Melissa Donaldson Photography » Capturing Life, Love and Laughter through my Lens

Arizona baby photography session, Noah

 

Arizona baby photography session

Can you say adorable? This little six-month-old ham came to visit me for his baby photography session at my studio here in Gilbert, Arizona. I have watched little Noah grow from the time he was in his mama’s belly. This is another family that I have done milestone photography with. They have come to see me for Maternity, newborn, and now Noah’s six-month baby session.

professional baby and family photography in arizona, chandler, gilbert, scottsdale, tempe, mesa, phoenixP I NI M A G E

professional baby and family photography in arizona, chandler, gilbert, scottsdale, tempe, mesa, phoenixP I NI M A G E

I have said it a million times, I love this six to eight-month age.  These little people have a tremendous amount of personality.  I love just watching them sit up, and smile or giggle, and grab their feet and roll around. They can make a bad day great with their big old smiles.

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Little Noah obviously has a big personality and he is especially happy when he is in the buff. He is so strong and at six months was already pulling himself up to stand. He is very determined and extremely smart. Sitting is a piece of cake for this guy. I love that at this age, all you have to do is say something, anything for that matter in just a happy tone, and you get a big grin and if you’re lucky a giggle.

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As you can see Noah loved sitting up on his own, he loved when I put him in my bowl, and in the wee little bed. I love this bed by the way; it fits newborns up to about a year. I purchased this from Gabriela at The Original Photoblocks Props.  It is one of my go to props. I don’t think I have not had a baby not smile when they are in it.

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I cannot imagine what Noah will be doing when he turns one! My guess is he will be running before he even walks. I am so blessed to be able to watch you grow Noah! Thank you for picking me to photograph your sweet baby Larson family.

 

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Baby photography session, Arizona

Super excited to see this sweet boy back in my studio here in Gilbert, Arizona. This tiny man came to see me for his newborn baby photography session and is now back to see me at six months. I have to tell you, one of the most incredible perks to my job is watching these babies grow. I love being able to capture the milestones and photograph these important memories.  From tummy time, sitting up, smiles, and giggles, I love all of these moments. six month baby on tummy smiling phoenix arizonaP I NI M A G E

Excellent Prop Idea

I also had the opportunity to photograph mom prior to newborn session.  She came to me for maternity pictures and they were gorgeous. Mom had decided that she was going to get a belly cast, which for those of you who do not know what that is here is more information . We used the belly cast for his newborn session and mom was brilliant in bringing it for six month session. This is an excellent prop idea!

Baby in his belly cast from moms pregnancy, Scottsdale, ArizonaP I NI M A G E

Before the session Mom had said she wanted a few images of her breastfeeding her baby. This was important to her because it would most likely be her last baby.

 

 

photography of mom breastfeeding her son, photograph, picture, ArizonaP I NI M A G E

I was so excited that they brought big brother to the session. Sibling images are super important. I have so many photographs of my little sister and I. These are treasured memories.  I also could take some solo pictures of just big brother. Baby's big brother, child photography, Gilbert, ArizonaP I NI M A G EBaby's big brother, child photography, Gilbert, ArizonaP I NI M A G E

Family portraits are also so very important. I recall one portrait of my sister my mom and I back in the late 80’s. It was after my dad left. Our little Lutheran Church in Awhatukee, Arizona was offering family portraits. Though the picture was extremely posed and total old style (total Olan Mills style) I still look back and remember that first picture of just us three girls.  Family photography, family photographer, family picture, love, Gilbert, Arizona, Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, MesaP I NI M A G EI feel super blessed to be a part of all these incredible moments. I love every single family and baby I have ever photographed.

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Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLRP I NI M A G EPhotography Tips DSLR Camera

With Christmas right around the corner many of you might be getting a beautiful new DSLR camera from Santa.  Super exciting, right? But there is so many options, buttons and so much to learn. I wanted to share with you, some tips someone shared with me over eight years ago.

Advice from a Professional 

One of the first workshops I took, was from Mark Wallace locally in Tempe, AZ. It was an in-person and hands-on workshop. He is an incredible instructor and photographer. I was fortunate enough to take a hands on workshop from him locally here in Tempe, Arizona at his studio. Since my class, he was contracted by and now has hundreds of free videos through Adorama T.V. that you can find here. The videos are one-on-one and start from the basics and advance to lighting techniques. I highly recommend you watch them. With all that said, the first tip was one that I got from Mark himself.

Tips

  1. Take your camera with you everywhere. This was Mark Wallace’s words of wisdom. I still do this to this day. My friends and family will attest to this. This goes back to the old practice makes perfect rule. Whether you are a hobbyist or looking to start your own photography business the only way to get better is to practice. Practice indoors, outdoors, during the day, at night, with available light. The best way to understand your DSLR is to practice. For me, my camera has become a part of my body and soul. Without my Nikon in hand or at my reach, I feel like something is missing.

                           A little lesson on manual mode

2.Take your camera off AUTO and put that baby in Manual– A scary thought I know, but let me talk you off your ledge and explain why we should use manual. When you take photographs in AUTO your camera is deciding what your aperture, shutter speed, white balance, as well as ISO will be. Have you ever taken a picture indoors at a party and you think it’s great, only to pull it up on your computer later and realize the picture temperature looks blue or yellow? That is because your camera has chosen that setting for you.  You are probably already wondering but wait, what is ISO and white balance? Let me break it down for you.

Turn your camera in Manual

On my Nikon it looks like this:

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLRP I NI M A G E

Now that you have your camera in Manual there are four important terms you must know.

Aperture

as Nikons website defines it

Aperture refers to the opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures.

This may seem a little contradictory at first but will become clearer as you take pictures at varying f/stops. Be sure to check your manual first to learn how to set your camera for Aperture Priority, then try experimenting to get comfortable with changing the aperture and recognizing the effects different apertures will have on the end-result image. Stop in and read more on aperture on their link above, they also have a aperture chart that might help you better understand.

Shutter speed

You can think of shutter speed as exposure time, or the amount of time the sensor cover opens and closes, letting light into the cameras sensor.

Fast Shutter Speed

Fast Shutter speed is typically what I use for movement. My daughter’s soccer game, or a client photography session with a one year old who has skipped walking and went straight to running. In situations like these I find myself photographing at a shutter speed of 250 and above.  Anything less than 100 there is blur and the image is out of focus. I always want my subjects in focus.

                                       Long shutter speed

 Long shutter speed I always use my tripod when photographing long shutter speeds. Long shutter speeds are used when photographing things like Tempe Town Lake Bridge and it’s changing colors at night or Downtown Phoenix at Night. I also use slow shutter speeds when I am photographing a landscape photograph of a waterfall, or a creek. This creates a beautiful look in which the water is still flowing or moving and everything else around the water is nice an in focus.

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLRP I NI M A G E

Waimea Waterfall, Kauai, HI – Long shutter speed

Slow shutter speeds

Every camera is different, but I find that with my shaky hands and photographing anything below a shutter speed of 100 my photographs are not tack sharp. Even with my vibration reduction lenses. So I rarely go below a speed of 100 if my camera is not on a tripod.

Understanding ISO

ISO– This is important and a game changer for photography. This is what will prevent you from using the terrible flash on your camera and allow you to capture the ambient light of a wedding reception. ISO is the cameras sensitivity to light. So the lower the ISO the less sensitive the camera is. In everyday situations I always keep my camera at a lower ISO, usually 100 and maybe up to 400.

However, if I am in a situation where it is dark or there is little light to work with I have no trouble bumping my ISO up rather than use my on camera flash. Other options would be off camera flashes or strobes.  The downfall to ISO is that it will create noise in your image. Again, I ONLY adjust my ISO to a higher setting when I am in a situation that does not have necessary lighting.

Phoenix Arizona Photographer Photography tips DSLRP I NI M A G E

High ISO image taken at 4th of July

White balance

For me this is one of the most important settings in your camera yet it seems to be so overlooked. This one setting which takes seconds to set up, yet saves so much work in post production. Having to fix this in Photoshop is so time consuming.

White balance is the color temperature of the room or outdoor location in which you are photographing. Example, florescent lighting tends to cause a blueish color temperature to the image. I personally never leave my White balance in Auto. This again is allowing your camera to pick the temperature for you.

White balance options

You can either go into the white balance setting and select the temperature of your location. Example, sunny, daylight, florescent, or cloudy. I know there are other options as well. I chose to manually set my white balance. This can be done with a white balance grey card, or I use an Expodisc. The Expodisc takes a few seconds to use and my white balance is always fantastic.

These are really just a few tips to get you started with your new camera whether it is Nikon or Canon! I hope this was helpful!

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Photography Newborn, Chandler Studio

 

“I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle.” -Vincent Van Gogh   This sweet little guy came to see me to do his newborn photography session here in my Chandler/Gilbert studio.  Less then a week old he slept like a baby and we were able to get this fantastic photographs of him and his family.  I love all of these new babies that come to see me and I get the opportunity to cuddle with and love on. Babies are a little piece of heaven. I feel so privileged to be a part of making these fantastic memories that last a lifetime and beyond. Really I thank God everyday because this feels like it is my calling, my purpose. What an amazing purpose to fulfill.

What Happens behind the scenes during a newborn session

Sometimes it can take awhile for baby to fall asleep and I do not like to waste our time together. So if baby is still awake ,I make sure to swaddle them tight and get some pictures with their eyes open. A lot of times I talk to them and they will look directly at me. These little tiny people are so unbelievable and so full of love. After I get them swaddled they will usually doze off.  It becomes easier from their to put them into some of these cute baby poses.

As you can tell from my portfolio I really love the look of simplicity. I think a natural baby on an neutral earthy toned backdrop is stunning. I will add in pops of color with photography props such as a wrap or a bonnet, and I try to keep them within the same color tone.  This is also good for my families as neutral based tones can usually go anywhere in anyones home when deciding where to hang the photographs. In this case this babies mother had a theme of owls in the babies nursery. She had brought with her this owl bonnet, and I had a nest that we placed him in. The end result =adorable!

Thanks for stopping in to read my blog , until next time!

Mel

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Milestone photography, six-month baby

I feel so blessed to photograph babies. Every single day I think the Lord for blessing me with this job. One of my favorite parts of my job is that I get to do Milestone photography. This is where the parents come back to see me as their baby grows and reaches significant milestones. I always tell my newborn clients that I recommend that they come back to me with a six-month-old baby. I also suggest that the baby be able to sit on his own if only for a few seconds. Sitting up is obviously a huge milestone in babies life. So many exciting things occur within the first year.

Baby Carson came to see me when he was born and I did his newborn baby pictures. I photographed him at a week new, tiny little sweetheart, now he came back to see me at about 6 and a half months old. Who isn’t absolutely crazy about this age? Not only is it such a fun age, but also the babies have developed so much personality. All it takes is a peek-a-boo (in a high pitched voice) and oh my goodness the smiles and giggles are priceless. They roll around on their backs and grab their toes; they are flipping over from front to back, pushing up on their tummy, most of the time sitting up by themselves.

Frequently asked questions about your milestone session

A lot of parents ask, so how do we dress baby for a six-month session? My answer is always nude. I also tell them that I have several adorable rompers and pants, hats or headbands that we will include in the session. Sometimes parents want a certain theme for the milestone session. Carson’s mom came to see me and she had brought this adorable bomber jacket, which went perfectly with my aviator hat and my little play airplanes. Then we will put them in baskets, buckets, bowls, and  just simply have them sit on some fluff nude. I love capturing their baby squish.

 

Carson is totally adorable. Let me tell you, if you are having a bad day, take a dose of a six-month-old baby, and that is bound to turn your day right around. His big brother Mason came to help his little brother smile and giggle for the camera and we grabbed a quick picture of him as well, he is such a doll! I am super excited to have him come see me for his one-year baby session! Love you Carson!

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Photography Newborn, AZ.

As you know I love newborn babies. They are my primary photography focus. I feel so blessed to be able to hug all of these angelic newborns. This sweet little girl came to see me at just five days new here at my studio in Gilbert, AZ. So new, so tiny, so innocent.  Babies come into the world knowing only love, it’s simply beautiful. “A baby fills a hole in your heart that you didn’t know was there. “unknown

She has the most beautiful long eyelashes, itty bitty fingers with tiny little cuticles, fantastic hair, and amazing pout lips! I love babies pout lips. Did I mention the cutest wee little toes? I love me some baby toes! This tiny ball of love slept “like a baby” throughout her entire session, and was such a curly newborn. I was able to put her into all of these poses, we were able to even get some smiles out of her. She was adorable. In fact, she did not wake up once. This is a photographer’s dream come true.

Tips for booking your new baby photo session

Mom and I coordinated colors in advance, she was big on neutral tones which I love. I find that photographing babies on neutral tones really allows you to focus on the beauty of the baby. Sometimes bright colors tend to take away from the baby or they can be a bit distracting. I think you will be able to figure out from reviewing my portfolio , that I prefer neutral, natural, earthy toned colors. Adding pops of color here and there is something that you will find me doing. My style is to keep my sessions simple and classic.

I always try to educate potential newborn clients that contact me in advance. But for those that do not, I try to share on my blog that it is super important to book your newborn session within the first two weeks of life. The newer the baby the sleepier they are. This makes posing them so much easier. I also like to let clients know that not every baby can do every pose. It really is dependent on them.  So if you wish to book your newborn session, try to reach out to me early. We will have fun planning and eventually bringing our plan to fruition when that sweet bundle of joy arrives. For photography newborn posing ideas visit my Pinterest page.

Newborn props from http://www.onesheeptwosheep.com/ , http://thedaintymiss.bigcartel.com/ , https://www.etsy.com/shop/redowlphotoprops?ref=shop_name_search_sugg

 

Love & blessings,

Mel

 

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Maternity photography session, Arizona

I love all of these beautiful glowing mom’s that I have the pleasure of photographing. What an incredible maternity photography session we had with the McClure family here in Chandler/Gilbert Arizona. We had been planning her session for a couple of weeks. I always recommend booking your maternity and newborn session in advance. This give us the time we need to prepare and brainstorm to bring your session to life.

This expecting mom knew that she wanted to have her hair and make-up done for her session. I reached out to an incredible artist. Mallory Jarvis of Mallory Maline Beauty, you can view her work here : https://www.instagram.com/mallorymalinebeauty/?hl=en

Mom had come to my studio about a week in advance to browse through my maternity gowns and chose her wardrobe. We had decided that she would use one of my gowns, and she had a green dress and a blue dress she wanted to wear.  With all of these colors picked out, it made it much easier for her to coordinate dad’s wardrobe for the session.

A few tips on when to book your session

I always recommend that expecting mothers have their session booked to be photographed between 32-34 weeks of pregnancy. You can read up more on my maternity sessions here. https://www.melissadonaldsonphotography.com/pregnancy-and-maternity-pictures/  This booked both a maternity and newborn photo session with me.Booking your newborn session in advance is as equally important. Some people do not know that really newborns are photographed within the first two weeks of new life. You can read more on my newborn sessions here https://www.melissadonaldsonphotography.com/baby-pictures-photography/

The McClure’s wanted to include their adorable dog in the session. Until mom had gotten pregnant, this adorable doggie was their fur baby. It was so fun adding him to the session, he had some great hair, and was very interactive with my camera.  We created a great photography session. We managed to have three wardrobe changes, a well behaved dog, a very excited couple equals happy! Make sure to watch part of their gorgeous slideshow below!

Blessings,

 

Mel

 

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Arizona Maternity Photographer, Gilbert maternity photography, Chandler maternity pictures, milestone photography, newborn and pregnancy photographyP I NI M A G E

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Reed family photography session, Arizona

I adore the Reed family. They drive up from Tucson every year for me to photograph them here in Gilbert, Arizona.  Little Zac had so much energy and was ready to smile big for his photography session. I have been photographing Zac since he was in his mama’s belly. It is always so fun for me to see my families return every year, I get to see how much their kids have grown. Some children remember me, some don’t, but I always remember them.  I love that with my repeat clients make it a point to get pictures of their family every year, they see the importance in capturing their little once grow.  So much changes in a year, they grow tall, or lose their first tooth, or maybe just have learned to walk. All great things, all great milestones.

While I hadn’t been to the gym that day, I didn’t need to go after this session. Zac has gotten so quick, and man is he busy. He is on a mission and has got a lot to do. What I have learned with kids between 2 and 4 is to not pressure them to pose. Let them play and giggle and have fun. Pressure for the perfect smile and to sit still always seems to backfire. It’s rare a two year old will sit for 30 minutes. So I have learned to let them be little. Let them play, play with them, and get some great candid moments. In my experience, it seems that if you let them play and enjoy the session somewhere in there they will sit for one nice photograph. Especially if you tell them to show mommy and daddy to smile and take a picture. It is as if they feel like they are showing them how to do it.

It was a great session, we had fun, and were relaxed, and able to capture these images.

 

Love ya Reed Family!

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Knox Bittner, Arizona Studio baby photography

Super excited to blog about this adorable little man.  Newborn Knox Bittner came to visit me at my studio here in  Phoenix, Arizona for his baby photography session. A week new, and a couple of my baby whisperer tricks and tips, we had this little guy to sleep in no time. Once that happens we were able to mold some magic.

Involving Family in this newborns photography session

Knox brought his older sibling to his photography session, she did a great job at tending to her new baby brother. I often get asked by clients if they can bring siblings as well as if they can be in the images and the answer is always the same- ABSOLUTELY!  Pictures like these are priceless. I have several photographs of me holding my little sister when she was born. I love looking back at that time. Holding old pictures in my hands, and seeing how much I loved her back then at that age, and how excited I was to that would eventually grow up and I could play with.

A lot of new mothers are not fond of being photographed right after having a baby.  I try to encourage new mothers that their newborn will grow so fast, it’s imperative to have these images.  And as you can see below, Knox’s mom is simply stunning. She has a glow about her, and a happy heart holding her little baby.

Believe it or not, dads are always really excited to be in the spotlight with their new baby. There is always something so sweet about a dad with his newborn.

Thank you Bittner family for choosing me to photograph your sweet little baby boy!

Posing blankets from http://www.onesheeptwosheep.com/ 

 

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Blended Conference Arizona

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the “Blended Conference Arizona” here in Florence, Arizona. My good friend Wendy O’Neal, founder of “Blended” and owner of the food blog at “Around My Family Table” invited me to attend.Wendy has held the conference for the last five years in the fall in Arizona. This year it was held at the gorgeous Windmill Winery, in Florence Arizona. If you have a chance to visit the winery I highly recommend it, and consider attending next year’s the conference!

Blended Conference 2016P I NI M A G E

The Windmill Winery is a beautiful venue. The tables were decorated with stunning floral centerpieces from Sarah’s Garden. Many great sponsors including GoDaddy, The Sweet Tooth Fairy, Melissa’s Produce, and Sodalicious were a few of my favorites. Being a food blog centric event, the food provided, sampled, and catered was incredible. Chipotle catered for lunch. We had an amazing dinner and bottles of dreamy wine catered by the Windmill Winery.

2016-09-26_0003P I NI M A G EBlended Conference 2016P I NI M A G EThis conference was for bloggers, by bloggers, and so I went hoping to learn how to improve my own blogging, some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advice, and additional web marketing ideas. Blogging has not been my strong suit! I love to photograph people, and specifically babies. I love to tell my stories through my camera. But putting the words from paper to pen, is a struggle sometimes.

Attending the conference with me, I invited my friend, Terah Lake from Terah Lake Photography. Terah is an extremely talented high school senior photographer, here in Gilbert. I was glad to have a friend with me, and one who felt equally blogging challenged. Terah is a little more advanced then me, and she has taught me how to use the Instagram Video/Story feed. She also taught me where to look when taking selfies. Thanks Terah! We had a good laugh about that. Did I mention I am also selfie challenged?

Blended Conference 2016 P I NI M A G E

That is Terah in the middle with the cold brew coffee.

I think Terah and I learned so much that we didn’t know about the blogging world. SEO, keywords, and how to grow your following. These were just a few of the many topics we covered.

The “How to increase your followers and audience through social media” discussion was a great eye opener and fantastic topic. I thought I knew a lot about Facebook and Instagram; then I went to Blended. Later, we broke out into classes where we learned about printables, marketing, Adobe Illustrator.

I think Terah and I both looked at each other at the same time and said, “I want to be a blogger.”  Blended Conference 2016P I NI M A G EHowever, the best part of this conference was the amazing friendships we made. We were seated at a table with Laura Silva from Laura’s Crafty Life and Amy Carney from The Intentional Women both wonderful ladies with fantastic blogs. I think we would all agree it felt like we had known each other forever! We shared wine, laughs, and exchanged a lot knowledge and information. It was really quite an awesome experience.

I sincerely have to say, “Thank You” to my friend Wendy for encouraging me to attend her conference. It really was an eye opener; with a lot of lessons learned.

Blended 2016P I NI M A G E

Left picture: from left to right Terah, Laura, Me, and Amy; Right Picture with red is Wendy and I.

 

Blended Conference 2016P I NI M A G E

Terah, me, Maddison, Laura, and Amy at Go Daddy booth

Picture on right is me practicing my selfies with my new friend Laura, and a whole lot of sunburst.  Most of these images were taken with my cell phone, as a photographer posting cell pics on my blog is completely new.

Thanks again Wendy and Blended,

Mel

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