Escaping on a freeeeeezing day

November 23, 2014

Earlier this week, we had a fun adventure in which our heat decided to stop working, and the replacement part took a few days to arrive. As fun as it was to snuggle up under large fluffy blankets and do jumping jacks to keep ourselves from turning into epic ice statues a la Frozen, it was also really nice to have a warm house again. No more sending the baby girl to bed with three pairs of pajamas on, or turning on the oven for the sole purpose of sitting on the floor with the oven door wide open to feel the heat, which I may have done at 11:00pm one night when my bed was just too cold :)

When it's freezing outside, t's also really nice to reminisce about warmer, more adventurous days. You know, days when I still left the house ;) These pictures are from our last day in Saint George about a month ago. We did some Sunday walks in Snow Canyon National Park, and I swear it was like we were the only ones there. Just us and those gorgeous red cliffs. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but I swear I will never be able to get over the desert colors of southern Utah.

I tried to figure out the exact color of this amazing yellow, but all I could come up with was chartreuse mixed with neon yellow?? One of my artist friends, help me out here. 

this picture was originally posted when I talked about Hiking the Narrows, but this is the hike we actually took the picture on :)

Claire was such a little trooper on our trip. She'd just nap in the car whenever she could, and be awake and happy during all our hikes and adventures. 

Here's to working heat,
and gorgeous deserts,
and a three-day work week!

how to help your baby smile for the camera

November 19, 2014

Over the past few months, a few people have asked me how I get my baby (and other people's babies) to smile so often for the camera. I'm not a baby photography expert, but I do have a few tips and tricks that I'm happy to share today! Some babies are naturally more smiley than others, and there's no getting around that, but here's what's helped me photograph babies from about two months when they start smiling until about twelve months old.

1. Have a parent stand right beside you
This is my trump card and number one trick. Babies are social creatures, and so my very best piece of advice is to have a parent or someone the baby knows well stand right behind or beside the camera, calling their name and just being silly with them in general. Babies are much more likely to smile for a familiar face than for a strange clicking camera!

2. Don't use toys
If you're photographing an older baby or a toddler, toys are a huge hit. But, in my experience, if it's a baby under the age of one, the subject will just get distracted by the toy, and instead of smiling, they'll want to examine it, reach for it, and drool all over it. The exception: I once had great luck hiding behind a teddy bear and playing peek-a-boo with the baby I was shooting.

3. Be patient
All babies have off days. On some days, for whatever reason, they are more tired and fussy and don't want to smile for anyone, much less the camera! I know some photography studios that will book a two-hour block for a half-hour shoot, so you have some flexibility if your baby needs one more feeding in order to be happy. At-home photo shoots are much more flexible, so if your baby is not feeling it, just try again the next day!

4. Prime the conditions
Babies aren't old enough to understand that if they smile for ten minutes, THEN you'll feed them. I like to take pictures when babies are happiest - usually the mornings, after a big meal and a nap. The picture above was taken right when my baby woke up and before I fed her, because I know she has a five-minute window where she's just so happy to be alive before she remembers that she's hungry :) Find what works for your baby and prime the conditions!

5. Use their natural habitat
This cute girl that I photographed below had just learned a new skill that she thought was amazing - clapping! So we all clapped as we took the pictures. If your baby loves to be in their bed, take pictures in their bed! If they are happiest when doing tummy time, take pictures of them doing tummy time! If they love to be outside, take pictures of them sitting in the grass! That way, you get pictures of them smiling, and also you get to preserve the memory of your baby doing what they love.

6. If you're shooting from your cell phone, take off the case
You don't always have to use a fancy camera to get a really good shot! I've captured some amazing moments with my iPhone. My one tip: take off the case first! I used to have a really bright phone case, and whenever I held it up to take a picture, my baby would stop smiling and stare at the bright red stripes. But when I slipped the cover off, she wasn't as distracted by my plain white phone.

7. There's no such thing as too many pictures
Unless you're shooting film, the sky is really the limit when it comes to taking pictures! Don't stop just because you got a fairly good picture of your baby half-smiling that's mostly in focus. The more pictures you take, the better chance that you'll capture a great one! I almost gave up before I took the picture below. I had spent five minutes crawling in the grass after this child, and captured a few little half smiles, but I'm glad I stuck with it for one more minute, because it allowed me to get this shot.

So there you have it! The little things that work for me to help get babies to smile for the camera. I love capturing moments where my baby is not smiling - the way she sucks on her wrist, how much she drools, how wide her eyes get when she hears a loud sound - but it sure is nice to capture those heart-melting gummy smiles too.

What else would you add?
Leave a comment or tweet me @BrookeEmeryBlog and I'll be sure to add it to this list!

those post-nap smiles

November 16, 2014

For a lot of little reasons, and one very big reason, this week was a crazy one! One of those weeks where it's like "everything is totally normal, just stickin' to the 'ole status quo around here" and then all of a sudden, it's like "nothing is normal, and it's scary, and it's stressful, and what is even happening??" and then it's like "it's 60 degrees" and by the end of the week "it's snowing!" and when it goes from 60 degrees to snowing, you never know what you're in for.

Okay, but all joking aside, this week has been crazy for lots of reasons that don't have to do with the weather at all. But we're on the other side of it, and my weekend was much much better than the five days preceding it. Plus, things are looking much brighter from here on out.

And I finally documented how cute little miss Claire is when she wakes up from naptime. I've never seen a little person get so excited! Her legs start kicking a million miles an hour, and her mouth opens wide, and she gives you the cutest squeal to let you know she's there. This girl, I'm tellin' ya. It just keeps getting better.

DIY Thankful Tree (and how to transform it into a decoration for all seasons!)

November 11, 2014

Each November, our family has a tradition - we make a huge list of everything we're thankful for. In previous years, we've put them on strips of paper in a jar to read the next fall. But this fall, I wanted to make it into a decoration. And not just any decoration - one that I can change to use throughout the year! AKA lazy man's decorating: make one craft and then reuse it all year long. That's my style :)

Here's what I did:


1 mason jar
2 branches (I couldn't find any good ones outside so I bought mine from the floral section of Hobby Lobby for $4 each)
two pieces scrapbook paper in fall colors (I added a third to decorate the base of the jar)
circle hole punch (I got mine a few years ago and use it all the time (most recently, for my calendar here and paint chip mobile here). If you have an automated cutting machine you can use that. Or, If you're really ambitious you can skip the hole punch and cut out leaf shapes by hand!
regular hole punch
fall-colored ribbon
wire cutter 

  1. Trim the base of the branch down using wire cutters. This is the hardest part of the entire project, and my husband did it in about three minutes.
  2. Place the branches in the mason jar.
  3. Tie ribbon around the rim of the mason jar.
  4. Punch circles out of the scrapbook paper (or cut leaf shapes, or whatever you decide)
  5. Punch a regular hole punch in each circle (you'll use this hole to hang your paper on the tree)
  6. Write one thing you're grateful for on each paper and hang it on the tree!
Easy as that! 

And now for a bonus - here are some ideas for turning the tree into a decoration for all seasons. You can always cut different themed scrapbook paper out (for Christmas you could do a service tree, for summer you could do a summer activities bucket list, etc.). Or, if you get sick of paper on the tree, here are some cheap alternatives.

Although I love the service tree idea, I decided to decorate my tree with cheap dollar store ornaments. You could also add a homemade popcorn garland for a non-evergreen Christmas tree!

This tree would be a perfect Easter decoration, with the spring colors and fun feel. I used scrapbook paper, dollar store party favors, and pink tulle to spring-ify my tree.

I love the summer bucket list idea. But if you don't want to do that, you can use buttons to decorate for the 4th of July! These buttons had a large enough hole that I could just stick it straight on the branch, but if it was smaller I would have had to use some thread to tie them on.

What would you use to decorate the tree?
Leave me a comment or tweet me your suggestions and I'll be sure to add them!

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