A cake like this doesn't deserve to get smashed | Chicago Baby, Children and Family Photograher

What's cuter than one-year-old with a fist full of cake? A mischievous three-year-old that knows better? A six-year-old with a toothless grin? You be the judge! We all know that birthdays fly by too fast! What better excuse to get your little one into the studio than for a birthday session with Ten Little Bluebirds! You provide the cake and the kid, I'll capture what happens next. A limited number of birthday mini-sessions are available each month. You can purchase your session here.

Thank you to Sweets Perfection for the elegant cakes and to Kelsey Triebes from George the Salon for the stunning hair design. 

Mother's Day Give Away|Mom, please get in the picture!

I can't tell you how difficult it is for me to get moms in front of my camera—but if you are a mom, you probably already know what I'm talking about. Between the "extra ten pounds," or the bad hair day, or the apple sauce on the shirt, moms have plenty of excuses to avoid getting their picture taken. I should know, I'm the queen of these excuses. But no more! 

Ladies. You're beautiful. Your love for your children is beautiful and palpable. Twenty years from now, when your kids are getting married or graduating college or curing cancer, you're going to find yourself going through old photos and remembering the days when they wouldn't let go of your hand, or they couldn't wait to show you the stick they found in the yard. And maybe you'll wish that you had some pictures capturing that overwhelming, all-encompassing, unlimited love you shared with your little ones. 

Photographs are investments that get more and more valuable with time. It's time you got in front of the camera. Let your confidence shine for your daughters and sons! Let the world see how beautiful you are and how amazing motherhood is!

Because I am passionate about getting Mothers in the picture, this May I'm giving away a full Portrait Session, which includes digital images, a print collection, and an 8.5x8.5 inch album from our session. Jessica McKane Makeup and stylist Kelsey Triebe from George the Salon, have also offered their services to make sure you feel fabulous in front of the camera. 

To enter, simply like my facebook page, share this post and submit a super short (3-5 sentences) explanation of why you are ready to get in the picture! You can enter for someone else if you want it to be a surprise. Only one entry per person, however. The winner will be chosen on May 14th. Click here to submit.

 

Kelsey and Ryan | Chicago Engagement Photographer

I have gotten to know Kelsey over the last year and I have so enjoyed collaborating with her for a number of photography projects. She has such great style! I was thrilled to hear about her engagement to Ryan and couldn't wait to do to their engagement portrait session.  We were lucky to be able to use the Robie Room and the marble staircase at the Kimpton Gray Hotel. Photographer Elaine Melko and I worked together to style this shoot. Make Up Artist Jessica McKane of Jessica McKane Makeup did a beautiful job with Kelsey's stunning make up.  Clothing Designer Liz Meyer owner of Silver Moon Vintage provided us with the gorgeous vintage sequin number. It all came together beautifully. 

 

 

When Should I Schedule my Newborn Photo Shoot? Part Deux|Chicago Children, Family and Baby Photographer

In my last post, I discussed how important it is in my photography to capture images that evoke emotion through connection. In this last post I wrote about why some parents choose to do their newborn photo shoots right away. However, there also many people that prefer to wait.  

The Case for Waiting to Take Pictures

As beautiful as those first breaths of life are, newborns are no less cute or miraculous one month, two months, or even three months later! I had the privilege of doing a recent photo shoot where the family waited a couple of months before having me to the house. Mom, dad, and big bro had given themselves time to get comfortable with their new little creature, and mom had even managed to get some sleep before the photo shoot! The house was clean and the nursery was done, allowing for a cozy and homey backdrop.

Best of all, we had time to plan the wardrobe and arrange for my make-up artist and hair-stylist to come to the house. This was a game. Changer. When you’ve been in the newborn fog for weeks, worrying about feedings and changings and sleeping, you are barely noticing whether your hair is washed or your shirt is clean. To press pause and take some time for yourself, to have a moment of feeling beautiful, is priceless.

As with most any choice you make as a parent, what you believe is best, safest, and sanest is the correct answer. That connection between you and your baby is there, whether s/he is 30 hours or 30 days old.

I purposefully chose the words "Before they fly away" to appear on the first page of my site because I want everyone who visits to understand why I do and love this work. While my business and photography style has evolved, my mission has stayed the same since I first started in 2009: to save the fleeting and glittering moments that make our lives worth living.

When Should I Schedule my Newborn Photo Shoot?|Chicago Children, Family and Baby Photographer

Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.
— A.A. Milne

As a connection photographer, I am drawn to capturing images that evoke emotion through connection. Newborn photography is perhaps the most poignant example. Of course, moms always ask: is there an ideal timeframe for taking newborn photos?

The short answer: No.  

The Case for Taking Pictures Immediately

Yesterday, my family and I were getting ready for an excursion downtown, in part so I could check off my daily assignment for the 365 project. As we were about to walk out the door, I received word that my friend's baby girl had decided to grace us with her presence the night before. When I got to the hospital I persuaded my friend to let me take "just a few" photos.   

That is how I managed to get the intimate pictures below - just 19 hours post-delivery. Has my friend had her make-up professionally done and her hair blown out? Not a chance. The truth is, she's most likely been spit up on and hasn't slept in the last 24 hours. But she is my strong and gorgeous friend and the connection between her and the baby is real and beautiful. 

I can sympathize with any woman not wanting to photographed just hours after labor. However, as a mother and a photographer, I would just say remember these two things: (1) there will only be one day in your life when your baby is that new and (2) a good photographer will take pictures that respect and support mom and the baby while capturing the wonder of that first full day of the rest of their lives together. 

Check out the case for taking pictures immediately by heading over to the second part of this post.

City Adventure with my Crew|Chicago Children, Family and Baby Photographer

“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.”
— Winnie the Pooh

January hardly feels like an inspiring month for a personal family photo shoot. However, this year I am determined to not only edit my family photos but also participate in the 365 photo challenge. If any of you parents out there are interested, I highly suggest it for a number of reasons (you can start one anytime)!

First, what a great way to capture the daily life of your family. Photography is a gift and someday I know my family - despite the protests - will appreciate that these day-to-day moments were saved and neatly packaged in an album. (I'll go ahead and give myself a pat on the back right now.) Second, what better way to continue to challenge my photography skills by capturing the whirling dervish that are my children? Third, a daily photography project motivates me to to get out of the house and have a family adventure to create more memories. Now, even though they are fairly improvised shoots, I still put some thought into the fundamental details before we go out into the world, such as planning out light, an outfit suggestion here and there, and a bullet-point of shots I definitely want to take. But the truth of the matter is that I love these excursions because they are an opportunity for my family and I to explore more of our city with my camera in hand to capture it all.

Yesterday, we took a visit to Stan's Donuts on our way to see a dear friend with a new beautiful baby at Prentice Hospital. I have often thought about shooting pictures at Stan's Donuts (particularly this location): I love the airy light feeling, the colors of the donuts, and Kitchen Aide Mixers in every imaginable color. My personal 365 project was the reason it finally happened. Here are the results!

 

 

It certainly feels like an adventure everyday with my crew. This "field trip" was inspired by my littlest guy pointing to the top of the John Hancock and saying "I want to go up there..." nearly every time we drove by (which is often).  My hubs and I celebrated our wedding in the Signature Room almost 8 years ago so it seemed like a fun activity for the kids. I had actually never been to the actual observation deck - so this view as a treat. I thought I would share a few personal pictures on the blog of our family adventure!

My 2017 Photography Gratitude Project | Chicago Family and Children Photographer

Sometimes, I think it can be difficult see the beauty in our everyday experiences. As a photographer I want to grab the "wow" picture each time and as we trudge through the daily grind it is so easy to lose sight of the beauty in the gift of each day. There is so much beauty even in the daily grind. Heck, the fact of the matter is we are lucky to have a daily grind!

Earlier this year, I read a great book by Christine Carter, The Sweet Spot. One main tenant from the book was that gratitude has such an impact on our happiness and life satisfaction. Not only does gratitude increase our social connection with others but as we start the practice of taking notice of what we are grateful for, it essentially increases our vision to recognize even more things around us to be grateful for. I am hoping that by capturing, even the mundane, it will help me to be more constant in my recognition.  This year I have decided to hold myself accountable and take more pictures from every day of my own family.

I would be remiss not to tell you, family and friends that I am grateful for you and the impact you have on my family and myself. I am truly blessed. Thank you, I am grateful!

 

014 Restraint

014 Restraint

013 Birthday Cookie

013 Birthday Cookie

012 Nap with W

012 Nap with W

011 Nail Polish

011 Nail Polish

010  BAH-sghetti The lack of sauce breaks my Italian husband's heart (just a little) each time.

010  BAH-sghetti

The lack of sauce breaks my Italian husband's heart (just a little) each time.

009 Being 3 "I put them on all by myself" -  I'm sure the neighbors were curious about the interesting tracks in the snow with two wrong feet

009 Being 3

"I put them on all by myself" -  I'm sure the neighbors were curious about the interesting tracks in the snow with two wrong feet

008 Sharing her gift

008 Sharing her gift

007 Strawberry Sorbet (what else to do on a 20 degree day?)

007 Strawberry Sorbet (what else to do on a 20 degree day?)

006 Dance Party

006 Dance Party

005 Getting ready for school (not very quickly) 

005 Getting ready for school (not very quickly) 

fbDay 4 Piano Lessons 2.jpg
 004 Piano Lessons 

 004 Piano Lessons 

003 Walking the line 

003 Walking the line 

002 Cleaning my office - oh the treasures we find

002 Cleaning my office - oh the treasures we find

001 Pillow Fight 

001 Pillow Fight 

Thinking Warm Thoughts Part I | Chicago Family and Children's Photographer

I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February.
— Gary Cole (actor)

Procrastination is rarely a good thing, except when it gives you a chance to contemplate summer during the single digit days of January. Last June a friend and I created a three part stylized shoot at the lake. Our models, not surprisingly, were thrilled to eat ice cream at 6:30 AM. For my friend and I, half of our fun was brainstorming the concept from location, to clothing, to props (including of course the pink ice cream). 

Stylized shoots are a great way to involve the you in every aspect of the design so that we can showcase the personality your children. Who knows your child better than you, after all?!?

I have so much fun with these sessions so expect to see more of these from Ten Little Bluebirds in 2017. Please feel free to email me (emily@tenlittlebluebirds.com) with your own ideas and don't forget to "like" me on Facebook as I will soon be doing model calls. 

Christmas with my Family

Like many, I was inspired to pick up my camera after the birth of my eldest. Seven years later, I am blessed with a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, and two jobs that I love. Every year, during the holiday bustle,  I watch the joyful anticipation of the season through my children's eyes as our family traditions unfold, the inspiration strikes. I take plenty of personal pictures but often they sit untouched. No longer....

I hate the cold of January, but I LOVE the feeling of starting fresh. I am making it a goal for 2017 to remind myself why I picked up this camera and to no longer leave my digital images untouched on my hard drive - but to take the time for myself, my husband and children to edit and share my personal work. Let the fun begin!

Secret Garden - Styled shoot| Chicago children's, baby and family photographer

If you look the right way, you can see the whole world as a garden”
— Frances Hodgson Burnett

Whenever I shoot at an unfamiliar location I always try to do a prep shoot on-location beforehand. This summer, I was asked to photograph a sweet little family with whom I've worked with over the last few years. This time they were really excited to have the shoot at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The week prior, my husband and I piled the family into the car and headed north to Glencoe for a morning of fun.

I was in awe of these beautiful gardens. Having lived in Japan, London and of course now the Midwest I am so inspired by the wonders that the Chicago Botanic Garden has to offer: Japanese gardens, the Prairie-lands and of course the high-walled English Gardens.  As a little girl, I loved Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden. I was immediately transported back to my middle school years - when I devoured this masterpiece.

The minute I stepped into the Chicago Botanic Garden, I felt a rush of creativity! I had always wanted to try my hand at a styled shoot, and this felt like the perfect opportunity. The minute I got home I pulled out my computer and put together a family style board (see below). I then rented a gorgeous Nellystella dress and a flower crown and pulled out my copy of the Secret Garden from the bookshelf that I have had waiting for my daughter since she was only 3 months old. The results of my first styled shoot are below. I can't wait to be inspired by the next concept!

 

The original concept board created for my styled shoot. 

The original concept board created for my styled shoot. 

Don't Be Afraid to Dress Up! | Chicago Children, Family and Baby Photographer

When I was growing up and not feeling super hot (whether it be a bad cold or high-school heartbreak), my mom always pushed a warm shower, hot rollers, and a little lipstick. As I begrudgingly applied my Maybelline at the time, I didn't realize that (once again) my mom was right.  More than that, she revealed a secret to confidence and just plain feeling better. I recently read an article in the UK's Daily Mail about research that shows wearing specific clothing - like something as simple as superhero T-shirts - can cause people to feel more confident and even stronger. Maybe that's why my newly-potty-trained super-confident 3-year-old feels the need to throw off his shorts and show off his Batman undies!

I bring this up because what you wear in family pictures can not only affect your confidence during the session but can also enhance your pictures from an everyday snapshot to a piece of art on your wall. This is one reason why I prefer to book my sessions a month in advance so that there is plenty of time to consider clothing choices! For most, picking out clothes is the fun part! (Do I see a shopping spree in your future?!?)

This blog series will provide some of my favorite client style tips for the perfect family photography session!

Don't Be Afraid to Dress Up!


Have fun with this! I love Rent the Runway for fabulous frocks that don't require a huge monetary commitment. Dresses and skirts can be flattering for every body-type . Full-length dresses with lots of flow and movement (chiffon or tulle) can look amazing in photographs. Longer skirts and dresses definitely work better when you have little family members being photographed with you. I definitely recommend floor-length maxi dresses for expectant mothers because it can create a beautiful silhouette. Heels can make those legs look so long but can be a real pain trekking through the woods. So bring a pair of easy shoes to slip on and off and - I promise you - your feet will thank me! 

You are welcome to bring more than one dress - maybe something exciting and fun - a "WOW" dress and then one a bit more casual. But if the just the idea of bringing two outfits while dealing with children causes you the slightest stress - one dress will do just fine!

 

Keep it light!

As for colors, I truly love a more muted palette. This will allow the focus to be on your family and interactions with each other and not the bold outfit. Think pinks, light blues, sophisticated neutrals like heather gray, cream, leather browns and whites. These colors look especially gorgeous against the backdrop of our dreary November - March Midwestern days. Who doesn't love a good pop of color? Just keep it to a few pieces or even layers that you can bring in and out of photos.

Favorite Chicago Outdoor Locations Series | Chicago Children, Family and Baby Photographer

I am often asked by my clients help choose the best location for their family photo shoot. The location plays a major role in the outcome of our photographs. Think outside the box a little...I often start by asking a few questions "What does your family like to do as family?" or "Where do you enjoy spending time together?" This helps guide our decision. Sometimes families have access to unique locations through their friends and networks. A cool hotel? A stadium? Perhaps a boat? Maybe an awesome view at the top of a skyscraper that they work in? 

In the summer I love outdoor locations! Granted it may be that our Chicago winters are so harsh, that I would do absolutely anything to get outside and take advantage of what our great city has to offer. This blog series will provide examples of some of my favorite go-to spots around Chicago. 

Saint James Farm, Wheaton IL

Interested in an adventure in the suburbs? Check out Saint James Farm Forest Preserve. I grew up near Wheaton and never knew about this fabulous spot. Apparently, it was owned by the McCormick Family in the last few years they donated it to the DuPage County Forest Preserves. There are gorgeous horse trails and groves of trees and beautiful farm buildings that give this spot a very French Country feel. 

 

OZ Park and my lincoln park studio

With the weather so gorgeous this time of year, I love to take advantage of the many gardens Chicago has to offer. One of my favorites is a sweet little rose garden just a block away from my Lincoln Park studio. We had a sweet little newborn shoot that started in the studio and ended up with the gorgeous sunset in Oz Park!

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

If you are jones-ing to get out of the city one AH-MAZING spot is the Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glencoe, IL. Between the English Gardens, White Birch trees, prairie fields, Japanese garden and bridges, there so many fabulous options. I loved it so much I ended up purchasing a membership for my family and can't wait to head to back and visit this gem of a spot in every season! 

 

Olive Park and Ohio Street Beach

I love the city-scape that Olive Park and Ohio Street Beach offers. The buildings loom right behind us and offer a dramatic and up-close city backdrop. We shot first thing in the morning, as the sun rose over the lake. Navy Pier can get pretty crowded on the weekends so I love shooting early in the morning here. This is a great spot for an active family. So many fun places to explore along our route.

 

Montrose Magic Hedge and skyline

Because I am a slight nerd (just slight)- I find the history of this place so interesting! Check out the PBS series Chicago Tours with Geoffrey Baer for some amazing insights and even more photo location ideas! Anyway, Montrose Point was taken over by the US Army before WWII as a radar station and then a missile station. It was finally dismantled in the 1970s and the hedge is now the resting place for over 300+ types of birds. I love that we can shoot in a forest just miles from downtown Chicago. We also have the backdrop of our magnificent skyline.  We get such variety at Montrose.