Top 20% and Finalist in the Shoot and Share Contest

The shoot and share contest is a pretty cool contest where 100,000+ photographers enter worldwide, it is huge. But what is really cool about it, is voting happens by everybody. There is no judging, it is completely anonymous. There was over 450,000K picture entered in this contest,  which created 12 rounds of voting! 

Take a minute to digest those number. Each photographer was allowed to enter 50 pictures; and if they did they were rewarded with a canvas photographers bag. And I did it- I went all in. I have never entered a photography contest before. I figured eh why not. Last year, I really worked hard at my style, really hard at my technique. I explored, I enjoyed it! I have a serious love affair with photography. 

Anyway, getting off track. I entered 50 pictures in there. Some of them were not the greatest that I have done, but they meant something to me. I honestly didn't think I would get very far, but that didn't matter to me because this year I am determined to be very confident in myself, in my skills, in my creative abilities.

But it still didn't save me from the shock of learning, I *ME* Jerrica Russell, had a finalist picture & a top 20%! like Wow. I had some other good performing pictures as well; they didn't get awards (had to be at least top 30% for an award) which is fine; but they still went far. I am good. And this year, I will be on fire. I know I will. And you can be my gasoline! 

Sooooo here is the finalist picture:

 

 Shoot & Share Passion Portrait Finalist

Shoot & Share Passion Portrait Finalist

This picture means sooooo much to me. It wasn't a client, it wasn't any ordinary picture. This particular picture was a picture of my mother-in-law, the day she passed away. She loved her rosary. Her frail skin, her blush pink gown. The way the light hits her. Everything about this kills me. I am glad this picture went far; this picture has so much more meaning than you see. There was so much more behind it! At the same time, this woman here, would be so proud of me right now. She is probably up there jumping for joy- telling me how proud she is. Because she was an amazing supporter.  #CancerSucks

The next award I received was a top 20%, which simply means it placed in the top 20%. It did 80% better than others. It was in the family portraits category. I was so proud of this picture too, I love this picture. This picture was one of my main goals this year; to do a silhouette. And I did it.  So thanks to this family for this gorgeous session!

 Family silhouette; top 20% in family category in the Shoot & Share Contest. 

Family silhouette; top 20% in family category in the Shoot & Share Contest. 

There was 48 other pictures entered; while a handful didn't get very far, I did have a couple that were in the top 50%. I wanted to mention those as well. 

 Top 35% in Personal Projects

Top 35% in Personal Projects

The above picture was a self-portrait of myself. It is a representation of my body and how I carried 6 gorgeous babies in there. The stretch marks and scars. The mom underwear. My easily bruised skins. My paleness. It looks like it has been through hell, but really, it has grown 6 children to term. It is amazing. It placed 4,837/13,502.

 

 Top 35% in Passion Portraits

Top 35% in Passion Portraits

This picture actually ties with my finalist. This is my tattoo on my wrist; it tells me to stay strong. When I am having a rough day, I can look down and rub my wrist, and remember that I *NEED* to stay strong. The necklace has some ashes from my mother-in-law in the heart locket with pendant that says "always with me". It is a reminder that she is always with me. She is part of my two younger children and she is part of the house I live in. She is with me.

 Top 48% in Creative Projects

Top 48% in Creative Projects

I created this as I was learning and playing around with double exposure. It was something I liked a lot. While there was a ton of better double exposure; this one was cute and sweet. I didn't expect it to pull in at 48%! It scored 6,537/13,502.

 39% in Landscapes

39% in Landscapes

This one didn't have special meaning to me like the others. I was getting down with a  session and looked up at the sky and it looked so beautiful so I took a picture. It scored 6,527/16,373.

 

 40% in Babies & Toddlers

40% in Babies & Toddlers

This is my youngest little precious princess! This was her cake smash; that she totally dominated! It scored 11,446/28,425.

 

 42% in Birth & Newborn

42% in Birth & Newborn

This is definitely one of my favorite pictures. This mama had just given birth to her beautiful baby boy. This picture is about her relief and joy of having her new baby; but also the pain of the final step in delivery. I was honored to be a part of her journey. 

 

 38% in Kids

38% in Kids

This is my little dude. Laying on the floor watching the iPad.  It placed 13,619/35,570.

 

 45% in Birth & Newborn

45% in Birth & Newborn

This was from the beautiful birth of Gavin. The fingers on the side are of his grandmas, it was the one thing that calmed him down. Hopefully, I will get his birth blogged soon! Placed 13,408/29,506

 

 49% in Newborn and Birth

49% in Newborn and Birth

This was from the wonderful fresh 48. If you would like to see more pictures or her story; the previous blog "Fresh 48 at Mercy Lebanon, Missouri" will get you there. Placed 14,719/29,460.

 


11 pictures made it to top 50%. I don't know about you, but I am sure proud of that! And more than anything I am thankful for everything, I am thankful for the families that have invited me into some of their more personal space. I am thankful for everyone last year, that has helped me along the way. I am proud of where I am today. I am optimistic for where this year will lead.

 

 

Fresh 48 at Mercy Lebanon, Missouri

After births, fresh 24/48 (or new beginnings) is my second favorite session to shoot. It is very different from a newborn session. These sessions happen within 48 hours of birth. They capture that brand new baby look. Lets face it, newborns don't have perfect skin tones, or perfect skin. They tend to come out a little bit bruised, maybe a little red or purple. They seem to be wrinkly. Some already have dry skin while others have oily skin. Some newborns may come out with super long finger nails. 

I recently did a Fresh 48 (little miss was less than 15 hours old actually). Here is some gorgeous pictures and video I did of her. 

 

 Mama enjoying some cuddles with her baby girl. 

Mama enjoying some cuddles with her baby girl. 

This little girl was gorgeous. She has a head full of dark hair. A little bit of chunk to her. Every single bit of detail of her was amazing. Her mom told me how they barely made it to the hospital to have her. She was sure ready to be in her mamas arms.

 

 

 Proud dad admiring his baby. 

Proud dad admiring his baby. 

I don't know about you, but I barely remember what my fresh newborn(s) looks like. Newborns change so quickly. From 12 hours to 72 hours old, they can look so different. Some babies come with fierceness and have some bruising that settles after a couple days. Thats THEIR story. That is THEIR birth. Birth is raw, it is beautiful. We should celebrate it loud and clear!

While I offer birth coverage and services, I know and understand that it may be out of your budget. Fresh 48 sessions are a great alternative to birth services. With a fresh 48, I come to the hospital or your home within 48 hours of your delivery. I document your little one. It isn't posed at all. I may suggest some skin on skin, or place baby in bassinet. You don't need to clean up, you don't need to shower. This session is about capturing the moments after birth. 

 

Throughout the session, I take video clips and create a video. It ties everything together. Here is the one I did for this gorgeous girl and her family. <3

I hope you enjoyed taking a peak at this little gals first day! If you are interested in a fresh 48, give me a call, shoot me an email, or message me on Facebook! Check out the birth page for more information on fresh 48s. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Birth Photography

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I last talked about why birth photography, now I am gonna talk about some of those questions that tend to come with it. When people think about birth they think about the messy, the pain, the yelling. They aren't thinking about the sweetness that birth really is. As humans, we tend to think about the negative more than we do the positive, it just our nature, unless we work hard at       rewiring our thought process. 

Thinking about birth  what comes to your mind? Is it the blood, or the way you yelled at your spouse? Or the awful pain that comes with it? That is all the labor, that is the hard work that comes with giving birth. But AFTER birth, that is magical. Everyone's oxytocin levels are naturally high, the bond between newborn and parents have started. The way your little one gazes up at you like wow, this is the mama that has fed me for 9-10 months. The way you gaze at your little one in awe that you have created this amazing squishy baby. Those are the moments of birth, you want to remember. That's what birth is about. Reaching that end goal of holding your squishy newborn. Having a birth photographer there, means they capture those moments, they capture the way you and your significant other stare at your newest creation. 

Soooo You are thinking about hiring a birth photographer but you have a bunch of questions...

I think I covered WHY you should hire one above and in the last blog. :) 

Will you be taking pictures below the waist?

 During this birth, I was at moms head the entire time.&nbsp;

During this birth, I was at moms head the entire time. 

This really depends upon you. If you want me to, I can. If you don't want me to, I won't. Where I stand depends upon you and your comfort level. If I do catch those moments, they will be for your eyes only. If you would like crowning pictures, I can do that as well. We go over this in detail at our consultation. Most mamas like to have some, while others prefer none. 

When should you book?

As soon as you can. I only schedule 3-5 births PER MONTH, based upon due dates. This ensures I make it to your birth as well as having time to edit your gallery. The quicker you book, this ensures that you will be on the schedule. However, if you wait until the end to book, availability may still be there. It isn't guaranteed that I will completely book up a month. If I do, I have another fabulous birth photographer I will refer you too. 

Do you offer payment plans?

Yes. This will depend upon when you book, and how much you are able to put down. Contact me for more details.

Do you do Caesarean births?

YES. A birth is a birth. If it is a planned C-section, you will need to make sure I have the okay to go into the operation room to take pictures. This would be your responsibility to talk with your providers. 

What if I end up with a C-section?

Whether, it is emergency or not, it is your responsibility to talk with your providers. This is a good question to ask your doctor in the beginning appointments. If, you have an emergency c-section, and I am not allowed in the room, I will hand my backup camera to your support person to take pictures. I will resume taking pictures after you and baby are in recovery. 

How long will you be after birth?

Up to 2 hours. I will be there to document them the stats on your baby, to get the first moments. Timing will depend upon whats happening and how quick things happen. Sometimes some babies go straight to moms chest for hours before doing any weights. Sometimes the baby goes straight to the scales and then moms chest. This will depend upon your birth plan.

 Nurse at Lake Ozark Regional measuring a newborn.&nbsp;

Nurse at Lake Ozark Regional measuring a newborn. 

 

What happens if the birth is long?

I will be there for you. Sometimes the longest part of labor is getting to 5-6 centimeters. I try to time to come around this time, and stay until birth. This may be 30 minutes or it could be 12 hours or more. I don't set time limits. 

Will you use flash?

Yes and no. I use a bounced flash, which is very light and usually not so noticeable. I also take some pictures without flash. This will depend upon the lighting situation. If the room is dark, not using flash may result in grainy pictures. When I have used flash, both mamas have said they didn't notice or it didn't even both them.

 Birth space using bounced flash.&nbsp;

Birth space using bounced flash. 

 Same birth as above, however, no flash was used.&nbsp;

Same birth as above, however, no flash was used. 

What happens if you miss the birth?

This is something we discuss during our consultation. It is super important to keep me updated during your labor. As it may take me an hour or longer (depending upon where you are delivering) to get to you. If I miss the birth, I am still coming as soon as possible. I will still document everything that I can. Depending upon, your preference, I will do a full fresh 48 session, or a full lifestyle newborn session. Unfortunately, I do not refund for missed births. 

What if you can't make it?

While it is super important for me to make it, as I am on call and such. Things do happen that are out of my control, such as getting sick. If I am unable to attend, I have a backup photographer that will attend. She is amazing, she is also a birth photographer, her style is aligned with mine, and she will make you happy. 

What if something goes wrong during the birth?

I will still document the birth. Depending upon the situation, will depend upon how I deliver the gallery. When something traumatic happens during birth, having photos can help you process and heal.  If you have more concerns about this, we can discuss this more. 

Are you going to post my pictures on the internet?

The longer answer is this is going to depend. Most parents don't mind them being posted. IF you don't want any of them posted, please make sure to discuss this with me. Depending upon your comfort level, will depend upon the type of photos I will share. Birth is an absolutely beautiful thing; however, it is also very intimate, and some people would rather not have breast feeding or crowning shots on the internet. We go over this in person as well. I want to make sure you are comfortable. If I have a questionable picture I want to post, I will ask you first. When it comes to video, depending upon what I capture, there may be two videos. This will again depend upon your comfort level. 

How far will you travel?

I will travel up to 40-60 miles. This will depend upon your location, and the circumstances. Right now, I currently serve Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Lebanon Mercy, Lake Ozark Regional hospital, and Fort Leonard Wood Hospitals. If you are having a homebirth, this will depend how far you are from me. 

 

If you have any questions that I didn't cover, feel free to shoot me a message on Facebook, or an email. 

Birth Photographer in Central Missouri, Saint Robert, Missouri, Rolla, Missouri & Waynesville, Missouri. 

Why Birth Photography

Let's talk about birth photography- as this is what I would like to transition to doing more than part time. 

Birth photography is it's own class, its own breed, its own photography. It is very similar to lifestyle, in the sense that you can't pose birth. You can't pretend birth, and you can't redo it. 

 Laboring mom being comforted by her mom.

Laboring mom being comforted by her mom.

I want you to think back to when you had a child (if you have had a child), think about that day. It was probably hazy, it was clear but hazy. You know what would help make the memory be clearer being able to watch a video, look at some pictures. I have 6 children, and I remember most of their birth, but I love looking back at those fresh pictures and seeing how little and amazing they were. I don't remember so clearly about how purple Brandon was, I do however remember his crazy entrance in the world. I remember how peaceful Emily's birth was but I wish there were more pictures of her Grandma's reaction to her birth and overall interaction. Point being was, even though there was a camera at all 6 of my children's birth, moments like these were not taken. You know why? Because their father was busy admiring his precious newborn, as was I. Grandma's were admiring their precious new grandchild, as would I. 

 I captured this of my daughter, her dad and grandma. This was the last birth she attended, she passed away 6 months later.&nbsp;

I captured this of my daughter, her dad and grandma. This was the last birth she attended, she passed away 6 months later. 

You see- there are moments that a photographer can get you that you wouldn't think about until afterwards. And you know how grandma was admiring that precious new baby. I would capture that. Looking back, I wish I would hired a birth photographer to capture these moments. 

 Grandma admiring her new grandson.&nbsp;

Grandma admiring her new grandson. 

 Dad admiring his newborn.&nbsp;

Dad admiring his newborn. 

And if dad was busy taking those pictures, who would be there to capture the pictures of him with admiring his new baby? When you hire a birth photographer, they come and they document it. In my case, I not only take pictures but I also record videos to create a birth video.  

More importantly is the relationship we will build together. It is important to me that we meet before to start to get to know each other. I can offer more than just photography/videography at your birth. 

 This a video screen shot of me putting my hand on the shoulder of a mama who is pushing and had started to get overwhelmed. I was reminding her, she was okay. &nbsp;(This is not a quality picture)

This a video screen shot of me putting my hand on the shoulder of a mama who is pushing and had started to get overwhelmed. I was reminding her, she was okay.  (This is not a quality picture)

I listen to your needs and your wants, and I go the extra mile. If you want peace and quiet, then that is what you will get. If you want someone to chat to, listen to, cry on their shoulders, I can be that person too. If you need someone to feed your child, while you are laboring hard, I will step up. If you need someone to tell you it will be okay, and you got this, you can count on me. 

Hiring a birth photographer is an investment, a very very good one. You will only birth that child one time. You will only give birth so many times, maybe once or maybe six times. Or even possibly twenty times. Either way, it doesn't happen very often. It is the first time you get to meet your little human, your little baby. This is equivocal to getting married. 

Now you might be wondering, how in the world can you afford to pay for it? There are different options here. My basic package is $1,000. This may seem expensive, but really it isn't. I could be there for 12 hours capturing videos and pictures. This is time I have to have a sitter watch my little ones. This is the time spending away from them. Afterwards, I spend hours culling and editing pictures and videos to give to you. It is WORTH IT!

I do take payment plans. Let me give you an example of sample payment plan.

If you book from the beginning at 8 weeks and pay $120 every month (8 times) with a final payment of $40 at 37 weeks, you have paid for a birth package! This is $120/month, $30/week. This is a dining meal cost, this is your junk food at the store, this is your morning Starbucks. 

If that isn't an option, you can ask family members to gift you this instead of presents at your baby shower. 

If you want it- get it! Let me help you! Let's get the pictures you deserve! 

Next weeks blog: Frequently Asked Questions for Birth. 
 

Valuing myself and my family and photography.

Over the recent months, I have increased my prices for my sessions. This wasn't because I was some super money hungry person. There was purpose, there was reason: Value. 

Years ago, before cell phones and DSLR were easily obtained, more people valued photography and photographers. Over the years, every one is looking to pinch pennies, and get the best for their buck. I understand 100%, as a mom of 6, I feel you. As a mom of 6- I also have mouths to feed as well as other expenses that come with raising children. As much as I would love to give everyone a stellar deal, and amazing photographs. My time is important, when I spend an hour taking pictures and then 2 hours editing and delivering pictures, that is time away from my children. 

                          I deserve to be valued. 

I value myself and my photography. I don't just take pictures and that is it. I spend hours editing them. I spend time before sessions prepping. I spend time driving to and from session destinations. I value you and your family. 

       Value Photography. 

As photographers, we tend to look at others as inspiration, as well as (unfortunately) competition. We lower our prices to bring in the business, and eventually the prices are so low- we are pretty much doing it for free. When we do this, we hurt each other. Over the course of the past year, my perspective on this changed- for the better. I don't look at my fellow photographers as competition, but as partners, as colleagues. I am not worrying about what they are doing, I am staying in my own lane cheering them on.

                                                  Value Yourself.

That also means- my prices HAD to rise. They NEEDED to rise. When you look outside of this area, session prices are way higher than the average price in central Missouri.  When you break down the cost of business for a photographer, you would be surprised, how less they are making than you think. They aren't out there to get rich, we are out here to make a living. To support our families, to be able to care for our babies, to give you beautiful memories to hold to... 

                                                It's an investment.  

Getting a portrait session is an investment. You should spend good money on it. If it takes saving up for a couple months to get gorgeous pictures, it will be worth it. Trust me, you want to save up and get your monies worth. Even if you don't hire me, I can direct you to another photographer that has a different style but amazing portraitures- I know a handful. ;)

Please know, my recent price increases had to happen for the survival of my business. And if you value me and what I do- you will completely understand. As I completely understand, if you have to go with another photographer. 

 

 Grandma admiring her grandson at a recent birth.&nbsp;

Grandma admiring her grandson at a recent birth. 

My ever changing style...

First off- I fail at this blog thing. I mean I try. I tell myself, I need to get on and blog. Then I say BUT the kids are yelling and destroying the house and I can do this and that. So Today, I ignoring all of that, and I am writing. Writing serves as a wonderful creative outlet for me, that I don't tap into as much as I should. 

When I first started taking pictures many many many moons ago, I was 11 years old. I would have my fellow cousins or friends hold blankets up and then pose my sister (or any baby I babysat) in front and took pictures with my mom's 35mm film, because lets me be real, my only model was Walmart Photography, you know when it came into our very little town every so many months, before we gained a super Walmart. 

When I finally bought a DSLR, I took similar type pictures as well as other various things of my children. But I was a baby. I wanted to make it work, but I was learning. 

Even today, I am learning. Everybody learns. Every single day. The other day, I learned a new technique in Lightroom (Editing program). Where I was a year ago, to today, has been huge leaps and bounds. Over the past year, I have read and read and practiced and practiced more to better my technique. I have joined groups in order to feed my knowledge hungry self.

Just a couple years ago, I edited bright and airy and happy and bright. (LOL Yes, I needed two brights there). Today, though, I edit a little darker and moodier. I don't know where I changed or why I changed, but I started liking the darker edits. Not saying I don't like my bright and airy edits, because there is definitely a time and place for them. I am getting older as ya know everyone does everyday, and I wonder if that has influenced my change in perspective. 

Either way, I am changing, I am learning, and I will never stop that. 

Ya know what else I am changing, my style. I use to only do portraits with a background and all posed. But it didn't work (isn't/wasn't) for me. I felt awkward posing people. I felt awkward demanding people older than me to do something. I have recently starting doing more lifestyle sessions, such as births. I finally found something that clicked with me. It hit me that is what I love. I love non-posed sessions. 

Recently I have done some couples session following the Show Me Your You unposing guide, and have fell in love. Not just because the pictures turn out amazing, but I watch these couples relive some of their relationship again, I watch their love unfold. That is what photography is about, capturing those moments. Here are some highlights from some of those sessions.

 

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Thank you for viewing. Until next time!

P.S. Like my Facebook page where you see (almost) daily tidbits and pictures. 

The beautiful birth of Baby A.

What would make a great first blog post? The beautiful birth story of baby A. 

When my very dear friend and cousin first told me she was pregnant, I knew her ultimate delivery would be a home birth. We had talked about it so many times before and I knew that based on the deliveries of her previous children, she wanted a different experience. I also knew that she would research everything about birth in preparation to go unassisted. Of course, I immediately told her I'd love to be there to take pictures if she'd have me. At first, she was totally okay with me at the house but wasn't sure about the delivery and pictures. 

By the end of her pregnancy, she had decided for me to be in the room and get as many pictures and videos as I could. I was so much more than that though, I also was someone she could lean on for pregnancy support. Her due date came and passed and we anxiously awaited for the little one to decide it was time. 

This is my version; hopefully, I will add her version soon. 

A texted me that morning and told me she thought today may be it but she wasn't sure because contractions were steady but not super strong or getting closer, she asked me to bring over some breast pump tubing to pump to try and encourage them to steady up. When I stopped by and ran in, I could tell today was the day. Her face was flush, and I just knew. I went and dropped off my toddler at a sitters house for the day and went back over to her, to see if we could get these contractions to get a bit stronger. 

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We sat and chatted for a while, and I told her to do some lift and tucks with each contraction. I started to time them to see how far they really were. She kept feeling like they were super far apart, but they were really 8-10 minutes apart with every few changing to 5 minutes. We went ahead and talked about me checking her and possibly stripping membranes. (Remember we are super good friends and cousins, and I've had 6 kids). Upon that check, I found she was approximately 6ish cm. (Rather, I couldn't spread my fingers anymore). I told her I thought she should go ahead and get her mom on the way, as she had to drive over 3 hours. She went ahead and called her doula-friend as well. All the while still doing her lift and tucks. With each contraction it was getting more intense. She was moving from ball to bed to pacing. 

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Her husband was busy with two of their other children, feeding them and tending to them. He would stop in and check how she was doing. He got her birth pool all set up and ready for her. By the time she had gotten to her 9th lift and tuck, contractions had started to really pick up and get more intense at this point, so she decided to get into the tub. 

 

 

 

 

Around 3ish, her mama arrived, just in time for her to start feeling more pressure. She continued to labor and work through the contractions. About 3:35ish, her oldest son arrived home from school EARLY. It was so weird because he normally doesn't get home until later but today he got home early. He was super excited as he really wanted to see the placenta. Mama bear started pushing and roaring through and at 3:47, little guy was born. 

 

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I couldn't been happier to have been part of this beautiful birth story.  Mama and Papa did an amazing job. I will end this with their birth video.