A Love Affair with Photography

Family, Joy, Lifestyle, Lucas, Toby

One of my passions is photography. I still have my Nikon 35mm camera that I used through high school and part of college. But, these days my phone is attached to my hip, along with my family, so my camera on my phone has become my number one source of life photos – and that’s OK! With technology these days, the major updates to phone versions usually entail enhancement of their cameras so by paying attention to a few key details, from angles you’re shooting to apps you’re using for editing, you can capture those unmissable moments. Below, I’ve compiled my top nine photography tips for professional-looking photos using your cell phone.


One of my favorite pictures of our boys, Luke & Toby. Taken early July 2016.

  1. Clean your lens

If you’re like me, my phone goes everywhere with me. Take a second before snapping and wipe off the camera lens. Phones collect dirt (it’s gross) and are oily and smudgy from fingerprints.

  1. Just use your camera (not the in-app one)

Some apps compress your photos when taken in them, so don’t use them if you want to be able to print the photo one day. I’d also recommend sticking with the normal setting on your phone and editing or adding filters later. Another tip, the camera will expose more accurately when you use a full frame, and again, if you want to print photos, you won’t have issues with sizing.

  1. Don’t zoom in.

The digital zoom on any phone is far inferior to the optical zoom of a quality SLR lens that is designed to NOT diminish the quality of the photo when zooming is needed. My recommendation is taking with photo without zooming at all, get as close as you can to your subject, don’t worry about the atmosphere surrounding your subject – sometimes that gives an even deeper meaning to the photo. Like I said with the filters earlier, if you need to crop later, you can edit your original photo.

  1. Take as many shots as you need.

You’re not using film here, so take as many shots as you want/need to. Use the “favorites” button in your iPhone photos app to pull out the best photos, then delete the ones you don’t want. It takes a few more minutes, but it frees up space on your phone. (I’m completely guilty of NOT following this tip – but, it really will help in storage).


Our niece, Addy, trying out Luke’s “dohn deere dractor” with Toby’s fox on Christmas morning

  1. Understand the settings on your camera.

Let’s be honest, if you’re relaying on your phone as you’re main source of photos, you should probably understand the settings and options. I keep my HDR on “auto” and turn “off” my live photos. If I want a video, I’ll use that feature. Again, helps a good bit with space.

  1. Angles

Play with your angles. Don’t just sit there and take photos of your subject from one point of view. Move around and take pictures from multiple angles. Doing this captures light and shadows in different ways and highlights your subject too.

Another tip – take photos of people without posing or staging. Some of the best photos I’ve taken of our family have been right in the moment of whatever was happening.


Lucas and Evelyn (both almost 2) at Hayley’s baptism lunch. Loving the, freshly husked, Simmons Farm Corn.

  1. Follow the Light

Lighting is the most important thing to pay attention to when taking a photography, and with any phone camera that is even more the case. Find a window, go outside, and embrace the natural light. Artificial lights leave an orange tone on your photos, so turn them off. From this post, you know I love my iPhone’s camera but I HATE the flash. I never use it. It is just terrible. Most phone cameras now-a-days are built to do well in low-light, so I’d keep the “auto” flash off.

  1. Use an app (after)

My top picks are VSCO, Camera Awesome (made by SmugMug), PicStitch, these are some of my favorites. I also use boomerang – because I have a little one that’s into sports and doesn’t stay still. I do use the filters in Instagram, but I try to do that sparingly. Did you know the hashtag #nofilter attracts more likes on lifestyle photography than any other?


Toby at two months old

  1. Print Your Photos + Buy the Storage

My parents have dozens of albums at their house that we love digging out and looking through. Up until a few years ago, I printed very few of the 100’s of photos I had taken, unless it was for a work project or client. I started using Chatbooks when Luke was born and I subscribed to their Photo Book Series (highly recommend) and I don’t even have to think about it. Once my next album fills from my Instagram posts I get an email and can add, edit or rearrange in the next book going to print. Also, I’ve had great luck using Walmart to print all types of photos and photobooks. I made this really nice picture collage for Dan’s 30 birthday and printed the photos in wallet size, which was perfect for any kind of photo. The size worked perfectly and allowed me to use more photos and not have to trim anything down to fit in the frame.

I can’t suggest this enough – invest. in. storage. We take photos everyday of our lives. They capture moments and are there to remind us of people and times that are so important to us. What would you do if you lost those? I know I’d be crushed. There are so many options to file storage in this day in age. Some are free, some are not. Do your research and backup your files. We recently started using Google Photos – it’s so easy, especially with the app. I’ve also found that they do some pretty cool things with your photos while storing them – create videos, add animation, make albums – and you can see all of that when you’re signed into Google.

Those are my top nine tips. Did I miss anything? Do you have suggestions on shooting with your phone cameras?

**The photos in this post are all my own. This post is not sponsored and am offering only my opinions on any brand featured here.

Welcoming the New Year with an open heart

faith, Family, grief, Lucas, Toby

2016 will forever be the year that changed our lives. I have mixed emotions as we move into 2017, and am clinging onto the best pieces of 2016 for as long as I possibly can. The first seven months of 2016 could have been the happiest of my life. We found out we were pregnant with our second little boy in January. Found our first home in March that we purchased with all intentions of raising our “two under two” and beyond. Work was very productive and brought new opportunities and growth into a company, and team, that I am very lucky to be a part of.  On May 27 we welcomed Tobias Graham “Toby” into our family and are hearts overflowed with love. My delivery was much smoother than the first time around, and the recovery was even better. Healing from a c-section is definitely hard, but I was amazed at how much quicker my body went into recovery mode and I was able to rest easier and enjoy the first few weeks. Dan was done with school for the summer and would spend the next 11 weeks at home with me and both the boys. We moved into our house 1 week after Toby was born. It was nice to be in a place that finally felt like home. Where our family of four fit so well and into such a nice neighborhood. We spent the next two months doing things together as a family – going to the park in the evenings, taking walks in the neighborhood, going to the zoo, checking out the community pool. All together. It was the best summer we would ever have. Summer came to a close the second week of August as I went back to work full time and Dan went back into the classroom to prepare for the 2016-2017 school year. 

Wednesday, August 24, brought our world to a stop. Our beautiful baby boy, Toby, was ripped from our arms with no chance to say goodbye or no way to possibly prepare for the phenomenal shift that our lives would take. 

The last 18 weeks have been overwhelmingly dark, sad, lonely and empty. We have gone to hell, and it feels like we are only beginning to stand, before we start our climb to higher ground. More days have been consumed with anger and sorrow, than joy, but I have tried to hold onto the joyful moments for as long as I possibly can before hitting another landmine or falling back to my knees. 

There are many things, moments, situations that trigger enormous pain and cause my mind to shut down. Ones that a month ago did have this effect. This is what has been so hard. There is no way to prepare. Safeguard. Circumvent. I honestly never know. I feel as though I’m getting better at surrendering to these minutes, hours, days, and letting the grief take over. But each time hurts beyond belief. 

Som people have asked the past few weeks “are you ready for 2016 to be over?” My answer is “I don’t know.” 2016 holds my most beautiful memories of being a mother of two amazing boys and being able to hold them both in my arms and kiss them both goodnight. 2017 will surely have memories and milestones, but they will need to be ones where we find new ways to honor Toby and begin to heal. 2017 will also have months and days that we have to conquer that will hold memories from 2016 where we celebrated and prepared to welcome Toby to our family. Those are the times that, when I think ahead, scare me. 

A dear person in my life said something to me a few weeks ago when I was having a horrible day, “Kate, you and Dan have been through the absolute worst. There is nothing that can happen – that you can do or say, or that someone could say to you or about you guys, that could really be that important or worth the time of worrying about it. Nothing can be worse.” 

I’m going to take that statement and try to reflect on that and keep it center as we move into 2017. My focus will be on Lucas, Toby & Dan. Making sure we are OK and anything we do, we do together. Learning to say “no” to things because they are not right for me to take on right now or not what’s best for our family. Learning to focus on my relationship with my husband and letting our love continue to strengthen as it has through these last four months of tragedy. Working on our mission and vision for The Little Fox | Toby’s Foundation to honor our sweet angel. Trying to write daily, and to pull in pieces of the joy that we experience, so we can remember those as the years go by. Get back to reading frequently. I have a pile of books and pieces that have been given to us that I would love to get through. 

No doubt, 2017 will hold as much emotion and sorrow as the past few months have. My hope is that the prayers that we continue to send to Heaven each day, will reach the ears of God and the Blessed Mother and we will find ways to have more moments of peace and more ways to smile as we reflect on the number of memories that we have as a “family of four” from 2016. 

Wishing you all a very blessed and joyful 2017. ♥


Instagram #bestnine2016 – all our joy and heartache in one photo 

Taking Things Slow

Family, grief, loss, Lucas, Toby

So often we spread ourselves thin with the intention of greatness. We set goals and write “to-do” lists. Many times I run through the evening thinking about all the things to do tomorrow to find its bed time again. Over the past few months I have been making a conscious effort to make the evening time, time to spend with Luke. He is growing up so fast. His vocabulary is multiplying by the day and the things that he’s interested in playing, or watching or reading just amaze me. I want to be a part of that. If that means I become an expert at what Ryder, Chase, Marshall, Rubble, Rocky and Sky are doing, I’m okay with that. I want to remember all of this. And I want to really enjoy it.


It’s November 1. I really can’t believe that. I know everyone gets to November and says that, but I’m saying it for a different reason this year. It’s nearly three months since Toby left this earth. He will be six months old over the Thanksgiving holiday and seven months old right after Christmas. As much as I just talked about being present for Luke and enjoying those moments, these next eight weeks scare me. This will be one of the loneliest holiday seasons for Dan and me. How can we watch all the kids open presents and take pictures and open holiday cards and not just want to pull the covers over our head and cry until January?

I know I’ve said it before, but fall has always been my favorite season. So many fun things happen in the fall, but this year I’m just sad and angry. I’m sure people would say “you have a right to be” or “no one expects anything from either of you” but those statements make me angrier. I’m angry because I won’t experience Luke & Toby enjoying Christmas together, or Luke showing Toby his presents, or photos of our family of four – with Toby physically here. These feelings of anger have been consuming my days lately. I can let go of a little bit of the overwhelming feeling by writing and letting it out. But I can’t let it all go. Maybe it’s not the right thing to do, but we’ve been told by so many “there is no right thing now.”

Thinking of his beautiful blue eyes makes my throat tighten and my eyes well. Whenever I leave the house now, or do something out of routine, I find myself telling him where we’re going, or how long we’ll be gone “We’re just going to work today.” Or “We’re going outside to play with Luke – you can come too.” I’ve been told that he’s not in any one spot – he’s not in his room, he’s not at the cemetery, but maybe, for now, those are the places that I want him to be. The places I feel closest to him. The places I can talk to him and cry for him. The places that I can touch something of his or smell something that may still have a hint of his newborn smell on it. Right now that’s all I have to cling to – that some part of Toby is there – and that he knows where we are and what we’re doing and that we’ll never do anything without wishing he was there with us. Our family of four.