Meet Cassie. As you can see above, she's a young girl with a beautiful smile. She recently graduated from the same high school I did and is now planning out her future.
What you don't see, is the unfortunate circumstances she had to overcome to get where she is today. I was thrilled to be taking her senior pictures. Not only because she chose me, but a little over a year ago we didn't know if she would see this day. Cassie was involved in a severe car crash on Highway 30 in April of 2016 and was rushed to the hospital with serious brain injuries. The cluster of small towns that makes up Benton Community hung on every update for days, anxiously waiting to find out her status.
During this time, Cassie's older sister Kayla gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Adilyn. The family hoped and prayed that the gift of Adilyn's birth wasn't a sign that it was Cassie's time. However, it wasn't. Cassie's strength and determination brought her to a miraculous recovery quicker than anyone had expected. She was still able to hold and meet her new baby niece in spite of what had just happened to her.
The community I grew up in knows how to come together in light of a horrible event. Not only was a Go Fund Me account set up, but the words "Cassie Strong" could be seen everywhere: t-shirts, posters, and bracelets, all with her favorite color, purple. The accident kept her from her junior prom, but Kayla called Cassie's friends in for a last minute surprise. Cassie got her own prom and wore her prom dress. It was, you guessed it, the color purple. She and her family and friends lit up the hospital with their prom attire and music. Maybe it wasn't the prom she imagined, but it was still a memory she will never forget. With some support and her own strength, Cassie healed enough to return home where she would continue to recover.
In her session, we did a variety of poses. We did some with and without the wig, and she totally rocked all of it. I loved watching her shine. You see her now and would never guess anything is wrong. Everything is back to normal, right? And this is where I get to the part I want everyone to remember from this post.
Cassie was a cheerleader with a lot of friends, living the usual high school life. Then this awful thing happens to her. Her strength and determination brought her to her feet again, but she couldn't stop there. Part of her long hair had to be shaved off for surgery. She had to wear a helmet for months along with hours of physical therapy and doctor appointments. Then came the part where she had to move on and try to go back to normal.
Much of the recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is not visible to the eye. Irritability is one of most common symptoms, followed by moodiness, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. I read several articles on this topic. Some people recovering from a TBI say they're active and in great spirits one minute, and in severe pain the next without understanding why. I don't know the details of what Cassie went through or goes through today, but we all remember how rough high school could be. Imagine all of this on top of it. I think her story could spread awareness on how to care for anyone recovering with a TBI. They need support, patience, and encouragement. You don't know the kind of pain they could still be living with, even months later.
It has now been over a year since the accident. Cassie walked across that stage in one of those blue robes and received her diploma, as her siblings did before her. Her parents got to sit in the special reserved section on the gym floor along with all the other parents of Benton Community's Class of 2017. Let it be a reminder, to all of us, to never take a single moment for granted.
I'm going to start off a little bit sappy here. I think pregnancy is such an amazing, beautiful thing. The fact that women have the ability to create another human who will grow up to be their own person is one of the most incredible miracles on this planet, in my opinion. That's what makes maternity photography so appealing to me. There is so much raw beauty and emotion to capture.
While training me to become a newscast director, my supervisor told me to never drown myself but to stay six inches above water. I apply that as I'm learning and growing as a photographer. I'm new to begin with, but even more inexperienced with maternity photography. How would I get someone to hire a young photographer simply trying to build her portfolio, when there are so many photographers out there who do shoots like this all the time?
I took a chance and reached out to a girl I met in college named Emilee. After she announced she was having a baby girl via Facebook, I sent her a message. I told her how I wanted to add more maternity pictures to my portfolio, and would be willing to take some for her at a lower price than my usual rate. She talked to her boyfriend and they agreed to give me a shot.
I was like a little kid on Christmas morning working with them. I loved her dress, her boots, the tattoo on his arm, and they even brought their own props and ideas! Not only did they have great personality but they were adventurous as well. The pictures prove it; the variety made it a fun, well rounded shoot. I was beaming as I was going through the pictures!
To be honest, I don't like reaching out to people (even though I've had to do it a lot.) I know its part of starting a business. I just never want to pressure someone into feeling obligated to hiring me. Every photographer has their own unique style and it doesn't always fit each person's taste.
However, I've been poring over maternity pictures for months and coming up with ideas of my own. I needed a chance to bring that all to life. I was so thankful for Emilee and Seth giving me that opportunity. I was even happier when I discovered I wasn't the only one who loved the photos. I received wonderful feedback from both of them along with many others through social media. I can't even begin to describe how rewarding that was.
Emilee gave me so many great compliments, but one thing she said that stuck out was, "We are definitely keeping her as our first option for a photographer!" I did the one thing I've been trying to do since I started this whole photo thing: I established another relationship! I reached out to somebody and it worked, and now I might even get to work with them in the future.
I owe a huge thank you to Emilee and Seth. What an exciting time for you both and you let me be the one the capture it. I loved working with you and can't wait to see you two become parents!
Planning for weddings is stressful. So many details, budgeting, you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, etc. I've never even been a bride, but I've been a maid of honor, bridesmaid, and a personal attendant. I've seen the process of it all and it amazes me every time.
However, don't let the engagement shoot add to that stress. Let it be the fun part! I tell my brides-to-be that this is all about capturing the love and even the unique little quirks between them and their fiances, plus getting some fancy looking shots for the parents and grandparents to swoon over.
I often get the same questions, so I compiled a bunch of answers for the most common questions I get from clients.
1. Who is your wedding photographer?
Many wedding photographers, including myself, include an engagement shoot in the wedding packages. I believe its a great opportunity to get to know the couple and learn how to best work with them. Its also a chance for you to see the photographer in action. Either you can get to know your wedding photographer, or kind of audition a photographer to see if their style is right for your wedding.
2. What represents you?
As you're planning and making decisions on anything, from clothes to timing, one thing should stick on your mind- think about what best represents you as a couple. If you're a couple who spends your summers boating, maybe think about a photo shoot on a beach with water in the background, during the summer. If you're both avid sports fans, think about incorporating your teams into the shoot. (In a shoot I have coming up, the couple mentioned bringing jerseys and swinging past a ball diamond!) Its okay to be creative, and its also okay to stick to simplicity. In the end, these pictures are for you to look back on.
3. What to wear.
First off, wear something you and your partner feel good in. You'll want to be relaxed and feel confident. Think about your personal style and consider both the season and location. However, if you're like me and need extra help when it comes to fashion, these tips might help you.
It helps to choose outfits ahead of time, so you're not scrambling the day of. Solid colors are a safe go-to, whether they're pastel or deeper colors. Lace and flowy dresses or skirts always look good on camera. Be careful with stripes or big blocky prints. They sometimes add weight on camera. Of course, try to coordinate colors with your partner, or at least make sure they don't wear a color that clashes with you. I also tell my clients don't be afraid to experiment! Throw in a pair of bright heels or a big necklace to add some creativity to an outfit.
4. Where to go.
Think of a place that means something to you and your partner. Some couples love going to the place they got engaged at, if possible. Recently, I went to the bride-to-be's parents' farm for some sweet country themed pictures. Location can add so much meaning to the shoot.
For a more generic background, my go-to is always a local park, like Palisades-Kepler State Park. There are trees, water, trails, roads, and plenty of options to choose from for backgrounds. Before the shoot, do some exploring and searching around. You'd be surprised what you can find around the area you live in!
5. When to schedule them.
In my opinion, it doesn't matter when the pictures are scheduled. I've had brides schedule them a week after being engaged to two years after being engaged. Some people prefer to have them in a season opposite of their wedding. For example- Summer engagement pictures before a Winter wedding. Just remember that the season will determine what you can wear and where you can go. As for time of day, do your best to avoid the harsh sunlight that usually comes around noon. The best pictures always happen in the hour before sunset due to lighting. I always schedule engagement shoots no earlier than 4:00, depending on the season.
6. Communication is key!
Communication is key to a good marriage, right? Well its also a big help in a good photo shoot! Talk to your photographer. Let them know what you're nervous about. Tell them what you have in mind. See something on a social media site that caught your eye? Show them! They might not be able to recreate the exact shot, but they'll get a better feel for what you want. Most photographers have been through this many times and could be a big help. I have not met a photographer yet who doesn't want to establish a good relationship with their clients. Being comfortable with each other will help the whole process go smoothly.
Most importantly, remember to have fun with it!
First off, thank you for reading this. I never saw myself becoming a blogger, and I'm not sure I'll be any good at it. To be honest, a mentor of mine told me that it's a great way to connect with clients and get to know people, so I thought, why not?
This all started when I saved up for years to buy my first SLR camera. I was fresh out of college and broke after buying it, but it began a new chapter for me. My brother proposed to his then-girlfriend and the first thing I did (after saying congratulations and crying tears of happiness, of course) was literally beg his fiancee to let me take pictures of them. They were both completely on board, thankfully! I didn't even think about charging them a cent. I just wanted portraits to obsess over!
We hopped in my brother's red Chevy pickup and headed out to the place where he popped the question. I made so many technical errors and there are so many things I would do differently. However, I was learning. I just kept snapping and some of my pictures ended up hanging in their home. Seeing that was the most rewarding feeling to me.
That one session turned into a few more sessions with them, where we eventually included my rescued four-legged nephew, Rolo, whom they adopted shortly after moving in together. With each session, I made so many "rookie mistakes" that I learned from and learned a whole new side of photo editing, that I'm still trying to master today.
Soon after this, one of my best friends from high school (also newly engaged) wanted me to take some engagement pictures of her and her fiance. Because of these two couples, people began recognizing me as a photographer, and I was taking pictures a few times a week. I was ecstatic every time someone contacted me.
It all started with simply taking pictures. Of everything. The view from the house I grew up in, my brothers' playing sports, my pets being pets, young children I babysat, etc. I was just having fun, and I still do! Only now I know more of the technical side of things and focus on creating that professional quality. I am always learning via blogs, other photographers, and my own shoots.
Once again, thank you. For reading this post. For even looking at my pictures. And a huge thanks to those who have given me a chance to photograph them and their loved ones. I enjoy every minute of it, even when the editing causes me to stay up too late. This whole thing has been going so well lately and I can't say THANK YOU enough!
And now we'll see how the whole blogging thing goes. Comment or send me a message to let me know what you think!