Montana F: Winter Mellon Park Senior Photos

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Montana F: Winter Mellon Park Senior Photos

How brave is Montana for scheduling a winter senior portrait session?! Luckily enough, her session ended up falling on one of the few 50+ degree days we had in January - which was a huge blessing, considering we had rescheduled multiple times for rain and extremely cold weather! The wait was truly worth it for such a warm, beautiful January day!

Montana actually currently attends Westminster College and is right in the midst of her freshman year! (It's never too late to have senior photos taken!). This sweet lady loves reading, along with gothic architecture, making Mellon Park the perfect location for her photos. Montana also has the most beautiful green eyes that popped SO well in her photos!

Thanks so much for a wonderful session, Montana! And good luck with the rest of your freshman year! :)

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The Pros & Cons of Scheduling A Photo Session During the Winter Months

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The Pros & Cons of Scheduling A Photo Session During the Winter Months

Have you ever considered having family, senior, or engagement photos taken during the winter months? Here in Western Pennsylvania, where winters can be long and cold, not quite as many people venture out on location for photos in the dead of winter when they can curl up in front of the fire with a cup of coffee instead (I’m totally putting myself in that group of people!!). BUT if a winter photo session has ever peeked your interest as a possibility, I’ve put together a little pros and cons list to share the good and the not so good of scheduling a winter photo session!

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Pros:

We’ll get to utilize breathtaking and unique backgrounds. When I’m driving past a mountain of freshly snow covered trees, I often stare in awe. There’s something so beautiful about freshly fallen snow that makes for a clean, gorgeous backdrop, not just when you’re driving to work but when you’re having your photos taken!

You’ll have that “cozy feeling” in your photos. There’s something about having your photos taken in the winter that immediately creates a “cozy” feeling, especially during engagement and couple sessions where you are going to be close and cuddled up anyways!

You’ll have more times to choose from with a higher probability of weekend dates being available! Because there’s less demand for photos in the winter, I usually have more timeslots available, both during weekdays and on weekends. Essentially, scheduling in the winter means you’ll get a fast pass to the front of the scheduling line!

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Cons:

The obvious one: it’s COLD! Consider this test: does thinking about being out in the cold for 60 to 90 minutes make you want to never leave your house again? Then a winter photo session might not be the best choice for you. While some people don’t mind being out in the cold for an extended period of time, others would much rather wait until the warmer months (which is completely understandable!).

There’s a higher chance that your session might be cancelled or postponed due to extreme temperatures or inclement weather. Flexibility is key for winter sessions. There’s a chance your session could be snowed out (while snow is beautiful in photos, it’s not worth endangering your life for) or postponed due to freezing temperatures (who even likes to walk to their car in -5 degree weather?!). Being flexible is KEY!

It might not be the most enjoyable hour/hour and a half of your life. This one kind of speaks for itself – hanging out in the park in 15 degree weather isn’t nearly as fun as watching the sun set on a 70 degree day. The truth is, having a photo session the winter means you might be cold to your core!

What do you think? When considering the pros and cons - where do you fall? I write none of this to persuade anyone out of a winter session, but only to educate based on what some clients wish they would’ve known in the past. If you’re still interested in a winter photo session, be sure to check out my blog post “How to Prep for Your Winter Photo Session” for tips on preparing for a cold weather shoot!

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How to Prepare for Your Winter Photo Session

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How to Prepare for Your Winter Photo Session

There are SO many things I love about photographing people in a winter setting. There are lots of unique and picturesque backgrounds, and the photos always end up having an overall “cozy” feeling to them! But what does it really take to have your photos taken in the dead of winter when it’s 20 degrees (or less!) outside? There are a couple of tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years that have helped make winter sessions more enjoyable for those who are brave enough to step in front of my camera. So if YOU are planning on having family photos, couple photos, or senior photos taken during the winter – these are my best tips for you!

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Make sure the first thing you’re thinking of when planning your outfits is WARMTH!

  • Add accessories like scarves, hats, jackets, long boot socks and boots.
  • Consider actually wearing a coat for your photos!
  • Add layers underneath your chosen outfits – socks, long johns, an extra t-shirt – anything that will insulate you a little bit more!
  • If you’ll be walking around in the snow, consider bringing a pair of snow boots for walking between locations so your “nice” boots or shoes don’t get ruined!
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Bring some EXTRA warmth with you for in between shots!

  • I always bring a blanket or two with me to my sessions in the winter, but I highly recommend bringing extra for yourself if you think of it! This can be a lifesaver while walking between locations or even just between shots!
  • Hand warmers are a LIFESAVER for cold winter shoots. You can put them in your gloves, shoes, and pockets without the camera picking it up (for the most part!)
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Be willing to be flexible if the weather calls for it.

There’s a higher chance of inclement weather, especially in Western Pennsylvania in the winter months, which means that a session could easily get snowed out or cancelled due to extreme temperatures. It’s not fun to have your photo taken in negative degree weather, which can make the session (and memories associated with it) somewhat unenjoyable, which is the very LAST thing I would ever want!

As a firm believer that photo sessions can be (and should be) enjoyable, incorporating these tips and tricks into your winter photo session will ensure that you stay somewhat warm and toasty throughout your entire session!

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Parise Family: Winter Strip District Family Photos

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Parise Family: Winter Strip District Family Photos

I had so much fun hanging out with the Parise family on a very cold and snowy Saturday in late December! These four people are four of my new heroes, because not only did they brave extremely cold temperatures for their family photos - but they took their jackets off and didn't even complain while we trekked all over the Strip District! And even though I came away with some minor frostbite (don't worry, I bought myself a nice new pair of boots for my upcoming winter sessions! ;) ) it was totally and completely worth it.

And since these photos were a gift from kids and dad to mom (what a sweet idea, right?!), I want to say a big happy birthday to Cheri! Here's to many, many more years with those you love!

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How to Choose a Unique Senior Photo Location

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How to Choose a Unique Senior Photo Location

Throughout the past couple of years, I’ve learned the value of a single question. Suggestions can be made and help can be offered, but there’s nothing like a question to get someone’s imagination moving all on its own! So today, I want to ask you some intentional questions to help you find a unique and personal location for your senior photos! So without further ado:

1.     What are your plans after college?

Hang with me on this one – don’t close out of this post yet! As a high school senior, you probably get this question fifty times a day, but by asking this question, you can effectively consider two unique options for senior photos: the profession you’re leaning towards and the school you might want to attend (if you plan on attending school). I’ve had seniors incorporate elements of their intended majors into their session, such as nursing, business, teaching, history, music, and art. I’ve also had seniors literally choose a location based on their choice to attend school there (such as Pitt, Geneva, Westminster, and other surrounding schools).

2.     Where do you like to hang out?

Do you visit the same coffee shop every day after school? Is there a small town you love to shop in? Is there a park you grew up visiting with your family that has special meaning to you? Or, alternatively, is there a place you’ve always wanted to explore but have never had a reason to? Asking these types of questions can provide insight as to what type of scenery or backdrop might suit you best!

3.     Do you have any after school activities? (Sports, instruments, musical theatre, etc.)

Some seniors choose to incorporate a location that shows off the skills they’ve developed throughout high school – I’ve photographed seniors on baseball fields, basketball courts, volleyball courts, in theatres, and the like. All make unique options for a location setting!

4.     Do you have any long-standing hobbies?

Do you love rock climbing? (McConnell’s has some epic rock walls that look awesome in portraits!) Or maybe you’re into fishing (ever though about having your photos taken next to a lake or on a canoe?). Or maybe you just LOVE nature and can’t get enough of the Phipp’s flower shows (they have some beautiful outdoor locations!). Whatever your hobby is, there are lots of options that can be considered and connected to a potential location!

5.     Do you have any friends, family members, or acquaintances who have connections to an interesting or scenic location?

You would be surprised at how far one small personal connection can go! Having a friend or family member who works at a country club, garden, historical building, farm, or location downtown can open the door to a unique location for portraits! Sometimes even your own backyard can be the perfect spot for a photo session!

I hope this blog post has helped you start thinking differently about location choices for your senior session! While it’s easy to choose a pretty location for photos, sometimes it can be fun to put in a little extra thought and time to make your photos even more personal to you! However, if you’re still having some trouble narrowing down the perfect spot, check out a few of my favorite blog posts: My Favorite Senior Session Locations for Girls, and My Favorite Senior Session Locations for Guys. For more location ideas, be sure to check out some of my most recent work on Instagram!

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4 Tips for Preparing for Your Senior Photo Session

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4 Tips for Preparing for Your Senior Photo Session

Now that you’ve booked your senior session – what’s next?! Besides choosing outfits, is there anything else that you should consider before your session? I’ve compiled a few of my most helpful tips and tricks for making the MOST out of your senior session below!

1. Consider having your makeup professionally done.

If you’re a girl looking for a little pampering before your senior photos, having your makeup professionally done can be the PERFECT way to do so! But even more than that, there are specific techniques makeup artists have for applying makeup for professional photography that can enhance your final photo product. Even if you’re not the type of girl who wears makeup very often, a little bit of foundation and eye makeup can be a small investment that will make your images look radiant for years to come!

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective alternative than hiring a professional makeup artist, try heading to the beauty counter at Macy’s or Ulta for a little makeup advice or mini-makeover!

2. Consider having your hair professionally done.

I had to throw this one in here because sometimes taming the mane can be IMPOSSIBLE, especially if you absolutely need your hair to cooperate, am I right? Sometimes, the peace of mind that comes from scheduling a hair appointment the day of your session can be worth every penny.

As an extra tip: if you’re planning on trying out a whole new hairdo, make sure you schedule your hair cut about two weeks before your session date. That way, your hair will have a little bit of time to settle into the cut, but will still retain the style!

3. Paint your nails or splurge to have them professionally done!

You might be thinking, “will my nails really be in my photos that much?!” The answer is a resounding YES! Your hands and nails will show up in your photos much more than you think, and even though it might be okay to rock that chipped nail polish on the daily, it’s not going to look so cute hanging on your mom’s wall twenty years from now. Take ten minutes the night before (or morning of) your session to clean off old polish and/or add a fresh coat of color. Your future self will thank you!

4. Treat yourself to a new outfit, accessory, or pair of shoes – or rent one instead!

The week before my engagement session, I opened up my closet, and all of a sudden I had NOTHING to wear (can anyone else relate?!).

A photo session can be the perfect excuse for a shopping trip to add a new outfit or two to your wardrobe! (I like to recommend one more upscale outfit and one casual outfit, as a rule of thumb!)

But if you’re not looking to add a whole new outfit, consider adding in a new top, skirt, dress, necklace, hat, or pair of shoes can bring an average outfit to a whole ‘nother level!

Or, if you’re looking for something extra special without a huge financial commitment, consider renting a dress, skirt, or skirt from RentTheRunway.com – it’s the perfect way to wear something extra special for a day without having to actually purchase it!

And there you have it – four tips for prepping (and pampering) yourself for your senior session! For more tips, tricks, and advice be sure to check out the JHP insta page here!

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4 Ways to Make Your Senior Photos Different From Everyone Else's

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4 Ways to Make Your Senior Photos Different From Everyone Else's

Do you ever feel like all of the graduation announcements you’re seeing in the mail and on Facebook look eerily similar? Same location, similar posing, similar lighting, similar outfits? If you’re looking to make your senior session unique, here are some of my top tips for you!

1.  Choose a location that reflects your personality.

Are you a history buff who’s in love with old architecture (Hartwood Acres might be perfect for you!)? Or maybe a sports fanatic who never misses a Pittsburgh sports event (the North Shore could be a great fit!)? Or maybe you love studying with friends in quaint coffee shops in small towns (have you heard of Wunderbar Café?!). The possibilities for a unique location are endless, and really (as cliché as it might sound) can only be limited by your imagination! I’ve had seniors choose…

…a coffee shop they’ve visited every day after school during their senior year.

…a family friend’s farm they grew up visiting on the weekend.

 …a bright and colorful garden to match their joyful personality!

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2.   Find a location that’s off-limits to most people – but maybe not to you!

This tip might take a bit of extra thought, but every person has their own personal connections that can open up a completely different option for photos! Do you have a family friend who owns a farm with an old barn? Or a parent who works for a sweet looking country club (like Sara’s mom?)? Or maybe your best friend has a super cool backyard. The takeaway from this point is: you never know what location you might be able to use until you ask!

3.   Choose outfits, colors, and/or accessories that reflect YOU!

Are you obsessed with hats? Do you love keeping up with the latest fashion trends? Thinking about incorporating pieces unique to you is a great way to set yourself apart in your senior photos! For example…

Angelica wanted to incorporate her love of fashion into her senior photos, so she brought maroon hat and some chic outfits to match her chosen session location of downtown Pittsburgh!

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Sharon brought an authentic Indian dress along with her for her senior session and it was the perfect way to incorporate her heritage!

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For one of her outfits, Caileigh chose navy and yellow colors to reflect her school’s colors (navy and yellow)!

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Sara wore CROCS to her senior session, just because she loves them. And I love her!

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4.   Bring a prop or two!

Have you been dancing since you could walk? Did you make your varsity volleyball team? Are you obsessed with Disney (let’s be friends!!)? Is your dog your best friend? These are ALL things that can potentially be incorporated into your senior photos! For a few examples, I’ve had seniors bring…

… a whole backpack full of dance shoes. (As a nod to their background in dance!)

 …a violin. (But any instrument will do!)

…sports equipment. (Field hockey sticks, volleyballs, ice skates, oh my!)

 …their favorite books. (Book worms are always welcome!)

 …sheet music. (Love to sing? Have an instrument that’s too big to bring to your session? This could be a great option for you!)

And there you have it – four tips for making your senior session unique to YOU! For more tips, tricks, and advice be sure to check out the JHP insta page here

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Jenna + Tom: North Shore Engagement Photos

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Jenna + Tom: North Shore Engagement Photos

I am SO EXCITED to share this session! Not only did we absolutely love hanging out with Jenna and Tom for their engagement photos, but we also had such a fun time going all over the North Shore with them! 

She's from Harrisburg, PA, he's from England, and they met at Rugger's pub in Pittsburgh! Jenna had just gotten back from a women's rugby tournament, and Tom had just joined the men's rugby team. Now, four and a half years later, they are engaged and ready to tie the knot in the city where they first met! Naturally, they wanted to incorporate some of the city into their photos, so we found some of the North Side/North Shore's most picturesque spots - including a Union Flag (totally unplanned, but so perfect!)

Congratulations again on your engagement, Jenna and Tom! I can't wait for the wedding!

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Brittany + Jason: Downtown Pittsburgh Elopement Photos

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Brittany + Jason: Downtown Pittsburgh Elopement Photos

You know what's amazing? When people aren't afraid of a little cold weather on their wedding day! Brittany and Jason eloped OUTSIDE on the North Shore of Pittsburgh in the dead of winter, which pretty much makes them my heroes. And let me tell you, it was AMAZING! I always feel so honored photographing elopements where I am one of the only witnesses. Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours around the North Shore, Point State Park, and Market Square taking photos, taking a pit stop at The Foundry Table & Tap for a champagne toast! 

I really can't even begin to say enough good things about these two. By the end of our session, they felt like old friends who we had known them for years (even though we just met them that day!). Congratulations, Brittany and Jason! You two are truly something special - thank you so much for the honor of capturing these memories for you!

Ceremony by: Integral Weddings

Shelter from the Cold: The Foundry Table & Tap

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Lessons from 2017: Margin & Bandwidth

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Lessons from 2017: Margin & Bandwidth

“It’ll be an hour and a half wait,” the hostess at one of my favorite restaurants said as she shuffled through a stack of receipts. “Our computers are down right now.” In a huff, I walked past a room full of empty tables and out of that restaurant, unable to understand exactly what computers had to do with me being able to eat at said restaurant.

I decided to be overly intrusive and call the restaurant from the car on my way home, wondering if she just hadn’t wanted me to eat there (as if this hostess who I had never seen before had some unknown vendetta against me!). That same hostess picked up the phone, and I asked how long the wait would be: “About an hour and a half, our computers are down right now.” Out of genuine curiosity (okay, maybe a little out of frustration), I asked what computers had to do with the wait time, and the hostess said, “our servers just don’t have enough bandwidth without our computers to take part of the burden.”

Oh, I thought to myself. That, I understand.

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I started feeling guilty for being upset, because I know how that feels. To be stretched beyond my capacity, to know my limits but to breeze past them onward in the name of “hustle,” and to have to turn people away, not because I don’t want to give them what I have to offer, but because I want to be able to serve the people I can serve with everything I have to offer.

Sure, that restaurant could’ve taken me and my friends in – but what would they have given me in return? Maybe the service would’ve been slow, the food cold, the waitress flustered, and I would’ve left with a bad taste in my mouth, ruining the restaurant for me for good. Or, the hostess could simply let me know that they just couldn’t handle any more guests to ensure that they could serve the guests they had already taken in to the best of their abilities.

That’s been one of my biggest lessons from this year: margin and bandwidth. Leaving room in my schedule instead of packing it full, and taking note of how much I can handle. Every season, I find myself coming to a crossroads. Do I take more work, or do I limit my work to ensure I can serve every person I commit to to the very best of my ability? This is the very first year that I’ve really tried to limit the amount of work I take per week, and I really believe it’s served me well. Why? Because when I don’t overbook myself, I can say yes to things that make me better as a person – not just things that make me look better in the eyes of other people. Things that make me a better wife, a better business owner, a better Jesus follower, a better daughter, and a better friend. I’ve found that I can’t serve ANYONE well if I’m overworked, exhausted, and overwhelmed. I lose my edge as a business owner, become an absent wife, a pitiful friend, and an unengaged Christ-follower. Did I still struggle to set boundaries this year? Heck YES. But really, I’m so proud of how far I’ve come and of the boundaries that I’ve been able to establish between my business and my life.

Really, I’ve started taking a limited amount of sessions and weddings because I find that it benefits my clients. I can give each more time, attention, and creativity when I bring a rested Jenna to the table – which is much better for everyone! ;) So I’d like to encourage you – if you’re in a season of busy, what boundaries can you make to make SURE you get the “recharge” you need to keep moving forward?

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