Monthly Archives March 2019


Well Hello! Tracy Sweeney here, owner/photographer of Elan Studio in Bristol, Rhode Island. I’m thrilled to return and guest blog about an absolutely important topic in family photography.

Have you ever viewed an image that was so powerfully driven in “something” that it physically stirred you? Perhaps it was “something” so evocative, a single moment crafted from someone else’s time, and yet the picture’s energy mirrored an indelible memory of your own, bringing forth genuine connection? Or possibly there was a level of emotion that resonated so profoundly that it made you just feel “something?” That “something,” that thing that pulls us, draws us in and makes us wonder, anticipate, relive, laugh, cry, gasp, pause, that “something” is authenticity. 

Authentic imagery is powerful, and because I know that, I approach every photo session with the goal of crafting beautiful images through authentic means. Authentic, in elementary form, is defined as real and genuine. And through this consideration, it might seem paradoxical that my entire aim is authenticity, because, after all, I am a child and family photographer who poses, orchestrates, and directs; I am not a lifestyle photographer. Do I shoot candids? Absolutely, but my style is certainly not photojournalistic. So then, how does one, under these self-imposed parameters (that have shaped my business), create natural, authentic imagery?


The key to creating natural, authentic images is quite simple: be authentic yourself. That seems rudimentary, right? Perhaps there was a specific tool you were hoping I suggest, or an actual phrase, game, gear, or direction I would give to guarantee that, even in a melange of subjects, you would be able to draw each out naturally, and each of their best selves would shine.

Well, in part, that’s true, because your authenticity, your approach that makes you feel so natural and fluid, will attract that likeness, and in other trending words, “your vibe will attract your tribe.” If you are interacting with your clients in a way that feels fluid and true to you, your subjects will respond effortlessly and relaxed, allowing you to capture them naturally. This applies to adults and children.


When I meet a new client for the first time, it is often at the beginning of their session. My pre-session consult takes place electronically, so the first time they are seeing me in-person many times is right as we begin our shoot. I, as the hired photographer, know it is my responsibility to make the client feel comfortable with me, even before I lift my camera. And so, we simply begin in conversation, pleasantries and again, genuine conversation and questions aligned with my authenticity (the same way I would talk to a new friend or cohort).

I begin by talking to the child, often even before talking with the parents. I get down to the child’s eye level and start by issuing genuine warmth and friendliness. Younger children can be very shy, and clinging to parents, but the initial greeting is a way to establish connectivity and ensure the child that the session will be fun and possibly exploratory. I establish mood and also a bit of expectation in regards to our location and upcoming adventure. In doing this, talking to the children first, asking the child questions about his/her day, school, activities, etc. I am opening dialogue but also building an arsenal of material I can use later during the session when I need to recharge the child (ex. “So you were telling me you play hockey earlier, what is your favorite skating rink?”)


When parents know that their child is comfortable, they will ease up considerably. The major stress of a family photo shoot (beyond attire and aesthetics) is the concern that the children will not behave. I do truly believe it is my responsibility as the photographer to control the momentum of the session and essentially the behavior of the children, and this is done through establishing very clear expectations with the children, and consequently, the parents. I tell the family my goals for the shoot, different shots I would like to capture and the terrain we will cover.

My business is largely repeat clients, those who continue to rebook annually, and I attribute this not only to the quality of the final images, but the overall experience of the session. The success of your business is dependent on the session experience your clients have with you. Cultivating an enjoyable stress-free experience for clients is paramount for referrals.

When a client tells her friend about her family session and says, “Oh, It was so much fun. We had such a beautiful night together!” That testament is worth more than anything someone can say about your actual photography ability. What mother or father doesn’t want to have a beautiful night out with his/her family? And that there was a professional there, orchestrating and documenting the evening is where you insert your true value.

Notice I said “orchestrating,” because I don’t sit back and just watch. I do have to direct. I have to guide and support to create these authentic moments I want to capture. If I want younger brother to give his sister a kiss on the cheek, I ask him to and shoot away. If he does it without suggestion, fabulous. If he does it, but all I get is the back of his head and miss the sentiment entirely, I ask him to do it again, and point specifically to the temple to show him where to kiss his sister. Again, it’s that power of guidance. Children need direction, and structuring a family session in this way allows you to capture their essence as you, the photographer, see it.


Talking with my clients at the beginning of the session is so important as opposed to immediately diving in to the shooting of images. In this way, I am able to build trust with little ones creating opportunity for genuine moments.

When I begin photographing, I often do not let the children know that is what I am doing. I ask the children if they want to go for a walk, or if they would like to help me hold something, or if they would like to “hunt” for seashells, or special rocks, leaves, etc. anything to get little ones not to think about having to perform, but rather enjoying our time. Even the most hesitant of children, even the really really shy ones, typically will want to discover/find/look/play if encouraged. And this is what I mean by directing, it’s having a plan.

Of course I want to photograph a family playing and just being themselves at the beach, but I have to help them to actually do that. Because again, I want authenticity, but this is a staging of sorts. My clients arrive beautifully dressed in corresponding attire and I sometimes bring delightful props to stimulate the story and craft interest.

But that is not real of a typical day at the beach. A typical day at the beach is a more beautiful mess than flowy dresses and precise poofing pomade in little man’s hair. And yet, I feel absolutely comfortable knowing that I am still capturing authenticity, because my search is the family’s connection, the subtleties, the tippy toe kisses from children, the stolen glances, the pure joy of a swinging walk, and the thrilling chase of a sibling run-off while mom and dad adore. Those moments are artfully crafted. I instruct, observe, support, suggest, and shoot, typically in that order.


The most beautiful thing about authenticity is the ability to let go of the pursuit of perfection. 

Authenticity is an embracement. It’s harnessing the environment and family as they are in their most perfect imperfectness. When I ask the family to go in for a tight hug near the shoreline (directing) and their toddler runs in the opposite direction, I continue to shoot….and to laugh, and to enjoy, and to truly capture what that toddler is. I might chase the toddler a bit and keep shooting, because that feels right to me, it is part of who I am and how I play with my own children.

Authenticity is often confused with uniqueness.There is nothing unique about a mother holding her baby in the air juxtaposed against a beautiful sunset. It’s been done before, it gets done all the time, I do it all the time! Because I love that pose, I love that image, as a mother, I wish I had that image of me and my babies. In that moment, with that specific child, unique or not, it is authentic to the subjects.

That is what I want to impart to you. Try to create what moves you. Those images I love to create attract like clients who want those images created for them. Do a few of the same things consistently. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it helps organize a session in a way that feels purposeful and fluid. And each family’s energy will take on the task/direction/suggestion in a way that is purposeful, meaningful and unique to them. 

Thank you so much for having me here this week. If you enjoyed my musings and want to explore more of my work, please check out For additional chats, questions and sharing, join my Facebook group “All Things Child Portraiture,” and follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

In light and love,

In addition to seeing more of Tracy’s work and following her on social media via the links above, you can also check out all six of her classes, covering newborn, toddler, and family photography, business, storytelling, and a personal interview, on KelbyOne!

Hi all! #TravelTuesday has come around again! Aren’t you lucky?! That means I, Dave Williams, get to put down something for you to pick up and, this week, it’s all about how you, as a photographer, can make sure your website and/or blog succeeds!

Having a working and effective website is crucial. One element, which I’ll focus on is SEO—that’s Search Engine Optimisation. Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer in Tennessee. If you’re going to want people to find your website by searching the term “wedding photographer Tennessee,” then let’s be honest—there’s a good chance you won’t be #1 in their results. In fact, when I searched that term just a moment ago, only half of the results on page one were actual wedding photographers. The rest were agencies, blogs, media companies, etc., who had good SEO and had posts containing those three words. As a point of note, the top four results were paid results or ads too!

In order to optimise your own SEO (rather than pay a company to do it for you), I recommend these points to consider: –

(1) Update your content regularly!

When you search on Google, those little bot things that run around and scour the internet are looking for many things relating to your search term in order to decide which order to present their results. One of those such criteria, and perhaps the most important one to differ you from other results containing the same keywords, is how relevant your site is to the person searching. A measure of relevance is how recently the site was updated because a fresh website is likely to indicate strong, relevant content. Be sure to keep updating!

(2) Publish relevant content!

Like I just mentioned, the important word here is “relevant.” Quality content is the top SEO driver and nothing substitutes that. We all know (even if we don’t practice what we preach) that having a one-track website is very important. We shouldn’t start talking about gardening in a blog post on our camera review website—it just doesn’t make sense. Fine-tuning that principle, quality and relevant content created specifically for our intended audience increases our regular traffic. Take this site you’re on right now. People visit Scott Kelby’s blog daily, or weekly, because the content all ties in together. It’s relevant to the audience. Bear in mind that you want to drive further traffic through SEO, but having that base audience already present shows the little search bot things that you do have a trusted website and, therefore, are relevant for the search results. However, also bear in mind that whilst you should be plugging keywords and phrases that you want people to be searching for in order to land on your website, you should never sacrifice the quality of your content for SEO. And, on a side note, you can use bold, italics, or other similar methods to emphasise these keywords or phrases to the viewer, as well as the search engine.

One quick example, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, is this: –

If you wrote a piece containing the best five spots to shoot in New York City, make sure your article contains the terms people may search for in order for your post to be relevant. Phrases like, “the best places to photograph in New York” and “these are my favourite spots to shoot Manhattan” are two such examples to include naturally and flowing within your post.

(3) Linkability

Okay, I may or may not have made up that word, but you totally know what it means. So, two notes on links: – Having a link, preferably reciprocated, between your site and another similar site demonstrates to the search engine that your site is relevant and that it is similar to another site, which it will now associate to yours and consider for SEO rankings. The link to another site will benefit both sites. But, here’s the other thing: – When you mask a URL behind the words “click here” or something similar, you provide no value to the link other than the link itself. If I were to link to my own website, using a phrase like “check out my awesome travel photography,” it will give meaning and value to the link within the search engine, applying terms to what is actually there through the other end of the link. Make sense? (Also, I have no shame to that slight piece of shameless self-promotion. ;)

(4) Metadata

When you make a site, either on WordPress or something similar or using HTML coding, you can implant metadata. It’s contained within the <Head> of the page and it describes the site through keyboarding and descriptions. Make sure you use this to its full effect by selecting a short list of keywords which relate to the content, because this information is searched by search engines returning your site in the results!

(5) Lists!

Finally, everyone loves a list! When you search things online, you’ll notice that there are lots of “Top 5” this and “Top 10” that, and there’s a reason these lists are so popular. So, just as I have in this post, make a list!

Good luck!

Much love


(PS: Here’s a token photo.)

10 Essential Studio Techniques Every Photographer Needs to Know 2019 Edition with Scott Kelby

Learn the essentials for shooting in the studio with Scott Kelby! In this class Scott has honed in on the ten most essential techniques every photographer needs to know before they start shooting in a studio environment. Scott goes through the basic gear you’ll need, the camera settings, and then takes you step-by-step through each technique. With a live model on set you’ll see each technique put into practice, and all the while Scott shares the tips and tricks you’ll need to get great results. This class is not about any particular brand of gear, and everything can be applied to shooting with an off-camera flash or a studio strobe.

In Case You Missed It

If you are new to DSLR photography, then this class is for you. Join Scott Kelby as he takes you through the ten most important things every photographer should know about their camera. We all want to get great images, and taking the time to get to know the ten or so most important features on our cameras can really help keep our photos sharp, clean, well exposed, and showing the right colors whether we’re shooting moving subjects or still landscapes. This class may be named the top ten, but Scott manages to pack a whole lot more into each lesson, providing a firm foundation for getting the most out of every tip and technique.

It’s one from Adobe’s big update back in November, and it’s a really simple thing, but man is it sweet! In the short video below, I’m going to show what the feature is, and how to use it to make your images look more awesome.

Hope you found that helpful. :)

I made the top 50! Whoo hoo!

A big thanks and shoutout to the folks at who included me in their list of “50 Photography Portfolio Websites From The Best Photographers In The World” – I’m honored to be included in a list of so many photogrpahers I look up to.

Here’s the link to the full list:

My top 5 favorite New Features in Lightroom’s Book Module

Since we’re doing “favorites” today, Adobe added a bunch of new features to Lightroom Classic’s book module (including one that’s a real game-changer) and if you’ve got a sec, here’s the link to check them out over at my other daily blog at

Here’s wishing you all an awesome week, and here’s to learning awesome new features! :)