Join us Thursday, May 7 at AllSports Rockwall as we honor seniors and other students in Rockwall ISD! AllSports has installed some fun banners on their storefront that are perfect backdrops for a photography session: one for Rockwall seniors, one for Rockwall-Heath seniors and one for other Rockwall ISD students.
Sign up for your free 10 minute photo session. We’ll do one standard image, one fun image, and one creative image. The creative image is totally up to you! Use your imagination. The sky is the limit. Creative images will be entered in a fan favorite competition to win a gift pack from AllSports Rockwall!
Have more than one child you’d like photographed? We can accomodate 2-3 kids at one session. If you have more, feel free to book two sessions back to back.
I had the honor of meeting Beckett this summer and working with his family for a Gold Hope photography session. We created a session that included his immediate family and also more of the village that is supporting this family. Beckett was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in April 2018. Due to Beckett’s condition, other family members have stepped in to help care for his sisters and help his parents. Read the full post of his story here.
I was blown away by Beckett’s beautiful spirit and joy. I also fell in love with the family who have rallied together during a trying time. And I was honored to spend a little time with them on a Sunday evening, watching the kids play with trucks, love on each other and run a little wild pretending to be super heros. You may follow more of Beckett’s journey on his facebook page.
Almost 16,000 children per year are diagnosed with cancer and since 1980 there have been only three drugs approved for use in the treatment of cancer in children (source: https://www.cbtff.org/post/be-the-hope-go-gold-this-september ). Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children and teens in the United States. September is the month to Go Gold to spread awareness and raise support for research and funding of pediatric cancer.
Gold Hope is an organization that spreads a message of hope for families with children in the midst of a cancer diagnosis. This organization provides a photography session for families to document their child during a time when a photography session may not be a top priority.
I have shared a few specific statistics in this post. I do not pretend to be a researcher, so I’ve included the exact articles where I got this information and have not done exhaustive fact-checking. I do support spreading awareness for pediatric cancers and more funding for research. I also love to support families in the throws of dealing with a cancer diagnosis. If you know of a family who could benefit from a Gold Hope session, encourage them to learn more at www.goldhopeproject.com.
It’s back to school season! I love this time of year and have for my whole life. Shopping for new school supplies, getting my new backpack all ready for the first day, and labeling all of my supplies with my own special stickers or markers were all a part of the fun. With my own children, I still love it, just in different ways. And with three of them, I have had to come up with some hacks for getting out the door with my sanity by the first day of school.
My top 5 tips
Documenting their milestones is a ‘must’ for me! I wanted to share my top 5 tips for back to school photos to help you find the joy in what can be a slightly hectic season.
My top tip is to do it before the first day! The first day will be hectic as you adjust to new schedules. If you want to do it at the school, there will be 100 other mothers there doing the same thing. Save yourself here. On the first day, you can still snap a pic with your phone, but won’t have to worry about a 10 minute photography session before the bell rings!
Gather all of the items that document this time in their lives. Does he or she have a lovey/favorite outfit/favorite notebook? Bring it along. When my youngest was in preschool, he wanted to wear a pair of yellow rainboots all of the time. You can bet he wore them for his session. Be sure to bring this year’s backpack, lunchbox, nap mat, even a new folder that shows their favorite character on it! You will be glad to have this memory, and they will be excited to show off their prized possessions in the photo.
Speaking of milestones: include a writing sample. I have some old-fashioned personal chalkboards that I love to let them write their own names with chalk.
Head out to the school. I love to document kids at their own schools. Most schools have some great architectural features such as columns, brick, maybe stone or concrete steps that make for great photographic elements. Bonus tip: Go during golden hour for great lighting (an hour before sunset)!
And last, this tip could apply to all photography sessions with kiddos, a couple of cute props can be a sure fire way to engage shy or disinterested little ones. My chalkboard, standard #2 pencils, notebook paper, even an apple or two give little ones something to concentrate on instead of just looking and smiling. This will give you just a moment or two longer to document them than you may otherwise have. I also love to incorporate movement such as walking, jumping, even ‘running as though they are late for school’ to hold their attention and give some perspective to the shoot.
Documenting their lives is a beautiful way to freeze moments and memories each year.
This is the third post in a series of four where I’m sharing my favorite highlights of the book, Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam. We’ve already discussed how to become more mindful of time here and how to create beautiful moments worth remembering here. Now we can figure out how to appreciate these beautiful moments.
Rush, Rush, Rush
I am chronically late. I don’t want to be late, I don’t want people to have to wait on me. I read somewhere that one should look at the drive time to get to an event and then double it and plan to get in the car at that time. I attempt to do this and then somehow I end up realizing I was going to start the dishwasher and Roomba before I get in the car–that’ll only take 10 minutes–and now my youngest can’t find one of his shoes–a quick 3 minute run upstairs yields the shoe–now I’ve just realized my daughter’s hair still hasn’t been fixed–5 more minutes in the bathroom. And now we are in the car, just running 5 minutes behind the original drive time, which wouldn’t be all that bad by my usual standards, except that there is construction on the road and we end up waiting 10 minutes at a road closure. All of this is a daily occurrence for me. I arrive at most destinations with my hands tightly gripping the wheel, my neck and jaw tense, barking at everyone to get out quickly, apologizing profusely to the others involved for our tardiness. Vanderkam recounts a story of one of the subjects of this chapter, but she could have told almost the exact one about me. The subject in this chapter realized the error of her ways and began to build extra time into her life. She says “Late is not taking into account the thing you know they’re going to do”–referring to the things her children will do such as running to the bathroom at the last minute as they load the car and in the process forget a crucial piece of sports equipment for the event they must attend. Such is life with children. This permanent setting of rush, rush, rushing around is a recipe for running through the day and getting to the end of the day, the week, and the year and wondering where the time went, and what the heck did I do? All while experiencing unnecessary stress.
The subject in this section settled on the idea of building time to linger into her life. She no longer wanted to be late, running last minute and ragged at every turn. Instead she made a conscious choice to take her time. And to enjoy every minute–or, at least, the enjoyable ones. I love this idea of lingering. First, I love the sound of the word but more importantly the idea it invokes. The idea that when we find something enjoyable, we can just keep doing it. That we can build a life where we don’t have to run from one thing to the next as fast as we can. We can choose, at least occasionally, to simply revel in a moment, and to take as long as needed. I am constantly caught up in the thinking, what should I be doing next? What’s next on my list? What else to I need to accomplish today? But Vanderkam points out that the answer to these questions may simply be ‘to linger’ and that’s a worthwhile answer.
On a recent holiday where my family was all home on a Monday, I realized at the end of the day that I had a sneaking sense of dismay at what we had not accomplished during the day. I literally had nothing on the agenda–so it wasn’t as though I had failed to complete a task. We had done the laundry, and the basic daily chores, but otherwise had laid around watching a movie, napping, and just being together. So why was I disappointed at the end of the day? I’m still pondering this, why do I need a to-do list that I can check off to feel accomplished? But I have a suspicion that simply writing in “Linger” on the list might be a great exercise on a day like that day. I can remind myself to slow down and revel in a day where we had no other duties or work.
Vanderkam points out that lingering isn’t just about learning not to be late, but about learning how to appreciate the present and thus ‘stretching your experience of time’.
My favorite way to do this is with a gratitude practice. We can work to savor moments of pleasure, both so that we can appreciate the present and so that we can remember them later and appreciate them again. I discussed my bullet journal habit in this previous post, but my gratitude practice has been an important way for me to pay attention to the best parts of my day and dwell on them (instead of the least savory parts).
The Daily Vacation
My favorite part of this section is Vanderkam’s suggestion of what she calls a ‘daily vacation’. We can’t always linger over our morning cup of coffee, especially if we have to get the kids to the bus stop by 7:25 and then get to a meeting at 8:30. But we can build in time in the day when it is appropriate to linger. Maybe we watch a sunset, go for a run at lunch, or even take a few minutes for some deep breathing. Whatever you need, take just a minute at the end of the event to appreciate it. Take a moment at the end of the day to write it down. And take a minute once a week to think back to all 7 vacations from the previous week. This approach increases mindfulness and helps us really savor our time instead of letting pleasurable moments slip through our fingers to be forgotten in the slog of our everyday lives.
Stop right now and think of your future self this evening. What 3 things are you going to write on your gratitude list? Have they already happened today? Or do you still need to come up with some items that you truly appreciate to write down? Can you stop right now to do a meditation? Or do you need to plan in a few minutes of something wonderful this afternoon?
Vanderkam’s next lesson centers on creating moments that warrant great memories. This is my specialty. As a photographer, I’m constantly looking for ways to document my kids in a unique and beautiful way as a creative outlet. It brings me joy.
In recent years, I’ve heard some speak out against the curated versions of life people share on social media. I don’t subscribe to this belief, instead I believe that social media users who share the most beautiful parts of their lives are doing their part to commemorate the things they want to remember. I hope that seeing the images I share brings you joy and inspires you to create and document your life, but more importantly, I adore looking back at our posts from a year ago or more. Facebook has done an amazing job with its Timehop feature.
‘If it brings you joy, celebrate it!,’ is my motto. Upon reading this chapter of her book, it helped me voice my thoughts here a bit better.
Our Three Selves
One of her most poignant points for me was when Vanderkam outlined that we each have three ‘selves’: the past self (which we remember fondly with nostalgia), the present self (which for me is often running late and short on patience), and the future self (which I idealize as having more time and energy). She says, “Bliss is possible in the past and in the future, but seldom in the present.” This seems so basic and obvious when I read it, but again and again I plan events and then am disappointed by the outcome, hurt that my children didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought they would , annoyed that my husband would hardly try whatever new dish I’ve made, and frustrated at myself for ‘losing it’ over something that should not get the best of me. But this lesson reminds me to give myself grace. Give it time for the memory to form–for the very best of the moment to rise to the top and stay at the forefront of my mind. I try to find gratitude in the parts that went well and dwell on the positives. So the lesson, I’ve realized, it to go ahead and plan the event, load the kids up in the car, pack the snacks and the sunscreen and the towels and the water toys and the snacks and the water and the camera. Forgive yourself for yelling at the kid that forgot their shoes, and know that what you are doing is beautiful. Or will be one day when you look back and remember the warm sun on your body, you’ll laugh at the thought of a kid without shoes hopping around on the sand, you’ll remember cold watermelon and the sound of squeals and laughter and the rest will fade away.
I recently attended a discussion at our church with our youth pastor about raising great kids in society today and he lamented a recent lock-in at the church where he had to reprimand several junior high kids sternly. He remembered this moment at the event with frustration, but the kids recounted the lock-in as awesome and a highlight event of their time at church. We all frame and remember things differently. We get the opportunity to curate memories for ourselves and, to a certain extent, our children–through photography or scrapbooking or journaling or home videos–synthesizing down the hours of time that could be mundane into distinct points of memory. And I think we can help our children foster this skill with a gratitude practice. After most vacations, or even at random times during the summer, I have the kids draw or paint their favorite parts of a trip or an adventure we had. I include these drawings in our family yearbooks (note to self: add a photo of this to this post).
For some events that are traumatic or tragic, every detail may be seared into our memory forever. But for the things that we do have control over, we can choose to curate adventures and memories to build a life worth looking back on with gratitude and love.
Think back, what memories are most vivid for you? What events stand out about the last few weeks? Do you remember them fondly?
This precious family wanted to get family photos before the rush of school started. July is typically hot in Texas (I know you’re shocked by that statement), but Rockwall family photography sessions can go just fine if you’re willing to start early. These guys met me at a local park in Rockwall and were finished with their session before breakfast.
I was contacted back in the early fall by a mom that was expecting in spring time. She inquired about a year-in-the-life session, which is just an all inclusive price for a standard in-home newborn shoot, and then milestone shoots for 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. I love when my families are this organized and plan in advance, it helps me plan my year out as well. So we booked her session and then just after Christmas she realized she may want a maternity lifestyle session, as well.
I love any chance to document a growing family, so, of course, I jumped at the chance to do a maternity session. This family also had a 17 month old at home which made it doubly awesome. He was as sweet as can be. I loved capturing the moments of anticipation for their new baby girl, but also them soaking up every last moment of their first baby as an only child. Take a look at some of the highlights from this in-home maternity lifestyle session below.
Are you expecting? Ready to book your lifestyle session? Let’s chat! Contact me here.
I have a confession to make…this session took me over a month to edit…and I’m not talking a like 4.5 weeks, like closer to 6–cough–I mean 7 weeks. Whew! I feel better just getting that off my chest. Don’t worry it’s been delivered now. With the end of summer and a few last minute trips to the start of school, things were insane for a bit. And I took one look at this session and loved it so much that I just couldn’t sit down to edit it without the proper time and energy. Nor could I bear to let it go and send it out into the world. But now that I am finished, I have to say, I’m proud. I think it is my favorite session to date. This family is dear to me and they are dear to each other, which is the most important thing I hope to capture with an in-home lifestyle photography session.
I’ve been asked before–how I learned to be a photographer….you may know my story. Fitting that I start with ‘my story’ in a post all about storytelling.
I didn’t go to college to be a photographer. I’ve always loved documenting loved ones and friends, but it didn’t occur to be to use anything other than the auto mode on every camera I’d ever owned until my children were born. And then I realized I was missing their special moments because I just couldn’t capture them fast enough. Or they’d be playing in front of the bedroom window and I’d take a picture only to find that their face was completely black, but I could see the car driving by outside, or I’d see a beautiful sky and try to capture it only to find it completely white on my camera screen. I had to figure it out! So I took a class at a local camera store to learn how to shoot in manual mode. Since then, I’ve taken online classes through a few online forums. Some of my favorites have been at Click Photo School. They have full classes that usually last around four weeks, but they also have ‘breakout’ classes that are short courses in a specific topic.
I took a breakout class recently called “The Stories That Make Us”. I feel like ‘story’ and ‘storytelling’ are buzz words in photography, business, marketing, and probably society in general, right now. But I get the draw. I love the idea of capturing ‘story’. Telling a story. Reading a story. Being part of a story.
And so, for the class assignment, I had to gather my favorite personal images. I began to see the story I’ve been telling for my own family. Though I know my photographic style will be ever-evolving, it will always probably involve bright color, bold light, movement. Those are the first things I notice when I study this set of images.
The next assignment was my favorite part. It’s the jumping off point for my next big personal project. The assignment was to choose a few images and tell about the image. Why you took it. Why you pushed the shutter when you did. What it means to you. And then to determine themes for the image and for your work overall. The following images are the ones that I turned in. I wrote my thoughts directly on the images. And for my larger project, I’ll print these for a photography journal that I’d like to start to document my family but also look over my progress and growth over the years.
I love a good creative project, and I’m still working through the details, but I know it’ll be more about writing down the stories (and intentionally photographing them) for my children. I know they will look at my photographs and appreciate them, they already do, but I want to have more of my voice in this project. More story for them to remember and appreciate.
I write this partly to hold myself accountable for updating you on some of my personal projects over the next few months. But also to inspire you to give a bit more thought to how and why you photograph whatever it is that you love. How will you intentionally tell your story?
I met this family on a beautiful weekend evening. They had all gathered for the evening for an extended family lifestyle session. I love celebrating homecomings and family togetherness!
These twin little boys were a joy to work with, as well as the rest of this crew. We began with more traditional portraits in front of their beautiful home and on the drive leading up to the house. We spent around 15 minutes out here; photographing toddlers never lasts long! We then went to back yard where we watched the cows, blew some bubbles and played. We finished at bedtime for the boys. This is one of my favorite types of sessions where, of course, we get the shot of everyone smiling, but then we are able to focus on capturing special moments, more dramatic lighting, and some of the many important details that will be cherished for years to come.
Enjoy few of my favorite images from this session. Have questions about your own lifestyle session? Contact me here.
Have you read the book The Polar Express? It’s a children’s book that I remember from my own childhood. The story goes that a little boy has been told by friends that Santa does not exist. He does not believe them. On Christmas Eve as he lays in bed he hears a noise. Outside a train has pulled up and he climbs aboard to go to the North Pole. He rides the train, meets Santa Claus and is given one silver bell from the reindeer harness. On the way home he loses the bell. But on Christmas morning there is a gift for the boy in a small box and it is the silver bell. He hears the jingle, but his parents think the bell is broken. He realizes that only those who believe can hear the bell. This is the short version, but this story really is magical!
Imagine eating dinner with the family and then presenting your children with a special early Christmas gift: they unwrap new Christmas pajamas and a special book: The Polar Express. You sit down to read the story all together. Then, there is one more surprise: a special ticket for the Polar Express. Everyone will hurry to get bundled up and out the door as dad calls out “all aboard for the North Pole.” You pile into the car for a little adventure and come to the North Pole (or rather a special satellite location of the Pole that is in Rockwall, TX). Come in and sit down to enjoy hot chocolate and a sweet treat. Then come in to see Santa Claus himself. Visit with Santa, enjoy a Christmas cookie, sing Christmas carols and hand over your Christmas list. At the end of the visit, enjoy a treat bag from Santa. A Joyful Life Photography will document your special time with Santa Claus.
Sound like fun? You’re in luck! A Joyful Life Photography and Wonderfully Made Children’s Boutique are teaming up to give away The Polar Express experience (find all the details on facebook). The winner of the giveaway will get a $25 gift card to Wonderfully Made, a copy of The Polar Express classic children’s book, one train ticket, and a Santa Photography Session on Saturday evening, November 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm. All Santa Session customers are invited to come a few minutes before their session to enjoy hot chocolate and treats!
Would you like to create your own Polar Express experience? I’ve included the downloadable print of the ticket. Simply head to Wonderfully Made for a precious selection of Christmas pajamas, read The Polar Express to your kiddos, print the special ticket and head over to the Santa Sessions! Don’t forget to reserve your Santa Session in advance. We can’t wait to see you!
This sweet momma contacted me in late summer to plan a fall family photo session. We chose a date and planned our session. I asked them to bring a few items that their precious two year old baby girl would enjoy. The day of the session turned out beautiful! I was so excited for a beautiful sunset photo session, but was shocked when I pulled up to the spot where we agreed to meet to find the parking lot completely full ( it’s a fairly large lot that usually has 5-10 cars in it on a weekend evening). I began to look around and realize it was all high school students in evening wear, most accompanied by a parent or two. I quickly put it all together that it must also be the night of the homecoming dance at the local high school. So we quickly moved to plan B. Luckily I’ve been to this park many, many times and called this family to have them meet me in another area. I also knew of a great place to start our session at the bottom of a hill where no girl in heels would probably climb. After the surprise, the session got off to a beautiful start and went off without a hitch. The crowd cleared out soon after and we finished the session at the top of the hill.
Enjoy this precious peek at this family of 3’s family photo session.
Enjoy the slideshow below. Music is included, so turn up your speakers to hear the sound.
Sometimes you meet people who are amazingly selfless. They have an extraordinary story to share and a conviction about what they are doing that is breathtaking. This family is one of those families. I had the amazing blessing of being there at the hearing to finalize the adoption of their fourth child, a beautiful baby boy. Being a lifestyle photographer makes this possible and I’m absolutely honored that they chose me to share this special day.
As you can imagine, the morning started out a bit harried as we were ushered into the courthouse–getting four kiddos dressed and ready to go anywhere is a feat. The guard at the courthouse entrance gave me a strong warning to be sure to have explicit permission from the judge before picking up my camera in the courtroom, or it could be confiscated! We hurried to the second floor where we had a bit of time to wait before the court was ready for us. Luckily there was a nice uninhabited waiting area with beautiful light. The kids played around and we tried to keep them contained as best we could. Suddenly we were ready to head into the courtroom. I followed the family in and waited for the signal that photography in the courtroom was ok. The whole process lasted around five minutes I’d guess and I got just a couple of shots at the end once I knew I was in the clear to photograph. Luckily there were other opportunities to document the day before and after our court time.
So the State Fair is coming! If you’ve not gotten your early bird tickets you better hurry (they stop selling on September 25, I believe)! And if you’ve not booked your State Fair Session, it is time! I love the fair for the fun, the lights, the color and the festivity. State fair photography is a great way to document your family doing something you all enjoy.
Right now, there are options for an evening State Fair Session on October 5, which happens to be our Fair Day here in Rockwall. These fall under the Simple Session umbrella. Come to the fair to do your 30 minute photography session and stay for the fun of the after-dark experience! You’ll get an online gallery uploaded with all of your images and you select 10 to download. Simple and easy.
I am also available for standard family sessions at the Fair on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings while the fair is open! Standard family session charges apply. Email me or fill out my contact form for all the details!
We’ve all been there. I just hired a family photographer for our vacation on Spring Break this year when we traveled out to Palo Duro Canyon. It was amazing. We had a great time and we have all of the beautiful landscape documented along with our precious family. Thank you Kayla Smith Photography! But now it’s almost time for Christmas cards and I need the latest and greatest picture of my kids to send to all of our friends and relatives (it’s a ‘big list’ Christmas card year…more on that in another post). In 9 months my three littles have changed a ton and I feel obligated to send the most updated photo so everyone who does not see us everyday knows a little more of what they look like. So what’s a girl to do? Well, clearly, for me I just gather my three and head out a park for an update! But you? You, my friend, are the reason I created my Simple Sessions. By request I’ve brought them back for those that don’t want a full custom session but just a quick update for their card or their mantle portrait.
Photo by Kayla Smith in Palo Duro Canyon, March 2016.
How do they work?
Simple Sessions are scheduled in advance and I usually take 2-3 clients at a time. The locations are listed per date on the webpage right now. Simply choose your favorite location or the time that works best for you and fill out the form on the site. I’ll send an invoice for the session fee and once that’s paid you’re all set! From there I’ll send over my Pinterest boards with outfit ideas, some tips and tricks to make sure your session runs smoothly, and the last minute reminders for your session.
What’s the difference between Simple and regular, full family sessions?
Full family sessions are my favorite! I love to get to know you through our consultation so that we can plan a great session that is completely customized to your family. I consult with outfits for your entire family. During the session I give you a time frame just to help with planning, but there’s really no time limit. I shoot until I have all that we need to deliver a full gallery and we’ve ‘gotten’ what you wanted in our pre-session planning. Want to get family shots but also celebrate a little turning one? We can do that! Want to do a more traditional sitting but also document your children and how they love your backyard pool? We can end the session in the water! Want to venture into Dallas for a rooftop photo shoot? These are just a few of the options you could plan for your full family session. After the session, I edit your photos and sit down with you to decide how and what to purchase. And then I deliver your beautiful products straight to your door! Simple session are equally awesome, just for different reasons. I plan the sessions in advance and schedule two or three at a time to make it more cost effective for my clients. In a 30 minute session I have a session flow that I follow in order to give you a variety of images in your gallery. After the session I upload your images to an online gallery and you choose the 10 images that you love for your pre-purchased set. If you love all the images there is an option to purchase the additional images. The images come straight to you in a digital download format. You may choose to purchase prints through the gallery which puts you in touch with my professional lab (for amazing quality) or order from your own favorite company. Easy peasy!