Family Photos Don’t Have to be Your Worse Nightmare

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After working 4 years now with photographing families, I have realized that sometimes people need some tips organizing themselves, especially if they are a big family. So I have pulled the knowledge I have learned over the years into 5 simple tips that will get you rolling on your family pictures. This are broad tips, because the specific details are different from photographer to photographer, so don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. Want my specifics? Comment at the bottom with your email for me. Okay so I hope these help take some stress off of getting ready for photos:

Using a Studio:

  • This is always a big one. Working in a photo studio I saw many different size families from 3 to 20 people. If you want to use a photo studio, the best thing to do is go to a private one. These studios have the flexibility and the space for a large family. After working three years in a chain portrait studio, I can confidently say if you have a large family with small kids you are not going to get a variety, because the allotted time is normally only 10 to 20 minutes and pictures can take much longer than that. You are only going to get what they can do no matter what the kids are doing. So be prepared for crying pictures. Trust me it ALWAYS happens at some point during the shoot. So this is why going to a private studio who can be more flexible with time and calming little ones down.

Outside Locations:

  • Taking pictures outside has been the trend since the digital age of photography took over. The best tip I can give you is talk to your photographer. Trust me they have a list of great locations for the pictures you might want. Also, do your own research. If you want a specific theme or scenery it doesn’t hurt for you to look up different areas around you.

Time Frame:

  • We are always concerned with making sure we stick to a timeline, so you know your family. Do they need to be told to be there earlier than usual because they are always late? Are they punctual? You know your family, so make sure you take time frame into account, because with either a private photographer or a chain studio, time is money and they have a schedule as well.

Finding a Private Photographer:

  • Make sure your photographer fits what you are looking for. All photographers have different styles, so make sure you shop around. Use Facebook, see if they have a website or recommendations from previous clients. Ask friends if they know someone or use the web. I found an awesome website called Photographer Central where you can search private photographers in your area and IT’S A FREE SERVICE. Don’t just settle. Make sure you get the photographer you like.

Wardrobe:

  • Wear solid colors. No Patterns! The colors either need to be all the same or complimenting. Need some ideas for complimenting? See the diagrams below:

Also, wearing jeans with just black shirts or even white shirts are a great choice as well!

Okay so there you have it! Six tips on how to get ready for your family photos! Keep a look out for more photography tips!

~Stories & Memories by Ashley Danielle~

Technology: An Unfeeling Generation of Zombies

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I know this is going to sound contradicting, but it is a topic that has always plagued me when it comes to youth and how they conduct themselves today: Technology. I know I have to use technology to publish this blog, but there is a healthy use for technology and the youth of today are abusing it’s wonders. I am only 27 years old, but it wasn’t that long ago that a cell phone was such a privilege that if you were found with one in your locker it was confiscated. To reminisce a bit when I was in high school there was no such thing as a camera on a phone, Facebook was only for college kids, you used myspace primarily for finding music, and if you wanted to be on the internet the phone line  had to be open and you had to listen to the lovely dial-up noises.You know the ones I am talking about…well if you are over the age of 20 maybe.

Now since the age of technology has advanced more, cell phones are mini computers, dial up is now wireless, and real friends are demoted to likes on Instagram or Facebook. We have become obsessed with this tiny device we can hold in our hands. A new show on Disney Channel had an episode on how technology is crippling our society and that show is Girl Meets World. Cory Matthews says it all in the beginning:

“You guys don’t connect with each other. Its like you can’t exist without these. You guys use emoticons rather than emotions. You’re an unfeeling generation of zombies!”

I know this is a little over the top, but I think you get the gist of it. And the fact we think we have actual friends in our phone is a crazy idea:

“Dad, adjust and deal. Cellphones have been around for like ever,” Riley said.

“It will amaze you to know there was a whole world out there before you and cell phones,” Cory replies.

“And it will amaze you to know that I have 394 friends in here,” Riley shoots back, pointing at her cellphone.

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“And I’m amazed you believe that,” Cory ends the argument.

There is no way we have 394 close friends, maybe acquaintances, but we don’t really know them. The only way to know people is to listen to them and the only way to listen is to sit with them in person. We have become so obsessed with making ‘friends’ in the virtual world we have forgotten the friends who are standing right in front of us. I mean look around. I bet if you are in public right now you can see many different groups of people not interacting because they have a small box of wires attached to their hands. That is all it is: wires. Cell phones don’t have souls. God didn’t create us to need relationships with technology. He created us to have relationships with Him and the people he puts in our lives.

The verse for this topic in particular is:

 Proverbs 25:16: “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it and you will vomit.”

Doesn’t this verse say it all? Too much technology can cripple how you interact in the world around you. Too much music and noise hinders your other senses from having a part in this amazing world God made for us. When was the last time you walked outside without any music or your cell phone and listened to the sounds around you. Nature is the world’s first real musician. The birds’ song lyrics fill the sky, the leaves rustle in the wind, the waves crash like cymbals on the banks, and the crickets creak their sad songs.

As a society we shouldn’t be obsessed with what is the latest twitter trend or the new funny video on youtube. Those are only small snapshots of what life is actually like. We need to become a well-rounded person. Cambridge Dictionary defines well-rounded as this: “involving or having experience in a wide range of ideas or activities.” Technology is just one experience and one activity we could do. Have you ever took a walk around the city? Or rode a horse in the country? Have you ever went camping with friends?Or played a board game with your family? And have you ever read a book? Or drew a picture on paper?

I know this sounds like a never ending rant on how technology has changed us for the worse, and it very much is, but there are good things about technology as well. You can keep in contact with friends from different states or countries and there are other things that are good with technology, but that is all we see–the good. Sometimes we need to stop and see what it does to hinder us as well.

Put down the phones. Get your hands dirty and talk to people. There is more to life than a box of wires that doesn’t even have a soul. Maya from Girl Meets World read it best out of a library book: “There is no connection you can make with any screen that compares to the moment you understand that human beings have a soul.”

Fall into Fashion Friday: New Spring Trends

What's Trending Now: 2-25

 

Want to spice up your wardrobe for the spring? These are some great pieces to look at!

  • White blouses are coming back, but with some style! Gone are the days of just a button up white top.
  • High-waist jeans are back from the 90s. This is one trend you are not going to want to miss out on.
  • Pair the blouse and high-waist jeans with some cute flat shoes! Flats are all the rage again, which is awesome for our feet! Whether they are slip on or gladiator lace ups, you definitely want them in your closet.

 

  •  On the right you will find an Aztec pattern book-bag, because this trend is in right now! Something about the spring brings in the tribal patterns, making us feel like summer is here!
  • But of course you don’t want to be unprepared for those cold nights! A trendy Anorak jacket! These come in all styles, so make sure you browse through a lot of them to find what is good for you!

Happy Shopping!

Feb. 25: Let’s End This Together

Today is the national day for slavery awareness. If you don’t know there are up to or even more than 27 million slaves around the world, working in the fields, brothels, traded for sex, etc. I was never aware of this until Jan. 2013 when I attended Passion 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference opened my eyes to the evil that is still occurring today. Most people, if you ask, say that slavery ended after the Civil War. If you are one of those people you’re dead wrong.

That summer my college small group friends and I decided to put our voice out there for the cause. We designed and executed a huge fundraiser at our church to raise money for an organization who helps and works with people who are saved from that life of slavery: Tiny Hands International. Through the experience of getting the fundraiser ready, I found my heart really reacts to this cause. There is a worship song that I love and one of the lines goes “Let my heart breaks for what breaks yours.” For many years I heard that as just a song, but after Passion it has become a prayer in my life and believe me when I say the issues of slavery in our world breaks my heart as it does God’s.

If you don’t know much about the cause here are some facts I found from the End It Movement website:

  • Slavery exists in 167 countries around the world. That’s 85% of the nations across the globe.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 victims of slavery is a child. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the US is 12 – 14 years old.

  • There are an estimated 60,100 people trapped in slavery
    in the United States right now.

  • An estimated 199,000 incidents of sexual exploitation of minors occur each year in the United States. That’s one incident every 3 minutes.

Those are just four facts about what is going on with slavery, but what the facts don’t show is the cruelty of what goes on to the slaves. Rape, torture, starved, kept in tiny-unlivable rooms, and even death. The thought of men, women, and especially children enduring this breaks my heart every time.

One of the big questions everyone asks is how are these slaves taken into this lifestyle if it is illegal? IJM has a great explanation on their website:

“One of the most common techniques to entrap laborers is through false debts. An owner lures a poor person into slavery by offering a small advance payment for their labor. The owner then ensures it is impossible for the slave to ever repay by inflating the debt owed with exorbitant interest charges, not paying the victim the promised wages and prohibiting him or her from working anywhere else. These false debts can be passed from one generation to the next; we have identified entire families (from grandparents to parents to children) who have been forced to work for years after accepting advance payments as low as $20.”

How they entrap them is just another cruel tactic that breaks my heart as I read the paragraph above, but there is a door to the suffocating cage these enslaved people have lived in for so long. The world has been noticing the issue and are responding. International Justice Mission is just one organization fighting for the slaves around the world. Tiny Hands International is another, but there are more. All they ask if for our support in this fight, whether it is donating money, time, or even lifting up prayers for the workers and slaves. You can be a teenager or an adult, they don’t care, they just need our help. God says in  James 1: 27:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

We shouldn’t help just because slavery is against the law, but because it is what God charges us to do. The children in these situations are usually orphaned and the women would be lucky if their husband is even alive. Even though men aren’t in this verse, I believe God wants us to help them too.

So this is our chance. We can spread the word about slavery and start helping in any way we can. Don’t be afraid to help and I pray you don’t read over this and just set it aside, because you are no longer ignorant to the issue of slavery. Say a prayer. Donate money or time. Be active in the fight because God didn’t call us to just sit on the sidelines in our Christianity, but to change the world in His Name. We are His children and He will give us the strength to fight this fight.

So I Never Forget

 Some people would say that what I am about to do is called self-reflection. Not me. There is nothing to self-reflect about it. It is me flushing out my thoughts so I won’t dwell on them, because sometimes they hurt too much. I have known loss. I have known more loss as a 27 year old than some has known being in their 50s. Each one has had an affect; each one is a story that changed my life in dramatic ways. My grandma’s passing was the first I ever experienced, but we knew it was coming—cancer. She fought hard, but after 18 months we lost her to the illness. I personally changed, dedicating my life to God, wanting the experience of love and strength my grandma had, but the story of my faith is a whole other story for a different time.

After grandma a slew of friends and classmates followed: Drew, Haylee, Lindsey, and Cody. Each one taken and each one reminding me that life doesn’t always make it to 80 with a large family and grandkids running around. You could make a mistake with drugs or look away for a split second while driving or battle a losing fight to cancer or succumb to the darkness surrounding you. Each time one of them fell to one of these problems I was reminded of how important it is to live. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer [experiences]” (Goodreads). I am trying to do just that, but again another story for another time.

The death that affected me the most was Josh. Josh wasn’t a blood relative, a childhood friend, or a classmate from high school, but a close friend who introduced me to the people I call family.

Looking back at Sept. 2006, I was still trying to find my way around Southeastern University as I started my freshman year. I had some friends—girls I met in my dorm area, but nobody of who would become permanent as I grew up. I don’t exactly remember how we met but I bet it went something like this…

El Prado, the main street/sidewalk in SEU, clamored with students hanging out at the tables along the windows of the café. Guitars could be found every other table with wannabe worship pastors serenading the M.R.S. degree girls littering the chairs around them, swooning over every note even if it was severely out of tune. I walked in, past the masses, to find something to drink and a late night snack for studying. I surveyed the coolers, picking up a Starbucks Vanilla Double Shot and then a blueberry muffin at the cashier’s stand, which became my go to study snack, explaining the freshman fifteen on top of the endless buffet of our “lovely” Chartwells (cafeteria caterer). As I was leaving one of my friends called me over to one of the tables with a guitar—great—but I sat down anyways, prolonging my procrastination of whatever homework I needed to accomplish, probably one of my religion courses. The interesting thing about this table was the boy with the guitar. He was very tall, (which isn’t saying much since I am a whopping 5’3”) with short blonde hair, narrow caring eyes, a long nose, and big ears. Unlike the many boys with guitars around, he wasn’t serenading girls with intense worship songs, but he and some other friends were…rapping? At a Christian college? I mean I grew up being told rap and Christianity didn’t mix, but since I had been to college a lot of things I was told was sacrilegious turned out to be a lie so why not rap too.

I learned his name that night was Josh and whenever he saw me he said hi, sometimes hanging out in a group on El Prado. It wasn’t too long after that he asked me to check out the worship band he was in called Tirzah. I remember walking toward the module classrooms down by Chartwells, nervous as hell, because at the moment I had a slight crush on him, but nothing too major. I mean come on! I was a single girl at college in a new state! I had to keep my options open…Yeah well, any who…

I walked into the module, music flooding my ears as they sang—Arms Wide Open? Oh goodness sake, somebody please save me from the deafening lyrics of Creed. When I finally found my footing, Josh stood next to a dude a little taller than him and wider in the sense of muscle mass. He had jet black hair and more of a baby face compared to Josh. He held an acoustic guitar, while Josh had an electric, and so did another much shorter and stocker boy with long brown hair. To my surprise and relief there were two girls a drummer and a keyboardist. The drummer made me think twice with her pixie short, multi-colored hair and punkish vibe. She reminded me of the girls who I grew up with that got me into a lot of trouble, but we are at a Christian college and nothing goes wrong there, right? Right!?

The other girl looked as if she was a year older than me, with very long, thin blonde hair and a sweet disposition—until she saw me. When she realized that Josh invited me I felt the ice stare of an angry Elsa bare down on me. (Yes, I know she wasn’t around yet back in 2006, but it is the only thing I can think to compare it too for a present reference, so get over it please!) I come to find out that out of the possible six dorms on campus, she lived in mine. Oh, but it gets worse—she lived in the apartment dorm room right ABOVE me! So not only did I feel her hate when I went to watch the band, but also when he was visiting her dorm or mine.

I know all you ladies who have experienced something similar to this are probably cringing, because you know the feeling, but honestly I look back and laugh. Fast-forwarding a couple weeks, I had moved on from Josh, because there was just no lasting spark between us and I had found a boy who was giving me A LOT of attention…which will probably be my next life lesson story. But, before I go down that rabbit hole, Tirzah was scheduled to lead worship at Holly, my hated rival’s church. Well, worse came to worse and we got stuck in a car together—alone. CAT FIGHT! You wish. Actually, as we were driving I revealed I didn’t like Josh that way and I told her I knew she did. It was like all the frosty weight between us disappeared. This is where the story gets better in my opinion, because within that one weekend we went from rivals to sisters, becoming inseparable.

I know getting to this point in the story was a gruesome process, but I wish arriving at this point lead to only better things. After our amazing weekend of finally becoming friends and then family, our time together as a unit was short lived…

April 29, 2007. Supposed to be one of the happiest days of the year, because I was in Disney World with another one of my friend groups I had met over the course of the year. We had an amazing time, but not every day is a fairytale…

The six of us were packed into Christian’s truck after a long day of making dreams come true at my favorite place in the world. Since we finally were sitting in one spot, I thought I would get out my cellphone, which 1) was an old school flip phone: Razor and 2) was not attached to my hand the whole time, but buried in the bottom of my drawstring bag, because we knew what was more important than texting and social media. Not that we had the option on our phones, but still. Once I got it out I had a bunch of missed calls and a few voicemails from Holly. She normally didn’t call me this much, so I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea how bad.

I ignored the voicemail and called her. When she picked up I couldn’t understand a word she said. I quieted down the others in the truck and all I heard was “Josh was in an accident. Josh is gone…” She repeated it a few times in between sobs and the smile I had on my face all day long fell away as I fought the tears. I got off the phone after telling her I would come up to her room right when I got home. Everything after that became very foggy.

I don’t remember sitting in silent tears the whole 45 minute drive back to campus. I don’t remember telling Christian to slow down and be careful. I don’t remember the guard waving us in right before curfew. I don’t remember the walk back to my room. I don’t remember trudging up the stairs to Holly’s, hoping it was all a dream. I don’t remember finishing the last week of school and finals. I just can’t recall any of it.

What I do remember is our group coming together as a family. We had a memorial service before school ended and what we thought would be maybe fifty students filled up the whole chapel. The loss of Josh could have done one of two things to our band: break us up or pull us together. I thank God every day it pulled us together. A common question is why God? Why does this happen to good people? These are questions we can never fully understand, but what we can understand is He has a plan. I like to think God knew what kind of family we would become in the midst of the loss.

This coming April will be nine years; nine long years since we lost the guy who brought our family together. I like to think he was the permanent glue which bound us together for the rest of our lives, because if anything our family is growing, becoming stronger as the years continue. Holly and Ralph married within our non-blood related family and they are about to give us our first niece or nephew. (I am rooting for a girl! Girl means we outnumber the boys finally!) It is hard though not to think about how Josh could have fit into all of this. How would have Tirzah evolved with Josh and Rob both at the helm? Would he have sung or rapped at Ralph and Holly’s wedding? Who would have captured his heart? So many unanswered questions, but we need not focus on the negative, but focus on the good. I know—cliché, but it is the truth.

I will always remember how he would steal our fries, when he could clearly go up to the buffet and get his own. I remember him always carrying around an apple for who knows what—oh yeah, the cattle that were over an hour away at home. I remember his policeman walk, like he was packing on his hips, but really there was nothing there. I remember his goofy grin and the things that happened in Holly’s car, which should stay there. (Inside joke—don’t push it.) What I remember the most is the sense of belonging to a group who is to this day my closest family from my college years. I thank God I knew Josh, even though it was for only a short period of time. You never know when someone walks into your life, making an impact so profound it will change you forever. He was that for me—for us. So I pray if you know someone who impacted your life the way Josh influenced mine—hold onto to them for as long as you can, because we are not guaranteed a long life, so fill it up with the people who will make it a great one!

My Self-Image Journey

I am telling this story, because I know there are other girls and women out there who can relate. I am also telling this story to show that we aren’t defined by what we wear or the jewelry that adorns us.

Psalms 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I live by this verse. I repeat this verse every Wednesday during small group to my middle school girls. I am this verse. Every girl, lady, women, mom, grandma, great grandma, and daughter are this verse. There was one point in my life that I didn’t believe these words…

I was in sixth grade and an eighth grade girl, at our very first dance of the year, stopped me in my tracks and told me to stop sticking out my chest and stuffing my bra for guys attention. I will be the first to tell you I wasn’t. I was a very developed sixth grader and very comfortable in her own skin—until that moment. At that moment my great posture, which made it look like I was sticking my chest out, was demolished and what self-esteem I had shrunk back into the shadows of my heart. I started wearing baggy shirts and sweatshirts, only showing my figure when we had a dance, hoping that I could get some satisfaction from a guy, but it never happened—I was ignored.

I wasn’t ignored by the girls who I thought were my best friends, but only one of them ended up deserving that title by the end. I wasn’t ignored by the youth leaders who, unintentionally and without knowledge, made me feel like the slut of the youth group because I had kissed a boy and listened to secular music. I wasn’t ignored by my parents, who had no idea that someone stole my self-esteem. I wasn’t ignored by my teachers, who were better friends to me than some of the people my own age. I wasn’t ignored by the right people, but it didn’t matter, because my head wasn’t in the right place. I went through all of middle and high school looking for gratification from a boy, breaking apart when I was rejected or dumped. The problem was I wasn’t looking for the right attention from the right guy.

Now you are probably reading this and thinking I have parent issues, or my father isn’t in my life. Well, you are wrong. I have an amazing father who loves my mother with all of his heart and we had/have a great relationship!

So it goes to show that even a daughter who has a loving father and knows the love of God can have issues with self-esteem.

When college started knocking at my door I decided I needed new scenery. I had lived in Busco for so long that it became what Margo Roth Spiegelman calls a paper town (I RECOMMEND Paper Towns by John Green!!!!). I even started to feel like a paper girl walking among the paper teens in the hallways of our paper high school. I needed to get away. What I thought I might need is an environment of the spiritual sort. After the long process of searching and visiting colleges I landed on Southeastern University. A Christian college in Florida gave me two things: 1. a spiritual campus & education. 2. Four states between my past and me.

It did not help. My first year I allowed a boy to string me along as his “friend,” who he acted like he was dating when he didn’t have a girlfriend of his choosing. I thought I finally found the “love” I was so desperately searching for. I was blind. My friends couldn’t even talk sense into me. The last week of school I realized what I was allowing him to do and it wasn’t helping my self-esteem. If anything I buried myself deeper and deeper into despair. I found no healing during the summer, but a miracle was about to enter into my life sophomore year.

There was a girl. She lived next door to my roommates and me, but I would have never guessed the journey I was about to embark on. Her name is Bekah. When I met her I learned she was a cheerleader, popular when she was in high school, she was extremely skinny and pretty (she still is :] ), and my first thought was there was no way she would want to be friends with me. All I can say is it was a God thing, because we started hanging out frequently. She was so full of life that I didn’t know what she saw in me as a friend, but she saw a tiny common bond that could flourish. I don’t know if she saw my brokenness as we continued to hang out, but something happened that year. She cracked open my issues, like an egg, spilling out my insecurities, my fears, my hatred toward my appearance–everything.

As we grew as friend through the years little by little I started to love myself again. Little by little I saw what God saw when he looked at me. Little by little I started to become the woman God intended me to be, because I never really saw my calling until I saw myself. My calling? To help young girls see the beauty and importance of who they are. I never could have been the youth group leader I am today without Bekah. I could never have the confidence to be a Jewelry Lady if sophomore year didn’t happen.

How could we have known?

I am thankful for my experiences–good & bad–and I am thankful for a God who is always for me and never against me. If you have a story you want to share about self-image and want me to share, message me or comment. I can always change or take out names, but God gives us these stories for a reason–to share.

God Bless!

Ashley Danielle

My Writing Samples

Welcome to my writing samples! Here you will find stories I have written over the past many years and some are even works I’ve had published. Most of these are original works,except the “fan fiction” stories I had to write for a college course. So enjoy the reading!

Ashley Danielle~

My Writing Samples

Welcome to my writing samples! Here you will find stories I have written over the past many years and some are even works I’ve had published. Most of these are original works,except the “fan fiction” stories I had to write for a college course. So enjoy the reading!

Ashley Danielle~