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Monthly Archives: March 2011

Rikki showcasing some of our most unique Senior session poses yet!

I’m not quite sure how it happens, but somehow we always seem to get the most talented seniors coming to us for senior portraits!

Rikki is definitely no exception to this!

When she first showed up, I (Breanna) was definitely stunned by how beautiful she was and I (correctly) guessed that would make her a very easy subject for photos.  But even knowing that, we were still blown away by her poise and poses as we started shooting!

As we found out later when she came out after a clothing change… Rikki has been a dancer since she was little.  That explained a lot!!

Dancers definitely know how to pose and how to hold their bodies in just the right positions… no matter how awkward or uncomfortable!  Anyone who has been dancing for as long as Rikki has is bound to be an excellent model!

And that she was!

She brought her dancing clothes because according to her mom, that is just SO her… these are the kind of clothes she spends most of her life in throughout rehearsals, practices, etc, etc.

This is basically her uniform and she hardly ever parts from it, so it makes sense to have that be a part of the senior pictures that represent both her personality and how she spent her senior year. It was definitely fun for us since we got in a few different poses that we wouldn’t normally ask a senior to do!

Thanks Rikki, for being so flexible during your session(ha ha lame joke) and for putting yourself out there while you were dancing around in public at the park!  We think we got some really cool shots from it, so I hope you think it was worth it!  Congratulations on graduating!!

Click to see the rest of Rikki’s senior photos here.

The Reveal Moment… to have or not to have.

I’ve heard it many times before…. “WHAT?!  You’re going to see each other before the wedding?!  You’re going to put a curse on your marriage!”  Well actually, the reason behind the custom of not seeing each other before the ceremony on your wedding has less to do with superstitions and more to do with the realities of arranged marriages.  The reason a groom is not to see his bride before the wedding…. is to make sure he doesn’t run away.  Seriously.  Many of the traditions we have in fact, are there for the sole purpose of keeping a groom planted in place just long enough to get a firm commitment out of him to a girl he’s never met before.  Flowers… they hide bad smelling brides very well.  The veil… he doesn’t lift it until he’s promised his life away, remember?  And of course the whole “not seeing each other before hand thing”.  Keep your flowers and your veil traditions, I’m fine with those and they both add a little something to the wedding.  The hiding away from one another however, is a tradition I’d be happy to see go.

In case you’re thinking I’m just being a selfish photographer who wants more time with our clients, that is not at all the case.  I have thought long and hard about this and have experienced many weddings on both sides of the scenario.  And the final verdict from my voice of experience?  The reveal moment wins hands down.

Benefit of the reveal moment

So what are the big arguments for not seeing each other before hand?  Well there’s the whole keeping with tradition thing, which I think we’ve already decided is a bogus tradition that doesn’t really deserve our respect (unless you really are afraid that your groom will run away when he sees your face… then maybe you want to keep this tradition).  The other excuse of course is that you want to experience the moment of seeing each other for the first time during the ceremony.  I totally agree with this line of thinking… it is an amazing moment.  Which is exactly why I think it deserves to be given the thought, time, and attention that the reveal moment gives it.

wedding first look

The reveal moment (or what some call a “First Look”), really is a an actual moment… we make it a big deal!  It’s not like you’re just walking around on your wedding day high fiving one another casually in passing while only half your hair’s done.  It’s basically set up to be the ultimate “seeing each other for the first time experience”.  You can see in the pictures below what the set up looks like. The sneaking up of the bride…

…tapping on the shoulder (with a slight pause to torture the groom as he waits impatiently)…

…and then… tada! 


The first lookReveal moment

But not just a quick moment, a moment that keeps on giving and giving.

Why a first look wedding

The reveal moment takes those few blurry seconds of haziness that you would experience during a ceremony first look (when your brain is flopping back and forth from “don’t trip”, to “don’t cry”, to “oh my gosh I have a wedgie”) and turns it into a time that has your true 100% focus when you are allowed to do whatever you feel like to express your true emotions…. cry…

…kiss, make out sick, pray (like the couple below is did)…

…or even just sit and hold each other.

You don’t get to do that at the ceremony.  In fact, you are spending so much energy trying NOT to cry in front of everyone that you could almost miss the moment entirely.

benefit of the reveal moment

Of course as you are expressing all the emotion you’d only wish you could express if this first look had happened at the alter, we are getting much better pictures than we would of that quick glance at the beginning of the ceremony.  Which brings me to the next reason why people are against reveal moments… they often want a picture of that happening during the ceremony.

Hawaii wedding

Well consider for a moment the fact that all your guests are standing up during this point in time (not all of us are giants like Scottie who can take pictures over everyone’s heads)… and that there really are only so many angles we can get the right shot from and lighting, ceremony set up, etc. affects that…. and remember that this moment only goes on for a few seconds.  Well, we will do our best, but you really can’t blame us if we miss it.  For the reveal moment, we pick the place (a private one with beautiful lighting where we have the freedom to move and shoot from wherever we want with nothing in our way), we also have as long as we need to catch what’s happening, and we have that one quick second of the initial look that turns into 15 minutes of adoring looks that only grow in emotion from that first second on.

the first look wedding

(All 4 of these pictures above and below are taken right at their ceremony alter… it just happened to be before the wedding started so we could actually stand wherever we wanted and light it however we wanted.  There’s no way we could’ve got a perfect kiss shot that close up during their ceremony because of the chair set up… but this was their first kiss on their wedding day and because of the reveal moment, they now have a better photo of it than if it had been during the ceremony!  Don’t worry, the actual wedding kiss is still a HUGE deal and we got photos of that one as well!).

Better pictures from that same moment at the ceremony?  Highly unlikely.

Seeing each other before ceremony(This is still one of my favorite pictures we’ve ever taken… and it happened at a reveal.  This shot wouldn’t exist had they not decided to do a reveal moment, because there’s no way we would have been able to get one this perfect during their ceremony… at least not without standing right in front of their parents throughout the entire thing!).

first look benefit

By the way, many of our couples who do the reveal, also have an amazing moment when they see each other at the ceremony for the first time… it’s a different kind of moment, because it’s more of a “we have a shared secret and I feel so close to you right now, kind of look”. This look is just as good as the first moment look, it’s special in it’s own way. The two pictures below were taken between their reveal moments and the ceremony.  This is the “shared secret” look I’m talking about…

Wedding emotion

Why do they have a secret between them at the ceremony?  Because they had time to bond together before heading into it.  They are walking in front of everyone they know, full of nerves, fears, worries, etc…. and they are the only two people there at that moment that are sharing those exact same feelings to that degree… and they have already laughed and cried about it together… now they get to just live it side by side.

There really is something to say for the magic that happens between a couple during the reveal moment.  Every single time we’ve had it, at least one of the two people involved, whether it’s the bride or the groom, goes through a transition that takes them from ” stressed out maniac” to “chill, in love, happiest person in the world” as soon as they see their love.  It is amazing, it’s almost like you can see the ton of bricks slide off their shoulders all at once into a heap at their feet.

Their entire countenance changes as they stop thinking about the hundreds of eyes on them, the missing bouquets, or the angry family members because all they can think about is that they are here to marry this amazing person in front of them.  All of a sudden, they are enjoying their day and they remember the importance of what it’s all about.  This same thing often happens with the ceremony first look, but it’s sad to me that they wasted so much of their wedding day NOT feeling like that when they didn’t have to.

As you can see, my advice to choose a reveal moment for your wedding day has to do with far more than just pictures.  It has made so many of our clients so very happy… so much so that as they are getting ready to walk down the aisle, they are going on and on to me about how glad they are that they did a reveal moment.  I’m not talking about just one of our clients raving about it on their very wedding day… I’m talking about most of our clients.  I also have had brides turn to me during a particular nerve wracking moment on a very stressful wedding day and say “I really wish we had done the reveal moment thing, I think I would feel so much better right now if I had!”.

The proof is in the pudding people.

You do have every right to disagree with me….and I am fine with that.  In fact, some of our clients do disagree with me and choose not to do reveal moments and I totally respect their choice and give them that right.  I just consider it my duty as their photographer to inform them of the options and to educate them on things I’ve learned in my experiences.  And just so you know, Scottie and I did NOT have a reveal moment at our own wedding, we did things in what we call “The Old School” way and I was fine with it.

BUT, had I seen the things I’ve now seen and known the stuff I now know, I would’ve done the reveal moment in a heartbeat because I know that even though my wedding day was totally fine the way it was and I don’t have any complaints, there is a pretty good chance that it could’ve been even better had I been more open minded about this particular tradition.  I’m not sad about it and my point is not to make anyone else sad about it.  My point is to fully educate those who still have this decision to make one day.

I know, I know, after hearing all this, many of you are still saying, “but it’s just not what I imagined!!”.  I know that is a big deal when you’re planning a wedding, especially if you’ve been planning it since you were like 5!  That is pretty much the one argument I can’t stand up against, because I know, it’s not what you imagined.  But I still implore you to make that one sacrifice for the greater good.  Those few seconds of the first look during the ceremony… the ones that might not even go the way you dreamed, that you are willing to plan your entire day around… are they worth losing out on all the other benefits for?  If so, then you have made your decision and more power to you, follow those childhood wedding dreams!

Despite the fact that I currently have a blog post here that is much longer than I planned on, I still have not even told you half the reasons I think a reveal moment is a good idea.  So here’s my short little summary of my points about this…

The Lesser Known Benefits of the Reveal Moment:

  1. The first time you see each other in a ceremony happens in the blur of a few seconds. The reveal takes that amazing moment and turns it into it’s own event which makes it more memorable and significant.
  2. You feel more like partners going into this together rather than alone… it is an amazing bonding experience to anticipate the moment together.
  3. Your emotions are more genuine when expressed in private, which is one of the many things about a reveal moment that will make the photos of the first time you see one another turn out better
  4. Your nerves calm down significantly when you see one another, allowing you to enjoy the first half of your wedding day more.
  5. Your schedule is more relaxed which will make your entire wedding day feel more relaxed.
  6. It feels more natural to do family photos before the ceremony because afterwards all you want to do is be together for a few minutes and then go join your party.
  7. You have more time for photos of the two of you alone and with the people you care about (30 min to 1 hr more!).
  8. Cocktail hour is shorter and your guests are happier!
  9. The reveal moment is all about relaxing everyone and making the day more enjoyable.  Every person involved in the wedding will be more chill and have more fun when the reveal moment schedule is used.
  10. Part of the reason our clients hire us is because they trust our experience and you believe we have their best interests at heart… and we fully believe they will be happiest experiencing the benefits of the Reveal Moment Schedule.

The final point of all time for why you should opt for a reveal moment on your wedding day?  Just look at all these pictures.  They are some of the most emotional moments we’ve ever captured… and they are moments that never would have happened if the couple hadn’t made the decision to include this time in their wedding day.

(to hear more about our wedding experiences or to see many more beautiful wedding moments, stay connected with us by liking Radiant Photography on Facebook!)

first look

Helping Foster Girls Find Value… The Arizona Princess Program

The word “prom” evokes all kinds of emotions for all kinds of people.

The range falls somewhere between nostalgia, sadness, fondness, mixed in with fear and nervous, sweaty palms!

For the girls I am about to tell you about, the word “prom” has recently taken on a whole new meaning.  That’s because until recently, a prom wasn’t likely to be in their future.

Even if the chance to go did present itself, the fact that some of these girls haven’t worn a dress since the age of 6 (if even then) would pose quite a hindrance to the whole prom thing.

If you remember my blog about The Princess Program last summer, than you’ve already guessed who these girls are.  Yes, it’s them again.  This is a group of teenage girls who are in the foster system.  The Foster system…  is another set of words that evokes a whole gamete of emotion.  But for these girls it means (among other things) not having a lot of the same experiences that a typical American teenager has… prom being one of them.

Hope & A Future is a non-profit organization that works with foster youth and they well understand the many self-esteem issues that plague many foster teens.

(The girls had a few activities in the beginning of the day to help ease them into things… and a whole set of very girly arts and crafts- like making lip gloss and bath salts- was a great way to get the day started).

And the Princess Program is one way they have begun to address this important issue.  When a girl arrives at the princess program, she is treated to a day of pampering.  She has her hair and makeup done, gets to pick out a dress that makes her say “wow” when she looks at herself in the mirror (not a common occurrence for these girls), and of course pick out all the perfect accessories to match all that fanciness she’s got going on!

(All this was done at Dolce Salon and Spa’s Arrowhead location, which is probably the coolest salon I’ve ever seen! It was glam enough that we actually had the entire dinner/dance in their building!).

(The dress shopping part all happened inside a local church that was kind enough to let us use their facilities).

And after the primping, she gets shuffled off for a full night of glamor where she gets to be treated like a princess.

And when I say “shuffled off” I actually mean, “whisked away in a hummer limo”!

The limos were a huge surprise to them and they were PSYCHED!!!

But the best part about the Princess Program is that there is so much more to it than just getting girls dressed up.  The people at Hope & A Future are very aware that telling girls they are more valuable when they are pretty, is not a very healthy message.  Of course it is true that helping a girl to look her best so that she suddenly sees beauty in herself that she never knew she had, is a very important piece to a girl’s self-esteem (if you are a girl, you know what I’m talking about).

But when the message regarding a girl’s value and identity stops there, we have a problem.  So at the Princess Program, they are very careful to communicate the intrinsic value that each girl has as a created human being and how with that value comes a certain perspective of love and respect that you can have for yourself and the world around you.  This message is communicated both overtly and inadvertently through the words and behavior of all the people that dedicate their time and energy to making The Princess Program happen.

(This girl totally cracked up laughing when the guy pushed her chair in!).

For a girl who is used to being a number in a system more than a member of a family, it is a huge deal to have such a significant amount of attention paid to her and to have people care and ask about her thoughts and opinions (even if it’s only regarding the color of a dress or to ask how she wants her hair styled).

Many of these girls have no idea how to respond this attention and their emotions go a little haywire. Luckily, Hope & A Future has a system in place to help the girls deal with the sometimes pretty severe dramas that play out in their heads as they’re going through an experience so new for them and so central to the way they view themselves and the world around them.   I mean we are talking about a massive worldview shift that can be occurring through just this one afternoon!

I think it’s safe to say that their average every day lives don’t even contain quite the same amount of the “pretty” that was around this place!

(This is in the etiquette class they took.  I was actually jealous I didn’t get to stay for longer because I think I could use a few etiquette lessons myself!).

So they have a hierarchy system of volunteers with particulars ones designated to helping with different aspects of the program (some set up, some clean up, some wash dishes, some take pictures…).  And among those groups of volunteers they have what they call “personal shoppers” who are women who have been trained by Hope & A Future and who have participated in other programs sponsored by them.

(Volunteers from the day can like our Facebook page to tag themselves in some of the photos!).

These personal shoppers have the most direct contact with the princesses throughout the day and they are equipped to handle the emotional roller coaster that sometimes hits the girls as they go through this experience.

These shoppers are also the ones who will do whatever it takes to befriend these girls and to help them loosen up and have fun.  So they sacrifice not only their time, but sometimes their dignity! If, for example, being silly and ridiculous was the one thing that would make these girls feel less silly and ridiculous themselves and enable them to relax, the personal shoppers were quick to accommodate! 🙂

I was blown away watching some of these shoppers work, the compassion they demonstrated was beyond words and their talent and abilities when it comes to working with people, just amazed me.

These girls are not always the easiest people in the world to talk to and not all of them are very excited to be there (in fact most are very afraid when they first arrive) and the shoppers seem to almost magically bring them out of their shell and get them interacting and having fun like any teenager should be allowed to do every once in awhile.

It was really cool to come back to the Princess Program a second time because it gave us a new perspective on it.  This time we recognized some of the girls from last time… and I couldn’t believe the difference in them in less than a year!  Last time they were awkward, scared, and so very insecure and this time they were laughing and having a blast with the friends they had made.

I was seriously wondering if personality transplants were possible because they just did not seem like the same girls at all.  You have to remember that consistency is practically non-existent in some of these girls’ lives and they now have a group of friends and volunteers who get to know them, care for them, and will be around on a regular basis… and that alone can make all the difference in the world for them!

There was still a very noticeable change even in the girls who had never been to the program before.  By the end of the night, even the toughest, most anti-enjoying themselves girls were laughing and twirling around the dance floor like all the rest!

And now I’ve arrived to my favorite part of this past program.  Last time, I (Breanna) enjoyed the beautification process the most and watching the girls’ expressions when they saw themselves all dressed up for the first time.  This time the dancing was my favorite.  I’m tearing up again just thinking about it.  OK, try as might to explain this, there really is no way to fully describe what I saw that night.  Utter, sincere, complete joy and abandon is the best is the closest description I can give to what I saw.

Seeing these girls who came in with the word “PAIN” practically stamped all over their bodies, demeanors, and attitudes, now dancing around with a completely transformed look in their eyes to go with the biggest smile EVER on their faces…. was just almost too much for me to take in.  Every time I held my camera away from my face to fully observe the scene before me, I was just in awe of how every single person in one room could be having so much fun all at once!

No one in there was standing around tapping their foot with a slight smile…. every single person was seriously twirling, spinning, and sort of flailing (that’s the complete abandon part) and belly laughing the entire time!  It was just insane… and so very beautiful!  The volunteers were out there cutting a rug, as well as the guys who volunteered to be the girls escorts/food servers for the night.

Everyone involved was participating to the fullest and doing an amazing job of making sure these girls were having the time of their lives!

(I love the photos like this one that remind you these aren’t the kind of princesses you’re used to seeing… and these princesses kick off their painful glass slippers long before midnight!).

The rest of the night was perfect as well of course because Hope & A Future never does anything half way… everything they do is always done very well.

The food, decor, location, and the service (courtesy of the male volunteers who made the girls swoon) was just exceptional.

We were so excited that we got to be a part of it all.

So excited in fact, that we decided to get involved further with Hope & A Future as a whole.  If you are an old school fan of ours, you know about our “Radiant Love” program.  But for all you newbies out there, the main feature of this program is that we donate 10% of all our shooting profits (on weddings, portraits, and events) to different non-profit programs of our choosing.  And because we absolutely love all the things that this organization does as a whole, we are choosing them to the be the current recipients of this donation.  So if you book a senior session, family session, or your wedding with us in the next few months, just know that 10% of that is going towards this beautiful, wonderful, amazing organization who will take your money and use it to completely transform the lives of the kids they work with!

They do so much more than just The Princess Program by the way! They have camps for both younger foster children as well as teenagers (not just for girls either, they have a program called the All-Star Program for boys that is kind of the male version of the princess program). They have scholarship funds to help foster kids go to college, a life skills mentoring programs for foster kids 15 and older, and they are constantly finding new ways to help and benefit these kids and their surrounding community.  See more about Hope and A Future’s programs on their website. Make sure you also check out my blog on the last Princess Program we volunteered to do pictures for to see more photos and to read about some of the different aspects I featured in there that I didn’t mention here.

Thanks to all of our Radiant Photography fans out there who give your time and attention to reading about and caring about the things that we do!  Thanks for reading this and be sure to tell others about Hope & A Future!

Katy had plenty of time to thoroughly plan the perfect senior session!

What do you get when you combine patience, a good wardrobe selection, and a very happy girl with beautiful long hair?  That would be Katy’s senior session!

Why was the patience necessary?  Well because she originally emailed us back in August about scheduling her senior session with us, and in case you haven’t checked the calendar in awhile, it is now March!

Her email came right around the time that we were headed over to Hawaii and Mexico for a couple of months, and then coming back only to dive head first into a completely full shooting calendar.  So we knew that finding an open slot for her was going to be beyond difficult!

Luckily, she actually had her heart set on a spring time session, so the timing worked out perfectly and we set the date and made it official!  But then the waiting began…

So she waited… then the weather started cooling off…. and she waited…. then Christmas came… and she waited… until finally one day, the time for her very anticipated senior session had arrived!

So of course all that waiting afforded her plenty of time to figure out her clothing changes, hairstyle, makeup, etc. and I’d say the time paid off!  I mean, just look at her!  I (Breanna) have long wavy hair myself and even I couldn’t get over how beautiful those luscious locks of hers are!

Needless to say, by the time the session rolled around Katy was very excited and she knew exactly what she wanted!  She loves the cool lighting style in Urban Outfitters catalogs and one of the reasons she chose us is because she thinks we capture that look well!

That’s quite a compliment to us because I LOVE that look as well and it makes me so happy to hear that she sees even the slightest similarity between those photos and ours!

We actually subscribe to the Urban Outfitters catalogs just to study them for photo inspiration!

On top of that particular lighting style, Katy also likes grass and flowers, so we decided to head over to DC Ranch in an attempt to get several different looks out of the area.

Thanks for being a great model, Katy, especially during those times where I was giving you some of the vaguest posing descriptions ever and you acted like I was actually speaking English and did your best to interpret my jibberish and accomplish the poses!

Ha ha!  You did an excellent job!
Click to see the rest of Katy’s thoroughly planned senior photo session here!