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The gift that I want most for you

The gift that I want most for you

I just wanted to write a quick note to wish you and your family the very happiest of holidays!

I also want to say that I know how much work the holidays can be, especially if the pressure is on to create a magical and memorable experience for your kids and to make sure everyone else in your life is taken care of too.
 

Photography as a source of joy, not frustration

Photography as a source of joy, not frustration

I was recently invited by Light.co, a brand new camera technology company, to write about how my photography career has evolved, along with my style and technique, in relation to technology. I thought this was such a great topic to write about, so here is my response.

And actually, it just so happens that I was doing some decluttering the other day and came across the very first camera that I ever owned. It was a small point-and-shoot, film of course, and I was in middle school at the time.

This was way before smartphone cameras or the internet became prevalent - in fact, people were only just starting to get “personal computers” in their homes. You took 24 or 36 photos per roll of film, took it to be developed, and a few days later, picked up your prints, and then mounted your photos into albums. I’m guessing most of you reading this are familiar with what I’m talking about, but our kids would be flabbergasted!

The biggest thing that gets between us and joy

The biggest thing that gets between us and joy

Last week, I talked about how joy is not just a “nice-to-have” but essential if you are to survive and thrive. Because what I’ve been exploring and experiencing these past few months is about how joy is an incredible tool for resilience.

As I was writing that post, I thought to myself that I would be interested to read and research more about joy (I’ve already been reading about resilience)… and so I’ve been reading The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World based on a week of conversations between none other than the Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu, as told by Douglas Abrams - not a bad place to start, right?

Chills, I tell you. Just chills.

Resilience through joy

Resilience through joy

I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately.

I remember the first time I played chess with Liam. He had been learning via a Kindle app, but when we played, he was adamant that I was not allowed to capture any of his pieces… but he was still allowed to capture mine.

It’s pretty hard to play chess that way, let me tell you!

I also remember the first time he played a video game and he was about to “die.”  He totally freaked out. I told him it was ok, that he would lose and then he could start over and try again. And sure enough, he did.

How to connect to love and joy through photographing your kids

How to connect to love and joy through photographing your kids

I have been starting to feel that "I love my life" spark a lot more lately. This is interspersed with feelings of fear and anxiety as I dive deeper into growing my business, but I've been working on making myself feel cozy and safe.

My photos of my kids help me with that. They become almost like a place where I can go where there is an abundance of love and joy - through my photos I see the best in them, and as a result, the best in myself and the best in life. 

You don't have to take "good" photos to feel good as a parent

You don't have to take "good" photos to feel good as a parent

This is not a "good" photo.

The lighting is bad, and there is all kinds of background clutter. As a professional photographer, I would never share this photo.

But as a mom, and as a photography coach for parents, I am sharing it with you because yesterday it made me feel better as a parent.

Doing my best - on the night before the 15th anniversary

Doing my best - on the night before the 15th anniversary

It's the night before the 15th anniversary and still I feel so raw and traumatized and heartbroken. Other sadnesses have passed or at least lightened over the years. 

This one...

This one is deep in my bones.

Happy thanksgiving!

For me, every photograph I take is an act of gratitude. Creating, surrounding myself with and and sharing beautiful photos of my kids fills me with joy.

Here are my favorite photos from 2014.

Happy thanksgiving!

Robot birthday party with great friends at Brooklyn Robot Foundry

Robot birthday party with great friends at Brooklyn Robot Foundry

Almost five years ago to the day, I bundled my six week old baby up into his car seat and ventured out in the rain to my first new mom's luncheon hosted by Chana Balk (now a new mom of three and owner of MoveItMomma). I met Jane Marie, another new mom with a baby just a week or two younger than Liam… and last month we both celebrated five years of parenting!

I think of Jayden as Liam's oldest friend, and while we live in close by but different neighborhoods and they go to different schools, they have kind of grown up together as, probably more than with any other family, we've had consistent play dates for the past five years.

I also think of Jane Marie as the first Photosanity parent. When I became a family photographer, she was one of the first families I photographed, and when I came up with the idea for Photosanity, she was the first person to review and give me feedback on my course outline. She took the first workshop back in spring 2011 and has been a huge supporter ever since.

One of the things that characterizes Photosanity parents is that they love being a parent and want to create the best experience they can for their kids. Of course, this manifests itself in different ways for each of us, but I was struck by this when we went to Jayden's birthday party at the Brooklyn Robot Foundry and I saw all of the amazing features that Jane Marie created for the party, including absolutely the most adorable cupcakes I have ever seen… and I knew I was going to have to blog about it!

Aren't these cupcakes amazing? The robot heads are marshmallows. Who even knew that edible silver spray paint existed? The kids loved them too and couldn't keep their hands off them.

The party was shared with another birthday boy from Jayden's class and his mom made these fantastic robot cookies!

Everything was a robot. Check out the party favors!

And these are just a select few of the details at the party - there were robot wrappers for the juice boxes, robot snack bags, even the fruit was served in containers shaped like robots!

And oh yeah, then there was the actual robot making activity. Liam, as happens so often, was a reluctant group activity participant to start with, but I was able to coax him into participation (which meant putting the camera away for a bit). The "robot" was actually a parachute made out of a coffee cup, coffee filter and pipe cleaners. Passenger aliens were made out of pom poms and googly eyes… and then the real fun began, launching the parachutes up through a wind tunnel! As you can see, Liam had an absolute blast.

Seeing his face and capturing his reactions was priceless.

There was also a parachute drop. Here Jane Marie and Jayden (with his dad in the background) are watching the parachutes fall.

And then it was time to eat those robot cupcakes!

Finally, here is my official sibling photo for the week… at the after party at Jayden's house. I love how they are both so concentrated on building.

Photo tip

I didn't take nearly as many photos at Liam's birthday party as I did at Jayden's - it's hard when you are hosting.

Enlist a friend or hire a professional photographer

if you can. Either way, make sure all those

details

you were up into the middle of the night creating are well documented along with the kids and their reactions.

Thank you so much for a great party Jane Marie and happy birthday to Jayden!

Join me in my year-long photo project and share your photos with the Photosanity Peer-to-Peer Facebook group.

Become part of the group - membership is free with a purchase, past or current, of any one of the Photosanity workshops.

Birthday portrait - Liam is 5! (sibling photos week 7/52)

Birthday portrait - Liam is 5! (sibling photos week 7/52)

Liam turned five this month… I am still trying to grasp the fact that I am the mother of a five-year-old!

This photo was taken on his birthday, which I spent in a whirlwind of dropping him off at school, touring a potential elementary school, shopping for Valentine's Day card supplies, baking a cake and cupcakes, taking the cupcakes to school to celebrate with his class, picking him up and coming home to make Valentine's Day cards, then opening presents and celebrating all over again with family.

Of course there were classic birthday photos of present opening, candle blowing and cake eating, but I always like to try and take a birthday portrait of my kids on their birthdays - photos that more naturally capture their personalities and emotions. Even on a hectic day you only need a few moments to do so, and even though it was a cold day, I grabbed a few shots outside our house before heading in.

Photo tip

Sibling or group photos don't have to have everyone in focus. Using shallow depth of field, you can put the focus on one child and have the other(s) blurred in the background.

Join me in this year-long photo project and share your photos with the Photosanity Peer-to-Peer Facebook group.

Become part of the group - membership is free with a purchase, past or current, of any one of the Photosanity workshops.

Photo cropping - my secret weapon for great photos (week 2 of 52)

Photo cropping - my secret weapon for great photos (week 2 of 52)

It turned out that for various reasons, I didn't get a lot of opportunity to photograph Liam and Jack together much in week 2. I snapped this and a few other photos while they were sitting watching TV at grandma's, but it wasn't until I applied my super secret creative technique to this photo it turned into something I loved.

My secret?

Cropping!

Cropping is an easy way to make your photos more creative after the fact. If you captured a sweet, emotionally good moment but the photo is a little blah, chances are that the composition is not strong. This may especially be true if your camera limits where in the frame you can focus. Or in this case, I didn't want to get too close to the boys to disturb them so cropping after the fact allowed me to get in closer and achieve more of an off center composition that strengthened the photo and made it more striking.

I also like the natural eye contact from Jack, whereas Liam is completely focused on his TV show. We try not to allow too much screen time but when we do, this is pretty typical! In fact, it's Jack's eye contact and look of puzzlement that makes this photo a winner for me.

I'm loving all the sibling photos in the Photosanity Peer-to-Peer Facebook group! Several parents are joining me in this focus for a "52 project." To join in, join the group - membership is free with a purchase, past or current, of any one of the Photosanity workshops.

The beauty of the giggles

Last week, PADF challenge winner Jennie Kemmerer mentioned that she wished her photo was carefully composed and thought out.

However, there is no reason a carefully composed and thought out photo is better. In fact, often it's the spontaneous moments that are the ones most worth capturing, and the photos that come out best.


Even if a photo feels like it was a lucky catch, as you learn and practice and become more experienced, that all comes into play along with your intuition as a parent which turns the "odds" in your favor.

The better you get, the "luckier" you get.

Last weekend, I took Liam out for some one-on-one time that I feel like he has been needing, what with all the recent big changes.

Who am I kidding? I really needed it too.

We headed out to a museum, had a picnic in the park, and then jumped on a bus to go to an event his school had organized.


While we were waiting for the bus, we were talking and giggling, so I pulled out my camera and captured the moment - totally spontaneous and unplanned (complete with uneaten grape in the side of his mouth!) Setting up photos like this just wouldn't have the same meaning to me at all.

Certain types of photos can be planned, for sure, but as a parent photographing my kids I prefer to go with the flow for a more genuine experience all round.

Back to school photo projects


I know some kids around the country have been back to school for weeks now, but here in NYC yesterday was the first day of school for many, and my facebook feed has been hot and heavy with first day of school photos.

Jack's first day of preschool was on Friday, and Liam's first day at his new school for pre-K was yesterday. Both my kids were utterly uninterested in carrying their backpacks and they are so completely unused to posed photos that I satisfied myself with more informal portraits on the front steps before setting off for school.


Jack is doing well settling into preschool (he is only going twice a week) and will have his first full day at the end of the week.


Liam, by the sounds of it, had a great first day. At his old preschool, he was used to getting dropped off at the classroom door so when he saw that I was hanging around in the classroom today, he politely asked "are you going to leave the classroom?" in a tone that meant "uh, you can leave now, thanks!"

And I actually managed to get quite a bit of detail from him about his day yesterday evening!

As I suggest in my Mom355 blog post on back-to-school photos, I've been taking a lot of photos over the past week and will continue to do so over the next few days.

I'm also starting to plan for next year's school photo book!

What new photo projects do you have planned for the school year?

Saying good bye to preschool and celebrating our memories


The day before Liam's first day at preschool in March 2011.

And just like that, seemingly in the blink of an eye, two and a half wonderful years at Liam's preschool are over. I can't believe it.

I remember his first day there like it was yesterday - literally yesterday! I remember, the anxiety (mostly mine) and anticipation as we headed into the unknown. And I remember the surprising heartbreak at leaving him somewhere unfamiliar and how different and how much harder it was at first than the separation of leaving him with a babysitter in our house.


The day before the first day of school year, September 2012.

Over the years, Liam, who started as a quiet two year old, has blossomed into a confident, talkative, social and outgoing four and a half year old, in large part due to his time there. One of the things I have loved the most is seeing the friendships his preschool experience has fostered thrive and his friends' families have become our friends too.

Liam has learned not just about dinosaurs and birds and volcanoes and worms and the life cycle and the solar system and "jobs and careers" (yes, they really did a module on jobs and careers!) but he has developed curiosity and a love of knowledge, and he has learned how to be part of a community.


Liam during the last week of preschool, August 2013.

As his preschool class disperses (as is the nature of Brooklyn, everyone is going to different schools) I feel bereft... yet also excited about the next stage and the new community we are joining as he starts a new, bigger school next week and goes into pre-K. We went to orientation last week and met his new teachers and some of the other parents and I am excited about what the future will bring.

Plus Jack will start at his old preschool at the end of this week! So we will not be going completely into preschool withdrawal... but will miss all our departing preschool friends.

What transitions are you going through right now and how can photos of your kids help you reflect as well as, mark this time and look forward?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

New year new moments, take better back to school photos


Back to school is one of the best times of the year for taking and sharing photos. It’s also the perfect time to perfect your skills so you can capture these special moments.

There really is nothing like a back to school photo to capture the changes, excitement, and enthusiasm of a new year.

For me, this year is back to school for both Liam and Jack and it marks big changes for all of us. I’m getting teary already. Liam only has a few more days at the preschool he has been at for almost three years. Then he’ll be starting pre-K at a new school, and Jack will be starting school for the first time at Liam’s preschool.

In honor of back to school last year, I shared some of my thoughts about the day and capturing the moment and I want to share it with you again now, as a reminder for parents bringing their kids back to school and for all the first timers and new Photosanity parents that are feeling that unique brand of excitement and anxiety that comes with the first day of school.

Tips for back to school photos that capture the emotions


I look at these photos above, taken just as we were leaving the house for his first day of school and wow, my heart is beating a little faster just remembering how brave he was and, truthfully, how brave I had to be.

Read on for my back to school photo tips to capture your first day of school moments.

Celebrate the new school year with a new project


The start of the school year is the perfect time to begin a photo-a-day project.

Changes in schedules often mean new opportunities for capturing the moment and treasuring the time you do have with your kids. Don’t think your work schedule allows for it? Here’s how I do it and how it could work for you, too!


The photo-a-day project is a great way to keep the positive energy that you have at the beginning of the school year going all the way through to the end. It will also show you just how much your child is changing, growing and learning every day.

Take better back to school photos

For big moments like back to school, we parents can get a little ahead of ourselves and become anxious about capturing the right moment the right way.

Follow these tips to overcome those feelings, and when you find yourself yelling “SMILE!” from behind the camera.

Get ready to capture the moment, right now

Get started with just an hour of your time and the gear you currently have. Sign up for your free lesson now, then share those amazing back to school photos!

Summer memories at the lake - capturing family moments in a special place


A recent photo challenge theme in the Photosanity Peer-to-Peer Facebook group was "summer" which is of course was a very broad and open theme, but seeing those and other recent photos from the group has had me thinking about what a great time summer is for experiences, photos and memories.


Many of my favorite summer photos and memories since I met my husband have been from the times we've spent at his Uncle and Aunt's house by a lake in Connecticut. Only a 90 minute drive away, we've spent many summer days up there (as well as other days year round). The kids in the family, all Liam and Jack's cousins, love it, and it has been so great to see our kids get to have that same experience.


Keith recently took Liam on his first fishing trip up to the lake, and Liam was so excited! They caught 17 fish (all catch and release) and the trip was a huge success. We were up there for July 4th also and Liam spent about five hours in the lake swimming around in his life preserver and had to be dragged out for dinner - he had a blast!


This past weekend we were there again, and Liam "swam" across the lake and back... twice! (Swam, meaning, with a life preserver, and piggy backing on Keith some of the way.) And Jack had a blast throwing a ball for his new best friend Dukes, the Boston Terrier.


Here then are some of my favorite photos from the lake over recent years. If you have a place that you return to over and over throughout the years, pulling together a series of photos across time from the same location can be a great way to reflect and reminisce as well as celebrate the good times.

Welcome Royal Baby!

As a young girl growing up in England, I remember getting so excited about the Royal Wedding and the subsequent birth of Prince William and Prince Harry. So I have to admit that while I haven't followed the Royal Pregnancy too closely, I was pretty excited to hear about the much anticipated birth of the Royal Baby yesterday.

Yes, the Royal Family is privileged beyond what most of us will ever experience, but quite frankly that is not a job I envy at all, baby or no baby.

And as my very wise friend at Ask Moxie pointed out, maybe Kate knew what she was getting into with her marriage, but no parent ever knows what they are getting into when they first become a parent.

As a new mom, one of the things that helped me the most was hanging out with other new moms, sharing experiences, resources and support.

I'm assuming that's not much of an option for William and Kate... although hopefully they have a good social support network of friends too.

As I said, I don't really follow the Royals beyond the can't-miss headlines that make it over here, but William and Kate seem like a nice couple, and as I said, I don't envy the pressure and responsibilities they have. Parenting has brought me so much joy - even amongst the hard work and every day challenges it's been the most rewarding thing I have done and I hope the new Royal parents get some space to experience some the same thing.

And yes, as with any new baby, I can't wait to see the photos!

In the meantime, here's one of my own two Royal Princes...


How I stay connected to my kids when work changes our schedules

I have to admit, I don't always keep up with my ShutterCal photo-a-day projects (one for Liam and one for Jack). I have all the photos and eventually plan on back filling, but I totally get it - it's not always easy to keep up on a daily, or even weekly or monthly basis.

But it's so much easier and more satisfying. The months without gaps look so great!

And I'm pleased to say that I'm 100% complete for the last three months.

I'm particularly proud of this month's calendars as this was my first month as a full time working mom. Yes that's right, I am back in architecture! A great opportunity came up so I decided to give it a go, while still continuing to grow Photosanity and of course bring up two kids.


Yes, I know, kind of insane, and as you can imagine it was a tough decision to make, giving up so much time with Liam and Jack. A little heartbreaking, actually. I've loved having the chance to be home with them for much of the time and I've had some of the best years of my life doing so.

Overall though it's a positive move for me, my family and for Photosanity - you will not see any major changes except for continued growth and development. Further, I am now putting to the test for myself in a much bigger way the concept of making the most out of your time with your kids and staying connected to them through photography. I'll be sharing my experiences and what I learn here, on the blog, with my coaching clients and in future workshops.

Case in point is my photo-a-day project. I'm lucky in that not only are my parents here to help with the kids but my father, who as some of you may remember is a serious amateur photographer himself, has taken over capturing the daily moments with the kids when I am not there. It took some trial and error and adjusting but we now have a system set up involving daily uploads to Dropbox so I can see what the kids got up to while I was at work and keep up with my photo-a-day project using a combination of his and my photos.


For those of you that have help with your kids, your child's caregiver may not be a photographer like my dad, but they can still take and share photos with you. I know many caregivers love to take photos of the kids they look after so you might be surprised if you ask. Or they might already be texting or e-mailing you photo updates and it's simply a matter of incorporating some of those photos into your own collection.

And it doesn't have to stop there. Many day cares, preschools and schools take photos on a regular basis that they share with you (we get weekly photos from Liam's preschool) so you can use those photos, as well as any that other friends and family members take - there's nothing that says that you have to be the sole documentarian for your family!

For those of you working outside the home in particular, I'd love to hear from you. What are your challenges? What have you found helps you stay connected to your kids? Leave a comment below!

My two boys looking at their mom, across time

There was one magical day back in May 2010, a beautiful spring day, which is rare in NYC when it feels like we go from winter to summer with the flick of a switch.

Liam was around 15 months old and it was one of the first times that we went for a walk in the neighborhood without taking the stroller.

Some of the details are blurry now - was he transitioning from two naps to one? Did I wear the baby carrier just in case he got tired? I think the answer to both those questions is yes, but I don't remember for sure.

But there are moments from that walk that I remember with crystal clear clarity, not so much because I have photos to remind me, but because the experience of taking those photos helped me to more fully experience those moments and cement them in my memory.

I remember his sense of discovery that I experienced through his eyes as he stopped and examined a rock here, a step there, banging on a gate, picking up a stick, looking at a fence. Everything was fresh, new and curious to him, and he was relaxed and at ease with no view to rushing to a destination. It was all about the journey. And he carried this same sense of exploration with him to our destination, the Pratt campus.


This photo captured that moment that every mom experiences and, if she takes the time to notice, treasures, when her child shares their discovery, their amazing rock or stick or leaf, by holding it up to show them, looking up earnestly and expectantly for what they have come to expect - a reassuring, encouraging and validating response.

This photo captures a moment no other photographer could have captured, because this photo shows Liam looking up at ME, his mother. He is looking right into the camera but really he is looking at me. That's what I love about this photo - it captures, emotionally, the experience of being a mother, and of having your child look up at you like that. If someone else had taken it, it wouldn't have the same meaning to me.

It's one of my favorite photos of Liam. The 15 month old is gone now, replaced by an unfathomably large and articulate four year old, but the moment, the memory, the feeling will always be with me.

He's also wearing one of my favorite outfits of his from that time - I love these simple overalls! And I was really excited when I got them out of storage the other day and Jack wore them for the first time.

We didn't do the same walk, and I didn't exactly set out to recreate the same photo, but we headed to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens with the intention of taking photos and... the moment presented itself and I, remembering the first photo (it hangs on a wall near my desk) grabbed it.


Seeing these two photos side by side kind of blows my mind. I can't stop looking at them. My two boys, looking up at me together from across time. Jack is actually three months older than Liam was in these photos. And while it's hard not to compare siblings, I feel like these photos celebrate both their similarities - their connection as brothers - as well as the ways they are different.

I love photographing my kids. I love the experience it gives me. I love the memories it creates and the opportunity it gives me to reflect.