Video: 2018 in Review

For the past five years, I’ve been using the One Second Everyday app to capture quick little memories from the year. I’m still planning to create a 365 second video to recap the year, but we ended up with quite a few other clips on our new video camera that were sitting on a hard drive unused and unwatched.

I finally sat down with the girls and a microphone and had them narrate some of the highlights of the year, and then I edited together quick clips from our videos to create a “highlights reel” of our favorite moments. Here’s what we ended up with:

What do you do with all of the photos and videos on your phone? Have you ever edited them together or tried an app like One Second Everyday?

Travel: A Last Minute Vacation to Rome

The words “last minute” and “vacation to Rome” don’t usually go together, but when Jeff had an opportunity to speak at a conference in Frascati, a suburb of Rome, I immediately started looking at plane tickets to see if I could swing tagging along. The timing was perfect—we’d be there during our anniversary, and the only thing I had scheduled was a dentist appointment (November is usually a great time to relax after a very busy fall as a photographer).

I managed to find reasonable flights out of Chicago (literally half the price of most flights—thank you, Aer Lingus), and before I knew it, I was standing in the center of Rome.

Jeff near the forum in Rome

From a photography perspective, this was an interesting trip for me. I decided at the last minute to leave my go-to camera at home and bring along my small Sony camera instead. I brought only one lens—a 35mm (those who know me know well that I typically live by my 85mm portrait lens, but the limitations that this put on me were a fun creative experiment). You’ll see in a few photos that Jeff ended up doing a lot of the camera bag carrying (thanks, Jeff!).

Trip Highlights
  • We had the best tour guide at the Roman Forum. In fact, he was so great that we ended up hiring him to do a private tour to show us some of the “secrets of Rome” before we left. If you’re ever in Rome, message @thegladiatorguide on Instagram and see what you can set up. He’s given tours to the likes of Justin Bieber (ha) and the Kardashians (ha again).
  • We love just walking around the city. If you’re ever in Rome, be sure to venture across the river to Trastevere for incredible food and views (you’ll see a photo below overlooking the city from Trastevere). This also happens to be where I lived when I studied abroad in Rome.
  • Cremeria Monteforte by the Pantheon (still my favorite gelato): Via della Rotonda, 22, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
  • Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè by the Pantheon (the absolute best espresso shot in the whole word, pulled from a machine worth $20,000+): Piazza di S. Eustachio, 82, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
  • St. Peter’s Basilica will never cease to amaze me (just be sure to look up hours; it closes early)
  • I went on an Old Frascati wine tour in Frascati. We stayed most of the week in Frascati, but it’s only a short train ride away if you’re staying in the city.
  • I spent part of a day at the Baths of Diocletian. This is a lesser explored museum (I was often the only one looking at amazing ruins), but they tell a really cool story. This was essentially a spa in the days of the Romans—think hot and cold baths and gyms to work out.
  • We spent our last night at the hotel overlooking the Trevi Fountain and paid a bit more for a view of the fountain (rates are surprisingly reasonable in November, and the weather was amazing. Jeff said he’d never go to Rome in the summer again. But side note—I don’t necessarily recommend this hotel (it was stinky). I do, however, highly recommend Foro Romano Luxury Suites.

If you’re ever planning a trip to Rome, don’t hesitate to reach out! It’s one of my favorite places in the world, and I’m always happy to share my tips and experiences.

fountain in Rome view overlooking the city of Rome view overlooking the city in Rome Baths of Diocletian Baths of Diocletian Baths of Diocletian fountain stairway that looks like it goes both ways upside down wine tour in Frascati, Italy Wine tour in Frascati, Italy Wine tour in Frascati, Italy Wine tour in Frascati, Italy streets of Rome Streets of Rome The Pantheon view overlooking Rome Allie and Jeff at the train station in Rome Allie and Jeff exploring Rome Jeff near ruins in Rome Allie near ruins in Rome Roman ruins (Trajan's Market) Allie near Trajan's market, Rome The forum in Rome Jeff near the Capitaline Museum in Rome Trevi Fountain from Hotel Trevi The Trevi Fountain

Five Tips to Prep for a Documentary Style Portrait Session at Home

five tips to prepare for a documentary style photo session at home in Lansing, Michigan

When most people think about photo sessions, they think about a pretty field and glowing sun, but there’s a lot of beauty and joy to be found right inside your own home. In fact, we have a whole wall in our house dedicated to cozy black and white documentary-style photos that reflect special small moments in our daily lives.

living room wall with large black and white framed photographs

Now that it’s winter outside, you might feel like you’ve missed your weather window for family photos, but I promise there is still so much potential in your own home. Here’s what you need to do to prepare.

1. Think about what you like to do as a family or as a couple

Lansing indoor lifestyle photos at home

Make a list of the things that you like to do for fun. Here are a few ideas:

  • Read a favorite book to kids
  • Have kids play with a favorite toy or game
  • Decorate cookies
  • Snuggle up in one big bed
  • Drink coffee or tea
  • Play a favorite game all together (board game or otherwise)
  • Include Grandparents in images, and have them play with the grandkids

Choose a few of your favorites to focus on for your session (and don’t worry—I always make a point to get a few smiling photos too so you have them).

2. Plan out where you want your final images to go

Wall Art at home

If you’re planning to put the photos on your living room wall, you probably don’t want to take photos in that same living room. Walk around your house, tape an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper on each wall that you’re thinking about adding artwork to, and snap a photo straight on to send to me.

Once you know where you want the final images to go, you’ll have a feel for which spaces will be final art spaces versus photography spaces, and you can start to plan out where you want to take the photos. It doesn’t hurt to take photos of the spaces you’re planning for your session as well so I can get a feel for both the final wall space and the room or rooms where photos will be.

I’ll use your wall photos for a few things:

    1. To get to know your style to prep for the session
    2. To design wall art to scale with your images after the session (never wonder what art will look like on the walls again – this tool does the hard work for you)
3. Choose your outfits

lifestyle photographer - documentary style sessions at home in Lansing, Michigan

Once you know the rooms where the photos will live and the room or rooms where you want to focus your photos and the activities you want to focus on, you can decide what outfits to wear. Planning on a snuggly session? You might choose pajamas or “home pants” (as I like to call them). For a session in the kitchen, you might incorporate aprons or other accessories.

If you’re lost on clothing, don’t worry. All of my clients get access to a styling app that guides outfit selection. Choose the genders, sizes, overall style and color palette you like, and it will return outfit ideas. You can even click to buy the exact outfit suggestions directly through the app.

4. Clean your home (but not too much)

Lansing Michigan documentary lifestyle photographer; taking photos at home

Most of the people I work with at home are worried that their homes aren’t clean enough. Don’t worry about making your house spotless. You might pick up the clutter in the space we’ll be taking photographs (just throw it in a bedroom or closet), but there’s absolutely no need to clean the whole house. Most of the time, I end up moving a few things around here and there to get the images I want anyway. And honestly, a little mess here and there is just real life.

5. Choose your session soundtrack

Lansing documentary style photographer at home
Every session is more fun with music. Set up your computer, Alexa, or whatever you use for music to bring a little extra cheer into your session and to help everyone relax.

Learn more about portrait sessions

The Five Best Holiday Cards for 2018

The Best Holiday card designs for 2018Holiday cards have been a tradition in our family since we turned a late holiday card into a combination “Happy New Year” and birth announcement for our first daughter five years ago (I can’t believe she’ll be five this week!). Since then, I’ve partnered with Basic Invite to offer easy, beautiful and customizable cards for the holidays (and other occasions).

Use my partner code ASiarto to save 40% on your holiday card order this season and 20% off all non-holiday cards year round.

I look for a few things in a holiday card design. First, I’m a huge fan of turning holiday cards into “year in review” cards, which is one of the reasons I love Basic Invite. They have the option to add text, additional photos or both to the back of any card design, so it’s easy to share highlights from your year with friends and family (I LOVE getting cards with this personal touch—it’s so much fun to sit down and read holiday newsletters and highlights).

I also like designs that are clean with attractive fonts.

So let’s take a look at some of my favorite designs from Basic Invite this year—ranging from a single photo to a whole set of favorites.

All of the photos below are my own.

1. Modern Photo Collage Christmas Cards

Modern Photo Collage Christmas Cards

This holiday card keeps it simple and lets you show off a few favorite images. Get it here.

2. Yearbook Photos Holiday Cards

Yearbook photos holiday cards

This card design is a great choice if you’re having a hard time choosing a favorite image for your card, or if you want to share a set of photos from the full year to highlight your favorite moments. This one would also be great for newlyweds. Get it here.
3. Big Joy Foil Photo Holiday Cards

Big Joy Foil Holiday Card
Here’s another design that will give you a chance to show off a few favorite photos—whether it’s close ups of each kid or highlights from the year. Get it here.

4. Editorial Photo Holiday Cards

Editorial Photo Holiday Cards
I may be a bit biased toward “Joy” because it’s my daughter’s middle name, but I also like the simplicity of this card, along with the fact that it will work well with any horizontal image—you don’t have to worry about the text falling just right across the image. Get it here.

5. Sparkling Holiday Cards

Sparkling Holiday Cards

Although this card is technically listed as a “corporate holiday card,” you can personalize the text to make it your own. If you’re a fan of the handwritten look, this one is the perfect fit. Add text to the back to share your favorite moments from 2018. Get it here.
Manage Your Address Book

Basic Invite makes it easy to manage your address book—you can share a link with friends and family, and they can enter or update their own information for you, and it’s easy to import addresses that you already have. They offer automatic address printing from your address book, which is an amazing time saver during the busy holiday season.

If you create a link to collect addresses, be sure to let me know. I’d love to see how your cards turn out!

And don’t forget to use my partner code, ASiarto at checkout to save 40% on your holiday card order this season and 20% off all non-holiday cards year round.

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