Mr. Darling and his Darling Momsistant

Client Tips, Sessions

When Mr. Darling showed up with his mommy on Sunday, they treated me to one of the easiest sessions I’ve ever done (including Mess Maker J with 2 assistants). She and her husband do sessions with Mr. Darling all the time and so she was cool, calm, and collected. I asked her to share some tips about being a momsistant. SO, enjoy Mr. Darling and his Darling Mommy’s tips!

“My toddler’s photo sessions usually turn out pretty good. If you have a toddler, you know how unbelievable this sounds, but it’s true. Anytime we’ve set up a photo session either ourselves (amateurs) or with a professional we’ve always had at least a few beautiful pictures that we were really happy with. I’m no expert or toddler whisperer, but I have found a few things that might help my fellow toddler parents

1. Plan for the worst.

2. Don’t quit right when things go wrong & they will go wrong.

3. Hope for one good photo.

4. Take extra clothes. At least an extra top. Planning to change your toddler into several outfits during a session is not what I’m talking about. That’s torture. Just take something else that will look good in photos if they decide to ruin whatever they are currently wearing. If you forget this, ask your photographer to help you brainstorm an alternative before giving up. Kids look adorable dressed up in adults clothes. Or in towels for beach or bath time pics. Or wrapped in a blanket reading a book.

5. Take something that will get their attention. I sometimes take an arsenal and sometimes I only take one thing. At our last outdoor session for Christmas pictures I had mugs filled with mini marshmallows, bubbles, books, his red trike, blankets, & a stuffed animal. I used all of these in the pictures and as distractions. He ate almost two bags of mini marshmallows that day, but we ended up with about a dozen beautiful photos during a very cold & windy 30 minute session. My last mini session was easy. Another mom was the photographer, so her own kids toys made the best distractions, along with props for the shoot.

6. Get in a few of the pictures. Most of our photo sessions are of our little one, but believe me they’ll value a picture with you in it so much more later. You don’t have to look perfect and you don’t have to hang the picture you in it on the wall, but just get in the picture. And it also helps to calm them down again. I try to stick with under 30 minutes of photos, so about 15 minutes in I get cuddles from my little one. I may play along with him or get him to dance or laugh if he’s not having such a good time. And at the end of a session I get the feeling that he doesn’t even realize the camera was on him.”

Thank you to Momma Darling for sharing these tips! I am learning from every client and I am loving it!


Serious Miss E.


Today marks the day of my very first paid client! I was very excited (read terrified) about today’s shoots. I welcomed three friends with their adorable children into my messy home to get some St. Patrick’s Day photos and despite the terror, I had a great time!

So without further ado, meet serious liittle E!

I loved catching this little girl playing. It took her a little while to warm up, but in the end, I got some great photos of this little girl!

With Mess Maker J., I started incorporating a confetti drop into my shoot because he loves it so much and I always get a bunch of great shots of him as the confetti rains down but Miss E wasn’t that thrilled especially once it touched her feet!

It was such a great learning experience for me to work with my first little girl! Thank you Miss E for coming over to make a mess with me!

Stay tuned for more phots from this weekend!

Filters-CPL, UV, ND


For Valentine’s Day, Mr. Mess Maker gifted me some filters for my Nikon D7200 and a reflector and I took some time to play with them today. Oh, and bonus, filters are probably one of the cheapest pieces of photography equipment out there!


I got diopters (marketed macro lens filters but are not). One I was able to get something with through manual focus. The other one does a really good job of blurring my entire photo. I didn’t try the remaining two… because I am easily annoyed and that first one being so blurry and the second only working on manual focus… pass.

So don’t waste money on diopters or “macro lens filters.”

But it was a set that came with the filters I really DID want: UV, CPL (Polarizing), and ND, neutral density.

I use the UV always to kind of protect my lens and filter some UV light out that can harsh up your photos. I wanted the CPL because we live near a really awesome zoo and Mess Maker J. loves the aquarium, so I wanted to be able to get past some glare from glass in those situations. Both are great filters to have, I suggest investing in them both.

The ND, I’d seen some picture with/without type of thing and thought I would like to test them out.

While doing some shots of props for my St. Patrick’s Day minis starting this weekend (EEK!), I decided to try the ND filter out on the sky outside.

Here’s what I got WITH the ND Filter:


This was ISO 100, f2.2, 1/125. I did nothing but convert to JPG in Lightroom.

Without the ND filter, exact SAME EXIF:


Again, nothing done in Lightroom but the conversion.

AND that same image, with -3.54 Exposure (similar exposure to the photo with the filter based on the trees):


SO, what does all of this MEAN other than clearly the ND filter did something.

Here’s the big thing: you can take pictures in full snow without making your shutter speed 1/5000 (which is what I had to do to get a few photos of Mess Maker J. this winter in Pennsylvania. You can also get better photos in full sun regardless of snow. Basically it dims the light without losing the color, so no more blown out portions of sky.

So get the ND filter for just those situations, when there is just too much light but you still want to get a good picture. I really could’ve used it when I was trying to get pictures of my brother’s family this fall in full sun.

Where I Started

Journey, Learning, Mess Maker J, Photographers


Almost 13 months ago, I had a little bundle of joy. Mess Maker J. And Mess Maker J. is perfect in every way.

I was fortunate enough to find Melinda Mae Photography who took beautiful pictures of my son and his messy parents. I realized the value of family photography, of turning a group of people who think they look horrible into a piece of art. I am forever grateful for the beautiful work Melinda did for us over the course of J.’s first year. Here is one of his newborn photos.


After watching her work, I’ve been scrambling to catch up.

I started out with the point and shoot my MIL gave my husband for his birthday the year we moved to Belgium. And my goal was to do some one month milestone photos.

Here is one from the little shoot that I did with him at a hotel while my husband was working on a business trip.


Meet Mess Maker J. at 1 month. He’s stinking adorable, I know. He is/was/always will be perfect. Aw.

While J. is perfect, the pictures I take of him are not. But I’m working on it.

I shot this with a Canon PowerShot SX700 HS  in Auto but this model does offer manual controls so it’s a worthy camera for those of you looking for something less intimidating and involved.

Let’s talk about what’s wrong with this image and why.

Background. That brown blanket on the bed is a huge distraction. I have come to learn how annoying and hard it is to edit stuff out of an image. So, for things other than capturing Little Mister playing, I remove EVERYTHING and check my playback constantly to see what I’m getting in my shots and reshoot then and there so I can avoid trying to edit it out. Key word is trying, I suck at this.

Motion blur and focus. EXIF: ISO 800, SS1/60, Aperture 3.2. An ISO of 800 usually causes noise, it does on the camera I’m currently working with too. So I try to avoid it, but it’s necessary when you don’t have enough light. It probably caused some of the focus to soften too but the biggest culprit ruining the image is the shutter speed. 1/60 is barely enough to account for handshake let alone bebe J. flailing about. So 1/125 is okay for a slow moving baby/kid but 1/200-250 is definitely better.

This is my true start at photography and it was a bumpy one. Fortunately, it doesn’t matter. I still love my little Mess Maker and the photos I took of him. The truth is, I can’t go back and get better photos, kids don’t stay little for long. SO take them, blurry and dark and grainy, take them anyway.