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“I made a wish and you came true.” Those were the exact words that came to mind when we took that photo and it so accurately describes how I feel about you. You are the light and joy and Grace and sunshine of our family. I love that your birthday falls near Thanksgiving because we are so thankful to have you. Words cannot fully convey to the outside world how much you sparkle…how you love with all of your heart…how you seem to accomplish every goal you set for yourself with confidence and ease…how comfortable you are with running around in your cowgirl boots and hair streaming behind you…how you can keep up with your brothers but end up leading them in the process. You are a special gift to us, a perfect surprise, and you have so much to give the world, though we’re not quite ready to share you with the world just yet ;-). I love you.

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she thinks I dread her family session every year, but honest truth, I do not. Sure, her kiddos have a lot of energy and sure I have to stay on my toes to come up with ways to keep their focus (for example, this year, I drew a mustache on my face with a marker; I did NOT however check to make sure it was washable before I did that, but turns out, I was safe), but I LOVE working with them. I especially loved that we came back to their home for this session. The place where everyone feels comfortable and relaxed and the kids are in a familiar environment already filled with things to entertain and contain ;-). I love the quirkiness of our sessions and the personality that comes bursting out of their children…they can’t hide it. They are 100% themselves, 100% of the time and that’s actually quite refreshing.

Most of all, I love the tender moments we are able to catch, supposedly in between shots…the way baby girl started stroking her mother’s cheek and snuggled up full force into her arms. The pure concentration when big brother was writing his name at his desk. The way they positioned themselves around the kitchen island for a mid-session snack. The look of pride when dad got the sweetest little kiss on the cheek from his daughter. This sweet face contemplating dance moves to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it And at the end, looking through all of their family albums from the sessions we’ve had together over the years and being completely enthralled with how little they once were.

And that’s what I love about working with the Parks family. And I hope they and ALL of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, taking time to unplug for a bit and reflect on all the things (more importantly people) for which we have to be thankful.

xoxo,

Michele

{Once again, mama looked gorgeous, with only a little help from Modern Muse Beauty. Oh, if only I could pull off that awesome lipstick!}

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It’s been years in the making and I’m so happy to see this family settled into their newly completed dream home! It was amazing to go back and explore their land…the land where they had been planning to move forever it seemed and for this photo session, that dream was a reality! Those girls need wide open spaces for sure and they have such bright and energetic little spirits that fill their new home with JOY! One of my favorite moments HERE.

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The first weekend of my 4th Annual Holiday Mini Sessions was absolutely amazing! {Did you catch this awesome behind-the-scenes pic???}. We will pick back up the weekend of December 5th. The good news is that this is the perfect way to get your family photos taken care of next year and still squeeze in a few Pinkle Toes pictures just in time for the holidays (and holiday cards). The bad news is that I have only 3 openings left for the next round, soo….

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I mean seriously, could this little guy be any more adorable??? And when mom showed me his fox sweater with his matching fox lovey, I just fell over. I’ve been working with these guys since big sister up there was a newborn, who actually looked very much like this little guy at that age. It was very cool to see her embrace the role of big sister and dote on her little brother the way she did. And he was such a champ for his first official photo session! It kinda looks like maybe he was posing for us ;-). Inspired by one of my favorite newborn images from a while back, we did THIS, too. (Remember our maternity models from the Austin photography workshop this summer?)

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Once again, a family photo session at home gets me all warm and fuzzy feeling…especially since it happened to be quite chilly the day of their session and we were all thankful to be able to spend most of our time in the comfort of the indoors! You may remember this beautiful family from their ultra colorful maternity portraits we did in downtown Austin earlier this year. It was so much fun for me to come back and finally meet their new baby girl this fall! Those big blue eyes and that gorgeous gummy grin totally did me in! Love this candid moment, too, during a little exercise to get everyone warmed up ;-).

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I am NOT a morning person, not by any stretch of the imagination. I will do everything in my power to avoid having to get out of bed before the sun comes up and I dread those days when I have to do it. But, I have never once–not in my whole 8+ years of photographing families in Austin–ever left a sunrise session and said, “Man, I sure wish I didn’t get up early to work in that beautiful light.” Nope. For as early as it may be, for as cold as it sometimes is that time of day, taking photos at sunrise always yields amazing rewards.

I am super impressed that these guys took a chance and got up early with me to catch the sunrise by the 360 Bridge in Austin that morning! It was a tad chilly, no doubt about that, but the gorgeous light and having the opportunity to explore virtually alone out there more than made up for a few goosebumps. Loved playing with the silhouettes, too!

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I am completely serious when I say that the BEST, most authentic, and most enjoyable family photo sessions are the ones where it is clear kids AND parents are having fun! You don’t have to re-invent the wheel to allow yourselves to have this much fun either, as this awesome family so perfectly demonstrates. Here are my top five tips for making your next family photo shoot as much fun as it should be:

1. Hold the photo session somewhere where you can relax…like at home. I don’t know why, but most families tend to overlook their homes as a prime location for their family pictures. Why pack everything and everyone up and fight Austin traffic and risk potentially bad weather when you could just stay in the comfort of your own home? Even if your home isn’t finished to your liking…even if it’s a rental…even if you think it’s a mess, home is usually the place where everyone feels comfortable enough to come out of their shells. If you have young children, home is probably the safest place, too.

2. Be in the pictures WITH your children! Your kiddos want to cut up and play around WITH you and how can you expect them to be invested in this whole photo session thing if you’re not willing to take part, too? Plus, I promise, 30 years down the road, the photos that your children will look at the most (and perhaps with their own kiddos) will be the pictures that include YOU.

3. Let your kids do what they like to do. That’s easy enough. This mommy told me her boys love their bubble machine and their little bounce house, so you can be sure we incorporated that into their photos. Allowing children to do what is familiar and treasured not only helps them relax and enjoy the session, but it also helps me as the photographer to capture very important memories for them.

4. Dress comfortably! Why are these boys smiling so much here? Um, probably because they’re not fidgeting with itchy clothes and uncomfortable collars. I mean, how cool is it that mom let them wear their very favorite super hero t-shirts? (HUGE bonus points for that decision, mom!!) Even big kids like to wear what is comfortable–notice dad isn’t in a stiff, button down shirt and he looks pretty happy, too ;-).

5. It is what it is. I find that frustrations and tantrums (from kids AND adults ;-) tend to arise during a photo shoot when we’re trying to force something that isn’t there. Just relax and let engage you and your kiddos in fun family interactions and see what unfolds. Lifestyle photography should be an organic process. You can’t expect your little ones to be smiling in *every* single picture we take, but I assure you that if we let it happen naturally, the smiles that we do get will be their REAL smiles and seeing those kinds of images will bring a smile to your face as well.

So again, kuddos to mom and dad and their oh-so-charming boys pictured here for making this the perfect reflection of what family photography is all about! [Don’t miss my favorite bounce house pic HERE. And my ULTIMATE favorite bubble pic maybe EVER HERE.]

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One last thing: I think I have just a handful of openings left for the Winter Wonderland Holiday Mini sessions. And that is just incredible.

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Just a small peek into what I’ve been working on over the past several weeks. Debating on if I should show more or keep it as a surprise for all the kiddos who are taking part? Hmmmmm…

These kids-only holiday mini sessions are already HALF FULL and I only just opened the sign up last week! Wow! The 10 minute mini session + one FREE digital file of your choice is ONLY available to clients who book a full session for 2015. (Sorry, you cannot purchase the mini session on its own). Also, while I totally understand that grown ups want to play in my wondrous wintry set, these sessions are kids only. If you’ve been thinking about experiencing a Pinkle Toes photo session, this is a GREAT time to take the leap! Please contact us as soon as possible to get the full session and mini session details because there is an EXTRA bonus that comes with your holiday mini for booking early. *hint, hint*

Okay, off to play in the “snow” some more…

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While I remember ALL of my photo sessions vividly, there are some shoots that I wouldn’t mind experiencing over and over again (like in Groundhog Day).  And this incredibly colorful sunrise maternity photo session for these longtime clients at the rowing docks in downtown Austin would definitely be one of them. How did we get so lucky to have this perfect combination of amazing light, vibrant colors, water like glass, and one happy, happy, happy big-brother-to-be? I don’t know, but I am grateful. Grateful to know this family, grateful to share in this celebration and anticipation of new life, and grateful for watching them grow into such a graceful, loving, and happy family.

And of course, of my favorite images

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I have been working with the Z fam for AGES and every year, it’s always bold, beautiful, FUN, and colorful! But this year takes the cake, for sure! When mom first mentioned the idea of using the color powder like they use in the Color Run, I was a little skeered. But turns out, it was nothing my trusty waterproof camera bag couldn’t handle ;-). As much as I LOVED the color splash pics (THIS one is by far one of my most favorite family photos EVER), I also loved the bit of underwater photography we got to do before we broke open the powder packs. This is the *same* creek where we did maternity pictures years ago when she was expecting her little boy. Now that is COOL!

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I have the next couple of days blocked off so I can *finally* finish the set for the 4th annual Pinkle Toes Holiday Mini Sessions! If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have seen a few teasers ;-).The minis are coming in just a few weeks (eep!) and everyone who books a full session with me for 2015 can snag one of the spaces for the minis (while they last) which includes at least one FREE image for your holiday cards and gifts. These spaces fill up VERY fast and we are already about 1/2 full! If you’ve already booked a session with me this year, you should have gotten the sign up sheet (if not, let me know). To get on the list to receive details when the holiday mini sessions are officially announced, be sure to contact me ASAP.