Rebecca Clair Photography

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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.

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!

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!)

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!)

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.