Category Archives: Photography :: Family Life

As I packed up my camera, doled out goodbye hugs, and climbed into my car, I realized my heart was overheating. I had finished one of the brightest sessions of my photography career. These girls. This family. Sigh… I don’t have the words to express how I feel about this day, but I do have the photos. And there are a lot of them, so I apologize in advance. But they’re extraordinary.

With that “hard to live up to” intro, I give you an incredibly gracious and sublimely free Berkeley family.

Jennifer Chaney Family Life Photograper San Francisco East Bay Area


There is a natural, candid way about them. All of them. They are unassuming and disarming. They glide around each other as they move from one part of the day to the next.

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They’re connected and individual. Crazy and calm. Sometimes all at once.

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And this. This photo above tells the complete story. The beauty in the chaos. The days are filled with sisters who are nonstop wild. Natural entertainers. Mom and dad bring their own energy to the family with their quick yet subtle humor and warm hearts. Together they create a perfection that only they can own. It’s all here. Bliss in the ordinary.


Documentary Family Lifestyle Pictures in Berkeley CA


Like many of us, we divide to conquer. Some look it as a way to survive, but I like to think it’s an opportunity to connect. Dad with one daughter and mom with the other. It’s their time and, later in the day, they will trade, creating another chance to bond. Lather, rinse, repeat.


Candid Family Photography with Jennifer Chaney


The above set of pictures is another reason I’m enamored with this family. They show the innocence and truth of dressing babies. It can be stress-filled one minute and laughter-filled the next. A microcosm of parenthood.


East Bay Family Pictures with Jennifer Chaney Photographer


In the pictures above, she refused to play the guitar for me until her dad started to sing Let It Go. And he did so unabashedly.


Casual Portraits in The Bay Area


A little girl who roughhouses with her dad, climbs trees in dresses, and wears her cowboy boots on the wrong feet is a gift to be treasured. Especially one who takes a moment to show how her hand fits neatly into the handprint her dad made in cement back in 1977.


Candid Outdoor Family Pictures in the East Bay Area


Mom and Dad walked these trails and hills in Berkeley as teenagers, making their family’s hike down to Pete’s more than just an average weekend ritual.

Family of four in Berekley casual photos by Jennifer Chaney

There was no fussing or posing. No bustling about trying to create a family portrait. Everything unfolded with ease. Naturally. One photo flowed effortlessly into the next.
They didn’t force a single picture or moment. They showed me how they live in a genuine and unconstrained way. No wonder I continue to be drawn to this session and have the same warmth of heart that I did on the day I photographed them. They’re a quiet exhale.

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When I’m photographing a family session, I can feel the family’s energy and perpetual movement–and a low level of stress that doesn’t seem to dissipate. I know that some of this stress is related to having a photographer inside your own home, but when I think about my own family life, I realize that the hustle and fear are nearly always in the air. Some mornings it’s less than others, and some evenings it’s thick and disruptive.

As I look at these pictures, I don’t see the wildness that families fear will take center stage. I see the honesty. The kindness and comfort. I see a family experiencing parenting and life in the way that works for them. And over the years, they’ve learned to find what makes them happy amidst the mess that makes them human.

Meet the Green family and their version of perfect.

Photo Journalistic Family Lifestyle Photography in San Francisco with Jennifer Chaney


She turned one a few days before I arrived. Her birthday balloon floats above her high chair as a softly rustling reminder of how quickly time flies.


Casural Portrait Photographer SF Bay Area Jennifer Chaney


Her older brother is alive with more answers than questions. He’s curious, social, and sensitive. A surprisingly delightful combination. He’s already making his mark in this world. And if you ever have the opportunity to sit and listen to the thoughts he generously shares, I urge you not to waste the opportunity. He’s a wonder.


Baby Documentary Photographer Jennifer Chaney

She’s like her brother. Inquisitive and expressive. At the same time, her energy is her own. It rolls and flows. When she’s older, I imagine she’ll have conversations that rival her brother’s.

Creative Photography in San Francisco Homes with Jennifer Chaney


After nearly ten years as a family photographer, there are a handful of pictures that stay with me long after I’ve clicked the shutter. The first picture in this collage is one of those memorable photos. I dashed downstairs to grab a different lens and saw a magical moment. And unposed, candid glimpse into their reality. Into their family dance.

No matter how disheveled these parents feel, they ground themselves in unexpected places. In a moment of quiet found in reading the book their preschooler hands them.


Bay Area Family Life Photos with Jennifer Chaney

Or in the peace a sleepy baby and a warm bottle can provide.

This is their magic in their mayhem. When life feels fast, out of your control, and unstoppable, you take solace in the seconds rather than minutes–because sometimes that’s all you’ll find, and many times, it’s all you need.


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When she opened the front door I was instantly reminded of Thanksgiving. Not because there was a table full gorgeous, feast-worthy food, or football on in the background, or even loud conversations ringing through the halls… it was because her energy. I could see that her life is all about family. I felt instantly safe and at home. Her warmth permeated the entire house. In that moment, I knew they were special.

Meet the Loughmillers.

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They don’t wake up and make big plans for the day. With four kids in tow, they know their days, hours and even seconds are unpredictable and distracted.

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She laughs as she tells me how a normal day unfolds, “We live at the pace of toddlers.”

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One minute separated by walls, and another found them all rolling about in the same room. There’s a palpable, magical magnetic pull in their home.

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And in all of the chaos, the toddlers need their daddy time for their “daddy talks.” They quietly sit with each other. Waiting to see what the moment will hold. There are no expectations. This is their time.

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The quiet isn’t long lived. This is the ebb and flow of life with small children.

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I’m always in awe of families with four children. As one of my clients once told me, “you move to zone defence. Man-to-man is no longer an option.”

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The Loughmiller’s family dance is so fluid that you don’t see any breaks in-between songs. They move around their home, swiftly changing partners and rooms. Without missing a beat. It’s beautiful to watch.

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From happy to sad to deep cuddles. There is always unconditional love.

And the parents seem to bathe in it.

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Life isn’t as much as a circus as it is a ride. Wild at times and soft at others. But one thing is for sure. The Loughmillers are comfortable and confident.

They embrace their “toddler tornado of love.”

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. If you’ve been waiting to pull the trigger on booking a session with me, I only have four left for 2015. Email me for the details or visit my photography website for the details.

After spending only a day with them, I found myself thinking about them long after the session was over. Weeks after the photos were delivered. And months since we last exchanged emails.

All three of them taught me something about family. And I walked away feeling a deeper connection to my own crazy babies.

I also learned that this mom’s heart is unstoppable.

She loves not just with kind words or soft gestures. She love with her entire being.

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She shows them how to love in a world that often times feels unlovable.

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She holds their hearts as well as their hands.

Walnut Creek CA Family Photographer

Embracing her chaos with patience and hope, she is showing them how to be instead of telling them who to be.

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And they take it all in. Thriving in this beautiful place she has created for them.

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Because it doesn’t take much more than a mother’s willingness to be who she really is to create the space for her children to be who they really are.

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A little mischievous. A touch wild. And deeply loved.

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She is showing them that happiness is a way of life. It’s a way of thinking and being.

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And they get to see what a strong, undefeated, shining mom looks like.

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They are the definition of family. Held together by the moments in the day. The moments she creates by simply observing and cherishing the different stages they are flitting in and out of.

Beauty in the chaos

She sees her world the way I do. It’s not only outlined in silver.

It’s filled with it.


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

Recently I was asked what to do with printed photos. This mom had taken my online photo organization class last year and has been practicing my favorite photo taking party trick, but still had printed pictures that needed her attention.

Without batting an eye, I started to rattle off a list of things she could do with the photos on her walls. Ideas that would help her fill in her fading memory, but also help her kids learn and remember more about their childhood. And as I chatted, I realized that all of us could give these ideas a whirl.

Let’s do a little light work to give more meaning to our printed photos, shall we?

Best photo tips for kids

If you look at one of your pictures, you don’t just see a photo, you see a story… especially if you were the one who took it. Sometimes it takes awhile to fully recall what the photo true story. What were we thinking and feeling when we took it? What else was going on at the time that isn’t in the picture? And more importantly, what made us decide to take it in the first place?


Every photo has a subplot.


Let’s work on ways we can quickly recall it and help our children remember their childhood at the same time.


(1) What to do with the pictures already hanging on your walls:

Most of us hang up our important and meaningful photos. In fact, I’ve dedicated our hallway to our family pictures. I call it our living history hallway because it’s a trip down memory lane every time I walk down it. Many of our friends spend quite a bit of time perusing the land of photos and I so do my crazy babies. I realized that a little backstory would help them see more of what the photo means.

 Easy Tips for Organization of family pictures


An elegant (and simple!) solution is to jot down the location, people and year the photo was taken on the matt.

 Or for those into more detailed record keeping, how about including a little story about the picture in an envelope tucked behind the photo? It can be placed in such a way that you can easily pull out the note to read right there. Or maybe it’s a larger story, in which case a larger envelope can be secured to the back of the picture frame (be sure to keep a copy of the photo and story somewhere safe.

2) How to handle photos already printed and in albums:

Guess what? You can apply the same tips for framed pictures to your albums. Flip through the pages of your album and make note in the margins of names, ages and year. Or secure a letter detailing your thoughts and feelings about the pictures in the album. No need to address every picture, just a high level story will work perfectly.

Imagine your children or grandchildren flipping through these albums in the future. I know my heart flutters a little whenever I see my gram’s writing. I would be thrilled to find a letter telling me about all of the pictures in one of her albums.

3) Getting ready to print a new photo album? Try adding the story right in the album:

Not quite scrapbooking, but the next best thing. When printing up your albums (I like to use Blurb albums), take a little extra time to write a bit about the pictures. Not just what you see, but include WHY you took the pictures. Those are the stories people really want to hear!

Easy Tips for Organization of Photos

4) Create a Family Story album:

This is one I wish I had done ages ago. Design a family history book with a handful of photos from your past (include as many relatives as possible). Write a bit about each photo stitching together a story of your life for you kids.

And that, my friends, is how you infuse a little more meaning into your pictures. For you and your kids.

Be sure to sign up for photo tips and news right in your inbox. Not only will you get fancy photo tips, but you’ll also receive a complimentary copy of my ebook, “Take Control of Your Digital Photos” Sign up here.


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P.S. Need more photo inspiration? Check out these other articles 5 Things I Learned by Organizing My Photos and Creating Meaningful Moments Not Photo Ops

There will come a day when he will be the largest thing in the kitchen. When using the cabinet as a stepping stool won’t be necessary. When he’s called upon to grab something off of the top shelf.

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Until then, he is a ball of determination. He knows he wants something out of his reach, and he’ll do what it takes to get it.

He’s courageous. He’s not thinking of the consequences. He’s troubleshooting. He’s living as if he doesn’t have a care in the world.

And he doesn’t.

Because that is what childhood is.

It’s creative, courageous and consequence-free.

Imagine if we checked our worry and stress at the door and let them truly live in their childhood?

What will their adulthood be like?

Will our adult children take risks and not shy away from failure? Will they jump even when others say they shouldn’t? Will they live their lives with the freedom of a child simply because we allowed it when they were children?

These are the things I think of when I see this photo. I see a child standing up to a challenge… and winning. I see a child solving a problem. I see his future because his mom let him be a child.

It gives my heart strength to back off the reins and let my crazy babies explore their world a little more.

It gives me strength to let them be little.

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P.S. If you’re a photographer and looking to find your vision, email me. I can help. :)