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DEIRDRE+JASON | when the wildflower mountaintop gives you decision paralysis


DEIRDRE+JASON | when the wildflower mountaintop gives you decision paralysis


I have decision paralysis. Like an eight-year-old in a giant candy shop told to "okay, you can pick TWO today" I feel completely overwhelmed when a gorgeous photo location is plopped in front of me. I end up spinning around on my heels looking at every gorgeous nook and cranny of this place without an OUNCE of direction in my heart or brain to decide where to pose my client. THERE'S JUST TOO MANY OPTIONS!!!

So, imagine my internal thinking when given the chance to shoot (1) on a mountaintop (2) at sunset (3) where there are miles and miles of white aspen groves (4) with the prettiest Southern girl and her dapper husband (5) who are also photographers themselves so they are like WAY photogenic and need very little direction or posing so basically a dream scenario (6) and it's freaking WILDFLOWER SEASON!!? 

Luckily, this wasn't my first rodeo with photo shoot location decision paralysis caused by a situation SO good that my brain goes mushy. Over the years I've been in this boat and I'm finally figuring out how to conquer such a potentially fatal paralysis. Read on!

1. When possible, scope out a location on your own in advance! 

I think I have photo location FOMO. Like WHAT IF there was a freaking gorgeous overlook with a waterfall and a unicorn JUST around the corner but I didn't know because I didn't check?!? If the shoot is planned for somewhere I've never been, I'll take myself on a drive over there and blast some Tay music and/or drag my husband along so he can inevitably get super bored and beg to go home. If that's not practical, ideally I'll arrive the day of with a hefty chunk of time before my client so that I can explore. Honestly guys, I've arrived at locations OVER AN HOUR early! And I've never regretted it.

2. Can't scope it out in advance? Head out with your clients and walk walk WALK through your location before picking up the camera. 

This shoot with Deirdre and Jason was kinda like that - they had been before and knew the best spots (praise them!) because they are also photographers but I made sure that we walked to the furthest point first so I could see it all and take it in. About 15 minutes down the path, I had seen plenty of great options so we stopped walking and started shooting. From there we worked our way backwards so that we finished the shoot right back at the car. I literally have reoccurring nightmares about the sun setting before I'm done (or even started??) taking pictures, sooooo anything to comfort me concerning time, distance, and location options is a must.

PS - That tip a win win! If you've never met your clients face-to-face before, walking around before picking up the camera is a great time to get to know each other and relax before pictures start!! I purposefully plan that EVERY session starts with at least a few minutes of walking before we're at our first spot.

3. Have a "thing" for each spot.

Early on as a photographer, I'd take my clients to each spot at a given location and.... it would go like this.
*By a blooming hydrangea bush* "Look at me and smile.. okay, now look at each other."
*Under the weeping willow tree* "Look at me and smile.. okay, now look at each other."
*Along a cobblestone path* "Look at me and smile.. okay, now look at each other."

Yeah. As I'd look through all the photos later that night, it was SO BORING. I still wanna get those "look at me and smile" shots from time to time, but now I mentally think of one main OTHER DIFFERENT THING to do at each new little spot. Drastically change the focal length (switch your lens), do a completely different pose, add some fun game or movement to the moment, different angle, step way far back for a super wide shot, whatever! Your final gallery of photos will be so so so much better off.

4. Lastly, less is more. 

One mistake I've made in the past is trying to cram too many pretty spots into a one hour session. We ended up walking (or even worse, DRIVING between spots) more than we spent taking pictures!!!!! Prioritize your favorite scenery (maybe one or two specific spots in a given area) and keep a mental back up for another fave if time allows. 

You gotta slow. it. down. Breathe. Stop worrying about the scenery so much and get creative in the other ways that matter even more - really talk with your clients as you shoot, take the time to really get THE SHOT you're envisioning, push yourself to try new things and get creative in other ways! Don't just rely on a change of scenery to keep the pictures interesting.

This is something I really took to heart after our own five-year-anniversary pictures with Sami Jo Photography. Our entire hour long shoot was only in a circumference of like... 200 feet maybe. Lo and behold, in those 200 feet from our shoot with Sami, I LOVE every single picture! I would NEVER look at them and say, "Ugh! Too much of the same background!" because guess what... I care a lot more about the faces in the foreground (code = our faces).

I could tell you countless more of my "trial and error" experiences over the years, but let's just stick with those four things for now, because I think you may just be here to gush over these wildflower pictures. ;)


KAYLEY+JAKE | if the Von Trapps really went to Switzerland


KAYLEY+JAKE | if the Von Trapps really went to Switzerland

At the end of the movie, the Von Trapps are hiking across the Alps to Switzerland in adorable parkas and felt hats. I refuse to acknowledge the fact that the actual Von Trapp family simply took a train.. to Italy. That scene never actually happened - but I don't want to hear it!! Plz, let me believe they crossed the Alps, sang more songs together, and settled in a cute Swiss cottage in the mountains. Maybe like... this place?


I have LOVED this locations for many years but never had a client interested in shooting there. I suggested it whenever I felt it "fit" with the couple and they didn't already have a specific location style in mind. Yes, I can see how the Swiss inspired architecture, the green window boxes and shutters, wood paneling, painted details and pines around might not be everybody's cup of tea but it is 1000% MY cup of tea and I don't even like tea. 

So you know what I did? Totally honest? I reached out to Kayley and said, "Hey! You wanna join me for pictures? We can call them.. six month anniversary pictures." It's kinda fun, right? Maybe your engagement pictures were with fall foliage and your wedding had spring blossoms - so wouldn't it be fun to shoot in a different season just for a change?

Here's the takeaway. If I only ever shot when I got paid to do so, I'd be missing out on some of the most fun, adventurous, creative, no-fear-of-failing shoots that I've had! Shooting for me has just as much value as the dollar. Especially in any location that I can correlate to one of my all time favorite movies

ABBIE+JORDAN | abandoned mansion in the forest, in a good way
LAUREN+MACK | christmas peaks and valleys


PHOTO TALK | how to work the ugly times when life itself has been sucked from the earth


PHOTO TALK | how to work the ugly times when life itself has been sucked from the earth

I get asked all the time, "This is bad time of year to shoot, right? It's not very pretty?" and I want to tell you three ways we can WORK THE UGLY TIMES to make good pictures.

The ugly times? I mean winter. Roughly November through April (depending on your coordinates!) when you might get a magical winter wonderland, but more likely will get a mix of snow, mud, bare trees, colorless landscapes, and unpleasant temperatures. Not as magical! I believe with an open mind and the right locations, you'll love it. 

I visited THREE LOCATIONS this winter to show you what the ugly times can offer you. These pictures were only taken two days apart, all within an hour drive of my local Minneapolis location, but the principals are relevant for all chilly places. 


1. GO FOR WIDE OPEN SPACES. The Dixie Chicks knew it and so do I. Wide open spaces put the ugly stuff (sad, bare, brown trees) far off in the distance. There's some bare trees in the top right of the above photo, but the camera blur hides them from view. Golden fields are seriously MAGIC - is that summer? Spring? Fall? Certainly not... winter..? But it is! Wide open spaces are also enchanting when covered in snow - it practically feels an outdoor "studio" because there is so much clean, bright, whiteness all around.

TIP My favorite thing is bringing some of the dried grasses into the foreground of the pictures for close ups. If the grass isn't tall enough, you can achieve this look (photo below) by kneeling down low.

LANEY+BRIGHAM | wide open spaces shoot in early March


2. EVERGREENS FOREVER! Oh, have I mentioned before how much I love pine trees? Forgive me, but let me say it again. Pine trees (evergreen trees in general) are LIFE. They smell amazing and LOOK amazing all year round. They are the epitome of coziness, mountains, log cabins, and the magic of Christmas and winter. Pines are the go-to for adding greenery in the ugly times of winter - on a sunny day (like above) it can look as fresh as summer. With a little clouds and a few snowflakes, it's as pretty as a Christmas card. 

TIP For vast forests like these (like above and below) you may need to walk or hike a bit. Luckily, many local parks will have a handful of evergreen trees as part of their landscaping. In the link below, it was just a handful of pines behind a playground. You'd never know!

LAUREN+MACK | Christmas evergreens in October


3. EMBRACE THE DEAD. I tried to think of a more lovely, poetic, way to say that but that's all I got. Straight up EMBRACE those bare trees and dead leaves. You don't need to hide the fact that you're taking pictures in early March if you're celebrating your anniversary in early March! That's your season! I hiked along a river and found this woodsy corner - you can tell that in the summer time the river rises and floods straight through all these trees. In any other season, this location wouldn't even be here. That's freaking cool. You can have pictures that no one else will.

TIP Personally, if I'm going to do anniversary pictures in a scenery that embraces the dead, I'm choosing BRIGHT colors. Let yourself pop and shine instead of the landscape! I think a red dress would look so amazing against the bare trees. Ok that does make me think a tinyyyy bit about The Village but I'm going to try to ignore that.

ESTELLE+JESSE | making early January look like magic

I hope this was a helpful glimpse into embracing winter photography, even when you don't have a Pinterest perfect winter wonderland at your fingertips. Personally, I love shooting through the winter. Locations are less busy because there are fewer people out. You can add cute hats and knit mittens to your shoot, which is freaking adorable. With a later sunrise time, you can easily start a winter shoot at 9 AM and have gorgeous light (in the summer, it would be like 7 AM!). So, which would you choose?

LANEY+BRIGHAM | wide open spaces shoot in early March
LAUREN+MACK | Christmas evergreens in October
ESTELLE+JESSE | making early January look like magic