As a professional photographer and a not so professional mom, I take pictures seriously. You won’t catch me camera-less. Who doesn’t love a great photo?

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From a blurry iPhone captured Instagram all the way up to an epic, staged, well-lit portrait….I love them all. I love the pictures of smiles, tantrums, eating, sleeping, the naughty, the nice, the real. But is it really photos we love? Or is it the superpower behind the camera? For a split second, we stop time. We prove we exist. We make smiles, giggles, love and memories something real. Something you can hold in your hand, hang on your wall, and send instantly to a friend. I don’t take this lightly. My job as a mom and as a photographer is serious. I want to hang love on my wall and yours.

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If you have never been a professional photographer, I recommend it. Sure you will spend countless sleepless night editing, emailing, planning, printing and of course lots of time shooting. But you see the best of people. And my heart still skips a beat every time I capture something amazing. The way a mom looks into her new baby’s eyes. A quiet moment between sisters. A man looking at the woman he loves as she walks down the aisle.

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But as a mom, these are not the moments we experience most days. We get the dirty, the messy, the screaming, the grass covered, messy floored. I’m hungry, why did you just draw on your sister’s face with marker moments. And this year, I want you to view these moments, this real-life, every day love in a whole new way.

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I think many of us grew up with the “portrait studio mentality.” Once a year, we dressed in matching outfits in a mall studio in front of a black backdrop and plastered a fake smile across our faces that nicely matched our 1980’s hair (You know you have one…). Things have changed and you should too!

So here is my challenge for you for 2013: Don’t look at your camera as something that takes your pictures, think of it as a way to tell your story… your real story! Don’t match. Don’t plan. Don’t tell anyone to smile. Be present. Just shoot.

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A friend of mine, Chuck Anerino, who just happens to be an amazingly gifted photographer in Philadelphia explains it this way: “Photography shouldn’t be a game of ‘what I wish my life looked like’, but rather what my life actually looked like’ with all it’s blemishes, blemishes that will create character and shape futures. That’s what I drive at. It’s not always pretty, but it’s always beautiful.”

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So this year, keep that iPhone charged, learn how to use that expensive DSLR camera you have sitting in the bag in the closet. And I don’t mean on automatic mode! Let the kids get dirty, bring the camera to the grocery store, keep your point and shoot in your purse. Moments don’t happen when you plan them, that happen in even the most unflattering and unexciting of places. Make time for your own story, and at least once this year, hire a professional to help.

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JANUARY PHOTO CONTEST

We’re making 2013 the year of captured stories with monthly photo contests! And we’re kicking things off in a BIG way! Want to win a free four week DSLR or editing class with Kory — so you can hone your own fantastic parentparazzi skills? {Um, YEAH!} Here’s what you have to do: capture something real!  We challenge you to use your camera in ways you would have never before.  Get in the trenches, lay on the ground, shoot in the rain, ignore the messy house and just get REAL!  No “saying cheese”, no matching outfits, just real, raw, amazing life moments.  Do it!

Then, of course, share it! Here are the different ways to enter:

You have until January 31st to enter. One entry per person please. Winner must reside within the Greater Baltimore Area. We will randomly select a winner on February 1, 2013.