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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Rutkowski Session: What True Love Means

Back in December, I did a photo session with some friends of mine who all happen to be in the same family. Debi is a dear friend and mentor to me, having been the leader of my Bible study group last year. Her daughter, Erika, is another friend of mine, as well as her daughter-in-law, Laura. It's pretty amazing that one family could be filled with so many wonderful women. Even younger daughter, Abby, is extraordinary (just ask my own daughter Brady who ADORES her!).

We shot this session to celebrate this amazing family and to create some images of them loving on each other. Recently, Debi has begun treatment for the cancer that has returned, and since this session, we have learned that her husband, Stan, also has cancer. The family is facing a tremendous road ahead, but they remain strong in their faith and choose to trust in God's purposes for their lives. They never complain, never pity themselves, and never give up hope. The just choose to rejoice in the promises of God and in the blessings He has given to them.

On this chilly day, back in December, I was capturing their smiles and emotions in camera, but was captured myself by the tremendous love that overflows among them all.

These were a few of my favorites.

Thanks Laura, for reminding me to blog about this session! And thanks Debi, for being such an amazing example to me of a TRUE woman of God.

I am praying for you guys all the time, and thanking God for you!

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Contemplating Why

Happy Tuesday. This week I've decided to take Cawfee Tawk in yet another direction. Over the past few weeks and months I have heard way too many stories of lives being altered over illnesses, particularly cancer. This week alone I heard about another friend of mine who seems too young to be facing the difficult road before her due to her cancer diagnosis, as well as a precious little boy named Trey Love who is fighting for his life against neuroblastoma. And then there's my own father who faces the possibility (and probability) that his own cancer has returned.

But it's not just cancer, and it's not just tragedy. It's the whole idea of life. Life is a vapor. It goes so fast. We wait for what seems like forever for our special day, our graduation, our wedding day, our little one's due date, and then we blink and those days are behind us, our kids are growing up, and we are wondering where it all went. One minute we are looking ahead to a road of endless possibilities, the next we are looking back at the precious moments that are now just memories. One minute we're taking our first step down the aisle towards our soulmate, the next we're celebrating decades of marriage and a house full of rambunctious children.

I know there are a few of you out there who read this blog and enjoy seeing these images, but rarely, if ever, pick up a camera yourself. This blog post is for you. Don't wait until you feel comfortable with your camera. Don't wait until you have a good reason to shoot, or a special event. Today is that special event, that special reason. Today is another day with those amazing friends, those precious babies (even if their 16 or 46!), and today is another day with him, with her. What could be more precious than that?

So this post is simply a celebration of all the reasons to get out and shoot. Some moments are huge. Some are wonderfully mundane. But all are precious.

So shoot because they're in love and you're so happy for them.

Shoot because you've never seen anything more precious than the way he cherishes his little girl.

Shoot because they're two of the loves of your life- your father and your son- and they love being together.

Shoot because true love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Shoot because no matter how old he is and how old you are, he's always daddy, and you're always his little girl.

Shoot because it's today and they're here and they're happy, and so you are too.

Shoot because for this fleeting moment, they're not bickering, not crying, just being big bro and little sis.

Shoot because they love their momma and she's all they need, and nothing makes her happier than caring for them.

Shoot because today they walk, arm in arm, into their promising futures, even if just yesterday...

... they were your little boys, just learning to walk together.

This week's homework is simply twofold:
1. Get your camera and shoot. Who cares if you don't get all the settings on your camera, or the lighting isn't perfect. If the moment is, that's all that matters right now.
2. Cherish each other. I'm sure ALL of you can relate to the fact that life is just a vapor and a gift, and we need to savor every second of if.

I'm off to go hug my kids. Sending you hugs as well.
Thanks for reading, and happy shooting

(Spring is here which means sessions are budding along with the flowers. Since my days are now filling up with sessions and editing, I'm probably going to need to scale back on the Cawfee Tawk. Look for Cawfee Tawk Tuesdays every other Tuesday or every third Tuesday. I'll do my best!)

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: Where and When To Shoot

Happy Tuesday everyone and Happy Spring! Do you have Spring Fever yet, because we sure do in our house! And for me, Spring Fever means getting outdoors with my camera and my kids. After a long and dreary winter indoors, there is nothing like getting out into God's beautiful creation to photograph the beauty in nature and of course, in my own children!

Now before we all go grabbing our cameras and kidnapping our own children (which is what it feels like in my house- they really don't like having their pictures taken!) we need to prepare and plan a little bit. And so that's why this week's lesson is about where (and when) to shoot. After all, some of the most obvious and gorgeous locations you THINK are great shooting locations are actually the worst possible choices for photographing people.

For this reason, it is crucial for us to take a step back and consider the LIGHT above the "beauty of the location". For example, this past week I took Brady out for a girls' day out, complete with new clothes, amazingly yummy cookies, and photos. I immediately thought of one of the most beautiful locations in our area- St. Peter's Village. We went down to where the river runs through and tried to shoot on the gorgeous boulders. It was mid-afternoon and the light was harsh. Despite the beauty around us, the photos were less than ideal- as you can see the light was hitting her rather harshly.

Brady was squinting terribly, and complaining that the sun was in her eyes. So rather than get frustrated (which I tend to do rather quickly), we simply walked around until we found a large boulder that would shade her from the harsh light. There was still plenty of great light, but now she was comfortable and free to OPEN HER EYES! These two photos were taken less than 15 yards from each other, but you can see the difference. Lesson? Take the time to scope out some open shade so you can still get great light, but not have your subject's eyes disappear in squints.

Open shade is a great way to get directional light outdoors but not be hit hard by the sun directly overhead. One great place to get open shade is under a tree, but be careful for what's called "dappled light"- when the light comes through the leaves creating spots of light and shadow on your subject's face. This shot of Brady girl was taken almost 3 years ago (WOW, how time flies!), and despite that it's still one of my favorite shots of her, I wish I had found some better shade. I refer to this as my "Dappled Brady" shot. Look at your subject's face while you are shooting- if you see this, move her somewhere else.

Or simply wait until later in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky. I shot this image very close to sunset and even though we were in the woods, surrounded by trees and lots of dappled light, the image turned out great with no spots on his adorable little face. This is an example of WHEN taking priority over WHERE. Try not to shoot when the sun is high in the sky. Shoot early in the morning (and I mean EARLY- like just after sunrise) or later in the evening, just before sunset.

Another great example of a gorgeous location gone wrong. When we think gorgeous summer photos we immediately think THE BEACH! But be careful! The beach is gorgeous but there is rarely open shade there which almost always results in squinty faces, like the ones here. Poor kids, they are so adorable, and yet the shot leaves a lot to be desired as they are squinting and uncomfortable.

Solution for a situation like this? Turn them from the sun and shoot from a different perspective. Sure, we can no longer fully see Krista's beautiful face, but she's comfortable and natural and we get the beautiful beach view and her beautiful image. Always be aware of your subject's face while shooting and keep moving until you find the light.

Another solution is in the WHEN. This shot is at the very same beach, just taken the night before. The two images above were taken at 9am on a June morning, a little late to be shooting on the beach during summer months. But here, we shot at sunset, so even having the kids look up at me produced natural smiles instead of painful squints. Sometimes the solution is in the WHEN, not the WHERE.

And if you must shoot at the beach at 9am (like we did here), then go looking for open shade. Here I shot Hannah at the cabana off the beach. Sure there is no ocean, no sand, no gorgeous sky view. But there's a gorgeous face with gorgeous light and no squinty faces. After all, it's the subject you really want to capture isn't it? Not necessarily the location.

Sometimes you might be at a specific location (like here when I photographed Katie at The Hill School) and have certain expectations as to where to shoot. The location might be known for it's gorgeous pond, or beautiful buildings, or lush gardens, but when you get there, the light in those areas is horrible. Don't get frustrated, but instead just go looking for the light. This shot was taken along a walkway on campus. It does not scream "The Hill School" but it is a gorgeous shot of the Hill senior. The sun was shaded by one of the large buildings off to her left and the brick walkway below her blurred to a gorgeous background when I shot her using a shallow depth of field (remember that lesson in aperature?).

If you take the time to plan your shots, taking note of WHEN you are shooting, and WHERE (and how) the light is falling on your subjects, then you cannot go wrong. Don't be seduced by the beauty of a certain location. Look for the light, not the flowers! Who wants pictures of pretty geraniums next to a washed out, or squinty little toddler? Open shade, low sun, and a constant awareness of your subject's face(s) are three ingredients to better portraits outside.

So get outside with your camera and your family and enjoy your Spring Fever!

Your homework this week is twofold!

1. The obvious- get outside and put this to the test. Look for open shade and directional light and shoot. Send me your images- I LOVE seeing your work!

2. Help! If you are enjoying these Cawfee Tawk lessons, then please leave me a comment on some topics you'd like to see here. I'm beginning to run out of topics myself! I'd love to continue sharing with you, but want to know what you want to hear about! Please leave me some comments so I can be sure that I'm sharing lessons you want to learn.

Thanks and happy shooting!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Watch Me Grow" Portrait Package

Ever look at your kids and think "Who is this? Where did my baby go?" If you're anything like me, you wonder how the days can go by so slowly, and yet the years go by so quickly.

Our children are growing and changing before our very eyes! So let's make sure we capture these beautiful faces before they are changing yet again.

Introducing the "Watch Me Grow" Portrait Package

With the "Watch Me Grow" program, you will receive:
-3 one hour sessions over the course of 18 months.
- 1 5x5 custom hard cover "brag book".
- 1 20x24 gift print of your choice.
- your choice 1 set of 50 customized cards (perfect for birth announcements or first birthday invites) or 1 high resolution digital image.
(choose 1 item per session)

(a $675 value)

Book your session by March 31st, and receive a complimentary 11x14 gift print from one of your sessions!

Don't wait! Sessions are limited.
Visit Jen Lebo Photography for more information, or email today!

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cawfee Tawk Tuesday: What Should I Do With These?

Happy Tuesday! This morning I am going in a different direction. I am normally fixated on all things photographic- how to create the right exposure, how to get the best from your subjects, how to create fun compositions, how to MAKE THE IMAGE! But this week my mother-in-law suggested something that got me thinking outside of my little Nikon box.

Now that we are taking fabulous photos, what should we do with them???
No, no no! The answer is not "leave them in the camera and show them to everyone through the LCD screen" (my father-in-law is notorious for doing just this!).

Here are a few ideas that I came across simply by looking through my own home and the gifts that I have given in the past.

First, we've got your basic wall decor. DUH! Sure, as a photographer, it seems only natural that I'd cover my walls with my own images. But actually, I do this more as a mother than as a photographer. After all, fewer things make me happier than looking at beautiful images of my babies. I'm sure most moms would agree.

And of course, you've got your basic calendar gifts. I have made calendars for my parents and in-laws every year since our kids were born. And I'm sure all grandparents would agree that nothing beats month after month of smiling grandchildren! This calendar is the one I made for my in-laws using IPhoto.

There are tons of great sites out there where you can take your images and create all types of memory books. I'm sure you've all got your own favorites. Most people think of creating their books after family vacations or holidays, but I think everyday life is just as good a reason to document the images!

But yes, holidays and special events are great reasons to create such books. My father-in-law has been the recipient of two such books, each on different birthdays. I love making them for him because I know he cherishes them.

And what about this great idea! My sister-in-law created children's books for each of our kids! She used images from their recent wedding and created books that were age appropriate for each child! Scotty can read his all by himself, Brady LOVES looking at the photos of when she was the flower girl, and Mikey has a baby book with simple words and beautiful images! What a great idea! Thanks Aunt Dani and Uncle Ned!

Greeting cards and announcements are always a great way to use photos. Yes, it's March, and yes Christmas has come and gone, but there are birthdays, birth announcements, and tons of great holidays where we exchange cards. Hey, I've even got a friend who sends Groundhog's Day cards! Think outside that box!

And if you just can't find a reason to get those images off your computer and onto prints, then fine. Just leave them there. But have fun. I have a slide show of my favorite images constantly running on my computer. Photos of my kids never get old. And my kids love seeing themselves on screen. Mikey especially gets such a kick out of it!

Hey I've even put their mugs on my mouse pad! Don't look too closely or you'll notice the pen marks that Brady added. I think she thought that the mouse pad was something she was supposed to color in!
These are just a few of the ideas I had lying around our house. In addition to these, I've used photos for:
  • mini-accordion books of encouragement for friends and family who were ill.
  • funky and edgy rep cards for seniors who wanted an alternative to handing out boring wallets to friends.
  • photo coasters
  • photo coffee mugs (how great an idea for us CAWFEE TAWKERS!)
  • photo ornaments
  • CDs in custom made photo covers
And these are a few of the ideas that I have NOT yet done but would love to have myself (feel free to share these with my husband!):
  • photo jewelry (I'm working on this as a fabulous gift for my next JLP idea- stay tuned!)
  • photo puzzles for my kids (my Brady girl is the puzzle QUEEN and would love to do a puzzle of herself!)
  • photo accessories- anything from handbags, to aprons, to clothing!
Now how about you? What ideas have you got for those images? Brainstorm and try to come up with some ideas for your family and friends, some gifts for others, or some fun treats for yourself! And of course, share with me! I am always up for some new ideas on what to do with my images! Hmm... maybe wallpaper for the house?

Maybe not!
In any event, happy shooting and we'll TAWK next week!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Party Time! Host Your Own Portrait Party with Jen Lebo Photography

Host a Portrait Party!
NO Session Fee! NO On Site Purchase Obligation!
Just Fun, Fresh, and Fantastic Friends and Photography!

What is a Portrait Party?
Portrait Parties are a wonderful new way for you and your friends to have professional portraits taken in an exciting and affordable way. Portrait Parties take place in your home (if you are hosting) or a location of your choosing. You invite 8 to 12 familes to the party and for your hard work as hostess, you enjoy credits toward your portraits (based on the sales of the other families). It's an easy and fun opportunity to have beautiful portraits made of your family in a relaxed and fun environment.

Hosts also receive special gifts of custom made, one-of-a-kind photo jewelry for each party attendee who then hosts her own party. These necklaces are not available for sale and may be the biggest attraction to hosting a party. Everyone will know if you have hosted a Portrait Party with Jen Lebo when they see your gorgeous necklace! (just wait until you tell them that they can't buy a necklace like this anywhere!)

How do Portrait Parties work?
The Portrait Party is organized by the hostess. She provides the location, snacks and drinks, activities, the guest list, and the session schedule. Sessions will be 15 minutes long (perfect for little ones who do not like sitting for photos, or for older ones who like it even less!). Guests enjoy a fun time together and a free professional portrait session. It's a great time for everyone involved and the children will actually look forward to the next portrait party!

A week or two after the party, each family's proofs will go on line for viewing. Guests will place their order with the host. When all the orders are placed, the host and I will then set up a date where the host can then place her own order based on credits from her guests' purchases. Feel free to visit Jen Lebo Photography for more information on products, packages, and prices, or to get an idea of my style and portfolio.

How do I schedule a Portrait Party?
Simple! Just contact me at to book your party date and to receive the forms needed to put your party together. I will help you step by step through the planning process to ensure your party runs smoothly and wonderfully! I can even help put together an invitation which we can send out by email or postal mail. Contact me and let's get started!

What are my responsibilities as a Portrait Party host?
The Portrait Party is organized by the host, so you are the key ingredient to a fabulous and successful experience. Hosts invite guests, coordinate the bringing of snacks and drinks, and organize the session schedule. (we can discuss the schedule as you'll want to book your sessions as close together as possible to ensure the most sessions and thus, the most possible credits towards your own order! I will provide scheduling forms.) Successful hosts also follow up with their guests with reminders on how and when to place orders. The more effort you put in, the more credits you'll come out with for your own portrait order.

After the party, guests will view their session proofs on line. Hosts will collect orders from their guests, meet with me to turn over those orders (and place your own order based on guests' orders), then deliver the orders to guests a few weeks later.

Do I receive free portraits if I host a Portrait Party?
Absolutely! The number-one benefit of hosting your own party (aside from the fun factor) is to build enough credits to pay for your family portraits. It's a great way to buy those larger pieces that you wouldn't normally purchase (like large canvas prints). Sure it's a bit of work, but after hosting your first party, you will find yourself looking forward to the next opportunity to host, and planning what great portrait products you'll be purchasing next time! What a great way to collect precious and gorgeous memories of your family at little cost! And don't forget- for each guest who then hosts her own Portrait Party, you will receive a special gift of photo jewelry! What's not to love about this?

What types of Portrait Party themes could I throw?
Choose from one of the following or create your own. The possibilities are endless!

  • Newborn
  • Families or Couples
  • Seniors
  • Maternity
  • Ballet or Baseball (or any kids' activities)
  • Preschool classes, Playgroups, or Neighborhood Packs
  • Holidays or Seasons

Contact me for more information or to book your Portrait Party today! I can't wait to hear from you!

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Cawfee Tawkers! Taking The Week Off

Happy MONDAY everyone!
I'm just posting a quick note here to let everyone know that there will be no Cawfee Tawk tomorrow. Instead, I will be skipping town with my wonderful husband to enjoy some time with him and him alone. I can't wait!

I will be back next Tuesday, when I'll share some great ideas on what to do with these fabulous photos once you've taken them! We'll "tawk" next week!

Until then, happy shooting!
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Mother's Greatest Joy

A few weeks ago, my son's first grade teacher asked me if I would come into class one day and photograph the children doing their academic thing. I could not have been more excited about this project, since it combined three of my favorite things in the whole world:
1. my children
2. my camera

Our family is blessed to be a part of the Coventry Christian Community. For the last few years we have watched our kids thrive under the care of the teachers there. From Scotty's first year in Pre-K, when Ms. Paula gifted him with a HUGE set of dinosaur books (just because she found them at a yard sale and remembered how Scotty loved dinosaurs) to Brady's Pre-K year with Ms. Shannon (whom the kids love so much they hug her goodbye every single day) to the present with Mrs. Fisher guiding Scotty into the best little reader around- we know that being at CCS is an amazing gift for us.

And it's not just the teachers at Coventry. It's the students, the classmates who love my kids, who laugh with them, and hug them, and hold their hands when they're sad. It's the parents of these kids who have become great friends. And it's the joy that comes from knowing that my children are walking in truth. (3 John 1:4)

So here are a few of my favorite images from my morning with Mrs. Fisher's 1st grade class. Truly, these kids are a wonderful group, due in large part to their wonderful teacher (and teacher's assistant, Mrs. Weeden!). I loved spending the morning with them all.

As a parent, it is the greatest feeling to know my children are in such good hands each day. And so this is my small way of saying thank you to our Coventry Christian School community. I thank God every single day for the blessing of CCS. My kids are Coventry kids and I am so proud of it!

Educating for Life!
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