Friday, July 24, 2015

What I Wish I had Known Before I Had Kids...

I've been thinking so much about yesterday's post, and remembered that I wanted to share this brilliant essay by Dawn Hallman, M.A., Executive Director of the Dallas Association for Parent Education. The site for the organization is

Her words struck me when I first read them more than a year ago. I keep this excerpt posted on my fridge to remind myself daily that if I am wildly frustrated with one of them, it's most likely because my expectations are skewed.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

What I Wish I Had Known Before I Had Kids
(That I Know Now)...

I wish I had known that 
my children's behavior was
a language - that their actions
and words were telling me 
something about what they were
feeling or thinking. I wish I'd
remembered that they did not
get up in the morning plotting 
to do things to frustrate me.

I wish I'd known that meltdowns 
and explosions usually
meant my kids were tired, or
hungry, or bored or frustrated
themselves. I wish I'd known
that they needed an adult to
help them find the words to 
express what was troubling them.
But they sure didn't need
a frustrated adult.

I wish I'd known more 
about child development, brain
development and behavior. 
I wish I'd known that growing
up is a slow process. I wish I'd
known how each development 
stage has its own way of seeing 
the world. I wish I'd known
that most times they saw things
very differently from me.

I wish I'd listened more to 
what was true about their hearts
and spirits and personalities
than worrying about what other
people thought of their behavior.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Screaming Kids and Marcy's Diner: a Parent's Perspective

Working and living in Maine has me interested in the parent/proprietor drama that unfolded this week in Portland at Marcy's Diner. Haven't heard the story yet? It involves a crying toddler and pancakes, and a proprietor who took matters in her own vocal chords and decided to speak up. 

So was the little one screaming her head off? Maybe. Was she screaming for more than 30 minutes? Possibly. But here's the thing:

There are always solutions. If a little one is crying, where were the offers of crayons and paper? Crackers? Complimentary juice? Bottom line: if the business is yours and your customers for the large part are uncomfortable, isn't it worth giving the parents something - anything for the child to get it to be happy? Here is where, as a parent myself, I see the proprietor of the diner failing all of her customers that day.

The story strikes a nerve with me. But I can see both sides of the coin: I'm a business owner and a mother... of three. So believe me when I say that I have done my fair share of carrying around a screaming child in public.

It's not fun. 

But here's where the classy business owners rise above the rest: offers of balloons, coloring books, snacks have been given, and they were very much appreciated. Even those with a sympathetic glance or a kind word made an impression. "Hang in there, Mama."... "Aw, she's having a rough day, isn't she?"... "Dry those tears, sweetheart! Your mommy loves you; it can't be that bad!" These were words of comfort, and they made a rough afternoon a little more bearable. 

As a photographer, I know that kids are NOT always easy. Unimpressed, uncooperative, and some, well... some are downright stinkers. Take, for example, my three stinkers below:

Classic children's portrait? Nice, kids.  Nice. 

Still, as professionals, we learn to deal with sour faces and their accompanying sour attitudes. Compassion, patience, silly faces, and sometimes unabashed bribery: these are the tools a good family portrait photographer will use to cajole the little ones into cooperation. 

As a parent, you can be assured that a quality photographer will give your family the time you all need. A family portrait session should be fun! Fun for you, fun for them. You aren't rushed into a strict 20-minute session, with kids feeling the pressure, and egged on to being uncooperative. A beautiful photograph should be just part of a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Some time after your family session, when you gaze at the wall in your living room, you'll see their sweet little faces smiling back at you from their portrait, and you'll remember that day. You'll remember watching them running and hugging and screaming and being silly in the golden sunlight. You'll remember the awe that welled up in your heart when you realized again how blessed you really are to have them. 

Because, kids, even in their worst moments, are always a blessing. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Superhero Brothers: The Best Kind of Family

"I, who have no sisters nor brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those who may be said to be born friends" -- James Boswell, Scottish Author

We met on a warm, sunny afternoon at Beach Plum Farm in Ogunquit, Maine. The light in the sky was beginning to soften and glow as it began its slow descent in the sky. Our goal was to take family portraits, and we did; but what ultimately unfolded was part imagination, part preschool fancy, and lots and lots of love.

Having three children myself, I know that siblings quarrel and love; they spat and hug and kiss in moments that come and go like the waves of the ocean. These two chaps were different... they got along splendidly; they REALLY loved each other. It impressed me deeply that these two were the very best of friends. It was a beautiful thing, and so rewarding to capture.

They climbed trees, ran through fields with wild abandon, and had the most adorable superhero nicknames for each other. This was childhood at its best and most beautiful.

Many thanks to this charming family for letting me spend the afternoon with you. Your children are a testament to your love and hard work. I hope you enjoy your family portraits for many, many years.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Classic Portrait: Why it's Worth More than You Think.

This is my second child: fidgety and silly, cries about everything... she has a heart of gold. Also, she doesn't look a bit like me. 

Even stranger, she looks even less like her father. In the first 3 or 4 years of her life, this bothered me a little. There is a STRONG resemblance in my other two children, and I love to gaze at their little faces: daddy's nose, my ears... you get the idea. If you have kids, you probably do this too, right?

One day, my mother showed me the following photograph for the first time. It is my paternal grandmother (who passed away before I was born), taken at the age of 12. 

My jaw positively dropped.  

Those were my daughter's eyes. Her forehead. Her long, straight nose. 

I can't truly say how profoundly this photograph affected me. 

You see, I never got to meet my grandmother. 

My mother tells me she would have been wild to know that she had three granddaughters. I like to think that I have a great deal in common with her, but then again, I haven't had the chance to find out. 

What I do have is this professional portrait. This now crumbling piece of paper that has suffered wear and tear for approximately 77 years has shown me something incredibly beautiful: my grandmother's legacy continues in my sweet little girl.

Make no mistake: the portraits you have made today will be your children's heirlooms. One day, your grandchild will hand a delicate portrait carefully to his or her youngest daughter and say, "Look. This is your family." 

Pharmacy prints are great for day-to-day snapshots. But if you want a true portrait, an on-the-corner developer simply will not do. To stand the test of time, the inks and paper should be professional.

So let's suppose you want a family portrait to be taken here in Sanford at First Frame Studio?  Your family portraits will be shot and edited with great attention to detail, then prepared and printed at our favorite professional lab (Miller's Lab) on Kodak or Ilford professional paper. 

We'll deliver to you, not the cheapest option, but true quality portraits that you will love; portraits that will last for generations. 

Keep Smiling,


sanford maine portrait photographer

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Children Grow So Fast! Here's our Clever Solution...

Babies! Squishy, lovely little babies! They're so fun to photograph (though not so easy!), and parents inevitably gush over the photos. We love that.

This past week, though, one of my clients expressed to me a concern that she had about photographing her little one. "He grows so fast, and changes every day - I kind of hate to think about having a canvas made, knowing that in a couple of months, he'll look totally different. That's a big investment for one moment."

Though some parents argue that that's exactly why they want the canvas made, others agree with this mom. How can an investment in portraits be really satisfying for babies?

We have the perfect solution.

Meet our Portrait Memory Box.
This book-sized box really is a wonderful way to display your portraits, while providing an ideal way to store them in the long-term.

Let's talk details about the Memory Box.

At your ordering appointment, you'll get to pick out your favorite images from the portrait session. Then, we'll custom design an 8x10 box with your favorite photo on the cover. Each box will be different! Inside are mounted prints from the session: Durable, displayable portraits that you can frame, display on the included easel, or keep safely and snugly in the box. The great thing about this option is that as your child grows, you can add to the images instead of re-investing in a new album.

The Portrait Memory Box is a fantastic option for new moms who want to document their babe's newborn, 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 1 year moments. Enjoy the prints you have so far, and add to them as the months pass. We offer special pricing for those who want to take advantage of this option.

Even for families with older children, isn't this a great idea to keep your memories together? When your kiddo finishes preschool, elementary, or middle school, that's a great time to sit the family down together, have some fun with us, and keep those memories safe and sound for your eyes and heart.

Call or email us to set up an appointment for your family photo session - and when you do, you can see for yourself what a great keepsake these Memory Boxes are.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Senior Photos: Isabelle

Isabelle kept saying during our shoot, "What should I do? I'm probably doing this all wrong."


No darling, you got it all right. Perfectly, perfectly right.

Are you thinking of senior photos yet?

Class of 2016: The time is coming quickly for YOU to be in front of the camera. Are you ready?

First Frame is a full-service photography studio. You're not walking away with some low-res files you hope you can print at the pharmacy...

You're going to enjoy luxury.
  • professional albums,
  • UV-protected canvas wall art, and 
  • prints guaranteed to last 100 years. 
We're going to get to know you, talk about what kind of session will showcase your style, your persona. You're not going to be rushed through the process - after all, it's taken you 12 years to get here. You deserve to enjoy this rite of passage. We're here to help you love every moment.

In the end, you're going to have luxurious, original ways to showcase your visually ARRESTING images. 


Give us a call at 207.651.1842, or email Gretchen at

The rest of your life awaits. Don't keep it waiting.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Contest!! In the Name of Love

This month is my parents' anniversary - they've been married for 48 years. FORTY EIGHT.
That's a LONG time to put up with one another's shenanigans.
Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad.

48 years together. Amazing.

It's occurred to me lately that one of my favorite things to photograph is couples that have been together for a long time. So, in honor of my Mom and Dad for hanging in there and showing us how to make it work, I'm going to throw a little contest. 

Nominate a couple for a complimentary photo session with a matted 8x10 print (over $300 value)!
Here are the rules:
The couple must be married for over 40 years.
You cannot nominate yourself.
Enter on our Facebook page.  We've set up a contest app that will guide you through the process. 

The contest deadline is Saturday, April 25. Our winner will be announced by April 30, 2015. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Senior Guys: Looking Good and Making it Look Easy

*** This advice applies to everyone, by the way, but I think it especially helps the guys.***
So, I've recently stumbled onto a fun-loving and informative video by Peter Hurley, who explains to us common folk how to look sexier, more confident, photogenic... just plain BETTER in photos. His technique is simple, but surprisingly difficult to explain. Take a peek at the video below to see what I mean.

So... 'squinching', as Mr. Hurley calls it, (or if you're Tyra Banks, it's "smizing") is a quirky little thing that the muscles in your lower eyelids to when you are naturally:
  • smiling,
  • suspicious/ skeptical,
  • in love.
Don't believe me? Think about it.  Now try out the expressions in front of a mirror and focus on how your eyes reacted.
I recently re-designed my website and was digging through this past year's files and found this photo of Jordan that I LOVED, and it HIT me that the reason was: he was doing this "squinch". Check it out.
Jordan's Senior Photo
This is Jordan. Good looking kid. Nice shot, nothing too crazy. Not really phenomenal either.
Senior photos guys
Hands down, my favorite shot of Jordan in this session. Why? It's because he's ever-so-slightly scowling at me. (He really was. I think I was teasing him at the time.)
So what can you do with this information? Well, most of us are not professional models; we find ourselves at a photo shoot, in front of a camera, and feeling painfully awkward.
My trick is to have in mind something to think about that causes your face to adopt this expression. Here are a few ideas to get you rolling: (Or make you laugh, which also works for me!)
  • Imagine your lower eyelid, and literally try to make it form a smile. Think happy thoughts.
  • Make the expression that matches this statement: "I'm really happy to see you, but my eyes are feeling quite dry."
  • Go full-out Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. "I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself."
So if you've got senior pictures coming up, or are contemplating them for next year, you still have time to practice.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Exciting New Twist on a Sand Unity Ceremony

If you're getting married, chances are you've heard of a sand ceremony, where the bride and groom pour two sands together as a symbol of being inseparable. It's a sweet tradition.

But what happens with that sand when you get home? You put it in a pretty vase, and then it just... sits there. Well, it sits there till your Labrador puppy or two-year-old bumps into it and the symbol of your unity is now embedded in your carpet for all eternity. Till it gets sucked up by your vacuum.

Last week, I was talking to a business associate of mine who described a fantastic twist on this tradition. Instead of combining sand, the bride and groom combine tiny pebbles of colored glass. After the wedding, they deliver the glass pebbles to her studio, and she fires them together in her kiln into a beautiful, functional work of art.

I became instantly smitten with this idea. Today I photographed samples of her work, and wanted to share it with you.

The glassware is available in numerous colors, styles and shapes. Contact Helen for more details at Get Fired Up, here in Sanford Maine. 

...And if you're from out of town, out of state, or even farther, contact Helen anyway - the kit is easy to ship wherever you are. 

At the beginning of the ceremony: Two vessels, two colors.

During the ceremony, the grains of glass are poured together.

Once combined, they're virtually inseparable. 

Several types of containers are available for the kit - or you can use your own.

A closeup of the two colors before, and the finished piece of fused glass.
Stunningly beautiful, and surprisingly durable.  

Choose many different colors, shapes, styles.  Personalizing is also available. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Brides - Be Ready... for Anything.

When you get ready for your wedding, chances are there will be a moment when everyone says, "Do you have a ____?" and nobody will have one. 

Do you know who knows with almost certain accuracy what that thing will be? 

Your photographer.

Believe me... hanging out with dozens and dozens of brides again and again before the wedding has taught us the things that bridal parties most often need but don't pack.

The top two?  Scissors and tissues.

Tissues? Really?
Yes, believe it or not, brides and bridesmaids often forget to pack tissues. There are a lot of girls walking down the aisle with toilet paper tucked away somewhere. 

We're excited to say that you can win our custom-created Bridal Emergency Kit at the Sanford/Springvale Wedding Expo on October 26, 2014. Come see us at the Town Club from 11 to 2 and enter to win.

Brides, do you want to make your own kit?  Here's a complete list of what we recommend to be in the bag.
safety pins
needle and thread
double sided tape
breath strips
earring backs
lint roller
stain remover pen
granola bars
first aid kit

tylenol or advil
water bottle
dryer sheet (gets rid of static cling)
a 1-shot bottle of whiskey or vodka (or your beverage of choice)

Voila!  A great kit that you're sure to use.