As we close out 2023, it’s the perfect time to review the year!
One of my favorite ways to end the year in gratitude is to revisit all the sessions I’ve had the honor of documenting throughout the year, picking a favorite from each. Favorites change throughout the year, but in this exercise of revisiting images, I am almost always drawn to joy, love, connection, and sometimes the memory of what happened in the moments surrounding that image.
This is also the time of year I set or adjust my annual goals for business and personal growth, always with the desire for balance to ensure I can be fully present in both. My word of intention for 2024 is Present.
I believe it’s essential to evaluate each year as far as what has worked, areas I feel worked for my clients and schedule, and ways to improve and grow (because I believe we never stop growing!)
2023 was a big year for me, business-wise as well as personally. After coming out of a creative rut that lasted two years, I finally felt my creativity re-ignited. I believe it was more burnout than a creative rut, but either way, I felt somewhat zapped and often struggled to pick up my camera. In this reset, I found that when I make time for myself and feed my soul spiritually and creatively as well as my body physically, I come to you, my clients, refreshed and much more creative and passionate, hopefully providing you the best experience I can. I’ve built solo vacation times for myself for the last two years, and it has been an incredible way to reset. I will continue this into 2024 and am still working on how this year will look.
I’ll address things I will keep the same for 2024 and changes I will make in each of the services I provide in the appropriate sections below.
In 2023, I documented 13 births, each unique and special. Six of those births were repeat clients. This year, I documented two families that have now trusted me with three of their birth stories! What an honor!
This is my second year creating a compilation of the beauty of birth. Here is 2023:
6 home births, 5 hospital births, and 2 birth center births. Two were transferred to the hospital from home and birth center, and one was delivered via cesarean.
Achievements in birth for 2023 included being published in NAPCP‘s Inspired Magazine, being awarded first place in the birth category of Shoot and Share, and multiple placements in the birth category.
I also had a new website revamp, and I couldn’t be happier! Louise with The Autumn Rabbit has done it again (this is the second website she’s built for me). I wanted to emphasize my focus on birth photography and videography, as these are my specialties.
My 2024 goal is to continue to grow creatively and in filmmaking, focusing on continuing to develop my storytelling skills, applying to at least two competitions, and expanding mentoring other photographers in this incredible genre. I plan on adding at least five more birth clients in 2024.
If you plan to welcome a baby in 2024, please reach out! I tend to book out quickly and have openings in February, May, and August.
I documented 12 maternity sessions.
Maternity sessions are tied with family sessions as my next favorite after births. It is a unique period filled with anticipation and the beauty of waiting to meet your new baby. Watching mothers open up and shine in front of the camera is the best.
In 2023, I added a few more beautiful dresses and gowns for client use.
In 2024, I will keep the number of maternity sessions pretty equal to this year; it was my happy place and ensured I had space on the calendar for birth clients. This year’s changes will be that my birth clients will get first dibs on maternity, fresh, and newborn spots on the calendar.
I photographed 5 Fresh sessions and 13 Newborn sessions.
I’ve transitioned into calling these sessions ‘Fresh’ sessions versus ‘Fresh 48’ because, as life goes, it isn’t always possible to get those Fresh sessions in those first couple of days whether it is a NICU transfer or families just needed an extra day or two to settle in. The purpose and goal of Fresh sessions is to capture all those sweet little newborn details and precious first days of getting to know each other. These days pass quickly, and those little details change so fast! They are more lifestyle in nature with minimal posing.
For 2024, planning to focus on birth clients while managing the schedule well, I will keep the same number of fresh and newborn sessions, with birth clients having first choice on availability.
I’ve added a studio option for newborn clients utilizing a shared studio space. This is great for families who don’t want to worry about their home’s appearance or the prep for an in-home session. Although it may seem like more work to have them in your home, these sessions are a great reminder of how this period of your life felt. Your home is where your memories will be made, and there is something so unique in that.
I have had a dream and goal to teach and mentor, and in 2023, I finally saw that long-time goal come to fruition! I had the privilege of teaching my first course, Family Filmmaking, at Click Photo School. Their community was the first I found in my drive to become a better photographer and storyteller and where I have grown the most. Teaching a course in this beautiful community 13 years later has been the best!
In 2023, I documented 18 families, twice the number in 2022.
I loved that I could accommodate more families this year by spacing them out throughout the year. This year was definitely my favorite family season! I had so many returning clients and families who wanted to capture connections and personalities over posed images, and that right there is my language! My goal is always to remind you how this season of your life felt, and the best way to do that is to encourage connections and joy during sessions. Thank you to all the families who trusted me in these moments and with your precious families.
For 2024, I will take on fewer family clients to allow space on the calendar for increase in birth clients. I wish I could do it all, but with the weeks of ‘on-call’ time for clients and the unpredictable nature of birth, it just isn’t feasible.
Previous clients will have the first choice of available family session spots, and rather than having you choose months so far in advance, I will open the family calendar quarterly, with an email going out to regular clients first. Hopefully, this will help take the pressure off of you as well!
Thank you all for trusting me again and again with your most precious moments and most precious people! I am continually in awe that this is what I get to do. Here’s to an amazing year ahead!
Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024
2022 has been a wonderful year for me personally and as a business! After two years of the pandemic, my heart and soul needed it. For me, 2021 was just about as disappointing and confusing as 2020.
After deciding to rebrand and specialize in births in 2018, I had just gotten my groove going and hit my happy place before the pandemic hit. I was blessed to have plenty of work throughout the pandemic, but I often took on more than I should have and ended 2021 completely exhausted.
After being unable to attend so many births for two years, I had come to question my future path. The frustration of not being allowed into hospital birth spaces and the often unwelcoming atmosphere when I was added stress for myself and my clients.
I’m still not back to the number of births I was booking pre-pandemic, but I have hope. Believing wholeheartedly in this work and its importance for families has kept me focused. Birth is the most life-changing moment we experience. Whether it is a joyous birth (which I hope and wish for all families) or a traumatic one documenting your birth is important. Documenting your birth can be incredibly healing for past and current traumas. In fact, studies show that families who document their births report better birth experiences.
Showing you how beautiful and strong you are, and how many beautiful layers there are to your birth story is what drives me. Many clients have shared how their images and films have helped them through postpartum depression and anxiety. They’ve shared how valuable their images and film footage are to them in being able to look back on those powerful moments.
I believe I have been called to birth work and have immensely enjoyed this new phase of that work; the role of documenting birth stories for families. I’ve been in it for 22 years (19 as a L&D nurse, and 5 of my 11 years in business as a birth photographer), and can’t imagine ever growing weary of it!
Being allowed into these sacred spaces and being trusted in them means so much to me. It is a responsibility I don’t take lightly!
Without further ado, on to my favorites!
I pick a session favorite from each session I document each year. It is fun to look back on the year by picking an image from each session that has inspired or impacted me. My favorites even change throughout the year, and often choose one that reminds me of how that session and time felt. (Clients who have requested their images remain private are not included in this post).
5 hospital births, 6 home births, and 1 birth center birth.
I donated two birth stories for families experiencing a loss.
This special time in the lives of my clients is one of my favorites. It is such a special phase of life, and the anticipation always feels palpable to me. I love showing mamas how beautiful they are carrying their babies. They will have these images to share with their children as they grow. I’ve also added to my client closet for maternity sessions.
Fresh 48 sessions were often the next best option for clients who could not have me attend their hospital births. I love these early days of the newborn period and all the special little details it holds. It is such a fleeting stage of life, and for that reason, I believe it is so important!
This number of family clients worked well this year. It is much less than I normally take on, but one of the areas of my business I’ve had to restrict because of the call time for birth clients. Thank you so much to all the families that have continued to trust me with their families and this time in your lives. I am so grateful to you!
For 2023, I have again limited the number of family sessions in my schedule.
I have transitioned into more lifestyle-type work when photographing families over the years. My goal is always to capture how this time in your life feels. I want to capture those silly little laughs and personalities and your loving on each other! My clients showed up this year ready to play and be fully present in their sessions and images; it was so wonderful! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Yes, that’s my beautiful daughter and her sweet and handsome boyfriend. I don’t photograph couples anymore, but it’s a special occasion when she asks!
For the last four years, I have done a giveaway telling the story of one individual, organization, or cause. I have loved offering this and have been able to tell the most amazing stories! This is an area I also had to pull in 2023 to allow the space to manage my schedule best for myself and my clients. Amazing stories seem to find me, so I will continue to tell them on a case-by-case basis. So, if you feel inspired to tell yours, please reach out! If my schedule allows, I would love to share it.
Ashley is an amazing and beautiful human being. I have known her for many years as we worked together in labor and delivery. Her transformation story is inspiring on so many levels, and she inspires me daily. Ashely’s story is important, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!
This is another type of session I’ve pulled from my offerings. This beautiful client is my sister, so special circumstances as well!
I adore this type of session but have had to pull from my offerings. With such limited time and space between births, I have felt referring them out has been best for both myself and my clients. I mean, look at this guy. He was a 2020 birth I could not attend because of hospital restrictions.
I’ve also created a year-in-review birth film reel, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Thank you so much for trusting me with life’s most important moments and your most valuable and important people-your families! I am grateful for every one of you, and so grateful for this life and career. Thank you for believing in me and supporting my small business; there aren’t enough words!
Sunday, January 1st, 2023
I am so excited to finally share the Denton family’s day in the life session and film.
I have fallen horribly off the rails in blogging my client sessions, which is sad because I love seeing your stories laid out beautifully in albums, and blog posts.
This past year has thrown many of us for a loop, myself included. After months and months of tweaking birth story options, rescheduling sessions, and finally accepting that I have control over only so much, I have been able to take a breath and dive into some self-care. So, I am a bit refreshed and ready to play some major catching up on my blog posts.
This fun family day in the life session was shot last fall (yes, I am that behind on getting these beautiful sessions up on my blog)! This family found me through a mutual friend, and after two years of trying to mesh their busy family schedule with mine during my short family season, we finally had a date! Lindsay’s main goal was to capture her family just as they are now, each of her children’s unique personalities while documenting them together doing the things they love to do the most.
I believe that video captures so much more than still images can, and having the opportunity to capture families in both is my favorite. Having those sweet little voices, mannerisms, and personalities forever on film is priceless, so be sure to follow along to see how beautiful their family film turned out!
By October of last year, we had been locked down for months, and after patiently waiting for the right time to document their session and multiple times rescheduling, we finally just planned a date and were determined to do it! The kids were so happy to have a visitor and welcomed me into their home with open arms (well, socially distanced ones, anyway), and they were so fun to capture!
What stood out to me the most was how much this family loves being together. Each of the children’s personalities was so different and fun in their own ways!
After a day full of fun at home, we all jumped in the car for formal family pictures at one of my favorite locations.
Aren’t they just the sweetest? I had so much fun with them and am so grateful we could finally make it happen!
Thank you, Denton family for trusting me in your home and with your family!
Thursday, August 5th, 2021
I can’t believe we are finally here, at the end of 2020. This has most definitely, for sure, absolutely, been the strangest year of my lifetime.
Looking back, I would not have believed it if someone had told me that this is how our year would have unfolded, and in many respects, I am glad that I didn’t. The only way I made it through with any sort of sanity was by realizing that I had zero control over this past year’s circumstances. My best plan of action was to love people and do my best by being flexible. As someone who has struggled with control, this has been a trial. The whole year felt like a trial of waiting and unknowns.
Now, I am only left with feelings of gratitude. Gratitude that I was able to keep on working for the most part. Although I missed out on many births because of the hospital restrictions and financial burdens the pandemic has placed on families, I have also had more opportunities to give back to my community. I accommodated high school seniors who had their year hijacked and photographed those sweet babies and their families when it was safe to do so, as well as more space for families this past fall.
One of my favorite ways of putting things in perspective is by going back through my year in images both professionally and personally. Each year I pick one favorite image from each session (it is pretty hard, trust me) and put them together in a collection. It’s so funny because often my favorites change throughout the year.
So, without further ado, here are my 2020 client favorites. There are a small number of clients who preferred their images not to be posted online, and I always honor that!
Be sure to stay up to date on my plans for 2021, I will be sharing them at the end of this post. There will be some changes, and I am excited about it all!
In 2020, I was able to document 6 births.
That is less than half the number of births I was able to document in 2019. This was by far, the biggest challenge in my business and the most difficult obstacle to overcome. As a photographer specializing in birth, this was incredibly tough to navigate. The most difficult and heart-wrenching part was really for my clients. Most of the year was spent hoping and praying that things would look better and restrictions would lift. I was able to document a small percentage of my hospital clients during the downward trends in the dual photographer/doula role, as I am currently working on my doula certification.
I am a birth photographer because I believe that documenting your birth is so important on many levels. It is a moment in time that cannot be redone. It is the reason I have been in the birth industry for over 20 years (19 of them as an L&D nurse). It is, in my opinion, the most life-changing and emotional time of our lives. You are able to finally see your baby for the first time, hear those first cries, and experience those tender and powerful moments of birth, they are all so important. I also happen to believe that documenting your birth can be emotionally healing and help in the processing of your birth whether it is a traumatic or easy one.
I will be a part of the birth industry as long as that passion continues, and I can’t see it ever fading. As I mentioned above, I am currently working on certification as a doula as another option for my birth clients. I will take a select few clients in this role in the upcoming year.
I captured two Fresh 48 sessions
8 Maternity Sessions
19 Newborn Sessions
Many of my newborn sessions were birth clients that we ended up having to roll into newborn sessions because I was unable to attend their births. I still captured so much sweetness!
I photographed 13 families
6 first year milestone sessions.
These sessions are reserved only for my birth and newborn clients within the first year of life. I just love watching babies grow and change that first year and love seeing how much the family as a whole evolves and changes and settles into their own unique family personality!
5 high school senior sessions.
I don’t photograph high school senior sessions too often anymore, although I do love them. Specializing in birth leaves little room for scheduling other types of sessions. It was fun to shoot a few more this year, and was a fun way of giving back to seniors!
I documented 6 passion projects.
These types of sessions are a way of me giving back to the community and telling the stories of individuals, families, and causes. I typically shoot two of these a year, this year I added just a few more.
2 head shot sessions
2 creative sessions
And, lastly, 1 branding session
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you so much! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting me with your memories, being flexible, and for supporting my small business. I am still here because of you!
Moving forward in 2021
For 2021 I am back to my birth clients holding the large majority of my sessions. Because of the periods of time, it requires to be on call for my birth clients 24/7 (oftentimes up to 4 weeks at a time), I need to once again scale down on all other types of sessions in order to manage my schedule and give my clients the best custom experience I can.
My schedule is already full from January through May with 1
or 2 spots for birth clients. I have availability for one birth client in March, and 1 in late May.
I will be blocking off September for fall family sessions and will fill first with returning clients. Please reach out to me in advance if you would like to reserve your spot for September.
Here is looking forward with anticipation of what 2021 will bring! Have a blessed New Year!
Friday, January 1st, 2021
This Las Vegas family film session shows how easily this family loves each other and how much fun they have together. They chose things that they love to do together in this season of life, and it is always in these moments that guards come down and fun unfolds.
I adore this family and look forward to documenting them every year. I have been fortunate enough to have watched them grow from a family of 3 to a family of 4 over the last seven years. They deeply appreciate the time they have together and cherish each day. Having to deal with the unknowns that cancer brings, they hold every moment together tightly. I love their infectious joy and playfulness; I love their generosity and love for others. I love their selflessness and faith and so much more!
One of my favorite parts of preparing for family sessions is going through the questionnaires. I ask parents what things they love and never want to forget about this particular stage of their family and children’s lives, and the answers always get me. It is a reminder of how quickly seasons of life pass and how much we change and grow as families. It helps me to look for those moments and capture them.
I love that the little things are the things that mean the most to this family and that they love capturing their life as it is. These are the moments that speak to my mother’s heart as well. I prefer to remember the memories made together and the mannerisms vs. posed images.
I loved seeing how independent Ellie and Max have gotten and how much they had grown over the past year, but I loved that they still loved to connect and cuddle with mom and dad.
We got to capture them reading books, their favorite chores and activities as a family, and one of their favorite summertime activities of swimming at Grandmas.
I love that they try and book a family film every few years to capture their memories in both still images and video footage. Be sure to check out their family film at the end of the post; it will melt your heart for sure!
Thank you, Luedtke family, for always trusting me and for being the incredible human beings you are!
Friday, October 16th, 2020
I’m so excited to announce my 2019 favorites as well as a brief recap review of the year.
One of my favorite ways to reflect on 2019 in review is to select favorites from each session, bringing them all together in a collection at the end of the year. It is a beautiful way to wrap up and a reminder of how blessed each year has been.
By reviewing the year and looking at each session with fresh eyes, always leaves me in a place of gratitude. This year… I am still sitting back in awe and feeling incredibly blessed and grateful as I reflect on all that has unfolded. It has been an incredible year! I am usually much more on it and have this post up by New Year’s Day, but honestly am just now catching my breath, having gone non-stop since March. It is a fantastic problem, and as I reflect, I am overwhelmed with emotion at times.
Since the fall of 2018, I have carefully planned a big switch in Little Loo Photography, rebranding from posed newborns and families to birth. I had invested time and finances in hiring an experienced and talented birth mentor Angie Klaus Photography. Angie was so helpful in looking at my brand in general and preparing me for the work it would take to branch into this genre. Birth is unlike anything else. I knew it would be a risk, as I had worked so hard in my first seven years in business building a brand I was known for (posed newborn), and to change that was a bit scary. I had hoped and prayed that it would unfold just as I envisioned and that the clients would come. I worked hard on learning and fine-tuning my filmmaking skills and invested in workshops and online communities to soak up as much information and resources as possible.
My life plan included me retiring as a labor and delivery nurse here in Las Vegas in January 2020, at my 20th anniversary. It was a career that held my identity and much of my heart and soul. Patient care and caring for families during life’s most intimate and life-changing moments were never lost on me. Even up until the end, I was in awe that this was my career, that I got to do this as a living. I had the perfect plan of how the two would unfold; me retiring from L&D as I launched my brand in birth stories. How perfect that I still get to be a part of the incredible miracle of birth, but in a new role?
I am very goal-oriented, and I have plans to follow for almost everything I do, from running marathons to traveling, you name it. But God always has a better plan, and I am always amazed at how much richer and deeper His always is. By March 2019, it was becoming clear that trying to grow my birth business would be difficult while working at the hospital. As changes occurred in the unit, I felt the whisper that it was a time (quite hard for this OCD person who likes to stick to the plan). Still, it just kept nudging and pulling at my heart, and after some deep conversations with my husband and reviewing finances, I made the leap and went out early. Walking off the unit I had walked into for 19 years after resigning was incredibly emotional. I worked alongside the best of the best and was blessed enough to work with incredible nurses, doctors, and staff. I met and cared for so many families over the years.
I spent time hoping and praying that the birth clients would come and I would be able to grow it. And, boy oh boy, grow it did! I honestly struggled to keep up. I got inquiry after inquiry and had the most incredible clients find me, clients willing to open and share their birth spaces with me, trusting me to tell such an intimate and personal part of their lives, their birth story. Trusting me in capturing moments that can’t be relived or redone, it has been the most incredible year in Little Loo’s history. Mind-blowing really!
But let’s get to the favorites part of it- my yearly favorites! I pick an image from each session that speaks the most to my heart. I usually put them together in a slideshow, but I am changing it up this year! (I do have clients that request that I not post their images on my blog or social media sites, and I always honor that, so they are not included in the numbers or favorites). Enjoy!
I had made a goal for 2019 to shoot ten births (double the births I documented in 2018), and I ended up documenting
Each birth was so different and so full of emotion and love!
Documenting a surrogate birth story has long been a dream of mine, so I was over the moon when this story found me. It was incredibly touching and even more beautiful than I could have imagined.
I have learned in being a birth photographer that it is unlike any other genre. Being on call for births for an average of 3 weeks at a time means that other types of work can’t be scheduled around it for the risk of rescheduling clients, which isn’t ideal.
In no other genre do you have no idea when it will happen; it could be 2 am, two weeks from today, or tomorrow, and having everything ready to go instantly is crucial. So, as hard as it was, that meant less work I had done in the past and fewer family, newborn, and maternity sessions. It was so hard to say ‘no’ to so many families.
To end 2019, I was allowed to be among the incredibly talented and diverse Birthbound Photographer instructors. I will be presenting a portion of their birth photographer certification course, bringing my experience as an L&D nurse to forge stronger relationships in the hospital setting and elevate the genre of birth photography as a whole. It has been an incredible opportunity and one I am so grateful for!
I documented 5 maternity sessions. Three of my maternity clients were also birth story clients.
I do offer an incentive of discounted maternity, Fresh 48, and newborn sessions for all of my birth clients, as I am so passionate about the story behind each birth, and adding maternity, Fresh 48, or newborn sessions does bring those full stories circle.
In the year ahead, my birth clients will have priority in scheduling these sessions, another decision that has been hard to make, but I want to be sure that I am fully present for each session that I book and available for when births do happen.
I documented 14 newborns in 2019!
Moving away from the posed studio into clients’ homes, I knew I would not be for everyone. I am so grateful for the past clients that stuck with me during this transition and for clients that booked me as a lifestyle in-home newborn!
Five of my newborns were also birth story clients. It was such a beautiful way to honestly tell their story, having followed them through the birth of their baby to a home where so many beautiful memories will be made. Moving forward for newborn sessions, my birth clients will have priority in filling my newborn spaces on the calendar, once again, to ensure that I have availability for them and provide my clients with the best experience possible!
On this year’s blessings side of this year- I had worked hard to keep my nursing and photography careers separate over the years and never talked about my business with patients. I never wanted there to be a conflict of interest or make my patients or staff I worked alongside uncomfortable. Most of the OB/GYNs I worked with had no idea I was a photographer. Right before I retired from the hospital, I was offered the opportunity to bid alongside other talented photographers in hanging my art on the halls that lined the remodel of the new Birth Place hallways. I won the bid and could hang 70 pieces of large prints of my work along the hallways I had worked on for 19 years. It indeed was a dream come true.
The most incredible part of this story is that the last patient I delivered found me this way. Not knowing she was finding me, we were both blown away when we put it together! I documented a part of their NICU journey, and they’re bringing her home! I told you this year was incredible!
I documented 11 Fresh 48 sessions! As a new offering for Little Loo Photography, I am pretty excited about that and hope to add more of these in 2020. They have my heart, everything is still so fresh and new, and it is a beautiful option for families who aren’t able to invest in a birth story.
I was blessed enough to document 19 families this year!
As I said, it was harder to schedule these alongside my birth clients, and as much as I love them, I will have to continue to limit these in 2020, as there is not enough space on the calendar. Be sure to book yours well in advance for this year!
I launched my first ‘The Story ‘ giveaway in 2018 and had the opportunity to document the story of Dan Brite and his road to recovery in 2019. It is a beautiful story of family strength and determination. My life will be forever changed by having the opportunity to tell this story.
To continue sharing my year of incredible blessings, I was offered the opportunity by Focus on the Family to document a beautiful family sharing their story on the redemption and restoration of their marriage in the upcoming Spring issue of their magazine. This ministry has deeply impacted my life, and the opportunity to work on a project with them that is so impactful and intimate was a dream come true!
And lastly, I had a few sessions out of my usual work, but for friends and family that had booked me in advance!
If you made it all the way through, thank you so much! Thank you for following me, trusting me with your stories, and believing in me! I told you it was an incredibly blessed year; it will certainly be hard to follow!
In 2020 I will focus even more on birth and growing in this genre and on giving back to my community, which has given me so much. I am excited about what lies ahead!
Monday, January 20th, 2020
This family- I just simply adore them! I have had the pleasure of seeing them grow as a family from the time Nicole was pregnant with their oldest. They are a family that I hope never moves away and that I hope to document for many years to come. They are always so laid back and fun and truly love just loving on each other.
Each year we try and document them in a new location, and Nicole puts so much thought and planning in outfit choices and in communicating their wishes with me. I love that each year has been so different, but still that same thread of love and connection throughout. I love that this year they chose a mountain location for their family session.
Each of their two children has the most adorable personality, and seeing those grow has been so much fun. Van seriously has the best smile ever and has since he was a newborn. His smile makes you smile, and his personality is just so fun and outgoing.
Wren is silly but reserved. She loves her mama and does not get too far from her. She makes me work a little harder for those precious little smiles, but that was definitely easier this year as she has gotten bigger, and some of that stranger danger has melted away.
This has been such a big year for them, with Shawn retiring from military service after 20 years and joining the workforce as a civilian. They have big things coming their way; stay tuned until the end to see more of the excitement in store for them in 2020.
The day before their session, Nicole texted me to discuss our session and meeting spot and snuck in a little secret. I just about died. They had planned on being done with children, but life had other plans. I am so excited for them and what lies in store for 2020, I will be documenting that! This will be the second birth I have shot for them, and I seriously can’t even wait.
So stay tuned for more from this family in 2020.
Thursday, January 2nd, 2020
I am a local Spectrum-Inspired photographer, meaning I am a part of a group of photographers that offer sessions for families living on the spectrum to raise awareness and education about autism. Please go check them out and the incredible work they are doing worldwide!
But before I get into this beautiful story, I wanted to let you know that I’ve got a special surprise at the end of this post! I’m taking part in a blog circle with some photographer friends of mine. We’re linking to each other’s posts, so you can check out what they’re up to.
But, for now, let’s get into this beautiful family story!
I already knew this mama as she is an OB/GYN here in Las Vegas, and in my role as a labor and delivery nurse, I have had the pleasure of working alongside her. Tracy is an incredibly intelligent, kind, compassionate, and talented physician who is well-respected in our community.
A year ago, I had completed a family film for another client I work with, and as Tracy watched it she cried and said she wanted something just like it. She shared that she had never had family portraits officially taken as they just weren’t sure how that would look or unfold with Thomas, and was ready to take the step in having them done. I then shared with her about Spectrum Inspired and their amazing work; she was totally on board! Tracy is so active in the autism community and so passionate about spreading awareness, so the opportunity was perfect!
After submitting an application, we were paired at her request and got to work scheduling her session, where we also added the option of a family film! I am passionate about family films as they show more than a photograph alone can!
You can find their family film here, and be sure to read on to hear their story and see the still portraits we captured during their session.
I have been hanging on to this story for a bit as I wanted to post in April during Autism Awareness month. There are so many powerful, encouraging, and inspiring stories to share. I hope that out of them comes education and awareness as to what the many faces of autism look like and how it is lived out in each family!
Thomas is eight years old, and his diagnosis is- Autism Spectrum Disorder and apraxia.
Thomas was born prematurely due to complications, but his first year progressed well, with Thomas meeting milestones, including walking and interacting with others. By the one-year mark, Tracy began noticing that his words were rare and that he failed to respond to his name being called. As most parents would, she assumed he was just mildly delayed. As the months passed, she began realizing he never reached out to be picked up, and his 20-word vocabulary quickly disappeared. At 18 months, her concerns were addressed with her pediatrician, who agreed with the red flags she had observed and sent them to a developmental pediatrician, where his diagnosis was received. It was an emotionally shattering experience for this family, not because they were afraid of Thomas being “different” but because of the struggles, they knew he would face. It meant he could not share how he was feeling with his family or express his fears or excitement with them.
After their diagnosis, they learned everything they could about autism and apraxia (meaning difficulty in speaking sounds, syllables, and words). Thomas’ biological father, who had been a part of Tracy’s life since high school, became uninvolved and was no longer willing to be in Thomas’ life. Thankfully, his grandparents and her family rallied around her and became a source of strength and support valuable in navigating their struggles as a single-parent family and an OB/GYN resident.
When Thomas was four years old, Tracy met her husband, Justin. Tracy says that the incredible bond between Justin and Thomas began the first time they met and that there was a connection between them right away. This does not come easily for Thomas, as he does not engage or interact with others until he feels comfortable and safe. Justin has become Thomas’ biggest fan and spends every day at therapy with him. Justin adopted Thomas as his son. He doesn’t see Thomas as autistic but as his son, whom he adores and supports. This was so very evident during their session.
When Thomas reached the 5-year mark, his family was told that being non-verbal at his age meant his likelihood of speaking was slim. But they didn’t give up and continued with PT, OT, and speech therapies.
They were completely blown away when Thomas finally spoke his first words a year and a half ago, “I want eggs.” His vocabulary has grown through lots of hard work and gradually over time. He is now able to express himself better with words and small phrases. It has opened up so much for Thomas and his family.
Thomas does not like loud noises and wears his headphones if overstimulated. He also does not enjoy large crowds unless it is people that he knows and trusts.
Photographing and filming their session in a documentary approach was perfect for this family. I was able to come in with no time constraints and focus on being in an environment where Thomas feels safe and secure and where their day-to-day life unfolds. Home is really where your memories are made, after all!
By watching and observing, my goal was to show not just their struggles but also their victories, the ability to overcome obstacles, and the love this family shares with each other.
Through lots of communication and their application with Spectrum Inspired, we could settle on what moments we wanted to capture in sharing their story.
Thomas loves dinosaurs, sharks, Disney movies and characters, and his iPad. It was so great to observe him just being himself! He constantly had his characters and his iPad with him, arranging his characters just so and interacting with his mom, dad, and sister. He is silly and engaged with things that he loves.
Thomas also loves water and the motions of jumping and spinning. Spinning in circles was one of the earliest signs that Tracy noticed with Thomas.
They have a small trampoline he often jumps on to relax and decompress. As soon as they moved to their beautiful home with a large space in the backyard, one of their first additions was a large trampoline for Thomas to jump on.
Little Natalie was also born prematurely, but over a year and a half, she shows no signs of delays or autism.
As we sat and talked during Natalie’s nap and while Thomas had lunch, we talked about difficult textures and sounds for Thomas. Many times children with autism have difficulties with textures in foods and clothing, which limits things they like and can tolerate.
Things like haircuts can be traumatic for children with autism, and she had expressed their challenges with navigating this with Thomas. His haircuts are done by his aunt, whom he trusts, and there is a whole process to it; as the conversation unfolded, we decided it would be perfect for documenting this aspect of his life as well, as he needed a haircut. So with a phone call to his aunt, we arranged it spontaneously, and I am so happy she could come over and was willing to document it! Keeping him still, occupied, and with just the right amount of distraction was a process you could tell had taken lots of time to fine-tune.
We wanted to end our day by capturing family portraits, so as the afternoon set in, we all headed to a beautiful park in their community and let the kids play a bit, and then gathered everyone together for portraits. By this point in our day, I was pretty blown away and so moved by them all.
Their love for each other was evident in everything they did and naturally. I am so grateful that they were willing to trust me in their home and tell their story. I am grateful I saw Thomas’ warm and gentle nature and can’t wait to see what lies in store for him and his family as they continue to navigate life on the Spectrum. I do not doubt that he will continue to grow and learn through the support and love he receives from his family.
As we head into April and autism awareness month, be on the lookout for stories like Thomas’, and into learning about and volunteering for organizations that help spread education and awareness on autism and the many facets and faces of those that live on the wide spectrum.
There are so many incredible stories to be told and so much to be done in educating our communities about autism and life on the spectrum.
Thank you so much to the Wurm-Donofrio family for being willing to share your story with us all!
If you are interested in documenting your story or applying to be a Spectrum Inspired photographer, check out the Spectrum Inspired community and apply!
Now be sure to follow our beautiful blog link to check out the incredible work of a group of 5 very different photographers and the varied stories we have to tell!
Monday, April 1st, 2019
I adore the Jensen family. If you have been following me long, you have seen this family in my blog posts, videos, and images. They have been so loyal and such wonderful clients over the years, and it all began with an answer to a model call!
There is so much to love about them, but what I love most is much they love each other! It truly is so apparent in how they interact with each other and the joy surrounding them when they are together.
I love that they value me and my business so much so that even with price increases, they have remained loyal and, for this past session, budgeted it out over a big chunk of the year to make it work; that truly means so much to me! I know that investing in my services is big, and I don’t take that lightly.
I love that they are just so fun, laid back, and trusting of me and my ideas. It makes their sessions so fun-loving and relaxed.
So, basically, I hope to document their lives forever!
Erin also has a small business where she sells the most beautiful little handmade bows! Be sure to check out her shop!
Here is their family film and some of my favorites from our session together.
Saturday, November 24th, 2018
It’s an honor that you let me capture yours.