And all of your family and pets are safe and you have 4 minutes to grab whatever you can, what do you get?

Most people I know would say photos.  And I used to think they were crazy for wanting photos.  Until last month when Portrait Photographer Amber Herlocker came and did a photo shoot with our family.  Now I know what it means to have photos as your most prized possessions.  Now I want to decorate my entire house with photos, photos and more photos!

Amber is a partner/sponsor/advertiser here at Nesting Place.  She contacted me a few months ago and offered to barter her talents for advertising here.  Let me tell you, everyone wants to barter for advertising and if I were rich and had a huge empty house, I would always barter.  But since I can’t pay my son’s school with cute things from etsy shops, I always have to NOT barter.  Always.  Until Amber, because one visit to her website told me that I needed her talents desperately.

Look, I look like I’m 18 years old.  That’s the power of a professional photographer people.  I might have put this photo in a thrift store frame but, I takes a lot for me to feel comfortable having a close up of my face blown up to an 11×14 photo.  I have one word.  Amber.

See what I mean? I am the world’s worst person to get their picture taken.  I become completely self conscious and have no idea how to hold my head still {why does my head keep involuntary shaking?!} or what to do with my thumbs or how to put my legs so they don’t look like two growths.  And Amber totally coached me through it.

Not to mention the fact that I sat the boys down before she ever came and had a long threat talk where I begged and pleaded with them to have a good attitude during the shoot and told them that this was my mother’s day gift and please try to have fun and not be in a bad mood.  There is so much that goes into capturing a moment.  And we all know how important it is for our children to not feel like this is the worst experience of their life–it would totally show in every photo. Which is bad, unless they want to look like they are cool and bad.

As soon as she got here, Amber made it a point to learn everyone’s names and find out what they liked to do.  The fellas were thrilled at the thought of being photographed doing things they love like skateboarding and scootering. At one point, I looked over and Amber was laying completely flat in the middle of the road and our 12 year old was skateboarding straight for her.  She is nothing if not thorough.

Never has a 12 year old boy enjoyed getting his picture taken more than this boy.  I’m a little worried.  But, as a mom, these action shots represent a huge part of our life.  Something about having all photos of our boys sitting still just doesn’t seem right, it would make me feel like a liar.  I’m glad that Amber suggested we do spend the time letting the boys do their thing. These are some of my favorite photos.

Once we were done, I figured I’d get an email from her so I could download photos for me to choose from and get printed up someplace.  Wrong. Amber worked twice as hard AFTER the photo session as she did during.  See that blue silhouette with our photos in it?  She had over 20 of those collage things for me to look at and get ideas from.   And once you find what layout you like, she’ll help you pick which photos would work best and then, if you want, you can order the frames and everything straight from her and have it delivered and all you ever have to do is sit and watch your husband hang them on the wall!  It’s pretty amazing, the world of photography and professional framing and such.

It was really hard to decide what to order.  I knew I wanted something for the wall over my sofa. So I taped off the measurements and asked Amber how she thought 3 close ups of the boys would look.

Amber sent me this picture, with 3 photos blown up to see if I liked them there.  It was so easy for me to see that I didn’t like that look. This information was priceless.

Finally, I decided on this gallery wrapped canvas of the boys on the tire swing. Amber has great connections to get all sorts of canvas options, and I needed it like within 3 days for my Blessings Gathering, I think it got here early.

It’s a nice addition to the wall of stuff I love.  All stuff I would grab if my house broke out in flames and my man, kids and dog were safe.

There was one other thing that I was sure of.  I wanted a big, black and white family photo over our fireplace.  Like super duper, oil leak in the Gulf big.  It’s 24 x 36 {remember, that’s still a standard size} so I used the other frame I found at Garden Ridge years ago.

See how it dwarfs my hand, that’s how big it is.  And it speaks to the kind of photographer Amber is for me to get this blown up so obscenely huge and it still be crystal clear.

I also mentioned my hate for glare and Amber had a solution for that as well.  See the difference in the big photo of the fellas and the small photo on the stand?  Moms Against Glare {M.A.G. I’m starting a new club}.

We had this photo backed so it stands on its own

Here’s what I learned so far about photos and framing stuff::

  • Dress in what you want to wear–heels and a dress? great, jeans? great–be you, I prefer focusing on layers and textures and accessories over matching all the colors.  We wore jeans, khakis, muted reds, blues and neutrals.
  • If you know all your photos will be black and white, don’t even worry about colors, just textures
  • Accessories!  I have heels, a belt, a chunky necklace and a flower headband–but I still wish I had some bangles on my nekkid arm. If you have girls, it seems like that would be a lot more fun to dress them for portraits
  • Don’t worry about having the perfect backdrop–a good, creative photographer can make anything look enchanting and interesting.  If our clover and mud filled backyard turned out looking great, then Amber could make a jail cell seem inviting.
  • Tell your photographer what kinds of shots you are looking for–I really wanted a family photo, everything else was icing on the cake.
  • On a budget?  Spend the money on the talents of the photographer and then get thrift store frames and have mats cut at Hobby Lobby
  • Hate Glare?  Have your photos coated so you don’t need to protect them with ugly glass {saves $$ when you need frames to since you don’t even need glass!}
  • I’d rather have 2 big photos displayed than 38 tiny photos.  Invest in at least one large photo.
  • Black and white looks good in any room.  Forever. No matter what your style.

It was so great to do all the photos in our back yard or in our case, in the middle of the road. Amber {It’s been so hard to fight the urge to call her Amba a la Boston Rob} prefers to capture people in their own habitat, which is something I appreciate.

Amber Herlocker is a creative portrait photographer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Specializing in photography of babies, children, pregnancy, family, seniors and fashion related projects. Available for travel.

I cannot urge you enough to have photos that you love out and about in your home.  And, I also think it’s worth the splurge to have a professional take photos of your family.  Good family photos are as important as well made mattresses and sofas.  If you live in the Charlotte area, Amber is currently booking clients and I highly recommend her.  Follow her on twitter, read her blog, friend her on facebook, sign up for her newsletter, get to know her and love her because it’s really important that you feel comfy with the person pointing a camera at you.

Need some extra incentive? Amber is offering a fantastic deal right now with limited spaces available, for her rare Mini Sessions in Charlotte and Georgia — the cost is only $100 and includes the digital files so you can print up whatever you want.  This is an AMAZING DEAL and always fills up lightening fast.  What a great gift for someone, or yourself!

Now, it’s your turn, your house is on fire and everyone is out and you have 4 minutes to grab something, what do you grab?