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 


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

My Very Own Day in the Life Session: A Day in the Life of the Hunts

My Very Own Day in the Life Session: A Day in the Life of the Hunts

I have been talking a lot lately about how I truly believe having a documentary session of your family is something everyone should have done, yet I had never had one done myself. Part of the reason was because there are very few documentary photographers in our area and the other half was probably the  same reason I am sure you have been hesitating as well: I kept waiting for the “right time’. Well I’m here to tell you a secret: there isn’t one. I was always too busy, I needed to lose at least 20lbs (I’m still hanging on to the lovely 40ish pounds I gained when I was pregnant with my son), or didn’t have time to make the house “presentable” (is there really such thing as presentable with two kids under four?). Basically, it was every excuse I tell all of you lovely parents to try to look past.

Before long, I was realizing time was flying by and soon, this stage of my life would be gone before I know it. My son is already almost two, my daughter is almost four, and our lives already look drastically different than what is was a year ago.  I’m going to keep it real with you all, I suffer from some insane body confidence issues and that was probably the biggest reason I kept putting it off, but a year later I was still 40lbs heavier and according to pictures of my kids’ lives, I barely existed. That is when I decided to push past my insecurities and practice what I preach: I embraced my imperfections and contacted my very talented friend, Shawna, of Shawna & Co to book a ½ Day in the Life (DITL) session for my family. After having the session and seeing the results, my only regret is that I didn’t book her sooner.

Want to know how hard I embraced imperfections? Well, we are starting to get our house ready to list and the day Shawna came, we had a huge 20-foot dumpster in our driveway. I embraced the heck out of that big maroon dumpster—this is real life after all.

Shawna came and documented our typical Saturday AM craziness. We made pancakes (my daughter dumped an entire container of blue sprinkles on her pancakes when I wasn’t looking and my son promptly finished where she left off), went to gymnastics (yep, she came to class with us), and went to lunch at the diner across the way.

I always love doing these sessions for families, but seeing our crazy life through Shawna’s eyes was nothing short of incredible. The pictures she took captured the essence of our family and the personalities and quirks I never want to forget and hope my kids never grow out of. She captured our everyday in the home I brought both my babies home to, the home we have outgrown and will be saying goodbye to soon—it’s a gift I will always be grateful for.

Because of these images, my kids will get to see what a typical morning looked like for our family at this point in their childhood. When my daughter thinks back to gymnastics class, she’ll be able to go back and look at the pictures of her time there, my son will be able to see how it took two adults to corral him in his gymnastics class and how much fun we had. I’ll remember how much my daughter loved the “cat” hat she is wearing in some of those pictures and how (outside of gymnastics class) once it was on, it rarely came off.

For half the day, our family embraced our vulnerable side by letting a stranger into our home to document our day—no staging, dressing up, forced smiles—just our everyday, crazy life in all it’s glory.

You can view a slideshow of our session below. To see more of Shawna’s work, you can visit her site here.

Now there are no excuses, if I can do it so can you <3 I promise you won’t regret it. Contact me for more information or to schedule your session.

Motherhood and the Moments that Matter

Motherhood and the Moments that Matter

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching, my Facebook feed has been inundated with promotions for mommy-and-me mini portrait sessions. The images are nothing short of stunning, with beautiful made-up moms and children who are seen snuggling, playing, and hugging for the camera. I love how they encourage moms to get in the frame with their children. It is something I believe every mom should make a point to do. We come up with so many reasons not to get into the frame that we forget the reason(s) WHY we should: our child(ren).

Then the question comes to mind: What do they/will they want to remember? Will they want the perfectly-pressed outfits and perfectly made-up mom pictures? Maybe. However, let’s stop to think about the fondest memories we have of our moms—do they look like those pictures? Again, they might, but they might not.

This photo of me and my daughter was taken by Shawna Stanley with Shawna & Co.

My fondest memories were always baking with my mom and it’s something I still love to do to this day. I bake with my daughter a lot now and am so glad to have started this tradition with her. While I don’t have images of me baking with my mom (and really wish I did), I have made it a point to make those images of my daughter’s and my baking tradition, not just for me, but for her. Those memories of me and my mom are still a big part of my adulthood—it created one of my most favorite hobbies (outside of photography) and I now get to share it with my children.

The other day while culling a family storytelling session, the photo below stopped me in my tracks. It seems like such a small moment—mom hugging her baby as tight as she possibly could before placing her in her crib for the night. This is when I had a revelation—it’s little moments like this, moments like my mom and I baking, bedtime lullabies, family game night, making “baby burritos” out of a towel when they get out of the bathtub, or living room dance parties—those are the moments our kids will want to bottle up and remember always.

Motherhood is not easy and like me, I am sure you often feel like you are just treading water some days. We struggle to be perfect, when as people we are anything but. I’m here to tell you that in all its chaos and messiness, there is so much perfect beauty is those small, imperfect moments. We can dress up and have portraits taken with our children and while they will love having a photo of themselves with their mom, it’s far more important we provide them with photos that have meaning.

We celebrate big moments (birthdays, Christmas, the first day of school, etc.) with photos and we take portraits to document the passage of time, but we often take the small, everyday moments for granted. It’s time we start photographing them and documenting our real, authentic relationships with our children because in the end, those are the moments we will miss the most and we often don’t realize it until they are gone.

That moment in the photo above—mom hugging her sweet babe before putting her in the crib—is something that happens every night. It’s such a simple, yet profound act of love and now this sweet girl in the picture will get to see it, even when she is a mom herself. That, my friend, is a mommy-and-me picture worth taking.

Let me help you celebrate the motherhood moments that matter with a storytelling session

 For $200.00, you’ll receive a 2-hour storytelling session to gift to your loved one (Hint, hint dad!) which can be claimed anytime between now and July 2018. In addition, you will also receive 5 digital downloads from our session time (artist’s choice). Afterwards, you’ll get the opportunity to purchase what you love from an a la carte menu of prints, products, and collections—a stunning way to celebrate the precious bond we have with our children.

*Fine Print: This story session voucher can be used to book a family session, an in-home newborn session, or a fresh 48 story. As well, the value can be applied toward a longer 4-hour Day in the Life storytelling session. The session can either be in your home or at a favorite location of your choice (or a combination of both).

All sessions are unposed and documentary in nature—they’re intended to capture real life. Check out my family gallery or blog if you aren’t currently familiar with my work. Sessions are for immediate family only, must be booked by May 1, 2018, and take place by the end of July 2018 to take advantage of this promotion.