Distinguished Young Women - Guilford County - Greensboro Photographer

I have mad love and respect for the Distinguished Young Women program, so when the program coordinator for Guilford County contacted me about photographing this year's event I was all in.  Anything that helps build confidence and leadership skills in today's youth, I give my undying support.

The representatives were showcased at UNCG in April and Megan Talluto was awarded the title as DYW of Guilford County for 2019.  She will compete at the North Carolina state program in January 2019.  But, all of the girls did a great job and it was fun to see their confidence on stage grow throughout the event.

Being that I'm a fitness instructor, I'm quite partial to the fitness routine portion.

Project 52 - March 2018 - Greensboro Photographer

March kind of kicked me on my tail, so my personal weekly photography project got placed on the back burner.  I did manage a few captured moments, but it definitely needs improved upon for April.  Lucky for me two notable things happened in March - I finally was able to purchase a new DSLR camera (more to come on how I made my selection in a future blog post) and Easter fell on the very last day of the month.  Those are the only reasons I have any pictures from the month.  Bad Momtog!

 

Simply You, E - Greensboro Child Photographer

March was the month for six month old babies with names starting with E!  So much cuteness in my house.  Baby E lit up the room one Saturday morning and it just made my day.  Six months is an age of discovery - babies are finding their voice, their hands, other people and their feet (my personal favorite).  It's so fun to watch them find so much joy in simple things.  If only we could hang onto that as we get older!  Such a great reminder to find joy in every day.

 

Prom 2018 - Greensboro Senior Photographer

At the beginning of March, I was asked to take some pictures of the youth from church before they headed off to  Prom.  I did not hesitate to say YES!  They met as a group before the dance for pictures and dinner.  I know I've said this before, but I really love spending time with teenagers.  Being that I am still squarely in the midst of life with little kids, I find being with the teens a breath of fresh air and it really makes me look forward to those years with my own children.

Teens often get a bad rep, but I'm not sure why.  If you spend time with them, you'll find that they are smart, friendly and excited about what's to come in life.  They're not yet run down by the responsibilities of adulthood but out of the silly childhood years - it's an awesome phase of life.  My hours with the youth at church each week and during my Senior sessions, I find are some of the most inspiring and joyful hours of my week.  

Take a look at how awesome and happy they all looked!  It was so fun watching them all squeal with delight and huge smiles as they gathered together.  (And because Mamas play a huge role in how these kids turn out, I always like to include Mom in my teen sessions.)

 

Project 52 - February 2018 - Greensboro Photographer

I'm really not sure where February went.  It pretty much flew by in a haze of traveling husband, sick kids, me being sick and random projects/events.  I did manage to keep up with my Project 52, but the 365 took a hit and I'm okay with that.  In the end, I'm still taking way more pictures of my personal life and that is the whole point.

February marked one more step toward no more baby stuff in our house.  I noticed how much the pacifier was messing up my toddler's teeth.  One morning I woke up to find her and everything in her crib (including the binkies) covered in vomit.  So, rather than buying new ones, I encouraged her to throw them away and be a big girl.  She happily obliged and that was it.  She shocked me because she really loved those things, but she hardly shed a tear that first night and never asked for them again.

And I have very obviously been on a black and white kick lately.  I even ordered a few canvas for my dining room and those are all black and white, too.  I'm loving the simplicity of it.

Beginner Photography Reads - Greensboro Photographer

So you finally got that fancy camera, but now you're staring at it like a deer in headlights? Believe me, I've been there.  When I was gifted my first Canon DSLR a decade ago, I set that thing on Auto and got real comfortable there.  The timing of that gift coincided with my firstborn becoming a toddler.  I hired a dear friend to take his Birthday pictures when he turned two and the images she gave me are priceless.  She accomplished beauty with her camera that I knew I would never get from mine if I continued living on Auto (<---that is a character trait of mine as well).  I immediately asked her if she would share some simple tips to help get me shooting in Manual.  It is a daunting task at first and it's a lot of technical information.  If you're more creatively minded (like me), the info gets jumbled up really quick.  My friend gave me some great simple hands on tips to get me started, but then we both moved to different states and I was left to my own devices. Thus began countless hours online reading and playing with buttons on my camera and shooting my pen jar on my desk to see the effects.  In my search, I came across a few really awesome books that helped me figure things out.  They are easy to read and the language was just my speed - direct and simple.  I thought I'd share a few of my favorite books here in case any of you are wanting to get off Auto.  These cameras are $$ - use them to their full capability!

1) The Manual.  Okay, okay - this one is not so simple and direct.  I know it's totally boring.  But, believe me - if you want to know where to find something on your specific camera, you just have to read the manual it comes with.  I still have to reference mine for features I don't use regularly.  This is an invaluable resource.

2) Mamarazzi by Stacy Wasmuth

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This book was SO helpful in helping me understand all the photography lingo and how to make my backgrounds have that awesome blurred out effect (aka bokeh).  It also helped me throw caution to the wind and remember that my images don't require perfection because, well, life isn't perfect.  Photography is about capturing memories.  If you're just wanting to use your camera to document your family, you will definitely want to pick up a copy of this book.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

3)The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby

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Okay, this one is actually a series and I strongly encourage you to read the entire series.  He starts with the basics and then goes a little deeper into technical issues later on.  Plus, Kelby's personal work is splattered throughout and his images are so inspiring!

4)Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

While this one is definitely more technical, it's a must read for helping understand the outcome of your images.  You need to understand exposure in order to create properly 'lit' pictures.  You can even use the information in these pages to understand photography with your iPhone.  Exposure isn't a camera snob.

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DYW Guilford County - Greensboro Senior Photographer

After working with the State program for Distinguished Young Women, I was excited to be asked to participate in my local Guilford County program.  I met the girls at the Club at Oak Branch and we did a quick round of headshots to be used in their program book.  As I was going through the images, I was once again struck by how poised and savvy today's teenagers are.  I feel like they are light years ahead of where I was as a teen.  It's fun to see and also makes me feel like I really don't know much about anything.

Can't wait for the competition program in April!  It will be so fun to see how much the girls have grown in such a short amount of time.

 

Distinguished Young Women of North Carolina - Greensboro Senior Photographer

One of my yearly goals for my business is to get involved with a non-profit organization in my local community.  I happened to meet the right person, at the right time and she recommended me to the director of the Distinguished Young Women program for the state of North Carolina.  This year, the state event was held here in downtown Greensboro at The Carolina Theater.  For whatever reason, I really feel passionate about working with teenagers and using my talents to help them in a positive manner.  I stand for self confidence, leadership and service opportunities.  Basically, I want teens to know that they can be themselves, they are enough and that they can make a lasting impact for good on this world.  So, imagine my delight when I did my research on the DYW organization and found that their values perfectly line up with mine!  

This was such a wonderful experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed watching how the participants from across the state used their talents.  These girls are eloquent, confident, friendly and have a heart for serving others.  I told this story on my personal Facebook page, but it's worth sharing here too.  On the final night of the event in January, I took my 7 year old daughter with me.  She's a shy little thing and has very little confidence in herself.  I was hoping that just watching the contestants would inspire her in some way.  We ended up going backstage before everything got started so I could grab a few candid shots of the girls getting ready.  A few of them tried so hard to get my daughter to loosen up and were chatting with her and asking questions -even though she was mute and hiding behind my leg.  The girls were all wearing stickers on their hands and one of them took hers off and handed it to my daughter.  She told my girl that she was the only other person in the whole place with a sticker just like theirs and that now she was considered a special member of their DYWNC club.  My shy child wouldn't respond, but I graciously took the sticker and told Addison 'Thank You!' Later in the evening, during an emotional part of the event, I glanced down and my daughter had tears streaming down her face.  Not wanting to draw attention to her at that moment, I quietly turned away and mentally reminded myself to ask her why she was crying later.  As we packed up after the show, I saw her sticker lying on the floor under my seat and handed it to my girl.  She immediately put it on her hand.  While walking across the parking lot, she opened up about the tears I saw and said "I thought I lost my sticker and I was really sad about it!  The girl told me it was special just for me."

You guys, my mama heart about burst with gratitude for those sweet girls who made my struggling girl feel special that night.  It was such a simple act, but they could have easily been turned off by my daughter's abrasive response.  Instead, they leaned into her and made a lasting impression.

I would be SO proud and thrilled if someday one of my own girls decides to participate in this program.  Plus, the scholarship awards are a definite bonus!  If you or someone you know is a high school sophomore or junior - I cannot recommend checking out this program enough!  You can find the information on finding a program near you here: http://distinguishedyw.org/

Here are some of the highlights from the event in January!  Another congratulations to Kennedy Miller from Rocky Mount on winning the title of DYWNC of 2018.

 

Simply You, S - Greensboro Child Photographer

Little Miss S arrived at my house looking like a little doll.  She gave me so many fun expressions during her Simply You session.  And aren't her curls to die for?!

Something else I love about these sessions is that they are so quick, the kids don't have time to get bored.  No fussing with trying to find the perfect spot of sunlight, no avoiding garbage cans in the background, and no wardrobe changes.  Just me asking them to get a little silly, a little sassy.  It's my goal to make sure they don't want to run away from the camera.

 

Simply You, M Twins - Greensboro Child Photographer

I really really love these Simply You sessions, you guys.  The focus on the person is just striking such a chord with me. 

I had never met the M twins prior to the morning of our sessions.  When I arrived at their home, I was greeted by L - who immediately grabbed my hand and pulled me into the house.  All with a smile on his sweet face while he said "Come in, nice to meet you."  Such impressive manners for such a young little man.  I was smitten.  Then his brother, T, came around the corner with a big ol' grin on his face and I couldn't resist the smile or the amazing dark curls.  Lucky lucky parents!

 

Project 52 - January 2018 - Greensboro Photographer

I'm really trying to focus on capturing my kids' personalities with this project, as well as get my husband and myself in more pictures.  That being said, I'm realizing that it's most fun to snap images of my toddler.  She's the only one who doesn't go running for the hills when I whip out my camera.  Going to work on getting more candid shots of the rest of the family!  Here is what I came up with for January though.  It has challenged me creatively to pull out my dslr and I am loving it.

And yes, there are more than 5 images.  I couldn't narrow it down.

 

Simply You, M - Greensboro Child Photographer

I had my first Simply You portrait session of 2018 this past weekend.  I am SO glad I decided to start offering these.  The session was so much fun and the images spoke to my heart as I was editing.  I strive for simplicity and calm in all aspects of my life, so I think that's why I am so fond of the results from this session.

Sweet M is actually celebrating her 5th Birthday today - which is why Mom wanted to do this session.  What a great way to capture her tenderness and all the different expressions five year olds wear.

If you've been on the fence about booking a Simply You session, stay tuned because I have a few more lined up over the next couple of weeks.  I think you'll love them just as much as I do.  The clean and simple backdrop really allows you to focus on the person.

 

Teens and Seniors Influencer Program - Greensboro Senior Photographer

 

Now that it is officially 2018, I am putting the finishing touches on my Teen and Senior Influencer Program (aka Senior Model Rep).  I know January seems a little early to be thinking about Senior pictures, but believe me summer comes quickly!  And I am already scheduling clients for the 2018-19 school year - hello 2019 Graduates. 

One of the things that has been on my heart regarding my rep program is to have a service project aspect.  Because of that, I am changing the title of the program to the Influencer program.  My main mission for my Teen and Senior photography business is to empower today's youth with confidence so they can go out and leave their mark on the world and be ambassador's for good. I feel that by providing them a way to serve their peers will instill a love for helping others and to be an influence for good.  

I also want to create a group of youth that will be role models for walking confidently in your own skin. I would love nothing more than to on board underclassmen who can work with me over the next couple years to change the face of beauty in their schools.  It is my ideal that these Influencers will be a mouthpiece to help others gain self confidence and know that they are awesome just the way God made them.

If this sounds like something you or someone you know would like to be a part of, simply fill out the application here: https://audraelkington.wufoo.com/forms/aep-senior-questionnaire/

I am aiming for 2-3 students from each of the local Triad NC high schools - Guilford County/Greensboro schools, High Point, and Winston-Salem schools.  I cannot wait to see the impact we can all make together!

 

Project 52 - A 2018 Lifestyle Journey

I have always wanted to do a Project 52 or the even more ambitious 365, but life has been so hectic for the past 7 years I just felt overwhelmed at the thought of such an undertaking.  But, as I sat down to think about the things I want to FOCUS (my word of the year) on for 2018, I really want to get back to documenting my family's life day to day.  When my oldest was born and through his toddler years, I had a personal blog and every year I created photo books using those blog posts.  As I was looking back through those books, I realized they stopped when my middle child was 2.  That immediately made me sad!  It was right then I committed to finally completing a Project 52 (and am actually thinking about making it a 365).


I always think things like this are more fun with friends, so I have created a Facebook group to share, inspire, encourage and motivate each other.  When I put out the call for others to join me, I expected a handful to request to join me.  But, the number has already surpassed my expectations and it's not even January 1st!  This group is open to all - cell phone, dslr or point and shoot - I really don't care what you're using.  All I care about is that this group encourages you to find joy in the every day and make sure you have something to look back on later in life.  Personally, my intention is to use my big camera (Canon 5D) on my own family and not just for clients.  I plan to create a yearbook for each of my kids for Christmas every year and I want to make sure I have plenty of memories to fill the pages with. 

If you'd like to join us, hop on over to Facebook and request to join the group - Project 52: A 2018 Journey.  The more the merrier!  All I ask is that the atmosphere stays positive, no critiques unless asked, and encourage the other members to complete their journey. I have created a document of themes for each week of the year - you can use that to inspire you or do your own thing.  I plan to highlight some of the images on my business Facebook page (Audra E Photography) and here on the blog.

I can't wait to see what memories everyone is capturing in the new year!

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Greensboro Photographer - Fitness Portraits

I have long wanted to work with fitness professionals in my photography business.  Showcasing strength and confidence is right up my alley and I love working one on one with clients.  I met Emma through my other side gig - we both work at the Adult Fitness Center at Proehlific Park.  Emma is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and is in the process of launching her online coaching business so she can start helping people worldwide.  In addition to wanting to serve and help others feel good, she is one of the most kind and sweet individuals I have ever met.  And with her British accent, I could sit and listen to her talk all day.

 

Greensboro Portrait Photographer ~ Introducing the Simply You session

Coming in 2018 are the Simply You sessions!

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I am so excited to add these sessions to my line-up in the new year.  I adore doing outdoor, scenic portrait sessions.  Everything about them is amazing and so much fun.  But, this past year for me has been about simplifying and finding peace within the chaos of every day life.  Being proactive in seeking out simplicity really forced me to see things in a different light.  One of the things that has been on my heart is getting back to exploring the natural emotions and expressions in people.  I think sometimes we get so caught up in 'trying' to be happy, that we forget to actually let ourselves work through feelings.  Having small children, I am often reminded that we are meant to experience a full plethora of emotions.  My toddler certainly exhibits a range from thrilled to angry to fake sad every single day.  And that right there is what led me to wanting to offer these sessions.

Take away the beautiful trees or cool old buildings or rolling hills.  Look away from the well thought out wardrobe.  Let's get back to basics.  These images are meant to capture the sparkle in your eye.  The expression of being deep in thought.  And even, perhaps, a little bit of annoyance (like the blonde one featured above).  These images will be raw, real and timeless.  All done on a plain white backdrop.  Just you (or your child) and me with my camera.

Portraits at Old Salem - Winston Salem Family Photographer

I was so excited when the H family requested to do their family session at Old Salem in Winston Salem.  I have seen some amazing images come from all the unique little nooks on the grounds.  I will definitely be returning for other sessions!  So pretty and so many different settings to work with.

I met Mrs H at one of the gyms (in Kernersville) where I teach group fitness classes.  Turns out we have three children all roughly the same ages, which immediately bonds two moms together.  We are also both transplants to the Triad area.  It was so fun to meet her entire family and spend the afternoon with them.  They were so chill even though it was windy and freezing outside the day of their session.

 

 

Greensboro Family Photographer ~ Top tips for stress free Family Portraits

You know I have three small children.  I know a lot of you have small children.  In which case, we all know that finding some spare time in your already packed calendar to schedule your family portrait session is actually the easiest part of the whole process. 

What are we going to wear? How do I get my husband to smile? What if my kid throws a tantrum?  What if they run and fall and end up with mud all over their clothes? What if I don't like the way I look? 

I get it. I've been there.  In fact, most of the time, I'm still in the same situation AND I add the stress of trying to get amazing images of my own family.  You see, I'm a huge procrastinator and therefore can never get my act together enough to schedule a photographer for myself.  Plus, I'm a little picky and like to do my own editing.  But, here's the thing, you are always thinking of worst case scenario.  So, here are my top three tips for lowering that stress level and actually finding a way to ENJOY spending an hour of quality time with your family.

Number One - Bribery works really well.  I'm not normally on board for bribes with children, but in this case it actually does work.  Case and point, my 7 year old was adamantly against letting me take her picture.  I don't take it personally because she just doesn't like being the center of attention.  But, I passed on buying the school portraits this year and I need updated images for Christmas gifts.  I have my anxious kiddos on some food restrictions for various reasons, so I knew that if I offered up something that is normally forbidden she would be all in.  I even let her choose which forbidden treat she would get.  That girl smiled like I have never seen her smile before...and I dare say she actually looked like she was having fun.  Her treat of choice?  Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies...chock full of ingredients that make me (as her mama) cringe.  But, I got what I wanted and so did she.

Number Two - Come in a wardrobe that is comfortable!  If you are not a fancy schmancy family, then DO NOT come dressed like you're going to a black tie affair.  Dad will be annoyed and tugging at his bow tie.  Mom will be worried about her Spanx staying put.  Little Ava will will be whining that her tulle skirt is too itchy.  And Little Evan will be trying to rip off the buttons on his shirt.  You're setting yourself up for a very unpleasant experience.  Now, I'm not saying you can't dress up your norm a little bit, but if your kids are used to wearing UnderArmour try to keep them at the same comfort level.  And Mom...wear something you feel good in.  Now is not the time to test out that jumpsuit you swore you'd never wear. (<---I don't worry about that one, but one of you might)

Number Three - and this one might be the most important - TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER! You hired this person for a reason.  You scoped out their portfolio. You got recommendations from friends. You've talked to them via phone call or email. If they are the person you liked when you hired them, they know what they're doing. If Johnny is running amuck and won't stay in a pose - try not to yell at him or make threats.  Your children are not the only ones who do this...actually 99.9% of them do this.  We have tricks up our sleeves.  And even when those tricks don't work, we work with it and we know how to use our camera ninja skills.  I promise you, we WILL get that amazing shot. Try to relax and just let us do what you hired us to do.  The image below of my own two daughters, is a good example of kids not wanting to stay in a pose.  That two year old is a little cray cray and has a stubborn streak like you wouldn't believe.  She had no interest in holding sisters' hand, she was more interested in running in the rain or chasing the dog walking behind me.  I could have gotten extremely frustrated, but instead I just went with it and let the girls do what they wanted.  And what did I get?  Oh, only my favorite image from the whole session.

 

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