Philly Portraits | The Castrogiovanni Family

Here’s a family that is fun, photogenic, kind, and full of energy.  I photographed them a year or two ago, and when they called me this spring and asked about another shoot to document their kids (who seem to be growing up FAST), we took advantage of a windy but beautiful day for some Philly portraits around the art museum…

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family of four
pictures at the philadelphia art museum
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b/w child portraits in philadelphia
philly portraits
philly portraits

Valley Forge Family Portraits

From when he was still in the womb, to his ultra-smiley 6-month portraits, to celebrating one year old last spring, I’ve had fun watching this little guy grow up.

Earlier this winter, his mother Inna asked about trying to get some pictures in the snow.  It certainly was the right year for it, and we got together in February for a winter sunset shoot.  I’ve been looking forward to sharing these Valley Forge family portraits ever since.  If you’re willing to brave the cold, there’s no reason not to get great images in the winter!

child portraits at valley forge
child portraits at valley forge
snowy family portraits
snowy child portraits
tackled in the snow
valley forge family portraits
valley forge family portraits
valley forge family portraits
valley forge family portraits
valley forge family portraits
valley forge

Old City Philly Family Portraits | The “Z” Family

Spring is just around the corner (I suppose it’s technically here, but it doesn’t feel like it yet) and that means as people simply can’t stay inside anymore, we start doing more shoots outside.  Fine with me — I’m ready.  I took some Old City Philly family portraits a week or so ago of the “Z” family.  They live near Headhouse Square, so it seemed appropriate to use this beautiful area and the surrounding streets to capture them with their adorable daughter.

Nothing else needs to be said… we had a great time, as you can tell below.

old city philly family portraits
family portraits at headhouse square
family on stamper street
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old city philly family portraits
family portraits in the historic district in philadelphia
old city philly family portraits

Conshohocken Newborn Photography | Andrew

I’ve so enjoyed working with this family over the past year and a half.  It began with Lauren’s maternity portraits when they were expecting this little guy’s older sister, and continued with newborn and six-month sessions.  Now I’m pleased to show these pictures of little Andrew, who arrived just a couple of weeks ago.  His sister is having fun no longer being the youngest in the house…

conshohocken newborn photography
conshohocken newborn photographer
lifestyle newborn portraits
baby "a"
baby as a football
lifestyle newborn photography
whole family including the dogs
big sister
lifestyle newborn photography b/w

Amanda Nikolaidis Young

Beautiful, as always!

Philly Baby Pictures | Leo

I’m not always sure how to introduce pictures from portrait sessions I take.  Should I talk about how beautiful this little guy is?  How obvious it is that his parents are head-over-heels for him?  How much we enjoyed the shoot?  How their house is so full of great character and beautiful light?  All of the above and more.  We took these Philly baby pictures a couple of weeks ago and I can’t wait until their prints arrive so I can get them into Joe & Regina’s hands.

philly baby pictures
b/w newborn photography
baby closeup
mother and son baby portraits
philly baby pictures
a house with great character
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looking up the stairs

Four Things Fatherhood Has Taught Me

[Disclaimer: What is written below has nothing to do with photography.  Please feel free to skip it if you're just here for the pictures.]

It was not quite six years ago that we brought my oldest daughter home from the hospital, and just over three since my youngest joined us.  I remember, on a warm spring day in 2008, carrying my 5 day old in a carseat up our front walk, feeling like the whole world had changed overnight.  Leaving the hospital, I thought, They’re just going to let me carry this baby out to our car and take her home?  I was woefully unprepared, as almost any new parent must be.

I still feel like that, to some degree.  But my kids have taught me a few things since then.

1. Nothing is as simple as it appears.

On Sunday I was in the car with V, my oldest.  The clocks had been set back the night before, and it was dark when the alarm went off.  I yawned, and tried to explain why I was tired.  Which meant explaining why it was dark when we got up.  Which meant explaining why we set the clocks back.  I did my best.  Her response:

What?!

There are so many things I take for granted, which as I try to put them into words a child can understand, I have to back way up and explain basics upon basics before tackling her initial question.

RYAN: “Do you understand Daylight Savings Time now, V?”

Silence.

VIENNA: “They put too much cream cheese on my bagel.”

You’ll know what I mean if you have ever been asked what happens to goldfish when they die.

Personal Photos

2. Being a parent reveals my own weaknesses.

Perhaps this is true about anything that stretches you as a person, but there is something about raising kids that shows in stark relief my own faults and the condition of my heart.  I have posted plenty of images of my family having good — nay, great — times with each other, smiling, laughing, a picture-perfect world of parental and sibling bliss.  You would pass us on the street, see me with my kids, and think, “There’s a good dad.”  Many days, it’s true.

Then there are days when I don’t carry a camera.  And for good reason.  My peace and quiet is interrupted, our house is no longer clean, my time is taken up with the needs of others.

How can the living room be this messy already?  You just got home 30 seconds ago!

Does it really take 25 minutes to put on your pajamas?

No, lipstick doesn’t belong on the wall.  I shouldn’t have to explain this to you.

When I replay those days in my head, I am sobered by my words and tone of voice.  Not too long ago, my 5-year-old turned away from a conversation, stifling tears.  I sat down next to her, gave her a hug, asked for forgiveness.  As parents, we lead, we teach, we correct… but gently.  If I am to be the safest place in the world for my children, I must give grace as I have been given.

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3. My own parents were far better at this than I used to think.

It was 8th, perhaps 9th grade.  I had friends who were allowed to do more, stay out later, and have TV’s in their rooms.  We did not even have one in the house.  When I went to friends’ houses, it seemed like utopia.  And I remember thinking how great it would be to trade parents with them.  I’m not proud of this.

I got older.  And a little bit older.  I went to college.  I came back, lived at home, paid off debt.  I got married, and had children of my own.  And somewhere in there (sooner rather than later, I hope) I realized how fortunate I was to have my mom and dad.

As I was growing up…

they fed and clothed me.
they taught me what’s important in life.
they played with me, spent time with me.
they disciplined me, prayed for me.
they forgave me when I was wrong, when I broke stuff, when I caused them pain.
they listened to me.

As Kelly and I have raised our own girls, it helps me understand why they did all that, the joys of parenting, as well as the cost.

Like the time I drove home in our 1982 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (a sweet ride if there ever was one) after going to the bank.  I had misjudged a turn at the drive-through, edged into a concrete post with the front passenger-side door, and instead of backing up, drove straight through and put an enormous scrape down the length of the station wagon.

Mom looked at it, sighed, and told me about a time when her dad was so gracious when she wrecked his car as a teenager.  She then displayed the same grace to me.

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Which leads me to…

4. Stuff is just stuff.

Just a few minutes ago I opened up my laptop to work on this post.  Looking at one side, I found a dent.  Nothing huge, but large enough to make it impossible to insert a memory card.

*sigh*  So much for that high-grade aircraft aluminum Apple is so fond of.

I don’t know what happened for sure, but seeing as my girls love to step on stuff (as a mode of transportation, walking on the floor is a last resort), it’s safe to call these two bundles of inadvertent destruction my prime suspects.

I’m reminded of a time when I was young, probably 10 or so.  My dad had a Canon AE-1, a tough brick of the camera from the 70′s.  Gorgeous piece of work, with a solid 50mm lens on it.

“Can I hold it, dad?”

“Sure.”  He handed me the strap, and I slung it over my shoulder.  I don’t remember how it happened, but I do remember that thing hitting the ground, and the sound of glass shattering.  Nothing but shards where there used to be a bright, clear lens.

I’m pretty sure he sighed, too.  But he didn’t yell.  I wasn’t in trouble.  I was just a kid, it was just a camera.  My girls are just kids, and this is just a computer.

Which is far less important than for them to grow up knowing that my love for them doesn’t hinge on, well, on anything, really.

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Susie Wilson Foote

Exactly!! Well-said, Ryan!!

John Teague

Timely thoughts for me Ryan. I find my energy running thin by the time I get home to my girls each day. I get agitated…say things I don’t mean…feel horrible…then hug them and try to explain why I acted the way I did. Thanks for giving my swimming thoughts some clarity in print.

Tina Heinnickel

Love this post, very well said!

Joy Moody

Very nice Ryan! You are a great father. Its funny, I had a similar incident as a kid. I dropped my dads telephoto lens down a waterfall. Cracked it through and through. He was glad I was ok, I went down the waterfall with it, and that my safety was more important than a piece of glass. :) Always good to be reminded of these things.

Rebecca McCall Setzer

Awesome post! And you do have some pretty amazing parents…….:). They’ve extended grace to me a time or two in my youth, so I’ve been told.

Sarah Alderman

I’ve always presumed there was a great heart and a solid soul behind your work. Reading this confirmed my suspicions. Just beautiful, Ryan. This is the greatest job we have.

Sunset Family Portraits in Bucks County

One question I’m frequently asked by clients is, “What time should we plan to take our pictures?”  Unlike those portrait studios in the mall, for us it matters what time of day we shoot, especially since we want to capture the beauty of creation as well as the faces of those you love.  So typically, my answer is: “As soon after sunrise in the morning, or as close to sunset in the evening as we can get.”

Sure, it’s possible to get good pictures at almost any time of day, provided your photographer knows what he or she is doing.  But it really, really does make a difference to shoot toward sunrise or sunset, and if there’s any way at all to schedule a session at those times, I try hard to make it happen.

Here are some favorites from a shoot this past autumn at Tyler State Park in Bucks County, PA.  We found a beautiful open field with some tall grass, and the sky happened to be a beautiful blue-going-on-purple.  Perfect.

All of these images were shot within about 45 minutes of one another, and my favorite ones are those at the end.

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kids with grandparents

Here we go.  I shot the following two images with the sun behind ME.  This can work well if the sun is especially low in the sky (half-above the horizon, or even better, if it’s just set).

big blue sky
sunset family portraits in bucks county

Then I ran to the other side of them, and shot back toward the sun.

sunset family portraits in bucks county

That’s a little better than shooting at noon and everyone squinting or having raccoon eyes, don’t you think?

Thanks, Jeff & Amber, for being flexible and willing to work at a time of day that might have been a little less convenient.  I think it really made a difference in these pictures.