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Top 5 tips on taking better photos of your kids... and organizing and sharing your photos too!

Originally given as a live webinar, this FREE video lesson is filled with tips to get you started on the path to photosanity using the equipment and tools you currently have.

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I am currently on a scaled back part working part maternity leave schedule... blogging will continue, but may be erratic!

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Interview with photosanity mentor Alison Eden Copeland

The next photosanity workshop is coming up starting January 31st! Yes, I know, I just had a baby and am supposedly on "maternity leave"... but the great thing is that the content really is complete this time and will just need to be released weekly and I'll be able to focus on the facebook groups.

Yes, groups - plural. Photosanity is going national! Ok, obviously as the workshop is online, we've already had participants from around the country and the world, but up until now, the focus has been on NYC participants.

This time, I have four professional family photographers from around the country who helped to mentor the fall workshop continuing on with their own facebook group for their city. The cities are: Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA and San Diego, CA as well as, of course, NYC.

I thought it would be fun to interview each mentor before the workshop starts so you can all get to know them. Today's interview is with Alison Eden Copeland of Alison Eden Photography. She will be mentoring the Austin, TX group.

Alison Eden Copeland (Austin, TX)

Alison Eden Photography
(also on facebook)
Based in Austin, Texas, Alison is the mother of two crazy boys, ages 3.5 and almost 6! She’s been in business since her first was born, and photographs mostly babies, kids, newborns, and families. She also LOVES to teach and has spent quite a bit of time teaching parents how to photograph their children.

1) How and why did you decide to become a professional photographer?

Like a lot of moms, I didn't want to go "back to work" after having my first baby. So, my grandmother gave me a DSLR as a gift, and I started practicing on my baby. I taught myself photography and Photoshop, and I took my first paying client when my son was 6 months old--in my dining room. The whole career has been a very hands-on learning experience for me, and I've been incredibly lucky, in that my business really exploded right from the beginning. I've barely been able to catch my breath!

2) How would you describe your style?

I was once asked to describe my style in three words, and I choose funky, intimate, and humorous. I've tried other styles at the request of clients, and I've learned that I'm just not great at uber-classic or frou-frou stuff. I tend toward bright colors and wacky prints, and I like a bit of humor in most of my work, since I think kids are inherently funny. I think the most important thing about photographing a child is getting the eyes to sparkle, because that's what parents are going to remember most about the child. I also like to commemorate their little hands and feet, and the qualities of their skin.

3) What do you most enjoy photographing?

The absolute easiest stage of life for me to photograph is the sitting-up-but-not-yet-crawling stage. Babies in that stage are full of sparkle and personality, they're usually chubby, and they can't get away from me! I also LOVE to photograph newborns, but that can be really unpredictable and difficult. Of course, the only thing that gives me a real, sustained high is a birth. Birth is obviously the coolest thing in the whole world, and to be present at one is always an honor. But it's also such a naturally beautiful and emotive event, it's a total joy to photograph.

4) Which is your favorite lens?

My favorite lens right now (for Nikon) is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens. When I shot Canon, it was the Canon 50mm f/1.2. Both of them give incredible bokeh and gorgeous colors.

5) What have you most enjoyed about being a photosanity mentor so far?

I've really enjoyed watching people grow over just a few weeks from total beginner status to understanding light and composition and making the most of their equipment.

6) What is your favorite photography tip for parents?

To turn off the flash. If you're looking at a scene and you think it would make a great photo, you're going to completely change the feel of it when you add a flash. You never see your child the way a camera with a flash sees your child. It's just an unflattering look to me. Obviously, sometimes it's necessary, and sometimes photographers use flash for artistic reasons, but I think for a parent who is learning to photograph his or her children, turning off the flash makes a photo instantly more emotive and real.

7) Share three of your recent favorite photos (personal and/or professional) - why are they favorites?

The first two photos are recent favorites because they're professional photos I took of my best friend's brand-new baby boy. I love the colors and the light in the first one. In the second, I just love all his fuzz. The third photo is one I took on my iPhone of my own two sons. I love it because it's genuine. It's just them holding hands, running down the street, after a particularly fun day of sliding down a grassy hill in homemade sleds. I love it that, even though they're 2.5 years apart in age, their feet are perfectly in stride.

8) Choose one photo from a fall 2011 participant that you particularly like and explain why.

I love this photo (by workshop participant Lisa Pelavin) for a few reasons. I love the composition, and the fact that the boy is back-lit. I also love the depth of field, and the interest the chain-link fence adds to the image. But mainly, I probably love this because it reminds me of my oldest son. He's sensitive and deep, and I always want to capture that, along with his beautiful blue-gray eyes. But he's also self-conscious and won't allow himself to be natural in front of the camera. So I love it that this photo captures what I wish to capture in my son.

Check out the photosanity website for more information on cities and mentors (and of course to sign up for the workshop if you are interested).

nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!

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Jack newly born

I had one full day in the hospital with Jack, one day where reality was suspended and my job was to rest, recover, and bond with my brand new baby.

I loved that time in the hospital with Liam and I loved thst time with Jack also - it felt like sacred time, and that's what these photos, taken on the second day of his life, capture for me. Beauty, peace, love, perfection.

The first photo above was taken less than six hours after he was born when I was still bedridden. And why yes I did ask a nurse to pass me my camera bag!

So yeah, we had a baby! Jack decided to make his appearance 16 days before his due date and 9 days before our scheduled c-section.

I never went into labor on my own with Liam - sonograms showed him to be a big baby and I was induced about a week before his due date. As our OB had warned was a good possibility, labor did not progress much (after several hours of labor I was only about 4cm dilated) and when his heart rate started dipping a little, indicating that he was in fact too big to come out, the decision was made to do a c-section.

This time around, the baby was also looking to be big, and we were scheduled for a c-section on December 27th. Our OB did keep mentioning that if I went into labor before then, we would try for a VBAC, but I really didn't think it would happen - in my mind, we were having a c-section. That's what we had before, and that's what we would have again! And as I never went into labor on my own before, I seriously doubted I would this time, even though I knew there was really no logical basis for that assumption.

Well, it turns out there REALLY was no logical basis for that assumption, but when I started having mild but regular contractions at around 2pm on December 18th, I pulled out my childbirth books from 3 years ago, read about "false labor" and thought, well, it's quite possible that's what this is. I had literally finished my last piece of production work for a client about an hour earlier, and had been up really late the night before working on the Fitzpatrick calendar… so the first thing I did was take a nap! I was actually able to get a little bit of sleep between contractions and woke up feeling a little more prepared for whatever was to follow. And even though I was still in denial about really being in labor, I did at least pack my hospital bag!

My in-laws were supposed to come over to babysit that evening so we could go on a last date before the baby, so we cancelled that and had them on standby to come over, but my OB seemed to think we probably wouldn't go into the hospital until the next morning. He told me to have a couple of glasses of wine and to wait and see.

I don't know why but what stuck in my head was all the stories of people thinking they were in labor and turning up too early at the hospital, only to be sent home again. What I totally blanked out was all the stories from my mom friends of second births that went extremely quickly. However, when contractions suddenly started getting stronger and longer and more closely spaced as we approached 7pm I thought, hmmm, I think we're going to the hospital tonight! We told Keith's parents to come over.

And then my water broke. And contractions were quite strong. And I told Keith we had to leave for the hospital right away, and have his parents meet us there!

Yeah, you know how they tell you that usually it's not like the movies? Well, this was exactly like the movies. My water broke, and we were on a mad dash for the hospital. We threw Liam into the back seat, grabbed our stuff, and, well, I have to say, I was pretty impressed with how Keith kept his cool, but there was some horn honking and fast driving and all the while I was timing contractions on my iphone (yes of course there's an app for that!) and trying to come up with some sort of breathing technique to get through the contractions (we never went to any childbirth classes!) and calling my OB to see if we should in fact go to the emergency room entrance… which in the end we did. He met us there with a wheelchair but of course Keith had to stay in the car with Liam (who had fallen asleep amidst all the excitement - he had missed his nap earlier!) and wait for his parents to arrive while I got whisked up to the 6th floor!

Yes, it was quite dramatic.

Water broke at 7pm, we got to the hospital at 7.45pm. Apparently I was 9cm dilated and my OB told me we would try to push the baby out. Well, that I would. And honestly, my first reaction was "Push?!!! What happened to my c-section?!" but I got some pain relief, Keith arrived, and probably about 10 pushes later, one hour after we got to the hospital, my OB said "ok, on the next push you're going to have a baby" and then "reach down and grab your baby" and… Jack was here!!!!

It was truly an incredible experience, as was Liam's birth, but in an entirely different way. I was never REALLY scared, as it didn't feel like I was going to have the baby in the car, but it did get a little hairy, and I had been counting on those last 9 days to get some rest and prepare for having a newborn in our lives again.

And yet the whole experience was perfect, exactly how it was supposed to be, just by virtue of being how it was. And it turns out recovery is a lot easier than from a c-section so I'm glad my OB pushed for the VBAC (for example, I could never have taken these photos, the day after Jack was born, if I'd had a c-section). And thank goodness for a discussion on my mom's group e-mail list just a few days earlier on some of the things to expect during recovery when it ISN'T a c-section… this turned out to be really valuable information for me!

It is quite amazing how hard it is to imagine having another child and ever loving them as much as the first… and then they're here, and you just do. Jack looks a lot like Liam did when he was newborn so it's been sort of surreal. It feels almost like going back in time… and yet not, because there is Liam, in all his adorable and rambunctious and hilarious almost-three years old ways. And he is so so sweet with Jack!

The transition home has taken a little while, especially as we did not have things quite ready beforehand, and also, well, there's a lot you forget about having a newborn! But we're slowly falling into a rhythm and we're lucky to have a lot of help - my sister was here for a week, and my parents are here for a few months, plus Keith's family is around, so I really have nothing to complain about. One of the good things about having a second child is that I already have all my mom friends and support network in place too - with Liam, I didn't start meeting other moms with babies the same age until he was 6 weeks old. I've taken Liam out a few times just he and I and that has been a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to getting back into regular playdates over the next few weeks.

Today Jack is two weeks old. Already it's been quite a ride and I can't wait to see what the new year brings.

Happy 2012 to all!

nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!

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2011 in portraits

2011 was game changing for me and my business... and this time last year I could never have predicted how things would go. As you know, the photosanity workshop changed everything... I feel like I've discovered what my business is meant to be and by extension, what it is that I want to do. I love helping parents with their own photos of their kids, and if I get to photograph their entire family together, all the better! Portrait photography is just one piece of the larger concept of "photosanity" that I now offer, and I couldn't be happier or more excited about it.

It has meant that a lot of focus was spent this year on the workshop and developing the content and delivery methods for it, but that's not to say the portrait side was neglected. In fact, I had more portrait clients this year than last - the High Line sessions have been really popular and I've really enjoyed working there. As I've grown and developed as a photographer, I've also refined my products, services and the overall experience for clients... and I can't wait to work on this more. I have lots of ideas about where I want to take the portrait side of the business, but I'm not currently sure when. I don't usually shoot much during the winter anyway so I'm going to take a few months with the baby and see how things go before I start booking sessions again.

So as the year comes to an end, I thought I would recap with my favorite image from each portrait session this year. Choosing was hard, but I decided to base my selections purely on what I liked the best and the work that I think best defines my style - not necessarily client favorites (even though often they were) or what I think is the "best" photo. And then I also looked at the collection of photos as a whole and made some changes to get a balanced set of images.

Here then is the nestingNYC 2011 in portraits! I was going to write a little something about each photo but on second thoughts, I don't think words are needed, except to say thank you so much to each and every one of my clients - it was truly an honor to document your family this year, and I fell in love with each and every one of you through the lens. I wish everyone all the best for 2012!

nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!

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December 18th, 2011:
2.00pm: contractions started
7.00pm: water broke
7.45pm: arrived at hospital
8.45pm: Jack Cheng Fitzpatrick was born | 7lbs 10ozs

This Christmas we got the best gift of all - the speedy and safe delivery of a healthy and beautiful baby boy. To all of you who celebrate - Merry Christmas!

nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!

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If you don't make mistakes, you aren't trying hard enough

(Photo by my wonderful friend Katie of Katie Jane Photography taken Monday, 36 weeks pregnant.)

I have a confession to make… I took on way too much this fall. Mostly, I completely underestimated how much time it would take me to create the pdf reference guide for the photosanity workshop. I had already created all the content, and I even hired an editor to edit it. How much work could it take?

Well, it turns out, a lot. Not because my editor was bad (Rebecca Caban - she was awesome!) but because I had a lot of content to add and rewrite. I have to double check the numbers but I think it took me LONGER to rewrite it than it took me to write in the first place.

I'm really proud of what has resulted, but it's meant that some things have fallen through the cracks. I wasn't able to participate as much in the photosanity facebook group as I wanted. Turnaround on client orders has become stretched out. I've been working until 1am almost every night for about two months now. Keith has been taking Liam almost every weekend. And yes, all this during the third tremester of my pregnancy. In fact, Liam is going to love it when the baby comes because he's going to see me MORE!

I've been trying to comfort myself with the idea that "if you don't make mistakes, you aren't trying hard enough." Mostly I'm just pushing through everything that needs to get done before the baby gets here (no later than December 27th but hopefully no earlier!) and applying triage principles - what absolutely must get done? I'm hoping hoping hoping to have a week to rest before having the baby, but quite frankly, those few days in the hospital to rest and recover from what will most likely be a c-section are looking more and more like a vacation!

Last night I wrapped up the 12 week fall photosanity workshop with my last live webinar for the year and… as the thank yous and best wishes rolled in during question time and continued on the facebook group, I realized, wow, they get it, this is all worth it. And of course, I got embarrassingly teary. I blame pregnancy hormones. Totally.

I love what I do. I've had an amazing year. I have incredible people in my life - family, friends, workshop participants, portrait clients, and colleagues past and present. We're about to have a new baby. And one way or other, I will get the rest of my work done for this year, live, learn and move on.

Thank you everyone for hanging in there with me and for your support and encouragement. I can't wait to see what's next!

Oh and yeah, I wrote a book!

nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!

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