Sizzlin’ Seniors

Chicago Senior High Photography

Hi Everyone!… I hope you are all doing great!  Over the last several months I have added more senior high sessions to the portfolio.  All I can say is that I am very pleased with how these shoots played out, both in working with some great juniors and seniors, as well as how the images turned out post-edit.  I am confident in saying that it is about as fun as shooting weddings (maybe even more so as it’s almost like doing weddings, but without the stress of a fast and tight schedule)!  I can recall when I had my senior photos done way back in 19xx (well’ no reason to really date myself that much, you get the picture).  Then, it seemed like the trend to hire a photographer or studio outside of the stuffy school yearbook photo company just to do something different.  Even back then though, most sessions were still limited to the indoor studio with a nice chair, fake window light, reflective surfaces and let’s not forget those infamous “Class of” number props.

Well, boys and girl…times have changed!!  Welcome to the fabulous world of on-location, Lifestyle Senior High Photography!  Just as much of the “rite of passage” is on a couple’s wedding day, where the bride has spent months meticulously planning all the details and choosing all the locations and themes that best reflect the couple’s personalities…so is this transitional period in the lives of young people, called high school graduation.  Now the question is, just as the bride and groom want fabulous wedding photos, why wouldn’t the high school graduate want fantastic images to mark this milestone in their lives?

To be honest, I was a little shocked when a couple of these seniors whose pictures you will see told me that there still aren’t many photographers that offer on-location options of their choice, especially given that I am in the Chicago area.  While I know that I am by no means the only photographer in Chicagoland doing on-location senior high sessions, the feedback I have recent received indicates that there is a great market out there for all of us photographers who specialize in these types of shoots, and I imagine that the on-location aspect will become more in demand. With as much fun as I am having with these sessions (no doubt as I live vicariously through this younger generation), I will certainly be working hard to stay tapped into this market.

Enoy!!  :-)

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High PhotographyChicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

Chicago Senior High Photography

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A Journey Renewed: Reflections from The FIX Tour


Jasmine Star-The FIX

(Yes, I got Jasmine Star’s autograph!)


If in doubt…don’t doubt yourself.  That is just one of the profound points I took away from The FIX in Chicago featuring the lovely Jasmine Star! Let me be clear about something up front.  I am not about hype, popularity or fame…so much so that after I purchased my ticket to The FIX in Chicago, I was insane enough to message Jasmine on Facebook and pointedly tell her I am not about the hoopla, and that I hoped to really have a genuine experience myself hearing her speak in Chicago.  She was kind enough to acknowledge my message.

I am about being real, and I like being inspired by people who are real…those who are not afraid to give of themselves and be transparent, so that they can truly help and mentor others.

Have you noticed that I have not mentioned the word “photographer” yet?  This is how I know that I have found something genuine, and honestly, Jasmine Star surpassed my expectations!


It was only in the last couple years when a high school classmate of mine, Kelly Manno, who is also a photographer whose work initially inspired me to pursue this passion, was hosting an event in St. Louis with Jasmine Star as the featured guest speaker.  Then, I was like “Who in the world is Jasmine Star?”  Little did I know at the time when I was launching into the world of photography just how “high profile” some wedding/lifestyle photographers were. Unfortunately because it was being held on a work day in the middle of the week, I could not attend this event (Kelly, I promise I am going to make it to your next Shot Party!)

It wasn’t long after that I started getting more into Facebook and all the sudden I am the odd one out because everyone is talking about Jasmine Star, and I had no idea why.  Ultimately it was her speaking at the 2011 WPPI Conference that got the photographers on my news feed buzzing about her more…people who had been moved so much by her testimony.  I was seeing her name all over Facebook.

Fast forward a year later (and even more people falling in love with her), to when I saw the announcement about The FIX tour.  I decided it was time to see for myself what Jasmine Star was all about…and like I said, expectations were exceeded.


So now, allow me to share some of the great points I took away from this seminar…(I will be using my own terms coming straight from my heart, so that you know I didn’t use her bullet point summary to cheat ).  :-)


1) Value yourself… It takes time to become confident at what you are doing.  It takes practice, training, patience and yes, investment ($$$$).  Every time you can gain ground in these areas, you will do more, become more and gain the confidence you need to go to the next level.  This point actually leads into the next…


2) Accept and embrace the “struggle”… Without a doubt we have all been there, and some of us are still in what I call “that place.”  It seems dark and lonely, like you are the only one there.  So I was very humbled and encouraged by the brave souls who through courage made their way up to the mic during the Q&A session with Jasmine.  There were several questions posed by up and coming and even experienced photographers that touched me because I have been there, and in some cases am still there.  Some of these brave individuals asked their questions through nervousness, excitement and some even through tears…and they were asking all the right questions.

The various “struggles” represented, or points otherwise highligted by Jasmine, of which I have (and have had) my share:

-How do you talk and interact with your spouse (who is not part of the business) when it comes to the finances and needing to purchase/upgrade equipment?

-How do you balance and time manage to give your spouse and loved ones quality time when you are addicted to editing photos and social media outreach?

-And by the way…how do you manage time, balance priorities and in general maintain your sanity?

(Have you also noticed that these first few points I am referring to have to do with the people and things in your life that DON’T necessarily have anything to do with your photography business?  Yes, these are the things that touched me the most.  I adore my husband, and have tried my best to figure out a way for him to join me in the photography endeavor and business…(after all, he is a very talented software engineer who worked as a video game programmer at both Midway Games on the Mortal Combat Armageddon franchise, followed by a stint at EA Chicago).  I figured photography would be so much easier and interesting for him, especially since he did it as a hobby here and there in college… My thought was “why wouldn’t he want to do this with me?”  I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I have accepted my reality (I still love and adore you honey), that my spouse will not be taking this particular journey with me. It’s just not his cup of tea, and that’s alright.  I’m finally starting to be okay with it…but it took a while.  He has however been genuinely supportive, and here and there as time has passed, he has been okay with me upgrading equipment, buying software and templates, and even the latest…supporting me emotionally and financially as I have now opened a gallery and office space for my photography business.  So now I am only left with one dilemma…at what point will I be able to afford assistant?  :-)


3) Do what works for you… We often spend a lot of that $$$$ going to workshops and other forms of training and seminars, and sometimes some great photographers will give us a “formula” and tell us what they and every other photographer is doing, and why we should follow suit because that’s what works. I really like Jasmine’s approach though…  If you are good at social media, blogging and interacting online, then leverage that to your advantage.  If you sound more professional “speaking” through e-mail vs. taking phone calls, then leverage that (and vice versa)…  In a nutshell, be who you are, do what works best for you…and be okay with yourself (despite whatever criticism you may endure).


4) Network and Unite… One of the main points Jasmine made is that The FIX is about us photographers coming together to share our passion and vision with each other.  So many times we can be self involved, but more so competitive and comparative of ourselves and our work with that of other photographers.  Then we become anxious, jealous…(and dare I say even occasionally nasty) when other photographers in our realm are enjoying success and doing well.  I was really very encouraged by Jasmine sharing that given that it is something she has struggled with herself.  I will shamefully admit that it’s a trap I have fallen into on some occasions.  A trap that makes you feel like you have some right to harshly judge other fellow photographers and their work…when the reality is we each have our own style of art, and most people will view it objectively.  Yes, this is a competitive business, and yes it is even more so given how so many in the digital age can pick up a camera, take a few photos, and start calling themselves a professional photographer. Those of us who genuinely aspire to being a “professional” in this area know and understand the blood, sweat and tears it takes just to grow as a creative and have our work stand out so that people hire us.  But we all need to really stick together, really support and encourage one another, and know that we each have something unique about ourselves and our work to offer prospective clients.


5) Go and Do… Need I say more?

Okay, I will say a little more.  I was thinking about all of these things when I left the event this past Wednesday night.  I was thinking about all the things she said about how following your passion is important and how it doesn’t come without sacrifice and some degree of suffering.  I was especially thinking these things as I walked outside of Loft on Lake, and there were no taxi’s in sight to take me back to Ogilvie, leaving me to hoof it back in my boot-style heels at 11:00 pm praying I would not get mugged or assaulted while I acquired blisters during the 1.4 mile walk.  Okay, so eventually I did see some taxi’s after about a half mile of walking…but I  wanted some alone time to really digest all that I had just heard.  So were the blisters worth it?… ABSOLUTELY!  If anything, it was a symbol of my sacrifices and growing pains that Jasmine had just exposed in all of us.  Needless to say I am challenged, not just to become a great photographer, but a better person, and practically, I am challenged that I should be connecting with more photographers.


There were other more practical topics that were covered during this seminar through Jasmine sharing or questions that were posed (questions that I have also faced)…such as, “How do I properly pose subjects?” “When do I know it’s time to raise my prices?” “How do I budget for purchasing equipment and software?” “What are the practical ways I can make my spouse/significant other feel like they are a priority?” “How do I get high end clients and destination weddings?” And “What do I do to get customers to not just like my work, but LOVE my work so that they become an ambassador for my business?” Jasmine had good answers for pretty much all of these questions and topics…I was not disappointed. I could highlight some of the responses to these questions…but then you wouldn’t have a reason to seek out Jasmine’s new magazine “Exposed” to get all of her detailed answers.


There is a quote from Jasmine on the cover of her new magazine Exposed… It reads: “Sometimes we give up our dreams for safety and comfort.  But I was ready to risk safety and comfort for my dreams.” This is the epitome of where I am right now, investing and risking, and getting to the point where I am ready to walk away from the only sustaining thing I have known for 10 plus years so that I can start writing a new chapter in my life.


So Jasmine, thank you so much for being real, genuine and transparent…and being willing to give of yourself, your time and your talent to help the rest of us grow on our journey to being our personal best.  You are very talented and blessed, and your work is amazing!

And while I am taking the time to reflect on my journey and commend Jasmine for her great dedication to The FIX tour, I will also give a shout out to some other great photographers from whom I have learned much from and been inspired by: Kelly Manno, for your wonderful work in the area of birth photography and newborns that first inspired me to get a camera three years ago and start shooting; Dayna Schroeder who taught me the importance of understanding how the business side of photography works; Katie Salvatori who allowed me to shadow her during a wedding to gain experience; Kenny Kim and Ray Santana, who through their Portfolio Plus Workshop helped me to understand the value of customer care (Kenny), and understanding how to use the Kelvin temperature settings on my camera (Ray); Jill and Agustin Murillo of Cancun Studios for your inspiration and lessons in editing and album design (not to mention your great photos of me and the hubby); Darling Paumen of Darling Photographers, your and Victor’s work is beautiful, and I am thankful for your encouraging friendship across the miles; Richard Low of Studio Six Photography for all your words of encouragement and being there with a good joke when I need it; and last but not least, Ryan Schembri whose moving slide show images nearly brought me to tears a year ago as your work drew me in to each photo and made me see and feel the emotion of your subjects.

From each and everyone of of you I have learned and taken something new and applied it practically in my work and decision making on my journey to becoming a “professional.”  I am who I am as a photographer because of you all.  Thank you for your hard work and dedication to serving others!


Lastly, many thanks to all my past clients and my friends who have had faith in me, encouraged me and have made this journey worth while!  I am grateful for you all…


Photographers, be sure to get your hands on a copy of Jasmine’s magazine Exposed! Let’s get inspired!    J~





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Destination Maui






A little late, but certainly not forgotten…  I had the pleasure of going to Maui last October to photograph the wedding of a long-time friend of mine, who after patiently waiting many years on God’s perfect timing, found the woman of his dreams!  D&K, this post is dedicated to you,… to your faithfulness in waiting on God to bring “every good and perfect gift” in the right time, to the testimony of His perfect plan in bringing your souls and lives together, and to the blessed life, future and family that will resonate as a blessing to others.  Thank you for inviting us to be a part of your special day!














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Year-in-Review 2011



Well, we are a few weeks into 2012!!!  It has been one really exciting year this past year…  I went into 2011 with some serious goals, and I am proud to say that I accomplished many of my goals and the things I set out to do.  I learned many new things about being a professional photographer, and have met some truly great people along the way this past year!  I got a handful of weddings under my belt, as well as grew my portfolio with senior high sessions and other events.  If I were to note any regrets it would mainly be not meeting my goal of doing a blog post each month, having missed both October and November (but seriously, they both very busy months for me at work).  On the other hand, some months had more than one post to share, so I should be too down on myself.  Beyond that, I just regret not having more time, more hours in the day to get more done, whether at home or for clients, and to devote time to other things I feel are important… But hey, I think we all go through that some times.

So I wanted to share with you some highlights over the past year!  And no better place to start than with the first wedding that I shadowed over a year ago on December 18, 2010.   Many thanks again to Katie (Salvatori) Hernandez of Katherine Salvatori Photography for allowing me to come and shadow her for a beautiful Christmas time wedding at the Morton Arboretum (see the first pic above)!   Throughout the year Katie’s work has been an inspiration and it’s been wonderful watching her grow professionally, and am happy for her that she recently has had her work published on various wedding related blogs and websites!  She and her family have also grown personally as she became a bride herself this past year and married a really great guy, and they already have a precious little baby girl on the way!  Be sure to keep up with Katie and her work by visiting her Facebook page for the latest inspiration and news!  Here are a few more pics from that beautiful winter wedding…


To kick off 2011, I photographed the New Year’s Celebration event at Abbington Banquets…





Moving forward into 2011, it was time to get some training.  Here are some great shots from a couple of workshops in 2011…



And now on to some of this year’s highlights and some of my favorite captured moments!!  Whether real events or workshops, there were a lot of great shots this year!  Enjoy!!

Some boudoir beauties…


A Romantic roof-top proposal.


A pre-wedding engagement session.


Then a “happily ever after” wedding…


An awesome maternity session…


Then a newborn session…



A more intimate affair…


My sister-in-law’s senior high session…


Then a colorful Indian wedding extravaganza!…


A baby baptism…



A charming country wedding…


The images following are just a few from a beautiful Maui wedding and a couple of senior high sessions that I have not yet published dedicated posts for, but since these were still 2011 events, it’s only proper that a few photos be included.  Here are a few from the Maui wedding…





Now for a few of the senior high pics.  Two brothers, two very different personalities…




I hope you have enjoyed this “year-in-review” post!    At the top of this webpage, you will find links that will take you to call of the complete posts represented here as well as other posts not included, with the exception of the last two sessions.  Please be sure to visit here often to stay on top of what 2012 will bring!!  :-)

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Rebecca & John~Married

Chicagoland Wedding Photography

This was my most recent wedding, and it is my absolute favorite for one reason in particular…  This wedding took place at The Inn at Irish Hollow!!  This inn is located in Galena, IL , and I will say they went all out to host this wedding!  Even to the point of clearing out the bon fire pit to temporarily transform it into a wonderful outdoor ceremony location!  This is one of my most favorite places anywhere, and is where my husband and I spend our 1st year anniversary!…  We have been back there once since to stay in one of the romantic cottages, and I hope to go there many, many more times to come!!  Nothing beats this location if you are wanting a “country get-a-way” that is only three hours from Chicago…and the food…totally superb thanks to resident chef and inn keeper Matt Carroll!!
One more thing I have to say…in my “proofing” of this blog post…really looking at the photos…this couple is very much in love, they know what they want, and there is so much emotion in some of these photos, in their expression, it almost makes me want to cry…  So please don’t look down on me for adding so many photos to my blog posts… I LOVE telling the whole story!

Enjoy!!  :-)



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