firefly photography

The blog

September 18, 2020

No two sessions alike: extended family session and family session at UVA

How do you create two completely different galleries of images, when seemingly all the main elements of the session are the same?

That’s the beauty of a lifestyle session.

I had the opportunity to work with a family in this scenario recently and was SO EXCITED about it because it really is proof that no two sessions can ever be exactly the same!


This family scheduled a session with me on UVA grounds to commemorate their time spent in Charlottesville during the COVID-19 pandemic. As residents of DC, they’d enjoyed the smaller-town lifestyle and time together and wanted to remember the surprising beauty they found during a very uniquely challenging season. I pulled out some of my favorite games and we explored the area, taking breaks as the kids needed it, capturing individuals and breakdowns throughout our time as they played together. It was full of giggles and chasing, spins and snacks… and just so much fun.

Here’s a few favorites from our first session together playing around grounds.


After delivering their images, the family loved their photos so much that they reached back out to inquire if they could schedule an extended family session that included the grandparents and mom’s sister, who were also staying locally, and opted to once again shoot at UVA.

So how did I change it up?!

Much of how a session unfolds depends on the attitudes, preparations, and reactions of the people involved. Children, in particular, are different every day – so how they play and how they express themselves can change depending on how you engage them.

We did utilize some different areas around grounds, and added more people, which created the opportunity for different breakdowns – like grandparents with kids, kids with aunt, and the sisters together.

And while we aimed to create some portraits on the lawn of the full family together, much of this session (and the previous) was structured around play and interaction. And there’s so much of that that simply unfolds given the right conditions and patience to allow real moments to naturally occur.

It’s my job to set up situations and “poses” that feel casual and allow kids to be themselves – then encourage the family to interact within those situations.


I had everyone sit on the blanket however was comfortable for them, piled the kids on top, and then played a silly game with the oldest kid that got everyone laughing at his reactions! We also didn’t make the baby give up his bottle – it was evening, he was hungry, and it’s a beautiful timestamp of his age. Plus, it led into the opportunity to capture the incredibly touching moment of him sitting with grandma, drinking his bottle in the grass, after everyone else had gotten up.




Another favorite scene was when we first arrived and everyone needed a little warming up – we pulled out some balls and bubbles they had brought (I always encourage my families prior to their session to pack a few outdoor favorites that can engage kids if they feel nervous or grumpy!) and had everyone play together for about 10 minutes while I walked around them and made photos. Within that time, I would provide general directions like, “(grandparent)—can you toss the ball to (kid 1)?!” and “let’s have (parent) do some spins with (kid 2)!”


These aren’t poses, they’re actions. And they bring things like JOY and LOVE to the surface.

I believe that family photos are ALL about the JOY and LOVE.

It’s why even though we educate and help our families with things like what to wear and choosing a location, they’re not the priority.

Your session is about so much more that that – it’s about the PEOPLE and the MOMENTS.

And when you focus on those things, no two sessions will ever be exactly the same.