Castle Rising: Kids Lifestyle

Weekends in our household are meant for exploring, and living in England that means visiting a lot of castles and stately homes. This particular weekend in May was no expection. 

We have passed Castle Rising several times while on the way to other various locations, but were waiting until we had an English Heritage membership to visit. I may have also had to bribe my children with a trip to the beach afterwards to entice them further since a beach is apparently way cooler than a castle in their minds.

 Ollie gets his fashion sense from his dad.

Ollie gets his fashion sense from his dad.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed running through the castle corridors and pretending to be Queens and Kings. I was more preoccupied with keeping them alive, and not tumbling down the very narrow and spiral staircases.

Ollies favorite bit was playing on the earthworks surrounding the castle and Sutton love running to the top of the very top and running down.

I could have spent more time in the Castle but the kids were done in around 30-45 minutes. The entry fee is minimal at £4.50 per adult, and £3 for children but free if you have an English Heritage membership.

Girls Trip: Amsterdam in 72 hours

One of the best things about living abroad is the ability to travel on a whim, and cheaply at that. One night some girlfriends and I were talking about tacking a trip to Amsterdam and then next thing we know our tickets have been purchased and we were on our way. Amsterdam is one of my absolute favorite cities in the world. I have never had a terrible experience. The people are friendly, the food is amazing and the art is fantastic. 

We arrived, made our way to Amsterdam Centraal, hopped on a tram and headed for our Air B&B. The host greeted us, but since three of us 4 girls had been to the city before we didn't spend much time before heading out and finding a place to eat. 

 This dashing chap is the only reason we rented the apartment. Everything is better with cats.

This dashing chap is the only reason we rented the apartment. Everything is better with cats.


We visited one of my absolute favorite museums ever, the Rijks Museum. Seriously, I could spend days in here and still not see everything. So here are a few of my absolute favorite things from our time there: 

 This is Lauren, one of the girls from said girls trip.

This is Lauren, one of the girls from said girls trip.

On our last day in Amsterdam, just before heading back to the airport we did a quick trip to Zaanse Schans. This mid-19th century town is super cute and a replica of how the Dutch used to live and work back then. There is a bakery, several gift shops, windmills and my personal favorite...the cheese shop. 

So that was our quick trip to Amsterdam! I'm sure once there is a direct train from Kings Cross to Amsterdam Centraal I will be there more often. So much to see and do!

Hazel + LuLu: Aviano Pet Portraits

So I am absolutely terrible at keeping up with my this blog! I could give so many excuses however when it comes down to it, some nights I would just rather have a beer and watch some Netflix than take write. There, I said it. My secret is out and I'm now playing catch up. 

 Lago di Barcis

Lago di Barcis

Back at the end of February, the kids and I, along with our two friends Seth and Sharae took a trip back to Italy. There were many reasons for the trip, headshots needed to be done for Aviano Community Theater, I was feeling homesick and Seth and Sharae needed a break too. So off we went back to Avaino! 

And while we were there my lovely friend Janelle asked if I would take photos of her pups. Now let me just say that these are no ordinary pups. Janelle is a dog trainer and runs the therapy dog training program in Aviano. My daughter has grown up next to her Bernese mountain dogs through the library dog program, and recently she has added to her pack. A sweet girl named Hazel aka Nocciola

Now little did I know that Miss Hazel here was about to do some big things. In June she and Janelle traveled to Milan to participate in the ENCI Winner 2017 show and wouldn't you know it, Hazel came home with some new bling. She won Best of Breed as a Junior entry on both June 16th & 17th.  

We took a quick hike in Dardago, where the dogs (and children) could run free and were able to get some gorgeous shots of Hazel and sister LuLu. On the way we saw some Scottish Highland cows which everyone loved, and then I'm sure we ended our day with a visit to our favorite pub but it's been so long I can only assume that is what happened.

 Bonus photo of Sutton and the cows because both are super cute.

Bonus photo of Sutton and the cows because both are super cute.

Allison: Bury St. Edmunds Portraits

One of the scariest things about military life comes with moving every couple of years. It's not moving to a new place that is scary, but wondering if you will find people you like there that is downright terrifying. In this new day and age of technology a lot of us mil-spouses turn to Facebook and the spouses groups to find out all the nitty-gritty of our next base. Where to live, what store is most similar to Target, and what it's like driving on the opposite side of the road.

Usually I tend to stay out of these discussions but one night I was feeling rather homesick for Italy when this super cute blonde girl with the same last name mentioned she was moving from Italia and had  questions. I jumped at the chance to discuss my personal experience on making the move, to share the things I wish I had known during our first couple weeks. 


Flash forward several months and this girl that I had only talked to online a handful of times reaches out one last time before they make the drive to England. Turns out the hotel had made a mistake on their booking and they needed someone to watch their cat. If you know me, I'm slightly obsessed with cats and miss having one of my own, so I jumped at the opportunity. We hadn't met but somehow, probably in a last ditch desperate attempt, she decided I was not a total creep and trusted me enough to watch her most precious possession. By the way, Noah the cat and I are now BFFs.


When she arrived she reminded me so much of my best friend & college roommate. I was floored and knew immediately that she was the type of girl I wanted to be friends with,. When you meet someone like this you revert to to a teenage and act cool and pray that they won't think you are a complete loser. Needless to say, we have had some awesome days running errands, going to see some local sights and going on friend-dates.

Anyway...I'll stop gushing about this awesome chick who I have a total girl-crush on and just leave you with some pretty pictures. Thanks for thinking I'm not weird Allison :)

Lane Family: Thetford Family Session

It's not everyday that I am able to help another local photographer on last minutes notice. I love to help out my fellow togs but with the husband's work schedule it usually doesn't work out. One of the local ladies sent up a flare and needed someone to cover a family session within 24 hours and for once I was able to cover it. What made it even better was the fact that it was within walking distance from our home. LaToya reached out at noon and we agreed to meet three hours later.

When they stepped out of the car I was stunned by the sheer beauty of this family. Not only on the outside but this family is so gracious and welcoming and thankful. I felt renewed and validated in my work after only spending an hour with them, I felt a change in my work right then and there.

 I just can't with these two! 

I just can't with these two! 

Oh and we were also chased by a massive swan! It followed us around the bridge and was deceptively huge. 

 I mean this swan was HUUUGE.

I mean this swan was HUUUGE.

After talking for the better part of the hour I found out that the Lane Family hasn't had professional photos taken in about 6 to 7 years! Life, especially life in the military, gets in the way but I seriously hope that these were worht the wait.

Seth & Jesus: Lakenheath Christmas Photos

It has been quite some time since my last post. Things have gotten pretty busy over here as we have settled into our lives in England. Recently one of my friends approached me and asked if it would be an odd request to do Christmas photos...with his cat. As you can see it was not an odd request, and having a session with him and Jesus has been something I have been wanting to do for a while, and this was the perfect opportunity.

Can I just say that his session has been one of my favorites. Not because I got to spend extra time with my friend, or because we couldn't stop laughing due to looks we were getting from passers by, but because I know how happy this will make him. But more importantly how happy it will make his family when they receive their cards.

 How cute are they?

How cute are they?

Cole Family: Norwich Autumn Family Photos

When I started talking to Rachael about modeling for me and she told me she is in Norwich I was tasked with finding a location in a city where I had never visited. Challenge accepted. Secretly one of my favorite things to do at night after the kids and husband have gone to sleep is searching Google maps to find new and interesting location spots without leaving the comfort of my own home and wasting gas doing so. It was just a regular evening perusing the streets of Norwich via maps and then I found it. I messaged Rachael and told her not to judge me for my location choice but I found a really beautiful cemetery and did she mind. Thank goodness she agreed, because we made some magic that day. 

I mean c'mon, aren't they the cutest? We had fun exploring and wandering around marveling at how such a huge town could hold a beautiful secret, and of course playing in the leaves. 

 These two stole a little bit of my heart that day. I mean those eyes are too perfect.

These two stole a little bit of my heart that day. I mean those eyes are too perfect.

One of the most important, and often most overlooked part of the family session is being able to capture the parents without their children. It is such a beautiful moment when you can still see the love they have for each other, even when both of the little ones are running off in different directions. So again a massive thanks for John and Rachael for meeting a complete stranger with a camera in a cemetery and trusting in me.

Retirement Ceremony : RAF Lakenheath

Picture it, a warm Wednesday afternoon in England. One of the last few days we have before the winter rain season sets in. I get a message from my friend Sean asking if I am available to photograph a retirement ceremony...on Friday. Luckily the husband had the day off so I quickly agreed and started wondering what I had gotten myself into.

I arrived a bit early to see what I was working with. Shooting on base doesn't always provide for the best lighting situations, there are a lot of buildings with fluorescent lighting and no windows. Luckily this wasn't one of those situations. Two giant garage doors open and windows down the entire right side. Thank you lighting gods! 

After shaking hands with the official ceremony party members I got to work taking detail shots of what the retiring SMSgt was to receive during the ceremony. There is something so wonderful and meaningful about seeing these items close up, knowing that they tell a story of this mans 24 year Air Force career. 

 An appropriately named homebrew, made by Ronnie himself.

An appropriately named homebrew, made by Ronnie himself.

The amount of respect and admiration that this man has from his peers is unbelieveable. Before the ceremony started I had the opportunity to speak with his friend of his who decided he should be there for his buddy, and flew in from NJ on three hours notice. 

 Cross oceans for people.

Cross oceans for people.

Congratulates SMSgt Menges! Thank you for your service.

Z & N : Norfolk Family Lifestyle Session

I can't believe I haven't posted about this sooner! Being a part of the Air Force family means making friends knowing that we will eventually move away from each other. This is one of those cases. I met this amazing woman because our kids became besties at school, and then it turns out they just so happened to live one street over. So before they left us, we wanted to get in a sibling session in the English countryside. It might have been one of the best days ever. 

We drove an hour away from our town, down several dirt roads for the perfect Norfolk backdrop. The ruins of a medieval church, built in the early to mid 12th century, and currently surrounded by fields and cows. 

 Z wore this same dress at her Mom's maternity session. It only seemed fitting that she wear it with her sister on the outside too.

Z wore this same dress at her Mom's maternity session. It only seemed fitting that she wear it with her sister on the outside too.

 Mama said she didn't want to be in the photos. Sorry Rachel but I needed to document what an amazing mom you are, and one day these girls are going to look back see it too.

Mama said she didn't want to be in the photos. Sorry Rachel but I needed to document what an amazing mom you are, and one day these girls are going to look back see it too.

So there you have it. These two cheeky girls who completely won me and my daughter over. We spent countless hours walking to and from school, playing and enjoying each others company. We miss you guys dearly and can't wait to see you both again!

HOF and why I'm obsessed

So anybody who knows me has heard me talk about my photography groups. But when I mean groups I'm talking specifically about one group. One beautiful, supportive group of people who love mermaids, tacos and The House of Flynn. I'm obsessed. Beyond obsessed with this brand and the woman behind the madness, Maureen. This group of photographers is so supportive, creative and helpful when it comes to progressing as a photographer. 

So this group is so massive, there is one main tribe, and then there are local chapters. Since we are visiting Ohio, I was lucky enough to be able to join my first tribe meetup! I can't believe that I finally met some tribe members. We decided to meet at the North Market for a head shot swap followed by dinner.

 The perfect mermaid style drink, featuring the HOF Travelers Wallets and Evermore.

The perfect mermaid style drink, featuring the HOF Travelers Wallets and Evermore.

These girls were so open and welcome I was blown away. I got so caught up in watching them work that I forgot to pull out my camera to join in on the fun. Below is what I was able to capture:

This is the beautiful Capri from Capri Imagery and Artistry . You guys, her work is STUNNING! She made me feel beautiful in photos for the first time in almost 2 years! For those of you looking for a photographer in the Columbus area Capri is your girl. You can find her on Facebook and on her website which I listed above. (PS she also does makeup!!!)

Now this little saucy lass is a new member of the Columbus community. Meet Kate, of  KHA Photography. She is so much fun to work with. Seriously this gal is the life of the party, and I have had the happy opportunity to work with her more recently at a wedding workshop. Kate is a lifestyle and boudoir photographer who makes some seriously steamy images behind closed doors. 

Now these next few is such a bonus! While we were walking from Granero Lounge, where we sipped on those beautiful drinks from above, we happened upon these two beautiful girls posing in front of one of the coolest shoot locations in the Short North. Talk about being in the right place at the right time? So thank you to Molly and Alex who embraced their inner Giselle and let us take their photos. 

What goes into editing?

So you booked your session, you coordinate the family outfits, you arrive a few minutes early to the session and we have a blast playing around capturing your family organically interacting with each other. While we are packing up I will tell you that the turn around time is no more than a week before the gallery will be delivered. But what really goes into that week of editing?

First and foremost I am a mom and wife. Family always comes first. My husbands schedule isn't conducive to him running any errands during normal business hours, so anything he needs to get done that I have the ability to do gets taken care of. My two kids are young and require my attention during the day. As much as I would love to ignore them sometimes to cull and edit a session I can't. So that all has to happen after 8 pm when the Smith household is asleep.

So what is culling? Culling is the task of going through every image of your session and whittling it down. You see the good, the bad, the unfocused, the over exposed and the ugly. During a normal 1 hour session I can snap 150+ photos, and my job is to decide which of those make you look the best. I might have 5 of the same pose, but there are small changes in every one. Perhaps someone has their eyes closed, maybe there was a gust of wind that moved your hair, maybe someone sneezed. Whatever happens I am able to pick out the best, and only focus on those.

 Lots of similar poses makes for lots of different options.

Lots of similar poses makes for lots of different options.

As far as editing goes, I try to only enhance your natural beauty, and like it to look dramatic yet minimal. However what seems like it should be quick work can sometimes turn into hours. Let's look at some examples shall we?

 Aren't they the cutest?

Aren't they the cutest?

Ok so this photo took a lot longer than I would like to admit, though I am still finding things I would like to change. In this situation I only had seconds to capture a life changing event, and we were dealing with a heavily pedestrian area (I mean LOOK at that view!). Clearing the ground beforehand would have taken time and might have alerted the bride to be that something was about to happen, though she claims she knew something was up when the groom to be put on a tie that morning because wearing a suit on vacay is normal. A lot of time was spent cloning out gum and cigarette butts, unsightly imperfections in the stone, and that long scratch on the wall. Even more time was spent working on the removing the branches and making the clouds look realistic. This one photo took approximately 10 minutes, which might not seem like a lot but if I had to do that on every photo in the gallery it would take about 5 hours. That doesn't include culling time.

 Ladies he is currently single and looking. And bonus he has a really adorable cat. Just saying. 

Ladies he is currently single and looking. And bonus he has a really adorable cat. Just saying. 

Onto example number two. This pretty face is my friend, and as you can see he doesn't need much work done. This look was achieved by warming up the photo a tad, working on his skin tone, lightening some shadows, bringing out his eyes and blazing white teeth. This photo took under 2 minutes to finish. It helps that he was an easy model and we were able to get a decent photo SOOC (that is straight out of camera for those not hip to photographer lingo), so it made my job real easy.

 From my last session in Italy with one of my besties and her baby girl. Love you girls!

From my last session in Italy with one of my besties and her baby girl. Love you girls!

This final example is an example of a normal length of edit time. So again, the SOOC shot was in my opinion decent and just needed some minimal tweaking, and it took me roughly between 4-5 minutes to be happy with the results. Again colors were enhanced and the photo was warmed up a bit. The tricky part came with skin tones and color casts and baby girls face. 

So next time you have a session, just remember that there is so much more that goes into a session than just showing up and snapping pictures. Knowing the right camera settings, and knowing how to make your clients comfortable quickly are just what you see upfront. Behind the scenes there is location scouting, prop making, finding and purchasing gowns and outfits for stylized shoots, editing, culling, blogging, marketing, education and so much more.

xoxo Jesi

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Summer at the Stables : Ohio Lifestyle Session

So it has been a while since I've written. Mainly because the kids and I have flown back home to for some family time. So far we have attended a wedding, a baby shower, eaten Chipotle (it was like heaven), gone to Target (ok THAT was like heaven) and enjoyed spending many hours in the pool. And we have only been here for two weeks! 

While I am here I plan on furthering my photography skills by attending a wedding workshop, going to photography group meet ups, shout out to my HOF Ohio Tribe and having a couple sessions. The oldest is continuing her riding lessons with the fabulous Hillary Carlson of Hillary Carlson LLC. If you are interested in riding lessons and live in central Ohio, I can not sing her praises enough. We LOVE Miss Hillary and her stables. 

Both children love going to the stables. The older Smith Kid is becoming so independent when it comes to helping out. She knows to walk in, grab a brush from the tack room and get to work on brushing all of the hay off of her favorite pony. Then she grabs the saddle blanket and brings it over to where her pony is in the cross ties, and puts it on. Little Man enjoys watching his sister ride, but he also enjoys playing in the rocks and gravel in addition to chasing the barn cat named Smokey. 

Our favorite days so far have started a little bit too early, a little bit dusty and smelly, but I wouldn't give up anything to see Miss S concentrating and working hard for something that she cares about. 


Befamy : Lakenheath Portrait Session

Well that's what my daughter calls her at least. She also goes by BZup and Bethany, and she is quite an amazing human being. We were sad to have left her behind at our last base, but luckily we are only a 2 hour flight away from Venice so this past weekend she came up to spend time with the family. Needless to say it was glorious, and she was able to experience the week of British summer we had! 

She and I have been wanting to do a shoot for ages, but never found the right time while in Italy, so convincing her to steal away during nap time (for both Ollie and Taylor) wasn't too difficult. We drove 5 minutes down the road from our home, walked into a field and went at it. It goes without saying this woman is stunning and a complete natural in front of the the camera. 

Thank you Bethany for modeling for me. I am already starting to plan next time and there won't be stinging nettle involved. Promise.


You guys...I made friends! : Lakenheath Portrait Session

One of the hardest things about being an adult is making friends. It's quite easy when you are at school or working, but being a stay at home mom who is only two months into living in a new country it's difficult. Thankfully the one constant I have besides my family is theater, and thankfully our new base has an active one! Before even moving here I was in contact with someone from the group and thought nothing more of it. Mid February we moved into the temporary housing units on base, and within less than a week I had a message asking if we had arrived and would I mind auditioning for 'The Actors Nightmare'. 

The next day Sarah was knocking on the door to our room script in hand and the following week rehearsals started. Walking into a room with this group of people who already have this amazingly easy friendship was so overwhelming to say the least. After several weeks of rehearsals, cast outings and dinners this group of amazing people have become a part of our military family. I can't imagine the rest of our tour here in the UK without them. To be truthful I can't imagine going more than a day without talking to them. It feels so surreal since we haven't been here for long but it feels like I have been part of this group for ages.

With my praises to these lovelies coming to a close I just want them and you all to know how important these budding friendships are to me. I can't wait to see what the future holds! That being said, we all need to do another session after we are all back from our travels. xoxo love you guys.

Corey & Alexa : London Proposal & Engagement Session

Their trip had been planned since at least we knew that we were moving to the UK, but this was such an added surprise. It's hard to believe I have known my sweet sister-in-law Alexa for almost 8 years and it has been such an amazing pleasure to see her grow from high school senior to the beautiful woman she is today. So when Corey asked if I would be willing to shoot their proposal when they were in town I jumped at the chance.

He and I had planned for a couple months and sorted out the final details days before they arrived. Her parents even helped scout locations and did test shots with me. The plan was to go be tourists in London for the day with my husband and kids and just enjoy each others company since living on different continents sure puts a damper on quality family time. The forecast called for light rain but it cleared before our arrival, and the day ended up being quite perfect. 

Lex and Corey thank you so much for letting us be a part of this monumental occasion. We love you two to bits, and can't think of a better way to have spent a day in London. xoxo