Fall is a beautiful time of year to schedule your family's annual photos, especially here in Charlottesville, but it can also mean photographing during a really chilly morning or evening. Don't let that deter you from the magic these sessions offer! Here are my top 5 ways to keep warm during our (golden) hour together:
Hey there! Thanks so much for visiting this post. It's an important one! I believe that everyone who charges for their products or services has a responsibility to share why they deserve your hard-earned money. So here are my top 7 reasons for why you will absolutely love your next family, documentary, newborn or maternity session:
1. Your images are delivered as real, beautiful things you can actually hold.
The LRP Experience is a complete photography experience you’ll feel good treating your family to. Many photographers hand you a flash drive or email you a gallery link, and that's it. The transaction is over, and you're left to figure out the best places to print your photos. There's suddenly research to do and finding the time to do it — and that's hard!
I used to send gallery links, too, until I realized the tremendous value in going the extra mile for my clients. It's so important to me that every client walks away with much more than digital files. I want you to have high-end, heirloom keepsakes — albums, wall art, folios and fine art prints — to pass down to your children and grandchildren. It's all about building a tangible legacy!
2. I'm a trained photojournalist who can tell a story through images and turn the everyday into art.
It’s second-nature to me. In college, I studied journalism, serving as an editor and photographer for the student newspaper. My senior year, I attended a month-long photojournalism class in Italy, where I earned a top award for my multimedia work.
In 2014, I launched a photojournalism project in which I interviewed and photographed more than 50 men and women at the Roanoke Rescue Mission. I've always had such a heart for telling stories, and I take this storyteller's mindset to all my sessions.
3. You'll be treated to a professional styling service.
That's right. Figuring out the perfect outfits and accessories for you and your family can be stressful! So I provide a complimentary online styling service to all my clients. We'll put together full outfits based on the vibe and color palette you want, and voila — links to beautiful, affordable clothing and accessories will be sent directly to your email. No trip to the mall required!
4. I know the healing power of family photographs.
You never want to think your family photo could be the last one, but it happens — and it hurts. When I lost my dad at 19, I clung to every photo of him and our family (all while wishing there were more). When I document a family session, I focus on every little moment, because one day, the photographs and the memories behind them will be all that's left. I try to capture the way a hug feels, the carefree happiness of childhood or the bond between a husband and wife.
5. I'm easy to get along with, and I don't judge.
I accept you for whoever you are, whoever your family is. I want to capture your personalities and quirks just the way they are.
6. You can leave the hard parts of parenting at the door.
Wrangling kids to a photo session is hard enough work, so I never want my clients to stress over "good" behavior, perfect smiles, or awkward moments during our session. It's my job to make sure they're comfortable with me and having fun. I'm always up for the challenge of making your sweet kiddos feel like my camera isn't even there.
7. Take it from past clients.
I've been blessed with some of the best clients out there! So many have taken the time to share very kind reviews of their experience with me. See them all here.
Laura Richards is a natural-light family, newborn and maternity photographer in Charlottesville, Virginia. She specializes in turning her clients' images into heirloom-worthy albums, wall art, folios and fine art prints. Learn more about the LRP Experience.
I think photographers talk a lot about the physical ways to prepare for a session (what to bring, how to coordinate outfits, the perfect locations) and forget about the self-care part. So this post is me remembering that!
Self-care (and a little bit of treat yo'self) can go a long way in making you feel beautiful and confident in front of the camera. And when you feel great, you're able to connect with your family on a whole other level.
So before your next maternity or family session, give some of these a try!
I hear you, but here's why you should do them anyway
Yes, your pregnancy might be draining you. You don't feel beautiful or "glowing" as you spend your mornings over the toilet, or when you use your growing belly as a plate (though if I remember correctly, it was pretty convenient!). Maybe pregnancy is making you feel scared or stressed.
But at the end of the day, you are doing an AMAZING thing. Actually, two amazing things. First, you're growing a human, which takes an unbelievable amount of energy, strength and pain.
Second (and maybe most important), you're becoming a mother — one who sacrifices DAILY for the well-being of your baby, whom you've never met but already love with all your heart. And that alone means you deserve the opportunity to feel beautiful, loved and seen.
Maternity photos are, of course, for you to enjoy and cherish, but they're mostly for your child and future children, so that decades from now (maybe when you're gone), they can hold them in their hands and see you for the strong, caring and beautiful person you are.
Don't wait until you're miserable
I recommend doing your maternity session about two months before your due date. Wait too late, and you'll likely feel miserable, swollen and just OVER IT.
As far as time of day, I always try to schedule maternity sessions right around golden hour, so about an hour before sunset. Notice the gorgeous evening glow in all the photos on this post!
How to rock them like a mother
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for your session:
Hey there! Thanks for reading! I (Laura Richards) am a natural-light photographer who specializes in maternity, newborn and family photography in and around Roanoke, Virginia. Explore my work here.
If you've been thinking about doing a Winter Lifestyle Session, but you're worried your house isn't "good enough" for photos or think your family will be awkward, this post is for you!
Here are my top five pieces of advice for making it fun, stress-free and — most important — a reflection of you.
1. Know that your home is perfect just the way it is. I mean this in the nicest way possible: I don't care what your house looks like. I know how easy it is to enter into deep-clean mode when someone's coming over, but this session is not the time for that. I'm there to tell your story through my camera lens — and the best stories are found in the flaws and chaos. (If you can't resist the urge to clean, though, I recommend tidying just one or two rooms you think we'll spend the most time in, like the living room, playroom or a bedroom.)
2. Don't dress up. Unless you normally wear new, perfectly coordinated outfits around your home, please don't stress about your family's clothing. Keep things simple with jeans and your favorite t-shirt or cozy sweater (or even your pajamas). And if your kids want to wear mismatched clothes or a princess costume, don't fight them!
3. Have an activity in mind. What does your family love doing together? Making pancakes for breakfast? Playing board games? Building forts in the playroom? Taking part in an activity will help everyone relax, live in the moment and forget I'm there. After all, these sessions are about being present, not posing.
4. Look at the light. I'll need you to help me a little when it comes to determining the best time to do your session. Notice when the natural light in your home is brightest. For instance, at my house, our living room and bedroom are brightest in the morning because of our east-facing windows.
5. Be yourself (and let your kids be themselves, too). Lifestyle sessions are about documenting your family exactly as they are. This might include a fussy moment or a pout — these are part of your story, too! There's no need to stress about any of it.
With so many (so. many.) photographers out there, finding the right one for you and your family can be really overwhelming. Will she connect with my kids? Will she help me prepare for my session? Is her work worth the investment? There's just a lot to think about.
So to help you in your search, I've put together what I think are some of the top things to consider when looking for the right photographer, including personality and client experience. Because I'll be honest: I'm not the photographer for everyone, and that's okay!
This one seems obvious, but I’m always surprised at how many inquires I get from people who haven’t looked through my website or portfolio. And not because I think my website is super-duper amazing, but because I’m afraid my style might not be what they’re looking for. It’s so important to be familiar with a photographer’s portfolio (and to know what you like about it) before reaching out to them. I encourage you to spend some time browsing their website, blog and Instagram. This way, you’ll both be on the same page.
Something else to consider, too: Does their work complement your personal style? This is important since you’ll likely be displaying your photos around your home.
Trust me, you want to click with your photographer. When their personality doesn’t complement yours, you risk a really awkward session — and an awkward session will result in photos you don’t love.
So once you’ve narrowed your search to a couple of people, I encourage you to meet them for coffee and see which one is truly a good fit. If you can’t meet in person, take a good look at their brand. A well thought-out brand will reflect important aspects about a photographer’s character and what they value.
For me, this is the most important thing to consider. Great photographers put a lot of effort into creating a positive and memorable experience — an experience that starts the minute you inquire, not when your session starts. They’ll respond quickly to your messages, ease concerns and make you feel welcome. They'll work hard even after your session to earn your loyalty. Basically, a great photographer will make you feel like you're their only client.
I’ll be very blunt about this one: Years from now, you won’t remember how much you paid for your photos. Money spent is money forgotten. When you choose the right photographer — one who's experienced enough to capture your family’s personality — you’ll only think about how awesome it is that you have beautiful, story-telling images that will be treasured for decades.
And when you see a price that shocks you, hear this: Great photographers invest so much into their business, equipment, products, and education to be able to call themselves a true professional and legitimate business owner. They’ve worked hard to get where they are, and their prices (and the experience you’ll receive from them) should reflect that.
I believe your story — who you are as a family, a couple or an individual — should be front-and-center in your photos. To help tell that story, I encourage all my portrait-session clients to bring one or two meaningful items we can include in your photos. Even when these things become lost, torn or broken, your photos of them — and the stories they inspire — will live on.
9 Things to Include in Your Session That Can Tell a Story:
1 / love letters
2 / old event tickets
3 / family heirlooms
4 / old photographs
5 / a favorite book
6 / your child's favorite stuffed animal
7 / something you collect
8 / something that represents a passion or inside joke
9 / special trinkets
I fell hard for portrait photography about two years ago. It was the summer of 2014, and I'd just seen my images from an expired roll of film.
Those photographs — crisp, gorgeous images of my mom, sister, grandma, fiancé, niece, nephew and best friend — taught me that portraits are intimate and involve a certain level of trust, love and respect between the subject and me.
That's why a great client-photographer relationship is so important to me — it's crucial to the work I create and the goals I have for my business. When that relationship is strong, beautiful photographs are made.
So for the past few days, I've thought a lot about what I value and what would make a client and me the perfect fit.
First, I love working with people who appreciate simple, beautiful things in life — people who understand the big moments are actually the small ones.
I love working with adventurers, those who have felt the distinction between traveler and tourist. I love working with fellow creatives, especially those who use their skill and passion to make the world a softer place.
I love working with people who make time for their families and cultivate lifelong friendships. I love working with people who are genuinely kind, confident and hardworking — and who seek those things in others.
I love working with those who view photographs as heirlooms, and who would rather hold images in their hands than swipe through them on a phone. I love working with people who believe every photograph should tell a story, spark a conversation, recall a memory, encourage a smile or bring a tear.
So if I'm not the photographer for you, that's okay.
But if I am, let's start creating.
Welcome to the blog! I'm Laura, and I specialize in authentic, natural-light photography and heirloom print art. Hope you'll explore my little online home and reach out if you have any questions!