Monson Photography: Blog en-us (C) Monson Photography (Monson Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:54:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:54:00 GMT Monson Photography: Blog 80 120 Monson Photography FAQ: What is a cake smash session? Oooooh!  Cake Smash Sessions are some of my FAVORITE sessions to photograph.  Currently, I offer them for babies who are turning or have just turned one year old. 

A Cake Smash Session begins with more traditional images of your child.  (You may choose to add in photos with mom and dad and/or siblings as well.)

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And end with the smash.  Baby is stripped down to a diaper cover or other attire and given their very own "smash" cake to enjoy and destroy.  Mom, Dad, and I laugh like crazy as we watch, I photograph, and baby discovers how amazing cake is.  Sometimes, even testing out how it feels on toes:

I absolutely love when a parent asks for a theme in advance and gives me a chance to put together something fun to meet their request.  However, if you don't have a preference for colors or a theme, I will gladly take the wheel and come up with something you'll be thrilled with!

Cake and outfits are typically provided by Monson Photography, although parents must provide the cake (and receive a slight discount) if their child is known to suffer from any food allergies.  You are also welcome to provide the cake smash wardrobe if you prefer to. 

Just a few that I've done include...

Hello Kitty

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Dr. Seuss

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And an orange/blue/white color theme.

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I love the challenge of coming up with custom backdrops and sets, and cake smashes offer a lot of opportunity for creativity.  We can customize your set to match a birthday party theme, nursery colors, or just something fun that you enjoy as parents.

Once the smash is over, I help Mom and Dad swoop in and clean up their frosting-coated baby.  One fun option for this portion is a tub time session, in which we break out the bubbles and continue to photograph as baby is in the tub.

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]]> (Monson Photography) Cake Smash Child Photography FAQ Fri, 27 Jan 2017 16:22:28 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: How many hours coverage do I need to purchase? Vonsprecken_ (381)Vonsprecken_ (381)


Please note, as every wedding is unique, the coverage period samples below are simply meant to be a guideline for estimating the amount of coverage recommended for your needs.  Amount of coverage hours depends on many things, including but not limited to: the particulars of your day you wish to have professionally captured, the complexity and scheduling of the bride’s desired makeup, hair, and gown dressing, logistics (i.e. Where the bride/bridesmaids and groom/groomsmen will be preparing; how far the reception venue and photo locations are from the ceremony venue.), time allotted for photos between the ceremony and reception (recommended – at least 2 hours if no receiving line will take place), size of wedding party and family, and amount of bridal party and family photos being requested (i.e. immediate, average-sized family vs. large and/or extended family; requesting individual photos of bride with each bridesmaid & groom with each groomsmen, or desire for many bridal party images.)


I have carefully thought through these recommendations, based on my experience from participation in  20+ weddings (as the photographer and/or “second shooter”) and am more than happy to sit down or call and discuss with you what would be the best option to assure the activities you wish to have photographed are covered. 


I strongly urge my Clients to consider the possibility of a “First Look” session prior to the ceremony to allow for a more relaxed schedule and a unique capture of the bride and groom seeing one another for the first time on their wedding day.


When considering the time it takes for photography, please remember that a professional does not simply bring the camera to their eye and click the shutter button.  Time must be allowed for proper posing, lighting setup, etc. to ensure the best outcome of your photographs. 


ESTIMATED time to consider allowing for….


Makeup……….1 hour

Bridal hairstyling……….2 hours for bride only; more if one stylist is covering all bridesmaids

Dressing bridal gown/shoes/jewelry……….30 minutes; depending on complexity of gown

Bride/bridesmaid photography……….1 hour

Groom/groomsmen photography……….30 minutes

“First Look” Session with one or both parents………..20 minutes

“First Look” Session pre-ceremony, followed by bride/groom photos…….1 hour, or 1 ½ hours if no photos will be taken of the bride/groom after the ceremony

Ceremony……….varies; typically 20 minutes if no religious ceremony is entailed

Immediate family photos (bride/groom with parents, parents/siblings, grandparents)…….30 minutes; add 30 minutes for extended family or additional time if more family photos are requested

Wedding party group photos……….30 minutes

Travel to 2nd photo location and/or reception venue………varies; map it out!

“Pit Stops” (Celebratory drink, restroom break, time to freshen up before reception entrance)……15-30 minutes

Bridal party reception entrance……….15 minutes

Toasts……….20-30 minutes

Dinner………..up to 1 hour; depends on if food is served immediately

Cake Cutting……….15 minutes

Garter/bouquet removal/toss…………..20 minutes

Dances (First dance, father/daughter, mother/son, bridal party, etc.)……….10 minutes each, to allow for deejay introduction, where applicable

Reception bride/groom photo session…………20-25 minutes (I try to not steal you from your guests for too long)


Sample Coverage Periods


  • 3 hours: Brief (15-20 minute) ceremony coverage, some photos prior to ceremony, few immediate family/wedding party photos after the ceremony, and bride/groom photos at the ceremony venue.


  • 4 hours: Ceremony coverage that may last ~ 30 minutes, some photos prior to ceremony, including staged bridal preparation images, immediate/extended family/wedding party photos after the ceremony, and bride/groom photos at the ceremony venue and possibly one other nearby location.

  • 6 hours: Ceremony coverage that may last ~ 30-40 minutes, some photos prior to ceremony - depending on logistics may include both bride/bridesmaids and groom/groomsmen prior to ceremony, staged bridal preparation images, immediate/extended family/wedding party photos after the ceremony, bride/groom photos at the ceremony venue and one other nearby or ‘on the way’ location, up to 2 hours of reception coverage that typically covers toasts, first dance, cake cutting, garter/bouquet tosses and venue décor if dinner is served shortly after the bridal party entrance and activities are done immediately following the bridal party’s meal


  • 8  hours: Photographer arrives near the end of hair/makeup application for bridal preparation images, photographs of the bride being dressed in her gown, bride/bridesmaid and groom/groomsmen photos prior to ceremony – depending on logistics, staged bridal and possibly groom preparation images ceremony coverage that may also include a religious mass, immediate/extended family/wedding party photos after the ceremony, bride/groom photos at the ceremony venue and one other location, 3 hours or more of reception coverage that typically covers toasts, first dance/parent dances/bridal party dances, cake cutting, garter/bouquet tosses and venue décor, candid photos of guests and the bride/groom mingling with guests after their meal, photos of guests & bridal party dancing, and an additional brief photo session of the bride and groom at the reception venue.  Depending on time frame, possibly outdoor nighttime photography with the bride and groom.


  • 10 or more hours: Photographer arrives near the end of hair/makeup application for bridal preparation images, photographs of the bride being dressed in her gown, bride/bridesmaid and groom/groomsmen photos prior to ceremony – depending on logistics, ceremony coverage that may also include a religious mass, immediate/extended family/wedding party photos after the ceremony, bride/groom photos at the ceremony venue and one other location, 4 hours or more of reception coverage that typically covers toasts, first dance/parent dances/bridal party dances, cake cutting, garter/bouquet tosses and venue décor, candid photos of guests and the bride/groom mingling with guests after their meal, photos of guests & bridal party dancing, and an additional brief photo session of the bride and groom at the reception venue, including the possibility of an outdoor nighttime photography session with the bride and groom.


]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Wedding & Engagement Photography Wedding Photography FAQ Wed, 03 Feb 2016 17:26:05 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: When will my photos be ready? You'll get to see the outcome within about a 10-14 days!  I will post a 'soft edit' gallery online for you to view.  Your photos will look lovely, but they won't be the final product.  (Don't worry; any images you order will be fully edited!)

Once your online gallery is ready, you'll have 2 weeks to choose which photos you would like to order.  You may complete an order form and either scan it or mail it back to me.

Once your order and payment is received, I'll start working on the finishing touches to your photos!  Your order should be in your hands within 3-4 weeks, depending on order details.

]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 18:01:16 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: I want to hire you! Now what? YAY!  I can't wait to meet you!  :)

First though, let's talk business.

Have you...

1. Looked at my gallery and love my work?  Would you like to have a photo session of a similar style?  It's very important that you choose the right photographer to meet your needs!

2. Reviewed session pricing?  Are you able to remit your session fee within the next ten days?  (Links are below!)

Family/Children Session Pricing

Maternity/Newborn Session Pricing

High School Senior Session Pricing

Proposal, Engagement & Wedding Session Pricing


If so, then...

1. Call or email Monson Photography.  Include the type of session you're inquiring for, and days/dates that will or won't work for you.

2. I will get back to you, usually within 48 hours, regarding availability, etc.  Once we have agreed upon a date, then....


1. You will be sent an electronic contract to complete.  This must be completed within a day or two to reserve your date. 

2. Once your contract has been submitted, your session fee is due within 10 days.  You may either mail your session payment or request a PayPal invoice.

3. You will also be sent a session questionnaire that can be completed electronically.  It is important that you complete this, as it gives me a bit of insight into what your expectations are of our session.  This should be done no later than two weeks prior to your session date, if possible.

4. Start looking for wardrobe for your session!  Look HERE for some inspiration!  Try to avoid loud patterns and shirts with graphic designs or big logos on the front, as it distracts from your beautiful face.  Don't forget shoes!

5. Practice your best Tyra Banks "Smize".  (Basically, this is letting your smile reflect in your eyes instead of simply turning up the corners of your mouth.)  You might feel like a goofball for playing in the mirror, but seriously... practice some other looks, too, such as the closed mouth smile, "serious face", and serious face with lips slightly parted. 

6. If you have scheduled a couples session, cuddle a lot!  When you feel natural about cozying up with one another, it shows in your photos.

I'll offer additional tips for you to prepare for your session also.  Once we've had your super fun session where the weather cooperated and you looked amazing....

1. You'll get to see the outcome within about a week!  I will post a 'soft edit' gallery online for you to view.  Your photos will look lovely, but they won't be the final product.  (Don't worry; any images you order will be fully edited!)

2. Once your online gallery is ready, you'll have 2 weeks to choose which photos you would like to order.  You may complete an order form and either scan it or mail it back to me.  I recommend scanning your home for ideas on where and how to display your photos

3. Once your order and payment is received, I'll start working on the finishing touches to your photos!  Your order should be in your hands within 3-4 weeks, depending on order details.

4. You may now enjoy your artwork!  Thank you for your business!





]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 17:58:28 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: Do you offer gift certificates? Of course!!!  I love selling gift certificates, because it is proof of a person caring so much for another person that they are gifting them something that cannot be found in a brick-and-mortar store.  They are ultimately giving them the gift of tangible memories.

Gift certificates that are purchased (not donated, as I do sometimes donate sessions to benefit a good cause) never expire, and I can write them up in a number of ways, such as:

1) For a specific session (i.e. "Newborn" or "Engagement") (I charge my weekday rate for gift options, even if the recipient ends up needing a weekend, so as not to take anything from them out of pocket on top of the gift.)

2) For the session plus a print credit (i.e. One Newborn Session and $100 of products of your choice)

3) For the session plus specific products (i.e. "One Newborn Session and One 16 x 20" gallery wrapped canvas", or "One Engagement Session Plus USB flash drive of 25 images")

4) For any specified dollar amount (Can be used toward either session and/or product purchase)


Further, because I am the 'CEO of Monson Photography' (ha ha!), I am able to be a bit more flexible regarding gift certificate usage.  For example, I have had a certificate purchased for maternity & newborn sessions, but the baby came before we were able to schedule the photos.  Instead of the poor mama not getting her maternity photos AND losing half the gift that was given to her, I simply credited the difference for the maternity session toward her product purchase. 

I realize I may be a little biased, but I truly think a photography gift certificate is both a useful and unique gift to give.  What's more is that you can present it in a way that reflects your style and your affection toward the recipient.  Below are some fun ideas for presenting your Monson Photography gift certificate.

Maternity and/or Newborn Sessions....

With a crown, neck tie, headband, tutu, or other cute baby prop

With a personalized or decorative frame or album

A prop (i.e. stuffed animal; plaque) that matches the nursery


Senior Sessions....

With a cute album

With jewelry to wear during their session

With a gift card to purchase a new outfit for their session


Family Sessions....

With a nice frame or album

Attached to a vintage camera, for antique lovers


Engagement Sessions...

With a personalized sign to use as a prop for their session

In a gift basket full of mints & gum (for those kissing shots, right?!)


The list goes on and on!!!








]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Gift Certificates Tue, 04 Aug 2015 17:25:22 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: I purchased digital images. Now what? First of all, thank you for your purchase!  Secondly, thank you for caring enough about the quality of your portraits to ask about printing methods.

The production of a professional photograph begins, of course, at your session, with a knowledgeable and skilled photographer.  But it doesn't end there.  When I edit my images, I am processing them on a computer that has been calibrated for accurate colors of clothing, backgrounds, and skin.  When you view your images in your gallery on your home PC or mobile phone, they may look slightly different than on my device, as your PC or cell phone have most likely not undergone calibration.  However, when you send them to a decent lab for printing, the prints should end up being an accurate reflection of the true colors.  Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

Professional photographers, including myself, use professional labs with high quality, calibrated photo printers and archival quality papers and inks.  Consumer labs, such Walgreen's, Snapfish, or Wal-Mart, use a much more cost efficient method of producing your photos.  And although this is fine for most snapshots that we take with our personal cameras or cell phones, you certainly wouldn't want the professional photographs you paid for looking anything less than that while hanging on your wall.

Although I haven't personally done a side-by-side print comparison, many other photographers have, and the results are astounding.  Take for example, this comparison done by the incredibly talented Corey Ann Photography out of Ohio.  Do you see the difference?

For these reasons, I like to refer my Clients to a consumer lab I trust for their printing needs.  One that I have used personally for snapshots and vacation photos is Mpix.  Their printing is close to being on par with some pro labs I've used, and they offer endless options for products, including wall art and photo books, at an incredibly reasonable rate.  Further, their customer service is outstanding.

If you looked at Corey Ann's comparison in the link above, you will see that Mpix is one of her comparison labs.  And although in her example, she notes that Mpix prints a tad 'warmer' than some other labs, I can testify that this has never been an issue for me, as I tend to prefer warmer tones in my photos, and the prints have always been just as sharp as from my pro lab.

I would still recommend that you order any item larger than 8x10" through me, where it will be printed by a pro lab, but I would definitely recommend Mpix for anything else.






]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:43:18 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: Can I buy a disk? Short answer, yes.  However, I do not use "disks"; I use custom flash drives or instant downloads from your online gallery.

If you are wishing to purchase just a select few images for Christmas cards, Save-the-Date cards, or birth announcements, I offer the purchase option of up to five single, low-resolution images with a greeting card (ONLY) release.

The other option is to 35 of your images on a flash drive (35 is included; additional images may be purchased).  This includes full-resolution images and a full print release to print to your heart's desire.  Flash drives are offered at a discounted rate once a set order level is met.  See the portrait order form for details.


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]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:04:06 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: Can I share my photos online? One of the best things about photos is sharing them with others, am I right?

You are absolutely allowed to share your images with others.  You may either share your entire gallery by posting your link online or clicking "share" in the upper right corner of your gallery view, or you may share a single image by doing the following:

In your gallery, mouse over the image that you'd like to share (do not click/enlarge it).  When you do this, buttons will appear BELOW the image for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest.  Make the appropriate selection and follow the prompts.

Please note, your online gallery is only available for sharing during the 2-week (or, for weddings, 30-day) posting period.  If you wish to continue to share digital images, they must be purchased with a print/share release.

An important thing to note here is that, since every image I take is copyrighted to Monson Photography, it is ILLEGAL to save or alter images from your online gallery without my knowledge or permission.  This includes "screen shots" of images.

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]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 14:48:43 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: What sort of editing will be performed on my images? In this digital age, 99% of photos you view have some sort of digital darkroom processing done on them.  The degree of processing varies, depending greatly on the photographer and/or editor. 

Monson Photography is dedicated to making Clients look their very best.  During a session, I focus on posing my Clients in ways that flatter their physical appearance.  However, every image still requires a small degree of "tweaking" to make them look perfect.  I am a believer in not over-doing this "tweaking".  What I CAN promise on every image that a client orders is the following:

a. Removal of stray hairs that stick out, catch the light, and draw your eye away from the subject

b. Subtle teeth whitening to brighten the smile

c. Removal of temporary blemishes (small scratches, bruises, acne)

d. Lightening of under eye circles

e. Very subtle skin smoothing and wrinkle reduction, if necessary (Usually for very close-up head shots)

f. Removal of distracting objects that do not add to the image (i.e. other people on the beach)

g. Overall sharpening/contrast boost


Here are some things that are NOT part of my typical editing process:

a. Wrinkles from clothing (If there are just one or two, I remove them, but it is the Client's responsibility to look neat and presentable during their session.)

b. Nail polish (Your hands are attached and will show in some of your images.  Please plan accordingly!)

c. Shoes (Sometimes, Clients carefully plan an outfit but forget all about the shoes.  Just like your hands, your feet are attached to your body and will show in some of your photos.  I have been asked before to crop out feet.  Please note, this severely limits my ability to provide you with quality images, as I am limited on posing.  Don't forget your shoes!)

d. Permanent birthmarks/scars/etc.  (I never remove permanent markings unless a Client requests me to do so.)

e. Background elements that are part of the image (i.e. For public/downtown sessions, I typically do not remove vehicles on the street)

f. "Photoshop diet" - I often hear Clients joke, "You're going to take ten pounds off, right?", but as noted above, instead I will try to use poses that flatter the Client's body.  I truly understand the struggle of being self-conscious about parts of your body.  We ALL have body parts we'd prefer to look differently.  However, I believe a photo of YOU is not really a photo of YOU if we make you look like someone else.  

g. "Photoshop Fountain of Youth" - Like the "Photoshop Diet", only the joke is "ten years younger".  Again, I will edit your images to make you look your very best, while making sure you still look like YOU.  I am extremely careful about editing lines around eyes, as they are part of your expression!

Regarding the above items that are not part of my editing process, some of those things can be accomplished on images - however subtly.  Anything above the standard editing is considered in excess and additional editing fees may apply, as per our session contract.  The one exception to this would be for permanent marks/scars - I would remove small birthmarks or scars at no additional cost to you.  However, large scars requiring extensive editing would incur fees for editing. 

Please note; additional editing is done SOLELY at the Client's request.  I would never, EVER perform additional editing on your photos and send you a bill!



]]> (Monson Photography) About Me FAQ Tue, 04 Aug 2015 14:00:03 GMT
DIY Photography Props: Double-sided burlap/twine/ribbon banner In the past, I've spent countless hours and a small fortune on Etsy.  (The link to this site will open in a new tab, and don't say I didn't warn you when you are still there three hours later!  :) )  There are so many talented crafters in the world and you can find just about anything you want there.  However, buying lots and lots of cute stuff makes you quickly run into three common problems:

1. You're spending your profits!

2. You eventually run out of room.

3. You end up buying lots of stuff that you sometimes don't end up having a chance to use.

I have to say, I have purchased a LOT of things that, had I given myself the chance, I could have made myself for much less.  And I'm also guilty of buying props that I fall in love with, only to never get a chance to use them.  (One way to ensure I only get calls for newborn boys, for instance, is that I run out and buy a bunch of cute headbands for baby girls!) 

When I got a call about scheduling a cake smash session for a little guy named Reid, I started brainstorming right away and decided that I wanted to stick with sort of a rustic/vintage look, but with a little color. 

I had some burlap left over from a previous project, and a ton of twine, too.  Not to mention, I have oodles of ribbon from my scrapbooking days.  I had been admiring ribbon banners on Etsy and decided it couldn't be that hard to make one, so I did!

I don't have photos of the process, but it's easy to explain:


Materials required:

Small amount (~ 1/4 yard?) Burlap (It's super cheap!  I like to double up my burlap because it's so porous that light will go right through.)

Craft twine - twice the length you want the banner to end up, since this is doubled-up, too

A variety of ribbon - each piece only needs to be about 10" long, so scrap bins are a good place to look, too.

Chipboard letters (found in the scrapbooking dept.)

Scrapbooking paper or paint to cover the letters

Small piece of sand paper

Ink pad (dark brown or black; optional)

Hot glue gun (I am NOT a seamstress by any means, so any project I ever post, just assume it won't involve sewing!)



1. Decide how long you want your banner to be.  Mine ended up being about 3' in length.  Remember, if you're using it for a child session, you don't want it to be so huge that it takes attention away from the little guy.

2. Cut your twine long enough so that you can double it up, and that there will be some extra (6-8") on each end.

3. Tie a big knot at each end of your twine, about 6-8" from the ends.  One side will naturally have a loop on it, and I tied another knot at the other end so each would have a loop.

4. Cut cut six same-size rectangles (or triangles, or circles - whatever!) out of burlap.  I frayed my edges a bit because I liked them rough.

5. Paint or cover your chipboard letters as desired.  Choose your own colors, but at least two should be similar so that you can match most of the ribbon to both. I used two color schemes: orange/white/blue for "ONE" and blue/white/red for "TWO".  I was then able to use only blue & white ribbon on the banner, then snip some orange and red separately, store it in a baggie, and add it when I'm ready to use one side or another.  Since I like the distressed look, I also used a direct rub method with an ink pad to age my letters a bit.

6. Find the 'dead center' of your twine and place one burlap shape behind the twine, and the other on top of the twine.  Carefully match up your triangles and use a hot glue gun to glue them together and to the twine. Continue with the other shapes; one on each side of the middle triangle.

7. Hot glue your letters to the burlap shapes.

8. Using various shades (to your liking) of the two similar colors as we spoke of in step 5, begin snipping lengths of about 8-10".  They do not have to all be the same length or perfect in any way. 

9. Begin tying the ribbons to your twine, and continue until the fullness suits your liking.

10. Cut varying shades of ribbon that matches the "alternate" color of each side of your banner (see my example in step 5).  DO NOT tie this ribbon to your banner.  Keep it in a small baggie for future use. 

There you go!  One little banner for two separate shoots.  If you use very neutral colors, you could even keep spare letters/ribbons in varying color schemes and continue to recycle your work.  I'm personally thinking of making another, longer/larger double-sided banner.  One side will be "Lake ♥ MI" and the other "Family ♥", since 60% of my work involves families on the beach.  So get creative!  How can you stretch your space, time, and dollar?  Share your ideas below!

Here is the "TWO" side.  Just for visual purposes, I simply laid the red ribbons on on the banner instead of tying them.


Here is a photo of the "ONE" side.  I did not add the orange ribbons for this shot, so you can see an an example of the simple blue/white scheme.


And here are a few of precious Reid enjoying his cake with the banner in the background:


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Best Wishes!

]]> (Monson Photography) Cake Smash Child Photography DIY Photography Props Photography Props Photography Tips Thu, 21 Aug 2014 19:15:49 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: What if it rains on the date of my session? Since the recent Michigan on-and-off storms have had both myself and my clients scurrying about, trying to decide if we need to reschedule or not, I decided this would be an appropriate addition to my FAQ series. 

I'll let you in on a little secret: I've been in business for five years now, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have actually had to reschedule a session due to the weather.  However, I have had a bazillion days of "iffy" weather that ends up to be fine.  I have spent COUNTLESS days checking every hour on the hour, and what I've learned from this is that the weather can change on a dime. 

So, if you have a session scheduled tonight and it's been dreary all day, or it's sprinkled now and then, don't fret!  This happens a lot.  Most times, what we are left with is a nice, overcast sky, which actually provides beautiful, soft lighting for portraits.  Sometimes it turns out to be very sunny.

The moral of the story is, we won't even considering rescheduling until at least an hour before your session. And if we do have to reschedule, so be it.  We can't change the weather, right? 

For my out-of-town clients (Which I have many of and LOVE!), I always, ALWAYS schedule your session date as well as a rain date.  No matter what, we will have your session during your stay. 

I hope this helps to ease your mind a bit! 

Best Wishes!




]]> (Monson Photography) FAQ Tue, 01 Jul 2014 18:16:49 GMT
Happy Father's Day from Monson Photography! Happy Father's Day to all the Daddies and granddaddies out there!  Here's a little slideshow of some of my little clients and their Dads over the years!  Enjoy!


]]> (Monson Photography) Child Photography Family Photography Sun, 15 Jun 2014 12:43:28 GMT
Ode to beach photos With beach mini sessions coming up at the end of June, I thought I'd post a slideshow of some of the beautiful beach images I've captured over the years. 

If you'd like to have some beautiful beach photos hanging on your wall this year, make sure you sign up for a beach mini session or enter to win a FREE beach mini session!


]]> (Monson Photography) Child Photography Family Photography Giveaways HS Senior Photography Locations Mini Sessions Wedding & Engagement Photography Fri, 30 May 2014 14:39:47 GMT
Win a FREE Mini Beach Session from Monson Photography! Who wants to win a FREE Mini Beach Session?


For a chance to win….

  1. “Like” Monson Photography on Facebook
  2. Comment on the original Facebook post by finishing this statement:  “I want to win a Mini Beach Session from Monson Photography because….”

(Note, these have changed from the original rules, as people were having issues tagging Monson Photography for some reason! Sorry for the confusion!)


All entries must be complete by Midnight EST June 8, 2014. 

One lucky winner will be drawn on June 9, 2014. 

Winner will receive one 20-minute session, 10-15 proofs, (2) 8x10 portraits, (4) 5x7 portraits, and (1) Set of 8 wallets.

Winner must be able present in Ludington, MI for their session on 6/23 or 6/24. (or 6/25 rain date)


“Mini” Beach Session Details


Price: $200, up to 6 individuals


  • One 20-minute session on the shores of Lake Michigan inside the Ludington State Park
  • 10-15 fully edited color/black & white proofs
  • (2) 8x10 portraits, (4) 5x7 portraits, (1) Set of 8 wallets (A $145 Value!)


How to schedule:

  • Dates/Times available:


Monday, June 23rd

Tuesday, June 24th

5:30 P.M.

5:30 P.M.

6:00 P.M.

6:00 P.M.

6:30 P.M.

6:30 P.M.

7:00 P.M.

7:00 P.M.

7:30 P.M.

7:30 P.M.

8:00 P.M.

8:00 P.M.




  • Select your first, second, and third choice of date/time and email Monson Photography at and to request the date.  Please include the number of people in your session and list any ages for children.  We’ll be in touch to confirm your date soon! 


]]> (Monson Photography) Child Photography Family Photography Giveaways Mini Sessions Wedding & Engagement Photography Thu, 29 May 2014 14:08:22 GMT
Monson Photography FAQ: What's your style? Just as people have different tastes in food, decor, and fashion, they also have different tastes in photography.  As I mentioned in an earlier post about choosing a photographer, it's important to be sure you find a photographer that suits your particular style.  That being said, I thought I'd take a moment to spell out what my particular style of shooting is like. 

In the time that I've been a photographer, I've been very tempted to go with the "trends", like adding digital textures in post-processing, doing the cutesy newborn-with-her-head-propped-in-her hands pose, and high fashion posing for senior girls.  I had almost a sense of obligation of to offer the same things as other photographers.  Then one day not too long ago, it dawned on me that I didn't have to offer the exact same things as another photographer.  People have been hiring me for years based on what I already do.  And it's never been a bad thing to stand apart from the crowd a bit.

I've come to the conclusion that, if I had to label my style, I would use the words "timeless" and "classic".  I would probably add "traditional", although the word, in a sense, seems a bit boring to me, and I think I'm far from boring! 

What this all means is that, my goal is to create portraits for people that will stand the test of time.  If a client finally forces Mom to pull their picture off the wall twenty years from now, I hope that it's because they had "what-was-I-thinking" hair or just want an updated photo or something; NOT because the photograph is dated by my posing or post-processing. 

Here is what you CAN expect from me, style-wise:


When it comes to posing families, I try to flatter the shapes of all involved.  I try to get families really close together, touching, to convey a sense of closeness.  Although I have seen the "scattered" look (i.e. Mom & Dad stand off in one direction or in the distance, and the kids are hanging around in various poses) captured nicely, I do not pose families as such.  I lean toward the more traditional (there's that word again!) style of keeping everyone looking close-knit. 

However, once we've gone the more classic route, I like to throw in a few fun action shots like the ones below.  It's still just as important to me to capture these more candid moments, because they tell more of a story about the beautiful family that paused to smile at the camera.  Whereas the posed, traditional portraits are usually what Mom wants to hang on the wall and distribute to family, the fun photos are appreciated as well.  Sometimes the "fun" shots are never ordered, but that's okay; it's all part of the experience that my clients pay for, and I want them to have a good time. 

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I absolutely adore working with two people who are in love, and couples photos, to me, are all about portraying the love those two people share.  I love that, with a photograph, sometimes you capture it so perfectly, that even though a stranger does not know how they met, what they've been through together, or what they love about one another, the stranger can still feel the love projecting from the image. 

The image below is of two people that I know well and love very much - my sister Angela and her might-as-well-call-him-"husband", Vinny.  These two have been through some extremely rough times, such as a life-altering car accident Angie was in years ago and her more recent diagnosis of Lyme Disease.  I love this photo of the two of them, because it represents Angie putting her trust in Vinny, the closeness they share after so many hardships, and Vinny's gaze and body language tell me that he is here for my sister, to protect her.  All that out of one photo.

[Photo not available]

Now, look at that image again, and tell me, would the same message be conveyed if they were side-by-side, holding hands?  Probably not.  Which is why I like to let couples sort of "fall into" one another.  My goal is to portray their love for one another and the bond they share, not throw in a bunch of crazy props or try some odd posing just do do something "different". 

As far as weddings go, well, you would be hard-pressed to photograph a more emotional day!  When I work a wedding, even though I barely know the couple and don't know the families at all, I completely immerse myself in their day.  Weddings are not just another 'gig' to me.  I am one of the die-hards, if you will, who still allows myself to believe that marriage is forever.  It helps that I'm in a very happy and loving marriage myself.  I'm a sentimental fool who tears up multiple times at a stranger's wedding, just because I am so excited for them.

Wedding photography is not the world's easiest job, simply because there are no do-overs and you just want to please the bride and groom and their families so much.  But when I have been given the honor of photographing such a huge event, I try to capture not only all the important details, but ANY moment I spot that helps tell the story of their day.  I remember being a bride at my own wedding and I know I missed SO many cute little things because it's a busy job to be the bride, too.  So, when I shoot weddings, I really try to watch for those hidden gems, too, so that the bride & groom can enjoy them later.

Such as, this pair of darling flower girls, who just looked so cute bowing their heads in prayer, framed by lush greens from the ceremony.

Or this groom enjoying an impromptu ride from a long-time friend.

I also like to learn as much about a couple as I can in the short time frame that I have, and incorporate that into their photos if possible.  For instance, the couple below I knew to be very strong in their faith, as well as their love for one another.  This shot was taken in a somewhat plain entrance to the church, but what makes the image strong to me is the word "SANCTUARY" behind them.  This could represent their religion, but I like to think of it as an interpretation of their love:  They are one another's sanctuary. 

[Photo not available]

The sweet couple below is very young, but sure of their commitment to each other.  They are high school sweethearts, and I wanted to convey their youth and playfulness with each other.  When I think of them, fifty years from now, looking at the image below from their engagement session, it makes me smile.

[Photo not available]

So I guess, to summarize, I try to capture the emotion between couples... not just stick them in cute or silly poses I've seen on Pinterest.  :)


Newborns are one of my favorite subjects to photograph.  Although they are usually my longest sessions, the time flies because I enjoy them so much.  You can read about how I manage newborns here, so I'll cut right to the chase with regard to how I photograph them. 

I always take the standard newborn shots - full body, 3/4 length, head shots, with Mom and Dad, with parents separately, and little hands and feet.  These are usually done with just a diaper cover on, or maybe a few bare-bottom shots.  Once I've got plenty of the traditional shots, I like to try to vary the baby's look by adding hats or headbands, tutus or neckties. 

My favorite part of newborn shoots, though, is getting creative with my many vintage props.  There is something I love about mixing a brand-spankin' new human with a bunch of old stuff.  I also like to set up little themed sets, or even use the existing items in a client's house!  Of course, if I know a little about a client beforehand, I try to match some of my props to their interests, like I did with the little guy below, who's mama is a bit of a cowgirl.

[Photo not available]

One thing, as I've mentioned, that I don't do with newborns is the super-trendy "head-in-the-hands" shots, which are actually composites (blending of more than one photo).  I was on the fence with offering this one, but frankly, I have seen way too many of those shots (yes, on Pinterest!) and they're all looking sort of... the same to me.  Also, I feel that if you don't execute the posing just right, the end result can look very uncomfortable for the baby, and an uncomfortable baby is a hard thing for me to look at. 

This, of course, is just my personal preference.  Some folks might look at my work and decide they don't care for the themed sets I create.  It's all good!  It goes back to knowing what YOU want as a client and finding the photographer who can make it happen for you.


It absolutely CRACKS ME UP when photographers talk about "poses for kids".  Because honestly, there ARE NONE.  Yes, you can try to put a chair down and see if the little guy will climb into it, but I highly advise against trying to force anything.  Children are such spontaneous beings by nature, and because of their ability to be brutally honest, they also will tell you, the photographer, what they will and won't do.  They are not afraid to throw a stage 5 tantrum in your presence, or knock their sister off of a stool.  They're not "bad" kids; they're just kids.  They don't do like we adults do, trying to appease everyone.  They're just HONEST.

So when it comes time for me to photograph small children (or even older kids!), I like to have a few bajillion ideas in mind for how to get what me and Mom are after, because usually about ten of those bajillion ideas will actually work out.   What works best for me is to first make friends, then try to use that to my advantage (That sounds so manipulative!  Ouch!) to gently direct my little client to an area where I need him or her to be.  Sometimes a simple chair will be enough to entertain them for a moment,

A_Brown_ (17)A_Brown_ (17)

but other times, I have to break out the "big guns", like one of my Radio Flyers

or a toy that won't look to obtrusive in the image.

Or sometimes, I just let them bang on something and be happy while I take head shots.  :)

My point is, with kids, I don't try to force anything.  I let them be kids and try to move fast!



If I had to pick just one area to photograph, it would hands-down be high school seniors.  I love that I get to focus on just one person during the session, and usually that person is not trying to throw sand at me or hide from me by running down the beach.

With seniors, again, I try to stick with very timeless posing.  I have never once asked a teen girl to squat down and jut a leg off to the side, as it just doesn't look natural to me.  Some girls can pull off the "hands over the head" look quite nicely, but not everyone can.  It's so important to appreciate the differences from body to body and figure out which poses suit whom. 

I think most girls have flipped through a bazillion (that's a little more than a bajillion for those paying attention) magazines or catalogs, and while they still want to look like themselves, they want to look just as cool as the chicks in the magazines.  They are not yet off on their own, but they don't want to look like a little girl anymore.  On the flip side, Mom and Dad look at their beautiful daughter and want her to look exactly like the little girl they see her as.

My job is to meet them in the middle.  I try to capture that super model feel that the senior is after, while maintaining a sense of timeless beauty and keeping it relatively conservative for the parents. 

With the guys, I have three main goals:

1. Make them look masculine.

I try to avoid any posing that could be construed as feminine on the wrong guy.  I always try to keep in mind that his high school buddies will see these photos and will tease him relentlessly if I make him look "girly". Often, I try to shoot in a way that keeps them looking "manly", i.e. a lower perspective to give them an on-top-of-the-world look.  Guy poses are somewhat limited, but shooting from different angles helps vary things. 

2. Keep things light & keep moving so they can try to have a little fun.

I don't want to stereotype, but the majority of senior guys that I've photographed basically show up under obligation, either because all their friends are getting pictures, or their Mom is not letting them off the hook.  I kind of take pride in the fact that many of my senior guys show up looking rather disgruntled, yet leave with a smile on their face and seem to have had a good time.  I have a screwy sense of humor and this helps, too, though I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that deep down, I may have the brain of a teenage boy. :)

3. Attempt to capture some REAL smiles; a.k.a. the "Mom Smile".

If anyone knows your fake smile, it's Mom.  And while those disgruntled guys (see # 2) plaster on a "smile", most times, their mothers call them out on it.  Guys, they want just one photo with your REAL smile.  So, do yourself a favor and look up some funny videos online before your shoot, and keep those clips in your mind for when you need to put on your "Mom Smile". 


When it comes to editing, I have a light hand.  Though I've experimented with different looks over the years and do like the way some Photoshop actions look, I have come to the conclusion that I want to stick with the basics.  To me, that is color & black and white.  No funky textures, no text on the image, no play on colors.  The stuff that never goes out of style.  Now, occasionally a photo calls for something a little different, and I'll play with it, but I always keep the original as well.

I don't slim people down, and I don't selectively process people's eyes, either, because it's easy to over-do.  Basically, I want people to look like they looked when I took the photograph, but enhanced just a tad (i.e. slightly whiter smile, etc).  I want my clients to look like themselves at their best.

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The props I use (i.e. trunks, chairs, baskets, stools, etc.) are either vintage or look vintage.  I really don't think I own one thing that doesn't have a bit of peeling paint or a rust spot or two.  I love two types of things: things that are old, and things that look old.  Occasionally, I'll throw in something newer for a pop of color, but all of the items I use are very "classic".

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I do hope that perspective clients will take this into consideration when choosing the right photographer for them.

Best Wishes!


]]> (Monson Photography) Child Photography FAQ Family Photography HS Senior Photography Photography Tips Wedding & Engagement Photography Wed, 28 May 2014 12:34:11 GMT
Choosing a photographer who meets your needs Photography is a form of art.  And though many technical aspects are the same across the board, photographs are very a subjective art form.  Some people prefer traditional posing, lighting, and processing, while others prefer an edgier, high-fashion look, with heavy post-processing.  Either way, when those people show up for a scheduled portrait session, 99.9% of them have an idea in their mind of how they want the end result to look. 

The first step in achieving the photos you want begins with YOU, the Client.  After all, you are the one who will choose which photographer to spend your hard-earned money on.  When you contact a perspective photographer, he or she is going to assume you're calling because you have looked through their galleries and like what you've seen.  Henceforth, you also want photographs like the ones you've seen.  After all, you wouldn't go to a vegan restaurant and expect to see BBQ ribs on the menu, or buy tickets for a rock concert, expecting to hear country music, right?

As much as I want every person who looks at my gallery to fall in love with my work and hire me on the spot, I'll be honest: If they have expectations completely different from what I offer, I would prefer they choose another photographer.  That's right!  You heard it here - I would WANT them to choose someone else.  Why?  Because I would never want to disappoint anyone, and I want everyone out there - whether they choose Monson Photography or not - to end up thrilled with the photos they pay for. 

Here are a few tips for you that will help you select the photographer who can help you achieve those photos you're dreaming of:

1. Know what look you want.

If you have joined Pinterest, this is a great place to start!  Create a "mood board" and pin photos that appeal to you.  HOWEVER, instead of pinning the images with comments from random strangers, customize the comments.  If you like the the processing of the image, comment, "processing".  If you like the pose, say so.  If you like the way a particular part of the image is lit, comment "lighting".  This is also a great place to pin wardrobe inspiration for your shoot.  After you've pinned a couple dozen images, the vision you're after will begin to emerge.

Here are some various ideas that you are free to pin!  Images in my galleries are also pin-able.  I will try not to go overboard, but here are a some images that might get you started on your way to finding what sort of setting you're after.





Beach - shots on the water

Beach - shots in the sand/grass/etc

Fall colors:

2. Look through the galleries of photographers in your area.

If you have already decided that you want your session to have a "lifestyle" look, which is a more candid, unposed look (i.e. images of Mom, Dad & children playing on a blanket in a field, possibly not looking at the camera), do you see anything like that in the photographer's gallery?  If not, perhaps they're not the right fit for you. 

3. Ask around to see which photographers your friends and family recommend.

Talk to your friends and family.  Who have they used, and what was their experience?  Was the photographer friendly and have good skills and communication?  Was the session fun?  Did they get what they expected to?  Did any problems occur?  Would they recommend this photographer?

Take the above with a grain of salt, though.  Maybe you like the style of a photographer that none of your friends or family have used yet.  This happens with me quite a bit, actually, because Ludington is a fairly small town and I did not grow up here.  A lot of people might recommend Jane Doe Photography because they've been friends/neighbors/co-workers for years and Jane is super nice, but that might not make her the best fit for you. 

4. Look into pricing.

Before you contact any photographer, check out their pricing online.  Most will, at the very least, list the price of their session fee.  If you love Jane Doe's work but know she is WAY out of your price range, unfortunately, not much can be done about that, aside from waiting a little longer and saving up the money for your shoot.  It doesn't hurt to be wary of the overly affordable photographer, either.  As the saying goes, sometimes you get what you pay for.  (But that goes back to reviewing the quality of a person's work before you hire them, too.)

Many people get a bit of sticker shock when they find out the cost of a professional photographer, and it is beyond them how a person could charge so much to 'click a button'.  What they may not realize is that a true professional photographer has invested not only hundreds of hours in learning, but thousands of dollars in equipment.  They will have professional grade gear and backups of all said gear in case of equipment failure.  They will pay sales tax, claim this income on their taxes, and continue to invest in their business.  They have many expenses beyond the button they click, so please bear that in mind.

If you are extremely interested in a particular photographer, it doesn't hurt to ask to see their portrait pricing as well.  I know many photographers who would disagree with me on this, but my portrait pricing is posted on my website for the world to see.  I honestly do not want any client of mine to be surprised when it comes time to place their order, and I want them to be able to budget for their photos ahead of time. 

5. Start looking & calling EARLY.

I have had a lot of folks call me up in mid-July to say they're going to be vacationing in Ludington next week, and could I take their family photos?  As much as I hate to disappoint people and turn down business, more often than not, I am unfortunately unable to accommodate these requests. 

Most photographers have a busy (or busier!) season.  For me, it's the end of June - end of October, and I accept clients on a first come, first served basis.  I currently also have a full-time "day job" (as many photographers do), a husband and children, and also want to enjoy a bit of the (too short!) summer myself.   I not only schedule sessions, but oftentimes "rain dates" for out-of-town clients, as well as leaving myself time to edit and post those images on time, as promised to my clients.  So, as you can imagine, my available dates fill up rather quickly. 

If you have a specific date or venue in mind, your best bet is to start calling early.  If you know you want beach photos, don't wait to call until the photographer is booking into November.  If you have your heart set on photos with fall leaves, it is a very short window of opportunity here in Michigan. 

Another upside to early scheduling is that your photographer has more time to prepare for your session!  He or she will be able to assist you in finding the right wardrobe, and maybe even customize some props for you.

If at all possible, when you call, have an idea in your mind of certain dates/times that will or won't work for you.  If you know that it must be on a weekday evening or a Saturday morning, this is good information to have on hand.

6. Know what you are getting and what will be expected of you.

Are any prints or digital images included in your purchase price?  Does the photographer offer wardrobe consultation?  How much are "extras" - extra time, extra location, additional people, extensive retouching, etc. - as it may apply to your requests. How long after your session until your images are ready to view?  Do you have to order within a certain time frame after your proofs are ready?  What is a good estimate of proofs to expect?  (Of course, there are a 1,000 more questions related to wedding photography, but that's another post altogether!)

Any professional photographer should have a portrait session contract that addresses expectations and legality between the client and photographer.  Again, I know there are pros out there who would disagree with me on this, but I would have absolutely no problem sharing my contract (it's linked above, by they way!) with a potential client.  Why?  Because I want them to know exactly what we both agreeing to.  And perhaps it will open the door to other questions they might have. 

7. Be clear in your communication with your photographer.

If you are price shopping or calling to check availability, it doesn't hurt to let the photographer know that as well. 

Sometimes after speaking with potential clients on the phone and promising to email them additional details, I am not sure if they are scheduling, or if they are simply shopping.  Was this a booking, or an inquiry?  This may sound silly, but trust me, it is not uncommon, when potential clients call and ask a few questions.

I do realize that I could ask, yes, but I honestly hate to be that "pushy lady"!  If someone is just checking to see if I have available dates and what my session fees are, I don't want to back them into a corner and make them feel as though they're on the schedule and need to mail a check. 

So, if you would be so kind, when you call, be clear on your intent.  If you are still in the data-gathering process, let them know!  If they don't treat you with priority like they would any potential client, it's best to take your money elsewhere anyway. 

On the flip side, if you have already done all your homework and know you MUST have this photographer, tell them!  Let them know you've already reviewed their gallery and pricing and simply want to schedule.  If you have already made your decision, skip the "sales pitch"! 

Another important note here is, if you have a specific vision in mind, share it with your photographer.  Let them know what you like or dislike.  If you made a Pinterest board, let them look at it.  Or, if you are open to suggestions on location, wardrobe, etc and are just looking for beautiful portraits, say so!  I absolutely LOVE when clients let me help stylize a session for them.

Once you schedule with a photographer, another good piece of information to give them is if you are wanting a specific product.  For instance, if you know you want a very large family portrait to hang above the couch and you know you want it to be landscape (horizontal) orientation, this is quite helpful in getting what you want.

8. Speak with the photographer either in person or on the phone.

Although many of my clients schedule and communicate with me strictly via email, I would really recommend that they at least call and chat with me (or any photographer) for a moment or two just to hear my voice and see if we 'click' (no pun intended).  Of course, the ideal way to find this would would be to meet the would-be photographer in person.  Unfortunately in this day and age, not many people have the luxury of time on their hands.  I also realize some folks are more comfortable with written communication.

9. Use this handy checklist!

Here's a little checklist I've created to help you in your decision making!  Best of luck in finding a photographer that will create beautiful, timeless images that you'll enjoy the rest of your life! (If you're reading this, I hope it's me! :) )

Checklist for Choosing a Photographer


Best Wishes!






]]> (Monson Photography) Child Photography FAQ HS Senior Photography Other Stuff Wedding & Engagement Photography Mon, 19 May 2014 19:46:57 GMT
Congrats, Class of 2014! Seniors are some of my favorite subjects to photograph, and the ladies 'n gents that I had the honor of meeting in the past year were no exception!  What a fantastic bunch of people they are.  (And, might I add, I have some of THE best looking clients!)

A heartfelt congratulations goes out from me to Blaise, Cale, Mariah, Kelly, Mackenzie, Rebecca, Raven, Kalei, Jordan, & Elizabeth.  Best of luck to you all as you journey through life.  Enjoy the ride!  :)

Best Wishes!




]]> (Monson Photography) HS Senior Photography Sat, 17 May 2014 11:03:01 GMT
Photography Tips: Sunset Silhouettes Due to so many of my clients requesting beach sessions, I have had the privilege of witnessing some of THE most spectacular sunsets over Lake Michigan.  The sky erupts in a glorious splendor of colors, which vary, depending on weather and time of year.  I am especially grateful for these opportunities, because, even though my home is a mere 5-minute drive from the lake, chances are I would be too caught up in my own little world to get out there and experience these breathtaking views.

One of my FAVORITE photos to create is the silhouette. There is just something special to me about creating an image in which the main subject is identified by only a black shape, yet somehow still conveys personality.  There is no better backdrop for these stunning photos than the sun setting on the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Though I have created a few family or husband/wife silhouette images, I particularly like to photograph high school seniors in this style.  Most of my seniors have a particular hobby or interest, such as sports or music, which have made for some very dynamic silhouette photos:


Clark (42)Clark (42)

Above:  f/10 @ 70 mm, 1/250, ISO 800


Below, FYI, this is called a "horn pop", for all you non-wind instrument folks.  I learned that during this session after a very embarrassing attempt to explain to this talented girl what I wanted her to do. 

Another FYI, I offer making a fool of myself to my clients at absolutely no extra charge.

Above:  f/11 @ 50 mm, 1/1000, ISO 500


Above: f/8 @ 55 mm, 1/1000, ISO 200


But if it's not an option to include an item that represents an interest, we try to do something else that is equally unique.

In the photo below, the girls laughed so hard, trying to perform the "right" jump for our image, while holding hands.  Seeing them have such a great time was just priceless.

Above: f/8 @ 50 mm, 1/640, ISO 640


The image below was from a particularly awesome senior session in which my client had a very specific beach location in mind.  We ended up climbing down the steepest sand dune I've ever set my bare feet upon (don't get me started about the climb back up; I thought I was going to need an ambulance - ha ha!), grabbed some incredible beach photos, and then Hannah announced she was "game" for going in the water.  We had a blast "playing mermaid", and then I looked at her gorgeous, long hair and THIS popped into my head:

Above: f/14 @ 50 mm, 1/2500, ISO 500


It took a few tries to nail the timing of the hair flip as well as adjusting my camera settings to achieve the look we were going for, but I had positioned Hannah so that the sun would reflect nicely on the water and I might end up with a little flare.  Stepping down to f/14 created the starburst-like sun and corresponding reflections, and a high shutter speed of 1/2500 froze the action of the water spray from her hair.  I ended up at ISO 500 in order to leave just enough light on the rest of the scene.  LOVE the way this turned out.

And speaking of the sun, it was the session below that inspired me to put that huge, glowing fireball to good use, positioning Kalei so that the setting sun would flare right through her open arm as she played the violin.

Above: f/14 @ 55 mm, 1/400, ISO 500





1. Silhouette images require backlighting (light behind your model). 

2. Put your model AND the sun both in the frame, using the sun creatively if you wish.

3. Direct your model into an easily distinguishable shape.  Limbs should be placed a little distance from the body.  (Ex. in the dual-jumper photo, imagine what it would have looked like, had the girls stood straight up and just held hands.  You'd be able to discern the outstretched arms, but the bodies would look like two straight poles.)

4. If your silhouette involves action, be sure to communicate to your model the importance of bringing his or her limbs away from the body to create a better form.

5. If you are pre-planning a silhouette shot, direct your model to NOT wear white.  While I'm momentarily at a loss of photographic example (sorry!), I do have an image or two that is an interesting silhouette, save for the white shorts, which stand out from the blackened body of my model. 

6. My not-so-technical method:

* Turn off your flash!  It will defeat the purpose of what you're trying to accomplish.

* Set your aperture to f/8 or above and expose for the sky, since that is what you want to be properly exposed.

* Take a test shot.  Continue to adjust aperture, shutter speed, and ISO until the look you want is achieved:


       - Subject not dark enough?  Step down your aperture. 

       - Generally too much light in the scene... what's your ISO set to?  Shutter speed?

       - Motion Blur.... raise shutter speed.  No flash = no sync speed to worry about, so crank that dial if you need to.

* Take numerous shots and various settings.  Sometimes you don't know until you get home, which you'll prefer.


Seriously... I know there's not a lot of science to this method, but this is what I do!  I can't tell you specific settings for what YOU are trying to achieve.  You have to have a general understanding of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed and give thought to what it is you are trying to achieve.  Take a look at some of my settings (under each photo) and think about which look you like best why those settings might have worked.  Do you want a moody, under-exposed look, like the guitar silhouette?  A higher shutter speed and low ISO accomplishes this.  Do you want a starburst effect from the sun?  f/14 accomplished this for me in both the violin and in-the-water shots. 

Good luck, and happy shooting!


]]> (Monson Photography) HS Senior Photography Photography Tips Tue, 13 May 2014 18:21:07 GMT
Photography Tips: Soothing and Photographing Newborns Throughout my journey in becoming a photographer, I can't tell you how many online articles I've read that have helped me along.  The internet is a wonderful world of knowledge, right at your fingertips!

While admittedly there are still things I'm learning or improving upon, there are few things that I do feel confident in sharing because they work so well for me.  So with that being said, I'm going to introduce a few photography tip-related articles to my blog, as a way of "giving back", if you will.  After all, had none of the super-talented photographers out there not shared a few tips with me, I wouldn't be doing what I do today.

I absolutely ADORE new babies, with their tiny bodies and wise look upon their faces. It is a personal belief of mine that newborn babies are the closest thing you'll experience to Heaven while you're here on this Earth (Okay, newborns AND Lindt Lindor White Chocolate Truffles - YUM!).  Though I don't do as many newborn sessions as I'd like to, it is a goal of mine to focus more time pulling newborns into my business. 

I remember my first newborn sessions, when I was chuck full of raw nerves and energy.  The baby would cry and I would be a nervous wreck, trying to soothe them.  (Thank God I had some very patient clients in that first year or two!) I'm not sure at what point this changed, but I now feel completely at ease working with fresh guys 'n gals, and what a difference this has made!  The last few sessions I've done have gone so well, I was mentally fist-bumping myself and thinking I was the new Baby Whisperer in town! 

Don't get me wrong, though - newborns can be T-O-U-G-H, and they are all different, so what works for some might not work for others.  You can't just decide that "these five things" are going to work with every little one and find yourself incredibly stumped when they don't.  When it comes to children of ANY age, you must always have a sackful of different ideas and stay on your toes.

Below are some of my tips for photographing, in no particular order.  If you are a photographer reading this article, you very well may have already seen some of these, but hopefully I'll be able to add a few new things to your stockpile of tricks! 

(These are a combination of things I've discovered, or things I've learned from other photographers.  I wish I could remember which person I picked up which tip from so I could give credit where it is due, but unfortunately I don't!)


This goes without saying really, but with so many photographers out there trying to raise the bar in creativity, a reminder doesn't hurt. 

NEVER leave the baby alone on a prop, even one that you think they won't roll off of.  ALWAYS have a parent or your assistant seated directly next to the baby and ask them to not take their eyes off of him or her.  As long as the session is rolling, that baby needs a bodyguard. 

If there is ANY chance of a prop tipping while baby is in it, be proactive and place a small hand weight in the bottom to prevent this from happening.

NEVER force a baby into a prop.  Babies come in all sizes, and just because you fit the last newborn into that cute little suitcase, doesn't mean this guy is going to fit.  The baby won't appreciate it, and the mother will certainly not want to see you squeezing her sweet child into a too-small bucket.

ALWAYS inspect your props before using them with any child.  I like to use a lot of vintage props in my work, and sometimes my crates and such can have rough edges.  I always make sure to over ANYTHING that could scratch or otherwise harm the baby with many super-soft blankets. 

If you're using a heating pad and/or heater (You should be, and we'll talk about that in a minute!), be sure to periodically check the baby's skin to ensure he's not becoming too hot.

Also, if you don't already know, all of those adorable photos with the baby striking a pose, tiny hands on their chin, holding their perfect head upright?  They are done via composites.   I personally do not use this method, but if you do a search for "newborn composite", one of the many talented folks on the web will walk you through them, step-by-step.  The gist is, these images actually two or three photos that have been combined in a digital editing program, and in each one, an adult is holding the baby's arms, head, etc. in place. 

2. Confidence is key.

Remember what I said earlier about being a nervous wreck during my first few newborn sessions?  Well, guess what?  Children of ANY age can sense it.  This is why your toddler may decide to throw a hissy fit in the middle of Rite Aid when you're already at your wit's end - they soak up your tension like little telepathic sponges.  Also, if you're nervous enough, the parents may sense it, too.  And frankly, their confidence in you is going to take a nose dive.  New moms and dads most certainly do not want anyone handling their most treasured family member who doesn't know what they're doing. 

Have you heard the saying, "Fake it 'til you make it?"  Well, if you are a new photographer, you will find that you'll need to work on your calm voice and "not freaking out" face, as it will serve you well in this industry.  Even if you are falling apart inside because your strobe suddenly stopped firing mid-session and the baby has peed on three of the four sets you wanted to use, Dad looks irritated and the baby is getting cranky, you've got to keep it together.  Try to take some slow, deep breaths with your eyes closed and back to your clients and tell yourself it will be okay.  Remember to just do your best, and try to do it with a smile on your face.  Keep up the 'small talk' with Mom and Dad.  Ask them questions about Junior; they can't help but smile when they talk about their new little one.

3. Wash your hands!

Newborns obviously have not been exposed to much in the world, and now is not the time to start testing their susceptible immune systems.  Also keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby and use it several times during the session, in plain view of Mom and Dad.  This is a simple, wordless way of showing your clients that you care about their family.

4. Bring on the heat.

DISCLAIMER:  I have had many new parents comment on how much their baby likes the heating pad, etc.  Please know that I IN NO WAY encourage the unsupervised use of any of these products with a newborn.  These tips are meant for the sole purpose of the photography session.  (In other words, please do not put a heating pad under your baby's crib sheet just so you can get a good night's sleep.  I know you're desperate, but this is not safe! Sorry! Please try the soothing tips outlined in #7 instead.)

Babies are used to a cozy 98.6 degrees and no drafts.  The best way to keep them happy is to mimic the womb, and you can warm things upin these four ways:

         1) Turn up the heat in your home/studio or if shooting on location, make sure the client turns up their heat a few degrees.

         2) Get yourself a small space heater that does not get hot to the touch.  Keep this just outside the frame, blowing warm air on the baby. 

         3) Use a heating pad on its lowest setting (SAFETY FIRST!  Remember?) under the blanket the baby will lay on.  Depending on the    thickness of the blanket, you may want to add a towel or something as an additional barrier.  Again, remember to place your hand on the baby's skin every so often to ensure his or her safety.

         4) Here's a tip that you don't see "everywhere" just yet: Keep a blow dryer handy during the session.  Before you move the baby onto a prop/set, put the dryer on low and use it to warm the area where you're going to move the baby.  As an added bonus, babies like"white noise", so don't be afraid that it will wake them if they're resting peacefully.

5. Set expectations with the parents.

This is a good tip for ANY portrait session, but especially true for newborn sessions.  Make sure to let them know well before the date of their session that you will all need to be very patient and you could end up spending a few hours together.  I usually tell my clients to plan for 3 hours to accommodate diaper changes, getting the baby to settle/sleep, and feedings.  Although I do like having clients visit my studio, I actually prefer to bring the studio to them for newborn sessions, so Mom and Dad are able to relax in the comfort of their own home while I capture these precious moments. 

The baby should be well fed before the start of their session.  I usually tell my clients who are coming to the studio to feed the baby just before leaving the house, or if I am coming to their home, to feed just after I arrive, while I'm setting everything up.  Parents should be sure to burp the baby well, also.  (As a side note to this, be sure YOU are fed and remind Mom & Dad to eat before the session.  No one needs to get hangry! )

I also usually have the parents remove all of the baby's clothing except for the diaper so that he or she is ready to go when it's time.  I tend to use diaper covers for newborn sessions, but if I have any bare bottom shots in mind, I also request that they put the diaper on somewhat loosely.  (Not too loosely, mind you!  I've seen firsthand what can come out of the top of a diaper!)

Be sure your clients have looked through a gallery of your images and know what sort of poses/sets to expect, and communicate anything new to them before using them as "guinea pigs".  Remember, they have chosen you because your styles mesh.  If you decide to throw in a curve ball, just let them know what you're up to.


6. Buy yourself a pair of super-soft gloves.

My hands are usually cold, and sometimes they are rough - especially in the Winter.  Heck, even on the best of days, they are no where near as smooth as the bare skin of a baby.  One of the best tricks I've ever learned is to wear a pair of really soft gloves so that I don't startle the baby with my cold, rough hands.  I think I paid $3 for mine at Wal-Mart, so it was a cheap investment.  A word of caution - make sure they don't impede your grip, which may cause a safety concern for your tiny client.

7. Don't rush the settling part.  (And some awesome soothing tips!)

This is one thing that I used to be quite guilty of.  I would put the sleeping baby into position and rush to grab my camera.  3 times out of 5, the time that I'd just spent settling the baby would be a waste because I didn't give him an extra minute or two to really relax.  The best way I've learned for settling is this:

You or whomever is holding the baby puts them into position.  Using your gloved hands (see # 6), place one hand gently on the top of baby's head.  Use your opposite hand to cup the baby's feet and scoot their legs up toward their bottom.  Hold both ends gently but firmly.  The gentle pressure on his top & bottom ends reminds baby of his time nuzzled up in Mom's womb.  At the same time, make shushing sounds.  I actually prefer, instead of "shhhhhh", to do more of a "Shoo-shoo-shoo-shoo" sound.  If you have ever heard a prenatal heartbeat, it's sort of a swooshing sound, and this is what I'm trying to mimic. 

Now, the IMPORTANT part is, once the baby looks comfortable, HOLD THIS POSITION for a few moments (1-2 minutes).  Babies startle easily and are more apt to stay in position if you give them a couple of minutes of this "security". 

More soothing tips....

Okay, this one always makes me look and feel like an idiot, but you do what you have to do.  I have to give credit to my father-in-law Ron, who comes from a large family and learned this technique from his older sisters.  The first time I saw him do this, I thought he'd lost his mind, but I soon learned that this maneuver does indeed work.  Place the baby on your chest, holding them gently yet firmly against your body.  Bounce your upper body up and down, being careful to support the baby's head.  Use one hand to firmly pat the baby's back.  NOT the "fingertip pat", and obviously not hard enough to hurt the little guy, but firmly.  By now you must be wondering why I said I feel like an idiot doing this.  It's because we haven't gotten to the best part, yet - the noise!  You take in a nice deep breath, and as you exhale it, you say, "Uuuh-uuuh-uuuh-uuuh".  It's sort of one, long, drawn-out sound, and between each "uuuh", your voice is up or down.  Hopefully that makes some sense, as this is very difficult to describe in written form.  If not, you are welcome to call me and I'll demonstrate.  However, a YouTube video of me making this sound will never be on the Web.  Ha!

Babies also seem to like to have their bottoms patted gently.

I have read that white noise machines help.  I personally have not invested in one, because I have found that the hum of the heater I use works okay for this.

Swaddling works for some babies.  My style of photography doesn't currently involve a ton of wraps/swaddling, but other photographers have said this works well for them. 

Rock the baby back and forth in your arms while holding a pacifier in place.

Bounce up and down on an exercise ball while holding the baby gently on your arms. 


If the baby is not upset, but simply awake, you can always try to get in a few awake shots in the meantime.  If none of the above works, make sure the baby doesn't need to be fed, burped, or changed.  Sometimes he simply wants to be held by Mom or Dad.  If so, this may be a good time to take a few photos of Mom or Dad holding the baby, or family shots.  If you have a really fussy little one, have already done the Mom, Dad, and family shots, and need more solo images, try having Mom or Dad sit down, cover themselves from shoulder to knees with a blanket, (black is a good choice because it will not be easy to tell there is a body behind your backdrop!) and place the baby on their legs.  They may also try lying down, covering their chest with a blanket, and lying the baby on top of their chest.  (Babies are a lot smarter than we think!  They know when Mom or Dad is not around!)

8. My general newborn session workflow....

(NOTE:  The one exception to the below is if siblings are involved.  Depends on the age of the sibling(s), but 99% of the time, I will get the family and sibling shots out of the way first, then focus on the baby.  The 1% comes in to play if the sibling is cranky, scared, or generally doesn't want to participate just yet.  Then I would let them play and explore and re-visit the sibling/family shots later.)

As long as the baby is in a cooperative mood, I ALWAYS begin the session with the baby on a large, blanket-covered beanbag with a boppy pillow on it (also under the blanket).  I have found that while Moms and Dads do like the cute sets, the majority end up ordering the simple shots.  I usually begin with the baby on his side, supported from behind by the beanbag, wearing a diaper cover and no hats or headbands. Once I get several shots from different angles, then add a couple of different hats/bands.  The beanbag I use is large enough to comfortably and safely hold the baby, but small enough that I can gently turn the beanbag for different angles without picking the baby up to move him or her.  This is also when I take a few detail shots, such as hands and feet.  I might move the baby onto his or her belly after the side-propped shots, or we might just move on to another set.

While I'm taking the shots described above, I have a second heating pad readying the next set.  I leave baby on the bean bag if he/she is comfortably snoozing, and just slide the bag off to the side (still having a spotter next to him/her at all times).  I ready the next set, and if it's not warm enough, I put the hair dryer on it for a minute or two.  As soon as the set is ready, I use my fuzzy gloved hands to position the baby onto the set, holding them in place and soothing them for a moment longer than I think I need to. 

I continue the above, saving the family shots for last OR interjecting them during those times when the baby is fussy and wants to be held by a parent.  Or, I will do them when the baby is awake and just won't settle into a good position. 

9. Move around a lot.

Shoot from above, at eye level, off to the side, a low perspective, etc.; make use of any time the baby is in a comfortable position!  This especially goes for babies who are having a hard time getting settled.  If you finally get the baby comfortable and quiet, take shots from as many different angles as you can.  If you think you have shot the baby from every possible angle, this is a good time to add various hats/headbands or small props to achieve variety without waking up the little one again.  Also, don't forget to include both close-ups AND full-body shots

10. Be prepared and have a back-up plan.

I ALWAYS have more sets ready to go than what I actually plan to use.  After all, babies come in all sizes, and some props might not work as well with some babies and vice versa.  I usually have in mind, the standard beanbag/no prop photos, add in a few headbands, and 3 or 4 different sets.  I usually plan to do a couple of different angles, etc. while they're on the various sets as well; adding or removing some of the props, or going in for close-ups while the baby is in a different position.  If I can use all of the sets, great!  If not, I've used a couple of different sets and have gotten a variety of images.

11. Do your own thing.

Sometimes I feel like I really get caught up in what 'everybody else' is doing.  Everybody else is doing bare-bottom shots.  Everybody else is offering composites of precious little ones propping their head up in a variety of adorable poses.  Everybody else wraps and swaddles.  Everybody takes family photos in a bed.  Everybody else uses natural light (which, while I agree is best, is not always an option for me.).

Here's the thing: I don't want to be like everybody else.  Not that I don't admire their work; I most certainly do!  But at the end of the day, I've found...

- I like to use diaper covers.  While I adore tiny baby bottoms, it is really hard to manage these shots without poo or pee getting on someone or something.  Time is not a luxury you have when working with newborns, and I would rather focus my attention on the baby and his or her parents than worrying about pee.

- While composites, when done correctly and realistically, are downright ADORABLE and I have seriously thought about learning how to offer them to my clients, in the end I decided against it.  I personally feel that this may be a style that will eventually "date" photos, and I want to maintain a very  timeless approach to my photography.  I could be wrong; perhaps this style will evolve into even more.  But for now, I prefer babies in a more natural state.  I really hesitated on this decision.  I thought perhaps expecting parents would not choose me because I don't offer this service.  But truthfully, I hope that any client of mine, for any category of photography, will look at my gallery and see what I DO have to offer and decide they like what they see. 

- I loved wrapped/swaddled baby images, with the little toes peeking out.  I just like to see more skin!  Again, personal preference.

- I don't have a bed in my studio, and I'll be up front about this: I actually feel a little weird suggesting to any of my clients that we shoot in their bedroom!  If they wanted to suggest that, I am all for it, but until then, we'll work in another area of their house. 


The point is, don't feel like you have to do exactly what is popular.  Find your own style and be consistent with it.  Just because you're not doing things like everybody else, doesn't mean you're doing it "wrong".

12. Be sensitive to Mom's needs.

I don't think any woman ever truly imagines how her body will have changed just after giving birth.  And even though she is normally a practical, realistic person; sleepless nights, endless hours of care-taking and surging hormones are enough to send her into a fit of tears every time she attempts to find public-appropriate attire that will fit.  (I'm speaking from experience here!)  I personally hate the photos of myself after I had each of my three children.  But then, I didn't have an in-the-know photographer who would position me in the best light, at a flattering angle, and only include parts of me that I was comfortable having included.  Moms are phenomenal creatures -  do everything in your power to help them feel good about themselves again.  A few tips are:

- Pre-shoot, advise Mom and Dad to wear solid colors.  Black is a good, classic color and will help conceal some areas Mom might not be feeling so great about just yet.

- Shoot from above.  A flattering angle for everyone, and if you position the baby right, his or her face will be in plain view also.

- Shoot above Mom's belly.  Even the tiniest of women will have a "pooch" after giving birth. And 99.9% of them, even though they know it's normal, are self-conscious about it.  I've seen women in my studio that, to me, look FANTASTIC after just having had a baby, but I'm not so sure they feel that way, so I try to frame them so the "pooch" isn't included.

- Go for side-by-side closeups of Mom & Baby's face, or Mom/Baby facing each other.

13. Be patient!

Like I said, there may be times you'll have to stop shooting so the baby can be fed or changed.  You'll also really want to jump up and grab your camera as soon as the baby seems settled.  Don't; just wait another moment or two and let them really settle.  It will be worth your while.  Just be patient.  If you are at your client's home and they are taking a feeding break, use that time to pack away items you're finished with, use the rest room, or review the images on your camera. 

14. Use what's available.

If you are shooting on location, ask your client to show you each room of the house, so you can decide where the light is best.  As you take the tour, be on the lookout for items or places that you could include to customize your client's images a bit more:

15. Get in there early.

I always let my clients know that the best newborn photographs happen within the first two weeks of the baby's life (Ideally, 5-10 days is BEST).  After this stage, most babies won't stay settled into positions long enough and stretch out when you attempt to pose them.  They are also a little sleepier during this time.

16. My list

Here is a general list of items I bring with me to an on-location newborn shoot.  (I'll skip the part about camera/lens/etc, as that's quite obvious.  And don't forget backups of the important stuff, too!):

Backdrop stand

Clips for backdrop stand

1-2 backdrops (I try to keep it simple here and not change it a lot)

1 backdrop for the floor (I use this one; it is the perfect size and I love the pattern.)

Studio lights (& stands, etc) or off-camera flash, light stand, and soft box


Space Heater

Small stool to lift heater up a bit so it can blow directly on the baby

2 Extension cords with multiple outlets, to plug in heater, hair dryer, heating pads, lights, etc.

Small bottle of hand sanitizer

Super soft gloves

Hair Dryer


Boppy Pillow

2 heating pads (one in use; the other one warming the next set)

2-3 super soft blankets (I like to buy mine at TJ Maxx for $15-30/ea; they are almost a faux fur. Babies love them.  I also sometimes bring the faux fur rug as seen in the sibling photo above, as it works well for baby & big brother or sister.  But a blanket would work fine, too.)

2-3 plain white towels (for use as fillers in baskets, etc. or to add another layer of protection between baby & the heating pad)

"Puppy Pee Pads" if I intend to do bare-bottom shots.  Though, I don't do this much anymore, and if I do, it's typically in the studio, so I don't have to pack additional blankets, etc. to replace the ones that will inevitably be peed on.  Oh, and if you intend to try bare-bottom with the baby, bring a change of clothes for yourself and thank me later!  :)

3-4 sets (I typically choose items I can use in multiple ways, are easy to pack/carry, and that I can pack other stuff inside of.  I.e. Baskets or wooden crates/trunks.)

3-4 diaper covers that coordinate with the chosen sets

Fun props, such as headbands, neck ties, bow ties, suspenders, hats, etc.  I buy 99% of mine on Etsy.

Baby wipes and burp cloths for wiping up spills


I hope these tips will help further your confidence.  If you have questions, feel free to ask below! 


Best Wishes!



]]> (Monson Photography) Newborn Photography Photography Tips Mon, 12 May 2014 18:27:43 GMT
Happy Mother's Day from Monson Photography! Happy Mother's Day!  Here's a little slideshow of some beautiful mamas and their adorable babies from over the years...



]]> (Monson Photography) Family Photography Sun, 11 May 2014 15:53:05 GMT
New Product: Mini Accordion Albums! And a special offer! I'm very excited to announce that another interesting and adorable product has been added to the Monson Photography product lineup: Mini Accordion Albums!

Side 1 (Black cover, gray zigzag design shown)Side 1 (Black cover, gray zigzag design shown)




Side 2 (Black Cover, Gray Zig Zag design shown)Side 2 (Black Cover, Gray Zig Zag design shown)

These albums feature up to 12 selected images, printed on both sides of a sturdy signature professional press paper.  The images fold neatly accordion-style (hence the name!) into a 2.5x3.5", linen-covered album that slides into a protective cover. 

Folded albumFolded album


Thickness 1Thickness 1

Your album arrives beautifully packaged in a gift box like the one pictured here:

Boutique PackagingBoutique Packaging

and is available in 7 color and 41 design options!!!  (Links open in new windows to display color & design options.)

Mini Accordion Albums are available to purchase for $40 and make a fantastic gift. 

SPECIAL OFFER:  Purchase a gift certificate for a family session between now and May 10th and I will include a Mini Accordion Album at NO EXTRA COST to you!  This would be an INCREDIBLE Mother's Day gift and expires one full year after the date of purchase. 

Click here to see what's included in a family session. 


Best Wishes,





]]> (Monson Photography) Family Photography Offers Portraits Products Special Wed, 30 Apr 2014 17:47:19 GMT
Brady's Dr. Seuss Cake Smash When Brady's mom told me that his birthday theme was to be Dr. Seuss, I was ecstatic.  I love, love, love doing themed shoots and am a HUGE Seuss fan.  I knew this was a unique opportunity to have a little fun with the set.  Initially I'd ordered a red and white striped fabric backdrop and planned on altering a big letter "B" to match his theme.  But as I was busy giving the letter a "Thing 1" treatment, my daughter Liz asked me, "Are you going to make a kite, too?"

I stopped in my tracks and thought about the kite that, in the Cat in the Hat book, Thing 1 and Thing 2 had caused so much chaos with at the children's house and decided I had to make this happen. 

I had some burlap leftover from various projects, so I doubled it up and drew on my kite shape.  I painted it, let it dry, and cut it out, then attached the rick rack and ribbon.  Paired with the blue backdrop I found online, I think it came together nicely!

Now all I needed was one EXTREMELY adorable little guy with a healthy appetite for sugary confections.  Enter Brady!



This little guy, who could not possibly be any cuter in the matching Cat in the Hat ensemble provided by Mom (Shout Out to Leta - she always does a fantastic job on her family portrait wardrobes!), did such a nice job with his smash.  He took some mercy on Miss Beth by slowly enjoying each morsel of his cake so that I could nab a ton of really cute shots.  Sometimes little guys 'n gals want to take just a bite or two and then they're finished, but Brady was not leaving until he was full and messy - just as it should be!

Here's a few more from Brady's Dr. Seuss cake smash:


Bowman_ (81)Bowman_ (81)

Bowman_ (82)Bowman_ (82)


Many thanks to Leta (Brady's Mama) for the opportunity to have such a fun time with her little guy!  And a little shout-out to the following vendors/folks as well:

Cake, Best Choice Market of Ludington

Paper Straws, Little Free Radical on Etsy

Mini Cake Bunting, downloaded from the Jenny Allsorts Blog (then customized with stamps)


As you can see, I really got into planning this shoot.  Do you have a little one turning one?  Let's start planning his or her cake smash session today!  If I know far enough in advance what your theme will be, I can start my creative juices flowing and coordinate if you'd like.  Give me a call!  231-843-0134

Best Wishes,



]]> (Monson Photography) Cake Smash Child Portraits DIY Photography Props Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:13:19 GMT
New Product: Standouts! When it comes to the products I offer my clients, I like to keep things simple.  Which is why, in the past, I have mainly offered prints, digital images, and greeting cards.  However, I wanted to expand these offerings a bit so that my clients would have the option of something a little more fun, and I have to say, I am in LOVE with STANDOUTS!





While decorating my new studio, I knew I wanted to display my work in a few different ways.  Canvas was a given, as well as a few small, mounted prints.  But when I discovered standouts, I knew they'd be a great fit for my new space, and I'm so glad that I went with my gut.

Standouts are prints mounted to a piece of 1.5" foam board, which makes hanging easy due to their incredibly light weight.  The portrait is lustre-coated for protection and the entire piece is trimmed in your choice of either black or white.  As you can see, I decided to stick with black throughout the studio.



Standouts are a more affordable alternative to canvas and look stunning on a wall.  I am especially loving my small gallery of 8x8" darling baby boys and it makes me wonder what 3 rows of 3 would look like put together as a gallery.  Perhaps it's something I'll do in my personal space in the future.

Pricing for standouts is as follows.  I am in the process of updating my portrait order form to include these and will post it within the next week.


20” x 30”

20” x 20”

16” x 20”

11” x 14”

10” x 10”

8” x 8”








Thanks for stopping by!


Best Wishes,


]]> (Monson Photography) Products Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:58:05 GMT
NEW PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO!!!!! My clients who have been kind enough to visit in past years know that up until recently, my studio has been a bit….blah.  Clean, yes, but nothing to speak of in the way of things that catch your eye.  It’s been a work in progress. …. for YEARS. 

Now don’t judge; please remember that my focus in this business is to take beautiful photos, which the vanilla studio suited just fine.  But I love my clients and want them to have a fantastic experience with me, in comfort.

During the winter, things slow down a bit from the 100mph pace that we’re used to from June – November and it’s a great time to catch up on things.  Lucky for me, my handsome and talented husband Marc decided this would be the year he finished my studio. 

Marc busted his hide these past few months.  I am almost ashamed to admit, though it wasn’t intentional (our schedules differ and he has mad skills in this department), I didn’t do ANY of the hard/boring stuff (such as painting).  He did it all, bless his soul, with nary a complaint.  The painting.  The finishing.  The stairs.  The (spoiler alert!) pallet wall and barn-style doors.  ALL of it.  And then he stepped aside, tipped his hat, and let me do the FUN part: decorating! 

I can’t tell you how much it means to me to finally have a space that I am PROUD to bring my clients into.  And I am SO proud of Marc for doing this all on his own with his tremendous talent.  I could go on for days and tell you how wonderful this man is to me, but I can feel you rolling your eyes already, so I will spare you that. 

Alright, enough lead up… let’s start the show ‘n tell!  Please keep in mind, there are a few minor things that still need touching up (trim here & there, etc.) and we need to decide what we'll do with the ceiling, but I couldn’t wait any longer to share this exciting news!

Freshly painted stairwell.  I love the purple!  The trim work is about 99% complete; still needs finishing touches.  Eventually I'll hang some large canvases here.

New stairwell color...loving the purple! Stairs still need a little trim finish but are 99% complete.


View coming downstairs....





I've done many silhouettes, as I love to utilize our gorgeous lake lighting and do something unique during senior sessions.  If you look through my senior gallery you'll find many that are really cool, but this one is dear to my heart. The bird coat hanger is another example of Marc's handiwork.



Lots of little treasures for newborn/children sessions.  Some are vintage (lantern, oil can, tool chest, fishing net/bouey) , and others I've sold my soul to Hobby Lobby for.




This little spinning rack was purchased at a going-out-of-business sale many years ago and housed various scrapbooking supplies until I decided I could do something fun with it.  Eventually I may hang a wallet from EVERY session, but for now, these are some of my favorites.


Looking down the studio.  Here's the pallet wall I spoke about...and we managed to find the perfect door to pull it all together!


A closer view....


Looking back toward the stairs....


The odd shadows you see on the far wall are from the lantern lighting.  This is still a work in progress.



Recycled pallet wood barn doors...


The doors are hung on hardware that allows them to be rolled left or right.


Another view of the doors and hardware...


New guessed it, made by my better half.  I'm spoiled!




A closer view of one of my favorite maternity photos, mounted as a "standout" - a new product, coming soon!


Another standout...




I love two kinds of things: Things that are old, or things that look old.  I love all of my little vintage details, collected over the years from thrift shops, antique stores, and yard sales.  Seeing them put together makes me feel like an accomplished treasure hunter!  Though the Hobby Lobby finds are always fun, I really like my authentic pieces.  They have a "story".


You'll see this painted burlap "kite" used in an upcoming session. 


All of my baby props are within arm's reach.  The closet houses additional props and supplies.


More stand-outs on the left.  These are 8x8" and I love how they look together.  I have some pretty darn cute clients!  The vintage scale hanging on the right hasn't been put to use yet, either, but I will be rocking a newborn session with it some day.


I could go crazy buying headbands and ties from various talented Etsy crafters, but I try to not go overboard and occasionally replace them when I know I have a session coming up. 




My vintage gumball machine will be getting a makeover in the future.  Old trunks are some of my favorite things to find, as they are so versatile and double as storage for other props.  The child's boxing gloves are vintage as well and were discovered at an antique store in downtown Ludington.  I have a ton of suitcases, as well, but those are hanging in the storage room (behind pallet wall), along with a dozen or so chairs, some baby beds, etc. The yellow stool in the lower left-hand corner was salvaged from an old ice cream shop.  I haven't had the perfect opportunity to use it yet, but it's one of my favorite finds.


Attached to my shelf is a vintage movie light.  I was lucky enough to find two of them, but haven't put the other to use yet.  I'm not sure what I did with the photo of the whole shelf, but it is home to various small toys and such - anything safe for little hands to discover.  One of my goals for the studio was to make it safe for my littlest clients while also allowing them to poke around without being told "no, no" around every corner. 


I love my "Goodies" jar, picked up for a buck or two at a random yard sale.  I keep a few little treats & treasures for kids in here.



I can't tell you how much fun I had just adding little touches here and there to the decor.  Most of what you see are meant to be used as props, but a few things are just for fun.





A cozy seating area for my clients:



Another view.


My backdrops are mounted on wood pieces, rolled, and stored on metal piping that hangs out of the way, above my seating area.  I'm in the process of purchasing a few more, but what I love about the new studio is that I can use various parts of it as backdrops without having to put anything up.  I can use the stairs, the purple wall, the blue wall, the grey walls the pallet doors, the pallet wall, and the door on the pallet wall.  Using various angles helps to keep things looking fresh.


An upcycled find... this little stool was covered in brown vinyl that was ripped.  I knew it was the perfect height for newborns and small children, and I love the new fabric on it.


Another of Marc's projects.  This adorable little chair was gifted to me, but the fabric was not really my style.  I love the makeover!


I hope you've enjoyed "the tour"!  I am so elated over my new surroundings and can't wait to show the studio off to my clients!  If you're up for leaving a comment to let Marc know what an awesome job he did, that would be fantastic!


Best Wishes,


]]> (Monson Photography) Photography Studio Sun, 13 Apr 2014 13:41:03 GMT