I had a new client ask me recently what to expect from a lifestyle session & how to prepare for it. I smiled as I wrote her a response that went something like this: Lifestyle is a documentary approach to family photos. Its the everyday routine that you don’t necessarily see as exciting or beautiful until that stage of your life has passed. Its everything life is for families…joyful and loud, messy and real, but always stunningly beautiful in its imperfection. Much like life, the best way to prepare is to just be yourself…the truest version of you. No posing, no styling, just you loving your family and embracing all the beauty & madness that goes along with parenthood. And if the house isn’t showroom ready, or the kids refuse to wear the cute outfits you picked out for them, don’t worry. The house & the outfits won’t matter to you in 10 years. Being able to hold a print of your baby girl splashing you with the hose in a little plastic pool in your backyard, or your son’s face lighting up as you push him in the tree swing. These are the most stunning moments of our lives. They are priceless, and fleeting, and I absolutely love photographing them.

So there it is. What lifestyle is. To me, anyway. And the session below is a perfect example of how everyday moments can be filled to the brim with magic.

A little backstory before you start scrolling… Nicole is one of my oldest friends. Middle school days. High-waisted jeans (which seem to be making a comeback) and crop-tops (which are also inexplicably popular again) made more than one appearance in old photos from our tween years. A lot has changed since then. We’ve both seen our share of joy & heartache. We’ve become wives, and mothers, and artists, and given each other pep talks along the way. She’s one of the kindest, most selfless people I know. Photographing her wedding to Jon years ago & documenting Nick’s life as a newborn and one year old has been such a gift. He’s their miracle baby. With one open heart surgery down and one to go, Nicole & Jon have navigated the fear that goes along with having a baby with CHD in the most graceful, loving way. They are fiercely committed to their family and lemme tell ya, it takes a pretty badass couple to make 2 kids under two look like a breeze…and they do.

This session was meant to be. Despite Vivi’s fever the day before, the storm that was headed in the direction of Charleston, and the added bonus that my car was dumping water into the passenger floorboard, I had my bags packed and gear ready. Nicole texted the night before to say Vivi’s fever had disappeared, so I shoved a towel in my floor and hit the road. When I arrived late on Friday night, Nicole & I sat up and talked ’til 2am. About life, the loss of her beloved brother Matthew, how hard it is to find joy after losing your best friend, and the beautiful legacy he left behind. We laughed and cried until we were both falling asleep in our chairs. The next morning I woke to Vivi’s baby feet thundering down the hallway, and picked up my camera straight away. The second image featured here was the first frame I shot on this precious morning. Sweet Nick. You can see him taking it all in, in his own quiet way. The first ten minutes of photographing him playing trains in the sunroom were so soulful I almost teared up as he made soft “choo-choo” noises & welcomed me into his little world. There was an unspoken bond that formed between us in that moment, and although he normally isn’t a big fan of photos…he absolutely lit up in front of my lens. Once he decides he likes you, its on. That spark of fight in his eyes tells the story of a kid who’s had more than his fair share of battle wounds, and yet…he giggles and grins and loves the heck out of his mom & dad. And baby Vivi, toddling around with her smiley eyes and impossibly perfect pout. All drama & beauty with a tiny ball of curls on the top of her head. Even at a wee one year old, I’m putting money on the fact that this girl is going into acting. She gave a few Oscar-worthy performances on this sun-kissed morning. It took everything in me not to laugh as she threw herself on the floor screaming ( without a tear in sight..) only to pull herself up three seconds later & flash a drooly grin. Almost as if to say, “hey photo-lady..check this out.” I clapped and cheered and half expected her to take a bow. She is a gem of a toddler with the sweetest little spirit. Handing me toy after toy…even trying to make a few sit on my camera as I worked. As she tried to stuff her little people toy into my lens with her chubby hand, this overwhelming feeling washed over me. The feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. And despite the fact that I can’t prove it, and you may laugh at the thought…I know exactly who made it happen. No fever, or storm, or floorboard full of water was going to get in his way.

He brought me to his sister. To tell her beautiful story the best I could. And I will forever be grateful.

Nicole, Jon, Nick, Vivi…and Matthew. thank-you. Love you all.

Comments: 4    leave a comment

  1. Can I be in love with my own story ? Love love love it. Thank you, Kellie! AND LOVE YOU!\

  2. Kellie….these photos of my precious family are beyond Amazing….. You captured their essence perfectly❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  3. The way you brought The LaRose family to us is a gift. So much beauty that it brought me to tears. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Wish you were in Greensboro. These are gorgeous and Nicole looks so much like Kathleen…

07.14.2014 | filed under: children, lifestyle, portraits

After all these years, this blog has become an old friend. The kind you can go months without seeing face-to-face, and when you finally reconnect..its still there. That connection, that spark that brought you together in the first place. Feels good to be back. Travel has been the theme of the summer. These few weeks of traveling & living life off the grid of social media have really refilled my creative well, so you just might be seeing a lot of backlogged work on here. Just maybe :) I’m not even sure how relevant blogging is to professional photographers anymore. More & more of my colleagues are abandoning their blogs to go the way of micro-blogging through instagram & facebook. I’ve considered joining them, but I love the actual writing part of blogging…telling my client’s stories with words, as well as images. So for now, I’m gonna spend a little time with this old friend & give blogging another go. Hope you’ll join me.

Oh, and I just finished a mini-tour of the SC coast & will be booking another round of lifestyle sessions in the Charleston area at the end of the month. Info will be posted on the studio’s facebook page, if you’re hoping to grab a spot. Spaces are limited, so if you’ve been dreaming of a day in the life session for your family..now’s the time!

The Hamlett family is the perfect one to bring this blog back to life. These four humans are crazy special to me. I’ve been photographing the girls since they were newborns, and they are two of the most splendid little souls I know. Their sessions are always a highlight of my summer. Melanie & Eddie truly get what lifestyle is and give every inch of their hearts to our sessions. They love their girls so fiercely, it literally lights up every frame. On this perfect summer night, they caught fireflies with nets, had a hula-hoop competition in the park, chased bubbles with squeals of little-girl glee and in every moment their love took center stage.

Melanie, Eddie, Isabella & Audrey- thanks for living big, loving huge and having me document the story of you. so much love to you all..

Comments: 9    leave a comment

  1. I absolutely adore these!

  2. Perfection!!!!!

  3. Kellie, I have no words. Pure heart.

  4. You’re my favorite. I cannot even handle the perfection :)

  5. love the light and love in these beautiful images.

  6. The simplest pleasures makes the sweetest memories. What a beautiful family! The pictures are timeless just like bubbles and hula hoops.

  7. Absolutely beautiful Kellie! Love love love your pics.

  8. The light is amazing in these photos! LOVE.

  9. Please don’t ever give up on blogging completely! Your words along with your photographs show your true passion for what you do. Your blog has become my old friend too. I love these photos, they capture sweet family time at it’s best! These will be timeless memories for this beautiful family! :)

Almost nine years and over 320-ish weddings in, I’ve learned a lot about soul mates. I’ve learned that no two love stories are the same. Some happen instantly with a touch or a smile, some start as friendships that slowly evolve into head-over-heels love, some happen in the 20s, some happen in the 30s, and some…some involve second chances. The only thing I’ve found to be universally true of all the real-life love stories I’ve photographed? They never (ever) involve a white horse, no two “princes” look alike & real-life love is a million times better than any fairytale..

When Jill & I first met she had been searching for a photographer for months. A lucky google search for Figure 8 Island weddings brought her to me (score one for google). She sat across from me in the studio & shared her story. She beamed as she told me how Thomas felt like home. How he was the most perfect person in the world to her. How kind he was, how much she couldn’t wait for me to meet him. As she spoke, I kept thinking to myself how rare & special this girl is. Jill is as authentic as they come & by the end of our meeting we were hugging with tears in our eyes. I had never met anyone more deserving of beautiful memories captured. Our meeting reminded me what I love most about this stage of my career. Connection. In the days of 45 weddings a year I didn’t have the time or energy to fully invest in each couple and their story, but now with only a choice 12-15 weddings a year, I go all-in. And Jill & Thomas were 100% a perfect fit for me. One thing I know for sure? You’ll be seeing more of these two..their story is just beginning & I can’t wait to tell more of it as the years pass.

So what about Thomas, you ask? The minute we met right before their first look, he said “I have heard the best things about you, Kellie.” I smiled, hugged him & said, “ditto, Thomas. You have one truly amazing girl, you know..”

“Believe me, I know,” he said.

These two are the real deal & I will forever be grateful to Google for leading them to me…

Venue & Planning- Jenn Mitchell with Figure 8 Island Yacht Club
Dress- Monique Lhuillier
Florist- Beautiful Flowers by June
Cake- Anna Echols with One Belle Bakery
Hair- Sunny Lee with Harbor Club Spa
Makeup- Tess Wheatley with Blush
Band- Complete Desire
Videography- LifeStage Films

Comments: 5    leave a comment

  1. Stunning! Kellie – with a first look like that, don’t you wish you had all the time in the world with the couple?! Thomas, you were a handsome groom and Jill, so gorgeous! Love seeing family friends on your blog Kellie! Super job and precious! Only picture missing is my dad on the dance floor! (Doggie!) LOL!

  2. Stunning! Such a beautiful couple and wedding!

  3. So beautiful!!!!!! I love each and every photo. Just gorgeous.

  4. what a beautiful wedding and the dress is stunning

  5. simply beautiful :-)

Happy 2014, friends. Hope you all enjoyed a peaceful holiday with your families. The start of the new year offers a short break from weddings. Super short actually, as our first wedding of the season is in just 3 weeks in the mountains of Virginia. (yes, we are hoping for snow!) A few updates before I introduce you to the darling trio below. Our 2014 roster is nearly complete, with only two spaces left for the year. Spring is full, but there are still a handful of dates left for Fall…I can’t wait to meet the two special couples who are meant to fill those spots. If you’re considering my work for your wedding coverage, I look forward to hearing from you! Over the next few weeks you’ll also be seeing more 2013 weddings, along with a few personal travel posts. A new wedding will be showing up here late next week, so keep a lookout. Its a stunner.

…aaaand moving on to this sweet trio. I drove to Lake Norman in late November to spend the afternoon with Elizabeth, Christopher & their pup Milo. I had been waiting months to meet Elizabeth & Christopher, as they booked long-distance & our only correspondence had been via phone or email. These two were worth the wait. As I pulled into her parents driveway, I was met with the warmest hug & excited smile from Elizabeth. You guys, this girl. True beauty. She just shines from the inside out & radiates such joy. I don’t know many girls who can pull off a ponytail & just the slightest dash of mascara and look absolutely flawless. She is truly an effortless beauty, and their pup Milo is kind of obsessed with her. At least a dozen times during our shoot, I caught Milo giving kisses to his mom. (see below) Christopher is my style guru. Seriously, the guy has style for days. And the perfect spark of personality. I got to see a few of his dance moves on the dock during our shoot & its very obvious why these two have been together for so long. They are the very best of friends. The kind that live for snuggles in the hammock & uncontrollable laughter. When they contacted me about shooting their March wedding they let me know they were looking for truth captured in their images. They want their story told & I am honored they chose me to tell it through my lens. Consider this the first chapter…this chilly winter day we spent hanging by the water with Milo, baking homemade pizza, making the worst tasting hot chocolate in the universe (true story) and documenting a little slice of their life together.

Elizabeth, Christopher & Milo, thank-you. Can’t wait to see you guys in Palm Springs in March. So much love to you three.

Comments: 6    leave a comment

  1. oh, how perfect. So perfect.

  2. So incredible! Beautiful, gorgeous,,and honest. The very best word for these photos. Love.

  3. Awesome photos and beautiful couple.

  4. I LOVE THESE!!! the pictures perfectly captures the Love and joy this couple has. Really Beautiful.

  5. I don’t know if I have ever seen you look more beautiful…I have goosebumps. You guys are such an amazing couple and that couldn’t be captured more perfectly than these photos!

  6. You are not the average blog writer. You certainly have something powerful to contribute. Such an outstanding blog. beautiful photos too.

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