NicoleSun Photography

Your Family's Photographer

Professional Family photographer serving the 380 corridor, Little Elm, Plano, Frisco,  and DFW areas.

Printing Photos in an All Digital World

It's 2018.  Everything is digital and there are about a million different ways to store, catalog, collage, and share your photos.    But here is why and how I print and you should too.

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I don't think any of us don't print our photos on purpose.   We take special photos or have a session done and we love them, share them and make Christmas cards...but then life gets away from us and printing photos gets pushed further down the priority and budget lists.  But I want my kids to see and be surrounded by their history! I want everything I hang in my home to be special and personal to our family.   They enjoy walking past our photos and seeing their faces and memories as much as I do.  So here are some of the ways I preserve our lives in print:

1.  Canvases - My favorite place to print is Canvas On Demand.  We are a Dave Ramsey family and that means we live on a budget.  If I wait for the right sale, I can get a handful of canvases for a really good price.  So far, they've worked out for us in size, color, and durability.

2. Prints - I personally print my 4x6s and 8x10s from the lab connected to my client galleries -  ProDPI and it is the only place I can professionally ensure my product.    For these sizes, I like their pricing and product.   For my 5x7s I love Artifact Uprising  if you're ordering 25 or 50 prints they're $1 each! ONE DOLLAR!  They're printed on a gorgeous matte cardstock too.  I've used these personally and for clients and they turn out beautifully.  They have other fabulous products I've yet to try out.

3. Year Books - Yearly I print one album of our family (mostly the kids of course) and call it "Scott Brudders" and I order 3 copies of this same album from Shutterfly. In January, I devote a couple late nights to making the album.   I've tried a couple different consumer companies and find Shutterfly to have the most variety of designs and the easiest interface as well as beautiful products.   My boys love looking through their books and I love that making one book makes three so no one is left out.  PHEW.   I also wait for a good 50% off sale and can usually find a free shipping code.  Never ever pay full price for their stuff....just be patient.

4. Monthly Books - Throughout the month, I dump all of the photos I've taken of the kids/family onto an iCloud drive I share with my hubby.  At the end of the month I dump it into the Groovebook app and it sends a 4x6 perforated book of prints (up to 100) of the photos to me, my step mom, and both of the great grandmas.   Each book is only around $3.50 so this is their Christmas present received monthly.   They love it and if I ever stopped, I'd surely hear about it.   The prints, to be really honest, are NOT great.  But it gets them printed and into the hands of those who love us.   I know there are books like chatbooks which I think are much better in quality, but for $3.50 all the grandmas are happy with Groovebook and my wallet is too.

This is of course not a complete list of options.  Here are a few more consumer companies I'm personally interested in trying or have heard enough good things about to recommend to you:

And also this really interesting article from Clickin Moms compares some of your box labs like Walgreens and Target.  Check it out to see why it's worth skipping your local 1 HR Photo Lab. 

5 Tips to Taking Better Photos

If you're behind the camera or in the frame, I hope you find these 5 quick tips helpful!

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1. Face away from the sun or find shade.  I was sitting at a restaurant watching two friends document their time together staring straight into the sun silently coaching them from afar.  You want the light behind you or you want shade.  Facing the sun causes harsh shadows on your face and squinty eyes!  Nobody wants that!

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2. Stand, don't sit.  "Oh hey a bench!"  No no.  It is generally more flattering for people to stand- standing leads to a more natural posture.  There are ways to position you sitting that are more flattering but it's not usually a natural way to sit for most people.   Sitting also makes it difficult to...

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3. SQUISH!  I joke that I need a shirt with this on it.  If I'm posing a family, especially extended or grown kids, everyone gets in close...but never close enough!  That darn personal space bubble we all have - get over it and get in there!   No air or light between you, get your faces as close together as possible!

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4. Don't put your armpits on anyone you love.   Men are especially predictable on this go-to-pose.   We swing our arms around our family and friends and CHEESE.   It squishes your lovely friend's hair, it gives you broad and bulky shoulders, and it keeps people from getting in closer (see SQUISH above) ....and it leaves stinky shoulders.  Kidding...maybe...It's Texas Summer after all.

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5.  Let kids be kids.  I have the kid that as soon as you try, "say cheese!" his eyes go immediately off to the side somewhere in the distance and he plasters on a huge fake smile and all I end up with everyone frustrated.  So I gave up on that and take photos of him with his head down pushing trucks, hunched over a lego build, or riding his bike.  Talk to them, ask questions, be silly, try funny words, but really - in the truth of the matter, photograph them being them.  You'll treasure the real moment even more than you know now.  

Happy Clicking!

-Nicole

 

Why I Do In Home Newborn Sessions

I think when you start off in photography the first big dream is to be busy/successful enough to be able to do it full time.  The next big dream is to own your own studio.  And for many of my colleagues that is either a dream and an exciting realization!  Never say never, but it is not something I plan to do.

Sure it would be convenient for me to have all of my props in one place, to have consistency of the setting and studio lighting, to have ample, clean and quiet space.   But for newborns especially, I'm willing to sacrifice these things to bring my craft to you.

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6 years ago a dear friend (and sought after photographer) gifted us a newborn session.  And she offered to come to us but since she had gifted us the session I felt it was right to go to her.   This was of course my choice but I will tell you it stressed me out!  I was a brand new mom, about a week post c-section, and I had a tiny little 5lb baby. Except for our first pediatrician appointment we hadn't ventured out the house.  I called my mom in tears the night before.   How could we possibly all get packed up, dressed presentably for photos, and out of the house the next morning?  I could barely shower, never mind do my hair and make up and wear real clothes.    I was a first time mom and the 3 hour routine of breastfeeding a premie was brand new to me.   Per usual, my mom put on her angel wings and came to help us get out of the house and the photos turned out amazing and I'll be forever grateful.  It was worth all the hard work obviously.   But I won't forget that feeling the night before.

So I come to you.  In your space, where all of baby's things are.   Where you can shower, dress, do your make up in the comfort of your home often while I'm taking baby's individual photos.  Where big siblings can eat their cereal and watch their cartoons until it's their turn.  Often, it's where grandma is to lend a hand.  

I've been in all kinds of home with all kinds of light.  I've worked in dining rooms, offices, living rooms, kitchens, foyers, family rooms and even garages and patios on a hot day.   I bring enough in from my car it appears I'm moving in permanently.  I rearrange and return furniture and personal belongings and work amongst sibling toys or life in general.  Usually I have an ever vigilant four legged supporter and curious and adorable siblings look on too. 

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I know the transition of a new baby is enough all on it's own. That you've planned ahead and value photographing these early days means the world to me.   I have so much gratitude to the families who trust me with their littlest blessing and welcome me warmly into their homes.  I'm grateful to the countless dads who offer water or coffee and help me with the car load full of props and equipment.    And to the moms, tired and sore, who make all of it possible, you have my heart!    I am even more blessed by you and your family as I hope you are by me.

Congratulations! And God bless!

Dear Bride, Consider the Small Moments Too

Dear Bride,  Your wedding day will be filled with many memories and special moments.  As I close out my 2017 photos and look back on the weddings, the small and often private moments stand out.  I hope you find a photographer you feel close to, comfortable with, and who honors these moments with respect and gratitude.

The big moments:  the first look, the kiss, the first dance, the cake, the grand exit.   These moments are on the checklist, I'm sure.  Don't want to miss those.  Click. Click. Click. 

But the small moments matter more than you think.  The quiet and private moments.  You see, we're there to document all of those precious, small moments.  To do so we're physically there experiencing these moments next to you. 

We're there in the room with tears behind the camera when your daddy sees you and that big old softie cries.  We're there when the veil goes on and the look is finished and all of your girls are speechless.    We're there when everyone puts their hands on you and prays over you and we say, Amen.   And we're there in that final empty moment when your bridal party has already begun the procession and you wait in your quiet hidden space.  It's just you - maybe your daddy - and your photographer.    When the ceremony is over and you walk out and have your first moment to breathe and look into each other's eyes and embrace, we're there.  There isn't a wedding photographer who doesn't understand with great respect the weight of this privilege.   

I pray before every wedding.  HARD.  I pray a lot for you and your soon to be spouse and your future.  I pray for your family.  I pray for the event to go smoothly and for people to be full of love and joy for you.   But I also pray that I will have a calming, peaceful, and joyful presence for you.  I pray that when I'm in those small moments with you that I have a warm smile and an encouraging heart.  I pray that if unexpected changes occur, rain comes, or nerves surface that I will be able help resolve those with a calm and loving demeanor.    And obviously I pray that God will allow me to use the talents he's given me to give you beautiful memories you can cherish for generations to come.

More than spiritually, I will also remind you to take a moment to pray, eat or drink something, and use the restroom before you walk down the aisle, I'll remind you not to lock your knees and to remember to breathe.   I'll insist you take your time, take in each moment, and not be rushed in anything your vendors, family, guests or planners expect of you. 

Being a part of your day is a huge responsibility.  I dance between sliding along the perimeter quietly capturing every moment to being fully present with you in these precious moments.    But truly I am grateful that you have trusted me with these moments, allowed my presence, and trusted that I can provide you with beautiful memories.  Thank you.   

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Photographing Quints

Episode 4 // TLC's Hodges Half Dozen Featured Photographer

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As I mentioned in my last  blog post  about my five favorite babies, the Hodges have been in front of my camera as long as I've had one.   So when Liz and Daniel found out they were pregnant with quints they asked if I'd take their photos.  Let's do a brief run down of a few of my anxieties on this topic:

1) FIVE BABIES
2) five babies
3) 5 babies
4) plus a toddler...
5) FIVE BABIES! 

Kidding aside, let's be real for a second.  I am a family photographer and I LOVE taking newborn photos but it is not something I do it as often as someone who has dedicated themselves to that industry alone.   I have never even taken photos of newborn twins never mind QUINTS.   We knew that these babies would likely be born preterm and have a long NICU stay which complicated the typical 2 week window you'd use photographing newborns.  Oh also, they have a TV show and will be filming this special occasion.   No pressure!  

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I finally came to the peace-filled realization that God did not bring me to this point in my photography business to let me fall on my face on national TV.  The Hodges believed in me and were insistant that I do this for them and so I did.   I prayed mightily that God would bless this gift and talent He's given me to give my dear friends treasured photos of their amazing miracles.    Ultimately that's all that really matters.  

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So here was the game plan: We prioritized shots and went for the quints, siblings with Rowan, each baby individually and then the family of 8.  To play it safe we planned swaddled basket shots.  To keep it simple we used only one set of wraps to minimize transitions and the same set up for the boys and a very similar set up for Teagan.  With Kelley, Donna, Daniel and Liz all there I knew we had plenty of capable hands and helpers.  And then we just prayed it would all come together! 

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Just For Fun // How to Tell the Quints Apart

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The Hodges get asked all the time if there are any twins in the mix.  Which is funny to me because they all look so different!   But there are still FIVE and it can be overwhelming just to remember their names.  After guessing and failing an embarrassing number of times...here are the memory tricks I use to tell the babies apart. 

TEAGAN >>>>

Too easy.  She's the only girl.   And always dressed girly-girl which makes it even easier.  She is the most petite in the group and to me has the most feminine features.

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LIAM >>>>

"The Brows."  If you've got the whole bunch together, Teagan and Liam are the easiest to pick out.  Liam has a Long face (Liam-Long) and the eyebrows.   Also BROW has four letters and so does LIAM.

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<<<< CONNELL

I think of the boys in pairs and to me, Connell and Liam go together because they both have long faces.  Connell - long name - long face.   But not the strong brow like Liam.  So long face but faint brows - that's Connell. 

DILLON  >>>>

Dillon I nicknamed Dilly-Bear.  Which I did long before I noticed his teddy bear like features.  Dillon has a round head, big sparkly eyes and ears that stick out just a little.  Like a teddy bear! 

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<<<< NOLAN

If I'm going to get two mixed up it will be Nolan and Dillon because to me they look the most alike.  When they are not side by side or I don't get a good straight on view of them, it's 50/50 if I'll get it right.  Nolan looks a lot like Dillon because of his round head.  Like a baseball.  Nolan Ryan = Baseball. 

You can follow these sweet miracles on Facebook and Instagram  and I hope you'll watch their show on TLC on Tuesday at 10/9c   -   it replays on TLC's show page  or their app TLC Go. 

Hodges Half Dozen

TLC's Hodges Half Dozen // Family Photographer

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Trust me, when I started taking this family's photos I never, ever dreamed I'd take their pictures as a family of 8!  

The Hodges moved in 3 houses down from us back in 2012.  Daniel was overseas before they got married and Liz had us picked out as potential new friends and began stalking us with their dog, Tyson.   We finally met, found out Daniel and Aaron were both Marines, and the rest is history.   Our friendship revolves around a love of all food, especially late night tacos, the mutual acceptance of our sweatpants, the sharing of inappropriate memes, and the  shared struggles and triumphs of infertility, pregnancy, and parenthood.     In 2016 we moved and then they moved and so now we find ourselves separated by a long drive down I-35 further complicated by our now combined 9 children (8 boys) under 5. But when we are together it's like no time has passed.   When you find the kind of friends that will shoulder the burden of grief, give sound counsel, pray with and for you, wash your laundry, and laugh with you when you could probably rather cry...hang on tight! These are our Hodges. 

 Filling up the NV to go see the babies

Filling up the NV to go see the babies

So the Hodges were always willing guinea pigs as I began my photography business and I've taken their pregnancy announcements, maternity, birth, and newborn photos as well as family pics here and there.  While I've never photographed quints, they insisted I take their photos as I always have.    So you'll see me from time to time on their new TLC show Hodges Half Dozen - sometimes with my friend hat on and sometimes with my photographer's hat on.   

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On Hodges Half Dozen // First Episode

If you caught the first episode (click the link to watch!) we did maternity photos, and the images during the birth were mine as well.   Some past images from their pregnancy/birth of Rowan were also mine.  It's pretty bizarre and neat to see my work on the TV.    Their show image is even one of my photos.  My images were also featured on this article   detailing their birth.

Hodges Half Dozen Quints are Born!

Just for fun I'll share some Hodges fun stories:

1. Their dog Tyson used to escape out their front door but we soon discovered he'd just run right to our house.  And we'd bring him back or just let him in.  He thinks he is best friends with our dog Gigi.  She does not reciprocate his adoration. 

2. Sharing our love of food we always have what we call a "Hodge Podge." We merge whatever is in our fridges to make a meal.   We are gold level experts at a big fatty breakfast.  Biscuits and gravy, hash browns, bacon and Liz's egg-grits.  

3. In our group text I'm known for texting too many messages, my husband is known for sharing videos/articles no one will watch or read, Daniel is always ready with his arsenal of memes, and thank goodness Liz finally did the update because the reaction button is her life right now since her hands are full of babies.

 Our big boys enjoying a batman movie night

Our big boys enjoying a batman movie night

You can follow my dear friends on Facebook and Instagram  and I hope you'll watch their show on TLC on Tuesday at 10/9c   -   it replays on TLC's show page  24 hours later. 

Niche, please.

At the beginning of my journey in photography just starting my brand and business, I ran across a blog written by a wedding photographer.  I don't remember what the specific content was but one statement stood out and has stuck with me ever since:

If you're doing everything, you're not good at anything. 

It was akin to  "Jack of all trades = Master of none."  So I gracefully decided to allow myself a few years to try all kinds of photography and then I'd pursue the "niche" that I felt the most drawn to at that point. 

So, here I am a few years later and guess what....I don't want to!   Here's why I've decided that statement up there is bunk and why I will not be declaring a "niche" for my business or brand anytime soon:

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1. "Your Family's Photographer" was built on a deep commitment to build a relationship with your family.  I want to be there to photograph whatever is important to you in whatever moment you're living ....  your milestones, celebrations, and adventures.  That means if  wedding clients gets pregnant, I'd be honored to take their maternity photos and newborns too.  If a newborn I photographed is starting kindergarten, I'd love to take their school photos.  If a family I've photographed is starting a business and needs product photos, it would be my pleasure to support them in that endeavor.  If someone needs a headshot for work, let's bust one out. If you're selling your home and need real estate photos, I'd love to be there for you to ensure your quick sale.   I suppose if I poured all of my training, equipment, advertising, and expertise into just one of these areas I could be a lot more profitable but that's not why I'm doing this.   My hope is that every time you think "I need a photographer!" you know exactly who to call.  

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2.  But how can I do all these things well?  This is the crux of the original statement.   Can I do all of these things as well as someone who does only one thing?   Perhaps not.   But that's the challenge I love.  I love the excitement (and fear) of doing something I don't do that often.  I love reading, learning, watching tutorials, and trying new things.   I love pushing myself and getting out there into new territory.  This feeds my creative outlets but it's also for you.  I want to be a well rounded photographer who can fulfill your visions, hopes, and requests.  You'll won't likely hear me say, "No".   I'm your family photographer.   Bring it on.

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"Why Do Photographers Charge So Much?"

"Why do photographers charges SO much?"

"If you charge more than $100 for Minis, you're crazy!" 

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These are two real comments(not directed towards me) that I've heard in the past few weeks as we gear up for fall/holiday photos.  Everyone is looking for a photographer and everyone is looking for a great deal.

I get it.  My family lives on one income, supplemented by my photography.  We live on a budget.  Shout out to the man, Dave Ramsey, we live debt free.   And photography is a luxury item.  It is not a need, for sure.   But why is it SO expensive?   I'm writing this post in hopes of shedding some light on the subject.  This is not something I understood before I got into the world of photography and started my own business.  

It is called the "CODB" or cost of doing business.  And it varies tremendously for each photographer related to the size and scale of his/her business.  But the cost of doing business might include:

  • Taxes (self employment, income, sales, preparation, state registration)
  • Equipment (cameras, lenses, computer, lighting, gear)
  • Software (editing software, presets, actions, overlays)
  • Storage (external hard drive, back up, memory cards, internal storage)
  • Web Subscriptions (online viewing gallery, website membership and hosting, scheduling management system)
  • Advertising (sponsored posts, digital and print ads, SEO marketing)
  • Financial (transaction fees, bank fees, invoicing systems)
  • Continuing Education (workshops, trainings, webinars)
  • Location Expenses (studio rentals, location photography fees)
  • Props (furniture, backdrops, costumes, gowns, newborn props, cute extras)
  • Support (assistants, second shooters, editing/culling, hair and make up, lawyers, accountants, insurance)

Time and Travel also has to be valued.  It includes gas, time away from family, time spent editing, and childcare. They arehuge factors for all of us as we set our prices and step out the door for your session.

Especially in the higher end market, the following might impact pricing:  expertise, customer service, unique/tailored images, one one one consultations, and product hard costs, packaging, and delivery.

We take these costs into consideration,  we judge our own photos against our past photos and those of others in our same price point, we look for trends in our recent sessions/sales, and we consider the market and our clientele.   What is the value of what we provide you?  How many images? How much time? Products? Print releases?  Session fees?   It is no simple equation.  Pricing is a very personal and an ever-changing element of doing business.

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I will have to post another day about my feelings on the value of family photos and affordability.   For now, I just encourage you to find YOUR photographer.  "There is a client for everyone" reverses to "There is a photographer for everyone."  Know your family's budget and be straight forward about it, ask for what you're looking for, and if it's not the right fit, then ask for a referral.  

The Value of Familiarity

Hi friends!  So this is my first blog post EVER.  And I always said I'd never have a blog because I didn't have anything interesting to say.  But this came to me the other day and it is something I feel passionately about so I'd love to share it.  

I began my photographer's journey in 2014.  A couple of families have been with me the whole way and in trusting me with their family images, have helped me to grow.   But now 3 years later I have noticed 3 reasons why it's worthwhile to build and maintain a relationship with your photographer:

1.  It matters to your kids!  I think especially for small children you cannot discount the importance of familiarity.   Kids know they are going to come for pictures with "Miss Nicole" and it's going to be a FUN time!  They already know me so there's no warm up period, they run up to me with hugs and smiles ready to see what adventure we're on this time.  They know I probably have candy too!   They are not scared to leave mom and dad's safe arms and sometimes hold my hand as we walk.   Obviously this is precious and warms my heart but it turns into great, natural, REAL, joyful images too.  I remember they love Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, I know their real smiles from their cheesey ones, I know that one face she made last time with the pursed lips/crinkled nose/cocked eyebrow and I just caught it again.  

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 2. Adults care too!  I see moms and dads are more relaxed.  I always joke that dads are harder to win over than kids.  They know me, my work and the routine, I know mom's "favored side," and we've learned things about each other and we can have fun while we shoot.  

3. I value you!  From a photographer's prospective let me tell you that if you are an "established client" there is little I won't do for you.  I value our relationship, your trust, and the fact that you value me in return!  So if we go way back, I will go above and beyond to find "that location," childcare for my kids on  "that date,"  a special prop, etc.  Because I value you being a ongoing part of MY journey.

To be clear, I can meet a family for the first (and maybe only) time and have a very successful session.   That definitely happens too!    And do still work very hard to accommodate new clients.  But I can tell you there is tremendous value from building a long term relationship with your photographer.    

"Your Family's Photographer" is my business tag line.   It popped into my head clear as day after many days of prayer, thought, conversation, and numerous loser tag lines.    I love it because it speaks to the fact that I want and desire that relationship with your family.  I would be HONORED to document big and small milestones, homecomings, birthdays, graduations, first days of school, engagements, weddings, new babies, new grand babies, or whatever is going on in your life!   As they say, "the days are long but the years are short" and after the years pass, you will reminisce over your old photos in awe of what used to be.

Addison 2 years - 4 years