having Gabriella capture these kinds of moments means I don’t have to just think back—I can look back.

We were curious about having a photographer at our house for a few hours taking pictures as we did “us”. Was it going to be awkward? Would she be judging us? Is it okay to let Josie play on the tablet? (haha!) As usual, I was overthinking things! Gabriella was so wonderful to work with. She is so easy going, friendly, and laid back. She was able to still-frame moments of our life that we would never think to take a picture of. One of my favorite pictures is of me reading to my then 18-month-old as I was about 16 weeks pregnant. Since babe #2 was born, daddy has taken over bedtime with my oldest as I put the baby to bed. Looking back on this picture, I am able to go right back to those moments, when it was just me and Josie reading together. Just she and I. I can smell her “just washed” hair, feel her rest her little head against me, hear her little voice asking to sing a song after we finish a book— it seems like so long ago! Something that makes each picture captured special to us is that they are taken in our first home together. We have since moved, but we now have images of our everyday life in the little house we first became a family in.

For anyone considering doing this kind of session or anyone who thinks it’s a bit weird, JUST GO FOR IT! You will not be disappointed. You may think you will always remember the little things, each moment, but to be able to see that moment—your baby’s smirk, that messy playroom, your husband’s bushy beard. It’s a whole different kind of remembering.  –Melissa