Summer Art - Paint Your Kids!

2019 marks our first time of educating our kids at home during the long summer break. Our oldest child is 5 years old and is on the cusp of reading, writing, and being an all-around awesome kid who’s on his way to Kindergarten in the fall. Sure, we signed him up for a few weeks of real summer camp, themed around dinos, space, and more. But the rest of the time, he’s with us!

In order to keep his growing brain from getting summer rot, my husband created “Daddy Camp” — it’s our job to fill his day with outdoor play, math, spelling, and my job is Mommy Art Director! It’s pretty fun and silly. Our motto is “KEEP IT WEIRD!” and we even have a family Daddy Camp song.

On this particular day, both our son and I needed a creative outlet. Together, we picked 3 washable Crayola paint colors, and went to town on his hands until he said he was happy with the way he looked. I set up a white backdrop on a rainy day, and filled the scene with a 50” Godox umbrella and a huge 85W 6500K CFL bulb (I often use this bulb that’s consistently on if I’m in a situation where there’s only 1-2 subjects and a speedlight might bother the kid).

With a little hand movements a la Vogue style, we came up with these photos and both mommy and big boy really love them! I’ll always remember this as part of his first summer break. :) The first one is going on a wall.

I try to shoot as close to the right exposure as possible, then used Refined Presets for some amazing edits.

April: The Month Where My Kids Have Birthdays and We're Not Done Unpacking Yet

My daughter, Alex turned 2 this week, and earlier, my oldest child, Noah turned 5! It’s hard to believe my husband and I have been parents this long. I’ve had dreams of finding room for a mini-studio, and though we’re totally up and running in our new home, there always seems to be that ONE ROOM that has all the boxes we haven’t unpacked yet. The “I am not sure where this stuff goes” room. It’s the office/photography equipment storage/LEGO organization/unopened boxes for our new baby arriving in 1.5 months/unhung framed photos room.

But hey, to make it at least a little cozy in one direction, we have a new teal couch and awesome cushy rug and some furniture that bodes well for portraits. So as a momtographer (that’s a word, right?) we did some annual birthday portraits. I really love this corner of our home — I hope we can transform it the way we wish soon!

Some technical notes —
I lit these Sony A7RII 35mm shots with a Godox 120cm / 47.2in Portable Octagon Softbox Umbrella with a constant light source: LimoStudio Full Spectrum Lighting Bulb 85W Photography Photo CFL 6500K. There are two windows for natural light in this room, with one to camera-right. But I like to light my subjects up inside just a tad more for their birthday faces. :)

The couch is from Overstock and our 8x10 rug is from Target. Tutu from Honeyskull.


Why I Love San Francisco's Crissy Field + Baby Bradley Turns 1!

I have a couple of special things happening here. First -- mini sessions are nearly sold out, and I'm so happy I'll be reunited with families from last year, as well as meeting new faces! Some slots are available for the incredible, colorful, family friendly Hayes Valley, but Crissy Field is sold out. If you're still interested, let me know and I will open up a new date. stephanie@marilee.co

This brings me to the other special thing -- one of my newborns turned 1 year old! Proud parents Grace Ann and Brad brought baby Bradley to play in the late afternoon sunshine, and I was bewildered to see him walking (even chasing me!) in the blink of an eye. There is such joy from behind the camera over this past year. Thanks G&B for inviting me to cover his first year! 

If you've never visited Crissy Field before, you'll see amazing views of the San Francisco Bay, but the most prominent part of your view will be the Golden Gate Bridge. Crissy Field used to be a former U.S. Army airfield until 1974. Residents now enjoy a huge stretch of grassy field right along the water. 

We met & hung out by the Warming Hut for a few reasons: 1) great parking, 2) there's a pier! 3) beautiful proximity to Golden Gate Bridge and the downtown skyline, 4) lots of grassy fields, 5) tree line to create some shade when needed, 6) there's a little beach! All this is within stumbling distance, so it was great for baby Bradley to roam around. So if you've booked a mini session with me, you'll get to see some of these scenes. 

Here are a few of my faves! Enjoy.

How to Choose Your Wardrobe For a Family Photo Shoot

Have you ever heard of Awkward Family Photos? As much as I love the laughs, let's not land in volume 2.0, ok? :)  

When looking through your family's closets or shopping, keep these 5 tips in mind:

1) Choose a family of colors and textures, not a single shade or pattern
I absolutely looooove this family's style (see gallery below). We went for pink, but you'll see a variety of shades and brightness. We've got blush, coral, patterns and neutrals mixed together, showcasing unity between unique individuals. Some tops have patterns, some are solids, and some have texture. 

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2) Add contrast with your background
My easy little formula -- if we have neutral backgrounds, we're adding great color to the wardrobe. If we're working with busy or very colorful backgrounds, we're going for neutral colored clothing. Contrast is the key... unless you're Zach Braff in Garden State. Then it's awesome. 

3) Don't be matchy matchy
I know it must be tempting to buy 4 matching sailor shirts for your kids -- my siblings have THAT photo! It might be cute, but it's not timeless. In a few decades from now, your kids will be happy to see their unique personalities early on in life. Gravitate toward relationships instead of duplicates. 

4) When in doubt, dress UP
It's easy to go casual, because everyone has tshirts and jeans, but when you're doing a family photo shoot, you will never regret wearing the dress or the button up shirt. Wear something that moves well in the wind and gives you confidence, because these photos are special and will last a lifetime. Wardrobe should reflect that as best as you can. Wear the nice watch. Put on the good shoes. And dazzle in the special occasion earrings.

5) Above all else, the clothes must fit the body
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. When I was young, I used to hide under sweatshirts and baggy pants (don't ask for pictures, because I burned them all). Not matter what size you are, put something on your body that feels comfortable and fits well. Try to get the right waist and length for pants. 

I had an amazing time capturing the laughter and clear abundance of love in this family in their new home. The children have grown before my own eyes, and their moms have done an incredible job raising vibrant, happy kiddos. Luckily, the extended family was in town and it was definitely a party in front of my camera. :) Here are a few of my favorite shots.