Arcadia | Phoenix | Arizona Family Photographer

This Phoenix Family Photographer is finally ready to call Arizona home and feeling inspired to start photographing families in the beautiful, unique landscape that this state has to offer.

To say I’ve been a little reluctant to start my photography business over again here in Phoenix would be a huge understatement. I haven’t just been slow to start or hesitant to get going – I have resisted and I’ve pushed back and I’ve fought it. I have spent a lot of time wondering what else I should do with my life and where I want to go with my professional self; I’ve contemplated returning to teaching, I’ve dreamt of entering the world of interior design, and I’ve even tossed around the idea of selling hair care products to everyone who follows me on social media. Haha.

Here’s the thing. My reluctance isn’t because I don’t want to. My hesitancy has nothing to do with my desire.

It is just so eff-ing scary, y’all.

If I’m being honest (which I try to be, especially when it comes to my opinions and my experiences), I think I have always felt like my business in Denver was based solely on luck. When I first started, I had nice enough friends to hire me and be supportive of me and toot my horn even though I wasn’t sure it deserved tooting. Haha. My friends who trusted me, encouraged me, worked with me, spread my name and relentlessly complimented my work were truly the roots and foundation of my success. And for that, I feel incredibly lucky. Not so much deserving. Just damn lucky.

So starting over is scary.

I mean, what are the chances that I’ll be that lucky again? And it had to have been luck, right? Because it is nearly impossible for me to admit to myself, let alone to anyone else, that I’m good at my craft. That feels SooooooOoOoOOO weird to say. So weird. Weird weird.

But being an artist is a lifelong commitment to being vulnerable.

And photography is personal. Maybe it sounds stupid because at this point, we all have cameras and filters and anyone can take a photo and make it look halfway cool. But to me, this work is art. My goal is to create something beautiful and for my ever-changing clients to find it so beautiful they are moved to tears. Every time I show up for a family photo session, every time I post a sneak peek on social media, every single time I deliver a gallery to my clients, I am saying a little prayer that I’m not actually terrible at what I do. I am constantly putting my heart and soul and art out there for people to like/dismiss/love/hate/judge. It makes me feel exposed and raw and a little twitchy. Cue all the uncomfortable feelings. And pass me a barf bag. Because nerves.

Starting over is scary. It’s terrifying. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s maddening at times – Like, I already DID this, right? I already did the hustle. I already had to prove myself. I already worked my ass off. I already created a successful business in an over-saturated market in an impossible industry. I don’t want to put myself out there again. I don’t want to have to sell myself again.

But then. This.

And this.

I meet this beautiful family here in Phoenix. And we hang out in the desert one evening. Just me and my camera and them and their kids (and maybe a few bags of Pirate’s Booty for bribery). And it’s magical and beautiful and perfect and I fall in love. I fall in love with this Phoenix family – like I did with all of my Colorado families too. I fall in love with this Arizona light and landscape. And I remember how much I love this work and this job. And I’m reminded that maybe I am good at this and I feel like okay, I don’t totally suck. And so maybe just maybe I can do it again.

And to top it all off, just when I’m feeling like maybe it’s time to put myself out there again and maybe it’s worth the work and the risk and the vulnerability, I get this comment from the first family I photographed here in Phoenix. “Arizona Peeps! You NEED to have Virginia take your family pics. This was THE BEST family sesh we have ever had. She is amazing!

And just like that I feel like I have people rooting for me here, and I know I’ve got it in me to start over. To build this business again. To keep putting my heart and soul into the photographs I create and keep finding families that I love and love me and will come back to me year after year and trust me to capture their hearts and their lives in a beautifully real way.

Virginia Stiles is a published, award-winning family photographer located in Phoenix, Arizona. Her business services families in Arcadia, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, North Scottsdale, Camelback, Central Phoenix, Glendale, Tempe, Sedona, Flagstaff, Tuscon and beyond. She is also still available for limited Colorado mountain family sessions. Inquire here for details!

Crested Butte | Colorado Family Photographer

In a women’s photography group that I’m a part of, we were recently encouraged to share images that represented what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown as photographers during our journey.  I think the photos from this mountain family session in Crested Butte, Colorado represent some of my best work and clearly show that I have learned a lot in my short career.  A lot of ladies posted “then and now” photos that represented their obvious growth and development as artists – I was too nervous to do this because some of those “then” photographs of mine are just… wow.  And not wow in a good way.  Haha.

This online discussion got me thinking though, and one of the things I’ve definitely learned is that we are our own worst critics.  I cringe at some of my early photographs because I see so much that’s wrong with them.  But the thing is, I know that my clients still have these photos hanging in their homes and see only what is lovely about them.

I continue to be a critic of myself despite my growth as a photographer.  I know, somewhere inside of me, that I’m good at this… but the self doubt and criticism is almost always there anyway.  Yet, there are SO many people who love my work and believe in me as an artist.

Another thing I’ve learned: As MOMS we are so critical of ourselves.  From the mom guilt that comes along with one of those days where we’re just exhausted and short on patience and *maybe* leave the cartoons on for an hour longer than we think we should.  To the responsibility we take on when our kid hits another in the head with a plastic golf club or pees in the beautiful stream at the Botanic Gardens as if everything our kids do is our fault (yes, both of these things have happened to me, haha).

And that self-criticism shows up SO MUCH when it comes to the way we think we look.  I have had a really hard time with this after baby number two – I don’t look like I used to, my body and weight has changed, and I definitely worry that my days of living a double-chin-free-life are just dead and gone.  This warped view of how we look comes up a lot when photographing families, new moms, and even brides.  We all have something we don’t like about ourselves, we all focus on THE THING that we see in every photo THAT NO ONE ELSE SEES.

I hear it so much – and I vow to my clients that I will use flattering light, flattering poses, and flattering camera angles to help ease those fears.

But here’s the deal.  First of all, ladies.  YOU LOOK AWESOME.  You really do.  I have no frame of reference, so maybe your thighs are bigger than they used to be, or maybe you can’t wear tight shirts anymore, and there’s a chance you have more wrinkles and gray hair than before having kids (I mean, right?!?  Kids!!) But you look beautiful.  The most beautiful thing you can wear is those fabulous kids, and there’s nothing more lovely than a momma hugging on her babies, laughing at their silliness, kissing their cheeks.  Nothing.  It makes me tear up just thinking about it.  The way that you look at that child of yours, the amount of love that you contain in your heart, it is breathtakingly beautiful and awe inspiring.

One last thing that I’ve learned, as a photographer and a mom myself, is this: getting IN the photos with your kids is so much more important that taking photos of your kids.  The photographs of your children are for you.  But the photographs you have taken of YOU with your children – those are for your kids.  Those will be their favorite photos.  Those images will be what they hold on to and cherish and keep close to them.  And I promise, they won’t be like, “I love this picture of me and my mom from when I was four, all except I feel like she could have lost a little weight before the photo shoot.  See?  Don’t you think her calves look a little thick?”

My point?  We are such critics of ourselves in so many areas of our lives and I feel like that keeps us from taking risks… putting ourselves out there, professionally, artistically, socially, emotionally… and the risk of getting in front of the camera to be in photos with our kids.

But you tell me, do these photos convince you that it’s worth it?  And seriously, how gorgeous is this momma and her sweet family?


Ken Caryl | Family Photography

Family session booked, haircuts looking fresh, reluctant husband on board, weather forecast is looking lovely, mountain location picked.  BUT WHAT WILL WE WEAR?!?!

I have to admit, I am SO glad the days of matching family outfits where everyone wears jeans, tan shoes, and white shirts are in the past.  While there are times in which that look can work… family photos on the beach, anyone!?!… I love that the trend is moving away from matching and more towards expressing personality, showing personal style, and embracing pops of color and patterns.

Not to stress you out, but what you wear to a family photo shoot is the second most important thing when it comes to creating beautiful images and loving your photos (the number one thing being: SMILE AND BE PLAYFUL).  Images are visual (duh), and it’s important to create visual interest through use of colors, layers, textures, and patterns.  You can have a gorgeous backdrop, and the light can be just perfect, and your kids can be adorable… but there’s not a lot I can do if you all show up in black shirts and dark jeans.

Fear not!  I don’t just tell you this and then toss you out on your own to sink or swim.  My clients receive a pretty awesome What to Wear guide when they book with me, and I am available day and night (okay, maybe not night… I have a 6 month old and go to bed at like 8:30 p.m., haha) to give advice.  One of my favorite things about being a family photographer is when I get to step in and be a friend.  Clients often send me emails, text pics, or share Pinterest boards to get feedback on the clothes they’re picking out for their family, and I love this part of my job.  I miss the days of living with 5 girlfriends in college and always having another girl around to help me pick out my shoes, give me advice on what top is the cutest, and even dish out some honesty if a particular pair of pants makes my ass look big.  I think most spouses know better than to open that can of worms… ha!  So, I get excited when clients reach out and let me get involved in their wardrobe selection.

A few of the most important tips I give a family before their photo session include:

*Wear clothes that fit.  Little ones can get swallowed up in clothes that are too big.  Similarly, Dad’s XL baggy shirt can make him look like a boy in man’s clothing.  And I TOTALLY get that a loose dress can feel like it hides our imperfections, but sometimes a great pair of jeans and a fitted top actually make you look slimmer than a bunch of flowing fabric that hangs awkwardly as you bend to pick up your toddler.

*Don’t be scared of color or fun patterns.  Pops of color add interest and make photos fun.  Patterns, when used well, are also a great way to step up your wardrobe game.  If you’re not comfortable in stripes or polka dots, put them on your kids!

*Matching is out.  Coordinating is in.  You don’t all have to wear the same color, and your kids don’t need to be in the same skirt, top, and matching bow.  I feel like the more color, layers, textures, and patterns you use, the more personality and fun shows through in your photos.  If you wear a pink dress, maybe put your son in a pink bow tie or give Dad some pink socks that peek out in a few pictures.   Consider what colors look good together, but avoid putting everyone in the same thing.  You’re a family.  You’re getting family photos together.  We get it.  You don’t have to all match for that idea to come through in your images.

*Consider your surroundings.  Dress for the weather and for the landscape.  A sundress when there is snow on the ground looks a bit absurd.  And a fancy dress and high heels just don’t work if you’re on a dirt trail in the mountains.

*Show off your personality.  I love it when clients take risks and get a little spunky and creative with their outfits.  While you might not wear a tulle skirt on most days, why not take the opportunity to rock one while doing family photos in a cool urban location?  If you’re bold, be bold in your clothing choice.  If you’re fun, go for a fun hat for Dad and suspenders for your kids and spunky shoes for Mom.  If you’re clam and relaxed, pick neutral earth tones, soft textures, and some flowy fabrics.  Whatever you do, just amp it up and add some spice to your everyday attire.

I loved that this fun family went for pops of color to show their spunk, and that Mom went for comfortable yet cute, so that everyone could run and play on our hike in the valley.  The colors and patterns add some personality and interest to their photos… not that these boys needed any help in the personality department.  :)

Denver Photographer | Wedding Albums

As a photographer in the Denver area, I have been so lucky to be a part of people’s happiest moments and most monumental milestones, all while seeing some incredibly beautiful parts of Colorado and beyond.  My job has taken me to Mexico on several occasions, to Jackson Hole, Carbondale, Beavercreek, Breckenridge, Estes Park, Aspen, Crested Butte, Colorado Springs, Telluride, Rocky Mountain National Park, Boulder, Golden, Ohio, Seattle, Boise, and Austin, and it has shown me little pockets of loveliness all over Denver that I never would have known about without the involvement of my incredible clients.  I love that my job means being a part of people’s lives on a somewhat intimate level, and it’s an added bonus that it often means I get to travel and explore and spend time in some gorgeous places.

Something else that I truly love about my job is helping my clients turn their digital files into tangible keepsakes.  Whether that’s just ordering prints that will stand the test of time, to be passed down from one generation to the next, or showing them gorgeous options for displaying their photos in a wall gallery, I really do believe in the value of printing and displaying our photos, regardless of who takes the photo or where you buy the print.   The artsy, aesthetic, home-decorator and design enthusiast in me also really enjoys the creative aspect of this part of my job.  I have so much fun creating wall gallery layouts and designing albums that tell a story.  There’s more to it than just printing out pics or throwing them all in a book.

I’ve recently been working on a few different albums and books for my 2015 brides, and I get so excited when they arrive in the mail.  Seeing the photos printed gives me goosebumps – there’s a different richness to the colors and tones when they’re printed on a soft, felt paper.  The photos have more depth and warmth and texture than when they’re on a computer screen.  The custom album design and layout helps tell a story, and when that is coupled with the images from a wedding day capturing laughter and smiles and families together and details from flowers to shoes to table decor to place settings, that story comes to life.  Those memories become something more tangible and real and meaningful.  I believe that whole-heartedly.

I also believe that when your photos are in an album that can sit on your coffee table or be pulled off a shelf from time to time, they get looked at more often and those memories get relived more than once or twice.  It warms my heart and makes me a tad giddy to know that my clients who purchase albums will be sharing those photos with their friends, family, children, and even grandchildren for years to come.  That is definitely a part of my job that makes me so happy to do what I do.

I offer 10×10 custom wedding albums with either linen, leather, or etched leather covers. Albums are printed on a soft felt paper that is thick and much more substantial than glossy magazine style pages used in most do-it-yourself- books.   One of the finest printing papers made today, it has a luxurious feel and smooth finish, producing a high-quality, timeless option for your photos. It is an acid free, archival and Forest Stewardship Council certified paper as well.  My clients can be super hands on through out the design process or leave the entire thing up to me, but I do use a design software that includes online proofing and viewing, which makes the process easy and fun.  I design an album from scratch or by using a list of client’s favorite images, send them an online proof where they can leave comments and make suggestions on each page, and once the album is perfected and approved, it is printed and delivered within one week.

Get in touch today if you have an interest in turning your photos into one of these gorgeous keepsake albums!

*Click HERE to read acclaimed photographer Mike Yost’s post about the digital era, titled, “The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years!” to hear more about the importance of printing your photos!

Denver, Colorado | Photos on Wood

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve heard me preach about the importance of printing your photos (and if you don’t follow me, you should!)  And if you’ve read my blog, you’ve definitely heard my reasons for including prints in all of my photography collections (Haven’t read it?  Click here!).

Ideally, my clients will walk away from their experience with images they love and some prints they can display in their homes.  But I do understand that not everyone wants to drop more cash on professional prints after paying for family photos, and I can admit that the idea of “heirloom, keepsake photos with perfectly matched tones and contrast” might not get everyone as excited as it does me.  Haha.  I totally get that many of you love to put together a book of family photos  on your own every year, and I know that some of the options out there for printing or canvases or photo books are pretty great.

So that’s why I am over-the-moon in love with these photo wood prints that I offer my clients.  They are handmade by a husband and wife team in the Netherlands, and the end result is absolutely breath taking.  If you are interested in turning your family photos into something you will truly treasure for years to come, this is absolutely the way to go.

These handmade photoblocks are stunning works of art and are offered only to a select group of photographers around the world.  They are not for sale to the public, nor can just any photographer log in and place an order.  They truly are one-of-a-kind keepsakes that you’ll be proud to display in your home.

Your photos are printed and then meticulously placed on the blocks and sealed to be water and light resistant.  There is a hand-brushed coated finish that gives each block a gorgeous texture, and the images maintain a striking warmth and richness that you can’t get on photo paper.   Your pictures will be beautifully deep in contrast and have a clarity and crispness that just doesn’t appear when printing on canvas.  The edges are rounded and smoothed flawlessly for a professionally completed appearance, and these blocks arrive ready to hang flush on the wall.

As a photographer, I do have a business to run, and sometimes that involves sales.  And I am not a sales person.  At all.  I’m way too awkward and socially anxious to sell anything to anyone.  I even get a tad uncomfortable when my husband mentions to new friends that I’m a photographer because I don’t ever want to feel like I’m pushing myself on people or guilting them into hiring me.  I promised myself I would never try to sell something just to sell it – that if it wasn’t a product that I could see in my home or see myself purchasing, then I wasn’t going to offer it.   Which is why I love these wood prints.  If I could, I would fill the walls of my home with each and every one of the products offered in their little shop.

Want to know more, or interested in ordering a photoblock or a whole gallery?  Get in touch for pricing and details!

Virginia Stiles is a Denver based family photographer, specializing in newborn, family, child, and wedding photography.  Servicing all areas of Colorado, especially Denver and its suburbs – Stapleton, Arvada, Highlands, Boulder, Louisville, Lakewood, Littleton, Golden, Evergreen, and Highlands Ranch.

Denver, Colorado | Newborn Twins Studio Session


Having a newborn is hard.  Like, overwhelmingly, punch-in-the-gut, cry-till-your-eyes-swell-shut, hard.  Even though it does mean you can put your baby in a guitar case and take pictures that are ridiculously cute.  Haha.  It’s still so, very, hard.  With that said, the idea of having TWO at the same time?!?!  Whoa.  I bow down to you, moms of twins.  And I’d like to buy you a drink.  Or two.

It feels weird saying that though – that newborn babies are so tough – because they are also so darn lovable and do a lot of sleeping and snuggling and making cute noises.   Before I had my first son, I didn’t really understand the challenges that lie ahead of me.  I was like, “I babysat my sister’s kids.  It wasn’t that bad.  I can handle this.”  And I was right, I can handle it.  But not without a lot of tears and stress and anger and guilt.  Yes, I said anger.  There are times that you get mad at that helpless, tiny, ten pound ball of love.  And that’s when the guilt rushes in – this intense guilt that for a second you allowed yourself to be angry at your own newborn child.  And then the tears.  Ugly cry tears.

While they are so tiny and adorably precious, and my heart melts when I hold one of those little squish bugs, they also scream and cry for seemingly no reason at all.  If you’re like me, you’ll actually say out loud, more than once, “WHAT THE BLEEP, BABY?!  WHAT IN THE BLEEP DO YOU NEED?!?!” They puke all over themselves (and you…) after you spend an hour or two trying to get them to eat enough.  They SNAP awake the minute you put them down, despite having been drooly-milk-drunk-asleep in your arms only seconds earlier.   And they just NEED you.  ALL. THE.  TIME.  So much neediness.  So many needs.

Hard to believe when they look so sweet and innocent when they’re sleeping, right?  :)

I think that was the hardest adjustment for me and the most difficult thing to carry around – that I was needed by this little human being, pretty much every moment of every day.  The monotony of that neediness – feed, burp, change, swaddle, sleep, and feed again, all within the span of two or three hours – ate at me and chipped away at any hopes I had of feeling normal or carefree again.

The good news is that the newborn phase passes quickly, and things really do get easier every few months.  Not to say that some things don’t also get harder.   But you shift and change and adapt, and it DOES get easier.

The thing I love about being a newborn photographer is that I can welcome parents into my home, give them a hug, and tell them that – that it gets easier.  I can sit and laugh (or cry) with them about the insanity of those first few weeks.  I can say, “I get it!  This shit is hard!” and I sense a little tension leave their shoulders.  I also love that I can take their baby from them for a few hours and offer a cup of coffee and a place to relax or take a guilt-free nap.

I am so thankful that I get the opportunity to capture this moment in time.  The newborn phase is such a sleepless, hazy blur.  It feels like a black hole of time and like you’ll never get through it.  But then, bam, your baby isn’t a baby anymore.  And in the weirdest way, you will long for that newborn stage again.  You’ll cry over how big his feet have gotten.  You’ll feel sad that he no longer falls asleep in your arms.  You will blink and that soft baby newness will be gone.  I really am so thankful I get to preserve that for the families who choose me as their photographer.

This sweet family came to me for both maternity and newborn photographs of their beautiful twin girls, and I truly loved getting to work with them.  I can say that Mom & Dad seemed to handle it all with such tenderness and grace, and I was in awe of them as a couple and as new parents.  I mean, they have TWO babies.   The stuff I just wrote about?  They have it TIMES TWO.  It probably makes everything twice as hard and emotional, but it also makes the photos TWICE AS CUTE!!!!  :)

Denver, Colorado | Print Your Newborn Photos


Denver newborn photographer seeks families who want to take photos AND display those photos in their homes.

“Hi!  I’m due with my first baby in January and I’m wondering what your availability and newborn pricing is and also if that includes all of the digital files.”

I can’t tell you how many emails I get that sound a lot like the one above.  These emails make me so happy for a number of reasons: 1.) Here is a sweet mom-to-be who knows how important it is to capture every little detail of her newborn baby in those first few weeks of life, and 2.) She loves my photographs and my vision and trusts ME to be the one to do this for her.  I don’t take either of those things for granted, and I am so incredibly thankful for the fabulous families that hire me to photograph their little ones.

But these emails also make me a little sad.  Because I have become so aware of our recent obsession with owning all the digital files, while realizing how few of those photos we actually print out and look at again through the passing years.

Don’t get me wrong – I get it.  I paid several thousands of dollars for my wedding photographer and wouldn’t have invested that much if he tried to convince me I didn’t need the digital files.  No way.  I wanted them all.  I wanted to see the whole story and I wanted to have those photos so I could use, share, and print them however and whenever I saw fit.

But here’s the thing.  I have TWO of those photos printed and framed.  TWO.  Thousands of dollars for a CD of photos that I looked at a few times and for TWO printed pics that sit in frames in a corner of my house.  Yes, I’ve used a few as my Facebook profile pic, and I uploaded a small gallery of images to share with friends.  And that album got, like, 150 “thumbs ups” on Facebook.  But I don’t have an actual, real life album.  I don’t have a book.  I don’t ever pull out my disc drive, attach it to my computer, dig through drawers to find the CD, and sit down with a glass of wine and my laptop and my family and friends around me to browse through the photos or relive the day.  Not once in five years have I done that.  Not once.

Hooray for having all the digitals, but what in the world are those digital images doing?  Sitting in a drawer somewhere.  And I don’t know if you know this about digitals, but they’re actually degrading and decaying.  Losing information and detail.  There is no real evidence to show that they’ll even be readable 25 or 50 years from now.  What if the photographers from the 80’s gave us all of our images on cassette tapes.  Where would those photos be now?

So my answer to the sweet email above isn’t all that simple.  Yes, yes you can have the digital files.  Yes, I will even give you the whole set if you love them all that much.  But not without you purchasing prints or photo art or a small book for your coffee table.  Yes, I’ll include the digital files and yes you can keep those and use them however you like.  But first, you have to tell me which images are your favorites and you have to open up the package of prints I send you in the mail.  I’ll make you hold those prints in your hands and figure out which ones to frame and which you’ll send to Grandma and which you’ll put away for safe keeping.

I refuse to let my clients walk away with just a USB of images because in 6 months they will have looked at it once or twice, in a year they will have forgotten where it is.  It’s not why I do this job.  It’s not why I photograph newborn babies and all their squishy cuteness, it’s not why I make Mom & Dad get in a few of the photos despite them feeling disheveled and sleep deprived.  I take these photos so you will remember those tiny flaky toes, that soft skin, the sleepy smirk, the fuzzy head, the little fat roll on her wrist, the little dimples where his knuckles will be.  I take these photos so that you can sit down, years from now, when your baby is sitting at a desk on his first day of school, and look through a beautiful book of printed images and remember how perfectly perfect he was.

I won’t let you just buy the digitals.  Because these photos deserve to be printed.  These memories deserve to be preserved.  This moment must be remembered and relived every once in a while.  You’ll thank me later for being so damn stubborn about it.  :)

Longmont, Colorado | Family Photography

The start of my career as a family photographer dates back to 2010 when I went on a trip to Florida with my sister and my two nieces.  I had a little point and shoot and two of the world’s cutest, most willing subjects, and there was a beach and golden light and reflections in the sand.  That was it, I was hooked.  My nieces, four and two at the time, ran around at the edge of the water, totally comfortable in their bright bathing suits, colorful sunglasses, hair a mess from the humidity and a day of playing in the sand.  They were totally free and wild and uninhibited.  They loved the attention; I loved the opportunity to photograph subjects who weren’t self conscious or worried about how they looked or if something I asked them to do seemed silly.  Some of my favorite photographs that I’ve ever taken were captured in those moments.  And my love for photographing families absolutely took root and started to grow at that time.

Flash forward to 2015, my second year being in business full time photographing new and growing families.   Children are still my favorite subject and family photography is truly my passion.  Not every kid trusts me right off the bat – in fact, most don’t.  They get out of the car and give me a look and are a little apprehensive about the whole photo shoot idea.  They don’t love standing still, they don’t react well when the adults start telling them where to stand and what to do, and there are usually some blank stares and timid glances in those first few photos I take.   Or there’s outright defiance and refusal to give hugs or smiles or let loose.  Regardless, I love it and find so much joy in documenting them as they are, happy and playful or moody and full of sauce.

But I don’t give up easily and I refuse to admit defeat.  Slowly but surely, maybe after a few jokes or after I dance around with their favorite stuffed animal balanced on my head, eventually they start to warm up to me.  This is the part of family photography that I really love.  Getting a chance to win over a toddler.  Having the opportunity to make a little one smile.  Taking the time to ask questions and laugh and do more than just take pictures.  I love that I am welcomed into these family’s lives and can find ways to connect to the little ones while getting to know the parents.  I almost always leave a session with a smile on my face and wishing that it wouldn’t be weird if I texted Mom for a playdate or to meet up for a glass of wine.  Mostly, I want to be friends with everyone, and being a family photographer gives me that chance for an hour or two during each session.

This family was no different, although the little guy was off and running with stories and telling me stuff and talking non stop from the minute they got out of the car.  We were fast friends and he told me all about the things he saw as we walked along the trail, and he shared his excitement about the truck(s) his parents promised if he was good and smiled for the camera.  The best part was getting a text from Mom later that evening saying he asked about me a bunch and talked about how funny I was on the drive home.  :)

Boulder Family Photographer | Eldorado Springs, Colorado

I’m not sure if you know this, but toddlers can kind of be assholes sometimes.  Whoa, whoa… before you get all defensive and momma-bear on me, let me say, I mean that in the most adoring and loving and light-hearted way.  You’re all, “Did she just call my baby an A-hole?!?!?” and I’m like, “I mean, am I wrong?”  Haha.  See, like this kid.  She just kept wanting to run around and we kept asking her to sit still.  Over and over.  What a jerk!

I’m not talking about YOUR kid specifically – heck, I’ll talk about my own.  He’s two.  He’s amazing and full of laughter and excitement and love and might even be one of the happiest most enjoyable toddlers out there.  But he also wakes up from an afternoon nap and hates everything because he’s two and he’s just cranky, dammit.  I’ll ask if he wants some milk and he says, “No!  Yes?  Yes!” and then promptly throws the milk to the ground in a fit of rage when I hand it to him.  In general, toddlers are just learning the concept of free will and testing it out.  Ask them to sit and they run, ask them to run and they sit.  “Chuck, do that thing you’ve been doing all day that has been really funny and cute so Daddy can see!” I’ll say.  And he’ll look at me as if to reply, “I will never do that cute thing ever again now that you’re asking me to.”

It’s just a part of family life with young kids.  Even the sweetest, most smily, happy kid can have bad days and bad moments.  So if you’ve ever seen that side of your own toddler, even if it was only for a brief moment, chances are, it will show up for our photo shoot.  Truth.

For example, sweet Anna.  Every photo I’ve ever seen of this little lady is one where she is grinning ear to ear.  She has an incredible personality and is a buttery ball of joy and enthusiasm.  By all accounts, she is one of the world’s least a-hole toddlers.  :)  But a photo session is a new and unusual experience for kiddos – they show up to something they’ve been promised will be FUN!, we want them to sit or be held and not explore their surroundings.  Everyone is pressuring them to smile and saying their name over and over and over, and there’s this weird lady with a camera doing dances and making fart noises.  Overall, it can be a bit alarming.  So, as many toddlers do, Anna gave me a lot of apprehensive stares and she wasn’t too keen on sitting still or being told what to do.

Is the point of this blog post to make you terrified of doing family photos with a toddler?  No.  Is it to offend you all by calling your kids mean, inappropriate names?  Definitely not. (Sorry, Anna! Love you, Boo!)  It’s to say this: We will get your posed-happy-family-everyone-look-at-the-camera-this-is-going-on-the-holiday-card-and-I-paid-good-money-for-this-session-so-EVERYONE-LOOK-AT-THE-CAMERA-AND-SMILE!-photo.  I can’t guarantee it, but chances are, we will.  We will get smiles.  We’ll get snuggles.  We’ll capture the perfectly put together family that you’re hoping to freeze in time as proof that sometimes, even if it’s only for a second, you all had your sh*t together.  See?

But only if you’re willing to get the other photos too.  The thumb sucking and snuggling into daddy’s chest photo.  The stop at the stream and throw rocks even if we might get muddy photo.  The cracker in hand and cheek full of snacks photo.  The mom and dad sit and laugh while the kids run amuck photo.  The little explorer photo.  The snuggle me I’m tired of these photos photo. The peek-a-boo photo.  The sit down in your new white tights and play in the dirt to your heart’s content photo.  The we just lied to you and said that Mickey Mouse is flying over Miss Virginia’s head so you’ll look over there photo.  The dancing with momma photo.  The running around with dadda photo.  The don’t hold my hand I want to do it by myself photo.  The please hold my hand because I need you photo.  And who doesn’t want all of those photos too?  Maybe it’s just me, but those are the ones I’d hang on my wall.  Those are the ones that capture the essence of childhood and what it is to be a family and bring tears to my eyes as I look through them.

It is the families that embrace it and are able to laugh at their kids that get the most out of our sessions.  We sit down, we smile, and we try for a posed shot… and then we run and we play and we laugh and we stop for snacks.  So yes, toddlers can be tough at times.  But if you let them be and let them explore, if you roll with it with a smile on your face, chances are there will be some incredible moments captured and you will cherish those images most of all.

Colorado Wedding Photographer | 2015 Brides

I shot my final wedding of the year last weekend, and I’m feeling sentimental.  The challenge of running a small business, finding time for family, the ever-impossible quest for a work-life balance, putting pressure on myself to capture each wedding day perfectly & creatively, being there for my clients as a friend and professional, and throwing my heart and soul into my craft even on days that I feel drained and tired… whew.  It’s hard not to look back and feel incredibly proud AND incredibly grateful (and maybe a little sleepy).  This has been a year of pushing myself, and it has been a year of tremendous growth and reward.

I cannot begin to put into words how thankful I am for the couples who welcomed me into their lives and their families and who trusted me with photographing the biggest day of their lives thus far.  I was treated with such love and such warmth, when in reality, I’m just this semi-awkward stranger showing up to follow them around and get involved in the intimate details of their wedding day.  I tell them when to kiss, how to hold each other, and in the case of the bride, I often tell her not to grab her own boobs while being zipped into her wedding dress.  Haha.  Maybe it was my growing baby bump that became more and more obvious with each wedding I shot (yes, I was pregnant for ALL of my weddings this year), or maybe it was just the sincere kindness of my clients, but I was offered food, a place to sit, help with my bags, and hugs and smiles at every wedding I photographed.  One bride even saved the last lamb shank for me and hand-fed it to me as I stood in line for dinner.  :)  To be treated like a friend and not just the hired help – it made this job even more special.

I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some Friday nights or Saturday mornings where I had to drink an extra cup of coffee and turn on some Rocky tunes to get pumped up and talk myself IN to going to work for the weekend.  When I kiss my son and husband goodbye for the day, it definitely feels like I’m going to my job.  But it’s easy to forget during the rush and excitement of the day that I’m technically working; I get caught up in the laughter and I bond with the families and I cry during the speeches, and then I’m like – Yeah, this job kicks ass.

And I know what a HUGE job it is.  The trust that my clients put in my hands to capture a day, a moment, a kiss that cannot and will not be repeated or recreated – to say it’s a big deal is such a gross understatement.  I get it… more than I wish that I did, really… because despite spending a large part of the money budgeted for my own wedding on photography, I ended up with few photos that I love or cherish.  There just weren’t pictures of me and my bridesmaids, very few from our reception or first dance, barely any of us with our family and friends.  It broke my heart.  And there was nothing I could do about it.

From a bride who didn’t end up with a single, not one, bridal portrait of herself from her wedding day… I can say that it is one of the things that matters most to me now as a photographer.  Do I want a photo of myself in my wedding dress so that I can print it on a six foot canvas and hang it above the fireplace?  No, probably not.  Haha.  I mean, maybe we could hang it in the basement playroom?  No?  Okay, fine.  But there’s something about photographing a bride on her wedding day, just her.  To capture how absolutely radiant and happy and stunning my brides are, and to be able to show that to them and know they will have it as a reminder of their own beauty and the love they felt that day.. for years to come.  That, my friends, is such a gift.  It is one of the most important parts of my job – capturing the smiles, the hand holding, the moments of quiet, the laughter, the love of the day and preserving those memories for my couples so that they can relive their day, over and over again.  It is a gift to get to do that as my job.  And I am SO so SO thankful for the fun & flirty, sweet & sassy, lovely & light-hearted, bold & beautiful brides that stood in front of my camera this year.

Here’s to you, ladies!  Each one of you was gorgeous and radiated a confident beauty that left me speechless at times.  Way to rock those dresses and bring the spunk and find ways to laugh off the stresses of the wedding day.  May 2016 bring many bright and wonderful things your way.  Hooray for marital bliss!  :)