Hermann Family Portrait Session (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Let me just say that as a family photographer, word of mouth referrals are the best! I had the pleasure of photographing Emily’s friend’s family last year (you can see those pictures here). When I was scheduling another shoot with the Brenner Family, Emily contacted me to schedule a time for her family shoot as well.  No better time for a family photo shoot than right before Delainey’s 2nd birthday and Lucas’ 5th birthday.  Delainey and Lucas were so cute with their birthday balloons.  And that face Delainey makes when she realizes that once that balloon floats up, it’s not coming back - priceless!

It was such a fun photo shoot - you guys rocked! Thanks for laughing at me acting like a ridiculous froggie! And a special thanks for the reminder why I always keep a few snacks in my camera bag (you never know when some teddy grahams will get rid of some tears).

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Martell Family Portrait Session (Glen Arm, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Not only did the Martell family used to live in my neighborhood, but Rick is an attorney that I’ve had the pleasure of working with on a case when he worked at a defense firm in Baltimore.  When Rick was searching for a photographer and came across my name it seemed like the perfect fit.  It’s reasons like this that we Baltimoreans call it Smalltimore.

Rick and Hillary moved out of a row house to a gorgeous single family home on 8 acres of land!  What a drastic change.  You’d never guess that they haven’t lived in the country their entire lives.  Henry, Vera and Eliza were so proud to show me around their piece of property.  Vera is 5 and the first thing she did was give me a tour of their land.  She showed me their meadow, pond, barn and told me all about their chickens. Henry is 6 and was the perfect role model for his sisters on how to smile for the camera.  Eliza is only 3 and was a bit skeptical of me.  It was so cute watching little Eliza keep looking at her siblings on how to react to me taking pictures.  She had no interest in posing for me without them.  That’s ok, because I got some great ones of Eliza anyway.  Sneaking in pictures when little kids least expect it is the best part about being a family photographer!

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Chris & Kelsey's Wedding (Spring Hill Manor - Rising Sun, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Dried etsy flowers that pop with color, flash tats, brooch bouquet, a rustic barn, fall colors with pumpkins galore, a taco bar…. need I say more?  What’s not to love about this rustic wedding?  The weather was gorgeous for this outdoor ceremony at Spring Hill Manor in Rising Sun, Maryland.  Believe it or not, this was the first and only venue that the couple even looked at.  Not surprising, they were won over by the beautiful landscape and rustic charm (as well as the down to earth and fun owner, Jamie, who personally ensures that each and every wedding run smoothly).

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One of the greatest joys of being a wedding photographer is capturing the raw emotions. Chris swore he wasn’t going to cry, but he did… and I have pictures to prove it!  Not only did Kelsey and Chris shed tears of joy, but they also kept each other laughing all day. It was incredible to be around a couple with such joyfully contagious personalities!

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Kelsey nailed the bohemian bride look and definitely looked just like Jenny from Forrest Gump with her gorgeous flower crown and flowy gown.  And music lovers rejoice at all of the music themed decor and All You Need is Love theme!  

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I’m seriously obsessed with the bridesmaids dresses.  I love the style and length but also the pop of color with the long gold necklaces, flash tats and dried etsy flowers are stunning!

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Shout out to all of the people who helped make Chris and Kelsey’s wedding day unforgettable:

Venue: Spring Hill Manor (Jamie is amazing)
Florist: Etsy
Bridal party dress: Lulus
Bride dress: Amanda Ritchey
Caterer: Your Personal Chef 
Cake: Flavor Cupcakery
DJ:  DJ Boomer 
Second Shooter: Wendy Miller who got amazing shots, some of which I'll share below:

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Curry Family Portrait Session (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Fall is the busiest season for many photographers.  There are so many fall weddings and every family wants to get pictures done in time for the Holidays.  The Curry family was the perfect family to kick-off my busy season.  With their Pinterest perfect outfits to the adorable smiles, I loved every second of this shoot!  

Nikita did an amazing job coordinating everyone’s chic outfits.  Jaden is only 7 months old and he was hamming it up for the camera.  Clearly, he takes after his 6 year old sister, Nyla.  She was better than some professional models I’ve worked with - striking a different pose after every click of the shutter.

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Atmosphere Aerosol Portrait Session (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Recently, several photographer friends and I launched a new website called Photographers' Cooperative. Our vision is for an intelligent, open and accepting place to share all sorts of things related to photography. We aim to provide the photography world with passionate content that stays true to our love for the art, science and creativity of photography. Be sure to stop by and check out some of our articles.

Shortly after launching our new site, Atmosphere Aerosol sent each of the Co-Op writers a couple of bottles of their product to try out.  Immediately, I began envisioning what I wanted for this shoot.  I had the dress in mind and the model (my daughter, of course).  I was thinking in the woods with the sun shining through the trees onto the model.  I didn’t get the shots that I envisioned.  Instead, I was absolutely amazed to come away with pictures better than I ever could have imagined!  Perhaps it was pure luck that the day of the shoot had the most epic lighting ever!  You don’t need to take my word for it but as you can see from the pictures I got, Atmosphere Aerosol is truly an exceptional product that helped me capture the light perfectly.

For more technical details on how I got this photo, check out my Co-Op article here.

Here are some of my favorite photos from this shoot.

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A special shout out and thank you to the wonderfully talented makeup artist, Lina Montgomery.  Lina and I have worked together on several occasions now and I’m always thoroughly impressed.  She does beautiful work and never ceases to amaze me. Additionally, Lina also brought along her niece as the second model for the shoot.  

Miller Family Portrait Session (Joppa, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

When my photographer friend, Wendy Miller, asked me to do her family photos this summer, I jumped at the chance.  Wendy lives in a gorgeous house in Joppa, Maryland with a huge yard that backs right up to the Gunpowder River.  The trees were lush and popping with color, which acted as the perfect backdrop.  

This was the largest family I’ve ever photographed.  I couldn’t believe how well behaved the kids were and that I got a couple of shots with everyone looking AND smiling -- that’s right, all 11 of them!

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Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of doing Brooke’s headshots.  We had a fun shoot and you can see the photos from that session here.

Naralakattu Family Portrait Session (Ellicott City, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

There’s no better way to celebrate your baby’s first birthday than with family pictures.  A couple weeks before Jaiden’s first birthday, I met the Naralakattu family at their gorgeous home in Ellicott City, Maryland.  Jaiden was a bit camera shy at first.  However, with a quick voice prompt to Google Home, Lion King’s Circle of Life song echoed throughout the house making Jaiden light up with a huge smile as he danced!  

The windows in their house were amazing!  Jaiden enjoyed a little story time with mom and dad on a gorgeous bench that was recently built in their kitchen, which shows off some of their beautiful windows.  My favorite pictures were definitely when Jaiden took a little snack break and I squeezed in some photos of just Roshni and Sundaram, relaxing on their gorgeous window bench.  

I had the pleasure of photographing Jaiden’s cousins last fall, you can see those pictures here. I think it’s safe to say that those big gorgeous eyes and photogenic genes run in their family!

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Portrait Session with Brant (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

It was such a pleasure photographing Brant to document his recent milestone of turning 2. You might remember this adorable smile from his family photo session I did last fall.  If you missed that one, you can check it out here.  

Last fall Brant was quiet, cute and very cooperative with the camera. It was easy because Brant would light up smiling at his big sister.  This time, it was just Brant and his dad.  We met at a local park and it turned out to be a gorgeous morning.  Brant has grown so much in the last few months since I last saw him.  He was just as cooperative and he was quick to smile for my camera.  However, this time around Brant was no longer the quiet little boy he once was.  He was very chatty and it was adorable!  Brant was so inquisitive and I had a blast chasing him around watching him enjoy the outdoors. Cylburn is a goldmine for little kids -- they always have so much fun collecting sticks, finding monkey balls and smelling the array of flowers.

My favorite part about photographing Brant was when I would ask him to smile big for the camera. He would take a huge breath, throw his arms up and his head back, then hold his breath -- it was like he was turning into the Hulk or something!  

I can’t wait until next time!

Headshots with Model Tremayne (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

I had a fun photoshoot with this model/actor, Tremayne aka TeaCope. Not only was Tremayne easy to work with but his outgoing personality made the session really fun.  We got some killer headshots.  I can't take much credit since Tea made my job easy... I mean, come on, it’s just not fair to look that good in a suit!

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Headshots with Model/Dancer Brooke Miller (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Brooke is model/dancer in LA.  She works at Disney and has been several different Disney Princesses.... can you guess which ones?

Brooke’s mom and I are good friends and her mom just so happens to also be a photographer.  When you have a gorgeous daughter like this, what better way to spend an evening than having your daughter be the model while shooting with fellow photographers?  I loved the headshots that I got of Brooke - but even better, we just had a lot of fun being silly during this shoot!  A shout out to Brooke’s talented mom/photographer, Wendy Miller, and the talented makeup artist, Lina, who helped bring this shoot to life.

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It was my pleasure to also have the opportunity to photograph Brooke’s entire family! You can see photos from that session here.

Headshots with Model Tia Beverly (Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

What better way to keep my photography skills sharp during the slow winter season than booking studio headshots?  I had a super fun headshot session with model/actress, Tia.  Makeup artist Lina kept the look clean and simple so that Tia’s natural beauty could really shine.  And shine she did -- I’m seriously obsessed with Tia’s curly hair and the way her face lights up when she smiles!

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Portrait Session with Model, Ashna (Graffiti Alley - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Ashna and I have been trying to schedule a portrait session for months now but our schedules were just too busy.  Finally, we both had a free weekend and the the weather was unseasonably warm.  It had been gray and dreary in Baltimore for about a week.  I was starting to feel a bit depressed having forgotten what the sun felt like!  Luckily, this photo shoot with Ashna brightened my January.  Not only is Ashna a gorgeous actress and model but we did our photo session at Graffiti Alley in Baltimore, which added a wonderful pop of color to the pictures.  Thank you Ashna for being amazing and making my job easy!   Check out some of these awesome picture from our shoot.

Craig Family Portrait Session (Cylburn Arboretum - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Sansanee and Ethan are the best kind of parents.  Sweet and loving with the perfect amount of fun while having an amazing sense of humor.  We all need a good sense of humor to survive life and parenthood!  We met one cold afternoon at the lovely Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Eli had a blast playing with his mom and dad as I snapped away capturing some candid moments.  The good news is that Eli was laughing and having a great time.  The bad news, however, no matter how great of a parent you are, accidents happen.  Poor Eli suffered from his very first bloody nose!  The good news, I captured the entire thing and gave Sansanee and Ethan pretty funny action shots and a hell of a story to share.  Luckily, Sansanee is a pediatrician and knew exactly how to help Eli quickly bounce back from the mishap.  Sorry guys, I’m not going to share the mishap photos in this blog post -- I’ll leave that story for Eli’s mom and dad to tell.  However, I’m very pleased to share some of these gorgeous pictures!  

A Photographer's Guide to a Quick & Easy Setup for Amazing School Portraits by Erika Sneeringer

A couple times a year I’m honored with the job of photographing spring and fall portraits for a couple of local preschools in the Baltimore and Towson areas.  I'm going to share my process with you on how you too can achieve these amazing results with limited gear and an easy portable set up. 

I love my job!  Seriously, what’s not to love when you get to photograph these adorable little smiling faces?  

Price it Right

My favorite part about doing this, is that I mark my prices down from what the big companies charge, making it much more affordable to the families.  Not only do I offer better prices, but I also provide a sibling discount of buy one package and get one half off!  I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but as as a parent, I’ve been through the process of paying too much money for school pictures.  I’m proud to be offering more reasonable prices while providing professional quality images.  

These little kids are so stinking adorable that I just love the entire process.  Packaging the prints and delivering to the daycare is the best part, especially when the teachers get to "ooo" and "ahhh" at all the cute faces!  

Behind the Scenes Setup

Now, I’m going to show you some behind the scenes shots of how I setup my lighting and backdrop for the portraits.

There are many different options for backdrops.  For school portraits, I personally use a blue and white multicolored mulsin backdrop.  It is impossible to iron out all of the wrinkles. Most certainly impossible for me since I honestly don’t know where my iron is and don’t even own an ironing board.  I don’t even bother.  The backdrop stays balled up in a corner in my at-home studio (aka a small corner in my basement).  Here’s why…. with the right lighting and setup, you don’t need to do anything to get the wrinkles out of the background.

Setup option 1 (no fill light)

Setup option 1 (no fill light)

lighting the backdrop

lighting the backdrop

setup option 2 (with fill light)

setup option 2 (with fill light)

This is a behind the scene of my go-to set up.  The backdrop is clipped to a backdrop stand and lit with one speedlight.  Now you may be wondering why my backdrop is a wrinkled mess.  With this set up, the subjects are going to be positioned far enough away from the background that with a wide aperture the background becomes nice and blurry.  I like to use the 85 f1.8 lens, which compresses the image and really helps the subject pop off that background.  The idea of ironing wrinkles out of a backdrop, really - who has time for that?  Certainly not me!

The diagram to the right shows another setup that I use.  It is virtually the same setup, however, this one adds a fill light camera left with a reflective umbrella.

As you can see in both of the setup options, the subjects are lit with an off camera flash with a shoot through umbrella.  Setup option 2, I add a fill flash camera left with a reflective umbrella. I position the light on a stand fairly low to the ground to be on the children's level and then the reflective umbrella pointing slighting upward.  That way, the fill flash fills in the shadows under the eyes.  If you don't have a 3rd flash, you could always use the white side of your reflector or even a white poster board. That will use bounce flash for fill light and work just as well.

The above picture was taken with the same setup as the behind the scene example, however, I added an additional light (camera left) as the fill light.  

Take a look at the two images above and compare the shadows on the face.  The left picture had no fill light and the shadows are darker on the left side of the face.  Whereas, the picture on the right that used a fill light has no shadows on the face.  For a setup including a fill light:  the fill light was off camera with a reflective umbrella. The fill light was low to the ground and pointed upward, to fill the shadows of the preschooler’s face.  The fill light was on lowest power setting so that it was just enough to kiss away some of the shadows without overpowering the main light source.

Camera & Flash Settings

My go to camera settings for this is shutter speed 1/200, ISO 400 and f/4.  Since I like to use speedlights, I prefer to bump my ISO when possible for a faster recycle time with my flashes.  I like to use between f/2.8-f/4 to make sure the entire face is in focus but still a wide enough aperture that the background is blurred out.  Typically, with this setting without flash everything is going to be dark, which is perfect because I want to cancel out all of the ambient light and have full control of light with my flashes.  

The background speedlight is usually around 1/32 power.  The fill flash is at its lowers power setting, 1/128 and the main light source is usually 1/16 or 1/8.  Of course, these are starting points and you will need to adjust to fit your scene as necessary. 

Working with Young Children

Now that you have the technical stuff nailed, let’s talk about posing and getting the children to cooperate. Keep teachers in the room to help you so that you never have to touch the children (for some reason touching the children in anyway is an unspoken rule -- just a big no no). Preschool age children have a hard time following instructions on posing so keep it simple.  Hands at their side, hands in pockets, cross arms, hold cheeks.  Keep it simple and if it doesn't work that’s ok, try something different.  I think as long as you get them looking at the camera and smiling then the parents will be thrilled!

Some tricks that I use to get a nice reaction out of little ones is to be crazy silly and have fun! I like to grab a puppet or toy that I find at the preschool and tell the kids that the puppet is my helper.  With some kids, I tell them that their smile is magical and when they smile it makes the flashes go off!  Most important thing to remember is to be patient.  Don’t let any kid leave until your camera captures a smile.  Now that doesn’t mean hold them hostage.  For example, my last preschool session there was one little boy was so scared and teary eyed that anything I did made him upset.  I put my camera down, squatted to his level and just talked to him.  I had the little boy take a break and told the teachers to bring him back at the end of the shoot to try again.  Sure enough, trying again later I got an adorable smile from him that his parents loved.  

Breakdown of Gear & Supplies

Now for those gear nuts that want to know exactly what brand of everything that I used, here is the breakdown.  I like to keep things really simple, portable, easy and affordable!

Canon 7d mark ii
Canon 85mm f/1.8

2-3 YN560 III Speedlights
Flash trigger
Shoot through Umbrella
Silver Reflective Umbrella
2 Lightstands
Backdrop stand
Backdrop
Lightroom (for editing)

PASS (for digital photo delivery)

Supplies:
Picture Day Reminder Stickers
Pixma Pro 100
Canon Photo Paper
Bags & Boards
Batteries (for speedlights)

 

Shanklin Family Portrait Session (Cylburn Arboretum - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

We had such gorgeous weather for this family portrait session at Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, Maryland.  We really lucked out because the very next day the temperatures dropped and we had crazy wind, stripping the trees of all of their colorful foliage.  I grabbed a few of just Courtney and Paul in front of this gorgeous ivy colored wall and I’m loving how they pop off of the vibrant yellow ivy!  

Courtney’s dad, Tom, also tagged along to get some pictures of him and his grandson.  Tom was a hoot and came up with some pretty fun ideas… most of them involving climbing in trees and you can tell from the pictures that Reed was having fun with his grandfather.

Sometimes, the best part about being a photographer is getting to do photo sessions with young children.  You get to act crazy and just have fun.  Playing games like hide n’ seek was my favorite part of this photo shoot.  Especially when Reed would hide in clear sight but found it hilarious when his mom and dad found him -- I can still hear his giggles!  Don’t the boys look so handsome in their sweaters?

Naralakatuu Family Portrait Session (Cylburn Arboretum - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

I spoke to Vilas a couple of times about the possibility of scheduling their family portraits.  Vilas told me that his wife, Naja, was on the fence about booking an outdoor session with little ones and was leaning towards booking a session at Sears.  I died a little bit inside at the thought of getting portraits done at Sears.  Luckily, they took the plunge and hired me as their family photographer!

Their timing could not have been more perfect.  It was a warm and gorgeous fall day, perfect for outdoor portraits.  We met at Cylburn Arboretum in Baltimore, Maryland and this was the perfect family to wrap up the last of my fall mini sessions.  

Naja did an amazing job coordinating the colors -- the vivid blue just pops in every picture, I love it.  Ajay was so adorable with his little sister.  It was really funny when he was sitting behind Ariya, holding her up and smiling for pictures.  As soon as I lowered the camera, he jumped up and ran off, leaving Ariya rolling around wondering what happened!  Such a funny moment.  Ariya is a show stopper, just like her mom!  I am amazed at how gorgeous she is and only at 6 months old.  Can you believe she is 6 months old with that head of amazing hair?  Gorgeous hair and those eyes….. anyone can get lost in those captivating eyes.  And boy does this little girl make you work hard to crack a smile!  Check out some of my favorite pictures from this family session.   

 

 

 

Gordon Family Portrait Session (Patterson Park - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Jake, 3 years old, was not exactly excited about the idea of posing for family pictures.  Lucky for him, I have a few tricks up my sleeve and we made taking pictures a fun game.  Jake thought he was so sneaky, sneaking up on mom and dad ninja style surprising them with huge bursts of laughter.  

At one point, we realized that Jake left his coloring book somewhere else in the park.  When Matt ran to find it, Jake tagged along to keep dad company.  It was the cutest watching them together and Jake giving his dad kisses (without prompting).  Capturing those candid family moments are the best!

Can you believe Jenny had a baby 3 months ago?  She looks fabulous!  I loved watching Wes just light up when he was laughing at his big brother. Thank you Jake for keeping me on my toes and reminding me why I love being a photographer!

Bryant Family Photo Session (Stoneleigh - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

The Bryant family is awesome.  My 5 year old son goes to school with and is best friends with their 5 year old son, Keller.  Keller’s mom, Margo, asked me to do their family portraits and invited my son over to play as well.  We did the pictures at their new house in the lovely Stoneleigh neighborhood in the Baltimore/Towson area.  Their house is gorgeous…. really, even my 5 year old son talked about how amazing the house was all night long!

About an hour before our scheduled photo session, a storm started to roll in.  What had been a gorgeous sunny day, was quickly turning into a gloomy, chilly and very windy evening.  I arrived a bit early to capture some shots of everyone outside before the freezing rain rolled in.  Then we headed indoors for a few more before we let the boys run off and play.

It was so much fun turning a photo shoot into a play date and getting to know Margo and Jeremy a bit more.  I think Keller’s brother, Holden, was a little sad and felt left out because he loves being the one playing with Keller, how cute!  

Heflin Family Portrait Session (Patterson Park - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

Holly contacted me to book family portraits after she saw the pictures I did for her friend, Rosa (you can view those pictures here).  The Heflins drove all the way from Laurel, Maryland for these fall pictures at Patterson Park, in Baltimore, Maryland.... and I'm so glad they did!  

This family was great and we had a blast together.  It’s always fun photographing families just being crazy silly together!  Trying not to play favorites here, but I have to admit that photographing Ellie was the best!!  Ellie is 5 years old and a complete joy to be around. She is the kind of person that lights up a room with her smile and gorgeous big eyes.  Plus that perfectly fluffed bow -- she stole the show away. I could photograph this girl all day!  On top of being amazingly photogenic, she was a great big sister to her little brother Jack.  Clearly the apple doesn't fall far because Holly and Ellie are two gorgeous ladies!   

Check out some of my favorite pictures from this photo shoot.

Cataldo Family Portrait Session (Patterson Park - Baltimore, Maryland) by Erika Sneeringer

I was very honored when Naomi with Urban Row Photography contacted me to capture her family portraits this fall.  She is also a Baltimore area photographer.  I have been following her work for awhile and her photos are stunning-- seriously, go check out her gorgeous pictures.  I was a bit intimidated at the idea of shooting another photographer’s family.  However, once I met Naomi, I was instantly at ease.  She is down to earth, fun and energetic. I just loved watching her play with her kids in the leaves - her laughter is contagious!  

I love photo sessions that include the family dog.  The Cataldo family brought their dog, a cute boxer named Reece.  Reece tried to make a break for it right at the beginning of our photo shoot, chasing after a dog who was off their leash - knocking over the kids and literally dragging Anthony until he realized what was happening.  One of those moments when respectful dog owners who appreciate leash laws get really angry…. and rightfully so!  I definitely wanted to go punch the other guy for having his dog off a leash at a public park.  However, Anthony handled it with grace and after brushing off a few knees, we got right back to shooting.

You can tell that Naomi is a photographer and put a lot of thought into coordinating perfect outfits for everyone.  I love Gabby’s stunning blue shoes and Sawyer’s adorable sweater.  With all of the pops of colors in their outfits, together with the fall leaves, I even created a new Preset in Lightroom that I call “Naomi Bold”.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from this fall mini session at Patterson Park in Baltimore, Maryland.