The Unraveled Academy Review and Free Course

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THERE IS A FREE COURSE AT THE END OF THIS SO DON’T LEAVE.

Last year I signed up for the Unraveled Academy. I was on the fence about it, but I figured I’d just do a month to month membership and if I didn’t like it after a month or two the loss would be minimal. No harm done.

Basically I’ve decided they can just charge me via paypal forever. I’m currently a little behind on courses, but I need to get with it because currently there is an SEO course I’m dying to take. Oddly my favorite part of the whole thing is the Facebook group. It’s worth the price of membership alone. They regularly do Facebook Lives where you can ask pretty much anything you want to a group of experts plus the community has got to be one of the least judgemental and supportive group of photographers I have ever experienced. The founders actually care and feel like friends.

So what exactly is the Unraveled Academy? The Unraveled Academy is a school and community for photographers looking for a safe place to explore their art and business. When you log in to the wesbite you are presented with all of the courses that have ever been. Yes, you heard me correctly. They are all there. You get to go through them and learn at your own pace. You get to engage in the community on the website and/or the Facebook community and take advantage of additional videos there. There are behind the scenes videos and editing videos, some presets, and a monthly gift for all memebers. And then just that sense of belonging that I don’t quite get other places. I’m a fan, obviously.

If you’re no longer on the fence and you want to sign up, please use the button below so they know I sent you.

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If you want to check out the free Unposed Course before signing up, check it out here.

I’ve personally taken this course. It’s sooooo inspiring and will make you want to get out there and shoot. I definitely suggest at least checking out this course. It’s free so you can’t lose.

If you decide you want to join the Unraveled Academy after taking this course, please come back here and use the button above so they know I sent you. I am an affiliate because I love this school that much and want everyone else to love it too.

Professional Wardrobe Styling For Your Photo Session

Monica Brown | Austin, Central Texas Family Lifestyle Photographer

Probably 9 out of 10 clients completely freak out when it comes to trying to coordinate session day clothes for the entire family.  It's literally the most time consuming part of booking and preparing for a session for so many.  If the idea freaks you out, it's totally normal.  I completely get it and obviously you're not alone.

But guess what!!!!!! I've got your back momma.  

Professional styling for the whole family from the comfort of your couch (complete with kids screaming in the background) is now included with your lifestyle session fee.  

I want to make this as stress free as possible.  I want you to show up to your session feeling confident and ready to just be with your family.  I want the experience to be enjoyable and not feel like work.  

I need to show you how easy this is.  You answer a few simple questions about who you're dressing, what your vibe is, and voila, you're presented with clothing options perfect for your lifestyle family photo session and you simply pick the ones that fit your style and budget.  You can view your outfits together and then once all is said and done, you can email your selections to yourself so you can purchase later.

The image below is looking at your outfits together post making some selections.

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The video to the right is all of your selections conveniently located in your inbox.  Do you have to buy these exact clothes?  No, you don't.  Likely the men in your life have something similar in their closets that they can use or maybe you found basically the exact same shirt somewhere else for a better price.  Work with those scenarios if you can or if you find it easier to just purchase the suggested items, go for it.  

Planning for your session shouldn't be a chore and who really has extra time to plan things like outfits out?  It's just not necessary to hit up every store and blindly try to coordinate some things and hope it works out and I'm not going to make you do it that way.  

Does the idea of a photo session sound a bit more appealing now?  

I still have some Fall sessions left and obviously you'll look like a million bucks.

Why I Don't Do Mini Sessions | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Central Texas Lifestyle Photographer | Monica Brown

Okay so I've done this blog post before, but I switched websites and it's gone now so I thought I do it again.  It was literally the most visited thing on my old website.

But first let's just get something super clear before we get this started...

Mini sessions aren't bad.  I'm not saying you should never sign up for mini sessions.  I actually envy the photographers that do them and do them well and there is absolutely a place for them in the market.

This blog post is about me, what I want out of each photo session, and how wanting that means I can't get to the part of the session that I consider my art in under 20 minutes (the typical length of a mini session).

So on to why I don't do mini sessions...

My goal 100% of the time when I'm photographing a family session is to get to the meat of the session.  That part where you can really start to see a clear picture of the family dynamics and genuine connections between family members.  

My most favorite compliment I get is when someone tells me I've captured their child's soul or when a family tells me the images we created together really tell the story of their family.  I can't tell the story of your family in 20 minutes.  I can't do the thing I consider my art in 20 minutes.  I've tried.  I'm just not capable.  I did mini sessions once and there was absolutely nothing mini about it and we didn't get to the part that makes my heart really sing until at least 20 minutes in.  Were the pictures from the first 20 minutes bad?  No.  We're they the stuff my dreams are made of?  Not really.

In the first 20 minutes were trying to settle in, I'm figuring out the family dynamic and the best way to incorporate it into the images I'm creating.  Everyone is getting used to the camera attached to my head and figuring out that they don't need to look at it.

And then once we get through all of that, the magic happens

So to really illustrate my point, I want to share with you some of my favorite images that were taken AFTER THE FIRST 20 MINUTES.  The images that would never be, the moments we'd never have created together, if I shut it down at 20 minutes.

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So let's just leave those family photography pinterest pins right where you left those pins for organizing your home closets..... on pinterest.  We don't need them because we're going to slow down, take our time, and create moments everyone else is going to wish they had, but they'll be yours.

{Almost} Wordless Wednesday | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Monica Brown | Buda Texas Lifestyle Photographer

We'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but let me just say Wednesday is rough so far.  I should have known immediately that day 3 of school was going to be a hard start because the reminders to eat breakfast were aplenty.  Day three came with tears at drop off and my sweet girl saying she just wanted to be where I was today.  Break my heart.  You better believe I wanted to say okay and take her back home.  Enough of all that.  Check out these photos I've posted to Instagram over the last week.

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Lifestyle Family Photo Session: The Zeiglers

Monica Brown | Central Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

Sometimes the best part of my job is just getting out there and meeting some of the awesome people who live near me.  This is the most rewarding part about the work I've done with our local neighborhood magazine, Neighbors of West Buda.  The September issue showed up in my mailbox last week and I'm just can't not share this Family Lifestyle Session with the Zeiglers with you.  

My one word to describe this family is AWESOME.  Also if you love a good romantic suspense novel, Amey (mom of this family) wrote one worth reading called Baker's Dozen, which can be found on My Amazon Favorites page.  I've personally read it and can definitely recommend it to you.  Click the button below to buy it.

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Galveston 2018

Just sitting here pushing refresh from time to time of the parent portal for your school district.  In just under 20 minutes we find out who Saida's Kindergarten teacher is.  Back to school night is tonight and I'm just hoping I'm not a hot mess of tears for the whole thing.  So to distract me from constantly checking the damn thing for the next 20 minutes or so, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from our Galveston beach trip because I still haven't done that.  

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10 Days of Editing with SMAL Presets

If you missed the announcement, I started a YouTube Channel last week called Monica the MomTog.  So far I've devoted the channel to photo editing and plan to throw in other photography related things as time goes on.  

Today marks the start of my first official series of videos on the channel, 10 Days of Editing with SMAL Presets (I am in no way affiliated with the creator of these presets nor have I been asked or paid to use them in these videos).  Each day I'll choose a preset from the pack and edit a photo with it.  At the end of 10 days you'll be able to see how I've used each preset within the pack.  This is great for beginner lightroom users, people on the fence about purchasing these presets, or newbies to the presets who haven't quite figured them out yet.  


Please join me over on the Monica the MomTog channel.



Check out the first video in the series below...


If you are interested in purchasing the presets for Lightroom or ACR, click below.

Me on YouTube: Black and White Editing Videos

We've joked about starting a Family Vlog and posting to YouTube because I can't believe how much money those people are making just from daily videos of things their family does.  It's not that simple though and I'm not that mom that is going to follow her kids around all day with a video camera and then spend my evenings editing the video.  Plus our life is super, and I mean SUPERRRRR, boring.  Nobody wants to watch a video of me denying my kid a 5th squeezy for the day.  They just don't.  And the other thing is the moms in these vlogs never have wine.  Obviously wine would be necessary, but then it's maybe not kid appropriate and kids are the ones watching these things.  

You see, a family vlog just isn't going to work for me.

So what do I like doing and what am I at least sort of good at?  Editing pictures of my kids!!!!  When I take pictures of them, I have to load them up pretty much as soon as I'm done.  Just ask my husband.  I'm sure it drives him nuts.

Naturally any YouTube channel I start should be me editing pictures of my kids or talking about photography related things that I love.  Soooo that's what I did.  I'm only two videos in so far and I still get nervous when I hit the record button though and nobody is even listening to me yet at that point.  

So anyway if you want to watch me being all awkward while editing videos, here are my first two videos posted to YouTube.

If you like it go subscribe and give it a thumbs up.  Or even if you don't like it, do it anyway.  Help a girl out.

Light Obsessed: Black and White Photo Editing Post

If there is one thing that has gotten completely out of control with my love of photography, it's that I'm light obsessed.  

It's true.  Just last week on our way to the beach we passed a field on the bayside of Galveston Island with a dirt driveway making it's way toward a beautiful canopy of palm trees with water on the other side.  I stopped whatever conversation we were having to tell Tyler exactly how I envisioned the light during golden hour.  

I've been known to just stare at this field across the street from Target in the evenings (especially in the Fall) because the way the light hits that field is amazing.  

I went hunting with my husband at an exotic game ranch and sat there looking at light and the way the grass moved in the wind while others looked at Fallow and Axis deer.

I can't unsee light. 

Yesterday evening Saida ran through a little pocket of light we only get in our living room when my office blinds are open.  She let me spend about 1 minute shooting and I had zero time to get proper settings, but I still had to get that light and the vision of it I saw in my head.

What I wanted to share is what I see when I see that light vs. what it looks like coming out of my camera.  So whether your into photo editing or not, you're getting the before and after image of this light.

For those who are curious, I started with my favorite black and white preset in Lightroom, tweaked it to my liking and used graduated filters and the adjustment brush to decrease shadows, exposure, highlights and whites where needed to really make this the dramatic image I envisioned.

This first photo is a completely untouched version of what I took.  Straight out of camera (SOOC).

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And this next photo is what I saw in my head when I saw her run through this little slice of light.

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Well to completely honest I was hoping she'd do something a little more worthy of a picture, but nope.  They never do what you want them to.  I'll take this for now though.

-Monica 

ThermaLeaf® Fire Retardant Artificial Foilage Review

The awesome people over at ThermaLeaf® sent me this Bird's Nest Fern last week and I'm pretty excited about it.  I haven't really decided on it's final resting place in the house just yet and I'm thinking I need a plant stand that's a bit more elevated because that stool belongs to my kids and they're not going to let me use it forever.  

This plant is fire retardant artificial foilage which is pretty cool.  I love me some real plants, don't get me wrong, but I have my fair share of artificial around the house too.  Truth be told, when I went to set up this quick little shoot for this plant, I had to move some things out of the way, one of which was a plant I probably hadn't watered in three weeks and it really needed some tlc asap. Sometimes I just forget because life is busy.

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So obviously PRO # 1 is that I can't kill this thing.  I love never having to water which is the only reason my cacti are currently surviving in my bathroom.  Apparently the humidity from our shower is enough to keep them alive.  So yeah, I love that I get the appeal of a plant without having to remember to water it.

PRO #2 is that it's fire retardant.  Look, nobody plans on needing things to be fire retardant, but I have a toddler boy and I'm sure there is a reason their pajamas are fire redardant.  

PRO # 3 is that I love the base on this thing.  It came with a black planter pot and I stole the terra-cotta from another plant of mine.  But what I love about it is the base is heavy and details didn't get skipped over.  I was afraid that my kids or the dog would be knocking this over on the regular, but that heavy base should keep it in place and make that more of a challenge.  The folks at ThermaLeaf® actually tried to make the soil look real by adding some natural looking elements.  I appreciate that.  I also just love the base of the stems and the attention to detail there.

PRO # 4 is this thing seems like it'll be easy to wipe down.   I feel like sometimes you can buy artificial foliage that is basically impossible to clean so I'm happy this looks so easy.  Housekeeping isn't exactly my favorite activity.

PRO #5 is that it looks good in my house.  There is just something about plants that adds life to a home and seeing them just makes me happy and just overall improves my mood.  This one reminds me of the beach or somewhere tropical, which is totally my happy place.


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My single CON is that it isn't real.  In a perfect world I'd have all the real plants and someone to make sure I didn't kill them, but that's just not realistic in a lot of situations.  Worry free artificial plants definitley have their place.

If you want to learn more about ThermaLeaf® fire retardant artificial foilage, visit their website at http://www.thermaleaf.com/ 

ThermaLeaf® provided me with a coupon code to share with you that can be used at www.silkplantsdirect.com.  That code is BLOGGER10 and it will get you 10% OFF a non custom order.

Right Where I'm Supposed To Be I Suppose

I decided to spend some time trying to free up space on my computer last week.  I don't do it as often as I should, but when I do it's always interesting to see what I happen upon that I kinda forgot about.

Sometimes it's just old client photos and I sit here thank God those clients actually gave me a shot.  Thier moments were still beautiful like all of my clients today, but my photography wasn't what it is now and I wish I could go back and do their memories more justice.  

Sometimes it's an old resume or job application.  I silently hope I never have to update a resume again, but I hang onto it just in case.  You never know.  It's like insurance.  You hope you never need it, but you don't want to get caught without it.  

Last week it was a scan of an old Air Force magazine cover that was shared with me several years ago.


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What's it's significance?  This photo was taken by my grandfather.  

My grandfather was a photojournalist in the Air Force.  But to be honest, I didn't even know I had a grandfather until I was like five years old.  I have a grandma on each side, my mom's dad died before I was born, and I was little so it never really crossed my mind that maybe I had a grandpa on my dad's side of the family.  He didn't start coming around until later and then it was only occasionally when he needed a couch to land on for a few nights.  It never really felt like it was about us or this want to get to know us.

He's not with us anymore.  Hasn't been for quite some time.  We never had the relationship one would expect between a grandfather and grandaughter and when he died I cried mainly for him because I knew he'd really missed all the best parts of life.  

But no matter what our relationship looked like (or lack of one) I know there is a part of me that came from him and I just use that part of me differently than he did.  I do feel like there is something hereditary that I got from him that is served well by photography.  I feel like I get that part of him and I'm thankful for that part of me.  

Last week I pulled the Neighbors of West Buda Magazine out of my mailbox.  I had seen the image on the cover before because I made it..... The timing of coming back across that old Air Force magazine cover photo feels interesting.  It's still hard to own that my grandfather and I could be anything alike, but I guess it's time to get over that.  


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And so there you go.  

5 Photography Tips For Capturing Your Children This Summer

Hey Moms, 

This morning it took me 5 minutes to find a parking spot at the YMCA and I was late to yoga.  And because I was late I had to do my practice at the front of the room facing sideways and on display for the whole class.  It wasn't a formal punishment or anything, it was just literally the last spot in the room.  I kind of just assumed everyone would be on vacation with this being the first Monday since school let out.  Nope.  I was wrong and I had really had to be on my yoga game this morning because I was just sure everyone was watching me the whole time (likely that wasn't the case, but whatever).  

Anyway, moral of the story is summer is here and summer adventures start hopefully this afternoon once everyone leaves the YMCA and takes their kids to do cool stuff.  

But what's a summer if you don't have proof it happened?  And if you're going to have photo evidence of this awesome summer, wouldn't it be cool if the photos matched the awesomeness?  I was sitting here brainstorming summer photography tips to capture your kids' epic summer.  For today, this is what comes to mind.


5 Photography Tips For Capturing Your Children This Summer


1. Let them get wet

Mainly this is because getting wet is fun for kids and they're destined to give you some real authentic (and probably happy) moments.  Also water mixed with some sweet light can make an image so interesting and fun.  Just look at the way the light shines through the water droplets here.  The photo wouldn't be the same without it.  So get out the hose, the sprinkler, slip and slide, pool, etc. and let your kids have a good time.  Swimsuit not required.  9 times out of 10 my kids are still fully clothed and soaking wet.

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2. Look for the light (or even wait for it)

So this is kind of an obsession for most photographers.  It doesn't matter where I am or if I have my camera with me, I'm looking at light constantly.  Summer can be hard because a lot of what we do is in the middle of the day and that sun is bright, bright, bright.  That harsh light is fun to play with, but morning and evening light is where it's at for me 90% of the time.  Maybe we'll address the harsh light on another day.

This set of images is from an evening in the backyard.  Saida got on the trampoline and I could see the light streaming in there on her leg (picture on the left) and that light under the trampoline.  Because the sun was almost behind the fence I really want to use backlight (place the sun behind my subject) so I could get that beautiful golden summer glow.  I actually turned the trampoline around so I could shoot through the opening towards the sun and voila, beautiful golden summer evening images.  The light was so gorgeous that Saida didn't even have to do anything. 

 This is what I first saw when I grabbed my camera.  Light coming into the area of the trampoline.  This okay I guess, but not the awesome summer evening vibe I was going for.

This is what I first saw when I grabbed my camera.  Light coming into the area of the trampoline.  This okay I guess, but not the awesome summer evening vibe I was going for.

 Then I moved the trampoline so I could shoot through the open part with the sun behind Saida and this is what I saw.

Then I moved the trampoline so I could shoot through the open part with the sun behind Saida and this is what I saw.


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3. Don't forget the details

I could photograph just the details for the rest of my life and be a happy woman.  Lately my detail obsession as been hand and feet, but it could be anything really.  Hair blowing in the wind will also get me everytime.  Maybe it's also the sweet rock or shell your kid found or their missing two front teeth.  Don't leave these things out.  I promise they'll be a great addition to an end of summer photo album or just something so fun to look at and remember later on.

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4. Capture the everyday stuff too

Summer can be epic and normal, right?  I think so.  These everyday moments are ones we forget about, but are generally just as awesome as those orchestrated summer moments.  Also this is just a reminder that you don't have to spend money or go anywhere to make beautiful summertime photos. You just have to get outside and allow you kids to be kids.

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5. Don't ask them to smile (make them smile)

This actually sounds like I'm holding a gun to their heads and demanding a smile.  I swear that's not what I mean.  What I mean is play with your kids.  In this image I'm shooting and jumping over Saida on the trampoline.  This was actually her request and a great reminder to me.  Look for real smiles and interact with your kids in a way that gets you real smiles.  Get rid of the word "cheese", you don't need it.

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Hopefully this helps with summer plans and with those everyday moments.  Photography helps me be more present with my kids, which is a challenge for a lot of us moms with all the things on our plates.  Put those other things on the back burner (laundry, dishes, etc.) and just be there with your kids (look, I'm just as guilty as you are).  I promise you'll never remember a specific time the dishes didn't get washed immediately after a meal, but you just might remember that moment with your kids. 

Have an AWESOME SUMMER!!!!
 

-Monica 

Things My Kids Pretended This Weekend

I always find it funny the things kids pretend to be doing.  Sometimes it's something they've seen on TV and sometimes they're totally imitating me, which is generally pretty hilarious and sometimes embarrassing.  This weekend it made me laugh so that's not too bad.

Our tiny trampoline was an American Ninja Warrior course.  

Saida took the task very seriously as she maneuvered around the outside.  Fortunately she let me take a few other photos too and we snuck one in of Corbin.


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Like they were helping... (because we all know they weren't really "helping".)

But it's cute and they think they are so you just let them do it anyway and then document it.  Unfortunately I missed focus on my favorite photo, but I'll include it anyway.

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And my personal favorite which I have no pictures of...

That it was Amazon Delivery Day

Saida kept putting things in boxes and opening them and saying, "Oh Corbin, look at the boots I ordered for you!"  I asked her where she ordered them from and was incredibly proud when she said Amazon.  That's my girl.  Plus isn't Amazon where everything comes from?  She asked me where babies come from the other day.  I'm wondering if Amazon.com would have been a believable answer.  

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Shameless Plus

I have an Amazon Influencer account and if you want to see some of our favorite things on Amazon, click the botton below.


Motherhood Sessions

Tell the truth mom, where are you usually when pics are getting taken on a day to day basis?  Are you the one taking them?  

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Not always, but it seems most often moms have taken on the role of family historian in families these days, which means mom ain't in the picture.  I personally have tons of pictures and videos of my husband with the kids, but anything with me in it is a selfie and most likely Corbin is sticking his tongue out because apparently that's what you do when you're two and taking a selfie or you get the fingers in the nose like this picture here.

My solution, motherhood photo sessions.  

I mean, what mom doesn't want beautiful photos of herself with her children?  I've recently added motherhood sessions to the menu of photogaphy services I offer and they're a little shorter than a typical session, which means they're also more affordable.  

"I'm so upset I have these pictures of myself with my children" - NO MOM EVER

I'm pretty sure this sweet photographer momma has zero regrets about treating herself to the gift of beautiful photos of her and her children.


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