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Getting over regret, my first giveaway and the lovely Elizabeth (Rex Putnam High School senior photographer)


Last year about this time, I was photographing a client who needed headshots for her company’s website at a local park. The client was running a few minutes late and as I sat there waiting, I noticed a high school-aged girl whose parents were taking her pictures with a camera phone.

My Facebook homies know where I’m going with this.

I was intrigued. Not only was the girl really beautiful, she also appeared to be a dancer because she was perching herself on rocks while striking ballet-style poses. After a minute or two, I realized they were taking her senior photos for the yearbook.

I felt a strong urge to go over and offer to take her photos. I truly believe that everyone should have photos they can be proud of, especially for the yearbook. But I hesitated. I wondered if it would be insulting to the family if I walked up and offered my services, or if they would think I was being weird or salesy. Not only did I have my own client who would be coming along any moment, but scheduling that photo shoot was the first time I’d been away from my 3-week-old son, and I wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to extend the amount of time I was away from him.

And that was it. My client showed up before I worked up the nerve to talk to the family.

I regretted it because I could have helped them out, but I didn’t.

A year passed, and one day I heard that yearbook photo deadlines were coming around again. I remembered that day, and was struck with a need to make up for that time that I should have, but didn’t.

So I did my very first giveaway, and I offered a complimentary senior session to a deserving student via my Facebook page. I was absolutely blown away at how positive and kind everyone was. I had a great response, and my choice was made pretty simple when three separate people nominated the same person.

That’s how I got to know Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is a super hardworking student who has really turned her life around. She went from getting in trouble at her old school in North Portland, to really excelling and taking honors classes at Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie. She’s even set to graduate a year early. She works almost full time and has big plans for her future that could include going to beauty school.

We did her senior portrait session at the always-stunning Cathedral Park, which is right in her old neighborhood and is a meaningful place to her. She said she always loved the bridge and really wanted a photo of herself in front of it.

We had a great session and I learned that in addition to being hard-working, Elizabeth is also a very sweet and kind-hearted person with a killer smile. I really enjoyed getting to know her. Elizabeth, I wish you success and happiness as you finish your last year of school, and who knows, maybe we’ll work together someday when you’re a hair and make up artist!


If you want high school senior portraits that reflect your personality and style, drop me a line!


Thirty-something things only my close friends know about me (Milwaukie, Oregon photographer)


My parents used to go all out for birthdays when I was a kid. I’d wake up to banners and balloons and I was treated like royalty for days on end. It was the best. Now I’m a grown-up, and I’m supposed to be all cool and nonchalant about my special day, but honestly, I still really love birthdays. I like to spoil my friends and loved ones on their birthdays too. If we voted at work, I’d definitely win the “most likely to bring cupcakes to the office” designation.

So, just because I love to spread out a good celebration, here’s a birthday-related post full of factoids about your friendly neighborhood photographer.

Without giving away my age, here are a certain number of facts about me that may or may not add up to be the same number of years I’ve been on this planet.

 10 of my favorite things:

  1. My kids. Of course I love them because they’re mine, but they are truly rad little people.

  2. Thai food. I love almost every dish I have tried.

  3. Quirky, dark comedies like “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”

  4. "30 Rock"

  5. Pedicures. 

  6. Going out dancing — hip hop, ‘80s, salsa, swing, you name it.

  7. Staying anywhere with a view. 

  8. Wandering around Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Target or any number of the cute boutique shops in Portland.

  9. Singer/Songwriter Brandi Carlile. (I have seen her in concert at least half a dozen times.)

  10. Warm weather, being outside and exploring new parks.

 15 things you might not know about me:

  1. I played adult dodgeball on a recreational team for two seasons. We were even named rookies of the year.

  2. My first time on an airplane was when I was 23 years old, and it was a 13-hour flight by myself. (You know, other than the crew and passengers.)  

  3. Growing up I had a turtle named Myrtle and a Dalmatian named Domino.

  4. I got braces six months ago.  

  5. I have a thing for water parks.

  6. I’ve only cried at two movies: “My Girl” and “Marley and Me.”

  7. I studied abroad in Spain, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

  8. I don't sit still very well and I love to learn. I like to spend my free time watching webinars and tutorials, reading articles and taking classes and workshops. I love to learn about photography and graphic design, as well as social media and marketing, Spanish language and culture and how to be the best parent I can be.

  9. I photographed my first wedding when I was still in college.

  10. My creativity skyrocketed when I became a mother.

  11. I love to go to karaoke, but I never sing. 

  12. I had a reputation as a kitchen disaster when I was younger, so now I feel all rebellious and empowered when I’m cooking dinner. My worst offense was serving my friend toast with what I thought was grape jelly, but was actually a super spicy Korean pepper paste my roomate's mom had made. Poor guy was not expecting that! 

  13. I'm a middle child.

  14. Choosing this guy as my partner was the best decision I ever made.

  15. I have taken nine years of Spanish. My daughter watches "Dora the Explorer." Somehow, her accent is better than mine. You should hear her say "piñata."

8 things I’ve recently learned:

  1. My mom is the toughest lady on the planet.

  2. It’s great to philosophize about what kind of parent you’ll be, but when it comes down to it, so much of parenting is just reacting to kids' wants and needs with barely enough time to think. That’s why my goal is to just be a kind, honest, healthy, positive person and teach them by modeling what it means to be a good person.  

  3. I love the article, "How not to say the wrong thing." It may seem obvious, but I think it's such a clever way to think about being a supportive friend.  

  4. There have been several times in my life when I thought, "I can't do this," but then I just went ahead and did it anyway. 

  5. On a similar note, I’ve found that you can get through anything if you surround yourself with the right people who love and support you. I'm super lucky to have a great group in my corner. 

  6. No matter how it turns out or if you never do anything with it, completing a creative project is satisfying to the soul.

  7. Happiness is a choice you make every day. It's pretty empowering to know you can control what kind of day you have.

  8. Pretty much all the cliches are true. ;)

Dismantling hot tubs and other skills I learned in college (Portland, Oregon professional portrait photographer)

When I was in college, I was a resident assistant — you know, one of those people who lives in the dorms and helps freshmen figure out the campus, conquer homesickness and resolve conflicts with their roommates.  I took the kids from my hall on field trips, planned fun yet educational get-togethers and hosted everything from pizza nights to Ultimate Frisbee games.

But it wasn’t all hall Olympics and movies in the lounge. Being an RA isn’t just serving the kids who need a resourceful shoulder to lean on, it’s about keeping the dorms a safe, quiet, clean, friendly place for everyone. That meant I spent many a night standing outside in the cold corralling people after someone pulled a fire alarm, or deconstructing a homemade “hot tub” some inventive students had built in the showers, or taking care of severely drunk people who couldn’t take care of themselves.

Sometimes it was super hard, but it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life, namely because I got to do and see so much during my college years, and especially because I got to meet some truly amazing people.

One of those people is Heather Reagan, one of my sweet residents. She recently launched her own photography business and we’ve reconnected in the last few months over our shared passion. We got together recently at Foothills Park in Lake Oswego to swap headshots, and after two hours of photographing each other, we ended up standing by our cars and talking until late into the night. It’s funny how two people can just pick up the conversation like no time has passed. I guess that’s what a year of living together will do for you.

Heather is as sweet as she was all those years ago, and it’s crazy to think we’re both grownups now with two kids a piece. You can find some of the pictures she took of me on my “about me” page. And she blogged about our experience too.

I’m so glad we are back in touch Heather, and I am excited about all the creative pursuits we can tackle together in the years to come!

Thanks for reading my blog! If you ever need professional portraits for your website, business cards or social media profiles, contact me anytime.



Getting a natural smile from your tot (Portland, Oregon children’s photographer)


Little kids have amazingly goofy smiles they put on whenever a camera comes out. Their picture smile usually involves throwing their heads back, jutting their chins toward the camera, squinting fiercely and lifting their lips way up over their gums to reveal teeth or the gummy holes where teeth should be. It's pretty adorable. It doesn't, however, look much like the happy kid you see playing out in the back yard.

So how do you get your child to give you a natural smile the next time you take his picture? Here's a few tips that have worked for me:

  • Once you bring the camera out, and your little one gives you the “cheese” face, go ahead and take the picture. Then ask him to try it another way. If you start out telling him he is doing it wrong, you are likely to end up with a grumpy guy.
  • Don't say cheese because it triggers them to pull their cheeks back in an unnatural way, and many kids believe that “say cheese” means give the biggest, fakest smile you can. They'll just breath the word out through clenched teeth. Instead, mix it up by saying having them repeat silly words like “pickle sandwich” “green bean casserole” and “rutabaga.” Anything food related is pretty classic and will generally make kids chuckle. (Speaking of food, sometimes offering a treat helps, but other times it's just messy and distracting. I would consider it a last resort. Also, young kids can’t understand delayed satisfaction, so when you offer them a treat if they are good for photos, they often can’t focus on anything but that goodie that’s waiting for them.).
  • Lock eyes with them and smile until they smile back. 
  • Be playful and make the experience special. Kids can pick up on that fun-time energy.
  • Play pretend.  Ask them to show you their angry face, what a shy person looks like and to model their best scared face. In between you are likely to get some great giggles.
  • Tell them not to smile. Reverse psychology is awesome that way.
  • Be patient and take breaks. Put the camera down and talk and play for a while and see if you are able to get them in a great mood so smiles come more easily.
  •  Keep in mind that not every smile has to be a big ol' grin. Some of my favorite pictures are just just natural expressions and soft smiles.

I love spending time with families and taking photos of children. If you are interested in getting fun and natural portraits of your family, drop me a line sometime!


Lessons Kenny Rogers taught me

One of my favorite parts of a wedding is when couples have an anniversary dance. The first time I saw one was at my cousin’s weddings in 2005. His bride is from a small town where everyone knows each other, and most everyone showed up for their big day. So when the DJ asked all the married couples to make their way to the dance floor, there were dozens of couples joining together on the crowded parquet square, close enough to bump elbows.

The song was “Through the Years,” which I already had a soft spot for because I grew up with a Kenny Rogers-loving mama. A few beats in, the DJ asked anyone who had been married less than a day to leave the dance floor, and the blissful newlyweds sat down. Then he went on, asking couples that had been married less than a year to sit down, then couples that had been married less than three years, etc. He continued adding years, and as each couple exited the spotlight, the whole room honored the time they’d spent together through cheers, smiles and waves. It was amazing to see a whole room of people celebrating one another's commitments.  

I loved seeing my own parents up there, partly because I’d never seen them dance in public before, but mostly because they seemed so proud of their 35 years together. By the end of the song, there were still a handful of couples holding each other close; the longest-married pair swayed together until the end of the song, and the whole room cheered their 50 plus years of matrimony. 

I’m not usually a very sappy person, but that was a really beautiful moment.

This week I celebrate eight years of marriage with a man who is loving, goofy, honest, generous and almost weirdly kind to strangers. I couldn’t be happier about the life we’ve built, and am thankful to have him as my husband every single day.

Happy anniversary to the amazing guy I married, and here’s to Kenny Rogers-inspired love all around.

(Self portrait circa 2005.) 

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