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.

Tips for a Smooth Group Session

DSC_0133Group shots can be some of the toughest things, for the photographer, for the bride, and the families.  Babies will be crying, toddlers are just done for the day, and Grandma and Grandpa are baking in the sun.

To ease this phase of your wedding day, I’ve compiled some tips and with my shot list so that you can make this run smoothly, and everyone, even those small babies, can be happy.

Tip #1. Ensure Your Group Knows They Will Have Their Picture Taken.

I will always shoot the main group, right after the grand exit and that first kiss as husband and wife.  This allows those who need to leave quickly to do so, while still having a token that they were present.

Tip #2. Color Coordination

Make sure everyone, who is supposed to be wearing the bridal colors KNOWS they are to wear them for the group photos.  It may seem silly, but it does happen.  People get rushing and forget what they are supposed to wear if it is not clear from the start.  So help your parents, siblings, and whoever is part of your special group, know what they are to wear on the day of your wedding.

Tip #3. Have Makeup Handy for Touch-ups.

After your first kiss, your lipstick may have smudged, so I would recommend having either your mother, your maid of honor, or some other trusted female to have makeup on hand so we can touch up any smudges or add a little powder to reduce shine if it is a hot day.  I would also suggest wearing waterproof mascara, as joyful tears tend to flow freely.


So that you can plan accordingly, here is what my general group shot list looks like:

  • The “Everyone” photo.  This is for everyone who attends your ceremony.
  • Grandma and Grandpa.  Most grandparents don’t do well in extreme temperatures and so I try to take their photos first to allow them to get where they are comfortable as soon as possible.
  • Siblings who have small children or those with special needs.  After grandparents, most young kids get cranky from having to sit still so long and usually missing a nap or lunch.  I will do my best to accommodate those with special needs so that we ensure they get to be part of the celebration.
  • Family shots.  Your families may need to help with preparations for the reception so we will help them get to where they need to be quicker.
  • Mom and Dad with couple and separately.
  • Siblings with couple and separately
  • Couple with nieces and nephews (if requested.)
  • Bridal party.  I like to save these for last because we can have a bit more fun with these.  This is your last hurrah with your friends on your wedding day so I will do my best to make it memorable (and possibly humorous).
  • Couple shots.  I will do the bulk of these the night before so we can have better lighting, but there is a special sparkle in the eyes of the couple on the actual day of the wedding that I want to help you remember.  After the huge list of photos you just went through though, we will only take a few.


From start for finish, your wedding day photos will be about an hour and a half, but could increase or decrease depending on the number of guests you have.

As an added bonus for you, I will provide a cooler of bottled water if we are shooting outdoors.

Keep on the lookout for more great tips to help your wedding day run smoothly and subscribe so that you can have the latest info.

Have a warm and happy week.


A Style Guide For Your Engagement Photo Session: To help you look and feel your best

Engagement sessions are some of my favorite things to shoot.  I get to interact one-on-one with my clients, and it is a fun and relaxed time.  To help you feel and look your most polished for these sessions, I wanted to provide some tips that I have found while working with clients.

Wear Your Best Attire

We all have varying degrees of what we consider dressed up.  However, what is important is that you choose an outfit that fits you well while making you feel great.  When you look polished and ready, it will give you confidence.  This will shine through in your photos.   

If you are the type that really likes bold colors or prints go ahead and wear the outfit.  I would recommend, though, that you also bring a simpler outfit as well so that we have some options.

Couple sitting on a boat dock near a river kissing

Wear What is Comfortable

If you are uncomfortable at all in your outfit, it will show.  You will have scrunched up eyes and a very self-conscious look on your face that will be hard to get rid of.  So, find what is comfortable, while keeping in mind the first tip.  Avoid wearing your workout attire.  If you plan to wear high heels, have an alternative pair of shoes as well.

Man and woman sitting together with heads close

Choose Clothing That Complements Each Other

I found a great infographic by Wedding Forward as I was going through my Pinterest feed a while back that depicted how to choose complementary colors for your session.  By wearing complementary colors, you will ensure that both of you will stand out in all the right ways.

Couple outdoors looking at camera

Consider Your Location

Think about the style you are looking for and how that plays into your surroundings.  If you are on a beach, high heels might not be the best option.  Also, if we need to do some hiking to reach the location, a tight dress would not be the best choice.  As a general rule, flip-flops are not advised as they aren’t easy to walk in, especially if we happen to get into thorny ground. 

Man and woman standing together kissing beneath a tree

Bring multiple outfits 

A change of clothes can bring in a fresh feel after doing some shooting.  Bring two to three outfits and we will photograph as much as we have time for.  Consider layering as well.  This can provide props later on as it warms up or cools down.

I hope these tips help you as you plan for your upcoming engagement session.  If you find there are other tips you would like to see, comment with them below.

Have a great week!

Three Tips for your Bridal Photos

Black and white headshot of bride

Good Afternoon Ladies!

Today I wish to cover some items you may want to consider for your upcoming bridal session.  Things can get crazy when you begin the wedding planning, so I hope these tips can help you stay relaxed and enjoy your engagement.

  1. The first thing I would recommend is to get plenty of sleep.  I know this can be challenging when all you want to do is be with your future Mr., but being groggy for photos can make your session hard for you and your photographer.  It’s hard to smile naturally when all you want to do is yawn.  Lack of sleep can also make your eyes look sunken, and we want to have our eyes full and glowing.  So get to bed on time and get that beauty rest.
  2. Stay hydrated.  Drinking plenty of water can provide your skin with that soft, silky look we all like.  It will also help you feel alert (which can help you in           tip #1).
  3. The final tip I’m going to give you today is be comfortable.  If you are uncomfortable in anything you are wearing, it will show up in your photos.  If your corset is just too tight, you will look like you are in pain and no amount of editing can change that.                                                                                                       

 You want to love the way you look, as this translates into confidence, and that confidence is what will give you that “WOW” to all your photos.

If you found these tips helpful, leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you.

Have a Stellar Week!