Sunday, September 2, 2018

Danielle and Luke: a Most Magical Save the Date Session!

Luke and Danielle first met when they were both team members working on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction at Universal Orlando. Fast forward to today, when they're happily engaged and busy planning for their 2019 wedding! It always tickles my fancy when I find a couple who met and fell in love while working in the theme parks; I don't know why, but it warms my heart when I hear stories like theirs, and when Danielle contacted me and asked if we could shoot their engagement portraits in the Wizarding World, I gave her an enthusiastic YES! So, last week, we went back to Hogwarts, hitting a few of Danielle and Luke's favorite spots in and around castle and the Hogsmeade high street, and we made some save the date session magic.

Danielle brought her wand along for the day, and I couldn't resist the chance to take a cool shot of her beautiful ring with the wand and her Alex and Ani "Always" bangle bracelet. Ring shots are always tricky, but I love how this one came out!

After a few more stops and a quick wardrobe change, we headed over to Universal Studios for a couple photos in some of their other favorite places around the resort.

I'm loving how the first set from Luke and Danielle's portraits came out and can't wait to show off the rest. To the happy couple, thank you for allowing me to help you with such a fun and magical session! Congrats and love to you both!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Very Important Question

I love my job every single day. But some days and some sessions just kick things up a notch, and last Sunday was one of those sessions.

I was contacted a handful of weeks back by a gentleman named Brandon,. I had been recommended to him by a mutual friend of ours who is also a client of mine. (Thanks, Lex!) Brandon wanted to secure my services for a large family portrait; he told me the number of people, said that the whole family (most of whom don't live in Orlando) was going to be in town for his mom's 60th birthday, and then told me there was a twist: “My brother is also planning on proposing to his girlfriend during the portraits. It's a big surprise for her of course; we all know about how he's planning this, and we want to have photos of the whole family together but of the moment when he asks her to marry him, too. Is that something you'd be able to do?” I said of course, and we got the date and time sorted out.

From there, Brandon took a step back and I got in contact with his brother Craig, and like sneaky sneaky ninjas, we began emailing, texting, and calling back and forth and began to work out the rest of the details, locations, and logistics in preparation for the big day without tipping off his girlfriend Ilyssa..

After lots of planning, some fretting and coming up with 'just in case' back-up locations because the weather looked as if it was going to be rainy the day of the session (of course), and working it out to make sure our 'shot list' for the day would work down from the big group shots to the families to smaller groupings and finally the couples so we could end on Craig and Ilyssa, the day of the portraits finally arrived. Brendan and I got to the park the family had chosen for their session, met everyone, and got started. As far as Ilyssa knew, it was just a portrait session, and she was none the wiser.

After about an hour of having fun shooting all the different combos for their 'family portraits', we finally meandered over to the spot where he was to propose, the beautiful and dramatic exedra at Kraft Azalea Gardens. I had deliberately isolated and photographed every couple in the family in and around this area, ending every interaction with some variation of, "Okay, we got some great photos, is there any other pose or anything else you'd like to try while we're shooting just the two of you?" so that it wouldn't appear odd when I said that to Craig and Ilyssa. Finally it was their turn. I took a few cute posed photos of them looking at the camera, changed the angle and position a time or two, had them kiss, etc etc etc. Finally, I said, "Okay guys. These are awesome. Do you have any other ideas for what you'd like to do?"

She shook her head, turned to stroll away, and said, "No, I think those will be good."

I made eye contact with Craig and he had this look on his face like he was thinking, "Alright, it's time, let's DO THIS". And as she walked away, he said to her, "Hey Ilyssa, how about this?" And dropped to his knee.

She turned around. Saw him on one knee with the ring in his hand. Gasped and started shaking.

It was, in a word, perfect.

Of course, she said yes. And they had a cute funny moment where he said, “Okay, you can put it on” (meaning the ring), and she laughed and replied, “No, YOU have to put it on me!” So he slipped her beautiful ring on her finger, and they embraced, both smiling from ear to ear.

Craig's family had been there to witness it, of course, and they clapped and cheered.

But wait. It gets even better.

When we were in the planning phases, Craig told me that he was going to have Ilyssa's mom and dad there to see the proposal, but that she would have no idea about this, either. So after he asked her to marry him, and as they were smiling, kissing, and hugging...her mom and dad ran out from the spot where they'd been hiding and watching and tapped her on the shoulder.

She turned around, saw her parents, shrieked at the top of her lungs and began jumping up and down, absolutely floored and giddy.

Hugs and laughter and tears of joy were abundant, and once everyone had a chance to calm down, we did a few more group portraits and included Ilyssa's sweet parents as both sides of the family celebrated the happy occasion, then we ended on some photos of just the newly engaged couple.

From start to finish, this was one of those sessions that just made me feel so grateful that I get to do what I do for a living, that I get to help families in their happiest moments, and that I get to be a part of things like this. I don't take that lightly and I'm always honored when I get to help out with something this important. (And Craig: you totally knocked it out of the park, my friend. This was the perfect proposal in every way!)

Congratulations, Craig and Ilyssa! We are so incredibly happy for you and so delighted we were able to help with the proposal. And to the entire Ettelman family, thank you for a joyful session with your beautiful family. It was truly a pleasure and I hope you enjoy the photos for years to come!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Fortune Favors the Bold

Fortune favors the bold.

It’s what I say to myself whenever I need a kick in the pants, when I'm hesitating on something, or when I'm about to plunge into water, be it dark, deep, mysterious, or most often, just really really freakin' cold. And I said it to myself two years ago today, when I pulled the trigger and bought my very own underwater photography gear.

I had dabbled with the underwater photography thing before this, but I had always rented the gear and had never gathered the nerve to take the plunge (ha ha, water joke) and make the substantially expensive investment of buying the equipment for myself. It wasn't a small amount of money and it's kind of a niche type of photography, so while I've always been really at home in the water, and while I'd long admired underwater photography, I hadn't seriously thought of pursuing it. Cut to January of 2016; my friend Jessica Dunbar, an amazing artist who I admire, asked me if I would help her with a series of paintings she had in mind by shooting reference photos of models underwater for her. That lit a fire under me, because I wanted to do a good job for her, even though I said to her very plainly at the meeting where we first talked about it, "I've done some underwater, but not very much. I might suck at this." (She laughed and told me she had faith in me.) We planned dates and locations and worked together to find our first set of models, and the Mermaid Project was born. Two years ago today, after our first couple of mermaid/underwater modeling days and after renting the equipment multiple times, I finally decided that I wanted to buy the housing and own it for myself, which would open up a whole new world for me and a new focus for my business.

So I sat down in my office, fired up my computer, and I priced it all out.


I hemmed and hawed. A lot. Then I hemmed and hawed some more. Finally, I went down the hall to Brendan’s office, totally freaked out, and told him what I had planned and illuminated for him the decently large amount of dollars it was going to take. I finished talking and waited, thinking he would laugh at me or tell me that it wasn't a good idea. But, in keeping with his title as Best Husband Ever, and true to his constant unblinking support of everything I do, and in line with his calm and steadfast encouragement when it comes to my various wacky schemes and cockamamie business ventures, he grinned and said, “Do it. I know you and you can get really good at this, and if you own the equipment, you'll have the freedom to really go for it and not be stuck having to rent it whenever you want to shoot underwater stuff. Just go order the equipment before you talk yourself out of it.”

So I cried a little, and then I ordered it. And right as I went to the final order review screen, I whispered to myself,

"Fortune favors the bold"

and I hit "complete order". Boom. Done.

I haven’t regretted it. Not for a second.

I get that two years might not seem like much, but I feel like the pressure I have put on myself to make this whole thing worth it has been...well, worth it, I guess? I feel like I’ve grown pretty darn fast in this realm. Am I the best? Heavens, no. I have tons of room to grow in this and it has been the most challenging thing I've attempted in my career thus far. I am really really hard on myself, but it feels like this is paying off, and I think (I hope?) that I'm continuing to make my clients feel gorgeous and that I'm keeping them happy. As much as I have my own nagging self doubt and for as many times during learning and experimenting with shooting underwater that I've said to myself, "man, this is harder than I thought it would be", I have a lot that makes me want to keep going. I have a growing influx of lovely folks who want to book me for their own aquatic adventures. I have constant inspiration from Jessica and her art, and whenever she gets started on a painting based on a photo I've given her, I sit here thinking, "Hey! I helped!". Moreover, I am beyond lucky to have the fervent, funny, and unwavering support from my own little Mermafia; they lend me their faces, tails, pools, and participation when I need to test new equipment or add to my portfolio, they're always down for an adventure out into the wilds of Florida, and maybe best of all, they never complain or hesitate when it comes to diving right into the water with me, even when it's so cold that it makes all of us go, "Whyyyyyy are we doing this? We could have stayed up on the deck where it's warm!!!" And of course, I have Brendan, who never questions me or lets me question myself. He's always there to remind me that things will be okay when I’m doubting myself and that I need to quit fretting and just let things flow.

TL: DR; underwater photography is sometimes scary, always challenging, and super rewarding, and I’m addicted now. Because, damn, y'all, more than anything? It's just ever so much fun.

Life is the bubbles and I'm a lucky lucky girl.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Website Updates, Memory Lane Trips

I've been working on updating my website over the last week after a refresh on my gallery pages that my super awesome and incredibly talented web designer Erick did for me to improve how the site loaded on mobile. (If you're in need of a web designer extraordinaire, give me a shout and I'll happily supply you with his contact info; he's the best!) Anyways, as I worked on getting my galleries full and pretty again, I came across more than a few images from years ago that I still like. This made me feel pretty good, because I'm notoriously hard on myself and very critical of my own work. Seeing a few oldies but goodies was a nice little surprise as I was working and sorting out what needed to go into my new and improved gallery pages.

I know I can say with confidence that anyone who works in any sort of creative field would agree when I say that going through older work is sometimes cringe-worthy; very often when we look back at where we were skill-wise a handful of years ago, those of us in the artistic disciplines want to cry, rip our eyes out, drink a gallon of vodka, or all of the above. So to find a handful of images from back when I was really just getting this machine that is RSP fired up that I still like made me feel pretty darn good. Also, giant shout-out to my clients who were so willing to help me as I got up and running back then; a lot of them are still with me now, still trusting me to capture the important stuff in their lives, and that's no small thing.

Here's to progress, to revisiting some old favorites, and to the realization that even though I'll never stop being my own sharpest critic, sometimes it's nice to look back. It lets me see how far I've come and also helps me to appreciate that even when I was just getting things figured out, I got lucky with a few shots here and there. Onward and upward, friends, but enjoy a few of my recently unearthed faves from the archives. Here's hoping you are well as we all dive into spring!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Surf and Turf

We're coming up to the end of our first contest of the year, Surf and Turf. I'm so stoked to be able to give out not just one but TWO free sessions as we get into 2018! For this contest, one lucky winner will be selected for the 'surf', scoring an underwater session, and our second recipient will be chosen for the 'turf' regular portrait session. I can't wait to see who wins...we'll be doing the random drawings for both sessions tomorrow evening!

Want to try your luck and enter to win? Just drop us a line at or send us a message on our Facebook page ( and let us know if you're entering for surf, turf, or both. You can't win both but you CAN enter for both and double your chances of being selected for one or the other! Just make sure your entries are in by 11:59pm on Friday February 2nd and you'll be in the drawing!

Questions? Give us a shout, and good luck to all who have entered!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Seasons Greetings!

Hello from holiday central, AKA my office! We're crazy busy and loving it, working hard to get caught up on our holiday season sessions, Santa minis, and weddings. I'll be sharing more images from our recent weddings and sessions as soon as I can, but just wanted to pop in and update since it's been a while in between blogs. So, hi! Hoping you and yours had a great Thanksgiving and that you're enjoying the holidays so far!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tyler and Trish: Married!

Put the finishing touches on this sweet couple's wedding gallery this week; Tyler and Trish are a truly adorable pair, and it was so fun to be with them for their spring wedding at the gorgeous Lake Mary Events Center. LMEC is one of my favorite venues for weddings in the Orlando area, and the wedding celebration of the new Mr. and Mrs. Lahman was a day to remember.

The weather was perfect for Trish and Tyler's lakeside ceremony; not a cloud in the sky.

Being able to meet and work with Tyler and Trish's family and friends was so much fun, and their wedding party kept us laughing all day!

Tyler and Trish are so perfectly suited for each other, and I absolutely love how their post-ceremony photos turned out. Their smiles look so genuine because they are...both of them were grinning from ear to ear as they reveled in the fact that they were finally husband and wife!

As the sun began to set over the lake, it was time to head inside the gorgeous grand ballroom at the Lake Mary Events Center for the reception!

The love that Tyler and Trish's families have for them was so evident, and their father-daughter and mother-son dances were wonderfully heartfelt displays of this.

Once the music kicked into high gear, the party was in full swing. This couple and their friends know how to light the dance floor on fire!

It was a delightful, joy-filled, wonderful day from top to bottom, and we were so glad to be a part of it. Tyler and Trish, here's to your happily ever after, and thanks again for allowing us to be with you as you said I do!