Libby Hill

It’s Mini Session Time

It’s Move In week at VCU, which means school is right around the corner! A new school year means a fresh start, fresh haircuts, new clothes, new promises to get up early and set a new schedule, and a perfect incentive to update your family photos. But after buying the new haircuts and new school clothes and setting that new busy schedule, who has the time or money for a full family photo session?

Richmond family photos

That’s where mini sessions come in. Mini sessions are fifteen minutes, rather than an hour and a half, and are an easy way to get your family photos updated on the run. This year’s sessions are being held in the late afternoon, after everyone’s had their Saturday naps, after soccer and baseball and dance are over, and right before dinner.

This fall’s mini session day is September 16 in Libby Hill Park. If you’ve never been to Libby Hill, it’s a smallish park on the top of a hill in Church Hill. It overlooks the river and downtown, is laden with cobbled paths and big old oak and ginkgo trees.

Simple Family Photography

The cost of the mini session includes the 15 minute session, the editing, and 5 edited images that you’ll be able to choose in an online gallery a week after our session, for $125.

If you’re interested in a mini session, you can sign up for a time here. Once you sign up for a time, I will email you a contract and invoice for the time you choose.

If it rains on September 16, our rain date will be September 23, at the same time and place.

Spots are limited; don’t forget to sign up for a mini session by clicking here!

mini session photos


Outdoor location myths

Outdoor Location Myths

Last week, I wrote about five indoor location myths, and I thought it would be fitting to follow that up with some outdoor photo location myths. The majority of my sessions are done outdoors, and overwhelmingly during one part of the year: fall. I don’t blame you, the color in RVA is fantastic in autumn, and sometimes we get really long seasons of color where the leaves just hang around for weeks without falling. But autumn actually doesn’t last forever around here; as we know, Virginia gets all four seasons, and every type of precipitation. So I can see how booking an outdoor session might make you nervous. Here are four common myths and misconceptions about outdoor photography sessions:

  • How can my photos be unique if you have used this spot before? It’s true, I have some favorite locations where I love to shoot: Forest Hill Park, Belle Isle, and Libby Hill are all beautiful locations with lots of personality and nooks and crannies perfect for family and maternity photos. But the photos are about you, and your family. The location is just a backdrop. Even if I shoot in the exact same spot (which I rarely do) and use the same poses (which I never do), the photos of your family will still be unique because they’re of your family.

Family photography Richmond

  • Why don’t you ever shoot in Maymont or Lewis Ginter? Aren’t all parks free all the time?  Unfortunately, no. There are a few parks in the city that are beautiful, and know it, and take full advantage of everyone wanting to shoot there. They range from $50 to $150 in location fees, and require photographers to schedule the session in advance. Maymont even tells you ahead of time, Saturdays are reserved for weddings between May and November, so don’t even ask. Fortunately though, there are a ton of parks in the James River Park System, and we can find lots of places to shoot that are beautiful and free. Brother sister photography
  • Railroad tracks are the best place for that rustic feel, why won’t you shoot there? Luckily, the train track fad has faded a bit since the mid-00’s, so I don’t get asked this very often anymore. They’re not exactly my style, but way more importantly, they’re incredibly dangerous to shoot on/near. It’s also illegal to be on active tracks, and even if you think the tracks are abandoned, they might still be considered “active.” If rustic is really what you’re after, I know of some nice parks with cross-fencing, barns and old houses that would add to that feel without endangering your family or me. New mom photography
  • We can’t plan too far ahead, what if it rains? Setting up a photo session is like washing your car. As soon as you have something scheduled, the forecast changes and you get heart palpitations thinking about ruined plans. Don’t go into panic mode – we have options. Since we can’t control the weather, we have to focus on the things we can control: things like changing location, rescheduling, or being creative with the time and space we have, using overhangs, umbrellas, or fully embracing it and letting the kids be kids in a rain storm (sans thunder and lightning, of course).

If an outdoor session is on your radar, I hope this has helped answer some of those questions you might have about outdoor locations. Give me a holler if you want to put something on the calendar!

5 myths about indoor photography

Indoor Location Myths

In case you’ve been living in the southern hemisphere or a cave lately, I’m here to tell you that this summer has been Hot. Suffocating humidity and heat has made being outside for more than 5 minutes unbearable for a good portion of this summer. Photography sessions with your whiny (your words, not mine) family, melting your makeup and trying to smile naturally simply wasn’t happening in the months of June or July in RVA.

So, if you wanted or needed photos in June or July, and didn’t want to be miserable, then you likely needed to be indoors. The thought of indoor family photos turns lots of people off though, for some reason. They think that if we shoot their family photos indoors, they won’t be as nice as they would be if they were outside, or we won’t be able to get quintessential Richmond photos if we stay inside. I’m here to dispel some common myths about indoor locations.

  • My house is not clean or pretty enough for a photo shoot. Trust me, your house doesn’t have to be perfect! Even for big magazine house shoots, the photographer isn’t shooting the entire house, and they doctor up the rooms they are shooting in. People’s houses don’t normally look like that. Ever. So, if we plan to shoot a session in your house, we would pick a room or two to shoot in with good lighting, remove the things we don’t want in the photos, like piles of laundry or boxes of toys, and focus on the parts we do want in the photos, like the people. This is especially good for newborn sessions, since being out in 100 degree heat is definitely not good for brand new people.Richmond newborn photos
  • We can’t do the same types of photos inside as outside. Sure we can! A cuddle pile on the bed is just as good as a cuddle pile on a quilt in the grass. I actually love indoor photos more than outdoor, because the kids tend to be more comfortable; they’re more open with me about who they are and what they like when they’re in a familiar environment. You can dress it up or dress it down as much or as little as you want to get the desired effect, and because we’re at home, you can quickly make wardrobe changes without using a lot of valuable session time.Daddy Daughter photos
  • Photos indoors means I won’t get RVA photos. There are plenty of places around Richmond to shoot indoors. The VMFA and the train station welcome photographers, The Jefferson and the State Capital are both fancy and clearly Richmond. There are creative solutions to being indoors and also being around RVA, if being at home is a no-go.Family photos at the museum
  • Public indoor locations mean we’ll be on display. Not necessarily – and not any more so than outdoor public locations. People typically don’t notice when I’m out and about with a family, or if they do, it’s to stop so they don’t walk between the camera and the subject, which I appreciate. Most people don’t stop, and don’t really care, if we’re being honest, about what’s happening around them in public.
  • Indoor photos mean I won’t get “natural light” photos. Definitely not true! Being indoors around windows means the light is usually softer and more even, and you can shoot at any time of day because the shade (roof) prevents the squinting and raccoon eyes that you can get from shooting midday outside.myths about indoor photography

So, I hope this helps you think about all of the options open to you for a family photo session, and not just the hot-as-blazes outdoor ones.. ’cause you know… winter is coming, and those same outdoor locations will all be blistering cold before you know it. Contact me if an indoor shoot sounds perfect for you!

Pick of the Month: Wegman’s Catering


Each month, I review one thing in my Pick of the Month series. Whether it’s something neat or necessary, a treat or help with a problem, I think it’s worth sharing. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to find something new and interesting each month. Last time, I chose all the things. This month, I’m sharing my new favorite spot for catering pick-up. 

I don’t order catering a lot (or ever) in my personal life, and I only rarely have the need to order food for work. Last week was one of those rare occasions, as I put together a retirement party for a colleague. I had heard horror stories about some of the normal catering options, so I decided to try something new. We put in the order on Tuesday, with our very specific cake needs (make it say “Bon Voyage” in big letters, and make it pretty) and food for anywhere between 45 and 75 people.

Sidebar: People. If you receive an invitation to a party with food, rsvp so that the host knows how much food to get. If you aren’t sure, say maybe. “Maybe” at least lets them know that you’ve seen the invitation. Pet peeve. Anyway.

I trekked out to the Short Pump Wegman’s on Friday to pick up the food, and I was blown away by their service. They bent over backwards to help me, loaded the gigantic cake (which looked exactly how I imagined) into a cart, and then ran for another cart so I could go get the drinks and cups I had forgotten. They gave impeccable directions to find the things I needed in that massive store, down to the section of the aisle where the drinks were located, and waited patiently for me to return to the catering section to pick up the carload of food I had left there. They didn’t blink when I mentioned I had a special purchasing need, and walked me through my first time in their store. Then when I ran out to find my car, they wrangled up extra hands to bring everything out to me, and loaded it into my car for me. They even chased me across the parking lot to give me the tray of chocolate chip cookies I almost left behind (I know, I would have cried too).

The service was fantastic, and the food tasted amazing, too. Fruit, veggies, meat & cheeses, cookies, and even a sushi platter (we had a whole boat theme happening) were devoured by the guests, and that marble cake with the chocolate frosting meant for 75 people is missing a big chunk now. I really couldn’t have been happier with the way it all went down. The guests raved about the food. Amazingly, I didn’t get a picture of anything except the cake before it all got eaten.

Catering success

If you’re planning a birthday party, retirement party, engagement party, bridal or baby shower, or just like to eat a lot, consider Wegman’s catering (I’m not getting any money for this endorsement). They were relatively affordable for the amount of food we got and the amount of people we were feeding, and their service was amazing. Our giant cake, which we’ll be eating for the next week in the office kitchen, cost us $60.

Bon appetite!


My first session

My First Session

About a month ago, I quietly celebrated the anniversary of my very first session for Allison Patel Photography. I shot a lot of sessions, weddings, and parties prior to January 1, 2011, so this wasn’t my first rodeo. But my first session after I formed my business in 2011 was in June of that year, and I got warm and fuzzy thinking about that shoot when the sixth anniversary popped up a few weeks ago. I’d like to take a quick walk down memory lane and stroll through Maymont with Kayla and Zeke, the two former VCU RA’s who hired me to shoot their engagement photos so long ago.

Richmond photographer

We met at the main entrance to the gardens, and spent some time in the English garden before meandering down to the Japanese garden with all of its little shooting spots.

I remember the day was super hot and humid, basically like any normal summer day in Richmond, and my sessions were longer – two hours instead of an hour and a half. That first year I realized I could get all the photos we need for a shoot in less than an hour and a half, which means less sweating in the middle of a summer evening, and less kids (and parents) complaining about it taking so long.

RVA couples photography

My first session for APP

Richmond family photographer

Another thing I learned that hot June afternoon was that summer sessions are better scheduled for later in the evening, when the sun is lower in the sky. Not only do you get that nice golden summer light, but the day has already started to cool down by that point. It’s not as hot at 6:00 as it is at 3:00.

Lots of things have changed since that first session for APP, and my business and I have evolved a lot in the last 6 years. One thing has stayed constant, though: the clients I had on day one were just as fun and fabulous as the clients I work with today. I love working with people willing to try different things and bring some of their own ideas to the shoot!

West End couples photography

Colorful family photos

Fan family photography

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me and checking out my throwback! Contact me if you’d like to make your own family memories in and around Richmond.


Richmond photographer

5 Tips for The Night Before Your Photo Shoot

It’s nearly time for your family photo shoot. You’ve done the work, looked up your location, coordinated your outfits, and planned for the perfect time around naptime and meals. You’re in the home stretch, and you start thinking (or maybe overthinking) about what you still need to do to get ready. The thing is, if you’ve waited until the night before your session to make some changes to your look, it’s probably too late. Check out these 5 tips of things to do and not do the night before your photo shoot, and plan ahead if you want to make major changes:

Avoid the salty foods, and easy on the drinks. I don’t know about you, but I’m familiar with waking up and feeling bloated and water-logged the morning after a cheese-fries-and-pizza binge. You’re uncomfortable, your clothes don’t fit right, and you’re left feeling pretty blah about how you look. Same with alcohol – even if you manage to avoid a hangover, too many drinks can make you feel sluggish and filled with fluid, instead of the fresh and sparkling human you are. Take it easy and watch how much salt you’re intaking, and make sure you get the recommended amount of water in the days leading up to your shoot. Not only will it help you feel and look healthier, but it will help keep your skin clear, as a bonus!

Feeling bloated

Leave the zits alone. Speaking of clear skin, the night before a session is not the time to go poking and popping, opening fresh wounds and creating blotchiness where you don’t want it. Put some zit cream on it the night before, then dab a little bit of concealer on the spot before your session and keep on moving.


Changing your makeup and hair. If you’ve been dying to try a new cut and color, the day before your session is too late for most hair types and styles. Aim for at least a week before your session so your hair has time to settle down. Also, now is not the time to learn how to do that cat-eye technique you’ve been wanting to try. If you aren’t used to applying lots of makeup on a regular basis, experimenting with new toners and foundations for your family shoot could make you unrecognizable in your photos, and unhappy with the results. If you’re determined to do something fancy with your face, make sure you practice well in advance and look at yourself with multiple light sources, to make sure your new look isn’t orange, sallow, or pasty in florescent, incandescent, or natural light.

Skip the tanning. Also related to looking like an oompa loompa, the day before your session is not a great time to realize you’re paler than you like and to go overboard with spray tanning, lotion tanning, or good old fashioned laying-in-the-sun-with-bronzer for several hours. It’s best not to agitate your skin right before being photographed, and there’s no better way to agitate your skin than to fry like a chicken in the sun. If you want to have that glowy, sun-kissed skin, best to get working on that a couple of weeks prior to your shoot, and do it gradually, so you can stop when you reach the desired shade or look.

the night before your photo shoot

Get 8 hours! This is the most important – make sure your sleep is full and rested, or as full and rested as possible with small children and babies, and that you’re giving yourself enough time to wake up and get ready without having to run around like a frazzled chicken before your shoot. Give yourself enough time to relax, eat, get the kids ready, and get yourselves ready, and everyone will be happier and more comfortable when it’s photo time.

I hope these 5 tips help you get ready for your next photo shoot. If you’ve had your photos done professionally, what other tips would you share with others? Share them below!

downtown Richmond family photos

Vacation Memories

Sharing Vacation Memories

I’m on mini vacation! Forgive me for not writing a new post this week, and instead, enjoy some posts that I’ve already written, with pretty vacation photos from past trips, and some tips on displaying your own vacation memories. The National Aquarium, New York, and Alaska are just a few of the places I’ve been able to visit and shoot over the last few years. I spent a morning at the aquarium, a week in New York, and a long weekend in Alaska with people I love and care about. The photos I took helped capture the moods of each individual trip, and help me relive them each time I look at them. I hope that they inspire you to take more photos during your next vacation, and to put your vacation memories on display when you get them home.

National Aquarium

Weekend Getaway: Baltimore’s National Aquarium


A Week in New York



Hope, Alaska


5 Ways to Display Vacation Photos

Five Ways to Display Vacation Photos


Happy Independence Day!

Pick of the Month: All of the Things

Pick of the Month: All of the Things

Once a month, I review one thing in my Pick of the Month series. Whether it’s something neat or necessary, a treat or help with a problem, I think it’s worth sharing. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to find something new and interesting each month. Last time, I chose a how-to book. This month, I decided that I couldn’t decide. 

I had a hard time picking just one thing for this edition of the series, so this month’s pick is a conglomerate of things I’m enjoying this summer. I hope you like them too!

Sia – “The Greatest”: This song actually came out last year (she did the video after Pulse in Orlando, and the beginning and end of the video are references to that, so beware) but I’ve been finding the need for stamina a lot this year so this song is my summer anthem.

Google Photoscan: This is an app from Google that allows you to use your phone like a scanner. It’s better than your camera for scanning old photos, because it uses 4 points of reference instead of 1, leaving no glare from your flash. It’s pretty awesome. I use it to scan papers at work that I need in color, because our scanner is from 1995 and is black & white only. I also use the app to scan old photos, because I have a ton of those and they look better scanned than just taking a phone photo of them.

RVA photographer

Halo Top Ice cream: It’s hard to say that ice cream is healthy, but when you can eat a whole pint of chocolate chip cookie dough for only 360 calories, it’s not exactly UNhealthy… or at least that’s what I tell myself. Because as much as I could eat Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked every day of the year, I’d have to eat nothing but salads to achieve that goal. And even Ben & Jerry’s isn’t worth 3 salads a day.

Rick & Morty: My very favorite animated show is coming out with season 3 soon (supposedly), and I’m very excited about that. Rick is a genius alcoholic scientist with a dark hidden past, and Morty and Summer are his grandkids. Their family life is complicated and their adventures are interesting and hilarious (and completely adult, don’t share this with your kids). Reruns come on Adult Swim on Sundays, and they’re on Hulu and, too.

Pick of the Month: All of the Things

In the Heights: Confession, I haven’t actually seen In the Heights yet. It’s a Lin Manuel Miranda musical, and it is in Richmond at the Virginia Rep Center November Theatre on Broad Street June 23 – July 30. I have tickets to go in a couple of weeks, but I’ve been listening to the music for over a year and it has the same smooth rhythm and awesome lyrics as Hamilton. If you haven’t made plans to see it yet, you can get tickets here.

And that’s the wayyyyyy the news goes! (That’s a Rick & Morty reference, by the way.)

I hope you enjoy this month’s choices as much as I do – each pick makes me happy in its own little ways. What little things are you enjoying this summer? Share them in the comments!

Family photography

Real Smiles for your Sessions

Getting Real Smiles for Your Session

You worked so hard to get ready for your session. You planned the outfits, you mapped the route to our location, you’ve mentally prepared yourself and your family for the fun we’re about to have.  Then you’re on your way to meet me, and a feeling of dread comes over you. What If. What if the kids fight or cry or scream bloody murder? What if every time I take a picture, their normal, sweet smiles suddenly contort into a shower of fake cheeeeeeeeeese, they squint their eyes and wrinkle their noses until they’re unrecognizable? Fake is the opposite of what you want for your family photos.

So, think quick: how do you get your kids to give real smiles during our session? How do you keep them from going all “cheesy?”

The simple answer is, the same way you keep them from going all fussy. We stay relaxed and flexible, and keep the session real by everyone being themselves.

Family photos

The good news for you is that you don’t have to do it alone. I’ll be there! Before I start shooting, I’ll introduce myself, ask the kids some simple questions, get them talking or moving around, depending on the location, and help them relax in front of the stranger with the big camera.

Your job will be to not get frustrated if they aren’t exactly perfect right off the bat. Sessions are an hour and a half on purpose; it gives us time to take breaks for feeding, snack time, introverted kids who need a breather, etc. It won’t be a fun day if you’re angry and fussing at them for being fussy or cheesy.

Kids photography

I want you to have fun together. Fun translates to real smiles, which translates to great photos. If the fun I suggest isn’t working, I’m flexible and I won’t force it. If bubbles are the worst, maybe looking for different colored acorns is more their style. Maybe racing Dad down the dirt path gives them big natural smiles. Perhaps exploring around hidden corners and playing hide and seek is what makes them giggle. The point is that it’s fun, and your family enjoys your time together, while I follow you around and get it all on camera.

If having a “real” family session interests you, contact me and let’s set something up that would be fun for your family!

my brother's wedding

My Brother’s Wedding Keeper

If you’ve been following for a while, then you already know that I don’t do weddings. If you’re new here, I don’t do weddings. I enjoy attending weddings, I like the sentiment of weddings, I just don’t like to shoot weddings. They’re not my jam.

Couples photography

However, when my brother announced he was getting married, and asked if I’d shoot it, I agreed immediately and had fun putting together a shot list and finding inspiration for potential photos for my brother’s wedding.

Event photography

Guy photography

Family photos

Saturday dawned hot and beautiful, and we arrived at Selah Springs in Floyd, VA before everyone except the bride. I got the tour of the venue and started shooting, and didn’t stop shooting until after the bride and groom had left the party for the night.

couples photography

Event photography

I only have some highlights here; out of the 1100+ photos on my memory card, I chose 20-something that I thought embodied the day and its sentiments. Trust me when I say there’s plenty more where these came from.

lifestyle photography

Richmond photographer

my brother's wedding

The wedding was small, and simple, and had all of the elements that they wanted and none of the ones they didn’t. She didn’t carry a bouquet (she’s allergic). They wrote their own vows and washed each other’s feet, and then gave time for friends and family to bless them.

Family photography

Couples photos

Outside photos

Simple photography

Sweet couples pics

event photos

Family photos

my brother's wedding

They had a digital scavenger hunt for things like poop (the venue doubles as an active farm). At the reception, they toasted their parents, instead of the other way around. They let someone else cut their cake (and it was delicious). They left when they were ready, and didn’t stick around until dark just for the sparklers. It was a day that was completely and totally them, and I was just happy to be there.


love photography

Richmond photographer

brother's wedding

Thanks for indulging me some personal photos of my brother’s wedding. Jamie and Kristen, I’m so excited and happy for you! Thank you for trusting me to capture your day. Leave a nice message for them in the “guest book” below!