may we never stop

we don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing. [michael prichard]

i think there is nothing better than a great laugh.  and to be honest, i wish i had a better sense of humor, was funnier and laughed more than i do.  don't ever ask me to tell a joke because it would be rather painful.  maybe that's why i'm so drawn to capturing a true, honest great laugh so much -- which is often a tough thing to do for someone who is not funny.

inevitably, we WILL grow old, but may we never stop laughing as we do...


magazine feature

a few months ago, i had the awesome opportunity to photograph for babiekins magazine. i had such a blast coming up with the shoot concepts and the girls were amazing to work with.  they were such troopers too -- as it was so cold AND windy on the day of the shoot. it pained me not to share the photos right after i edited them, but that's the agreement -- no sharing until the issue is released. so i patiently waited...and waited!

so without further ado, here's a few of my favorites...

a super special thanks to all the models and their parents.  along with andie sleeman [for makeup] and darlina contto [for hair].

the entire spring issue can be viewed here [my spread starts on page 262].

and a few behind-the-scenes photos that one of the model's parents shared with me...


what ____ looks like

"your kids must have the most amazing pictures." i get that comment A LOT.  and while my kids do have some pretty fabulous photos from the past five years that i've been doing photography, somehow along the way, i seem to have lost my ability to capture the every day lives of my family.  you know, those photos that document the simple joys and everyday moments.  it bums me out.  and i have complained about it for years, yet i haven't done a whole lot, in an effort to remedy the situation.

so when i was recently approached by a photographer about participating in a project entitled "what _______ looks like", i jumped at the opportunity.  i will be working on this project along side a group of eleven other incredible photographers. the goal of the project is to capture our families in a real, everyday kind of way -- to capture moments that document the reality, the beauty, the mess, the truth, the everyday of our family life.

each month we will each choose to fill in the blank with a word of our choice.  some of us may choose to use the same word all year. others may choose to change it up every month or every couple months.  at the end of every month, we will all be sharing some of our photos on our blogs. we will each link to another photographer until our circle of 12 is complete.

i'm excited about this.  i needed this.  but more-so, i feel that my children deserve this. along the way, i also hope this project will inspire you to take more everyday pictures of your own famiy!!

so here we go.  this is what a bit of our everyday august looks like...

all the cousins together, at oma and opa's, in NV.

standard toy mess. watching TV.


steve jumping.

first day of school.

in the pool. almost every single day in august.

not-so-pretty toenails, courtesy of the pool.

how he always sits.  his favorite toy. and the littles' handmade cardboard box chair.

on our way to gymnastics.

new friends at the horse farm.

play time.

their fort.

computer games.

girl time.

before school. forgot to brush.

so what have i learned in the first month, with this project?  i learned that i have a long way to go in documenting my family's everyday. and that i need to try and carry my camera around with me more. but honestly, even in this short bit, i already feel like i'm noticing and capturing more of the beauty and magic of our everyday.  and that makes my heart so very happy.

can't help but think of this quote... enjoy [and capture] the little things, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things. - robert brault

i hope you'll now head on over to stephanie moore's blog to see what she had to share about her project this month -- stephanie moore | tucson family photographer.

p.s. i used more than one word for my blank...hope that's okay.

where have all my babies gone?

my friend, steph, is a brilliant writer and photographer and today she posted THIS on the creative mama.  tears strolled down my cheeks as i read her words and thought about my own kids (and no steph, i'm not PMSing). kiele started high school this year. sky is in third grade. and my baby, ryder, is now in first grade (and for some reason, a first grader just seems so much older than a kindergardener).

my babies aren't babies anymore and... i ache at the thought that i am no longer cool in kiele's eyes or that she would rather spend time in her cave than with the family.  i ache at the thought of skyler no longer wanting me to kiss or hug her in front of her classmates. i ache at the thought of ryder not asking me to snuggle with him or him not coming into my bed in the middle of the night.  the thought of my last baby no longer being my baby makes me want to throw up.

how is this happening?  so quickly?  where did the time go?

not long ago, i saw this photo of my friend, heather, with her youngest, who is about ryder's age.  i now long for such a photo of ryder and i.  i can barely hold him anymore (he's so big) and before long, that will be gone too.

above image copyright heather starr

don't get me wrong, i do celebrate the wonderful children my babies have grown to be, but i can't help but think about how quickly the time has passed and the memories i hold onto so tightly.

in closing, i share a few recent photos of my babies...

sky and ryder yesterday, their first day of school

i wasn't able to get a photo of kiele yesterday because she was running late and had to rush off to school to test all her cochlear implant equipment before the other students started arriving in the classroom.  however, i was able to get a photo of part of her teenage cave.  ;-))

and the little ones' shoes.  couldn't help it.  every year, we have major shoe drama (too big, too tight, not bendy enough, hurts my pinky toe, etc.). also, i love their independence in selecting their own clothes. check out sky's rolled down striped socks (selecting their own clothes in the morning is something i have always encouraged).'s knees are pretty darn cute too.

note:  we're actually headed to payless this afternoon because the shoe drama continued this morning.

and the dog, who is hard as hell to photograph, makes a mess of my doors and anxiously awaits their return home every day.

when friends come to visit...

i truly cherish my friends. and my dear friend emily and her daughter, lu, came to visit for the past three days. while we didn't really make it any further than my house, we had the most incredible, fun time together!! a few photos from the past few days...

em and lu, i love you so.  can't wait for the next time.  xo.

and's back to that long to-do list.  ugh.

H2O love

be careful what you water your dreams with.water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream. - lao tzu

here i am in tampa. trying to get my business going. not easy task. uninspired by the landscape. missing the open fields. and the trees. wondering if i'll find my way here. knowing deep within that i'm on the right path. yet still struggling.

i've had the most incredible opportunities that wouldn't have been possible if i was swamped with client sessions. i know i'm right where i'm supposed to be, yet i yearn to be inspired with tampa and it's landscape. and today, it happened. that spark has been reignited and is burning bright.

i received my underwater housing today and tested it out a bit this afternoon, in my backyard pool. and i can't even begin to tell you how excited i am about the possibilities.  about the future. the adventure has just begun.

i will be bringing my housing with me, to hawaii (for the next nine days), to continue testing it out. i still have TONS to learn and luckily have a cooperative subject, who can hold his breath way longer than i can (my husband).

YES...i'm exactly where i'm supposed to be. and i'm dreaming big. really big (although i'm really sore and my shoulder and back are killing me. not sure if it's crossfit or heavy housing related.).

i'm so optimistic about the future, i can barely stand it.  more super big news coming soon!!

it's a cat-and-mouse game

that's how i feel right now. i guess that's kind of how i've been feeling for quite a while, when it comes to catching up -- my house is never clean these days, more to edit, workshop to keep up with, orders to complete, and the list goes on and on. and while this might seem like i'm complaining, i'm so NOT!! i'm grateful to have all these things in my life. the cat-and-mouse game is just part of my norm.  and i try and keep a detailed to-do list to manage this norm.

speaking of the workshop (via the bloom forum), it's going amazing. i'm loving every single minute of it. and feel it's exactly where i'm meant to be right now -- sharing and teaching.  leah and i have also begun discussing our 2012 wallflower retreat dates and location.  and we'll be talking much more at the NAPCP retreat, where we are so thrilled to be speaking, next month.  lots of excited things ahead!!

i am driving to charleston, south carolina today, for a mini vacation. the littles and i are meeting a friend there, with her little girl. we're staying right on the beach. i so can't wait to just hang out and chill for a few days.  i anticipate lots of fun, laughter, inspiration and great conversations, along with some shooting.  :-))  but yes, we will have to do some work, while there too.

lastly, kiele is at a deaf / hard-of-hearing camp (such an incredible opportunity) this week, next week she visits a friend and then she goes with her dad for six weeks. so we won't be back to the horse farm until august. the barn cat will be there when we get back, but these kittens won't. my kids love these kittens so much.  they will really be missed when we return.

it's awesome though, to see the week-to-week changes at the barn (beyond the kittens growing up).  this past week... baby mice were born (still pink and only twitching) the geese eggs still haven't hatched (i would have attempted a photo but one goose was loose and very protective of his eggs; he chased me when i got remotely close). the baby ducks are now big ducks. we also seem to find a dead animal almost every time we're there; this time it was a bunny.  but my kids have learned that when you have that many animals on a farm, it's part of the circle-of-life.

we love the farm!!

the baby mice...

and a 14-year-old dog for good measure, from my most recent family session...



so love that my three still play together like this.  when i edited this picture, from a a couple weeks ago...

i couldn't help but think of this picture, from 2008 (in our backyard, san diego).

and that had me looking through more photos of my three, cherishing these memories i have of them together. makes me weepy, when i think how fast the time has flown and how big my three now are.

feels like i haven't shot in forever. but now that my entire family is done with this week long belly bug, i'm hoping to remedy that soon.

have faith

faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.- rabindranath tagore

may we all have faith, feel the light, find our wings, sing our song and soar!!  feels kind of cheesy as i write those words, but feels kind of awesome at the same time.  like i just want to sit here and breathe it all in. anyways...

some photos just make my heart so happy.  and the bird photo just happens to be one of those photos. taken yesterday, while the kids and i were at the beach (steve was parachuting).  :-)

also, if you get a on over to the creative mama blog, where i shared a bit about my annual family books and the book making process.

all american

i had been longing...dreaming... about doing photographs with my kids and an american flag for a really really long time.

it was important to me, as a former military member and now a military spouse. i'm proud to be a military family. very proud.  very blessed.  i wouldn't change our military life for a second.

so a couple of weeks ago, while having a family day at the beach, i decided to bring along our american flag.

and this is a bit of what happened...

note: flag was handled with extreme care and respect, in the making of these photographs. i promise, opa marty.


ask anyone who knows me...i have a thing about website portfolios. and here's some of my pretty opinionated thoughts... clients come to your website to get an idea of who you are as a photographer and the photographs you produce. they want to have a thorough understanding about what they're potentially going to invest in. and therefore it's important for you to have an honest and up-to-date representation of yourself and your work. your portfolio is your business' first impression. and shouldn't you have that first impression be the best it can be?

nothing frustrates me more than when photographers say they they don't have time to update their portfolio. especially for years!! for me, updating my portfolio is not even an annual thing; it's ongoing throughout every year. my prospective clients deserve that. they deserve to know exactly what they're getting if they choose to invest in me, as their photographer.

and i hope that anyone i have photographed over the years would say that i have an honest representation of my work on my website.

so as we start this new year, PLEASE consider looking through and updating your website portfolio. and then consider continuing to update throughout the year.

here's a few photographs that i just added to my portfolio. and with that, a few others that didn't feel quite right any longer, were removed.

and a couple oldies that just made it back into my portfolio.  that's the beauty of portfolios; your loves, tastes, editing, etc. -- it all changes over time.

ETA:  i just had another thought.  i've heard from some photographers,

if they [clients] want to see updated photos, they're on my blog.

well if that's the case and that's the route you want to go, get rid of your main website. again, if you have a site AND a blog, take responsibility for both of them. your client doesn't know what you're thinking; they just know what they see.

lastly, keeping your high-res portfolio images organized and easily found will greatly help in portfolio management, access and updates.  trust me! :-)

finding peace

so it's the 2nd day of the new year and i haven't stopped thinking about what this year will bring.  or where i'm headed. or what my goals are. blah. blah. blah.

i THOUGHT i wanted to start my own personal happiness project.  the initial THOUGHT of it excited me.  and then i made a monthly resolution chart and the THOUGHT of it made me anxious as hell.  i'm not sure i could ever focus on one thing for an entire month; my brain so doesn't work that way (ask leah).  so i'm not sure i'll go much farther with my happiness project than this...

JANUARY’S RESOLUTIONS: JUST BE HAPPY (exploring everything happy) FEBRUARY’S RESOLUTIONS: SHOW ME THE MONEY (managing finances) MARCH’S RESOLUTION: LOVE GREATER (bettering my marriage) APRIL’S RESOLUTION: LAUGH MORE (lightening my attitude) MAY’S RESOLUTION: HAVE FAITH (exploring spirituality) JUNE’S RESOLUTION: PLAY GAMES (being the parent i want to [& should] be) JULY’S RESOLUTION: THIS OLD HOUSE (fixing up the house & yard) AUGUST’S RESOLUTION: REALLY FORGIVE (working on my past) SEPTEMBER’S RESOLUTION: COMPUTER-LESS (working on less computer, etc. time) OCTOBER’S RESOLUTION: LET GO (being less perfect) NOVEMBER’S RESOLUTION: WRITE THANK YOUS (appreciating friends) DECEMBER’S RESOLUTION: GIVE MORE (exploring ways to give back)

but it at least forced me to think about 12 things i'd like to work on throughout the year.  that's good...right?!  oh and business wasn't on my monthly resolution list because i KNEW there was no way in hell i could pick a specific month to dedicate to business.  that thought made me even more anxious. and health and fitness wasn't on there because i am totally getting back in my routine this week (yes, i've been absolutely terrible over the past couple weeks).

so what are my goals? i don't know. maybe i'll figure something out tomorrow. because right now, my brain hurts from trying to come up with something. maybe i'll just come up with a few business and personal goals and be done with it.  or maybe i just won't do anything at all and i'll let the year unfold exactly as it will.

anyways... here's a few shots from our day today.  spending time with amazing friends...boating to a tiny private island for lunch on the beach and spending time together playing, sharing, laughing and exploring. could it get much better than that?

the flag, to claim our island

and with that all said...and coming to peace with the fact that i don't need to make any darn resolutions or goals or anything for that matter on the 1st day of january...i feel better already.

give love

taken this morning.on our way to art class. in front yard. drawn to something about it. her. the statement. real. nothing fancy. just drawn. so go... give love. and have a fabulous weekend.

p.s. this morning is magically foggy but the kids have art class and then i'm attending a cookie exchange.  hoping with all i have to hope that tomorrow morning is foggy and i can go shoot my kids on the beach with some fabulous fog in the air.


i've had a great photographer friend, jen wright, visiting from atlanta, for the past few days.  so much fun!!  and yesterday, we decided to go scout tampa locations for a bit and then photograph my kids, in the evening. i begged jen if she would photograph my family (she doesn't like the pressure of photographing other photographer's families). finally after enough begging, she agreed. when she showed me the shot below, i was blown away at how much ryder has changed since our last family photos (a mere six months ago). he's grown up so much...sigh!!  but then i thought about how much each of us has changed since april...

kiele is now a teenager we moved from kansas to tampa and bought a new (old!) house ryder started kindergarten all three kids are in a new school and made new friends i've lost 5 pounds and am fitter than i have been in a really long time steve lost 10 pounds and started a new job i'm sure there's more where that came from but all my mind can think of at the moment.

left:  untamed heart photography (april 10) right: jen wright photography (yesterday)

left: untamed heart photography (april 10) right: mine (yesterday, utilizing the last bit of light of the day)

ryder is full of expression these days and as my new zealand friend peta would say, he's quite cheeky.  here's a few others from yesterday. so excited to have found another location i love. :-))

also, if you're a prospective tampa client -- i only have five session dates available for the remainder of 2010 (the latest being nov 21st). once those sessions are reserved, i will begin booking 2011. :-)

auction projects

i get asked a lot of questions regarding the school auction projects i've done over the years, so i thought it would be good to just share here... every year, i offer my photography services for my kids' school auction projects. some years it's been framed portraits of each child. other years a book. and sometimes both.

and through the years, i've learned a ton!!  typically, it goes something like this...

i take a few photos of each student in the class. i do this somewhere on the school grounds. somewhere with great light. and a good background.  i try to get the child as comfortable (and natural) as possible. for me, this is an extremely important step.  i usually only have a minute or two with each child, so i have to work fast.

while i'm taking photos, the students are doing something nearby (reading books, being read a story, etc.).  i take the children one by one and do my best so it's just me and the child, with no others watching.

i also take a few photos of the group of students together. sitting. standing. whatever works with the location.

last year, i also took some photos of the children within the classroom but it doesn't always happen that way.  but, last year wasn't an auction book; it was an end of year gift from me.

after the photos, i work with the teacher in getting the children to write about a topic or a question and draw a picture. this varies from year to year, depending on the school, the teacher, the child's age, etc. for me, it has greatly varied because the past three years have been three completely different schools (in three different states). one year, at a lutheran preschool, the children drew a picture of what they thought Heaven looked like and then the teachers asked them the question, "what does Heaven look like and what do they think is in Heaven?" this year, the question is, "what do you want to be when you grow up and why?" with the younger kids, it's necessary to transcribe what they say. if this is the case, i stress the importance of capturing every single word because it adds as much of the child's personality as possible to the project.

i then design the book, however i see fit for the photographs, drawing, writing, etc. i do this through blurb because it would be too expensive to use the book company i use for my photography business.

the auction itself can be run in many different ways.  i'm sure there are other ideas out there but these are how the auctions, which i have been involved with in the past years, have run: - you can print one or two books and auction off the books. this year, i am adding an 11x14 print to the auction so the highest bidder will get the book and a print. - you can have the books available via a blurb store. with the store, you can set the price so the book price can be set for xx dollars over the printing cost and then all the profit can be donated to the school. - you can auction off one book. and then you could ask the parent winner if they would be okay with selling the book to other parents for the same auction price. again, all the money (after paying printing cost) is donated to the school. - i even worked with a school, where the teacher loved the book so much, she just wanted every parent possible to have it and so we sold the book at cost.

one of the tricky parts is getting reimbursed by the school.  this year, the room parent is getting pre-auction donations from the parents, which will cover the cost of printing.  this is a huge treat because in the previous years, i've donated my time and the printing of the book | prints.  just something to think about.

with the framed portraits, a parent or parents donated the frames. the framed prints were then auctioned for a set price (in my case, $50 each). so the parents didn't really bid on one item; they bid the set price for their child's framed portrait.  if there are 20 children in the class, this style of auction makes the school $1000.

all my time and prints (when offered) are donated. i absolutely love doing the books and being able to give back to the school.  and the parents and teachers have always loved the books too.  i have my (coffee table) books proudly displayed on my entryway credenza.  and i cherish them so.

i hope this helps. if there's any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section and i will edit the post and answer.

ETA: What was your price point (or profit) per book? the price point (profit) all depends on how high the auction goes, for the standard style auction. i've never sold my books (via a blurb store) to the parents for profit. i think it's best to talk to the teacher, room parent and possibly other parents, to see how many might be interested in purchasing the book. then you can decide how much profit you'd like to make off of each book.

our auction happens very early in the year - is this the case for you? this year, the auction is october 23rd (way early, in my opinion). and with my teaching a workshop oct 1-3 and shooting in san diego oct 13-18, i'm trying really hard to have the book completed by sep 29th.

also, do you advertise your business at all in the books themselves? logo or link to site? i have a page where i have a photograph and then under the photograph, i have -- all photographs taken by deb schwedhelm photography

for the framed prints of each child...our auction provides a tiny table space for your donated item. did you display all 20 or so prints for bidding? also, what happened to the ones that were not bid on? : / (or were they all bid on?) yes, all the framed 5x7 prints were displayed. and all have been purchased in the previous years, except maybe one and it wasn't at my children's school. i'm not sure what they did with the portrait that didn't sell.

Do you have suggestions for tips on the artwork of students you are going to scan, in terms of size and what they use to draw? i just have them draw on white copy paper and i prefer the kids draw with markers but colored pencils and crayons work too. it's just that the marker shows better, when the papers are scanned. a few other tips -- i like to have the kids sign their artwork or their writing and include their age. also, have them stay away from writing / drawing close to the edge of the paper. don't let them draw on the other side of the paper, as it will show through when scanned.

here's a few screen captures of auction book page spreads (of my kids) that i've done in the past years.

time and distance

alex and skyler.  they met in 2005...2-years-old and next door neighbors in san diego.  it was during our unfortunate military housing situation and it was our temporary house (while our unfortunate house was being repaired).  our temporary house ended up being our home, next to the B family, for about five months.  we joked that sky and alex were the yin and yang of friendship -- so different and yet complementing one another so perfectly --creating a magical friendship, even at such a young age. when we moved, we didn't move far (around the corner and a few blocks down) so the kids continued to see each other once a week or so, over the next couple years.

in 2007, just shy their 4th birthdays, the B family moved to pennsylvania.  sky had a photo of the two of them (see below) on her dresser.  alex had hers on her wall.  we never stopped talking about alex through the years.  and occasionally, we'd get an email from the B family with photos and updates.  we never doubted that one day we'd see the B family again...and sky would see alex.

lucky for us, alex's grandpa lives in orlando.  lucky for us, their annual florida trip took place a couple weeks ago. :-) it was so awesome seeing the girls together again -- as if they were never apart.

i really do feel blessed to be a military family and i share with my kids often, how very lucky we are.

love you B family!! so excited to see  you over the next three years.  © deb schwedhelm | tampa children's photographer

april 2007 (one of their last photos together) & august 2010

a few from our trip a couple weeks ago

i just love them sitting together on this bench outside our orlando condo.  i can't help but envision them 60, 70, 80 years from now, sitting together.  in a similar manner. on a similar bench.

and the whole gang, minus kiele because she was at her dad's.


with a mutual love and obsession for horses (amongst other things), kiele and haeley quickly became best friends, shortly after our arrival here in kansas.  and through their friendship, we met the rest of the deeney clan, who we just adored from the moment we met them.  and today, the deeney family departs -- well, the parents will actually be back for a week to pack out, but the kids are headed to their grandparents, after after they attend a family wedding in tennessee. watching kiele and haeley say good-bye last night...well, lets just say it was painful. sad, sad, sad! after haeley left, i couldn't get kiele out of her bedroom.  i couldn't sleep, trying to think of ways to keep haeley and payton (the kids) here a bit longer.  but as i share with my kids, i reminded myself -- we have to be thankful for the opportunity to have met these new friends.  and look forward to seeing them again one day (which we will!!).  if we didn't come to this army post here in kansas, for this one quick year, we would have never have met this awesome air force family.

over the years, from state to state, we have made some of the most amazing friends ever!!  and while leaving them is always hard, we are truly blessed to have met and shared time with them -- and that's what we have to remember and hold in our hearts.

to show my thanks to the deeney family, for their friendship and all they've done for us this past year, i did a photo session with them the other day....

we will truly miss you heather, jay, haeley and payton.  thank you for a fabulous year!!

note:  kiele and haeley have already made plans to spend a few weeks together next summer, on the deeney farm and as far as i'm concerned, i'll do everything in my power to make that happen, if they want that.