Perfect Portraits are nice but...

It’s the day-to-day photos of kids playing, couples laughing and snoring dads that mean the most to us. Why? Because those smiles and moments are real. We feel the joy bubble up inside as we reminisce. The most epic photos are taken in real places while people are having the time of their lives. However, getting people on board with professional candid lifestyle shoots has been tricky. So many hear that I’m a photographer and instantly ask “so you take headshots right?” Or they describe some sort of studio or random location scenario where I’ll be telling them how to pose the entire time. Thankfully, the more examples I share, the faster it starts to click in people’s minds.


I’ve known Misty for a few years now. We originally met at a Chamber of Commerce networking meeting and she and I have kept in touch. Misty is a veteran photographer with a team who help her fulfill requests. She could have hired one of her own team members but instead she reached out to me for a consultation. She said that she wanted to work with me because candid active shoots were my specialty and she trusted that I could take the kinds of shots that could tell a story. I was flattered. She and her husband wanted to celebrate their relationship with commemorative photos that truly captured their chemistry and personalities. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I quickly started thinking of ideas that she and her husband might be comfortable pursuing. Wanting to include their love for dancing and playfulness, we decided I’d document a cozy date night at their home. 

Couple sets the table for dinner at home. Photo credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX
Plano TX couple enjoys a cozy dinner at home. Photo Credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX
Couple laughs while the dog enjoys a scratch behind the ears under the dinner table. Photo Credit: Gernelle Nelson
Married couple shares a tender moment in their kitchen at Christmas time. Photo Credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX

I arrived early and sat in the driveway for a few minutes while I mentally went over my checklist. A few weeks prior, I’d sent Misty and her husband Michael (I call them M&M) a list of tips on how to prepare their home, yard, wardrobe and minds for the their lifestyle session. All that was left to do was conduct the shoot. Misty spotted me in the driveway and came to greet me, inviting me inside. After meeting Michael, we chatted and laughed in the kitchen while I tested the lighting and petted their sweet dogs. Once everything was good to go, I gave them a quick overview of the order of events and we got started. Honestly, I hardly had to give them any direction. Their natural chemistry as they cooked and flirted around the kitchen was a sure sign that these were going to be some great shots. 

They included me in all of the conversations as they talked about their favorite memories around food and dancing. Michael even played a song for me that, upon listening to the lyrics, I realized was written for Misty! Talk about romantic! Once we headed into the backyard, we enjoyed the weather as they poured glasses of champagne and Michael placed a flower in Misty’s hair. He then recounted the story of their honeymoon before raising a toast to his bride. Once they were done with the bubbly, it was time to dance! They were both in good spirits as they showed me the steps they’d learned together in class. (Yes, this couple takes dance lessons together, could they be any cuter?!) As the sun set and the air cooled, we wrapped up their session by wrapping Misty in a throw blanket while they cuddled and chatted on their patio. After we were done, Michael offered me a glass of one of his favorite whiskeys. Then we all proceeded to chat for about half an hour as I packed up my belongings. Misty surprised me with a parting gift and I hopped in my car to head home. It was the perfect ending to the evening. 

Couple enjoys a champagne toast at home. Photo Credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX
Husband spins his wife around as they dance together.  Photo Credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX
Happy couple cuddle up under a throw blanket outside. Photo Credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX

That’s what I love about these sessions

M&M experienced a candid lifestyle shoot with me and I got the Misty and Michael experience; a lot of genuine conversations and laughter. Hearing the stories about M&M’s relationship and how it has blossomed overtime gave me a lot of joy. We also talked about food, gifts inherited from fathers, whiskey and how to maneuver tricky in-law situations. This night reminded me of one of the reasons I switched from guided shoots to candid lifestyle. I enjoy the process right alongside my clients. They don’t fret over keeping every hair in place or striking dramatic poses under spotlights. Instead they focus on enjoying the moment while I do everything I can to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes I’m invited into the experience like I was with M&M. Other times I get to witness the experience as a quiet observer (this happens a lot at elopements). Whatever the moment calls for, whether it be lots of encouragement, a little inspiration or a short break, I do my best to cultivate opportunities for emotion and personal connections to shine.

Dancing in the backyard, couple smiles at each other. Photo credit: Gernelle Nelson. Plano, TX