Future Little Chef

This little wooden kitchen is one of my favorite things that we have gotten for E. My husband kind of thought I was losing my mind when I said I wanted to get a mini kitchen for E to put in our kitchen. For one thing, our kitchen is small. A tiny galley kitchen. It is definitely a one-chef only kind of kitchen, but there was a tiny bit of space near the doors to the patio that could be used. This little kitchen (made by Melissa & Doug) is the perfect size to fit in our tiny little space. E loves watching me cook, and having his own space to “make lunch”. He is so funny with his little fake food, and whatever sensory activity I have given him (he had cloud dough made out of flour and vegetable oil in these pictures). I often see him adding things to a pan, stirring, smelling, then adding more of something else…pretty much the exact way I cook since I rarely cook with a recipe. πŸ™‚ The mini kitchen has been wonderful for both E and myself. It keeps him occupied and out of my way, allowing me to cook and do dishes without a tiny little guy constantly ending up in my way. πŸ™‚

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Why I Didn’t Have Time to Pick Up More Cat Food….

BY0A2868

My husband understands that I have my hands full every day with taking care of our son full time and managing the photography business full time as well. What he doesn’t quite get is how literally every minute of my day is filled. He often comes home and asks why I didn’t have time to go run a particular errand, like picking up more dog or cat food. We have two dogs and two cats, so when we get more food, we get the biggest bag they have available, which I cannot lift on my own. He often encourages me to find an employee to help me, but I often feel like retail employees are usually around when you don’t want help, and no where to be found when you are in a hurry and need help. I simply do not have the time to wander around the pet store, trying to find someone to help me lift a bag of food into my cart. So, to prove a point to him about why it is much easier if he just stops off at the pet store on the way home from work, I decided to log an entire day, noting everything I did all day.

As a full time business owner, and work from home mom, there is not exactly a “typical day” for me. Some days are busier than others. Some days are more difficult than others. Some days the baby refuses to nap and I actually would prefer sitting in bumper to bumper traffic since at least that would probably get him to take a nap. The day I logged happened to be one of my busier days. Most days there is a lot more time spent chasing our baby around the house, playing with him in his room, and trying to convince him to take a nap. This day however, was a different sort of day.

I don’t always juggle watching E and working with clients at the same time, but sometimes I have to do it. I always make sure someone is available to babysit him when I have a newborn session scheduled, or a session with a new client. Other times, for short appointments, I will occasionally juggle watching E and working with my clients since our accountant mentioned that I cannot deduct babysitter expenses as a business expense (such a lame tax rule). Circus jugglers have nothing compared to my skills these days.

6:30 a.m. Get woken up by baby for morning milk. Breastfeed him and try to go back to sleep for a bit.
7:00 a.m. Give up on trying to sleep, say morning prayers, then grab phone and start scanning through emails and blog comments. Start responding to as many as possible.
7:30 a.m. Let dogs outside in the backyard, and put each pet’s flea medicine in their bowl with their breakfast.
7:45 a.m. Let the dogs back inside and go back to bed for a few minutes to respond to more emails.
8:00 a.m. Start a load of laundry.
8:20 a.m. Add additional baby proofing gadgets to my office.
8:30 a.m. Clean guest bathroom in my office. Start cleaning our bathroom also.
8:40 a.m. Hear baby wake up earlier than usual, and beg husband to watch him for a few minutes so I can actually finish cleaning both bathrooms.
8:55 a.m. Wash hands, heat up some oatmeal for breakfast for myself and baby.
9:00 a.m. Clean highchair. Sit down with baby to eat breakfast.
9:10 a.m. Unload clean dishes from dishwasher.
9:21 a.m. Stop fight between our toy poodle and male cat.
9:24 a.m. Load new round of dirty dishes in dishwasher.
9:27 a.m. Stare at emails for a bit (writer’s block on some responses). Respond to more emails.
9:29 a.m. Wash baby’s hands.
9:30 a.m. Inspect washing machine to see if it is broken or demon possessed (not really of course) based on the strange noises it suddenly started making. Determine that there doesn’t appear to be anything immediately wrong with it.
9:31 a.m. Change baby’s diaper and clothes.
9:33 a.m. Tidy up my office.
9:40 a.m. Have a conversation with baby E about how he keeps throwing my paint brushes all over my office.
9:49 a.m. E makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like “damnit”. Make a note to discuss language with my husband.
9:52 a.m. Prep shower/bath for baby and me.
9:55 a.m. Pick up all of my makeup that E has thrown all over the bathroom. Find missing Nemo bath toy and feel like a hero.
9:56 a.m. Simultaneous shower for me and bath for baby.
10:05 a.m. Brush my teeth and baby’s teeth. Multitasking at its finest.
10:10 a.m. Milk time for E.
10:20 a.m. Get us both dressed.
10:25 a.m. Prep camera for morning appointment.
10:27 a.m. Unwrap box of prints that arrived from photo lab.
10:30 a.m. Meet with clients for mini session. Simultaneously entertaining E in the room with his own toys, while keeping him out of the picture.
11:20 a.m. Clients leave, and I turn on my computer, hoping to get a bit of work done.
11:21 a.m. Give up and turn computer off.
11:22 a.m. Check vacuum robot to see why it is sending out a distress call.
11:25 a.m. My dad happens to be in the area today, and has some time to kill between doctor’s appointments. He comes by to visit with E. This is not part of our usual routine, so an extra set of hands to help out was a huge relief!
11:26 a.m. Spend a bit of time playing with the dogs, feeling sad that I can’t take them on long hikes the way I used to do before my pregnancy injuries.
11:35 a.m. Milk for E.
11:40 a.m. Package print order for client and send email.
11:43 a.m. Prep paperwork to mail to DMV, applying for temporary handicapped placard.
11:44 a.m. Gather together everything I need to go run a few errands.
11:45 a.m. Check robot distress call again, then leave for grocery store and post office.
12:25 p.m. Get home, try to convince dogs to pee. They are protesting since our patio was flooded from previous rain.
12:26 p.m. Untangle vacuum robot from its latest adventure.
12:27 p.m. Put away groceries and start heating up lunch.
12:32 p.m. Give up on robot and put it away. Milk and diaper change for E.
12:37 p.m. Clean highchair and feed E lunch.
12:45 p.m. Remember laundry needs to be moved to dryer.
12:46 p.m. Finish putting away groceries.
12:50 p.m. Dad leaves.
12:51 p.m. Eat lunch while checking phone for texts/emails/etc.
12:58 p.m. Update social media.
1:02 p.m. Feed pets lunch.
1:07 p.m. More milk for E while responding to emails. E falls asleep for nap.
1:36 p.m. Water house plants.
1:56 p.m. Say a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the rain the day before, which allowed me to skip watering the plants outside this morning. Realize that the rain and my dad’s unexpected visit helped free up a few minutes for me. Decide to take a nap for once. Set an alarm to wake me up in 15 minutes.
2:11 p.m. Wake up, return missed calls and texts.
2:40 p.m. Notice that our toy poodle ate 100+ pound dog’s flea medicine. Call vet for advice.
2:45 p.m. Look for female cat while on hold since I haven’t seen her yet all day and am starting to get really worried.
3:03 p.m. Get advice to prepare for lots of doggy barf (the following day was spent cleaning up little dog’s throw up all day long).
3:05 p.m. Google how to hack shower bubbles spray cleaner and Swiffer wet jet mop (want to replace with my plant based Method sprays).
3:15 p.m. Find success with hacking Shower Bubbles but not Swiffer.
3:17 p.m. Mop living room with un-hacked Swiffer and a bottle of spray cleaner.
3:26 p.m. Put away house plants that I watered.
3:40 p.m. Find Pearl and spend some time playing with her with her favorite toy.
3:52 p.m. Attempt to clear off some of the stuff on the tables in the living room.
4:00 p.m. Try to start another load of laundry, but then E wakes up. Give up on laundry.
4:01 p.m. Diaper change.
4:02 p.m. Afternoon client arrives for mini session, and juggling act resumes with E in my office.
4:30 p.m. E has play time with client/friend’s baby.
5:30 p.m. Clean up little dog’s poop in the living room.
5:35 p.m. Wrestle with E, trying to force a clothing change.
5:40 p.m. Drive to Whole Foods to pick up sample bottle of wine for blog post.
6:00 p.m. Return phone call for potential client while standing around outside Whole Foods.
6:10 p.m. Pick out wine.
6:30 p.m. Get home. Milk for E.
6:40 p.m.-8:00 p.m. Blur of prepping dinner, eating, cleaning up after dinner, taking photos for blog post, writing blog post, responding to more emails.
8:00 p.m. Spend some time playing with one of the cats.
8:15 p.m. Start working on photo editing while husband gets baby ready for bed.
9:00 p.m. Say goodnight to husband and baby. Go back to office and continue working.
11:00 p.m. Milk for E.
11:15 p.m. Go back to office and continue working.
2:00 a.m. Realize it is my bed time, and even though I am no where near caught up, I need to get at least a couple of hours of sleep because the game starts all over again in just a few short hours.

So…if you are an old friend and are wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while, this is why. This is my life now. πŸ™‚

Working on this post was an eye-opening experience for both my husband and me. It made us realize that I cannot keep up this pace nor is it worthwhile to us. I am going to be making some pretty serious adjustments to the way I handle this photography business going forward. There is one aspect of our son’s personality that drives me crazy: he runs himself ragged, refusing to rest until he is cranky and hysterical. I realized I have been doing the exact same thing to myself with this business. I have been tired, cranky, angry, working too hard and still not meeting my goals. I’m going to shoot less, enforce my policies 100% of the time going forward, and have price increases on certain things. It is the only way I will be able to continue at all.

As a side note…I have been trying to get a picture of all 5 of our crazy kids together for a while. The most difficult part is the fact that one cat is still afraid of E. The crazy photo above is the closest I’ve gotten so far, and you can’t even see most of their faces. πŸ™‚ They are a wild bunch.

Working with Myself as My Client

I mentioned previously that I wanted to spend some time working on some fine art self portraits, and I’m so happy that I’ve been making the time to do it. I’ve done a few things on my list so far, and wanted to share. πŸ™‚ There is more up at http://apluscphotography.com/fine-art. You can read about each image on my photography blog: http://apluscphotography.com/blog.

BY0A2479

Newborn & Infant Photography Safety

A+C Photography - Newborns & Babies Photography Safety

There are a lot of articles and blog posts out there regarding safety tips for photographers when working with newborns and babies. Most have some really great tips, but there were a lot of other things that I have learned over the years that I haven’t seen listed in most of those articles. I wanted to write this blog post to help other photographers learn how to safely work with shooting babies. I seriously cannot believe it has been almost 20 years since I did my first few baby sessions (wow that makes me feel so old)! Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been shooting babies exclusively for 20 years, but I have done it enough now where I have a good concept of what works and what does not.

If you are a new photographer, please take the time to read and review all of the safety guidelines that I have detailed below. You have a very important job of keeping someone else’s baby safe and protected while you work with them! For new parents, please be sure that you work with someone who is experienced and knowledgeable about newborn and infant photography safety when planning your baby’s photoshoots. If you have any doubts, be sure to ask lots of questions!

1. Newborns cannot regulate their body temperature the same way that we can, so be sure to keep the room that you are shooting in extra warm and toasty.

2. To keep my studio warm, I use a space heater and a rice bag near the baby. I don’t ever place the baby directly on the warmed rice bag, but always make sure there is a blanket between the baby’s skin and the bag. Rice bags are very easy to use and heat up. I just sewed together a little pouch of fabric, about the length of a newborn’s body, filled it with rice, and sewed it shut. When I am going to use it, I heat it in the microwave next to a mug of water for about a minute.

3. When shooting newborns outdoors, be sure that the weather is warm enough. Do not ever force a baby into a situation where they seem unhappy. I remember one particular session that I shot a couple of years ago where even though it was not that cold outside, the baby was just not happy in my outdoor studio area. Instead of forcing the issue, I explained to the parents that it would be much better if we went back inside and continued with some indoor shots instead where their baby was happy.

In the image above of our son, we shot this just after he was born, in March (when it is still a bit cold here). You cannot see it from the images, but he actually had 2-3 layers of clothes on underneath the knitted wrap to make sure that he was warm and cozy. Even with older babies, I never put them in a situation where they will get a chill when shooting them outdoors. If I am shooting a baby in the nude or just a diaper outside, I will only do that on a warm day, and only in very brief increments of time.

4. Never use direct flash or un-diffused strobe lighting since the bright flash of light can be damaging to their developing eyes and brains. It is much better to use natural light and/or continuous studio lighting. If strobes are used, they should be properly diffused so the flash of light is not so harsh and jarring to the infant. When I did my first few little baby portraits, all I had was my film camera and a white shirt that I wore so I could position myself as a reflector while shooting (I was in high school and did not have much budget!). I definitely recommend using a reflector whenever possible. You can even use a large piece of white foam core if you cannot afford a regular reflector.

5. Never place a baby in anything that could be breakable, dangerous or sharp. This includes any glass objects (vases, mirrors, glass bowls, etc.). Even though it may seem that newborns do not have the ability to move much and break something, they can move more than you would expect.

6. Beware of trying to mimic composite shots. I personally never shoot babies in a complex composite pose since I do not like to perpetuate the illusion that I am doing something unsafe with any baby that I shoot. I feel that this is a dangerous trend in the industry, and new photographers need to understand that no baby should ever actually be placed in things like a sling hanging from a branch, a swing hanging from a tree, on top of a mirror, etc. Most of the images that you see that show these types of things are actually composited images when done safely.

7. Make sure that you wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer regularly when working with babies. Their immune systems are not fully developed yet, and you want to be sure that you don’t pass along any germs to them.

8. Similarly, make sure that you are up to date on your TDaP vaccines. Pertussis can be deadly to infants, and adults can often be carrying the disease but show no symptoms. It can be passed from adult to infant while holding the baby, so make sure you have your vaccine. Babies usually do not have their complete set of vaccines to protect them from pertussis until they are at least 6 months old.

9. Study charts about infant developmental stages for various ages in the first year. Realize that a 3 month old will not be able to do things like sit up on their own, and it is not safe to try to force them into a pose that they are not developmentally ready for yet. Our little guy was able to sit himself up in a baby chair at 3 months (with spotting), but that is fairly unusual.

10. Always be sure to have a parent very close at hand near the baby to act as a spotter. Babies of all ages are wobbly, and you never want to have the baby fall over while you are shooting them.

11. If shooting a baby on a bed, be sure that they are always in the middle of the bed and not on the edge. I almost had a scary incident with this kind of situation back when I was 14 years old and shooting a newborn. Even newborns are capable of moving themselves around.

12. Always do a quick check of the baby’s fingers and toes to make sure that no loose threads, hairs, or fuzz are wrapped around them. This is especially important when working with furry or fuzzy wraps or rugs. Babies can loose circulation on their fingers or toes so quickly, so you want to make sure nothing is wrapped around any of their little digits that could interfere with their circulation.

13. Go slowly and be patient. Be sure to allow plenty of time for feeding, cuddling, diaper changes, etc.

14. Always keep in mind that babies are little teeny tiny people and not a prop or a doll. They have unique personalities and preferences, just like anyone else. If a baby seems uncomfortable or unhappy, don’t force it! Work with the baby and you will find that the shoot goes much easier. Sometimes the poses that the babies puts themselves in are way cuter than how you were originally trying to pose them!

15. Never shoot a baby in bright, direct sun. Babies younger than 6 months old should not ever wear sunscreen, and even between 6 months to one year old it is better to skip this if possible. Babies are very sensitive to sunburn. The sun is harshest between the hours of 10-2 pm. Plan accordingly.

16.Β Never shoot a baby in an environment with a lot of bugs around such as mosquitoes. Babies younger than 6 months old should not ever wear bug spray, and even between 6 months to one year old it is better to skip this if possible. Mosquitoes carry diseases that can be deadly to those with weak immune systems, such as an infant. Don’t take any chances. Be safe and cautious with your choice of location and time of day. Mosquitoes are most active around dawn and dusk and near bodies of still water. Plan accordingly.

17. If you or anyone in your household is sick, reschedule the session. It is the professional and considerate thing to do since you should make every effort not to get your client’s baby sick.

18. Always have a client image release contract, even if you are just starting out and shooting for free. This is important for all parties involved. You want to make sure that you have the parents’ written permission to use images of their child for your portfolio. You also want to give the parents peace of mind about where their child’s images will be posted online (e.g. their sweet baby’s photo is not going to be seen next to some outtake from filming a bloody horror movie).

If you are interested, you can view more of my photography on our website, our blog, and our Facebook page (click on each to open in a new window).

My Journey As a Photographer

A+C Photography

I often get asked how I got started as a photographer. Since I had to take over a year off from shooting while laid up with my pregnancy and my difficult postpartum recovery, I feel like I have had to start over with the photography business (link here). My husband (and business partner) and I had to make the decision that we will no longer be shooting weddings since I can only handle being on my feet for about two hours at a time before the pelvic and leg pain from the pregnancy comes back. Since weddings were the primary focus of the business before, I have been working on refocusing and re-branding the business to just focus on portraits, primarily babies & families.

It is interesting to me how everything with my photography has come back around full circle to where I started as a photographer, many years ago. When I was in high school, I started taking an interest in photography. My dad, a former photographer, got me a camera and started teaching me about photography. I signed up as the photographer for the community service club at my high school. I went around photographing all of the volunteer events and absolutely loved it. I loved focusing on the joy and happiness of the interactions. There was one place where we all volunteered where I really took an interest in photographing the events, a local shelter for women and their babies.

His Nesting Place is a house in Long Beach, CA where women can go with their babies when they don’t have a lot of options. They are an alternative to abortion, and provide a safe haven for women and children at risk. I loved volunteering there so much, and started photographing all of the new babies that came through there, gifting the mothers with some prints of their babies. This was many years ago, before the digital photography revolution, so those prints were very precious. I received so much positive encouragement with my photography from the staff of His Nesting Place, and it really helped spark my confidence as a photographer. I did not have any fancy props or elaborate set ups, but I took some beautifully simple pictures with just window light, a bed, and a baby. Back in those days, I was spending most of my babysitting/pet sitting/house sitting money on film and lab development. πŸ™‚

Every year, our club went to a tri-state convention where our yearly scrapbook with all of the photos from our events was entered into a competition. My photos kept winning out of all of the high schools from three states. I got so much encouragement from the staff at His Nesting Place to consider pursuing a career in photography. When I spoke with my high school guidance counselors, I was strongly discouraged from doing anything of the sort. To a prep school guidance counselor, apparently photography is not a valid career path, especially for a student who showed strong aptitude in math and science.

I put all thoughts of becoming a photographer aside while in college. However, whenever I was stressed out, I would find myself wandering around campus taking photographs of the architecture, flowers, etc. The guy at my local photo lab at that point thought I was crazy for studying engineering when clearly I had a strong creative side that was begging to come out. When I made the switch to fashion school, we had a lot of marketing classes where I really started to have fun with my photography again.

After I finished school, I found my way into working in e-commerce in the fashion industry. It was the perfect mix of my engineering background and my creative, fashion-loving side. E-commerce obviously is very photography dependent, so it was a natural progression for me to start using my photography skills at work. Years later, and a few different jobs later, I entered a very challenging phase in my life.

My grandmother was suddenly sick with cancer and dying. We were very close, and she was one of the few people I talked to every day. The stress of knowing she was dying flared up a very large cyst/non-cancerous tumor in one of my ovaries. Work was getting out of control also. My boss’ plan was to get rid of much of my support staff, and increase my workload significantly. I left work early one day to go see my grandmother at her house when I found out how sick she was. I tried to not tell her that I was feeling sick myself, but she knew right away when she saw me.

I had a long talk with my grandmother about the stress at work, and the strain it was putting on my body. I had been showing her various pictures that I took both for fun and for work any time I saw her. She urged me to consider a career change at that point to lessen the stress on myself. She told me that she had been watching my photography progress over the years, and that she strongly felt that it was time for me to get rid of all the stressful parts and just focus on what I love, the photography. She was very wise and I really valued her opinion, especially since she was right from the start about my husband when I had some reservations about him (he was very anti-religion when we started dating but soon had a conversion of heart).

When the time came and my grandmother was about to pass, the growth on my ovary ruptured and I had to go to my own hospital across town.Β  While I was in the Emergency Room, the doctor was concerned about how many times I had been in there in the few years prior with similar situations. He told me that I was at extremely high risk for developing ovarian cancer, and he highly recommended that I have my ovaries removed right then and there. Since my grandmother was sick, we had moved our wedding date up to a.s.a.p., in the hopes that she would be able to attend. I refused to have my ovaries removed then, especially since our wedding was going to be taking place in just a few days. I still had hopes that maybe, by some miracle, I would be able to get pregnant, and I was not willing to give up on that hope.

The doctor recommended that I seriously evaluate my life and cut down on my stress levels since I refused to have my ovaries removed. My grandmother passed that night, and her funeral came a few days later. Our wedding took place a few days after that, despite how upset we all were.

I ended up taking a week off work for my hospital visit, my grandmother’s funeral, and our wedding. When I had a meeting with my boss, she said that it was “very inconvenient” that I had taken a week off, and I would not be eligible for a raise since I had taken that time off. I had barely taken any of my allowed vacation time in the years I had worked there.Β  My husband and I decided at that point to add me onto his insurance, and that I would quit and start working on starting our own photography business.

We started out primarily focusing on weddings, but I also started shooting babies, children and families again. It felt so easy and fulfilling, without being stressful like a “regular” job. I felt like I was really getting the hang of things when everything got put on hold with our move and then my pregnancy.

After our baby E was born, I could not wait to be able to start shooting again. Before E was born, I feel like I approached the photography business in a certain way. I wanted to make sure that I got most of my weddings and engagement shoots published in wedding blogs, so I tried to mold my photography around what it seemed like the blog editors were looking for. Props and styled shoots are popular, so I worked hard on incorporating lots of props and styling into my shoots. Certain styles of photo editing and actions are popular, so I started editing my photos using a combination of those techniques. In retrospect, I feel like I put aside my own creative voice a bit in order to try to get my work to conform to what the blog editors wanted. Don’t get me wrong…I still love the work I did before I was pregnant with E (and it definitely got us published in many places and won a prestigious award), but I still felt like a bit of my own creative voice was missing from it all.

Recently, I started trying to prepare myself to get the photography business back up and running again. I evaluated my portfolio, and even went back through and looked at some of my really old photos and editing, from before I started the business. I started thinking back about all of the photos I used to take at His Nesting Place, and the clean simplicity and beauty of them. I wish I still had some of them to reference, but I made the dumb mistake of letting the school convince me that they were their property, even the negatives, even though I paid for it all with my own money.

I came to the realization that I would let my own creative voice dictate my photos going forward, and try to ignore what the “trends” are as dictated by blog editors. I loved some of my customized photo editing before I started purchasing Photoshop actions, and have been inspired by those to try some new things lately. I decided to do E’s three month photoshoot with inspiration from my memory of my old photos that I used to take at His Nesting Place (example from this shoot seen above). I contacted His Nesting Place to see if I could start volunteering there again and photographing the babies again. I am so grateful that the Lord has blessed us with E, despite all my infertility problems, and really want to find a way to give back.

A lady from His Nesting Place called me the other day and let me know that unfortunately, they cannot utilize my services to shoot the babies at this time since the house is currently vacant. Apparently they had some major plumbing problems, and have had to turn all of the women and babies away for now. Many of them are living on the street until HNP can raise enough funds to have the plumbing repaired. I am excited that I will be helping HNP with a charity fundraising event later this month. I really hope they can raise the funds quickly. Their cause and mission is so close to my heart, and I feel especially supportive of them since they were so encouraging and supportive to me when I was just starting out with my photography. I find it so amazing that I started feeling my love of photography when photographing babies at their house, and now my journey has come back around to focusing primarily on photographing babies. If you would like to help His Nesting Place get back on their feet, please click here to contribute!