Baby Bump to Little One

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One of the biggest regrets I hear from new parents is not getting their maternity pictures done or scheduled their newborn session before their baby was born. I get calls and emails asking for newborn sessions when their baby is a month or even three months old because that is when new parents start coming out of the fog of newborn life. Even I remember when the haze of sleeplessness started to wain and the realization of all the things I wish I had done different, were organized or planned ahead. I had even joked with my husband about doing a maternity session saying something about why would I want that? I was focused on having my baby and not being center of attention by how my body looks and showing my baby bump…this also is a regret of mine. My maternity picture is me working in my yard in my orange hoodie. I laugh at those images today but wish I had something more planned and loving that I can show my daughter expressing how loved she has always been instead of my orange Oompa Loompa pictures of myself on our cell phones.

If you are or know anyone who is expecting, I recommend calling a photographer and getting scheduled. The last thing people think about when starting a family is getting pictures done. They are often overwhelmed and preoccupied with all the appointments and getting the baby room ready that these moments fly by un-captured.  Sometimes they are to shy.  Baby bumps grow, change and then are gone even if while pregnant you think they never will.   Sessions make a great gift at a baby shower and a great group gift from coworkers or family.

Studio maternity session, large selection of gowns to choose from

Recently I had an office want to purchase a gift certificate from me to give to their coworker whose baby was 3 weeks old. They told me they wanted to give the parents time to get adjusted before visiting or giving their gift. Hours later they called me back to say the family had their session done the day before and didn’t know whey were ready to get out of the house yet. Once a family has their initial images done, their little ones don’t stop growing. There are milestones in the first year that photographers would love capturing…this would be another great gift for any family because these are memories that families don’t even realize yet they they might miss them till the moments have passedPicture of happy expectant couple in Santa Barbara. Photography by Images by Valerie.

Love and Loss

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Love and Loss…this evening I wanted to take a moment to honor a family friend and show support for their family.

One of my favorite sessions is maternity and getting to know the mommy and daddy to be and getting to become part of their family for a few months, hearing about the names, the pregnancy the quirks, the nursery and hopes for the future.  Being able to capture their family as they are with the joy in their eyes and tenderness towards their new addition.  Being invited in to the hospital to meet their new baby, photographing them as they discover on their own what traits resemble whom, where the birthmarks may be hidden, what color hair they think they see and the relatives joy in the opportunity to hold their new sleeping family member as the new parents rest a bit, while thinking what the next moment holds.

I had this opportunity for our friend.  The daddy-to-be, Ryan, is a former student of mine in my previous field of sports medicine.   Years passed, he married Liz, and I had the opportunity to meet her, get to know her and when they were expecting their son, I was asked to do their maternity session as well as their newborn session.  It was an honor.

Expectant couple kissing surrounded by colorful leaves in Santa Barbara park. Photography by Images by Valerie.  Valerie Villa of Images by Valerie taking a picture of a newborn in her Santa Barbara studio.Images by Valerie-36

My family moved and I now specialize in maternity, children and family photography…I keep up with Liz and Ryan through Facebook and Christmas Cards.  I was elated to see they were expecting their 2nd baby.  Liz, the mommy is a blogger so I followed along on with he family…the excitement as well as the lows, and then the unimaginable.  They found out their little one had an extremely rare condition and was not likely going to survive her birth.  We followed as they came to terms, went through the stages of loss, while trying to experience the highs of this baby still kicking and growing and the fun of having a toddler in their home.  As a friend, I tried to be supportive as I could from afar while giving them space.

Today I blog with the permission of Liz and Ryan…to allow others in on their love, courage and strength and hopefully helping others through it as well.  Baby Aila Isabel was born this morning, after being induced months early.  She blessed her parents with life for 45 minutes before passing.  Her parents and older brother were able to meet her which is what they prayed for.  They have beautiful images to hold onto, capturing those moments.  My heart goes out for them and anyone else who has been or is going through this unimaginable loss.  I invite others to read her blog as she puts into words so beautifully all that they went through:   Life & Other Superfluous Things, although, I must warn you that most her posts left me in tears.

Thank you Liz and Ryan for opening your lives to me and everyone else, I am honored to have you as my friends.

Several people had passed on information to them when they first learned the prognosis of Aila that I would like to pass on here as well.  There are 2 organizations that provide photography in these situations.  I am a local volunteer photographer with The Tiny Footprints Project (TTFP).  They provide professional photography for baby’s in the NICU at the parents request- free of charge.  They also have had photographers there at birth when the outcome was expected to be grave. TTFP is an international non profit and I am proud to be part of them.  The other is Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep…their mission is to provide the gift of remembrance photography for parents suffering the loss of a baby.  They have local professional volunteer photographers as well.

 

Christmas Spirit

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I am in the Christmas Spirit, although I usually am but now is the time it is acceptable to those around me to hear me sing Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.  I wanted to quickly catch up on my blogging because it is a week and a half till Christmas!  This is my favorite season, my favorite holiday and I love seeing it through my daughter’s eyes and my husband and I try to create traditions and special memories that she will always remember.  It also means that mom is trying not to be too crazy with the camera so I can be in the moment with them.

This is also the season where we realize how much we have…health, a warm, dry place to live and lay our heads…food to eat (and negotiate how much is enough each meal for my daughter to be done and excused)…and most importantly the love we have being a family and being together.  We are lucky to have these..the most important things in our lives and knowing that all the Frozen toys and princess costumes don’t mean anything, what we want is the smiles and giggles and hugs.

I pride myself that as a photographer, I love the candid moments and capturing today’s moments to create tomorrows memories.   Looking back at my year of families that allowed me this honor…these moments bring smiles to my face and heart as I hope they do for them as well.  It also makes me thing back over a year ago when I was in communication with a young single mom of an infant and wanted to do photos of and with her son.  We were in the process of scheduling when she un-expectantly passed away.  There isn’t a moment that goes be that I don’t wish we had the opportunity for her family and her son to have at least that half an hour so they could look back at that time.  That experience still haunts me and what drives me to encourage parents to be in the pictures with their kids – at least a few of them (despite their protests of not being dressed right and this is for the kids).  Over this past year, I am making sure that I am getting in front of the lens more frequently than before as well!

In honor of capturing these precious and fleeting moments I would like to offer a session package each month in 2015 to a different special family.  I would like to ask for nominations of families, whether in hard times due to health or financial needs, military families or other reasons that a family session should receive this special gift.  I only ask for you to email me their names, contact information and why you nominate them as well as your name and contact information.  If you know of a family, please email me at imagesbyvalerie@gmail.com or comment on this post your nominations information so I can find my first family for January 2015.

Happy Holidays to everyone and I hope you home runneth over with the spirit of the season, smiles from those you love and an unlimited supply of giggles and hugs.

-Valerie

 

 

Cake Smash Fun

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Recently a friend of mine’s son was turning one and I was given the opportunity to have cake smash fun!  For those that don’t know, a cake smash (I have several examples on my pinterest page) is a time when you can dress up your son or daughter, or just sit them in a cute diaper or skirt or do a combination of the two and place a very cook cake with lots of frosting in front of them…and wait for the magic.  When my daughter turned one we got her a cupcake, and I was ready with my camera, and she barely touched the frosting and was kind of disgusted at the whole thing.  She did eat a little, but very carefully.  When she turned 2 we tried again, this time she touched it, then asked for a spoon.  My friend, Melissa Perez owns Beck’s Bakery & Bites in Santa Barbara and I gave her direction but let her make the cake she wanted for her son…and he enjoyed.

I think watching for a year of her making her baked goods and not being able to touch them may have made him confused at the start..but he caught on and had a blast!  I am worried what having a toddler around her baked goods will mean for her in the future…Be prepared, he crashed hard from a sugar coma afterwards.  These sessions are fun for all (usually not the cake or the clothes) but the memories and images during the session are priceless!

Looking forward to my next cake smash- the mom already told me she wanted it in my studio so it’s time to roll out some fun backdrops!  Can’t wait to share!

Non Profit Events

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Non Profit events are wonderful to be asked to be involved with.  As a photographer with The Tiny Footprints Project, I have been invited by families to photograph their babies in the NICU of hospitals.  I have been able to photograph events for CAMA and SEE International as well as the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.  All these have been worthwhile and enjoyable events to be part of.  I have also donated to auctions for preschools in Oregon and Santa Barbara as well as The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.

Tomorrow, my landscape photography opens it’s exhibit at Spa Escape, on De La Vina.  I was happy when Yolanda, the owner wanted to have my photography at the event and then asked if I would like to donate a portion to a non profit. OF COURSE!!!  We have partnered with School on Wheels and they will be part of the opening on Saturday, October 18th from 3-6.  My photography as well as Rob Laskin Photography will be on display at Spa Escape for 4 months but they can be sold and replaced or special ordered from us during this time..In the past I also have been commissioned to shoot landscapes for someone’s home.

I invite everyone to come and enjoy the photography, wine, music and raffle! there will also be a silent auction.

Come to my exhibit opening!!!
Come to my exhibit opening!!!

Later this month I was asked to photograph an event for Girls Inc of Santa Barbara!  I will also have a session in the auction there and look forward to meeting a lot of the people involved with Girls Inc.  I know my daughter will be part of their activities when she gets a little older.

I hope you all can make it to some of these events and support some great organizations that continue to make a difference and give back to the community as well as the world.  So many great organizations – So little time!

Newborn Lifestyle, Santa Barbara Family

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Images by Valerie-28
Images by Valerie Studio Maternity session

I decided today to write about my new newborn lifestyle sessions.  One of my favorite sessions is Maternity to shoot.  I was fortunate enough to have such a wonderful first time expecting family to welcome me into their lives and capture

these moments for them.  We did a maternity studio session rather than an outdoor location and the images were beautiful!

Images by Valerie-27
Images by Valerie Newborn NICU Photography

I was also very fortunate enough to be invited into the NICU when their 5 week early baby girl was spending time with her new parents.  Capturing these early bonding moments make my days so special and worthwhile.

After She was home few weeks I visited them at home to do a lifestyle session.  This is a relaxed few hours of

“doing what you normally do”

and I capture the reality of the day to day life.

These are the little moments that are often

forgotten.

Whether it is diaper changes, or warming up a bottle of milk and prepare for nap time snuggles.  Maybe it’s just the moments of togetherness, happiness and inside jokes.  These moments are so special that I am thankful I got to capture the early days of this beautiful little girl…and the moments of togetherness and love this new family can hold onto for years to come.

 







It’s my Self Portrait Time!!

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It’s my self portrait time! After relaunching this new website, I needed a better picture for my About Valerie page. Images by Valerie landscapes will be on exhibit and the opening is on October 18th at Spa Escape, so I needed a photo of me to hang with my exhibit…so I had to get on this.

Valerie aka  Raggedy Ann
Valerie aka Raggedy Ann

I am like most photographers and don’t like getting my own picture taken. I’m also like most people and am self critical of the flaws I see, the age and changes that occur and are seen in my face as I continue to conquer life and everyday obstacles. I am proud of who I am, but of course secretly wish for perfection that does not exist.

Images by Valerie
The winning image to represent me!
Of course this now meant that I needed clothing changes to try to express me!

Images by Valerie-5
Self Portrait of me!
Then the one that I liked the most but of course, not smiling! This one I think will be best for the photo exhibit on the wall of the spa…is it what people think their photographer should look like?

Images by Valerie - landscape photographer
Images by Valerie – landscape photographer

So for all of you who would like to support a local spa owner, 2 local photographers as well as School on Wheels, the nonprofit that we have connected with to receive a percentage of the sales. Mark your calendars and come to our exhibit opening at 2pm October 18th at Spa Escape!

Fall Today, Holiday Music Tomorrow!

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Fall Today, holiday music tomorrow! Now that fall is in the air, we are thinking of school starting, leaves turning and the weather changing- so obviously holiday music will be playing tomorrow in the stores! I thought it was only right to try to put a little light under you. As a mom I learned that you think you will get so much done during the hours you child is at school, only to realize you had so much more to get done that you run out of time again to tackle half of it! Where did the time go? I know I am already multi tasking like crazy and when I see the clock show I have 30 minutes till pick up I start putting all the work in process away to clean up before out preschooler blesses the home again with her projects, toys and art and snacks when the focus immediately goes to getting dinner started.
This is why I suggest call the photographer whose style you like and personality you gel with. You are bringing them to capture a moment in your lives and you want it to represent yourselves accurately or maybe just how you wish you could be portrayed…I’m not judging 🙂 This is why we ask a lot of questions on the phone and prefer to meet with you. The more we know what you want, the more you know if we are a fit with you and can produce the end product you want to look at for years and decades to come. It also gives us photographers an idea what we need arrive with, whether props or distractions, family references we don’t use, tattoos we should or shouldn’t capture, as well as things that your kids love to talk about…If I need to look up superhero movie information (or ask my husband for pertinent content) or various species of frogs, or learn the words to Frozen songs (with the tutorial of my daughter) before the session so your kids can talk to me and feel comfortable- I will do that, but these face to face meetings are very important for the ultimate success of your session! So as I said at the beginning, the leaves are turning and Fall is in the air, Tomorrow will be holiday music in the stores…start planning for your family photo sessions before the annual holiday panic sets in!
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Our Family Photo Session

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On Monday, my family did our family photo session. I actually ironed our clothes that everyone picked out so we would “go” with each other as I tell my clients. I am not the type of person that prefers families doing their sessions with matching white shirts and blue jeans. Our daughter even picked out her dress as soon as she found out about the pictures, she pointed it out every day. I went through the closet and found an outfit that would bring us all together. I was so proud! The morning of the session, we were up early and she wanted to wear the dress immediately! I wasn’t going to risk her getting her dress dirty so soon since she is my daughter…Like mother like daughter! I let her pick out something else pretty to wear before getting dressed for real…when it was time, she wouldn’t change. All I can say is that we are colorful, definitely not matchy-matchy which I was avoiding…and she is a 3 year old so wrinkles on the clothes work! I did take the ironed dress and hung it in the car in case of accidents.
We picked the Santa Barbara Harbor to do our sessions. On the way there my husband asked if I was nervous…He had to laugh at me when I said, yes, I kind of was! My concerns were that I wanted to let our photographer do her job…I wanted it to go smoothly for her and everyone, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t be a backseat photographer (that is the hardest part).
We were all pleased it wasn’t too bright out, the overcast skies hung on for us so no lighting issues…everyone wants blue skies and a sunny day…photographers love cloudy or overcast..jackpot! What we didn’t count on was high tide to the point that the breakwater actually was having the waves breaking over as we walked. We got about half way down but we didn’t want to ruin our photographers camera or scare my daughter by getting hit by a wave…Fortunately we were all able to go with the flow and do pictures along the harbor..a good variety. Of course not what we went in hoping for but we know that as long as we all can play, see the humor in it, roll with the punches, change our course, the pictures may be just as fun if not better than what we envisioned.
A tip for everyone is to schedule your sessions now! Get them in September or book them now to get a date for early October. After Halloween you will be preoccupied with everything else for Thanksgiving and Christmas and getting holiday cards done will be a scramble for you and/or photographer. We now wait patiently for 2-3 weeks before we get to see the images from our session. So glad we planned ahead since everyone will be trying to get their sessions in late october and early november. First item on our list for the holiday season, do our family photo session…CHECK!

Come with me on my Blogging Journey!

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Thank you for joining me on my adventure to BLOG!  I am Valerie, the owner and photographer of Images by Valerie, specializing in maternity, family, children, newborn and high school senior portraits here in Santa Barbara county.  I plan to reach out to you ever week with updates, tips and insights on me and Images by Valerie’s adventures (but I need a little support as I figure this out at the beginning). Thank you to all the families that have invited me into their lives up to this point and shared a moment in time with me to capture it for them.  Going through my portfolio makes me smile as I remember the fun, quirks, humor and personalities and of course the challenges that just make each session and family unique, making my job great!

This is my first blog so I felt I should write a bit about family photo sessions.  Summer is unfortunately ending, kids young and not so youngish are returning or starting school.  Fall is beginning and with that, (here in Santa Barbara) some of the trees are starting to change – if you know which blocks or parks have those trees.  This past January we pulled out our lawn to save water, took down an ill pine tree and now have two Japanese maple trees that the city told us “had to be capable of achieving 30 feet,” so now we have some of those coveted season trees!

Now that it is fall, this is the time to take stock in your family, the changes that have occurred and pal your Christmas cards! (Did I really just hear groans?)  We scheduled ours, since I’m not silly enough to attempt myself.  Last year we went through the Daddy must hold my daughter stage (until we had our daughter, we didn’t know kids go through days, weeks, months of these back and forth stages- good to know not to take it personally).  Because of this, I am in very few images with her that year unless it is a quick cell phone image.  Our Christmas card was just of our daughter, but we did have a family session done before we left Oregon.  Our daughter was not a happy camper that morning, and her smiling wasn’t occurring when I was near them…I snuck in for one quick attempt.  We ended the session and on the way home a smoothie spilled all over her dress in the car.  Despite our adventure that morning, we got a family photo for the year to remember our lives in Oregon.

And here is another tip- only have water on the way to a session and bring backup clothes for the just incase moments.

www.bethstaffordphotography.com  Mount Angel, Oregon
www.bethstaffordphotography.com Mount Angel, Oregon

We also have a very important bear in our family.  She (I think Teddy is a she now) and my daughter have been inseparable since the Ikea bunny in a carrot car plush rattle ran its course around 9 months.  She is in most of our photos and all our memories, so the fact that she can’t stay in the car has been fine with us.  Our photos wouldn’t be complete without her in there somewhere!  I think this year might be our first but if she comes, we are good either way.

I always prep my families that the parents need to be “on” all the time.  Pay attention to me and not the kids while I’m shooting because when I get to surprise their children and get the smile or cute expression- it is usually the case that the parents are talking and/or looking somewhere else.   Being a photographer and planning our photo session this September, I need to remember this myself.

Be present in the moment, relax, play and be yourselves.  If your child or children aren’t being the little angels you hoped for the picture, roll with it!  Let the photographer do their job.  Also, if the parents are happy and relaxed, enjoying the experience, so will their kids…it’s also those moments between the “planned” shots that in my opinion end up being the families favorite memories of the day and year.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey.  I am grateful for my past clients (Oregon and California) who have welcomed me into their family and inturn, become part of mine.  And to those whom I look forward to the privilege of spending time with you, capturing these moments, memories and character you are blessed to call your family.  Happy Fall!