saint louis best lifestyle photographer

5 Reasons You Want A Lifestyle Photo Session by Michael Henson

We've talked about how some of the best documentary style photographers define their craft. Now, let's take a few moments to discuss how it's different for you. 

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1. IT'S THE MOST STRESS-FREE STYLE OF PHOTO SESSION

I've been there. On both sides of the equation. Having to stand a certain way, hold your hands a certain way, and behave in a way that isn't natural for you or your family. You're nervous that the photographer is judging you based on the way the kids act, or on how you are dressed, etc.  No fun!

Lifestyle photo sessions are so much more relaxed it will blow your mind! You don't have to worry about what your hands are doing, what I'm thinking about your kids running around and having fun...you just get to enjoy the family time!

2. NO TRAVEL REQUIRED

You can have your session right in your home, in your backyard, or basically wherever you want! If you'd like to have your session at a local ice cream shop, at a park, or anywhere else that holds meaning for you and your family. I mean, how amazing and stress-free is that!?!

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3. YOUR CHILDREN WILL LOVE IT

Why? Because they aren't forced to do something that they wouldn't already want to do anyway! They get to be themselves, play around, have fun with you, and explore! It's a blast! You know what else that means? It means that their authentic personality and expressions are captured in our session rather than that forced, "get-that-camera-out-of-my-face" look that photographers and parents with cameras know all too well.

4. NO POSING REQUIRED!

No posing, no "say cheese" moments...Real, authentic, fun expressions, activities, and interactions. You get to relax and enjoy the moment with no stress about whether or not everyone is looking at the camera or has a goofy look on their face. It's natural and, as a result, looks completely natural. 

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5. YOU CAPTURE REAL MOMENTS & EXPRESSIONS

I've alluded to this a couple of times already. You get actual expressions. You actually have real life personality showing in the photos, and it's effortless! It's crazy how when you allow people to do what they enjoy, their expressions lighten, their eyes sparkle, their smiles are contagious, and that enjoyment and happiness translate into beautiful images that somehow manage to communicate their joy. It's so much fun!

ISN'T THAT ENOUGH!?

I mean, you get to have fun, come out with incredible memories and beautiful images that capture those memories. What more can you ask for? Don't let THESE excuses steal those memories!

10 Excuses That Maliciously Rob You of Your Memories by Michael Henson

 

Here's the thing, we all know that photographs are important. In this technologically driven society we live in we're surrounded by them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

We also understand the power of documentary photography. From war news to travel journalism, photographic images move us, inspire us, and document events in a way that we wouldn't otherwise be able to experience. Another prime example is wedding photography. A documentary approach reveals the underlying story of the relationship, and captures the day in a unique, beautiful way that would otherwise be experienced in the moment and then forgotten forever.

Everyone I speak to about this "lifestyle-centric" approach to photography loves it. They love the idea, they understand the value, and yet, they hesitate to take part of it. They are convinced it's perfect for someone else, but that it's not suited for them. Does this describe you? Don't let these 10 excuses rob you of future memories!

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1. My house too small/dark/messy/etc.

Let's be honest, when it comes right down to it, who's isn't!?! I only know of a couple people in real life that live in a house that looks like something out of a movie. Most everyone is in a house that's smaller, imperfectly kept, and more "normal" than they'd like. So is mine! I get it, but I must remind you of something. It's not important! When I come to your home or meet you somewhere that's important to you, I'm not there to photograph the house. I'm there to photograph you and your family. 

If that doesn't convince you, let's get out of the house! We can hit up a park, stroll around a lake, or just hang out at a playground for a while. It's a documentary/lifestyle session. It's about where you are in your life's journey right now. That's what I want you to remember years from now. The way the sun would light your favorite chair in the mornings, the spot your children loved to play tag, how precious those moments with your baby were even though you were too distracted at the time to completely engage in them. Those photos will bring life to your senses and those memories and will become more and more valuable as time goes by. THAT is what's important.

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2. You're right, Michael, I’m totally going to do it! Just not now. Next year, or maybe during the fall after ______.

Awesome! I'm glad I've convinced you so easily! Here's another thought, remember last year when you thought about how quickly the year had gone by? What about the fact that there are less than 90 days left in 2017? Look at your children. Do you remember them growing that quickly or did you just "wake up" to a five-foot-tall teenager? Time flies. Moments pass, couples grow old together and children become adults. Freckles fade, and I promise there will come a day when you look back at the smudged fingerprints and Crayola colored artwork in all the wrong places and you will wish you could go back.

What about all of those firsts? For couples, the first time your partner touched your hand and your heart skipped a couple of beats, the first kiss, the feeling of fireworks exploding overhead and their arms around you on that hot summer night with patriotic songs booming from loudspeakers. Parents think back to those first tentative steps, words, smiles, and milestones...

Do you realize that there will be "last ones" as well? The last piggyback ride, last time she asks you to carry her through the mall, to hold her in the restaurant so she can slip off to sleep, the last time she dive bombs you with knees of fury as you relax on the couch. You might not realize it at the moment, but those "last ones" happen. They might even happen today! One thing in life is certain, later will be different from now.

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3. Oh, I take photos on my phone, I'm good!

Yeah? Me too! All the time. And with technology constantly improving, some of them even look pretty nice! Occasionally, a photo will make it to my computer via email or social media, but the "mundane" ones don't. You know the ones I'm talking about! The ones that are so special that no one else gets it. The inside moments, the looks, the inside jokes, the normality of my life as it is right now. Guess what, I have three phones FULL of these incredible moments at home right now. One of which is locked because my daughter changed the code and forgot it. It holds very dear memories that I will likely never get to enjoy again.

Social media? What happens in three, five, ten, twenty-five years when Facebook is the new MySpace? Our kids and grandkids won't be able to see the images that we are hoarding in the treasure chests of technology we carry with us. However, a quality print from a professional can last a hundred years! An album can last that long or longer if properly cared for!

Another thing, how exciting is it to view an image on your phone? It's not, let's be honest. It's cool for a few moments or for an initial viewing, but after that, it's quickly time to move on. Do you want to know what's exciting? A huge print displayed over a fireplace or in the common room, an album displayed on the coffee table, or a set of canvases covering that one big wall above the couch! Every single time you pass them you have the opportunity to experience those moments again. It's a breath of fresh air and a reminder that, no matter what, you have your family and the memories that you've created together.

4. But, we're boring! We don't do anything exciting! 

Your family is completely unique. The most significance, the definition of our "story" is found in the routines we establish and the "monotony" of our daily lives. There's magic there and beauty that will bring a tear to your eye ten to fifteen years from now. The "boringness" of life - getting ready for bed, playing ball in the park, playing with the dog, enjoying a quiet moment of silence, or visiting your favorite hangout - these things will be invaluable memories that you will cherish down the road. 

In addition, as an outsider, I can see things you don't even think about. The confidence your son has as you hold his hand while he's walking along the top of that fence, the sparkle in your spouse's eyes as they share a cup of coffee and a laugh with you, that look you give your daughter as you bake cookies together, those moments spent putting school lunch together before hitting the ground running for the day. I assure you, there are countless incredible and meaningful photos in your life! 

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5. I don’t really need pictures...

Your brain is an incredibly complex system, but it's not infallible. We all recognize that memories fade with time, even those that are very valuable. As the years peel back the pages of the calendar, time peels back layer after layer from our memories. Sometimes, we even lose memories entirely or only retain the emotions of an event while forgetting the details.

Day in the Life and Lifestyle photo sessions act like a time capsule. They allow you to capture real moments. Nothing posed or encouraged or manipulated. They almost transport you back to that moment in time as you view it on your wall or flip through a photo album. They preserve history and heritage, not just for you, but for your children, your grandchildren, and your grandchildren's children!

6. I don’t have time!

Herein lies the beauty of a lifestyle session - It can be as much or as little as you'd like it to be! You can plan a day where you engage in some of your favorite activities around town. Or, you can do your thing at home. You don't have to put on a show, wear uncomfortable clothes, fuss with your hair or travel to the most photographed place in St. Louis! You can wear what you want, do what you normally do, and just live your life. I'll take care of the rest! 

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7. Letting a photographer into our life feels just..weird and uncomfortable.

I'd be a liar if I told you that you won't notice me or that "I'll be a fly on the wall." First of all, I'm not a small guy. Secondly, I'll be engaged with you. Being part of the goings on will help me be more invisible than my trying to stand to the side. After a short time, you'll not even notice the camera anymore and I will seem more like a friend hanging out for the day. In addition, we can even get to know each other before. It's all a part of the process and makes it much more natural for youngsters when I show up with my camera because I'm not a new face.

8. I hate getting my pictures taken!

Same here! You are in the majority with your sentiments.

However, if you're honest, that feeling likely comes from those awkward posed photos where you aren't sure what to do with your hands, have to hold your head at a weird angle and are just praying that the kids and the dog are looking at the camera at the same time! You've probably seen far too many fake smiles from yourself and your family and you are OVER. IT!

These types of sessions are completely different. There isn't a single "say cheese!!!" moment, and if you're staring at me or my camera I'll more likely stare back at you than snap a photo. The love of your family, the connections and moments you share will take center stage, and you won't even miss all those awkward moments!

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9 and 10. I can’t afford a session like this and, while I love the style and agree with the idea, I still don't think it's for me...

This is "the big one." None of us ever feel we have enough money. There's always another bill, another meal, more essentials, and the never convenient repair that comes along. So, we all do the same thing - we spend money on what we value. Whether that's the latest piece of technology or that cruise we've always dream about, that nice dinner or our morning Starbucks, the list is endless. A perfect analogy that helps prove my point is that of the "starving musician." They live on a steady diet of Ramen noodles, have about four outfits, can never afford to go anywhere, and drive a car that looks like its better days were long gone years ago. But if you look at their musical gear, you'll find expensive guitars, amps, effects pedals, and accessories. Why? Because they value their music more than their comfort, their image, or their diet.

We all do the same thing. It's all about choosing what's important and what we're going to spend money on. How do we determine what's important? What would you save from a house fire? What cannot be replaced? Insurance covers the majority of items in our homes, but there's no replacing a memory or that box of old photographs. Those are invaluable.

They are priceless because they show the times your children won't remember, the times that you forget, and they tell the stories of our lives to future generations.

Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Are you convinced?

A trip to the ice cream shop... | Lifestyle Photography by Michael Henson

It's funny, this photographic journey seems as though it's come full circle. When I was first starting out, awkwardness was not uncommon. It felt weird to tell complete strangers what to do, where to stand, when to smile, and what to do with their hands. Now, years later, I've embarked upon a new photographic approach and, to a certain extent, that awkward feeling is back!

The difference is that now I'm working hard to not tell everyone what to do! I've become very comfortable with coaching my clients and working with them to create the beautifully posed, traditional looks that we all know and love. In my lifestyle/documentary sessions, that coaching doesn't happen nearly as much, if at all. Instead, I might direct them to a particular setting or draw their attention to something in the environment, and then allow them to interact as they naturally would.

Why this approach?

I've experimented with (and will be implementing) this approach because the images that I get are breathtaking. Instead of photo sessions all looking the same, parents worrying about children's expressions or unruly energy, or couples feeling awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera, my clients are realizing that photo sessions can be FUN! Children can look natural and the expressions and activities that make them so unique can be captured. Couples are able to recognize the twinkle in their partner's eyes, see authentic expressions, and realize that they should have been documenting their life together all along!

One of my recent experiments was at a local ice cream shop and absolutely ROCKED!

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Quick Tips for Beginning Your Wedding Planning by Michael Henson

How do I start!?!?

That's possibly the most common question in the entire wedding industry. It seems simple, but it's overwhelming once you start looking at all the moving pieces you must put together. To shed a little bit of light on the question, I asked a couple local St. Louis wedding professionals to weigh in with their experience and expertise.

Some quick tips from Inspired Design Wedding Events, a 14 year veteran in the industry, include:

  1. Budget // How much do you want to spend? Who is contributing?
  2. Goals // What are your goals for the event? If it's just to "get hitched" you could do that at a courthouse! What do you want to get out of the event itself? Photos, memories, time with family? 
  3. Important Elements // What is most important to each member in the couple? Don't just assume that you both care about the same things!

I also had a couple questions that I sent over to VSM Event Creations and Vanessa gave me some great feedback as well. Budget topped the list and she mentioned some incredible resources for those struggling with budgeting - The Knot & WeddingWire are great starting sources. In addition, she mentioned:

  1. Venue // The next step when getting into the "nitty-gritty" is to look at your ceremony and reception venues and get them booked. She suggests making a list of the top 3 places you'd like to check out and to start communicating with them as soon as possible.
  2. Wedding Planner // Hiring a wedding planner is an investment in your sanity. They can certainly help in choosing high quality vendors and really help out with the tiny details that make your wedding everything you want it to be!

Hopefully, this is beneficial and gives you a bit of direction as you start planning your St. Louis wedding! If you have other topics you'd like to chat about, shoot me a message or drop me a comment. Also, check out our bridal resource group on Facebook and join up!

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Rock Your Photo Sessions | Here's How to Look Your Best! by Michael Henson

Okay, so we’ve covered several questions from real brides over in our St. Louis Brides Resource Group regarding how to choose your photographer, questions to ask, things to avoid, and some details regarding the services that you should consider when planning the preservation of your big day. If you missed it, check it out here!

Today, I’d like to take a look at some other topics that I’ve heard countless people reference when discussing getting their photos taken, how to look your best! I am going to focus on how to plan to look your best for your photos whether you are getting photos for your engagement, family, children’s portraits, or your wedding day!

We’re going to cover quite a bit and there’s not really a rhyme or reason to the order of these questions so I’d definitely recommend reading all the way through. I promise there are going to be little nuggets of awesomeness scattered all throughout the rest of this post!

Before diving in, if you are engaged and planning an engagement photo session, I’d recommend you check out my e-guide on how to pick the PERFECT spot for your photos! Check it out here.

Now, onto the awesomeness!

What to Wear

The first question I have to ask is, “How many people in the photo?” This makes an obvious difference. Let’s take a quick look at “universal truths” and then move into considerations for solo portraits.

General Guidelines

Fit

Take from someone needing to lose weight, I get it! You are nervous about getting photos done already, you might not like your body, and feel like you don’t look good in anything. The tendency is then to choose clothing that you feel comfortable in. While there is typically a boost in confidence (or at least some decreased anxiety) regarding the whole photo session when you’re rocking your favorite pair of broken in jeans and that shirt you know feels “just right,” it might not look the best.

To avoid this, you need to ensure that your clothing fits properly. Not too tight, not too loose...we’re looking for “just right” here. If you are nervous about your wardrobe selections, you might schedule some time with the most style conscious friend you have to get some tips, schedule a shopping trip with a professional wardrobe stylist, or even invite your photographer over for a styling session (provided they are comfortable with the idea and have the time in their schedule).

It’s worth extra effort to ensure your clothing choices look and fit great. The greatest photo in the world will end up less than stellar if the wardrobe isn’t up to snuff, so put in some additional thought so you get results you’ll be happy with.

Body Type

Oh, happy day! Body types aren’t always fun and can be incredibly frustrating, but there are steps that can be taken to ensure you look your best. I won’t go into too much depth here, but check out this article for dressing for your body type and keep the tips in mind when planning out your wardrobe. 

Complexion

Another of those frustrating, “I’m just stuck with it” aspects of our physicality is our complexion. While there are steps that some take in order to modify their complexion, it’s something that we all have to embrace.

Again, I’m not going to delve too deeply into this topic, but I’ve found some great resources that provide some valuable tips for ensuring you are dressing appropriately for your complexion.

Check them out and feel free to shoot questions my way!

The Most Flattering Color to Wear for Your Skin Tone

Best Colors to Flatter Your Skin

Layers

While layering isn’t in the same category as the previous topics, it is definitely something to discuss. Adding layers to your wardrobe adds a lot of visual interest, adds or breaks up patterns, introduces different textures, and helps “polish” a wardrobe. Depending on the time of year, this can come in the form of an undershirt, cardigan, jacket, or scarf, basically anything that adds a different texture or complementary color to your primary wardrobe pieces.

Accessories

Once you’ve taken the above considerations into account, consider adding carefully selected accessories to finish off your look. Adding a necklace, bracelet, or watch can add a final layer of polish to an image without having to do anything crazy or different than what you would normally do.

Alrighty! Let’s move on to some session specific tips...

Solo Portrait (lifestyle images, senior sessions, quinceñeras, etc)

When you are the only subject in the photo, your wardrobe is pretty straightforward. Pick items that you love and feel supremely confident in. Select items that feel “authentic” and definitely consider adding layers to make things a bit more interesting.

Group Portraits (more than one person - engagements, family portraits, etc.)

A lot of what I discussed in the solo portrait section is still applicable with groups. The primary additional consideration is the color palette of all the wardrobes involved.

When planning a group photo, you want to be on the same page with the others that are going to be in the photo with you. That’s not to say that you necessarily want everyone to have the exact same shade of midnight taupe, half baked salmon, or whatever the trending shade is on Pinterest.

Instead, you want to pick colors that are complementary. Varying shades of the same color family and the incorporation of interesting layers and textures are what will help your group portraits look amazing. After that, it’s simply a matter of getting some solid posing advice and you are good to go!

Posing Tips

Ladies, I’m going to go ahead and apologize because the vast majority of posing advice is directed straight at you. A few simple tips are all it takes to rock some awesome poses!

For the most part, the principles are pretty straightforward and if you can keep them in mind, you’ll be much closer to how you look 99% of the time. Those principles are:

  • Pop your hip!

    • How? Just push your hip the way you do when you want someone to know that you aren’t playing around. Give it some attitude! It might feel a little unnatural because you’ll be focusing on it, but it helps your posing by creating curves and helping you avoid the square block, Minecraft character look. Despite feeling like you might be overdoing it, I promise that it comes across as a subtle shift in the camera that makes a huge difference!

  • Shift Your Weight

    • You accomplish this by popping your hip to one side (toward your significant other if your are getting engagement photos done), and then moving the foot on the “unpopped hip side” so you either gently drag a toe behind you or rest on its tiptoe while crossing that knee over the other one.

  • Bend Your Elbows

    • Simply put, you don’t want your arms hanging straight down at your sides. That looks unnatural, makes your body look “Minecraft-y,” and can push the shape of your arms into less than flattering positions. So, put your hand on your hip, partially behind your back, or somewhere so it will have a bend at the elbow.

  • Smile for real!

    • All too frequently, people plaster a really fake, painful looking smile on their face and keep it there for the bulk of their photos. Stop! Relax your face if you need to, and when the time comes for the photo think of something funny, tell a stupid joke, or do something to make yourself laugh or smile involuntarily. It’s those authentic smiles that really shine through and, take it from someone that sees a TON of photos, it’s a HUGE improvement over the frozen smile.

This may seem simple (or overwhelming), but taking the time to ensure these quick tips are implemented will help you look your best. People tend to “lock-up” in front of the camera and start doing all sorts of uncomfortable looking posing. These tips help you bring some of that relaxed, natural look back into your images.

Within about 5-10 minutes of a photo session, most of my clients are doing these things naturally with only the occasional reminder or correction from me. As a result, we’re able to focus on having a blast, laughing, getting to know each other a bit better, and creating the fun mood that shines through in the photos.

Grooming Tips

Tips for the Fellas

Okay guys, we got off a bit easy with the posing advice, but we have to make up for it with a bit of conscientious thought when it comes to grooming. I’ll keep things as simple and painless as possible.

Hair

Your hair needs to be presentable. Don’t go get a haircut the week before your shoot, go get your haircut a couple of weeks before your session. This will give your hair time to grow back out a bit and reach the “happy medium of awesomeness” (Yes, that’s the technical term.) that we all strive for.

Face

Don’t neglect it! If you normally rock a beard, goatee, handlebars, or other type of facial hair, ensure that it has been cleaned, trimmed, and cleaned up around the edges, etc. If you are going to be clean shaven, consider getting a quality shave at a salon or somewhere like The Art of Shave. You’ll be less likely to end up with razor burn and/or nicks this way.

If that’s not in the budget, take your time shaving to keep from doing something that might irritate your skin. (Photoshop and editing can help if the worst were to happen, but if the work necessary is extensive, you can most likely look forward to an additional retouching fee and a longer turnaround time between the session and delivery of your images.)

Hands

I know you might not like it, but your safest bet here is to go get a manicure. If this idea is appalling or uncomfortable, I would suggest you take some headphones and listen to sports, watch some MMA on your phone, watch Ron Swanson video clips, or just blast some RAWK to get you through.

If you prefer to avoid that scenario, I would recommend you invest some time in the weeks before the session to get some lotion on those mitts and get your fingernails and cuticles cleaned up. Your hands might not even make their way into a photo, but if they do it’s worth the effort you put into cleaning them up.

Ladies, your turn!

The tips from above (ahem, go ahead and disregard the facial hair part...) are still applicable. Use your photo session as an excuse to go get your hands and feet pampered with a mani/pedi so they’re looking nice! Chances are that your hands will more than likely be in the photo, especially if you’re going to be showing off an engagement ring or accessory.

If you're looking for ideas on what type of manicure to get, go the French tip route. It’s a classic, clean look that won’t look out of place or clash with other aspects of your wardrobe.

Professional Makeup

If at all possible, I recommend getting professional makeup and hair styling done. Not only does it take the stress off of you, but your stylist should be able to give you a natural look that will look great on camera. It’s easy to overdo makeup where it doesn’t give you the look you desire. So getting it done professionally is one of the best ways that you can ensure it will look flawless.

If professional makeup is out of the question and you still want some makeup, keep it natural without much additional color, especially around the eyes, etc. Also, avoid products that contain a metallic component or glitter as these tend to catch the light and create sparks of light in photos that are time consuming to edit if it becomes necessary.

Props or No?

This is one of those concepts that could go either way on the awesome scale. From what I’ve seen, using props can either be an incredible addition to a photo session or they can be cheesy. If you have ideas for props that you would like to try, put plenty of thought into all of the details.

It’s the details that bring together a styled session with props. Pull out all the stops on Pinterest, collaborate with your photographer and have a ball with it! I would even recommend contacting a rental company or event planner to discuss your ideas as they tend to have a lot of resources and ideas on how to bring the details of your vision to life in a classy, polished way.

These guidelines are the homework you should complete prior to your photo session. Once you’ve put in the effort and thought to go through each category above and implement the advice given into your wardrobe and grooming prep, relax! You should now be able to show up at the photo session with confidence that you have done your part to create the images you want. The photo session is the fun, creative part of this process.

At the session, it’s the role of your photographer to remind you of posing tips, come up with new & different poses for everyone, and to look for creative ways to capture whatever story or season you are wanting to capture.

Are there any other topics, ideas, or questions that I haven’t covered here? I’d love to hear from you and get any feedback you’d like to share. Feel free to drop a comment down below or shoot me an email!

If you’d like to ensure you pick the perfect location for your photo session, take a look at my guide to locations here. Just enter your email address and I’ll get that e-guide sent over to you!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, I hope to hear from you soon!