Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why I Chose Special Needs Photography.

We are going a little different on the blog today.  We are talking about special needs photography, why I did it and what that means for you.  Plus I am sharing a sneak peek of my latest shoot with my buddy Josh.  He is a big part of the reason special needs photography is so important to me so his awesomeness fit perfectly here!  He has changed so much in the last year, and all for the better.  Watching his leaps and bounds progress at his shoot brought me to tears!

He ran off to play on his own, something he has never done on one of our shoots!

As you all know, Stolen Moments Studios has an added special focus on special needs photography.  I wish I had some cute name for this special section of the studio, but I've yet to hit on something I love.  Feel free to throw out your ideas :)

I decided to do this for a number of reasons, but the biggest was really the kids I already worked with.  Their parents kept telling me they had never had appointments go that smoothly with their kids, photography or otherwise.  And when they saw the pictures many of them cried, because they never had pictures of their kids looking so much like themselves.  To be honest I didn't think I was doing anything out of the ordinary, but the parents and their friends and families kept telling me horror stories of previous shoots and how much their kids loved "playing with Miss Corrie".  They were adamant that what I was doing was special.

We asked if he thought he could get over the bar, he sure tried!

In speaking with my clients, friends, and family I saw that a successful photography experience was rare in the best of situations.  Throw in any sort of disability or special need and it was like finding a unicorn!  After some self-reflection I realized this was something I was meant to be doing.  In April 2012 I announced the addition of special needs photography as a major part of Stolen Moments Studios.  Every family deserves a successful shoot with wonderful pictures, whether you have a child with autism, a parent with a disability, a family member with cancer or just a preschooler full of attitude and "I don't want to".   No one should have to miss having great pictures of their family because it is more of a challenge to get them!

The number of times he smiled while I was with him made me so happy!  So did my hug!

What does being a special needs friendly studio mean for you and your session?

There is more flexibility.  I book extra time for those session to allow us to move slower, take a break or even take a few minutes ahead of time to talk about what we are doing and make sure everyone is ready and comfortable with the shoot.  That extra time also covers those situations that can come up as you are getting ready to leave.  Some days are harder than others getting a kid with sensory issues to put on their shoes and I understand that.  I never book another session directly behind a special needs shoot to allow us to have all the time we need!

His independence this shoot was astounding to me!  He is so much more confident and outgoing!

Special needs shoots also have an extra reschedule option.  Instead of the usual two, they have three.  It gives all of us more freedom to accommodate a rough morning or a bad week and makes sure getting pictures taken isn't a high stress experience for anyone!

Pre-session consults for my special needs clients may be multiple parts to allow everyone to get to know me and for me to learn what works best for your family and how to approach your shoot.  Many children with special needs have a hard time in new situations and especially with new people.  By meeting once or twice before your shoot date, having some play time and talking about what we are going to do we can make the shoot a more relaxed and fun experience for them.

He was across the playground and heard us laugh.  His disgust at us being amused by things that aren't him just made us laugh harder!

One last thing, I will never post a session as a "special needs session" without specifically asking permission to do so, as I prefer to not differentiate between my sessions.  Some of my families are happy to share their sessions for posts like this, awareness months or just to share all that their child has overcome but that is not something I would do without permission.  I want people to look through an album full of kids and not be able to find the child with autism, or have a wheelchair be more than something in a great picture of a smiling happy child!  I make sure the people are the focus of all my pictures.

Just a quiet moment when he didn't think we were watching.

If you have any questions or just want to know more about special needs sessions don't hesitate to ask!

The next post here will be more about being a special needs studio and why it is important for my family! It is so much more to this than the kids I work with, there is a huge personal aspect as well!  Until then don't forget about the package deal for October and November.  Shoot, cards and prints all for $200!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What does fall mean?

It's a great question.  Fall is just about upon us and what does that mean?

1) Pumpkin flavored things.  mmmm I hoard cans of pumpkin so we tend to have some year round but I love pumpkin season.  Not so much coffee but baked goods!  Pumpkin muffins are happening ASAP!

2) Back to school.  Ty started his last year of elementary school.  I'm trying not to think too hard about him being a fifth grader because that makes me old and because I was trouble at his age! Katie is in second grade and declared it "The Year of Katie".  I don't know what that means but I feel like we should be scared.

3)  It is almost hockey season!!  Hockey hockey hockey!  Hurricanes preseason training starts THIS WEEK and Squirrel and I will be trying to go to practices once a week.  He loves it, it makes a great bribe for good behavior and Mommy isn't too sad about having to go!  The season starts October 10 and we will be there! So plenty of hockey pictures will be on the blog here soon.

4) Halloween!  Another fun fall thing I love!  We trick or treat with a mob of kids from the neighborhood and we have so much fun.  This year I think the kids have decided that they will be Batman, Robin and Harley Quinn.  Katie was going to be Batgirl but she wanted to be old school purple batgirl and the costume is more blue than purple.  As this does not meet her "I must have the perfect costume" standards, she went the villain route and chose my favorite!  I don't have many years left before Ty will refuse to dress up with them so I am excited!  There are requests in for me to be Harley too, but we will see what Mommy has time for.   If you want a quick mini of your kids in their halloween costumes let me know and we can set something up. I'm always happy to put together a costume mini or two if anyone wants them!

5) Holiday shoots.  This one might be the most relevant to this actual blog.  I know most of you don't even want to think about Christmas yet but holiday deadlines are November 23 for your shoot and December 14 to place your orders.  Which means it is coming up fast!  That means I only have 8 weekends available between now and the deadline.  These will fill FAST as we get later into the fall season so if you are even thinking about a session for the holidays talk to me soon.  If you wait I may not have the availability you need.  Book your session by October 1st for a $25 session discount and a free print 8x10 or smaller!

We have a new look here on the blog and I am working on all the website updates as well.  I will not let the slideshows defeat me!   Next week I will be doing a post on why I became a special needs friendly studio and exactly what that means for you!

Don't forget to tell your friends about the session deal because we have awesome referral and loyalty discounts!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In the moment

There are two things I am just as guilty of as all of you.  1) I have TWO DSLR cameras.  TWO!  And what are most of the pictures of my kids taken with?  My cell phone.  Because it is always right there, in the diaper bag, in my back pocket, sitting on the counter.   2) Worrying more about the setting, what they are wearing, what we are doing, than I am about capturing the moment as it happens.

A personal favorite "in the moment" and cell phone picture
of my kids and the world's cutest nephew.
To fix number one, I've started leaving my camera bag on my desk, camera ready to shoot and easily accessible.  All I have to do is walk in and pick it up!  I haven't quite worked out keeping it with me, mostly because I am still carrying so much baby stuff and a baby!  But it will get there.   I have quite a few nice cell phone pictures of my kids, I've printed bunches of them.  And I would definitely rather have those than nothing at all.  But having real pictures of my kids, high quality not a snap shot pictures, is invaluable.  I am lucky enough to be able to do that myself, but don't put it off because you can't do it yourself.  Not only is it great to have a beautiful picture to show off to your family and friends, but by hiring a photographer, they will capture things that you can't.  Like you in the picture.  Yes, I have to have someone do this for me too. And a true professional will get pictures of you and your family that make you see things you may not have seen, the details in a moment that were captured when you were lost in it.

Here is an example of a cell phone picture and a picture with, as my kids call it, my real camera.  These were taken about 30 seconds apart as I was writing this paragraph.  I dragged him off the couch and away from cartoons.  I tried to have him not move, but he is 10 and can't stand still!  The difference is HUGE.  Honestly bigger than I thought it would be!  But I can do more with my camera in terms of settings, more in how I hold it without making the picture blurry and more with what works for him!  There is a big difference between a snapshot and a photograph.  

Issue number 2.   I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist.  But a few days ago, Eli was playing in the kitchen so I grabbed my phone and took a picture.  But it was really just bad.  So I went and grabbed my camera.  I ended up spending half an hour playing on the floor with him, taking pictures that are very much who he is.  At the time I didn't care about what he was wearing, that the kitchen floor still hadn't been swept or that he had just woken up so his hair was crazy.  In the moment, playing with him, none of that mattered.  And now I have pictures that show off his personality, the little things he does on a normal day.

Those pictures are some of my favorite recent pictures of him.  I got lucky, he happened to be wearing his favorite shirt and his cloth diaper happened to coordinate with it.  But this morning he looked just as cute in his pirate monkey pajama top and the shorts Tyler pulled out of the laundry basket because he is pajama pants were wet.  I've had a lot of people freak out when I suggest shooting at their house, especially with babies and toddlers.  But that is their element, the place where the best of them comes out.  A familiar environment full of the things they love.  "But the cleaning!  My house is a mess!"  Mine too.   But we can make it work with just a little picking up as we go and different angles!  Don't ever be afraid to capture your life as it is, these moments only last so long!  Don't misunderstand me, on location makes for some stunning pictures.  But sometimes, especially for little kids, home will get you the pictures of the kids you know and love.  It will let everyone else see your kids how you see them!

Playing with the buttons on his high chair

Climbing.  Because he refuses to walk but will climb anything left unsupervised.

Being lured away from the stairs.  Note the floor that needs to be swept and the basket full of laundry.
It is ok to let it go!  (please don't start singing.)

Watching his brother put dishes away

Eli travels by bounce.  He gets on his knees puts his hands up like this and bounces around the house.  I would never get this picture unless we were at home.  Also note the t-shirt.  As soon as it is clean, that is the one he wants.  No idea where he gets that  particular love from. ;)

Serious and mildly disgruntled.  He is just wandering and doing his thing, another example of a picture I only get at home.

How he and Piglet told me they were done.  
So I have two points here.  One sometimes the moment really is more important than everything being perfect. Don't be afraid to capture the imperfections.  And two, don't think ok is good enough.  Have real portraits taken of your family as your life happens.  It doesn't have to be a special occasion or at a special place.  Take a moment to capture right now and have really great pictures of this moment, because it's not coming back

I also promised on the facebook page yesterday some summer discounted session information.  And here it is!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Tori and her animal friends

Hilarious title right?  Totally appropriate!  Tori's mom got an African Grey Parrot named Duke right before she was born and got a puppy named Barkley just recently!  She is crazy, but in the best way, LOL.

I'm always extremely honored when my old friends are willing to wait for me to come back to MA to visit to let me take pictures of their families.  I can't tell you all what it means to me.  But this one was even more special because Kathy was generous enough to allow my future vet Katie to come and meet her animals!  Katie loved the animals and Bryana and Tori.  Duke talks and we didn't tell her so she was in awe, and getting to pet a bird just put her over the top!

And how cool is this picture of Duke?  This is NOT in black and white!  

Tori is a lucky little girl because now her cousin Bryana lives with her and they are clearly best friends! Bryana has a shadow for life now!

Tori saved her best smiles for pictures with Mommy!

But she is clearly Daddy's girl.  And the feeling is definitely mutual!

There is also a kitty named Nacho.  He was less than thrilled to have new people invade his territory but I did get a couple of pictures of him with his mom.

And how gorgeous is the view off their back deck?  

Thanks again Kathy for working around a crazy vacation schedule and letting me come meet your family and see your beautiful new home!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

My super cool son

Most of you all have at some point met my oldest, Tyler.  He is a pretty cool kid.  He is helpful, smart, a little snarky (no idea where that comes from) but most of all thinks of others.

For the last two years Tyler has shaved his head to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation.  This will be his third year and he decided to raise his goal to $700!   He has already raised $205 but he still has a good bit to raise.  The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.  This is a volunteer-driven charity, which keeps fundraising costs low and grants high.  In 2012 alone, St. Baldrick’s granted more than $23 million for research.  Almost all of that money is raised at these head shaving events through donations!

Year One, Age 7
So to help him out, let's bust out the goodies!  For every $20 you donate to Tyler you get an entry into a raffle for a free session with a print release disc.  This is going to be the only session I give away this year, and all the money goes to a great cause.  I know a number of you have donated already, and as a thank you from Tyler, no matter what you donated you get one entry into the raffle and one for every $20 donated.  And if you happen to be one of my awesome friends back home who might be considering a donation, I will be home this summer so consider yourself entered!

Year  Two, Age 8

Every dollar helps and he loves hearing who has donated to him, especially when it is from people he doesn't know!  I am constantly amazed by his desire to do for others and the passion he feels for doing this every year.   If you can't donate please spread the word, share his page, or even consider shaving yourself!  Ty's event is March 25th at PNC arena with the Carolina Hurricanes but there are tons of events all over the Triangle this time of year and I could definitely help you find one if you wanted to get involved that way!

To all of those who have already donated, thank you from the bottom of my heart and know that Tyler truly appreciates it.  And to those of you who are thinking of donating, thank you in advance!

This year's before picture!  Shaving the mohawk!!

Here is Ty's page You can donate there, or feel free to meet up with me and give him cash or a check in person and get your thank you from him right then and there!  Ty will be pulling the winner himself the Sunday after he shaves his head, so you have plenty of time to save up some money and donate to a great cause!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Holidays are coming!

Hey everyone!

First I want to thank everyone for all your support and love over the last few months as we've adjusted to our family's newest addition!  Nathaniel is such a sweet baby and is adored by his big siblings!  I've actually had a few of you complain when I didn't bring him to consults, which makes me smile because I'm glad you all feel the same way about my family as I feel about yours!  I love the bond I have with my families and especially my SMS kids, I've been blessed to get to work with such wonderful people!

The big kids' first day of school

But now on to the important stuff.  The holiday season is upon us!  October is completely booked and November is getting there.  The last day for 2013 (with guaranteed delivery of prints for Christmas) is Sunday November 24.  The last day to place your order is Friday December 13.  Normally I try to keep an availability for Thanksgiving if someone wants to do a big family shoot with everyone in town but with Thanksgiving so late this year, I will still offer one shoot for Thanksgiving weekend but I can't guarantee Christmas delivery (though I will do all I can!)

If you would like a shoot for 2013 please get up with me soon, and if you do it before October 15, there might be a surprise in it for you!

Speaking of holidays, Halloween is coming too!  This year my kids will be the Avengers and I can't wait to get some pictures of that!  Tyler will be Captain America, Katie will be Hulk (if you know Katie, you aren't surprised!) and little Eli is going to be Iron Man!!  So excited!  Last night I was thinking about having a costume contest for my SMS kids!  I will get you all more details on that as soon as I come up with them, so watch the blog over the next couple of weeks.

A little Halloween throwback

But back to Christmas!  Last week my wonderful friend Jessica from LilyM Boutique asked if Katie would like to model her brand new Christmas dress.  Katie was obviously thrilled because she loves her "Mrs. Jess dresses" so when it came yesterday we packed up the boys and went to the park!  First off I can't tell you how much I love this dress.  It's unique, beautiful and wonderfully made.  Plus with so much stuff, even in a size 6, looking way too old for her, it's nice to know she has a beautiful and age appropriate Christmas dress.  There are two versions of this dress the snowman dress Katie is wearing and a penguin dress.  Snowman is more Katie, but 6 year old me would have loved the penguin one!  If you are interested in ordering one, go to the LilyM facebook page (see link above) for more information.

I love being able to help other small businesses and I'm thrilled to be part of LilyM Boutique's new original designs that she will be offering in addition to her gorgeous upcycles!

Monday, April 8, 2013

April is Autism Awareness Month

It is I the great and powerful blog slacker, LOL.   But I have a few coming for you over the next couple of weeks!  And today's is extra important, so pay attention!

As you all know, last April I announced my intentions to incorporate a special needs aspect to the studio.  And I have loved every second of it.  I have gotten to know some awesome kids and their families and seen what an impact having a photographer who understands their challenges can have, not just on the pictures themselves but on their parents as well.

So this year I decided to spotlight one of my families for Autism Awareness Month.  Now you all know I usually don't make a point of saying "look a special needs shoot!"  because they are just normal kids, they don't need a label.  But some of the parents are happy to share their kids unique awesomeness with the world and allow me to highlight their kids!  Cate is one of those awesome moms.  I've been shooting Josh and his big sister Allie since 2009 (which is just crazy to me!) and I've seen first hand how challenging and rewarding Josh's struggles have been.  

Not only does Josh have autism but he also has seizures, but he certainly doesn't let any of that slow him down.  He has had more than his fair share of struggles but he is still the same silly kid I've had fun with for years now!   He has a sweet service dog named Nelson and a personality that just doesn't stop!  I never know who will show up to one of Josh's shoots, this time I got Batman!   He had his Batman hoodie and his sunglasses on when he walked up to me.

Me: "Excuse me Batman, Have you seen my friend Josh?"
Batman takes off his hood and his sunglasses "Corrie it's me."  
Me:  "Oh you had me fooled"
Sunglasses go back on and he takes off with a grin "I know."  


And one of my favorite things about Josh, from a purely photographer stand point, I never get the same facial expression twice, I'm always surprised when I go through his shoots and see all the awesome faces he makes!  And when he ran up to me this shoot and grabbed my hand and said "Corrie come with me, I need to play and they are going to take forever." it made my day!

Josh also has a big sister, Allie, who is an all around awesome kid who I love spending time with.  Not only is she great with her brother and helping her mom, but she is smart, well spoken and happens to have an interest in photography, which is just fine with me!!

She is always up for doing whatever random things I ask her to do, including trying 50 different trees until we find the perfect one and standing on walls in front of random bushes because I decide they look pretty.  And never questions it!

But what does this all have to do with Autism Awareness?  Well 1 in 88 kids is diagnosed with Autism.  Which means odds are you know a family that struggles with some form of an Autism spectrum disorder, even if you don't realize it.  And we've all seen the kids having meltdowns in Target or a restaurant and you judge.  But it just isn't as easy as "well he looks normal they should be able to control him"  not only is that not true at all, but just because a child has a disability or disorder doesn't mean that they can't hear and understand the things you say.  It hurts their feelings, they don't like not being in control of their situation any more than their parents or the people around them like it.  Autism Awareness isn't about knowing it exists, but knowing that it effects every child differently and taking just a minute to realize the toll it takes on them and their families before saying something hurtful.  Because it isn't just the way it changes their family, having a child that needs "more", but it is the nights up worrying, the financial aspects of various therapies and tools to help them learn and progress, the constant struggle for answers and trying to find a way to keep things as "normal" as possible.   All while educating everyone they come in contact with from family, to friends and teachers about their child's particular challenges.

I'm blessed to know a number of amazing children who defy the odds of their Autism and prove their doctors wrong every day.  It's not to say every day isn't a struggle, but those little moments when you know what you are doing makes a difference, make everything else easier.  

Reach out to their parents, if they share something on facebook that seems minor to you, it may be a huge accomplishment to them, get excited!  If they are having a rough day, ask if you can do anything to help or if you can bring them a coffee and let them vent in a judgement free environment.  It doesn't take much to let these parents know that you see how hard they are working and that you know how awesome their kids are!!