"But Mama, Is it REAL?" : 3 Tips For REAL Family Photos

A few months ago I was came across the trailer for the new Planet Earth II and was delighted to show it to my kids.  We’ve worn the DVDs out of the original Planet Earth from 2006, before my first was born.   The new trailer was spectacular with camera angles that baffle the mind.  After watching it, my 5-year-old looked really confused.  He kept asking over and over “But Mama, is it REAL though?”  I kept telling him yes, it was.  He didn’t change the question, he just got louder and louder (as he often does) and I realized he was questioning whether or not the footage was altered or perhaps even CG.  

We live in a time when our kids have have abundant access to photoshopped images, crazy amazing computer graphics, and apps on our phones that smooth skin, enlarge eyes or even give humans dog ears.  Our kids have to decipher whether or not everything they see is REAL way more than we ever could have dreamed of as kids.  Honestly, I find that exhausting and can’t imagine growing up in such a confusing world.  So why not offer as much REAL content as we can provide them.  


Why am I talking about this with relation to getting ready for you photo shoot?  Because I want your family to look at the images from our shoot and SEE the reality of the moment - not just smiles for the camera and perfect outfits.   I am not a documentary photographer, your session is guided by me, but only YOU can create authentic interactions with your family and capturing those moments is my gift and why you hired me.  I believe a little mental prep goes a long way when getting ready for our session. 

So what can we do to prepare for a session that captures REAL moments, true smiles, laughter and love?  Take a few minutes and read over these 3 tips and you’ll be more than ready for our time together.  

1. TELL THEM WHY: Tell your children (and partner) before our time together what we’re doing, what the goal is: not only to have some nice family photos, but to capture memories for your family. Tell them WHY these photos are important to you. I’m going to reveal the true cheese ball that I am here but in the last couple of years I’ve had two amazing sessions that both went beyond great.  I told my kids that the photographer wasn’t actually taking pictures of our bodies - she was trying to take pictures of our LOVE.  So I wanted them to show her how we show love to each other.  SO CHEESY right?  Well, it worked like a charm.  We went through all the ways we show love, hugging, kissing, laughing, being a good listener, holding hands, high fives and so on.  Having all your energy focus on love and not compliance can be a game changer.  It changes the position of what we’re doing from a chore (usually for Mom) to a family activity.  I know this is such an idealistic way to think of this - there are things like temperament, age and stress that come into play - but think of this as a calming baseline.  If your kids are too young to have this conversation (I'd try it with kids 1 and over), have this conversation with yourself and partner before the session.  

2. LET THEM BE KIDS! I know there is a fine line between letting the kids run the shoot and letting them be free to explore and have authentic moments.   So let’s work together on this.  Tell them there will be moments that I will ask them to participate, play games, snuggle their parents and siblings, but there will also be moments when we can play and explore.  Try not to direct them too much, leave that to me. The hardest thing for kids can be having too many grown ups shouting out directions. 

3. BE YOU!  Who are you and your family? What do you enjoy doing together when you’re not in front of the camera?  Do you adventure? GREAT - let’s do that. Photoshoots don’t have to be at beaches or parks, we could ride a ferry, go to the zoo, go on a hike, be tourist downtown, chop down a Christmas Tree, hunt for Pumpkins at a patch, the list goes on and on.  Do you have dance parties? GREAT!! Let’s bring some music and dance it out during your session!  Are you homebodies? GREAT! Let’s do an in home session, I adore these, I can capture great family shots, but also photos of your family in your REAL everyday environment, playing games, jumping on beds, making food together.  Even better, combine all of the above!  Again - we’re trying to keep it REAL right? 

I want our time together to be awesome, I want your images to make you smile, allow you remember and be true artifacts of your family history.  I want your great great grandchildren to see these photos and have a sense of who you were and what it was like to be a part of your family.  I’m ready to capture your love, thank you for taking the time to prepare it.  

Footnotes and Confessions: 

All Footnote images by the amazing Elena S. Blair - photo above is me cleaning up my daughters's mid-session nose bleed.  This was also just moments before my son barfed all over the ally. I've seen and experienced A LOT! From one parent to another, we got this.  

All Footnote images by the amazing Elena S. Blair - photo above is me cleaning up my daughters's mid-session nose bleed.  This was also just moments before my son barfed all over the ally. I've seen and experienced A LOT! From one parent to another, we got this.  

I KNOW so much of this blog post is, again, idealistic.  I know that.  My stress level before my first photo shoot was off the charts.  I worried about my kids being crazy and non compliant. I worried about my husband being (and looking) bored.  I worried about coming across as frazzled and angry in my photos.  But once I really thought about the families I photograph and the sessions that have been pure magic, I realized it all came down to state of mind.  I used that to talk myself off the ledge and really focus on what I wanted my results to be.  I applied the three above tips as well as these funky little tips that helped me. 1. Try the Headspace app.  I’ll keep this unpaid endorsement short and say it’s awesome - 10 minutes of quiet a day does a body (and mind) good. 2. If your kids are driving you crazy or you’re having a hard parenting day, take 2 minutes before you go to bed to sneak in and watch them sleep.  This was a tip from my co-op parent educator I use often. Seeing their peaceful little faces is a great reminder of all that is magical about childhood and parenthood.  3.  Check their (and your) sleep.  I’m so bad at this - I stay up too late and it really can do a number on stress and anxiety for your shoot.  Make sure the week leading up to our shoot that your family practices your best possible sleeping habits. 

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Let's make this a two way conversation! Did you connect or relate with something about this post - let me know! Share your experiences - how will you prepare for your photoshoot with me each year?  Leave a comment below! 

Luca and I had so much fun with creating some un-real images, it was too easy - and I'll admit, pretty fun.  

Luca and I had so much fun with creating some un-real images, it was too easy - and I'll admit, pretty fun.  

Mother's Day Show Success - "In Your Mother's Arms"

Mother’s Day Show Success!! 

In celebration of Mother’s Day this past May, I was honored to have my work on display Walnut Street Coffee in Edmonds, WA.  The show entitled “In Your Mother’s Arms” was a celebration of Motherhood with a great cause - helping local moms in need.  We collected diapers and socks for the local homeless shelter, Mary’s Place who serves the women and children of Seattle.  Everyone who donated was entered into a drawing to win a free session with me($600 value) or a Coffee gift basket from Walnut.  The result, lines for coffee out the door, an entire van full of diapers and socks and over $300 in cash raised for Mary’s Place!! 

I couldn’t be prouder of the community who rallied around this cause and supported local business and artist by visiting the show and donating.  Sending a heartfelt THANK YOU to the Edmonds community.  

Studio Mini Sessions - Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA

For the first time : spring Studio Mini sessions

I've decided it is time for an experiment! I have rented gorgeous studio space in downtown Seattle on Sunday, May 21st from 10-1pm. I'm so excited to offer another day of Spring Mini Sessions.  Mini Sessions are $300 plus tax and include a 20 minute session and 10 digital files.  Since this is my first time using this space, I'd love to gift ALL the photos (beyond the 10 included in your package) from these sessions (usually at least 20 images) to anyone who books and signs a model release.  Take a look at the details below and CLICK HERE to fill out the booking form/model release.

When: May 21st 10-1

Session times: 10am- SOLD OUT  | 10:30am - SOLD OUT | 11:00am | 11:30am | Noon | 12:30pm - SOLD OUT

Where: 89 Yesler Way #204 Seattle, WA 98104

Who: These sessions would be fantastic for families, babies, teens and professional branding images (aka: professional headshots) 

Cost: $300 plus tax due upon booking

Questions - Contact Me

In Memory of Maddy

This spring this family booked a mini session with me and asked if they could bring her dogs.  Santa had just brought them Saydee - that giant poof of a 'puppy' you see here and their sweet 15 year old Maddy.  My friend was sure Maddy's end was near and she wanted to make sure to get photos of their beloved and loyal friend.  I was so sad to hear Maddy passed away shortly after this shoot.  This family was so happy they made the decision to have photos with their sweet friend.  

I got this note from my friend and it brought a tear to my eye: 

"Sweet Maddy went gracefully and calmly on July 29th 2016 after fifteen fabulous years!  She was a great dog and was a true blessing to our family.  We are so grateful we asked the amazingly talented, patient, kind hearted photographer Megan Hooks to take a family picture with our darling Maddy and new puppy Saydee before  loosing Miss Maddy (which we knew was quickly approaching). Thank you Megan Hooks!!!!"

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Fall Mini Session

We had the most wonderful night last fall for this family at our Fall Mini Session. Looking back, I can't believe how much ground we covered in 20 minutes!! We had a great time and capturing connection between this crew was pretty easy. 

Happy 10 Year Anniversary!

Last year I hit the beach for golden hour with this family to celebrate the couple's 10 year wedding anniversary.  We took photos in the exact spots they had their engagement photos taken the decade before.  This time,  with their two beautiful children.  I love the idea of photos for anniversaries and other family milestones.  And, of course, any session that ends with the kids, on the beach, in the water in their fancy clothes is ALWAYS a winner!  Cheers you two lovebirds!

A New Family

Last year on this day I met this family at this amazing park overlooking the entire Seattle skyline.  They wanted photos of their new family.  These two got recently married and created lots of new sibling and parent relationships.  From the looks of it, they are all loving being part of a big new family.  It isn't just new babies that make families grow larger!

Summer Nights

Last August I met this sweet family at the top of this bluff overlooking Puget Sound! We took in the views and then hit the beach.  I loved getting to know another sweet family from my community.

Twins & Cousins

Last November I had the chance to photograph these sweet one year old twin boys, their parents and cousins in their home and at the beach.  We had the best time together and a perfect golden sunset. I loved that the boys' two cousins were part of our shoot.  It is clear that family is the top priority here with cousins and grandparents being only a few doors down on the same street.  I feel so lucky that I have gotten to know this family in my community.  And the cousins team just got a new member, stay tuned for her debut here!

Welcome Sweet City GIRL!!

Hi Friends, you may remember my super awesome, super quick downtown urban maternity session from this spring?  If not - click here to see the City Baby shoot. Well, the baby is a GIRL! (I had ALL my bets on girl by the way - winner).  Something even more fun was that she was born the same day as my sweet little girl - birthday twins are the best.

It was another fun session with my dear friends and their sweet new bundle.  Walking into all the 'new' that is the home of a newborn is such a gift.

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Day In the Life: Coco Turns 2

Last week our baby girl turned the big 0-2.  She embodies the classic two-year-old persona.  She's persistent, loves the word 'no', she tests every boundary.  She's funny, feisty and sweet.  She loves snuggles, tackles from her brothers, loves to climb, sing and dance.  I didn't start the day thinking I'd be doing a full day in the life account of her birthday, but the day turned out pretty well documented. We started with a the surprise of Dad staying home to make his delicious strawberry-bananna pancakes.  She opened a few gifts and sent big brother Luca off to school.  Then we headed out to Pump It Up - a fun indoor bounce house mecca.  (No photos here, we were too busy bouncing).  Then we said goodbye to Dad and spent the rest of the day at the park, testing out her new scooter,  playing babies with her brothers, eating cake with our neighbors stopping in for a visit and a gift, bath and bedtime stories.  We had a wonderful day all around.  I'm so thankful I get to be her Mama and can't wait to see where year three takes her.