Maple and Family...Beauty Revived | Beach Photo Session | Panama City Beach, Florida

When I first heard about Beauty Revived, I fell in love with its mission. Beauty Revived was started two years ago as a way for photographers to use their lens for good and shine light on the real beauty that was happening in our communities. In the last 2 years, more than 500 women, girls and children have been featured on their website and magazine.

As the deadline was approaching to apply to be one of the 50 photographers for this year's children's campaign, I hesitated. "Here I am about to put myself out there only to be rejected." Then I remembered this was not about me and to just go for it. I even I convinced myself after I hit the send button that it would be a good learning experience even though I probably would not be chosen. Can you relate? (Why do we do that to ourselves?) A week later I got the email saying I had been selected. To say I was giddy with excitement is an understatement.

When the thought of 50 Beautiful Children came up, I already had Maple in mind as the child I would photograph. I wanted to shine a light on her life and the faith of her family. I had lived just down the street from them in the sweetest neighborhood in Rome, Georgia. Becca, Maple's mom, and I were both pregnant at the same time, she with Maple, me with my second son. Becca and I grew close as we walked our neighborhood roads and the pregnancy road together. Her story became much different than my own as she and her husband discovered after an ultrasound that Maple would be born with bladder exstrophy. Essentially Maple's bladder and surrounding organs would be formed on the outside of her body. As Maple's due date approached, I watched as countless doctors' appointments were made, opinions and options were given, and rugs were pulled out from under them. It was an anxious time of waiting. But, their faith remained steady, focused on the One who was creating Maple and knew her every need. 

Maple came into the world and I became more in awe of God's grace and mercy in their lives as they learned how to adapt and live with Maple's condition. She went through some pretty major surgeries that I couldn't imagine walking through with my own children. I remember seeing baby Maple in her purple cast that reached from her armpits to her toes after her first major surgery when she was only two months old. (Two months old.) After recovering, two other major reconstructive surgeries ensued within the next 5 years.

(Becca recorded their journey of those early years in her own blog here.)

Maple is now six years old and just as spunky and beautiful as ever. She and her younger sister Sailor are a delight to watch. Becca is also expecting her third child. It's another girl! I was thrilled that our schedules coincided at the beach this summer and I could take photos of Maple and the whole family. Not only is Maple living a remarkable story, but her parents have lived a beautiful faith for their children, family, and others. 

My hope is that as you look at this gorgeous family, you would remember to ask people their stories. Engage with them. There would be no way of knowing any of the things this family has gone through by merely looking at these images. We all have stories to tell. We have all seen beauty revived in our own struggles and stories. Each one deserves to be shared. 

I asked Becca to contribute her story for the Beauty Revived feature to go along with these portraits of Maple and her family. You can read that here: 

http://www.beautyrevived.com/meet-maple-with-michelle-repolles-photography/

This is Maple and her family. They are beauty revived.

Maple's story will also be featured in the Beauty Revived magazine set to be published August 20, 2018. I'll provide that link once it becomes available.

Baby Reid In-Home Newborn Session | Newborn Photography | Central Georgia

Like any story of our lives, God is intricately weaving a work behind the scenes, one we will never fully understand until we see Him face to face. We get glimpses of it in the threads He reveals to us, while others remain a mystery.

This is no different with my sister and her beautiful new son, Reid. She and her husband had always had the desire to adopt, but were still unsure of the timing. It was glaringly obvious that my sister was in the right spot at the exact time so she could hear of a baby who would be born in the coming months. His biological mom was making the incredibly hard and brave decision to entrust him to a family she barely knew. As the process unfurled, the Lord kept leading and prodding to move forward. 

Sweet baby Reid was born in early March. As my sister retold the story of how his birth mom laid him in her arms, tears welled up in my eyes. What a moment of inexplicable grief on one end running into inexplicable joy on the other. As I have watched this story unfold, I am reminded of the verse that says, "But you see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand...You are the helper of the fatherless" Ps 10:14. I have been so challenged by my sister and her husband's commitment to care for the fatherless and truly see the trouble of the afflicted. 

I can't wait to see how this story continues to be told through Reid's life with them, his forever family. So much joy and laughter had already filled their home. I can only imagine it multiplied by two more feet pit pattering along and growing within those walls.

I was so privileged to get to photograph their newborn session. May these images remind us all of the Father's love over us and His joy in calling us His own.

Jack Turns One & Baby Brother on the Way | Family Portrait Photographer | Prattville, Alabama

I loved when Heather asked me to photograph her son's one year photos. Even though I've only known her for a few months, we seemed to make an instant connection because of our love for Brazil. We actually both lived there (at different times, in different cities) for some time after we graduated as we worked with college students. We've traded stories over our experiences and I feel grateful for a new friend who doesn't tire of my constant references to life in Brazil.

This mom has such a quiet and gentle spirit. She is so easy going and I love how carefree she is with her son, Jack. Not only did he just turn one, but in a few weeks, he's going to be a big brother! It only made sense to capture a few maternity shots as well. Heather, you are just gorgeous.

Her family was the sweetest and I loved witnessing their interaction. Happy Birthday, Jack! Your joy is infectious.

 

 

South Georgia Senior Session | Senior Photography | Georgia Seniors

I can hardly believe my nephew is graduating. How can it be? What a privilege to capture him in one of the most pivotal times of his life. He has big plans post graduation and is working hard so that his dreams will be realized. I know you can do it! You've already accomplished so much.

I was looking for a quote that I thought would fit this next phase of life for him. I couldn't help but stop at this one by J.K. Rowling since the boys and are animately making our way through all of the Harry Potter books.

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."

Alston, you are by no means taking the cautious route and I'm so proud of you! 

Here are some of my favorites from my time with him...

Spring Session at the Gardens | Birmingham Botanical Gardens | Mountain Brook, AL

Birmingham, Alabama is not at a loss for parks and beautiful scenery. When this gorgeous family asked me to photograph them at the Botanical Gardens, I wasn't fully prepared for what I would see. I don't think the kids were either. It was just magical. So many flowers and blossoming trees to take in all at once. It almost felt like a dream.

My favorite part was watching it through the eyes of the children. There was so much to see, one bright color after the next, always one more path to explore. We made the most of it and I tried not to pressure the kids too much to be still because I didn't want to squelch their curiosity. Yes, there were times when treats came out for certain poses or captures. (Pavlov was right! Hee, hee.) But, for the most part it was following them and capturing them navigating their way around the grounds.

This session really made me stop and think. I'm not sure what happens between childhood and adulthood, but I think we fear being our true selves in the face of so much beauty. Sweet little Sadie couldn't contain herself as she ran from one flower to the next, literally breathing in everything about them. I want to live like that. Unabashed and free to enjoy what I delight in most. When she did this, I never thought for a moment it was silly. The opposite happened. I wanted to capture that moment and preserve it forever. Maybe if we weren't so concerned about what others thought, we too would savor more moments like little children and actually take in the beauty before us. 

Here are the highlights from the session. Gah! I can't get enough.

 

 

Rachel Turns 5 | Ross Bridge | Hoover, Alabama

My cute client just turned 5 and mom wanted to document all that goodness. I mean, you're only 5 once, right? I can look back at other photos taken of this sweet family just last year and am reminded again how much our littles change. Ok time, can you please just slow down?

So, how do we get all those smiles and giggles? Well...we play. Yep. I teeter on a fine line between introvert and extrovert, but when I have a session with kids, all bets are off. I just go with it. Let's just say I always have a "friend" helping me. This time it was Bob the Tomato, next time it might be Olaf or a Minion...or all three. At any rate, they can be pretty convincing. They steal kisses, try to get in front of my camera, even dance on my head. Anything to get the true personality to shine through. And, even when kids aren't laughing, their expressions are still priceless. There is so much to observe through the pensive look of a child.

As a mother of two younger children myself, this session was a good reminder to drink in the stage of life they are in. I was reading in "The Mother Letters" and I thought Kari Clark said it perfectly in her letter "Unexpected."

Listen to what your children are teaching you. Listen to the things they do not say and to the things they do say. Strip yourself of what you want them to be and look deeply into what God has made them. Tell them often how much you love them. Enjoy every moment where little hands seek yours and find contentment there. Revel in the snuggles after dark that provide the chance to hear the softly spoken thoughts from the bottom of their souls. Breathe them in deeply. Record those little moments you think your heart will remember forever. Every memory captured in time will be worth its weight in gold."

I am humbled at the thought that even I can play a small part in this recording of moments. In a sense, I get to pause time and gift those moments back to the ones who love them most. May we all learn to drink them in and find contentment there.

Baby Joshua In-Home Newborn Session | Hoover, Alabama Photographer

I love photographing families in their homes. They seem more at ease and kids can come and go pretty much as they please. This is especially true when the family has welcomed a new baby. Yes, it can seem chaotic, but I assure you there is a certain peace that a new baby brings. Just watching them sleep is about one of the most tranquil feelings in the world. Am I right? It settles our hearts and makes us grateful for the new life among us. 

This session was no exception. As mom and dad scurried to get kids situated, hair combed and bows just right, there he was, just as calm as he could be. Reminding us to be still and soak it up. 

I learned later from the mom that this sweet baby boy was named because of a verse in the Bible, Joshua 1:9. Can you guess when he was born? January 9...as in 1:9. How precious is that? "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." 

I hope that encouraged you today as much as it did me. Enjoy some of my favorite captures from the morning with this adorable family. 

Finding the Magic in the Mundane / Home Session / Helena, Alabama

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I did one of my first home sessions. It began as a request to get in a few maternity shots before my friend's third child was born. Knowing I would be there in later weeks to photograph her newborn session, I told her I could get a few of her precious baby bump. I asked if I could linger a bit and capture her family doing all the things they love. 

I’m a firm believer now that parents should do a home session at least once in their lifetime, but especially when the kids are small. There are so many moments that go unnoticed or undocumented that just ooze with simple beauty. As mothers, we tend to get overwhelmed with the day in and out of picking up clothes, wiping down counters, stepping on legos, doctoring booboos and speaking to broken hearts. Rarely do we get to slow down in the sweet times and remember the goodness in the midst of the crazy. 

I love how a fellow photographer put it: "My job is to capture the fleeting moments in the life of a mom. Yes, there is drudgery in the everyday, but there's also magic. I want to capture that magic and preserve it so your kids can look back and see their childhood the way you gave it to them." I almost tear up every time I read that. It's such a good reminder to seek out the goodness in the monotonous. When I did this home session, THAT was on my mind. How can I remind this dear mama that there is magic in the mundane?

I asked my friend, Heather, if she could share a few words about her experience. This is what she had to say: 

"Right before we had Van, Michelle came into our home to do a lifestyle session. This basically meant she spent several hours of the day alongside us, carefully capturing our current season of normal. I was afraid it would be awkward to have a camera following us around, but she really made it so comfortable and easy for us. I honestly cannot say enough about how grateful I am for what she captured in those few hours- Clara's dirty feet as she played with Calico Critters, the way the afternoon sunlight hit Hudson's face as he concentrated on building a block tower, their sweet little expressions as I read from their favorite book. These images could not have been achieved by simply dressing up and going for a photo session. We have been given a raw, imperfect, and honest glimpse into our daily lives.  I will forever cherish these photographs."

Take a moment to get a peek into their home session and think about what you would want photographed given the opportunity. What would you like to freeze in time? Maybe Saturday pancakes, morning walks, making cookies, painting pumpkins, or even putting up the Christmas tree? I treasure that what I was allowed to capture with this family will be a bookmark in their story that can be revisited and celebrated for years to come. 

I love that one of the images even stirred a whole movement to encourage us to scroll less on our phones and train our minds to gravitate to more worthy pursuits. You can read more about that here. Heather is a gifted writer and I can't wait until she has authored her own book one day. But, until then, you can see a bit into her life as a mom below. Read more of her writings on instagram and articles she's posted as a contributor for engagingmotherhood.com.

And, keep looking for the magic in the mundane. I promise it's there.

Only a month later, Van was here. I thought this family couldn't get any cuter, but obviously I was wrong.

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My Top Ten Tips on What to Wear for Family Photos

1. Mama, you get to go first this time. Yes. This time you don't get the leftovers. You've earned it! Pick what YOU feel great in and plan around that. Moms aren't used to getting the attention. Typically we pick everyone else's outfit then grab something that's "ok" but not necessarily what we love. You have permission to feel awesome in your images. I know if I don’t like what I’m wearing in the photo, then chances are I won’t have it hanging on my wall or on a Christmas card.

2. Choose whites and blacks wisely. The tendency is to lose details when those colors are next to each other. Think about getting in a tight photo with your family and it's white, on white, on white, or all black. It becomes a blob of one color and variation is lost. Now, don't get me wrong. I have photographed families in all white that were gorgeous, but the girls' shirts were light, airy, and sleeveless. The skin tones were a beautiful way to break up the white. What I am saying here is if you do choose all white or black, don't choose stark whites and the blackest blacks. Whites and blacks are not completely off limits if you do it well.

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3. Use the color wheel to help. I went over this in my Facebook live video here, but you can get a summary below. Keep reading...

There are three terms to consider when picking color schemes: monochromatic, analogous, and complimentary.

- Monochromatic: using all the colors (tints, tones, and shades) of a single hue. Now I know what you’re thinking. She just told me to stay away from that with white or black. What I mean by using one color is using different tints or shades of the same color. For example, you decide to pick gray. You can mix dark grays with light grays. Blues – navy blues with light blues. Make sense?

- Analogous: Groups of three adjacent colors on the color wheel. Let’s pick blue again. Analogous colors would be blue-green and blue-violet because they are adjacent to blue on the color wheel.

- Complimentary: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. Ever wonder why the sky looks especially blue during the fall when the leaves are orange in all their glory? It’s because orange and blue compliment each other. How cool is that? Imagine what complimentary colors can do for your photos. This doesn't mean to pick all of the brightest colors, but you can even use different tints or shades of complimentary colors. There are just SO many options!

4. Look in your husband’s or son’s closet to inspire you. Thought I’d never say that! Is there a plaid shirt of your husband’s that you love? I’m guessing there is a combination of colors that you’ve never even noticed, but you knew you loved the shirt when you first saw it. My husband has a red shirt that he loves, and if you could look closely there is a faint green line through it. Bam. I realized my younger son has a green shirt that exact color of green, so I just went with it. And, green just happens to compliment red. Sweet!

5. Add in some texture and accessories. Scarves, sweaters, chunky necklaces, and bracelets are great for this. How about a kid in a leather jacket? Even though it’s a darker color, our eyes tend to notice it right away because of the texture. Or how about the texture of this sweater on the little guy below? Adorable!

6. If you throw in a pop of color, do it on more than one family member. If one person has on bright pink, your eye will automatically be drawn to that one color. (Imagine a bright pink bow in a little girl's hair. What happens? Your eye is automatically draw to the pink bow.) But, if you mix the pops of color throughout the photo (pink here and there, or pink here and a bright shade of yellow there), your eye will move across the image without being fixated on that one spot. We want our eyes to scan across the photo and everyone to be noticed.

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7.  Think about where your family photo will be showcased in your home. I’m so glad I started including a large print with my sessions because I want nothing more than to know it is being enjoyed in your home. Knowing where it will be hung can help you decide what colors to wear. If you’ve got one color scheme going on in your home, but the colors in your photo clash with it, the likelihood of you actually enjoying it on your wall will diminish.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I LOVE helping narrow down choices. If you are my client, feel free to take a photo of all of the outfits next to each other and send it to me. I’ve had moms send me photos of three different shirt options asking me my favorite. Now, I’m not fashion guru, but I think I have a hunch of what photographs well and I really want you to feel confident going into your session.

9. Let your favorite guy wear something he likes in your family photo. (Dads and husbands are all high fiving me right now.) For a lot of them it’s hard enough to have their picture taken, let alone wear something that is uncomfortable and not “them”. Give him a few choices and let him have some say about what to wear. You will all be happier and he will be more likely to feel good on the family "outing".

10. Keep the main thing the main thing. These are simply guidelines and are by no means hard and fast rules. (However, I do hope they have been helpful.) When it’s all said and done, the best thing about the photos will be your interaction with one another. Clothing choices are important, but how our hearts are on the day will be what really shines through. Keep it as stress free as possible with comfortable clothes that your family members feel good in and that allow each person’s personality to be captured naturally.

So, what are some of your favorite tips and tricks for styling your family on your session day? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

I also have helpful tips on how to prepare for the actual shoot, what to bring, etc.  You can get the FREE printable of my checklist below.

Smash Cake Session | Family Photographer | Hillsboro Walking Trail | Helena, AL

Living near Birmingham, Alabama, has its advantages. There are so many parks and beautiful places for kids to play and for families to be together. It feels like I discover a new playground or trail on a monthly basis. One of my favorites is in Helena, AL, where there is a gorgeous neighborhood with a public walking trail. It has been a haven for early evening runs by myself or with friends, boasting very minimal hills and the perfect amount of shade. I love introducing places like this to my clients.

My first session with this beautiful family was back in May in an open field just next to the trail. We all know how hectic getting ready for a family photo shoot can feel with littles, and finding a new place can add to the stress of the day. Since we were both familiar with the location, we figured, let's do it again...but actually be ON the trail this time. I'm so glad we did. The canopy of trees with slivers of light coming in is so beautiful. I can see why this location is a favorite among other photographers as well. 

Not only were we updating family photos, but sweet little girl just celebrated her first birthday! After the family session, mom brought out the smash cake. Oh my goodness! Precious captures from her enjoying the cake and letting big brother join in are just too adorable. 

Here are some of my favorites from my time with them...

Isn't Mom beautiful with her little baby bump? She's expecting another girl in February and we've already set a potential date for her newborn session I cannot wait!

Bring on the cake...

Here comes brother. He was SO patient as he waited his turn to get in on this cake.

Time for clean up. Thank goodness for hand wipes!

Full of cake and smiles. Wouldn't you be, too? What a delight!

Being a family photographer is a privilege I don't take for granted. It's a joy to take a moment, an hour, an afternoon with a family and turn it into memories that are now preserved in precious images like these. If you are in the Birmingham area and are looking for a family and lifestyle photographer, I would love to connect with you to see if we are a good fit. You can contact me directly to find out what to expect from a session with Michelle Repolles Photography. 

Now, who wants some cake?