An Historic Yorktown Anniversary Session | Sibert Family | Virginia Family Photographer

I had the opportunity to spend time with this wonderful family in Historic Yorktown, Virginia for their Fall Anniversary Session.  It was such a joy to be around their energetic kids who were so much fun to capture.  Crystal did a fantastic job at planning their session attire.  They looked great!  I especially loved how they just “rolled with it” during their session. 

Kids, no matter if they are really little or late elementary school aged, need to be able to act like kids. While that may sound obvious, it is important to expect what is reasonable for their particular age and maturity level.  Stephen and Crystal were so gentle, affirming, and completely incredible with their kids.  The best part about their anniversary session was how fun their kids were.  Their younger two children were so full of silly giggles!  The oldest son had the “preteen vibes” going on, which made my heart smile because it reminded me of my own kids.  I am one of those people who loves teenagers, and even used to teach middle school English…and I survived.  😉  Through being silly and a little help from a stuffed Spiderman (and two really awesome parents), we were able to capture lots of silly giggles and even a few snuggles.

We started out next to On the Hill Gallery, then headed down Main Street to the historic Nelson House.  We spent time there while the golden light was gleaming through the trees, spilling over into the garden next to the house.  The Nelson House is beautiful and is a significant part of Yorktown history.  (source )

This early Georgian architectural structure was originally the home of William Nelson, a prosperous merchant, who built it in 1730.   William Nelson’s son, Thomas Nelson, Jr. inherited the home from his father.  Thomas Nelson was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  In addition to this honor, he served in the Continental Congress, the state legislature, and as the governor of Virginia for a brief period of time in 1781.  He served as a brigadier general and commanded the Virginia militia at the Siege of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. 

After he passed away, his wife continued to live there for the following 30 years.  During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for the Confederate Army, and then eventually for the Union Army as well.  You can find images captured of the Nelson House in the 1860s from the Civil War in various books and on historical websites such as this one

I always consider it an honor to capture families and couples in Historic Yorktown, an area rich with our nation’s history. 

Holiday Party Planning | Virginia Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove fill the air as you begin lighting your favorite autumn candles, diffuse fall themed essential oils and bake treats for family and friends.  You take out all of your favorite fall décor and carefully place each piece in its rightful place for the season.  No matter what color your décor usually boasts, it is now accompanied by a harvest of gourds, pumpkins, cinnamon brooms and hay stalks.  We prepare our homes for special seasons so that we can experience the holiday vibe, and to make our homes a place to welcome people we love. 

Whether you are an experienced party host or not, it is important to know how to plan and host a great party.  Even if you’re currently thinking “I will NEVER host a party or large gathering at my house,” these tips from Katie Blackman, a professional wedding and event planner, will still be helpful.  You never know when it will be “your turn” in the future! 

Let’s get right to it!  First, know who you are going to invite and plan on “plus one” for each guest.  Decide how you will invite your guests:  will you send a formal invitation or a digital one via Facebook?  Your invitation should require some type of RSVP, such as a text message or verbal response, depending on how formal the occasion.  It is better to know and plan accordingly than be surprised by too many or not enough guests.

Next, it may seem boring, but clean!  Katie suggests getting your home “HGTV ready” for guests.  Make sure you stock up on cute candles and make sure that your bathroom has plenty of toilet paper.  Get a helpful house cleaning checklist from Molly Maid here

Think about the décor.  If you don’t want to break the budget, look for seasonal clearance from stores such as Home Goods or Target.  Have fun with it!   Depending on the season you are shopping for, find items such as flowers for Spring and pumpkins for Fall that aren’t too “themey”  As you decorate, play music to inspire you! 

Now, it’s time to plan for the food your guests will enjoy!  If you plan to have your event catered, order enough in advance so that your preferred caterer will be available.  During the holiday season, caterers often book pretty quickly.  If you want to save time and money, go the potluck direction.  Have everyone bring a dish and a bottle of their favorite beverage to share.  You provide the main course or dessert.  Many people enjoy sharing favorite dishes.  Be sure to communicate on the invitation what you would like people to bring (or in a group chat if it’s a smaller gathering with friends).  Make sure that you have dedicated space to place the food along with plenty of plates and silverware for everyone.

Last, plan to have fun!  If you prepare in advance you will have less to worry about during your party.  It helps to have someone else to help out before and during the event to make sure everyone is taken care of throughout the evening.  Usually, as long as there is food, wine, and music, people will usually have a good time.  However, it is also a good idea to plan for (and communicate ahead of time) some type of entertainment such as a gift exchange or a game. 

Happy party planning!

Branding Head Shots | Virginia Portrait Photographer

M & M Flowers Virginia

In a day where visual imagery makes up 93% of all human communication [Hubspot.com] combined with a growing number of small businesses with an online presence, it is essential to have images of your face along with images that describe your mission statement and process.   They should also illustrate the values that represent your business.  This is important because your online presence- your website and social media – is the prologue to your client’s experience.  Overall, consumers want to see who they are working with.  Are they friendly?  Are they good at their craft?  Will I have a good experience? 

I Do Weddings With Love

Branding headshots convey your professionalism and your brand by giving a potential client an idea of your demeanor and personality.  A smile, for example, communicates warmth and approachability.   Since potential clients want to see and know who they will choose to work with, your images help to develop trust in you and your brand.  Connectivity is a natural human desire and can be supported through the use of imagery before you meet face to face. 

Magical Vacation Planner

How do you get the most of your branding headshots?  We have a four tips to get you started. 

1.  Choose 3 words that describe how you want potential clients to feel when they connect with your business online.  These words should be connected to your mission statement.  Work with your photographer to find ways to illustrate these words in your imagery. 

2. Choose professional and casual outfits that reinforce your message.  Think of your imagery as a “job interview” and dress for the clients that you are wanting to hire you.  

3.  Have your hair and make-up professionally done.  This is important because YOU are essentially your storefront.  While it’s fine to be transparent on social media and show up without makeup in “real life”, the images that officially represent your brand should represent your brand as “the job interview” version of you.

4.  Light or dark?  Consider and choose backgrounds that “match” your brand.  If you want your online images to be overall light, for example, then work with your photographer to find a background that is overall light in color. 

Anniversary Session Tips | Outfits and Kids | Virginia Portrait Photographer

Have you ever had one of those moments when you were preparing for your family’s anniversary session? You had the perfect outfits chosen for your entire family, including yourself and your spouse, of course.  After all, you did your research.  You pored over Pinterest and chose the perfect color palette for your family.  They were the perfect clothing pieces for your family to wear and you styled them to the smallest detail.  And, you just KNEW that everyone would be happy about their outfits, right?  If your life is anything like mine, you know that what you dream of your kids looking like for an anniversary session and the reality of their opinions of those adorable outfits can be polar opposites.  But you are the mom or dad, so you *MAKE* them wear those perfect outfits.   What do they do?  Thank you for how amazing they look?  Nope.  They cry. Scream. Pout. Scream and cry some more.  Now, you have a headache.  You are stressed, because you have to be at your session in 30 minutes.  Everyone is freaking out.  You finally get there and you are pretty much on time, but your kids just aren’t as cooperative as usual.  They are grumpy. Their faces are still a little red.  They are not smiling and won’t respond to others who speak to them because they are still mad.  The extra irritability in them is making it difficult to enjoy the session, and you keep bugging them to smile, or ELSE.  You and your spouse are working hard to keep your “church faces” on.  After the emotional escalation resulting from the power struggle with your kids, no one is feeling like being photographed.  In fact, it is going to take a while for them to calm down and find their laughter and smiles.  If this has ever happened with your kids, you are not alone.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

Before going full time with my photography business, I was a public school teacher.  I taught Kindergarten mostly, but also served for a while as a middle school English teacher and briefly taught high school Spanish and ESL.  I have worked with a wide range of kids, from well behaved to students with behavior disorders and other challenges.  They all have something in common.  They all want some type of “control” with the ability to make their own choices.  As adults, we know that kids, with their lack of experience and maturity are not always good decision makers.  Their unique “fashion sense” might be influenced by this fact. 

What works?  I have found that when you give kids a choice, it reduces the likelihood of a power struggle.  The key, though, is to provide a limited range of choices that will work for your color palette and style.  Be flexible.  Start with your color palette.  Choose 2-3 outfit options that include not only colors from the palette, but also items they enjoy wearing such as a favorite shirt, shoes, dress, necklace, etc.  “What if my child begs to wear something like a super hero shirt or a Halloween costume and it doesn’t fit the style we are going for?”  Turn it into a reward.  For example, you could suggest that your child can wear it for the last couple of pictures during the session.  “If you choose one of these options over here, then we will bring your _______ so that you can wear it in a few of the photos.”  Using it as a reward will encourage your child to earn the privilege as opposed to telling them no in this situation, especially if you feel that it will trigger an emotional power struggle.  If you communicate with me that your child is bringing their super hero shirt, I can also remind them that they will get to wear their special shirt in “just a little while”.

What colors and clothing choices are best?  The image below of colors that work well together is a great place to start.  Consider using items that you already have to create your style for your anniversary session.  Perfection isn’t required!  Everyone should feel comfortable in their outfits and they should feel that they look great!  The old adage “if you look good, you will feel good” is true here.  Make sure that everyone has comfortable shoes (or comfortable shoes to wear as we walk to various locations) and well fitted clothes.  Limit patterns in clothing so that the patterns will enhance your image instead of distract from the real subject of the images: your family.    

An Intimate Backyard Wedding | Zuni, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

An intimate backyard wedding was the perfect way to finish out my summer wedding season, complete with sweet tea and lemonade, sunshine, blue hydrangeas and red roses, and a front porch ceremony. Debbie and Matt wanted a small and simple wedding. Having their wedding at Debbie’s parents’ home in Zuni, Virginia was the perfect venue for them.

Close friends and family came to their small wedding. Debbie’s brother, a United States Coast Guardsman, officiated their beautiful ceremony in front of her parents’ 1940’s era white farm house, as their bridesmaids and groomsmen stood with them. Their endearing ceremony reflected love and commitment, laughter and joy, and persevering through obstacles together. Debbie and Matt hold these values close to their hearts.

After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a backyard barbecue catered meal with all of the fixin’s. As guests finished eating, several close friends and family members gave speeches, sharing their love for Debbie and Matt. One of the sweetest moments was when Debbie’s teenage daughter stood up and shared about her mom’s happiness and her support for the new marriage. After speeches and toasts, the dancing began, with D.J. Bob filling the air with the best dancing tunes, including “The Git Up” by Blanco Brown. It was such a treat to capture this joy-filled celebration!

Vendors:

Photographer: Belle Eve Photography

Florist: The Main Event by Emily

Cake: The Cake House

DJ: D.J. Bob

Dress: Torrid

Rentals: S & B Tent Rentals

Venue Tour | Mariners’ Museum | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Seated in the heart of Mariners’ Park in Newport News, Virginia sits a beautiful gem- The Mariners’ Museum.  Founded in 1930, The Mariners’ Museum is an incredible local landmark filled with maritime history.  You can read more about the history of the museum here.  The wedding and event aspect of the museum is equally impressive.  As Jennifer Kohms, Rental Sales Coordinator, led me on the tour, I was immediately impressed not only by her knowledge of maritime history but also her passion for both the museum and for helping couples use the facility for their wedding venue.

Options.  So many options!  That is what went through my mind as Jennifer explained the three packages available and what they include as we walked through the museum, inside and outside.  In addition to the three packages offered (The Port Package, The Starboard Package, and The Anchor Package) you may also choose event enhancements to create your very own unique wedding experience.  For example, you can add on the option of having your ceremony at the historic Lions Bridge and / or keeping the Monitor Center or Main Galleries open for your guests, depending on the package you choose. 

A few of my favorite features that were unique were the outdoor spaces in the Courtyard, the Front Lawn, the Main Lobby, as well as the many spaces for bridal portraits.

A Gold and White Warwick Yacht & Country Club Wedding | Newport News, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Sheer joy is when two people who love one another unite their lives together. Felisha and Gary’s wedding at Warwick Yacht & Country Club in Newport News, Virginia was definitely a memorable one. I looked forward to their wedding day all summer long! The emphasis on love and family made their day so special. “It’s all about family.”

Family

That sentiment was evident throughout the day, from the time before the ceremony until the end of the reception. Their wedding was most definitely a family affair! Felisha and her sisters created the beautiful bouquets, the boutonnieres, and also designed the lovely reception tablescapes. In addition to the flowers, Felisha also made the invitations and the favors for their guests.

The Beginning

Felisha and Gary’s story began three years ago when Felisha went on a cruise to Mexico. At the time, she wasn’t looking for love. She met Gary on the cruise and over time their friendship and love flourished. They maintained a long distance relationship- Gary lived in New York and Felisha lived in Newport News. They would travel as often as they could to spend time together. As their love grew it became increasingly difficult to remain apart. After praying about it, they began making plans to get married. As a couple they both value loyalty, integrity and communication. They encourage and pray for each other, talk about everything, and listen to each other.

Ceremony

Their gold and white ceremony overlooked the beautiful marina and Deep Creek. Verses for I Corinthians 13 were written in white script on wood and lined the aisle as guests entered and were seated. Although it was very hot outside, that detail faded as the Maid of Honor, Best Man, the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer, and then finally, Felisha. The bride was escorted by her two sons to the main aisle. Her sons then handed her off to her father, who escorted her down the aisle to meet her groom. The ministers spoke of selfless love and commitment as Gary and Felisha beamed. Seeing them recite their vows and exchange rings with big smiles filled my heart with happiness.

Vendors

Venue: Warwick Yacht & Country Club

Photographer: Joy Mills Belle Eve Photography

Event Rentals: Hampton Roads Event Rentals

DJ: DJ Nene

Cake: Designs by Erinn

Catering: Warwick Yacht & Country Club

Grooms Attire: Macy’s

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