The Texas Advocacy Project - Giving Back to Victims of Abuse by Nico Nordström

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One of the charity’s we’re involved with is The Texas Advocacy Project, we provide photography services for their Black & White Ball each Fall. But more on that in a bit, let’s dive into what they do, and why it’s so important.

Texas Advocacy Project works to prevent domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking throughout Texas through free legal services, access to the justice system, and education. Its attorneys, staff, volunteers, and Board of Directors are committed to realizing the vision that all Texans live safely in hope, not fear.

Texas Advocacy Project began in 1982 as a single hotline started by a group of young lawyers personally committed to freeing Texans from the fear of power-based abuse. In the decades since, it has grown into a powerful team of well-trained lawyers with specialized knowledge in power-based abuse legal issues, and a survivor-empowering philosophy. Texas Advocacy Project has become a critical player and advocate for all Texans, supporting individuals directly on their own paths to freedom, and mobilizing a network of partners across the state to ensure that the legal system works fairly and efficiently for all survivors.

Texas Advocacy Project’s core power is in its legal expertise and experience dealing with power-based abuse. It serves its clients primarily through advice and counsel, assistance with protective orders including MOEP’s, assistance in pro se matters, and direct representation. It also provides assistance with general civil issues that impact power-based abuse cases such as housing, employment, education, and immigration (where assault has occurred). Texas Advocacy Project extends it’s impact through a powerful network of partners and outreach that increases awareness and engagement, and brings together resources and support to ensure that survivors are able to live a new life, free from fear.

They have a huge impact on the states population and legislation, through assistance and education. They have amazing programs, like hand bags and backpacks for hope, where they sew into the lining of the bags their helpline phone number for anyone leaving a shelter to have with them without fear of being discovered, and their teen ambassadors program that teaches teens how to recognize abuse and steps to take to help friends and what to do if they find themselves as the victims of it (amongst other very cool education and mentoring while in the program). They have a myriad of other programs, and to read more about them and the work they do, and events they have, please go here.

The Black & White Ball that we help with is their big fundraiser for the year. Let’s look at the description of last years Ball and who and what was included, and how much the event raised for the Texas Advocacy Project:

Leaders in the legal, consulting, finance, and technology fields joined together for an evening of live music, auctions, and awards celebrating 36 years of service. At the 12th Annual Black & White Ball, The Project honored community leaders who embody its mission of preventing violence through free legal services, access to the justice system, and education for victims. The Project’s Generosity of Spirit Award was presented to The Covalent Foundation; the Vision Award was given to Senator Joan Huffman; and Tina, a client who has escaped abuse and transitioned to a new life of safety, was honored with the Courage Award.

In addition to the awards, the evening featured a plated dinner, live music from local band Third Language, and one of Austin's liveliest auctions of the year, helmed by Heath Hale Auctioneers.

Thanks to the communities support, this year's Black & White Ball was able to raise over $550k to help continue The Project's work!

We know personally how grateful they and their clients are to their donors and sponsors, we’re so happy to be included and involved in the event! Go here to see our photos from last year.

It’s a wonderful cause, if you’re interested in getting involved, or attending any of their events, please go to their site and join everyone helping the cause of ending abuse in Texas!

Boudoir : The Nitty Gritty of Being Glam AF by Nico Nordström

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Boudoir photography is not your everyday version of ‘sexy’ or ‘scandalous’

There’s a million reasons to have boudoir portraits taken, some examples: for your significant other as a gift, get in touch with your gorgeousness, or to commemorate a time in your life. It’s also great for empowerment and healing, i.e. cancer patients, sexual assault victims, body-shaming sufferers, etc. Personally, I did mine after my divorce for me alone, and only two of my girlfriends ever saw the photos.

Unfortunately, boudoir sometimes has a reputation for being scandalous and erotic, but where the style is today is both artistic and highly personal - epitomizing how photography can just teasingly approach the line, but not really cross it. Suggestive though personal and private, romantic and intimate photography, that’s not explicit in nature. Because of its risqué (though not necessarily nude qualities), misunderstandings about this genre of photography has understandably arisen, hopefully this helps clear up some of those notions of it being indecent.

Because, these sessions and products are typically meant for a private audience, like yourself and/or your significant other, you have complete control over the audience the photos are taken for, and how they view them.

In a session, you decide what you’re comfortable with, what you’re comfortable wearing, what you and/or your partner find attractive, and a setting that makes you feel comfortable and sexy. And who doesn’t want to feel like a model or a celebrity? This is part of the vibe that we create for our clients - a fun, relaxed, and comfortable atmosphere where you can be glammed up and have amazing portraits taken.

There’s something about boudoir sessions that makes you feel so free. Everybody should try it!

Our studio itself is filled with enough regalia to stock a film: a rotary phone, thrones in gold and black, vintage robes, radios, vanity accoutrements, and countless other fineries.

The Styling of Subjects

Boudoir is more about the sexy vibe than it is about showing everything, people don’t really think about how covered up you can be and still emit extreme sexiness. Everything from a button down shirt just showing some cleavage, to a full nightgown and robe. Think for a moment about how much skin is actually showing in those outfits, and how sexy they can still be. It’s about you, and what’s sexy about you.

When it comes to wardrobe for sessions, generally you decide what you want to wear and we help with suggestions and accessories. During the wardrobe consultation, we come to your house, and with you we go through all your options to help you pack for the shoot. Choosing everything from nylons, earrings, shoes, etc.

Most importantly, it should reflect who you are, make you look and feel great, and go with the general aesthetic you’ve chosen for your session.

What Happens in a Shoot?

We start with a phone call, then an in person meeting to talk about set design and overall vibe of the shoot, about a week from the shoot there will be an in home wardrobe consultation. That’s one of the reasons we speak with you beforehand, asking about your and your partner’s favorite features. Like so many women, the list of things you don’t like about yourself—awkward proportions, scars, cellulite, a big nose—is much longer than its inverse. But, don’t worry if the list of dislikes are longer than the likes, we will get rid of all dislikes, and after the shoot, you’ll have new things you like about yourself, guaranteed!

For many people, modeling for boudoir photography will usually be their first time in such a situation. That’s why we have a big role to play not only to guide you through the shoot, but also to make you feel at ease. Most people are skittish at the thought of being photographed by strangers, which is why we do the in-person meetings and in-home wardrobe consultation in advance and provide champagne on the day of the shoot to soothe your nerves.

On the day of the shoot, we glam you up with professional hair and makeup, have some snacks and champagne, and then start on the shoot journey of making gorgeous photos with you as the star!

Boudoir Posing

Posing for boudoir requires a degree of exercise that’s not usually demanded of an everyday person. It also requires a surprising amount of concentration. We’ll be demonstrating some of the poses, and some we’ll physically help you into, you’ll be amazed how a hand or foot position can change how amazing you look. We’ll show you as we’re going, so you can see why we’re asking you to do these crazy things, we promise, it’s worth it. You will be tired at the end of the session, so we recommend to plan a nice relaxing evening with a bubble bath after.

Struggling to hold up your head, calves sore from the weight of the heels, and sweating from the hot studio lights, are some of the crazy things you can expect to feel. But viewed through the lens, you will look natural, languorously strewn across the couch as if asleep and only just woken up to greet the viewer. The angles that feel so awkward, look artful, beautiful, and effortless.

The Importance of Family Portraits by Nico Nordström

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If you’re like most people, you’ve thought about family portrait photography but it just hasn’t happened. Too busy, need to have my hair done, roots are showing, when I lose 10 more pounds, it’s hard to get everyone together… We’ve heard it. Many times. If you feel any of these reasons, please go here, to this blog entry. It may help you see these reasons differently.

Here are three solid reasons family portrait photography should be an important part of your life.

1. Document Growth

All too often we forget about our past because we are so busy building our futures. Throughout your life, you will make many achievements, you will grow, and this goes for the members within your family as well. Having annual family photos captured will showcase the advancements you make in life each year. It can be all too easy to forget the characteristics that we possessed at certain times within our lives. What better way to remember such exciting events than through photography? If you have welcomed a new pet into your lives or just received a new promotion, photographs of your family bonding and celebrating together will certainly present heartfelt images that you can enjoy for the rest of your life, as well as remember the milestones and excitement that you encountered. Plus, our children grow up too fast! In the blink of an eye they are packing their bags and going off to college. When children are younger, having a portrait of the family done each year is a great way to document the progress each of them is making as they grow. And when they head out into the world and find their own lives and move away, how often will you get to see them? The days when family all stayed within a few miles of each other are long gone.   

2. Life Happens

We may not want to admit it but the make-up of our families can change without warning and loved ones may pass on. Family is such an important part of life, in fact, it may very well be the most important aspect within one’s life. From parents to grandparents and children to cousins, you most likely have many members who comprise your beautiful family, and with such gorgeous family members, you certainly want to remember each and every one of them! As time passes, you and your family will grow together, build bonds with one another, encounter great milestones within your lives, and overall, love one another. You never know when that last chance for a family photo will come, doing them annually or bi-annually will ensure you have plenty of memories of everyone.

What can we do to share our story with our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations beyond them? You have built a beautiful relationship with each member of your family, and with the right photographs, you can relive the memories you have shared with one another, time and time again. There simply aren’t very many photographs of my or most of our ancestors floating around anymore. Given the nature of old photo paper, and the fact that it sometimes doesn’t pass the test of time, makes any surviving photographs that much more special. For more info on photographs and digital images life spans, please go here.

3. Reliving Memories

I can’t really adequately express how meaningful it is to have images of my grandparents and parents from when they were little; to have pictures of my family growing up; to be able to pass them down for generations. It’s invaluable to sit years from now and relive all those amazing memories, by yourself or with your family and friends.

The emotion a photograph can pull from you is powerful, the fun of a day, a memory of a sweet time in the past, etc. They bring us back in time. They are also a part of our legacy. In years to come, grandchildren and great-grandchildren may someday ask to see pictures of the family, and wouldn’t it just be sad if there were few or none to share?

Don’t let life pass and look back, wondering why you didn’t take the time to have family pictures taken. Don’t make excuses or put it off any longer. You can’t go back in time for a redo, so avoid setting yourself up for an “I wish” situation. If you’ve been thinking about having a family portrait taken, do it. Do it for your children. Your children won’t notice the roots, a few extra pounds, a smile line or even a fading tan, but we guarantee they will be disappointed when they are older and there are no family photos to share with their children. Besides, we can perfect all of those worries with posing, lighting, and Photoshop.

Whether you have a family photography session annually or once every couple of years, your choice to invest in family photography does matter and it is important.  Your family portraits bring your family together. It reminds your family of its love for one another. Your family portraits bring joy. And, in hard times, your family portraits can bring comfort and healing.

Something happens to us when we see pictures of our families. We well up with pride and want to show people; we travel back in time and can see and feel details long forgotten; we’re reminded of what matters and how time moves too quickly, and to treasure the moments we have today.

If you are interested in learning even more reasons why family portraits are important, be sure to continue reading:

Studies over the last 30+ years show that having your family portraits displayed prominently in your home can increase your children’s self esteem.

David Krauss, a licensed psychologist and author of Phototherapy in Mental Health, says, “I think it is really important to show a family as a family unit. A photographer’s job is to create and make the image look like a safe holding space for kids where they are safe and protected. Kids get it on a really simple level.”

“My personal and clinical bias is, there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist who works with children ages five through 13. “Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.”

“Displaying photos prominently in the home sends the message that our family and those in it are important to one another, and we honor the memories we have experienced,“ says Cathy Lander-Goldberg, a licensed clinical social worker, and a professional photographer, and the director of Photo Explorations, which offers workshops to girls and women using portrait and journaling for self-reflection and personal growth.  

Dr. Krauss recommends placing the family portraits where it can be among the last things they see before sleep, and the first thing they may see in the morning. “It says we love you and care about you. You’re important.”

Our generation generally takes photographs to share with our friends and family, and the idea that images will survive beyond our lifetime typically slips our minds. Will future generations of your family have your iCloud password? Will your digital storage devices even last that long? “My bias is very simple. I think the family photographs should be on the wall,” says Krauss. “I am very conservative about self-esteem and I think placing a family photo someplace in the home where the child can see it every day without having to turn on a device or click around on a computer to find it really hits home for that child's sense of reassurance and comfort. They have a certainty about them and a protecting quality that nurtures a child...” says Krauss.

Pictures, like memories and stories, are part of our legacy. We hold them close, we pass them down. It’s a gift to be able to share a visual of moments, details, people, places and things to those we love, so that they, too, can feel even a glimmer of the joy we feel when we reflect on those times.

FEAR... by Nico Nordström

Congratulations! If you're reading this, you're thinking of having photos of yourself taken. Either gorgeous portraits of yourself, or of you and your beautiful family. If you're having a moment of thinking, I'm not ready yet, or we’re not ready yet, keep reading. If you're ready, you can still read this, it's a good reminder of why we do this. Not only why Nico and Michi take the photos, but why we all get in front of the camera. Why it's important.

My grandfather loved cameras, loved taking photos from a young age. Because of that, my family and I have an amazing amount of photos of my grandparents at all ages. My aunts and uncles, cousins, my mom, me, my brother, etc. All of these people in these old photos probably thought, don't take my photo, I'm not at my best today. Whether it was because of weight, or a break out (back before photoshop and filters), or maybe they hated the outfit they were wearing, or their hair. But, decades later, I have no idea what was on my 25 year old grandfathers mind in some of my favorite photos of him, or how my grandmother felt about my grandfather incessantly taking pics of her with my mom when she was a baby. My family looked young, happy, and full of life. I just know I love those photos, and that I'm grateful we have them.

“I hate being in front of the camera”
Unfortunately, our absolute only view of ourselves is in a mirror and in photographs. In most cases those photographs are taken by friends and family, with no regard to angles or to portraying your true self and true beauty. We fixate on our flaws. But not the captivating way we throw ourselves into a roar of laughter during a shoot? Or that cute thing we do? Everyone's got a cute thing they do. Everyone.

Getting in front of the camera can sound scary at first, but I promise you that the camera isn’t some mean grotesque monster that wants to show us all of our perceived “flaws”. Especially when in the hands of a professional - it creates something that in the coming years and generations is more important and special than anything else that money can buy.

“I need to lose X amount of pounds before I do that fearless session.”
When you’re 80 years old you’re not going to care (and chances are – no one cares now) because you're going to look amazing. Your husband wants pictures with or of his beautiful wife. Your kids will want pics with or of their mother. Always waiting for this moment where you’ll be thin or pretty enough? Don’t. If this magical day does come when you’re acceptably thin/pretty you’ll STILL regret not having any pictures of you from now. We change and we grow older and you can never have that time back.

Isn’t it amazing we can see the beauty in our best friends, sisters, mothers, and aunts without the slightest thought to their flaws . . . but can obsess for hours on our own imperfections? You’re the only one who notices. The rest of us are too caught up in loving you, just like you're loving them. We don’t get to see the way our eyes are filled with wonder and passion when we talk about something that we love, or the way our smiles light up an entire room, we don’t get to truly see just how killer we look in our favorite outfits - we never get to see just how truly beautiful we are... Which is why hiring a professional is so incredibly important, professional photographers are trained to see all the beauty in you as soon as you walk through the door, and know how to capture it. We know exactly how to pose you, exactly how to talk to you, and exactly how to set up the technicals so that you can see how your eyes light up, and how gorgeous your 1000 watt smile is, so that you can see exactly how killer you look in that outfit. Having professional photos taken by someone who is passionate and trained in photography is giving yourself, and others, the gift of capturing, saving, and portraying your true beautiful self.

“I am waiting for my hair to grow out and this zit to go away before I get in front of a camera.” We have extensions, concealer, and a Photoshop wizard, Nico. If you have a concern or a flaw, we have a solution. Talk to us - our favorite thing is making people feel beautiful.

“Our house is a mess right now and I want to wait until we paint our walls a different color.”
“There’s no way you could get our kids to behave or smile … let’s wait until they are older.”
Your kids or life is too crazy right now to take photos? I doubt it. Invite us into your home to document the craziness. Or, we'll take you somewhere else, or build you a set, or do it at one of the homes we use. Don't let your space be the reason, because when your kids are off to college – it’s going to be too late, and be sad you didn't. Your children want pictures with their mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, etc. They want photos of themselves acting crazy. Pictures to show how we LOVE, how we laugh, how we are treasured by our families, we all wants these. Document the life. All the messy, beautiful, crazy, real moments. We promise, you’ll thank yourself later.

Do you know anyone who left this earth with no physical evidence of the goofy, wide open and loud love for life, family and friends? Are you sad you don't have more photos of them? With them?

The thing about photos – is that they are powerful. They have the ability to stop time and capture who you are at a certain point in time. Because you know what? Time doesn’t stop. It moves on.

“I can’t afford it right now”
One day, years and years from now, all that will be left for the world to remember each and every one of us by will be photographs and stories - and you’re gonna want to hope that both of those will be wonderful and last for forever. As someone that has lost a lot of loved ones, there’s nothing worse than having no quality photos of someone once they’ve passed on. Please don’t do your loved ones a disservice by only leaving behind snapshots taken on your phone - you are worth so much more than that. The money will be spent regardless, so it might as well be on something that will last. There is always a way to make it work - whether by saving up, by doing a custom payment plan, or putting it on a credit card. There are two ways in which things are taxing, one is montary, and one is taxing on your life - and there’s nothing more expensive than a lost photograph or a lost era in time.

“I don’t need prints, just give everything to me on a disc”
During the early 2000’s when digital became really prominent, no one knew how to backup files. We knew nothing about computers, digital cameras, or just how easy it was to lose all of our information on aging devices such as floppy discs, CD’s, and failing hard drives.
Because of all of this, I barely have any pictures of my childhood - that time my sister and I dyed our hair pink, my (now) 15 year old dog as a puppy, or super soaker wars between my friends and I - all of those photos are gone. If only I had printed even some of those photos out, I would have been able to hold on to memories from past eras of mine and my family’s lives. We’ve thought of digital as foolproof because of it’s lack of physicality - when in reality digital is the most fragile form of storing information.

I'm so happy, now, for nearly every photo I have of myself. Even the ones with the bad hair and skin of my teen years, my post baby weight, now weight. Ha, my skin hasn’t cleared up, I'm 35. I went for a decade, hiding from the camera. I have almost no photos from my 20’s. What was I thinking? I'll never be 20 something again, I'll never have pics of me and my son when he was little, that opportunity is gone. I still don't like being in front of the camera, but I'll never hide from it again. It's too important. When my grandfather neared the end of his life, all he wanted to do was look at photos and talk about all the great times we had, and the great things that happened before my mom, brother, or I were born. And you know, we take photos of places we go, food we eat, things that make us happy, why not of us happy, with those that make us happy?


Digital vs Print by Nico Nordström

“Maintaining physical copies? In a world where the cloud is rapidly becoming king, it seems almost self-consciously retro – the logical extension of the hipster culture that bred the revival of vinyl records in recent years. At worst, it sounds counter-intuitive and out of touch. But with this said, there are a number of occasions where it may be prudent to maintain a carefully curated physical archive. Below, are three key reasons why:
Potential file obsolescence
Client Peace of Mind
For Posterity”

The most photographed people in all of human history will have no photos to remember themselves, or their lives by. It’s estimated that less than 1 out of 100,000 photos taken today actually ends up printed in physical form - that’s .004% of photos that are taken you can’t view without a screen, and that’s if they even survive their digital life on an aging device.

In movies (as well as in life) when a character leaves or when disaster strikes, the first thing they always grab are the picture frames and albums - not the fancy new tv, not the $300 blender, you grab the memories because at the end of the day that’s the most important. Now that I’ve made the painful mistake of losing so many photos, and so many memories - I make it a point to professionally photograph everyone in my life, including myself. My home is now filled with archived professional prints, albums, and canvases - and I encourage you to do the same.

“Now, the first batch of CDs produced are starting to fall victim to what is known as "disc rot".

Disc rot is what occurs when a CD or DVD suffers oxidisation on the reflective layer, a condition previously only seen in disks using faulty dyes or adhesives. But now we are starting to see the deterioration occur in your average well-made disks within 20 years, as reported by cdm.”
-gizmodo uk

Yes. Digital files are temporary, corruptible, and easily lost. Some may argue that printed media is also easily damaged or lost as well. However, take a moment to think about your family and the photos from your grandparents, maybe even great grandparents, then, take a moment to think about digitals you've lost over the years. Once something is printed, we take better care of it. Digitals, well, sometimes they just stay where they are, always waiting til we get around to printing them and adding them to an album, if we don't lose them first. But, wait! We have the cloud! They're safe! Right?! Well, no company has ever failed, right? I'm sure they are absolutely infallible, and if, by some chance, they're closing, they'll make certain your photos and videos are taken care of for you.

Does any of this sound like you?
-All of my wedding portraits, are right here... on my harddisk ... I keep doing the "I am going to make an album, soon... and wall art... next week".
-I had my child’s newborn or one year photos done years ago, they gave them to me on a cd.

Do your children know how to turn on an 8 track, play a vinyl record, or know how to open files on a 5 inch floppy. How will they access those files in 20 years?
Where are those images now? Buried somewhere? Do you have a computer with disk drives now? How much longer will it be until you don't? You’ll transfer them to new media, right? Many people do not transfer files as they become obsolete. Every 10 or 20 or more years those images will be even harder to access, (if they haven't been corrupted by then!) When it’s 2060, and your friends or grandchildren ask to see photos of you and of your world when you were young, will you only have a useless plastic disc? And a bunch of old cell phones in a drawer that don’t turn on anymore? Or will you have a gorgeous canvas print or album that you purchased from your photographer 50 years prior -  that are still in immaculate condition?

Having photos taken is the first step to capturing your life, but to truly preserve it you absolutely must print them out. Technology changes, hard drives crash, and things are lost - but the prints I have of my great grandparents from the early 1900’s will never disappear. To print is to preserve, and to preserve is to cherish.

When was the last time you backed up your phone? Did you back it up to numerous devices, catalog, and organize your thousands of photos? If you’re anything like me, it has been a MINUTE since that happened, if it’s even happened at all. Each of those photos that are floating around on your phone, or in the cloud, represent a small slice of the life you’ve created.

Memories fade, expensive goods lose their quality, but a professional printed photograph will last lifetimes.

Diary of a Photo Shoot by Nico Nordström

A client filled out our web form showing her interest in a maternity session. We set up a phone meeting where she explained that she wanted a magazine editorial style maternity shoot, and which collection she was interested in. We set up an in home consultation while on the phone, then sent her our ‘Build Your Dream Shoot Questionnaire’ to fill out before we arrived. This questionnaire gave her everything she needed to design her perfect session, including space to upload the link to her Pinterest board.

When we came to her house, we talked through her questionnaire going into more details, getting the frame of a photo shoot together. We talked about what she wanted the photos for, and what display options we have, how she wanted to use and/or display them, and what sessions and products we suggest. At the end of the consultation, she decided to go with the second collection and definitely needed 3 large prints for display at her baby shower. We found a day and time that worked for all of us, and scheduled the photo shoot.

After the consultation and over the next 2 weeks, we put together a moodboard for hair, makeup, and wardrobe looks, and one for the overall look and feel we want for the images. We emailed those to her for approval, and after getting the thumbs up, begin putting together our team and gathering needed props, wardrobe, set, and location needs.

About a week before the shoot Michi returned to the clients house for her wardrobe consultation, where we look at what the client has or has purchased for the shoot, try on things we've pulled from the Obsidian + Blush closet, and discussed wardrobe we will be pulling from designers. We talked over and finalized questions, ideas, logistics, and team for the day of.

The day before the shoot we picked up wardrobe from designers (if they're in town/near Austin, we pickup from Houston designers occasionally), grab the refreshments, and then us and the team go over the moodboards and pack accordingly.

Day of the shoot, the team arrives and sets up their areas for prep. We steam wardrobe, set out accessories and props for the day, and get the set and photography equipment needed. Then the Momma to be arrived! We begin with a chat going over the day, and get everything she brought organized while she’s pampered by the hair and makeup team. After, wardrobe styling and lighting tests, and on to taking the portraits. When we wrap up the set shots, we move to a park and get the outdoor shots the client wanted. We're wrapped! We help the client get her things together and take them to her car, clean, and pack our things, and we pick the photos to be edited.

The day after the shoot, we return all wardrobe we borrowed, and begin the fine art editing process on the images. We schedule the unveiling session, we meet at her house to go through the images and choose which ones she wants for which of the frames, and the album she decided to add on. It sounds easy enough, but in reality, it can be pretty difficult to make decisions. After the unveiling session, we placed the order, and in this case, we had everything shipped to her due to tight timing for the shower, but typically we hand deliver prints and products.

Photo Shoot Myths vs. Reality by Nico Nordström

What to expect on set

When you think of a photo shoot, you think glamour, perfection, ease, models, amazing wardrobe, gorgeous sets, etc.

Well, that's not how it is all the time. In fact, that's rarely how it is. We’re going to dispel some myths about shoots here.

Myth #1
The wardobe is perfectly made, perfectly fitting the subject.
-We use a ton of sample garments from designers. Sometimes the designers had to the throw the pieces together to make their fashion week runway deadlines. They look great on the outside, but not always what you expect on the inside. There could be pins holding things together, we once saw duct tape holding the inside of a bodice together. (That's right, silver duct tape)
-Sometimes the garments are too big or too small for the subject. We will sew and pin women into dresses, or use clips if the garment is too large.
-That super tall model may not actually be that tall, they could be in giant platform heels standing on a box.

Myth #2
The set is absolutely perfect. You could take anything and put it directly into your home.
-Often we only paint one side or half of things to save time.
-The walls might have tape or other defects in person that get photoshopped out later.
-We will hand make props and other things, that may actually be a spray painted kids toy, or it could be made from Home Depot materials, that the subject’s holding.

Myth #3
Shooting on location or in an amazing locale, is a breeze, and the subjects are completely comfortable.
-We’ve shot all over the country, all kinds of climates and terrains. Some of the things we have learned about these types of shoots:
-You might get sunburns, chigger or mosquito bites, or spend the day wet and cold or hot and sweaty.
-The subject may get a piggyback ride to the location because of wardrobe or terrain problems.
-Sometimes the location requires a few miles of hiking.
-Sometimes it's up a nearly 90 degree incline with mid-calf deep sand you'll be finding in your shoes forever.

Myth #4
Celebrities and models are perfection visually.
-Proper makeup, hair, wardrobe, lighting, and posing gives near visual perfection, photoshop does the rest.
-Even celebrities don't look like that, they need a professional team.

What session should I choose? by Nico Nordström

We offer different types of sessions, the one you reserve just depends on what you are looking for. One isn’t necessarily “better” than another! Whichever type of session you reserve, we can guarantee you an amazing experience and beautiful portraits.

Before we dive into major differences, something to ask yourself is whether you’re looking to create an experience and memory, or simply update a few photos. And, parents think about your kids, some kids wear out quickly, others take a while to warm up, some do better with a small group in a controlled setting, some thrive with lots of hustle and bustle and people coming and going. These are all things to consider when choosing which session is the best fit for your family!

What's the difference between our Elaborate Set Weekends and our Custom Sessions?

Elaborate Set Weekends: We only do these sessions about 3x/year, and they're over half off of our regular price. They're only available at specific times during the year, have specific themes, like Victorian Floral, Monochromatic, Winter, etc and we have special package pricing for these sessions and products from the sessions- check out the Elaborate Set Weekend page for any current or upcoming promotions.

Locations and times are usually pre-set to allow for having multiple sessions in one day at one location. Session timeframe is limited in an effort to efficiently get the desired shots, the session fee and certain images and/or products are rolled into the collections offered for each Elaborate Set Weekend promotion (though add-ons to the collections are always available). We work EXCEPTIONALLY hard to make everyone’s session unique, fit their personality and needs, the timing does not allow for extreme customization.

This is a great option for those who seek to have sessions throughout the year or if you have some specific need for an image (a holiday card or to commemorate a milestone birthday or headshots, for example) or to have a small taste of the Obsidian + Blush experience (think of it as going out for coffee and not for the whole dinner on a first date)

Each Collection includes:
The photoshoot, as well as edited social media sized digital images.
Some degree of hair and makeup.
We’ll provide a generic moodboard and styling assistance with our Obsidian + Blush closet.
We have 3 amazing sets you can choose from.

Available for an extra fee:
In-home wardrobe consultation.
Full wigs.
Avant Garde hair and makeup.
Full wardrobe styling.
Prints and products.

Custom Session: These are available year round, depending on our availability. We relish spending time with our clients, getting to know them and their distinctive dynamics, style, and personalities. We want to make sure we deliver exactly what you want, and need. On set we like to take our time, allowing you to warm up and feel comfortable. Overall, these provide the most luxurious experience and are so hand tailored to you, have the most unique end product.

Includes: Everything from ESW and:
In-home photoshoot consultation 1 hour
Customized moodboard for beauty, mood, and wardrobe
In-home wardrobe consultation 1 hour
Location or set build out tailored specifically for you or allows us the opportunity to move around to several locations, and the locations are as unlimited as your imagination (and within the law, of course)!
Some degree of designer wardrobe, accessories, and/or props
Archival grade prints in a beautiful glass display box
An in home unveiling appointment 1 hour

How We Work by Nico Nordström

What to expect on your O + B Journey:

It isn't just about the photos. The whole experience is built around you, from the planning, set/location, hair, makeup, wardrobe decisions, helping you make your selections, to the final hand delivery of your art. We are available to you 24/7 for any questions, concerns, or creative thoughts you have along the way.

It all begins with a complimentary in-home consultation to discuss the many different options for your photo shoot. We will chat about various style ideas and looks for your photo shoot, whether your portrait session will be at a location or we’re designing and building a set for you, with what kind of wardrobe, hair, and makeup styles best suit your style and vision. This is also a great opportunity for us to get to know one another, photo shoots are quite personal. It is important we are a good fit and you are comfortable with us. We’ll also bring a couple samples of our printed work, and some of the best selling products we offer, we take a look around at good places for wall art, and we hone in on what you’re looking for. This is why the first planning session is so important. We plan the photographs, session, and whole experience with your needs in mind.  

Once we have a good shoot plan decided, we choose the shoot date, schedule the in-home wardrobe consultation, and a date for the unveil session. And don't worry, we will send all the information you need to be prepared; including tips on selecting the right outfits consultation, skin and nail preparation, plus so much more!

When you arrive…
This is your time to be pampered and enjoy yourself. We will have some snacks and beverages for you to enjoy while professional hair + makeup artists take care of your beauty needs! This process generally takes one and a half hours, depending on your look (and how much hair you have). We will be prepping the photography equipment, the set or what is needed for your location, and our wardrobe stylist will be prepping your wardrobe and choosing any additional pieces from our wardrobe + accessories closet, and/or any designer wardrobe options we’ve selected for you.

Once you are done with hair, makeup, and wardrobe it’s time for the fun part: the shoot itself! We will guide you through the entire shoot with posing direction and demonstration. Don’t worry, posing you is our job. We’ll coach you, give you tips on what angles work best and even roll around on the floor with you to demonstrate if needed. All you need to do is have fun and trust the process!

Being a model is a blast but exhausting, make sure to plan a relaxing evening afterwards!

The unveil session is a very special event we plan just for you. This is the first unveiling of your images, and it can be very exciting and emotional, seeing them for the first time. You can have anyone you want at this unveil session, turn it into a reveal party! Many times grandma, auntie, close friends like to be included. Everyone who is financially involved in your household should be there. We will sit down for your unveil session. You can relax and view your photos and choose your favorites for your album or to display in your home! You will place your order then.  We have payment plans available. Once your payment plan is paid in full, your order will be placed.

Our custom sessions start at $1,000 and depending on the products you’re interested in, which is different for everyone, some spend in the $1,500 range, and some over $6,000. If you want the moon, you can do that, or if you only want a single album, or just wall art, there are lots of options.

You are special and unique, and your portraits should reflect that. In every conversation, through your session and unveil, our team makes sure you are comfortable and relaxed. We want every client to leave their session feeling amazing, and receive images they and their families will adore for years and generations to come!

The Do's + Don'ts of Preparing for Your Session by Nico Nordström


One week prior to your session you need to increase your water intake. Well hydrated skin photographs beautifully and has a healthy glow.

Your nails can make or break a photograph if they are not well maintained. If in doubt, do a French manicure and pedicure.

Consider treating yourself to some eyelash extensions a few days before your session. If you don’t want to get extensions, we have false lashes available always! Extensions or false lashes really are a must! They accentuate your eyes and make them pop in your photos.

Whiten your teeth before you show that beautiful smile. There are tons of new teeth whiteners that you can grab at your local grocery store these days.

Moisturize your hair and skin, starting at least a week before your shoot. Moisturizing your skin makes it plump and makeup go on even smoother and your hair extra shiny and bouncy.

Get a good night's sleep for at least two nights before you step in front of the camera, helps with dark circles and under eye bags, plus your overall skin condition.

Make sure to eat a small, healthy meal just before we arrive for your session, you will need your energy to hold poses!

Grab your favorite bottle of whatever to have a glass while getting ready, be conservative, there's relaxed but not tipsy, beyond that isn't good.

Have your outfits, accessories and any props packed the day before your session.

Shave anything you'd like to have smooth the day before the shoot, take razor burn precautions, like using tend skin after or shaving cream you've used before.

Day of Shoot, have clean dry hair no product, and clean only moisturizer on your face, no makeup.


If you tan in the sun you are left with tan lines…unless you are an exhibitionist and tan in the nude, that is. The natural sun dries out your skin and makes it look older than it really is. A healthy glow is all you really need. If you must lay out in the harsh rays of the sun, do so no closer than one week prior to your shoot. Your skin needs at least 5 days to recover from UV exposure. Just be mindful of those tan lines, and be very careful not to burn. Tanning in a bed at a salon may be relaxing, but it gives the skin an orange overtone. Even if you don’t seem to see that bronzing effect in the mirror I promise the new digital cameras that we use will pick it up. Any artificial tanning method bronzes your skin. Self tanners are not good for photography as they tend to streak no matter how diligent you are at applying it. For those of you who just simply must be a few shades darker: go to a professional salon that specializes in airbrushing. The professionals are trained to give your skin a sun-kissed look without the orange tone and with no streaks.

We typically panic about our weight before big events and having our photo taken. We guarantee that you don't need to lose any weight, you already look good. But, so you know, panic diets can cause you to have no energy, no glow and look lifeless on camera. If you decide to diet or exercise to lose weight before your session, please do it safely, in a way that doesn't diminish your energy or natural glow.

The day of your session you must avoid wearing anything with elastic. Wear a robe or a loose-fitting button up shirt and some very loose-fitting drawstring pants. Or a slip on dress that you can pull down instead of over your head. Also make sure to not wear jewelry that could leave marks or hair bands around your wrists. For more on what to wear, check out our What to Wear blog post :)


What To Wear For Your Shoot by Nico Nordström


These photos will be hanging on your walls and treasured by your family for years to come. This is why we do our first consultation and wardrobe consultation in your home, for all of us to make the best decisions together :)

We look at your home decor
Do you like bright colors? Neutrals? Since you will be hanging these photos in your house you want to make sure the colors of your clothes go with the color scheme of your home. We also look at the areas you want to hang them. What sizes and types will look best, would a beautiful glass folio box or an album be better for your coffee table?

Remember Season and Location
When choosing your outfits, be sure to always keep in mind the where and when we’ll be shooting. If it's in the middle of winter outside in the snow, choose warm clothes and appropriate shoes. If it's in a field, you will want shoes that you can walk out there in. If it’s going to be a July session in Texas, you may want to choose lightweight clothing. If you are taking photos in front of a backdrop, consider what you are wearing. We’ve seen photos where families were all wearing black in front of a black backdrop, and they look like floating heads.

Before the in-home wardrobe consultation, get some things together. 

Plan ahead
Once you book your session, start thinking of the clothes right away. You may think certain clothes will fit you or your kids or that one dress is clean. It's best if you already have that done prior to the in-home wardrobe consultation. If you wait until the day of or day before you may run into an issue of clothes not fitting, being dirty or need to be dry cleaned. The day before the shoot, make sure that everything has been ironed, and you bring them on a hangers. We have steamers, irons, and just about everything you could need, but it will save an enormous amount of time the day of, and wouldn't you rather spend that time being pampered in front of the camera?

Reflect Your Style
You need to be sure that your clothes represent your personal style, but you should also wear something you are comfortable in. Something that you feel beautiful/handsome in. If you feel good, that will be reflected in your photos. Don’t try and hide behind baggy cardigans and tops, or try and squeeze into jeans that won't allow you to sit down. Garments that fit and make you feel beautiful will make you look the best in photos.

Co-ordinate your wardrobe rather than match, having everyone matching tends to make them seem to blend together and there is no real pop to the photo. Besides, it’s much more fun to see everyone’s personalities in their outfits! Smart casual is the most popular level of dress. It’s best to avoid large patterns or a bright colour that stands out from the rest, that's where your eye will be drawn to. Choose one fun accent color to build from and then add in a couple of neutrals and/or toned down colors that would complement that. Then try to keep everyone’s clothes in this color scheme as much as is manageable. You want the colors to be complementary to each other.

For little ones barefoot always looks great, but that's not always possible, definitely no white tennis shoes unless that's the focus of the shoot. They draw the eye right to your feet and away from your family’s cute faces! Neutral shoes are usually best, but sometimes a pop of color is perfect on your feet, so it's not a rule. We love sassy heels and flair on your feet, but bring along a pair of flip flops or flats to walk around in when we move from location to location. Sometimes those killer heels can be… well…. killer.

Dress them in clothes that fit rather than ones that they will grow into. Bring a couple of different outfits along. Avoid logos and large patterns that take the emphasis away from little one. Choosing simple, classic clothes will help give your images a timeless feel.

Textures and Layers
Using multiple textures such as lace, corduroy, denim, etc. can really add something more to your photos. Wearing layers is a plus, too. Layers can add some flair to your outfit, and as a bonus they can save you an outfit change if you throw on a sweater and a hat and have a whole new look… Or take off your jacket and shoes and have a new, more casual outfit.

Makeup Tips
For family sessions, makeup should be just the tiniest bit heavier than you would wear on a normal day. For engagement sessions you can choose to keep it natural. Boudoir will be heavier than daily. Some looks will be very trendy or glamorous, let us know what kind of makeup looks you're comfortable with.

Don't forget accessories
Accessories not only add to your outfit but they can be fun to use in photos. Have the man wear a tie for the woman to hold. Necklaces for the kids to play with or hats to hide behind, and scarves depending on the time of year can really add something to the image. If you have any accessories you think might work, bring them! They really make a big difference!

Avoid all white or all black clothing
If you are wearing an all white shirt then it is very easy to blow out parts of your shirt causing it to lose it's detail. Same can be said with all black, it’s easy to have on black clothing and the detail is lost. We’ll help with this, don't worry!

For more ideas – head to our Pinterest page!