Behind the Scenes of my Cherry Blossom Adventures


Cherry blossom trees are beautiful when they bloom in the spring here in Virginia. Despite that, I had decided to avoid cherry blossom sessions. 

  1. It is hard to predict when they will bloom, and therefore hard to schedule session dates.
  2. The Tidal Basin area is always filled with crowds during cherry blossom time and permits are required to photograph there (plus I'm not a fan of the traffic when driving to DC). 
  3. I didn't know where other cherry blossom spots were.

But when a neighbor reached out in the winter requesting to book a cherry blossom family session I said yes... (because they are really beautiful and we won't be in Virginia forever)

Scheduling and Finding a Location

Initially, it was predicted that the cherry blossoms would bloom mid March. But Northern Virginia decided to stay cold (and snow) in March which kept pushing out the peak bloom date. I was out of town the last week of March, and my client was going out of town the second week of April so we had a very narrow window of time to work with. Since I was already doing one cherry blossom session I figured why not add one more. A lot of communication, flexibility, and patience was required by everyone. 

I was reading through local Facebook groups to find other possible spots. I checked out behind a Lowes and along the side of a busy road. I'm no expert on these trees. I couldn't go check out spots until they were actually starting to bloom because I wouldn't know what to look for. And I don't know how long they stay bloomed. I know there are other places outside of DC, but I didn't have time to drive all over finding these beautiful locations. And even though there are websites tracking the blooms close to DC, other areas bloom at different times.


Needless to say, I was stressed. Then I remembered a friend posted a picture of this beautiful tree on Facebook. 

Side note - Check out her blog Chaos and Cammies. It is so fun to read and she knows all of the mom hacks!

I texted her asking where it was and if she and her daughters would come model for me the next morning (my client's family session was going to be that evening - talk about cutting it close).  I always like to share edited examples with clients when picking a location so that they can see my vision. 

I knew that if the family didn't feel comfortable or I didn't feel comfortable it wouldn't matter how beautiful the background was. After sharing a few sample images I took of my friend with both clients they were both excited about the spot. And I was feeling calm plus excited. 


Tips and Tricks for Photographing and Editing

One of my favorite things about photography is that each time I pick up my camera it is a new challenge and there are always so many factors to think about. I have gotten very comfortable with my "go-to" locations that offer a lot of variety. Producing a complete gallery full of variety with only two trees was a whole new challenge.

Angles + Composition

This hidden gem of a spot was only two trees! On each side were houses (and also a porta potty). Therefore, I had to pay attention to my angles and composition. Here are various ways I achieved my desired look.

1. I loved the contrast of of the darker tree in front of the lighter tree and it had a beautiful arch I placed my subjects under. I got low to the ground and angled my lens up slightly to get more of the trees.


2. I also chose to shoot standing higher than the family and angling my lens down to get the petals that had fallen. 


3. Before my session, I broke off some branches from other cherry blossom trees and taped them to longer sticks. (As I was gathering more sticks a neighborhood kid picked up one and banged it on the ground causing the blooms to fall off. I Was not pleased about that.)   I had my assistants (the parents) hold them around the kids and I stood on a step stool. I switched my camera to live mode so that I could see what I was shooting on the LCD screen, and held the camera out over the kids.  


4. I love shooting through branches, grass, and anything else I can find. It adds depth and is a great way to frame subjects. My "props" (blossom branches) got a lot of use. I would hold them out with my other hand or have whoever wasn't being photographed help hold them. It gave the illusion that there were a lot more trees. 

5. I also liked bringing my subjects further out in front, away from the trees. By doing this, the trees would fill the background more instead of just having the branches above them. It also would allow my subjects to really pop and stand out from the background. 


6. Lastly, I placed my subjects in the middle of the tree branches in order to get varying levels of focus of the branches. 


Lens Choice

I have two lenses I like to use when photographing outdoor family sessions, a 35 mm and a 85 mm. During these sessions I used a lot more of my 85 mm. The longer focal length creates more bokeh (the creamy blur) which looks dreamy with these trees.


I like to deliver large galleries and realistic images. Therefore, I have had no need to learn advanced editing skills. But I did have fun enhancing the blooms in the images. 

  1.  Straight out of camera

1. Straight out of camera

  2.  Basic edit 

2. Basic edit 

  3.  Removing sign & add to the flowers

3. Removing sign & add to the flowers

  4.  Lighten & adjust tint of flowers

4. Lighten & adjust tint of flowers


  1.  Straight out of camera

1. Straight out of camera

  3.  Add to the flowers

3. Add to the flowers

  2.  Basic edit

2. Basic edit

  4.  Lighten the flowers and adjust the tint

4. Lighten the flowers and adjust the tint


I am grateful for patient and trusting clients, a chance to push my creativity, and for beautiful trees. Fun fact - neither of the trees I used were cherry blossoms!!! But the branches I broke off were. 




Reflections on Motherhood

I set a goal to take a self portrait every day for the month of February. Yes, it was nice that February was the shortest month because getting set-up to take self portraits is a lot of work (and I did miss a few days)! I knew that not every image would have the strongest composition or the best lighting, but together they would tell our story. 


Going from working outside the home full time, to part time, to leaving my corporate job completely has been an adjustment. I told my husband that even though it was what I wanted, I'd still complain to him all the time about how hard it is being at home. Many days seem to drag on and blur together, especially during the winter. I lose track of the day of the week and the last time I showered. 

Some days I feel as though I can get nothing accomplished. The house is messier than when the day started. It's a game to see if I can load the dishwasher faster than Theo can empty it. More dirty laundry gets created than gets washed. Quite often Theo eats his leftover breakfast still on his tray when I sit him down for lunch. But every day I love these tiny humans of mine. I do my best to teach them new things and influence the type of people they grow up to be. So it might not be a clear accomplishment I can check off of a to-do list, but I know as they grow up they will continue to make me a proud mother and they will be my greatest accomplishment.


I can't shower with out little man pulling back the curtain crying (and getting soaked). Going to the bathroom alone is now considered a luxury. Cooking dinner while holding a squirmy baby is no easy task and I don't know how Theo hasn't gotten burnt yet. It is really hard to put heart into reciting Frozen lines when it's the 10th time in a row we are acting it out. But how awesome is it to be loved that much by my kids that they don't want me out of their site? And it is the best feeling when Mackenzie tells me I'm her best friend. I know the time will come when they won't want to be around me all day everyday. So for now, I'll work on savoring it. 


I frequently lose my patience. I lash out and am not proud of it. But  my kids forgive me even without being asked. Just as I'm about to hit my breaking point, Theo will smile at me. Or Mackenzie will tell me it's ok and that she's here to help me. They seem to know exactly what I need exactly when I need it. As much as I am trying to teach them they keep finding ways to teach me. When my husband watches the kids so I can have much needed "me" time it doesn't take long until I'm wishing I was back with them.  


Motherhood is the hardest and most important job. No one provides you with an annual review telling you where your strengths are or where you need to focus on improving. There's no bonus tied to a job well done. I don't think it's possible to completely "figure it out." I have to trust my maternal instincts and believe that "mama knows best." It's a constantly asking myself what's best for my family, what's best for my kids, what is best for me. And the answers change. Finding balance is a never ending struggle.


I am grateful for a strong group of mom friends that provide me with reassurance that what I am going through is similar to the ups and downs they experience too. I'm also grateful to have this creative outlet to use to tell our story and to be able to look back and remember this season of life. Wiping snot and cleaning up spilt milk is far from glamorous work. Most days I don't know if I'm laughing or crying - it's usually a mixture of both. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

To all the mamas reading, your every day is perfectly imperfect. And your chaos is beautiful in its own special way. 


And I promise this will be the wordiest blog post I ever write :) 



A Special Occasion for Daddies and Daughters


I was watching the weather all week, and every fifteen minutes the day of. The rain decided to stop just in time to set-up outside. I had so much fun documenting these dads and their daughters before the Quantico Daddy Daughter Dance. It was an evening full of...





and sweet moments.


It was special to see the dads look at their daughters with such pride and love. And to see the daughters look up and at their dads with admiration.

Sparkling juice, snacks, and some Disney music made taking pictures fun for everyone. I am grateful for my neighbor who helped me host a successful event!


Military men and women serve both their county and families with such dedication. It was an honor for me to get to capture these memories. 

I can't wait to document more occasions in the future!



Ugly Locations, Pretty Pictures

One of my favorite things about being a photographer is being a part of various communities. It’s exciting to connect with and be inspired by photographers living all over the world. One particular group I am a part of does monthly challenges. For the month of January, the challenge was to find ugly locations to turn into awesome portraits. Here are the 3 locations I used:

1.     Random Building

I’d driven by this building numerous times. I have no idea what it is, but the colorful graffiti caught my eye.



2.     My Laundry Room

If I had to pick the ugliest room in my house, it would  be my laundry room. So much junk gets tossed in it. I thought it would be fun to play with the reflection from the washer and dryer even in the middle of the mess.



3.     Quantico Obstacle Course

My husband works as an instructor at The Basic School for the Marine Corps. It is an ugly work location. But I thought it would be fun to document my kids at his work. And the obstacle course used for training was the perfect spot. Plus, I got a lot of sweet images of my little ones with dad.



I love this art because there are always new challenges to tackle, new concepts to explore, and new ways to be inspired!

4 Reasons to Invest in a Lifestyle Family Video Session

Here are 4 reasons why you should add life, sound, and motion to your family portraits by investing in a video session.

1.     Tell your story

Every family has a story to tell. Let me help tell yours. Let’s document your everyday moments! Children are growing, learning, and changing every single day.  A video session is a perfect way to bottle it all up. It is a way to remember how they are today, forever. I want to authentically capture you and your perfectly imperfect life.

2.     Connect on an emotional level

A video session brings motion and sound to your family portraits. It allows you to feel the connections and love between family members. A family video pairs the sound of your children’s laughter with music.

3.     Capture the details

A family video is a great way to remember life’s little moments. There are some details about our kids that we become so used to in the hustle of our everyday busy lives. But when you can pause, and watch it played back you’ll have a whole new appreciation for those special details.

4.     Watch it over and over

A family video is something your kids will be able to watch over and over. It is a keepsake they’ll have for the rest of their lives

I can’t wait to capture your memories in motion! Contact me now to start planning your session!

Enjoy the Nolan's family film!


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