I told my husband this year it’s a good thing he married me quick, or the next generation would have beat him to this next stage!  Stephanie is my husband’s oldest (and first!) niece, and I met Stephanie through church (as her youth group leader) before I ever knew Daniel existed.  She suggested I date Daniel months before we ever did, and she was one of the first to know when we did finally go out.  She even covered for me with the rest of the youth group girls when I wasn’t ready to spread the news through the high school crowd yet 😉 .

Last year, Daniel and I were privileged to travel in the Netherlands and northern Europe with some of his family, and Stephanie brought Caleb.  Oh man was that a big deal!  Boyfriends don’t just come on vacation like that, so we all knew what was up.  I think the Westra family en masse gave Caleb a bit of culture shock.  Actually I’m fairly certain, because it gave me culture shock when I joined and I’m more outgoing than Caleb (I’ve got a bond with the small-family in-laws on that one).

So here’s way more photos than necessary, because all the cousins sang, tantes (aunts) read poems, ooms (uncles) MC’ed, and the cousins brought my biggest baby on the dance floor and trailered her around behind toy tractors.  Also Caleb’s not a giant fan of pictures, but my goal was to do this FAST so I bet you can’t tell!  Bonus points to Daniel for taking care of our kids while I shot this one.


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To the moms:

I’ve only been in your circle for 15 months, and I know I was a kid for longer than that.  So I remember kid better than mom. Maybe you do too.

I remember tricycle laps on the driveway while mom weeded.  I remember which rocks in my mom’s backyard covered the biggest worms.  I remember picking three plants that I got to plant in my corner of the garden.  I remember a clean house with blankets, pillows and dining room chairs that made perfect forts.  I remember asking mom how to make the lemonade I’d sell to get money for the ice cream truck.  I remember asking what’s for dinner, and being so excited when she said alfredo, steak, or creamed tuna on toast.  I remember always finding clean clothes in my dresser.  I remember how awesome it was when we got donuts at the grocery store.  Or those little boxes of animals crackers that had the carrying string.  I remember lollipops at the bank and the ball pit at McDonalds.  I remember whispering “Can I have a candy, read a book, and fall asleep in your bed tonight?” and hearing yes and being sure it was the best night ever.  I remember summer evening runs to get Italian ice, and I remember jars with holes in the lid for my lightening bugs.  I remember pulling into the driveway after dark and keeping my eyes squeezed shut as I was carried to bed.  And man are those memories are magic.

Did you see the video being passed around Facebook about a mom’s long day – and the kid’s description of it being the best day ever?  At the end, it said “Because your normal might be their magic”.  Guys, we get to MAKE that magic every day.

One day they’ll remember too, and they’ll remember magic because we made it.  Because we tracked their feedings, because we made sure they got enough sleep, because we fed them fruits and vegetables in sneaky ways.  Because we cleaned poop out of the shower and the floor.  Because we made lunch and dinner.  Because we tackled and tickled them on the couch.  Because we carried their perfect sleeping little bodies from the car to their bed.

I didn’t want to do it all today.  Maybe you didn’t either.  But my normal might be their magic.  Which is why we’ll all do it again tomorrow.

Happy Mother’s Day, you guys




Cut-to-the-chase honesty, coming your way!

When you land on the pricing page on my website, you’ll see that a portrait session is $350, and includes about an hour of shooting (as well as all photos, edited, and an online gallery).  Here’s what I want you to know about that “about one hour” comment – because if you’re paying the bill, you should get what I’m doing.  And because my experience in my profession doesn’t just include my camera.

Honestly, usually, that first 15 minutes of shooting is crap.  In that first 15 minutes, you feel awkward – or a little strange at best.  You don’t know me, and I don’t know you.  You don’t know what to expect: do you have to pose yourself?  Am I going to pose you?  What if you feel awkward?  What if the poses feel awkward?  What if you look awkward and don’t know it?  What if you don’t know what to do with your hands?  Will I tell you?  Getting great portraits with all that going on in your head is HARD.

But 15 minutes in, you start to relax.  You find out I’m actually pretty conversational and easy to get along with (I hope), that you’re laughing and/or giggling more than you expected, and that I’m posing you enough that you don’t feel lost and awkward, but not so much you feel fake.  Since we’ve done a couple of poses a few times, you’re starting to get the feel of this routine, and you’re getting pretty used to the fact that my camera is always snapping at something.

2017-02-04_0025By minute 30, all the questions have left your mind, and you haven’t even realized a half hour as gone by.  We’ve probably covered a few topics about your life, and a few embarrassing facts about mine (including that fact that I can’t get myself to stop saying “oh that’s perfect” while I’m shooting, and that I have an off-center belly button) – and if kids are involved in this shoot, we’ve covered favorite food, whether or not they’re ticklish, and probably even whether or not mom ever toots.  All of this is gold for me (your photographer).


By minute 40/45, you’re about done.  You’re starting to remember we’ve been doing this a while, a kid or fiance or groom is threatening melt down if they don’t get a snack, and you can’t believe how many times you’ve heard my camera click.  We start wrapping up, but by now we know each other well enough to keep chatting pretty easily.  And now every emotion is completely real.  In between reminders that ice cream was promised, or promises that we are walking back to the car/reception/house, someone starts an impromptu round of Ring Around the Rosie, or let’s skip back to the car! or dad-give-me-a-piggy-back ride and I make sure I don’t miss grabbing those bits of real, real life (including an occasional full-on meltdown).  While a lot of it might be crap at this point, the in-between moments are anything but.

2017-02-04_00242017-02-04_0020THIS is how I make sure I capture YOU.  All on, full on, real life YOU.  And it works.  I promise.  It works.  Sometimes in less than an hour because you’re just so chill.  Sometimes in more than an hour because you’re just having fun with it and minute 40 doesn’t hit until later.  But trust me that I’m watching this happen and I know when we’re good.  When we’ve got the stuff you came for.  So also trust me and don’t try to pack in your family shoot, your twin daughter’s senior shoots, and a quick grab of your extended family all in one session.  While we can get it all in, it won’t be the same.  And my sessions aren’t about just “getting it in” – I’m always aiming for your response to sound like Brittany’s:

“Ah you’re amazing! I wasn’t expecting to have them so soon! Love love them!! You captured the kids personalities perfectly! Thank you again!”  – Brittany, 2016 family portrait client
Here’s to a 2017, understanding your photographer’s pricing, and a whole lot of happy, happy photos!


Thank you for 2016.

This was the year I took the leap from working for someone to working for myself.
The year photography took the spotlight instead of “side job” title.
The year I first shot film – and bought a film camera!
The year I got to have my first mentoring session – and with Tenth & Grace!
The year I submitted my first shoots to publications (got rejected, but hey, it’s a start).
The year I finally felt like I could help another photographer the way people like Megan Welker have helped me.
The year I made a full-service website.

And so much more.  Thank YOU!  So here’s one shot from almost every 2016 session (and two from a few because I just couldn’t help it), and here’s to a great 2017!



So you know how parents of young children keep a book on their first year of life?  Each month, they note the things that baby is loving and/or hating and/or learning that month.  I think it’s a great way to remember what that time was like. (I saw a meme that said “If my memory was any worse, I’d be able to throw my own surprise party.” I think this is especially true for people like us.)

So next point: why don’t we do that for us?  Why don’t I mark things I love in each season of life?  Doing it.  You should too.

Lauren, 327 months:

  • happiest when she’s sitting on the couch, editing photos with FRIENDS on in the background, watching Mina pull toys out of her toy basket
  • favorite foods include dark chocolate caramels with sea salt, Pizano’s pizza, peaches, and chile verde burritos (still doesn’t cook regularly)
  • so excited to be starting to learn film and shoot styled sessions
  • trying to work up the courage to leave Willemina for the weekend to attend a fancy pants wedding in Monterey with Daniel


/// Meanwhile, each time I head back to NJ, I aim to shoot.  This past May we were back, just in time for my sister’s first wedding anniversary.  Plus she had a dress she needed to use for something which is a fabulous excuse.  Plus my poor family gets gipped on photos since I live far.  Plus Dad cleaned up our back property incredibly since I moved out so it’s more than worth photographing.  Happy year and some, Tim and Shelly! ///