They’re baaaaaaaack!!! Mini Mommy + Me Sessions!!

Let’s make it personal!

When I started my business (many moons ago), I made myself a vow that I wouldn’t ever become one of those “commercialized” studios-not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not me! I wanted to offer my clients a customized experience without cheesy props or backgrounds that would become outdated in a few years (case in point: lazer backgrounds) It’s just not how I roll. I prefer more of a lifestyle approach. So I’m excited to announce …………

I am offering customized mommy and me sessions AGAIN in Indiana County, PA  for the remaining of March and the entire month of April-I mean Mother’s Day *IS* right around the corner! Moms, is there an activity that you and the kids love to do together? Maybe going out for ice cream, baking cookies, staying in your pj’s until noon watching cartoons on the couch, having an Oreo eating contest, playing at the play ground, reading books, jumping on the trampoline…you name it, let’s do a session around that! I want you to be able to point to a photo 20-30 years from now and have a story to tell behind it. Sure I could put you in front of a cute studio background, but let’s make it a little more personal shall we! And yes, to answer the question I get asked often: Could I do a Grandma + Me session? Ummm, YES! Grandma with her grandchild(ren) is the sweetest thing I can think of.

I’m offering 25 mini sessions for $150.  Prints and products are purchased separately-$50 will go towards your final order and you get to pick the activity (within a reasonable distance). Contact me to get on the schedule before the end of April at jen@jenmckenphoto.com or by contacting me thru the “contact” link above.

 

I dare you not to smile …this is Ada and her Mom! Their activity was baking cookies! It couldn’t have more adorable! <3

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Legacy Sessions are so close to my heart! If you have followed me on Instagram for any length of time, you saw my Insta-Story about  how my sisters birthday was just last week. If you know the story of my sister, she was tragically killed in a car accident many years ago and she’s really the entire reason I got into photography to begin with.  I realized  how important it was to document your family because when it’s too late, it’s a horrible feeling of regret. I set out to give other families what I wished I had had….more photos of their families-but more specifically, photos that you could pass on to future generations-I call them the legacy sessions. After each session, clients choose the images they want included into an heirloom leather album.

Ironically, I shot this session on my sister’s birthday….it occurred to me that day that my life had literally come full circle. I’m documenting someone’s family on my sisters birthday-the person that set me out on this journey to begin with. It was a pretty amazing feeling. These sessions are simple….I like them that way. I  usually shoot them in studio however I would LOOOOOVE to photograph these sessions in people homes…the homes they grew up in and has been in their family for generations.

Meet Great-Grandma Judy, Grandma Tammie, Mom Heather and daughters Mackenzie and Taylor. They are an amazing group of ladies and they reminded me of my own family in so many ways.

 

Mackenzie and Taylor…..I’m not sure you will ever know just how much you are loved! <3 Look at these gorgeous ladies. All 4 Generations. Grandma Tammie reading them a book….it’s one of their favorite things to do together. I love seeing families come from such strong women! <3 I can’t even handle how much a ham she is! Great Grandma Judy is gorgeous!! Thank you ladies so much for spending the morning with me on such an important day. Being able to photograph your family was such a blessing for me!

If you’re reading this and your family has 3 or more generations and you’d like to document your family…please reach out-I would be honored to photograph you! <3

Dear Soon To Be Graduates,

I am so excited for you! You’re getting ready to graduate and it’s clear that you have a bright future on the horizon! Everything is so new and exciting and you’re about to start the journey into “adulthood”…but I want to give you some unsolicited (and significantly condensed) advice….PLEASE don’t waste your 20’s.

School is winding towards the end of the year and over the course of the year(s), I had been invited into classrooms to speak with students in photography clubs as well as future business leaders of america clubs (FBLA) about such topics as starting a business and tips/tricks/advice I’ve gathered along the way. I’m still humbled to even be asked because it wasn’t that long ago (who am I kidding-I’m old, it was a LONG time ago haha) that I was in their seat and would NEVER have guessed this is where my life would have led me.

I didn’t even pick up a camera until I was in college so it’s not like I grew up in the industry, had relatives that owned businesses that I could go to and I certainly didn’t have an interest in working for myself at their age. Hell, we were always taught that you were SUPPOSED to go to college, SUPPOSED to graduate and find a REAL grown up job, work at that said job and built up a good 401K/pension and retire from said good job so that you could enjoy the rest of your golden years doing all the things you wanted to do. That was engrained into me from a young age. No where in that scenario did anyone ever encourage me to be an entrepreneur or plant the seed that it would be possible to be on my boss, be able to build up my OWN retirement doing something I love and be able to do all those things I love BEFORE I retired-I didn’t have to wait to enjoy life in the way I wanted.

Did I mention that after you got your REAL job, you were supposed to get married, find a house and buy a car? Not just any house or car, but the BEST ones you could afford so that you could prove to your peers that you had “made it”.  “Look at Johny over there, he just bought a gorgeous home and drives an expensive car, he must have done really well for himself”. WRONG! In most cases, Johny is working at a job he probably doesn’t love, to pay for the things we were supposed to buy that he probably couldn’t afford, so that he could impress people that didn’t really matter. Do you see where I’m going with this. This has become the cycle most of American employees fall into. Get a job that makes good money, but then live outside of their means so they end up having to work work work to pay for the things. They get burnt out of their jobs and complain their job doesn’t pay enough all the while wishing they could be traveling, etc…..but we’re told THAT stuff has to wait until retirement. I hear so often “when I retire, I am going to travel with my wife/husband”…..why? Why do you have to wait until you retire?

This is a lesson I learned VERY early in my life. Maybe it was because my Mom had to (out of necessity) stretch a dollar further than a dollar could possibly be stretched. She did it though-at one point raising 2 kids on less than $12K a year. We were below the poverty line. My parents had me at a very young age which ultimately set them up for a much tougher life than those who had gone to college. My mom had to drop out of the 9th grade….ninth grade because of me. Rather than going the other route of adoption or even worse-abortion-they chose to raise  a child…a child raising a child in a sense.

Needless to say, growing up, we didn’t have the best of things. I didn’t have name brand clothes-and if I did it was because they were hand me downs, if you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time you know that early on for some of the holidays, we would stand in line at local churches to take advantage of the Toys for Tot’s program. I remember very distinctly the smell of motor oil as my parents tore apart carburetors on the newspaper covered kitchen table in order to collect the copper to turn in for scrap-every little bit helped. I lived in rat infested trailers, drove crappy cars-especially that blue Subaru, good LAWD that car was embarrassing and for a short while was on government assistance. I never knew how poor we were, I had nothing to compare it to until I started going to over to my friend’s houses. I think that’s around the time I started to observe a little more. I would pick up on conversations that had to do with money-or the lack thereof and how my mom would stretch a buck. I knew on the nights we had boneless, skinless chicken breasts it was a day that one of them got paid.

I knew that sometimes as I stood in front of the classrooms and talked about my story, my business and the struggles along the way, some of those students could relate on the same level and others could not. I could tell that when I looked into the crowd which students were listening intensively because they could see themselves in me and that they knew that just because of where they come from…didn’t mean it had to determine where they were going. I wish someone would have told me that back then. I wished someone would have given me permission to consider being a business owner but when you are the first to graduate high school AND go on to graduate college, there wasn’t anyone there to plant the seed because no one had given them seeds to plant. It’s a cycle as I like to call it-people think they are destined to live a certain life because of where they come from/who they come from. I knew there was something more……..I believed there was something more.

Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I think the way in which I grew up had a lot to do with how I view several things in my life…..especially when it comes to finances. Those close to me, know that I’ve always been fascinated in finance and socio-economics in general. I began picking up books about saving/investing/getting out of debt (total nerd!). I knew I had to do something different with my life in order to break the cycle so to speak. I’d have to get out of my comfort zone, value myself and start making good decisions. Every decision/choice you make will determine the quality of the life you will live. Sit and think about it…we all know people who are happy all the time and on the opposite end of the spectrum are the debby downers of life. When you compare their attitudes on life to the quality of their life, there is often a correlation. The majority of time, those that are bitter with life have made some very terrible decisions/choices along the way that got them there. We control our own destiny and as cheesy as that sounds-it’s the truth. That cigarette you’re smoking is a choice, that credit card you’re racking up is a choice,  the excuses you come up with because it’s easier than thinking of a creative solution-is a choice. YOU made the choices, you created/can create your life.

I learned that lesson very early in life and started making GOOD choices in my twenties. People like to say that the most important part of your life is in your 30’s or 40’s after you have established a career and started a family…I would beg to differ. For me, the most important part of my life was my 20’s. It’s what creates the foundation for the rest of your life in my opinion. Some of us squander away our twenties because YOLO right?

We took this photo the day we walked into the bank to pay off our mortgage.

My twenties consisted of working-sometimes 3 jobs at a time, building a business while simultaneously putting money away for retirement AND raising a family. Now don’t get me wrong, I TOTALLY had fun in my 20’s…we traveled, we went out just like everyone else, but I chose to do those things AFTER making sure the other things were taken care of first.  By the age of 33, I had paid off my student loans, had zero credit cards, paid off my house, had zero car payments, saved for retirement and started a business while being 100% debt free….because I didn’t waste my 20’s.  While everyone else in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are trying to get things paid off/get out of debt, we’re already there. I did this all while being a business owner….if I had listened to what I was SUPPOSED to do, I’d probably be in debt. Things that some people are waiting to do when they retire ..we are able to do now. We weren’t “lucky”, we didn’t get a windfall, win the lottery or even receive an inheritance…it was blood, sweat, tears…and recognizing that our 20’s was when we had to lay the foundation for the rest of our lives because I valued myself enough to know that I was worth it.

You are not where you come from, make good choices, work your butt off in your twenties and invest some of your hard earned money and YES..it’s perfectly acceptable to not go work for someone else if that’s what you choose. You don’t have to be rich..you just have to be smart! Work hard now….play hard later! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD-DON’T WASTE YOUR 20’S.

I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my own daughter each time she goes off somewhere with her friends…..”make good choices!”. <3

 

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Sometimes, I start writing blog posts with the intention of coming back to them later and finishing them….this is one of those blog posts. I started putting it together mid December and then got swamped with holiday shoots and you know….a baby! haha! Speaking of baby, these photos were taken by my awesome second shooter Amanda Wilson during the very first wedding I shot after having a c-section. Three weeks post-surgery and I was back at it again. I brought Amanda along with Greg and I just in-case I needed to take a break and I’m so thankful she was there…..especially because she snagged some behind the scenes shots for me.

Here are the links to the wedding we shot that day:
Getting Ready + First Look
Ceremony + Reception

behind the scenesUs photographers….we don’t just snap the photos- we’re the drink fetcher, the family wrangler and the dress holder/carrier! HAHA

behind the scenes

I have to be honest…during this wedding one of my nightmares came true. I am SO SO SO thankful Amanda was there. I had zero problems shooting after a c-section, but I did have a reaction to some medication that I had to start taking after having to go off of it during my pregnancy. My stomach was not having it that day and I had to sneak off several times after feeling sick. We didn’t miss a single beat….that’s how we roll! haha! behind the scenes behind the scenesApparently, I love to boss people around….I have no idea what I’m saying here but I think I’m trying to show them where to stand!

behind the scenes behind the scenesSee….I really am a Ninja! haha! I’m going to try to make a point to share more behind the scene images from when we’re out shooting….lord knows I don’t have a shortage of them. Greg takes lots of embarrassing photos of me while I’m working on purpose. He has impeccable timing….it’s always RIGGGGGHT as I was taking a bite, or mid sentence where my mouth is all crooked, I’m bent over to pick something up! This year….i.will.get.revenge! MUAHH A HA HA!

 

PA is so wierd. One day it’s 50 degrees and feels like spring, the next it’s bitter cold and then BOOM just like that the temperature drops just enough to get those nice big fluffy snow flakes. The kind that lay heavy on the trees limbs and make it so quiet….except for when you’re walking and can hear the crunch of the snow and snow falling off the branches near by. THAT kind of snow! I had been wanting it to snow forever and since this winter has been so wierd, he hadn’t had any “pretty” winter days yet this year-at least around here! So imagine my excitement when I wake up and look out side and see that FINALLLLLLY the weather men/women weren’t talking out of their bum AND people didn’t run to the store for bread and milk for nothing! haha!

Any ways….this is Morgan! She should look familiar because I shot her senior photos earlier this year! She’ssssss back! Not only did she get ready with less than a 2 hour notice, she willingly stayed out in the cold so that we could get these shots in our secret location -otherwise known as private property! haha

Let’s talk about how gorgeous her eyes are! I love that her scarf is literally the same shade as the trees….totally unplanned.

WHOOPS!

Oh HAYYYYY!!

I love love love this shot! <3

I’m SO HAPPY we got to shoot these while we did…..it was starting to melt and I knew that after a few gusts of wind, the snow wouldn’t lay pretty on the branches anymore!

No fake overlays here…..that’s real snow!

I love the contrast in this image.

I have been so very fortunate this past year to have some amazing seniors. I can NOT wait to see who I get to work with next year!

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