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The Fink Family at Home | Kalamazoo Michigan Photographer, Elyse Rowland.

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The Fink Family at Home | Kalamazoo Michigan Photographer, Elyse Rowland.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
– Mother Teresa


I don’t know that I’ve ever met a more giving, loving family. Marian is one of the sweetest mamas I know, and she may not realize how much of an effect her family has had on mine, but truly — I so often reflect on the way she and Trevor open their home, reach out to others, volunteer at church, and simply make themselves available to the circles of people around them.

I was so honored to take a few photos of their family as they enjoyed a weeknight dinner as a family. Just an average night as a family of 6… parents shuffling around to set the table, children bouncing here and there, a prayer of thanks for the food, and funny conversations scattered throughout the evening. If you ask Marian & Trevor, they might say life is a bit chaotic with 4 kids under 7, but when you look at these photos, I bet you’ll agree with me that this family is full of joy.

And I think that joy comes from the giving. The “less of me, more of Jesus” example they’ve set for their children. The willingness to be the hands & feet of Jesus (in a me-me-me world.) I’m so glad to call them my friends.

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Baby Genevieve Makes Her Debut. Kalamazoo Michigan Newborn Photographer, Elyse Rowland.

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Baby Genevieve Makes Her Debut. Kalamazoo Michigan Newborn Photographer, Elyse Rowland.

She’s here! And she’s absolute perfection. Sandoval family, I’m so happy for you! Thank you for welcoming me into your home yet again. It’s been the most beautiful thing in the world — meeting you while you were pregnant with Nora, and then capturing life’s precious moments up to present day. I think the friendships I make as a photographer are one of the biggest perks of my job! So grateful <3
xx, Elyse

new baby with her family in their home in portage michigan
newborn baby girl with her family in portage michigan, at home

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Kalamazoo Michigan Photographer | Senior Session: Kade

Sharing a few favorite images from a senior session last summer. Kade's not only model-worthy, he has a fantastic personality too. He's charismatic, funny, and kind. I was lucky enough to do his brother's senior photos the year prior, and his mom & I always have plenty to talk about as she's a mom of all-boys as well, two of which are yet to graduate. I feel so lucky to be the photographer she chose for the guys in her life. :)

Enjoy.

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Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer | The Harkers

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Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer | The Harkers

It's been about a thousand years since I blogged, but I couldn't resist sharing the highlights from last night's family session. My sweet friend Erica, the gorgeous mama in these photos, took our incredible newborn photos a couple of months ago, and last night I was able to repay the favor with a fun family session. We played and laughed, fed fish, picked mulberries, roasted marshmallows, and caught up on life. It did my heart good. And on the way home from her session, since I was kid free for the first time in a LONG time, I cranked the radio in my minivan, opened the sunroof, and let the wind blow through my hair. (Totally wild & crazy, right?!)

I love this life, and I love that I get to document other's lives along the way. Enjoy!

kalamazoo family photos

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Mattawan MI Family Photographer | Chandler

When Sarah asked if I'd be willing to travel to their wooded home for their family session, I couldn't say yes fast enough. There's just something so special about doing a family session on your own piece of land. It holds memories and it's unique, and I love that. This family isn't just adorable - they're quite amazing. Mike works full time, plus runs his own very successful lawn business, and Sarah is the kind of mom every mom wants to be...she's patient, smart, and down to earth. Their two kiddos are as cute as they come, and you can easily see how much they adore their mom and dad.

I am so very thankful that you invited me to your home, Chandler family, and I hope you have the most wonderful summer on that gorgeous property of yours!

Enjoy.

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Scotts MI Maternity Photography | Moore Family

I've been lucky enough to meet some of the sweetest families since I started my business, and the Moore family is no exception. Ashley saw a session I did for a cousin of hers and hired me for a family shoot last fall. Then she booked this maternity session, which was incredibly fun to say the least, and at some point this month I'll be meeting up with them to photograph them with their new baby boy (*squeal!*). I just love this family. It always feels great to have a client re-book, but in addition, it gives me a chance to get to know the family on a more personal level. We're able to build a relationship. I get to know the kids, and the kids begin to trust me and know that I'm not just a big, scary camera in their face. :) I've also found with repeat clients that every session is better than the last, without fail. With relationships comes trust, and with trust comes a bit more artistic freedom. With that freedom, I'm able to give my clients an amazing experience. And really, that's what every session should be - a wonderful, effortless experience for the family. It should be more about enjoying yourself, and less about perfectionism, smiling at the camera, or worrying that you're not in the right pose.

The Moore family simply has it down. They take my direction and run with it, and I just follow their lead.

Thanks so much Bob, Ashley & Austin for being so easy going and fun to work with. I always look forward to seeing you, and I'm especially excited to meet baby boy #2!

Enjoy.

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Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer | Rypma

I met Sarah just over a year ago when a mutual friend of ours introduced us to eachother and several other photographers. Our little group of 5 now gets together every month or so to chat over coffee about life, kids, Jesus, photography, and just about anything else, along with keeping in touch almost daily on Facebook. We support eachother 110%, and see our differences as strengths. It's been one of the biggest blessings in my life - meeting these incredibly loving, supportive women, who are amazing at what they do and on top of it, they share the wealth of knowledge they've gained over the years. I just love them. (By the way - if you don't already follow Sarah Rypma Photography on Facebook, you should! Her page can be found here.) Sarah's one request for her session was some shots of her with her children since she's usually behind the lens. As photographers, we know how important these images are, so I was on a mission to not only give her those shots, but to deliver a well-rounded gallery full of images that tell a piece of their family story. It's not that we need to document what we looked like or the clothes we wore -- it's much more than that. The way your little boy's hand fits perfectly in his dads. Or how your little girl is just small enough to still be carried on your hip. The wind blowing through your hair as you hug your oldest tightly after a heart-to-heart talk about a rough day... or sitting on a sunlit hill next to the love of your life while your beautiful children run around you laughing and playing. These are the moments that our children will love looking back on as they reminisce about their childhood.

Something I've been thinking about lately is the investment that each of my clients is making when they book a family session with me. Photography is an investment in your family's memories. It makes your home feel like home. Your children, my children.... they'll thank us someday for taking the time out of our busy schedules and investing in photography. (In fact, I just booked my family session for this summer & already have a spot on the wall for a 30x40 canvas I plan to purchase!)

I am so grateful for the opportunity to photograph your lovely family, Sarah! I've learned so much from you over the past year, and I'm so happy to call you my friend. I cannot wait to see what the next year brings for us.

Enjoy.

family walking, bow in the clouds

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Thinking of booking your own family session? Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns by clicking the CONTACT tab at the top of the site, or clicking here.

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Scotts MI Maternity Photographer | Quigno

My view of maternity photos may be slightly skewed, but I see them as one of the most important sessions, especially if it's your second or third child and you'll be changing up the family dynamics. My super talented friend, Lindsay, of lindsaylaraephotography.com, has the sweetest little family of 3, and soon they'll be adding one more. Baby girl will be arriving at the end of May (she has the *best* name picked out, but I won't spoil the fun), and this amazing family asked me to also do a fresh baby newborn session for them in the hospital. I can't wait! This session was a blast. The joy on their faces says it all. And I clearly remember during the mom/daughter shots hearing Joe say "Look at those gorgeous blondies! My beautiful girls!" I loved that. I love hearing family members talk eachother up. And I love editing sessions where you can *see* the love. It makes for a one of a kind shoot. The kind of photos that you'll pass by on the wall and smile.

The best thing anyone can do during a photo session is to let down your guard, love on eachother, and soak up the moment. And I'll be there to capture it all.

Enjoy!

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Scotts MI Family Photography | DeGroff

Spring has finally arrived in all it's glory, and this family session was a fantastic way to ring in the warm weather shooting season. When I told the DeGroff family we were going to trek out into the middle of a giant field at 7:30 in the morning, they probably wondered what they were getting into. (Coffee, anyone?) In the end, though, the field images came out beautifully with that early morning sun coming up over the horizon. Every session is an adventure, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Some days when I'm driving to a session I imagine myself back in my cubicle at my previous job, and I feel so, so blessed to have a career where I spend atleast some of my time outside in God's creation.

Enjoy!

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7 Tips For Great Family Photos

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7 Tips For Great Family Photos

Over the past few years I've been both the photographer and also the client (during my own family's sessions), and I can tell you from experience that these 7 tips will help your next session go much more smoothly...

1. Choose the right photographer.

Let's just be honest. I'm not the right photographer for every family. Whenever I receive an e-mail from a potential client, I always ask if they've had a chance to look through my work. if they haven't, i encourage them to grab a cup of coffee & peruse my portfolio. They can do this on my website (in the galleries or blog posts), or they can check out my business Facebook page. I truly hope clients hire me because they love my work and trust me to creatively capture their family connection, and I believe most other photographer's feel the same way. 

2. If your session will be outdoors, plan for it to take place during the Golden Hour. 

Shooting in the first hour after sunrise or 1-2 hours prior to sunset will give your photos that warm, glowing feel. The photos below illustrate a lovely family photograph taken closer to mid-day in open shade, and then in contrast, two other family photos taken during the sunrise and sunset golden hours. It's easy to see that lighting plays a huge role in adding dimension and interest to your images.

Another note worth mentioning: certain locations work better during golden hour than others. As a photographer, I'm constantly scouting locations in the early morning and late evening so that I can offer the best possible spots to my clients.

Below are examples of different lighting, both good and bad....

HARSH, mid-day lighting. Taken around 1 pm in a sea of green. Notice the hot (light) spots on both the grooms head and shoulders, and the brides's face and shoulder. Contrasty shadows and bright/dark spots take away from this special moment.

HARSH, mid-day lighting. Taken around 1 pm in a sea of green. Notice the hot (light) spots on both the grooms head and shoulders, and the brides's face and shoulder. Contrasty shadows and bright/dark spots take away from this special moment.

Taken 2 hours prior to sunset in open shade, near a large forest. Beautiful, even light that helps highlight this sweet girl's stunning features. Notice the catchlights in her eyes.

Taken 2 hours prior to sunset in open shade, near a large forest. Beautiful, even light that helps highlight this sweet girl's stunning features. Notice the catchlights in her eyes.

One of my top 10 favorite personal images, taken about 30 minutes prior to sunset. Plenty of foliage in the background to help diffuse light. It's noteworthy that shadows can give depth and mood to an image if used properly.

One of my top 10 favorite personal images, taken about 30 minutes prior to sunset. Plenty of foliage in the background to help diffuse light. It's noteworthy that shadows can give depth and mood to an image if used properly.

This was taken right at sunset. This perfect, golden glow can only be achieved for a few minutes, so timing is everything. Rim-lighting (the highlights on the outer edge of their heads) highlights their features and the emotion in the image.

This was taken right at sunset. This perfect, golden glow can only be achieved for a few minutes, so timing is everything. Rim-lighting (the highlights on the outer edge of their heads) highlights their features and the emotion in the image.

Taken about 20 minutes after the sun set behind the trees in December. Cool, moody, even light.

Taken about 20 minutes after the sun set behind the trees in December. Cool, moody, even light.

3. Start planning your wardrobe for the session about two months in advance.

My best advice to moms: start with your own clothing, and start early in case you need to order items online (praying that the last piece of your wardrobe makes it off the FedEx truck before you leave for your session is never a good plan;). So, find an outfit you feel incredible in. Then build the kids and your spouse around the colors you're wearing. 

Imagine this: it's a couple days prior to your session. You found a cute dress for your daughter, so then you found your son a coordinating button up shirt, and your husband already had a great textured sweater in his closet. Then when you get to your own outfit, you're not sure WHAT to put yourself in, so you grab a solid colored top and throw it on. It feels tight in all the wrong spots, and you hate it. Since you're not comfortable in it, you're (dare I say it?) a little grouchy, and it throws everything off at the session because you don't feel like yourself & know you'll hate what you look like in the photos.

Lesson learned. Start with your own clothing choices first! The build from there. Coordinate, don't match. Avoid being matchy-matchy in any way, shape, or form. The days of black or white tops with jeans are gone. It just doesn't photograph well. Think layers, texture, and accessories to make your photos pop. When you book with me, you'll receive a great little what-to-wear guide link that will assist you as you decide what will work best for your family, because every family has a different style. 

4. Have no expectations of your children at your session. Trust me when I say they're completely fine and normal and we *will* still get great images. After all, we're documenting REAL LIFE. And kids aren't perfect. 

This is the hardest one for parents (and by parents, I mean me, too, because this happens at my own family photo sessions). 

It never fails -- the day of the session your children suddenly become the grumpiest kids on earth. My best advice is to just go with it. I tell parents not to ask their children to smile or look at me. Instead I like to give them their space and get to know them by just following their lead. During your session, we'll play, tickle, laugh, run, jump, and make funny faces. I'll ask if they want to look at a few images on my camera or push a button or two. Usually by the middle of the session, they're in a much better mood, and, bonus for you, by the end they're worn out and ready for bed! :) 

5. Bring snacks & water. And don't forget some wipes! 

It's amazing what a snack and sip of water can do for a hungry, thirsty child. I always recommend something small and clean, such as a cheese stick, apple, or almonds so that they don't end up with a messy face. In the case that they do end up with food around their mouth, baby wipes will be your best friend.

Other things you might want to bring: a comb or brush, bobby pins for long hair on hot, sticky days, bug spray, sunscreen, extra diapers/pull-ups.

6. Snuggle (& decide that it's okay to push their bedtime a little bit this one time.... because it's worth it for awesome photos!)

Late evening sessions often run into bedtime for children. I realize most parents see this as an issue, but I actually see it as a positive since your children will likely be in the mood for snuggling, and snuggling = great images. Simple, right? 

Just do your best to give your child a good, solid naptime the day of your session, and if possible, maybe push it a bit later than normal if they're going to be up a bit later. 

7. PRINT your photos. 

When you receive your gallery from me, download the photos, & back them up to atleast two different spots. 

But then take it a step farther.

PRINT those babies! 

Put them on your walls.

Here's what happened at my house after I printed 6 of my favorite images on professional canvas:
"Mama, look! That's me! And Daddy! And baby! Wow, we had so much fun that night. Remember that animal we saw in the woods while we were getting our photos taken? And the pizza you let us have after the session? Can we do that again?"

And then on another day...
I caught my oldest just sitting on the couch staring at our giant family photo on canvas above the couch. He loves looking at it. I imagine that by printing my images, I'm showing how much my family means to me. That they're what matters most to me. And I love seeing the images admired. Because it's true, they ARE what matters most to me. 

 

So there you have it -- 7 tips for a smooth family session. Now you just need to book one, right? If (after sipping a cup of coffee and perusing my work) you decide I'm the photographer for you, head over to my Contact page and send me a note. I'd love to hear from you!

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Blake | Kalamazoo MI Maternity Photography

With the forecast showing highs in the 50s this weekend, it's hard to believe how cold it was the morning we met for Jennifer & Brian's mini maternity session a few weeks ago. When I checked the temperature the morning of their shoot, I believe it was -8. (Yes, you read that right... Negative.) And with maternity photos, you can't just bundle up and call it good... you have to show off your bump of course! Brian & Jennifer: thank you so much for braving the cold, trekking through the pines, and wading through a foot or more of snow to create the perfect atmosphere for your photos. In 15 minutes, we not only captured your gorgeous bump, but also the fun, loving relationship you two have. In my opinion, the bitter cold was totally worth it. :)

Enjoy!

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Roberts Family | Portage MI Lifestyle Family Photography

Simply put, this session was exactly what I needed in the dead of winter: fun, lighthearted, and genuine. Wesley is one day younger than my River, so I felt an instant connection to him (plus, did you get a look at his gorgeous hair?! It's perfection.) At 6 months, babies are so wonderful to photograph. They adore their mom and dad, everything is interesting to them, they're becoming mobile, and they loooove grabbing their toes. What could be better? With minimal direction, I was able to capture the Roberts family in their home space... cuddling, reading, playing, and living life. We chatted, we laughed. I even coaxed Emily & Mike into a photo of just the two of them. :) Documenting real life moments is so much more fun to me than placing a family into a stiff, unnatural pose and expecting children to sit still. The longer I do photography, the more I'm seeing myself as a journalist. I'm telling stories, not creating them.

If you're a parent reading this, and you're thinking "I'd really love to have our family photographed, but my house is too small/too messy/needs updated/has cobwebs/the list goes on", please know this: Where you're at in life right now is special. No one cares if your house is messy, in fact, some of my favorite personal photographs show my house at it's messiest, because we were really living. Also know this: we are all as young as we will ever be in this moment. Your children are growing as I type this. Those sweet little chubby hands and feet will change & grow overnight. Your twirling-tutu princess will soon trade in her tiara for more 'grown up things'. That Superman cape that your little boy is sporting these day? Let's capture it in photos before we forget. I promise you won't regret it.

Thank you, Roberts Family, for welcoming me into your home and allowing me to photograph genuine moments.

Enjoy.

baby with parents

baby with parents

baby with dad

baby with dad

baby and parents in nursery

baby and parents in nursery

baby with toy family

baby with toy family

6 month old baby

6 month old baby

baby with dad

baby with dad

family on bed

family on bed

baby with mom

baby with mom

baby with mom and cute feet

baby with mom and cute feet

baby with mom in nursery

baby with mom in nursery

baby eyelashes and with cat

baby eyelashes and with cat

baby with parents

baby with parents

parents family coffee kitchen

parents family coffee kitchen

baby chubby legs rolls grabbing feet

baby chubby legs rolls grabbing feet

baby with parents tickling

baby with parents tickling

baby with blanket

baby with blanket

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Schoolcraft MI Newborn Photographer | Owen

It took me a few years to realize that I didn't have to fit the mold...that the beanbag newborn poses weren't for me, and that I didn't enjoy using backdrops or artificial lighting. Once I followed my heart and started shooting lifestyle photography my way, there was no turning back. So here I am. Shooting away in the comfort of your own home. Hanging out with amazing families & newborns, while they laugh, snuggle, kiss, jump on beds, eat snacks, and read. It doesn't get better than that. I adore the simplicity of these sessions. You don't need a room full of things to make a great shoot - you just need a little light, so this entire session was shot in an extra bedroom in their home because it had the best morning sunlight.  Owen was a dream baby, and as always I enjoyed to talking to his amazing mom & dad. We had fun chasing the littles around, and even got some shots with their Auntie who was in town from Florida.

I'm so grateful for clients who trust me to capture these incredibly important life moments. Makes my heart happy.

Enjoy!

newborn photography

newborn photography

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Portage MI Newborn Photographer | Caswell Family

"And now, he's wrapped around her finger

She's the center of his whole world And his heart belongs to that sweet, little, beautiful, wonderful, perfect All-American girl"

-Carrie Underwood/All-American Girl

I still remember the day Rachelle played this song for me - we were tellers working side by side at LaSalle Bank. I don't remember if she was pregnant with her first baby yet, but she loved this song at the time and I have a feeling it had to do with her excitement to start her family. She and Cody are high school sweethearts, with that super-strength sort of love for eachother. You literally look at them and think "They'll be married forever." I admire how they've raised their children (Caiden, Renna, Ryker and now baby Calla) to love eachother and put God first. So you can just imagine my excitement when she asked me to photograph their family right after Calla was born. The shadowy images you see of Rachelle snuggled on the bed with Calla really capture the emotional connection between mama and baby - exactly what I was hoping to achieve with their session.

Enjoy!

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The Moore Family | Schoolcraft Michigan Family Photographer

It's official: the Moore family has *the* best backyard for a photoshoot.... a beautiful private lake, a leaf-covered winding path and lots of tall overgrown marshland. Even with the pouring rain and chilly temps, this family rocked it. We originally planned for an outdoor sunrise shoot, but after a half hour or so in the cold, it was time to move indoors and let the snuggling begin! Literally within minutes of meeting Bob, Ashley & Austin, I felt like they were old friends. Talk of another session has begun, and I'm practically counting the days... I love, love, love when clients re-book. It gives me the chance to build the relationship with their children especially and I always look forward to seeing how much they've grown between sessions. Until then, Moore family!

Enjoy.

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The Rowe Family | Scotts Michigan Family Photographer

There's nothing like a sunrise session on a crisp fall day, and on this particular morning, the sunrise did not disappoint! I was lucky enough to meet the Rowe family in June when they booked one of my Summer Minis, and I was ecstatic when they decided to book again this fall. The kids grew so much in a few short months! During our session we played, giggled, went for a hike, and even found Kellen's lost shoe (it was the wagon the whole time!). Thanks, Rowe family, for another great session! Enjoy!

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