19 Ridiculously Influential Filmmakers We Aspire to Become

Here are some of the people that are inspiring us at the moment.  Some we have admired for years and others are newly discovered, but each one has given us something to strive for.


1. Nora Ephron 

Nora is just pure brilliance.  Her writing is filled with heart and wit and practicality, and it all adds up to magic.  She is often imitated, but rarely duplicated.  Nora has shown us that every detail matters in a movie.  Every character needs to have a moment, no matter how small the role.  Her reason was so every person in her movies could say "I played so-and-so" and the response would be "Oh I remember you!"  Nora noticed every little detail and made everyone feel special, and that's why her movies (and she herself) are so endearing.  


Side note: There is a fascinating book about how Nora saved romantic comedies that I highly recommend.  It's called I'll Have What She's Having by Erin Carlson.  She was just a spectacular person and it made me cry at the end.  No lie, Chris and I ask ourselves "What would Nora do?" at least 3 times a week. She was one of a kind. -m 



2. Woody Allen

*this is based off of work- we're not getting into anything else.

Woody's method of writing is extremely unique.  He jots down ideas on napkins and scraps of paper and then creates outlines off of those notes.  We learned that his method for writing Annie Hall was to walk around New York talking out the story points with his cowriter and then going home to write alone.  We laughed because that's how Chris writes, except we walk around Target and TJ Maxx. 

Most of Woody's movies are female-centric and full of extremely complex characters.  When he writes, he isn't concerned about the details, just the characters and where the action is going, but once he starts production, he has every detail planned out.  His dialogue is some of the sharpest and wittiest out there.   

What we have learned from him is to take everything as a step. Character first, story next, and then the production.  And to not be afraid to have a deeply flawed character.  Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine is extremely flawed, and in our humble opinion, is one of the best characters ever written and performed.  




3. Greta Gerwig

Greta has gone from being someone we enjoyed in movies to being our main boo.  She writes coming of age movies with female leads that would normally only be made for a man, something like The Graduate.  They aren't just about being a women; it's about finding who you are and where you fit in.  Her characters are complicated and empathetic. Greta knows who she is and her vice is clear and present in her screenplays. That is something we truly admire.  

This past year, Greta made her directorial debut with Lady Bird and was the 5th woman EVER to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director.  Lady Bird is one of the 2 best movies of 2017 for us.  It's about a teenage girl trying to get to where she feels she belongs in the world. It's beautiful and ridiculous and heartfelt.  This is going to be a classic. 

Movies to Watch: Lady Bird; Francis Ha; Mistress America



4. Noah Baumbach

Noah is Greta's main squeeze and frequent collaborator.  We have really gotten into him this past year.  His writing is full of conflict and family dynamics and characters that are so dysfunctional, you just can't take your eyes off of them.  

Movie to Watch: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (One of our faves from last year- it's on Netflix)



5. Judd Apatow

Judd is a man of many talents, he writes, he directs and he produces.  We've learned so much from him with that alone.  The main reason we look up to him though is that he recognizes talent and natures it. That is really big deal in a town where the first instinct is to promote yourself.  

He (and his partners) created a show called Freaks & Geeks about 18 years ago.  It was a brilliant but quiet little show that didn't even last a season, but through it, Judd discovered some incredibly talented people in the industry today: Seth Rogan, James Franco, and Jason Segel.  Judd has continued to mentor and work with them and others he's discovered over the years including Jonah Hill, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Emma Stone.  We aspire to be a part of a supportive environment like Judd. 




6. Christine Vachon

When we were researching independent producers, the name Christine Vachon kept popping up.  We read articles and a book and discovered she is a badass.  She IS independent producing.  Christine takes projects that would never see the light of day otherwise, and finds a way to make them a reality.  It's not about money or awards or power for her (although she is one of the most respected people in the industry); it's just about making art and speaking to people that don't often get heard.  Christine has shown us so much about getting a project started. 



7. Wes Anderson

Watching a Wes Anderson movie is an experience.  You have to watch it two or three times, because there are so many little details that make the story.  He is a very visual story-teller.  Each scene in one of his his movies could be a photograph, and you can tell what the story is from that photo.  That is something that speaks to us.  His stories are very simple, often family related and the visuals add layers to the emotional pull.  

Movies to Watch: The Royal Tenenbaums; The Grand Budapest Hotel; Moonrise Kingdom




8. Ted Hope

Ted is another champion of independent film.  He has worked on films of every budget level and his goal is the same on each: it's all about the story.  Ted's commitment to getting the job done is what inspires us.  He will do whatever it takes- whether he's holding the boom mike or trying to woo investors for financing.  He doesn't throw his position around- he is a true team player. 



9. Reese Witherspoon 

We all love Reese Witherspoon- she invented the Bend & Snap after all.  But with all the talk of a lack of quality roles for women- especially women over 40, Reese decided to take action.  She was tired of being offered the role of wife or girlfriend, so she started a production company.  She produced movies like Gone Girl and Wild, and with Nicole Kidman, developed and starred in the limited series,  Big Little Lies.  Featuring a strong female cast, it has won numerous awards.  Reese saw an opportunity and went for it.  That just makes us love her more.  




10. David O. Russell

David's movies are some of our favorites.  He understands and writes family dynamics so beautifully; he's what we aspire to be.  He gets that life is messy and beautiful and it's evident in his writing and directing.  He often works with another of our faves, Jennifer Lawrence, creating some exceptional characters together.  He often texted Jennifer late at night with ideas, which is how we operate, because we're night owls. His movies have so much emotion, but at the end you are filled with hope.  

Movies to Watch: Silver Linings Playbook; American Hustle; The Fighter




11. Jordan Peele

Jordan is a new inspiration.  He wrote and directed Get Out, one of the most critically acclaimed and successful movies of last year.  Jordan had such passion and conviction in his story that that even a major movie studio accommodated his distribution requests, something that is unheard of, especially with a first time director.  The payout was huge for everyone.  Jordan inspires us to fight we believe in.  




12. Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen has been an inspiration for several years.  She is proof that hard work pays off.  She started as an assistant to a friend of Steven Spielberg and after being poached to be his assistant,  worked her way through producing and now she is the head of LucasFilms, having been hand-picked by George Lucas to replace him.  Kathy is one of the hardest-working, and respected people in the industry.  She has the second highest domestic box office receipts, just behind her former boss, Steven.  

Kathy's purpose is to serve the story and she is willing to make tough decisions in order to do this.  Women sometimes feel the need to make everyone like them so they can be taken seriously, but Kathy knows that someone has to get the hard stuff done so she might as well do it.  She is a true leader.  




13. Tina Fey

Tina Fey is bossy... and proud of it.  She got her big break on Saturday Night Live, becoming the first female head writer.  She went on to create 30 Rock, winning critical acclaim and numerous awards.  But the main reason we love her is she wrote one of the greatest (cult) movies ever- Mean Girls.  It is biting and brilliant and totally quotable.  She makes being smart and nerdy look cool as hell. And she runs a tight ship. 




14. Sean Baker

Sean Baker has taught us that you are only as limited as you allowing yourself to be.  His movie Tangerine was made for less than $100,000 and shot on iPhones.  It's a raw, beautiful look at a side of Los Angeles that people just want to look past.  His latest movie, The Florida Project, has a slightly larger budget, but the emotion is still there.  It's the heartbreaking and heartwarming story about a young girl and her emotionally immature mother who are just a step up from being on the streets.  His movies stick with you for a long time after they end.  Sean has shown us to look past budget and work with the heart of the story in the forefront.




15. Patty Jenkins

Patty Jenkins is a badass.  She came from an indie background and went on to direct one of the most critically and financially successful movies of 2017, which happened to be about a female supervisor.  Simply put, Wonder Woman was AMAZING.  Patty was able to put together a movie that was both entertaining to watch and emotionally charged.  She accomplished this while dealing with doubters and snarky fanboys.  Women are very rarely given the opportunity to direct projects of this magnitudes.  Patty more than showed that women can be successful with big budget movies.  




16. Luca Guadagnino 

Luca's movies have a very charmed European lifestyle feel to them, but have an emotional pull to them.  Call Me By Your Name is one of those movies we just can't get over. Just even thinking about it makes me want it watch it again.  The performances, the cinematography, the music; everything works together.  




17. Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman's scripts have such unusual premises to them, but at their heart, it's just about wanting to be loved and understood.

Movies to Watch: The Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind; Adaption; Being John Malkovich




18. Alicia Malone

Alicia Malone is someone who just genuinely loves movies and has figured out a way to make a living talking about them.  She reviews movies for various outlets and has podcasts and speaks on panels at festivals.  Recently, she has made it her goal to get more women involved in all aspects of film.  She has written a book about the history of women filmmakers.  She is one of many that are working to change the statistics of the number of women who are succeeding in the entertainment industry.  

Book to Read: Backwards & In Heels: The Past, Present And Future of Women Working In Film by Alicia Malone



19. Ryan Murphy

Ryan Murphy is a class favorite.  He has a true love of pop culture, which we enjoy, and he isn't afraid of taking risks and pushing buttons.  He has numerous projects, each completely different, yet his voice is clear throughout each.  Ryan works with an extremely diverse group of people, making it a point to hire female directors and crew.  He believes that as a white man, he has the opportunity and responsibility to open doors for others.  

Things to Watch:  Feud: Betty & Joan; Scream Queens (first season); American Crime Story: OJ Simpson; American Horror Story



There are many more people whose work inspires us, not just in the entertainment industry. These are just who we are currently studying to help us work towards our goals.  Who is inspiring you lately? Let us know!

9 Eye-Catching Techniques To Make Your Photography Pop

When I first started in photography, I had no clue what I was doing.  I was thrown to the wolves until some kind souls took me under their wings, if you'll allow me to mix metaphors.  It took me a good year and a half before I felt completely comfortable with the camera.  Once I was comfortable, I was ready to try new things to take my newfound skill to the next level.  Here are 9 techniques that helped me: 

1.  Looking For a New Angle

  In the beginning, I posed everyone straight towards the camera.  It's a natural tendency; people want to face the camera.  The problem with that is pictures look flat- two dimensional and your subjects appear wider.  Placing your subject at a 45° angle adds shape and dimension and is flattering to your subject.  When you are photographing multiple people, angling their bodies will allow you to get them closer together so framing them is much easier.  There are some instances where posing straight towards the camera works, but I have found that angles take you from passport to a portrait.  


2. Eye to Eye

  This is a big one.  After you pose your subject at a 45° angle,  make sure their face is pointed at the camera.  The camera lens will open on whatever is closest to it, so if something is facing it more dominantly, that object will be out of proportion. You don't want their cheek to look huge compared to the rest of their face.   I always tell people to turn their nose towards where my finger is; otherwise they will jerk their head to the complete opposite direction.  

  The next step is to make sure that you are positioned at their eye level.  That means move your body!  To me, this step alone tells me if you are a photographer or just someone who just points and shoots.  Getting at the correct eye level allows the camera to fully capture their face.  If you are up too high, their forehead is the focal point. If you are down too low, it's their chin.  You should be able to draw a(n imaginary) line from ear to ear through their eyes, like they are wearing glasses.  


3. Find Your Center

  Axis sounds like a scary word, but it just refers to where you are positioned when photographing. You want to be parallel to your subject, so you can see all of them in the camera.  If you are having issues with getting your whole image in the frame, I can almost guarantee that you are off center to your subject. That or how you hold you camera (more on that later).  


4. You Light Up My World Like Nobody Else

  I talk about lighting a lot, but it's important.   I'm still working to master it.  Chris is amazing at it. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, some I've learned from him, that are different from regular lighting.  This is something I like to call The Glow: 

  Best at sunset, pose your subject so their back is to the sun, slightly to the side of the sunset.  You will be standing parallel to them, facing the sun.  This is best with an interactive pose, so have them do their thing.  This is an instance where you will have to adjust your camera settings, but the overall look is amazing.  


  Another tip for lighting is to use a reflector.  Sometimes you will need just a little extra light on your subject's face.  I've used a shiny silver cookie sheet or a piece of cardboard wrapped in aluminum foil.  Have someone hold it (so you can't see it in the picture) or else position it so you can see light reflecting in their face.  Having proper lighting helps enhance your subject, making a more flattering picture.  

5. Freeze Frame

 Every photographer has their own way they treat their camera and their own style of shooting; it's like a painter and their brush. You just have to practice until it feels comfortable in your hands.  I could fill a blog with the horror stories that Chris and I have witnessed over the years of people trying to get their feel of the camera.  You're going to be an awkward duckling until you grow into a skilled photographer.

  There IS something that will help you with framing your picture and capturing perspective with your portraits:  holding your camera so the lens is laying flat.  It means that you will have to move your body to get the cropping that you want.  You will have to consciously make sure it is flat, as your hand has a tendency to angle the lens after awhile because it gets heavy.  Holding it flat will help you not (accidentally) cut something out of the image.  


6. The Shape of You

  This technique takes our first step and throws some spice on it.  Our eyes are automatically drawn to things that have shape.  Angles should make shapes. Shape adds dimension and makes things interesting to look at.  There are three basic shape used in photography: the triangle, the diamond and the step-stairs.  Look at pictures around your house- look for shapes.  Start by positioning your subject's heads so your eyes can see a shape.  If you have a single subject, pose their body to make a one.  

Do you see the triangles here? 

Do you see the triangles here? 

7.  Breathing Room

  When I started photography, I was taught that everything needs to be perfectly centered.  As I developed my skill, I found that my performed form of cropping is using the rule of thirds.   I will center my portraits from pose to pose, or at least give the illusion that it's centered, but what I'm drawn to is rule of thirds.  

  The rule of thirds is posing your subject, and in your camera, split your viewfinder into thirds.  Frame your subject so they are purposefully filling two-thirds of the frame, with the final third having negative space.  The negative space gives your eyes breathing room, so they can naturally find the subject.   A common occurrence is just to frame off center and say that it's rule of thirds, when really it's just badly cropped.  The most common thing is to have the subject in one-third of the frame with two-thirds filled with negative space.  This style is great for close ups or for event pictures, like graduation or maternity. 


8. I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeVille

  This is another one of my favorites.  The extreme close up picks one feature, usually the eyes and showcases that feature, causing the viewer's eyes to naturally go there first.  Frame your subject, using the proper perspective, and make sure your desired focal point IS the focal point.  That means you'll probably have to crop the top of their head out.  Two things to watch out for: 1. Make sure you don't chop the chin off. And 2.  Don't crop too much of the head- going too far into the forehead looks odd.  I usually go slightly below their hairline, so it's not to distracting.

  Extreme close-ups and rule of third's definitely need practice, but once you master it, your photography will start to look like it's from a magazine article.   


8.  Let's Get Candid

  Candid is one of those double edged swords.  It's often requested, but rarely enjoyed, because you can't force candid.  I am not a great candid photographer, but I am great at looking for and capturing moments.  There is a difference.  The reason people don't like the candids that they requested is just that: you can't make someone be candid- it just looks fake.  The pictures that they saw were from someone else's story and it didn't fit in with their own story.  Every person and family has their own dynamic and as you build your skill, you will be able to use their dynamics to create their own moments.  


I hope these will help you develop your skills.  Some of them are more creative choices, so take them with a grain of salt.  It's just how I do it, but try it out and try other techniques.  Find your own style! -m

The Anatomy of Love That Gets You Up Everyday

Love what you do and do what you love.

That is something I believe in whole-heartedly.  Being passionate about something and loving it so much that you can't wait to do it again. Having a purpose in life. 

  I have introduced you to Stephanie Blunt Lunt Lussier before; she absolutely loves photography. She always has a camera close by; it doesn’t matter what the subject is, she just wants to take pictures.  Stephanie has a busy life: she’s married, she has 2 adorable kids, she loves to go out to the dunes for racing and she’s a hard-core Sigur Ros fan.  Throughout everything in her life, her passion for photography shows.  I got to witness her passion this weekend, when she asked me to assist her on a newborn session.  I was excited; I love photographing babies and I wanted to see Steph in action, so I jumped at the chance. 


Photographer stance.



  From the moment we met that day, Stephanie was prepared.  She had a vision for the day and she had everything that she needed for that.  We got to the house and met baby Carter and big brother Liam and right away, Steph set out to put their mom at ease.  She was included in every decision and yet Stephanie had control.  Mom had a few requests, I made a few suggestions, and Stephanie took those and added it into her vision. 

Liam & Carter- photo credit smlphotography

Liam & Carter- photo credit smlphotography


Her love of photography is evident as she works. She is completely at ease with her camera and she spends time making sure all the details are right.  She made everyone feel comfortable during the session.  Even when Carter peed everywhere, she kept her cool and just went about her business.  It was a pleasure, getting to see someone who enjoyed what they do so much.  I know that Stephanie has her hard days just like everyone, but when it comes right down to it, she is passionate about her photography.  It shows in her work and how she talks about it and how she interacts with people. 

Looking for just the right angle.

Looking for just the right angle.

     Life is not always gummy bears and iced coffee.  Having something that you are passionate about- whether it's your family, a hobby, a goal, or your job- makes getting through the day a little easier. There should be something in your day that makes everything worth the effort. It's still going to be hard work, but now, there is purpose for what you do.  You could ask anyone who is head over heels in love with their job and they will tell you that there are days that make them want to rip their hair out.  But they get up the next morning and do it again because they love what they do.  

photo credit: smlphotography

photo credit: smlphotography

Being able to do what you love is such an enormous blessing.  Sometimes being passionate about something doesn’t pay the bills.  Believe me, I get that.  But I have something that gives me joy through the challenging times.  The passion for creating stories and putting all the pieces together gives me purpose.  I love being surrounded by people who are passionate about something.  It doesn't matter what; their energy is inspiring.  It makes me so happy to see others achieve their goals, especially when they have worked so hard.  

I'm so grateful to Stephanie for allowing me to witness her in action.  It recharged me and gave me more focus. I hope to collaborate again soon! -m

A Deep Appreciation of Film Appreciation

or Our Experience at SBIFF

by Mandi Harrison

  This past weekend, we went to California to attend the Virtuosos Awards at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.  This was to honor to last year’s breakout performances.  The  honorees were Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman- unfortunately she was sick that night), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Hong Chau (Downsizing), John Boyega (Detroit… and Star Wars), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) and MARY. J. BLIGE. (Mudbound). That’s right- 


we were in the same room with Mary J. 


(Five minute dance party to Family Affair) 


Mary J. is in the house tonight and she gonna make you feel alright! 

Mary J. is in the house tonight and she gonna make you feel alright! 

  Okay, I’m back.

We’ve been to a few film festivals, each one completely different, and this event was very interesting.  This isn’t a large festival, but it is held in high esteem because it caters to the press.  Watching how the press line worked on the red carpet was fascinating. I always watch the red-carpet arrivals before awards shows on tv, but I only saw that one channel’s view point and it looks chaotic in the back ground. This was a well-oiled machine.  Everyone arrived in shifts, and worked their way down.  Short and sweet.  That was my first aha! moment. 


Daniel Kaluuya- three letters for Get Out.  O. M. G.  Seriously disturbing and brilliant.  

Daniel Kaluuya- three letters for Get Out.  O. M. G.  Seriously disturbing and brilliant.  

  I’m going to come back to my second thought in a little bit.  My third take away was how much work the actors had to put into this.  Chris loves to follow press tours for movie releases (I do too, but not with the devotion that he does).  He tells me all these things that he’s discovered or realized about how the actors are on the tour.  It is amazing, and last Saturday, we got to witness it.  The actors may have been receiving an award, but it was really a press stop.  The majority of them are nominated for the Oscars, so they are still campaigning.  This was a night out for us, but it was a day at the office for them. 


The utterly charming Kumail Nanjiani from The Big Sick.  I love this movie more each time I see it.   It's full of beautifully flawed families.  And it's a true story!       

The utterly charming Kumail Nanjiani from The Big Sick.  I love this movie more each time I see it.   It's full of beautifully flawed families.  And it's a true story!   



  Back to my second thought. These awards were for the breakout performances of the year.  Except for Downsizing, we’ve watched all the honorees’ movies.  They all were outstanding. Timothée Chalamet ripped me to shreds in Call Me By Your Name. This year had some amazing movies, some of the best in many years.  Women in particular had some incredible performances.  Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Sally Hawkins, Margot Robbie, Octavia Spencer, Gal Gadot, Holly Hunter- just to name a few.  But’s not just the actors who make the movie, or the director or producer or the writer.  It’s every person that comes on that set to work, or works on the editing or any one of a hundred roles that make up a production.  And every time you go to the theater or buy the blu-ray or watch on a streaming service, you are supporting that person’s livelihood. And validating their dream. 


Timothée Chalamet, or Elío, Elío, Elío from the BEAUTIFUL Call Me By Your Name.  

Timothée Chalamet, or Elío, Elío, Elío from the BEAUTIFUL Call Me By Your Name.  

  Every time you choose to watch a movie that has a female director, or a female lead, or a person of color in a leading role, you are making a case for more movies like this to be made.  Because the language Hollywood speaks is money, and if something is successful, they want more and more and more.  Supporting these films is the way to keep them coming. 

  Another way to support film is to go to a local film festival.  Last year was the first time I went to the Phoenix Film Festival and I was impressed.  There were several movies that we would never have gotten to see if we hadn’t gone. For a lot of filmmakers, that is the only way their film will be seen by a large number of people.  I highly recommend going if you can.  

  It takes a lot of people to get a movie made.  It's all made possible by people who enjoy and support film.  We are still in the development of our project, but we feel the support of everyone around us.  We appreciate any type of support and will continue to need it as we get closer to putting Sydney, Arizona on the big screen.  

Thank you so much!

All the honorees (except Gal) before Christopher Lloyd presented them with their awards. That's heavy, Doc! 

All the honorees (except Gal) before Christopher Lloyd presented them with their awards. That's heavy, Doc! 







The Top 5 Reasons Your Photography Looks Like Sh*t

If you've just started taking pictures, or even if you've been doing it awhile, and your pictures just aren't turning out how you want them to, I would almost bet it's because of one of these 5 reasons. The good news is, They can be fixed.  It takes practice and patience, but it can be done. I still have moments where I think "What the heck was going through your mind?!" You just have to shake it off and move forward.   So here are the problem areas and some tricks we've learned to correct them.  



1. Lighting

*Photographing in the middle of the day with the harsh sun beating down on your subject, completely washing them out and leaves you fighting to avoid shadows (yours and theirs)

*Photographing in the shadows with absolutely no light, making your subject look like a vampire, all cold and grey.  Your camera can't register light and it makes it hard to be in focus.  Your pictures are grainy. 

*Using the camera's flash.  It gives your subjects red eyes, a yellowish tone to their skin and looking like they are stuck in 1993. 

 There's a happy medium.  The best time to photograph outdoors is early in the morning when the sun has just popping up (like before 9:30) or as it's making its decent, like 4:30 on.  Have you ever heard of the Golden Hour of Photography? That's it.  That is the ideal lighting.  You have to work fast, because you are literally racing the sun, but your lighting will be phenomenal. Take some time, practice so it feels right.  I like to pose my subject so I am facing the sun, so the lighting just falls around them.  As for the flash, just say no!   



2. Lens

*Standing too close to your subject, giving them a fisheye effect.

* Using too large of a lens, with no tripod, making your images blurry.

* Not checking your lens for fingerprints, causing what blurry splotches on your image. 

My best practice is to stand further away from your subject and then use the zoom function. That allows you to create the best perspective.  The 28mm is great for wide angle pictures, like group pictures or even full lengths of one person, but if you're standing further away.  Anything closer up, use the zoom, like 35-50mm.  Check your lens before each use, and never use liquid or tissue to clean the lens. 



3. Settings

*Thinking one camera setting fits all

* Not checking your camera before each use

When you are starting out, read your camera manual and play with the different settings on the control dial.  Practice, practice, practice, and then when you feel comfortable, try manually setting the camera.  It seems scary, with a lot of random numbers, but once you master it, you can photograph anything.  To be completely honest, I still would rather Chris set the camera up for me, but I know i can do it- I just have to do it.  

Here is a nifty cheat sheet for fun things like F-stops and ISO and shutter speed!

4. Visual Eye

* cropping is off

*background is too distracting/cluttered

* pictures look flat

Framing or cropping your images properly takes your photography to another level.  Whatever you see in the camera will be in the picture, so take your time to crop it right. 

Don't rely on zooming in on the computer- that distorts the image and can cause blurriness.  Be mindful of where you are taking pictures, what's in the background, what's in the pictures. What d you want he focal point of your picture to be? Everything else should be simple.  

Add dimension and shape to your pictures.  Pose your subjects at an angle, play with rule of thirds, extreme close ups, just have fun trying new things!  Photography should be fun!  Make your pictures fun to look at!  


5. Story

*There is no purpose for the picture 

* There is no emotion

* It is boring to look at

Tell me a story.  If I had a dime for every time I heard that, I'd be sitting in a coffeehouse in New York right now.  Everything has a story and as a photographer, YOU are the director or the writer of this story.   The emotion of that moment: happy, sad, angry, hungry- should be apparent in the final product.  Relationships, accomplishments, everything has a story.  Just snapping away at the shutter doesn't tell you anything about the person; in fact you can miss the moments. Get to really know your subject and use that connection.  

Every picture should have a purpose.  I always told the people I trained to pretend they are using a role of film with 12 exposures.  They need to plan out their pictures, and use them to create a story. It could just be a chapter or it could be a complete saga. That part didn't matter.  What mattered was the attention to all the details.  


Every photographer struggles with some or all of these things from time to time.  The important thing is just to keep trying!

13 Amazing & Inspiring Photographers We Totally Envy

Here are some of our favorite photographers, some new, some old and some just people we may know!

1. Annie Leibovitz



Known for Vanity Fair - this gem photographed John Lennon the day he died. She makes media attractive. Now that's talent.

2. Dorothea Lange



Depression-era photographer Lange, photographed one of the most famous images (Migrant Mother) of the time and an obvious inspiration to capture time and people as is.

3. Sally Mann

Sally Mann's work is dark and eery but that's why we love her. Photographing her kids in odd predicaments, Mann is what motherhood should feel like.

4. Cherise Kiel 

Speaking of motherhood, Cherise Kiel, a local-based photographer in Phoenix, AZ has inspired us with location, subject and style. It's hard in Arizona to photograph a non-desert atmosphere and Cherise inspires us to be inventive in doing exactly what other freelancers aren't doing.



Stephanie photographs through the eyes of a child; a style everyone wishes they had, especially us. Her photographs look like innocence. 

6. Dona Caudle 

Not so much her work but her work ethic, Dona was once our boss and taught us the basics of art. She IS boss.

7. Chloe Le Drezen

Le Drezen has work that looks like 1998 and feels like Arizona. Her petit models and amazing lighting techniques are just-YES.

8. James Nachtwey



UNCOMFORTABLE AND HARD TO WATCH. Inspiration at it's best. 

9. Peter Lindbergh



Anyone who has to photograph Kate Winslet is a hero in itself. Lindbergh makes women intellectually attractive; a feat no MAN can achieve in photography. 

10. Natalie Miller

Family. Natalie is one word: Family. She's gets it and you see it in her photos. Natalie's work is what 20-somethings want in a family. 

11. Kenji Kawano



Navajo photographer for nearly 40+ years, Kenji has followed the Navajo Code Talkers for decades. How lucky do you think the families of these men feel knowing they have amazing photographs of the family hero forever? 

12. Herb Ritts

Herb's portraits were both gritty and gorgeous.  He had a unique eye, that he also used to direct music videos. 

13. Grace Coddington



Last but not least, not a photographer but an amazing Art Director. Known as an editor at Vogue Magazine, Coddington worked her way up and worked alongside the legend Anna Wintour who worked under another legendary editor, Diana Vreeland. A long line of inspirational women, Coddington was no photographer but without her practical practices on-set, Vogue wouldn't be Vogue. 

And those are our inspirations! Let us know who inspires you!

The #1 Most Reliable Photography Business Resource We Swear By

By Chris Hoshnic

A lot of times, people ask us what we use to do our printing. For a while there, we would actually use resources that regular customers use. Then we wanted to print from a local company downtown in Phoenix, AZ to be "communal" but the amount of hassle it brought was just not practical. 

Now, I'm a snob and I'm super picky when it comes to quality. I throw fits, I stomp around and I'm a real nightmare, I'll admit that. 

When we were searching for a dependable place to do our printing, to match the quality we want to strive for, we found a company based in Eagan, MN.

The company started in the 1970's/1980's by Webb White and he had the same issues we faced. Then, in 1996, a fellow print lover came on board, Mike Hanline, who brought the business to new heights; wearing multiple hats and contributing many new ideas. The two went on for many years, going digital, moving to larger factories, continued growing and kept it all in the family. 

That company is White House Customer Colour



WHCC is super amazing, super efficient and super easy. The quality is similar to wet process printing and canvases are durable. Everything comes within 3-5 business days and they gift with a lollipop! It's awesome!


Anyone starting up, with no resources that more advanced photographers have, I recommend WHCC. It's great and we are hoping to use them for future film projects for film festival SWAG; which is just another word for fancy crap people give out with their film's name on it like posters, stickers and such.

WHCC is a real investment and I think anyone who wants to take their business seriously should use their services. There are no fees to use them, obviously there is a minimum base for each order placed, but if you can build packaging and products worth buying, it's really worth it. Check them out y clicking the image below, they're awesome!

NOTE: You have to have an LLC to use their services but for the most part, it's best to get one anyhow for tax purposes. 

I Appreciate You! Thank You to a Special Client

A couple posts ago, we shared with you about a project we are super excited about, a film, Sydney, Arizona.  I've discovered there is not much difference between making a movie and taking a picture. 

"So, what's the story?"

In the past, I told you about a photographer who embraces story, but now I want to tell you about a client who has allowed us to tell her family's story for several years.  We love and appreciate everyone who has trusted us with taking their pictures, but this client is a huge part of my story.  I just want to take a moment to say "I appreciate you!"  

I have known Jessica Ramirez since she was in high school.  I worked with her aunt, and she had come into the studio for my manager to do her senior portraits.  She had an interest in photography, and since she was basically legacy, she had a job with us when she turned 18.  I helped train her and we grew close.  

*From this point on, I'll be calling her J, since that what we all called her.  It feels weird calling her Jessica. 

Anyway, about that time, I started working my way up through management and J became a kick-ass photographer.  I like to pretend that I had an influence on that, but she just had an eye.  She was awesome with babies and groups and she had amazing customer service.  We grew close and next to Chris, she's the one that I worked with the longest.  She eventually left and went to school, but we still stayed close.  With a few rare occasions, I have always photographed J's family.  She and her sisters were always willing to try new things.

J & M circa 2008ish - Those cheeks though

J & M circa 2008ish - Those cheeks though


J came back one year for Christmas help and that is how Chris met her.  She was pregnant with her second child and worked her a$$ off.  For some reason that year, we had a LOT of employees that complained and she completely endeared herself to Chris when she said that she was gonna show these people what's up and just keep going until she NEEDED to sit.  And she did show them.  J always made it a point to tell people that she appreciated them, even if it was for ridiculous stuff.  It became an inside joke, but now I always do try to tell people that I appreciate something they did. It means a lot to be recognized.  

file may 17, 1 47 08 pm.jpg

J had her baby about the same time that Chris and I started fully pursuing the film and C & M.  She was one of our first official clients.  Her oldest kiddo, Jayce, was a little over 2 and super quiet but sweet.   We used Jayce for some early marketing material and he and Chris bonded over Spiderman, and became best friends.  The baby's name was Elle and she was so tiny.  We did  the first family portraits and Jayce did awesome and Elle was adorable.  J and her guy, Doug, were patient and let us work.  



From that moment, we've gotten to take several family sessions.  J's mom, and sisters, and nephew as well as her crew of 4.  Jayce is now 5 and is a good big brother.  Still a stoic guy, but he can get silly.  Elle is almost 3 and she is a pistol.  She has a "who's gonna make me?" look and it drives J nuts, but it will serve her well in life later.  There is so much personality in that bunch, but from knowing them as long as I have, I know that it's going to be a good time and we will get great pictures.  


Having been a photographer, J knows how to put together outfits and how things should look.  She loves taking pictures, to create memories of when the kids were little.  But J knows that her kids will be kids and she just lets them.  If they don't cooperate in the picture, well, than that's just how their picture is that year.  She tells us if she has an idea, but then she just lets us go for it.  I am always so excited to show J her pictures.  She loves pictures that capture emotion and personality. 

Jayce, Elle and Cousin Gio

Jayce, Elle and Cousin Gio

Another thing I appreciate about J is she actually prints and displays pictures.  Very often, once we deliver the images, I don't know what happens to them.  I might see a few on Facebook, but thats it.  Not that that's a bad thing.  I have pictures from Christmas that I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with them.  But J makes it a point to print and give out and frame her pictures.  I think it might come from working at a studio, where we had actual prints to deliver. Having a tangible copy of my grandparents pictures, now that they aren't here, makes me feel like I have a piece of them.  And J gets that. It's just another piece of storytelling. 


I could go on and on about J.  She and her family have been pivotal parts of my life and allow us to be a part of theirs by giving us the privilege of documenting their story.  We truly appreciate her and each and every person that comes to us.  It's not just a picture to post for social media, it's something that will become a part of your family's history.  We thank you for that! -m  



The Dangerous Confessions of a Photography Client

Over the years, I've observed clients become COMPLETELY different people in front of the camera and after we were finished with the session. From frantic to easy-going in less than 30 minutes. And I get it- it's a moment that's been planned, there are high expectations, and with that high emotions. To paraphrase a wise woman I know- 

Photography is a very emotional business.  It's like the medical field, it's all about that moment.  It's about finding their story and telling it.  


I always try to ease the minds of my clients, but its difficult to fully "put myself in their shoes", if you will.  I've been doing photography for so long that I've forgotten what it's like to be on the other side of the lens.  My inner Annie Leibovitz comes out whenever I'm having my picture taken and I have to fight the urge to take over. 

 I really wanted to see what goes through someone's mind while they are preparing and during pictures, so I asked a few clients for their real, uncensored thoughts. I wanted to see how we could make the experience easier for them.  

 Disclaimer: The names have been removed to protect the innocent, but the thoughts are completely their own.  

Client #1- Mom of 2 small children, working and going to school.  Has a session at least once a year.

I always plan outfits first.  I pick one person's outfit and plan the others accordingly . I pick the day and time that has to work for everyone, a location that works with the outfit, different combinations. 

I hope our outfits match and look good together.  I pray the kids behave and don’t have creepy smiles.  While we are taking pictures, I always try to remember to NO MATTER WHAT keep smiling and looking at the camera, not at the kids, even when they decide to be difficult.  Also, keep reminding the spouse to pay attention to the camera. I yell at family members when they try to get the kids to smile-  I tell them to let the photographer do their job. They are being a distraction.  I also keep telling myself to chill- I’m not the photographer. Lol.     

I don’t want all smiles looking straight at the camera.  I want candid, emotional pictures.  If my kid is frowning or makes a silly face, I still want it so I can remember it when they are older and tease them.  If my kid is being an a$$**le and won’t smile, it’s okay- I won’t hound the photographer to make it work.   I’d rather have a few great pictures then a bunch of okay ones.  I’m just thankful for the memories. 

When we are done, I always wonder how they came out, if there were good smiles, if there were any candid ones, did the clothes look okay, did I forget anything, did my face ruin the pictures? Once I get the pictures, I can’t wait to put them on social media and hang up some prints. 



Client #2- Aunt who wants to surprise her sister and best friend with pictures of their kiddos.

I always think about what outfits I want, what locations, what themes, how I want the pictures to look. But during the session, I don't worry about anything because I know the right shots are being taken.  I get very impatient waiting to look at the pictures, because I know they are going to be great.  


Client #3- A mother of three kids, aged 5 years and up.  Busy with work, church and after school activities.  Wants to document yearly changes. 

My Picture Day thoughts: 

God I hope my kids don’t act like a$$**les or do that stupid fake smile I can’t stand. I hope they can photo shop my double chin out. Outfits are usually based on the season and whatever the photographer suggests, depending on location.  She is the fashion consultant.  It takes a few weeks to prepare outfits and coordinate a date. 

I don’t have much anxiety about the results of the pictures anymore- not like I used to.  It’s more excitement to see specific pictures when I know she got my kids doing something cute and not forced and excitement to get Christmas cards so everyone can see the family. 

I love photographers that don’t get annoyed with my kids (to their faces) but also don’t put up with their crap.  I always wonder what pictures will be on the disc that I didn’t know were being taken and I love getting the email saying the pictures are ready. I don’t care what I am doing, I immediately look at the pictures


Client #4- one half of one of those adorable millennial couples you hear about. 

"Usually, and most frequently, I'm thinking something along the line of 'oh god I hope I don't look stupid right now- Like is my face okay, Am I doing the fake smile that moms complain about.How many chins are showing? How do I ask if my chins are showing without pointing it out to everyone in the room.  Oh god, why did I think this was a good idea, these lights are pretty bright and I'm pretty sure my makeup has come off already.  Hopefully just one comes out okay. Is it taking a long time because they are trying to make me look better. Hmmm CAN they make me look better? Am I gonna look like the people from Pinterest? Which one of these should I put on Instagram? 



I really learned a lot from all their answers.  I went in thinking I knew what they were going to say, which just goes to show, don't ASSUUUUUME anything.  All 4 had their own individual reasoning and thoughts, but their concerns were all universal:

*Did I pick the right outfit?

* Are the kids going to cooperate? 

* Do I look good? 

* I can't wait to show off my pictures

I had always thought we did a pretty good job at handling these concerns before- after all we had done it for so long, it just seemed like second nature.  But based on these responses, I need to step up my game.  We are going to take these confessions and develop a process to help with session planning.  We want to make it an enjoyable experience!  

So what is YOUR confession? What would would make the experience more enjoyable or easier for you?  -m




7 No Bull-Sh*t Filmmaking Lessons They Don’t Teach You in $200,000 Film Schools

By: Chris Hoshnic

I didn't properly go to film school. Shit, most people my age think I never got an education. (Mind you, I finished an associates in Video Production.)

My first piece of advice:


I spent a large portion of my early twenties wishing and wanting to go to New York University and University of Southern California. I thought those schools were my lord and savior. I was dead-ass wrong. I'm glad I didn't go, I'd rather be in debt for financing a feature film then a piece of paper that says I was a good boy in school.

Anyway, I thought I'd go over some things I learned from reading a lot of books, watching a ton of videos, attending conferences, work shops and film festivals. I'm from a very selective bunch so don't take my wo-actually, no, take my words and use them. Save yourself money and time. Like Dov Simen says, just give me a thank you credit in your feature film.

1. The film industry is a business first. 


I would advise for any fresh-out-of-high-school kid to take classes in business. Get a job and work your way up to management and film stuff on the weekends. Learn everything else first and make "filmmaking" a hobby. You're learning when you think you're not going anywhere.

2. Story is everything.


Reading isn't enough. Break everything down. Books, scripts, advertisements, marketing campaigns, photography, that brand new towel set your mom bought you, T-Mobile's sale pitch, Jennifer Lawrence's fall at the Oscars. Everything has a story. Stories make people relate and if they can relate, they will like it. Go find books on storytelling, how to tell a story and then buy other books in other aspects of life (financing, business, medical, etc.) EVERYTHING HAS THE STRUCTURE OF STORYTELLING. 

A couple great places to start:

Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernit

3. Know your voice. Be authentic.

If you don't know who you are, and I don't mean hobbling into the woods and hike some stupid mountain. YOU'RE NOT OUT THERE SO STOP LOOKING. Your voice is what distinguishes you from everyone else. If you write like George Lucas or Woody Allen, no one will hire you. Have opinions, even if they're really bad, like Hitler bad. Read your favorite books and watch your favorite films. Everything, like story, relates. This is your voice. 

Start here:

10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice by Jeff Goins

4. Watch movies, read scripts and never stop learning.


The buck doesn't stop at USC's graduation ceremony. Keep learning. Every award season, print the best and worst screenplays of that year and analyze. Research everything. If you don't understand something, find someone who does and trade secrets. Mandi is purely business and I'm an asshole so everything works out for us. 

It's all so scary going into film land but really, it's like that in any industry. No one business is more complicated than another. The best thing I've ever done is to keep my mouth shut and listen to anyone and everyone... Then bitch about it on the way home with your business partners. 

5. Think small business, not filmmaking.


This took A LONG TIME for me to understand. It isn't until you miss a car payment and when no one will hire you that everything starts to dwindle down; filmmaking isn't just some Rugrats adventure. THIS IS A BUSINESS. This is where your other life experiences will come in. That grocery bagging job you started in 2013 and now you're Assistant Manager, hello!! You're a bonafide producer. You can schedule, budget, inventory, hire, train, fire, etc. You can do what Kathleen Kennedy does. Wait, did you say you work at a call center for Discover card? HI, MY NAME IS CHRIS AND I'M LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO PITCH MY SCREENERS TO FESTIVAL PROGRAMMERS. Get your head out of the clouds and dig deeper.

6. Development is going to cost you less than Post-Production.

Our script, we've been working on for close to five years now. Mandi has almost killed me 20 times since our first version. We've gone through 30-50 versions of our screenplay. Disney excels in this. Spend more time and money on ink, paper and paperclips. It's cheaper than reshooting, rehiring, extending the editor's contract and asking the investors for more money. Would you rather spend $200 or $200,000? Think about that. Time isn't your enemy, money is. 

Try this on for size:

Screenplay by Disney by Jason Surrell

7. It's not the money, it's the money. 

Everything is money. The world goes 'round because of it. Don't think that your little Star Wars short film-rip off is gonna hit it big at the Pollack Theater in Tempe and some juggernaut exec is gonna see it. NO. They've got other things to worry about. They're doing everything they can to save a buck and so should you. Talk money, think money and be money. 

To get started to understanding:

Dov Simens No Bull Blog

Just a few things I've learned over the last couple years. It's scary and exciting but nothing has ever felt more right. 

So I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know of a project we've been working on for quite some time now.  We've been in "development" for about 5 years and this year, we'd love to have the support and knowledge of those around us. Especially from those with great credit scores. 


Our goal is to complete a few drafts and send the script to festivals and competitions where we can hopefully get professional feedback and/or win a couple grants. We plan to shoot late fall/early next year but we will continue to pursue freelance photography on the side. With the profits, we plan to save and use towards Sydney, Arizona. We hope to start work shops and possibly have future table reads for our screenplay as well as collaborate with other small business owners through our blogs and/or photography. 
We've learned through the business of photography what we are about to embark. The love for photography still remains and we greatly appreciate the bridge it has created into filmmaking.

Thank you so much for your support. Mandi and I are greatly appreciative, even though we don't act like it. We respect and love each and every person who has come our way and we hope this new venture will bring more exciting things. Please, let us know how we're doing, if there's anyone who's in need of our services, anyone who could help or needs help-we would greatly appreciate it. We will continue to keep an update on the project and hopefully see a public table reading here very soon.

Here's to a great year and to our project, Sydney, Arizona!

I Was a Friend, Now I'm a Fan: Meet Stephanie Blunt Lussier

Today I want to show off some of the work of a friend.  I know a lot of photographers, and love looking at their work, because each of their styles are so different.  Stephanie's dedication and eye for story in her photography are just a few things I admire about her.  She has a real talent.  


I've known Stephanie Blunt Lussier for what seems like forever.  We fell out of touch a while, but thanks to a fantastic invention of Facebook, we reconnected.  I had started working at the studio and she was now married and into photography as well.  She had a baby, Josie, and I was able to take some portraits of the family for Steph.  She soon had a little guy named CJ and was busy taking her own pictures of her munchkins as well as of her niece and nephew.  


Stephanie built up a clientele and has worked very hard to provide great service for her clients.  She really has a genuine eye for photography.  Her pictures always tell a story and are full of emotion.  She has a very empathetic heart and that shows in her work.  She always captures what is really happening in the moment.  


Stephanie always has her camera out.  She enjoys taking pictures of lunar events and of her trips up to the woods in northern Arizona and the sand dunes in California. Even her pictures of nature have emotion.  She recently went to Iceland and the pictures she took were AMAZING.  Seriously, they rivaled travel magazines.  


I mean, COME ON!!!

Another great thing about Stephanie is her willingness to learn and try new things.  A while back, she helped me out with a project.  It wasn't what she was used to doing, but she researched it and asked  questions and made sure that she was getting what was needed.  Stephanie gives her all for each client.  The moments that she captures may seem ordinary, but thats what makes them special.  It's who that person or family or even puppy are.  


This picture is super special to me and I'm forever grateful to Stephanie for it.  It wasn't planned or even what was part of the project, but she saw a moment and took it.  There is a huge difference between just taking every shot and knowing what shot is worth taking and she gets that.  

Thank you to Stephanie for allowing me to show you off and just for being awesome!  

Check out Go Do-smlphotography to see more of her work!  




The #1 Simple Rule to Portrait Photography

There is common misconception that if you have a nice camera, you're going to have nice pictures.  In my experience, not so much.  


Before I started working at a portrait studio, my experience with photography was basically "Let's see how this turns out!"  I was super excited to get to learn how to take pictures.  Imagine my surprise when, on my FIRST day, I was shown the camera and told "Have fun!"

This was not the point and shoot 35 mm that I was used to.  This was a LEGIT camera; the kind where it's upside down in the viewfinder, and you have to manually focus and use a tripod.  It was like Mark Ruffalo in 13 Going On 30.  


Isn't he dreamy?! I mean, isn't that scary looking? 

I finally figured it out and and my pictures were decent, but not great. REALLY nice camera, just okay pictures.  I'm not being modest.  They were ehhh at best.  It wasn't until ONE YEAR LATER, when I moved to another studio, when I finally got proper training.  I would go home with a headache everyday because I learned so many new things.  

What I discovered over the years is that EVERYONE has an opinion on photography.  Which is right- it's an art and art is subjective...

So I asked a few of my photographer friends what THEIR simple rule was and here are a few: 

- Attention to detail is important. If you ignore it or are just too lazy to fix a detail, you shouldn't take the picture at all.

- Photography isn't just straight-on, bowling alley style posing.  Angles. Need to create angles. 


- A good photographer can take a great picture with even a simple camera.  Knowledge over expensive equipment.  Or as she put it- skills over bill$$$

- Learn how to talk to people.  Make people feel comfortable and they will smile much more naturally.  - This is something that was burned into my brain as well.  Your pictures will be all the better for it! 

- The most important elements in a picture are the lighting and the emotion.  

- Be your own best judge of character. If you can't be hard on yourself, you won't take criticism from regular clients.

- Story, story, story. TELL A STORY. 


Proper lighting will forgive a multitude of sins.  And I'm not just talking imperfections.  I mean, cropping, composition, angles.  It makes the picture look clean and naturally makes your eye linger.  Not enough light leaves you with messy shadows and too much lighting distracts with the lack of depth in the picture.  

Emotion is also really the selling point of why you love a picture.  I'm not talking smiles.  Smiling is NOT an emotion.  

No, I'm talking all the emotions.  Happy, joyful, shy, sad, love, anger, mischievous, defiant- just to name a few.  The point of a photograph is to capture who that person is in that moment.  And let's face it- there are very few people who smile ALL the time. 


Believe me, when the kids are older, you'll want to remember all the faces they made.  Don't work so hard to get a "real" smile* that you miss out on capturing who they really are!  

So those are some simple RULES for photography.  What's something that you use in your photography or wished you'd learned sooner?  

A hard, investigative look into the 9 times Taylor Swift has a drink on Reputation.

 One night, as I laid awake, my mind started drifting and thinking of Taylor Swift. As it often does.  As I lay there, I came to a startling realization: Taylor has developed an appreciation for happy hour!

I gave the album ANOTHER listen, and yep, our girl has definitely developed a taste for cocktails.  So in honor of New Year's Eve, I thought I'd do a little rundown of the Reputation drink menu.  Disclaimer: I'm not much of a drinker; in fact I'd be just as happy with a Coke, but I have decided that I should have a signature drink.   So I'm gonna look at Taylor's choices and experiment a bit.  

LITERALLY me ordering a drink.  

Anyhoo, the album has 15 songs and 9 of them refer to a drink or drinking- that's too many to just be a coincidence, right?!?  The majority of them are in the latter half of the album, so make of that fact what you will.  I certainly did.  I'm about to go full on EX-Files on you, so watch out! 

#2 End Game- "You so dope, don't overdose, I'm so stoked, I need a toast"  

Future is letting us know that Taylor is ready to play, but she's playing for keeps. GUURRRL.

 "It's like your eyes are liquor, and your body is gold"

She's getting drunk in his eyes!  (AWWW!)

#5 Delicate - "We can't make any promises now, can we babe, but you can make me a drink"

This song.  THIIIIIIS song. My heart. She's been hurt, but she's gonna give him a chance, guys.  You better pick a good drink, dude! We're rooting for you and your Nikes!

#7 So It Goes...- "Met you in a bar, all eyes on me now"

She can't even have a quiet night out.  Poor girl. I mean, I KNOW she signed up for this, but I can't imagine not being able to go out without it being all over the news.  

#8 Gorgeous- "You should take it as a compliment that I got drunk and made fun of the way you talked"

SUPER Pride & Prejudicey- it's what a modern day Elizabeth Bennett would do to Mr. Darcy.  Or what Bridget Jones did to Mark Darcy.

 "Whiskey on ice, Sunset and Vine, You ruined my life by not being mine."

A tad dramatic, but when you're drunk, everything is dramatic.  I mean, so I hear... Actually a whiskey on ice sounds delightful....

Side note: Gorgeous makes me LAUGH.  I can't tell if it's tongue-in-cheek like Blank Space or if she genuinely is having one of those girly freak out moments.  Either way, it's hysterical and relatable. 

#9 Getaway Car- "I knew it from the first Old-Fashioned we were cursed"

That is some old school Taylor-ness happening right there. Being all classy.  This is probably the song I sing along to the loudest. 

 "You weren't thinking, and I was just drinking."

You just KNOW bad choices are being made.

 Side note: I LOVE the songs that are "allegedly" about her most notable ex's and this one is CLEARLY about a certain Asgardian god. 

 Another side note/confession:  I've always wanted to try an Old-Fashioned, so a couple weeks ago, I bought a little kit to try with my co-conspirator.  We accidentally got whiskey instead of bourbon- it was NOT good. Need to try it again.  

#10 King of My Heart- "Up on the roof with a schoolgirl crush, drinking beer out of plastic cups, say you fancy me not fancy stuff"  

You go Tay! Get yo man!  Have your little rooftop party! Adorable. Just adorable.  

#12 Dress- "I'm spilling wine in the bathtub, You kiss my face and we're both drunk".  

This song is a little on the sexy side. And when I say a little, I mean a lot. It'll make you feel some kind of way.  

#13 This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things- "Jumping to the pool from the balcony, everyone swimming in a champagne sea" "Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year"

OOOH gurl.  You stand up for yourself!  The only toxic thing in your life should be Toxic by Britney Spears!

#15 New Year's Day- "I want your midnights, but I'll be cleaning up bottles with you on New Year's Day."

She wants to celebrate with him, but she's there for the long haul too. MY HEART.  This is my favorite song on the album and one of my favorite overall Taylor songs.  It's mature, it's New Yorky, and I dare you not to feel some sort of way when she coos "Hold on to the memories they will hold on to you and I will hold on to you."  

So those are my thoughts about Taylor's drink choices. I don't know about you, but now I am wanting something cold and bubbly.  I hope you all have a happy, healthy  and safe new year!  


My (not-so) Secret Recipe

 One of my dreams in life is to have a Nancy Myers kitchen with a huge stove, an island the size of Rhode Island, beautiful pots and pans and my Grandma's bowls and just whip up treats on a whim like Meryl Streep in It's Complicated. 

#Goals #thisisactuallythekitchenfromsomethingsgottagive #potatopotato

#Goals #thisisactuallythekitchenfromsomethingsgottagive #potatopotato

But while I'm working hard to strike it rich, I'll have to continue baking with my minimal counter space and seen-better-days pans.  To me, baking is one of the most relaxing and crafty things to do.  I like to just look at a recipe and see how I can make it simpler and then wing it.

One of my favorite things to make are Magic Cookie Bars.  EVERYONE loves them.  I get tons of requests (sometimes demands) for THE cookies.  They are super easy to make, not a lot of mess and super delicious.  Here is my "recipe" for Magic Cookie Bars.  The nice thing is there is no measurement or bowls- everything is in the pan! Easy clean up! 

Magic Cookie Bars 

aka THE Cookies

This is what you'll need: 

a 9in x 13in pan (glass or metal)

1 stick of butter* 

1 bag of chocolate chips

half a bag of flaked coconut 

1  14oz can of sweet condensed milk 

1 pack of graham crackers (1 1/2 if you want a thicker crust)

* side note: it HAS to be butter.  It should always be butter. The difference CAN be noticed.  


Okay, so here we go!  First, preheat the oven to 325° for the glass pan or 350° for the metal.  I just throw the butter in the pan and pop it in the oven to melt while it's heating up.  Two birds, one stone, yo! 

While the butter is melting, crush the graham crackers.  I just leave them in the package and squish them- there can be little pieces left.  Super therapeutic.  Once the butter has melted, take the pan out of the oven and spread the cracker crumbs across the bottom of the pan.  The butter will soak into the crumbs- layer one of the magic. 


So now, the "official" recipe calls for the condensed milk, chocolate and then coconut.  I usually always do  milk, then coconut with chocolate last.  But this time, I lived dangerously (aka forgot) and put the coconut on first then poured the milk over. 



Excellent mistake- I mean decision.  The coconut was completely covered in butter and the milk (which caramelizes as it cooks).  Then I pour the chocolate chips all over the top and throw it back in the oven for like 20-25 minutes.  The chocolate chips should look a little gooey and the edges should be golden brown.  


Now is the difficult part- letting them settle so A. they take shape and B. you don't burn your mouth off.  They are delicious after about 15 minutes of sitting, but even better once they've been in the fridge for awhile.  


I couldn't wait. Sooo gooey. 

 So that's it.  Pretty simple.  Give it a try and let me know how many people are amazed by your baking prowess!  - mh 

The 13 Steps of a Taylor Swift Album Release

I love Taylor Swift.  A lot.  A little tooo much, some would say.  I say- Why ya gotta be so mean? She is a wonderful storyteller, not to mention her sick beats.  I have a process for each new album release- it's been the same since Speak Now.  So in honor of Reputation, here is my thought process of handling a new album. 

1. It has been a minute since there's been a Taylor sighting....  ughhh I need some new Tay!  




2. Wait... there's movement on Instagram....



3. OMG New Song Day- I MUST PREPARE!!!!



4. This is it! Wow- it's good? It's different. It's good.



5. Hmmm... I need to let this sit... let's just listen to some classic Tay.  That's just more me right now...



6. (2 days later) This. Is. My. Jam.  



7. Album release date revealed + teasers= deep detective work


The truth is out there.


8. Album Release Day! It's finally here. This is going to be amazing....here we go....



9. It's good? Yeah it's good, I mean, this song is interesting, but I like this one and this one's pretty good and what's with this one? I don't know... It's good, I mean I like it....



10. Let's just listen to something else for a bit.... Adele is nice....



11. Wait, people are talking crap about Taylor. Why? Let's listen again- oooh I LIKE this song... 



12. (2 days later) Know every word, dissect every hidden meaning, write dissertations on themes.



13. Now that it's established as my favorite album, now I can start the investigation of what her next album will be like. (Because there clues....) 

11 Ideas Under $40 for an Impromptu Photo Session

These are just some ideas we think (and would love to photograph) are great photo session ideas on a budget. A lot of these can be accomplished under $40 per person. And we've seen it happen! 

Here we go!

1. Personal Items

Toys, blankets, coordinating already owned clothing. refer to our last blog post as a small reference here.

2. DIY T-Shirts

DIY t-shirts such as fabric paint and iron ons from Michael's or Wal-Mart. Let the kids attempt to make their own t-shirts too!

3. Pillow Case Capes

Have a toddler who jumps of furniture and pretends he can fly? Make shift a cape from an old pillow case for a more underrated and original feel.

4. Pajamas

Grab some matching PJ's from Wal-Mart or Target for the whole family or just the kids to create an adorable and homey photograph to hang for years to come. 

5. Matchy-Matchy!

Head on over to Old Navy to grab some matching polos for both boys and girls with basic blue jeans and bare feet. If you're on an even tighter budget, try for plain t-shirts of the same hues and tones.

6. Sports Team Tees

Wal-Mart and Old Navy now carry team t-shirts for less than $30. Try coordinating teams or if members of the family prefer different teams, even more fun! While you're at it, bring a football as a prop and maybe even black face paint to emulate the quintessential football player.

7. Converse

There are outlets for almost anything now. Basic converse go for $40, but outlets have constant sales for BOGO 50%. You could find different patterns, colors and even fabrics. Have everyone pick out a pair of their own, go for basic white t-shirts and jeans while everyone rocks their own style of converse.

8. Sparklers

Now these can be tricky. It's been a while since we've tried this. Grab some sparklers online for less than $10. The sunset along with sparklers: YASSS!

9. Bonfire!

On a cold fall/winter night, this would be great with a giant throw and some s'mores. Families can hang out and talk while their photographer catches great candids. 

10. Sunnies!


11. Thrifting

Think vintage. Thrift shops usually have clothing that photographs amazingly because of color and fabric textures. Mustards, maroons and navy blues on crushed velvet and aged leathers. 


Those are just some ideas we would love to photograph more of. Tell us what other ideas you have.

Color in Photographs

The very first question that gets asked a lot when taking someone's portraits is "what do I wear?!"

It's very hard to tell someone what to wear a lot of the times because clients, new and old, often have an objective for their portraits, whether that be holiday family photos or just quick updates of the cousins that are in town for the weekend. 

So, before we begin, we would like to introduce you to the color wheel.



The color wheel above illustrates the importance of primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors. 

To put it simply, primary colors are often colors not mixed from other colors. Secondary colors are colors combined from two other colors. Tertiary colors are combinations of a primary color and a secondary color.

Got it? Nice!

Now, back to the age old questions...

What should you wear?

Well, it really depends on you and your family and what your intentions are. Color is the first thing I would consider when putting together a family portrait. Color is the ground work for me, personally, because lots of different shades and textures photograph differently.

A lot of the times people will see one thing at Old Navy and think

"Oh, my God, that'll be cute for her birthday!"

Then they come to us and quickly realize the cute little sweater from Old Navy does NOT match her brother's plaid shirt whatsoever.

So, below, I put together four categories that I swear by and quickly photographed a couple items lying around the house and used my usual, simple edits to illustrate what I mean. 

Here we go, yo!




monochromatic is the values of one color. Some define this as shades, tints, tones or hues. monochromatic is great for families with smaller children under the age of 5, as well as milestones like 3-6-9 months and especially newborns. monochromatic schemes exude togetherness and closeness. 




analogous are groups of colors (primarily three) that are next to each other on the color wheel that share a common color with one being the dominate. these colors usually consists of a primary, a secondary and a tertiary. analogous colors are great for families with older children to teens, keeping a very like-minded feel between family members yet still keeping individuality. 



complementary colors are opposing colors on the color wheel. they cancel each other out to create a bold, tense and divided feeling. complementary colors are great for maternity, graduates and any special occasions that indicate a big change and creating a bold statement for that new chapter in your life. 



triadic indicates colors on the color wheel that are equally spaced (primarily three). triadic colors are great for cousins, groups, larger families with the intention to create interest and personality yet still creating a larger unit. 

So there we have it!

Four categories of colors that I abide by, whether that be photographing a family of four, a graduate or a 1st birthday.

I hope you find this a little helpful for future sessions or even just in everyday wear!

With our first blog up, we hope you come back every week as we would like to post as often as possible. Let us know if there's anything you'd like to know from a photographer's perspective or if anything particularly tickles your pickle.