Warm Spell Winter Family Portraits | Rochester, NY Family Portrait Photographer

It happens like clockwork (quite literally) every year: we set our clocks back, and outdoor family sessions dry up. I certainly can’t blame anyone- the weather gets colder and nastier, there are fewer hours of daylight available, and everyone gets busy with holiday preparations. Still, it’s always a little sad to me to think about how long it might be before I get to be outside creating gorgeous family portraits again. Luckily this year, I got a big treat- a beautiful (and even a little warm!) outdoor family session in late December!

Jen and her family wanted to get in some family portraits to ring in the New Year, and this year the weather cooperated in a big way. On the day of her shoot the sun was shining and the temperature hung out in the pleasantly crisp high 40s - not bad at all for nearly-January! We met at Tinker Park Nature Preserve, which offered so much variety for a laid-back family portrait session: winding paths, peaceful woods, fragrant pines and grassy fields.

Jen’s little boy had a great time exploring all the Nature Preserve had to offer, and she and her husband were so fun and willing to try all of my suggestions- even when they involved wading into a somewhat-mucky field. A little bit of mud was so worth it though! The photos we captured in this field were some of my favorites, and Jen’s too- they ended up with a canvas of one of the family shots. I love knowing that years from now Jen and her family will be able to look up at their canvas and remember that beautiful winter morning in the field.

Baby Sawyer and His Big Brother | Niagara County Lifestyle Newborn Photographer

Being a big brother is pretty serious business. That’s the number one lesson I learned from four-year-old Hunter after photographing his baby brother Sawyer’s lifestyle newborn session last June.

I had the pleasure of working with Hunter and his family last spring, shooting his mom’s maternity session on their beautiful country property in rural Niagara County. Normally when working with a family more than once, we would select a different location for each session; but in this case, their property was so beautiful and with so much variety that I was happy to come back and explore a bit more.

We started with a few photos inside, and immediately it was quite clear that Hunter had this whole big brother thing down. He held Sawyer like a champ, and even though he was a typical four-year-old with crazy four-year-old energy, he was gentle and calm when near the little guy. At one point we decided to wrap Sawyer up in his Mom’s gorgeous Free People scarf and let him and Hunter snuggle in for a few photos on the floor. While I shot, Hunter proceeded to show me what he would do if anyone ever messed with his little brother- brandish his (imaginary) Wolverine claws!

Taking newborn photos outside can be hit or miss, but in this case the weather was beautiful and warm, so we decided to give it a go. Just the week beforehand, Hunter and Sawyer’s mom Sara had found a beautiful little wooden footbridge in the woods near her property that was the perfect size for a teepee! On the way back to the house we stopped to say hi to the horse who had just come to live with them.

Walking around their property, I couldn’t get over what a perfect paradise for little boys they had. As Sawyer grows, he’s going to have a blast exploring his little world- with big brother Hunter by his side, of course.

A Niagara Falls Proposal | Rochester NY Portrait Photographer

Happy Valentine’s Day! Folks, I’m here today to tell you that romance is not dead. For this Valentine’s Day weekend I had the privilege of helping pull off the ultimate surprise for a dear friend of mine, orchestrated by her wonderful boyfriend. We had a few hiccups along the way- like subzero temperatures at Niagara Falls- but true love prevailed!

If you’ve paid attention to any of my work at all in the last few years, you’ll immediately recognize Melissa- hairdresser extraordinaire, savvy business owner, and all around beautiful person. In the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of photographing Melissa and her family several times, including her amazing boyfriend, Mike. I’ve really loved getting to know Mike and could tell that he and Melissa had something really special. So when Mike contacted me and asked for my help in asking Melissa to marry him, I was overjoyed!

Melissa and Mike had planned a romantic getaway in Niagara Falls, NY for Valentine’s Day weekend, and he wanted to propose to her in view of the majestic American Falls- and of course, he wanted me to be there to capture the proposal on camera! Trying to coordinate details from Rochester (in secret, when Melissa wasn’t around) was complicated, but as luck would have it, some out-of-town friends of mine happened to visit the week before and decided to drive to the Falls to sight see. Perfect! I tasked them with scoping out the perfect spot for a proposal, and they delivered, bringing back cell phone pictures and descriptions of the Maid of the Mist Observation Deck. Our plan in place, all Mike and I had to do was wait.

As the day approached, we ran into our first hitch- the weather report. Forecasters began warning of highs of 4 degrees Fahrenheit, and subzero wind chills. Panicked, Mike and I tried to figure out an alternative proposal spot, preferably somewhere indoors and warm. I called and messaged just about everyone I knew who lived in the area, and the consensus was all the same- there’s just not much in Niagara Falls on the American side. We finally decided to grit our teeth, dress warmly, and stick to the original plan.

The day arrived, along with the predicted freezing temperatures and bonus snow drifts. Making it to the Falls was a little treacherous, but as I finally arrived (with my husband Nate in tow as assistant and second shooter), I felt a giddy nervousness set in. We made it to the Observation Deck and it was COLD, but stunningly beautiful. Nate and I couldn’t stop giggling at each other. We hadn’t wanted Melissa to recognize us, so we had both disguised ourselves: Nate wearing a ski mask that made him look like a Ninja, and me in a curly blond wig and giant fur cap. We felt like spies! While we waited for Mike and Melissa to arrive, we made our plan- we’d watch for them coming from the enclosed (but still cold) Maid of the Mist Observation Tower, and when we saw them coming Nate would run out to the Observation Deck outside and get in position, acting like a tourist taking pictures of the Falls. I would act casual and let them walk by me, then follow them out to the Observation Deck to photograph the proposal from an opposite angle. It was a solid plan, and when I got the text from Mike letting me know they were just a few minutes away, I nearly jumped out of my skin from excitement- there had been a break in tourists, and at the moment only Nate and I were there. Things couldn’t be more perfect. At that moment, a park employee approached me and my excitement turned to panic.

“Excuse me ma’am - we’ll need you guys to leave, the tower is closing now for cleaning.”

Seriously?? There was no way we could leave now. I began to plead with the park employee.

“Sir, please- I’m a photographer, and I’ve been hired to shoot a proposal that’s going to happen on the observation deck. The couple is on their way right now. It won’t take long. Please, just keep the tower open a little longer,” I pleaded. The employee looked skeptical. “Please,” I begged. Finally, he sighed. “I can keep it open a few more minutes.”

I could have kissed him, but I didn’t have time- just then I looked out of the tower and saw Mike and Melissa coming down the walkway. “That’s them! They’re coming! Thank you, thank you!” I yelled, and nodded for Nate to get into place. He hurried out to the Observation Deck, and I turned my back to the Tower entrance, doing my best impression of a random tourist. It was all falling into place. Until I heard the park employee stop Mike and Melissa.

“Sorry sir, you can’t come through here. There’s going to be a marriage proposal on the Observation Deck.”

WHAT. My heart stopped. I could hear Mike sputtering - “Oh… yeah? A marriage proposal… huh?” I panicked. We’d been found out. Melissa surely would know something was up! I peeked my head around the corner, still out of site of Melissa and Mike, got the attention of the park employee, and whispered “Psssst… THAT’S THEM. THAT’S THE COUPLE.” His face turned bright red as he realized his error, but I didn’t wait to find out what happened next- I abandoned my post and ran out to Nate on the Observation Deck.

“Nate! The park employee! He just stopped Mike and Melissa from coming in! He told them there’s a marriage proposal going on! What are we going to do???” As I yelled, my mind turned over the possibilities. Surely the park employee would let Melissa and Mike through now. What would they do when they got out here and saw we were the only ones here? Should I have Nate drop to one knee and pretend to propose to me? But would that call too much attention to us and make them recognize us? How could we fix this? Before I could decide, Nate glanced over my shoulder and whispered “They’re here.”

It was go time. Not knowing what else to do, Nate and I scattered (for some reason he took the post I originally was going to have, and I went to where he was originally going to stand) and did our best to look like tourists gazing at the Falls. I saw Melissa glance at us, but Mike quickly distracted her by suggesting she look through one of the viewfinders to get a better view of the Falls. Hitch #3- the viewfinders were solidly encrusted in ice. Thankfully Mike managed to act fast and pull out the ring and get down on one knee while Melissa assessed the icy viewfinder situation. It seemed like an eternity, but finally Melissa turned around and saw Mike and the ring- and her jaw just about hit the floor.

It was everything we hoped it would be- Melissa was shocked and excited, and then even more shocked and excited when she got a good look at the beautiful ring Mike had picked out. She had another shock when she realized Nate and I were there (“Kelly, are you seriously wearing a wig right now?!?! What are you doing in Niagara Falls? Where’s Claire?!”), and then the tears started to flow. Even though by this point I think all of our limbs were totally numb, Melissa managed to get the ring on her finger and kiss Mike, and Nate and I managed to keep shooting.

Even though our best laid plans didn’t quite work out the way we thought they would, it was still the perfect proposal. Seeing how happy and surprised Melissa was and how in love they both were made for an incredibly romantic day for all of us!

Congratulations, Melissa and Mike- and thank you for letting us be a part of your beautiful day. Wishing you a lifetime of love, laughter, and WARMTH! Happy Valentine’s Day!


A Peaceful Country Maternity Session | Rochester, NY Maternity Portrait Photographer

As I'm writing this in the deep freeze of winter it’s hard to imagine, but just a short time ago it was summer, blazing hot, and Mendy and Dan were just about to have another baby.

I met Mendy, Dan and their sweet little boy in June while at Beyond the Bump. Mendy was pregnant with their second baby, a little girl, and I was so thrilled when they decided to take advantage of my Year One baby plan to document the first year (or so) of their baby girl’s life. Even more exciting was when they decided to add on a maternity session prior to their daughter’s arrival!

Maternity sessions are a funny thing- I absolutely love them, but have noticed that a lot of folks have some apprehension about them. I like to approach maternity sessions more from a family portrait point of view- documenting not just the pregnant woman, but her partner and any other children, creating a literal snapshot of what life was like before their new arrival. It’s such a special and unique time in life, and I think it deserves as much attention as newborn and family portraits.

In Mendy’s case, a maternity session was a perfect idea. I spent a lovely afternoon and evening getting to know her little family - she, her husband and son are all so sweet, laid back, and peaceful. They so clearly adore each other, and had so much love and excitement in anticipation of adding another baby to their family. We started the session at their home by taking a little visit to their horse in the backyard- he TOTALLY wanted in on the photos! We then moved over to Mendon Ponds as the sun set- and even though it was July, the mosquitoes were in full force, and it was almost their son’s bedtime, we all still had a lot of laughs and a wonderful time. I felt almost like I was a part of a little celebration- like we were honoring the sweetness of their family of three while also celebrating that they’d soon be four. For me, folks, THAT is what a maternity session is all about.

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A Warm and Welcoming Lifestyle Newborn Session | Rochester, NY Newborn Photographer

As a newborn photographer, you have to be prepared for anything. Babies who fuss, cry, want to feed constantly and can’t get settled are just par for the course in this profession. Still, I wasn’t quite prepared for what greeted me when I arrived at Brandon and Liz’s house to photograph their new baby Eliza: a cup of coffee.

Considering they had only had 11 days of practice, Brandon and Liz were killing it in the parenting department. They were both so relaxed, and so clearly enjoying their sweet new daughter, along with their brand new roles as parents. From the moment I stepped into their home and Brandon handed me that cup of coffee, I could see that little Eliza had somewhat seamlessly slipped into their world, rather than completely rocking it.

Eliza’s newborn session mirrored her parents’ attitude: warm, loving and relaxed. No fussing or crying- this might have been a first! We set up shop in the cozy master bedroom, and in between coffee refills I worked with Brandon and Liz to document their gorgeous new family. Eliza cooperated beautifully, and I left that morning not only with a couple of growlers of homebrew (Brandon is a master beer-brewer!), but a smile on my face and the warm feeling that I had just witnessed the beginnings of one very happy family.

Eliza is one of the members of my flagship Year One Plan - a baby package I’ve been implementing for the past year without really having the chance to advertise. With the Year One Plan, I’ll have the privilege of photographing Eliza during more of the milestones of her first year (or so) of babyhood. I’ll share all the details of my Year One Plan in a future post- but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy these images from this beautiful newborn session. Welcome to the world, Baby Eliza!