I have always thought of myself as a family memory keeper. Before I really appreciated photography, I was making photo albums from my haphazard images captured on a disposable camera when I was in high school. I have tried traditional scrapbooking and, after a rather extensive investment of both money and time, I decided that my personality and lifestyle don’t lend themselves well to the time investment. Photo albums, created digitally, are where it is at for me. And creating a family yearbook allows me to relive our year as I create our book and the whole family to relive each time we flip through.
I get asked lots of questions about how I manage digital images for my clients and my family, where I print various items, and how I archive our digital lives, so I’ve got a series of posts planned to answer some of those questions. For now, I’ve just finished my latest family yearbook (documenting 2016–I know, I generally stay a year behind) and wanted to share my process for our books in hopes of giving you some ideas or inspiration for how to tackle saving your memories for your family to enjoy.
I’ve created a few albums at different companies. For high end client photo albums, I use Miller’s lab. But I love to print my family yearbooks in large format so that we can all sit around and look at them and have settled on the photobooks at Blurb for their quality and competitive pricing. My latest book, created for our 2016 year, was just over 100 pages. What follows is a quick rundown of my workflow for creating these books:
Start by gathering all your photos for the year. I group mine by month. I go through and determine which photos will make the cut by culling ruthlessly. I also give myself a good amount of time to let some of the emotion fade before I make my final decisions (that is generally why I stay a year behind–I find that I just can’t choose images very well when they were just taken a few weeks ago, they all seem important when I’ve just experienced them). I choose only the images that really move me and make me feel something. This ends up being 30 or so images per month with extra images for vacations or holidays.
I use Adobe Lightroom to organize my photo files and handle basic editing. It allows me to make a grouping of these photos called a “collection”. So once I’ve made my mostly final decisions about which images to include and put them in their own catalog, I go through and make sure each image is edited to my liking for the book. My favorite images are rated with 5 stars. These are the images that are my favorites from the year, either for the experience that they capture or their technical merits, or (hopefully) both.
Then I export the files as .jpg in a folder on my desktop. I typically export all except my 5 star images at a size of 2500 pixels on the long edge. I export my 5 star images as 4000 pixels on the long edge because they will be the ones that I print as full page spreads, or cover images, etc.
One of the reasons that I like to use Blurb is that they have their own software for creating your book layout–the current version (January 2018) is called BookWright. You’ll create a blurb account at Blurb.com and download the software to your computer. You can decide what size book and what quality of paper to use. I recommend the photobook, in large landscape 11×13 size with premium matte 100# paper. Again, this is a compromise of price and quality. It is not the most luxurious photo album I’ve ever held, but I can’t afford to spend $600 for each family yearbook, especially since I’ve got a backlog of yearbooks still to do from our early marriage years. And I love the larger books so that the kids can all gather around to look through them.
Then, you just select your folder with your images and begin to drag and drop different photo layouts. You can add text, resize the image or text boxes, change the formatting. It is all very intuitive. There is even an ‘autofill’ feature where you can let the program layout your book for you. I don’t like this method, as I like to go through, for example, to put all of our vacation photos on one or two pages. Or group the kids soccer photos together on one spread. I spend a few days laying out the books. It’s a labor of love that truly brings me joy.
Then I follow the prompts and send it off to print. Our 2016 yearbook was just over 100 pages and cost me around $120.
I am not affiliated with Blurb at all. I’ve just had discussions with several friends lately about how I record memories in my family, so I wanted to share. However, if you decide you would like to use blurb, you may use this link to get $15 off your order of $30 or more (and, yes, I do get a discount on my next book, if you end up purchasing–so it’s a win-win).
These images are a couple of screen shots from the BookWright software. The first is my title page. Keep in mind this an 11×13 book, so that image is quite large.
This is the first page of our February. Near the beginning of the month, our daughter cut off a large portion of her hair one night after bath time. We had to have her extremely long hair cut into a short bob. Now we can laugh about it, but at the time it was a little traumatic. For something like that, I use a whole page to share several images surrounding one event and include text to tell the story in a few words.
And here are a few of my favorite images from our 2016 year. The final few images are snapshots of our finished book. Have questions? Interested in booking your own family session with A Joyful Life Photography? Reach out to 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 believe in the importance of family lifestyle photography. Our babies grow and change so fast! Even with the best of intentions, even for someone who is paid to take photos, it is sometimes farther than I’d like to admit between capturing photographs of all of us together. I have to make an effort to get photos of myself with each member of my family. This precious family had a similar story. They clearly have a strong bond and are a loving, close-knit family, but haven’t gotten family photos in quite a few years. Working with them was rewarding in that we started out a bit tight and ended up working into some of my favorite poses for families with older children. Natural hugs, smiles and genuine interaction and connection. Plus a beautiful evening! I think everyone in the family would agree it was relatively painless and maybe even fun (I know it was for me!). Thank you A family for coming out and trusting me with your family lifestyle photography session!
Check out a few of my favorites from this session. Want to learn more about your own session? Start here!
Ready to book? Still have questions? Contact me here.
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.
Learn more. Ask questions. Or book now.
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.
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!
Why Simple Sessions?
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!
Ready to book? Start here!
This amazing family contacted me for a summer session. Mom wanted more traditional photos in a park or urban setting but also some photos of her precious boys enjoying their backyard pool, one of their favorite things to do. We settled on a session starting in downtown Rockwall and then we moved just down the street to Harry Myers Park to finish the evening session. We finished up in a true lifestyle photography session in their home and backyard a few weeks later.
We shot this part of the session during the summer when ‘golden hour’ sunlight is very late in the evening, a bit past the bedtimes of these two little ones. We got beautiful images from the session, but mom and I both knew there would not be time to head back to their house to capture such a big part of their daily life in their pool.
So we decided to reconvene on another night a few weeks later for a short session at their home and finishing up in the pool. The light inside their home was magical. Also, you can’t recreate the comfort that children feel inside their own house or the pride they convey when they show you their own toys and bedrooms. And the way the whole family is able to come together for shots that will mean the world to them in five, ten, or even more years when they can look back and remember their home, and their life exactly how it was happening.
What is lifestyle photography?
There are lots of definitions. In fact, I find there are different definitions between each of the photographers that I know that define their own style as ‘lifestyle’. I define it as documenting a moment in your life that may be staged and somewhat directed but captures the way you live life together.
Ready to book your own session? Start here to learn more about my style and how I work through a session.
I had the honor of meeting sweet baby L recently. Isn’t she a doll? I love this family! This new big brother is the same age as my youngest little one. And this new addition and my youngest now share a birthday. So we have lots of connections! I get asked a lot if I’m a newborn photographer. I LOVE to meet newborns, but I love to photograph them in their natural state–doing things most newborn might actually do! I want to use their own special blankets and loveys. I want to photograph them at the hospital or in their own crib. I call this approach ‘lifestyle’. One of my favorite lifestyle sessions is a hospital session or Fresh 48. This session commemorates the addition of a new baby in their first 48 hours or so.
We had planned to get together for this hospital shoot the day of the birth–I love to do ‘meet the sibling’ hospital sessions. They had a planned induction at a hospital in Flower Mound, so I had a good idea of when the birth would take place. However, since it was later in the day before L made her appearance, we knew that big brother would have a very short attention span and it would be pretty late before I could get to the hospital. So we opted for a day two session. L was exactly 24 hours old when I arrived at the hospital. Big brother introduced me. And I got to spend a few minutes with him while L got her 24 hour check-up. When I got to meet her she was pretty sleepy from the exam and heel prick. She was as sweet as can be. She wore an adorable gown and we got lucky with beautiful natural light in the hospital room.
I love to capture the emotion of these first days of life and great adjustment of a family. Telling the story of a family is why I do what I do! Congratulations H family!
Every year I strive to grow and learn. Sometimes that just means practice and other times I seek out more traditional and formal learning opportunities. This month I took an online class through Clickin’ Moms called Going Beyond the Pose. Sometimes you want a smiling photo with everyone looking at the camera, I want to give at least one of those to each of my clients at their session. After all, it’s what Grandma really wants. But I’m drawn to less posed photography. Capturing emotion and connection through my lens is always my intent. This type of session that combines some traditional portraiture but emphasizes relationships, actions, and emotion is how I define my work as a family lifestyle photographer. In this class, I learned from one of my favorite photographers, Elena Blair. She does amazing family photography work in Seattle.
I met this family for a session specifically for two assignments in the class. Since it was January, I was worried about cold weather, but it ended up being relatively mild. These two kiddos were a joy to work with. Little man was a bit grumpy due to the time of day, but a few Skittles cheered him right up. Precious images to document this family’s life and style: mission accomplished.
Our first Santa Sessions were a huge success! We took Santa photos, ate cookies with Santa, sang Christmas carols and had a great time! So you’re ready for Thanksgiving? You’ve made plans to get out the tree this weekend and begin decorating. When will you get to see Santa Claus?
Next, you’ll trim the tree and put up your Christmas lights. When will you take your Santa photos?
Have you decided when you’ll meet Santa Claus? Did you want to go stand in line at the mall? Did you think you’d have only a minute to tell him what you’d like this year and how good you’ve been?
At the Santa Sessions, there is no long drive into the metroplex. There’s no waiting in long lines all day long. There are no poorly focused or barely lit photos to document your child’s innocent wonder of the magic of Santa.
Make your appointment with Santa today. Arrive at Harry Myers Park 5 minutes prior to your scheduled session. Have some hot chocolate, listen to Christmas music, sit down, relax. We’ll let you know when Santa is ready. You’ll sit with Santa for up to 15 minutes. Give him your list, tell him about your favorite toy, sing a song, whatever you’d like! We’ll capture it all in photos.
Join us November 30 and December 1 for our final Santa Sessions of this season. And have one more look at our Christmas Magic slideshow–provided for free when you attend your own Santa Session! Cheers!
Being a Rockwall family photographer has amazing perks. I get to document the lives of friends, family and meet many wonderful new friends in the process. I get to do what I’m absolutely passionate about…documenting your life as art with my camera. I’m honored to be a part of so many precious lives. Here are highlights from several sessions over the fall 2015 season.