get real.

I just can't say this enough... I LOVE what I do. I am so appreciative of every person and each and every family that I photograph. Because time is precious, and so I'm ever so grateful that they are sharing a piece of their lives with me. Especially since I get to see the REAL them.

Because I don't do the "sit here and smile" type of photos. I capture REAL life as it happens. And sometimes life gets messy. That's okay.

Especially when dealing with kids... I know not to expect perfection, and I never ask that of them. I know how it is. Sometimes there are tears and tantrums. Sometimes there are diaper explosions or potty training moments. Sometimes there are messes that make it into the mouth, down the chin and onto the shirt. And sometimes they just won't sit still, even for a moment.

Let me repeat: That's okay.

Kids are kids. And this is real life.

So I wanted to  share a bit of my "behind the scenes" with you so that you see that, while I don't deal with "perfection," I still capture beautiful moments.

Here's how: I don't ask for perfection. I don't force it. Not even a little bit. So if you have nightmares of past portrait sessions... trying to hold a pose, get your kiddo to stop wiggling and smile for just ONE picture (pretty please), while you're crossing your fingers that it happens without a meltdown... don't worry. This will NOT be your experience with me. Cross my heart.

Because I play. I work with the kids' attitudes and energies, and incorporate that into the portrait session. We get natural movement, natural poses, and that natural smile that you love so much. And I get a workout. I bend, twist, run, and do whatever I need to do to capture those moments.

From music, to toys, to treats and games, it's an ebb and flow of activity.

I wanted to give you a peek "behind the curtain," so to speak... using these pictures from a recent family shoot to help me beautifully illustrate my point.

This is William, Jon and twin girls Rachel and Rebecca. I took their family photos before, and they recently came back for more. Two-year-old twin girls are a handful, but so adorable to see. Here is how our morning went:

We decided to hold the session in the yard of William's sister's house. More than just pretty, the location held a personal connection to them. I spread a blanket on the grass so their toys would have a place to rest. I set my Pandora playlist to my "Disney" station and hooked up my speakers so we could all enjoy.

The girls were a bit shy, and just coming out of their morning naps, too. So after saying hello to them I stayed in the background for a bit while the girls played with their fathers, giving them plenty of time to get used to me and my camera.

The girls were soon feeling more confident and their personalities began to shine. I knew that they loved their gymnastics and dance class, and asked them to show me a few moves.

We paused for snack, juice and a potty break. They're in the potty training stage, and one of them didn't quite make it. (Just keeping it real, here.) But no worries. After a quick clean-up and change of clothes she was ready to play again.

She decided to wander the yard and explore a bit, and I followed along to capture her adventure.

Then it was back to giggling and dancing with her sister. This is one of my favorite images of the day.

With both girls in good spirits, it was time to grab a few family shots.

So, just how did I keep those smiles coming? With a magical (and hilarious) puppet show put on by my husband (who is also my assistant for many shoots). While I shot the pictures, he borrowed the girls' favorite dolls and had them moving and grooving around my shoulders and arms. It not only entertained the girls, but the fathers were cracking up, as well.

The girls then decided to put on their own puppet show on top of their fathers.

The "stars" of the show.

Dolls in hand, we made our way to a favorite local park, where we played a bit more.

We were winding down. One of the girls was "done" with the camera and just wanted to play (which was perfectly fine since we'd caught a LOT of fabulous shots already), so she stayed on the swings while we caught a few last pictures of her sister.

No muss, no fuss. Both kids finished the photo session in good spirits, and the parents did, too. Not only did I capture new family photos for them, but they now have a new memory of  a special playdate with their family.

And more than just pretty pictures... these are memories of their experience.

Because it's real life. It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.