One of the questions I get asked a lot is why we no longer have a studio – even with it being 4 years since we moved out of studio photography! And it’s one of the easiest questions for me to answer: because I don’t love it.

This leads to me explaining why not… Somewhere in between 2007 – 2011 photography style began to change. Also around this time, I became a mom. In doing the photos in our studio and editing, I realized that this was not the type of photography I enjoyed. I didn’t like setting up props for and having kiddos sit in one spot. And one of the things that were hardest for me, was the selection of photos I was “supposed” to give clients. Perfect pictures of their kids smiling right at the camera. I’d come across a picture taken behind the scenes, while getting my settings correct of a momma dressing her little one for the next set, and I so badly wanted to add it to the gallery. But in the early years of my career, it just wasn’t “normal” to do that.

I decided sometime between 2013 or 2014 that if I really wanted this to be a life-long career, I’d have to change my focus (get it? cheesy, sorry) on what makes me happy and what I want my clients to have. This meant closing our studio storefront and becoming a lifestyle photographer.

Now don’t get me wrong… I do love a good studio newborn session! But when I can, I encourage all of my clients to consider a lifestyle session.

Since the change, I’d like to think that I have grown tremendously in myself, by being able to capture what I want. To me, it’s the little glimpses of a momma getting her baby ready that are moments to remember. Don’t get me wrong, a sweet babe smiling for the camera is so great!! But with going into the session as it being a lifestyle session, it creates way less stress for the families and they have way more fun. Instead of force smiles, you get genuine happiness.

And I get to show my clients all of the photos from the session that I love. Not just the ones that fit into the box of studio portrait photography.

Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer
Grand Rapids Photographer

 

 

Family Lifestyle Photography

If you were to ask me what my favorite thing to photograph is, it would most definitely be families! Family lifestyle photography sessions are my passion because there is so much love that shows through. It’s different than a bride and groom on their wedding day. It’s in the details of how big brothers walk their little sisters around a garden, holding her hand. Or how momma gets the BEST smile out of babes. In how time spent on a trampoline with your dad and brother is the best. And in how giggles from her baby can make a momma beam.

Most of all, it’s through the relationships that we’ve made and the friendships created through these sessions that have grown our business over the last 10 years. People welcome me into their homes to capture glimpses of their lives. As a result, pieces of their family are documented forever. These are details that make my job so special.

 

Making Your Family Shine

If you’ve looked at your friends’ photos and thought “my family would never act that way for photos, ” I want you to know that you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Because of the way we plan and organize, your session is way less of an ordeal than it was in the days of typical family portrait photography. Therefore, the grumbles from your husband will be few and there won’t be tears from your kiddos :)! Family lifestyle photography sessions are much more casual. I try to incorporate things that matter most to you and your family. In addition, information on your favorite places to spend your time, games you like to play, hobbies you love, and special people in your life are SO important! And the best thing is that the details make your family – and your photos – shine!

I do get the question of if I travel outside of the Holland, Zeeland, Grand Rapids area… the answer is “YES!” 🙂 Like our Facebook Page to see different locations and sessions!

Let’s get your session scheduled! Contact me to reserve your date.

Family Lifestyle Photography

Family Lifestyle Photography Grand Rapids
grand rapids photographer
Family Lifestyle Photography Grand Rapids
grand rapids photographer
Family Lifestyle Photography Grand Rapids
grand rapids photographer
Family Lifestyle Photography Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Photographer.

It’s spring here in West Michigan… or is it? 🙂

I’ve been itching to get outside and photograph families again. One of the hardest parts of being a Grand Rapids photographer is that much of the year it’s crummy outside. Yes, I have studios available, but I’d much rather capture families where they spend their time together. Rolling around in the grass, playing in the sand, or making s’mores by a fire. These are all things that will have to wait for now, as we pull out our snow boots and warm coats for round 3 of winter. 🙁

One thing that I do enjoy about February – May is time to get caught up on things I haven’t been able to do in the hustle of summer & fall photography life. I realize around this time of the year, every year, that I’ve neglected to update the blog with recent sessions. It’s a task that definitely gets pushed to the “later” list. Not because I don’t enjoy sharing photographs (if you want to see our most recent work, hop on over to our Facebook Page!) but because it can be time-consuming.

Well, my friends… it’s “later”! While you mourn the loss of spring while you look out your window, enjoy a few summery photos and remember that summer does happen in Michigan. We are almost there! Hang tight!

Grand Rapids Photographer

Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer Grand Rapids Photographer

Grand Rapids Newborn Photographer

I had the pleasure of capturing sweet Mary Ann & her family. Her momma, Bethany is a friend of mine and  I was able to photograph both of her little babes when they came home from the hospital.

One of the things I love most about my job is getting to spend time with families shortly after they bring their little ones home. This is such a special time and is definitely one of my most favorite to document.

Invisible Scars

She’s bubbly. She always has a beaming smile and a silly giggle. She’s confident and never turns down a challenge.

But yet she’s covered in invisible scars. Ones that only those closest to her can see. She hides behind her pretty looks and long flowing hair. She’s mastered the art of being “happy” and knows that a fun girl doesn’t have to answer questions. A happy girl doesn’t get bothered. A bossy girl sets the rules…Gets to “be in control”… Gets to choose.

She carries more baggage than most adults. In her young 5 and a half years, she’s had to move to 5+ different homes. If you ask her about her mom, she’ll say she’s never had one. She’s been hurt so many times. And a previous caregiver tried to rip her from the only consistent person in her life, her little brother, by encouraging her to betray him.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease. There were never a truer statement for her. In the months since they have been here, nearly all of our energy has gone into helping her brother. We know she has the same trauma as him. It just shows differently. It doesn’t “seem” as urgent.

But she is struggling now. She’s lost. She’s falling deep within the trauma. She shows no true emotion…. Just buries it.

I so badly want her to just cry – to get it all out. How bad is that?! It gives me a complex just saying that. How do you reach a child with limited language who is stonewalled?

She’s mastered how to survive and all of the invisible scars on her brain and heart hone her skills.

How many people do you know with invisible scars? If you could see them, how would you help them?

Grief

Things don’t always turn out how you thought they would.

Two and a half years ago, while very pregnant with our Sadie I stenciled this onto her bedroom wall. I picked colors and decorations for her nursery that could “grow with her”. At that point in our life, to me, that bedroom would always be hers.

Here we are, nearly 2 months after signing the intent to adopt E & J (4 months since they were placed in our home), and I had to paint over this wall yesterday. Every time I put J to bed I felt bad that he was in a girly room. So we made the room his, with boy colors, a boy bed, and cars & truck bedding.

If I’m being honest though, painting this room is not something that I wanted to do. We chose this journey, yes, but in it, we’ve given so much of our family. To me, I “gave” this room to Sadie. Picked the colors, decorations, and painted with her in my belly. I searched for the perfect lampshade, changed the knobs on the dresser drawers and picked out the pictures and artwork while shopping with a friend.

This room was her room. But it hasn’t actually been hers since October 24th, where we scrambled to move her crib and clothes out, and abruptly took down all of the girly decorations because we had 3 hours notice that we were getting a new placement.

As I painted yesterday, I was sadder than I wanted to be. I was giving a little boy his first ever room that was just for him… This should feel good! But that feeling just wasn’t there for me. Instead was a feeling of grief. I’m realizing that I won’t always feel what I “should” but I have to be easy on myself. I’ll get there.

Survival Mode

I used to be a planner.

I’d write everything down because I liked to watch the ink of a nice pen flow to paper.

I’d make “To Do” lists, and would write items down I’d already completed for the satisfaction of marking it completed.

These days I find myself, my family, in complete survival mode. Instead of looking ahead to plans for the month or week, I live life 2 minutes at a time.

Multiple days a week we have professionals fill our home. There is no privacy. Every aspect of our lives is open to people who we barely know, who have opinions on how to raise our kids.

The dark hole on my phone known as “Messages” has become somehow even more unnoticed.

I’m now the mom who sends her kids to school with no hat and only 1 glove. JRL books get done if there weren’t melt downs. And the chance that I remember the popcorn quarter is slim.

Through this all, I find time to work. It’s an added stress, but it’s also a huge stress reliever. If I’m not creating, I’m not myself. It’s a catch 22.

Through all of the juggling appointments and big feelings, managing our home, business, and family of 7, I’ve learned how important grace is. In giving and receiving.

 

E was sick this week. I suspected an ear infection, so after Andrew got home one evening I took her in to urgent care.

I could tell right away she felt uneasy being in that building. She was sick often in a previous (relative) placement, and I suspect being in a medical-type setting is a trigger for her. She shut down the minute we walked in.

We were called back to the little room for registration. The sight of her sitting alone in the chair beside me, not feeling well, and battling big feelings inside broke my heart. She didn’t want to sit on my lap though, and I had to respect that.

I felt flustered when the lady doing the registration started asking questions. We’re in the awkward stage in between foster care and adoption finalization. To me, I’m her mom. She’s my kid. To the state, she’s still a permanent ward. She does not have my last name… I do not have her social security number or insurance card. Her medical passport is a joke, barely completed. I vaguely remember seeing in one of the stacks of papers that she has a possible antibiotic allergy, but it’s not confirmed anywhere. Is she up to date on immunizations? I think so? All I have that connects she and I is a little piece of paper. Not much bigger than a post it note, that states I’m her foster mom and lists (what little) rights I have to her medical care and an insurance recipient number.

I handed it over to the lady and tried to briefly explain, by spelling… “I’m her f-o-s-t-e-r mom. We’re pre a-d-o-p-t-i-v-e. It’s not final yet. This is all I have for the proof of health insurance.”

We waited while the lady input the information. I could see her glancing at E, before she caught her eyes and said “Well, it’s nice you get to be adopted, it’s it?”

I looked at E and froze. She was glaring at the woman, not saying a word and I did nothing to react. I wanted to crawl in a hole… Overwhelming feelings of “How dare you tell that to a 5 year old foster child?!” “She doesn’t GET to be adopted.” “Please don’t react E.” “Tell her how you feel E!” “How can you be so stupid?” “She’s just naive to foster care.” “This is the problem with people.” “Give grace, she doesn’t know.”

Every feeling and every thought ran through my mind. I don’t even remember leaving the little room, but thankfully we were done in there after that.

An hour later, we had an ear infection diagnosis and were headed to the pharmacy. The whole time I replayed it in my head. I wish I would have known what to say to the lady. I still don’t know.

I was able to talk through it with E on the drive. She was crushed and I’m sure it will stick with her for awhile, if not forever. It’s easier to explain the situation to a 5 year old, thankfully the words came… “You don’t GET to be adopted E, we GET to adopt YOU.”

This phrase started as a “filler phrase” at bedtime – after the nightly hug and goodnight kiss. Filling up the spot of “I love you.” I said it to the boys we had this summer and I say it to E & J.

Immediately after I say it each time, there’s a great sadness. “I’m happy you are here.” It’s true, I am happy that they are here, and I was happy to have the boys here this summer as well.

But they are here because of brokenness. And that statement is a constant reminder. They are probably thinking “How could you be happy I’m here? I’m here because something went wrong, and you’re happy?!” Or perhaps they’ve never been told that they make someone happy.

Children enter foster care because of domestic violence, physical abuse, parental drug abuse, neglect, and many other reasons. The wounds they bare are often times hidden.

J makes his scars shown thru challenging behaviors. E is much “better” at hiding hers. In fact, she is often described as “bubbly and always smiling”, but what those people don’t know is that she is hiding behind that smile.

Through the months, I no longer need a “filler phrase”, these kiddos have my heart and “I love you” feels right. But I still add in that I’m happy to have them here. Somehow it feels right in a sad kind of way.

 

 

Kaitie & Rob

Riley Trails Holland Michigan Photographers

As Holland Michigan Photographers I love all of the amazing locations nearby. For Kaitie & Rob’s engagement session we headed to Riley Trails in Holland and it was perfect! Riley Trails is one of my favorite locations.

Kaitie & Rob

The moment I met Kaitie & Rob I knew that I wanted to be a part of their big day. Kaitie reminds me so much of my biggest girl, Kenlie, with her love for nature. Plus her personality is SO fun! I am SO looking forward to their big day as I know it will be a special one. Look how seriously cute they are!

Riley Trails, Holland Michigan

Why Riley Trails? You know those amazing tall pines that everyone loves? Well Riley trails is full of these very trees. As a photographer I love those trees because they are such a simple backdrop, but are visually pleasing. And the park is just minutes away from Lake Michigan. This is definitely a bonus for those who would like a beach location in addition to a woodsy spot.

 

Riley Trails Engagement Session