michals-1To the people that know them, Joey and Savannah go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’ve been together for 5 years, and I think the pressure has been on Joey for a bit for when he was going to “finally” ask the question.

The pressure is understandable. My wife and I dated for just over 6 years before I “finally” popped the question and was able to produce a ring. I fielded questions from others about when I propose to my wife for years before I actually was able to produce what I thought would be the perfect ring for the love of my life. That’s often the issue with young love: being able to produce a ring. The love is indescribable, unquenchable, and unquestionable, and when there is a love present like that, the ring, setting, and idea has to be perfect. This is a once in a lifetime moment that shouldn’t succumb to pressure or be forced on to the groom-to-be.

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Joey’s set up was perfect: he told Savannah that a colleague of his wanted to expand his photography portfolio and was looking for models to photograph. Not entirely a lie. Joey and I teach high school English at the same school, and I’m always looking to photograph new people. He set this up as a 5 year anniversary shoot. She had created a sign, and to my knowledge, was going along with the idea of an anniversary shoot.

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When we got to the highly anticipated spot, Joey finally popped the question. michals-33

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What followed afterward was a slue of emotions, which I was enthused to capture. Once the question had been asked, and she said “yes” of course, we had an actual engagement shoot to that needed to happen.
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In the day and age where asking someone to prom is being dubbed “promposals,” asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you has to be big too. Make sure it is a moment that can be cherished forever because it was captured.

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As I’m prepping the next couple of posts, I’m realizing that there is a common theme even with my last post: I have had the privilege of watching many families grow. The Waters are another family for whom I’ve documented a wedding, baby, and family photos.

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The first pictures of their newest baby boy were taken when he was less than a week old. It is incredible to see the amount of change, physically and personality, that happens to babies from birth to only being six months old. Looking at the two pictures side by side, it’s like they are two completely different babies. Even though there are many photos that are taken of babies on phones between newborn and six months, documenting the growth with a professional is definitely special.

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This late summer/early fall photo shoot produced one of the most adorable photos that I’ve taken. These two sitting down showing genuine smiles are the moments that I love to capture for families. We took our pictures at the Fabyan Forest Preserve. I was drawn there because of a giant windmill that they have, but we ended up not even taking photos there. The park has so much beautiful greenery that you can take several sessions of family photos there without replicating the same backdrop.

Geneva, IL is home to many beautiful parks, and is actually a beautiful town as well. The downtown area is unique because almost everything is owned by a small business owner. You can’t beat the food choices down there either. My favorite places to eat down there are Barrel + Rye and The Burger Local. If you are ever craving some great American Bistro food, delicious burgers, or craft drinks, check them out.waters-74 waters-64
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One of the best aspects of being a photographer is getting to see your clients grow. Watching newborns grow up and document their first steps is beautiful, but watching a family grow can be inspirational. I’m always very humbled and honored when couples take a chance on me to document their weddings, especially for the couples early in my photography career. The Brownings were one of the first couples that trusted me with taking their wedding photos.

Even though they are family, there was no obligation to having me take their engagement photos, then their wedding photos, and then their family photos once they started growing. There are plenty of other photographers that they could have used, but there must have been something in my style that they liked in order to keep using me to document their memories. I almost cringe when I look back at some of the photos I’ve taken early in my career. The quality obviously isn’t as great; I wasn’t rocking a full frame camera with prime lenses at the time. But some of the ideas that I still use are present in my early photos. I’ve obviously grown as a photographer, and the quality of photos that I take are better as well.
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Nostalgia at its finest.

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This past spring, I decided to run the Chicago Marathon for the third time. My wife gave me the idea that I should run for a charity from now on so that the training that I do not only benefits my health, but it can benefit someone else. I honor of my cousin’s baby, I decided to join Team UPS for DownS. The United Parent Support for Down Syndrome is an organization that offers “support, education, and encouragement for parents, families and others who love and care about persons with Down syndrome” (upsfordowns.org). My wife works with adults with developmental disabilities, so this community has always been near and dear to us. I’m still fundraising even though the race is in a week, and I have already reached my fundraising goal, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t help out. Help support this wonderful organization by clicking here.

My cousin, Sandy, has been blogging about her experiences of motherhood, both with her firstborn son, her second-born daughter, and the challenges and blessings of raising a child who has Down syndrome. If you ever want to read about her beautiful perspective on life, need a word of encouragement, or need a reality check on your own life, check out what she has to say here: http://signet223.blogspot.com/

elton-40-1 Vern and Rosie: they are the epitome of love, sacrifice, and commitment to one another. Their beautiful, quaint, and surprise vow renewal ceremony was perfect for them.

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Their marriage has been such a blessing to everyone around them. They have been through and have conquered so much, and it seems as if their marriage and dedication to one another never went off track. I’ve been blessed because of their son, who was also the best man at my wedding, and I know that anyone that knows anyone from the Elton clan can say the same thing. What they have created is a family that continues to give and sacrifice and is the embodiment of Jesus. I could not love the Elton family any more.

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From the beautiful, homemade decorations, to the symbolic ring exchanged, and to the perfect vow renewals conducted by their own son-in-law, this ceremony was one that will never be forgotten. Congrats to Vern and RoseAnn. Cheers to a lifetime of celebration and anniversaries to come.
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I can’t get over how adorable this baby is. This photo shoot was sort of a last minute plan that, thankfully, came to fruition. Mom and Dad, who happen to be my sister-in-law and her husband, which I guess is also my brother-in-law, were visiting from Arizona to celebrate their baby’s first birthday with the rest of the family that still lives in Illinois.

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We knew we were going to be in Chicago one of the days because I have an unhealthy obsessions with donuts, more specifically, Do Rite Donuts in Chicago. I had posted something on Facebook a week before they had visited, and they told me that they wanted to get donuts. It just so happened that after we got donuts, we had made plans to do a quick family photo shoot.

Cannon Family-21I love the Lincoln Park Gardens in Chicago. It’s a place that I’ve visited before for photo shoots, and it’s a quiet calm just outside of the rambunctious streets of Chicago. It’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the city to make you forget about the all the noise and escape and appreciate nature. When I edit photos that I’ve taken at the Gardens, I sometimes forget that they were taken in Chicago. Of course, the best skyline in the world serving as a backdrop for some incredible family photos is a reminder of how beautiful Chicago can really be.
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I’m sure I’ll be back to the Lincoln Park Gardens for another shoot in the near future. Check out some of my other work and see if you can spot other shoots done here. Cannon2cannon-1-4
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Senior pictures can be some of the more difficult, and sometimes dreaded, photo sessions to shoot. Some seniors are taking portraits because their parents are forcing them to while others take them because they want to remember the nostalgia of growing up and transitioning into adulthood. The difficulty with many senior portraits is that there is not a lot of energy to feed off. At a wedding, there are so many emotions and moments to capture. Engagement photos show the bliss of new love and the energy between the couples. Family photos flourish through the interaction of family. Special events always have something going on to photograph. At a senior portrait, it is just the photographer and the model.

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Aracelly threw out any and all concerns that I had going into this session. She is her own source of energy, and the laughs, smiles, and joy beam through her portraits. Chelly-42

I was a bit nervous when she said she wanted her pictures done in Downtown Chicago. The hustle and bustle of the city can be a great background for photographs, but it can also interfere and cause photos to become too busy. Careful when choosing a location; we were lucky enough to snag some shots in some less traveled portions of Millennium Park, and we were able to gain enough higher ground so that people were either behind or below us. Chelly-43

If the situational awkwardness of senior portraits is of any concern, here is a tip: have them bring friends. It can make for a great shot and a great memory of best friends in high school, and if the model is ever looking stiff or unnatural, you can always rely on their friends to make them laugh and break the discomfort of being photographed.
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Along with all of the emotions, questions, and stir craziness of wedding planning, newly engaged couples have a decision to make before they make their official announcement: do we take engagement pictures? Engagement Photo 3

Many couples elect to take their own engagement pictures either through a family friend that is offering it as a favor, setting up a tripod, or taking a picture with a cell phone since some phones can take good sized images. The images may turn out great, but the experience of being photographed is completely missing. Even if Save the Dates are not something that you envisioned or budgeted for, you don’t want to miss out on the experience of having your picture taken. Engagement photos have the ability document the excitement, the bliss, and the love that is to come. Your engagement is a new beginning to a lifelong journey, and the emotions felt and displayed early on in the engagement can be different than what is displayed on your wedding day.

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I like to think of engagement pictures as a tryout for the wedding photographer. When my wife and I got engaged, we were pretty certain on who we wanted to take our wedding pictures, but we wanted to take engagement photos to be certain that we liked the photographer’s style. Our photographer made us feel comfortable, and we knew exactly what to expect on our wedding day.Engagement Photo 2

When I’m working with couples on their engagement shoots, there is a visible tension that dissipates throughout the shoot. Couples, both the guy and the girl, become more comfortable with the camera being pointed at them as the session continues. What may start as a very stiff, unnatural, and uncomfortable session often ends with natural, candid photos that couples love and cherish.

Engagement Photo 6I’m glad my wife and I elected to do professional engagement pictures. There are so many emotions that are present on your wedding day that could possibly be hidden behind the uncomfortableness of being in front of a camera.Engagement Photo 1

For those that don’t like having their picture taken, why wait until your wedding day to see what it feels like to have a camera pointed at you all day? Get the jitters out of the way and do yourselves a favor while you are planning a wedding: go through a professional engagement photo shoot. Many photographers will often throw in a free engagement session if you sign with them for your wedding; I know at least I do.

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