My best friend of 20 years texted me one night a couple weeks ago and asked if we could FaceTime. Kathy said she had to show me something and get my opinion. So I had to install FaceTime on my phone and figure out how to use it...but I never thought twice. I got her and her husband, Greg, on the line and she asked me to get my husband because we are both creative and she needed our opinion on framing a photo. She swiveled the camera to the coffee table and there on the screen was a sonogram picture! I instantly had tears in my eyes and asked her if she was kidding. Which was a dumb question to ask (insert face-palm here).
She asked me if I would help them with announcement photos...which was also a dumb question. Like she had to ask! To be honest, I had never done pregnancy announcement photos, but that was certainly not going to stop me!
The soon-to-be parents wanted the photos to feature their fur babies, so I did some research (aka pinterest) and sent Kathy some ideas. Her husband plays guitar and she is a book nerd like me, so we wanted to incorporate those things into the session. I ordered a "How to Be a Big Brother" prop book for their ten year old Bernese Mountain Dog, Tama, to read. I also found a cute book of lullabies for guitar so their newest addition, Chilly, could study up. Kathy found some baby sized Converse All-Stars that were perfect because they wore Converse at their wedding. I packed up various chalkboards and Kathy stocked up on dog treats and invited her neighbor over to help (Greg was at work). We were ready...or so we thought.
We started the session with the big chalkboard sign and tried to get the two dogs to sit nicely on either side. Tama was cool with it since we weren't asking much. He just laid down in the grass and looked around. Chilly was far too excited. I quickly realized it was better to get her sitting and then move everything else instead of the other way around. I ended up having to combine three images, edit out leashes and shorten the flower bed in the background. They didn't need all those red flowers anyway, right?
I wasn't sure how we were going to get the books to stand up, but the grass was just long enough to keep them upright. Again, Tama was cooperative. We didn't even make him move from the spot he claimed for the first shot. He looked at the book and perked up his ears. Click! Done.
We grabbed one of Greg's guitars from the house for Chilly's turn. The breeze was blowing the pages of the book and she was still way too excited to sit. I think it took around six tries and lots of treats to get the shot I wanted. In the process we got one of her leaping over the guitar, which ended up being Greg's favorite.
We moved up to the deck for the shots with the baby shoes. Tama plunked down where we asked him, but we had to convince him to sit instead of getting comfy. Again...Chilly...excited. There was a lot of positioning and frustrated commands that weren't obeyed. But I managed to get a pretty good one of them all lined up. Tama was kinda over it at that point, but he didn't complain when I put the shoes in between his furry paws for one more shot.
Greg had asked Kathy to try to get one of the dogs with their paws up on the railing. That is how they greet visitors. Kathy's neighbor, Val, had been helping us but we thought maybe if she went around the side of the house and then came back, they would jump up to say hi. Nope. They were not fooled. Tama laid down in a shady spot on the deck and looked at us like we were crazy. We tried all kinds of things to get them up there...commands, calls, treats. Chilly was doing it for treats at first but Tama wouldn't budge. So Kathy literally dragged him over and picked him up to put his paws on the railing. In case you can't tell, Tama is a very heavy dog. She finally got him up there and then Chilly wouldn't join him. UGH!
So I knew this was going to have to be a composite. On Kathy's third try picking Tama up, I got a shot that I could use. Part one done. We got Chilly to jump back up using a ridiculous amount of treats. Part two. Then I put the shoes on the railing and got part three. You'd think the shot of the shoes would have been the easiest part but it took almost as long as the ones with the dogs because the sun went behind a cloud so I had to sit there and wait for the lighting to change back.
At this point, we were all sweating. The health of Kathy's back muscles was in serious question, and our treat supply was dwindling. I asked Kathy if there was anything else she wanted. And she says, "Can we get one with Peanut?"
To say that their cat, Peanut, has an attitude is the understatement of the century. All you have to do is be within five feet of her and she will hiss and growl at you. She hates everyone except for Greg. When they have company, they have to put her in a room and shut the door so she doesn't hurt anyone. She once cornered one of their friends in the bathroom and made the poor girl cry. So needless to say, I was skeptical about trying to get a photo of her.
Kathy wanted to use a sign that said, "I'm not mad", which, of course, fits Peanut perfectly. I thought it would be funny to use the baby Converse and make it look like she attacked them. As Val and I were untying shoelaces and carefully messing up the shoes, Kathy was getting Peanut high as a kite with catnip. Genius!
Kathy carried the loopy (and yet still growling) cat on to the deck and set her down. I put the shoes in front of her (quickly so I wouldn't get swatted) and started shooting. She just sat there. She sniffed the shoes and rubbed up on the chalkboard and just looked right at the camera. It was amazing! I was blown away. I actually asked Kathy to try to make her mad and it didn't work. Kathy couldn't wait to tell Greg that Peanut was the best model of the day.
I had the absolute pleasure this spring of photographing my son's best friend from preschool along with her mom and big sister. I loved spending time with all of them and getting to know the family better. Oliver was taken with Makenna the very first week of school and she has been special to him (and me) ever since.
When I decided to start offering the Special Smiles Sessions, I did some research online to see if there were any classes I could take to help me photograph kids with disabilities better. That's when I learned about Special Kids Photography of America. I started the process of becoming accredited with them and needed to submit images as part of my application. I thought of the Manning family right away. I knew Makenna would be a joy to photograph, and I was so right!
I don't do a lot of engagement sessions, mainly because I don't offer wedding packages, and most engagement sessions are done by the wedding photographer. I also prefer to work with children who haven't yet learned to be self conscious about how they look or what others think of them. But when Anthony approached me about purchasing a gift certificate for an engagement session as a Valentine's Day gift for his fiance, Heather, I knew I would not regret saying yes.
Anthony and Heather are both the type of person that never apologizes for who they are, and, like the children I photograph, they seem as if they haven't yet learned how to be self conscious. They are both unabashedly real, quirky, and full of life. They inspired me to think outside my box. When Anthony said he wanted his new Harley Davidson motorcycle to be a main fixture of the session, I will admit I was a little nervous. I'd never posed anyone on a motorcycle before, but I was definitely up for the challenge.
Jake's senior portrait session was so different from anything I've done recently. It really made me have to think and the editing was more difficult than usual, but I love the results. Jake loves the fashion of the 1920's jazz era and 1950's gangsters. His mom bought him his first complete well tailored suit just for the session. I think he would wear it every day if he could. His mom's reaction when he put it on was "It's so you".
When Jake's mom, Faith, contacted me to do his senior portraits, I said yes right away. I don't usually do senior portraits, but Faith has been a client of mine since long before HeartStrings existed. I've known Jake for so long, I couldn't imagine any other photographer taking his senior photos. Faith
wanted to use the Palace Theater in Hamilton for the session. She contacted the owners and they said yes! We met there for the consultation. I took tons of notes and quickly became super excited. It's not often I have the opportunity to shoot in such a unique location.
Cassandra Zingaro - photographer, mom, wife, owner of HeartStrings Photography and first time blogger