What We Can Learn From The LGBTQ Community

I always come to the same conclusion–it’s not my story to tell. Every time I sit down to write about a session I ask myself, “Do I make this about myself or about them?”  I am honored to have the pleasure of meeting each and every one of my clients and getting to know them in my attempts to make them comfortable in front of my camera and in front of me–sometimes a complete stranger.

I figure this story I am telling is being told from my perspective. Afterall, it’s my eye that made these photographs, therefore the writing should also come from my understanding. These clients, friends, families, kids are trusting me to tell their story. I want nothing more than to honor that.

My personal experience with people who are gay and lesbian is rather limited. I don’t have any friends in the LGBTQ community and I have no explanation for why not. It was never an issue for me. I’m all for being the person you were meant to be and be with the person you were meant to be with! Friendships just never happened. I recently had the privilege to work with two different couples and they taught me so much probably without knowing it. I just wish I knew it sooner. 

Gender roles are just a ridiculous social construct. Yep. With LGBTQ couples, the “roles” are just more fluid. I cannot assume who will lead the dip or whose hand will land on top. But as I was preparing for these sessions it occurred to me that the roles in my heterosexual house are fluid too. In fact, many traditional poses can go either way. Once I embraced this and got over the fear of saying something offensive, I was able to get to work and capture the love these couples have for each other. And it was nothing but beautiful!

I can’t wait to do more of these! With any luck, I’ll be seeing more of these two. They are over the moon for each other. Their happiness is contagious.

Start Booking
newborn, newborn stretch, newborn lifestyle

Welcome Number Four

Welcome home little man. Here is your family. Here is your home. You are loved beyond your wildest dreams. You have two big sisters who are ready to to teach you how to use the ipad and maybe one day the car. You have a big brother who is dying to get into trouble with you. And let’s not forget your mom and dad. Oh how they cherish you! I know because I saw it. I saw all fo this. I am so happy that this is where you have been placed. These moments are not ones you will be able to recall, but you will hear all about them. Sweet dreams little man. Sweet dreams.


An in home family session is easier than you think! Find out all the reasons you might want to consider an in home session versus a studio session for your newborn and your family.

Book your in home family newborn session!

San Diego Family Photographer

Can I bring the dog?

Can I bring the dog? This is one of the most asked questions I get! YES!! I have a dog, a pitbull mix I picked up from the pound. They really aren’t an issue for me, but you should always ask your photographer if this is ok with them. I am particularly happy to photograph your whole family because–and I don’t have to tell you this–they carry a part of your heart. I know how my kids feel about Sadie and how she feels about them. She’s a huge part of their childhood. How could we choose to ignore it.

With all of that said there are some things you must consider when including your family pet, and that is them. Lets start with the basics.

  1. Bring a leash, the one you always use or treat them to a new one that coordinates with your outfit. New environments can be overwhelming. We wouldn’t want your session to take a nose dive because Rex ran after a squirl and now you can’t get him back. This would bring tears.
  2. Water and a container they can drink from. Also for their best interests.
  3. Bags for messes. Do I need to explain? 

And now for the not so obvious…

  1. Treats. These can really help with getting your dog’s attention but work with your photographer on who should be holding it. They are a great tool but can be a complete distraction if not used appropriately.
  2. A resusable grocery bag for all the stuff. I recommend this whether you bring your dog or not. We need a place for keys, wallets, and other odds and ends. It’s also a good idea because we wouldn’t want to put your purse on the ground either.
  3. An extra person. Yes. Bring a “dog sitter.” This can be your best friend, your mom, or the kid from down the street. There will be moment where you don’t really want the dog in the photo and someone needs to hang on to them. Don’t count on your photographer doing it because she’s holding the camera still.

And finally, the thing you should consider most when decididng to bring Fido is the location. It can be somewhat limiting because not all parks and beaches allow for such company. So if you are good with your local choices then game on!

A Letter to You, From a Fellow Mom

I had a wonderful time this weekend photographing a new family. They have taken pictures before with other photographers and was referred to me when their regular photographer was not available. It was for her son’s fourth birthday party, and to anyone who has ever hosted a kids backyard birthday party you know what is involved.

The next day I opened an email from her which carried a pleasant but nervous tone. She wrote of her previous experiences. I did not get to know her very well because she hired me for the event, not a family session. We are all caught up in the business of the party and small talk is kept to a minimum as we are opening juice boxes and setting out plasticware. I took a day to think about how I should respond to her concerns about how she looked,  the possibilities of future sessions, and her previous experiences with other photographers. I wanted to respond to her in a genuine, kind, and heartfelt way. I think I did that. Here’s my response.


Hello (Beautiful Mom-Whose-Name-I-Will-Not-Post)!

I’m already working on your images and there are a few I can’t wait to show you!!

First, I want to apologize for throwing that information out (about future sessions) on the way out the door. You had a lot going on and we could talk about this a better time for you. So let me remedy that now…

I want to take a moment to address your concerns, and take care of a fellow mom. You are not allowed to panic. You put a lot of pressure on yourself getting this party ready and wanting to do a few family pictures on top of all that is going on!  I never would have suggested to do this.  I know you felt rushed, and I felt rushed. This is not an optimal combination for a great family photo!  I’ll come back to this.

But first, birthday parties are ALWAYS hectic. Your goal of the day was for your kid to feel loved around all his friends and family and YOU DID THAT!! There has never been a kid who said, “Boy, mom really should have done something with her hair and what was going on with that dress,” when viewing a picture of their mother giving them smooches. You are the center of their world, even more so than them being the center of yours. Be kind to yourself. Your goal was met. Your kid had an amazing day!


I totally understand wanting to document your children’s growth and why you’d want to spend the time and money. As your kids get older, the slower the change is. Will you still be doing this (5 Mini Session a year) in 5 years, say 3rd grade? I hear your frustration with the amount of time and energy taken to prepare for these shoots.

Going back to the rushing… five minutes is ludicrous. I have never only spent 5 minutes with a client…ever! It takes me 5 minutes just for the kids to decide I’m not scary and to laugh. It’s not your job to pose yourselves either. That’s your photographer’s job. That’s what you are paying them for! Yes, they need cooperation on your part but they can see what is working and not working for you. You hired me for event photography and paid event photography rates. I love spending time with the family, especially the kids, to get the authentic connections to come through in my work. This is just not possible in 5 minutes. So, you may have found yourself paying for quantity and forsaking the quality. This is where I believe your frustration lies. Invest what you would normally invest for 5 mini sessions into one great session! With the right photographer you should have tears of joy, not tears of frustration. I have witnessed those happy tears and it makes my heart so full!!

With all that said… I only offer Mini Sessions, once or twice a year. They are a special treat! They are not what people hire me for. They hire me for the great photos, yes, but they hire me because I fall in love with them. The Holiday Mini Sessions are geared for those who are wanting to get their family photo for their Christmas card. Three images are offered (one of the whole family, one of each kid, OR the family, one of the parents and one of just the kids.) You can add some digital images to the package which plenty of people who have worked with me before end up doing. I also offer an accordion book at a discount which can include more pictures. I want to provide GREAT quality prints—heirloom quality! So I can be your printer too. No need to have Walgreens or Shutterfly mess up my work.


Documenting the kids growth can come in a lot of ways. My personal favorite comes in the form of a session in your home–a lifestyle session. There are many memories being made in that playroom of yours, and the kitchen, and the bedrooms, and that backyard, and the bath tub, and the kids riding bikes down the street.

Bottom line: you should seriously consider having a full session instead of constantly doing minis.  You might be pleasantly surprised at what can come out of 60-90 minutes instead of a rushed five. I’d even consider hiring a studio photographer like Sweet Snap which are GREAT! I think you’d be doing yourself a huge favor and make memories together, not stress, hoping something will come out.

I hope this answers your concerns. I’d really like to get to know you better and your family! Don’t loose perspective by putting unwarranted pressure on yourself. You don’t deserve it. You are a great mom who obviously loves those two with all your heart.


Leyna Butcher

Why You Shouldn’t Bribe Your Children Through A Photography Session

I am that mom. I know I am that mom. I am the mom with the kids in the grocery store that are hanging off the cart, wrestling in the aisle, and poking the eyes on all the fish in the meat department. Yes, I have told them to stop it. Yes, I have told them they will lose their precious screen time. Yes, I am tired of the constant fight.

And I’m supposed to sign up for photography session and have you point a camera at my chaos? Umm..

Kids are unpredictable, babies especially. They are who they are and we the parents are at the mercy of their behavior, especially in public. Yes, we are the ones “in control”. But it feels like such an illusion at times. It doesn’t mean I give up and “let them win.” Heaven forbid! But after seeing hundreds of families and seeing how they deal with the stress with a camera that is supposed to be aimed at them just magnifies everything.  Here are some ways parents can do their part that will help everyone walk away smiling.



  1. Do not bribe them. It only gives them something to whine about. Following directions for an hour can be exhausting to little humans. And for the love of all that is holy, do not give them chocolate or anything that will change the color of their teeth! “Is that chocolate or poop?”
  2. Distractions work wonders. I am for evidence of connections between family members. This can be done easily with a game–a game with you! Dads are great at throwing little people in the air. Moms are usually great for swings and cuddles. Siblings are perfect for silly secrets.chase
  3. Props. These are great but they have to be something you don’t mind being in the pictures. If it is something special to them, like a blanket or lovey, by all means bring it. It’s part of who they are at this stage in their life. Some kids are really good about “hiding” their treasure once it’s time to snap the picture. This works with big humans too. I once had a grandpa who doesn’t take his cowboy hat off for anything. It was just part of him. His family wouldn’t recognize him without it. Kids like to find sticks, rocks, or pick flowers. It only adds to the story.
  4. Mom and dad can walk away for a few. Sometimes just getting directions from too many people can be overwhelming. Some kids just need a little time and space. You don’t have to go to the car. Just get quiet or remove yourself from the energy happening in front of the camera. This also works when babies don’t want to smile at the camera, because they only want to smile at their most favorite people, mom and dad.20151025smithburg0437
  5. Take breaks and change locations. It’s okay to run around and let the photographer chase you. I purposely wear shoes that I can run around while shooting. Kids have very little control of the circumstances that are in their lives. Letting them relax is a sure fire way to maintain a positive atmosphere.
  6. Keep them happy. Forced smiles are not fun, nor do they make for fun memories to put up on your wall. Of course, we must keep the safety of everyone priority number one. But if something is not working, pick them up, comfort them, and move on to something else.20151025smithburg0743

Going with the flow is really part of my style. I know things don’t always go as planned. Be resilient. Be flexible. Be forgiving. Your next session will happen with smiles when everyone comes with the mindset ready for family play time. Book your session!