Free Engagment Session Giveaway Winners!

Matt and Dina met at Wayne State University in 2005. Dina claims that the first day they met she was wearing old sweat pants with paint on the, and a baggy hoodie, with no make up on. He was super skinny and kind of a jerk. They didn’t really think much of each other at first. Definitely not love at first sight!

Over the course of Winter and Spring of 2005, they hung out a lot with their WSU friends, and were truly just friends for some time. Then one day, Matt saw Dina dressed up and “presentable” and saw her in a different light. Dina says she will never forgot what he said to her…”you should dress up more often”. Once that happened they started chatting on the phone every night before bed, and their group hangouts got smaller and smaller until it was just the two of them hanging out, and eventually, they started dating.

A couple of years into their relationship, Dina’s dad got very sick with cancer. To no surprise, Dina was a mess, didn’t want to go out, or leave her house at all for that matter. And she definitely didn’t want to leave her dads side. She spent most of her time researching ways that she and her family could save her dads life. Many guys at that point would probably have just cut their losses, but not Matt. He stuck by Dina’s side, her family’s side, and most importantly, her dad’s side. If her dad was in the hospital, Matt was there. If he was at home, Matt was with him. Matt made him feel normal, and before her dad passed, they had formed a beautiful friendship. That’s the kind of guy he is, and clearly Dina fell in love with him.

After nearly 9 years together, they have seen the best and worst of each other. They’ve argued, and cried, and laughed a lot. They have gone through anything and everything you could possibly imagine a couple going through, and they are stronger than ever.

Matt proposed on May 24th 2014 on Mackinac Island. Dina thought they were simply going to the island for her family over the holiday weekend. Dina already had a deposition scheduled in Gaylord and Matt decided he wanted to go for a bike ride. Dina was starving and didn’t want to go,  but being the wonderful girlfriend she was, she sucked it up and went anyways (and was pissed the whole time) HA. After a couple of spats, getting lost, and having to take a couple of breaks, they finally ended up in front of The Woods restaurant. When Dina turned around to yell at Matt because the restaurant wasn’t even open for them to eat at, she noticed he was down on one knee, and he proposed. (she obviously said yes) Matt had planned the whole thing to at T, including bringing both of their families up there to celebrate.

Their wedding is also taking place on Mackinac Island in the fall of 2016. Here is the happy couple!

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Family portraits {what to wear}

I get this questions frequently…”what should we wear for family photos?” Well here are a few examples of my favorites along with a few tips.

Here we have a family Christmas photo where everyone matches, but doesn’t look “matchy matchy” Dad is wearing a neutral gray sweater, but if you look closely, he has a button up shirt underneath that looks very similar the sons sweater. And mom is wearing a cream sweater that is the same cream color as the cream in her sons sweater. Baby girl is in white tights with a black coat and black & red headband, which goes with the black in her brothers sweater, but ALSO goes with what mom and dad are wearing. Even the little pug has a matching tie! I love this color scheme for the holidays, the red gives it a pop of the Christmasy feel without throwing in green as well, which can sometimes be a bit too much. Plus…the gorgeous pine trees in the background are green and so is the grass! 😉



Here is another great example. Yes…both girls are in brown, but that’s FINE. They are different shades of brown, and the fact that they are also both very different textures makes this look great. Mom is nice and colorful in her pinks and greens and blues. But if you look closely, she has some brown in her sweater as well, which ties in perfectly to what her daughters are wearing.



Another great example! I love the mix of textures in the clothing choices here. Mom and dad are wearing jeans, which matches baby girls dress perfectly. And her little white cardigan goes great with  moms white lace shirt. The light gray stripes on dads sweater is just enough to tie into what mom and baby are wearing. This is a perfect example of tying in colors that go well together and adding great texture. Also, did you notice baby girl has on a light pink headband that matches the light pink in her little boots? Totally love it, who cares if no one else is wearing pink, she’s a baby girl and it’s just subtle enough to look great.


Ok so here is the bottom line.

1. Textures are your friend! Different textures look great together…think ruffles, pleats, ruching, etc. Think about layers and different weights of fabrics as well.
2. Add accessories! Jewelry, headbands, scarves, vests, hats they add awesome dimension to your photographs.
3. Try to stick with 3…maybe 4 colors at MOST, otherwise it will get too distracting. Note: neutrals don’t count…(black, white, gray, beige) Don’t be afraid to go BOLD!
4. Plan ahead! Thinking about your outfits a few weeks ahead is not too early at all. Get it out of the way so you aren’t scrambling last minute. Plus that gives you time to hit the mall for those extra accessories I was talking about 🙂
5. Think about what season you’re doing your photos in. My first photo above was for the holidays and those colors and patterns were perfect for that, I wouldn’t recommend that color scheme for summer photos, though! (That may seem obvious, but I had to throw it out there!)
6. Patterns, stripes, etc. are not your enemy! If they are in the same color scheme as what everyone else is wearing, they can work, just don’t put EVERYONE in stripes 🙂
7. Lastly, your kid may want to wear his favorite iron man shirt, but skip that for family photos. Shirts like that on children can be really very distracting, save those for the snapshots at home, and put him in a little polo or button down for the family portraits. You only get the done once a year, he’ll survive. This goes for girls as well…I love the Little Mermaid, but if I had a daughter, she wouldn’t be wearing an Ariel shirt for family photos.


Hope this helps a little!



Recapping & Reflecting {2013}

This gallery contains 27 photos.

With Christmas right around the corner, and the new year quickly approaching after that, I thought it would be a cool idea to reflect on this past year. 2013 was a great, solid year for me, professionally and personally. I … Continue reading

Mint Chip Sugar Cookies

There are two very special kinds of cookies that I’ve been making ONLY at Christmas time for the past 6 years. Of course this year, I can’t find the cook book they’re both in!!! So I decided to try something new…EEK! But luckily they turned out DELISH! So here is the recipe.

Prep time: 15 Min.   –   Cook time: 1 hour

Serves: 4 dozen


  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • a few drops of green food coloring (I used about 3 drops, use how many you want to make the cookies the color green you like)
  • 3 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. Andes Crème de Menthe Baking Chips
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips



  1. Cream butter and sugar for about three minutes. It should be fluffy.
  2. Add eggs, green food coloring and peppermint extract. Cream for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Measure dry ingredients in a separate bowl or sifter. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Mix until combined.
  4. Add mint and chocolate chips. Gently stir to until incorporated.
  5. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop cookies using a 2 Tablespoon size cookie scoop.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Watch for the cookies to begin cracking. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes. Transfer to cookie rack and finish cooling.

Note: If you choose to use a smaller cookie scoop reduce baking time to 8 minutes.


Why my favorite thing in the whole world to shoot is {weddings}

Weddings were not what I originally wanted to get into. I had this dream of being a high fashion photographer for Vogue magazine, and traveling all over the world being able to shoot Lara Stone, Gisele, or Doutzen Kroes. But I was definitely kidding myself…I am a home body. There is no way I could live that life! I need to be around the people I love, need to hug them, and dance with them, and laugh with them. And you can’t do that to the fullest behind a phone or a screen.

So, once I realized that I could not do that kind of photography. I went to school that day and talked to an advisor that told me that the program I was in (media & communication arts) was really geared towards web/graphic designers, game designers, etc. and that I was going to have to do all my own searching to find a studio to work for because they really had not contacts to provide for me. When I got home, I cried on my bed for two hours thinking I would never get to do what I wanted. Then I started surfing the web, I think I googled something like “photography studios metro detroit”. I then proceeded to send 10 emails to each of the first ten studios that came up in my search. I heard back from none of them. Then, a week later, on my birthday, I got a call from my now boss, Jason Samkowiak of JS. Photography saying that they were looking for a second shooter for weddings, and that he could use me that weekend. I said yes, got all of the info, and we hung up. Then I was like…omg what am I getting myself into!? Wedding photography sounds awful, long hours, bridezillas, drunk groomsmen. NO THANKS.

I should have known I would fall in love immediately, because I am a huge romantic sap. Are the hours long? HELL YES. I come home with every joint in my body aching, and usually with a headache. There are DEFINITELY some bridezillas, but I haven’t come across one I can’t handle (yet). And there are definitely ALWAYS at least one really drunk obnoxious groomsmen, but they aren’t hard to handle either.

Other photographers I’ve talked to (mostly ones I went to school with) almost seemed to have this snarky, har har, oh bless your dear sweet heart, attitude when I said I had started doing weddings. Almost like they were looking down on me for doing that because it’s cliché, and mundane, and not REAL photography. I have two theories about this.

Number 1 is that they have never shot a wedding before and CLEARLY have NO IDEA what they are talking about.

Number 2 is that they have tried it in the past and failed miserably because you know what? IT’S F***ING HARD. Between the time crunch, having to manage the bridal party & newlyweds families, making sure you get all the shots that they want and you NEED to get, and LOADS of other unexpected things that always come up…it’s overwhelmingly exhausting. AND YOU HAVE ONE CHANCE TO GET IT RIGHT. Because guess what, you can’t redo a couples first kiss at the altar after they’re pronounced husband and wife, you just CAN’T. You can try to re-pose it if you don’t get a good shot of it, but it is NEVER the same as that first time. And if you don’t get that shot, you WILL hear about it…from multiple people…over the next few months…and you will be humiliated.

Besides that…the 3 hours you have between the ceremony and reception you think you have? HA. You will probably get half that time because between driving to locations, getting everyone to LISTEN to you so you can pose them, and wardrobe malfunctions…the moments just slip away faster than you can even being to imagine.

And then there the people (and they are at EVERY wedding) that come up to you at the reception that say “oh did you get a shot of this? did you get a shot of that?” (which are always shots that are must haves that I do at every wedding) And I want to say “you know what? No I didn’t! This is my first wedding I’ve ever shot by myself and I have no idea what I’m doing!” Then I want to snatch the stupid dinky little Canon powershot out of their hand and chuck it into a pond.

PHEW! Rant over…can you tell what really pushes my buttons? LOL. But all the whole reason for this post is to share why I love shooting weddings…so FINALLY…here it is…

Every couple is different, every ceremony is different, every reception is different, every detail is different. Weddings are not all the same. Every couple puts some kind of personal touch on their big day that makes it “them”. The sacrament of marriage is holy and beautiful and something to be cherished, and none of that is seen more than on a couples wedding day because it is one of the most important days of your life. The love in their eyes is undeniable and remarkable and helps remind that even in this crazy world we live in, amazing things still exist.

I really do think that having the wedding (and husband) of my dreams has molded me into a better photographer. The sole factor being that my perspective has changed. I’ve been a bride, and that makes a HUGE difference because I’ve walked in those shoes. I know now how every single little detail is important and that brides want their hard work documented to perfection. I know how long it takes to plan a wedding and how fast the day actually goes when the day finally comes. I know the kind of comfort and reassurance you get when everyone from the photographer to your guests tell you how awesome your wedding was.

The food gets eaten, the dress gets put in a box, the flowers wilt, and people forget. What helps remind you of how amazing it was is photographs. You display them proudly on Facebook and in frames at your house as a reminder of that special day. And on days your spouse is being really annoying, or did something stupid, you will pass them in the hallway and glance at them and they will remind you of how happy you were that day and how blessed you are to have them and it will start the resolution process. I know this because I’ve lived it.

The incredible emotion on your face the day of your wedding that is captured in a photograph cannot be matched, duplicated, or redone. For me it’s the happiness in a brides voice and on her face when she sees her wedding photos for the first time. That is what I live for.

And here is a really good example from a shot I took this past May


Audrey {newborn}

I had the privilege of meeting Erica when I was only 11 years old. I was in fifth grade, and had just moved from living in Warren and going to a private school, to moving to Fraser with the anxiety of knowing that I would be attending public school for the first time next year, in sixth grade. Along with a girl who lived next door to me who was my age, Erica was one of the first people I met and became friends with. We stayed close in middle school, and through high school since we both played sports together. After high school, like a lot of others, we drifted, although I have always been happy seeing her posts on Facebook because I could see that she was doing well for herself in school, and has now become an elementary teacher (which I have the up most respect for because I don’t have the patience for it, she is a saint I think).

So I was happily surprised when I got a Facebook message from her asking me to meet with her and her new fiance, Scott, because they had just gotten engaged. So I met with them, and we were all bundled up because it was winter, and I was happy to hear that they wanted to book and that they would be wanting engagement photos as well, along with…..maternity photos! Yep, she was having a baby and due this past spring! I was overjoyed for them, and still am.

It has been an honor for me to work with them and I am grateful that they have given me the opportunity to share in documenting their happy little family as they grow. So below, I’ve shared a couple of maternity, engagement, and newborn photos of them! CANNOT wait for their wedding next month so I can have the final piece of this of this beautiful little puzzle.





Why I {love} shooting film

I would like to share my honest view of film vs. digital within my own field of expertise as a pro digital and hobbyist film photographer. I have never shot film for any of my professional work, only in school and on my own personal projects. But I am a huge admirer of a few great pro film photographers and a continuous student of photography – both in the film and digital arenas.

I “learned” photography on a film camera (my mom’s Minolta Maxxum 5 to be exact), I learned how to dodge and burn with random objects that were lying around the dark room, and I learned to develop that film with my own hands in a dark room. The overwhelming satisfaction you get when you put that 8×10 print through the dryer, take it out into the light, and see the finished product is intensly gratifying. And honestly, so is the fact that you have to BE PATIENT with it. You can’t see your image right away like you can with the digital cameras, which also means you can’t see if you got the shot or not. Which I happen to love in this “instant gratification” world we live in where everyone and their mother that picks up a digital camera thinks they’re a photographer…

I can definitely attest that film has several advantages over digital – mainly, the dynamic range (or, ability to preserve details in highlights and shadows over a wide range of stops), and also the forgiving nature of film when you overexpose it. It’s very difficult to blow out film even with overexposing by 2-3 stops – and the highlights with film roll off beautifully. In that regard, you can relax a bit when you’re shooting film (especially if you have a great photo lab to develop and scan it, but that’s another topic altogether.)

However, film does have a couple of weaknesses as well. Buying, developing, and scanning film is getting quite expensive. And the FACT of the matter is that you can’t take as many images if you have to continuously change rolls of film as you can when you have a 32GB CF card in your camera. Another disadvantage? You can’t back up film; if something happens to your rolls between shooting and developing, that makes for a very unhappy photographer – and an even unhappier client.

Don’t get me wrong either, I love digitial photography, but it also has its weaknesses. The biggest weakness is dynamic range. My Canon 5D simply will not handle light as well as film will, and the light will not look as soft and even as it does with film. But I think this problem will improve over time with digital cameras, as newer models with better sensors are developed. Now, that being said, you CAN compensate this weakness by shooting in RAW format to maximize the recovery of details in highlights and shadows, and by working on improving yourself technically so that you achieve more consistently precise exposure. I always shoot in manual/RAW and spot meter, which is a huge help. I know before I press the shutter if I still have enough details in my highlights and shadows where it’s important to have detail. This is the result of lots of practice – and I’m still always working on improving my exposure.

At the end of the day, it would take a lot of convincing by a very persistant bride for me to shoot a wedding now a days on film. For me, it is just simply to risky, but I do have to say, I might start bringing my Minolta with me on wedding days as a back up 😉


{How to…} Choose your wedding photographer

This post is going to all about how to pick your photog for your big day. The do’s, the dont’s, and the things you might not think about that are very important.


Start looking right away because the best professional photographers book their schedules a year in advance. If you want outstanding pictures, start searching for your photographer when you have decided on the date. A wedding photographer’s peak season is Saturdays during the spring, as this is when many couples get married. If you will be celebrating an “in-season” wedding, book your photographer at least six to twelve months in advance. (I already have a wedding booked for fall of 2014!)

Take the time to actually look around. Good wedding photographers have a reputation of success, and therefore are relatively well known. They should be the easiest to find. Start your search by asking for recommendations from friends and family who have held weddings prior to your event. Ask if they liked the photographer. Look at their wedding album. Additionally, other professionals involved in your wedding day festivities will likely have worked with photographers in the past. Ask for recommendations from your wedding planner, venue manager, caterer, baker, florist or limousine driver. If all else fails, The Knot has some of the best photographers featured right on this link!

Look at SAMPLES!
See a photo you love? Copy the image URL and upload it to Pinterest (with credit to the photographer of course). Think about the tone that you want your photos to express. Are you and your fianc serious and traditional, or do you prefer a more light-hearted and playful theme to your wedding photographs? After narrowing your selection of wedding photographers down to about three, make appointments to interview the candidates. During the interview, ask to see samples of past work.

Likely, the photographer will have two or three wedding albums available for show. Make sure you see at least one album of an entire wedding, from start to finish. After examining all of the photographer’s work closely, request to see another set of photographs from a recent wedding. This will enable you to see both his best work-from the pre-selected albums-and her average daily work.

First, examine the basics of the pictures-such as color, clarity, exposure, graininess and composition. Then determine the photographer’s style; does she shoot photos that are adventurous and unique or are they standard and ordinary? This will also help you determine which style you prefer.

Pay attention to the photographer’s ability to capture the emotion of the day. Does it appear that he has the personality to make his subjects comfortable and happy? Or is she the type of photographer that seemingly takes pictures without much passion.

Come away from the interview knowing the quality of the photographer, his overall style, and if she will adjust her style to your individual taste.

Evaluate their professionalism: While not all amateur photographers are created equal, the best way to ensure you receive a quality wedding album is to hire a seasoned professional with a solid background from which to draw.

During your initial interviews, find out how many weddings the photographer has shot. He/she may have been a professional photographer for 15 years, but only doing weddings for the past year. Remember, wedding photography is much different than any other type of photography.

Along with the number of years he/she has been filming weddings, ask how many actual weddings she has photographed. This will give you a better idea of how experienced the photographer has become.

With such experience comes not only the knowledge of how to photograph a wedding, but also how to act during the ceremony and reception. For example, how will he dress and how will he act to your wedding party and guests?

Finally, find out if the photographer has shot at your wedding venue before. If he has, he may know of places to get good shots or ways to capture moments the best.

Lastly…DETERMINE COSTS AND SIGN THE CONTRACT. Any photographer that doesn’t have a contract for you to sign doesn’t take their business seriously and you shouldn’t either.

It is SO IMPORTANT that you click with your photographer, nothing is worse than not being on the same page on your big day. Make sure that everything is hashed out beforehand! Even if it means calling them one more time the week of the wedding 🙂

You get what you pay for…{a cautionary tale}

Before I dive into this post, I just want all of you brides out there that read this to remember one thing…You cannot redo your wedding day…you will NEVER get that day back. So keep that in mind…

I recently came across an article/blog that made me CRINGE and brought me to tears.

This woman (who is now a photographer, funny enough) made the biggest mistake a bride could possible make by letting her friend take all of her wedding photos. Her exact quote was this…”He had a DSLR and could take amazing pictures of cars so he must be able to shoot my winter wedding right? Wrong!”

I’m not going to write anymore until I reveal these photos…


Here’s the thing…I just got married 6 months ago, I KNOW how much weddings cost. That said, if you’re going to spend $2,000 or more on a dress, $10,000 or more on a hall, and $1,500 or more on flowers…then you need to INVEST in a good wedding photographer too. The Joker said it best in “The Dark Knight” when he said “if you’re good a something, never do it for free”

If you’re going to spend all that money on all of the stuff I listed above, why would you NOT spend it on a photographer?! If you spent all that time planning every single detail of your big special day…why would you leave those IRREPLACEABLE memories to a “friend” or “uncle bob” or “cousin mike”?!?!? The above photos are the EXACT reason why. That poor woman made a horrible judgement call and will be paying for it for the rest of her life because every time she looks back at her big day she will be reminded at how one of the most important days of her life was completely ruined because she tried to cut costs and cut corners when it came to finding a photographer.

And for those DIY brides out there…I totally get it. I will be paying off my wedding for the next 5 years, but I’m not going to complain about it because ya know what? It was absolutely PERFECT and I married my soul mate so how can I possibly bitch about spending all that money on the most important day of my life? I also totally get that some people are not able to spend that kind of money, and that is totally fine and understandable. BUT…even if you borrow a friends wedding dress, grow your own wedding flowers, and have a BBQ in your parents backyard…don’t you want those memories documented to perfection so you can look back on them and smile on your 50th wedding anniversary? I guarantee that you can find a photographer that you love (who might also be very pricey) who will be willing to work with your budget, you just have to ask!!! We do what we do because we are romantic saps whose greatest pleasure in life is seeing the look on your face while you’re going through your photos for the first time. Very few things in life beat that.