How to Incorporate Pets into your Family Photos

I love the idea of personalizing my clients family photo sessions! After all, there’s no family quite like yours, right?! So, when clients make a request to include their family pet into their session, how could I say “neigh”?! (if you stay with me after that dumb joke, you’re the real MVP)

Working with animals and people is a whole new ball game. You think it’s difficult to make a toddler look at you? Try getting a tortoise to cooperate! (Spoiler, I don’t know how to get a tortoise to cooperate) But, here are a few quick tips for a successful, pet friendly photo session.

  1. Own a pet. Okay, that was little joke. You can totally borrow someone else’s pet! Now let’s get serious…
  2. Make sure that your photographer is comfortable around animals. If you plan to include pets in the photo session, make sure your photographer knows what to expect. You never know if he/she is afraid of dogs or highly allergic to horses. Knowledge is power!
  3. Treats! Just like kids, animals love treats! So bring plenty! And even better, have a friend come to stand behind the photographer and hold the treats towards the camera. That’s how we were able to get the horse to perk his ears up and look towards the camera.

4. Intriguing noises. A trick l like to use on dogs is to have a variety of “squeak toy” sound effects on my phone. (you can just Google “squeak toy noises”) When everyone is in position i press ‘play’ and this prompts Fido to look towards the camera. Don’t over do it, though, or he might lose interest. Also, some animals respond well to a crinkled plastic or paper bag or a whistle.

Cypress Texas Family photographer.  Family photos with pet horse.

5. Keep it clean! If your pet is a dog, remember to bring some waste bags for quick clean up. For yourself, bring a lint roller for rogue pet hair. Also, a brush to keep your pet looking his best! If it’s particularly warm, bring water for your pets. And if you have a very energetic dog, take him for a walk beforehand so that he’ll be more cooperative during the session.

6. Finally, be flexible. The more relaxed you are the more relaxed everyone will be. Let go of perfection and enjoy the session. You are much more likely to love your photos if you loved your time during the photo session.

Cypress Texas Family photographer.  Family photos with pet horse.

7. Bonus tip: If all else fails, make sure your photographer knows how to use Photoshop!

So have fun and don’t be afraid to include your furry family members into your session! Years later, you’ll be glad you did!

If you’d like to see a dreamy boho newborn photo session, please check out Chelseys work in this Cleveland Newborn Photographer blog post!

In Defense of the 365 Project


For years I lived under the pretense that people are either creative or they are not.  And, (although I accepted it) that  never felt “right” to me.  For a longtime I felt like I was pretending to be creative.  I would look at drawing books and try to recreate them.  I would see craft projects and I’d try to put my own spin on it.  I was always looking outside of myself and therefore, thought I was a fraud.  I understood that to be creative you were constantly coming up with new ideas, breaking new barriers and always changing the molds!  But then one day I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.  “Creativity can be learned.”  What’s that now?!  “I’m sorry, could you speak into my good ear?!”  (Ace Ventura)   That’s right folks, creativity isn’t some elusive trait, it is a skill that can be learned!  And just like most skills, if we want to excel at it, we must practice!  If I wanted to be a professional synchronized swimmer, I’d need to practice every day.  If I planned to play professional piccolo… I’d need to learn what that was.  So, if I wanted to be any good at photography, I was going to have to buckle down and start learning, practicing, and shooting!  Enter the 365 project.  It’s pretty self explanatory, in that you shoot every day for 365 days.

So here are 4 reasons to get started on a 365 today!  (That’s right, you don’t have to wait until the beginning of the year.)

  1.  You will become one with your camera.  When you’re shooting every day, you will be more familiar with your cameras manual settings.  The more you use them, the more second nature they become.  If you are trying to learn to use your camera in manual mode, but you only pick it up when you go to an event or on vacation, you will, no doubt, revert to Auto mode and there is no growth in Auto mode!   So make that camera an extension of your hand every day!Cypress Texas Family photographer
  2. A 365 Forces you to think creatively.  Believe me, there will be times when you are bored and uninspired.  It’s raining or it’s cold.  Life is busy or the kids won’t cooperate.  There can be a hundred reasons not to pick up the camera, and that’s when you have to force it.  Look at inspiration from other photographers, painters, or from movies!  Try a new technique (Free-lensing? Brenizer method?  Double exposure?  Light Painting?)Cypress Texas Family Photographer
  3. You’ll have a collection of “mundane” moments.  This might sound like it should belong in the ‘cons’ section, but hear me out.  Normally, we pick up the camera when we’re on vacation, at a special event or a fun outing, but lots of our life happens between those moments.  When I look back at my year in photos I see when my daughters liked to play with barbies, when they would play under the cart in the grocery store, or how often we loved going to story time at the library.  These moments might not have been documented if I didn’t keep my camera handy at all times (yes, I do carry my big camera with me to the store!)Cypress Texas Family PhotographerCypress Texas Best Family Photographer
  4. Visible proof of your growth as an Artist.  I love looking back at all my images, but I really love seeing my own growth!  At the beginning of my first 365 I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing.  I knew how to shoot in manual, so I just needed some fine tuning, right?  Maybe.  But once I got shooting regularly, I started to really understand more than just my camera.  I started to see light in a new way. Composition and lines became more of a focus for me.  And at the moment, I’m trying to understand more about color theory.Cypress Texas best family and child photographerCypress Texas best family and child photographer


One thing to consider along with starting a 365 is accountability.  When we begin an exercise routine or a healthy living plan, we gather support and accountability from those around us, and this is no different.  For me, that looked like announcing on my social media that I was beginning my 365 and every day I would number my images (i.e. 1 of 365).  I was surprised at how often people I met would tell me that they looked forward to my daily images!  If you are looking for groups to help, there are plenty on Instagram and Facebook.  Some accounts or groups will support you by offering daily, weekly themes or monthly themes for you to join in and share to. For example,  look at these hubs on Instagram  here or here .  But however you decide to do it, just DO it!  You won’t regret it!

Aaand… if you have already started a 365 but need motivation to keep it going check out Kara Chappell’s helpful tips here:   Family Photography on Whidbey Island 

Working with underwater photos in Lightroom

Now that summer is here, we are spending a lot of time in the pool or in some kind of water.   The kids can spend hours swimming, but frankly, I get a little bored after about 20 minutes.   So, I decided to purchase an underwater housing bag for my DSLR to keep myself entertained.  I wasn’t ready to invest in legit housing so I opted for the Zonman DSLR Waterproof Pouch on Amazon.  It was a little complicated to work with, but it got the job done!  I was able to take lots of pictures of my kids in the pool and even swimming in the ocean, all while keeping my camera safe and dry.   This takes lots of shooting, so be prepared for a bunch of crazy throw away images and a few decent ones!

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Now comes the issue of editing underwater images.  When you photograph underwater everything tends to be very blue/green and a little hazy (depending on where you’re shooting)  There are lots of great options and methods of how to fix underwater images in Photoshop and in Lightroom, but I’m going to share how I edited these simply and  completely in Lightroom.

Here are a couple of before and afters.   You can see that the skin tones on the “before” are off and overall they need work!

UnderwaterB&E (2 of 2)UnderwaterB&E (1 of 2)

UnderwaterB&A (2 of 2)UnderwaterB&A (1 of 2)


Below is a screen shot of the Lightroom Settings that I used.  First, I began by using the Color Temperature eye dropper tool on a neutral part of the image (both times I used parts of their clothes) to get a more accurate white balance reading, then I adjusted it based on my liking.  As you can see from the panel on the left, I worked a lot with the Color (HSL) Panel to correct the colors of the skin and the water.  Something that you cannot see from the panel is that I used the local adjustments brush on the “Color” setting and I painted a bit on the skin to add more orange and warmth.  Underwater images usually need more contrast to make the subjects pop and I always add extra clarity.  Any other adjustments beyond that are purely aesthetic. I removed the extra set of feet on the first and adjusted the crop, etc.


I am by no means and master of underwater editing, but I enjoy learning new tips and I thought I’d share the methods that I have learned.   I hope you enjoy and I’d love to see some of your underwater images as well!


Texas bluebonnets and Photoshop


Spring is absolutely my favorite time of the year in Texas.  The temperature is nice, everything is in bloom, and I don’t suffer from a pollen allergy.  (sorry for my friends who do!) But the highlight of this time of year is all the wildflowers most notably, the bluebonnets!  We took a trip to Brenham about a week ago and had a little fun photographing the kids playing and attempting to get a family photo (fail, but that’s another story)

One picture, in particular, that I liked was this one. This is straight out of camera (SOOC)  I loved the way the wind was blowing her hair, the contrast of her white dress and, of course, the bluebonnets.  But I felt that this image could use a little “oomph!”  Enter Photoshop.  So, I’ll break down the steps I took in transforming this image. Eve-Bluebonnets-Balloons-Edit (2 of 2)

DykesB.3 (1 of 1)

The first thing I did was to do some basic edits in Lightroom.  I raised the shadows and the exposure just slightly, increased the contrast and reduced the highlights.  Then I added vibrance  and reduced the blacks.   At this point, I moved the image over to Photoshop.  Once in PS, I decided that I wanted her to be trying to catch something more interesting than her little toy dog, so I Googled “balloons png” and I found a few free images to use and settled on what you see.  Then, I added a new sky from my collection (I sometimes photograph pretty skies just for this purpose)  So, I dropped the sky in over my image and put a layer mask on it. I used the graduated filter to make it darker at the top and lighter towards the horizon (as skies are not generally the same intensity throughout)   Then I used my paintbrush to brush the sky off of my subject.  Next, I added the balloons.  At first the balloons were too different from the overall image and it wasn’t looking natural.  So I went to Image, Adjustments, Match Color then selected the sky as my source and the layer as my balloons.  I adjusted the Luminance, Color intensity and fade until I felt that the balloons were blending into the overall image a bit better.  Now, the issue of her dress.  It was too flat and still but I wanted it to help express the movement of the wind that day.  So, I opened another image of her dress blowing (see below) and I cut off the part that I wanted to use and added it to my final image.

Eve-Windy-Dress-Bluebonnets (1 of 1)

The final changes I made were to fill in the empty spaces with a few more bluebonnets.  I used the clone tool and took from areas within the same focal range and blended them into the empty spots in the field.  Then, I used the Liquify tool to make her hair a little more dramatic, Finally, I took the light poles and other small, distracting elements out of the image and Viola!  The final product!  It may seem like a lot of steps, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process and that, to me, is all part of the fun!  I hope this helps and that you get a chance to see the bluebonnets for yourself while they’re still here!