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Interview with Wendy VonSosen

I have followed photographer Wendy VonSosen for some time.  I came across her blog after her sister, Tatertots & Jello, had linked to her.  I love the way that she documents her children’s lives.  I often tell our Mamarazzi class about her because we speak from the perspective of having young children and documenting all of the new things that they are doing.  I feel like Wendy does a great job of telling the story of who her children are even though they are older.  Today, I wanted to do a little interview with her so that she could speak on how she does that.

Wendy VonSosen

Wendy VonSosen

 

Name:  Wendy VonSosen
Location:  Danville, California
Kids & Ages: Maddy 19, Jack 15, Erik 13, Will 9
Favorite Camera Gear: Nikon D800, lenses: Nikon 85 1.4, 35 1.4, 50 1.4
Tell us how you began your photography journey: I started my blog soon after transplanting our family to a tiny Idaho town surrounded by fields and tractors and dirt roads.  I had one friend to my name, all of my kids were in school, and I found myself with time on my hands and nothing creative to fill it with.  While I amused myself by writing about the oddities of living in the country, I soon recognized that the photos I shot for each post paled in comparison to those of my fellow bloggers.  I knew I needed to learn to take a good picture!  (Those high school film classes were long gone.) After unearthing my camera manual, I spent the subsequent year living and breathing photography.  One thing lead to another and I started a humble business.  For the past 5 years I’ve been Creative Director and Head Decision-Maker at my own Bay Area-based portrait photography business Wendy VonSosen Photography where I document newborns, high school seniors, families, and take a whole slew of head shots in my  studio in downtown Danville, California.

Documenting your older children

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Often times I come across Moms with older children who are at a loss for how to document their lives.  Any tips or tricks you can give them?  It’s relatively easy to photograph cute little kids doing cute little things when they’re young and happy to be in front of the camera.  It’s a whole different beast when they hit the pre-teen years and the last thing they want is to pose for the camera and end up on Mom’s IG feed being shared with the whole world. How uncool would that be?  But documenting your older kids is just as important as documenting them when they’re young. So, once my kids hit a certain age, I had to learn to be stealth with the camera and choose my moments wisely.  Sometimes my kids don’t even know that I’m taking a picture of them (my favorite kind of shot). Although I admit to using bribery on the rare occasion that I need a posed shot, I rarely take posed photos of my kids anymore.  I look for moments when they’re in beautiful light and I snap them doing whatever they happen to be doing in the moment (which admittedly often involves staring blankly into their phones). I’m usually without my big camera so my iphone is my go-to camera these days for documenting my own family.   And I’m OK with that because an iphone photo is better than no photo at all and anytime my big camera comes out, my kids seem to magically disappear.   So my advice would be to carefully choose your moment and document it with whatever device is handy.  These teen years go by in the blink of an eye and whether or not you realize it in the moment, you’ll cherish these years one day and the photos you’ve taken of these moody, amazing, wonderful teenagers.

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What are some of your favorite things to photograph your children doing?  Since I’m not very good at journaling, I’m relying on my photos to tell the story of our family.  I love photographing the details that make each person unique.  I’m not talking about documenting one kid sitting on the couch smiling at the camera,  I’m talking about photographing that kid perched on a log at the beach because that’s the way he sits at the breakfast table every morning or on his bed when he reads.  I try and include little details that tell who each person is. For instance, I took the picture of my daughter laying on her bed texting not because it’s a  “perfect portrait” but because it shows how she wore her hair all senior year piled on top of her head and the initials above her bed that she decoupaged with pictures from Vogue magazine because she loves fashion and the lights that she strung on her headboard because she’s still a little afraid of the dark. The picture of my son sipping milk in the dining room was taken to remember that this was his daily after school routine, to be alone for a few minutes and decompress with a snack and without the chaos of the other kids and Mom in the kitchen. And the photo of my little boys reading on the bed was to document how the older one (who read very early) has been so patient with the younger one who struggles with Dyslexia by reading to him every night and helping him with words he can’t figure out.  Over his bed is his “About Me” poster he made in first grade along with Star Wars stickers on his under-the-bed drawers from his Star Wars phase.  Most of these images wouldn’t mean anything to other people but they represent our family dynamics and our history.

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How have you learned to balance life as a working Mom?  This was tough in the beginning and I failed miserably.  Now that I’ve had some experience I’ve learned to set “work hours” while the kids are at school and only answer emails during those hours.  I try and get all of my work done before they come home from school because I know my time and attention and chauffeuring skills will be needed once those school bells ring.  I also try not to schedule more than 2 Saturdays a week with sessions.  My husband works long hours and sometimes the only time we have to catch up is on the weekends.   I’ve definitely learned to say “no” to the things that are unnecessary and not to take on more than I can reasonably accomplish.  I’ve also learned to take time for myself which includes regular time at the gym and a pedicure every now and then.  But I’m still a work in progress.

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Thank you Wendy.  I enjoyed having you!  Everyone, be sure to follow both her blog and her Instagram.

FL&R

DIY Bath Paint Recipe

It was a rainy summer day.  The kids were going stir crazy.  So, I decided to mix up a batch of bath paint, fill up with tub with bubbles, and let them go to town.  They were occupied for a good amount of time…and it’s been a requested bath time activity ever since.

DIY Bath Paint Recipe

DIY Bath Paint Recipe DIY Bath Paint Recipe

Here is the recipe for DIY Bath Paint:

Supplies

1 tbsp Cornstarch

4-7 pumps of Baby Shampoo

1-2 tsp water

Food Coloring

Muffin Tin or Ice Tray

Paint Brushes

Directions

Mix the cornstarch, Baby Shampoo, and water in a mixing bowl.  Once thoroughly blended pour into a muffin tin or ice tray.  Place 1 drop of food coloring into each tin/tray.

* To fill an ice tray I had to duplicate this recipe 3 times.

DIY Bath Paint Recipe DIY Bath Paint Recipe DIY Bath Paint Recipe

FL&R

Erin - I love everything about this (including the princess Ana braids). Judging from Hudson’s smiles I’m going to need to replicate this ASAP!

Becky / This Is Happiness - Such a great idea! They look like they are having so much fun!!

My Beauty Essentials

I am not a beauty buff by any means.  But, I love finding a good product and generally end up sticking with it for years.  So, today I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

beauty essentials

01.  Rodan + Fields Unblemish Regimen – My beauty routine is a fairly simple one.  But it starts with clear skin.  I have acne prone skin and nothing as worked as well as the R+F Unblemish regimen for me.  It has completely changed my skin.

02.  Rodan + Fields Micro-Dermabrasion Paste – I use this once a week to exfoliate and get my skin silky smooth.

03.  Lush Mint Julips Lip Scrub – My friend, Ashley, bought me some of this and I fell in love.  I typically have very dry lips and haven’t had that problem since!

04.  MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation – I am not a fan of traditional foundation.  I had always used pressed powder in my teens & 20′s.  But, as I’ve aged I need something with a little more coverage and this Powder Foundation is perfect.

05.  MAC Select Cover Up – I have used this concealer for the last 10 years.  It blends very well, provides excellent coverage, and doesn’t get cakey.

06.  Diorshow Mascara – Diorshow mascara dramatically thickens my lashes.  It’s been my go-to for years.  Expensive but worth it!

07.  Anastasia Brow Powder – I have to fill in my brows as they are sparse.  The Anastasia powder looks so natural that people are often shocked when they learn that I’ve filled them in.

08.  Clinique Quickliner – Another go to of mine.  I love that the pencil easily glides on and that I can smudge it with the opposite end.

09.  Clinique Glosswear in Air Kiss – My favorite lipgloss.  I love that it’s not sticky.

 

What is your favorite beauty product?  Anything that I must try?

FL&R

Meg O. - I used Studio Fix for years! I have been meaning to come back to it soon. It’s really a great product. I’ve found that NYX Stay Matte but not Flat is very comparable, as well. And you can’t go wrong with anything Anastasia – they really have the best brow products ever!

erin - i’m always looking for new beauty must-haves! and i loooooove diorshow. i swear there’s nothing better (plus it smells good!).

Berry Picking (and a Photo Tip)

A few weeks ago we went blueberry picking with friends.  It was a bright sunny morning which made getting properly lit photos difficult.  The kids were moving so fast out of shadows and into the bright sun that I was attempting to change my settings so quickly that I wasn’t getting anything.  My photos were either coming out too bright, too dark, and with a lot of bright spots on faces.  The antithesis of what we teach in Mamarazzi.  Bright spots and dark shadows on the face are a no-no.

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Finally, I convinced the kids to pick some berries in a row in which their backs were to the sun and I got a few good shots.  I wanted their faces (my focal point) to be completely shadowed and, therefore, evenly lit.

*  Since I was shooting in manual mode I had to overexpose the image to get my subject well lit.  To see more lighting tips & tricks visit my recent post on Every Day Cheer.

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FL&R
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