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Back in 2002, when I first opened As Cute As It Gets, my first and foremost goal at the beginning was to offer other parents what I personally as a mom wished other photographers at the time were offering – themes. Luckily for the consumer nowadays, there are plenty photographers that offer props/sets. However, when my sons were little, there simply weren’t any in my area.  I had brought my own boys to several mall studios as well as several mid to high end private studios and always came away disappointed at the lack of cute and creative themes, such that I then started lugging my own props and costumes in, most assuredly to the photographers utter disdain. Everywhere I went I just felt nitpicky, as I really began to zero in how more studios than not had the rush rush approach and a strained ability to work well with children. Again, I’m certain there were photographers out there that gave ample time and actually loved working with kids, I just never found them. Those things all in mind at the time, I searched and searched and spent and spent trying to find the right studio, and realized that I would simply NEVER find a studio offering everything I hoped for from portrait planning to final product. I began to dream of what that studio would be like and decided the answer was to create it myself.  I have spent almost 15 years in tireless pursuit of perfecting my craft and offering all the things I feel parents like myself want... turning As Cute As It Gets into the fun and dynamic studio I envisioned. A fortunate result of my efforts was that I gained a wide and loyal following in Orange County in CA.  What a life to be thankful of every single day....I had a busy career where I spent all day having the time of my life. How did I end up here in gorgeous St. Charles? My husband received a couldn't pass up promotion that required moving here to Chicagoland, so we picked up and moved.  I took two years off from photography, and decided I missed As Cute As It Gets big time.

I have a passion I have for making As Cute As It Gets the best it can be, so the studio will continue to offer its unique take on trends and services and build up a clientele again. This is not just for my own selfish needs as a picture-happy mom to both kids and dogs, but really for all the parents out there that have a higher standard of what they expect from their photography studio experience. There are many unique things about my studio that certainly make me worth your consideration. As you look down the following list of what I believe makes As Cute As It Gets Portrait Design one of the best, I hope you breathe a sigh of relief and decide to try me out!

Long Sessions

As a mom of two, hhhm, hhhhm, "active" boys myself, I absolutely, positively decided that I needed to offer other parents out there loooong sessions if they needed them. Long sessions allow for plenty of time to accommodate breaks for your little one to get their wiggles out, get their well-deserved hugs for a doing a great job, have a snack and/or use the restroom. A child being rushed through a session by a photographer or a parent creates a needlessly stressful environment for your child and you can see it in the resulting portraits. Also, you really want your little ones to grow up associating photography with fun. If you have an infant, then having a longer session time is great for you to accommodate diaper changes, soothing, and breast/bottle feedings. Opting for a long session also allows ample time to change themes and/or switch outfits, so you can make the most out of your time with me. I swear by this method. Toddlers and younger kids often need to scope out the deal and warm up to the photographer. This method allows that to happen. My own boys seriously couldn’t have done a session any other way when they were little. Photograph. Hang out. Photograph. Goof around. Photograph. Have a snack. Photograph. By the end of the session it is my goal that children just remember having a blast and never give objection in the future to going back.

Everyone's child is of course different and you may fear that one of my longer sessions, even with lots of breaks, might not be for him/her... so in that case, the half hour studio session or Portrait Event session would be ideal for you to start with to see how your little one handles the visit. I’m pretty sure you will be pleasantly surprised. If it doesn’t go as planned, then I simply have you come back another day at no extra charge to give it another go.

Lots and lots of portraits taken

I take a ton of portraits! Perhaps too many. My goal is the same as yours... to capture the true smile, sweet glance or impish expression that melts your heart. This way you get not just a few you love out of the session, but tons that you utterly adore! The hardest part of your whole experience with me should be to separate the super cute proofs from the really cute proofs! I know a lot of photographers feel it is best to narrow down a clients final selection down to just the absolute best. And I do that for sure…I do have fun picking favorite portraits! However, as a parent purchasing portraits myself all those years ago….I wanted to see every single one. I was beyond peeved when photographers would tell me they decided upon the best ones and never gave me the option to see them all even when I asked. I know there are lots of parents out there that feel adamant about being able to see each and every proof and appreciate my belief in this practice. I certainly know when your child gives me a great smile, but it is important to me that you get to pick your very favorite of the bunch. There are tiny differences that only a mom or dad will see. Sometimes a second opinion is helpful to streamline your choices, so I always, always make two galleries…one showing just my hands down favorites & comments from each series we do, and then a gallery with ALL the rest of the portraits taken.

What you see is what you get, I promise

My galleries are full of real portraits obtained in real day to day sessions. My albums, collages and card examples actually were custom created for my clients in the normal ordering process. I know of several photographers that show work on their sites that simply is not the caliber of what actually comes from their studio during a non staged regular session. Ask my husband….I am in this not because I am business person, but because I am completely in for the art of it. I will make sure that the portraits you receive for look like the portraits you came to me for. Promise. Nothing could be more important to me... and I really mean that.

I can achieve this by a combination of the following:

I am GREAT with kids!

My being super silly and playful with my own kids and their friends all these years is what mainly prepares me for being great with your kids. I also like to say that after having photographed thousands of children over 15 years that I truly know what strange sound or funny phrase works perfectly for each age group. I make a chicken sound that is the envy of the barnyard, I tell you. If my normal repertoire isn’t working, sometimes in the middle of a session you and can go into a quick huddle and come up with something on the fly that works so magically I will use it forever more. Parents delight in my ample energy, zany approaches and impressive patience.... my goal is your goal... to capture that special look your child does all the time that you want to remember forever. I feel the most wonderful feeling of accomplishment every time I capture your child truly laughing. Nothing is better than getting a child to show their true smile...the one where their eyes light up with pure joy. Those are the portraits I want of my own kids. I have been told by many a parent that I am the best in the business based on this one quality!

Expertise to start with!

Not to sound all M. Night Shyamalan-esque, but I see perfect portraits. I know what I am shooting for from the start. Whether it is a theme or pose I have done for years or a new one I am trying out for the first time, I have the end product completely envisioned in my head before, during, and after I shoot it. Newborns, babies and children are of course what I work the most with, but during my family and maternity sessions, where I am working with adults as well, I can assess how I will pose you in seconds based upon physique, clothing and hairstyle. I try to make you laugh too. Senior sessions are a breeze because I have a 16 year old and a 22 year old now... I can successfully relate to todays teen. I won’t make animal noises or tickle their tummy though, although I will tell them I will if they give me no other choice. That usually gets a laugh or two. Pets are easy peasy. I know what to do and what not to do, and have only once met a pet that didn’t like me. Still got great portraits of him though... he’s the Pirate Chihuahua in my pet gallery. Patience is always the answer with pets.

I always take portraits knowing what will, can, should, etc happen to them in post-production. For example, if it turns out your little one is going through a separation anxiety phase, I can have you sit right next to them in the set touching their arm or back, then edit you out. I have a solution for virtually everything that comes up (and in newborn sessions…what sometimes comes out) during a session. I also have heavily invested in education and regularly attend the annual conventions and seminars. I know the technical stuff. But I truly believe creating one of my portraits comes down to having a good eye. Complimentary Retouching and Affordable Editing Bruises from yesterday’s tumble... gone! Glistening drool strands... erased! Stretch marks in your pregnancy portraits... magically invisible! Unruly prices of hair... tamed... Stains on your little ones shirt from the juice box on the way over... removed! All necessary retouching and enhancing is offered as a complimentary service... I want your portraits to be perfect as can be!

In post production my husband or I can work miracles beyond the complimentary retouching when needed too for a small additional charge. Imagine all your little ones smiling in the same portrait by seamlessly moving in faces/heads/bodies from other portraits taken in the same series. Parents are of course their own worst critic, so imagine waists and double chins slimmed for a price much cheaper than investing in the r & d to invent your own hot tub time machine. I think a lot of parents truly return to me year after year because they dig our ability to edit. More than one parent has said to me "Once you’ve had Photoshop, you never go back." Not every parent needs or wants extra work done, but I personally LOVE the level of editing I offer. I didn’t marry a plastic surgeon, but I am sure delighted that my husband is such a wiz with the more refined features of Photoshop, which is kinda the next best thing. Plus he has a cute British accent. Here are examples of editing that we can do:

Our advanced capability in post production also allows for many of my themes to be fully realized. Simple approaches to it might be moving a barrette that has slipped or adding in more flowers that have been kicked away. More complicated endeavors include my fishing pond set that has your child’s reflection rippling in water that wasn’t there. I can’t imagine my fairy set without the beams of moon light or the fireflies. And all the little girls love the fishies in the mermaid set. All the adorable collages, albums, and cards you see throughout my site are created by hours and hours of design work. And lots of coffee. But good coffee. I make a great mocha.

Each portrait, collage or card is custom designed and specifically tailored to your needs. Anything we do, we offer you lots of design choices. Portrait Design is in my studio’s name, which implies and follows through on the notion that you are receiving more than photography.

Ability for not just digital portraits, but also printed!

As you know, the industry’s business model has shifted to the offering of digital portraits. So many studios have cut out offering printed portraits completely. And then there are the newer photographers that have never offered a print ever. Not every parent is used to this, and doesn’t want this, but runs with it because that is what is out there. Moving to this business model made me feel really uncomfortable, as it meant loss of control over the final product. I mulled it over during my two years off, coming to the happy conclusion that as the studio owner, I made my own rules and could offer the ability to still fulfill requests for portrait orders if my clients desired. So all my portrait packages are digital, with a low cost option of adding on printed portraits, canvases, press printed cards and other products that are printed by one of the portrait industry’s highest-end pro labs.

I calibrate my monitor weekly, so that the color on my screen will exactly match the color profile of the lab’s machines. The machines the lab uses are just huge, and cost tens of thousands of dollars….they are unlike the little machines you see at Costco and Target. My lab produces gorgeous and sharp images that I am elated to offer. I just don’t want you to send off images locally and wonder why they are murky and bleached out looking compared to the vibrant & crisp images on my studio walls. When at the studio, please ask to see my prints of the same file from my lab vs. our local Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Shutterfly.

I hope that you take me up on the option and order prints through me... at least a few. This means that along with the best in archival inks and materials, I can offer the perfect color I envision for the art. I believe in high standards and it is important to me that I continue my commitment to offering perfect prints. I was trying to think of a joke here, but for once, don’t have one. I love what I do, and have an annoying need to make sure I offer the best I can possibly can.

And last but not least, creativity!

You like either have it or like, you don’t. Just kidding. But to briefly digress, isn’t it like weird how much everyone in the US all say "like" nowadays? I kinda didn’t have a chance, because I like, am originally blond, grew up in LA…like, ya know? Sadly, it turns out I do say "like" a lot. Luckily I can disguise that fact when I write. Anyway, I do really feel creativity is the one quality I have for some reason an over-abundance of. If I can imagine a new set or prop or I am asked to customize a set, I just truly know how to create it, or for certain, can’t sleep until I find out how to. One of my clients once complimented me by saying my studio sets its self miles apart because you can’t fake creativity. That was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me! Like, ever.

So, if you haven’t guessed it, I love, love, LOVE themes perhaps more than the average person or photographer. Most rooms in my house are themed. I used to live for dress up days and holiday parties at my kids schools. Yes, I utterly drink up theme parks! (We actually lived 10 minutes from Disneyland in CA before we moved. Yep. I was one of those Annual Passholder Disney freaks for 20 years) My husband and I have made the coolest Halloween costumes for our sons and after years of doing an annual Halloween home haunt, have taken it one giant step further by creating the Ghoulish Mortals monster/horror store on the corner by my studio, so I can theme it out with creepy themed merchandise, parties and photography. I am THE girl you go to for themes.

All the themes on my site were created with complete enthusiasm... perhaps too much. I have stories about each set that I sometimes will tell you if we are in break mode. I make almost everything you see on the site or have searched for it like a crazy person, often terribly vexing people by outbidding them on eBay at 3am. I have also driven hundreds of miles to pick a prop up that was too big to ship. I guess my point is what I offer isn’t an open the box and add water approach. It’s about finding ways to bring what I envision to life so that I can feed and quell the creative beast in myself.  This process also luckily brings joy to all the parents and children that come to my studio. Win, win, I say!!

I encourage you to spend time on my website and Facebook. The website is always a work in progress, I try to update things every couple of months. If you need more info on anything or have any questions, just use the form on the Contact Me page to shoot me a message, and I will answer back pretty quickly.

So hopefully after checking my site out, you will believe I truly have a love for the whole start to finish process of designing your portrait experience. The reason I write so much so much on my website is that hopefully after reading section after section you will really know if I am the photographer for you or not. Having a photographer that you click with and communicate with truly increases the likelihood of your being delighted with your session and portraits. I hope to attract parents that read through everything and hands down believe what I offer is what they have been searching for. I believe I absolutely have the right way of doing business, as I am repeatedly told by moms and dads that they feel every dime spent was well worth it.

I do hope you decide to book a session with me. Within minutes of your arrival at your session, you will see how different As Cute As It Gets is... and moments after the delivery of your portraits, you will simply be convinced of it! And that is a wonderful feeling. For you... and of course, me! Every session I have absolutely affirms my choice to start As Cute As It Gets. I absolutely LOVE WHAT I DO... and thankfully everyone tells me over and over again that it shows!

Oh, important disclosure. I promise I am not this wordy or talkative in real life. Can you imagine? Eek. The horror.

Click to see a list of Frequently Asked Questions that explains my policies and practices in greater detail.