What You Waiting For? | National Arboretum Family Photography

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about slowing down and enjoying life, how people are complaining too much about being “super busy” and “crazy busy.”  We’re losing focus and losing touch.  We’re trying to do everything and for what purpose?

I totally agree with those articles, and the idea of “slowing down” sounds so wonderful, but it also seems that slowing down goes against our very nature as Americans, perhaps as human beings.

When do I feel better?  After a full day of lounging about poolside or after a day of getting all of my chores checked off my list?  The latter, to be sure!  It just feels great to feel like I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish.  My house is clean, my fridge is full, my kids are in bed, my photos are edited, done. done. done. done. and done.

Yes, I want to take time to play with my children every day, and I do, but I also want to instill in them that if you have a dream, you must do everything you can to make that dream come true or it never will.  If you believe that the world must be a better place, you must make it so.  You must work hard.  And you must make the time to live, laugh and love and be in those moments with the same intensity with which you chase your dreams.  Only then will you really feel the joy in those moments because they are special,  maybe even a little rare, and you would have earned them.

I’m writing this not for you, but for me.  Every article I’ve read has seemed to have been directed at me, chiding me for the long hours spent editing and away from my family.  The guilt I’ve felt has been crushing.  But I’m alive, I’m human, and I’m an American, so I will pursue my dreams, I will be successful, and I will be a better mom and person for doing so.  No one I’ve ever admired could possibly be described as being really great at “slowing down.”   Heck, that’s what heaven is for.

Now, enough rambling… check out these photos of the Graham family!   I last photographed their family when Evan was four, and now he’s just finished Kindergarten and is off to first grade!  He is probably the easiest 6-year old I’ve ever photographed.

A few more photos of Evan and the rest of the Graham family are also on my Facebook page.  Please stop by to view them and click “Like” while you’re there.  Thank you!


Saturday in the Park | Arlington, VA Family Photographer

There’s no better compliment than having a past client ask me to take their family photos again!   So excited to work with the Gates family again!  Beautiful, happy children and super fun parents to go with them!  We had a blast (again!)!!

I took this photo about three minutes into the session.  I turned to Judit and Kevin (the parents) and laughingly said, “Okay, we’re done!”  Love this shot SO much!

But glad we didn’t stop because it just kept getting better…

Near the end of the session, an ice cream truck pulled up and we decided to go with it!

So much fun!  Thanks to the Gates Family!  I can’t wait till the next one!

Wanted to quickly remind everyone about my photo contest that runs through 7/3.  You still have lots of time to enter and you can vote daily!  For those of you who just had or will be having a session with me soon, you will get free photos on your wall – just for entering!

I love to laugh

The most recent issue of Arlington Magazine features some photos that I took of the Holroyd family for the article “Parents Gone Wild,” which is about parents who lose control at their children’s sporting events.  When I put out a call for models, I was thrilled that Kat Holroyd offered up her children (and allowed me to persuade her and her husband into being in the photos, too).  The reasons that they are so perfect are that 1. They are among the least likely people I know to go crazy on their kids or a coach, and 2. Kat is a member of a really fun adventure club where the women try out new and exciting challenges each month.  (You must read her blog about it!) So I knew she wouldn’t bat an eye when I mentioned that I needed to duct tape her mouth in some of the photos.  Don’t worry, baby powder has a really great way of taking away 95% of the stickiness of duct tape (didn’t want my models’ agent to complain, after all!).

I have to tell you, this session was a riot!  The whole family really got into it, and we could not. stop. laughing!  Somehow we managed to keep our composure for some really great expressions.  Here are some of the ones that were not used… including the duct tape ones.

 To see the ones that were selected… well, you’ll just have to pick up an issue, won’t you?!

I thought it would be a lot of fun to share some of the outtakes with you, too.  Here are some photos of the family trying best they can not to laugh.  I hope they bring a smile to your face!

Julia went first and her whole family is standing behind me trying not to laugh.

Kevin tries the over-dramatic bit, then starts laughing…

Chris could hold his expression, except that the smile would creep in.  Like this one where he’s punching his hand, but you see him with a grin in the background.

But oh my goodness, I have sooo many photos of Kathleen laughing and trying to keep from laughing.  She kept apologizing, but I loved it!  So much fun!

Ha ha ha!  I hope you enjoyed! 🙂


My devoted fans, I’m sorry to have kept you waiting so long for this post!  It has been a wild ride over the past few weeks, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now!  (No jokes about trains, please!)

As you remember, I attended Photoshop World two weekends ago, and promised a Photoshop-centric post to show you some before and after photos.  This was a really fun post to put together!

Okay, where to start? How about with what I can do outside of Photoshop?  This first before and after is of my daughter (also the first photo you’ll see if you go to my website.)  Wow, take a look at that before image!  She looks practically beaten up!  Let’s see… we have a bruise on the forehead, snotty nose, cracked lips, scratches, furrowed brow and blotchy skin.

Using Adobe Lightroom only, I smoothed the skin, healed the blotches, bruises, furrow, and lip cracks, and sharpened the eyelashes.  Then, I applied a color preset from One Willow Presets to make it a little more interesting.  I love the aqua blue eyes against the light pink lips!

This took much longer than it seems.  I probably spent 15 minutes retouching this in Lightroom, which is about 14 more minutes than anyone wants to spend on one photo, but the expression in her eyes drew me in, and once I start editing a photo, I keep going until I am happy with it.

There’s a better tool that I use to retouch called Portrait Professional.  This one takes about 2-3 minutes per photo and is a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom.  I’m sensitive about which photos to show that I’ve used this tool on, because this plugin can do some pretty amazing things, like slim faces, remove wrinkles, and really make eyes pop.  So I’ve chosen a pretty simple one here, to just demonstrate the eye part, and you’ll have to trust me on the other aspects.  😉

She’s my niece.  Isn’t she soo cute?!  See what I mean about the eyes?  Pretty cool, huh?  You may notice her skin is a little smoother on the right, too, though I didn’t focus on that for this demonstration.

Okay, so you may be wondering, if you can do all of this without Photoshop, why the heck do you need Photoshop?  Well, let me just show you…

Adding texture can add a little pizazz to photos.  Basically, you just take a jpg of a texture, like the one below… I think, though I’m not positive, that I got this from Jessica Drossin Textures in her freebies section a year ago.  It was definitely in a freebie section somewhere.  If anyone knows where it came from, please let me know so I can attribute proper credit.  File name is as originally downloaded.

Where was I?  So you take the texture and open it in a layer above your photo, then select either “overlay” or “soft light” as the blend mode (try both then pick the one you like).  This will usually make the skin look textured as well, so then I paint onto the texture layer using the same color as the layer to remove the texture from the skin (one of several possible methods – there are some YouTube how-to videos on this).

Here’s the before and after:

Creates a bit of a vintage look here.  I also have textures that make the photos look like paintings on canvas.  Pretty cool!  I don’t do too much with textures, but I have fun playing with them now and then.

What else?  Oh yes, making people look thinner.  This does depend entirely on the photo, but I can usually make love handles disappear.

The photo below is of me from last summer.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that the camera adds 10 pounds, my shirt was not helping matters, so I used the liquify filter in Photoshop to push down the shirt wrinkles on my right side (your left).

Thanks to my hubby for taking this photo of me!

Stray hairs are really annoying, and also more painful to fix than you might expect.  However, I’m happy to do it by request for my clients, because it really can make a big difference in a photo, like the one below where I removed the hair that was falling into mom’s eye.

I very, very rarely do head swapping, but sometimes it’s worth the time it takes.  The photo below is of my two children from September, and I liked both of the original photos, but wanted them both looking at the camera.  I copied my daughter’s head from the top-right photo and moved it over the head on the bottom-right.  The photo on the left is now a large canvas in my house (and part of the banner for this blog!).  Click on the image to see them larger.

One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is how I get photos with newborn babies heads in their hands up on their elbows.  Well, I originally did it by setting them up in little tripods and taking some quick snaps, but this left little time to compose a shot.  So instead, I’ve moved to doing this in Photoshop.

The photo below is a composite of two photos and is done very similarly to how I do the head swaps.  First, I take a photo while one of the parents holds the arms together, then I take a photo while they hold the head in place, and finally, I merge the two together – top half of baby and bottom half of baby.  I wish I had the before and after images to show you of this, but I’m pretty good at only keeping only the photos I show my clients (disk space gets expensive, you know?) so I no longer have the originals.  However, you can find YouTube videos on how this is done as well.

I feel a little like Penn & Teller giving away how I do my tricks, but it was fun to pull back the curtain a little to show you how it’s all done!

Now what I’m wondering is when someone is going to invent a Photoshop filter to help clean up my messy house?  🙂

When I See You Smile

Meet Gwyn!  She’s only one year old, but this girl has a lotta spark!  We met on, literally, the coldest day of March, but she could have cared less. She totally worked the camera and soaked up all of the attention.  Loved her!

I love how she threw up her arms right when the goose did!

I love this outtake shot.  Dad was, very successfully, getting her to laugh while mom used the distraction to fix her hairband.  Cuteness!

Here’s one of my favorites.  The whole beautiful family…

I’m headed to another photography conference this weekend – all about Photoshop!  So I’m going to work on a photoshop-themed blog for next week where I’ll show you some before and after images.  Fun!


Thank you so much to all of my fans for helping me to reach and far surpass my goal of having 500 Facebook fans by February 5th!  At the time of writing this, I’m at 649 fans!  I couldn’t be more thrilled!  😀

I have two winners for free photo sessions!  The winning comments were chosen using the random.org random number generator.  There were 46 comments (plus 3 pingbacks, skipped and not included) and the winners made the 20th and 28th comments.  

Starting at the first comment made by Heather T., I counted down to the first winner who is… Wendi Mayhew!!!  I kept counting down to comment #28, and that winner is… Jen Clark!  🙂  Thank you so much!  I will send each of you an email so that we can coordinate our calendars for your sessions. 

Noone goes home empty-handed though!  Each person who entered will also receive an email from me within the next week with a $50 gift certificate toward your next session!  Woot! 

Also, keep an eye out on my Facebook for details on Cherry Blossom mini-sessions coming in March/April.  I’ll only have room for 4-5 sessions, so feel free to leave a comment or send me a note if you are interested, and I’ll send you a heads up once I post the details in a few weeks. 

Well, I can’t let this post go without adding a few photos!  Here are some photos that I took of the Newell family this fall.  🙂

Cute! 😀


I know it’s a month past Christmas, but I thought I’d go ahead and share that one of my own personal holiday traditions is that I always sit down by myself every year and watch White Christmas while I wrap gifts (promptly followed by Holiday Inn because I have so many gifts to wrap… and I usually stop to watch all of the musical numbers).  The second song in White Christmas is called “Sisters,” and it’s pretty funny, especially when Bing and Danny Kaye lip sync it later.

The song makes me think about my own two sisters.  We are very close in age (all born within three years), and my younger sister and I shared a room until my older sister went to college, which made us very close (many times too close for comfort!).

Here we are circa 1979.  Strange that my hair looks almost the same now.  (God bless that photographer.  Tracy looks like she was about to jump out of the shot.)

I am so grateful for my two sisters –  my oldest, Karen, whom I always admired growing up for her fashion sense and knowledge of the world awaiting me, and my youngest, Tracy, whom I always envied for her searing wit and sense of humor.  I wish that I was able to see them more often, but I can always count on their support and love when I need them, which is such a gift.

Here are some photos that I took recently of two very cute sisters, Annie and Sophie (and their little brother – not pictured here, but who is in many other cute photos!), on an incredibly chilly morning in DC.  I chose to extract just the sister photos for this post because they exhibited such a beautiful bond that reminded me of what I feel for my own sisters.

These photos use the “Purple Grunge” texture from French Kiss Textures, and I love how it goes so well with their adorable Matilda Jane dresses!

By the way, if you haven’t yet entered my contest for a free photo shoot (I’m giving away TWO), you still have time to do so!  Click here to enter!  Winners will be selected on Sunday evening, February 5th!

Ain't Nothin Gonna Break My Stride

Wow!  What an excellent, amazing week!  First, I want to thank all of my fans for helping me to get 38 new Facebook fans this week alone!  Welcome new fans!  I’m well on my way to meeting my goal of 500 fans by February 5th!  If you haven’t already entered my contest for a free photo shoot, whatcha waiting for?  If I reach my goal, I will give away TWO free photo shoots instead of one!

Another thing I did this week was join the “Be Nice” Campaign on Facebook, which is kind of like a pledge that you’ll be nice to other artists and help them to grow.  That’s an easy one for me!  It feels great to help out other photographers.  Besides, where would I be without the help and mentorship of photographers who did the same for me?

Almost immediately after doing that, I received an email from Leslie Nicole of French Kiss Textures with some questions about my website.   My site is used as an example site on Zenfolio.com, which is the platform that I use to host my photos and e-commerce.  These types of emails aren’t out of the ordinary, and I am always happy to help, but the difference this time is that after I responded, she graciously gave me my pick of textures from her site!  Yay for good karma!  I am so excited to play with them!  I’ve added a before/after with one of her textures at the end of this blog.

Here are some gorgeous photos that I took of the Kropp family in November (it was one of those Indian Summer days, hence the short sleeves!)  I love this family; they are too much fun!  I’m sure you will love them, too, after seeing these shots!

Monkey hats!  These were on their Christmas card!  🙂

Charlie giving me a stare down.

There’s that smile!

Okay, here’s the before and after I was talking about…

Before applying texture:

And After (using the Fantin Light texture).  Click on the photo to bring up the larger image to see the actual texture.

How fun is that?!  I can’t wait to play with them some more!