Blog: Photo Sessions

Life is Beautiful. I love serving the world by capturing beautiful family memories, encouraging others to believe in life’s greatest possibilities, and inspiring others to realize their full potential. Everyone has a story... make it a beautiful one.  

10 Tips To Plan A One Year Birthday Party

I am so excited this week to to have my awesome friend Amanda owner of Sugar Pine Paper Company in Reno, Nevada, as a guest contributor on the blog!  Amanda and I met about a year ago through social media.  She has helped contribute to several parties I have had through out the last year with cake toppers and super cute garland banners!

She asked me about doing one year photos with her little Coen and asked her if she would contribute some tips about how she planned Coen’s first birthday party! Today we are celebrating this little dudes birthday with making pancakes and eating cake too!!  These are some of the tips and tricks from Amanda:

 • Pick your theme a few months in advance. The earlier you pick a theme, the more time you will have to figure out exactly what look you’re going for. I chose Coen’s Party Animal theme about 3 months before his first birthday. I then spent about two weeks browsing Pinterest, Instagram (searching various hashtags), and party blogs for inspiration.

Hashtags searched:






I originally thought I wanted Coen’s party to be monochrome with pops of color only on his party favors and balloons, but after browsing through various inspiration photos, I decided to go with loud, bright colors everywhere!

  • Create an inspiration board. This will help keep track of all your ideas. Pinterest is great for this, but I also really like creating a shared photo album on my iPhone. This way I can easily add photos of things as I buy them, or things that I see in stores and may not buy right away, but want to remember.
  • Ask for help. Once you have picked your theme and created an inspiration board, I suggest asking a few friends / family members to keep an eye out for deals on cute decorations. For example, as soon as had some inspiration photos put together, I invited my mom and best friend to my private Pinterest board (I set this board to private because I like to keep some element of surprise with parties I’m hosting), as well as the shared iPhone album I created. My best friend lives on the opposite side of town as me, and my mom lives 30 minutes away, so even though we all shop at the same stores, we often shop at different locations. Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, Michaels, Hobby Lobby – all of these stores often have awesome clearance items, but each store tends to have a different selection. Having eyes in all of our local store locations helped me find deals that I wouldn’t have seen on my own.
  • Keep your receipts! Most stores will take back items for 90 days after purchase with tags and a receipt, even clearance items. I always buy things as I find them, and as the party gets closer I weed through everything and decide what I am going to keep and what I am going to return. For Coen’s ‘Party Animal’ party, I knew that I wanted a couple of plush animal heads to hang with a Happy Birthday banner or letterboard in between them. I originally bought two on Targets website for $19.99 each because that was the best deal I could find; however, I ended up returning them when I found similar items at Hobby Lobby on clearance for only $4.99 each!! I also found plates I liked at Target, but ended up finding ones I LOVED at Walmart.

  • DIY – DIY – DIY !! This will save you so much money! Have you looked at how much it costs to have someone make you a balloon garland?? I have… and it is not cheap! But you can order everything you need on Amazon for less than $15. All you need is balloon tape, balloons and a hand pump! It is a bit time consuming, but worth the nearly $100 saved (if you’re reaction to that number was WHAT!?, you are not alone). I also knew that I wanted to have my décor second as party favors, so I bought cute jungle animal figurines at Target and added my own DIY party hats to them. I bought scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby that matched the colors of the party (less than $1) and found a party hat template on Pinterest. It took me about 30 minutes to cut all the hats out, add mini pom-poms and hot glue the hats to the animals. Easy-peasy, incredibly cheap, and super cute décor / favors.
  • Keep the food simple. Trust me, the last thing you want to be stressing out the day of a party is the food. We chose to order pizza, make a salad, have fresh fruit cups, and have a variety of prepackaged snacks for the kids (applesauce pouches, string cheese, etc.). One, this saved us a ton of money. Two, we had barely any dishes to do after the party. Three, everyone LOVED the pizza!
  • Gift registry. Hear me out on this one… I know creating a registry can often make guests feel required to bring a gift, but to help avoid this, I left the registry off of the invites. However, when someone would RSVP and ask what he wanted/needed, it was nice to be able to send them the registry link. Thinking of items off the top of your head, or keeping track of what you have told who, can be tricky. Creating a registry allows your guests a simple and easy way to get something they know your child will like.
  • Saying thanks. I’ll admit it, I am the WORST about sending out thank you cards. I always buy the cards and two months later realize I never wrote them. I have found that if I buy the cards AND address them ahead of time, I’m more likely to get the card sent out within a few days of the event!

  • Set up. If possible, don’t wait until the day of the party to set up. I always like to set up the night before. This takes the day of stress of hosting a party from a 10 to a 2, and gives you a little bit of time to grab any last minute things you need (serving spoons, ice, a rectangular tablecloth because you accidentally grabbed an oval one…).
  • HAVE FUN!! Make sure to enjoy the day, and spend time with the person you are celebrating!


Be Awesome,

Amber and Amanda

How I edit for clients and social media

I receive inquiries all the time asking about how I edit my images for both my client galleries and my social media.  I use the same tools for  both since I am a creature of habit and just keep it all streamlined to keep it easy on myself.  I do use phone Apps and filters on some social media but mostly in my instagram stories since those are real time moments or to do some minor tweaks to an image I edited on my desk top that I putting on my IG grid.  My IG feed is the same editing process I do on client photos.

Over the years I have found ways to simplify my editing so I am getting photos done in less time.  When I first started photography, it was taking me hours upon hours to edit one session because I would go through each photo and hand edit it in photoshop.

Today, I will guide you through my editing process that I do on all my photos. It might sound a little complicated to some who don’t use a camera BUT  I will also give you some tips on phone photography too since we have our camera phones readily available anytime we need them.

Client and Social Media Feed Editing:

1. I take all my photos with my Nikon 750 DSLR camera. My Fstop is always at a 2.8 outside and a Fstop 1.4 or 1.8 inside.  I adjust my ISO as needed depending on the lighting situation.  Most the time it is at an ISO 200-400 but again it depends on your lighting situation.

2. I bring all my photos into lightroom where I collate through them and pick the best ones out of the session or the ones I want to showcase on my social media feed.

3. After I go through and pick the ones to fully edit, I then put a preset on them. Right now I am loving the Angie Manson Collection from Simplicity Photography.  You can check them out here. I make adjustments to the image after the preset has been placed using the adjustment menu on the right hand side under the Develop tab.  The adjustments I mostly use are: Temp, tint, Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, and clarity.  Sometimes I will adjust the vignetting depending on the photo.

4. After I adjust the first photo, I can usually go to each photo and click on the previous button at the bottom of the menu bar and the same formula from the previous photo will be added to the next photo.  A few tweaks here and there may be needed, but it makes the process go a a lot smoother.

5 After I go through my editing process in light room, I will then export it into photoshop to do final touches on each image such as cleaning up acne, taking out objects that were unavoidable in the background that might have been distracting to the image, tweaking the color a little more, cropping the image if needed and adding a little more contrast and then save the image.

This process may sound extensive, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes easier to do.

Now we will dive into phone photography.  I use my phone camera mostly for my IG stories, but I know that most people will use their phone camera more for their social media.  These are some tools that I have found to help me or have seen others use to help enhance their phone photography:

1.  Lighting: again, I am a creature of habit so I play around with light like I would do with my DSLR.  If I’m outside, I’ll play with backlight or if I’m indoors I find the best natural light just like I would my real camera.  A lot of influencers/bloggers are using light ring kits to enhance their lighting too.  You can get them from amazon for fairly inexpensive.  I haven’t personally used one as of yet, but a lot of people swear by them.

2. Apps: There are so many apps out there for photo editing.  My favorites are VSCO and lightroom. I mainly use VSCO because its so much easier than lightroom on the phone.  Research the apps that best suit your style and wether your looking to spend a a lot of time editing or using it as a quick edit.

3. Presets: VSCO has their own presets that I usually use for the simplicity of it but there are presets you can purchase through etsy, the malibu app or you can research mobile presets to find the perfect one that goes with your stye and color preference.

This is my cliffnotes version of my editing process. I invite you to contact me here if you would like to know more on how I edit.  I’d be happy to answer questions or give you a more in depth session!

Heres to a happy photo Friday!

Be Awesome,


How I’ve Been Inspired by Food Photography

As a family photographer, not in a million years would I have seen myself playing around with the idea of food photography.  With today’s social media world, we are about finding ways to curate our squares on instagram and decided to give my squares a facelift with playing around with food photography.  Healthy eating is a part of my life that I have been passionate about sharing lately and I have been playing around with new healthy recipes and to be honest,  dressing them up and making them look pretty for a photo op has really been a fun way for me to discover a new side of photography that I may not have done before… ever.

I have been to numerous top restaurants in the US,  I may not be top chef like that, but it certainly has added a little curiosity into the world of food photography.  It’s has been a fun new way to use my creative side and figure out how to play around with color, light and placement in a whole new light while adding a new square into my instagram feed.

Here are some of the things I have been doing to create my food photos:

Color: depending on the recipe, I been playing around with color through gathering colorful pieces of dinnerware, kitchenware and/or using color by using ingredients around the dish that I used in the recipe for example a tomato and kale.  Using different items like ingredients, kitchenware, and dinnerware adds texture into the photo as well.  If its more of a monochrome color recipe, you can use whites, grays, or blacks for the monochrome look.

Presentation: You can create  fun presentation of the dish by putting the ingredients together in a creative way. For instance like a smoothie bowl, placing some of the ingredients on top like seeds, nuts, fruit, ect.  can create a pleasing presentation and even add texture.

Light:  I have been using my kitchen counter because I feel that is the space that gives me the light I like and has also let me play a little with light and shadow with the dish I am photographing.  It’s about playing with the area in which you feel gives you the best light for the look you are going for.

These are just some ideas I have been playing around with while experimenting with my food photography.  I am far from a professional at food photography, but been having fun doing it and sharing another side of life I love through my lens while trying some new, healthy things in the meantime.  I will call it a win!

Be Awesome,




How I Use Photography for Social Media

I have to be honest with this one, I was torn how to use my photography and social media when I started getting more on social media platforms. Social media scared the crap out of me and it was a whole new world I just didn’t get. I was posting a session photo like any other photographer would. Then I would scroll like any other person in this world and I see how some people, not necessarily photographers, where posting about their daily lives with pretty pictures. I researched social media platforms and took a social media course from a well known social media influencer/photographer.  I loved how she focused on her daily life but still gave hints of her photography as well.

I decided to make that change into showcasing more of lifestyle photography rather than session photography on my social media platforms.  I was scared and would be lying if I said that I feared a little about making the change but as uncomfortable it was, I was excited to try something new.  Over the last year social media, photography, developing my brand and voice has been a huge overwhelm but an incredible journey all wrapped up together.  in honesty, I feared clients and future clients would think I no longer do photography or worse dislike me for the direction I decided to go in.  There have been times I have compared myself to other photographers because I felt maybe I was doing something bad. This new outlook on photography has made me even more passionate about my photography,  I still have a passion for family photography (and still booking sessions) but this new outlook on photography has really opened my eyes to a new world of curiosity and creativity.

If I am being completely honest, sharing more of a lifestyle photography format on social media has helped me in so many ways.  It has helped me to take more photos for me and use my camera more instead of just at my sessions, and to tap into my inner muse.  I’ve created memories with my kids.  I realized that through this change, I am more than just a photographer, but a mom finding purpose and inspiring others to become better version of themselves. I have been able to connect with other moms through groups on social media where we post weekly challenge photos.  I’ve been learning new things from these weekly challenges on how I can elevate and create a better story through photographs.

This transition was a huge and scary thing for me, but I have fell in love with lifestyle photography.  I am able to tell the story of my perfectly imperfect life through photographs and to learn I have more to offer than just photography.  I have heard many times over about how in today’s digital age, people want to know and connect with who you are as person doesn’t matter what you have to offer. I could have chosen to have several different accounts for each of the things I love to share, photography,  life, empowerment, or health and fitness but I chose to focus on one account.  It’s me. Its all apart of MY story.

I am in love with the direction I have decided to go in and how I use my photography in social media. It’s different, but its real and in the moment and makes me happy and that what being creative is about if finding what makes you happy.

Be Awesome,


The One Lens I Use in Photography

I often get asked what lens I recommend and why.  Lenses have different purposes and effects and really depends on the style and look your going for. Before I get into my personal favorite lens and why,  lets start by talking about a prime lens vs. zoom lens.  A prime lens is a lens that has a fixed focal length. Essentially with a prime lens, you are in control how far or how close you are to your subject.  A zoom lens is a lens that you are able to zoom in on your subject.

If your just starting out, getting your feet wet into photography,  borrow or rent different lenses so you can get a feel of the different lenses there are out there.

When I started out, I researched some of the photographers I followed to see what their favorite lenses were and what they were using.  I rented a zoom lens a 70-100mm 1.4 and it was one of the heaviest lenses I ever use.  I realized that even though it took some really tack sharp, with the perfect blurred background, I learned it just wasn’t for me and I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t try it out and glad I didn’t waste the money on it.

After trial and error, I realized I was a prime lens kind of girl.  I loved how light the lenses were and loved the fact I was in control on how close and how far I was to my subject. I have tried the 85mm 1.4 for both Nikon and Canon and the 50mm for both Nikon and Canon. Both fabulous lenses for close up portrait photography.  This leads me into my all time favorite lens.

The 35mm 1.4 does not leave my camera.  It is wide angle lens perfect for wider angle photographs.  But I have a secret… I use it for close ups too.  Everything I take is with me 35.  To be honest, I maybe breaking so many rules in the photography world, but I just have fallen in love with the look this lens gives and it has become part of my style for the last 4 years.  My favorite things about it is the fact its wide angle.  I love I can use it for wider close ups and wider pull backs.  I love how it brings beautiful sun flare into my photos and is great in almost any lighting situation.

Most photographers I have shown my work to are amazed that I have used this lens for everything because with close ups, a wider angle can give a distorted look to a subject, but I haven’t really had a big issue with that and most the time they tell me if it is working for me, then go for it!

Picking your lenses doesn’t have be overwhelming and the truth is, you don’t have to have a bag filled with lenses that you most likely wont use anyways.  Pick the style you want and the lens type that works for you (prime or zoom).  You only need two lenses… heck I only use one for everything!   And sometimes you just have to break the rules to get to the style you want and in my eyes… go for it.

Be Awesome,