Beautiful Together’s Orphanage Bathroom Renovation: Officially Completed!!

We are thrilled to announce that the orphanage bathroom renovation that has been in process for nearly two months is finally, totally, beautifully completed!!

When we first announced this project, we weren’t sure exactly how long it would take or what kind of complications we might run into, but much of the work was done before we traveled to Ethiopia, and it was done well – so when we arrived, we were able to walk through the bathrooms and just talk through paint, adjustments, updates, and additional things we’d like to add to the overall project, which was a huge bonus.

MASSIVE thanks to Larry Leuallan, Erin Elizabeth Costa, Rangefinder Magazine/WPPILauren Wendle Tricia Kelly McCormack, Diane Rausch Belden, Sarah CoppolaTom and Laura Witt Fenn, and Teresa Prociuk for their major contributions to this specific project! Their donations were extraordinarily impactful.

(And, of course, we are constantly grateful for the constant donations and the ongoing support of Lush Albums!)


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Everything started by stripping the bathroom of what the children at this orphanage had been using for years. As ground broke on the project, and each rusted and rotted toilet, tank, and piece of disintegrated plumbing was removed, we became more and more excited about the simple dignity of clean, new bathroom fixtures.


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Next up was picking out all the shiny, clean, brand spankin’ new sinks, western toilets and “turkish toilets”, or squat toilets as they are frequently called. We had initially wanted to install only conventional western toilets but were informed by the caregivers at the orphanage that many of the younger children could not use them on their own, that the little ones would actually fall in or get stuck. There’s no leaving a smaller toilet seat there for children to manage on their own, with the strain of trying to supervise 65 children with an already-stretched care staff. So we invested in a combination of each type for both major bathroom areas and found that to be a rather smart decision, especially after witnessing some of the tots’ full-on comic efforts to use western toilets!


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After all the old fixtures were removed and all the new equipment was installed, we were able to move on to managing some of the plumbing issues and drainage leaks that were damaging the inner and outer walls of the orphanage and causing mold issues. In addition, some small updates were made to fixtures in the kitchen, to help it run more safely and efficiently.


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While the fresh coats of paint were applied across the bathrooms, in such bright, cheerful colors, we asked for some additional minor changes, like a door to close more smoothly, a lock to be fixed, or small sections of cracked tile to be replaced in multiple locations.


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There was a lot of celebrating the clean, new digs:


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As the kids embraced their new bathrooms, we asked for one last addition to the orphanage bathroom renovation project:


As wonderful as it was to have new sinks with fresh, running water, the day-to-day reality of life in Ethiopia is that the water is simply “not running” all the time. Sometimes, you turn the handle and water flows out; sometimes you turn the handle and the sink remains bone dry. And, besides that, a bar of soap is not always handy. The option for children at this orphanage before this renovation was to simply plunge their hands into a barrel of lukewarm water that sat in the bathroom.

The incredible germ-controlling, infection-managing, cleanliness-boosting benefits of being able to use waterless soap was something we really, really, really wanted these kids to have. According to the CDC, or The Centers for Disease Control, the most significant way to stop the transmission of a variety diseases is to frequently wash your hands with soap and water and/or use a hand sanitizer. When these children have absolutely no option to wash their hands with soap and water, which occurs frequently, it’s a wonderful thing that they can still use waterless soap to kill nasty bacteria that can hurt their sweet, beautiful, growing little bodies (Okay, can you tell I really, really, really wanted them to have hand sanitizers???).

This last addition to the project was the last part to be installed, tested, and found to be completely working, along with every other aspect of the project, point by point.


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Although this was not the first project we completed for Beautiful Together (that was our Portrait Gallery!), this was the first one we had officially kicked off, the first one we started, and the first we had fully funded, due to some extremely generous hearts.

We are extraordinarily, overwhelmingly proud to see it completed in its entirety.

I can’t wait to finish our Safeguard The Orphanage project next, hopefully within the next couple of weeks. The majority of work has already been done, and it’s just those final pieces that can take a little while to complete.

And I can’t wait to kick off our Light Up The Classroom & Educational Center project soon. Think solar panels.
And bright minds getting brighter.

Lots and lots more to come, too.

I love this work.
I am so grateful for how many people care.


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When we founded Beautiful Together, our 501(c)(3) all-volunteer, non-profit organization focused on supporting children without families, we knew that one of the benefits of doing this type of work would be meeting others who were doing similar work. We knew we would want to partner with a few key organizations and have found that it has been a surprisingly natural process to determine who that would be. We are currently partnering with two organizations. One of our partners is Life To Live for Korah, a feeding program for orphaned children in one of the poorest communities in the world. I will be sharing more about them and the work we are doing with them soon. The other non-proft we are doing work with is Make Your Mark, which focuses on at-risk youth in a very real, hands-on way. Founders Carmen and Trent Post moved to Ethiopia from Charlotte, North Carolina four years ago because they believe that every child deserves the opportunity to impact the world, and sometimes they just need help to be able to do that.

While we were in Ethiopia, we went to their home for dinner and learned more about what Make Your Mark does – mainly, help get children off the streets by working hard to earn their trust and then giving them an opportunity to, over time, transform their lives. Not that I think this sounds remotely easy, but it’s even more difficult than one might think. I headed out with them one Tuesday morning at 4:30am to document, and be a part, of the work they do. And this is how it went.

We started out by finding the groups of children – most orphans, most boys – in the locations where they tended to sleep. When we found the first group, some were still sleeping, very much huddled together for safety and warmth, and some were up and already burning whatever they could find. The morning we spent with them, they were burning scraps of rubber, and the fire emitted an incredibly acrid smoke. I kept thinking about how bad it was for their little lungs – these children were mostly between 10 and 13 years old. But, then again, these same children are nearly all doing whatever they can to stay safe, warm and to dampen their constant hunger. In that respect, burning rubber was kind of the least of their health concerns.

By the way, I photographed all these images with my Nikon D810. And I shot plenty of these images in pitch dark, as in this camera sees in the dark. Because of the nature of what we were doing, there was definitely no using a flash or any additional light. Although I had to do quite a bit of manual focusing, this camera performed exceptionally, truly helping me to tell this story. Some of these images were shot at 25,600 ISO. (No, that’s not a typo.)


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Carmen and her daughter, acting as translator, ask the children how they are, how they are feeling, how the night was. They sing together for a bit. Or they just sit together, side by side. Basically, they make a point of showing they care for them, that they want to spend time with them.

And the dogs. There are so many street dogs in Ethiopia, in all kinds of conditions. But the dogs that stay with these boys are very much their pack. They really do stick together – sleeping together, sharing body warmth, watching out for each other, protecting each other.  They build a truly special bond that is heartwarming to see.


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If you can’t tell, these children are sleeping in the middle of a median. Of a VERY busy road. It’s not quite as busy at 4am and 5 am, but there are still cars and vans and police going by at all hours. They stay in this spot, though, because it’s more open, less hidden – and, thus, safer for them at night. But “safer” is a pretty relative term. I worry about my children falling out of the bed a few feet onto the floor. Here, rolling the wrong way is simply life-threatening.


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These faces stay with you.
There’s no question why Make Your Mark does the work it does, why they feel compelled to do this often-exhausting work. Even as you know they are also constantly battling some rather discouraging odds.


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We told the boys from the first area that we’d be back to take them out for breakfast. The thinking is that, in order to gain their trust, you take them out for meals. You sit at a table with them and you hear their stories. You return. Again and again. And eventually you invite them to come to a day center established for children on the street to have a safe place to be, connect, eat, learn, all of it. You give these children a chance to make the decision to change their own lives. But you don’t get that kind of opportunity with them by just driving up and handing them money. You feed them – but you’re actively part of everything else it means, in all cultures, to share a meal together.


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We moved to another group.
It was dark-dark out in this part of Addis Ababa, about 5am now.
I photographed these images at 25,600 ISO, 1/30 second, f2.8. What you see below is Carmen and her daughter speaking to a woman, her son, and her infant, held very tightly in her arms. They are learning that this family, like so many others, is homeless on the streets but could have a chance for a different life. Specifically, this woman has relatives in the countryside and, if she could just get to them, she could better feed her family, and her infant would have an infinitely better chance at life. Carmen offered to return and put this family on a bus and pay bus fare for them.


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At one point, while we were at this location, Carmen told me to turn away from a few men who were walking up to us. They said some things to us, and we all kept our backs turned and stayed silent. After a while, maybe a few minutes, they moved on – and there was a feeling of noticeable relief. Carmen says she doesn’t really worry that much about safety out on the streets, but there are definitely some interactions it makes sense to avoid.

I wrote earlier that these boys would do a whole lot to dampen their hunger. I have photographs of this boy sniffing glue, an extraordinarily cheap and massively toxic way to get high and to forget how cold, hungry and alone you are. They are not shared here. His face is partially covered for a reason.

Nearly every child we spoke to was doing something to help get by – if it wasn’t glue, it was herbal. Chat, or khat, is a small, evergreen plant that can be chewed on and acts as a stimulant. One of its main benefits, though, is a decrease in appetite. These are cheap (or even free) drugs and getting children to no longer rely on them when they’ve repeatedly made life more bearable is one of the major challenges that Make Your Mark faces. They know that the choice to leave drugs behind for a better life has to be the choice of the child. A choice difficult enough for most adults.


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And, as you can see in this image below, no matter what they are living through, make no mistake: these are very much children. And they act like it.
They are affectionate, they dance, they cry, they giggle.

They are kids in every way except in one we naturally think of as part of childhood: they have no home, and they have no parents. They are completely on their own.


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This boy caught a ride with us. Make Your Mark had been trying to help him transition off the streets for a while. He was very quiet, very kind, and he had a wonderful smile that we didn’t get to see a lot of over the 4-5 hours we spent with him. He had also experienced things most of couldn’t imagine at his age. At any age. It hurt to hear how much. After breakfast, we drove him to get some medical attention. I think of this boy – and that surprise dimple of his that emerges when his expression opens up.


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When we went back to the first location, we collected the boys to go for breakfast. We would walk with them to a restaurant about a mile away that had agreed to open up early so these boys could be fed.

While standing there, though, something occurred.
Something really frightening.

This white van raced up the road just as one of the little puppies wandered into the street. I mentioned earlier the relationship these boys had with these dogs. They were close. They truly care for each other. The way you watch them snuggle these puppies, you could be anywhere in the world with any child and their puppy. For all the extremeness of their situation, sometimes some things are just the same everywhere.

So when this puppy wandered out into the street and this van just kept going, I heard a boy cry out and the van screech to a halt – and I saw the puppy disappear under the van. The boys ran up to the front of the van and, for a minute, it all looked pretty horrible.


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Then, a little scamper – and this puppy emerges from the undercarriage of the van, near the back tires.
I don’t even know exactly how.

I heard these whoops, and then they grabbed the pup, hugged him and celebrated.

Sometimes love is just the same everywhere.


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We headed out to breakfast, walking just under a mile on pretty empty city streets, as the sky finally started to lighten a bit. And of course, the dogs walked with us, too.

These boys wore everything. Some of their jackets were women’s jackets, many of their clothes were far too big – but it was coverage. Some had shoes, several did not. Shoes, I learned, were quite the commodity. If you were a deep sleeper, and you had shoes, you didn’t wake with your shoes still on; they would be taken in the night.


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We waited outside the restaurant for a while until they opened their doors.  The boys all wanted their photograph taken while we waited. And once we got inside, the boys lined up to use the sink. This was their best chance at a shower, and they washed their faces, arms, chest, as much as they could as best they could.


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Then we sat down and went around the table, the boys telling their stories. How they got to where they were now. Some had lost their parents. Some were told there was no more room for them at the house. Some had left the countryside for a better chance in the city. I kept asking how old each was. Although some knew they were ten, eleven, twelve, others didn’t know. “Eleven?”, with a shrug. As odd as that sounds, knowing your exact birthday is not as common in Ethiopia as it is in the west.


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Grace was said as the meal started arriving, after the scuffles broke out.
Food arriving at the table for some and not yet for others created a sense of panic among some of the boys. They were each given their own separate plate for that exact reason. Sharing food off a main plate would simply be too difficult. Carmen made it very clear – No one touch anyone else’s food. You will all be given your own food. She knew to head things off at the very beginning.

There was still a bit of swiping, though. One of the boys burst into tears because a boy next to him had grabbed a piece of his meal and swallowed it fast. The boy who was crying was probably around twelve years old. The way his tears flowed reminded me of my son losing his stuffed bear when he was four years old. The quick sadness at the loss.

The boys separated. The one in tears wiped his face and continued eating, now with his arm around his plate.


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After breakfast, you could feel the energy relax. There was more laughter. The boys had eaten well, and they would now head back to the streets.
But not before running back to say a sweet goodbye.


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This ritual will continue for weeks, feeding the boys, building trust, developing relationships. And then they would be invited into the day center. They would slowly be given the opportunity to transition off the streets and move into a transitional home.

They would have the opportunity to transform their lives. But only if they committed to it on their own.

That opportunity, to transition them off the streets.
That takes a lot of driving, to and from the day center, to get the boys, to bring them back and forth. This is one of the major needs of Mark Your Mark: a dedicated van. This is one of the areas where we are partnering with them, to help them raise funds to be able to afford one. This actually helps in more than one way – not just to help these children, but to also offer a full-time job to a boy who transitioned off the streets years ago and who would greatly welcome the chance to have a career as a driver. We will be creating a fund for this soon on Beautiful Together. If you would like to learn more, or wish to contribute to this fund, you can do so here.

My hat is off to Make Your Mark, to Live Life for Korah (these are their facebook pages, if you want to learn more about them), and to every person in the world who is trying to make life better for those who have it pretty rough. And especially to those trying to make life better for children without families.
This is the heart and soul of Beautiful Together.


Best Gallery Opening EVER.

Last week I wrote about my concept for a portrait photography gallery for the Kidane Mehret orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  And I spent two full weeks photographing the approximately 65 children who live in this orphanage with the intention of creating this gallery, feeling a strong desire to create it for a few reasons. First, one of the things I noticed from my experience photographing children in orphanages is that although they may know to look at the back of a camera or at a mobile phone to see their photo, it’s quite rare that they ever see a printed photograph of themselves. And nearly never a larger portrait piece. I do that in my studio work every day. I know the impact of giving that – and I wanted them to experience it.

I also know that although the job of an orphanage is to care for their children, many of these institutions tend to be, in general, rather austere, clinical, almost hospital-like environments. I looked up these stairwells and along these tiled walls, and I could see this gallery, these photographs I had yet to shoot, gracing the walls and truly warming them up, making the whole environment feel less like an institution and more like a home.

Lastly, like I’d mentioned in my last post, I wanted these children to look up at this gallery and not just see their beautiful faces but also better see the connection that they all have to each other there. Although I wish each of these children could be joined with a family and live in their family home, statistically that is not their future. Most will spend their childhood in this orphanage. So I wish for them to see that although they may not have a traditional family, they still have “their people”. To see that they are talented and smart and crazy beautiful and care much and are cared for AND ARE WORTH SO MUCH VALUE.

And I wanted them to see that on the walls of the orphanage they live in each and every day.

We are either in process or have finished other renovation projects for this orphanage through our non-profit Beautiful Together – like renovating the bathrooms and safeguarding the orphanage, but this would be a bit of a different project. Not as directly critical for their health and physical safety but arguably just as critical – if not more important – since it touches on their sense of self-worth and their need for community and family. For belonging.

I photographed these children over the course of two weeks while spending days tracking down a printing solution. I would have loved to have used my awesome print lab, Nations Photo Lab but, alas, they have not opened an Ethiopia branch yet and getting tons of prints like these through customs in time was simply impossible. I finally found a shop that had an in-house printing option, though, and the test prints looked good. The next task was to create these sturdy, moveable-if-necessary, protected pieces. This particular gallery would have to withstand lots of children’s fingerprints, water spills, or worse. The pieces also couldn’t be too heavy, lest they accidentally fall on an unsupervised toddler – but they also couldn’t bend over time. They also needed a strong adhesvive, since many of the pieces would be secured to tile. Lots to consider. The solution ended up being a print secured to a custom double-mounting, about a 1/2-inch thick, which would assure that the print wouldn’t warp over time, with a very strong adhesive applied to the back of the mounting. In addition, a matte-laminate, waterproof protectant seal was placed over each enlarged print. A lot to bring together for that many pieces, and a rather unusual request, but it worked!

All photographs were shot with the exact same gear kit: my Nikon D810, my 24-70 2.8, and all kinds of handy reflective objects (think white sheets, metal bounce, etc.)

We started out with these bare walls, and I pulled my first piece out to show a rather giddy subject her portrait:

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And then I just started hanging the pieces. My wonderful husband, Steve, not only helped immensely but also took nearly all of these photographs. (I should note that he now considers himself a premiere gallery show photographer.)

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Each time I pulled out a new piece, the children would shriek the name of whoever was in the print and they would cheer and laugh and race out to get the person if they were not there. And then they did it again. And again. And this went on for hours, since it took quite a while to hang every piece and make sure they were spaced apart just right.

But, man, talk about the real-time response making all the work so worth it.

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I loved the unbelievable joy and glee each child experienced seeing his or her own portrait for the first time. There was so much pride and sweetness in the way they all complimented each other and even laughed with and clapped and hugged each other – honestly, BEST GALLERY OPENING EVER.

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I had started out hanging these pieces just with a child or two around me, but the audience grew with each piece I presented to hang along the walls until I was absolutely surrounded – and it stayed that way for the rest of the “Gallery Opening”. I don’t think these stairs have ever been so packed before, for so long in a row. I loved it.

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THIS was a very touching experience. This boy has incredibly impaired sight. He gets around on his own throughout the orphanage without a cane or any aid, but when I was photographing all the kids, he kept wanting to look at the back of the camera. I’d show him, and he would hold the LCD right up to his glasses and slowly move it around, still right up to his glasses, to see every inch of the 3 inch screen, in an effort to see the entire image. He loved the photo-taking process. I finally had to make a deal with him that I’d let him shoot for a while if I could skip showing every single photo of every child every single time. (Luckily, he accepted the deal.)

So to show him his photograph (and he looks awesome in it), for him to be able to see all these photographs, so readily and with so much more ease? Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes. It was one of the best surprises of the gallery show, his vivid experience of it.

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This woman, below, is the Sister who runs the place and has been there, caring for these children, for over 59 years. She knows how to get things done and is rather no-nonsense when it comes to most things.Throughout all the conversations and negotiations we had with various crew members (a lot, waaaay more than I expected) while working on our Beautiful Together projects, she would look around the room of mostly Ethiopians and say “Careful. I know everything that goes on here. And, never forget, I’ve been in this country longer than any of you.” And she was right.

She was the one who gave me the go-ahead to create this gallery. She knew about it but hadn’t really known what to expect. So her heartfelt approval of the pieces, her genuinely surprised smile at the photographs and at the overall gallery, just the warmth of her compliments, was definitely some kind of top prize for me.
(Can you tell I went to Catholic school? : )

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When all was said and done, we hung all these pieces – shot throughout the course of these two weeks, along with several that had been shot last year when we’d visited – in four different places throughout the orphanage. In the entranceway and along the first set of stairs:

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And again along the second floor – and throughout the baby room and also in another hallway:

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All in all, this was an extraordinarily meaningful experience, and one I would honestly wish on any artist. I love that even though we had to return home, this still stays with all of them, as this gallery is a testament to their worth and beauty and connection to each other.

I greatly look forward to adding on to it every time we go back.


Beautiful Together – New Portrait Project


As you may know, I’ve been in Ethiopia for the past week and a half working on renovating a bathroom inside an orphanage for our Beautiful Together non-profit. It has been an amazing experience so far, with our days filled with hard work of all kinds. I’ve been trying to update on my Facebook page, Twitter, and my Instagram feed, but Internet has been spotty at best! I wanted to give a small update on the blog and share another BIG project that I just got approval on and are working on in with every spare moment here.

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve gotten approval to photograph the children here separately and together for the purpose of creating a sturdy, moveable gallery of sorts throughout the orphanage.


I can’t tell you how much this means to me. As much as I would love, and as much as I hope for, each of these children to have a family, the reality is that most will spend their lives in this orphanage until they age out and have to leave. So the people they spend their childhood years with (and the truly caring volunteers who come through repeatedly) is, for all intents and purposes, their family.

It made me think of how one of the things I love most about portrait work is that when children see their family photographs on the wall in their home every day, there’s this constant reminder that they are loved and cared for by “their people”. So although my first hope, that they have their own family and live in their own family home, may not come to fruition for many of these children, my *other* hope is that this gallery here at the orphanage will serve to show them each and every day what they mean to each other and how they care for each other.



I am often asked what the barrier is between the children who wait for families and the families who would want and love and care for them. Why adoption can be more difficult than these children and families deserve. The truth is that it’s a frustrating combination of factors.

There are an estimated 150 million orphans worldwide, children who have no family due to disease, poverty, violence, grave misfortune, and more – and a large portion of them are “stuck” in orphanages. These children could join families – families who would deeply love and care for them – but they stay in institutions – some far, far worse than others – due to paperwork issues, politics, lack of documentation, investigations into regions or processes or programs or procedures, on and on and on. Factors that may have, at one time, been instituted to help protect children have, in actuality, left millions of them to spend their entire childhood in institutions. And “aging out” of orphanages just leaves them with less of a support structure than ever before.

But beyond the complicated specifics behind these worsening statistics is a crazy simple truth: Each and every child deserves a family.





And I truly feel that although they may not have a traditional family, they still have “their people”. That each child is talented and smart and crazy beautiful and care much and are cared for AND ARE WORTH SO MUCH VALUE, and that my hope is that they can see that in these images on the walls of the orphanage they live in each and every day.

We can do so much more for these children. While a heartening MANY work to change the current climate of adoption, we are trying to improve the quality of life for those children who wait. If you are interested in helping to make a difference here, please consider donating and/or joining our newsletter at to help fund or learn more about several new, very tangible projects we will be detailing out quite soon.


Portrait Photography Workshops: San Francisco

I am so excited to announce the location of my San Francisco 3-day Portrait Photographer’s Workshop on September 22-24, 2015!  Big thanks to all those who were patiently awaiting the location – we looked at quite a number of spots all around the Bay Area, but ultimately we went with a super cool spot right in downtown San Francisco. Although this last one of our portrait photography workshops (for the year) is nearly full, we still have a few spots leftyou can register here if you’d like to join us!

The workshop will be held at the Chronicle Books Corporate Headquarters, located at 680 2nd Street, near the beautiful Embarcadero walkway and AT&T park. We will be utilizing their amazing meeting rooms inside and we can go explore the best of downtown San Francisco right outside our door.



portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco




This is the last of our portrait photography workshops for the year. I am so proud of our 100% ‘Would Recommend to A Friend’ rating after all of our past portrait photographer’s workshops. You can read tons of reviews from past workshop participants here, but here are a few notes of feedback from just our most recent workshop:

The workshop was the best I have ever attended. The insights gained will improve my photographic technique, my business effectiveness and the quality of my life.  I feel inspired and equipped to take my business and my life to the next level! ~ Alicia

It was really marvelous; the extensive instruction with cameras, settings in different situations, posing active subjects ( children, dogs, parents), post processing, maintaining a constructive work life with a successful business and at the same time having a healthy personal life. ~ Molly

Tamara covered so much in the short three days, that I am afraid I might forget some of what I learned. It was awesome! ~ Dean

I just loved it. Loved the setting, the people, the material and of course the instructor and support staff!! Tamara was so engaging and easy to talk with. She gave us 100% of her attention, and I really appreciated that. ~ Bonnie

This workshop includes:

3 very full days of workshop participation
Catered breakfasts, lunches, snacks and beverages
A generous swag bag of assorted photography products and goodies worth hundreds of dollars, plus many more big giveaways
▪ Celebratory wrap-up dinner out with everyone

Join Tamara for this intense, 3-day shooting-focused workshop, which includes an in-depth shooting clinic, lighting configuration instruction, post-processing and business training.

This highly interactive and hands-on shooting clinic will help you to master your technical skills behind the camera, as well as teach you how to set up and work with existing and additional light sources – and better utilize natural light in a more controlled fashion. The shooting clinics also include one-on-one time with Tamara, image critiques, portfolio and website reviews, and a walk-through of specific post-processing techniques, to show and help create a quick and powerful end-to-end digital workflow. In addition, there will be a business and work/life balance overview.

In addition, I will be conducting a private, off-site, one-on-one 30-minute mentoring session with each attendee. Getting to know you and talk about your business and unique challenges is truly one of my favorite parts of the entire event! The workshop is limited to 15 attendees, and we still have a few spots left.

Just a tiny sampling of photographs shot during previous portrait photography workshops:

portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Franciscoportrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

Tamara Lackey, photography workshops, children's portraits, Durham, NC

portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

Tamara Lackey, photography workshops, children's portraits, Durham, NC Tamara Lackey, photography workshops, children's portraits, Durham, NC

portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

photography workshops 2014, Tamara Lackey, Portrait Photographer's Workshop

portrait photography workshops, Tamara Lackey San Francisco

photography workshops 2014, Tamara Lackey, Portrait Photographer's Workshop

Interested in learning more?

You can read many, many (many) reviews from past workshop participants, visit the workshop page or sign up here.

I hope to see you there!Tamara-Lackey-San-Francisco-3-day-Portrait-Photographers-Workshop-2015-WEB_reviews-3




Photograph by Mike Corrado

In the newest episode of the reDefine Show, I spoke with seriously talented photographer Mike Corrado on creating dynamic images. Mike has been a photographer for over 36 years, including 30 years working with Nikon. He has traveled around the world capturing stories in many countries, in addition to his explosive and fascinating sports and music photography. In our discussion, he dives deep into the importance of looking for impact, energy, and emotion when trying to create in-the-moment shots.

I also speak with Mike Corrado about remote photography and the massive significance of taking on personal projects, like his recent obsession with bird photography. You can see the fast-moving interview, aired on Adorama TV, here:


Photograph by Mike Corrado


Photograph by Mike Corrado



Photograph by Mike Corrado

What exactly is the reDefine Show? Well, we try to showcase creative artists who have gotten it right, creating small intimate mentoring sessions that you can enjoy from anywhere. You can catch up on all past episodes, several years’ worth!, right here.

In this other recent episode, I spoke with Brad Jefferson, who was recently profiled in Forbes, The New York Times and so many other top-tier media outlets. Brad is the CEO of Animoto, and we discussed how he co-founded the organization and why, exactly, the power of video can boost one’s creative business. Many photographers look at the idea of using video to promote their work as a complicated thing – but Brad explains exactly how simple it can be to create SEO-favorable video with just still photographs, a huge bonus for creatives looking to get their work more attention online:


And this was another very recent episode, a wonderful conversation with wedding and fine art photographer Parker J. Pfister about revitalizing the creativity in your work – and how he did so and continues to do so over time. He also speaks to how changing the light can help you see things differently and gives us insight as to how he views scenes differently. Parker creates some incredible imagery, and he walks us through exactly how he builds a shot – light by light by light.




Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


Parker Pfister, Tamara Lackey, redefine show, adorama

Photograph by Parker Pfister


As always, huge thanks to! You check out all the other fantastic content by talented Adorama TV hosts Joe McNally, Mark Wallace, Richard Harrington, Bryan Peterson and Gavin Hoey by heading over to


As many of you know, I recently had the opportunity to teach again on Creative Live with a class on Children and Family Photography. And, like all the previous times, it was an amazing experience – amidst the whirlwind of actually getting it all done!

Over the length of the program, I photographed a variety of families and children in QUITE the variety of locations, lighting situations, and scenarios.

I wanted to share some of the many images shot during the live sessions; and give a big thank you to all the children and families who came out and were able to stay with me despite the multiple cameras, questions, slight technical difficulties, and even planes overhead!

We started our first day outside the Georgetown Ballroom in Seattle and hit the ground running, photographing urban portraits and showcasing various looks, feels, posing, depth of field, color balance, a whole lot!


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Then we kicked off a rather important topic when it comes to family photography – well, in all photography (actually, IN ALL OF LIFE): managing self-consciousness. Or, even better, embracing it. We spoke with 11-year-old Lily, and she shared how she can feel nervous when being photographed, especially when others are watching. It was really enlightening to dig into why – I loved this topic, and we ended up getting portraits where she looked anything but self-conscious:


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The next couple of days included photographing kids and family indoors – specifically, in tricky lighting situations, utilizing a variety of lighting options like constant light, strobes (my favorites, the Profoto B2’s,) with flash, video light/the Ice Light, and of course a reflector. Then we showcased shooting family photography outside, in a field, in a lake, racing around, splashing around – and much, much more.


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These shoots were slightly chaotic but also just a whole lot of fun. And that’s why I do this work – I truly enjoy it so very much : )

At the end of day two, I was able to share some of the work we’re doing with Beautiful Together, our non-profit in support of children waiting for families. We discussed the heartening tie of philanthropy to photography, and even delved into the subject of adoption, a topic I’ve received a number of questions about over the years. My friend and photographer Vicki Taufer joined us via Skype to discuss her philanthropy and experience with adoption. Then my own family joined me on the set, which was more sweetly emotional than I expected. We answered questions about adoption and our upcoming orphanage project in Ethiopia for Beautiful Together, where we will be renovating several bathrooms that are currently in very poor condition in an orphanage in Addis Ababa. It was amazing to walk off set and immediately realize that our bathroom renovation project was fully-funded due to some big-hearted viewers, people who cared about making a difference to these kids, including one overwhelmingly generous donation that left me speechless. I’ll be sharing updates on Facebook about our progress while we’re in Ethiopia, as we kick off construction very soon.


creative live, beautiful together, tamara lackey

creative live, beautiful together, tamara lackey


The final day was all focused on the business of children and family photography, and it was intense! We covered a number of topics and hard a large block of time dedicated just to Q&A. I walked through all my gear, in detail, and got to show off a few of my favorite time-saving programs, like Mylio and Fundy Album Designer, the engine behind quickly designing and ordering my favorite Lush Albums (!).

I also I shared how I walk through family images with a client after a shoot, including showcasing printed pieces (thanks for sending them in, Nations Photo Lab).  We also shared some great promo codes, like 20% off a year of Animoto by using code “LACKEY15″ at checkout. And a lot of fantastic ones with Nations Photo Lab, which you can find here, (including $50 credits and 50% off).

As much Q&A as we did, I know a lot of people in the chat room couldn’t get their questions answered simply because of the volume, but I’m still trying to answer some of the questions that you have sent in, so bear with me if you haven’t received a response yet – there’s been a lot, along with some really beautiful notes, emails, messages and course reviews. So appreciated.

One of the questions I’ve gotten a few times is if I do private workshops. YES, although usually no more than one or two a year. I love them, though, and I’m proud of receiving 100% positive feedback from photographers who have joined me and have shared incredible feedback after the workshops. We only have one left this year – it’s September 22nd-24th in San Francisco, and we only have a few spots left until we are sold out, as we keep them small for more personal interaction. If you’re interested in joining us, you can see more details and book here. I’ll also be sharing some more info about the very cool downtown San Francisco location soon!

Lastly, a huge thank you to Meg, my producer, for doing a wonderful job on a rather action-packed program!




Giveaways: Nikon 50 f1.4 Lens, from Adorama

I’m here at CreativeLive in Seattle and have spent the entire day in pre-production with the crew, and we just got word that Adorama is doing one of their bigger giveaways – a Nikon 50 f1.4 lens, in honor of my Children and Family Program that is kicking off tomorrow morning / or June 23rd (based on when you read this)!

All you have to do to enter to win one of the more fantastic giveaways I’ve seen in a while is right here on the blog – it goes live at 12pm EST June 22nd / flipping to June 23rd, and the winner is selected after the course finishes on Thursday, June 25th!  And, while you’re waiting for your name to be called, you can watch this live, for free!
Win, win.

So if you want in during this narrow window of giveaways, enter here:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

A bunch of BTS shot from our prep on location at The Georgetown Ballroom in Seattle!

Giveaways Adorama Tamara Lackey creativeLIVE


creativeLIVE with Tamara Lackey, June 23rd-25th

I’m SO excited to be returning to creativeLIVE June 23rd-25th to teach a brand new 3-day live program, Children and Family Photography!

Over the last five years, I have taught a number of programs at creativeLIVE, ranging from Photography to Business to Work-Life Balance to Sales to Health & Energy to Relationships to Posing. So it’s pretty cool to be returning to teach my eighth live program, with a strong focus on out-in-the-field shooting, showcasing how to incorporate various locations into a shoot to further enhance the portrait. We will also be focused on a wide range of genres as it relates to portraits – I will also be photographing urban stylized portraits of a variety of children (with a significant emphasis on posing) and photographing a variety of families in a natural setting, as well in a more modern style in an urban setting.

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography



Throughout the three days, I’ll also be working with multiple lighting styles, demonstrating best uses for natural light, strobes, constant lights, video lights and flash. There are more reasons than just source of light why you might want to mix things up a bit! We’ll also step through digital workflow and host a real-time client sales consultation, demonstrating prep work beforehand and ultra-rapid album design along the way.

This will be a high-energy course, with quite a range of topics showcased – but it will also be rather honest and straightforward about what does and what doesn’t work when it comes to photographing portraits authentically, getting down to what really matters when it comes to photographing children and families.

If you would like to join us as an audience member for this course, you can apply right here.* In the past, I’ve been very lucky with the individuals who have made up the audience for my courses. So lucky, in fact, that many have gone on to be friends I speak with regularly. I sincerely look forward to meeting and spending a LOT of time with whomever is selected to join us to be an active part of this program.

*Edit: Our audience has been selected already, thanks for the fantastic submissions!

Given how fun and emotional and varied every single creativeLIVE I’ve done to date has been, I hope you can be there live and in person!
If you cannot apply to be part of the live audience in Seattle, then you can still RSVP to watch the free, live broadcast of Children and Family Photography right here.
Speaking of how much variety there has been in the last few years of teaching at creativeLIVE, both in Seattle and in San Francisco, here’s a WIDE sampling of photographs that were either sent my way or shared on blogs or supplied by creativeLIVE or sent to me by media or shared online!  A big thank you to each and every person in these photographs – I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know you over the last few years : )


From Sales, Sales, Sales:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fuller

From Taking Care of Business:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, Matthew Jordan Smith, Kenna Klosterman

From my very photography course:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, Chase Jarvis, Craig Swanson

From Work-Life Balance:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, work life balance

From Health & Energy:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

From Children’s Portraits:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

From Relationships (the surprise proposal!!)


creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

From Children’s Posing Guide:



creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, children posing guide, Niall David

Photo by Niall David


With Chase Jarvis, CEO of creativeLIVE:
creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, children posing guide, Niall David, Chase Jarvis

From Sales, Sales, Sales:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fuller


From Health & Energy:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography


Introducing George to the creativeLIVE audience!:


creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtesy of creativeLIVE

From Sales, Sales, Sales:


creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtesy of Lori Fuller

From Children’s Portraits:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

With Susan and Kenna!:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

From Health & Energy:


creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtesy of Kenna Klosterman

From Children’s Posing Guide:


creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtsey: Fizzahraza Photography


From Health & Energy:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtesy of Kenna Klosterman

Our DIY Studio Upfit Adventure!:


creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography


From Taking Care of Business: creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

From Children’s Posing Guide:



creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography

Photo Courtsey: Fizzahraza Photography

From Health & Energy:creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, work life balance

From Relationships:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography


From the Opening Show of the creativeLIVE San Francisco Studio:

creativeLIVE, Tamara Lackey, children and family photography, San Francisco Chronicle









Lush Photo Albums: Webinar with Tamara Lackey and Fundy

We launched Lush Albums rather recently (to plenty of in-studio cheers!) and have had a number of great conversations with photographers by phone, email, on facebook and in person since then. The good news is that we are hearing wonderful feedback – so grateful for that! The follow-up news is that we’ve heard multiple requests for us to show exactly how fast and easy it is to design and order your Lush Photo Album. Although we have some great walkthroughs of how to get started, I know that it’s still nice to see it all done in front of you and ask any questions you have right then and there. So we are hosting a webinar, and you can register here!

Here are all the details for our webinar on how to quickly design these gorgeous fine art photo albums, taking place on June 2nd at 10am PST / 1pm EST:




Lush Albums, photo albums, Tamara Lackey, Natalie norton

Guest Designed by Natalie Norton!


Photo Albums by Lush Albums


Photo Albums, Lush Albums, Tamara Lackey, Fundy


Join me and Fundy, the CEO of Fundy Designer, as we walk through just how easy and fun it is to design your Lush Album. We’ll showcase a variety of photo album styles inside and out, and we’ll answer any and all questions you may have, including how to add fun accessories, like your custom, handsewn Lush Bag. Just register for free here, to ensure your spot.

Lush Albums Custom Bags, Photo Albums, Lush Albums, Fundy Software, Finao, Beautiful Together, Tamara Lackey, Fundy, Finao
If you don’t want to wait until June 2nd, you can always visit our Video Tutorials page to find out more information right now about building your own fine art photo albums within minutes.

See you on June 2nd!

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