Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Go To Gift | Holiday Decor

Do you have a "Go To" gift for the holidays? This is mine. We usually make it every year for the guys in hubby's squadron. But it is so simple to make a batch and have on hand for neighbors, friends, hostess gifts, etc. And then of course I get to sip on the leftovers ;) The bottles I ordered from Bottles and More and the gift tags are mini moo cards from Moo. I love these because you can add a personalized touch to your gifts. We have a family picture on the front of the card and a personal message on the back. And the ribbon is natural raffia that you can find at any craft store.

Coffee Liqueur
3 TBSP chocolate syrup
11 1/2 oz whiskey (Jim Beam or other)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint half and half

Blend together in blender and pour into bottles. You might need to add a bit more to the bottles after they've sat for an hour or so.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twinkling Lights Repost | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas! And don't forget to take those Christmas tree pictures tonight instead of tomorrow morning when the kids are rushing to open their gifts! I thought I'd repost this tutorial from last year so you get those twinkling lights in your pictures!

This picture didn't go exactly how I had envisioned it. The layout of our living room was a little awkward to get the shot I wanted, but I thought I would share how to get the twinkling lights in a picture like this one. You know when you squint your eyes and look at a street lamp the lights turn into a starburst? Well, the same thing happens when you close up the aperture. Think of it like your camera is squinting. I took two pictures for this shot, both from a tripod. The first I set the aperture as high as it would go, to f/32 and got the twinkling lights effect. Then we brought Logan over to the tree and he started pointed out the lights and ornaments. The second shot was taken using bounced light off the flash, I angled it towards the top of the wall directly behind me and set the shutter speed back up to around 125 so it would freeze Logan's small movements. Then I merged the two photos in photoshop and came out with this final product. Try it on your tree and see what you come up with!

Monday, November 29, 2010

{A Piece of Home} | Virginia Beach Life Art Photographer

For me, the holidays always elicit fond memories spent with family. I remember one Thanksgiving in particular, the last with my grandma and grandpa before they both passed away the following year. It was the one time we were all together, knowing that grandma would soon be taken by lung cancer. It's funny to think about what makes a memory. Her gravy and green peas are at the top of my list. Mom never could quite make them the same. This past Thanksgiving we spent the day just with our little family. As a military family, we sacrifice the closeness we would like to have with parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers... The convenience of dropping the kids off with grandma and grandpa for a date night, driving over to my sister's for a play date with the cousins, or even just a Sunday get together. So I surround myself with pictures to feel closer to them.

This year I knew I wanted to incorporate family into our Thanksgiving tradition. And what better way than with photographs. I had a wallet size picture printed in black and white for each extended family that we were missing and hung them ornament style on a simple arrangement of flowers. Since they were tall, and because I had a lot of pictures to hang, I flanked the table with two of these arrangements. As we sat down to a candlelit dinner, I loved being surrounded with the visual reminders of the memories we made during special holiday's. The arrangements are still on our table, serving as a subtle reminder to me to look for those small actions in my life this holiday season that will create the lifelong memories for my own boys.

Hopefully this inspires you to incorporate your photographic memories into your holiday décor and I would love to see or hear what you come up with!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

{Warmth} | Virginia Beach Children and Family Photographer

It was a cold day at the beach this afternoon. When I first saw these kids slink out of the car, they seemed less than thrilled to be hiking across the cold sand, runny noses and all, for some strange lady to sit them up proper and take their picture. But, I watched as this family truly came alive with each other.

"M" was in need of a recharge and curled up with a blanket on the sand. I ran over and snapped this and I adore the mess of curls hiding her eyes.

"M" idolizes her Daddy. She loves playing baseball with him and I wanted to showcase that connection. I feel like she can't take her eyes off him in this picture.

Both kids were about done by this point in the shoot, so we left them wrapped in the blanket. "M" was in charge of keeping her little brother warm which she was happy to be tasked with. She also loves making him laugh. :)

And one of my favorites from the shoot is subtle in it's own way. For me, I love the soft smile peeking out of "M"'s curls. Like her Momma just whispered something in her ear and she smiled enough to know that she is so completely loved. Contented happiness is what I see.

Thank you to the E Family for spending your afternoon with me. I hope you enjoy your sneak peek! If you would like more information on scheduling your family session, please visit or email me at for more information.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Lottery Ticket | Virginia Beach Photographer

I'm a reader. I absolutely adore a good book. I just wish I had more hours in the day for it. Once in a while I read something that inspires me to take some aspect of my life and flip it in a new direction. I read this joke somewhere that has always stuck with me. The joke talks about this homeless man and how he prays to God every night to win the lottery. Night after night he prays for the same thing. Finally God speaks to him and tells him to buy a ticket.

Oftentimes as women, as military wives, as mothers... we are lost in the lives of those around us. As a military wife especially, we gain this extra dependent appendage when we marry into it. The excuses start coming on why we shouldn't or can't. Relocation, kids, deployment, detachments, lack of nearby family, lack of sitter, and the list (for me anyways) goes on and on and on. Sometimes though, the faith in ourselves needs to be held above all others. Ideas need to be nurtured, and opportunity needs a place to come knocking.

This year, I bought my lottery ticket. C.S. Photography became C.S. Photography, Inc. and when I incorporated, I also went through the tedious steps to create my business plan. As a sneak peak of things to come in 2011, here is the mission statement I developed for C.S. Photography, Inc.:

To capture LIFE ART and inspire creative design through HOME décor.

I am so excited to finally share with you all the months of behind the scenes work to develop a business concept and vision that I have had for my photography and where I want to take this business. This concept represents so many nights spent awake with ideas swirling around in my head wondering if I can make a market for it. It's time to take my leap and get things rollin'! So, if YOU are listening, I have my lottery ticket in hand! And to the rest of you reading, it's time to go out and buy yours!

Stay tuned for so much to come in 2011!

Home | Virginia Beach Photographer

I'm a California girl at heart...though the state is in such disarray that I don't think I'll ever be back to live there full time. I know I'm young, but I guess I can say that California to me is what I imagine grandkids to be... fun to have visit but happy to send them home with the parents at the end of the day. :) And although my visit was way too short, here's a few images from my few days there. A little piece of home...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Fitting Tribute on Veteren's Day | Virginia Beach Family Photographer

We didn't plan it this way, but I thought it was fitting that this family had their portrait session on this Veteran's Day. Daddy is across the world serving and protecting us here at home. I hold a special place in my heart for military wives. I feel understood around them... like we aren't completely crazy for following our husbands around the country, becoming mother, father, housekeeper, nanny, renovator, landscaper, plumber, and keeper of smiles and tears while they are gone. A huge special thank you to the S Family for sacrificing so much for us. I hope you will join me in praying for Daddy's safety abroad and I pray he is home with his boys and wife soon!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails | Norfolk Family Photographer

B was such a trooper today as we braved the "arctic wind" in Norfolk. :) My hubby would laugh at that. He always says I have a 2 degree temperature range where I'm never cold or hot. This little guy is starting to come into his own boyish personality. Of course sticks were the coolest thing in his world and sitting still for pictures was torture in his mind. But he is so genuinely loved by his parents and his momma still beats out sticks any day. :)

Thank you to the C Family for letting me spend some time in your "backyard"! I hope you enjoy your sneak peek!

To book your family session, please contact me at or visit for more information.

A Classic | Virginia Beach Couple's Photographer

We've had this shoot planned for a while now but could never quite get our schedules to match up. Tiffany is a fantastic and talented Independent Writer. She has a new eBook out on How to Write a Christmas Letter. She cracks me up though because while most couples start off with a dog, or cat before jumping on the baby bandwagon, Tiffany and her husband started with this classic. I'm pretty sure she's named it, and I even caught her apologizing to "her" for getting her undercarriage (is that the right word? :) dirty.

And this is the picture that I had envisioned for the shoot. I always wonder what goes through my client's heads when I attempt the more artistic shots. I'm pretty sure Tiffany's husband thought I was completely crazy. :)

Thank you both for putting up with my creative vision and braving the field with your baby. I hope you enjoy your sneak peek!

Who needs an engagement to get couple's photo's done? To book your session, email me at or visit for more information.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Importance of White Balance | Virginia Beach Photographer

We all have that problem...or at least I'd like to think the rest of you are also juggling photo shoots, editing, marketing, sales, phone calls, and travel with LIFE! I am blessed with a wonderful husband who will be home for the next 3 years! (Hello shore tour!) And after two back to back deployments the last thing I want to do is busy myself with so much work that I can't enjoy creating those early memories for ourselves and OUR kids. I've come to find out that there is this "thing" called the "start-up suck". As in... suck you in to this computer abyss so life passes you by. Whether it's social media, editing, blogging, etc, I think a lot of photographers, me included get sucked into this vortex when trying to make it in this industry. So, one of my goals this past year has been to get it right in camera so I'm not spending hours and hours in front of the computer after a photo shoot. One tool that has helped me is the custom white balance. This is one of those things that once you start, you'll wonder why the heck you weren't doing it before. I use this handy tool called the ExpoDisc. Yes, it's expensive. You could go the old gray card route too or I'm sure there are other useful methods or tools out there that work just as well.

To set my custom white balance, I use my ExpoDisc as a filter to take a picture from where my subject is. This just involves me coming right beside them and taking a picture of something, anything with the ExpoDisc over the lens. A gray picture will come up on my LCD screen. Then I go to the menu on my camera. (I shoot with a Canon 50D). Under White balance, make sure Custom is selected. Then go to Custom WB and that gray picture I just took will come up and my camera will ask if I want to use it as my custom white balance setting. I hit yes, and voila! The whole process probably takes me about 20 seconds and I've saved myself the headache of color correction in Lightroom or Photoshop. If the lighting changes, I'll have to do a new white balance reading. I've found the custom white balance makes the biggest difference indoors where color casts are prominent. And there are times when I don't use the ExpoDisc, such as sunset when you want that golden sunset glow.

Here's an example for you to see what a lifesaver it has become for me! The picture on the left is what my camera originally gave me on Auto. I was taking some pictures of my beautiful niece in our hotel room and there was this lovely cast thrown on her to make you step back and say "Yuck!". The picture on the right is my results after I did a custom white balance reading. These were taken with natural window light. Nothing else changed and both images are straight out of the camera without any processing done to them except resizing. Her daddy is Guatemalan so she has this gorgeous creamy skin that wasn't being portrayed in the first picture. Did this help anyone? Or am I blogging to the internet abyss again? :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

{Last Flight} | Virginia Beach & Oceana Photographer

Some things in life, I just can't fathom. Flying a jet is one of them. Sometimes I feel so detached from the life of a pilot. A conversation that a good friend had with her husband pretty much summed up the difference in the lives we lead. It went something like this... Husband: "I'm flying out to Ohio today to have lunch with Dad." Wife: "Oh, that sounds nice, when will you be back then?" Husband: "Probably no later than usually. Should be home around 5 o'clock." And so leads the life of a pilot. Pilot wives will probably recognize the story behind this picture. A ritual for every last flight. For this pilot it could be THE last flight. Always guided by the needs of the Navy, only a specific career path will lead him back into the air. Another thing I just can't fathom. Never knowing if you'll take up your passion again...Always at the mercy of someone else. This pilot and his wife have meant so much to me these past few years...through two deployments and the birth of two babies. I wish them all the best in their new Navy endeavor and hope to see him in the skies again!

Monday, October 25, 2010

{Rockstars} | Sandbridge and Virginia Beach Family Photographer

I can't even put into words how much fun I had with this family. Well I guess I should preface this by saying this session was gifted to them by a good friend, so that should tell you what an awesome gang they are! "C" was reserved but so incredibly kind and such a gentle spirit. I'm sure he gets tired of hearing this, but he has the most gorgeous hair! Seriously rockstar quality! "A" was a bit more sassy and always willing to be the star of the show as long as I wasn't photographing her :), and little "P" reminded me so much of my littlest sister-in-law. Sometimes swallowed up with the whole group but you get her alone and out comes her amazing spunk and sparkle! And since I had the hardest time deciding what picture to sneak peek for this family, I decided to do a mini collage of the kids. And the last picture has a story behind it and perhaps a tip for you as well. I always try to engage my families in some sort of activity. Especially if they have elementary aged kids who get bored all too easily. So, we made seashell garland by the waters edge. I could take mom and dad for some shots of just the two of them and big brother helped the girls string their shells together. But what touched me the most was at the end of the shoot, while we were gathering ourselves together, "A" decided to make her garland into a necklace and draped it over her momma.

Life is composed of moments that truly take your breath away and make your heart smile.

To schedule your family session or to give the gift of a session, please visit my website at for more information or email me at

Saturday, October 23, 2010

{The Morning Light} | Sandbridge & Virginia Beach Family Photographer

How I talked this family into hitting the beach at first light this morning with TWO small kids in tow, I'll have no idea. :) But so worth it! The morning light reflecting off the ocean was gorgeous and dreamy. What a great way to start the weekend off and you'd never know we started out in 45-degree weather. :) Thank you to the W family for fulfilling my dream of a morning beach shoot! Hope you enjoy your sneak peek!

One of my fav's from this session. Daddy didn't even know I was snapping away while chatting it up with his wife. :)

To schedule your family session, visit for more information or email

Sunday, October 10, 2010

{Lets Go Fly a Kite} | Virginia Beach Family Photographer

Today we flew a kite, chased crabs, explored the sand holes looking for that mysterious lobster and played fetch with the two rambunctious labs that were just itching to dunk their heads in the breaking waves. We stayed, soaking up the warm evening sun, until the last of the surfers had called it a night. I feel so at home with this family. As we headed back to the cars, I overheard them discussing dinner plans which happened to include ice cream on the drive home as an appetizer. What a perfect treat and treasure that made a wonderful afternoon that much more memorable for their little boy.

A special thanks to the P family for inviting me out today! If you would like more information on booking a family session with me, please visit my website at or email me at

Saturday, October 9, 2010

{Dress Up} | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

I'm playing catch-up on the blog! Would you believe me if I told you these pictures were taken with the noon day sun?! It's true! Let me introduce you to my little friend called the fill flash :) I strapped on my Canon 580 EX II (on camera), put a diffuser over it and using the high speed sync mode started shooting away! High speed sync allows you to use your flash at higher shutter speeds than 1/250 sec. (Were you ever wondering why it never let you get your shutter above 200 or 250?) The trick is to have your subject face away from the sun, so they aren't squinting, and you aren't getting that horrible mix of flat/shadowed light casting over their face. Shooting in manual, expose for your background and use enough fill flash to bring the light back into their face/skin, etc. I adjusted the flash's power right from my camera. (You can consult your camera's manual if you don't know how to do this). Or just leave me a comment below and I can try to walk you through it!

ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/3200sec

ISO 100, f/2.2, 1/1000 sec

ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/3200sec

ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/2000sec

And this one was taken in the shade but I had to include it because they are going to have a beautiful 20x20 gallery wrapped canvas hanging on their wall! Love it when clients go BIG!

ISO 200, f/2.2, 1/250sec

To schedule a children's session, please visit my website for more information or email

{Pier Side} | Virginia Beach Family Photographer

I always look forward to fall sessions at the beach. There is something magical about the light, like the sun is trying squeeze the last bit of summer rays in before the darkness falls on the afternoon commute. I adore shooting families and I've had the honor of shooting this one a few times now.

To schedule your family session, visit my website for more information or email me at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Baby K Sneak Peak | Virginia Beach Baby Photographer

Baby K put up a good fight today to stay awake! She was such a doll though. And big Brother got to hold her for the first time. He's big on monster trucks and loved drawing me pictures of birds on his magna doodle. :) Thank you to this special family for letting me capture these moments!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Peep Peep! | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

This is how I will remember him at 2 years old. His train obsession has spread to all corners and levels of the house. I often catch him just like this. Too tired to sit up and play. He'll watch the trains as they travel around and around on the track that he built. And once in a while, I'll hear a "Peep, Peep! out of him.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hoot Hoot! | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

Simply ME by Mandy has created these oh so cute owl hats for Halloween! The kids weren't too happy to be dressed in their fall attire in our 90 degree heat but I'm sure they'll love them this fall! You can email Mandy at if you'd like your own handmade hat!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Halloween Monster Mini Sessions | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

Announcing my Monster Mini Sessions for your costumed cutie!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

30 Day Bucket List

I'm in the process of reorganizing. There is frustration at the end of my day. The house still looks like five boisterous toddlers ransacked it. I still have no clue what to make for dinner. I can't seem to find the time to get my business past hovering off the ground, and that personal "me" time gets shifted until it resembles the 5 minutes it takes me to brush my teeth at night and drag myself into bed, and those glorious 2 minutes where I just want to stretch out on the matress and melt into the sheets, in total silence.

I recently followed a twitter link @fleurdeleigh posted about a 30 day bucket list she was putting together for a lifestyle challenge she had undertaken. Intrigued I read a bit more and wrangled the hubby into doing it with me and motivating me along the way. :) So, I have a feeling I'll be adding to this list, but I thought I'd share it to hold myself accountable for completing it, and also to motivate you into making positive changes to your own lifestyle! :)

My 30 Day Bucket List
Put the legal/financial ducks in a row for CS Photography
Declutter house and sell/donate/throw out anything unused or unwanted
Buy new lens :) (So excited for this one!)
Finish my loft shelving and art project
Learn to crochet
Exercise at least 4 days/week
Plan for and make dinners 5 nights/week
Try a new recipe once/week
Potty train Logan
Find an avenue to volunteer
Organize office into professional space
Clean off hard drives to both computers
Complete and blog a weekly photo assignment
Write morning pages
Plan once/week dessert date with hubby
Spend Sunday's "unplugged" with the boys
Personally accomplish 3 things on our "honey do" house renovation list.

So, that's my list for now. Seems a bit overwhelming to me but everyday I'm going to accomplish something that helps me to start crossing things off. And I'm so excited that the hubby is there to keep me motivated. He is working on his own list and we gave ourselves a start date of Aug. 17th so we both had time to finish and talk about our lists.

So, here we go!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

A child's playground... Where gnomes hide. Where straw houses are blown over. Where a tea party can be had sitting in chairs carved from logs. Where you can ring the bell from the Old Woman's shoe and swing on a tire at Old McDonald's farm.

The Storybook Forest at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meet B! | Virginia Beach Children's Photographer

I always saw myself with boys. We waited on a nursery, secretly hoping for bunk beds, late night giggles and wrestling matches to come. He has only been with us for 3 short weeks, but has brought so much joy and fulfillment to our family. Logan is eager to hold him, and at the first sign of squirming, is eager to shove him back to me. A few days back Logan asked to hold his little brother and I found myself in stiches laughing because he had pulled his shirt up to try and "feed" him. I love calling them "My Boys", Dad included. I feel a bit outnumbered now, but uniquely loved at the same time. I cherish the early morning snuggles from all three of them, and soak in that last hour in the morning when Daddy takes both boys for me. We feel so very blessed. Here is our mini man, Brayden James...

and my love...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Father's Day Portrait Party | Virginia Beach Family Photographer

So, I've been hiding these pictures since about April or May. I did a very special portrait party for the deployed daddy's for Father's Day. Here are just a couple from our 2-day, 9 family mini sessions! And to all the deployed daddy's out there, wishing you all a wonderful Father's Day! And to my hubby who is probably the only one out on the ship reading this blog, I'm trusting that you aren't sharing this link in case they haven't seen their pictures yet ;) Love ya babe!