Are Family Pictures Hoaky or Memorable?

June marks the beginning of summer for most families as school lets out.  If you are like my family, there are at least two reunions we go to every summer.  Not to mention weddings, pool parties, and Sunday dinners.

However, with all that family gathering, when was the last time your family actually had their picture taken together?  And I’m not talking about that group wedding photo that you can hardly identify yourself in.  No.  I’m talking about a photo where everyone is easily visible and looking at the camera.  It’s likely been a few years (or decades) since your family took a nice photo together. 

Why is that?

Most of us feel self-conscious about some part of our selves.  We have imperfections.  ALL OF US DO.

This acknowledgment of imperfections, however, may not be enough to make getting your photo taken any easier.  So what is a person to do? (If you struggle with being self-conscious in photos check this out).

Another reason family photos may be hard for you is because you feel that having those stiff, posed images don’t really convey who your family is, and you are likely right!  Stiff awkward poses don’t tell your families stories.

A Solution to the Dilemma…

One of the biggest ways you can help your family achieve better pictures is to

  1. Coordinate clothing to some level.  When your family has on a similar color or style, your photos look more professional.  Some colors that work well are varying shades of blue, purples, and tan.  These neutral colors allow your faces to be seen clearly without being overpowering. 
  2. Communicate with your photographer about your family.  What are your likes, dislikes, your flavor of personality, and especially if someone is shy or really goes out of their way to hide when the shutter button is pressed.
  3. Allow enough time for your photos.  If you are looking for just one large photo, you can expect it to take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  If you are going to break out into smaller groups or do individual shots, allow more time (1-2 hours). Don’t plan major things for right after your photo session so that everyone can relax and enjoy their time mingling together. 
  4. Consider having music.  Music allows us to relax, find a rhythm, and who knows, maybe it will turn into a dance party! 
  5. Finally, encourage everyone to show up on time, but if you have family members who are perpetually late, consider doing individual/immediate family photos first.  This will allow those individuals time to arrive without holding anyone up too long. (Or a trick we used in my family was to tell the tardy ones to arrive thirty minutes earlier so they got there on time. 


This summer, consider making it memorable by having a great family photo taken where everyone enjoys the experience, even Dad.


Family Photo Discount Flyer

During the month of June, I am offering a $45 discount (originally $299) to all family packages.  You will still receive a large framed family print as well as 25 of your favorites in digital.  You can also receive a Free 8×10 Print for every follow on my Instagram account from your family.   Book today, even if your family event isn’t until later this summer.  The discount will still apply so long as you book and pay a small reservation fee from now – June 30.

Book now and save the date!

Young couple seated on a bench with three young girls


What Does Your Smile Say About You?

Good Afternoon and welcome back to the Vanessa Thurgood Photography blog.  I was blown away by the response to last week’s post.  I think it may be safe to say that we all struggle at times with how we view ourselves.  Yet, I feel it is important to be reminded  that no matter what stage of life we are at, we are beautiful.

In last week’s post, I asked you to take a short quiz to check in with yourself.  How did you score?  Did you remember to write down A. A. Milne’s quote? If so, how did it help you?  Leave me a comment!


This week, I want to focus on how we smile.  A smile is one of the most contagious, and universal physical signs we make.  A smile can help you feel happier, healthier, and more relaxed.  Even a fake smile can substitute until you can give a genuine one.

Groom kissing bride on cheek

As I have continued in my career as a photographer, I find that there are a wide variety of smiles out there.  A relaxed individual smiles easily, while someone who is nervous or stressed has a very tight smile.  Other reasons someone may not smile is due to a  real or perceived imperfection in said smile.

To be truthful though, in many cases our imperfections are what make us special.  Few people likely have had as many stitches on their face as I experienced as a child. (Word to the wise with three-year olds, don’t let them pull any strange dog’s tail).  I have a rather large scar on my lower right jaw and upper lip where I was bit by a dog.

Do you want to know something, though? If I smile, those scars disappear, (as do my eyes on occasion if I smile big enough).  Those scars help create who I am, but they do not hold me back.  I have been told by people that they didn’t even notice I had a scar until I point it out.

Self Portrait of Photographer


If you have the time, check out this 7.5 minute TED Talk on smiling.  It does a wonderful job at explaining why it is so important to smile.


So next time you are getting your photo taken, remember to smile!


What Can Happen with a Sprinkle of Confidence? Only You Can Tell Us.

Today is Wednesday.  It’s the middle of the week and this can either be exciting or it can feel like drudgery that you still have two more work days to go before the weekend.  Does this seem to happen often?  Although we may occasionally have our downs, my hope is that you will find more joy in your journey through life.

Elderly Woman sitting in a chair and Laughing

Now this is probably not a post you would expect to see on a photography website, but hang in there with me.  The way we feel about ourselves comes through in our photographs.  If you are constantly stressed, it is hard to give a pretty, open smile to someone behind the camera. Plus, it’s hard on you in general when you don’t relax and smile and laugh from time to time.  So let’s dive in.

(Disclaimer: This post does contain affiliate links for which I may receive a small percentage of anything you may purchase.)

Time for a Check-up!

Now I would like you to get a piece of paper and something to write with.  We are going to do a check up on how you feel about yourself, and be honest!  The only one who is going to see these answers will be you.

(1=very poor; 10=very positive)

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much confidence do you have in your own natural abilities?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel about the way you look?
  3. When was the last time you spoke positively about yourself?
  4. How do you feel you look in photographs?
  5. Is there anything that stands out to you in photographs that you wish you could change?
  6. On a scale of 1-10, how often do you genuinely smile?
  7. When you shake someone’s hand, do you look them in the eye?
  8. When was the last time you did something that impressed you?
  9. Do you feel you can speak to others easily?
  10. What do you love most about yourself?

Now, review your answers.  Did they show you anything surprising?

Now take a minute and view this wonderful video from Dove.  You may have seen it from one of their campaigns, but it’s definitely worth viewing again.

We are infinitely more beautiful than we often believe.  If you had a negative answer to any of those ten questions above, I would like you to write a way in which you could turn it into a positive.  For example, if you gave a 1 for how often you smile, I want you to write a game plan for how you can turn that 1 into a 5.  This could be every time you see yourself in the mirror, you will smile.

Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

~ A. A, Milne

Do you remember this quote from “Winnie the Pooh”?  I want you to print this out and place it on your mirror, or if you want something more permanent try one of these.  Either way, place it somewhere you will see it often throughout your day.

This week, I want you focus on speaking positively about yourself.  By performing this one simple act, you will see that others will notice.  You may even find they will compliment you more often.  Confidence invites people in.  Negativity drives them away.

Have a stellar week!



p.s. If you liked this post let me know! I would love to hear from you.  Also, you can come hang out with me on Instagram.

Vendor Series: Live, Lash, Love Red Aspen

Have you ever tried to help someone when you yourself are feeling down?  It’s really hard!  Although being there for someone else when you do feel that way can help you get out of your funk in a most amazing way, I feel that we need to take care of ourselves too.  When you feel beautiful, it’s much easier to help others feel that same beauty in themselves.

Today’s post in my vendor series is to introduce you to a spunky lady named Gaigh Gull.  She is a fitness instructor, mother of four and consultant for Red Aspen Lashes, a company based in Boise, ID.

Woman dressed up showing off her faux eye lashes.
Photo Credit: Gaigh Gull

Being from this area, I’m excited to showcase a local business.  Yet that isn’t the only reason I wanted to include Red Aspen Lashes in my vendor series.  I truly love this product.  The founders of this company have a mission to bring women together, and I think that when we feel beautiful, we are more willing to gather and lift each other.

As a personal user of these lashes, the thing I love most is that you can wear them for multiple weeks if you treat them well.  They never move once applied, unless you choose to take them off.  Plus, they are full and really do look natural.

Photo Credit: Red Aspen Lashes

Through Red Aspen Lashes, Gaigh can provide you with a wide array of options from barely there, to full on flare.  One reason I highly recommend wearing these faux eye lashes is the confidence you will gain during your engagement session, and more especially your wedding day.  You will have no doubt that you look stunning as you walk down the aisle and every head turns your way.

Another bonus is that they are comfortable!  It took me a couple tries to get them on correctly.  (We’re talking about gluing the middle of my eyelid to the lash band. Oww!)  Once you get the technique down, however, you will not notice they are even there.  And if you do struggle, there are tutorials available, or if you are in the area, Gaigh can help out too.

You can find Gaigh and her beautiful lashes at and on Instagram and Facebook.


“Like anyone else, there are days I feel beautiful and days I don’t, and when I don’t, I do something about it.”     ~ Cheryl Tiegs

Have a fantastic week!

p.s. Don’t forget to check out my Engagement Style Guide! and look for me on Instagram.

Don’t Forget the Announcements! Impress those future in-laws with this.

Woman in a blue shirt sitting and looking at camera

Welcome to the first edition of my vendor series!

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! I am thrilled you are here and I hope you will find what you need in my vendor series.  Through this and future posts I will highlight various individuals and companies I have worked with over the past years to bring you suppliers that will give you the very best.

To be clear, I don’t receive anything from highlighting these vendors, aside from knowing that should you choose to go with one of them, you will be in skilled hands.

Today I would like to introduce you to Deanna Weaver of Accent Design.

You might be wondering why a supplier for wedding announcements would be the main topic for the first post in this vendor series.  Answer: Your wedding announcement, Save the Date cards, Thank You cards, etc. are all a reflection of you.  They are also a first look at you for your future in-laws.  You may have met your fiance’s parents and siblings, but I’m talking about his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. (And if it is anything like my husband’s family, this can mean joining an entire tight-knit village).  Many of these people will not even meet you until the day of your wedding.

For some relations, this can be a make or break moment.  That is why it is so important to be timely in sending out those announcements and working with a supplier who cares about your timelines.  It also sends out a great first impression if you keep them well-informed on where to be and when.  This is where Deanna comes in.

Hands sorting through a color palette for wedding announcements.

She offers a no-commitment consultation for FREE!  She will discuss timelines and prices with you so that you know exactly what you will get for your wedding invitations and how much of your budget this will take.  You get to choose your colors, the size of your announcement and other cards, as well as a final say in the design of your announcement.  This way you get something that looks like you, AND feels like you.

I feel that is extremely important as you plan for your wedding day.  It is a celebration of you and your future spouse.  It is one day where you truly make it special and your very own.

Hands holding a selection of cards included in a wedding announcement package.

Deanna began Accent Design in 2008 after branching out on her own from her day job.  She is highly trained and has a great eye for what looks amazing.  I have personally worked with her on numerous jobs ranging from graduation announcements to wedding invitations.  She is skilled in creating beautiful cards that you will be excited to show your family.

You can find here on Facebook as well.

I hope you found this post helpful.  If there is a topic you would love to see me cover let me know in the comments!

Best Wishes,


Six Tips for Preparing for Your Headshot Session

I have recently had the privilege to provide headshots for several individuals and can I say just how fun they were?  Two sessions were shot outdoors, while another was at Studio Boise, (which I highly recommend you check out if you are in the area.  Fantastic service and friendly staff.)  From these sessions I have pulled together some things that each of these clients did well and can be of use to you as you plan for your upcoming shoot.

Here are six tips to help your next headshot session be exactly what you want.

  1. Get your suit or dress cleaned and pressed.  This may seem like you are getting ready for a job interview.  Depending on what you intend to gain from your headshot session, you may very well be doing just that.  This photo can be for a client, a future boss, or a voter’s first glimpse of who you are.  Whatever the reason, you want to impress them.
  2. Wear the full suit.  Yes it may just be a headshot, but sometimes I like to capture the whole individual so that we can get a greater sense of who you are and what your brand is.  This is even true for you ladies.  It also helps out in my retouching process.

Headshot of man in suit in front of brown background

3. Beware of LOUD Jewelry. Jewelry is a great way to accessorize and make yourself stand out, but be careful.  Sometimes your jewelry can speak louder than your eyes, which is something we never want to do.  Your eyes are what will make you love  your photos. Large necklace pieces or earring may detract so keep things simple and on the smaller end.

4. Wear heavier makeup.  This can be uncomfortable and even tricky.  If you are not familiar with this avenue of makeup, there are lots of tutorials and I’m sure you have a friend or two that would be delighted to help.  I am even available to help you during our session or we can locate a professional makeup artist.

Woman with hand on cheek softly looking at camera. full color with a warm tone.

5. Wear Comfortable Yet Flattering Attire. It may take some time before you are comfortable in front of the camera if this is your first time.  So I encourage you to wear what makes you feel your best and is comfortable for you.  We will generally do standing, leaning, and sitting poses.

6.  Make Use of Your Hairspray. Whether we are shooting outdoors or in the studio, the use of hair spray is vital.  As with the photo below, you never know what can happen.  We were setting up for this shoot when it started snowing.  Luckily my beautiful model here was prepared and her hair lasted wonderfully for the full shoot.  If we are in the studio, the warmth coming of the lights can cause your hair to fall flat if it isn’t supported well.  I will usually have some on hand if we find that you are in need of a touch up.

Woman in front of brick building with a hat and vest over green shirt. Snow can be seen on the woman and floating around.

BONUS! One last tip to send you home.  I highly recommend consider using contrast in your attire.  Leather boots with a soft knit dress, a bold tie in contrast to your dark suit, you get the idea.

I hope you enjoyed these tips and I look forward to working with you!

P.S. Have you checked out Four Ways to Totally Rock Your Portrait Session ?