The Stotkas Sleigh Their Christmas Card Photos | Burke Family Photographer

I had to. Mama Ang and I both love a good pun.

I was beyond thrilled when Angela asked me to take her family photos, like over the moon. And it was so awesome that they made the trip from Fairfax County to Loudoun to shoot in Morven Park, one of my favorite spots. Moreover, please take note of the outfits, coordinating but not matching. Ang straight up OWNED it.

Parker (3) was a little unsure about me and the scenario in the beginning, so we went with the tried and true "pay-attention-to-the-other-child" method for a few minutes. Not long after that we were getting great smiles out of Parker, and he was loving it. Meanwhile little Carter (6 months) is just about the happiest little dude I've ever met, and smiled away. Since I'm feeling Christmasy, he reminds me of Elf and the quote "I love smiling, smiling's my favorite!"

It was hard to narrow down my favorites, so here are just a few!

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The Orr Children Own Christmas | South Riding Family Photographer

I was a freakishly cold day in November when I met with the Orr family for their Christmas card photo session. Allie (5) and Finn (2) both fell asleep en route to the location, and I know my kids can be somewhat difficult when awoken from a nap, but these two were ready to go!

Admittedly, it got a little too cold for Finn, but even subzero temperatures couldn't stop Allie from hamming it up!

Just the sweetest, coziest little girl ever!

Just the sweetest, coziest little girl ever!

She couldn't be any more stunning!

She couldn't be any more stunning!

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The Christmas Dinosaur (as Finn called himself)

The Christmas Dinosaur (as Finn called himself)

The Christmas Princess!

The Christmas Princess!

We're the two best friends that anyone could have!

We're the two best friends that anyone could have!

This kills me, Finn is like "lady, I've had more than enough, and if you don't stop taking pictures I'm going to stab you with this candy cane!"

This kills me, Finn is like "lady, I've had more than enough, and if you don't stop taking pictures I'm going to stab you with this candy cane!"

Cora's One Year Studio Session | Ashburn Baby Photographer

Cora has been a fighter from day one, and she continued to fight through our one year session! She's come such a long way from her newborn session, and with her mama being one of my closest friends, it was so meaningful to be able to document this milestone as well. Enjoy this fiery strawberry blonde/redheads pics!

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My Own | Loudoun County Family Photographer

My kids are 3 and 1, they are my inspiration. I had been "in" to photography since my sophomore year of high school, but have gone through periods where I didn't pick my camera up for weeks and sometimes even months at a time. When I had my son three years ago, my passion for photography was reignited, and has grown stronger with every day. These years, when my little ones are little, seem to fly by, and I can't resist the urge to document...but once in a while I have to be reminded to put my camera down again and live.

My husband and I have always loved the outdoors and it's played a large supporting role in our journey together. Some of my favorite memories of ours took place in Virginia's regional and national parks, so I'm thrilled that our children already share in their parents' love for nature. An unexpected result of our family nature walks is that we've come upon new photo spots, and I've gotten to know how the light acts in these different locations throughout the year. 

Jacob is only 3, but he is already on to me when I dress him and his sister up and take them to a new park. Have you ever heard of photographer child syndrome? It's when a photographer's children are so used to being photographed throughout their young life that they are no longer interested in smiling at the camera, much less looking at it. But as a photographer who revels in capturing emotion, personality and connections, a lot of times this isn't a bad thing. Because so far, these tend to be some of my favorite images of my children. 

I just love this. On one hand, their expressions are hilarious and make me laugh. But it's also such a beautiful capture of my silly children just as they are in this moment in time.

I just love this. On one hand, their expressions are hilarious and make me laugh. But it's also such a beautiful capture of my silly children just as they are in this moment in time.

This is currently one of my favorite images of my son. Initially I posed him on the blanket in a way that I felt would work best. Never one to make my life easy, this guy started rolling around all over the place. Somehow I managed to capture this, and I love it.

This is currently one of my favorite images of my son. Initially I posed him on the blanket in a way that I felt would work best. Never one to make my life easy, this guy started rolling around all over the place. Somehow I managed to capture this, and I love it.

I recently discovered that I have a vintage quilt problem. In that I love them, and want them all. Simultaneously, my daughter has recently started playing a game at home that cracks all of us up. She brings a blanket to you, and motions that you are to wrap it around her. Then she holds it around herself and walks around the house like some kind of royalty. So for this image, we took our game outside!

I recently discovered that I have a vintage quilt problem. In that I love them, and want them all. Simultaneously, my daughter has recently started playing a game at home that cracks all of us up. She brings a blanket to you, and motions that you are to wrap it around her. Then she holds it around herself and walks around the house like some kind of royalty. So for this image, we took our game outside!

Where did she get those dimples? Definitely not me!

Where did she get those dimples? Definitely not me!

I took the kiddos here to check out the light, play some soccer and get some nice images of them. Instead I get this...however, Captures like this absolutely crack me up. Fiona wants her chair back, Jacob looks pretty proud at having stolen it from her. 

I took the kiddos here to check out the light, play some soccer and get some nice images of them. Instead I get this...however, Captures like this absolutely crack me up. Fiona wants her chair back, Jacob looks pretty proud at having stolen it from her. 

There goes the queen

There goes the queen

Hiking through Big meadows in Shenandoah National Park during the most beautiful golden hour. "Hey bud, smile nice for the camera!" Jacob does this...but it's perfect. It's my wild guy.

Hiking through Big meadows in Shenandoah National Park during the most beautiful golden hour. "Hey bud, smile nice for the camera!" Jacob does this...but it's perfect. It's my wild guy.

Maybe Gnats, maybe a facepalm. Again, if it makes me laugh, It's in.

Maybe Gnats, maybe a facepalm. Again, if it makes me laugh, It's in.

Dial back the moxie, sassmouth!

Dial back the moxie, sassmouth!

As we were walking out to the car in the morning, the light was perfect. I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera and caught baby girl as she tasted a brief moment of freedom. 

As we were walking out to the car in the morning, the light was perfect. I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera and caught baby girl as she tasted a brief moment of freedom. 

Then I moved a few feet and caught this beautiful moment of a toddler taking a moment to stop and smell the roses. 

Then I moved a few feet and caught this beautiful moment of a toddler taking a moment to stop and smell the roses. 

Mid afternoon sun comes in bright white in the summer as my little gymnast balances.

Mid afternoon sun comes in bright white in the summer as my little gymnast balances.

We took an afternoon hike at a nearby trail, as Jacob started messing with the dirt I realized that it softened the light and created a magical atmosphere. So i encouraged him to kick the dirt all over the place while I snapped away, and Fiona gave him the Heisman. We all got super dirty, but it was so worth it.

We took an afternoon hike at a nearby trail, as Jacob started messing with the dirt I realized that it softened the light and created a magical atmosphere. So i encouraged him to kick the dirt all over the place while I snapped away, and Fiona gave him the Heisman. We all got super dirty, but it was so worth it.

A sunday evening hike backlit by the setting sun.

A sunday evening hike backlit by the setting sun.

And an angry baby who thinks she should be allowed to scale rocks on her own.

And an angry baby who thinks she should be allowed to scale rocks on her own.

Super serious cool guy in the harsh mid day sun

Super serious cool guy in the harsh mid day sun

And a bouncy baby in the harshest of sun

And a bouncy baby in the harshest of sun

The Tosh Family - Part Deux | Loudoun County Family Photographer

I've blogged about this family before, and was actually called out at this session by mama Julie for my last post which covered how I tend to have to chase after their oldest son, William, to get photos. So now I'm calling you out for calling me out for calling you out, Julie!  But this time, I didn't have to run after William at all, not that I mind having to chase a kiddo for good shots. However, dad Chris probably has a little bit of a different take on things! Seriously though, the Tosh family has mastered photo shoots. Julie is an absolute rock star at coming up with coordinating outfits for the whole family, and even thinks about breaking up the color of one son's pants, against dad's shirt. Talk about an ideal client (and friend!) 

We took images at a few different settings within one main park to add variety to their gallery, and every step of the way was so much fun. I think the pinnacle was when we moved to the final location which had these insane ball seed things all over the place. I literally just googled as "weird ball seed brain looking things from trees" and it turns out they are Osage Oranges from Osage trees. One year old Henry was the first to spot them, pointing and saying "ball!". So we let the boys play with them (don't worry, they're not toxic, in fact my google search just taught me that they're edible but it's very difficult to extract the seeds.) Then we realized that they kind of worked as a Christmas-y props, their green coloring contrasting against the red blanket that the boys sat upon. The boys loved them, and all in all, it was just hilarious.

I just had such a blast hanging out with this fun family. And look at the eyes on these boys, talk about stunning!

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Choosing a Color Palette for your Fall Family Photos | Northern Virginia Family Photographer

I've noticed that styling outfits for a family photo session is probably the biggest stressor for clients. And I'll fully admit, since having children, I feel like I've lost touch with what "the kids are wearing" and what's in. So while I'm no fashion guru, I do have an understanding of color theory and what photographs well.

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When you're having your fall family photographs taken, think about the colors in the outdoor setting around you. Hopefully we've set your session for peak color, so there should be oranges, reds and golden yellows around you. From there, you can check out the color wheel to the right and see that opposite to golden yellows are navy blues and purples. Your family would definitely pop against yellow leaves in those tones. 

Neutrals also work against almost any backdrop, and always look timeless. Neutrals can be anything from white, ivory, cream, tan, khaki, mocha, camel, brown, grey, black, denim, and sometimes even blush pinks or olive greens. I truly don't think there can be too many neutrals in a palette.

Not sure where to start? Pick 2-3 main colors. There should be elements of these colors in everyone's outfits. From there, pick some neutrals. A lot of times, neutrals will be the blueish tone of denim, a khaki or brown, blacks and grays, or a toned down version of the main colors that you chose. Lastly, pick 1-2 pops of color. These accent colors tend to be bright and vibrant and oftentimes are the most visible element tying the photos together. When choosing a color scheme, consider the season, setting, and where you'll display the images in your home. 

Some classic fall color combinations

Some classic fall color combinations

Here are some general rules for picking clothing for a family photo session:

  1. Start with one piece. To get the ball rolling, start with one outfit that you really love, and build the other outfits around that. Matching is out, coordinating is in.

  2. Layer, layer layer! This adds dimension and depth to your images.

  3. Fit. Purchase clothes that fit now. I know, if I'm buying a fall sweater for my son from Janie and Jack, I want to get as much wear out of that ridiculously priced piece of clothing as possible. But I beg of you, buy your child's current size. Rolled up sleeves and pant legs end up looking sloppy and undone in your final images.

  4. Dress for the weather. Be prepared with a flexible wardrobe in case you have to switch it up at the last minute. If your child is burning up in a sweater, he won't be happy and we won't be able to get images that you will cherish forever.

  5. Footwear. Shoes are such an important part of the wardrobe. Imagine your daughter dressed to the nines for the family shoot, but with her light up paw patrol shoes on. It causes the entire look to lose cohesion. My recommendation for shoes are boots, leather sandals, Converse All-Stars, Toms, Sperrys, and Mary Janes. Also, weather and setting-permitting, barefoot is always an adorable option, especially with babies.

  6. Let Your Child's Personality Shine! Allow your child's personality to shine through in what they’re wearing. If your daughter has a favorite pair of boots, let her wear them (at least in a few pictures). Whatever makes your child their own amazing self, let’s focus on those things.

This family nailed it for their Christmas shoot with plenty of neutrals (cream, tan, browns and olive) with pops of a bright Christmas-y red.

This family nailed it for their Christmas shoot with plenty of neutrals (cream, tan, browns and olive) with pops of a bright Christmas-y red.

Check out this coordination, mom and dad wore olive green and dark navy, and let the kids pop with a beautifully textured velvet dress and the quintessential fall mustard yellow. Nailed it!

Check out this coordination, mom and dad wore olive green and dark navy, and let the kids pop with a beautifully textured velvet dress and the quintessential fall mustard yellow. Nailed it!

Mom did a great job pulling colors from this little one’s dress for everyone else’s outfits.

Mom did a great job pulling colors from this little one’s dress for everyone else’s outfits.

You can’t go wrong with neutrals, this family is picture perfect for their holiday card!

You can’t go wrong with neutrals, this family is picture perfect for their holiday card!

The Choi Family | Leesburg VA Family Photographer

Right out of college I took a graphic design job at a small government contractor in Northern Virginia. The hours were grueling, the work wasn't fun, and it was quite the wake up call for me in terms of what I could expect in the real world. However, I will always look back on my time at that company fondly, as I met my husband there, and some of my best friends.

One of those friends also met her husband there.

Christina was the receptionist, the ever-friendly face of the company, and Mike was the quiet but hilarious (when he spoke up) accounting guy. I know that I rooted for them to start dating, and I think of the rest of the company felt the same. It took much longer than many of us meddlers would have liked, but eventually Mike and Christina went on their first date and the rest is history. Here we are over 10 years later, and they have started a family that I was honored to get the chance to photograph.

It was such a joy to capture their love and connection, plus they were such great sports with the heat and unbelievable amount of gnats!

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Newborn Asha | Ashburn Newborn Photographer

Meet baby Asha, isn’t she stunning? I met Asha’s family around the holidays last year, they were new to the area and looking to have some family photos for their holiday card and I am honored that they chose me. They’re the nicest people, and their son Kavin, is not only sweet and adorable, but also the best dressed little guy I’ve ever seen. It was so nice getting to hang out with them while I took these photos, they are just so laid back and indulged my need to try out a multitude of props on their little one. Tina (mama), must share my excitement for knitted things, as she had already bought a few outfits meant for newborn photography which we enthusiastically included in the session!

I tell my clients that when I come to their home for a session, it might look like I’m trying to move in. I bring a lot of things, and I mean A LOT of things. I generally advise clients not to dress their newborns in any fancy outfits…as cute and tiny as those little NB sized clothes are, a lot of times they swallow up a tiny little baby and don’t photograph well. I have lots of swaddles, wraps, bonnets, hats, headbands and other pieces made exclusively for newborn photography, and I will bring those items to your session based on your answers to the pre-session questionnaire. Mama just went above and beyond in this case 

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Newborn Adam | Ashburn VA Newborn Photographer

When I go into a client’s home for a newborn session, my top three objectives are to capture the family connection, their personalities, and life as it is that very day. Those days right after the birth of a new little baby seem to fly by, which is why I think that newborn photography is so important. Sure, in that moment you’re exhausted, probably pretty sore and banged up, and not exactly in the mood to get the whole family dressed up and smiling for photos. But I know from my own experience that those are the images that I treasure the most. I look back now at images of my children as newborns and can see their personalities as I know them now, shining through even then.

So back to personality! I met Giana (mama to Ari and Adam) through my hospital’s new moms group, her daughter has grown up alongside my son. Knowing her family, I knew there would be no shortage of personality with this clan. And I was not disappointed. Enjoy a few of my favorites from this great session!

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Newborn Luke | Leesburg VA Newborn Photographer

I met Luke's mama in my hospital new mother's support group when she had her daughter, who coincidentally was born in the same hospital on the same day as my son. We might have even passed each other shuffling through the halls in our hospital gowns. Well, I would have been shuffling, I'm sure Olga was skipping out of the hospital! Our children are now good friends, and so are we. Obviously I was beyond thrilled that she asked me to photograph this sweet guy. 

Olga and her husband took my prep guide very seriously which was AMAZING. When I travel to homes for newborn sessions, I strongly suggest to new parents that the rooms where I'll be shooting be around 80 degrees to keep the star of the show warm and happy. Olga and Matt followed directions diligently, and that played a big part in the session being such a success.

With it being so toasty, we got the family shots out of the way first, and then we all sweated it out in the sauna while baby Luke did his job as an excellent model.

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Christmas Family Session | Leesburg Family Photographer

Before I tell you about this Christmas family session, I have to back up and tell you how I met Becca, the gorgeous pregnant mama in these shots. Both of my children were born at INOVA Loudoun at the Birthing Inn, and one perk that the hospital touts is their new mom support group. In all honesty, that wasn’t something that I would have pursued if not for a friend of mine who already had a baby who strongly encouraged me to attend. I went for the first time when my baby was 3 or 4 weeks old, and after a somewhat traumatic emergency c-section, it was one of my first outings with him on my own. Being a first time mom is no joke, this group turned out to be a real Godsend to me. I learned so much as other moms and as the weeks went by, the ladies in this group became my friends. Our children are toddlers now and although we don’t get to see each other as often, it’s been such a blessing to have met these moms and watch our children grow together.

Here’s a link to information on the group for anyone who might be interested.

So about this session! On a cold November day, this immaculately coordinated family and I met up for a quick little photo shoot right before they headed out of town to visit with family for Thanksgiving. Their son Gage had already had a busy day partying it up at a pajama party at his school but was a total trooper. A cold front had just come through so we had to move through the session a little quicker than usual. Despite the cold, the S family handled the shoot like a bunch of old pros. It was such a blast to get to hang out with these awesome people, and capture these precious memories for them.

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