The original UNmanual was released three and a half years ago and has sold close to 1000 copies.  It was more wildly successful than I could have ever imagined and hearing that it has helped so many of you capture the memories of your family so easily and effortlessly makes me so happy.  Because that’s how it should be.

It’s been quiet here on the blog not because I have nothing to share with you, but because I have been pouring myself into creating the UNmanual2.


The UNmanual2 is something I’ve been dreaming up for quite some time.  I wanted Mom*togs to be able to see how I interact with my own kids when I shoot, what the environment I shoot in looks like, and how I use light.  My kids, my house.  Nothing special or fancy, but just how I photograph my kids living their lives and doing their thing.

The UNmanual2 consists of 13 video guides and reviews all of the basics from the original UNmanual, so if you did not purchase the original UNmanual don’t worry.  The UNmanual2′s lesson based structure will ensure that you too become a master of DSLR manual shooting.  If you did purchase the original UNmanual, the basics of DSLR manual shooting will be a nice review, but I’ve also added a lot of content for those of you who have mastered the basics and are looking to take your photography to the next level.

To compliment the UNmanual2 I will be releasing the UNmanual Editing Guide next week.  It will consist of video tutorials on how I use Photoshop to enhance my images and get them to look like a better version of everyday life.

For those of you who purchase the UNmanual2 on Black Friday you will receive the UNmanual Editing Guide (priced at $149) for free the second it’s released! No code needed.  It will be added to your course page automatically!  You can register for the UNmanual2 here.

Also, I released a course on how to improve your Phonetography.  It’s completely free.  Just my little gift to you.  You can register for that course here.  

I hope you enjoy the new UNmanual as much as I enjoyed creating it!

That Time Kennedy Turned Two

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I can’t believe I never blogged this party.  Perhaps I had PTSD as we threw this party only 6 days after we moved into our house.  Because I apparently like to punish myself.  On the upside I got everything unpacked VERY fast!

Brayden is a Winter baby and I always envied our friends that could throw birthdays involving water.  In reality I probably could throw Brayden swimming parties because it ends up being warm.  But, there’s always that chance that it could rain.  Like at his second birthday.  Boy, did it rain that day!

Anyways, back to Kennedy.  I saw a pink ice cream truck and ran with that theme.  I mean, it was really more for me.  Because I LOVE ice cream and ice cream trucks.

The cake is, of course, from Beverly’s Best Bakery and was designed to match the cake on Kennedy’s birthday invitation.

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I used cotton candy to make the ice cream cone decorations on the table.

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For the hanging ice cream cones I purchased small styrofoam balls and wrapped them in yarn securing with a glue fun.  Then I simply tied them on strings of yarn to make a garland.

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You’ll see at my parties that I love a brown paper lunch bag for favors.  I printed on them simply using my home printer.  I find it easier to individually feed the bags through my printer.  Otherwise they get stuck.

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The bags included everything needed to make your own ice cream sundae.  Including a gift certificate to Baskin Robbins for a scoop of ice cream.

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I used paper lanterns and scrapbook paper to make large ice cream cones to hang on the front porch.  On a side note, I am SO happy we have since painted our house!

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The ice cream truck we used was Frankie’s Frozen Treats.  Not only are all of their treats amazing, but they are also the nicest people!  And SO reasonably priced.  Look them up if you are in North Orange County.  Besides the truck we put out our blow up pool and a few water tables to entertain the kids.  Hopefully one day we will have a pool to have real pool parties!IMG_8966 copy IMG_8972 copy IMG_9040 copy IMG_9054 copy IMG_9073 copy IMG_9084 copy IMG_9091 copy IMG_9095 copy IMG_9104 copy  IMG_9133 copy IMG_9136 copy

I love that my friend Jamie snapped this picture of Kennedy and I at the end of her party.  Because what happened to my diaper wearing, aci using baby?  She was completely and totally pooped.  Which means it must have been a great party!

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7 is Dinomite!

My boy turned 7 a few months ago and of course he wanted a dinosaur birthday.  Because it’s all dinosaurs all the time.

This was the first year he wanted to have a lot of input on his cake.  Cake is the most important part of a party to me.  It’s the centerpiece.  So not only does it have to taste good, but it has to look good as well.  We’ve ordered everyone of my kid’s birthday cakes from Beverly’s Best Bakery.  This year Brayden sat down with Jen, the owner, and designed his cake.  He wanted lots of volcanoes with lava.  And he picked out his toy dinosaurs to go on the cake.  The chocolate rocks that Jen used were a huge hit with the kids.  Jen always goes all out and deals with me even though I refuse to let her use fondant :)

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Aren’t dinosaurs just so much cuter with party hats on?




I’m not a fan of party favors.  I hate the junk.  Usually I do something practical, but it turns out Brayden loves the junk so the bags were just filled with dinosaur trinkets.  I printed them on my printer.


The cookies were sugar cookies used with imprints of Brayden’s toys.

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When Brayden was just a baby we went to a party with Prehistoric Pets.  I knew they would be perfect for a dinosaur party.  I was just expecting a couple of snakes and lizards, but they had such cool animals.  The kids were engaged and entertained for over an hour.  That’s not easy to do with 3 to 7 year olds!  I was really proud of my boy for holding and touching the animals.  They really do a great job with making the birthday kid feel special.

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I even got to channel my inner Britney Spears.  Don’t I look thrilled?  I figured if B was brave enough to hold the animals I could do it too.  Kennedy was even more excited (see her little feet in the background?).


Parties are so much work, aren’t they?  Every year I contemplate not throwing one.  And then you see their faces and how happy they are and how they thank you a million times and tell you it’s the best day ever.  And it’s all totally worth it.  I figure I only get to do this for a few more years.  Then he might not want a big party anymore.  I’m sure I’ll then be begging him to let me do a party.  I’ll miss staying up all night making decorations that the kids don’t even notice and stressing over the tiny details, right?

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How to Pick Your Family Photographer

Below is a post I wrote for my favorite lab, Mpix.  To read the full article click on over to their blog!

With so many family photographers out there it can be overwhelming to find the right one for your family.  And, typically, it’s a big investment.  So to help in your quest to find the perfect photographer match, here are some tips I’ve come up with after 8 years of experiences, both as a professional photographer and as a photography client.


1) The best place to start is with referrals from friends.  Referrals are great when searching for a photographer because your friend will already have gone through the entire process.  Ask your friend if they were happy with the way the photographer interacted with their family.  Did they get their images when promised?  How was the quality of their gallery?  And the most important question, would they use their photographer again?  Someone who has gone through the entire process with a photographer will be able to gauge the experience from start to finish.

That being said, don’t use a photographer just because your friend did.  Your needs could be different.  Which leads me to point two…


2) Not all photographers are created equal. They typically have a unique style and one or two specialties. Look at their body of work and gauge whether or not their style matches what you are looking for. Don’t pick a photographer who focuses on candid images if you want all posed images.  Do you want a big, extended family portrait?  Then you probably don’t want to pick a photographer whose website only displays newborn work.  Pick a photographer who specializes in what you want done.  If you don’t, you could be disappointed with your images and the photographer will probably end up frustrated that you are asking for something they just don’t typically do.  You want a photographer who is excited to photograph the needs of your family!  I know my pictures are better when I am passionate about what I am photographing and I don’t just feel like I was hired because I have a camera and can get the job done.


Click here to read the rest of the article!