Client Favorites of 2011 | Virginia Beach Photography Contest

Here they are!  Some of YOUR favorite photos of 2011!  The poll is found at the bottom of this post (with a thumbnail image for reference!)

The Rules:

*1 vote per person (Each IP Address will be counted once) – that means you need to link your friends and family to this post and have them vote for you, too! :D

*The photo with the most votes at the end of the year will win their image as a 12x12 (or 12x18) Gallery Wrapped Canvas!  (Value: $205)

*Poll will automatically close at 11:59pm on December 31st.

Have fun! And thanks to all my clients of 2011! I love you all! :D I'll be sharing MY favorites of the year on January 1st!

[polldaddy poll="5792476"]

Mini Sneak Peek | Virginia Beach Children & Family Photographer

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to the twelve families who donated to the Davis Family.  I want you to meet Joshua, the little boy who inspired me to do these minisessions....and Rufus, his CHKD bear.  At our session, his mommy said that he was given this bear in the hospital - the patches are all the places that he gets insulin injections.  :(  But he's doing very well and is just the cutest thing, isn't he?!

And here is a peek - just one - from each of the sessions.  You guys are the BEST!  Hope you enjoy your peek!

Ten on Tuesday {The Rules for Parents} | Virginia Beach Children & Family Photographer

After my marathon mini-sessions two weekends in a row (where the ages of children ranged from 6 months to 12 years), I came to the conclusion that it might be helpful for a photographer to write to her clients about things to do (and maybe a few not to do) during a custom portrait session.

Since it's "Back to School" time, it's even more appropriate that I bring you

"The Rules for Parents"

1. Come to the session with well-rested, well-fed children. Nap times might need to be adjusted on the day of our session for the littlest, or dinner time might have to be a couple hours early.  It truly makes a WORLD of difference if you plan your day around our session - even if it means a schedule that is non-typical for your family.  A good photographer will interact with your child, play games, chat with them and make them feel comfortable.  But we cannot take a tired, hungry, writhing ball of meltdown (can you tell I HAVE toddlers?! :D) and create a beautiful portrait!!

2. Your job, as parents is to look at the camera and smile when we attempt the big group shot.  When your photographer poses you and is doing her best to get the childrens' attention, don't look down at the kids!!!  My job is to get the baby to smile.  My job is to keep the kids looking at me.  My job is to see whose head is turned or fingers are in their mouth.  Your job is to plaster that (natural!) smile on your face and look at my camera!  There have been too many times when I've gotten home, downloaded a family session, and found that by the time I got all three or four kids looking at the camera and smiling, the mom and dad had dropped their smiles or were "just checking" to see if the kids were smiling.  So, I either have a great shot of mom and dad with wild monkeys or beautiful children with parents who look completely over it!  Remember to just look at the camera and smile - your photographer will do the rest!!

3.  Get close. When you stand next to each other, you should always be touching!  Wrap your arms around each other or hold hands.  Even a few inches of space looks like a wide gap in a picture!  I often tell people to, "act like you like each other!" (which always gets people to smile, by the way!) because I want them to be close.  Kids sitting on laps, or standing with their arms around their parents legs or shoulders are natural "poses".  Your closeness and love for each other will shine through if you are close to each other when standing or sitting for a photograph.

4.  Try not to threaten your child or coerce them into smiling. You are most likely not going to get a genuine smile if you've just told them that they must smile or you will beat them within an inch of their lives not take them for ice cream.  :) :) :)  Please, whatever you do, don't tell your child to SAY CHEESE!  It does not capture their true smile and we're probably only going to get that smile the rest of the session.  (That's why they call it a cheezy smile!)  Your photographer will help with fun things to make your child smile - or you could always just start a tickle fight or say something really silly that makes everyone laugh!

5.  Allow your photographer to interact with your child. Don't answer for them - or chime in with your own thoughts.  The photographer needs to spend a few moments getting comfortable with your child and allowing your child to get comfortable with her.  Many times I will ask children questions about what things they like, about their teacher or friends, or find something in common to chat about.  It helps to break the ice and allows the photographer to get a sense of your child's personality.

6.  If you have older toddlers or elementary school children, allow the photographer some space to work with them. If you "disappear" or hang back a bit, photographers can often work more easily with your child - especially siblings!  Trust us, we have interacted with many children and have a few tricks up our sleeves!  :) Oftentimes, children will act up when their parents are around and watching just to get their attention - but they wouldn't dare misbehave with a stranger!  (Just ask their teachers - they are angels at school, right?!)   I sometimes take a child by the hand and we take a walk to a new location so that we can start fresh and not have mom and dad watching our every move.  Most of the time, I capture the truest smiles that way!

7.  If you have a baby,  allow the photographer to interact with her and try to get her to look at the camera and smile. This is a hard one for parents. I know it's hard not to interact with your baby, but try to refrain. If there's a particular thing that "works" - a game, a sound, a word, a song - tell the photographer at the beginning of your session together and allow her to try it with your baby.  The goal of the photographer is to get your baby to look directly into the camera. If you are standing to the photographer's left or right, even slightly, and shouting your baby's name to get her to look up, she is going to look AT YOU!  Why is that a bad thing?  Because even though she could be giving the best, most beautiful and perfect smile to you...when you see the photo, it looks like she's smiling at someone outside the frame.  I never really understood this until I started photographing children professionally, but now I notice it all the time.  In most studio photos, the children are almost always looking at someone above the camera's level.   My goal as a custom photographer is to capture your child(ren) looking right at me - so that when you see that photo, it looks like they are smiling directly at you every time you look at the picture.  You will see the twinkle in their eye, you will see the mischievous grin, you will feel the connection!  It is hard to step back and not interact with your own baby - but let the photographer try first.  She'll let you know if she needs help!

8. If your child is between 12 months and 2 1/2 years old, expect your session to be a lot of "follow the baby around"! This age is the most unpredictable.  Since bribing, cajoling, and joking doesn't work yet, we are forced to go with the flow!  The best thing to do is to see where he wants to play, sit, stand and then position yourselves around him for a group shot.   When he moves, you move!  Again, interact like you normally do - if that's playing peek-a-boo or clapping, we'll capture it, and maybe a few smiles in the process!

9.  Don't prep your child too much for a photo session. Talking about it for days on end (or even all day on the day of the session) only raises the stress level for your child and creates an atmosphere of "you'd better...or else!".  It's better to let your child become comfortable at the session and have their personality shine through.  That said, bring a "backup plan".  If you have wee little ones, bringing a non-messy snack (for babies: puffs, small cookies, etc.) and a drink is essential!  For older toddlers, a special snack (something a bit exciting even!) might be just the thing to get that big smile!  If your child has a lovey or special friend that you don't mind being in some photos, it can be a great comfort item.  I am not above bribery, but be sure to keep it positive and specific.  "Give two beautiful smiles and you get a special treat!" is great.  "Smile or you don't get ice cream" is a bit too vague and probably won't elicit the same immediate response...more than once!

10.  Be yourselves and try to have fun! The absolute best family photographs are those where the family looks comfortable and connected.  If you are silly, be silly during your session.  If dad is the comedian, by all means, bring on the jokes!  If your kids like to play Ring around the Rosy (or Superheroes!), let's get to it early on in the session so that we can capture your family being you.  After all, that's what you want to remember in ten or twenty years, right?

And because no post is complete without a photo, here is one capture of a family that I just adore!  Notice their coordinated wardrobe and the fact that mom and dad are relaxed and looking at the camera?  I was making a complete FOOL of myself getting all three girls to look at me at this very moment! :D

{Give} | Summer Mini-Sessions

I am blessed with two healthy children. They have had a cough and a fever, but they've never really been sick.  I've never truly worried about their health, their lives, or their long-term well being.  I do not know what it is like to sit by and watch my baby in a hospital bed.  And I pray that I never have to.  Unfortunately, there are many mothers who do exactly that.  One of my friends is in a difficult situation right now and could use your prayers....and maybe a little more. You may remember my little friend, Joshua.  I blogged a bit about his story when I took his 1st Birthday Cake Smash portraits.  He was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes just before I took these photos for his first birthday.

His diagnosis came after a scary time, an ER visit, and a week long hospital stay.  His parents and his big brother now have a new "normal", a new lifestyle.  They have become very good at algebra - having to calculate down to the decimal point what he eats and how to dose insulin.  That means multiple injections a day.  On a baby. And if that stress were not enough, they are struggling to pay the medical bills associated with the hospital stay and all the equipment, test strips, needles, etc. that it takes to keep Joshua healthy.  Not just healthy....alive.  This is not an optional plan for him, it is life as he knows it and will be forever.  As his mother put it, "insulin is his life support".  He will have Diabetes for the rest of his life.

But folks, that's not even the bad news.  Joshua's daddy (incidentally, diabetic himself) is a speech therapist whose contract with his company recently ended.  He interviewed for and was hired in a local public school system, but that job and the health benefits do not start until the fall.  September at best, October is more likely.  That means about three months with no health insurance.  For most of us, that is a scary prospect.  For this family, it is a devastating scenario.  Joshua's mommy is a Creative Memories consultant and his daddy is currently working three part-time jobs to pay their basic living expenses (food, mortgage, car payments, etc.) and because of his three-part-time-job-income, they do not qualify for most of the government assistance programs.  They are currently signed up for health insurance temporarily through COBRA....for $2000 a month.  That's right, basic medical care to keep this child alive is two thousand dollars a month.  My jaw hit the floor - did yours?

I want to help them.  And I need your help to give this family a little, tiny bit of hope. Some light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps.  I would love to be able to wipe away their medical bills - the part that is still unpaid from the hospital stay in February and the summer of incredible expense while they wait for their new insurance to kick in.  But I can't wipe it away on my own.  So, I'm asking for your help.  I would like to offer to you (and your friends!) special mini-sessions including a CD of images if you will help donate to this family's medical expenses.

A $100 Donation will get you a 20 minute mini-session yielding 7-10 retouched images on CD. A $175 Donation will get you a 45 minute session yielding 10-15 retouched images on CD.

Want a few gorgeous photos of your family or updated images of the kids? Haven't had pictures of you and your husband since your wedding?  We can do a mini-couples session! Have a friend who is pregnant? Give her the gift of a mini-maternity session! Heck, I'll even do a mini-senior portrait session for your upcoming 2011 Graduate! OR - you could be a double-gifter and buy a session for a friend's family - then you're giving to TWO families with one gift! :)

Mini-sessions will be held on Sunday, August 1st, 2010 on the campus of Regent University (off Indian River Road) in Virginia Beach.  I will do as many as I can fit in the day from 8am-8pm - you pick your preferred window of time when you fill out the session agreement form (below).

Please know that I am keeping none of the money.  EVERY CENT of the profits will go to the Davis Family and their medical bills.

To see the details and reserve your mini-session:

Step 1:  Click on this link and fill out the Special Portrait Agreement with your contact information. (Be sure to read through the terms carefully and give all the required info!)

Step 2:  Submit your donation by clicking through PayPal below.

Choose type

Step 3:   I will send you a confirmation e-mail with your specific mini-session time in about a week.  Then, I'll see you on August 1st!

**UPDATE:  The 'choose shipping' option is not working.  It will only allow me to add the shipping to all orders.  So, if you do NOT want to pay the $2.50 shipping for your CD, please submit your donation directly to instead of clicking through the PayPal button above.  Sorry for the inconvenience!

Please post this to your Facebook Wall to spread the word - especially if you know Shannon, Brian, Jackson and Joshua.  They can use all the support we can give them!

Thank you so very much, from the bottom of my heart!  Oh, and doesn't it feel good to GIVE?


What's the Difference? | Custom Photography

There have been quite a few photographers who have recently written blog posts about why custom photography costs more.  Many of them are spot-on and very informative for people who may not have ever had the experience of a custom, on-location photographer before.  In fact, most of us are so used to the "in-and-out mall studio" experience and their super-cheap promotional pricing, that when presented with the price list of a custom photographer, our eyebrows raise sky high!  Some people even look at the cost of custom photography and say, "Oh, my!  Why would someone spend that much money on pictures? Is it really that much better than the mall studio?" Well, folks, better is a subjective term.  Is a $300 Coach bag really better than the knock-off $20 version you can get at the purse kiosk in the mall?  Ask anyone who owns a real Coach bag and they'll tell you.  Is your $4 cup of coffee from Starbucks really better than brewing it at home for pennies on the dollar?  Many people obviously think so - there's a Starbucks on every corner and they always seem busy!  So, the value of any item is subjective.  It's just a's just a cup of's just a picture.  It's not about brand name (although we all know that branding is a big part of US consumerism) but the difference in price on any item is often a direct result of the quality and experience.  In this blog post, I'd like to address a question that I know some of you are asking yourself.  "Is a custom portrait session with Kimberlin Gray Photography really better than the mall studio? Is it worth the extra cost?"  Let's take a moment to compare the two on a few key points:

Personal Attention: When you go to Studio A, you may have an appointment or you may walk in.  A receptionist checks you in and you wait until your photographer is ready.  You may or may not have ever met that person before and went into the experience totally on your own as far as clothing choices.  But, when you choose Kimberlin Gray Photography, you are getting personal attention and service.  I will chat with you on the phone or via e-mail before our session to be sure you know what to expect and we discuss location and wardrobe in detail.  I will give you suggestions, helpful hints, and even help you choose outfits and accessories.  I want to be sure that the portraits you have taken reflect more than just what you look like that day.  There is no waiting around entertaining your child in a 10x20 room.  It's all about you!

Experience with Children: Studio A reminds me of a line from a book my daughter likes to read:  "You get what you get and you don't get upset".   The photographers at Studio A may or may not have ever worked with children the same age or with the same type of personality as yours.  You never really know what you're going to get as far as the personality of the photographer or his/her experience (both with photography and with people).  But, when you choose Kimberlin Gray Photography, you are choosing to go with someone with plenty of experience with children - and their parents.  I have a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and over 10 years experience teaching young children.  I also have my own children - a spunky 4 year old girl and an active 15 month old boy. This is what makes your experience with me different.  I know kids. I engage with children, I talk with them, I capture their true smile and their real personalities.  With newborns and babies, I am patient.  I understand that it takes time and coaxing to capture such a precious and fleeting time.  At Studio A, they give you a certain number of shots and finish within a set time whether or not your child has warmed up or even cracked a smile.  You either get a white backdrop (which does not always look good with certain skin tones or outfits) or a color/fake scene backdrop.  With Kimberlin Gray Photography, there is no limit to how many shots I take or how many "poses" or "backdrops" you choose.  We walk around, we play, we take our time.  I strive to give my clients a variety of poses and groupings. For example, in a typical family session you'll see photos of the family all together, but also each individual child, siblings together, mom with the kids, dad with the kids, mom and dad together....I don't stop at 20 poses. :D

Image Detail - One of the hallmarks of Studio A is the idea that you can walk out with your pictures that same day - even in just a few hours!  Unfortunately, what you sacrifice to get those pictures so quickly is quality and attention to image detail.  The photographer loads your photos on the computer in the back and quickly adjusts basic exposure and cropping to maximize the image for presentation.  You see basically a straight-out-of-the-camera shot.  And, that's what you get to take with you from their big, industrial printer in the back room.  They print how they print and that's what you get.  However, after a session with Kimberlin Gray Photography, your images are looked at individually and processed one-by-one, not as a big batch.  I have many digital techniques that I use to help make your family's images really pop!  I also work with people when they have special requests.  I have taken bruises off little boys' faces, smoothed out distracting fly-away hair, touched up stretch marks "love stripes" on pregnant bellies, and made a few new mommies look just a bit less tired under the eyes!  If I convert an image to black and white it isn't just by pressing a button.  I am very careful with my black and white conversions to be sure that they really enhance and make an image beautiful.  Sometimes I see images from Studio A that make a baby or child look like a character from Twilight - a little too gray and "undead" for my taste! :)  The bottom line is that while Studio A takes about 30 minutes to process your photos, Kimberlin Gray Photography spends hours and hours in the "digital darkroom" so that every image you see in your gallery is a perfect representation of your family.  Then, the image is sent off to a professional lab who specializes in printing on premium paper and it is lustre coated for longevity.  Finally, I package them up beautifully for you so that when you see the final product, you are blown away!

Unique, Specialized Products: When you go to choose your pictures at Studio A, they have packages based on "poses".  You can get 50 pictures for $9.99!!  WOW!  What a value, right?  Well, yes and no.  What you get is 50 of the exact same picture.  After that, you pay their premium price for a sheet - and again, all photos on that sheet must be the same.  So, you are proofed 25 photos, but you have to choose one.  Okay, maybe two.  At Kimberlin Gray Photography, you get what you want.  You are not bound by certain sizes and you don't have to have the same picture printed in a hundred different sizes.  Not only that, you get to select between unique and fun products like canvas prints, storyboard collages, magnetic mini-albums, and cool photo storage tins!

These are just a few of the reasons that a custom portrait session with Kimberlin Gray Photography is different than the studios you are used to.  So when you see that my minimum order requirement is $200, you now know some of why the cost is higher.  You are not paying $200 for a few pieces of paper - the cost is not for the paper that the image is printed on.  The cost is for all of the custom work that goes into the session - from before we even meet until after you receive your portraits.

Now, if your goal is to simply get a few photos of your child and buy an 8x10, two 5x7's and a few wallets to give to family, then Studio A is a fine option.  My intent here is not to say that the mall studios are inherently bad or that you should not use them.  In fact, I have taken my daughter there many times and have some very cute photos of her.  But, I always went in thinking it was cheap and somehow ended up spending between $100-150 and never felt like the photos were truly that good.   With Kimberlin Gray Photography, you are choosing to spend more - but you are also guaranteed to have a fun, personalized experience that results in beautiful portraits of your children and your family to display on your walls with pride and treasure for years to come!