Jenn Inside & Out

Outdoor Maternity Portraits - Pittsburgh PA, Northern Virginia

Ever have one of those sessions that's like honey on your soul?  Just souls the burn and fills the void???

So i was having a pretty crappy week.  Actually, like epic on the suck scale.  On Halloween, my little sister went to the ER and she didn't leave for the next 34 days.  She was diagnosed with leukemia.   A pretty aggressive, acute version  

She was diagnosed the night before my birthday, and while clearly it wasn't my birthday that mattered - it seemed to hurt even more.  We grew up with a mom that created a virtual carnival every year for our birthdays.  They were a HUGE for us.  We always loved our 'birth weeks' because without fail a few days later we'd be celebrating again with our dad.  And so every year when my birthday rolls around - it's less about celebrating ME as it is celebrating all those i have around me.  Celebrating the gift that I had in a wonderful childhood.  My friends, my tribe of mamas that go out of their way to co-parent and build up each other.  My kids who i get to share that love with every day and my husband who is the most appreciative and support man I've yet to meet.  But here I was instead - silently falling apart.  

So i did what I do best.  I ran away to the country.  To a little town outside Pittsburgh, PA that I affectionately call my "lil Stars Hollow", but the postal address reads - Ligonier, PA.  The librarians know my kids names, the town square -called 'the diamond' has summer concerts complete with ice cream cones, brass bands and grandparents dancing in the streets.  There are acres to roam, streams to toss rocks, catch trout and hills to hike.  And family.  

Despite the towns best attempts, no amount of gardening, 4x4 riding or amazing birthday dinners could fill the emptiness inside me.  And then to top it all off - I had a portrait session on Monday.  ugh. 

To say I dreaded this session was an understatement.  I mean, it hadn't even been a week since my sister had been diagnosed.  The effects of her chemo were still unknown.  And yet, when the client kindly asked me if we should cancel,  i knew in my gut that I didn't want to.  I couldn't despite logic telling me that everyone would understand if i did.  

And so we forged on.  

And somehow ~ the day was magic.  The weather was unseasonably warm.  The light... insane.  And Cara was magic.  She brought the perfect "wardrobe", was peaceful, and yet still her bubbly little self.  And open to just doing whatever.  And it was magic.  

Thank you so much Cara!  Thanks for having faith that in the midst of it all,  this was worth your time.  These images filled me up in a way I didn't think was possible.  

Intimates: Film-like boudoir sessions

Are you as obsessed with old school vintage images that have actual feeling interwoven into every inch of am image?!?  Yea, me too.  Thing is ~ as a working mum and small business entrepreneur I don't exactly have the disposable income to play with film as much as I'd like, and I'm certainly not going to do it on your dime either.  

And so ~ i create a film look all with the ease, flexibility and lets admit it ~ safety net of digital photography.  

For more information about these sessions click HERE

For photographers: Milk Bath Photo-shoot - An experiment & notes

In this age of digital media there's not much one can't find in a matter of moments.  The trouble is - everyone is an expert and everyone has an opinion.  

Well fear not folks - i'm here just to explain what i did.  My mini experiment.  And notes taken.  Use this information to formulate your own plan but PLEASE come back & leave your own notes in the comments.  After all - we are all about having the best shoot possible and making women feel fabulous!  


In my research I learned milk flakes were the most common method for creating a milk bath.  It seemed the easiest and most economical.  (other options included whole milk, & creamer).  However, when shopping I recognized that non-dairy creamer was nearly 1/3 of the cost milk flakes. Granted that's not anything in the grand scheme of photography but it did open my eyes to another option and perhaps it's the mad scientist in me - but i had to buy both and experiment! 

I was specifically interested in:

  • color of the liquid
  • smell
  • opacity
  • cost

In case anyone cares - these are the brands I purchased while shopping at Shoppers Warehouse.  

Using only the highest levels of scientific methodology I busted out my Barbie swimming pool and let the fun begin! 

  •  fill 1/2 of barbie tub with warm water from tap
  • add 2Tbsp of powdered product 
  • stir to combine


Mixing Ease:  The powdered milk dissipated beautifully into the warm water.  Little to no stirring was actually necessary to break down product, I just needed to mix.  The powdered cream however was rather clumpy and took some stirring to break it down.  If I choose this method, I will certainly mix in a mason jar first so i can vigorously shake and pour into a prepared tub.  


Color:  Little to no discernible difference was noted under bathroom light.  In white light however - the milk was somewhat more cream/off white than the creamer which was a cooler white.  (images below taken in bathroom)


Smell: Little to no discernible difference was noted.  Also noteworthy - neither was as smelly as I had read or expected.   


Film on top: both started out with a film on top.  They both went away after approximately 5 minutes of sitting.  


Opacity:  Cream seemed ever so slightly more opaque.  



Price: Powdered coffee cream is nearly 1/3 the price of powdered milk



I chose creamer as my milk of choice and I was very pleased with the results.   Once I had my blender of choice, I threw caution to the wind and just dumped in a whole container for each client.  That said - each client had different water levels and it worked for each of them the same.  I.e. i didn't feel that those with more water in the tub were any more translucent than those with half the water.  

That said - since we had an extra box of the milk flakes laying around, my husband suggested I pop in the tub for my own impromptu shoot.  The results of which are here and I can say from an editing perspective - there was no difference.  


And then for fun -- some images from various sessions I've had! 

My turn!

I'm often asked by those that know me well how someone who's so "feminist" in their day to day life can perpetuate such glossy magazine stereotypes.  

To answer that, let me take you back a few years.  

In my Sophomore year in college, I opted for a birth control shot that would literally change my life.  This shot (no longer on the market) would literally break me.  It broke my endocrine system and within the next year I gained over 100 pounds.  I was taken to a few doctors and was told to cut out all the pizza and beer.  I was angry and felt hopeless.  Sure I drank and ate more than was necessary - but I also worked out and really didn't have a significantly different lifestyle than my roommates.  I felt trapped.  No longer an athlete, I was sleepy all of the time and was stuck in a body that wasn't mine.   

It sucked.  For years it sucked.  

I was an athlete!  I was a sorority girl!  I WAS PRETTY!  


So I became the fun girl.  I was the life of the party and my laugh could be heard miles away.  It was the start of my acceptance into who I was.  But I still felt like an impostor in someone else's body.  

Ultimately I met an amazing man.  We got married.  We had a family.  And life went swimmingly on.  Much like anyone else's, there were ups and downs but so far I've led a pretty amazing life.  

So what if i can't go shopping at the mall.  So what if my bathing suits weigh me down in the water because they are so heavy with layers of lycra.  So what if i'm always the fattest person everywhere I go.  So what if I get weird looks when I get stuck sliding down the slide with my kids.  I love my life and I'm grateful for every day.  

After years of getting no where with modern medicine, I've been working to heal my body through food & holistic health.   (chiro care, GAPS, now AIP PALEO, supplements galore, and yoga)  Though still far from where I want to be - i'm on a path that is working.  There is movement and there is LIFE.  I am no longer held down by 3 or more bed ridden days of migraines per month.  I've learned what foods I can eat and which ones i shouldn't and I no longer fear a "random" attack of IBS while out in public.   My PMS cramps have all but diminished, my lower back pain is gone, and the sometimes debilitating fibro (arthritis like) pain always in my wrists, but sometimes wreaking havoc through my whole body has magically disappeared... and I have a neck!  Did you read that?  I HAVE A NECK - and a CHIN!

And so I take my biggest dream and make it a reality for others.  I give tired moms the chance to look like something out of a magazine.   I give women in their 50's a chance to see the light and grace in their faces that we all see, but they somehow have begun to look past.  I love what i do.  But i do it for others.  

Until last week.  

My husband sweetly coerced me to the other side of the camera.  The settings were set and all he had to do was hold & click.  A man I love more than air and yet I still had the most difficult time being so open in front of him.  I told myself the same things I tell my clients.  

But in my head I heard - yea but you're still a lot bigger.  Is this tub big enough? 

OMG the rolls.  How the hell do i move my legs so they don't wrap around my stomach?  

And the berating went on and on.  You can see it in my photos.  This was hard for me.  Very hard. 

After we finished, I had to get them on the computer asap.  If only so I could put the whole experience behind me.  But an odd thing happened once the pictures were on my computer.  It was no longer me.  But a set of photos that I was to edit.  It was refreshing that I could look at them much the same way I look at my client photos.  

I edited one ~ and smiled.  

And so i edited another.  

And another.  

And you know what.  I love them.   

I love how photoshop can take away the bulges and bumps that are 'not me', yet leave the softness of my skin.  I like how the rolls I'm embarrassed by can be swept away, but the 258lbs of curves that hug my loved ones can be just how they are in real life.  Looking back ~ I can appreciate how the water enveloped me and made me feel safer.  I see how flattering the milk is as it hugs my body yet leaves more to the imagination.  

Much like an iceberg - there may be more below the surface.  But isn't that ultimately the best lesson in life?  I am not just my surface.