House and Family

As you might’ve seen from some recent social media activity, my family will be relocating to the Chicago area in the coming months. It will be an exciting change of pace (and change in weather). Having grown up in the midwest, my wife and I know what we’re getting into. The kids, however, are as clueless as the snowman in Frozen.

In preparing our house for sale, I decided to undertake the real estate photography as my own project. We have a great realtor, and she comes with a photographer. But I wanted to put my spin on the images. I will miss our house — our home — dearly. Taking the real estate photos was as much about giving myself a new photography challenge as it was about taking a moment to reflect and pay tribute to this space.  

Though the technical challenges of lighting and composition were considerably different, in some ways, taking these pictures felt just like doing portrait session. It’s all about trying to communicate something of the soul of your subject.

I’ve captured so many great moments in this house over the years that at first I thought I’d have enough existing photos to use for the real estate listing. But my photo library has very few images without someone in them — not surprising, given my portrait photography focus. I figured that prospective buyers probably wouldn’t want to see my kids running around their new house. So we set up a traditional real estate shoot. The house never looked so clean! With kids (and toys), the difficulty level goes up considerably. As you enjoy each shot, remember that all the toys and clutter are piled up just off camera. That made the shots with multiple rooms extra fun.

Looking back at all those great moments helped me realize how big a role our surroundings play in our family life. The house is just a house, but throw in a few people and the space is defined and enriched. A home almost seems to interact and embrace the family living in it.

Whether you live near the beach, the mountains, the desert, or somewhere in between, take a minute to think about how your space defines your family. You’ll see it in your family photos.

So here are a few candid images with house and family. Enjoy. 

The Photographer Must be Photographed

Jacksonville Beach family photographer.jpg

Are you the designated family photographer in your house? It’s a title that comes with great responsibility—even though it may also come with the occasional eye-roll from your kids. You are the family archivist! You’re responsible for making great images, selecting the annual Christmas card photo, and putting some captivating family portraits on your walls or mantle. It’s no small task.

But through all this selfless service, there’s one more detail you might forget: you!

You must get in front of the camera from time to time! This is just as important in those little everyday moments as it is for those bigger family events. Years from now, you’ll want it documented that you were actually on that fabulous family vacation, or even at your child’s cozy little birthday party.

It’s so easy to grab your camera or iPhone and just assume your role. But next time, make the effort to hand the camera to someone else. Your spouse, your parents, or even your kids (some training required). First, you’ll get to see the scene from someone else’s perspective (a child’s point of view often makes for great and unexpected photographs).  But more importantly, you’ll have images in the collection of you at the event, whatever it might be. For extra credit, make a print at Costco or Target. Decades from now, your children and grandchildren will be so glad you did.

My daughter, just 4 years old at the time, captured this image right in our driveway. It’s not going to win any awards for technique—the lighting isn’t perfect, the focus is a bit soft. But life takes many unexpected turns. And you never know when a technically mediocre photograph will become the one you love the most.

Comfort Food Family Vacation

How long has it been since your last vacation? At our house the day starts at 7am (if we’re lucky). And there’s no sleeping in on weekends. The daily grind of school, work, meal prep, sports, and baths can get tiring.

If we see an opportunity for a long weekend getaway, we take it. With Disney World just a couple hours away from my home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, it makes the perfect trip.

I’ve lost count of my visits to It’s a Small World. And I’m on a first name basis with most of the princesses. Yet, it doesn’t get old. We always return home with a special memory from those few days. I call these little trips our comfort food vacations. We get away from the day to day routine to spend some quality time together in one of the best family vacation spots in the world! As the kids grow, I’m sure the priorities will change, and spending time with mom and dad might not make it to the top of the list. In the meantime, I’m always up for a spin on the Tea Cups.

Everyone has their own favorite vacation spots. The important thing is to take that next trip. You never know what special memory you’ll come away with.

Jacksonville Family Photographer.jpg

Here are some family portrait tips for your next trip:

At Disney, follow the character's lead. They are trained professionals. If Rapunzel tells you move over, do it! If you’ve seen the movie, you know not to give her a hard time. Seriously, all the staff is pretty good at helping you through the basics.

Stow your carry-on. As you make it up to a character spot, take an inventory of your backpacks, fanny packs (yes, you’ll see them), sunglasses, hats, water bottles, etc. Odds are you probably don’t want these items featured in your photo. So be ready to set them aside.

The Disney Photo Pass service is a great option to take the stress off the moment. Just hand your card to a photographer and let him do the work. If you ask nicely, he’ll even take a shot with your phone.  Make sure you get some photos with the whole family. Being the family photograher doesn’t get you out of all the family photos.

Probably the most important tip — just enjoy the moment. Don’t get so caught up in trying to capture the perfect photo that you miss making the memories with your family.


Back to School 2013


Shelby starts VPK tomorrow! That's Florida's state sponsored preschool program, for you out of staters. She's excited for another school year. But with her late birthday she missed the kindergarten cutoff.   She'll be making new friends as some of her old friends move on to kindergarten.  

Aside from school itself, she's most looking forward to starting dance class again. She loved it last year and still remembers her routine from June.

So I figured it was time to capture a little back to school portrait of her as she enters the new school year. We put this one together right outside at home.

I'd love to help you with some back to school photos as your little one heads off to class. Send me a note if you're interested. I could even swing by in the morning as you're getting ready.