documentary photography

HAPPY FIRST BIRTHDAY BABY K - South Bend Indiana + Michigan Family Photographer

Whenever I get an inquiry for a family documentary session, my heart does a happy dance! This one was no exception. This sweet family of three had such a fun story of their lives and they wanted to celebrate their normal through candid family photos.

When I asked Mom to tell me about her family, she responded, “P… and I have been together for almost 8 years, married for 3, and we welcomed our beautiful last November. P… is from Ohio and I am from Ireland, where K was born. We moved to South Bend … and P works at Notre Dame. I am at home with K full-time and also do some freelance writing. We are both historians, so there are a lot of books around the house and we read with K a lot. K is a confident, energetic, happy baby. He loves chatting, crawling around, going on the swing, standing up on anything that will hold his weight, and anything that won't. He likes to potter around in the kitchen when mummy is cooking or clearing up. He has his own kitchen which his grandma bought him for his birthday and which he really likes too (although not as much as the real thing...) His latest favorite activity is climbing the stairs, especially if mummy is chasing him, and he hates being prevented from doing so by the stair gate. He loves eating, pulling out all the kitchen implements and making a lot of noise, and "reading" his many books. His favourite teddy is Lion and he is very good at giving Lion hugs. He loves horsing around with his daddy which makes him laugh a lot, and he gets very animated when we play good music and he can dance along and clap his hands. He has also always had very good fine motor skills and he loves pressing buttons, playing with his ring stacker, etc.”

What I love about documentary family sessions is that they allow all of these sweet milestones, stories and moments to be captured in a beautiful way. Nearly everything mentioned above is showcased in this fun gallery and I hope this family enjoys looking at these as much as I enjoyed taking and editing them!

MOM & MINIS FAMILY - Lifestyle & Documentary Family Photographer, South Bend, IN

Beginning this photography journey has brought me many blessings; some expected and some not so expected. Two of those blessings are the opportunity to volunteer for House of Hopes which is an AMAZING philanthropic photography group and the other is meeting new friends. One of those friends I happened to meet through my work with HoH. While it was a sad situation that brought us to the same spot, I am so grateful that after 12+ hours in a L&D lobby together resulted in a great friendship with another amazing photographer.

When T reached out during one of our many photography and parenting centered conversations and asked if I would be interested in doing a documentary lifestyle session for her and her girls, I was beyond excited for so many reasons. First, her girls are awesome. Like they are legitimately cool kids! Second, I love having the opportunity to document families of all ages. Sessions tend to revolve around little kids and then taper off as they grow up and that’s so unfortunate. So to have the chance to capture some memories of school age kids was awesome! Third, I could totally relate to her reasoning.

She expressed how she was suddenly seeing all of these leaps and bound in growth and maturity in her girls and she recognized that they would soon be entering new phases and she wanted to commemorate the everyday innocence and routine that has been theres for a while now. Watching my own daughter grow at light speed makes me completely sympathetic to this situation and I was more than happy to capture their “normal.”

And so, with all of that being said, I just want to thank T for letting me into her home and her life and capture these moments of homeschool and girl bonding for her! I hope they bring a smile to all of your faces for years to come.

South Bend + Michiana Family Photographer - Gushing Over Documentary Family Photography

As 2018 hit and I got to organizing my catalogs and organizing last year's client work, I started oggling all of the family documentary and lifestyle sessions I got to do this year. Documentary family photography is still something that is widely unappreciated in this region, but I see it slowly creeping its way onto people's radars. And for that, I am thrilled. I genuinely can't begin to try and explain with words the true level of pricelessness these types of photos provide. But, I'm going to try anyway:

- We live in a world of ideal but we need to start embracing the real.

Every day, we go on our social media accounts and we see the best of everyone. Because lets face it, no one posts the bad parts, the hard parts or the less-than-pretty parts. And we start to think that this is their reality and somehow, ours is less-than. I think we need to change that mentality...and fast! Documentary family photography places the emphasis on the real moments. Our kids change and grow so, so fast and when we look at the posed, "ideal" kids in the photos that traditionally grace our walls, are we really remembering them as they were? Is this an accurate representation of who they are in the here and now? 

I think that photos should capture the essence of it's subject. I want to look at a photo of my daughter and not remember how adorable she was (how could I ever forget?) but I want to remember how, at one year old, she was obsessed with books and at two, she loved animals more than anything and at three, she had the sass and intelligence of a teenager. I want to remember how my guys-guy husband would paint nails, play baker and pretend to be a unicorn just to make her smile. These are the moments that our kids will want to remember. Which brings me to the next point...

- Our kids won't look back at the baby in a bucket pictures or posed portraits and gain anything.

Sorry. I do believe there is a place for portrait work and I completely respect the beauty of it and the skill it takes to create it. However, lets think into the future. Lets pretend our children are now grown adults (sob). When you sit down with them one day and start going through those old photos, which do you think will make them stop and smile? The photo of them wearing their best outfit in a studio chair or the one with their sibling tickling them to tears or when they baked cookies with Grandma? 

Documentary photography captures real moments that tell real stories about your family's life. They document real moments and real relationships. They're a gift that your child doesn't know they want but will be so incredibly grateful for in the future.

- They show our real relationships with those who matter the most.

Some of the people who are currently a big part of our children's lives may not be here to reminisce with them when they're older. People move, relationships shift, life happens. But none of this changes the fact that these relationships and memories existed at one point in time. Having real, raw photos that show what a big part these people play and how much love was shared are truly invaluable. There are few things that mean more to us than the people in our lives and having photos of them will never be out of style. Its a ceaseless gift we can give to our children...and ourselves. 

- And the places that matter the most.

I think this one gets lost in the shuffle sometimes but lets not discount the place. The place we call home. The place we love to take our kids to. The place where you made your favorite memories. Whether you are living in your starter home, your dream home or you choose to do your photos at a spot that your family adores (like the beach, or your favorite park or bowling alley), these places all mean something to you. It doesn't matter if they are old, cluttered or messy because it's all part of your story. Even the stuff you can't stand now will bring a smile to your face later. Don't believe me? Just the other day, we were looking at photos from my childhood home complete with the lime green linoleum that graced our kitchen and my mom burst into laughter and commented how much she hated that floor. That ugly floor that bugged her so much at the time, made her laugh out loud and smile now. 

So you see, photos are so much more than pretty smiles and beautiful backdrops. They're a priceless peak into your past. They're a relationship you never want to forget. They're everything that makes your heart smile. Document your moments; you'll never regret it. 


Before and After - South Bend Michiana Family & Wedding Photographer

I have a confession: one of my guilty pleasures is before and after photos. It doesn't matter what of, I just love looking at them! I couldn't even begin to tell you why, but it's just satisfying. And I'm willing to bet that many folks out there feel the same way so I'm going to double dip here and give you the satisfaction of many before and afters as well as explaining why it is so important to hire a photographer who knows what they are doing beyond just pressing a shutter button...

Mixed Lighting. It happens.

One of the biggest challenges of being a photographer who shoots a good portion of their sessions indoors (no matter if it is a church, reception hall, hospital room or family room) is that you frequently have to deal with mixed lighting. This may not sound like a big deal; how hard is it to balance out warm lightbulb light and cool window light. Um, it's hard. Like super hard. Like lets-just-throw-everything-in-black-and-white-and-call-it-a-day hard. This is when having extensive knowledge in post processing becomes so immensely important! It can save an otherwise asethetically unappealing photo.

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Just look at the photo above. There is really soft, yellow light on the left and really hard, blue light on the right. There is no way I would provide a client with a photo that was so unbalanced as that left image! And so off to Lightroom and Photoshop we go and after some [really obsessive] editing, I felt comfortable and even pretty pleased with the outcome of this lovely family photo.

Its gives the photographer a voice and it lets you connect to specific style.

The fact of the matter is very simple: editing is a way for a photographer to stand out (or blend in) and give their work some personality. This also lets you as the consumer, find an editing style that you really connect with and then choose a photographer that most appeals to you.

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Some people like the matte and airy look and while I find those images truly beautiful and soft, I lean more towards the clear, vibrant and even sometimes moodier edits. It is just like a clothing style; what works for some doesn't work for others!

Sometimes, it changes just enough.

So many times, photographers take a photo that SOOC (straight out of camera) is barely sub par and it takes some post processing to give it that little bump into being interesting and artistic.

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Knowing how to manipulate a photo just enough that it still tells an honest story but looks even more powerful and beautiful is essential to great photos.

Sometimes, it changes everything.

And just like that, a lovely but very flat image suddenly jumps off the screen with it's breathtaking drama. The emotion is intensified with the colors and balance. The setting can truly be appreciated for its simplistic beauty. Everything suddenly comes together.

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So there you have it! Hopefully, even if you didn't read the text, the before and afters told the story well enough to convince you that photography is more than just the good camera and artistic eye. Its all about balance and understanding and patience (oh, so much patience). I encourage every reader and viewer out there to find a photographer whose style speaks to you and let them tell your story! 

Michiana Birth Photography / Michiana Birth Photographer - Why Birth Photography?

"Why birth photography?"

It's a common question I hear, often with different inflections behind it, depending on the source. I usually give a short, simple answer and move on but this last time someone asked me, it really started to stir in my mind. Why do I concentrate on birth photography? What are my reasons? I've written many blog posts about why YOU should choose birth photography (like all of these), but I've never spelled out exactly why I do it. So, here it goes...

Its Beautiful

I think this is the most obvious answer but rightly so. Birth. Is. Beautiful. There is absolutely nothing in this world more amazing than watching parents meet their new creation. It is so insanely humbling to watch a baby placed in their parent's arms and know that this baby is a direct result of love. Whether it is the first baby or the eighth, a long awaited result of a plan or complete surprise, this baby is here because their parents loved each other. I mean, wow. It's the most beautiful love story ever told.

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It Needs to be Normalized

Now don't overthink this one: I'm not a super crunchy granola momtog (nothing against those folks, I'm just not one of them). However, it boggles my brain how something so normal as birth can be considered so tabu. I mean, we were all born. Most of us give birth. It happens daily. Its literally the creation of a person. How is this not considered the most normal thing in the world?! Birth photography allows me to play a small role in nudging birth in the right direction, into the normal zone.

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I Meet Amazing People

I am a people person. Before I was a photographer, I was a high school teacher. In college I worked in retail sales. In high school I taught horseback riding lessons. I love people and I love meeting new people and honestly, some of the most amazing people I have had the privilege of meeting were a direct result of a birth. The parents I have met make me want to be a better mom myself. They are always so loving and open and fun to be around. The birth team members are also some truly wonderful people who put their own needs and ideas aside to give mom the attention she deserves. What a blessing it is, having a job that brings so many lovely people into my life!

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Its Intense and Fun

I love the feeling of excitement. I am that person who shows their excitement, sometimes even too much so. This means anything that can give me that "can't wait" feeling, I'm hooked. The entire labor, delivery and bonding experience is just flat out thrilling! Pretty much nothing can compare to watching a new life join the world, take his/her first breath, finally meet the mom and dad they've been listening to for the past nine months. It gives me all of the feels and makes my heart so happy.

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I'm Selfishly Intrigued

My own birth was not what I had planned (read about it here) and I honestly feel like I somehow missed some of it, even though I was there. Being at other women's births gives me a peak into what I missed! In some ways, I missed out on a vaginal birth so watching other mom's deliver this way allows me to see what its all about. Watching another mom's c-section (something I'm yet to do but hoping to experience) will undoubtedly be equally as amazing because I will see exactly what I went through from an entirely new perspective. 

Those are my reasons for wanting to being a birth photographer. I'm sure I could list about 15 more but for your sanity, I will keep it brief. If you are considering birth photography, please don't hesitate to contact me. We can chat (totally noncommittally) about your birth journey and if that includes birth photos. 

Michiana Family Photography - Finding the Beauty in the Ordinary

As I was writing my bi-monthly newsletter, I found myself typing out the phrase, "Find beauty in the ordinary." I closed my lap top and went about my evening but then the weight of that phrase really started to set in for me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it completely embodies what I do as a documentary photographer and what my clients do when they book sessions. 

In todays world, we are constantly bogged down with media: both large scale and small scale, like social media. We see everyone's extravagant vacations, their brand new cars, their perfectly choreographed parties and internally, we start to feel a little less good about our lives. But the thing is, your life is beautiful because its yours. Your daily happenings are beautiful! Whether that means a birth or a newborn or just a day in the life of your family, there is true and cherished beauty there that deserves to be preserved. 

Want proof? Here are some of my very favorite images that perfectly embody finding beauty in the ordinary...

south bend family photography

This image is so relatable to anyone with multiple kiddos. Its such a simple moment. A moment that probably happens a few dozen times a day. But when time is stopped and the moment is captured in a photograph, the beauty just jumps out at you and tells so much about this family.

If you follow my Facebook, you know how much I adore documentary style portraits! This picture was from a mini-milestone session. It took place at a park. Not the scenic, peaceful ponds type of park. The 101 kids climbing all over some crazy playground equipment (no, seriously, a bus showed up about five minutes into the session and dropped off no less than 40 kids). Yet the simple, beautiful portrait was still captured during all of this chaos and it means even more to mom because it is at a park that they frequent and that Sophie adores!

Coloring. I think its safe to say that most families do this on a daily basis. Its a great filler for those down times when we want our kiddos to be content yet intrigued. Rarely would you run for your camera to snap a picture, yet in this in-home family photography session, the vibrant crayon colors, the careful selection by Mr. Cain along with his concentrated face and little sis in the background observing while savoring a sucker all tell an adorable story in a beautiful way.

(I had to sneak a personal image in here). My own home is where I truly learned to see the beauty in the ordinary! I love capturing the fun quirks and habits of my girl as she grows. Since she was very, very young, she has loved to take my books and pretend to read them. Its a simple habit that, in words, doesn't sound like anything special. But in this picture, its truly gorgeous.

See? Its not just the big moments that need to be captured. It doesn't have to be a major milestone or epic event to deserve to be preserved. Our every day lives offer infinite opportunities to capture their beauty. Contact me to schedule your session and capture your family's beauty!

Granger Family Photographer - Getting in the Frame

Since this is the LAST WEEK  to nominate someone for the 50 Beautiful Moms Campaign, today's post is for the moms! Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you are a mom. You are a mom who sees the value in documentary photography (or you're at least intrigued by it). You are a mom with kids who adore you. With kids who will one day crave photos that have you in them. Cringe.

I get it, moms! I really do. There are bad hair days, extra baby  or holiday fluff, haven't-seen-the-sun-in-months skin tones and 101 other reasons that you don't want to get in front of that camera. It is incredibly hard to look beyond the present and see that the beauty isn't in your appearance but in the moment. So let me put your mind at ease and break down some of these barriers for you:

Misconception: Extra "Fluff"

This is frequently a concern of moms who schedule sessions; it also hits home personally. Ever since having a baby, I haven't bothered to get myself back to those "before baby" days. I never blame this on the baby, I am completely to blame for the extra fluff. I love sugar and carbs, ok? I constantly have that conversation with myself about starting that diet next week, THEN I will feel better in my photos. But what about the moments that take place during that day? The day before the diet? Those moments count, too. Think about how you feel when you look at photos from high school or college. I remember taking those pictures and thinking ugh, I look so heavy/frumpy/insert any concern with vanity. Now I look at them and think, "Wow, what a fun moment that was." Chances are, our future self is not going to look and think, "If only I had lost those 10lbs before I took this picture." Nope, not going to happen. Take the picture. Forget the fluff.

Misconception: The Moment is About Your Kids, Not You

Wrong. Just wrong. You are MOM. You are like the sun of your family's solar system: you keep everyone alive and thriving. If your kiddos are having a great moment and making an awesome memory, it is most likely because you or Dad created it for them. You set the stage and made this moment possible! Get in there and live it with them. Hand the phone or camera to your significant other, set the self-timer, hire a documentary photographer (hint hint) and capture that memory with your kids. You will never regret that you did.

Misconception: You Can Get in the Frame Tomorrow

 Just like anything else you procrastinate doing, when you say, "I'll do it tomorrow," you rarely do it tomorrow. As hard as it is, take a deep breath and get in the picture today. Tomorrow is never a guarantee  and we all know that life can throw us unexpected curve balls. Make sure your children remember the good days, the laughs and the love - all of which include you. Documentary photography shows your future adult children how amazing you were when they were kids and how much you loved being their mom. They will always think you look beautiful and seeing you happy and joyful in pictures from the past are going to make their hearts happy one day.

Like what you see? CONTACT ME.

Granger Newborn Baby and Family Documentary Photographer - Why Storytelling and Documentary Photography?

HAPPY 2017 EVERYONE!!! I hope that you all had a safe and great end to 2016 and are looking forward to the new year as much as I am. So, lets start the year off right and answer the ever nagging question...

"Why documentary photography???"

This is a question that I am certain crosses just about everyone's mind. When we are surrounded by beautiful portraits and stylized lifestyle images, it is very hard, maybe even uncomfortable, to think about stepping away from this genre. Especially when most of it is so beautifully done! So let me share my own personal experience that flipped the switch for me:

When my daughter was about 7 months old, we decided to do a family shoot. The photographer picked a beautiful location at a state park and we headed out for our session. Right when we got there, while carrying Baby F to the woods, I tripped and we both fell. Thankfully, neither of us were hurt, but we were both REALLY shaken. My normally happy, never-cries baby would not stop crying and wanted nothing to do with anyone except me. I wanted to just reschedule and call it quits, but at the encouragement of our photographer, we pressed on. I was sure we wouldn't get any usable images through the sobs and tears!

But we did. The images turned out adorable. Because the photographer was just that good.

Not a single one of those photos hangs on my walls.

 Why? Because it was a horrible experience! It was unnatural. It was uncomfortable. It was, well, fake. None of those images represented what I wanted to remember about my daughter! Where was her sweet personality? Our REAL baby smiles? Where was OUR honest story?

I started to think back on previous sessions and while all of the images were great, they just weren't real. I mean, I don't know about you, but I rarely put my baby in a bucket with a bow as big as her head at home! I realized that what I loved about photography is the ability to freeze reality; in my mind, there was nothing more beautiful than our every day, messy hair, baby spit up, chaotic days. That is what I wanted on my walls. That is what I wanted on my social media. That is what I wanted for our albums. And THAT is why I decided to offer that to you. I want you to have the every day beauty at your fingertips, to look back on whenever your heart aches for those moments and milestones. Real is so much better than ideal.

Storytelling and documentary photography is so much more than just pictures. It is a direct representation of your story; of the steps you're taking to get where you're going. Whether that means a messy house, or a pony tail and no makeup, or a baby in a t-shirt and diaper, if that's your story then that is what I want to capture for you! 

Like what you see? CONTACT ME.

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Granger Newborn Baby and Family Photographer - A Look at BBP's 2016

When I first decided to take this leap into documentary photography in 2016, it was one of the most terrifying and exciting things I have done (besides getting married and becoming a mom). I am not one to make myself feel vulnerable and this jump was the epitome of becoming vulnerable. But looking back, I am SO glad that I did it! This week, I have been cleaning up my hard drive (partially for sentimental reasons and to see growth but also because I managed to max out my Macbook's hard drive space) and I have come across so many amazing images. Not just of my own family, but the families of my clients!

It is so humbling to look back at this year's families and babies and know that these awesome people invited me into their lives and with a new type of photography to boot. To be a part of the stories of others is a really awesome experience; to see how they love each other and work together and spend their days. I genuinely enjoy looking back at these images and remembering each session and each family member. Knowing that these families will have images they can look back on together and remember all of the real, honest moments that they represent makes my heart happy, both as a photographer and a momma. I am so so excited to see what 2017 brings for BBP! 

Here's a look back at my favorite images of 2016. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do...



South Bend Documentary Family Photographer - Our Holidays!

A belated Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that you all had a fantastic holiday with family and friends and that you made memories that you will cherish forever. 

This year, my daughter is just shy of two and I knew it was going to a pretty epic Christmas for her. She was able to grasp a basic understanding of Santa and many of the other magical elements of the holiday which had her all kinds of excited for the big day. She loved opening her gifts and getting to play with her family all weekend! Sadly though, we realized something: we are going to need a bigger house for all of her new stuff. Holy cow. It looks like someone ransacked Toys R' Us around her - and for a somewhat montessori inspired home, this was complicated to figure out what she got first. But what a blessed problem to have, right?

It was so fun seeing the kids' different personalities showing through in their favorite gifts. One tried out just about everything, one went straight to the cars and mine wandered around singing "Let it Go" with her new Elsa doll. She pretty much hit the jackpot of princesses and baby doll accessories and she was more than ok with that. Getting to document these moment in photo form was so much fun and I am also proud to say that I DID set aside the camera and just enjoyed the moments, too. Here's a sample of some of our fun family memories...

South Bend Newborn Fresh 48 Photography - Sneak Peek

It has been WAY too long since my last Fresh 48 session! Every time I do one, I am reminded how much I love newborns in their first hours on this earth with their new families. It is such a humbling and blessed experience. 

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Goshen Birth, Newborn, and Fresh 48 Photographer - The How

This is the last installment of my WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW of the Fresh 48. Describing the how is a little different than the other blog posts because rather than it being centered on what you, the parent, will get or choose, and focuses more on what I, the photographer, will do. So here we go...

HOW I conduct Fresh 48's

I want to start by saying that Fresh 48's and births are really where my photographer's heart lies. I adore family sessions and will always keep them in my session offerings, but there is just something special about a new life being brought into the world and the impact that has on the new parents and their family and friends. That being said, this pricelessness is what I try to convey in your images. 

For Fresh 48 newborn sessions, I send a questionnaire a couple of weeks prior to your due date where we will discuss all of the important elements of your session like what you want captured, important elements of your pregnancy, unique facts about your partner and family, etc. Again, this is YOUR special time as a bigger family and I want to capture exactly what you want to remember. This questionnaire allows me to come into the session well prepared to make this a unique and valuable session for your family.

I usually ask for a quick email or text when labor has started so I know that I will have a session within the next few days! Once I arrive upon your request, you can think of me as a fly on the wall who happens to have a camera (no distracting flash or awkward tripods). I will use the light that is available in the room (fingers crossed for at least one window) and capture the moments of bonding, family meetings, or whatever else was specified in the questionnaire responses. 

I want to get the details...

The newborn habits...

And the intense, undeniable feels...

Fresh 48 and newborn sessions should NOT be stressful or uncomfortable. This is your special family time that you can not get back and I want to give you the most calm, relaxed, real experience possible. Real over ideal.

Like what you see? CONTACT ME.