happy holidays from polka dott photography!

I have always loved the saying “Be careful what you wish for.”  It’s true every single day in my life and in my business.  When I wished for a happy, active, rambunctious family with lots of friends, I also wished for packed calendars, carpools to rehearsals, piles of sports laundry, and long to-do lists.  When I wished to be active in the kids’ schools, I also wished for PTO meetings, fundraisers, and lots of behind-the-scenes work.  When I wished to start a photography business, I wished for success, a full schedule, and lots of happy clients.  Well, I got it!  Polka Dott has grown, expanded services, and most importantly, been hired!  I am so extremely thankful for everyone who has been a part of this family this year.  Without all of you in front of my camera, I couldn’t continue to follow my heart and my dream.  Here’s to even more fun, more smiles, and more memories in 2016.

(What crazy photographer was willing to tackle my squad?  The up-for-anything Terri Hathaway of thrutheeyeoftphotography!)

knoxville breakfast rotary and jeanne robertson

On Friday, May 8, the Knoxville Breakfast Rotary hosted nationally-known humorist Jeanne Robertson at the Historic Bijou Theatre. A VIP reception with Jeanne was held before the event and allowed select ticket holders to meet and take pictures with Jeanne. The event benefitted the Rotary Club’s Charitable Gift Fund. As you can tell by the smiles, a great time was had by all!

the case for carrying around a camera

I usually have at least one camera bag with me. It’s a running joke with some of my friends to see how many cameras, lenses, and other props I have in the car at any given time. At first I was hesitant about trying to seem too eager to be a “pro”, but now it’s just a matter of convenience. I’ve averaged a photo shoot a day for several weeks now, so if everything is charged up, packed, and in my car, I have one less thing to worry about. Being busy this spring is nice because I really like paying my bills. The drawback is that I’m in work mode — shoot, edit, return images to clients. Repeat. Repeat.

Having everything with me also provides me the opportunity to remain a hobbyist.  To shoot for fun.  To take chances when nobody is looking or critiquing or paying me for what comes out of the camera. Sometimes these experiments work well; other times I am glad that digital files are easy to delete. I found myself between meetings several days ago and I thought I would use that time to check my planner, return phone calls, and work on that day’s to do list. However, as I pulled in to my parking place, I was face to face with a sunrise that was breathtaking. I’m so glad that I could reach over into the passenger seat and pull out a camera and capture that moment in time. One of the most magical things about photography to me is that pictures allow us to remember not just an event or a person, but also a feeling or a revelation that also occurred in that instant. I keep this picture on my desktop to remind me to slow down, to look around, and to be immensely happy for the job I get to do every day.

auntie v’s tips for holiday photography

Years before I opened my photography business, I was the official family photographer.  I loved this job, but it didn’t come without its pressure and stress, especially during the holidays.  If you are your family’s shutterbug, I share with you now a few tips I have learned.  And trust me, nothing breaks me out in a cold sweat quicker than the thought of having to herd MY cats in front of my camera!

1. Everyone needs to be as relaxed as possible.  Tense people do not look their best in photos.  Promise everyone a sticker, a cup of hot chocolate (or something stronger!) if they will work with you for just a few minutes.  Then have everyone tense up every muscle, close their eyes, then breathe out, relax, open their eyes, and truly smile.  You will get much, much better family portraits.

2. Have family members put their arms around one another, lean against one another, sit close together, or hold hands.  Family photos are all about telling a story and creating a sense of intimacy.

3.  Keep your background as simple as possible.  If you can, separate your family from the background so that the faces are crisp and clear, and the background becomes less so.

4.  Try to have folks avoid large or very busy patterns, unless of course you are hosting an ugly sweater party.  In that case, carry on.

5.  Above all else, HAVE FUN.  If you happen to have an unhappy baby or a surly teenager, continue on without letting it ruin the moment.  Everyone else’s smiles and cooperation will take attention away and you can chalk it up to capturing your family in that moment, being who they are.

Happy, happy holidays.  I would love to see everyone’s family pictures!


P.S. I would like to note that the Stooksbury family (pictured) needed no coaching whatsoever.  These people could teach a master’s course on posing for photos!

a family that photographs together…

…still can’t fold their laundry in a timely manner.  But that’s not my subject right now.

One of the most fun aspects of becoming a photographer has been my family learning the art of photography along with me.  My sister is very good with a camera (and actually had a good one before I did!), and she captures pictures of my niece and nephew that take my breath away.  Starting at age three, Davis would take my camera and go around the house, taking photos of the things and people who interested him.  From his perspective, he saw things that I missed during my busy days and made me realize that there is a whole other angle to see if I could just slow down.  Katie has one of my hand-me-down cameras, and sometimes takes hours posing her American Girls in the snow, at the pool, in the yard, or sitting in a tree.  You’d think she was doing a photo shoot with real people, and the resulting portraits would make American Girl proud.  Most importantly for a middle school girl, her selfies are top-notch.

Two weeks ago, my husband came along with me on a job.  He handed me lenses when I needed to make a change, and *very* carefully made suggestions about posing my subjects and lighting.  (He was in my wheelhouse, after all!)  Last week, he wanted to come along again for another session.  After years of discussing cases with him, it was really fun for him to work with me.  I realized how much he has learned about photography in the last few years and that he is an artist in his own right.

The toughest nut to crack has been my mother.  Despite numerous attempts to teach her some basic photography skills, she has cut me off each time.  She says that she has no interest.  I’ve understood.  Photography is not for everyone.  (Thank goodness, I need a job!)  So you can imagine my surprise two nights ago when we had the following conversation on the phone:

Mom:  I found the most bizarre-looking bug on my back door tonight.

Me:  Well, can you describe it to me?

Mom:  I took a picture of it with my phone.  I’ll send it to you.

SHE DID WHAT?!?  My mother took a picture?  There’s hope for her yet — it’s good!

the hunt for the great blue heron

Vacation week.  Sun, golf, relaxation, and for me, time to practice photography.  We are spending this week in Hardin County, Tennessee enjoying beautiful Pickwick Lake.  I might have named by business after my maternal grandmother, but my paternal grandfather taught me birdwatching.  He would love it here:  geese, ducks, an enormous Osprey, a Bald Eagle (!!), and my absolute favorite bird, the Great Blue Heron. I have spent years photographing Herons on Pickwick, and one in particular seems to frequent our cove.  I stalk him each evening, carrying my camera on the boat and on RARE occasions, on the jet ski.  He is a very shy bird and always seems to elude even my best zoom lenses.  It’s our own personal game of cat and mouse.  I always feel like I am on safari in rural west Tennessee when I am hunting him, hoping to get a great shot.  Maybe he was tired last night, maybe he felt sorry for me, or maybe I just finally won.  Whatever the reason, I GOT HIM, and he is gorgeous.  Bald Eagle, I’m coming for you next, friend.

welcome to polka dott photography

Welcome to Polka Dott Photography.   For those who have asked how I came up with the name, my grandmother’s name was Dott.  She loved pictures.  Not of herself, of course, but of her grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren.  Even after she couldn’t remember some people or events, she would have pictures clutched in her hands.  She left me the money I used to buy my first “real” camera.  Many cameras, lenses, and flashes later, here I am.  I hope you enjoy your pictures as much as Dott enjoyed hers.  I look forward to many, many more.