My By He{art} Family

My By He{art} Family

Have you ever just felt so moved by something, you had to just push all doubts and fears aside (at least in the moment you hit “enter”) and just jump in? Well…that’s sort of what has lead me where I am now. First, I’m thankful for all the jumping I did last year!! I am so humbled by the various features in numerous photography communities and even more so humbled by all of the sessions I’ve been able to capture this past year!

A few weeks ago, however, I jumped a bit differently. Probably a little awkward, and I stumbled a bit. And thankfully, I had a friend with me for the free fall! Recently, there has been a surge of photography communities start up, and though I appreciate being a part of those communities, none have made me feel more sure about about the group’s vision than By He{art}. Founded by the AH-MAZING artists, Jennifer Franzin and Holly Awwad, they have a vision to offer tips, competitions, advice & critique for aspiring photographers. Do you know how amazing that is? In an industry filled with competitors, these two lovely ladies want to help. They want to support and encourage other artists find their own style, learn new techniques, and create a place where artists feel welcome to share. As a member of this community, even before becoming a contributor, I was welcomed with open arms and didn’t feel continually overlooked. That’s not an easy feat with so many talented artists out there!

A bit about my new family…Jennifer Franzin is also the artist behind Pretty Pixels Photography. I’ve been admiring her work from afar (literally…she’s in Canada!)…each time an image of hers pops up, especially her gorgeous landscapes and nature scenes, I am envious of how she captures just the right light and gorgeous composition. And, it’s not often I can say this, but her images make me wish I was living up in Canada with all that beauty and snow! But chatting with her has been so wonderful. She is just as kind as she is talented, and watching her desire to help others grow is so inspiring.

Sweet Holly Awwad. Do you know how many times I’ve seen her images in my newsfeed, and my jaw just dropped?!! I can picture at least a dozen images (any more and she might think I’m insane), clear as day, that I am in love with of Holly’s! Sunlight, shadows, nature, children, composites…she conquers all. And so, so beautifully. She owns her style and you can feel the emotion in her captures. I may or may not have been a secret stalker before finally…finally pushing the send button to actually chat with her. Ummm…as if that wasn’t hard (and intimidating enough) she’s ridiculously kind and generous. She lifted me up when my spirits were really, really low about my work. I am still a bit in awe of how we can just chat now…though her images are gorgeous (really, go check!) her heart is somehow even more beautiful. She didn’t have to be that kind to me…really, she could’ve blown me off or told me “better luck next time”…but, she didn’t. She WANTED to go above and beyond to help me. That probably sold it for me…I had to ask.

Back to free-falling with my friend. So, last year, maybe around April?, I connected with an amazing photographer, and how it happened, I’m not totally sure, but I know a good part of it was her sweetness. She took the time to message me, (she didn’t have to!) and then…a friendship formed. It was actually through another photography community – one that I likely would have been too intimidated to post to without this type of real kindness! And now, she can’t get rid of me!! Ha! If you don’t know who I’m talking about, it’s the generous and seriously over-talented Nikki Smith of Nikki Smith Photography. The creativity in how she knows she can capture an image blows me away!! She can make ANYTHING look amazing. A simple light bulb becomes dazzling with her. A candy coated hand is a work of art. Give her the challenge to take a picture of toys or books…you’ll get so much more! No snow in Jacksonville…no problem for Nikki…she’ll just create it. I could go on and on…oh and I will. Beach scenes. Mesmerizing.

Back to By He{art}…a connection was made, I jumped in heart in hand, hit enter, and somehow, Nikki and I are By He{art} Family Members…and we are so, so blessed! Jenn & Holly are so uplifting, and spared no detail in rolling us out to the community in style! We are so excited! Here are a few images from our official rollout teasers!!

It was a 6 day teaser stretch, and I loved it!

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And this was our Big Reveal…January 13th…I had to screen shoot it so I got the sweet words too!! I LOVE how our images look together!! I’m so, so thankful and blessed to be a part of this amazing photography community, and even more so blessed by these friendships!

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Now, have you been to By He{art} yet?!! If not, here’s a link. Go, like, share…and enjoy this amazing community of encouraging and inspirational artists!
By He{Art}

And if you aren’t on Facebook, no worries, you aren’t missing too much (well…maybe) — but we still have a link for you!

Sweet Baby {J} – Newborn

Sweet Baby {J} – Newborn

Oh my goodness. First, I’m not certain there is a sweeter family out there! I am so thankful to have met this gorgeous Mommy and her handsome boys through a referral from another amazing family and client! I can honestly say I have the best clients (now friends!!) and I’m so grateful that I get to be the one to capture these priceless memories for them! What a blessing. I was welcomed into this sweet family’s home, and I was very impressed with how well they had this sweet little guy’s schedule down perfectly! I always knew how much time I would have to get certain shots and when we needed to break, which was awesome. I loved that Dad was involved and happy to be loving on his sweet son just as much as mom, and that you can see it in his face. It’s such a beautiful time, and I love knowing that these parents are soaking in every second!

We had to incorporate some soccer…

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THAT FACE!!! Oh my goodness…he’s adorable! Which reminds me, I need to visit this little guy soon!

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Now, I’m not saying you “can’t” capture these without a professional photographer, but I do think that these precious detailed captures with Mom are worth considering hiring one…just sayin’. And by the look of his sweet face, I think Baby {J} agrees with me!

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I try to remind my clients to have something to “size” baby with…for 3, 6, 9 and 12 month pictures, but then yearly. It’s always a precious memory – believe it or not, after 9 … oh, 10 (TEN) years of Motherhood (this week…my oldest turned 10!)  you forget a bit how little they really were. And although I would LOVE to do these milestone images for your families, what’s most important is that they get done. Even in the crib with a quick cell picture (although I slightly cringe at saying that!)…it’s better to do a few a year than not to have them! But really…I don’t mind doing these too. Because cell phone pictures as priceless memories really just don’t do the memories justice!

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For the love. Look at this gorgeous family!

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Someone knows he’s loved, but Daddy and Grandma, too!

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I may have done a few more images than usual in this blog post…but seriously. Look at that face! I couldn’t help myself!

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Thank you so much, M, C and J for letting me capture these first images of your beautiful family together, in your home. I’ll always treasure that time with you, and I hope you do as well!


Bradwell Family – Fall 2015

It’s not everyday I get asked to capture a beautiful Mama and her handsome young men sons, but I was able to do just that this gorgeous fall afternoon! Of course, it was a little warm down here in Alabama, so we had to embellish the “cool fall” feel! Thankfully, they humored me, and we all made it work!

Looks a bit like Mama raised these boys right!! And, trust me on this…she did! Got lots of yes ma’ams…which, yes, made me feel a little old! Ha!

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Brothers. Love it!

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Sometimes I just *need* to add some black and whites to the mix…


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Love them…such a beautiful family…

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Occasionally, we invite some very special extra members to our sessions. And this is totally fine with me! Especially with that gorgeous light beaming down on them.

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Seriously, y’all. Could they be any sweeter?! And another one of those times where choosing color OR black and white wouldn’t do…I had to have both!

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I don’t exactly know what’s in store for this beautiful couple, but I think it’s safe to say that happiness will be a part of it…


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And simply because we had a blanket and these two looked pretty cozy…
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Thank you so much for letting me capture these memories for you!! I had so much fun with y’all!

Tremel Family – Fall 2015

Tremel Family – Fall 2015

I’m not sure we could have asked for a more beautiful afternoon, or a more beautiful and fitting location for this Southern feeling fall session! I love it when I get to meet new families and we can hang out and just enjoy our session together! This family is so fun…and seriously, when they stepped out of the car, it looked like they’d be a perfect fit to model for a magazine! Lucky me…I get to capture this time for them!

Seriously…magazine cover come to mind?!! 
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Oh this sweet girl!! Love her sweet face and those eyes!


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Of course little brother didn’t let his sister have all the attention!

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Oooooh…those kisses! Love them!


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Can you see these is an amazing gallery collection on their wall?!! I totally can!

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Happy New Year, Tremel Family! And thank you for letting me capture these memories!

Kinard Family – Fall 2015

Oh goodness…how my photography soul needed this sweet, urban Montgomery family session! I have been so accustomed to having clients want a “Southern” tone about their images, so I’ve been on the hunt for open fields with gorgeous sunsets or water-surrounded areas with Spanish Moss coming from the trees, or cotton fields! But this sweet family wanted something a bit more personal this year, as more of a keepsake of their time here in Montgomery. And, well, it helps that they let me capture them with a tire swing and water at sunset last year!

We agree to meet in downtown Montgomery, with no real expectation of how it would go…we both knew we could make it work wherever our walk led us! And we found the perfect area, and I am so excited about how these images turned out! Thoughts? Would you love an urban session?! After doing this one…I’m convinced this one is up on my list now too!

Could this precious little girl be any cuter?! And that brother of hers…so, so handsome with those amazing baby blues! And he knows how to use them, complete with gentlemanly charm! Last year, he gave me a memento of our session…a wildflower that he picked for me (you can see last year’s session here: )! Love him!

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Love, love, love. So, so precious!

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For the love, this little boy!! He should be a model!

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Of course, this little girl has changed so much in one year! Last year…camera shy. This year…HELLO GORGEOUS CAMERA-LOVING PERSONALITY!!!! I couldn’t get enough!


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And, a sad farewell to Montgomery picture…but I love that we found this awesome wall!! Everyone needs one of these! Montgomery has been a wonderful home to our family, and to this one, and hopefully via the military, our paths will cross again! Love you guys!

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And…just to remember this precious family and a little boy who stole my heart…

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The Promise of 2016 & Goodbye 2015

I don’t know about y’all, but 2015 FLEW BY! I cannot believe how much has changed in only one year, 52 weeks, 365 days. Seriously.

My first order of business in this post is to welcome in this brand New Year, 2016!! No pictures for this part of my post, but a few reflections from last year that will hopefully continue to guide me well into this promising New Year. Stick with me to see the farewell photos of 2015 though!

I recently reviewed a post I wrote last year, ( ), and I became really excited about the words that I wrote. I feel…accomplished! Because, although 2014 brought in the technical aspects of being a photographer and licensed business owner, 2015 went a step beyond that and gave me the creative boost and encouragement that I needed. I started last year off by listing some goals, and I’m pumped that these were met – some differently than I anticipated, but met nonetheless, and surpassed in the way I look at my expectations for fulfilling them.

Although I didn’t officially “teach” (and receive payment for) photography, I was able to befriend a few new budding photographers and although not all want to be “professional” they are learning their equipment, and that’s huge! Why own a $300-$600 piece of equipment that you don’t understand?! I still desperately want to help teach others, and begin mentoring other photographers with not only photography and editing, but also with the business side. I started this a bit before my busy season last year, but hope to pick it up a bit more with a few people that I know have shown interest in this. I would also love to teach a Basic Photography Course for Moms – nothing too crazy or technical, but again, why own the equipment (which I know MANY, MANY of you do…you’ve all told me!) and not know how to capture these memories? So, that’s in the works. To be honest, I had hoped to offer one in January, since it’s my slow season; with that said, we had a few health issues come up in January, so I’m playing a massive game of catch up with life! But, soon.

I’ve also become great friends with another photographer in the area, and it’s been great for both of us! Not only are we able to bounce ideas off of, drink coffee together, and just enjoy our passion with one another, we can also feel comfortable asking for critiques and business advice. This is so, so important! I truly believe no one can go at this alone, and I’m thankful I have someone local to chat with.

Beyond that, I’ve found a WONDERFUL community of photographers online that have become…well, like family. Sure, we don’t exactly get together for dinners and such (though…I’m sure we can figure something out one day!), but catch us on the right day, and we’ll talk your ears off on videos, I’ll chat with a couple online for hours, and beyond that, we support one another! HOLY COW…non-competitve love and encouragement from like-minded artists who are willing to help each other? This is like some parallel universe! But, it’s a wonderful one, and one that I’m blessed to be a part of! Through this group, I’ve also developed a full blown friendship with my friend Nikki, of Nikki Smith Photography ( ). I have NO IDEA what I did before this amazing lady became my friend. Even before we were “friends,” she lifted my spirits and encouraged me through another community. God truly does things for a reason, and one day, I hope to hug this lovely lady (on my tip toes 😉 ) AND have her photograph my family. What an honor that will be! One day!

I’ve also found my target clientele and pricing. I found what has worked for ME, AND my clients. This is SUPER important to me! I’ve LOVED every family that I’ve been honored to capture memories for! I’m not even kidding! Everyone has been so gracious, patient, encouraging…and honestly, I feel that they’re thankful for their images, which is huge. And with pricing, I decided long ago that I do not want to be a photographer that will make my clients break the bank. I know groups who get giddy (like, really, giddy) over charging essentially as much as they can get away with, regardless of their professionalism, experience, equipment and knowledge. I don’t agree with this model…and I’m not sorry for that. It works for many photographers; it just won’t for me. I charge what I feel I would be comfortable paying, and thankfully this model has worked very well this year. I’ve made a few changes and added a package to my pricing, but I’ll stick pretty close to this range, and I feel that it offers a little something for everyone. If prospects come my way who love my work and want ME as their photographer, I’m fairly confident my pricing is doable, without going broke, but while keeping cherished memories close to your heart! That being said, I also value myself and my worth more than a typical “shoot and burn” photographer – if you know me and/or have had a session with me, you know that I will put time in before, during and after your session. It’s not an hour with you, come home, burn your CD and charge you $50. My experience and knowledge is vastly more valuable than that, and thankfully my clients know it, for which I am truly grateful! Memories that you can pass down  from generation to generation are priceless, but thankfully, I can both value myself and time away from my family, and have my clients afford these quality memories to cherish!

So, THANK YOU to 2015…you’ve been wonderful to me, and I am truly blessed!! Now, I am super excited about 2016 and what it has in store for Shelby Leigh Photography! I won’t list every goal in this post (it’s long enough; I know, I’m verbose and always have been and always will be), but the biggest goal is to continue on the path that I’m on…learning, growing, inspiring others, teaching others, and having faith in myself to continue posting, entering challenges and contests and getting Shelby Leigh Photography “out there” in the vast world of photography, and for my clients. I want everyone who comes to me to know they will be taken care of and that I will do my best to make their photography experience a wonderful one! Getting my name “out there” won’t happen in a blink, but with hard work and determination, I will continue, thanks to so much encouragement!

Oh, and #goalfail. Sort of. Although I did manage to do *most* of my M4H P52, I did not, however blog each week! I think I wound up falling off the blogging wagon around 20 weeks, and then it was hit or miss! Ha! BUT…vast improvement in both blogging and consistent theme shooting from years past, where I never did either! Fail or success? To be determined! Brings me to another 2016 goal…better workflow consistency!! I’m going to play catch up with my family session blogging this first two weeks of January, then head into 2016 with a clean slate! And, the only reason I didn’t stick with the last few weeks of P52…my busy season hit, during my kids’ school stuff busy season, and well…life happened. I won’t regret getting my clients’ images and orders to them in a timely manner…and I’ll always be thankful for SO MUCH business in 2015! I’m still SUPER pleased with myself for sticking with the 52 week project that long (I think through October), and it truly filled the creative void I had when I didn’t have clients during the off season! I still highly recommend 52 week challenges. I know 365 would be too much for me, but I loved my experience with 52 weeks!

I’m off to spend the remaining hours of this First Day of January 2016 with my family…to share and talk about many of the memories that you’ll find in this collage:

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And, thank you to each and every client that has given me the honor of capturing your precious families!

2015 Client Collage