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My client's email to me after receiving her gallery of her Novel Release Party:

"Consider hiring a photographer for the event." -some pinterest board about the perfect book release party.
No no no.
Don't consider it. Don't hesitate or assume friends and family will take pics. They did, but these...
Hire the photographer. Hire the best photographer you know. Hire YOU!
Sydney! I love these!
Thank you so much for being there and doing this and just being you!!

Obviously any positive feedback after a session makes my heart happy, and I love hearing that clients are thrilled with their photos. But this one made me extra happy for a few reasons.


One: this is a client that became a friend. I absolutely love her and her husband. They have been such loyal clients, they're always the easiest and most fun to work with, they refer people to me.

Two: this was a celebration of such a big accomplishment! She had a lifelong dream of writing a novel, and she DID IT. She wrote, edited, worked on/helped design marketing materials and covers, and did it all to get it published. Not only that, but she has another SIX novels in the works.

Three: I cannot explain how much it means to me when I get to capture various milestones in the lives of families who become friends. You're engaged? I want to capture it. You get married? I want to capture it. You get pregnant and have a new kiddo? I want to capture it. You start a new job? I want to capture it. You WRITE A FLIPPIN' NOVEL?! I want to capture it.


Megan is simply the best. She is the kindest, funniest, most authentic person. And she had a dream of writing a novel, and then she did it. Okay, she wrote a novel. That's impressive. Oh, but then she worked with a designer to create cover art, marketing material art, and a whole marketing campaign? That's impressive. Then she got the novel PUBLISHED and for sale on Amazon? That's SO impressive. And then you see the Amazon reviews of people who read her book within a week of its release, and they say things like, "Meg should be on the Best Seller list!" Well, this book release party is something to be celebrated!


This is the greatest job in the world. I feel lucky every single day that I get to do this. I get to memorialize your highest highs, your happiest moments. I get to give you photos that help you relive your best moments.


And this was one example of a life highlight I was more than thrilled to memorialize.


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*Upfront: NOTHING in this post is sponsored. I'm not cool enough to get affiliate links or commission or whatever. If you click the links, they take you to the websites directly, not through an affiliate link. I will make exactly $0.00 on this post, which means I am telling you my experience exactly as it was without any pressure to sugar coat something. Just wanted to get that out there :)


First and foremost, I need to give FULL AND COMPLETE CREDIT to Wichita Mom who I found on Google and used ALL of her ideas to fill our days, and there wasn't a single miss on her list (of the ones we tried, but I'm guessing of the whole list). My husband had a work conference in Wichita for a few days, and my 4-year-old and I decided to tag along and fill our days with fun in Wichita while dad was in his meetings, knowing we could meet him for dinner at the end of our days.


We arrived in Wichita around dinner time (for a 4-year-old) on a Monday afternoon. We checked into our hotel, Hotel Old Town , and decided to walk around the area for a bit to just check out what was around us. First of all, the hotel was great. It was in such a great location, the decor had a nice nod to the building's history, and the staff was so kind and accommodating the entire time we were there.


As we walked around, we found Playa Azul and decided to have dinner there. Walking by, you could miss it. Walking in, you might write it off as a dive. IT WAS A HIT. My husband, my 4-year-old, and I all had delicious meals and the best service. Our server was so sweet, so attentive, and we were so happy we stumbled upon it. (Spoiler, we went back there for dinner Wednesday night as well).


On Tuesday morning, we woke up, packed some food and sunscreen, and headed to Derby, Kansas, (15 minutes from downtown Wichita) for Field Station: Dinosaurs , Here's the deal - my kiddo loves dinos! So any experience where we see dinosaurs in a realistic manner is going to be a good experience. My son knows a LOT about dinosaurs, so he was ready to identify what he saw, what was scary, what was something to not be scared of ("That's an herbivore, Mama, so he doesn't want to eat us. We're meat."), etc. What I particularly loved about this was that there were all the most 'popular' dinosaurs - the T-Rex, triceratops, stegosaurus, etc. - but they also had a focus on lesser-known dinosaurs that were native to Kansas. So my son was thrilled to see ones he knew, but he was equally excited to get to learn about new dinosaurs and to learn that they used to live where we live! (If you are using the Sunflower Summer app, this was free!) We also got a snack while we were there, and the prices were SO reasonable, which I really appreciated. Besides just checking out the dinosaurs, we also went to the Paleo Playground, which had a huge bounce house, some misters over picnic tables, and a couple bag/cornhole games. This was a nice place for ME to sit down, get some shade and some mist, while my son still got to have his fun. We also participated in the Dino Dance Party. There's a nice shaded amphitheater in the park that has several different events/shows throughout the day, so even if you've seen all the dinos, there are plenty of ways to stay entertained.




Tuesday night we met my husband for dinner at River City Brewing Co, which, again, was right by our hotel. We walked there and got seated right after 5. It had a good amount of people, but it was not packed. I only mention this because I want to note upfront that there wasn't a wait, and our table wouldn't have immediately gone to a party waiting to spend $5k. So we sit down, order drinks (an IPA for my husband that he liked, a lemonade for my son, which he always likes, and a strawberry vodka concoction that was REALLY refreshing for me) and we let the server know that we WILL be ordering food, but we're not in any hurry and will be enjoying our drinks for a while before ordering. He came back 2 minutes later and asked if we were ready to order. We again stated we weren't in a hurry but that we'd be ordering in due time. He proceeded to come back several times in a short period and ask if we were ordering yet. We definitely felt rushed, even though - again - the restaurant was not packed. We each ordered a second drink, and my husband got his promptly, and I...didn't. We had several visits from our server (again, asking if we were ready to order) before I asked if my drink was ready. He acted surprised I didn't have it yet. Then we ordered a pizza to split and to go because we were very unimpressed by the service and we decided we would rather eat in our hotel room. So while the food and drinks were good, our particular server was not having his best day. I know that's a one-off, and every other server might be amazing, and that server might be amazing on any other night, but I had to give account of our actual experience.


Wednesday was the day I was looking forward to the most, by far. Wednesday morning, we packed snacks, a lunch, a swimsuit, a towel, sunscreen, and my camera. We headed to Goddard, Kansas, (18 minutes from downtown Wichita) to Tanganyika Park. We bought tickets in advance, and we went with the standard Day Ticket and added on the Sloth Experience for an additional cost. There are several different ticket options to choose from, but I'll speak to the option we chose. With the standard Day Ticket, each person gets their choice of 5 feedings from a list of: giraffes, pygmy hippos, rhinos, lemurs, tortoises, guinea pigs, rabbits, and lorikeets. My son chose giraffes, pygmy hippos, rhinos, lemurs, and tortoises, and he loved every single one. For the hippos and rhinos, you toss food into their mouths, so it took the a couple tries to for my kiddo to make it. The lemurs literally sit on your lap and eat out of your hand. The giraffes were all about taking the lettuce from anyone's hands, and at the tortoise station, they gave you a big wooden clothes pin to put the lettuce in so you could keep your fingers safe.


While we were there, we took a couple 'breaks' where my son changed into his swimsuit and took a turn at the 'splash pad,' which was really a small water park with water slides that just so happened to not have any water depths deeper than 3 inches, and there was only one exit, so as parents, we can easily watch our kiddos. They did sell alcoholic drinks here, and although I didn't partake because I was solo parenting, I was definitely happy for the parents who were partaking! We did take advantage of the day-of-refill cup. We each bought a refillable cup (with a lid, straw, and handle, plus photos of animals from the park!), and for the whole day, we could refill as many times as we wanted with Diet Coke (me), Powerade, Lemonade, water, etc. And we definitely utilized that!


The whole time at the park, we were both ear-to-ear with smiles. Every animal encounter, every exhibit, every employee we interacted with - every part of the day was perfect. I can't wait to go back when my husband is able to go. We keep talking about what animal experience we would create if we had the option, but the truth is that anything Tanganyika Park does is already plenty cool enough.





After we left Tanganyika, we went to pick my husband up, and we were in the car maybe 10 minutes before my son was COMPLETELY asleep. But once we got my husband in the car, he woke back up and perked up (a little). We decided to go back to the Mexican restaurant we had loved on Monday night, Playa Azul, and we had another wonderful experience. Our food was delicious, our service was wonderful, and we were able to be in and out and head back to the hotel at a reasonable hour so we could put Henry to sleep.


We headed back to the hotel after eating, put Henry to bed on the rollaway bed, turned the TV away from him, and watched the Royals game on mute while Henry slept and we had a couple glasses of wine.


Thursday was our last day in Wichita, so we prioritized what we wanted to do. After waking up, Henry and I left the hotel so Dad could do his meeting, and we headed to OJ Watson Park. We got there a little too early for the activities, but it was fine because the playground was open and ready. Once things opened, we were able to do the train ride around the park and a paddle boat ride around the lake. We took the paddle boat out on the lake for a bit, and then when we came back in, my son wanted some snacks. We got a snow cone, a Diet Coke (for me), and a pack of Skittles. We sat in the shade of a shelter while we ate our snacks and enjoyed the view.





After we left the park, we picked up my husband, had some lunch in the car, and we headed to Exploration Place .We felt so lucky to be able to check things out there, too. It's a science center but it's GIGANTIC! Again, we were able to enter for free through the Sunflower Summer app, but it would have been worth every penny if we had to purchase tickets. This place had something for everyone - a health/human body exhibit, dinosaur excavation, fossils, a water station, a full room about dogs, their history, their breeds, how fast different breeds run, etc., a weather station with a wind tunnel that simulates tornado-force winds, a large castle for kiddos to play pretend, a whole room full of plane parts, a fuselage to climb through, flight simulators, and so much more. It was pretty busy with a couple summer camps there, but it was never so packed that our son had to wait too long to participate in an activity. It was the perfect air-conditioned activity that was so engaging and fun for us all.




We had a little time to spend between the science center and the Wichita Wind Surge game (Minnesota Twins' AA team), so we headed to Bricktown Brewery for an afternoon snack and a little quiet time for our tired kiddo. The servers were wonderful - it wasn't a peak time, and we told the servers upfront that we weren't in any hurry, and they were the perfect blend of attentive without making us feel rushed. We got some delicious food, had some cold drinks, and headed to the game. We've been to a different Bricktown location before, and we loved it then, too.


And FINALLY (if you're still reading, award yourself 1,000,000 points), our last stop in Wichita before heading home that night, we went to Riverfront Stadium to see the Wind Surge play the San Antonio Missions (Padres' AA). This is a pretty new stadium, and it was the stop my husband was most excited about (also one of the only fun things he actually got to participate in). The stadium is really nice, clean, wide concourses, plenty of concession options, and the workers were all very friendly and wanted to enthusiastically tell us all about the stadium and the team. There wasn't a true 'playground' for kids, but they had a Kid Zone with inflatable games, and our son was more than impressed by that. We didn't stay all that long because we had a 3 hour car ride home, but it is definitely a stadium we'd visit again.





So there's my essay on our three days in Wichita. Our son hasn't stopped talking about the trip, and it is one I'd do again in a heartbeat.



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I know that family photos in June, July, and August are not as popular as some of the other milder months. And that's totally understandable. I don't really want a gallery full of photos where I'm sweating my makeup off and have sweat stains on my outfit and everyone is red-faced. But sometimes, summer is the best time to book photos because your family's schedule might be a little more flexible, a little more open. When that's the case, you can absolutely make family photos work and still end up with a beautiful gallery. Just make sure you're working with a photographer who knows how to navigate a hot session.


First off, I always remind my clients about an hour/hour and a half before our session that they should bring cold water bottles for everyone who's in the photos. Depending on the location, we can bring them along or head back to the car for sporadic A/C and water breaks.


Next, I make sure (as the photographer) I get to our location early and get my camera out of the A/C of the car before my clients arrive. Why? If you go straight from the cool of your car to the heat of nature for a session, your lens will fog up and you will have to wait around while your clients stand there sweating. Just make sure your camera acclimates to the heat/humidity before your client is there so that you can start shooting right away.


Lastly, I shoot fast. I have a work flow for any session, whether it's engagement, family, milestone, senior, whatever. When it's particularly hot out, I go through that work flow at a faster rate. I know my choice spots for every location. We get there, we go through our poses, then we move. Then we go through other poses, other combinations of people, then move. We stay in the shade, we take breaks when we need, and we move as quickly as we can. In this particular session, they booked an 'up to an hour' session. I word it that way because I know there are times when we won't go a full hour, but we'll get all the photos we need.


In a typical hour-long session, I deliver between 75-150 images. It all depends on the setting, the number of people, the temperature, the participants' attitudes, etc. This session was booked for an hour. We shot for 30 minutes before everyone got too hot to continue. I delivered 123 images after 30 minutes of shooting. It's not about the length of time. If you have willing participants, a great location, and the motivation to mov quickly, you can get a full gallery in less time.



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