Currie-Erven Family Session | Venice, CA by Shana Berenzweig

I’m finally getting around to blogging this family session from late last summer with one of my oldest and dearest friends (we go all the waaay back to early elementary school). We had planned to walk over to the historic Venice Canals, making a stop at one of my favorite spots, a huge, living succulent wall. As light-lover, I’d hoped for at least a little sun to work with that morning. Instead, the good ol’ marine layer rolled in and we had to make it work since this was our only chance to shoot together while I was out there. Of course, we still created some beautiful images together and some of my very favorite of the year. Here are just a few of my session faves, starting with a few random ones I took before we left the house.

Interested in your own family session in Austin or some place else? I’m available locally now and I’ll be traveling out west in August, message me and let’s make it happen!

Neary Family Windmill Session | Palm Springs, CA by Shana Berenzweig

Man, oh man, I really dropped the ball (again) on this whole blogging thing. Geez. I’ve got some drafts in the works and I’m gonna try my bestest (again) to do better. Starting with this dreamy session.

Back in February, I attended the Photo Native photography conference in Palm Springs and took part in a mentored shoot-out. A shoot-out is great opportunity for a small group of photographers to meet and learn from a mentor, as well as each other. This session was led by the phenomenal Jayme Ford of The Paper Deer Photography in a windmill farm in a canyon wash with the lovely Neary Family.

This was my first time doing a shoot-out and wasn’t really sure what to expect while trying to shoot with 13 other photographers. Honestly? It was weird for me, especially as an introvert in these kinda situations. You want to get your shots, but also be respectful of your fellow ‘togs trying to get theirs. And even though we started off in small groups taking turns, things (inevitably?) morphed into a free-for-all — everyone jockeying for position, calling out direction, and all the while still try to learn a few things. Check out these behind the scenes shots to get a little taste of the action.

As this wasn’t a normal session, I wasn’t quite able to capture everything I would’ve during a regular client session (like more close-ups, pics of dad and little brother, and some individual portraits, for example), but other than that, I’m pretty in love with these images. These are just a few of my favorites as I edited a ton of photos and probably could go back and edit even more.

As I’d hoped, I learned a lot of during this workshop, including some unexpected lessons. I won’t bore y’all with all that stuff, but there was one thing I thought worthwhile sharing and applies to both clients and fellow photog’s —how to handle Mother Nature and her fickleness with weather.

The sunny Palm Springs of many an Instagram influencer’s feed was nowhere in sight as shoot time approached. Instead, rain clouds loomed in the distance and I thought for sure it was gonna pour (we did get some spinkles and it would start to rain even heavier later that night and proceed to dump historic levels the next day, but that’s a story for another day).

As a lover of light, sun flares, and rim light, I was pretty bummed by this less than ideal weather. But I should’ve listened to my own advice that I give to clients about the weather.

Sometimes that less than ideal weather turns into a moody and dreamy landscape that you could never ever plan for in a million years. It was a good reminder to be patient and expect the unexpected.

Interested in your own dreamy family session? Message me and let’s make it happen!

Big thanks to these fine folks.

Workshop: Photo Native

Mentor: Jayme Ford | The Paper Deer Photography

Models: The Neary Family

Dress: Reclamation Design Company

Location: Palm Springs, CA

5 Stress Relieving Tips to NOT Have a Mental Breakdown During Your Session by Shana Berenzweig

Since my new Pop-Up Portrait Sessions are coming up (psst, have you booked yours yet?), I thought this would be an excellent time to start a series of blog posts to get y’all ready. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but, well, haven’t. Hashtag blogging is hard, y’all.

As family photo season fast approaches, I imagine there might be a few of y’all out there that are beginning to feel the first tingles of stress.

Family photos are wonderful for so many reasons. Duh. Not only do they document family growth and milestones, but they help us create fond memories, too. Not just for the parents and the grandparents, but for the children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

Clichéd? Yes. True? Yes.

But, this day can be very stressful, too. I get it.

And I want to do all I can to make sure this experience is as stress-free as possible. Because as many of longtime clients will have heard me say, if y’all are stressed and anxious it will show on your face and in your body language, and your kids will most likely pick up on it, too. We want your photos to be carefree, authentic, and full of love.

So I’ve put together a little list of five tips y’all can use leading up to, and especially on, picture day to help everyone relax.

Is this list also a little clichéd? Probably. Still true and helpful? Probably, and most definitely can’t hurt to try.

1. Take some deep breaths. A common relaxation method, deep breathing can quickly calm your stress level, you can do it anywhere, and is a great place to start when managing anxiety and stress.

Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth, counting slowly down from 10 in your head while letting it all out and taking a deep breath between each number. If you’re still feeling super stressed, repeat the process again.

Another technique to relieve stress and muscle tension is to use your finger to trace a figure eight on the palm of your hand. Or before your session, try some simple stretches or yoga poses to release any tension and stress in your body.

Just because these are simple techniques, doesn’t mean they don’t work.

2. Laugh. Laughter is a great way to release stress and tension. It will also help the whole family relax before the session, as well as results in genuine smiles and interactions during the shoot.

I’m a big fan of the good ol’ fashioned tickle-monster or a good snuggle sesh to get those smiles and relieve a bit of stress.

Still working on your stand-up? Me too. So instead of jokes, for some reason having everyone pretend to laugh feels so ridiculous that everyone ends up actually laughing for reals.

These sorts of things can help to ease the family into relaxation mode before and during the session. It’s also good to remember that every photo doesn’t have to be the traditional everyone-looking-at-the-camera-and-smiling shot. It’s great to have a little variety and capture your kids being kids and reflect your family as perfectly imperfect as they are.

3. Distract Yourself. If someone is being shy, isn’t into taking pictures, is having a meltdown, or in some other way not cooperating* and you can feel your blood pressure rising, I encourage you to take a little break, maybe go for a walk or try busting out some dance moves. This will help alleviate some of your stress and the kids’ excess energy, as well as give us some good interaction shots. Another thing you can do is to simply take a step back and outta frame and let me focus on shooting other members of the family for a little bit.

*I hate to use that word, as well as break it to y’all, but when there are tiny humans involved, these kinds of things tend to happen more often than not. And don’t worry, it is TOTALLY NORMAL. I promise. So please, pretty please, don’t be embarrassed, anxious, or stressed. I get it and have seen it all.

Ahead of your your session, it may help to think of a short game that your family enjoys and can help relieve stress and loosen everyone up – it could be something as simple and silly as duck, duck, goose, or dancing to head, shoulders, knees, and toes, etc. Don’t overthink it and don’t worry if you don’t think of anything.

Still stressed? Try the old technique of going to your ‘happy place’ and try to take yourself out of the present situation and let your mind wander. 

4. Lots of XOXOs. It seems too easy and obvious, right? But not only will these make for the sweetest shots, hugs are another excellent stress reliever.

And so are kisses.

So gather your crew up in a big group hug or give your sweetie a kiss and I bet y’all feel some of those worries melt away.

If you’ve worked with me before, you know I’m a big fan of everyone touching and loving on each other. Not only do we get gorgeous images that reflect your family’s love, but it just feels good and helps everyone relax.

5. Let it go. One of the biggest stress relievers, but hardest to do, will be to try to relax and just let me take the lead.

Don’t ask anyone to smile. Don’t fix anyone’s hair. Don’t point at the camera. Just be and let me do the rest.

Trust my process, hand the reins over to me, take a break from the rules, and just have some fun with your kiddos. Let it all go. I plan on covering this in more depth in another post soon, so hold tight.

So there y’all have it. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. But as my momma always says, it never hurts to try. And above all, please remember that I’ll be doing everything I can to help y’all relax and have a great time during our shoot.

I’ll be back soon with more good stuff to help y’all get ready for your close-up’s, including tips on what to wear and the eternal question of whether ‘to bribe or not to bride’ your kids.


'South Austin Gothic' Portrait Series by Shana Berenzweig

My dear friends, Jeri Lynn and Ian Ingram, are both creative, talented, and beautiful --- both inside and out.  And traditional family portraits aren't quite for them.

Sept 2017 | Austin, TX

Sept 2017 | Austin, TX

So, for almost 10 years now, and waaay before I dared to call or even think of myself as a photographer (which, to be honest, still feels strange), we’ve been doing collaborative, stylized family portraits. 

We call the series South Austin Gothic

Sept 2016 | Austin, TX

Sept 2016 | Austin, TX

Aug 2015 | Austin, TX

Aug 2015 | Austin, TX

Besides having so much fun creating them, what I love about this series is how it marks the passage of time and reflects all of us --- the Ingram's growth as a family and mine as a photographer.

Dec 2014 | Sayulita, Mexico

Dec 2014 | Sayulita, Mexico

While this kind of stylized portrait may not be for everyone, what it represents is most definitely for all.  So, whether I take 'em, another photographer, or yourselves, just do it.  Just take those family photos in a whatever way means the most to you.  You won't regret a single shot.

June 2014 | Austin, TX

June 2014 | Austin, TX

Aug 2012 | Austin, TX

Aug 2012 | Austin, TX

Jan 2012 | Austin, TX

Jan 2012 | Austin, TX

Both Jeri Lynn and Ian are very talented artists.  You can shop for Jeri Lynn's gorgeous jewelry here.  Every piece of her beautiful, fair trade jewelry collection is hand-beaded by the Huichol people in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico.

Jeri Lynn's husband, Ian, is a remarkable artist and teacher.  See his incredible work here, and for those of y'all in Austin, Ian has recently started offering drawing class for kids.

I only posted a few of my faves of the series here, but I love the photo below of the Ingram kiddos in front of all the portraits (although I didn't take three of the photos). 

Sept 2017 | Austin, TX

Sept 2017 | Austin, TX