Category Archives: Photography :: Family Life

If you watch, open your eyes, slow down… and be patient… you can capture more than just a moment.  You can capture a flood of memories.  

Her mom is blow drying her hair as she has done a hundred times before.  She is bouncing on her toes making the hair drying process just a bit of a challenge.  Her toenails are painted, but chipped… she doesn’t mind.  She’s wearing in a frilly, white dress that is tied loosely with a pink ribbon.  And if you look very closely, you can see the impressions on her legs from her shin guards.  She walked off the soccer field only an hour before this picture was taken.

If I didn’t wait… if I was just focused on the end goal of getting pictures, I would have missed this.  And from the series of four pictures I took, this one says more than the others combined.  It has an entire childhood summed up in one place, and her parents can relive so much because each detail has its own story.  It’s not just a picture of a little girl getting ready for a family photo shoot.

This is my message to everyone:  slow down. Decide what’s meaningful before you click the shutter.  

And my challenge to every mom out there (and dad!) is to focus on getting just one phenomenal photo rather than 15 mediocre ones.  That one photo can tell you more than the 15 combined if you let it.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. Need more help doing this, sign up for my newsletter – I’ve got a webinar coming up on this very subject and newsletter recipients will be the first to find out about it. :)


A few weeks ago I blogged the beautiful, perfectly crazy Buhalis family’s Saturday Morning Session. But I purposely left out a short series of pictures because I felt like they needed to be on their own. They needed more words. More space. More time.

Here’s why…

Before any session, I talk with my clients a lot. And by a lot, I mean A LOT. It’s not just about what their kids do every day, but about what they, the parents, do. How they feel. Who they are. Our children’s memories start with ours. It’s important to me to understand exactly where parents are coming from. What’s in their heads and hearts. Our conversations lead to some unique discoveries. Many times the mom or dad didn’t know something was important until we talked about it. For this family, I was talking with her about her daily family routine and was instantly stopped by her comment that she helps her youngest son get dressed.

Why is that important to me when nearly everyone else wouldn’t bat an eye?

Because it’s a moment that is repeated day in and day out for years on end, and yet we barely take notice of it. Probably because it’s our every day. And those things easily become mundane. But I don’t see it as mundane. To me, it’s wondrous. It’s not simply helping a child get dressed. It’s helping a child stand… in more ways than one.

When we’re in the thick of things, it’s hard to remember that helping them dress won’t last forever. It slowly fades. Most of the time we don’t even notice when they stop asking for help. Usually we’re too busy pushing down the road to independence to notice that they no longer need us in the same way.

For this mom of three, the simple act of helping a child get dressed has been a part of her life for nearly nine years now. If you have more than one kid, you might not even realize that you’ve been assisting someone getting dressed for such a long period of time.

When I look at these pictures, I don’t just see a mom helping her child get dressed… I see a mom with an uncontrollable love. A mom who devotes her life to her children. She is there for them 24 hours a day. She is on-call all of the time and never off duty. And when she helps her youngest get dressed, I see her patience. I see his dependence. And I also see the end in sight. He will wake up one day soon and dress himself… just like her other two. While that will be lovely and freeing, it hurts my heart a little. For these are our babies, and it is at this age when we are their everything.

In my own home we are at a transitioning place. My youngest is dressing himself 80% of the time. I guess that’s why these pictures hit home for me.

I can practically feel the weight of his tiny hands on her shoulders. And the slight struggle as he wiggles into his shorts.

I’m so, so, so glad that she has these pictures. Sometimes that’s all you need to move from one stage to the next. A memory. A reminder.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area


She cherishes her children with an insanely deep passion rivaled only by the love she holds for her husband.  She is one of the most sentimental mamas I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with, and I could chat with her for days.  From everything about motherhood, being a wife, to surviving a remodel, she speaks my language.

This is her family.  This is her life.

The youngest is the light of the family.  Wherever she is, there is life.  I think she knows it, too.


Her son is pensive.  He is deep in his own thoughts.  I think I need to spend some more time with him. He’s very relaxing.

He treasures his car toys that were his dad’s when he was a boy… which made me get all swooney in my mildly dramatic way. I love the idea of holding onto just a few special items to pass on to your kids.

I haven’t met a family yet that didn’t live the bulk of their lives in the kitchen… if I had this kitchen, I’d live there, too!

Her husband is relaxed with a subtle humor that kind of catches you off guard.  I nearly missed a few shots because I wasn’t expecting a rush of laughter.  Incidentally, being caught off gaurd is the best way to laugh.

I think their oldest will do something big to save the world.  She’s already an advocate for peace and fiercely protects slugs.

Two things about these pictures above – the one in the middle is fabulous because they just danced, played, and connected.  It was awesome.  The photo of mom brushing her youngest’s hair moves my mommy heart. We spend so much of our time taking care of our kids, don’t we?  But there will be a day when we won’t need to.  At first, it will seem glorious, but then the reality will sink in that they are becoming independent.  We can’t stop it, so we might as well enjoy it now, yes? Or in the very least, get a pretty picture of it to remind us years down the line.

The kids have a wonderful handmade privacy sign hanging on the bedroom door… I would definitely be sure to give them their space since they were so polite about asking for it.  ;)

The photo above on the right is a favorite of mine… there is something so sweet about the way the youngest is looking down over her shoulder at her older sister. I’m not sure what made her stop her ascent up the bed, but the picture reminds me of how little ones look up to their siblings.  Even if it seems that they just like to pester, there are sparkly moments woven in throughout the day.

 Ahhh yes, the kids all have their very own fruit and vegetable garden!  How fantastic is this?!  When I came home, I showed my husband this photo and simply said “I want that.”  Guess what I’m getting for Christmas? :)

 Everything tastes better if you grow it yourself.

  I believe all families need a few portraits.  And, I believe letting the kids style their own picture is equally important.

I thank this wondrous family from Los Altos for allowing me to spend so much time with them.  I enjoyed every moment of it and the pictures make me happy.  XOXOXO!

 I hope everyone is able to take some time to be with their families this holiday season.  Me?  I’m enjoying as much hot chocolate as we can drink and reading as much Harry Potter as my kids will let me.  :)

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area


This is one of my favorite photos… I was in the kitchen and heard him singing the Star Spangled Banner softly to himself (yes, he knows all the words and I don’t.  I should rectify that, shouldn’t I?).   I grabbed my camera and stealthily moved down the hallway to see if I could grab a picture of him signing.

Once I got the end of the hallway I was gifted with the sight below… I had no idea he was in the bathroom.  Clearly I hit the jackpot because I knew his days of potty training were numbered.

And now I have a reminder of his innocence.   Here he is sitting on his little plastic potty, singing his little heart out while he folded up toilet paper (which he didn’t need, by the way.  He just liked to play with it. Naturally).

Potty training

He’s outgrown that potty now.  Opting instead to just pee on the walls.  And on the floor.  And the toilet seat.  Yep.  That’s right.   All you mama’s with boys know what I’m talking about!

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S.  If you have any tips to get boys to actually get it into the toilet, I would be thrilled if you shared them!

UPDATE 12/19/12:  Due to my awesome broken toe, I’m unable to do this session.  :(  You can read more about it HERE.  It’s very entertaining.

I’m a crazy fan of Christmas… it’s a little ridiculous, actually.  But there is such a magic around the season that I can’t help but get swept up in it.  In fact, one of the reasons I like Thanksgiving so much is because I know Christmas is next.  And I cannot wait to get the lights up and the tree trimmed!

Well the lights are now up, and I’m starting to think about this coming Christmas with my kids.  My oldest is nearly 8 and is starting to lose a bit of the holiday spirit (tonight at dinner she asked me if Santa was real… my heart fell and I quickly changed the subject – I don’t want this ride to end just yet!)

I’m not ready for her to stop believing, but I know that day is quickly approaching. This is quite possibly our last doubt-free Christmas.  I want to soak in every moment. I don’t want to be stuck behind the camera trying to make sure I’m getting the right pictures. I want to see the joy in my kids’ eyes AND remember that forever.

This got me thinking how wonderful it would be to have someone else taking the pictures.  I’d love to sit back and actually engage with my kids and enjoy Christmas morning with my family.

While I realize I can’t do this for myself, I can do it for others.  So it’s with much delight that I bring to you my new Christmas (Eve) Morning Session!

Jennifer Chaney Christmas Morning Photography

Wouldn’t this make THE perfect gift for your spouse?  

Christmas (Eve) Morning Sessions include:

2 Hour Photo Session on Christmas Eve Morning
don’t worry about what to tell the kids, together we will come up with come up with a good story. Maybe Santa is so busy he has to visit some homes a little early? _It’s just this one year and it will be totally worth it!_

1 Extra Large Coffee Table Photo Book
this is where the magic comes together! You’ll get one of my custom photo books that artfully tells the wonder of your Christmas morning in a storytelling fashion… the reader can submerge themselves within the photos and feel like they were actually there, ripping open the presents and sipping the hot cocoa!

All of the Digital Pictures
while a photo album is essential to re-live the morning, the digital files make sure that your memories are safe, no matter what.

Cost:  this year I’m offering the session for $1800. (Next year this session will start at $5000)

Because this session is new, and there is a time restriction, I can only photograph one family.

The family I’m looking for has at least two young kids who deeply believe in the magic of Santa. As a family you enjoy celebrating the free-for-all that is Christmas morning. You’re not worried about the house being a mess or your daughter’s hair being uncombed.  And yes, it’s okay for parents to get dressed for the part. Ideally you’d stay in your pajamas, but mom, you’re free to apply a little make-up and do your hair. No judging here!

Do you want to be that family? Click here:  Christmas Morning Session 2012 for more information and to tell me a little about yourself.

I’m SO excited to offer this session!  I cannot wait to witness the joy and wonder your children have on Christmas morning!

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

There were two wonderful reasons why I was truly delighted that the Buhalis family called me for a Start of School session (aside from the simple fact that spending time with them just makes me happy)!  First, dad had to work and wasn’t able to see his kids off to school. Second, mom had gotten her daughter a very special necklace to commemorate her move into the first grade.

Being there to help them remember these shiny little moments on a day that can be a little wild, filled my heart.  Not only does dad get to look back and re-live a day that he couldn’t be there for, but his daughter will have the memories of her mom giving her the necklace that will no-doubt be treasured for life.  Ahhh… the thought of her little girl gets me a little teary-eyed.  She was genuinely emotional about the gift and repeatedly gave her mom deep hugs.

Pleasanton Family Photographer Jennifer Chaney

The backpacks lined up in the garage.  Everyone buckled up in their booster seats.  All of these things will change over the years.

Notice the teddy bear peeking out?  Priceless.  Oh, and the long walk into school with everyone in tow?  Again, priceless.  Pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade is quite possibly the sweetest time to be a parent.

Pleasanton Family Photography Jennifer Chaney

The glance over her oldest’s shoulder as she leaves the room says it all.  He likes her. Even if he’s too cool to give her a hug in public.

Ack!  First grade is the real deal.  She’s moving on from kindergarden to the big room, big playground, and big homework.  My daughter (Crazy #1) started the first grade last year and walking out of the classroom,  leaving her on her own, nearly knocked the air right out of me.

Pleasanton CA Family Photography Jennifer Chaney

But leaving your baby at school for full days has to be the hardest.  No matter how much freedom we moms get when our youngest heads off to school, it always hurts just a little (or a lot, if you’re a sissy like me.)

Being asked to be a part of events like this make waking up extra early worth every minute of missed sleep.  Every. Single. Minute.

Lifestyle family photographer Bay Area

P.S. I’ll be doing a handful of these Start of School sessions next August – if you’re interested, let me know as soon as possible.  :)