Category Archives: Photography :: Family Life

This mama speaks my language.  She is enamored with her children and wants to soak up every milestone and moment.  From the way her youngest would prefer to slide along the floor rather than crawl, to her daughter talking and singing herself to sleep each night… every moment for this mom is worthy of remembering.  Even the fussy and messy moments.  They all matter.Menlo Park Family PhotographyThis session brought me back to just a few years ago when my crazy babies were still in highchairs.  I adored how they waved their dangling feet and banged their hands on the counter demanding more to eat… food that would likely wind up on the ground after being batted around like a cat toy.  (I think our dog misses it, too.)Palo Alto Family PhotographerIf the chairs and the feet look familiar to you, it’s because I used a similar photo in an article about how to layer a picture to make it more powerful.  You can check out that photo tip here:  The Dance of Tiny Feet.San Francisco Family photographerHis chubby little fingers meticulously pinch a Cheerio that he kindly offers to his mommy… sigh… life is definitely crazy when you have kids, but it’s the little things like being fed by your toddler that make the wild ride feel a little less bumpy.

Watching her snuggle up with one of her favorite books was fascinating… she knew I was there with a camera in hand, and yet her flipping through the pages and getting lost the colorful drawings was more important than getting her pictures taken.  I love that kind of intensity. Especially when it comes to reading.Palo Alto Family PhotosHe’s a little wild, but at the same time extremely sensitive and loving.  While he is itching for freedom, he seems to prefer constant contact with his mama.  The sweetness of it made my heart ache a little.los altos family photographerWitnessing a parent’s uncontrollable love for a child is quite possibly the biggest perk of being a family photographer. Their dad works from home and takes time out to let his daughter “help”.  He hoisted her onto his lap, and she pretended that she was working, too.  I’m not sure he knows this, but those 2 minutes a day will grow to be one her most cherished childhood memories.  I strongly believe that good parenting is about the genuine connections rather than the overall time you spend with your children. los altos family photographyWhen I look at this photo I can still hear the squealing laughter and am reminded of what it was like to have two toddlers climbing all over me… It makes me miss all the hair pulling and drool. Side note:  I was so inspired by this family’s “play area”, I decided that the squishy, inviting rug must make an appearance in my own home.  It took awhile to find the perfect one, but it was well worth the wait!  We can now laze around on it like the Brooks family does theirs.  And even though my kids are a little older now, we can still hang out and play in a new way… I thank the Brooks family for the inspiration. :)

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Are you on my email list?   I’ll be sending out the latest news and tips soon.  I’ll also be announcing my holiday sessions!   These go to existing clients first, and then I open up any remaining spots to the public.  Be sure to sign up if you want in on the photo action. ;)  Sign up HERE.

It’s nearly summer, and the kids are already running wild with anticipation of lazy mornings and late evenings – the whole family seems to exhale and relax a little.  And it’s for this reason alone that I try to get my family pictures taken in July.

I realize that it’s not the typical time people think to get their Christmas photos done, but for me it’s the most logical because this is when we truly are who we are.  No one is worried about homework, what to pack for lunch, or school sports.  Fast forward a few months and September brings a whole different family dynamic into view… a much more tense one… everyone is trying to settle back into the school routine, sports start up again, and parents have to hunker down to make sure everyone is on schedule and on task.

Fall is the craziest time of the year for most moms, so why is it that we choose to have our family photos taken then?  

Several of the families I have photographed over the years have switched to having their family photos done earlier because they want to remove the stress around holiday cards.  Which brings me to why I’m writing this article… I want all families to have a relaxing photo experience with no pressure or time table.

By removing the stress around family pictures, you give yourself room to breathe… and that looks amazing in print.

Jennifer Chaney- Danville Family Photographer

I would much rather get a holiday card filled with photos of my friends enjoying their lives – not huddled around an oak tree wearing sweaters and boots.  Unless that’s what they normally do… then I totally want to see that!

I say forget what everyone else is doing and have your family pictures taken when you are most relaxed and most alive.  For me, and many of my mama friends, the summer is the perfect time.  Plus you don’t have the holiday card deadline looming over your head!

I’m now giving you permission to have fun in your family sessions and let the posed, stressful photo shoots go the way of the Cosby sweater or my giant 80’s bangs that still haunt me in my dreams.

And with that, I’ll share a little secret with you.  I do a handful of holiday photo sessions for my existing clients.  Once I announce,  I book up quickly, but if I happen to have a space or two left, I’ll offer it to the first people on my wait list.  Email me if you want me to add your name.  No promises, but if there is an opening, I’ll slip you in.  ;)

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Another upside to getting your picture taken in the summer?   A tan.  Say no more… sign me up!

P.P.S.  If you want to see an awesome photo of me and my super hip 80’s bangs, check out my Facebook page… it’s in there… somewhere.

When I arrived at the Greene’s home on the Peninsula, I was quietly overjoyed that their newest addition was still napping.  There is something so pure and innocent about a sleeping child.  Whenever I see my own kids sleeping, I think about more than just having a quiet household.   When I see those sleeping babies I am reminded of possibility… theirs and mine.

Sitting on the ground, waiting for her to wake, I noticed the mirror on the underside of the mobile on her swing.  It was similar to the mirror on the swing my own kids had, but I had never noticed how they looked in it.  I didn’t slow down to peek at what they spend a lot of time looking at – their own reflection.  I was grateful that I didn’t miss it this time and had a chance to show her parents what their little girl sees when she’s being lulled to sleep.

The world is a very different place from the eyes of a child.  I believe we all need to take the time to get down onto a child’s level to experience life in the way that they do.

Her mom has several handmade, lace dresses that her grandma made for her when she was just a girl.  Most of them are still too big, but this dress fit perfectly.  What struck me most about this dress what how fragile it was, but her mom didn’t let that stop her from having her 11 month old wear it.  She said that her grandma made the dresses to be warn, not kept in a closet.  Such wonderful advice!  Heirlooms should be used and honored, not tucked away and forgotten.

She is just learning to walk, and that taste of freedom makes all other forms of transportation unacceptable… including shoulder rides from her big brother.  She spent the entire time trying to get back down to the ground.  Bless his heart… he just let her wiggle and pull her way around.  Even if it meant the occasional elbow to the nose or tiny baby dagger nails to the cheek.   All girls need a big brother like this one.

She popped her head out of her ball pit to reveal the most elaborate head of staticky hair, and not only did her parents laugh along with her, but they were thrilled to have it documented. This secured a place in my heart for this family for an eternity.  I want to surround myself with parents who see the perfection in the seemingly imperfect… life is much more enjoyable when you search for the lightness in the uncontrollable.

She prances along the sidewalk outside their home while her dad does his best to keep up.  Seeing the dichotomy between his full grown feet and her tiny, demure, one-year old feet makes our responsibly as parents even more evident.

She is at the age of sheer concentration.  Be it trying to walk or feed herself.  She’s incredibly focused and takes these tasks very seriously.

Our session started off with her nap and ended with her big brother dozing off on the couch.  Exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open, he powered through his little sister’s Elmo book with her.  Big brothers are awesome.

Not even a year old, this angelic little one commands your attention and will hold onto your heart.  She’s entertaining and loveable.  Feisty and expressive.  But above all else, she is this family’s love.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. My next photo class for moms has been announced!  You can register (and get the details) HERE!

Photographing small children is a bit like interval training. I’m either dashing around trying to keep up with quick little legs, or I’m sitting on the ground waiting for the next thing to happen.  The younger the kids, the more I seem to wait.

Little ones have their own agenda, and they really don’t care what we have in mind.  When it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat.  And the world will have to stop until this new project is complete.   It’s not like they’re suddenly going to say , “hey, I forgot you were trying to photograph me being awesome… let me finish this one last Cheerio so we can get back to business!”   Nope.  That never happens.  And I’m grateful.

Their slowing down forces me to slow down.  To pause.  To look around while I wait.  I take these lulls in my sessions to find that one photo…. the magical, layered photo that reveals a little more the longer you look at it.  

Here is this Palo Alto Family’s One Photo:

Family Photography in Palo Alto CA

The feet are where the crux of the magic lies.  Both children have their signature pose.  On the left, she has one foot up and one down.  On mom’s right, he has his feet crossed.  Two positions they seem to hold at all times throughout the day… no matter what they’re doing.

Now, layer on Dad working in the adjacent room – even though he’s not physically in the picture, he’s involved because this is what he sees when he walks out of his office.   His wife, mother of his two wonderous children, is sitting in-between them, turning side to side as she alternates between helping each of them with their snacks.  If we look at the floor we see the remaining evidence of their hunger.  Which was soon lapped up by their two very loving, and mildly skittish, rescue dogs… yet another layer in the deeper story this picture tells.

This more than just a photo of cute, dangling feet.  This is history.  Their history.   So much is said in one photo.  So much to recall and remember.  I’m happy to sit and wait for children to finish eating, if I am granted access to moments like this.  My heart is happy.  :)


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area


A few weeks ago, I posted a lovely Danville Saturday Morning photo session that somehow morphed into a Family Life session.  This happened because, when talking with this mama, it became quite clear that her sentimental heart was barely being contained in her petite frame.  She told me beautiful, moving stories of her daughter, husband and distant relatives.  With each story I asked myself, “does she know what her love looks like?”  It’s radiating off of her, and her eyes brightly shine when she speaks of her family.  I wondered,  “does she see what I see?”

And that is the very core of my photography and how I view my families.  I’m constantly searching for the moments that move their hearts, and I ask myself – what makes them love the way they do?  I want, nay, need to show them what their feelings look like.

Our love for our families is dynamic.  And since we can’t step outside of ourselves to see this, I’ve made it my mission to show you what your love looks like… statically.  

Curling up on a couch reading a story about a Greek lamb has a completely differently meaning when the couch you’re sitting on was the very same couch you crawled upon as a child.  Walking around her home and hearing the stories about her furniture’s history was a special treat for me.  I believe family heirlooms should be enjoyed and not tucked away upon a shelf left to gather dust.  And this mom has taken that same philosophy to a whole new level.  She inspires me.

They sit in front of this giant mirror and practice yoga together.  Today, her daughter wasn’t in the mood for it.  She was struggling with putting on her socks and was insistent on doing it by herself.  But ultimately, her struggle ended with tears.  And like magic, Mom was quickly able to restore the balance and quell the bubbling storm that is a toddler who just lost the battle with a sock.

The rustic rope swing is tied high up in one of the many towering, old oak trees that cover their property.  A lot of time is spent outdoors, and the swing provides entertainment for daughter and dad – mom was a little less enthusiastic about going for a ride on it.  (Understandably so… I would leave that to the kids and dads, too!)   But she watches with excitement and beams with the love of a mother.   When I got home and saw that there was a rainbow in this picture, I sighed.  It so fitting since this little girl is their angel.  She’s the light of their lives and seeing her floating over a rainbow couldn’t be more fitting.

 Whether they’re being pensive or playful, children are honest.  And sometimes we have to just ride the emotion waves and let them feel what they’re feeling.  I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about children… they know no other way than to express themselves authentically.

 And then there is the bathtub… She  reminds me of a little princess that doesn’t know she’s a princess.  And it makes my heart smile.

I’ll leave you with this one last image.  I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again, mom and dad are where family started. Honor it.

Thank you my sweet Danville family for an awe inspiring morning.  I left happier and lighter.  And these pictures take me right back to that place every time I look at them.  xoxoxo!

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. This little girl is the inspiration behind my next article about embracing the emotion.  Be sure to check back or join me over on Facebook.  :)


They call her Baba. Her youngest grandson picked her name when he was barely walking, and it stuck. She laughs about it because he was so adamant… she couldn’t convince him to change even if she wanted to.  Now, four more grandkids later, they all call her Baba, and she’s grown to love it.

Baba’s immensely thoughtful daughters surprised her with a Mother’s Day gift of photography – for just her and her grandchildren.  At first, they wondered if I would take on the project because it wasn’t a traditional family session, but this is what I thrive on. Extended family is the absolutely best kind of family to have.  I was very close with my own grandma, and if I had pictures of the two of us playing Kerplunk while eating apple slices and cheddar cheese,  or swimming in Lake Pelican, I would be forever grateful.  So I jumped at the opportunity to help someone else hold onto their own memories.

Baba and Papa have a beautiful home tucked away in the Berkeley Hills. Recently their grandkids discovered a small playhouse hidden in the side yard that has gone unnoticed for over a decade. Unbeknownst to the grandchildren, their own mothers played in that very house when they were little, and they are more than happy to pass the playhouse torch.

The three oldest grandkids gather together and work on sprucing up the little house.  From feather dusters to brooms, they’ve rid this little gem of spider webs and layers of dust.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time with these kids over the years, and I can say with certainty, this is the most organized I’ve seen them.  They’re united in the one goal of getting the house ready for playing… and the youngest boy bringing in freshly picked flowers was the icing on the cake.  I’m pretty sure his mom’s heart melted a little when she saw this photo.

 When they heard the neighbor call to them, they quickly gathered around the window to say “hello”… or make faces.  Either one.  They may be up to the task of cleaning a nearly forgotten little playhouse on the hill, but they’re still kids.  And with his silly faces, he’s here to remind us, lest we forget.


Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. I’m sure most of you have figured this out by now, but I’m a bit of a sappy, sentimental mama. So it’s no surprise that this session filled my heart.