MUSINGS OF A PORTRAIT ARTIST
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
By Irene Abdou Photography, LLC, DC Wedding Photographers
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Your wedding day is one of the most special days of your entire life, and you’re going to want to be able to relive and remember it 10 days after, 10 months after, 10 years after, and when your children and grandchildren are getting married. Yet, no matter how good your memory is, as the years pass, your recollection of this exciting and joyful period of your life will naturally fade. So as you plan your wedding day, here are 11 ideas to help you remember your wedding day.

 

 

1)Keep a journal of the period from your engagement to your wedding day, and even of your honeymoon.

 

Pick up a journal like this “Bride-to-Be Book,” and start recording all the big and little things you experience as you plan your wedding, including your impressions, thoughts about the significance, feelings, and of course the fun things you and your partner do to celebrate your special engagement period.

 

2) Choose to make wedding photography one of the highest priorities of your wedding planning.

 

New York photographer Richie Schwartz wrote about his experience evacuating his home before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. As he loaded his car, he looked around him and took stock of his neighbors. He noticed that they all seemed to be loading the same things in their cars. Not Xbox consoles or computers, nor pretty lamps or fancy blenders. Instead, he found that he and his neighbors were all filling their vehicles with their wedding albums and family portraits, which they removed from their walls, frames and all. Find the full article here.

 

Your pictures are your memories, making photography the ultimate treasure.  No worldly possession can replace your memories, and so as each year goes by, your wedding photography becomes ever more valuable.  So as much as possible, focus on quality and service when evaluating and selecting your professional wedding photographer, because as we all know, your wedding is one event that doesn’t have a do-over.

3) Collect the records of the first dance songs that your parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents danced to at their weddings.

 

Put the records out at your wedding reception and allow guests to sign the records. Then mount each record in a shadow box and hang them in your home.

4) Ask wedding guests to write notes to you to be opened in future years.

 

Place a nicely printed card on each plate inviting your guests to write a note to you to be opened between 1 and 10 years or more in the future. (So one table might have a 1-year note, another table has a 2-year note, etc.) Leave pens and envelopes on the table, and have a family member or maid of honor or best man collect the sealed notes at the end of the wedding reception. Then, on each wedding anniversary, that person delivers to you the notes for that year, which you open to relive your wedding day memories!

5) Write your own wedding vows and have them printed on cloth like a tapestry.

 

A number of companies, including Five Dot Design, can print your wedding vows on fabric. Use the fabric as a backdrop at your wedding ceremony or for a photobooth at your reception. Be sure to have your professional wedding photographer also capture some bride & groom portraits in front of it! Then, after the wedding, hang the fabric in your home on a decorative curtain rod.

 

6) Hang engagement & wedding photography in your home.

 

Your engagement & wedding photography won’t bring back memories of your special day if all they do is sit on the hard drive of your computer. Instead, decorate your home by hanging wall portraits from your wedding in prominent areas of your home that you spend a lot of time in, such as your family room or living room.

In addition to creating the physical artwork, some wedding photographers can drag and drop your favorite wedding photographs onto a photo of your home to help you visualize size, layout, and frame possibilities before they exist, so that you can see what you like the best prior to ordering and printing. See more ideas for hanging photography in your home here.

7) Carve your initials into a rustic wood slab, and use it as a base for floral centerpieces.

 

Get your rustic wood slab here. Carve your initials and anything else you desire, like a heart or your wedding year, into the slab. Lean it against your floral centerpieces or use it as a base for your centerpieces. Make sure you bring it home at the end of your reception. Follow these steps to preserve your flowers, and then place your dried flowers, vase, and rustic wood slab on your kitchen table.

8) Use the table runner from your wedding reception in your dining room.

 

Getting table runners for your wedding reception? Don’t just rent. Buy at least one, and keep it to adorn the dining room table or buffet in your home.

 

9) Place an album of your engagement photography and/or wedding photography on your coffee table.

 

If you have young children, you can also sit your professional photo album on a small desk easel, and place the easel and album on a chest or bookshelf. Instead of doing a traditional album of engagement portraits, ask your professional wedding photographer about a guest sign-in album, which has extra white space so that family & friends can write their best wishes around the photographs at your wedding reception. For your wedding album, ask your photographer to include the lyrics of your first dance song or even your vows if you wrote your own.

10) Use the & Block from Your Wedding Reception in Your First Family Portrait Session.

 

Using an & wood block to decorate your sweetheart or gift or seating card table at your reception? Save the block, and with your first child, use it to decorate the nursery AND as a prop in your first family portrait session!

11) Pass On Your Wedding Dress, But Not in the Way You’re Imagining.

 

Save your wedding dress and hire a seamstress to make a purse for your daughter or granddaughter as a gift on her wedding day.

Use these 10 ideas to make a collection of family heirlooms to last the ages, as each can and should be handed down, generation after generation. Congratulations on your engagement!

 

And next, get gorgeous wedding photography worth a king & queen's ransom.

 
Friday, March 24, 2017
By Irene Abdou Photography, Maryland Newborn Photographer
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I've been thinking a lot about an article that I read recently by New York Pet Photographer, Richie Schwartz, about why professional photography is "worth it."  

 

He wrote about the year that he and his neighbors were forced to evacuate their homes by Hurricane Sandy.  As he loaded his car with his most prized and priceless possessions, he looked around him and noticed that his neighbors were loading their cars with the exact same things... not xbox consoles or computers or fancy blenders or pretty lamps.  Instead, he noticed his neighbors loading their cars with wedding albums and family portraits that they had taken off their walls, frames and all.  

 

And Richie understood.  In his words:

 

"We know that at the end of the day, of all our “possessions,” it is our memories that we treasure most and place the highest value on. Pictures represent our memories. Pictures trigger our memories like nothing else on earth has the power to do. Our memories cannot be replaced with any amount of money or any material goods — it really is the most valuable thing we have!"  Read the full article by professional photographer, Richie Schwartz, here.

 

And so I know that little, sweet newborn baby Ivan's parents are doing it right. This new family is one of our baby photography plan families, and I love that we get to follow their growth from their maternity photography session to newborn photography session and onwards.  

 

Little Ivan arrived pretty much right on time in between Christmas and New Year's.  And boy, is he loved.  He even has his own Facebook community, called "Monsieur Ivan"!  That's a first.  I love it!

 

We got to meet him just 12 days later at our Maryland photography studio when he was still a very newborn bundle of joy.  Before his arrival, together with Ivan's mom and dad, we had planned 4 setups/themes for Ivan's newborn photography session: a blue theme, an architectural theme using mom and dad's architectural supplies and architectural drawings; a Christmas / holiday theme (we kept the Christmas tree up into January just for him!); and family portraits on the studio's sheepskin rug.  We also managed an in-between image of mom and dad holding Ivan against a black velvet backdrop... beautiful!  It's almost time for Ivan's 3 or 4-month baby photography plan session.  I can't wait to see how much he's grown!

Let us create a set of priceless newborn portraits to begin your child's legacy and complete your own.

 
Thursday, March 16, 2017
By Irene Abdou Photography, LLC, Maryland Family Photographers
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I've been waiting for eight months or so for Mother's Day to come back around, so I could share with you the ultimate family photography Mother's Day gift that our client planned for his sweet wife and mother-in-law last year. Happy wife, happy life, right? We guarantee your wife and mother-in-law will be overjoyed with a Mother's Day gift like this! These two moms sure were!

 

Kain had contacted us shortly before Mother's Day last year for a family photography gift certificate to present to his wife and mother-in-law, who lives with them. Soon after Mother's Day passed, Kain's mother-in-law reached out to set a date for their pre-portrait planning meeting, and the rest is history! You can see images from their Wheaton, Maryland family photography session at Brookside Gardens here. 

 

But what I really wanted to share with you in this post is what these two moms chose to do with their family portraits. (Both the family photography session and the finished portrait artwork were Kain's gifts to the moms in his life. He chose to stay out of the family photography this time around to make it all about them and their young son.)

 

The two moms' final choices included a 6-piece wall portrait love grouping, the largest of which was a 20x30 thick canvas gallery wrap, surrounded by five metal prints ranging from 10x10 to 16x20 in size. While the grouping was designed to be hung on a single wall together, they were looking at buying a new home, and liked the flexibility that the love grouping gave them, since the pieces could also be split up and hung on separate walls.  (By the way, as an extra side benefit of this sweet Mother's Day gift, did you know that hanging professional family photography on your walls helps to increase your child's self-esteem?  Find out how here.)

Then, Kain's mom-in-law loved our 'Artful' Albums and chose her 20 favorite family portraits for a classic-design, professional photo album with a custom photo cover and art green inside paper. And finally, for archival purposes, Kain's wife chose the hi-res digital files of all of the images to make their final family photography collection just perfect.

 

Can you imagine a better Mother's Day gift? Kudos to Kain! These two women are awfully lucky to have such a sweet and thoughtful man in their life!

 
Thursday, March 09, 2017
By Irene Abdou Photography, LLC, Rockville, Maryland Family Photographers
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"I had lovely mother/son family portraits taken by Irene five years ago. I'm hoping to schedule another mother/son family portrait appointment in the fall..."

 

Kris wasn't sure if I would remember her and her son, Nathan, after five years, but of course I did! I loved one of the family portraits from their last family portrait session so much that it has been gracing the homepage of our photography website for the past five years, which is a long time!  

 

It was a beautiful portrait of Kris lying on her back on the grass at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, with Nathan standing over her with a football.  The lighting was just perfect, and the overall effect was a casual, personality-filled family portrait that perfectly captured the closeness of their relationship.

After receiving Kris's message and before picking up the phone to call her, I went back through my notes on our previous conversations to refresh my memory about her likes and dislikes, and I found this nice little message that I had completely forgotten about:

 

"Hey Irene -- Thank you for the lovely Christmas ornament with Nathan and me on it! And thanks for the card...it's so nice to hear from you. I 've had great fun following your work on Facebook, both the development work and your family/event photo sessions. It just reminds me what a great choice I made in a family photographer! (And BTW, nice session with Al P. and Evan! Reminds me of my session with Nathan. If it ever happens to comes up in some odd way, tell him he has an admirer...). Thanks again, and happy new year!"

 

When I did call Kris, she said she wanted to do these mother-son family portraits every five years, and guess what... it's been five years! "I just want a repeat of last time," she kept saying.  And so, 1 1/2 months later, we met up at Glenview Mansion in Rockville, Maryland, and I got to see how much Nathan had grown.  His hair had turned red, cute freckles had emerged in droves, and he was just as handsome and lovable as ever.

 

Five years ago, some of Kris's favorite family portraits were of her piggybacking Nathan (first portrait below).  So of course, we did a repeat of that this time (set of 3 portraits).

Then, I would have thought that 10-year old Nathan would definitely be too big to ride on his mom's shoulders, but no, not yet (time comparison below)!

Nathan is still the avid athlete (first two portraits are from five years ago).

Kris loved giving Nathan hugs and kisses back then, and she still does now, I'm sure much to Nathan's chagrin.  (He was a trooper for these Rockville, MD family portraits!)

And they both still love to horse around with each other.

It always just warms my heart to have the honor of documenting families as they grow through heirloom-quality family portraits.  With the passage of each year, these portraits grow ever more important and become a lasting part of each family's legacy.

 

Have you been remiss in updating your family portraits?

 
Friday, March 03, 2017
By Irene Abdou Photography, LLC, Maryland Family Portrait Photographer
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If you're a parent, I bet you've thought on numerous occasions about how you can build your child's self-esteem, dignity, and confidence.  But did you ever think about how professional family photography can help you do just that?

 

Dr. David Krauss is a licensed psychologist from Ohio and co-author of "Photo Therapy and Mental Health."  A pioneer in using family photography in therapy and mental health counseling, Dr. Krauss says,

 

"It's important not only to be photographed in ways that indicate caring, nurturing, love and success, but also to see those images and take them in... What it says to a child is, 'I'm important in this family.' "
 

As a parent, you have so many jobs - cleaning the house, doing laundry, organizing playdates, going to the grocery store, paying bills, and putting dinner on the table; the list has no end.  Sometimes, you might not feel very photogenic and it's tempting to have your professional family photographer only photograph your children.  But according to Dr. Krauss, 

 

"It is really important to show a family as a family unit. It is so helpful for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit."

Judy Weiser is Vancouver-based art therapist, psychologist, and author who has, for more than 20 years, assisted her clients' treatments using many kinds of personal photography. A leader in these techniques, which are called "photo therapy," Weiser states:

 

“It lets children learn who they are and where they fit. They learn their genealogy and the the uniqueness of their own family and its story. When a child sees a family portrait with them included in the photograph they say to themselves: ‘These people have me as part of what they are, that’s why I belong here. This is where I come from.'”

 

In summary, in some ways, your family portraits aren't for you.  Instead, they're for your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren and beyond.  Your family portraits - with you in them - are your legacy.

 

 

Why Digital Images Aren't Good Enough

 

About digital images vs. printed wall portraits, Kraus says,

 
“My bias is very simple. I think they [the family portraits] should be on the wall...  I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child this sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child. It let’s them know where they are in the pecking order and that they are loved and cared for."

 

Cathy Lander-Goldberg is the director of Photo Explorations in Missouri and a licensed clinical social worker.  Photo Explorations helps girls and women to use photography and other expressive arts to gain self-awareness.  According to Lander-Goldberg, 

 

"Displaying photos prominently in the home sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced."
 

Your intention might to be to purchase the digital files from your professional family photographer and to print them on your own.  But so many of our clients have told me that that was their intention following their last professional family photography session, but that their busy lives got the best of them, and they never printed a single photograph.  For others, the decisions about print size, print media, custom framing or frameless mounts, and placement can be overwhelming.  When people aren't sure what will look best, they tend to do nothing.  There's a lot to be said about using a professional family photographer who provides design services and finished, ready-to-hang wall portraits.

A licensed psychologist in Oregon who works with 5-13 year old children, Craig Steinberg, says,

 

“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print.  Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience.   That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image."

 

You might live in a house with a lot of windows, where you simply don't have as much wall space as you'd like.  No one's saying that you need to buy a new house in order to build your child's self-esteem.  Based on Steinberg's comments, a professional photo album filled with your family photography seems like it would be a next best option.

The Best Places to Hang Family Portraits in Your Home

 

1) Hang your family portraits in a prominent location that you and your children spend a lot of time in, such as a family room.  

 

The more your children are exposed to portraits showing them as an important part of the family unit, the better.  Plus, seeing photos of your family makes you happy as well, so you will want to frequently see your family portraits too!  Therefore, hanging them in a location where you will see them a lot is an obvious first step.

 

 

2) Hang family portraits in your children's bedrooms.  

 

Stephanie Marston, child psychotherapist and author of "The Magic of Encouragement," suggests that parents place two images next to their children's beds.  One image should demonstrate 'family togetherness,' and the other should portray the child happily engaged in an activity.  The reason for placing the two portraits in the bedroom is that:

 

 "Research has shown the 30-minute time period just before bed is when children are more receptive and listen and absorb more than any other time. Put photos of your kids being capable and loved next to their beds, and these positive images are likely to be the last thing they see before they sleep and the first thing they see when they awaken."

3)  Hang newborn photography and baby portraits in the nursery.  

 

It's never too early to use professional family portraits with your children.  In fact, you can start photo identity games from infancy.  Hang wall portraits of your baby in the nursery, so that they can get to know themselves.  Make them laugh by pointing out different parts of their bodies.  One day, your child will recognize him/herself, and that will be a treasured moment that you'll remember forever.