The story that shaped my journey into family lifestyle photography started 20 years ago. I began teaching kids with special needs swimming lessons in my small Wisconsin hometown and immediately knew I had a passion for helping kids. I worked for 12 years with kids on the autism spectrum both in their homes and in the classroom. Fitting kids into a structured environment is hard and unnatural. I worked alongside some amazing mentors who showed me how to take the structure of a classroom and balance it with child-led learning. They taught me things a textbook couldn’t, and these important experiences help me to be a better family photographer.
Does this sound super interesting to you? Read more about the importance of child-led outdoor activities here.
Fast forward 5 years, two moves, and three kids later. My sister came to me with a fun Christmas gift idea for us to do together. See, she lives in Chicago and I live in Kansas City. We were excited to find ways to chat and connect from far away. Her co-worker and friend, Amy Tripple, had a photography basics course teaching manual photography for parents who wanted to start documenting their kids’ lives. This was where I realized my passion for family documentary and lifestyle photography. Learning and manipulating my camera settings to create challenging images like a slowed shutter, shooting wide open with the correct depth of field, and double exposure brought me so much joy.
Before this, I hadn’t had any professional photos take since my wedding day, in 2010! I always valued photography and I am pretty sure my wedding photos were half our wedding budget. Good photos and music were my only two requests. I didn’t get photos done because I didn’t love them, I just was in survival mode with three kids and the thought of doing anything for myself seemed selfish and overwhelming. And let’s face it nice outfits, forcing smiles, and posing didn’t seem like a priority.
So my life experiences, background in early childhood learning, and passion for photography quickly came together and made what is now Wildwood Photography, LLC! I wanted to combine my love of inclusion and child development to help all families get photos. I want to provide a fun adventure and not just a photo session. Every session included activities targeted around the kid’s interests. We go their pace, follow their lead, and sneak in some great shots while having fun.
I am first and foremost a mom, that is my main and most cherished role. So you see, there are always going to be challenges that revolve around keeping a balance between my work and my family. Whatever challenges I have been thrown have been little and even though at the moment they can seem overwhelming, they are small and easy to push through with the right support!
My clients have and will continue to shape my brand and business. They understand motherhood, so when my kid strolls into our pre-session zoom call in their jammies they are welcomed with smiles and “hellos”. My children are also welcomed into client’s homes. When I have to bring my kids with me when delivering prints and orders, they are welcomed in like neighbor kids. This also brings me so much joy. It is something truly special to allow my kids to be a part of my business, understand what I am doing, and be present to meet all the families I meet. It is even more powerful to have clients that support and embrace that. My youngest son and husband just spent father’s day morning planting sunflower seeds in our open field specifically because I had a vision. My work is now a part of my family.
When I first started capturing family lifestyle photos, I had a passion to encourage women to embrace their new mom self. This could be in the form of self-love, comfort with their new body shape, or reminding them throughout our session that the bond with their kid is what matters. As my experiences grew. My babies turned into toddlers, then into energetic boys. This also shapes my current session flow. Now on top of interacting with families during our family lifestyle session parents are encouraged to embrace the chaos.
We are so quick to clean our homes, plan out outfits, and portray how we think family photos should look. In doing this we remove our true story, we portray what others want and not what is our raw and authentic self. The thing that sets me apart the most is that I love each unique story that I tell. I willingly welcome all the chaos. The real stuff helps tell the story and you want to see your real true family in 10 years, not the one you felt like you had to be. You want to see the real emotions, the quirky faces your kids make, their intrigue, and your love.