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Senior Photography

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Incorporating Props into Your Senior Session

When it comes to props, many seniors have one or two items that they want to bring, but they may not consider them as “props”. Something as simple as your favorite coffee or drink can be considered a prop, believe it or not. Anything that shows off your personality can be included, and can really add a special dimension to your images. We wanted to share some ideas of things you may not have considered for your upcoming shoot:

Source: pexels.com

Source: pexels.com

-Musical instruments: it might be a bit unwieldy to bring your cello to your shoot, but we love bringing pieces of our life into your session. For many seniors, that includes their love of music. You can bring things like sheet music, a microphone, or your actual instrument to convey this particular passion. If you play a large instrument like a piano, consider bringing your favorite books about the subject, or bringing a smaller option, like a keyboard. 

-Art and creative pursuits: Yes, you can even bring painting supplies, or a sketchbook. Are you writing a book? Bring along the manuscript. There is no limit to the way we can incorporate things like books, writing utensils, calligraphy supplies, or even your laptop if you are a graphic designer. If it says something about YOU, then we want it to be part of the shoot. 

-Favorite food: If you are an aspiring chef, bring along one of your creations! Your favorite cake? Your lucky apron? If you don’t cook or bake beautiful cakes or cupcakes, think of your favorite drink or food, and bring that along. It might sound silly, but some seniors even do a few of their ‘favorite things’ (shopping bags, coffee cups, snacks, or souvenirs like Mickey ears) as some of their props. 

-Your costumes/uniforms: Many seniors use their varsity jacket, which is always a nice touch. But, you can also add something like your cheer uniform, your pom poms, your gymnastics leotard, your ice skates, or even something like a polo with the emblem for debate team or another school activity. If you work a part-time job that you love, you can even bring your uniform for that (check with your boss first, as some companies have policies on being photographed in your uniform). 

I am always open to hearing your bright ideas about things you want to include, even if it’s your best friend or your beloved pet! We can make it happen. I love being creative and figuring out how to add in an unconventional item, and nothing makes me happier than being able to give you a senior session that’s truly about YOU. 

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Jackson's Senior Session

There’s something about a great, simple, outdoor session. It feels All-American, and a big nostalgic. There wasn’t a better fit than Jackson for a session like this: he’s a no-nonsense, kind, and interesting young man, and he loves the outdoors. I really enjoyed meeting his older sister a few years ago, and doing her senior photos as well. Hunting and fishing are two of his favorite past-times, and he also enjoys anything that has to do with Jeeps or old cars. He started his own mobile detailing company this year, and it’s going very well (what an entrepreneur!). In his spare time, he enjoys being with his friends, and training his dog Goose (who is pictured) to be a hunting dog. Lastly, he spends time volunteering in the PALS program, which matches older students with younger ones in order to be mentors and role models.

We chose an outdoor location with pretty trees and a small body of water, and we were blessed with blue skies when we met up. I wanted him to be able to have plenty of room to include his beloved dog, and to also show off his truck. Jackson is heading for more exciting adventures after graduation, and I hope to be front and center to watch his endeavors. 

Some people really love the outdoors, but others prefer an urban, downtown look for their personal style, or to show off a hobby or idea. I love showing off whatever you have in mind, and planning your shoot accordingly. 

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How to Make a Budget for College

College is expensive. Anyone who tells you it isn’t… is probably lying! Ha! It’s really a wise practice to make a budget for any season in your life, but especially in college. You will be well occupied with your class schedule, and may not even be working part-time while you’re in school. So, without a big income source, how will you cover those many expenses? That’s where a smart budget comes in: you will never wonder how to pay your bills, and you will always know what’s left in your month allotment. Here are our very best tips to creating a realistic budget as you leave home for the first time:

Source: Pexels.com

Source: Pexels.com

Figure out where your income sources are coming from: Whether you are working or not while in school, you will have some sort of “income” source. It can be money from your parents, a trust fund, your own job, student loans, or any other sort of incoming finances. If your parents are supporting you in college, be clear with your expectations and how much you will be receiving. It’s not a fun conversation, but its really necessary with family, so no one has unfair expectations about their roles. If you are working, be sure to factor in taxes and fees that come out of your check, before you estimate how much you’re really taking home.

Next, divide up your upcoming expenses into categories. You will have many categories when it comes to college, but here are our suggested basics: Room and board, textbooks and school supplies, transportation, clothing, and discretionary spending. Room and board would include: cost of living on campus, or an apartment with utilities such as power and internet. Textbooks and supplies can include anything that you need for school, so don’t leave out items like scientific calculators, lab equipment, or any special uniforms or clothing. Transportation can include your own car, public transport, and any associated fuel or insurance fees, and clothing is self-explanatory. Discretionary spending includes any entertainment, spending money, or extras such as dining out with friends. We would also recommend adding a category for your cell phone plan, if that’s something you pay for.

Match up your expenses to your income, and figure out where the gaps are: If you are unable to meet your basic needs with your income, you will need to figure out a secondary plan, such as cutting out things like clothing money, or taking on part time work, such as selling clothes on Poshmark, or babysitting or tutoring. If at all possible, avoid taking out additional student loans because of the interest rates. 

Track your expenses: Once you have a written or digital (like an app) budget in place, begin diligently tracking your expenses. You can often find out where your biggest pitfalls lie by looking at your online banking statements and matching them up to your categories. Before you leave for college, one of the wisest things you can do is to save a large nest egg up, in order to cover emergencies such as new tires, unexpected travel (especially if you live very far from home), or a medical crisis. We recommend at least $2000 as an “emergency” fund, although any more than that would be very wise as well. 

By being diligent about managing your money in college, you are setting yourself up for success in the rest of your life as well. College is not only useful to gain academic knowledge, but it is also an important time to create healthy habits financially! 

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How to find and earn scholarships 

When you consider the amount of student loan debt that the average American is in these days, it will inspire you to search out the maximum number of scholarships you can apply for. College is expensive, and the costs are only going up. While you may know that applying is smart, you may also wonder where you can even find the right scholarships. How do you know you’re not wasting your time, and which ones you qualify for? That’s where today’s tips come in…here’s how and where you can find awesome opportunities to offset those hefty student loans:

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

  1. Figure out how much your deficit is. This should be step one for anyone applying to college. You need to know how much financial need you really have, and to do so, you’ll need to sit down with your parents or guardians and make a budget. You can request quotes for tuition, dorm life, and food from any prospective colleges that should help guide your numbers. You need to also factor in any travel costs (driving, car upkeep), things you’ll need like sports equipment or uniforms, and sorority associated fees, etc. Then you’ll be able to calculate how much you’ll need above and beyond what family or other assistance is already helping out with. 

  2. Brush up your resume and volunteer hours: Many scholarships are based on your community work or your extra curriculars; they look kindly on students who are well-rounded and efficient with their time. Obviously, you should also be striving for excellent grades in all subjects at school, and of course, keeping up with any other obligations like a part-time job. You should begin to take these things very seriously as early as freshman year, in order to keep your resume as strong as possible.

  3. Use scholarship search engines: You may be surprised at what scholarships you actually qualify for. If you have family members in the military, you may qualify for additional college assistance as well. Scholarship Owl is one that works similarly to a job search website, and matches you with the ones you best meet the criteria for. Fastweb is another one that is excellent and speedy with finding scholarships that you are already able to apply for. Using the web services helps prevent wasted time.

  4. Speaking of time: view applying for scholarships as a part time job…one you really want! If you earn scholarships, you will save yourself not only money, but time. You will have to take on less part-time work and stress if your school finances are more squared away. If you are really on a time-crunch, consider scheduling one hour a day to work on applications and essays, and block out the time just like any other activity.

  5. Stay organized: It is best to make a binder or dedicated area for all of your scholarship copies, forms, deadlines and essays. Make a master spreadsheet or calendar with all of the deadlines so that you don’t miss any of them. If you are asking for letters of recommendation from teachers or friends, be sure to get more than one copy of each one so you don’t need to bother them again. Try to make a master copy of your basic essay, so you can merely tweak and change it up for each application to save time. 

With these simple tips, you can devote your time to finding scholarships, and also increase your chances at winning them! Good luck!

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Jaycee's Senior Session

Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days. It seems everywhere we turn, we hear about how we need to put ourselves first, and to preserve our feelings and hearts. This is one lesson that Jaycee, this beautiful senior, has learned in the last few years: the put herself first. “I have really learned that I cannot hold on to the things that have hurt me in the past. It is something to live by; to move on and find something better. ‘Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you’ is my favorite quote”. I love her strength and kindness, and really enjoyed getting together to capture her senior year. Jaycee will graduate from Lake Travis High School in 2019, and she also enjoys her part-time job at Hill Country Indoor. She enjoys working with children, and also has run track in the past. When it comes to people who are influential in her life, Jaycee cites her aunt and her mom, who are both strong women who have fought for what they want in life! 

When I planned out her session, I chose the Spicewood area near Austin, and a local vineyard, Stone House Vineyard. The vineyard is seriously so elegant and stunning, and pairs the best architecture with beautiful landscaping; it is the perfect spot for an unique senior shoot. Jaycee says her personal style would best be described as “casual, cute and fun”, and that her everyday style usually includes sneakers, t-shirt, and shorts. She looks up to celebrities with a cool-casual style like Selena Gomez, and really loves shopping at Buckle. As far as her future, college is definitely in her sights, and she plans to pursue nursing, with minors in sociology and psychology. Jaycee is passionate about finding justice for rape and assault victims, and helping end human trafficking in the United States. Eventually, she plans to become a counselor or a therapist. I know her huge heart and passion about her goals in life will take her very far! Congratulations, sweet girl!

Contact me today to schedule your senior shoot!

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Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

It’s that time of year again! For some, it’s a time of year to focus on what they might get, but the true spirit of the season is in focusing on what you can give. The key to a heart set on generosity is in having a heart well acquainted with thankfulness. Being thankful, even in just a simple “thank you” in response to a kindness shown towards you, is intimately connected with positivity. While the Thanksgiving holiday is a great reminder of what we should be focusing on, the truth is that we should be just as grateful every day of the year. But how do you do that? Well, here are a few tips!

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-Start small: When things hit hard, they jostle your perspective. You could start the day happy and joyful, but then the harsh realities of life become a bit too hard to handle, and your mood sinks. Gratefulness is the ballast that will keep you afloat in a storm, and you’re building a foundation for yourself every day. But strong foundations aren’t built in a day, it’s a process that takes time - and it all starts with a simple thank you. Starting small and reaching out in kindness and gratitude towards others, even when you desperately don’t want to, will be your anchor in the storm. Start small, and you’ll reap the rewards later!

-Stay present: If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve gone through a time where the future just wasn’t too bright. Everyone goes through times where their minds are on anything but the present, but there’s a certain joy that only comes from being truly thankful for where you’re at. If you can live in the moment and experience what is going on as it happens, you will discover many joys once overlooked. Cultivating a habit of living in the present, and being thankful for it, will give you a positive outlook both towards the future and the past.

-Never compare: In this season, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, especially in the things that other people can afford. The Christmas season is coming, and for those who celebrate, you’ll see them walking around with big presents to give. Or if you celebrate Thanksgiving, you might feel the sting of jealousy as you compare your cooking to someone else’s. But true gratitude comes from finding joy in the ways others have been blessed, and giving thanks for what they’ve been given. That way you’re reorienting a heart set on comparing (and envying) to instead find joy in others.

Those are just a few ways you can find gratitude every day, and there are many more ways to do it! What are some ways that you’re cultivating gratitude each day?

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How to Accessorize Your Senior Session

Meet Abby! She’s part of the Class of 2019, and her amazing wardrobe was also from our partner, Backwater Boutique. We love being able to draw on their fashion experience and also, their enormous selection. They have incredible options for every budget and size, and I love that they also have multiple style collections. Whether you want boho or more traditional, they have something that will suit your personal taste. Find them here!

One thing that can really make or break a senior shoot is accessories. They have the power to change a basic tee shirt into something that reflects your personality. Below, you’ll see Abby’s awesome accessories, and the way a bold pair of earrings or a long necklace transforms regular clothes into a true outfit. The jewelry below is courtesy of Backwater Boutique, and I know this gorgeous grad had a hard time not buying all of it! Here are a few tips when choosing your senior shoot accessories:

-Jewelry can add interest and texture to your images: By choosing interesting pieces that have shimmer, cool textures, or depth, it will keep your images from looking “flat”, and keep the eye moving across them. This is more flattering to most people, and gives you a wide variety to choose from.

-Add scarves or hats that can act as layers: If you have a simple base outfit, like a tee and jeans, or a neutral colored blouse, consider adding a large felt hat for a boho style, or even a baseball cap with a polished ponytail for a sporty style. Be sure to talk to your photographer about the lighting on your face, when adding a hat. Large blanket scarves can look gorgeous for fall, and give you a “bundled up and cozy” look that is perfect for senior photos. You can also wrap larger scarves around you like a wrap for a fun and more unique look.

-Choose colors that flatter the features closest to where you are wearing them: If you are putting earrings near your eyes, choose colors that make your eyes pop, like pretty hues of green for brown eyes, or purple tones for hazel or green eyes. If pastels aren’t your best color, keep those colors closer to your feet, like with sandals or a skirt, so it’s not as close to your face and skin tone.

Stay tuned for more gorgeous looks from Backwater Boutique, and our amazing team of seniors!

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Grace | Class of 2019

I’m always scouting out fresh locations for my seniors. I never want my seniors to think they will only get the same exact spots as their friends, although of course every photographer has their favorites. When I came across Binders Gardens, I knew I had found a true gem. It is a wedding and an event venue in Needville, Texas, and filled with the most gorgeous greenery and little walking areas. I knew it was the spot for Grace, this beautiful and fun senior from Lamar Consolidated High School. She’s one of my Class of 2019 seniors, and she has a personality that has so many facets! I’m not sure I’d ever get to know everything about this lively and delightful young lady, but I enjoyed trying. She is involved in the yearbook committee at her school, and describes herself as “kind, loyal, and aware”. Grace really loves music, especially the hit songs by Pharell and Selena Gomez (who is her favorite celeb), and reading. One film that really impacted her in recent years was the war biopic Dunkirk, about which she says, “Seeing that movie showed me that the events were real, and how war effects the people involved. Also, how war can bring people who love each other together.” Besides reading and seeing movies, she also enjoys swimming and working out in her spare time. 

“I hope in twenty years, I will be remembered for being kind to everyone and staying positive”, she explained, “I really look up to people like my mom, because she deals with a lot, but she always makes sure that my brother and I are happy, and being the best that we can”. When it came time to plan and design her senior session, Grace shared that she wanted to look very natural, and I made sure her images captured her authentically. I hear pretty often that seniors really want to maintain their personal style and look, and I’m all for it. Sure, we all like to get glammed up sometimes, or maybe you want a more formal or boho look, but no one wants to look back on their senior photos and say, “I didn’t look like myself!” I think meeting Grace and doing her senior session (and getting to know what a spunky and smart gal she is), really helped me shape a shoot that shows the real her. Every outfit she brought also showed her taste in fashion and I loved seeing how her personality played into her choices.

Contact us today to schedule a shoot of your own!

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William | Foster High School Senior

It’s hard to believe that we have already reached the last of my 2018 seniors, but here we are! I also can’t believe how many amazing young people I have been blessed to work with this year. William, who graduated this spring, is from Foster High School, and really made the most of his years there. He was involved in typical activities like swimming, water polo, and the National Honor Society, which of course are commendable and took tons of hard work…but the main thing I was so impressed with is that he put in over 500 hours of volunteer hours in high school. He was part of a youth education effort at the Houston Zoo, and he tutored at his school (in all levels of math). In addition to these pursuits, he put in time coaching the 12 and under water polo team, and worked tirelessly with the Junior Olympics program in California. I was astonished at the sheer amount of time he put into his volunteer work, and how incredible it is to find such a selfless young man. He’s also a delightful person to be around, and I truly loved his mom as well! William is nicknamed “The Great White Whale” because of his prowess in water polo, and he will be attending Austin College in Sherman, Texas to continue his passion for the sport. In his future, he dreams of one day becoming a professor.

I knew such an extraordinary senior would need a cool and unique place to do his session, so you might be surprised to know that we did his shoot at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, because their front porch location is beautiful. It might seem odd to choose that spot, but I always try to look for the potential in a locale anywhere I go. It leads me to some of the best and most unexpected places, that my seniors totally love. William, I am so proud of your accomplishments, but moreso for your character. I know you will be an incredible asset to Austin College, where they are so lucky to have your intellect and your heart! Congratulations!

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Practical Ideas for Thinking Positively

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Maybe you’ve heard it said before: one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day. If that’s true, can you imagine how much good you can do if you made a point of thinking positive throughout your day? Of course, it takes training to adopt this sort of mindset, but I can tell you from experience that making positive thinking a regular part of your life will be a game-changer. Here are a few of my practical tips for thinking positive!

Start the day off right

How you start your day sets the mood for the rest of your day, so doing it the right way is important. We’ve all had days where, as soon as we wake up, we’re reminded of something embarrassing we did years earlier, or something that we’re nervous about happening in the future. Those sort of feelings stick with you the whole day long unless you do something to combat them early on, and that something is positive affirmation. It’s as simple as looking at yourself in the mirror, and saying something like ‘today’s going to be a good day’, or ‘today, I’m going to be the best I can be’ - even if you feel silly. You’ll find that this simple practice will help you to think more positively throughout the whole day!

Find the good in the difficult

Contrary to popular belief, there’s really no such thing as a perfect day. There’s always going to be something challenging in your day that has the potential of ruining it. When you encounter those challenges, focus on the benefits, no matter how small they might be, and you’ll find that the situation is a lot less difficult than it seemed. For instance, maybe you have a classmate that gets under your skin every day: the benefit there could be an opportunity to work on your patience and practicing love for others instead of sinking into a negative outlook and souring your day. Face those challenges head-on, and you’ll strengthen your ability to make the most of hard situations.

Turn your negative self-talk upside-down

Negative self-talk is like this: ‘I’m awful at this, I won’t ever be better than what I am’. Not only is it negative, it’s also self-defeating, because it implies that change will never happen. Positive self-talk takes ‘I’m awful’ and turns it into ‘If I practice more, I’ll be way better at this!’. It’s honest about your own abilities, but realizes that you can change for the better. It’ll take some training, but try to be mindful of your negative self-talk, and work hard to turn it on its head. It’ll change your life!

See every failure as a lesson to be learned

To err is human. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has experienced failure in their lives. It’s something that we all go through, but not everyone accepts a failure and learns from it. It takes an open mind to grow from failure, because you have to be open to changing yourself to do a better job next time. Maybe your science project bombed, or your speech didn’t go so well; try to assess where you went wrong, and take the constructive criticism your teacher might give you. Don’t focus on how you failed, but instead think about what you’re going to do differently next time. By doing this, you’ll be growing your character, your knowledge, and your abilities - all by the power of positive thinking!

Seek out like-minded friends and mentors

Surrounding yourself with positive people is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket. You’ll hear positive outlooks, affirmations and stories, and their perspective will sink in and affect your own mindset. Finding friends and mentors who live a positive lifestyle will help you grow in your own path, and give you valuable insight on how best to think positive. At the same time, don’t cut out the people in your circle who may have negative points of view, as you might be the only positive influence they have. Do your best to improve the lives of others, and let their positivity affect you in the same way. 

While it may take some work, living the positive lifestyle is so worth it! When you start your day off right, you’ll be in an even better place tomorrow. What are some ways that you're thinking positive today? Share it with us in the comments below!

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