In Home Family Session and 5 tips to make it AMAZING!

I find it to be a honor and a privilege when I get to continue working with past wedding clients. They become more like friends and less like clients and I LOVE that. Anna and Josh’s in home lifestyle session with their little Sammy was pure magic. We have some great tips and tricks to make your family session go smooth as silk!

In home sessions are quickly becoming some of my favorite shoots to do because it’s familiar and cozy. Here are FIVE tips for a successful in home lifestyle portrait session!

1. Keep it Clean
The day of the the shoot make sure that the rooms that we will be taking photos in are clear of clutter. We may have to move some items or adjust things to get the framing right but it makes it so much easier for everyone if it’s tidy to begin with!
2. Stay Cozy
Think soft fabrics, coordinating colors that compliment your home and adjust the temp so it’s comfortable for your family. I have some great ideas on my Pinterest page with lots of clothing and posing ideas! Family ideas and Newborn ideas
3. Be well Rested
This one can be hard with newborns, but even if you as parents are tired, try to work around your little ones naps and get as much rest yourselves before the shoot so you are relaxed and can have fun! Remember it’s all about YOU and capturing your family in a natural and honest way.
4. Have FUN!
Don’t forget to let go and have some fun. We will get a variety of images from lovely serene moments to crazy, silly moments. Be open to all of it and it will be a blast!
5. Make TIME
Give yourselves plenty of time especially with a newborn session. Babies and toddlers don’t know how to “listen” to our directions and we all just need to be patient and go with the flow which can mean it might not be a quick 30-45 min session. I always advise to block off at least two hours for in home sessions.
If you are interested in learning more I’d love to hear from you! Message below or email me with ideas or questions about in home lifestyle sessions?

Happy Birthday Sarah Elizabeth Dwyer

Once upon a time there was a girl named Sarah Elizabeth. She lived in a magical kingdom, under a large oak tree, in an old cottage with green shutters and a fireplace. She was smart, funny, kind, and truly loved.

Today is Sarah's birthday. She would have been 39 years old. She would have danced and eaten cake. I've been wanting to write about her since she passed away last August, but I just couldn't until now. And really, what better way to celebrate her life than on her birthday. 

I don't normally write much. Words have never been my thing, so here we go. I remember sitting with her on the bed picking out sundresses online. She had found the perfect sundress and she ordered it immediately and even got to wear it once down at the Staunton Farmers Market last spring. She loved clothes and fashion. One thing I am most sad about is that Sarah won't see her fairy goddaughter, Chloë, grow up. (Sarah decided that she was to be Chloë’s Fairy Godmother. I think it’s fantastic. Every girl should have one.) I'm so glad that Chloë did get to have a relationship with Sarah. She remembers her and we talk about her often and for that I am grateful.

A few years back the doctors told Sarah that she only had about 3 months to live. That was the first time that I cried in front of her. My body shook. I couldn't help it. I bawled. I held onto her like a child and she hugged me back and we stood there in peaceful silence. I am so incredibly lucky to have had her as my friend, my confidant. She has taught me lessons and she has been there through the good times and hard times. She will always be with me. Always. I realize now that I haven't really lost her. I have gained something more. Something wonderful. Her laugh still follows me. I see her sometimes in other people and moments throughout the day. Her objects speckle our home and make me smile when I see them. Whenever I see a blue butterfly it makes me smile.

Sarah had a wicked (and very dirty sense) of humor. She told the best stories and if you needed someone to lift you up, you would give her a ring. I still sometimes reach for the phone to call her. I kept voicemails that she left me and I still listen to them on occasion just to hear her voice. She was always one to rally and make you feel better. She could get very fired up about things. About life. She has taught me that you must LIVE. Everyday. 

Now, Sarah was also a little OCD which could drive a person a crazy. I remember one time when we lived together and she had lovingly rearranged the entire kitchen. I couldn’t find anything. I was trying to make a cake for my husbands birthday and nothing was where it normally was. I was furious. Sarah kept showing me around the kitchen, so proud that everything was in (HER) order. I did manage to get the cake baked that night without any casualties. In time we moved things around so that we both were happy and I have even adopted some of her quirky placements because, well, they worked! That’s the thing, she always had a method. She had a method for the end of her life as well. To make it hers. To make it Sarah.

Sarah and I used to joke that we must have been twins in a past life. There were so many similarities about us. We share the same initials, SEP. Sarah Elizabeth Pharis (now Dwyer) and Sera Elizabeth Petras. Pharis means stoneworker and Petras means stone. I like to think that we were siblings, or maybe even married in a past life! I hope to see her in the next. May our adventure continue in another time. 

I leave you with this. Today, go outside, and take off your shoes. Feel the grass between your toes and the sun on your face. Lift up your eyes and look at the clouds. My daughter, Chloë, said the most beautiful thing when Sarah passed away. She said that Sarah is a happy, healthy puffy cloud up in the sky now. I like to think so, too.I hope that you all remember her love end her incredible energy that she shared with so many people. 

Happy Birthday my beautiful friend. I miss you everyday. Love infinity squared. I hope you are dancing with Bowie and eating an entire cake today decorated with tiny blue butterlies.

Please consider donating to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation 

Southern Weddings Blog Feature | The Market at Grelen | Lauren & Andrew's spring wedding

What a joy it is to capture a couples love on their wedding day! So, I was thrilled when Southern Weddings decided they wanted to showcase Lauren and Andrew's gorgeous spring wedding at The Market at Grelen! Follow this link to see more of their beautiful day and get inspired!

Flowers by Whimsical Floral

Videography by Joygaba Photo

Planner Two Byrds Events

Caterer The Local

Hair and Makeup by Emily Artistry

Bride's gown by Watters


Fall Mini Session Dates announced for 2016

It's that time of year again! Mini session time! I've decided to try our sessions a little earlier this year in the hopes that it won't be as cold for everyone. Many thanks to all the clients who braved the cold weather in the past. We used many "hot hands" and cups of warm cider to spice things up! Registration is now open! I have set a short day this coming Sunday, September 25th from 4pm till 6:30pm. The next full day will be Oct. 2nd and our rain date has been set for Oct. 23rd in case of bad weather. I hope you can join me for some fall photography fun! 

Click the link to register HERE

Here are some highlights from last years participants at Gaie Lea!



Kara + Josh | A Military Wedding at Pippin Hill Farm

I have always loved working out at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard which has been voted one of the South's top venue's in many publications including Southern Living. Kara & Josh's wedding was full of love, laughter and military traditions. There was a torrential downpour of rain right after their first look, but that didn't phase them. They just laughed and smiled at each other and went with it. Then the sun came out for their gorgeous ceremony on the veranda and the mist painted itself on the mountain views.  They had a grand entrance into their reception with a military arch, cut their cake with Josh's saber and had a fun exit with beautiful sparklers. It was an evening to remember.

Speaking of wedding traditions, Kara & Josh's reception entrance was recently featured on Snippet & Ink where you can read more from Kara about the saber arch tradition.

Venue: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard

Event Planning: Orpha Events

Flowers:  Hedge Fine Blooms

Cake: Paradox Pastry

Hair: Brianna B. Adams


To see more outtakes and images from their wedding day follow on me on Instagram and search for #ohhappydaniels!

Fall Mini Session dates for 2015 announced!

It's that time of year again! I'm hosting mini sessions again this year! Need a great photo for your Holiday cards? Just want a sweet image to update your family photos or do you have a new addition who needs to be captured? This is the perfect fall portrait session with your family. These sessions are mini, but you'll be amazed at what we can get in such a short time frame! Once you have registered and we have set up your date and time you will receive clothing ideas and more of what to expect from your mini session. This year I will be offering two types of packages. See info below for details.

  • $300 Includes a 30 minute mini session

         Ten final edited files with printing rights + download PIN

  • $150 Includes a 15 minute mini session

         Five final edited files with printing rights + download PIN

Both packages include a beautiful web gallery that you can share with family and friends and purchase additional files and prints!

Gaie Lea has graciously offered to be our gorgeous location this year! Dates will fill up fast so grab your spot early! Go HERE to sign up today!

Many thanks again to Carter Coffman Tree Farm for hosting the mini sessions last year! It was a perfect spot and we had such a great time working there and I was thrilled with the results that we got for each family! Here is a handful of my favorites from all of the wonderful families last fall who participated!