About 10 years ago I was very unhappy in my life. My marriage was a mess and had been for years. We both wanted to make it work but PTSD is a very vicious enemy. I was scared, afraid, lonely and felt hopeless. I had plans for my life but they hadn’t played out as I expected, instead my life was full of tears and crying out to God and there seemed no light at the end of my current tunnel.
Fast forward to today. Right now, I’m sitting in a van driving in Ethiopia with some amazing friends. We just left a group of beautiful vulnerable street children, kids whom we love who we have been trying to help for years. As we leave them we now have a legal, solid plan in place to help them. God showed up and moved MOUNTAINS for us.
My good friend and talented musician is playing beautiful music on his guitar. We are humming along and laughing at the slow cows and goats crossing our highway. All around me is beautiful farmland showing incredible harvest and the incredible Ethiopian gorge. I’m about to cross the incredible Nile River. We are laughing at the “Lazy Monkeys” begging for food as the cars pass them on the side of the road. I’m going home to a healthy husband who misses me, supports my dreams and encourages me to continue to follow them and see bigger than I think possible. I’m going home to my kids who are learning to pursue their own dreams and make me so proud. I going home to a business I ADORE and can’t wait to get back too.
I’m literally sitting here thinking “THIS is my life” in awe at the journey God has brought me through to get to THIS moment. I’m taking a deep breathe and LIVING THIS MOMENT. I’m thanking God as I see how he had brought me through such dark times and given me such joy. This feeling isn’t so much a feeling as a true PRESENCE of God. I’m not just feeling his JOY I’m literally living it and I see it in everything around me.
I don’t share this to brag about how amazing my life is but instead to encourage you! Be encouraged if your life isn’t what you want it to be, God is faithful if you are diligent. Don’t give up on yourself, your dreams, your happiness. Sometimes you have to make very hard decisions and go through some really hard times that seem to have no end in sight. But you can’t STAY stuck. Leave the job, go back to school, ask for help, sell your house, take big risks. Times likely will get worse before they get better, but God is in the midst of your struggles and there is REASON for it! Maybe I went through mine so I could truly appreciate the JOY He would someday bring me. Maybe I went through so I could share my story with you and it would bring you courage or strength. Maybe I needed some growing pains to become the woman who could help run this organization helping children in Ethiopia. All I know is there was a reason and TODAY I get to breathe in and appreciate the journey.
Keep pushing though. Keep dreaming. Take risks. Maybe someday you’ll also be sitting in a van, jamming to live music, about to cross the Nile, just having witnessed a mountain move, following a dream you had once thought had died. You’ll look around and say “Wow, THIS is MY life.”
This is a song that played in the car moments after I wrote this. Such a perfect song to complement this blog post. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehm4HLnr-FQ
These Pictures were taken on top of the Gorge as we headed back from Debre Markos, Ethiopia. It was me taking a moment to just BE in the moment and thank God. It will forever remind me of the time when time stood still and God showed me so much favor and blessing.
Each January I “claim” a word for the new year: a word that is focused around having a single simple word or theme to guide me in what I want to embrace more of in the coming year.
This year I claim LOVE as my word because the world needs more LOVE, I need more LOVE, my family needs more LOVE and my business needs more LOVE!
LOVE is all around us in all of our relationships. We forget sometimes to focus on the love and instead focus on the bickering, the rushing to get to work or practices, the financial issues, the chores, the disappointments, etc. We get so busy in the day to day of life that we forget to actually see the love right in front of us. This year my goal is to give and share more love and in business to work hard to create opportunities for more people to capture their love in print.
I want to do better at encouraging people to capture the LOVE in their relationships. I want to photograph the beauty and love between a mother and baby, the time tested love of a couple married 40 years, the love for oneself in boudoir, the love between siblings who fight like cats and dogs but also have grown up as each others playmates. I want to photograph LOVE in all the relationships of life.
For families, I want to focus on encouraging families to CAPTURE the love they share. Too many times I have heard “It’s been 10 years since we took family portraits” or “I can’t do family portraits until I lose the weight.” Yet I have also heard after deaths in families “I don’t have any recent picture of my dad with is grandchildren, now it is too late” “I wish I had recent pictures of my parents together that weren’t taken on a cell phone.” Too often we want to wait for the right moment and forget to recognize that the right moment is RIGHT NOW!
One area I am especially going to focus on this year is capturing LOVE in marriage. I am not going to say that there are no perfect, never argue, he/she is exactly what I need and want them to be all the time, marriages out there, but in my experience almost ALL marriages have times of extreme struggle. Look at the divorce rate that keeps climbing- marriage is HARD work.
I have been married for 18 years, together for 22. We fought tooth and nail for each other even when we didn’t like each other. But the LOVE was there, just hidden beneath the hurt, pain and trauma. The photographs we have during the good times, smiling and loving each other and our children are reminders that LOVE overcomes. Our children remember the good times because those are the memories we have on our wall and in our albums. They see and remember the LOVE their parents have always had for each other.
I photograph families all the time and often take time to get portraits of mom and dad together as well. But it’s not often I get a full session dedicated to the love between a husband and wife. That will change this year as I bring back my “Renew” sessions and introduce my “Romance in the Simple Moments” session. I cannot wait to photograph love that has been TESTED. Marriages of 5, 10, 15, 30, 50 years. Marriages that, like mine, have gone through the storms and come out battered but stronger than before.
I also need to claim LOVE for myself more this year. Last year was a very trying year for me and I let self love fall away as I worked so hard to support my husband, kids, family and business. All of their busyness kept me so overwhelmed that taking care of me took a back seat. I gained weight and spending time with friends rarely happened. This year I claim SELF- LOVE for myself. I am determined to loose 40 pounds by eating better and getting back in the gym. I have already been away on a fabulous girls weekend in NYC with two of my besties. I can’t be the best Devon I need to be if I am not loving myself enough to take care of my mental and physical health. So this year, I will embrace loving myself better.
I am claiming LOVE this year for my business and for myself. My marriage still has rough patches and places where we can improve the ways we love each other. Like many of you, we get caught up in the kids and their busy lives and schedules and realize we are more roommates than anything else. We need to focus of US because without a strong US our family is not as strong as it should be.
Do you have a word for 2019 that you are claiming? Share it with me, I’d love to stand in agreement with you!
Cynthia was the first client to have a Cultural celebration portrait session. She chose to not only embrace her own African culture but also showcased her love for Hawaiian culture. Cynthia is a local actress and a wonderful friend that has helped me decorate my new studio and office space with wonderful plants and trees. I just hope I get a green thumb really soon! I had so much fun photographing Cynthia and I know the future holds great things ahead for her.
Thank you Cynthia for being a wonderful friend and a beautiful person inside and out.
Here are a few of the portraits from Cynthia’s unique session. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
I adore photographing newborns! My youngest is 12 so, my littlest clients give me my baby fix! They are so tiny, new, squishy, and adorable!! I love molding them into little naked balls, swaddling them into little beans with my wraps, and perfectly inserting them into baskets and bowls. That said, a newborn shoot is not easy – with much of the work happening before I even book a client!
When I take your little one out of your hands to photograph them, I am accepting the greatest gift you have ever been given. I am taking the baby that just days ago you had only ever held in your womb. I have a HUGE responsibility to care for that baby and make sure he/she is safe and sound. I take that responsibility seriously and I have put in the work to make sure I am educated on how to photograph your baby safely. I have attended newborn workshops and classes to make sure I know how to mold, swaddle, and insert your perfect little bundles into the beautiful poses you often see in newborn portraits.
Often the pictures you see are not single images- but two or three images composited together where I am photoshopping out my assistants hands and fingers that are helping hold that perfect little baby in that pose. The beautiful pictures of babies hanging from tree limbs- often that baby is just two inches off the ground- not hanging freely as the photograph would like you believe. Expert and trained newborn photographers know these tricks and tools to keep your baby safe while still creating amazing art of your precious baby.
You are probably aware that newborn babies can’t support their own heads- so the famous pose with the little one holding their head on their tiny hands, is IMPOSSIBLE to do without doing a composite. I always tell a client I can’t promise that shot because unless the baby is relaxed and completely asleep- that shot isn’t going to happen. If your 6 day old baby doesn’t want to be in a certain position, I will not force them just for a picture. I still capture amazing images for my clients that express who their baby is and what they like even at such a young age.
The point of my post is to encourage people to research your photographers ESPECIALLY for newborn portraits. You only get one chance to do newborn portraits (they change immensely after the first 2 weeks) and you don’t want your first portraits of your little one and your first portraits as a family being done by someone without the experience your child deserves. While I understand cost becomes a big deciding factor for many people, for the safety of your newborn I beg you not to hire someone with price in mind. An amazing deal doesn’t equal proper training and education to provide you with a safe environment and portrait session for your newborn.
I continue to take classes and attend workshops on newborn photography. I want to stay up to date on all the information out there so that I can enhance my client’s portrait sessions. You and your little precious munchkin deserve experience, education and passion.
Look at examples of a photographer’s work and try to find the photographer with the style you are looking for. When looking into a photographer, make sure you ask many questions such as:
Get the information you need to make the very best choice for your little munchkin. You want your session to be something you remember with fondness and love, not fear and unease. Choose the photographer who will make your session easy for both you and baby, and will create amazing portraits you’ll cherish forever!
Here are a few composite images I have complete for my clients. Enjoy!
Devon Shanor Photography is evolving once again with the addition of my new Office Manager and Marketing Coordinator, Becca Kajouras. She is a wonderful asset to the team, adding creative and new ways to organize my business space and market my portrait sessions.
Becca recently worked for the local SPCA where she helped find animals their forever homes helping to make families feel complete with their four-legged friend. It was there that she became interested in Marketing after helping to photograph some of the animals for the SPCA’s website. She’s currently finishing up a Bachelors degree in Psychology at Norfolk State University with a plan to pursue a Masters program in the future. In addition to working for Devon Shanor Photography and finishing up her degree, Becca is a single mom to her son, Wesley. Together, they have three dogs (Dakota, Lucy, and Winter) and a large tank full of fish! In her spare time, Becca enjoys painting, reading with her son, spending time with her dogs, and cooking.
I’ve asked her to answer a few questions so everyone can get to know her. I know you’re going to love her as much as I do!
What is your favorite color ? I love the color Green.
What is your favorite food? Give me Tacos or Home-made Greek food any day.
What is something silly you’d like to share?
I love to laugh and I love to make the people around me laugh. At home it is never a dull moment, I am always trying to be silly to make my son laugh, smile, or just hang his head in embarrassment. I love to sing and to create made up songs. Recently, I created a breakfast song that we have gotten stuck in our heads. I also enjoy playing Just Dance with my son and I always end up laughing when I mess up on a dance move. I am a Nickname Creator Queen at my house, and everyone has a ton of silly nicknames that we use. The dogs have the most nicknames at this point.
Tell us about yourself:
I love helping others. Ever since I can remember I was that kid that gave away her toys to cheer someone up or did what I could to help another person. I love talking to new people and getting to know someone – it is the highlight of my day. I love spending time with my 8 year old son learning about what he’s into at the moment, right now it’s Dinosaurs, Minecraft, and Cooking. I have 3 crazy dogs; Dakota (my old lady) – she’s going to be 10 this year and has been with me through everything, Lucy (my little bug) – is a rescue I adopted in 2017 after I took her home to help her recover after an orthopedic surgery and fell in love, and Winter (the baby) – is also a rescue adopted in 2017, she’s very smart and sweet and loves to bring me shoes as her way of telling me she needs to go out. I recently got back into painting and feel so much happier that I’m being creative once again.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Northern Virginia and I honestly miss getting on the Metro and going down to visiting the museums – my friends and I used to do that often. We (my son and I) moved to Virginia Beach 5 years ago to be closer to the beach.
Why did you want to work for Devon Shanor Photography?
A few years ago, I asked Devon to do a portrait session of my family (Dakota, Wesley, and I) after I got my Associates Degree. If you know me, you know I am not a fan of being photographed but I loved how Devon made me feel throughout the whole process. Ever since then I’ve stayed in contact with Devon and when she had a position open for Marketing, I knew it was my chance to work for someone I admired and to work toward something I had fallen in love with. I feel that Marketing helps me bridge my love of communication with my creativity.
What will you be doing at Devon Shanor Photography?
I’ve only been with Devon for about a month now and I have done a variety of things including organizing her space, creating marketing material, and coming up with new ideas for the business. Everyday I get up excited because I know I’m going to learn something new and that I’m going to get a new idea. I know I will be doing a variety of things with Devon that goes way beyond Marketing and I am excited to meet all of her new clients and the clients she has had for years.
I am just like you. I have a job, a husband, kids, grocery shopping, a home to clean, bills to pay and a life to live! I budget and cut coupons and love groupon and discount sites! I hate spending more for something that I can get cheaper somewhere else. I only have so much money coming and and I really do need to make it stretch as far as possible. I get it! That said… you REALLY DO NEED A PROFESSIONAL HEADSHOT done by a professional photographer! A “picture of you” is not just a picture of you when you are trying to sell yourself. And we all need to sell ourselves at times!
I was just searching online for a therapist for someone I love. I found an incredibly helpful site that narrowed down therapists in my area to those that specialized in the the disorder I was looking for help in, where they were located, a short bio about them and their practice and a picture. I was completely turned off by MOST of the pictures! Only a handful had professional portraits and most were snapshots with distracting things in the background and were unflattering. A few looked to have been taken 30 years ago with outdated clothing or hair. They might be AMAZING therapists but I didn’t even click on their profile for more information.
We all love selfies but a selfie is NOT a professional portrait!!!! Yes, I am a photographer and of course I have a professional headshot… but be honest, if you were coming to do business with me about ANYTHING and I had this as my profile picture or on my website, does it look like I invest in my business? It’s a SELFIE with clutter all behind me!
These are the kinds of things I saw when looking for a therapist this morning. There was one where he was standing beside a horse and you could only see a portion of his face but ALL of the horse!
We shouldn’t make judgments on people by the way they look…. but we do have first impressions that are hard to get past. We often have a TON of options in front of us and we navigate ourselves to the ones that relate to us. Often, unless we are buying something and there will have NO interaction (like online), we want to feel connected to the people we will be working with, buying from, spending time with, etc. Some of the pictures I saw today, the therapists were almost scowling… and you want me to come and lay on your couch and tell you my problems??? No thanks, Mr. Grumpy. The outdated ones… um no thanks Mrs. Seventies show. The selfies… is this a legitimate business Ms. Smartphone?
The take-away from this is you NEED to have a professional portrait. It doesn’t need to be BORING but it does need to focus on you and how you are trying to sell yourself. Do you want to be inviting and warm? Powerful and important? Confident and trustworthy? Self controlled and competent? Amusing and charming? Selfless and calm? Different jobs call for different portraits!!
Here are a few of MY portraits. I usually try to go for inviting, warm, and friendly. Sometimes I include my camera, sometimes I don”t. I love to be outdoors and since many of my sessions are on location- I usually choose outdoor locations too.
This will include the session plus one digital image.
Please invest in yourself and in your business. Put your best foot (er… face) forward and see the difference it makes!
We are so excited to announce that we have moved offices! It was a little bit of a crazy (and unexpected) transition but we have settled in quite nicely and have enjoyed making the place our own. The best part is that it is ALL OURS!!! No more sharing!
We’ve made small changes around the office for better efficiency and are happy to say it’s working very well for us! Our favorite addition is an adorable newborn wall where we’ve hung all the outfits and headbands/bows! We also have a changing table for my very little clients!
It’s exciting to see this new season start to unfold so quickly! We love our new office and hope that you love it as much as we do!!
If you haven’t visited us yet, you should! Our new 4862 Shell Rd so feel free to stop by and say hello! We love visitors
I’ve been privileged to take newborn portraits for a second time with Stokes family! Shana and Donnie recently welcomed sweet Sofia to the family and she is adorable! Sweet Sofia was such a good baby who slept most of the time which made my job super easy! We captured some amazing portraits and she looks bee-utiful!
I was blessed to photography their first daughter, Adalynn, and I got to watch this sweet girl grow with the Baby’s First Year plan! I’m so excited to get to do the same with Sofia!
Adalynn is a big girl now and a big sister. It’s tough being three and patient while waiting for newborn portraits but she rocked it and we got some adorable portraits of these precious girls!
I’m so thankful that Shana and Donnie continue to trust me to capture these moments. I am so excited to watch their little munchkins grow into not so little munchkins!
It’s not often when a photographer is on the other side of the camera! This was the first time Amanda has received headshots from me, but I’ve been grateful to photograph her sweet family on many occasions! It’s always such a joy to work with other photographers because we get to play with light. Amanda is a real estate photographer, something I don’t touch, so if you need a great real estate photographer go check out her page here: https://www.amandaporterphotos.com
I love working with you Amanda, so grateful for your friendship and business.
Baby Bradley is no longer a baby, toddler hood here we come! Bradley may not be able to talk quite yet, but his smile is infectious… this little guy loves to laugh!!!! We had such such a great shoot with mommy and daddy. It was awesome to get some family portraits because daddy was about to leave on deployment. We thank you for your service Aaron!
Bradley absolutely loved his cake smash. Unlike most of my one year olds, he didn’t want to put his cake away, he would have eaten all of it if we had allowed it!
We absolutely love how the portraits turned out and I am so grateful to photograph this adorable family once again!