Chicago West Town Outdoor 1 Year Family Session

Where did this past year go? No, really. It literally feels like we were shooting Cal’s newborn photos last week yet here we are a full year later watching this dude take steps and eat veggie straws like a boss. It was so fun catching up with this wolfpack and seeing how much has changed in what seems like a blink of an eye.

We were only a few months pregnant this time last year and it makes us a little weepy that our little dude is almost 7 months old already. We got a preview of what life will be like for us in a few short months and can’t believe how mobile and interactive Cal is already. This kind of stuff makes us pause and have gratitude that we can document our kiddo as much as we do. And thankful that our clients treasure these moments and trust us to document them, too.

Chicago's First Lady Cruise Wedding

When we got an email in early July asking if we’d be available to shoot a non-traditional, intimate wedding on a boat in downtown Chicago in the next few weeks, we couldn’t believe our luck that we had that particular evening available in the midst of our crazy summer schedule—and that it was Annicka and Jef who were asking. We’ve all followed each other virtually for the past several years on social media, and Jeff had the pleasure of meeting them in person at a bike race a few years back (if you didn’t know, Annicka and Jef are both kind of a big deal in the bike world). So to have the opportunity to document one of their most important days was truly an honor. As an added bonus, the weather ended up being the nicest it had been all summer to make for a textbook perfect Chicago evening. If stars really could align, this day really was it.

While everything magically came together for us to be able to document their big day, just like life, wedding days usually come with some curve balls. And boy did these two experience some major ones. After a couple ear-splitting mic checks, our 100-foot boat nearly crashing into another when the captain was forced to take some evasive maneuvers to avoid killing some reckless kayakers, plus a few hecklers from the cheap seats at Dick’s Last Resort, these two shared some beautiful vows to each other in front of family, friends and anyone within earshot of the Chicago Riverwalk. While any one of those hiccups would make any bride and groom stressed to the max, Annicka and Jef remained incredibly calm, grounded and gracious—and rolled with every punch (or wave) that came at them. The rest of their evening went even better than they planned: they shared their first kiss near the Lake Street Bridge, ate delicious tacos, and danced the night away on a gorgeous Chicago summer evening. Oh, and there were fireworks. Can you really plan a wedding better than that?

The internet can be a really dark place but it can also bring so much light. Without it we would have never met this lovely couple who are even more authentic, kind and amazing in person than their already pretty awesome online selves.

Chicago Newborn Session

Amanda met Kayla and Andy when they were all working together at the Chicago Blackhawks 10 (!!) years ago. Since they parted ways, Kayla and Andy fell in love, got married, had a baby and they both still work for the team. It’s crazy how much has happened in the past 10 years, but it honestly felt like no time had passed when we finally reconnected. It was so great to catch up with these two and meet their newest addition to the family, Cal — who happens to be the most CHILL baby we’ve ever met. Literally let us do whatever we wanted (including a few outfit changes) and never made a peep. If we get half as lucky with our little dude we will be happy. These were just a few of the many images we loved from this session. We look forward to watching Cal continue to grow and to see these two thrive in this next chapter of their lives. Congrats guys, Cal sure is an incredible little dude. Thanks for letting us be a part of this exciting time of your lives!

What a Difference a Year Makes

We've said it so many times before, but it's crazy how fast kids grow up. We see it firsthand with our repeat clients and are always amazed when it seems like so much has changed in the blink of an eye.

We shot Cam's newborn photos when he was just a few months old last year and reconnected just in time for his first birthday. The difference between the last 10 months is pretty incredible. Considering he is now walking (fast!), talking and loved to swing his bat at anything in close proximity. 

While it's easy to keep pushing off documenting your kiddos' lives (we know, who has the time to coordinate when you're trying to keep another human alive?), it's so important to make it a priority because time sure is fleeting. We've heard from so many clients that they wished they had done this sooner because they blinked and their baby was completely different. 

We can't wait to see Cam continue to grow and how big he gets in another year. 

North Avenue Beach Chicago Family Session

If you've ever been to North Avenue Beach in Chicago during the summer, you know it's always insane. So many people, very little personal space, and zero quiet. At 7AM, however, it's actually surprisingly peaceful and the light is pretty darn perfect.

We weren't sure how we all would function that early, especially little almost-2-year-old Henry, but you'd never know from looking at these photos that he decided to sleep in that morning and had to be woken up to leave for the shoot (and if you have kids or have been around them you know this is usually NOT how you want to start their day off). Not only was Henry super well behaved (and so darn cute) but their dog Max was the star of the day. He never barked once or tried to run off, and often was ready in position without us even having to ask. 

Also, can we please talk about how Henry is already trying to be just like his active parents and was running on the path with his mom at the end of the session? He will be winning his first 5K in no time! 

Chicago Fullerton Beach Family Session

It seems like a lifetime ago when Amanda met Allison when they were both working for the Chicago Blackhawks. Three Stanley Cup Championships, a wedding, baby, so many memories and several years later, they reconnected when Allison reached out to book some family photos later this summer. Fast forward a few weeks later, and this session quickly became even more special when Allison learned they would soon be relocated to Minnesota.

Despite being in the middle of a big move, we luckily were able find time that worked to grab some photos in the city where they started their family and was their son's first home.

We wish you guys the best of luck in your next chapter and hope that our paths cross again soon! 

A Chicago Engagement Session

Christine and John were complete strangers before fate brought them together at a mutual friend’s going away party almost five years ago, and they’ve been inseparable ever since. It’s proof that really great things can begin at the end of another chapter—you just need to be open and let the universe do its thing.

This past December, the two took a trip to the most magical place on earth and John had a very special surprise up his sleeve. Christine, having zero clue a proposal was about to happen, insisted that they run around the Magic Kingdom to hit all of the rides before long lines formed. So John had to play it cool with her gorgeous ring chilling in his pocket. No sweat, right? Luckily the ring (and John!) survived all of the rides and he was able to keep it together long enough to pull off a perfect proposal in front of Cinderella's Castle. He even made sure there was a photographer there to document the moment (smart guy!).

They wanted a casual, relaxed engagement session at a few different spots around Chicago, including outside of The Chicago Theatre and around the Fulton Market/West Loop area, which was right in our wheelhouse. John is a beer lover, so obviously we had to swing by one of his favorite breweries, Goose Island's Fulton Street Tap Room, for a beer at the end of their session. If it's not completely apparent when looking through these photos, these two not only have a ton of love for each other, but were a blast to capture and hang with. We wish these lovebirds all the joy, happiness and love for their future together and are so grateful that we were able to document it for an afternoon. 

Not Your Typical High School Romance

You know what’s funny about fate? When it’s the right person, right place and right time in life — it will absolutely all come together. Ryan and Michelle both went to the same high school and likely passed each other several hundred times in the halls without even realizing it. And then fate stepped in several years later when their future careers would both bring them back to this very place where they would finally meet and fall in love.

Now that they’re already coming up on a year of marriage and have added two new members to the family, it seemed fitting to get a shoot in with the four of them. It was freezing but you’d never be able to tell from these photos — these two were pros in front of the camera and didn’t need breaks to throw on coats to warm up.

It was a nostalgic shoot for Amanda since she also went to high school there and has known Ryan for more years than she’d like to count (man, we’re old). Jeff also happened to go to the main rival for high school — and because we’re older and wiser (or just older), we didn’t share that tidbit with the couple until the shoot was almost over.

We couldn’t have pulled this shoot off without Amanda’s sister and brother-in-law. Not only did they help keep the pups in line but they also provided some comedic relief to break up the session and keep the smiles genuine. If you look really closely at some of the photos below you just may see them in the background on a few of these. Thanks again guys, we owe you more than a few Starbucks hot chocolates for this one.

Our Three Year Old Creative Director

See our awesome logo at the top of your browser? Ken designed that. He also helped us create our business cards that we love handing out to new clients. Oh, Ken can also draw literally anything you ask, and exceptionally well. So yeah, Ken is just a tad creative.

Collaborating with creatives is fun and inspiring, but it also adds a little extra pressure. Why? For starters, you know they really know their stuff and will be looking for certain details. Will they question our composition? Is everything we send them properly exposed? Is the color balance to their liking? But since Ken also happens to be a good friend, and his wife Kristin and son Aaron are super laid back and fun to be around, this shoot didn’t feel like work at all.

As we’ve mentioned on social media teasing this post, Ken is also a planner and picked out October 14 on the calendar months ago for his annual family photo shoot. As luck would have it, we had record-breaking rainfall in the Chicagoland area over that entire weekend, of course. Luckily the stars aligned and we were all free the following Saturday, and the weather ended up perfectly. We’re so glad we decided to wait it out — because as you can see from these photos it was well worth it.

Can we talk about Ken and Kristin’s adorable (and hilarious) kiddo Aaron for a second? Not only was he asking if he could show us his different modeling faces and escorted us around to numerous locations at the Greene Valley Forest Preserve, but he even asked if he could lean up against trees and lay down to get some different shots. And he’s only three! We couldn’t stop laughing at all the cute things he came up with. Maybe we should add him to our team as our Creative Director.

It was hard to pick out our favorites from this session to share on the blog, but we hope these truly tell the story of how much fun we all had. We also think there’s more than a few headshot worthy photos for Aaron to submit to modeling and acting agencies. And we know his parents agree: he’s way too cute NOT to share with the world.

 

Top 5 questions You Should Ask Before You Book Your Photographer

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We get it. Booking a photographer is a huge commitment. Not only are you trusting someone to document you in a good light, but you’re also investing some hard earned cash into these sessions. We fully understand. And we also think you should be selective when deciding who the best fit for you is when you book a session. 

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That’s why we’ve put a few of our top questions together that you should absolutely be asking when you’re looking to book your next shoot. Do we hope it’s with us? Of course. But we also want to be the right fit — like that fit your favorite pair of worn-in jeans gives you when your butt looks its best and you feel like you’re on the top of the world. And if that fit is not with us, we still want you to find it because we care that much about you and our work. So let’s dive in:

1.     What is your photography style?

This matters. A lot. We shoot in a photojournalistic style and like to capture moments as they naturally happen instead of forcing you to pose a certain way. But we know that’s not everyone’s jam. And that’s okay! You want to find the best possible match for you. Because not only are you going to have a much better experience, you’re also going to have photos you love. If you dig seeing the candid moments that our style produces, let’s chat! Otherwise, keep looking until you find a style that really speaks clearest to you personally. 

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2.     What is included with our session fee? 

We’ve seen it time and time again: “Only X amount for your photo session!” (But please ignore all the fine print about how we will hold these images hostage until you come into our studio and spend hundreds more to print these images and get a few files.) Yeah. That’s not our style. At all. Our session fees include all of your edited images in a high-resolution digital format for you to download and print at the place of your choice. Make sure you’re asking these important questions because you can end up spending way more than you thought you would with a mediocre to subpar end result that you’re not completely happy with. And who wants that? Certainly we don’t. And we really don’t want that to be your experience either. 

3.     Will you be my actual photographer? Or will it be one of your associates? 

This is also something that is super-important to ask upfront before signing any contracts. We both show up and document your sessions, no matter what type or kind. Because we ARE our brand and our business, and we want you to have the client experience you actually signed up for when you met with us initially. Why would you trust someone with some of your most important moments if you’ve never met, interacted with them or gotten a chance to see their work? You may think you’re saving some money by going that route, but trust us when we say it can be a huge mistake. As sad as this is, these people don’t actually care about you or the client experience. Don’t you want to invest in people who also invest fully in you and telling your story? Yeah, we thought so too. 

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4.     How long after my shoot will my photos be ready?

For lifestyle sessions we aim to deliver your photos in an online gallery 1-2 weeks after your shoot. For larger events and weddings, this time is increased to 3-4 weeks in order to ensure we have enough time to carefully edit and select your best photos from your day. Some places are so busy that it takes months, yes, months to deliver your photos back to you. Who wants to wait that long? While we understand having a ton of clients is a great thing for business, it’s not good for the actual client experience. You matter. You’re not just a number and your photos should be treated that way, too. At least we seem to think so. 

5.     How can I make sure to look good in my photos?

Duh. That’s what we’re here for: to capture your good side, best angles and you in all of your amazingness. You may not fully believe it, but you’re beautiful and deserved to be captured that way. You’re not just another client or a number to us. You’re a person, who deserves to be documented — and we will do our absolute best to capture you in your element. Your story deserves to be shared, and we want to tell it. 

So tell us, are you in? 

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Newborn Lifestyle Session at Home

We love getting outside to shoot for the fresh air, tons of natural light and the seemingly endless background options, but there’s just something so special about capturing families — especially new ones — in their spaces where they feel most comfortable as they adjust to their new normal. It allows us to document people and freeze time in a way that offers a peek into their routine and captures memories to return to for years to come — especially when they’re being made continuously but sleep is precious and elusive.

Our friend and client Adrianne (You may remember Adrianne from the sweet little family session we did a few months back with her and her son, Ethan) recently surprised her sister-in-law, Jaclyn, with a gift certificate for a newborn photo session for her birthday, as Jaclyn was to be due in the coming weeks and Adrianne wanted to give her and her brother, Tom, a priceless gift she would always remember.

After a few weeks getting adjusted to their new life with baby Cam, we spent a recent morning hanging out with the three of them in their home and were able to capture some great moments. Cam is clearly a natural in front of the camera already as you can see his personality already shining through despite us only spending a couple hours with the new family.

While people often worry a shoot like this is a lot to coordinate, these family sessions really are laid back and easy. We’re not interested in directing or pose you to perfection; we’ll offer some tips on the best places for great light, but we truly just want to hang out and capture real moments to help you remember this period of your life. Because as new sleep-deprived parents know, these days sure are a blur.

Want to give a priceless gift of your own or are ready to set up a shoot with us? We've got you covered. Shoot us an email at hello@28westcreative. 

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Educations in Hair Event: A Day on Bourbon Street

Imagine you're in the middle of planning your biggest event ever and after all of the details go out to more than 300 attendees there's a last minute venue change. And on top of that logistical nightmare, you’re already teaching on stage in front of hundreds of people while showing difficult hair demonstrations with a giant spotlight shining down on you. Not to mention your calendar leading up to this event is booked full with your regular hair clients, your other continuing education courses you’re teaching, your two kids and all of their summer activities, your four energetic rescue dogs with their needs, and — you know — you’re also attempting to have a life while you run and promote many other businesses in your industry. Yeah, talk about stress. Say it with us now: Girl Boss Mode.

Normally dark venues with zero options for natural light would have given us hives. But when Amanda's longtime hair stylist and friend Katie asked us to capture moments of her largest attended Educations in Hair show to date in the New Orleans Ballroom in Pheasant Run Resort we jumped at the chance (but knowing there would at least be that giant spotlight sure helped). There were times we had to get extra creative, like when we had to climb behind stage to sneak a few shots of the crowd through open curtains, but it was such a fun morning that flew by.

Katie has been in the hair industry for more than 15 years and is a true inspiration and leader in her field. Her passion for teaching and helping others was evident the moment people started to line up to check in. She greeted everyone with a warm smile and didn't let the stress of the day get to her at all. Not many people could hold it all together while trying to keep each attendee entertained. It's no wonder her shows sell out the way they do. This is just the beginning. We can't wait to see what she does next.

 

Our Top Tips for a Successful Lifestyle Photo Session with Us

If you haven't gotten to know us a little bit by reading our About Us page or following along on our Instagram account, give us a follow and get up to speed before resuming this post. Done? Okay, good. To recap what we can't stress enough: we aren't your cookie cutter photography team and we prefer to take a laid-back approach to our sessions to make sure you're comfortable and having a good time during our time together — because nothing is worse than forced, fake smiles that scream "I'd rather be anywhere but here!" We don't dig those and doubt you do either. 

So, we've outlined a few tips below to set you up for success for your next photo shoot with us.  

1. Act natural

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Because we take a photojournalistic approach to our photo sessions, we want you to forget we are there — or at least try. We know that sounds a little silly since you hired us to be taking your photos and all that. But the best moments are the ones where we capture natural interactions and emotions as if we were observing as a fly on the wall. So don't think that you all need to be perfectly posed and all smiling at the camera for your winning shot. While it may help break the ice and get you accustomed to the snap-snap-snap of our shutters, we're not going to force these out of you, and they're often our least favorite photos from our sessions. Our best photos are often toward the end of the session when you've warmed up, gotten comfortable and are just relaxed and having fun. And remember: it's our job to make you guys look good, so leave that up to us, relax and just be yourselves! 

2. Chose your clothing wisely

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We're often with our clients for an hour or two and we want you to be comfortable while we are taking photos. So please don't wear uncomfortable shoes or clothing that is going to make you want to leave 20 minutes into our session. Plus, when you're uncomfortable it reads on your face and will translate to your photos. Trust us. Dress comfortable, but leave the sweatpants for when you get home. Also, coordinated outfits are a great idea; matching ones — not so much.

3. Pick a setting or activity that helps tell the story

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Is there something you and your loved ones enjoy doing together? Great! Let's find a way to capture that. Instead of going to some random field you've never visited in your life and will never go back to, let's find a space that you visit together or incorporate an activity that you enjoy doing together on a regular basis. Capturing you all naturally interacting is where the magic truly happens. Have props you'd like to include somehow like an adorable puppy? Great — we can work with those, too. 

4. Have kiddos? Let them be, well, kids

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Chances are your kids aren't going to like being told what to do, especially if it involves cheesing for the camera. Relax. If your kid loves to run and has high energy — we will run right there next to them. Your kids don't have to be on a leash to get great photos. In fact, letting their little personalities come out to play will help us capture their true spirits and show the dynamic of your family. We build in extra time during these sessions so we can take breaks if needed. Make sure to bring their favorite toys and treats for bribes. Trust us, they work. Also, if you're relaxed, your kids will be too. So enjoy playing with them and leave the rest up to us. We've got this. 

5. Don't go down the Pinterest rabbit hole

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While Pinterest is an amazing place for inspiration — we use it for client boards and ideas before shoots — don't put too much pressure on yourself to make sure you can recreate the "perfect" shot that was likely captured with the help of a crew the size of a small army and a Hollywood budget. Also, comparison is truly the thief of all joy, and while it may make you feel a bit at ease to check out a few pins to send our way so we know the vibe you're going for, don't put pressure on yourself or your loved ones if you don't have access to a wardrobe stylist and a white sandy beach during golden hour while riding unicorns into the sunset. This is about us capturing you being yourselves. And when in doubt, refer to tip #1 and relax. We'll take care of the rest.

Have you joined our email list so that you keep up to date with cool insider stuff like what we're up to, exclusive invites to mini sessions and other special promotions? Click here to subscribe. We promise we won't spam you.

Haven't booked your photo session with us yet but you're finally ready to get this scheduled? Shoot us a message hello@28westcreative.com. We can't wait to hear from you. 

Weekend Getaway in Toronto

Amanda's day job recently sent her to Toronto for a professional development conference over a long weekend, which Jeff saw as the perfect excuse to tag along with his cameras to capture the Canadian locals and all that the great White North had to offer. Even though been dating for close to two years and living together for 9+ months we have never escaped on a trip all by ourselves. Yes really. Obviously this visit was long overdue and we couldn't wait to get some time alone together and to explore a new city. The poutine and Canadian beer are just as good — if not even better —  than they say, and those things alone are well worth the visit. If the food and drink aren't enough to draw you in, the people are so darn nice and the city is beyond safe and walkable. We literally only took an Uber once so we could visit Bellwoods Brewery  — well worth the 13CAD ride to get there. At the end of this short visit we found ourselves dreaming about never leaving, but we would miss our beloved pup, Walter, and working with our clients too much so we decided to return home. For now. If you're into good food + beer keep scrolling for a ton of photos from our trip and some solid recommendations if you ever find yourself in this amazing city. We can't wait to plan our trip back soon. 

Food + Drink Recommendations 

  • Bar Hop (both locations) — great selection of local craft beers 
  • Bellwoods Brewery — for brews and amazing food 
  • Tim Hortons — because, when in Canada (and really great coffee!)
  • Le Petit Déjeuner — for some great breakfast. Jeff highly recommends the croque madame 
  • Bannock— good for a quick bite, friendly staff and some tasty poutine 
  • Hunters Landing — get yourself a landing cure caesar and thank us later 

Things to See + Do Recommendations 

Adrianne + Ethan

Remember back to your first day at a new job and how incredibly nervous you were? What if you hated it? What if they figured out you were a total fraud and couldn't do what they hired you to? What if you didn't click with any of your new coworkers? Luckily for Amanda, none of those things was the case when she started her day job more than seven years ago and one of the first people she met on her very first day was an incredibly beautiful, friendly and hilarious girl named Adrianne. They quickly found out that they had the exact same weird sense of humor and became fast friends. Like, the kind of friends who actually like to hang out and talk all the time outside of work. 

Watching Adrianne become a mom to an insanely smart — he's three and knows what a rhombus is and can name more states than most adults — adorable, kind little human has been one of the most incredible things. He has grown from a tiny string bean to a boy full of energy in a flash. Adrianne handles the ups and downs of parenthood with such grace and it is truly a joy to watch her raise such a special kiddo. 

Before this session Adrianne had never had any professional photos captured with just the two of them. Yes, he's three — did we mention that being a parent and trying to coordinate this kind of stuff can be, well, challenging? We couldn't wait to jump at the opportunity to freeze moments while he's still small-ish and willing to hang out with his "auntie Panda" and some strange guy with a camera (sorry Jeff). We had a blast letting Ethan be a three-year-old boy who loves to run, play and explore. If nothing else these pictures show the love that these two share as well as the same adorable smile.

 

So thank you Adrianne for being such an incredible person and friend and thank you Ethan for sharing your morning with us and for being you. Before we all know it you'll be headed off to Harvard. 

A Special Bridal Session

When Jeff's little sister was to get married recently at picturesque Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois, aside from Jeff's ushering duties, we were tasked with simply enjoying ourselves and the moment on her special day — the photos were covered.

A couple weeks before the Big Day, however, Chelsea informed us that her photography team had back-to-back-to-back weddings that weekend (not a bad problem to have!) and wouldn't arrive in time to be able to grab anything of the bridal party getting ready in the morning. We were honored to be asked to jump in and ensure she had some memories of the quieter moments before being swept up in the whirlwind of the ceremony, family photos and the reception.

Tucked away in a windowless room far from where her groom-to-be could stumble across her before seeing her walk down the aisle, we shared memories, mimosas, laughs and a few tears as the girls got their makeup and hair done. And then we were off to our original task: enjoying ourselves and the moment. But we couldn't help snapping a few more photos along the way.

 

Tory's Summer Session

One of the coolest (and craziest!) experiences of our adult lives has been seeing our childhood friends have kids of their own. So when Amanda's childhood friend asked us to take a few family shots, we couldn't wait to get them in front of our cameras. Victoria is the perfect combo of both of her parents. When she makes a silly face — it's Lauren through and through. And just like that, she will give you a look that is exactly like her daddy, Brad. Our busy schedules aligned perfectly this past weekend and we were able to get a mini summer session in with the mini Tory, while she's still mini. It's crazy how fast 2017 has gone and how much this little one has already grown. I can't think of two better people to raise such a strong, smart, silly and sassy girl. Tory, you are so lucky and oh so loved. We hope you enjoy these shots from our session as much as we enjoyed snapping them. 

Niche Restaurant in Geneva

When a restaurant such as Niche, which is known nationwide for its wine list and stockpile of more than 200 whiskies in its bar program, is looking to update its website and get some fresh photos of its stellar menu, you drop what you're doing and race over.

Then you crack open a custom bottle of bourbon, pour it over some ice, take a few sips and sit back and click the shutter while the tasty treats are presented in some delicious light right in front of you.

The hardest part is picking the best photos, so you add them to your blog and share the wealth for others who couldn't be there can enjoy. We can't wait to get back!