Maine in the Summer

The biggest mistake most people make on vacation is to photograph everything - to have the camera at the ready all day. I have a simple padded insert for my beloved Everlane backpack and that's where I store it until it's needed. I learned long ago that nobody wants a camera in their face for the entire vacation. And tolerance for waiting while I take a photo goes down exponentially with every minute. So I try my best to keep photography to a minimum when we're supposed to be enjoying a restful and exciting time together.

I also have have to manage my expectations.

Because I'm a so-called "professional photographer", my bar for vacation photos is pretty high. I want every image to be artistic and beautiful. In reality, that doesn't actually happen. I want the types of photos I produce for my clients, only that too is impossible, because the point of a vacation is NOT to get family photos - it's to play and discover and to walk around in the middle of the day when the sun is harsh and awful and hot.. or you decide to hike 3 miles over some crazy wooden boardwalk and huge rocks and you're too busy focusing on survival (and sweating) to even consider taking photos. Nobody wants to pause to pose for the camera!

The one time we actually did go out during the golden hour, it was our last night in Maine and we got bitten by mosquitos and almost didn't make it back to the car before the sun disappeared completely. So there's that.

There are only a few things you can really count on:

  1. You can get that perfect shot of your 2-year old walking away from you, pretty much any time you want.
  2. Nobody will ever actually look at the camera. And trying to get more than 2 people looking at the camera at the same time is like not gonna happen no matter how much you wave your arms and yell in their general direction.
  3. You will have to sprint to catch up with your family every 2 minutes.
  4. You will get lots of practice aiming the camera and pressing the shutter with one hand while giving your toddler a piggy back ride.
  5. You will forget to actually be in the photos yourself. (Unless you force your hubby to take some photos of you and your boys literally at the last possible moment before you leave and then settle on one where you don't look completely horrible)

And Maine was absolutely gorgeous. We hiked Acadia National Forest trails and stayed in a lovely little cabin. I read every day. And the kids complained only some of the time. We didn't get any perfect family photos, but I did try to capture what we did almost every day, even if that meant photographing my lovely family walking away, and leaving me behind, with my camera.

A Letter to my Son, on his Second Birthday.

Dear Elliot,

You are now officially 2 years old, although I felt like you were two for several months now. It could have been the constant tantrums, the end-of-the-world tears, or the bossy demands that made me feel that way.. or the fact that you're understanding more and more, starting to say "thank you mommy" and "please" (you know I can't deny you anything when you do), or the squeeeezes, kisses, and hugs you give me when I ask.

You are turning into a boy with every passing day. You're always thinking of others - you're learning to share, you try so hard to clean up your messes, and you actually put away toys when asked. You request your backpack every time we go to pick up your big brother from school. You eat constantly throughout the day, and if I'm lucky, you will actually consume all of your dinner once in a while (and after about an hour at the table). Your favorite seems to be pasta.. and pizza of course. And you definitely love apple sauce, which you eat about four times a day.

You get numbers. You can count to ten, which is often followed by "Jump!". You're starting to understand shapes, but you still confuse your colors. You call your favorite yellow shirt "red" (pictured below), which I dare say, is inaccurate. You adore rocks and often pick one up when we walk outside. You then throw them, even if we're indoors and the rock happens to be huge. You cried once when I made you leave a large boulder outside. Your big brother covered it with snow so you would leave it behind - he made it a little snow house.

You've completely appropriated my iPad mini. Your favorite shows are Umi Zoomi, Mikey Mouse Club House, and Animal Mechanicals. Your favorite activity seems to be to pull out all the DVDs and the remote control batteries, and spread them out on the living room floor (if we're lucky, you will also throw them all around the house). You climb on the kitchen island, with your whole body, to find little treasures you're not supposed to have. You scream "Oh! Find it!!" every time you get your hands on something good. You yell "Catch!" when you throw things at my face, usually when it's already too late.

You demand my house keys to open doors and press all elevator buttons. You never willingly hold my hand.. unless you sometimes do, and it totally melts my heart. I walk, holding on to your little fingers, so proud and so thankful that you are mine.

5 KonMari-inspired ideas for displaying photographs at home

Christmas 2014, my well-meaning husband gifted me a copy of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book spoke directly to my practical mindset and filled me with a desire to get rid of absolutely everything that wasn't loved or essential. About 6 months later (no thanks to a full-time corporate job and 2 children), I finally had my pared down household with approximately 65% less STUFF than before.

Which brings me to some of the most precious items we have to go through during a full-on-tidying of the home.. photographs.

I certainly had too many photos. Lots that we got from daycare. Plenty that I've printed over the years. I didn't need so many, and I wasn't enjoying them in that state of clutter anyway. So I sought better ways of displaying, storing, and keeping photographs in my home.. ways that fit into Marie Kondo's philosophy of keeping a home tidy and beautiful.

Marie Kondo advises making an album of all the precious photographs for yourself, or for a family member, to enjoy.. but I went a step beyond that since scrapbooking isn't really my style. (I also have commitment issues, but that's another story.) So I put together 5 of my favorite way to store and display photographs that are both stylish, pretty to behold, and tidy.. because.. well... because it's important.

... having come this far, I can no longer buy something just to make do. Instead, I consider the design, the feel, the convenience, and every other factor important to me extremely carefully until I find one that I really love. And that means that the one I choose is the very best, something that I will cherish all my life.
— Marie Kondo

1. Yearly Family Photo Books or Albums

There is a definite advantage to making a printed family book of images every year.. or decade (up to you!). Photo books are typically more compact than slide-in photo albums, and usually a lot more beautiful to behold. You can have a neatly organized shelf full of these "Family Yearbooks" and it will look gorgeous, and neat.

A book that contains a full year's (or several years) worth of images is a lot more meaningful that individual albums people often purchase from photographers.. it tells the full story. Don't get me wrong, those gorgeous professional photo albums are totally drool-worthy, but if you're trying to cut back on stuff in your home, it makes a lot more sense to consolidate everything into one book. Just be sure to get the digital images or extra copies your professional photos so you can include them in your family's yearbook/album.

Taking the time to put one of these books together is tough, and it's a lot of effort.. but I think it's worth it if you're the type of person that really enjoys this way of looking at images. There are so many options out there, but I really found that Artifact Uprising does the best job is terms of printing quality and ease of use.. and they have options for just about every budget. Win, win!

 Softcover Books from Artifact Uprising ($17.99+)

Softcover Books from Artifact Uprising ($17.99+)

 Hardcover book from Artifact Uprising ($69+)

Hardcover book from Artifact Uprising ($69+)

 Layflat photo album from Artifact Uprising ($119+)

Layflat photo album from Artifact Uprising ($119+)


A collection of small frames can look stunning, but it can also look cluttered (and sometimes askew). Large, oversized, impactful images on the wall can add a personal touch to your interiors and look tidy. It's also less stuff to clean. 

With frames, quality matters. If you want the ability to change the print down the line (meaning the frame is more of a long-term investment), be sure to select an option that allows you to do that. Solid wood frames are best, of course. An 8-ply mat and quality printing is a must for an upscale look. And plexiglass is better to have around kids than the traditional glass option.

But it's hard finding a really amazing vendor for frames. So, I was absolutely thrilled, after years of searching, to stumble upon Saw & Mitre. Their frames are priced to match the quality and the craftsmanship, and there is no way I'm getting a frame from anywhere else.. but there are other, cheaper, options out there, too.

 Handmade wood & metal museum-quality frames from Saw & Mitre ($140+)

Handmade wood & metal museum-quality frames from Saw & Mitre ($140+)

 Gallery Frames from Artifact Uprising ($99+)

Gallery Frames from Artifact Uprising ($99+)

3. A Memory Box

I have one of these for each of my children. Throughout the year, I print a few meaningful photos and place them in their special memory box for safe storage. When the kids grow up, they will have a perfectly curated collection of images from their childhood all ready to go.

This method is perfect for me because I don't have to commit to an album's worth of images, the boxes can be stored in a drawer or displayed on a shelf, and I can also include special keepsakes like ticket stubs and small drawings. It's the perfect KonMari approach for storing precious printed photographs without taking up too much space or causing unnecessary clutter.

You can use anything as a keepsake box, find some wonderful handmade wood options on Etsy, or invest in one when you work with a professional photographer. Just make sure the box won't damage the photo paper during storage, and you're set.

 The handmade linen presentation box I offer to my photography clients as part of the Luxury Collections.

The handmade linen presentation box I offer to my photography clients as part of the Luxury Collections.

4. A Photo Display Stand

A photo stand with numerous photographs has so many advantages over the traditional arrangement of tabletop frames. There is less dusting and cleaning involved (can you tell that I really hate dusting?). You can swap photographs for a fresh new look anytime you wish. Everything is tidy and in one designated spot.. not to mention that these look very stylish. It's also really fun for kids to sort through the photos (although my toddler likes it a bit too much, if you know what I mean) and you can easily refresh the images by ordering additional prints.

I have one of these wood stands from Artifact Uprising, but I also include a custom-made walnut stand with all of my Collections. I think it's important to have a way to easily display images without the need to invest in (or clean) frames, and really nothing beats the joy of seeing a new photograph in a familiar spot, am I right?

 Wood block & print from Saw & Mitre ($40+)

Wood block & print from Saw & Mitre ($40+)

 Wood block and prints from Artifact Uprising ($23.99)

Wood block and prints from Artifact Uprising ($23.99)

 Matted prints and stand from N. Lalor Photography

Matted prints and stand from N. Lalor Photography

5.  Online

While I'm sure any photographer you ask will insist that nothing beats a printed image, but maybe you just don't want that much paper around. Maybe you have hundreds of photos you'd like to keep, just not all at once, and in your home. You can, in fact, keep your photos safe and sound online, if you follow a few simple guidelines.

First of all, the primary place you keep your photos should be easy to organize, live in the cloud (or a personal server that is accessible online), and not degrade the quality of your images (sorry, Facebook). I personally love, and use, flickr. I keep most of my images private and share them only with family, who can download and print photos of their grandchildren all they like without bugging me. I can access my photos from anywhere and download a full-resolution copy whenever I want. I do keep them organized and neat and don't post any that aren't worth keep to begin with. If you have a hard-drive full of repeat, blurry, or unflattering photos, you'll need to go through them first and select only the ones you'd like to keep (and yes, delete the rest).

But you also need a backup. Because digital media is transitory, prone to corruption, and can become obsolete within a few years. External hard drives, a second online backup, and keeping a copy on your computer, are all good options. You just can't rely on one place to keep your digital images safe and sound for more than 5 years (or even 5 minutes in some cases). 

The ideal, of course, is to print and display your favorite photos, keeping the rest digital (safely). It's important to enjoy images in the truly best form of printed photographs, whether they're hanging on the wall, displayed on your desk, or printed in a book. Like Marie Kondo's methodology, you need to hold these precious objects in your hand so you can feel the bond that connects us to our memories.. and, it's a lot easier on the eyes than starring at a screen, too.

I hope your found this post useful and fun.. if you have a favorite way of displaying or storing your photos, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and let me know!

There's NO Monopoly on Taking Great Photos

Photographers are competitive by nature. We follow each other on Facebook, review our competitor's websites, and feel a pang of jealousy every time someone posts a beautiful photo that we didn't take. 

It is all extremely foolish.

Moms with cameras have just as much right to take the most beautiful photos of their children as we do. Other photographers, whether they're just starting out or are well-established, can capture amazing images.. and by doing so, they do not take away our ability to do the same. There is no monopoly on taking a great photo - anyone, and I mean anyone, can do it.

There is a lot of snobbery in the photography business. A lot of rampant jealousy and guarding of trade secrets. There is a belief that professional photographers do something completely magical and inaccessible to the "common folk". We fight hard for this belief - the notion that we do something that anyone else with a camera cannot. That is all bullshit. Anyone can learn to do what we do - in fact, that's how we ourselves got here. Nobody is born with the ability to pick up a camera knowing how to use it... what settings to use, how to look at light, and how to make people look pretty. Some of us are more talented than others, but in the beginning, we are encouraged more by luck than ability.

I follow several photographers who I admire. Some of them are world-famous. Some are local businesses who simply do great work. I like seeing their photographs and every time I do, I say to myself "That is AMAZING!". The fact that others are able to product gorgeous images does not diminish my abilities.. not even a bit.

I also have mom friends who have DSLRs. They take photos of their babies and children and post those gorgeous images on Facebook. It's very easy to think that they're somehow encroaching on my livelihood. But come on! I couldn't be happier to see moms documenting their little bundles of joy without the need of hiring a professional photographer (and btw, there is nothing wrong with doing so). What I want to do, instead of feeling jealous or threatened, is help them understand their camera better. Teach them what took me years (years!!) to learn so they can take even better photos of their kids.. lead them past all the technical barriers and offer straight-forward practical advice on all things photography.

I know a lot of photographers are extremely guarded with their methods. They prohibit cellphone pictures and have their clients sign contracts that forbid sharing anything they saw. I am not like that. In fact, I am really happy to answer any photography-related questions my clients feel the inclination to ask. I could spend the whole day talking about that stuff! Light, camera equipment, lenses, settings, why this one spot in your home is best for pictures.. I seriously don't mind. And I'm so happy to share my knowledge. I want all families to have better photos of their children, even if I'm not the one who took them.

So starting now, I will be offering in-person photography lessons to all the Moms and Dads in the area (Fairfield County, CT) who want to get the most out of their fancy DSLR camera. I feel like there is so much confusion about all those camera settings and features, and nothing would make me happier than having the opportunity to demystify the process of getting great photos! :D

A Boy's Visit to the American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History in New York is the most wonderful place for a 5-year old boy obsessed with dinosaurs. Graham and I have been talking about dinosaur fossils (and watching documentaries) for several months now. That, along with space exploration, has been absolutely fascinating to re-discover now that I'm an adult. The amazing findings that have been made in the last century are just mind boggling. 

It was my idea to take Graham out of school for a day (while his little brother was enjoying daycare, of course) and make the trip to NYC to visit the museum. We've been at odds lately. He's having a tough time keeping his hands to himself at school. He gets so very excited and has trouble controlling his body. His little brother certainly gets a lot of attention around the house, which I'm sure doesn't help him feel special. This was something we could do together, just the two of us.. like the good old days.

And really, I'm up for just about anything if I can bring my camera along. ;)

5 Things You NEED to Look Good in Photos

I spent years avoiding any camera pointed in my direction. Years. I couldn't help it. I simply looked awful whenever someone took a photo of me. I realized later, after learning all about photography, that you needed a few simple things to take a good photo of someone (or yourself). Turns out these five things really matter when taking a portrait.. and they truly determine whether you look amazing or not so good in the photos you appear in.

1. Beautiful Light

Light is everything. If you don't have beautiful light, you might as well pack up and go home right now, because no amount of posing and Photoshop is going to save your photograph. That's why I start every session with finding the best light, whether indoors or out. So before taking a photo of yourself or your loved ones, simply stop and look at what the light is doing. Are you putting your poor subjects into a super-sunny area causing them to squint and sweat? Are there bright hotspots on their faces because they're standing under a tree? Do they have raccoon eyes because the sun is right above them, casting all sorts of hard shadows? Light matters! The direction of it, the intensity, and the quality (feel free to look up "color casts"). If you want to start with something easy, simply stand in a room facing a window (one that has a semi-sheer white curtain) and take a selfie. Your face will look perfectly beautiful without much effort. This also works in restaurants, btw. So if you want to look amazing for your lunch date, simply pick the seat that faces the window.


2. Flattering Clothing

Clothes should fit really well and look flattering on your body. It seems like such a simple thing, but anything that doesn't fit well will look ten times worse in photos. It will bulge and pucker and make your body appear unattractive. Dark shades will make you look slimmer, of course. Textures photograph beautifully. Neutral colors are simple and timeless. Coordinating is way better than matching. And your personal style should always come through. Clothes also look different in photos then they do in real life (you heard that the camera adds 10 pounds, right?). Taking a phone pic of your outfit on you will give you a good idea of whether it's working or not. And remember, white draws a lot of attention in a photo.


3. Good Hair & Makeup

Have you ever seen a TV news broadcaster in person? If you ever have, you probably noticed that her entire face was a mask of makeup. Cameras have a tendency to tone down makeup colors quite a bit. With the super-high resolution we're sporting nowadays, makeup goes a long way to smooth out skin-tones. And if you want your hair to look good, you really have to take the time to wash, blow dry and style it. This takes time and effort, but the camera doesn't magically make you look beautiful out of nowhere. It doesn't make your hair look full and luscious if it's greasy and dull. Things simply do NOT work that way. And you don't need to look like a 1980's pop star with your makeup - you simply need to even out the color of your skin, have full lashes, a little bit of blush, and some color or gloss on your lips. The camera is not kind and you have to give it something to work with, right?

4. Natural-Looking Posing

Posing. My favorite subject! What does "posing" make you think of? Standing stiffly holding your partner's hand while the photographer takes your picture? Pretending to be a model by cradling your face with your ballerina hands? Natural-looking posing is different. It helps people look NORMAL in pictures. People who are being photographed tend to hold a lot of tension in their hands and lips. They don't know what to do with their legs (hint: put the weight on your back foot). And they simply forget how to be human the moment the camera makes the appearance (I speak from personal experience of course). This makes for really awkward-looking photos. Not having a straight spine will make you look like a hunchback without you even realizing it. Your claw-hands will distract from your beautiful face. And what you think is your natural laugh will give you a triple chin. There's a reason Mindy Kaling puts her hand on her hip in photos - she knows what looks good and what works for her. So the truth is, knowing how to pose is really really important! And if you don't know what works, you better hope the person taking your picture can tell you if you're looking awful so you can fix it.

5. A Relaxed or Happy Expression

I really struggle with this one. My relaxed expression looks like I'm a little grumpy. So I have to always remember to smile just a little bit with my eyes. For me, candid images are the worst - because if I'm really laughing, I simply don't look very good. For some people candid photos are the only time they look relaxed and posing in any way makes them freeze up with a truly horrified wide-eyed look. I try to do a little bit of both during my sessions. Parents are told where and how to sit, where to look, and what to do.. but the expressions are always genuine. And if you're quick enough, you can catch that split second when everyone is nice and relaxed. Your best bet is to take the photo before everyone realizes they have a camera pointed on them, so really, you have about a second before smiles start looking really strained. Don't wait!

And... 6. Photoshop

Photoshop is part of my workflow. It's what I use to enhance the images of the families I photograph, and it helps tremendously to elevate the look of a photograph. You don't NEED Photoshop. But if you're paying a professional photographer to capture memories that you will cherish forever, one should hope they're using the tools of the trade to make everything look impeccable.

And when kids are involved, it's really hard to perfectly cover all the bases. Someone will undoubtedly turn their face ever so slightly away from the perfect light. Your arm might end up in a position that doesn't slim you down as much as it should. You may have that double-chin from laughing as you tickle your 4-year old. Maybe you just had a baby and would rather not remember what a certain area of your body looks like postpartum. Photoshop is a magical tool that can remedy the distortions of the camera with a certain amount of skill. I use Photoshop to remove any distracting elements that either should not be there or would not be noticed if you were looking at that person in real life. Things like.. under-eye circles. Our brain glosses over the bags under the eyes and fills in color variations on the skin to make the person look just fine. In photographs, those things jump as the first things we notice. Photoshop can be used for good and for evil (just like any tool) and I choose to use it to enhance the image and make a photo look more like what our eyes and brain see everyday. It's not easy and it takes practice (I've had over 10 years worth).. but it can be a wonderful way to make an ordinary photograph into something that can easily grace the pages of a magazine. 

It's amazing the difference the above 5 things make when taking a portrait. The camera you use doesn't matter as much as the light, the expression, and the pose. Taking the time to select the best clothing and actually style your hair pays off tenfold in the end. And hey, even Photoshop for that final touch makes a difference. 

So what about you? Do you like yourself in photos? Or do you avoid cameras like I do? Have you found a certain trick that works really well? I would love to know what it is.. so please leave a comment and share! I would love to hear from you.