10 Tips for Better Photos of Your Family Vacation

Even as a photographer, taking photos of my family while traveling/adventuring/sightseeing can be particularly challenging. Honestly, in the best of circumstances, it is difficult to get my own kids (and husband) to cooperate with me for photos.  That goes double when everyone is excited, semi-travel worn, and just wants to see and do rather than indulge me in my quest to document our family time.

If you’ve been following my friend Tavia from Big Brave Nomad, you will notice that she has really become skilled at documenting her travels with her rambunctious toddlers...sometimes while traveling SOLO and not having any help. I’m just in awe of how she makes it work, and so I’ve asked her to share with us her best tips for getting great family photos while on vacation. Take it away Tavia!

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Have you ever held your DSLR camera in your hand and thought, “This thing must be broken.”?  I have. I perpetually thought my camera was broken because every photo came out blurry or focused on the wrong subject.  I would pull photos up on my computer and they would be dark and gloomy. This camera was a real piece of crap, i thought. I decided I wanted to sell it, so my husband got online and sold it.  In early 2016 my husband bought me a Sony A6000 to help me capture awesome photos of my family for our family travel blog. He wanted me to have something lightweight and small for capturing our family in the moment.  We brought it on one trip and I swore it too was broken. This is when my husband looked at me and said, “Are you sure it’s the camera? Or maybe you just don’t know how to use it.”

Fast forward about a year and a half.  Fast forward through 2 international 2+ week trips and not bringing my camera or bringing it and leaving it in my bag. Fast forward through hundreds (literally) of lost photo opportunities...I saw my birth photographer (turned friend), Natalie, post that she was hosting a “Mom’s Photography Class” and I knew I needed to take it.  I procrastinated until there was only one seat left before I committed. Finally, I bought my seat for the class.  And. It. Changed. Everything. For the first time, I was able to use my camera. I started understanding how to shoot in manual mode, how to change the aperture, how to choose where I wanted the camera to focus, and I finally learned that my camera was not broken...it was me.

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So, I’m thrilled to share with you from a real mom (non-photographer) perspective, how to take better photos of your kids while on vacation. But if you REALLY want your photos to improve, invest in one of Natalie’s Mom Workshops. As I said before, learning from her was the real turning point for me.

 

PART 1: Planning Your Shots

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  1. Find the good light
    Light can make or break your photo. The best photos I have ever taken on vacation are outside in the “golden hour” (the hour before dusk and the hour after dawn) or inside near a naturally lit window.  The more natural light, the better. I like to have the sun off to the side where the sun comes in at an angle or I like to put it right behind the subject.

  2. Reduce background clutter
    I never like photos with a ton of people in them. There is something so dreamy about a photo of someone alone at a popular spot.  But how do you eliminate the people you ask?  Get creative. Sometimes you can angle a kid, get a little closer to them and have the background seemingly empty.  Sometimes you have to get up higher or lower. For instance, this photo is of my son at peak time in Magic Kingdom directly in front of the Castle. I set him up with his candle, then laid on the ground in front of him.  I pointed the camera upwards toward his face, ensuring the castle was nicely framed to the side of him. There are other people, but the camera angle makes my son stand out more and gives the impression that he is enjoying his birthday alone.

  3. Patience is a virtue  
    Crowds are going to ebb and flow.  You may walk into an attraction and see mass amounts of people, but hang around and wait, it will lull.  Use those moments to hang with the family, choose your camera settings, or plan your next stop or what you’re having for lunch.  When the lull happens, hop into action and steal the glory of uncluttered backgrounds! In this example, I snagged a photo of my son napping in front of the Duomo in his stroller.  He is seemingly there by himself, but there are actually hundreds of people there. I just moved around and waited until it was clear and snapped away.

 

PART 2: Getting Kids to Cooperate

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  1. Bribe them  
    My kids are toddlers, so getting them both to smile or participate is a hilarious concept.  I always carry a bag of gummy bears or lollipops that I bring out when it’s time for photos.  My kids will sit still if they are getting treats. If sweets aren’t your thing, try fruit or string cheese or something your kid loves.  If I forget my candy, I promise them ice cream (and follow through so they know I’m not lying the next time).

  2. Turn them away from the camera  
    Some of my best and favorite photos are of my kids from behind.  I do this a lot because it is very hard to get both of my kids to look at the camera.  When we travel, I am normally taking a photo to show my kids were actually somewhere cool, so getting a stiff photo of them smiling is not as interesting to me as having a photo of them engaged in their surroundings.  I turn them away from me and snap several pictures while they sit still eating a sucker...seemingly taking in the view.

  3. Redirect their attention  
    One skill we learn early on in parenting is redirection.  When they don’t want to participate or I am crunched for time, I distract my kids.  How? I ask them to “find a bird” or “look at the spider on my head!” or anything that will briefly get them to think and look for something.  Even if they aren’t smiling perfectly, the photo typically comes out nicely and they genuinely look excited.

  4. Don’t force it  
    I would be lying if I told you I never got frustrated with the kids (or my husband) for not participating for photos.  I do. However, these days I am less frustrated because I am not wasting time trying to figure out my camera and can just keep snapping away.  I love the less posed and more natural photos, so I often just let my kids move around like they would anyway.  This normally results in photos I love. It captures them just the way they are; wild and free.

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PART 3: Invest in Your Memories

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  1. Get in the picture too.
    You deserve to be IN your family photos too. Take the time before your trip to learn how to use your self-timer (and interval timer) and get comfortable asking strangers to snap your photo. Believe it or not, I do this with our real camera all the time.  What’s the worst that could happen?  They take a bad photo? Oh well. But what if they take an awesome one? To the left are examples of strangers coming through in a pinch and where our self-timer was the real MVP.

  2. Buy in a REAL camera
    Your iPhone is great and portrait mode is pretty cool, but nothing beats high-resolution photography that can be printed and framed.  Capturing the moment and being able to enhance the photo without losing quality is imperative.  I personally love the Sony A6000 and Natalie swears by her Fuji X-T3. They are both incredible mirrorless DSLRs that are very small, light and have interchangeable lenses. AND many such cameras have a WiFi feature that will let you send pictures straight from the camera to your phone, so you don’t have to wait to get to a computer to share them.

  3. Take a Mom Workshop
    Your camera is not broken.  It’s you. You need to learn how to use your camera, so you can actually USE your camera.  Natalie’s workshop not only made taking photos of my wild kids easier, but it also helped me to bring home way more usable photos for my blog.  My photos were finally in focus, finally bright and airy, finally what I envisioned when I took them.  I am able to use photos with no or only slight edits. I used to take thousands and maybe bring home 10-15 photos I actually liked or could use, but now I am taking hundreds and bringing home hundreds that I love and use.  It has changed everything for me on the photography front. I am more relaxed, more confident and best of all, I am capturing my family’s adventures with real high-resolution photos.

If you aren’t local or just can’t make it to the next in person workshop, Natalie is launching a web based, e-course version of her mom workshop. She teaches in a way that is easy to understand and her instructions are easy to follow. She provides hands-on exercises to help you get familiar with using your camera in manual mode AND you get access to her private Facebook group where you can ask questions and get feedback from Natalie and her community. I mean really, what are you waiting for?

Travel is my passion and my obsession.  I refuse to lose another amazing photo by not knowing how to use my camera or by rushing through the moment.  Travel needs to be savored both in real time and in photos. Give your family something they can look back on and relive all those amazing places.  Invest in yourself, invest in your family, invest in your photos!

Fly Brave, Travel Often, See Everything,

Tavia

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Organizing Your Family Photos

As mothers, we wear many hats: charge nurse, head chef, housekeeper, chief financial officer, manager, chauffeur...the list is endless. We're the keepers of everything and the historians of our families. I've found that having tools and systems in place to help keep me stay organized is key for managing my family (and business) life and memories, without loosing my mind. Not that things don't fall apart on me now and again, they do...usually when I slack on my planning and organizing. 

What I want to talk to you about today is my favorite tool for organizing family photos. It's actually my favorite editing software suite, which I use primarily for my photography business, but I have found it to be a powerful tool for organizing my family photos too (phone photos included!). It's Adobe Lightroom Creative Cloud (or CC). 

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Lightroom is a software program that photographers have been using for years to catalogue and edit their images. We're not going to get into the editing side here. Instead, we're going to focus on the cataloging features and how you, as a mom, can harness the power of this feature to make it easy to find the photos you're looking for, sort your keepers from your rejects, and compile selections for albums/printing/sharing, AND easily get photos from you phone onto your computer. Sound amazing? It is! And there is so must more to learn than I am about to show you. 

Want to learn in all? Get on the waiting list for the next Mom Workshop: CLICK HERE

Now, If you've looked into getting Lightroom, you're probably pretty confused about all of the options. I'm going to help you understand them all and show you how to make the organization features of both Lightroom CC, Lightroom CC Mobile, and Lightroom Classic CC work for you. (Whether you are taking photos with a fancy camera, GoPro, or just your iPhone.) We'll cover all three over a couple of different posts.

The first piece of the suite I want to cover is Adobe Lightroom Classic CC. This is the desktop version of Lightroom, the most functional piece of the suite and my workhorse program. It is what I recommend you start with if you are shooting images on a DSLR or any dedicated camera - meaning you have to take the SD card out and stick it in your computer to transfer the images. Let's dive in...

THE LIBRARY MODULE

Lightroom is composed of several modules that allow you to do different things with your images. We'll only be unpacking the Library module where you can import, view, filter, and organize a lifetime's worth of photos. I'm going to take you thru some of the most useful features. I've created (somewhat rambling and oft interrupted by children) videos walking you thru the features and how you can use them. 

Set up and Importing

The first the you need to do to get started is to set up your catalogue and import some photos. This is easier shown than verbally explained, so just watch the video walkthrough. 


Viewing

The Library module offers several view modes that let you see your photos in different sizes and compare them. 

1) Grid: The grid view displays your photos as thumbnails and gives you an overview of the entire catalogue or specific groups of photos. You can also rotate, sort, organize, and manage images or several images at once.

2) Loupe: The loupe view displays a single photo. Here you can zoom in and out. From the grid view, you can double click a photo to see it in loupe view. 

3) Compare: The compare view allows you to display 2 photos side by side. This is helpful when deciding which photo(s) of a series to keep.

4) Survey: The survey view is like the compare view, but for more than 2 photos. It allows select and view a small group of images and take action on them.

5) People: The people view uses Lightroom's face recognition feature to allow you to tag the people in your photos and search for those people later. As you add names it will suggest names for you to tag. This is brilliant.


Selecting Photos

The left panel in the Library module displays all of the folders of images you have imported. These are mirrors of the folders you have your images stored in on your hard drive. You can use this panel to navigate your folders and easily view certain collections. You can also move images from one folder to another.

Clicking on any image in your photo grid or on the film strip below, makes it an active photo. You can select multiple images by clicking them while holding down the Ctrl key (PC) or Command key (Mac). From here you can set images as keepers or rejects and further label preferred images with star ratings or colors.


Finding and Filtering Photos

When you have hundreds or thousands of images, locating the image your looking for might not be as easy as selecting a folder. This is where the Library Filter bar at the top of the Grid view comes in handy. The filter bar allows you to find photos by various times of metadata: keywords, rating, color label, and more.


Photo Collections (THE BEST PART!) 

Collections are another way to organize photos in Lightroom. They allow you to group photos from anywhere in your catalog in one place for east viewing or performing different tasks. Photos in a collection can be reordered, assembled into a slideshow or used to create a photobook. Additionally, creating and utilizing collections in Lightroom Classic CC is the foundation for syncing images between Lightroom CC and Lightroom CC Mobile.  


READY TO GET STARTED?

CLICK THE BANNER TO START USING LIGHTROOM

Lightroom is a subscription based service. It's $9.99 per month and you can pay that monthly or yearly. Considering how easy it makes backing up and syncing images, attributes, and edits from your phone to your computer and back again, I think it's worth every penny. Especially if you're serious about printing your images or making yearly photobooks of your family photos. There is a 30-day trial available, but only for Lightroom CC (which I will show you next time). Lightroom CC has the same features and functionality of Lightroom Classic CC, but it is cloud based and has a very different looking user interface. 

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

CLICK HERE AND COME TO A MOM WORKSHOP!

This was a ton of information and it's just the tip of the iceberg. If you're interested in learning more, sign up to be notified when I host workshops. My workshops are limited to small groups and there is always plenty of time for questions and hands on help. Click here and be the first to know when the next workshop is.

Sweet Caroline | Milton Newborn Photographer

When a family books me for a newborn session, or any in home session, I always ask about their style and decor. It helps me to begin to visualize the session in advance and coordinate any wraps or blankets I might want to bring, just in case the family doesn't have something they want to use. 

When I received April's questionnaire back, she told me that they don't really have a style. They just decorate to their tastes and interests. She also told me about her cat Tugg, who is a treasured family member. April was excited to be having a girl and decorating the nursery with a cat theme. HOWEVER, some of the decor was being hand made by a grandmother and April hadn't seen it, wasn't even sure if it would be done before the newborn session. 

I'm sure you're probably thinking the same thing I was...a handmade-by-grandma cat themed nursery has the potential to veer into the realm of 'yikes'. 

Well hop on over here and have a slice of humble pie with me, because it was the most wonderfully fun and adorable nursery, with such a genuine feeling of warmth and sentimentality. Like an heirloom quilt that you just want to wrap yourself up in on a cold day. The custom felted wool cat mobile was my absolute favorite. 

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April and Ray were just as genuine and warm as the nursery. April claimed they would probably be awkward in front of the camera, but NO. Everyone was perfectly natural and ultra snuggly, which is always the best. They were a complete joy to hang out with and photograph for the morning. 

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Big brother Charlie was a ridiculous ham. We bonded over our shared love of avocado toast. And naturally, baby Caroline was perfectly sweet in her ruffle butt bloomers. Check them all out and, if you would, take a moment to leave a quick comment at the end. You will help April & Ray earn a free mounted 8x10 print from Caroline's newborn session. Fifty commenters are needed.

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Photo credit: Indie Pearl Photography

Natalie is a lifestyle family photographer serving Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. With a passion for capturing candid family moments, she specializes in birth and newborn lifestyle photography. Natalie lives in Pensacola with her husband and two (very difficult to photograph) children. Besides photography, she has a passion for modern sewing projects and graphic design. 

Photo Credit: Indie Pearl Photography

The Wilson Family | Maynard's Donut Company Pensacola

I've been photographing the Wilson's for longer than I can even remember...without doing some math. But who wants to do math? So let's just say a long time. Melissa is a photographer too. One of the only photographers in Pensacola who I trust with my own family photos.   

(Melissa is also one of my back up birth photographers. So to all of my expectant mamas, if I absolutely have to send someone to your birth in my place, you might just get Melissa. I assure you, you will love her as much as I do.)

What I love most about our sessions is that Melissa and Ace are always up for anything. Always willing to indulge my ideas for lifestyle sessions. I think I'm really beginning to rub off on her, because this time Melissa came to me with a kick butt idea. A donut shop family session at their favorite place, Maynard's Donut Company. Having been secretly hoping that another client would ask for me to document their Saturday morning walks to Krispy Kreme (you know who you are), I jumped on it. 

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Melissa and Ace were perfect as always, but Juliet was the real star of the show. She was SERIOUS about her donuts. She took absolutely every single chance she possibly could to grab and stuff more donuts into her mouth. When mom and dad finally said 'no more', oh buddy there were tears. Big,  pitiful, make you want to give her all of the donuts in the case kind of tears. Click play to see it all.   

A HUGE thanks to Danny at Maynard's for letting us invade and distracting all of your other customers with our shenanigans.


Photo credit: Indie Pearl Photography

Natalie is a lifestyle family photographer serving Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. With a passion for capturing candid family moments, she specializes in birth and newborn lifestyle photography. Natalie lives in Pensacola with her husband and two (very difficult to photograph) children. Besides photography, she has a passion for modern sewing projects and graphic design. 

Photo Credit: Indie Pearl Photography

The Wheelers | Pensacola Family Photographer

The Wheelers are a fantastic crew, so full of joy and life. How could you not be with 4 amazing kids? Nate is the pastor of our church and I've gotten to know Rachel pretty well serving on the MOPS steering team and for a brief period of time, running (read: dying) together after dropping kids off at school. 

When Rachel inquired about a family lifestyle photo session, I knew immediately how I wanted to approach the session. But I kept it to myself. I wanted to hear from Rachel first and see what she thought would be important to capture. So I sent her my usual questionnaire, designed to get clients to tell me all about those things that make their family interesting and unique. 

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Now I can't even count how many times I have heard about the 'garage band' that the Wheeler kids have started. For a while there, Nate used the Jesus Cruisers (as the oldest boys Britain & Noah dubbed the band) to illustrate his point in every other sermon or so. He's told so many stories of their musical escapades and 'concerts', that I really couldn't believe it when I got the questionnaire back and there was no mention of the band whatsoever. There is a question that asks if you would like my help figuring out what to do for your session...that box was checked 'yes'. 

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Are we as parents just so enmeshed in the day-to-day, that we can't recognize those magical little idiosyncrasies that make our family OUR FAMILY? Those things that our children do that we will forever recount the stories of? Those small traditions that will become defining aspects of 'childhood' for our kids? If I'm honest with myself, I think maybe we are. Or at least we have a hard time seeing any of those things as interesting enough to build a photoshoot around. 

I immediately replied to Rachel with the concept of an open air Jesus Cruisers concert with her and Nate as the audience. Sure, the kids usually do their concerts in their bedroom, likely NOT dressed in perfectly coordinating neutral toned outfits. But that isn't the point. The point is to celebrate the everyday moments in fun and beautiful ways.  

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With Rachel on board we set about planning, finding a location, and coordinating outfits. Because I am a sucker for detail shots to round out a story, I asked her to have the kids make a sign with their band name on it and tickets to the show. I couldn't be more excited about the end result. I feel like it really captures the imagination and childhood ability to dream boldly, without fear of failure. But most importantly, I know we've got a visual record to a story that these kids will certainly be telling their own children about 30 years from now. And who knows...maybe there's a future album cover shot in there somewhere. 

Click play to see the show!

If you're sitting there thinking my kids would never be so well behaved during a photoshoot, I will tell you a little secret. The actual shoot was total chaos. Naomi didn't want to be the lead singer and was prone to tears over it. Josiah was so enthusiastic about his role as keyboardist that he would periodically break from the 'stage' for a celebratory run thru the grass...usually right about the time all of the other kids were looking perfect. Noah (the drummer) and Britain (guitarist) only had about a song and a half in them before they became more interested in wrestling with each other and climbing trees. We also totally forgot about the tickets until we were packing up to leave. Once all the kids were buckled into the car, I snagged Nate and Rachel for one last detail shot. 

And you know what? That's all ok! No one is perfect and perfect is boring. I'll choose imperfections and misbehaving every single time. Because it's real (and because I love to leave a shoot tired and sweaty so I can count it as exercise). So if you're sitting there dreaming about your next family photos, but dreading the idea of trying to corral your kids into the perfect grouping and coaxing smiles out of them...just stop. Bring your bedlam to me and we'll make some magic!

Thanks so much for reading and watching! If you would be so kind as to leave a comment below, you will help to earn Nate and Rachel a FREE 8x10 mounted print from their session. They need 50 people to comment before they can claim their reward.


Photo credit: Indie Pearl Photography

Natalie is a lifestyle family photographer serving Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. With a passion for capturing candid family moments, she specializes in birth and newborn lifestyle photography. Natalie lives in Pensacola with her husband and two (very difficult to photograph) children. Besides photography, she has a passion for modern sewing projects and graphic design. 

Photo Credit: Indie Pearl Photography

4 Baby Items to Splurge On

With an endless array of functional gadgets and gorgeous baby paraphenaila out there, it can be really hard to figure out what to invest in for your baby. It's so easy to end up with a ton of (EXPENSIVE) things that you didn't get enough use out of to justify the cost. Then again, there is also a lot of cheap crap out there that looks like a great deal, but really isn't...stuff that falls apart long before it should or leaves you frustrated with it's actual functionality (or lack thereof). There are also the things you will skip thinking, I don't NEED that, and end up really wishing you'd had it because it would have made life so much easier. 

Here are the top four baby items that I whole heartedly believe are worth spending your hard earned money on. 

 

1) A Co-Sleeper

With my first baby I thought all I'd need was a crib. WRONG. In those first few weeks of new motherhood, I found it really hard to get any rest myself when I had to get up every few hours to retrieve baby from the crib. The second time around I got wise. I bought a co-sleeper that attached to my bed. It was so great to have my baby right there next to me, but on his own sleeping surface. And it had wheels, so when my legs got so swollen (thanks pre-eclampsia) that I couldn't climb into the bed, I wheeled him out to the living room where I could sleep on the couch. It was worth every penny. If I had to do it again, I'd get a Dock-A-Tot

 

2) A Kick Ass Stroller

Do yourself a favor...skip the travel system. If there is one place to splurge on a baby gadget, the stroller is it. Go for the Mercedes, not the Kia. After a frustrating experience with a Chicco travel system, I went for the Baby Jogger City Versa on the second go round. The maneuverability was incredible. And when the frame started wobbling on me after 2.5 years, Baby Jogger replaced my discontinued Versa with an upgrade to the City Select. My son is 3 and a half and we still use it every day. My sister has a Thule that is pretty great too. She does a lot of hiking, and it handles off road really well. If I needed a double stroller, I'd probably go with a BOB. The are so much easier to push (and run with) when you have double the weight.

 

3) A Durable Diaper Bag

Walk thru the baby section of Target and Babies R Us and you'll be overwhelmed with options for diaper bags. As pretty and functional as they look, 9 times out of 10 they fall apart before your baby is 6 months old. They also aren't likely to clean up well or neatly hold everything you might need (especially if you're an over packer like me). I'm a HUGE fan of Ju-Ju-Be diaper bags. They are super durable, MACHINE WASHABLE, donated in an antimicrobial, and functionally well thought out. You can go read all about them here.

I loved the Be All for the first year. It held ALL my junk like a champ. (Now it's my range bag...All the old guys at the shooting range get a huge kick out of how girly I am.) After the first year I downsized to the Be Classy (shown here). It's so smart and beautiful. I'm still carrying it regularly despite no longer really needing a diaper bag. 

 

4) A Ring Sling

Baby wearing is awesome. Having your baby close, but your hands free? Invaluable. Keeping strangers from touching your baby when you're out? Totally! But I was SO disenchanted with straps, buckles, yards of fabric that took 45 minutes to wind around my body (while the ends dragged all over the ground...gross), and big bulky carriers that were too cumbersome to keep with me all the time. I initially found baby wearing to be inconvenient, time consuming, uncomfortable and HOT (Hello...Florida!). Then I discovered Sakura Bloom ring slings and my game was changed. Quick to pop on, easy to transport (aka, shove into a diaper bag), and non-claustrophobic. Not to mention, they are so beautiful and feminine. I loved it so much I bought a second one.

 

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BONUS SPLURGE: A GREAT PHOTOGRAPHER!

Come on, you know I couldn't end this post without a shameless photography plug. But in all seriousness, I really regret not hiring a birth and newborn photographer when my first baby was born. It's part of the reason I do what I do.

I didn't dare make the same mistake when my second came along. I treasure those images so much, because his birth didn't go as planned. I didn't get to hold him or even see him for more than a few seconds before he was whisked away for a stint in the NICU. I'm not sure i would remember what he looked like in those first moments if I hadn't had someone there to capture it. Sure, my husband took pictures and video on his phone, but he didn't back them up and we lost them ALL. He was a month old before I felt up to doing a newborn session, but I am so glad I didn't just skip it all together. I love having those candid pictures of my family at home and all of those little details of my son's infancy.  

Those moments pass you by so quickly, usually in a sleep deprived haze. You can never go back and capture them again, so it's WORTH the expense. Just do it.

What baby items were you glad you splurged on? Is there anything you regret NOT splurging on? Share your words wisdom in the comments.


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Natalie is a lifestyle family photographer serving Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. With a passion for capturing candid family moments, she specializes in birth and newborn lifestyle photography. Natalie lives in Pensacola with her husband and two (very difficult to photograph) children. Besides photography, she has a passion for modern sewing projects and graphic design. 

Glamping with the Carlsons | Milton Family Photographer

Jimmy and Tavia are lovers of travel, adventure, hiking, and camping. You might think having kids would change that, but expanding their family by two hasn't slowed them down one bit. They even run a blog, Big Brave Nomad, recounting their wanderings and providing tips on traveling with little ones in tow. 

When baby Latham turned one last month, Tavia asked how we might incorporate something travel related into his cake smash session. I mean, if you're going to shell out the dollars for a first birthday/family session, you might as well get something you can also use for your biz too, right? Right! 

Knowing their love of camping and exploring the outdoors, I suggested a lifestyle session built around a camping trip. Nature walks, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a blazing fire...that kind of thing. 

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I won't lie and say I haven't been dreaming up a family camping lifestyle session for a while now. I'm so freaking lucky to have clients like the Carlsons, who totally trust my vision and are 100% on board when I pitch an idea like booking a glamping tent at Coldwater Gardens in Milton for their session. I also won't lie and say that I am not completely obsessed with this little oasis in the middle of nowhere. OBSESSED. 

In addition to the glamping tents, the accommodations include beach camping on the river, eco-cabins, an incredible modern tree house. Everything is so stylish and well maintained. We had such a great time glamping, hiking the nature trails, playing on the playground, and exploring the gardens and green houses. 

Click play below to check out the full story of our outdoor adventure.

The cake smash was also pretty epic. Those shots didn't exactly fit into the story for the video slideshow, so here they are on their own. The smash cake is a simple chantilly cake from Publix. As a bonus, it came free with a giant full sized cake. Which was great, because Latham crawled over, sat in, and smashed rocks into his cake. 

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Apparently, one year old boys get mad when you won't let them eat their cake covered rocks. To cheer him up, leave a comment below. Once 50 people have commented I will send the Calrsons a FREE 8X10 mounted print of one of my favorite images from their session.

If you haven't already, make sure you hop on over here to watch Latham's birth story and here for his newborn session. I can't believe it's been a whole year! Happy Birthday little man!


Photo credit: Indie Pearl Photography

Natalie is a lifestyle family photographer serving Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. With a passion for capturing candid family moments, she specializes in birth and newborn lifestyle photography. Natalie lives in Pensacola with her husband and two (very difficult to photograph) children. Besides photography, she has a passion for modern sewing projects and graphic design. 

Photo Credit: Indie Pearl Photography

Colegrove Family Vacation | Pensacola Beach Photographer

The Colegrove crew came all the way from South Carolina this summer to spend a week on Pensacola Beach. With six kids ranging in ages from 8 to 23 years old, they have reached that point in a family's existence where it is difficult to get everyone together at the same time. 

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Mama Tanya was smart to capitalize on a family beach vacation and snag some photos of them on the beach, having fun before they headed back to the real world.

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We had one of those ethereal sunsets on the cusp of a storm. Beautifully soft and glowy, with interesting clouds. 

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There were seagulls EVERYWHERE, flocking in and out of all of our pictures. I love how the birds echo the movements of the family.

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One of the middle brothers suggested we end out session with a race. The resulting images are joyous, carefree, and easily my most favorite of the entire session.

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Leave a comment for the Colegroves. Once 50 people have commented, I will send them a FREE 8X12 print of my favorite image from their session. 


Photo credit: Indie Pearl Photography

Natalie is a lifestyle family photographer serving Pensacola, FL and surrounding areas. With a passion for capturing candid family moments, she specializes in birth and newborn lifestyle photography. Natalie lives in Pensacola with her husband and two (very difficult to photograph) children. Besides photography, she has a passion for modern sewing projects and graphic design. 

Photo Credit: Indie Pearl Photography

How To: Choose A DSLR Camera

Clients so often ask me for help choosing a camera. I totally get it. There are SO MANY options out there and it's really hard to know what to pick. Especially if you don't know much about cameras. So I thought I would take a minute to walk you thru choosing a camera (and lenses!) to fit your needs, and follow it up with some entry level DSLR recommendations. 

CONSIDER YOUR NEEDS
First, you have consider your needs for a camera and lens. What kind of pictures do you want to take? Of whom or what do you want to take pictures? Do you want room to grow and learn more about photography? What is your budget? 

If you just want something that fits in your back pocket for snapshots, well...to be honest, you can stop reading this article. I don't know much about point and shoot cameras. However, if you want to capture portraits of your babies with that nice blurred out background and start to have more control over the images you produce, you don't want a point and shoot camera. You want a DSLR, which stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. Simply put, a DSLR is just a camera that uses mirrors and interchangeable lenses to give the camera operator more control over the final image. They also offer a better image quality and response time.

Photo credit: Rae Marshall Photography

Photo credit: Rae Marshall Photography

TEST DRIVE DSLRs
Now that you know you want a DSLR, the question becomes which brand to choose? Nikon and Canon are the industry leaders, and Sony is making some major waves with it's line of mirrorless DSLRs. The most important thing to note when buying your first DSLR is that you are making an initial investment into a camera system you will want to stick with for the long haul. Once you begin to add additional lenses to your kit, switching to another system becomes expensive. So I encourage you not to waste your time trying to research which brand is "better". Instead, go to a camera store, actually put your hands on the cameras you are considering, and figure out what is better for YOU by asking yourself these questions: 

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  1. Do I like the ergonomics?
    This is the way the camera feels in your hands and at your eye, and your ability to maneuver the dials and buttons easily. Pay attention to anything that annoys you. Are the controls for changing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO intuitive for you? Maybe you don't yet know what these terms are or why you would want to be able to manipulate these variables. If that's the case, ask a staff member to show you how to make those changes and take note of any maneuvers that feel clunky or are not intuitive. Story time: When I went to buy my first DSLR, I felt pretty sure I would go with a Canon and went to Best Buy to test drive it. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to change the aperture. I picked up a Nikon D40 and was able to figure out how to change all three variables in seconds. That small matter made me a Nikon user, and I haven't looked back.
     
  2. Does it fit my lifestyle?
    This is really the decision between a traditional DSLR and a mirrorless DSLR. Mirrorless DSLRs are smaller, lighter, and easier to travel with. For me that translate to being more apt to taking the camera with me. However, some of the controls are internal (or done via the menu on the LCD screen), which often frustrates me. Traditional DSLRs are larger and heavier, but the controls are external. I find external controls easier to use, which means I am less likely to use it in auto mode when I do take it with me.

SKIP THE KIT
You'll notice when you buy a DSLR, it comes in a two piece kit: the body and a lens. The body is the part of the camera with all of the controls and the LCD screen. The lens that typically comes packaged with the body is generally referred to as the "kit lens". What you might not know is that you can (AND SHOULD!) buy camera body only. Sure getting a zoom lens with your body may sound like a great deal, but it really isn't. While the kit lens isn't total junk, it won't get you the more professional looking results you are probably looking for. Once you learn about and purchase the lenses that do you will NEVER use that kit lens again.

My suggestion would be to purchase a body only and a 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8 (this is denoted on the lens itself as 50mm1:1.4 or 50mm1:1.8). Another great option is a 35mm lens. Most photo enthusiasts start off with a 50mm, but I personally prefer the 35mm focal length for my work. Either way, a small aperture number (or f-stop) is important to achieving the depth of field you will need to separate your subject from the background (aka getting a blurred out background)

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CONSIDER LENSES
The first thing to consider when choosing a lens is the focal length. Think back to what you are wanting to photograph. If your primary objective is to capture some great portraits and candids of your kids and family (and I am going to assume it is), I recommend starting with a focal length of 50mm or 35mm. Personally, I am a big fan of the wider field of view that the 35mm provides. This allows me to stay closer to my kids in public spaces and be able to frame the shot I want in tighter spaces where I can't physically back up further. 

The next thing to consider is the maximum aperture of the lens. The aperture is the opening in the lens that lets light into the camera. The smaller the aperture number (also called an f-stop), the bigger the opening in that lens can be. Aperture also controls depth of field. Depth of field is how much your scene is in focus. The smaller the f-stop, the bigger the opening, the less depth of field. This means that when you shoot at an aperture with a low number (1.4, 1.8, 2...) less of your scene will be in focus. Which is how we achieve that nice blurry background (called bokeh). I know, that is a super fast overview of some really confusing technical information. But this article is long already, so I am going to stop there. 

Suffice it to say, that some zoom lenses (like the kit lenses) sport a variable maximum aperture (The aperture on kit lenses typically ranges from f/3.5-f/5.6). This means that the maximum aperture changes depending on how far in or out you zoom. These lenses make it pretty hard to get nice bokeh and, if you are shooting in manual mode, make exposing correctly super frustrating. (Hence why I advocate buying a body only over the kit.) The other options is a fixed maximum aperture. Zoom lenses with a fixed aperture tend to run over $1000, so the best option for someone just getting started is to pick up a prime lens like the 50mm or 35mm. Prime lenses have both a fixed focal length (it doesn't zoom) and a fixed aperture. 


RECOMMENDED ENTRY LEVEL CAMERAS & LENSES
Now that I've glossed over the how to's, I'll get to what you really came here for. The camera advice. I'm linking up my picks for 2017's best budget friendly cameras for Nikon, Canon, and Sony that will allow you to start getting the more professional looking results you want. I'm also providing links to the lenses I suggest starting out with over the kit lens.

1) Nikon D3400 $349

In my opinion, Nikon's ergonomics are superior to Canon's. People say that Nikon was built by photographers while Canon was built by engineers, meaning Nikons are typically more intuitive and easier for beginners to use and learn. They also tend to have an edge when it comes to the metering and auto focus systems, which impacts whether or not your photos come out properly exposed and in focus. Nikon also seems to have a better compatibility with off brand lenses. I LOVE Sigma's Art lens line for my Nikons, and I frequently hear about problems that Canon users are having relating to those lenses. Here are my recommendations for a lens to go with this (or any other) Nikon body: Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G $396.95, Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G $216.95, and Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G $166.95. One caveat on the 35mm lens listed. This lens only works on a DX body. If you are buying a full frame (or FX) camera body, make sure you only buy lenses with "FX" in the description. FX lenses work on both DX and FX bodies. If you know you will want to upgrade to a full frame camera eventually, I recommend getting the Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art DG HSM lens for Nikon $899. Pricey, but well worth it!

 

2) Canon EOS Rebel T7i (aka EOS 800D) $749

Not being a Canon shooter, I really can't tell you a whole lot about the line. I'm relying on reviews I have read. I can say that Canon's entry level bodies always seems to be more expensive than Nikon's, but this one packs some nifty features like an articulating touch screen, an excellent live view auto focus system, and 4K video. One huge point for Canon is that, in general, they have a wider variety of lenses and that are usually less expensive than their Nikon counterparts. Here are my recommendations for a lens to go with this (or any other) Canon body: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM $329, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM $127.50, Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM $549. 

 

3) Sony A6000 $448.00

Sony's A6000 is a mirrorless DSLR that was first released in 2014. While there are newer iterations of this camera, my research clearly suggests that they have not been improved enough over the A6000 to justify the crazy difference in price. This thing is super light compared to traditional DSLRs and I have been seriously considering picking one up for my own personal use. Well known photographer and gear product guru, Gary Fong has a fantastic video class on this camera and all it can do. It's over an hour long, but really great insight if you are interested in buying and getting the most out of this little power house. Click play on the video below. My lens recommendations for this camera are: Sony SEL50F18 50mm f/1.8 $298, Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8 $448, and Sony SEL-20F28 E-Mount 20mm F2.8 $348. 

Whew! It's hard to pack in the information I think you should know, without getting too technical for the parent that's really new to photography. I hope this was helpful without being too overwhelming. If you have any questions, please comment. 

And if you are interested in learning more about how to use that fancy new camera to get better photos of your kids, I have a Mom Workshop coming up in January. There are only 10 seats available, so click here to snag your spot!

Special thanks to Rae Marshall Photography for the picture of my and my Nikon.


4 Must Haves For New Moms

With an endless array of functional gadgets and gorgeous baby paraphenaila out there, it can be really hard to figure out what to invest in before your baby arrives, and what can wait until you have a better handle on what your needs are.

I was the first of my peers to get married and begin having babies. I always knew I would be. I've wanted a baby of my own since I was 5. The downfall of going first is that there is no one around to give you relevant advice. Sure there are women like your mom, or maybe a sister...but baby stuff evolves fast these days and advice from women that had a baby, even just a year or so ago is likely already dated. It's so easy to end up with a ton of things you never actually use and not enough of the items that you really needed.

I like to think that being a birth and newborn photographer gives me an edge on the advice front. I am constantly surrounded by brand new babies and getting to check out all of the cool new things available to moms...all the things that would have made life with my little ones easier. One thing I always say when asked for advice, is that you don't need a lot of the stuff you think you do. Start with a few essentials and wait until you are settled into a routine with baby to figure out what else you really need. Here are my top four items to have on hand to get you thru that first week or so you spend cocooned at home, resting and recovering.

 

1) A secure portable sleeping surface for baby

With my first baby I thought all I'd need was a crib. WRONG. In those first few weeks of new motherhood, I found it really hard to get any rest myself when I had to get up every few hours to retrieve baby from the crib. The second time around I got wise. I bought a co-sleeper that attached to my bed. It was so great to have my baby right there next to me, but on his own sleeping surface. And it had wheels, so when my legs got so swollen (thanks pre-eclampsia) that I couldn't climb into the bed, I wheeled him out to the living room where I could sleep on the couch. If I had to do it again, I'd get a Dock-A-Tot

 

2) Zip up sleepers

Stock up on zippered sleepers in NB and 0-3 months. If it doesn't have a zipper, SKIP IT. The last thing you want to do with a fragile, wiggly baby in your fog of sleep deprivation, is snap snaps, button buttons, and navigate a floppy head thru a neck hole. Zippered sleepers are your best friend. Save the cute stuff with snaps and buttons for when you go out...or just invest in more cute sleepers. These are pretty much the only things my son ever wore until about 3 months or so. I love how easy they make life. Also, I try really hard to keep my babies in fitted clothing without characters, graphics, and text so that they are always photo-ready. These fit the bill.

 

3) A GREAT nursing pillow

Everyone puts a Boppy on their registry these days. And they are great for nursing bigger babies, tummy time, and a place to park a your precious bundle (if you don't have a Dock-A Tot). What they aren't so great for is nursing a tiny newborn. Until baby has more mass, the Boppy just doesn't come up high enough to take any of the load off your arms. I suggest instead the My Brest Friend. Unfortunate name, amazing pillow. This thing straps around you and allows you to put the pillow ledge right where YOU need it to support baby's weight. It creates such a sturdy little ledge for baby, that you could even walk around with it while nursing. If that wasn't enough of a reason, it has a back pillow built in for mom. It's not pretty and the name is embarrassing, but it was a serious hero when it came to saving my back and arms. And for c-section mamas, it keeps all pressure off your incision site.

 

4) Bottles

Even if you're breastfeeding and don't think you'll need them. Buy a few single packs of different kinds of bottles (or better yet, ask friends if they have any they have outgrown and buy new nipples). You just never know when you might need one. Even though cleaning them is a massive pain in the butt, I'll recommend Dr. Brown's for breastfeeding moms. They are the only brand I found that makes a preemie nipple, which has a much slower flow than any other bottle you can buy. That's key for helping to keep your supply up and baby from refusing the breast. Also if your baby suffers from reflux a slower flow helps to manage the spit up. Trust me, my son made me an expert in infant reflux.

 

Obviously, there are other things you will need, but these were the four major things that made my second postpartum experience so much easier than my first. You live and learn right?

Do you have a particular item that you wouldn't have wanted to live without in those few weeks at home with a newborn? Share your wisdom in the comments.