I can’t believe it’s been only since their wedding in 2020 that I’ve been working with Jenica and Steve, and already, I’ve captured so many important moments for them. It kind of feels like I’ve known them for decades. Our journey began with an Engagement Session at the National Portraits Gallery in DC in 2019, which I blogged about. Their wedding followed in 2020, and I shared that story on our wedding and events blog too. Within a year, we found ourselves at Jonas Green Park, capturing maternity photos on a beautiful afternoon as they awaited their first child. A few months after that, we were in their home, welcoming their newborn. Fast forward a couple of years to now, and we’re at Quiet Waters Park, taking their first set of proper “family portraits”.
I absolutely love this stuff. Watching a family grow, seeing the dynamics shift and change as children come into the picture and start to carve out their own identities—it’s one of the best parts of my job. It elevates my work from creating aesthetically pleasing material for its own sake—something that can sometimes feel a bit self-centered and frankly a bit pointless—to crafting something that’s grounded in the real, day-to-day lives of people who care deeply about what they’re doing because it reflects what’s important to them.
The last session with Jenica & Steve, post-birth of their baby boy, was captured by my colleague Felipe, making this the first time I’d meet their son in person. We’ve been to a variety of locations over time, from the National Portrait Gallery to waterfronts, beaches, and their home. For this session, we chose Quiet Waters Park, one of Annapolis’ most scenic spots. It’s not only conveniently located for a family with a two-year-old, but it also offers a diverse range of backdrops. And it’s spacious enough to engage a small child without relying on a playground, which generally just aren’t especially photogenic.
Our session kicked off at the park’s gazebo, an easy-to-find and popular spot. However, counter-intuitively and despite its appeal, it often doesn’t yield the most interesting photos. The gazebo and its surrounding path can captivate active, curious kids in ways that challenge portrait-taking. Parents often let their children lead, a path of least resistance in parenting that fosters self-discovery at the child’s own pace—an approach I generally appreciate. But when a child isn’t naturally drawn to the camera, this can hinder the process of capturing the images parents are after. To navigate this, I collaborated with Jenica & Steve to slightly shift their approach for our session, guiding their son more actively through the portrait experience. We didn’t linger long at the Gazebo.
As we crossed the gazebo bridge, my young subject became fascinated with the turtles in the water below, and let’s be real, who doesn’t love a turtle family? We snagged a few lovely shots of each parent with their child along the path that divides the gazebo from the reflecting pool. The butterfly garden, with its large rocks and layered natural textures, was where we spent some quality time and captured some of my favorite family shots, particularly of their son.
Sensing the little one’s patience starting to fade, we quickened our pace. We circled the visitor’s center and stopped along the stairs for some adorable shots, and then began to wind down our session in the terraced sculpture garden next to the Blue Heron center. We got some endearing photos of our little champ on a brick ledge just before he officially tapped out for the day. Thanks to a favorite internet child personality, we managed to get some sweet images of Jenica & Steve together, paying homage to the core relationship that started all of this.
Portrait sessions with a two-year-old are rarely easy, but with patience and a go-with-the-flow attitude, they can be incredibly fun and rewarding. For Steve, Jenica, and their son, we kept the session fast-paced, engaging, and adaptable. Were there shots I wished to get but couldn’t? Sure. But there’s no point in fixating on one particular photo if the pursuit of that photo will spoil the experience for one of the participants in the session. Photographing a family with a small child is akin to an improvised dance: the photographer leads with the moves, and the parents need to be ready to follow, and the more they work together, the smoother and better each session becomes. Steve & Jen are basically pros at this point.