Rebecca Clair Photography
 intimate winter lifestyle engagement photos at Burr Oak woods in Blue Springs, MO near Kansas City

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Blossoms and Mud; Celebrating the Beauty of Spring with the Alderson Family {Kansas City Family Photographer}
 Family portrait in a grove of trees at Loose Park, golden hour family session, Kansas City creative  family photographer, Rebecca Clair Photography

Spring holds so much beauty, like a gift the earth unwraps after the cold gray of winter. There are the crocuses that push through the snows of early spring. The soft warmth of the sun coaxing us out of our houses. Trees laden with fragrant blossoms. And tiny leaves unfurling from every branch and thawing patch of ground.

But there is also rain. And mud. There is wind and cold drizzle and sometimes unexpected frost or snows that wipe out the flowers and seem to push us back into winter.

The beauty of spring is mixed with messiness and mud.

Yet somehow the mud and rain highlight those spring blossoms and make them feel that much more lovely and welcome.

Sometimes I think new seasons of our lives are like that, with mud and mess framing the beauty unfolding. It takes a conscious effort to lift our eyes from the mud and fix our gaze on the beauty and new life.

It was such a privilege to watch the Alderson family do just that, to fix their eyes on the sweetness of their new baby, on the wonder of their older son’s curiosity and energy, on the goodness of their love for one another through the ups and downs of these seasons, and on the abundant beauty of this season of their family.

The Intimacy of Sunrise; The Gripka Family’s Sunrise Session at the Lake {Johnson County Family Photographer}
 Candid photo of a family cuddling in a blanket by a lake, Kansas City family photographer, autumn family session at Shawnee Mission Park, Rebecca Clair Photography

It might be the introvert in me, but I have a special fondness for sunrise. Whenever we’re on vacation, I try to set aside at least one morning where I set my alarm a little earlier than normal so I can creep out and appreciate the sunrise over whatever lovely place we’re visiting. And I am beyond excited whenever someone agrees to a sunrise photo session.

Because there is something uniquely intimate about sunrise sessions.

It starts with the early morning drive in the dark, with only a few other headlights piercing the dark streets around you and (if you’re like me) the scent of coffee still lingering in the car. Then there’s that faint whisper of light creeping across the landscape, the silvery blue of the not-yet dawn as the morning dew brushes against your feet. Then, as the bird songs rise around you, the gentle pinks and golds spread across the horizon and a blush of light wraps around your face. And then finally, that burst of golden sunlight crests the horizon and bathes everything in a warm light. There’s a breathtaking beauty in the whole process that invites you to hush your words, close your eyes, breathe deep, and draw close to the ones you love.

Of course, there is still the blare of your alarm breaking your early morning slumber, not to mention the daunting task of getting yourself (and potentially several small children) picture-ready before the sun is even up. But believe me, this magic is worth it (and getting your outfits – and coffee – ready and set out the night before can go a long way in making that morning scramble a little smoother).

So why should you consider scheduling a sunrise photo session?

1) Even the most popular locations are rarely crowded at sunrise, so you can enjoy the quiet intimacy of these moments together.

2) The softness of that dawn light allows you to use some wide open locations without any shade (like beaches and open fields) where the light quickly becomes too harsh later in the day.

3) Sometimes you even catch some fog or mist rising in those early morning hours (especially if you choose a location with water). The golden sun shining through morning mist is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life.

4) Your portrait session starts and finishes early in the day before most people are up, so you have the rest of the day to relax and enjoy. You can even make a full outing out of it and treat yourself to breakfast out afterwards.

5) The light and colors in that sunrise progression, from the cool blues of dawn, to the soft pinks just before sunrise, to the rich golds as the sun crests the horizon, are really unparalleled. And that soft light is far more flattering than the light you’ll find even an hour or two later.

And if you need any more convincing, check out some favorites from the Gripka family’s sweet sunrise session last October. I was so glad they braved the early morning drive, even with two littles, to spend some time cuddling (and dancing!) by the edge of the lake at Shawnee Mission Park.

Slow Down This Spring; Announcing Spring Mini Sessions {Kansas City Family Photographer}
 Mother and sons in the evening light, candid family portraits, Kansas City family photographer

This morning I managed to wash all the dishes and clean the kitchen counters. I immediately felt a surge of self-accomplishment….until I stepped into the bedroom and remembered the mountain of clean laundry waiting for me to fold. You guys, I’m not sure if I’m ever going to get caught up on all this. With a job and a toddler and a business to run, I feel pulled in so many directions at any given time and as soon as I finish one task, I discover another ten waiting for me still. Can anyone relate?

I think I’m realizing more and more lately, though, that as a mom (especially as a working mom) there will always be tasks left on that to-do list, no matter how hard I work. There will always be emails to write, goals to set and push towards, updates to make. And the housework….there will always, ALWAYS be dishes to wash, mountains of laundry tackle, bills to pay, and random chores that I keep pushing off until I find a free moment. There will always be something left on that list to do, and if I wait to rest until I’ve finished everything, I will never rest.

But there won’t always be time with family. Your kids won’t always be little. Your baby won’t always want to fall asleep curled up on your shoulder. Your son won’t always wrap his little hands around your legs and beg, “Up mommy?” Your daughter won’t always lean her head against your shoulder as you read her a story. These moments are so fleeting and if you wait to enjoy them until after you’ve finished all your work, you’ll miss it. There will always be more work to do, but there won’t always be this.

So if scheduling a photo session has been on your to-do list, pushed aside under all the other urgent day-to-day tasks, I want to help you make it happen this spring. I’m opening up one day of mini sessions at the end of the month, with just five openings (these will probably be the last mini sessions I offer until fall). And because I know how busy your life is, I’m including a complementary matted fine art print with each session, ready to put in your favorite frame (because chances are that printing and hanging your photos is also on that never-ending to-do list).

 Kansas City spring mini session dates, Kansas City family photographer, lifestyle mini sessions, spring mommy and me session

So take twenty minutes this spring to slow down and take in those fleeting moments. Close your eyes and let your infant nestle close. Pick your son up and swing him up in the air to hear his giggle erupt. Cuddle close with your daughter and read one more story. You will never regret spending these moments with them. And you will never regret capturing these moments in photographs that you can treasure. Do you want to know more? Click the button below to get all the practical details!

 Black and white candid portrait of father holding son in evening light, Kansas City family lifestyle photo session
 Family walks together in the spring evening, Kansas City spring family session
Practically Perfect In Every Way; Welcoming Baby Marin {Kansas City Newborn Photographer}
 newborn baby in crib, looking down from above, Kansas City lifestyle newborn photographer, in-home newborn session
“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.” — Peter Adams

When I chatted with Kirsten before her session, she admitted that she cried a little when she came across my portfolio of newborn photos on my website. It was part of what convinced her to hire me to photograph her own little family as baby Marin joined their world. And it was possibly one of the sweetest compliments she could give me.

Because that is always one of my goals in a portrait session. Not necessarily to make people cry (though I feel like I’ve done something right when they do!), but to make them feel something when they look at the images I create.

Each season of our lives are full of so many feelings (“all the feels” as they say), but in the swirl of life, in the exhausted haze of the newborn stage, then the constant motion of the toddler years, and later in the rush of soccer practices and dance recitals and science club, we barely have a moment to take in those feelings and we struggle to live present in the moment (or at least I struggle to). But when I create images that evoke those feelings, they offer a second chance to savor those feelings and moments all over again (and again and again as you look at them on your walls or flip through them in an album).

What feelings do you want to savor in this season of life? Let’s chat about how a photo session could help you do that (message me to start the conversation!)

Saving the World by Beauty; Melissa’s Senior Celebration Session {Kansas City Lifestyle Photographer}
 Latte with rose petals in a coffee shop, Kansas City lifestyle photographer, Kansas City senior photographer, Kansas City small business headshots, Kansas City lifestyle blogger, candid portrait, winter portrait session, Monarch Coffee

When we sat down at Monarch Coffee, Melissa pulled out a journal and a little paperback book titled Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty. I know only a little about Dorothy Day and even less about this particular book, but the subtitle intrigued me (so much so that I just ordered it from the library).

As we chatted over lattes (Melissa ordered a pistachio rose latte with dried rose petals sprinkled on top – by far the loveliest and most unique latte I’ve ever seen!), I began to understand how that book title reflected so much more than just a random addition to her reading list.

Beauty is an integral part of who Melissa is and what brings her joy. She loves flowers, glitter, poetry, and the color purple and laughed out loud at the unexpected gift of simple things like flower petals on her latte (after she had given up on the idea having flowers for a February photo session). But she’s also a strong, determined woman who carries her warm, bubbly personality into some admittedly difficult places. After studying nursing in undergrad, she is now finishing up a master’s degree in social work. Every week she puts her ideals into action at her job at a local women’s shelter. And she wasn’t afraid to embrace the beauty of her life right now by scheduling a photo session for just herself as she celebrates finding her voice again in this season and entering a career that she is absolutely passionate about.

And as she sipped her latte, Melissa pointed out the tattoo on her wrist – a simple semicolon – and shared that it serves as a tangible reminder of her hope, a permanent declaration (to both herself and others) that the story isn’t over and that beauty will still prevail.

Do you find hope and encouragement in beauty? How do you make space for beauty in your own life?

Time Together; The Bowers Extended Family Session Around a Campfire (Plus Some Tips for Organizing a Fun Extended Family Session) {Kansas City Family Photographer}
 Kansas City lifestyle photographer, Kansas City family photographer, extended family session, fall family photos around a fire, roating marshmallows over the fire

I can’t believe that it’s taken me so long to share this session on here, because it may be my favorite extended family session ever!

Extended family sessions are such a sweet way to gather everyone together in one place, to celebrate the generations that have shaped who we are and to draw close to the people who define family for us. But it’s often no small task to get everyone all together in one place and once you finally do, it can be tempting to default to a stiff everyone-looking-at-the-camera pose as you hope that no one blinks! So when Angela approached me with the idea of gathering her family around a campfire with s’mores for their session, I answered with a resounding, “YES!” because that sounded exactly like the kind of relaxed environment that can bring out those sweet, candid family moments.

And you guys, it was every bit as fun as it sounds! We gathered at the edge of the woods on one of those crisp November afternoons when the gray skies draw out all the richness of autumn’s yellows and browns. We walked together down a wooded path carpeted with leaves and I took some time to photograph each couple, as well as Angela and her dad and the two brothers with their father. And then everyone gathered around a fire to toast marshmallows, wrap their hands around mugs of coffee and hot cocoa, and laugh together. Having something fun to do together really helped everyone relax and have fun, even as they created photos they could treasure for years to come. And Angela did such a great job of coordinating everything and preparing a spread of tasty treats! 

I felt especially privileged to photograph Angela’s grandparents because they had never had professional photos taken together. As we walked in the woods, they shared that they’d met at a dance (many years ago, back when dances were more common!) and they happily obliged when I asked if they’d mind dancing a little as I snapped some pictures.

Have you considered setting up an extended family session but feel intimidated by the process of coordinating everyone? Here are some tips for creating an extended family session that is fun for everyone and captures the heart of your unique family:

1) Choose a location that feels meaningful to your family. Maybe it’s the house where your grandparents have lived for more than fifty years or the farm that has been in the family for generations. Maybe it’s a vacation place you visit every year that echoes with memories from your childhood. Or maybe it’s as simple as a favorite park where you like to picnic. But picking a familiar place that you love can go a long way in helping everyone relax and enjoy the moment together.

2) Bring treats to eat or drink. Seriously! I can’t recommend this enough! It helps kids relax and smile, but sometimes it helps adults have fun, too! You can choose something meaningful, like your grandma’s famous chocolate chip cookies or just pick something fun like popsicles or cotton candy.

3) Don’t worry about matching outfits. It can be stressful to think about coordinating outfits for 10-20 people (though did you know that I send my clients a little “What to Wear” guide to help take some of the stress out of that?) and it may be tempting to default to having everyone wear the same thing, but your photos will be so much more interesting (and authentic!) if you let everyone’s personality shine forth a little. Try choosing three or four coordinating colors and then let people personalize things with their accessories.

4) Do something fun together. A fire and s’mores are a great idea, but there are so many other options, too! Think about what your family loves to do together. Maybe you love to take long walks together or always bring out the same board game at family gatherings. Maybe your family gets fiercely competitive at badminton or has a unique family cheer. Maybe you love to pull out old family stories and listen to the family elders share stories from their younger years. Whatever it is that you love to do together, whatever reminds you that you are part of a larger family, find a way to incorporate that into your session!

5) Print those photos! In this digital age, it’s so easy to let photos sit forgotten on hard drives, but it is so valuable to hang these photos on your wall or print them in albums so you can enjoy them together now and treasure them even more later when those people are gone. Incorporating these photos into your home and daily lives serves as a reminder of who you are and the things that deeply matter in your life.

Are you dreaming of your own extended family session? Send me a message and we can chat about ways to authentically capture your family in this season!

Welcomed Home; Luke's Light-Filled Newborn Session {Kansas City Newborn Photographer}
 Kansas City lifestyle newborn photographer, Kansas City newborn photographer, Kansas City newborn photos, Kansas City in-hom newborn session, parents cuddling baby on bed

Welcome to 2018! Do you have big hopes and dreams for this year?

I thought it would be appropriate to start the New Year with a new blog featuring a brand new little baby!

The Robinsons first invited me into their home this fall for a relaxed in-home maternity session. During their session, they shared that they had designed their house themselves and I loved seeing all the little details they had added to make it home, including artwork and several wall hangings that they had made themselves. And all the light filling each room was a photographer’s dream!

Then in December I returned to photograph them again as they welcomed baby Luke into their home. They had added more sweet details to Luke’s nursery but I couldn’t help thinking that the thing that made it feel most like home was the way that Luke nestled right into their home and their life. It was such a privilege to capture them in this sweet new season as a family of three!

What makes your house feel like home for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Fall Traditions to Start (or Continue) This Year {Kansas City Lifestyle Photographer}
 Rebecca Clair Photography, Kansas City lifestyle photographer, apple picking photo session, apple orchard photos, Kansas City family photographer, apples on the ground

The cold yesterday caught me by surprise, but even as I pulled another jacket over my sweater and dug my hands deep into the warmth of my pockets, I couldn’t help smiling, because it finally felt a bit like fall! And I knew that the cool, wet weather meant that soon the trees will be kissed with the reds and yellows I’ve been waiting for.

I’ve been ready for fall since the day I flipped my calendar to September, but this cooler weather has really started me dreaming about all things fall and cozy. We’ve already gone apple picking and picked up some mini pumpkins to decorate our dining room table, but I’ve been dreaming about autumn picnics, hikes through paths of golden trees, and sweet, spicy pumpkin pie.

And so I thought it would be fun to compile a list of fun fall traditions to start or continue this year (there’s still time!):

Go Apple Picking

This is at the top of the list because it’s one of my favorite fall traditions! I love wandering the rows of trees, plucking the best apples to put in my basket (and usually munching on one as I go). And it’s even better if you can snag some fresh apple cider donuts to enjoy at the end of it! We started this tradition with friends years ago, but it was fun to bring Ethan for the first time this year and watch him experience the wonder of it. There are several great orchards in the Kansas City area, but Cider Hill Family Orchard and Alldredge Orchard are two that we’ve personally visited and loved.

Visit a Pumpkin Patch

We haven’t taken Ethan to a pumpkin patch yet, but maybe this will be the year that we start that tradition! I’ve heard that Kansas City has some great ones, many with fun family activities besides just the pumpkins (check out the handy guide that KC Parent put together, listing a lot of the popular patches in the Kansas City Area)

Take a Nature Walk

Every season has its own unique beauty and I’m a fan of getting outside all year round, but there’s still something especially inviting about driving out of the city in the fall, as the leaves start to change from green to gold and red and the fields soften to rich browns, to get just a bit closer to nature to witness its autumn transformation. The Kansas City area has a lot of great places to hike, including Weston Bend State Park and Shawnee Mission Park. Even if you don’t want to drive too far out of the city, Lakeside Nature Center and the Anita Gorman Conservation Center are both great places to explore nature right in the city.

Bake a Yummy Fall Treat

In the summer, I sometimes sweat when I just think about turning on the oven, but when the weather gets cooler, I suddenly feel the urge to mix up something sweet and spicy (preferably to enjoy with a hot mug of tea or coffee!) Sometimes I’ll bake during naptime or in the evenings, to surprise Ethan when he wakes up, but more often I’ll invite him to climb up on a chair to help me pour and mix. Apple crisp, pumpkin muffins, and gingersnaps are some of my favorite fall treats to bake!

Visit a New Coffee Shop

Starbucks may be the first thing you think about when you think of a fall cup of coffee, but while I appreciate pumpkin spice now and then, there are so many sweet local coffee shops to explore in our city! Thou Mayest and Crows Coffee are two of our favorites, but I also just had a delicious pumpkin pie latte at Parkville Coffee this weekend (and it’s just a short walk from there to English Landing Park for a autumn stroll along the river).

Rake Leaves and then Jump in the Pile

Sure, kids love this tradition, but don’t let that stop you from trying it, too! I don’t think there’s much that could bring out your inner child quite like jumping in a pile of leaves! And crisp fall leaves are the quintessential fall smell!

Make a Big Pot of Soup and Invite Some Friends Over To Share It

You may have noticed that a lot of my fall traditions revolve around food, but really, all around the world we use food to celebrate the significant seasons and moments in our lives (hello, birthday cake!) While I love the sweet fall treats, I think sitting down to savor something warm and comforting, like a good, hearty soup is such an appropriate way to celebrate this cooler season. And it’s even better when you gather around a table with some friends and loved ones to share it. You can make it homemade (I love to throw soup in my slow cooker!) but even soup from a can counts if your short on time!

Schedule a Fall Photo Session!

I know, I know….but I had to end with this one, because if you’re like me and you love to celebrate fall with all these traditions, don’t you want a tangible reminder of those sweet memories with your loved ones to look back on year after year? Maybe it’s your child’s first experience apple picking or that hike you took with your fiancé the fall you got engaged or that coffee date alone with your husband while your mother in law watched the kids for a morning. These traditions aren’t even as much about the fall season as they are about celebrating it with the ones you love. So while you can schedule a photo session all year round (and I hope you do!), fall is full of these sweet traditions and moments that are perfect for capturing in a photo session! Message me to chat more about how I can help capture those fall moments for you, whether it’s with your family, your spouse, or even just you and your dog!

(Are you hoping to catch one of my fall mini sessions? I still have a couple open! Click over here for more details!)

So how about you? What are your favorite fall traditions?
Comment below and share some of your favorite things to do in the fall!

Crepes and Russian Fairytales; A Small Business Story {Kansas City Small Business Photographer}
 Kansas City small business lifestyle photography seven swans creperie woman making crepes

Maybe it’s the former creative writing major in me, but I love telling stories. It’s one of my favorite things about this business of portrait photography. When I work with a couple or family, I get to hear a bit of their story and then I get to share a little glimpse of that story, first through the images I create during our session and then later through the blogs I write.

This year, though, I’m discovering that I also deeply enjoy hearing and sharing the stories of small businesses. As I dig deeper into my own business journey, I’m realizing that, like me, most businesses have stories, born out of their owner’s dreams and passions, personalities and relationships, and life experiences. For most business owners, their business is about so much more than just a product (though most have spent months or even years perfecting their products). Instead, their brands encompass so much personality and story. And I love hearing and capturing those stories through lifestyle branding and headshot photography. These sessions give me the opportunity to not only photograph beautiful products, crafted with passion and excellence, but to also capture the people behind those products or services and the joyful work that spurred them to start their own business in the first place.

Kate is one of those business owners and Seven Swans Creperie was definitely birthed out of a sweet story of passions, dreams, and perseverance. As Kate’s friend, I’ve had a bit of an insider’s view of her business story. And let me tell you, it’s beautiful. Her crepes and soon-to-be-finished mobile creperie (which is the sweetest little renovated trailer!) are the product of years of dreaming, longing, and waiting, of excitement and passion mixed with plenty of discouragement, shifting plans, and a TON of hard work.

I think that’s a big part of what I love about her story. I can connect with it. I’ve never made a crepe in my life (and maybe never will, if I can keep eating these fantastic ones that Kate makes!) but in my role as an entrepreneur, pursuing my passions through the ups and downs of starting and growing a business, I can relate to the mountains and valleys of Kate’s story with her creperie and feel encouraged by her tenacity through it all. Stories like Kate’s, chronicling perseverance through challenges, are my favorite kind. And now it’s so fun to celebrate with her as she watches this dream finally materialize.

And so it felt especially sweet to spend the evening with Kate and a small group of lovely people, taking these photos and watching the next step of her business unfold in the form of lovely, mouth-wateringly delicious crepes arranged on beautiful plates, surrounded by fresh fruit and flowers, glasses of wine, laughter, and chocolate covered faces.

I especially loved getting to capture some photos of Kate at work in the kitchen, prepping the crepes, because I think one of the things that makes her crepes so outstanding is that everything she uses is fresh, high quality (often local), and homemade. You can taste that quality in even the simplest of her crepes.

(The theme of Kate’s branding is “Russian fairytale” -- a nod to a bit of Kate’s personal story, which includes some extended time in Russia -- and I think with the rich reds, worn wood, and dreamy greens here, we managed to capture that!)

How about you? Do you have a business with a story, perhaps a tale of ups and downs and perseverance through obstacles? If so, I’d love to hear it and maybe chat with you about how I could help you communicate your business’ story and heart through images for your website and social media. Send me a message to start the conversation!

(And if you’re local to the Kansas City area, you should definitely follow Kate’s story on social media and visit her creperie soon as it opens!)

He Makes All Things Beautiful; a Glimpse of the Precious Life of Benjamin Levi {Kansas City Newborn Photographer}
 Rebecca Clair Photography lifestyle NICU newborn photography Children's Mercy Hospital mother and father holding baby through the curtains

I have this phrase I sometimes repeat to myself during sessions: “find the light”.

That little phrase reminds me of the basic principles of photography, but more than that, it’s an invitation (perhaps even a challenge) to find the light and beauty in every season, every person, every story. 

There are days when that feels like an easy task. When a perfectly dressed family cuddles together in a field at sunset or when a young couple laughs in each other’s arms as they look towards a sweet future together or when a family finally brings their newborn home to the nursery they’ve lovingly prepared for her, it feels easy to see and celebrate the light and beauty in those moments.

But what about in the hospital room where a couple holds their newborn son, born alive but unresponsive? What about those hours when they hold him close, knowing it could be their last day with him? What about the day when they have to choose to let him go? Can we – can I – find beauty in that place, too?

At the end of June, I had the profound privilege of spending a couple hours in the NICU with my friends and their newborn son Benjamin. Benjamin was born alive but unresponsive after suffering a severe brain injury in utero. He held on to life for eight miraculous days, amazing us all by the ways he defied the odds and by the ways that his little life stirred and united so many people in prayer. The day that they planned to remove Benjamin’s breathing tube, my friends asked me to come and take some photos of them as they snuggled him skin to skin (their skin to skin times with Benjamin are some of the precious memories they hold onto from his time in the NICU). I was a little nervous to enter this space with them, because I had never photographed anything like this before and it would be an understatement to say that the moment felt weighty, but at the same time, I had never felt the value of photography as deeply as I did in that room. 

Near the end of my time with them, they played a song that a friend had written and dedicated to Benjamin. I couldn’t hear most of the lyrics, but the one phrase that resounded in my ears as I snapped those last photos was, “You make all things beautiful.” Later, when I re-listened to the song, I found out that the lyrics actually said, “You make all things new,” but I think perhaps the word “beautiful” was what I needed to hear in that moment. That phrase, “You make all things beautiful,” defined those hours (and all of Benjamin’s life) for me. 

Because even in the midst of the heartbreak, those two hours in that NICU room were full of more beauty and peace than I could have ever imagined. And I saw so much beauty in Benjamin’s short life:

Beauty in his mother’s greeting as she gently touched his head. 
Beauty in his tiny, perfect fingers and toes.
Beauty in the way his arms snuggled around his mother’s chest.
Beauty in the way she tenderly cupped his feet in her hands.
Beauty in the sound of her laughter billowing into that hospital room. 
Beauty in the gaze his parents shared as they held him close and the way they closed their eyes as they touched their foreheads together.  
Beauty in the way he nestled under his father’s chin.
Beauty in his father’s soft kiss on his forehead.
Beauty in the way his fingers (so tiny, so strong) curled around his father’s finger.  
Beauty in the light on his mother’s face as she closed her eyes and entered into the prayer of the music. 
Beauty in each rhythmic breath he drew, skin to skin on their chests. 
Beauty in the warmth of his body alive in their arms for those eight days.

And even after those moments of beauty were gone and Benjamin was “swallowed up by life”, held only in memory and photographs, still I saw beauty in Benjamin’s story.

Beauty in the rawness and vulnerability with which his parents have shared this story.
Beauty in their posture of humility and faith each step of the way.  
Beauty in the words that flowed in from all over the world in response to his life.
Beauty in the voices lifted in prayer and worship, day and night. 
Beauty in the hearts that rallied in hope.
Beauty in the hearts that broke in grief.
Beauty in the emotions of wonder and grief, celebration and sadness, that unite us all.

There is grief here, to be sure, and a depth of pain that can’t be put into words. But through it all, so much beauty. And finding the beauty here, even in these hard spaces of Benjamin’s story, renews my hope that He can make all things and all stories (including my own) beautiful.

And so each click of the shutter as I witnessed these moments of beauty became a thank you. A thank you for the preciousness and purpose of Benjamin’s little life, even in such a short amount of time. And a thank you for the privilege of witnessing this little bit of his story.  

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

(If you'd like to hear more of Benjamin's story firsthand from his parents, I encourage you to listen to the message, "Swallowed Up By Life", that they shared recently at our church)

Everyday Treasures: the Tarkowski Family’s Saturday Morning Session {Kansas City Family Photographer}
 Rebecca Clair Photography Kansas City MO lifestyle family photographer Line Creek Trail Family Session family together by a waterfall

I am so excited to finally share this sweet family session with you guys! I think it may have been one of my favorite sessions lately, not just because this family is gorgeous (though they are!), but because I so enjoyed witnessing how tender they were with one another and the sweet moments of connection they created during our time together.

This year I’ve started sending out a little questionnaire to my clients once they book a session with me, to help me get to know them a little more and plan a session that truly fits them in this season in their lives. I knew this family’s session was going to be good as soon as I read Natalie’s responses to her questionnaire. She shared candidly about some of the challenges and insecurities of life as the mom of two littles (I love it when clients are real and authentic with me!), but she also wrote so poignantly about the little everyday moments, in the midst of that real life, that make her feel loved: when her husband tells her that she’s beautiful every single day or calls in the middle of the day just to say hi. When her daughter comes in to snuggle in the morning or draws her special pictures or is so excited about something that she can’t wait to tell her. When her son cries for everyone else but stops immediately when he settles into her arms. She shared about the moments she loves with her family, snuggling up together to watch a movie together, about sharing a cup of green tea with her husband in the morning before the kids wake up, about taking walks together at the park as a family, about playing with the neighbors, and about watching her husband play pretend with her daughter.

When I read her responses, I couldn’t help thinking that these moments are the treasures of this season with littles, the gems in the midst of the chaos and mundane, the beauty that gets us through the challenges. Life with young kids can be so trying at times (as the mom of a toddler, I’m right in the thick of that season, too!), but I’ve found that stopping to really appreciate and enjoy these moments helps remind me of why it’s all worth it. I am so grateful that I got to capture a few of those treasure moments with the Tarkowski family that Saturday morning as they explored one of their favorite trails together.

How about you? What treasure moments get you through the unique challenges of your current season of life?

Not About Cancer: A Shoot for CURE Magazine’s Extraordinary Healers Publication {Kansas City Lifestyle Photographer}
 Rebecca Clair Photography Kansas City MO lifestyle photographer CURE magazine Extraordinary Healers nurse and patient cancer survivor at Lake Jacomo

Cancer has altered the course of Danielle’s life. Diagnosed at just 17, cancer undoubtedly changed many areas of her life and family and ultimately led her to a career with a cancer organization.

Cancer has also defined Donna’s career as she has worked as an oncology nurse for years, helping countless patients walk through the practical and emotional side effects of their diagnoses. 

And cancer is what initially brought these two together, when Danielle first met Donna in that awkward doctor's office visit, shortly after her diagnosis. 

But this session was not about cancer. It was about two friends, sitting by a lake on a spring day, catching up on life. It was about sharing stories of children and grandbabies. It was about laughing (a LOT of laughing) and maybe a bit of hugging. Because that’s a huge part of what set Donna apart as a nurse for Danielle: she cared about Danielle as a person, not just as a cancer patient, and she made her feel comfortable enough to laugh, even in the most uncomfortable situations. 

I'm so grateful to CURE Magazine for connecting me with these two extraordinary women and featuring a few images of their sweet reunion in the latest edition of their Extraordinary Healers publication. If you're able, I suggest reading Danielle's moving tribute to the impact Donna had on her cancer journey, along with the other essays in the collection. (And I have to say, it's super fun to see a few of the photos in print in the book of essays that CURE just published!)

In This Business Together: Emilee and Anthony’s Relaxed In-Home Headshot Session {Kansas City Small Business Photography}
 Kansas City lifestyle photographer in home couples session cuddling in the kitchen with coffee engagement photos black and white photo

I really love getting to connect with other creative entrepreneurs in my area. I feel inspired by the lovely things they create and by their tenacity in pursuing work that brings them joy.

Emilee is one of those creative entrepreneurs. Though she is a photographer herself, she recently branched out into a new business venture as well, starting a wedding décor rental company with her husband Tony. As newlyweds themselves, they remember what it felt like to plan a wedding, recalling both the excitement and the stress of managing all the details and balancing a budget. As they were planning their wedding, Emilee noticed that many brides chose the same few weddings themes and purchased similar decorations. After the wedding, they then had to either sell or store those decorations. Now that Emiliee is married and settling into a new home with Tony, her recent experience with wedding planning led her to start Wedding Decor & More, a company that rents wedding décor to brides to help them save time, money, and hassle in the wedding planning process.

I loved hearing how this new business was fueled by Emilee and Tony’s own lives and experiences. I think one thing I’m learning in this adventure of running my own business is that business and my personal life aren’t as starkly separate as I used to think they needed to be. I’m realizing that who we are and the things we love really do influence the work we pursue and HOW we pursue that work.

And so my session with these two was less about what they do with their business and the products they offer and more about who they are and the way they love each other. It was about the way Tony makes Emilee laugh (something she loves about him!) and the way he supports her in every crazy idea she has, including supporting her in running two businesses. It was about how Emilee is so energetic and upbeat (which is the first thing that attracted Tony to her when they met working together at a restaurant) and hard-working. It was about how comfortable they feel together, content to relax in their home with one another and their three dogs. Doing their session at home, cuddling on the couch, relaxing in the kitchen, and sitting with their dogs, seemed to fit these two and the relaxed, cheerful demeanor they offer in all they do, including in this new business.

I can’t wait to see these in action on their new website (coming soon!). In the meantime, you can find out more about Wedding Décor & More on Facebook.  

Rainy Day Snuggles: The Ashley Family’s Cozy In-Home Session {Kansas City Family Photography}
 Kansas City Family photographer, in-home lifestyle family photography family reading together Rebecca Clair Photography

Even a gloomy, rainy day couldn't dampen the sweetness of this family's in-home session. These moments are simple, cuddled up by the window, reading a few favorite books, but they're the kind they will treasure in the years to come, as their daughter grows and changes. 

Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Donuts (and a Few Tips for Happier Toddler Sessions) {Kansas City Family Photography}
 Kansas City family photographer toddler eating a donut Cider Hill Family Orchard

Let me tell you a little story about expectations vs. reality with a toddler.

Last week, on one of those gloomy, rainy days we’ve had lately, I ran out to the grocery store with Ethan to grab one quick thing that I had forgotten during our normal grocery trip (because now that we have a second car, we can do that!) While we were there, I decided to pick up a donut for us to share, a special rainy day treat.

Here’s how I imagined we would enjoy it:

We would come home from our errand, snuggle up together while the rain fell softly against the window, and share a sweet blueberry donut treat together.

Here’s how it actually went down:

Ethan cried and yelled “Dono! Dono! Donooo!” the entire car ride home. He ate his portion of the donut at the table in about 30 seconds. And then proceeded to cry, “Dono! Dono!” again, until naptime.  Not exactly the sweet moment together that I’d imagined!

Why do I share this with you? Because I get it. I get the frustration of planning something fun, only to have your toddler melt down. And I get the disappointment of booking a photo session and having your toddler frown and refuse to sit down or look at the camera. Toddlers are hard to predict and often have strong opinions of what they do or don’t want to do. It can make picture day a little stressful for you and them.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here are a few tips for setting up a session that’s fun for your toddler (and therefore fun for you, too!)

1) Loosen your expectations. I know Pinterest is full of cute poses and ideas and we can try a few of them, but don’t push too hard if your toddler isn’t into it! I find that we get happier, more genuine photos when we follow your toddlers lead. If they just want to cuddle in your lap, go with it! These moments won’t last forever and you’ll be glad you captured them. If they don’t want to let go of their favorite toy, let them keep it. You’ll look back at these photos and remember the season when they were inseparable from it. Do they just want to run around with sticks? Jump into the game and chase them! We can totally capture that, too!

2) Bring a favorite toy or book. Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or car? Do they ask you to read Brown Bear, Brown Bear every single night? Bring those along! They can help your child feel more comfortable in a new place, with a stranger, and we can catch some photos that capture these beloved pieces of their childhood.

3) Bring a snack or treat. I’m not necessarily advocating for bribing your child (but maybe just a little?), but it’s no secret that a fun treat can often quickly turn around a toddler’s mood! My only suggestion is to bring something that you don’t mind being in the photos since I won’t be photoshopping those out (you may find that cookies are cuter than cereal bars and fresh fruit is cuter than an applesauce pouch!) and don’t bring something messy unless you’re willing to embrace the mess of the moment!

4) Play together. I know that sometimes you want just one good picture where you’re looking at the camera and smiling (the kind that the grandparents will hang on their fridge) and I always try to get at least one of those. But most of the session I want to focus on you enjoying being together. Snuggle your child. Tickle them. Toss them in the air. Spin them around. Explore with them. As you focus on spending quality time with them and having fun together, I’ll focus on catching the sweetest, authentic photos, too.

Despite my rainy day treat backfiring, we had a little bit of donut redemption at Cider Hill Family Orchard’s Apple Blossom Festival this weekend. After we took a wagon ride through the orchard, we sat together on a bench, a warm bag of donuts crinkling in our hands and cinnamon sugar coating our fingers, watching a fire and munching on the BEST apple cider donuts (and then we wandered around the orchard, fed ducks, splashed sticks in the pond, and swung on a swing!). It wasn’t the same rainy day snuggles that I’d imagined last week, but it was a sweet family moment I’ll cherish.

Spring Anticipation: Rachel and Daniel’s Springtime Maternity Session {Kansas City Maternity Photography}
 Kansas City Loose Park spring maternity session with the flowering apple tree Kansas City maternity photographer black and white photo

Everything about this session feels like spring to me (despite the chill wind that day!). The fresh green grass. The cascading apple blossoms, touched with just the faintest pink on the on the buds. The tiny leaves unfurling from the branches. And these two, so in love and so joyfully awaiting the arrival of their daughter whose birth will usher in a fresh new season for their family.

It was such a sweet privilege to photograph Rachel and Daniel in this season as a couple. They’re still in their first year of marriage and now share the sweet anticipation of this little girl who will utterly change their life. They both have great style, but more than that, they wear their love for one another. You can see it in the little things: the way Rachel looks up at Daniel as they walk, the way Daniel wrapped his arms around Rachel to warm her up between shots, and the way she nestled into his arms and the soft kiss he planted on her forehead.

To me, this is what maternity sessions are all about. Though I find pregnant bellies incredibly beautiful as they curve around the growing new life and I feel that it’s worth documenting that unique stage of a woman’s life, I particularly love capturing the parents together. I love to take that time to document their love as they stand at the cusp of a dramatically new season, drawn closer together than ever before by the anticipation of this new life, the embodiment of their love. There’s nothing quite like it!

Community Over Competition: A Photographers Play Date {Kansas City Couples Photography}
 Couples session in Kansas City west bottoms couples photography hair blowing

“Community over competition.”

I first heard this slogan (which originates from the Rising Tide Society) at the Inspired Story Conference in Dallas last summer, when I gathered with women photographers from around the country for a weekend of learning, creating, and listening to one another’s stories. Every photographer who spoke at the conference shared their knowledge and stories candidly and generously. I was blessed and challenged as much by their humble attitude as their words. My experience that weekend at the conference pushed the value of “community over competition” deep into my heart.

As my own knowledge and experience slowly grows, I try to remember the gift that that those photographers were (and still are) to me as I learn this business of photography. And like them, I strive to share what I know just as generously, whether it’s sharing a particularly lovely location I’ve found or passing on client questionnaires I’ve created. Although this can be a competitive business, with dozens of photographers clamoring for the same clients, I believe that the competition doesn’t need to define my interactions with other local photographers and that forming positive relationships with other area photographers can only help all of us grow stronger in our art and business.

I’m grateful that there are other local photographers that feel the same, including Jen Williams and Jordan Friend. A couple weeks ago, Jen and Jordan organized a play date for some local photographers in the West Bottoms and I had the privilege of joining them. They had recruited some couples and singles to model for us and we spent a couple hours that afternoon, wandering the area, taking photos and getting to know one another. I had never been to the West Bottoms before and the urban environment definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone. The harsh mid-afternoon light was also a challenge, forcing me to embrace the contrast and find flattering light in the shadows. Several of the photographers there that day also showed me how they use some of their lighting equipment to offset the harsh light, inviting me to rethink the usefulness of flash.

In the end, I sweated a lot (it was HOT out that afternoon!), made some new connections, stretched myself beyond my comfort zone, and created some images I’m proud of.

Kolby and Shaffen

Rebecca and Trevor

Olivia

Spring Snow Day: A Saturday Morning in Photos {Kansas City Lifestyle Family Photography}
 Kansas City, MO lifestyle family photographer spring flowers in the snow winter family photography

Remember how I was gushing the other day about the early spring weather when I announced my spring mini sessions? Well, I may have spoken too soon because winter rushed back in full force this weekend! By March I’m usually over winter and ready for spring, so I may have grumbled a bit about the return to frigid temperatures and gray skies.

But then we woke up Saturday to soft snow flurries outside our windows. We took advantage of a leisurely morning to make blueberry pancakes together (I let Ethan “help”, which resulted in a floury mess but a happy toddler). And then we all took a walk outside in the snow. We didn’t walk far – just down the block and around to the alley that runs behind our house – but even that small distance was full of wonder and adventure for my toddler, who has seen very little snow yet in his life. It reminded me of why I was so excited for winter this year, because of the chance to watch him experience snow for the first time.  And the way the snow clung to every branch and leaf and early spring flower filled me with wonder and gratitude as well.

These were simple moments. Cooking together. A simple breakfast. A short walk around the block. But I love these images I caught that day, precisely because they capture those simple moments of this unique season in our family. Someday Ethan won’t make such a mess when we cook together. Someday he won’t need help climbing down the front steps. Someday he won’t fit that adorable yellow hat (seriously, it’s my favorite!) Someday  he’ll be too heavy to carry in my arms. And someday he will balk when I try to kiss his cheek. But for now, this is our life, both the sweet and the chaotic. And I’m determined to document it so when that day comes, I can remember and treasure this season.

How about you? Did you enjoy the spring snow this weekend?

Wandering Westport: Part Two of Chris and Hanna’s Urban Session {Kansas City Couples Photography}
 urban engaged or married couple in Westport archway engagment photography couples photography Kansas City, MO

As promised, here is Part 2 of Chris and Hanna’s fun and relaxed session! (If you missed Part 1, you can find it here)

One of the things that Hanna and Chris have loved about their current apartment is its proximity to the quaint and unique shops and restaurants of Westport. They love to try new restaurants together as fun little dates, so it made sense to do the second portion of their session in this fun part of Kansas City. We didn’t really have a plan for this portion of the session, other than to wander together and give ourselves permission to stop whenever we found a place that looked fun. And let me tell you, it was so much fun! Westport is full of colorful storefronts, brick alleys, and unique little nooks and crannies. And we found the most beautiful, dramatic light in the parking garage of all places!

I also loved that many of the buildings and shop fronts had an international flair to them. Those seemed to particularly suit Chris and Hanna, who love to travel together (in fact, Hanna described a backpacking trip through South America as their favorite “date” together!)