September 2015

Fall Family Sneak Peek | Stories Framed Photography

On the Other Side of the Lens | Part 4 | The Reality of the Situation.

We decided to have family pictures taken in Estes Park, Colorado while we were on vacation. If you want to catch up with the story - why I decided to do ithow I selected the right photographer and who we chose - check out the links.


So... the check had been mailed. The date had been set. 

And then the panic. OH THE PANIC had set in. I had twenty days to lose weight, grow my hair out, hide the grey hairs that sprouted since I hung up the phone with our newly hired photographer and magically find something to wear that would complement the scenery, make me look like a Size 4 and not cost an arm and a leg. Oh, right. The rest of my family... they needed to wear some clothes too.

I felt worry.

I started running again (for two days). I pretended to eat better. I practiced sucking in my gut. 

I felt concern.

Would the kids cooperate? I have one kid who is my personal guinea pig. The other kid scowls every time I even SAY the word "camera". I started praying to the Goddess of Happy Children that they would behave and at least fake a smile for these pictures.

I felt more worry.

My hair. I hope it's not too humid so that my curly hair cooperates and doesn't transform into its usual mess of craziness and frizz. Oh and that gray...

Panic. What. The. Heck. Will. I. WEAR????

Panic. Can I lose 20 pounds in 20 days?

And then.... Surrender. 

I do not need to nor am I able to panic over all these things (much). I needed to give in and let go. 

When I lose weight, we can have family pictures taken again.

Unless Joe pulls out his macro lens, the odds of anyone noticing a few grey hairs are slim to none.

And as far as what to wear, well, as hard as that is, it is easy. I just had to stop overthinking it and pretending that suddenly we would be sporting formal hunting attire like the preppy families in Ralph Lauren ads.

Who are we? THAT is what we should wear. Heck, that's what I tell my own clients! Are we dressy people? No. Am I often out on the town wearing a dress and heels? No! Do I wear a lot of makeup? No. So why would I change for a photograph? This portrait will not be hung in the White House so I can just RELAX.

Once I broke through that concept - dress for you - it made things much easier. And once again, I reminded myself to follow the very advice I give to my own clients. Wear what you like, what makes you comfortable, what makes you happy. 

So I checked out my What to Wear Board on Pinterest and the ideas started flowing...

The Big Day

The day of our session I was still a little worried about what to wear, but the truth is, I was halfway across the country from my closet, so all the worry in the world wouldn't change what I had brought with me to Colorado.

As for the weight, the hair and the kids? 

I had hired a professional photographer. If he did his job, there would be nothing to worry about. As a family photographer, I have studied posing, grouping and camera angles to best flatter my subjects. Even the reluctant ones. So surely Joe, who was a talented and gifted photographer, would know what to do.

And the kids? Again, as a mom and a photographer, I knew this to be true: the moment I handed the authority over to Joe, my two beautiful children would shine. They would behave as though the Queen of England were visiting. But if I (mom) got too close? Game over. This happens time after time at my clients' sessions. Moms tell me their kids won't behave. I take charge. They are golden. Mom comes back into the picture, the end. I just had to convince my husband of this. He had taken on ALL THE WORRY about the kids.

And... I was right. Everything went flawlessly. We met in a beautiful little corner of Estes Park just before sunset. The children were excited (huh?). I could (sort of) relax. Pat was still a nervous wreck but he, too, chilled out eventually. Joe was fantastic. 

And then it was over.

Later that night, in my email box (which I wasn't checking on vacation, cough cough) was the most beautiful Sneak Peek ever. Confirmation that all my worries were for naught.

Miller-4-2.jpg

Photo credit: 2015 Joe Pyle Photography

The moral of the story: Don't worry so much. Be yourself. When your kids are with other grownups, they behave like the angels. If you hire a professional, you can relax. They know what they're doing. After all, that IS why you hire a professional.

Come back next time... I have lots more photos to share! (Squeal!!)

On the Other Side of the Lens. Part 3: The Photographer Is Hired!

If you're just tuning in, welcome! We're just sitting here, sipping some iced tea, talking about that time when I had family portraits taken in Estes Park, Colorado during summer vacation. Check out WHY I wanted to do it and how I chose the RIGHT photographer


When choosing the right photographer, I took the same steps that you would take to find a photographer. See if this sounds about right...

First, I narrowed down to any photographers who I knew in the area. I knew no one. At this point I could have asked for referrals from any non-photographers I knew in the area. But again, I don't even know any of them. 

Second, I tried Thumbtack. As a "Thumbtack Pro" myself, the system wouldn't allow me to search for another pro in my own field of work. (For the exact reasons I mentioned in Part 2. So, thank you Thumbtack for trying to protect us from Mean People.)

Finally, Google. It always comes down to Google. I searched for "Estes Park Family Photographer" and found several photographers whose work I liked. I bookmarked their sites.

The next day, I viewed them all again.

I caught on that one or two of them really just do weddings. Out.

A few others' styles were a little too romantic and dreamy for my taste. Beautiful work, just not my style. 

And then there were two.

I sent both of them a message using from the contact form on their websites.

As I write this, over a month after having the pictures taken and over two months since sending that first email, I STILL HAVEN'T HEARD FROM ONE OF THEM! Seriously. PRO TIP: No matter what your industry, line of work or profession, if you don't reply to a request from a potential client, you have a 100% chance of NOT being hired. (Insert forehead slap and a bottle of V8)

So that leaves one.

He was flattered that I would choose him to photograph my family. He was available in our time frame. He seemed pretty nice, even via email. He even expressed interest in our family vacation. 

So, I booked the session. I sent him a check. I hired a photographer! It was a very strange thing for me to say.  I now "have a guy" in EP. I'm practically a local.

Get this -- when I told my parents that I had hired a photographer in Estes Park, all six of them (!) had the same reaction - they were THRILLED! Little did I realize that they had all been salivating for years for a portrait of my family and me.

This proves something rather important -- DO NOT ASSUME. 

As a photographer, I ASSUMED my family was sick of receiving photographs as gifts. Turns out, I was wrong. So very wrong. 

Translation: If you are even half-way considering hiring a photographer, DO IT. Odds are good that your mom will shed tears of joy when she carefully rips off the holiday paper from the big canvas with your family's smiles plastered all over it. (Just don't let her sob all over the canvas! Keep that baby dry!)

So you want to know who took our pictures? This guy:

Me and my new photographer friend, Joe Pyle.

Me and my new photographer friend, Joe Pyle.

Joe Pyle Photography. Next time you're in Estes Park, hire him. He's great. (You will see how great very soon....)


So... can you guess what comes next?

I've admitted I need a photographer, and what kind. I've taken action by searching for and hiring Joe. You know what's next.

It starts with P ends with ANIC...

On the Other Side of the Lens | Part 2 | Choosing the RIGHT Photographer.

Check out Part 1 of this series and learn WHY we decided to have family portraits taken on vacation.


A month ago we were in Estes Park, Colorado for our family vacation. In the planning stages, I decided we should have REAL family portraits taken while we were there. Not the kind where mom uses a timer and a tripod and ends up a sweaty mess.

I needed a pro. Someone who knew the area, the good spots in the mountains (pretty sure there might be just a few) and the best times to be there. The search was about to begin...

Obviously, I have narrowed my search based on location. Estes Park, CO. Check.

This was the view of Estes Park from our rental. 

Next, I was not planning a wedding, nor was I planning to suddenly have a newborn. With that, I eliminated photographers who solely shoot weddings and/or newborns. I clearly needed a FAMILY photographer.

(Okay, okay, while that may seem obvious to me, did you realize there was a difference? Weddings, newborns, families and so on... they all require unique skill sets and training in order to shoot with success. I will not be wearing a big white gown and I adamantly refuse to curl up in a tiny swatch of pink fabric. And now... with that painful mental picture, let's move on. Quickly, please.)

As I began scouring the internet, I realized there was a slight wrench in my search: MY JOB. I absolutely intended to be upfront about being a photographer myself. My straightforwardness ultimately relied on three things...

First, that the photographers I contacted didn't scoff at my request. Believe it or not, there are people who spy on other pros in the industry to find out their inside information, their systems, their rates. You know, instead of doing honest research and development.  I truly had no ulterior  motives and the person on the other end of the line NEEDED to trust me.

Second, who ever I hired had to be confident enough in their skills to work for another professional photographer. That could be pretty nerve-wracking. I'm not even sure I could do it.

Finally, third, I wanted to hire someone whose style meshed with mine. I plan on using these pictures on my own website and blog as well as in my home. While I don't want anyone TOO close to my style, I want a good match, a good appeal.

So how does this translate to your search for a photographer? Imagine going to an art museum. You have a display in front of you with Impressionist work, Abstract art, Realism and Baroque. If you have a house already filled with Abstract artwork, clearly the Baroque piece wouldn't fit into the mix. Those pieces just wouldn't feel RIGHT to you. Choose the piece that speaks to you, that brings you joy.

Believe it or not, this was the side of a building in Fort Collins, CO. AMAZINGness!

Believe it or not, this was the side of a building in Fort Collins, CO. AMAZINGness!

In addition to STYLE, a big part of a happy portrait experience is the PERSONALITY of the photographer. This is SO important. You will show off all these gorgeous portraits, everyone will admire them, ooh-ing and aah-ing. Wouldn't it be a shame if the part they couldn't see is how awful the experience was for you? Every time you look at these pictures, you should feel joy. 200% satisfaction. So choose a photographer who makes you feel that way.

Let me tell you a story to emphasize this point.

When my darling hubby and I got married (15 short years ago!), the photographer who was hired for our wedding was what one would refer to as a "veteran" in the industry. He had years and years of experience. He was very talented. He was very set in his ways. And that's what I keep getting stuck on, even after all these years. "Stuck in his ways". Stubborn. Unbending. Imagine this: The bridal party was running late. We asked him to shoot the groups that were present -- which would have been "out of order" --  and he looked like he wanted to strangle each and every one of us. Then, later, I asked for two (TWO!) extra portraits with close friends who were helping with the wedding (and standing right in front of us)... and get this... HE SAID NO! The photographer was a cranky old man who TOLD THE BRIDE NO in response to the one and only request she had the entire day. 

Now, when I look at my wedding pictures, although I cherish them, I can't help but remember that the photographer was a jerk. It taints the pictures.

See what I mean?

(For the record, word on the street is that our wedding photographer is long retired. Happily retired? Ha, I'm not so sure... but he's retired.)

Back to our family portraits - I wanted to hire someone who would be nice (at a minimum), approachable and whose style I enjoyed. Also, since (Irony Alert) I am terribly, utterly and completely uncomfortable getting my picture taken, I want to hire someone who will put me at ease and who I can trust to shoot me in most flattering way. (with the lens cap on... ha ha.)

So who did I choose? I'll fill you in next time... 

On the Other Side of the Lens. Part 1: The Decision.

I should practice what I preach. The shoemaker's family WILL HAVE SHOES

So here's my big, ugly confession - the last time we had professional family portraits taken was 2010. Ouch. It hurts to say it out loud. That was FIVE years ago. Do you know how much little kids can change in five years? I don't think I have to tell you. A LOT. TOO MUCH. Luckily, their mom is a professional photographer; she has taken a plethora of photos OF them, just not too many WITH them. 

Photo Credit: 2011 Proud to Introduce Photography

Photo Credit: 2011 Proud to Introduce Photography

Every year, mid-August, we take a family vacation to an undisclosed mystery location. It's a "mystery" because between my husband and I and our hyper-busy schedules, we inadvertently procrastinate planning anything for our trip until the last minute. Slackers, I know. But it's always a driving vacation so we don't have to depend on the airlines to rip us off on last minute fares.

This summer we are all SO excited to return to Estes Park, Colorado. We visited the mountain town three years ago and fell in love. We can't wait to see the Rockies and immerse ourselves in its breathtaking landscape.

Then it hit me - we should have professional family pictures taken in Colorado! I had made the decision. The gavel had been struck. I really wanted to do this. (Because, duh, the wide expanse of mountains would make me look extra-skinny!) Now I needed to run it past my Other, er, I mean Better Half...

...He said YES! In fact, he loved the idea. Photos of our family that I don't have to work for, in a place we love so very much. Sold! 

So now I had the job of finding a photographer. But, nay nay, not just any photographer. The RIGHT photographer. 

I'll fill you in on how I did that... next time, on Serial. Um, I mean on my next blog post.