My 10th Anniversary shoot with Vanessa Joy and my Family

As professional photographers we recognize how important it is to capture the moment.  Yet so many of us rarely step out from behind the camera and get in front of the lens WITH our own families.  We owe it to our loved ones and ourselves to be photographed as well.  The little snaps and selfies we take on our phones every day are nice, but they are NOTHING compared to the quality we get from a real photo session.  You and your children will regularly look back at professional photos and cherish them for the rest of your life.  The same cannot be said for the thousands of photos on your iPhone.

So for my 10th wedding anniversary I asked my husband, Matt, for a very special photoshoot.   I wanted to go back to where we got married, the magnificent Pleasantdale Chateau, wear my original wedding dress, bring our 2 children with us, and have one of the top wedding photographers in the world, Vanessa Joy, take our photos, on the day of our actual 10 year anniversary.  I knew this was a pretty tall order.  Amazingly, EVERY piece of my dream shoot came true!  On the day of our actual wedding, it poured rain all day so all our shots were taken indoors.  This time around the weather cooperated and Vanessa was able to use so much of the beautiful Pleasandale’s perfectly manicured grounds.  It felt like a fairy tale getting to go there again and to have our photos taken without the stress of a wedding day’s hectic schedule.   My husband was beaming with his real smile, not his camera smile, that day.  He said it was so easy to smile during the shoot because he was having so much fun.  He even pulled off the lift we learned for our first dance all those years ago.   Vanessa had a way of really capturing the “true Vail and Matt.”  I love that she recorded the little playful looks we always give each other.   Matt and I are so incredibly grateful to the Pleasantdale Chateau for letting us go back there to have this wonderful experience we will never forget. And thanks to Vanessa Joy, we have spectacular pictures to remember it by. It was a real “Joy!”

Having a professional shoot as a photographer wasn’t just beneficial to me personally, I found it could be very helpful for my business as well. Putting myself in my clients’ shoes was an eye opening experience.  A photography subject can feel vulnerable.  We as photographers need to be reminded of that and have to be there for our subjects and make them feel at ease.  Seeing how other photographers approach the same type of genre you shoot from the other side of the lens can also be great.  That day I wasn’t just the subject of Vanessa’s lighting setups, I was a student as well.  I tried to observe all the off camera flash techniques she used (that are featured in her new book), the ways in which she had me and my family pose, and the way she takes the time to frame an image just right (see the one with the gold foliage that makes a circle around us).  At the end of the session I felt like I had gotten a two-for-one special, a photo session with Vanessa Joy and a private lesson with her as well!

As a last bonus, by including my children they got a better idea about what Mama does for work.  I am pretty sure my daughter now thinks that just about everyone goes to work with a giant bag of camera equipment.  Thank you again Vanessa for being so great with my kids as well!

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    Bree and Nick’s Wedding at the Red Barn at Hampshire College in Amherst

    When it comes to photography, I love bold saturated color, think Fall leaves and jewel tones.  When it comes to people, I love big personalties, big smiles, and big laughs.  Bree and Nick’s wedding was filled to the brim with all these things!

    Bree also loves bold saturated color (check out her bouquet).  That’s why we shot their engagement photos during fall at the Arnold Arboretum.  Bree and Nick choose to have their wedding at the beautiful and rustic Red Barn at Hampshire College. Bree hoped that I could integrate some of the great red color of the exterior of the barn in their shots. I had Nicholas Zbikowski along with me as my wonderful second shooter that day. Oby from Simple Felicity kept everything running smoothly and Julius from First and Last Productions was a breeze to work alongside (here’s their teaser video). It was pouring rain for much of the morning so I had to get creative with some of our shots.  Luckily, I came prepared with umbrellas and white trash bags (more on that later).  Nick wanted to make sure he didn’t see Bree in her dress until the moment she walked down the aisle, but they still wanted to be able to pray together before the ceremony.  So Nick donned a blindfold and Bree joined him under the covered porch area while I shot in the rain covered with the umbrella so that I could get some of the red siding in the background.  Giant smiles radiated from their faces as soon as the two of them held hands. Then it was time for the ceremony.  A few tears welled up in Nick’s eyes as he saw Bree in all her finery for the first time that day.  Soft natural light illuminated the couple and the bridal party through the big windows behind them during their ceremony inside the barn.  The ceremony was fairly typical until it came to the time for the vows.  To Bree’s great surprise, Nick brought out LAMINATED vows!  Clearly he had thought about what he wanted to say well in advance.  It was adorable.

    Once the ceremony was over, Julius, Nicholas, and I were trying to figure out places we could do shots under overhangs so that Bree and Nick could stay dry.  But then all of the sudden, the clouds parted and gave way to beautiful shooting conditions.  We pinned on the white garbage bag to the underside of Bree’s dress to keep it dry (the pavement and grass was still wet after all that rain).  While we were shooting the wind was still very much at play.  This made for great comedic moments as well as shots where the dress was perfectly blown out.  Nicholas and I had a field day with the rustic red doors I found on the surrounding buildings.  We barely had to ask Bree and Nick to pose.  They were always making each other laugh or looking lovingly into each other’s eyes.  Just as we were finishing up the bridal party formals the rain started to fall once again.  What a lucky break in the weather!

    Now it was time for the real party to begin.  Nick and Bree nailed their first dance and then they took to the mic and sweetly gave a heartfelt thank you to everyone for coming…even the vendors 🙂  Then DJ Anijah cranked out an amazing playlist that had the whole room on its feet.  It was the perfect end to their perfect day.

     

    Photography tips:

    • Love the pops of red?  Always look around the whole wedding venue in advance to look for spots with fun pops of color.  Frame the couple inside those spots for a really stunning shot.
    • If possible try not the be back lit during your ceremony.  If you are standing directly in front of a window you will mostly look like a silhouette to your guests and they won’t be able to see your faces as well.  If the view out the window isn’t spectacular, put your guests’ backs to the window and let the beautiful window light shine in on you as the bride and groom.  If this type of arrangement isn’t possible, at least move you and your officiant a few feet in front of the window so  your photographer can take pictures of you from the wings and get photos of you with that natural light on your face. It will also make your guests happy to not have to be staring into the sun the whole time you are up there getting married as well, that is unless you provide your guests with awesome sunglasses like Bree and Nick did!

     

     

     

     

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      Baby Ella Joins the Family in a Newborn Lifestyle Shoot

      About a year ago I decided to change my style for newborn shoots.  I wasn’t going to do overly posed shots any more.  I was going to do lifestyle shoots.  It has made newborn sessions so much more enjoyable.  The parents can be relaxed.  They know that getting a shot of them interacting with their little one will be vastly more precious to them as they get older than of them placed in an unnatural pose that a newborn would never do on their own.  Because of this, Ella’s mom and dad weren’t stressed that Ella wasn’t sleeping during the shoot.  They knew we would get beautiful photos no matter what.  Ironically, the second I packed up my gear, Ella promptly fell fast asleep.  So I pulled out my camera briefly and snuck in this quick shot of her all cuddled up in her happy place.

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