“How do I find the right photographer? How do I know which photographer is the best fit for my family? Who is the best engagement photographer in Philadelphia? How do I know I’ve made the best choice when choosing someone to photograph my family?” - I’ve heard these questions from long distance friends and I’ve seen them asked time and time again on Facebook, so I’ve put together a list of 5 must ask questions to consider before you book a photographer. These are so useful whether you’re searching for a great fit in a wedding, family, engagement, or adventure photographer. Regardless of your session needs, it’s important to connect with both the portfolio AND the personality of the person you hire, so read on, ask yourself the right questions - and make the best choice for YOU, no matter who it is!
You're considering booking a session but then you hear that little voice:
“I need to wait until (insert statement about unnecessary self-improvement here)."
"I'm waiting until I lose that 7 pounds... I want my bangs to grow past this awkward stage... My teeth aren't white enough... I really need to tone up first."
Sound familiar? I hear you. I don't always love everything about myself either. One day I might feel great, my hair is perfect, those jeans fit just right and I am on top of the world, but the next?
"How long has that wrinkle been there? .... Those extra pounds turned into the shadow of a second chin overnight! .... Is THAT what I look like from that angle?"
Those apps on your phone are flooded with photos of perfectly styled families, flawless hair, and glowing skin. It’s easy to get sucked into the comparison trap from time to time, to feel like your REAL and your RIGHT NOW aren’t worthy of documenting, simply because they don’t seem to measure up to the highlight reels you so often scroll through. You’re not alone, heck, I’ve been there myself. Negative self-talk happens, but what counts is learning to quiet that voice and show up as you are.
I know that there isn’t a single person on this planet with the same combination of ambition, intelligence, compassion, curiosity, and creativity that makes you, you. No one can replicate the same dreams, the same stories, or the same love that fills a life. We are all unique, amazing, and freaking beautiful. We are absolutely enough.
So, why then, while knowing all of this (and truly believing it), do I sometimes still feel that ping of self-doubt when I catch a glimpse of a snapshot where I don't look my best? Well, I really can't answer that, perhaps it’s because I'm human. Perhaps it's a hint of guilt for choosing to have that glass of Pinot Noir last night instead of hitting the gym (actually, strike that, I’ll never regret that decision). Maybe it’s because no matter what I believe and know to be true, the negative thoughts just linger sometimes. I love who I am and I appreciate the body I’ve been given, but sometimes it can still feel impossible not to carry the weight of what we’ve been taught to compare ourselves to.
Here’s the thing though. When you push that all aside, when you stand in the center of a world that boasts such outrageous beauty standards and you realize that you are enough, that you are freaking marvelous, inside and out. That’s when true change happens.
See this photo? This was the result of an afternoon self-portrait session that came of me trying to take my own advice and get in front of the lens more often. When I downloaded the images I immediately flagged every one of them as “rejected,” planning to permanently delete them because I genuinely loathed the way that I looked. I’m not sure what distracted me that afternoon, but I’m glad that it did, because when I stepped away and returned I had a new perspective.
I didn’t look at this photo and see it as a thousand imperfections. I looked at this and I saw it for exactly what it is.
The feeling captured here is one of favorite feelings in the world. I am adored. I love another human being more than I ever thought it possible to love. That all natural I’m-about-to-bust-out-laughing face that I’m making while wrapped up in Sam's arms so accurately depicts the joy that I feel with him. I am so fiercely in love with this man and with the way that he loves me that I just want to shout it from the rooftops. If this is what that looks like, honestly, that's okay with me now. It's more than okay actually, it's incredible. Even if my eyes are squinty and my chin imperfect, my life is freaking beautiful. I am freaking beautiful, and I'm learning to show up just as I am.
So let's recap here, shall we?
Who you are at this very moment is enough. You are enough. Even if you don’t agree with that yet, learn to, because to be honest, who you are right now is who you are right now. Maybe you'll change a little in a few weeks, maybe you won't, but this is who you are in this moment. Stop deleting awesome snapshots of you and your partner or photos of you and your children because you wish you looked different. This is the version of you that your husband adores, the version that your children admire and that they’ll remember, so please, learn to love it too. Love this stage of your beautiful existence enough to preserve it, document it so that your children and the people who love you can hold on to these moments and find joy in them for years to come. Document it so that you can look back and see how beautiful this life truly is, how beautiful you are and always have been.
I've heard these myths from friends, and, at one point I may have believed one or two of them myself, so I want to get right to it and debunk a few of the common beliefs that cause us to wait way too long before booking a couples photography session.
So jump right in if you've been wanting to document your love, but you're waiting because...
1. “ There's nothing special going on right now.”
Not true. Not even a little. Life can be pretty awesome and sometimes pretty rough, but it's all worth savoring.
Eating pizza in your underwear surrounded by a mountain of boxes in your first home. Rainy days spent exploring a new city. Watching the sunset at your favorite beach or dancing by the tide as night falls.
The time goes too quickly and, in my opinion, it's the little moments and the day to day details that seem to be the most fleeting. Really think about it, you've found your person... the face that you search for in every crowd, your first thought every morning, the one you want next to you for the rest of your life, does it really have to be a "special occasion" to celebrate that? I don't think so. I think it should be celebrated as often as possible, so if you want to document that, go for it. You don't need to wait for an engagement, a wedding, or an anniversary. Document it whenever you feel the urge, because it is so worthy of preserving.
2. “We don't like being in front of the camera.”
“We're so awkward. I don't know what to do with my hands. I'll be focused too much on how I look.”
No, no. You'll actually have fun. Again, this comes down to finding the right photographer for you. Guess what? I'm think I'm awkward in front of the camera too, but that’s where finding the right photographer comes into play. When you're photographer is the perfect fit, it all works out.
When you arrive at your session with me I’m not just standing behind my camera waiting for you to turn into Tyra Banks. In fact, I don’t expect my couples to do anything at all. That's my job. I will direct you, give you prompts, ease your nerves and guide the entire thing. You'll have so much fun you might even forget I'm there for a minute. Couples have been known to leave our sessions reminiscing on an evening full of adventure and laughter.
It's not awkward, I promise.
3. You don't think your fiancé/spouse/partner wants to.
Actually, I'd be willing to bet they do, and here's why:
The session planning. You're going to be really excited, and you know your partner loves seeing you beaming with happiness, even if you're asking for opinions on seventeen different dresses.
The session itself. This one’s pretty basic. You're going to cozy up to each other, you're going to kiss, and you're going to laugh - usually a lot of that last one. If you're outside there might be some running, maybe some spinning, some dancing too (if that’s your thing, of course). Each session caters directly to your unique vibe. If you're really chill people who just want to hang, perhaps you'll just sit on the sand all wrapped up together whispering sweet nothings and enjoying the sun at your backs. Are you full of energy? Cool, maybe you’ll dance around, chase each other toward the tide, tell some inappropriatejokes (by all means, pay no mind to me). Your session is pretty much an enhanced date night - there’ll be a ton of those moments where time seems to stand still and you remember why you fell in love to begin with.
Lastly, the photos. Need I say more? You’ll get photographs that will serve as daily reminders of how loved you are and how deeply you love. The joy, the intimacy, wind in your hair and adoration in your eyes - all of it preserved. It's pretty much impossible not to be excited about that.
This time in your life is so worthy of documenting.
Photography has always been in my heart, but my journey really started in South Carolina when I found inspiration living beside my nieces and nephew. The moments I witnessed in their day to day struck me as exceptionally beautiful. The way their personalities bloomed and their daily routines evolved made every moment seem delicate and fleeting, as if each of these little details and quirky expressions could be occurring for the very last time. This lesson gave me a lasting perspective and is one of my most valuable tools in the way I approach photography, both when I'm documenting my personal experiences and when I'm photographing my clients and their families. I capture those moments you adore, the ones that might not happen again tomorrow, because as much as you want to hold on to them, when your child is twenty-five, flipping through a photo album with their own children on their lap, they'll want to remember too.
Here are five tips to help you capture this stage of childhood for photographs that your children will love looking back on years from now:
1. Embrace Imperfection
Embracing imperfection and mundane moments allows you to capture the stages of childhood in a real way, the way it feels to them and the way it feels to you. When I look at this photo I don't just see its smudges, its splashes, its technical faults, I see a little piece of the past. You see, it looks the way that so many of my own childhood memories felt, the smell of chlorine and sunblock fingerprints coating my sunglasses, shivering by the edge of the pool, waiting.
I like to think that when my niece looks at this photo she’ll be brought back to this moment in her own way, just as she remembers it, the heat of summer on her skin and the sound of her sister shouting "Marco!!!" from across the pool.
2. Observe what happens naturally
If you’ve watched a child interact with the natural world around them then you’ve seen them holding a piece of magic in their tiny palm, marveling at a seashell or smooth stone discovered in the tide. The magic is always there, but watching a child welcome and acknowledge it is a fresh reminder to open your eyes and appreciate what's around you.
Being a silent observer and letting your child lead is a great way to capture a moment like this, just before the shot where they smile ear to ear and excitedly hold up their treasure for you to admire!
3. Capture the quiet moments
As a child I was fascinated by the rain, I would lose myself for what felt like hours staring at the car window as we drove down the highway, watching each drop of water shimmy back and forth in the wind, trying to hold on, and inevitably, racing past all the rest only to be whisked out of sight. It was mesmerizing, watching the space fill with a thousand new drops as we made our way down the road. I don't have a photo of myself like this, but if I did I would cherish it, because I know this is exactly how I looked, it's exactly how I felt.
Try to capture that for your kids. Document how they interact with the things that fascinate them.
4. See The Bigger Picture
You're at the grocery store and every 14 seconds a little hand is tugging on your shirt and begging for ice cream, you finally have a moment of peace, you could check to see if that email you've been waiting for hit your inbox yet OR you could take a moment to really look at whats happening around you and capture it with that phone in your hand.
I'd urge you to choose the latter. The key to finding beauty is simply to look for it.
I'm glad I found it here because the next time I saw her pushing a shopping cart all by herself her shoulders were taller than the handlebars and there wasn’t a unicorn stuffie in sight.
5. You don't always need to "saY cheese"
While I adore the contagious joy of their sweet smiles, they definitely weren’t happening naturally in this moment. South Carolina is HOT and after a day of exploring and a few peanut butter and jelly halves, tired and sweaty is kind of the norm.
The disinterested and exhausted expression on my nephew and the striking look on my niece paired with a handful of seaside treasures in her hand just pulls me in. Two kids, salty, sandy and tired. It feels so true of a summer afternoon, like wanting to go home, curl up within an air conditioned room and take a long nap. I know this photo will make them laugh when they find it in a shoebox in thirty years, it'll remind them of the humid southern air and their sticky peanut butter fingers.
These genuine smiles are the best ones anyway. This pure, unfiltered joy is the kind of thing you can only get when you allow a moment to unfold without requesting that they smile for a snapshot. Just be present.
And there you have it! 5 Creative ways to take candid photos that your children will love looking back on. I'd love to hear how these IDEAS work for you! share your experience in the comments or tell me about it on Instagram @itsmorganellis.
How do I use this perspective when photographing your family?
I'm glad you asked!
I knew going into this session that belly laughs and snuggles were two of the things this mom most cherished about this stage of her daughters life. I hope that the first photo shows this little one how loved she has always been, and that the second reminds her exactly how it felt to be a carefree kid looking at her mother through eyes blurred with tears of laughter. I hope that when she looks back on these photos she remembers how much those moments with her mom filled her with joy.
What others are saying:
"What Morgan was able to capture was truly unique and one of a kind-she documented how I feel about being my daughters mother... it was big smiles, belly laughs, playing in fields, tickles...they even brought their lovies along and they were part of our photo shoot, because that is who they were at that moment in time. I am so lucky to have those images forever."
- Tasha B.