Torgesen Family | Discovery Park | Seattle Family Photographer

In case you missed the memo, it’s family portrait season! I absolutely love this time of year. Every weekend when I come home from a session my husband asks me how it went. A trailer quickly fires off in my mind replaying the chaos of the previous couple of hours and I reply, “okay, I think.” In the moments of screaming-crying-please-sit-still-smile-stay-don’t-run-play-nice-sighs-of-defeat, it’s hard to tell if it was a success or not. But Allison has been through this before. This is the third time I’ve photographed her family and she knows just how to survive a family photo shoot. And having survived over ten years of family photo shoots myself, I thought you might find my “How to Survive a Family Photo Shoot” guide helpful, if not entertaining. As a bonus, this is a great survival guide for life in general, as well. Enjoy!

How to Survive a Family Photo Shoot

  • Take a shower and wash your hair. Wear something that makes you feel beautiful. Appreciate your soft, round middle and tired yet smiling eyes. Do not be shy about the fact that you have cleavage and really great shoes.
  • Ask for help when you need it and remember patience is a virtue.
  • Breathe. You’ll need to be comforted and reassured over and over again–how could you not? You were meant to be loved, so let it in. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.
  • Play whatever game your kids are playing. Stop apologizing. Stop explaining. I’ve seen it all before.
  • Don’t hold back. Allow yourself to be ridiculous and feel joy. Put all your energy into the place where your heart is leading.
  • Play your favorite song on your iPhone, set it for repeat, and dance to it like no one is watching…or everyone is watching.
  • Submit to the chaos. This can be terrifying and uncomfortable but there’s nothing to do but ride it out. It is critical for you to understand that there is no wrong move here and the powerful energy around you is going to happen with or without your blessing.
  • Let go of all your assumptions. You don’t know how this adventure will play out and you are not in control. Face the moment with eyes wide open, unafraid, knowing that love is all that matters and everyone is working towards a happy ending.
  • Smile. Let your eyes say everything. Shine.

Allison - Jamie – these photos are amazing! I love them! I especially love “how to survive a family photo shoot” guide. Hopefully helpful and funny for other families going through the same thing.

Alex is a free spirit for sure – not going to win the prize for doing the “best” (most posed and listening to photographer’s direction) family photo shoot! But, he is so fun and sure makes things interesting. I really like “submit to the choas” since that is exactly what I tried to do!

The photos are wonderful! I love the one of the kids and their stuffed animals, the one of Lance and I, the looking up at the plane and the kids by themselves.

Once again – we love the pictures! Thank you!

Allison - OMG – Love the “how to survive a family photo shoot” – so true, so true! I especially love the “surrender to chaos” – as that is exactly what I did!

We love the photos – so many great photos that capture who we are, chaos and all!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Clare - It totally is family photo season! For my family too. We haven’t had our pictures done professionally for over a decade, and recently my mother buckled down and had some major weight loss, so my husband and I figured it was about time!
The frustrating part is that it seems that every photographer we contact about taking the pictures, we get blown off. And we are of the opinion that if they don’t even want to be in contact from the get go, its not worth tracking them down further.
So fingers crossed! Feel free to pass along if you know of any great family photographers in Iowa!

Glen Bright - Hey Jamie. Or Hyme as your weird husband would say:). Great pictures but an even better guide for life in general. If we all followed that guide it would be such a better world. I have one question concerning the guide. Can we eat meat? Love, Dad

Couch Family | Sculpture Park & Belltown | Seattle Family Photographer

Can I tell you a secret? Running around town with families like this one makes me jealous – in a good way. I long for the day when I have my own family of three with wind blown hair to lay in the tall grass with and soak up the setting sun. I want to sit with my dream family around a table with mismatched chairs and feed them food I nurtured from my garden. I want to crank music while I cook for them and hear their laughter fill the air. I want homemade quilts on our beds and old wooden toys scattered on the floor. I want to play until my legs are too tired and then sink into a claw foot tub filled with piping hot water and a glass of wine in hand. And when the day is finally done, I want to walk through my small, simple home and see pictures of my amazing life and favorite people all over my walls.

Hopefully, this dream will find me soon. In the meantime, I get to live vicariously through awesome families like this one.

I met the Couch Family for their session at the Olympic Sculpture Park just blocks from Sean’s pre-baby bachelor pad. We rocked the park, the waterfront, and some very artistic alley’s in the Belltown neighborhood. And by rock, I’m in rock-n-roll!! We called ahead to Mother Nature and requested she turn on the wind machine and pump up the setting sun. She did not disappoint.

I think like-minded free spirits are attracted to me. They find me like a magnet and we have the most interesting time getting to know each other by being foolishly in love, letting our hair down and saying “yes, please.” You know, the people who don’t think twice about hopping the fence for an adventure on the other side. Maybe you’re someone who takes the long way home and are totally okay with being lost for awhile? We would be friends. When you meander, magic happens. And by magic, I mean unbridled laughter, unruly curls, and uninhibited love…for starters.

Sara, thank you for choosing me to be your family photographer. Editing your session was an eye candy treat that filled me with such happiness as I replayed our date in Belltown again and again. I hope that when these memories finally make it to your walls you feel the same kind of love…only deeper. Because it’s your love story and you are loved.

Clark Family Portraits | Carillon Point | Seattle Family Photographer

Depending on how you look at it, I have about 9 siblings. But most of my childhood was spent with two younger sisters and one younger brother. The two youngest were (and still are) lovingly referred to as “the girls”. And even though I am also a girl, I am not one of “the girls”. The Girls wore matching outfits and were roughly the same size and only separated by one year in school. The Girls had the same friends, the same enemies, and at any given moment were each other’s best friend or worst enemy. They wanted to be me and I wanted to be an only child.

There was a time when I hated my sisters borrowing my clothes. I didn’t want them in my room and I didn’t want them touching my stuff. Unless of course, they were cleaning my room, which I paid them to do on more than one occasion. Sadly, my underpaid wages are no longer enticing to them anymore.

Nowadays, we all have a collection of each other’s clothes in our own homes and closets. I love it when someone compliments my outfit and asks where I got it. “Oh these shoes are my sister’s and this shirt…belongs to my other sister”. And I love it when they’re in my room. My living room. My bathroom. My dining room. My kitchen. I love it when they’re in my space and I love that we can share all kinds of stuff. Gone are the days of tossing the youngest down the laundry chute. These are the days when we giggle about laundry rooms gone up in flames and the miracle of magic erasers (Seriously. What is in them!?).

So it was an absolute delight to photograph my friend Jon with his girls. These girls who have so many things in common and yet are all so very different. His girls are confident and sassy; hysterical and oh, so pretty. Poor Jon is clearly outnumbered by this troupe of girls and such a good sport. They all make a pretty good team. After a trip to Uwajimaya for homemade sushi fixin’s, we strolled through Carillon Point just a couple of hours before sunset. Each girl flaunted her own unique personality and I felt like one of The Girls amongst their dimpled smiles and bouncy hair.

After an hour plus of skipping and giggling we returned to their casa for comfy clothes and a smorgasbord of sushi. A truly impressive display of teamwork and artwork went into the assembly of enough rice, fish and veggies to feed a small army. We finally called it quits when the last of the rice was used up. What happened next still gives me heart squeeze.

The Girls setup pillows and blankets across the living room floor and they huddled together around their buffet for family movie night. Delicate fingers stuffed giant balls of delicately wrapped sushi into their hungry mouths. And for the first time in hours, it was silent. With heavy eyes and a full belly I left them before the end of the movie. But not before we hugged it out and made promises to hang out again soon. Those girls.

Thank you for a spectacular sunny afternoon. Thanks for letting me be one of The Girls. I loved it more than you can imagine.

Kellie Stutzman - This family is truly beautiful. Jamie, for the record… You never paid us to clean your room. If I remember correctly you said “whatever money you find, you can have if you clean my room”. We only ever had enough to get 2 or 3 candy bars. Love you.

Jon - Thanks Jamie. Again you have made me look almost as great as my daughters!

Lena - What a sweet looking family. I think you’ve captured them beautifully. I especially like the shots of them running down the narrow path.

Elmore Family | Bellevue Botanical Gardens | Seattle Family Photographer

When I show up for a photo shoot I really have no idea what will happen. I may have an idea about what my clients will be wearing and if any special props will be involved but nothing much beyond knowing who will show up and roughly what ages they’ll be. What usually unfolds is I quickly scan my clients for size and move-ability then scan our location for a good place to start. I never start in the “best” place first. I usually pick an “easy” location where the need for posing is minimal. It sounds something like, “hey let’s sit in this patch of grass for a minute” or “how about we lean against that wall” or “I’m going to stand over there. Can you walk towards me?”. Easy-peasy. It’s a little like a first date in the way we build up the act. At first, everyone is on their best behavior and very polite. But soon enough, if it’s a good date (an it’s always a good date), you start to see the equivalent effect of a couple glasses of wine. I do like my clients to have a good time! By then end, I hardly need to tell them to do anything at all. I just let the magic unfold in front of me and stand ready to capture it.

And this is pretty much how I live my life. On the go, in the moment, and fully flexible. It makes me feel good to indulge in not having it all figured out. Following instincts and obeying intuition is an act that helps me get through most situations with confidence and creativity. It helps that I have partners and clients in my life that allow me to live and work this way. When I act boldly, without fear, I earn trust. And there’s a special magic that happens when my value’s match up with someone else’s. We reach a sweet spot where we all come alive and create something special. A bond. A connection. A smile. A beautiful memory. A series of photographs that tell an entire story about who we are right now. And it makes me really happy.

Kelsey, it was so lovely to see you and your growing family again. Thank you for wandering through the Bellevue Botanical Gardens with me despite the heat and swarms of mosquitoes. I hope you enjoyed every moment of togetherness as much as I did.

My Sister, My Nephews, My Blissed Out Life

These three humans make my heart explode…in a good way. I love Friday nights when I drive out to Uncle Tex’s property and the Littles are at my car door the moment I arrive, jumping for joy and shouting my name in the cutest little voices with the biggest personalities. I love the moment when I open my door and Ty crawls into my lap and barely leaves my side for the rest of the night. I love how much they love playing duck, duck, goose and the courage and confidence they get from their strong willed Mama. I love seeing my baby sister with her babies and the way she handles every situation with grace and humor where I would melt and cry. I can’t believe how fast they’re growing and how much our lives have changed since Ty joined our family 4 years ago and then little Sawyer 2 years after that. The Littles are getting bigger every minute it seems and I’m in awe. They make me laugh out loud, keep me warm with cuddles and fill my love tank full. It’s the best thing.

Internet, It’s been ages since I’ve shared anything personal here and I miss that very much. I find myself in the heart of a busy portrait season with the rest of my year booked out (thank you). And while this is exactly what I’ve been working towards, I have to be honest about all the other noise going on in the background. It sounds a lot like change, new beginnings, big moves, fresh love…and I can’t quite put it all into words just yet. Only feelings. And they’re spilling out all over my photographs. Tender and raw; restless with many layers. There’s so much of myself that is fully present in the right ways and completely checked out in others. I’m harnessing the energy of new and powerful relationships and feeling it beat deeply in my heart. To be on the receiving end of joy makes me feel like celebrating…every.single.precious.moment. I am so very lucky to be present for this life. These opportunities. This love.

And while I’m being cryptic and gushy I might as well say that a line was drawn in the sand this past Spring and I stepped over it. On this side of the line I feel my essence pulsating through my body. I gush. I laugh. I hardly sleep. To bring it full circle, I see my identity wrapped up in so many things outside myself, like in these photographs, and I get so excited to tear the wrapper off and discover what’s inside. This kind of bliss does not happen often and I do not take it lightly. While honoring my core, I may make a fool out of myself from time to time, but I believe it’s part of the adventure and I’m becoming the finest version of myself to date. These next few months are going to be big for me. HUGE! And while parts of me are paralyzed by how fast things are moving, I know that my life has been leading up to this chapter for a long time. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Erick - I look at these pictures pretty regularly, they are really amazing. You have special gifts Jamie and that is photography and writing, not to mention a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing!

Jennica & James | Elliot Bay Marina | Seattle Engagement Photographer

Jennica and James are getting married this New Year’s Eve at the Mayflower Park Hotel! We had such a fun time during their engagement session at the Elliot Bay Marina. A picnic was set, champagne was uncorked and the sound of seagulls, gently splashing waves and a light breeze made a romantic soundtrack. The perfect ingredients, in my opinion, for a delightful summer evening of love in the Pacific Northwest.

Things I loved from this session:

Her sassy red heels.

The way he swept her bangs out of her eyes.

The symmetry of lines. (i.e. boats in a row, tall masts, her dress, the skyline…)

Those crazy, overcast, Seattle skies against my (second) favorite skyline.

Two bottles worth of champagne explosions (on purpose).

Snuggling in a blanket on the shore of Puget Sound.

Langdon Family | Backyard Portraits | Seattle Family Photographer

Believe it or not, it took some convincing to pull off this photo session. Ariana’s sister and mother live far, far away in Chicago-land and she wanted to surprise them with a photo shoot while they were in town. I wasn’t a part of the conversation she had with them, but I imagine it went something like this:

“Hey, I bought us a photo session with this really cool local photographer. She’s going to meet us at a park and photograph us for a couple of hours. Isn’t that awesome!?”

And before she could even get to the part about planning outfits and the setting sun, they were like, “Are you kidding me!? I’m not photogenic. This isn’t a special occasion. I don’t want to get dressed up and have some stranger making me feel self conscious for 1-2 hours.”

Which is totally normal, by the way. Even Tina Fey gets nervous about photo shoots. She told me. Okay, I read it in her book. My point is, there’s a lot of pressure when you feel like you have to perform and no one wants to see a bad picture of themselves. It’s like hearing your voice on an answering machine – I do not sound like that.

So I assured them that this was not your typical go-to-the-mall-sit-stiffly-say-cheese experience. No, this would be more like hanging out with your girlfriends; no heavy posing or cajoling. Simply relaxed, stress free and fun for everyone. I asked questions. What do they like doing together? What would make them feel safe? This is the pre-close-up. The time when I start to learn who my subjects really are and what’s holding them back.

“We like to cook and eat together,” Ariana told me. So we decided on a session at home with the idea of sharing a meal in the backyard. Whatever happens, happens. At home, they were safe and cozy in a nest where they were free to love each other and be loved. At home, following a relaxing day at the spa, sitting at an adorably decorated table with mouth watering smells and flavors at each place setting, they found peace. They were connected to each other by things that really matter and shared conversations only they could follow. Synergy.

They slowly opened up and allowed me to see the truth of who they are from deep within. And now they’re exposed. Internet, this is a gift to be allowed to lean in and see. Really see. There is energy, passion, push and pull here. There is vulnerability and power here. There is love and beauty here. See…

Jeanine Carlson - It’s like a tea party for grown up mommy and sisters :) You capture people so exquisitely!

Gen - The photo of them on the porch where they’re all looking at you is wonderful. Such a sweet moment that you were able to grab. :)

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