Category Archives: Families

April & Ryan let their bellies hang out.

When I started taking pictures, one thing I never even thought about was how deep it would take me into people’s lives!  There are only so many “jobs” (if you can call the fun we have work!) that allow you to watch families begin, bond, and grow… and we’re lucky enough to have one of those jobs!

It’s so fun to meet a couple before their married and start taking pictures of them all the way from their engagement, to their marriage, into their pregnancy, and the birth of their babies… as well as everything after that!  That’s the track we’re on with April & Ryan and family!  We met them after they were already married so we missed the first part, but we’ve been along for the ride since before their first child was born and now we’re on to their second child!

We first took photos for April & Ryan when they were preparing to have their first baby.

The next time was when they wanted to show off their newborn, Emily, to the world!

We then visited Emily again when she was 6 months old…

… and again at her first birthday party!

Now April & Ryan have their second child, Callie and… yep, you guessed it… we took pictures of baby Callie as well!

I call this little series “The many faces of Callie”…

Of course not to be out done by her little sister, Emily has many faces as well!

But these I think this is by far my favorite face…

The ” meltdown recovery” faces are pretty good too though!

These crying pics were actually inspired by a lady I used to babysit for who had GIANT, super close up pics of all 3 of her kids crying when they were little, all framed in a row on her wall.  I thought it was pretty fun and definitely unique!  As much as you hate those faces while they’re actually happening, I’m assuming that there’s some sense of nostalgia when you see a photo of it once the kids are older.  Ever heard that cheesy country song “You’re Gonna Miss This“?  That stupid song makes me cry every time, despite my stubborn refusal to cave to country sappiness!  Anyways, I’m not a parent, but I’m assuming it’s kind of like that.  If I really wanted to mess with your heads I would tell you to start over in this blog and listen to that song while you look at the rest of these photos… by the 3rd photo you’d be crying that ugly, gross, snotty kind of cry!  Ha ha!

Are you all done crying now?  Mascara wiped up?  OK good, now we’ll move onto some fun pictures so you have a chance to recover before going back to your own life again!

My recent photo inspirations lately have all had to do with allowing “imperfection”.  I’ve noticed more and more public, professional photos that are out of focus, showing people’s wrinkles, are grainy, etc., etc.  And I LOVE them!  I think it makes you think “wow, that picture has mistakes… there must be something really special about what it’s capturing for them to allow that one in”. So I’ve been trying to work my way towards accepting that it’s OK for people to know I make mistakes and focusing more on capturing emotion than on being a perfect, technical photographer.

(They make lens hoods that are designed to prevent sun flares from sneaking in, but I think the trend towards allowing them in now shows people’s desire for pictures to actually represent reality again!)

(People have stopped being impressed by how perfect you can make a photoshopped picture look.  Now they want things that look REAL!  I think that’s why the trend has moved towards old and worn looking photos where you actually add in grain and imperfections!)

I believe that truth and beauty go hand in hand and I REALLY value honesty, so I’m holding my breathe and including the photo on the left!  I totally missed focus (unless you count the 3 bubbles that are actually in focus!) but I am in love with what the picture is communicating.  So it’s a keeper, and now you all know that I’m not perfect. I’m flawed and I’m not a magic photographer… just a normal one who makes mistakes.

(I’ll admit right now that all the cool coloring in this photo only happened because the original coloring was pretty bad.  It was definitely a flawed picture that I chose to make look great even though it wasn’t. Sorry Scottie, I hope you’re OK that I’ve decided to tell the world that you’re not perfect either since this is your shot!).

It’s like when Lauryn Hill talks about how we all need to exhale and let our bellies hang out so we can walk around looking at one another and say “oh you have one too!?” and feel free! By the way if you haven’t heard this, listen to it NOW (I’ll wait to continue until you get back) it’s super freeing and inspirational (she rambles a lot but keep listening, there’s good stuff in it)!  The entire CD is the same way actually… just pure genuine, reality which is a big deal coming from Ms. Diva and she took a lot of crap for saying this stuff… so go buy it and support people who are done being slaves to their perfect image!  I know you guys can handle her rambling because you sure do a great job following mine!  Ha ha!  Now back to the topic at hand!

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I love the idea of talking about genuineness (wow, spell check says that’s a real word!) in a blog about family.  In our culture, “family picture day” typically means wearing clothes you never wear in real life, making sure the only emotion you capture is happiness, and working your butt off to get your kids to behave in a way that will enhance the perfect image you’re going for in these pictures.  It’s ridiculous!  The definition for family should (in my opinion) always include intimacy and intimacy means emotion, whether it’s messy or clean emotion.

(I’m not sure what emotion this is, but I think it falls in the messy category).

(And I’d say this is one of the clean ones).

Intimacy also means going through a variety of experiences together.

And sitting and smiling in front of a camera shows such a small sliver of what life is really like for a family.

We want to communicate who a family really is… which for every family means imperfection.

(Sometimes being a family means getting bubbles in your eyes).

And that’s why we’re so thankful to April & Ryan for letting us take pictures of their child crying!  Thank you for being humble enough to allow us to tell the true story of your family.

I know our blog readers and facebook fans appreciate it too!  No one connects with fake families, that’s why everyone throws away the pictures that come in frames when you buy them!  People love seeing families that look like their own and remind them of what’s really important in life.

So thank you April & Ryan for taking us with you through all the major events in your life and allowing us to share these special moments in your world with all the friends of Radiant who value human emotion and real life.  You’ve blessed us all immensely by letting us observe your beautiful family changing and growing together! Click to see the rest of the photos from this family photo session!

Shano sister love= SOO much fun!

If I didn’t wish I had a sister even half as bad as I do, after spending just a few minutes with the Shano’s, I still would’ve be back at my parents door double checking to make sure they are absolutely positive I don’t have a missing sister somewhere out there.  These girls have an absolute blast together!

Every time I looked over at them during this session, they were laughing, messing around, picking each other up, or fixing one another’s hair.

After shooting their daughter’s Sweet 16 Party, we’ve spent enough time with the Shanos to know that this wasn’t a fluke…. these sisters genuinely like each other!

It seems like living in the Shano house is 24/7 of clothes swapping, dance parties, Twilight marathons, and cheer leading practice. Even though I know there’s probably the inevitable hair pulling days… I’m SOOO jealous!:-)

Just as I was mustering up the courage to ask if I could join their family, Scottie reminded me that their mom has just as much fun as the girls do so I still have a chance to have daughters as fun as them!

That is very true, Kathy is just one of the girls and I saw her laughing and messing around with them as much as they did with each other.

So there’s still hope for me!  I guess I’m content to keep living at my house for now… but if I end up having all boys I might still give the Shano’s a call to see if they’ll have me! Ha ha.

Not to be out done, the only man in this house has his fun too!

You can tell by this beautiful car that he gets to play with!

He said he’d never really had photos taken of it, so while his daughters were practicing cheers in the yard, he saw his opportunity and grabbed Scottie to go have some fun of their own with their toys (Scottie with his camera and David with his car).

It’s funny to think of the differences between Scottie and I… if he were writing this blog it would be all about the car with a casual mention of sister time fun (sorry David, we’ll have Scottie write one for you next time! Ha ha).

So if you don’t get it by now… this is a FUN family!

They’re fun and to top it off they have a lot of cool ideas too!  If you saw the photos from Morgan’s Sweet 16 party you know what I’m talking about!  And they didn’t disappoint when it came to this session either.  We started at their house and then they gave us the idea to go over to this big grove of trees near them.

What type of trees?  I don’t know, I’m a photographer not a arborist!  I’m not a detective either, but I did pick up on the clue of the pistachios shells all over the ground, so I’m guessing that might solve the case.  Anyways, we were very proud of them for thinking outside the box and having the vision for something that most people would look at and think “ew that’s ugly, why would anyone ever do pictures there”?

And to answer that question, we do pictures there because of something called “juxtoposition”.  That means we put beautiful people in front of ugly trees and the contrast makes the beauty stand out even more!

That’s your vocab word and photography lesson for the day all tied into one!  So anyways, thank you Shano’s for understanding creative perspective and for braving the dead branches cutting your feet and the chance of hidden bugs in the dead leaves.  Your eye for beauty plus your adventure seeking spirits got you the type of pictures that very few people in AZ have (and that very few photographers in Phoenix get to shoot)!:-)

See, by now everyone reading this wishes they were in the Shano family too!

So Shano’s, if you can’t tell… we had SOOO much fun shooting your session!  We love hanging out with your family and we’re so glad we had the opportunity to catch these memories for you.  We always consider ourselves lucky when whenever we get the chance to witness a family who has fun together.  It’s such a great example to us for when we have a family one day.  Thanks for being so transparent and for sharing your fun with us.:-)

Click to see the rest of the Shano’s Fun Family Photo Session in AZ!

Oh and here’s my own personal little P.S. to readers… I’m SOOO doing my hair this color after seeing this pic!

I’ll be happy if mine looks even half as good as hers does.  Thanks for the inspiration, ha ha!!

Wes and Moriah returning to Radiant… with a tiny new addition!

Do you know Moriah?

If you’ve lived in AZ for very long, the answer is probably “yes”.  It seems like Moriah knows everyone!  In fact, every time we show her wedding album at a bridal show, every other girl that stops by points to her photos and says “hey, I know her!”

And to Moriah’s credit, out of all the tons of people we’ve met who know her, none have had a single bad thing to say about her!  And how could they?!  I mean she’s MORIAH… and since knowing her, that name now represents one of the most caring, friendly, loving, social, wonderful girls I’ve ever met (I’m not even exaggerating).

(doesn’t she just look like a nice person?!)

Needless to say, we feel beyond blessed that we had a chance to shoot her wedding two and a half years ago and to continue developing a relationship with this girl who treats everyone like they are the most valuable person in the world.  Who doesn’t want to be friends with someone like that right?!

It would be impossible to talk about Moriah, without mentioning her husband Wes, who treats her like the true princess she is!  Okay, I’ve reached a level of cheesiness that I’m highly uncomfortable with… I just couldn’t help it because I could gush all day about these amazing, beautiful people.

(Scottie took these awesome pics of him while I was getting shots of her.  You can’t help but notice the way he’s looking at her…  I think he loves her!)

(Once you see them you may think that when I refer to them as “beautiful people” I’m talking about them on the outside, but of course I’m referring to all the beauty that’s hiding behind those breathtaking eyes they both have)!

We’ve mentioned before that one of the best parts of our job are the people we meet along the way.  We not only gain some great friends through the time we spend with them preparing for their wedding, but we also get to follow them through all the major celebrations in their lives.

Going through the entire wedding process can be a pretty bonding experience, so then to get a chance to see these same people as they begin preparing to be parents for the first time is an opportunity that we feel very honored to have.

All that to say, we were VERY excited when Moriah called us and asked us to do her maternity photos!  You would’ve thought we couldn’t have been any more excited… and then we heard about the kind of session she wanted to have and… well she just made our week!

Her goal was to be different than most maternity sessions she sees and also different from the style of photo sessions her and Wes usually have.  They have a lot of green grass, sunny, happy pictures (aka the Christmas pictures we did for them this past year) and she thought it was appropriate since she is having a boy to go a little more rustic this time.

Her vision for the session consisted of her wearing a white dress, standing among yellow/dead looking fields and also posing in front of a few rustic looking places. Translation: A freaking cool session that fits PERFECTLY with what we like to do! :-)  Good job being ridiculously creative, Moriah!

There are a lot of open in fields around Phoenix, but the trick was to find tall, yellow grass.  It just wasn’t really happening.  Luckily, Wes and Moriah found this cool little fake Old West looking town.  We were a little skeptical when we first heard about it, but we should’ve known to trust their opinion… because it ended up being perfect.

We even got a few tall, yellow grass shots there (thanks to the teeny tiny patches that we were able to make look bigger than they actual were)!

Here are some more of our favorites from Wes and Moriah’s session

So as always, Wes and Moriah, we had a blast with you guys and we feel so honored that you’ve allowed us into your lives and had us there to share in all the biggest moments of your lives.  We’re thankful you’ve decided to “keep us around”. :-)  Congrats on the pregnancy, we’re VERY excited for you guys and we can’t wait to meet little Camden when he gets here!

Click to see the rest of the photos from Wes & Moriah’s Scottsdale Maternity photo session

The Cottrells are our dream team.

We’ve recently been dreaming up a certain type of family session… and then someone called us up and asked us to shoot it!  I spent some time talking to Nicole about her vision for the session and the more we talked the more I realized that working with people like this is why I LOVE my job!  I gave her ideas about the kind of session I’ve been wanting to do and she totally ran with it and filled in all the little details to complete my dream!

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I can’t even describe how amazing it is when our clients’ family and friends can look at the photos we took and say “wow, that is SO them” and then at the same time, having OUR family and friends be able to say that as well because our artistic style is enhanced so much by our client’s personal style!  It’s fusion… total fusion.  I could tell from before the date was even set for the shoot that this was one for the record books for us.

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When the big day finally came and we showed up at their house, I turned into a rambling fool every time they pulled out a new tiny sized accessory or trendy prop because I absolutely could not shut up about how perfect every single little detail was!  Everything from the decor of their home (where we started the shoot), to their outfits (thank you H&M), to their photo ideas… it all fit together in a way that made whatever part it is of my heart that beats for beauty, want to explode. (while I hate the term “drama queen”, I can’t help but wonder how many people are silently applying that title to me right about now). So um… I was excited.

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Every Saturday morning, the kids come and climb into bed with Jon and Nicole and they all snuggle up under the covers and hang out together for awhile.

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So while my “dream family session” involved the family playing together in bed like this, the idea to put it into this session actually came from Nicole!  (See!  It’s fusion, I tell ya!).

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Their daughter, Riley, was… gregarious? hilarious? no, neither of those words quite describe her, it has to be some mix of the two words that ends in “arious”, like “grilarious”.

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cottrell_bc0647(You have to check out the rest of the photos to see more of this “grilariousness”… that’s right, I added the “ness” to my new word).

Anyway, she was absolutely amazing.  Bottom line, I hope everyone of you gets a chance to spend sometime playing with a little girl like this at least once in your life.  Any photo we have of her standing still must have been a fluke because I’m pretty sure she spent at least half the day in the air (literally).  Jumping, jumping, bouncing, hopping… she never stopped.

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As she defied gravity, she somehow managed to make up pretend scenarios, tell stories, and ask us important questions about our life.  She’s especially interested in babies right now (and the fact that they actually grow in a belly) so she was quite disappointed that I not only didn’t have my own baby, but that my stomach was void of one as well.  You’d be surprised how often little kids lecture me about getting myself a baby.  A 4 year old boy I used to babysit for thought it was absolutely hilarious that he caught me in my blunder… as much as I argued with him, he insisted that I forgot to buy a baby and I’d better go do that soon. Just today my friend’s 3 year old was getting on my case as well!

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Little Tolan, was not about to be over shadowed by his big sister though!  It was so awesome to watch how he followed her around and copied her.  If she flung herself onto the couch, he followed suit.  When she left the room, he was right on her tail.  It made me miss when my little brother was following me around like that about 20 years ago.

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Tolan loves playing with accessories whether it’s a hat, sunglasses, whatever, he loves them (perfect fit for his parents!), but he’s not about to let all that junk get in the way of him having fun either!  He’s a rough and tumble boy through and through.  I won’t even tell you how many hours I spent in photoshop just doing the bare minimum work to minimize all the toddler battle wounds on his face!

cottrell_bc0417cottrell_bc0422cottrell_bc0431cottrell_sc0416cottrell_sc0618cottrell_sc0001(this is the only pacifier in the world that I would call an “accessory”)!

I have to mention that little Tolan is already a musical genius!  He plays actual songs on the piano already!  Just when you get ready to brace yourself and cover your ears for the obvious obnoxious sounds that come from a toddler sitting at a piano, you realize he’s actually playing something and it sounds good!

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One of my favorite stages that little kids go through is when they get their own sense of humor.  Tolan was totally there and I could probably laugh for hours on end watching him decide what he deems as funny in this life.  At one point he took off his cute little converse shoe and threw it on the ground and he got this look on his face that said, “oh wow, I am a comedic genius” and then he laughed hysterically.  And judging by the way he made me laugh at that point, he may very well be a comedic genius!

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(Here’s an “I’m-so-hilarious moment”… take a good look at his face, you might see him live at the Improv one day… if he’s not spending all his time at Carnegie Hall by then).

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The entire time we were at their house, Tolan was absolutely enthralled with the 2 chapsticks he was double fisting.  He spent about 20 minutes studying the mechanical structure and working on getting the caps off.  I emailed Nicole after the session to tell her that if she ever needs extra pictures of her son playing with chapstick, I have about 200 of them!  She said she’d keep that in mind for when he brings his first girlfriend over one day!

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Now that you’ve been a first hand witness to how cool these people are, I have to brag and tell you that they’ve decided we’re cool enough to be their friends!

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Scottie and Jon were actually roommates at one time in the house that Jon and Nicole still live in (so all these photos are taken in Scottie’s old house)!  And Jon was the one who sort of welcomed me into his group of friends, which is how I met Scottie!  Jon also had a ton to do with us ending up together since he was often a key player in all the romantic things Scottie planned to woo me with and he was also very good at picking up the slack to make me think only the best of Scottie (by that I mean the wedding gift you gave us when we got back from our honeymoon…you know what I’m talking about!). ;-)  The Jon touch can’t be mistaken, so as much as Scottie may have wanted to claim all those romantic ideas as his, I knew he would NEVER garnish a plate with vegetable shavings!

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I also got to be a witness the first time Jon and Nicole ever met (in the very same house) when the new “hot girl” walked in and turned all the guys’ heads (I don’t know if you knew that, Nicole)!  All that to say, we were friends with Jon and Nicole during some of the most pivotal moments of our lives and they helped us make it through them all.  Jon and Nicole, doing these pictures meant so much more to me than just getting a chance to do my dream shoot.  It was so fun for us to be involved with you and your family again, and it made us remember how much you mean to us and realize what we’ve been missing out on these past couple of years (or however long it’s been since we’ve hung out regularly).  We absolutely LOVE LOVE both of your personalities and your hearts… and now that we’ve gotten to know your children better we realize we love them as well.

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I kind of want to just publicly recognize how much we value you as individuals, as a couple/family, and as our friends.  You are two of the most generous, intelligent, interesting, creative, loving, and well let’s face it… ultra cool people we’ve ever met and you’ve both done so much for us and been such a big part of our lives (I know those sound like generic adverbs, but you represent all of those things better than most people I’d describe with them!). We want to say thank you for the many, many times you’ve been there for us, whether it was having major talks with us about dating drama (we’re SO glad that stage is over!), inspiring us with your knowledge of the arts, or making us laugh REALLY hard right when we needed it.  We love both of you guys and we hope that you love your pictures!

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It was so hard to pick out photos to post here because I love them all!  Make sure you click to see the rest of the Cottrells’ Family Photo Session!

Fun with the Marcus Family

The best part of our job is definitely the amount of time we get to spend with amazing people.  And it is so fun when those people like us so much that they tell their friends about us!  That’s how we got connected with the Marcus family here (thanks Tracy!), and it was really fun to meet friends of a friend and get to spend the day hanging out with them!

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We met up with mom and dad and the three girls at the community park in Anthem, AZ.  Once they got comfortable with the camera, the 3 girls did a great job smiling and posing for us… with little interjections of playing together between poses (which is great because it’s my job to catch those moments in between Scottie taking the posed shots, so I loved it).  Click here to see the full family photo session which showcases a lot more of the silliness of the day.

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The girls did a great job interacting together.  They were skipping, playing ring around the rosie, tickling, and doing gymnastics.  SO fun!  I wish I was a little girl again!

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Can you believe those eyes?!  They’re all so beautiful!  I love sister pictures… such great memories (like I would know, I didn’t even have sisters… but shots like these make me wish I did!).

After awhile of doing a great job following our directions, the girls started to get tired (understandably so) and they were eying the playground longingly.  So of course we jumped at the opportunity to get some shots of them having some REAL fun!  It was a good chance for us to get creative with our environment as well, since the playground isn’t our normal backdrop… though I’m sure it will be when we have kids of our own one day, so I guess in some ways you could call these practice shots. ;-) Click to see some of the playground shots  (and all the rest from this Arizona family portrait session).

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Actually Scottie followed around the two younger girls while I took the older one over to get some more “model” type shots since we could tell she wasn’t really digging the playground.  She totally surprised me with her modeling ability by the way, I didn’t have to really pose her at all, she just changed her positioning on her own every once in awhile and did it perfectly! Her beauty combined with posing abilities made my job more than easy! Click to see some of her portrait photos (and all the rest from this session).

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So we want to say a big thank you to the Marcus family for letting us be the ones to capture your family during this season of your lives.  We consider it a privilege.:-)

Click to see the full session of the Marcus’ family portrait session.