Category Archives: Personal

Session Auction for St. Jude – Chicago, Illinois Photographer

My first love has always been running and there’s nothing I love more than when I can run for a good cause. I have wanted to do a St. Jude run for about 5 years now and this will be my year to join thousands of other runners and finally do it! For those of you who aren’t familiar with these runs, the main run is from Memphis, TN to Peoria, IL. Those who can’t participate in the Memphis run can do auxiliary runs in varying distances, the one I’m doing is 55 miles. It’s a relay style run and I plan on running as many of those 55 miles as I physically can (my real goal is around 30 miles. Yes, 30!!). In order to participate in this run, I have to meet a fundraising minimum of $1,000. As the overachiever that I am, I recently just raised my goal to $3,000 because I believe in the kindness and generosity of my friends, family, and fans. I know I can raise that much but I need your help.

I’m auctioning off a full portrait session to help me reach my goal. It would mean the world to me if you could bid on this session. If you can’t bid on it yourself or aren’t in the Chicago/Central Illinois area, PLEASE share this post with your friends and family. I won’t keep a dime from this session, all of the money will go to my St. Jude fundraising, which in turn helps make sure that families never receive a bill for their children’s treatment while at St. Jude.

Some important details not mentioned in the photo… this session must be redeemed before December 31st, 2015. You must reside in or be willing to travel to Chicago, Illinois, the surrounding suburbs, or the Central Illinois area for your session. The winner will make their payment directly to my St. Jude fundraising page, payments are fine but the full amount must be paid by May 1st or the session will be offered to the next highest bidder. This cannot be redeemed for weddings or boudoir. Please, please share this post so we can raise as much money as we can for these kids! Please visit my Facebook page to bid on this auction!

St. Jude Runs Photography Session Auction Chicago Illinois Photographer Fundraiser

10 things you may not know about me – Chicago, Illinois Wedding Photographer

Even if you don’t know me personally, you definitely know how passionate I am about weddings if you follow my work. I love everything about weddings – the details, colors, people, emotions, and most importantly, all the love and happiness in the air. Other than that, you may not know much about me. I know how important it is to get a glimpse into who is behind the camera and to learn a little bit about them personally. I hope this blog post helps you get to know a few quirky and fun things about me.

Photo by Christa Meola Pictures, Inc.

Photo by Christa Meola Pictures, Inc.

1. I’m a runner. I have been a runner since 8th grade. I’m not a very good runner, but I love it. I love pounding the pavement when I’m stressed, upset, happy, excited, or just need to clear my head. It’s my go-to for just about anything and it’s my favorite way to push myself to my limits. I have run 5ks, 8ks, 5 miles, two half marathons, and I’m just crazy enough to start training for the Chicago marathon this year. I’m completely terrified to do it which is exactly why I’m going to 🙂 I also signed up to run my very first St. Jude run this August which I’m really pumped about.

Photo credit to Terrence Blount

Photo credit to Terrence Blount

2. I am completely obsessed with Pinterest! I pin everything – home decor, beautiful photographs, quotes, places I’d love to visit, running clothes, work outfit ideas, and most importantly recipes! I think 90% of the recipes I’ve made in the last few years have been from Pinterest. You can check out all my fabulous pins here.

3. I absolutely LOVE to cook but I am a terrible baker. Although I do have a pretty large board on Pinterest devoted to delicious looking cookies and cakes that I will never make haha! (See, told you I pin everything!)

4. I was a military spouse for 5 years. My husband was in the Army and we lived in 3 different states together in those 5 years. It was during that time that I started my career as a photographer and photographed mainly military families for my first 2 years. I have the utmost respect for the spouses and family members of active duty military members and veterans. They sacrifice so much and are the strongest people I’ll ever know. I have made friendships with military families that I know will last throughout my life.

5. I have two VERY WILD children, two boys, each born in a different state. They keep me on my toes and teach me a lot about myself. Being a parent can be totally frustrating but it’s the most amazing journey I’ve ever been on. They make me laugh hard, love deeply, shake my head, can frustrate me to no end, but most of all they make me appreciate the little simple things in life and help me to slow down and keep seeing the world through their wonder-filled eyes.

Chicago Illinois Kid Photographer

6. I’m a warm weather girl. I could wear flip flops year round. I absolutely HATE being cold. If it were up to me, it could snow on Christmas and then be a minimum of 75 degrees and sunny the rest of the year.

7. I love to read. My favorite books include Water for Elephants, The Fault in Our Stars, Unbroken, The Hunger Games series, Night, Memoirs of a Geisha, and any book by Vince Flynn.

8. I went to NYC for the first time in June of 2014 and the most important thing for me to do was to see Ground Zero. I always knew that if I ever went to NYC, I would have to see it. It’s true what they say about it – the loud hustle and bustle of New York quiets down as soon as you get close. There’s a stillness in the air. I went with my best friend the first day we were there, right as the sun started to set. We wandered around separately and silently, just taking it all in. There’s a certain ache you feel, even so many years later, as you pay your respects to those taken too soon in such an awful senseless way. I don’t think any amount of time can pass that I won’t feel that ache and burning anger in my heart for what happened on 9/11.

Ground Zero NYC

9. I’m VERY tall. 5’10” to be exact. I never wear heels, mainly because it makes me a giant but also because I’m incredibly clumsy and would probably break a leg.

10. I buy myself flowers. All the time. I think there’s nothing fresher for the soul than a beautiful and colorful bouquet of flowers around me – in the kitchen, in my office, but most importantly in my Waterford crystal vase that was given as a gift at our wedding. It’s absolutely beautiful and needs to be full of beautiful flowers as often as possible.

Photo by Christa Meola Pictures, Inc.

Photo by Christa Meola Pictures, Inc.

So there you have it. 10 random facts about me that hopefully help you get to know me a little better. Have any questions for me that you want answered? Ask away!

My 3 favorite things about photographing weddings – Chicago, Illinois Wedding Photographer

I have a crazy love for photographing weddings. I see your wedding day like a blank book and I love filling the pages with beautiful photos of your story. There are so many things that I absolutely love about being a wedding photographer but these three things definitely stick out in my mind whenever I’m asked about it.

3. The Variety – Weddings are the only type of ‘session’ that I can capture just about everything all in one shoot. Anything from jewelry, venues, table centerpieces, people of all ages, flowers, shoes, clothes, landscapes, and can be indoors and outdoors or on the ground or rooftop deck. I really enjoy the variety and it keeps me challenged creatively all day. I have to say that I love it all – the closeup shots of rings, flowers, jewelry, wedding invitations and all the other tiny but beautiful details of your day, the group portraits of your bridal party and families, the photos of just the two of you, the emotional and candid moments, everyone bustin’ a move on the dance floor, the gorgeous colors you have chosen to complement your day, your bridal party getting ready for the day, your cake, and I honestly love photographing it all!

2. The Atmosphere – As a photographer who is completely in love with candid moments, it doesn’t get much better than a wedding 🙂 I absolutely thrive in weddings because inspiration surrounds me – smiles, laughter, genuine happiness and love. Beautiful moments are happening all around me and I am able to capture them one after another. I even get caught up in the moments myself – smiling at your love and affection, wiping a tear so I can see clearly to capture the emotional moment, and bouncing around to the beat of my favorite song on the dance floor in between snapping photos 🙂

Hotel Baker Wedding, Wedding Photography, Weddings at Hotel Baker

1. The Couple – I may be a little biased when I say this but I seriously have the very best couples! My favorite part of the whole wedding process, hands down, is meeting with the couples in person. I love to sit back, listen to their story, but most of all I love to just watch them. I love seeing their personalities come out as they laugh together and tease each other about how they met or how he/she proposed. It’s fun for me to see their personalities and energy and it gives me a glimpse into how their wedding day will play out. My biggest hope is to walk out of a wedding consultation feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I don’t want them to feel like they have a stranger following them around on their wedding day. I want them to feel like I’m just another friend tagging along, laughing with them, and documenting their day in in the most beautiful and personal way.

Monastero's Wedding, Same Sex Wedding, Chicago Wedding Photographer

I would love to set up a time and place to meet with you and talk about your wedding. I get sooo excited about weddings and I can’t wait to hear from you!

10 qualities that will make you an amazing photographer – Chicago, Illinois – Portrait and Wedding Photography

1. Relate to people well. Being a photographer is such a people centered job. You absolutely have to be able to talk comfortably with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds as you with different life experiences as you. If you aren’t easy to get along with and likeable, you won’t be hired. Simple as that. You have to be outgoing, communicate well, and be a good listener.

2. The desire to learn. I think if I really sat down and counted, I probably learn or come across about 20 things a day that I can apply to my business. It can be a new way to present something on my website, how to force yourself to blog consistently (ahem!), a tutorial on how to take better macro shots, finding a new location for an upcoming session, discovering fun new marketing or branding ideas, researching traditions in a wedding you know nothing about so you can talk intelligently with a bride about her culture, coming up with new fun products for your clients, looking into bridal expos – no matter what it is, you have to constantly want to be on top of things.

3. The ability to bounce back. Failures and missteps are going to happen and you have to not only expect it, but be okay with it. It’s the only way to grow. A lot of this type of business comes from trial and error because you’re a one-person show. Nobody is there to show you the right way and nobody knows what will work for you best except for you. Your success is a direct result of you. Nobody is out there marketing for you, working on your website for you, writing your emails for you. Your passion and people skills will bring you success.

4. Having thick skin. Maybe you were born with thick skin, and that’s awesome, but if you weren’t then you had better grow some quickly. In case you haven’t noticed, there are some rude people in the world who will troll your FB page or website and leave nasty comments for you and the whole world to see. They will leave unsolicited advice and critiques on work that you are proud of and try to tear you down. Why? Who knows. But you better believe it will happen. Another reason you’ll need thick skin is all the disappointments you’ll have. Clients won’t hire you, work that you submit for publication won’t be selected, images that you love will fall short of amazing in other people’s eyes. You just have to believe in yourself and know that someday it will all be worth it.

5. Never settle with yourself. Always improve. There is always something you can add to your arsenal and endless topics to educate yourself on. Never allow yourself to be satisfied with what you create, always strive for improvement. Try to keep yourself ahead of every other photographer out there. I found that the longer I did this, my work evolved into a totally different style than I ever anticipated. It wasn’t even a conscious thing, it was almost like my eye was trained to see what truly beautiful work was and I strived to be able to achieve that.

6. The ability to see your work objectively. This kind of ties in with number 5, but if you don’t take some time every now and then to evaluate your work and your business model, you’ll be stuck in limbo. You won’t get worse, but you won’t get better either. It’s also refreshing sometimes to compare yourself to yourself. Find some images from when you first started out and put them side-by-side with work you just recently shot. Seeing your improvements or your change in style in a tangible way is incredibly powerful.

7. Ask for help. You can always find someone out there who has been doing this longer than you who is willing to take you under their wing. Not every photographer is crazy competitive. There’s plenty of photography groups I have joined with incredible networking opportunities and endless amounts of advice and support. Look around and put yourself out there. You might be surprised how many photographers will be happy to help. For every photographer that won’t help, there’s TONS out there who want to help raise the bar for photography and help educate other photographers. Just don’t think and act like you already know everything there is to know. Nobody likes a know-it-all and it puts you in a bad place because we all need help, nobody knows it all.

8. Being able to create and capture a moment. When I first started out in photography, the technical stuff was awful. I wasn’t artsy at all and I actually shot on auto! But what stood out to me and to my clients about my work was that I could capture a moment. This ties in with my first point, but it is essential that you can interact with your clients in a way to ease out their natural smiles and laughter and have them also interact with each other in a real way. The technical stuff will come in time, but if you can be present enough to anticipate great reactions and emotions, and get people to feel comfortable around you, then you will go a long way in this business.

9. The drive to succeed. You have to be able to visualize your end results. Set goals, re-evaluate them as needed, and then set higher goals. Push yourself to be the best you can be.

10. PASSION! If you’re not passionate about this type of work, you’ll never make it. Simple as that. You have to really truly love creating beautiful images and use that love to fuel you past all the struggles you will come across.

Reflecting back on 2014 – Chicago, Illinois – Maternity, Child, and Family Photographer in the Chicago suburbs

As 2014 comes to an end, I can’t help reflecting back on all the amazing people I’ve met and worked with throughout the year. I am so thankful for all of my clients and fans who support me in every way. 2014 truly was an amazing year for me in so many ways. I’m sad to see it end but so very excited for 2015 to see what’s in store for me! Here is my 2014 in review:

Chicago Illinois photography family photographer kid toddler and children photography in Illinois

Happy New Year to all of you!