If you’ve followed me for more than 5 minutes, you know how much I love photographing and championing women. Not that I don’t love men, I sure do, but as a women who’s struggled in all the ways women struggle, I want to shout from any pulpit or platform I can that women are incredible beings with many super powers and if we fully understood what we are capable of and made for, the world and more importantly, our families, would be better for it.

I don’t just photograph women as seniors and women as mothers, I photograph Boudoir because I believe in intimacy and self love. I love to see a women realize her unique beauty and how that can change her confidence and her relationship. Marriage is damn hard. Intimacy makes it easier. It’s literally the key.

Not every woman is ready for Boudoir. And Boudoir is not the only way to recognizing your beauty and significance. Sometimes, seeing yourself in a portrait through the eyes of someone else, can change how you see and understand yourself. As a mother, I’ve recognized that how I love myself, care for myself, see myself directly affects how my 14 year old daughter does. She’s learning from me simply by being near and watching. She’s absorbing whatever cutler I create in my home and it can have huge impact on who she grows into. For the good and for the not so good. So be careful with yourself. Be careful how you treat yourself. Be careful how you love yourself. Someone else’s heart my depend on it. Not to mention your own.

Last week, my sweet client and friend Cambria came to town with a blue dress and an excitement to shoot. The day was grey and gloomy but we decided to embrace the moody vibes and play in the dunes amongst the Eucalyptus. The black and whites are my favorites but holy damn, that dress is fire!!! Cambria wore it well, as she wears everything so well. It’s the smile for me. And the hair. And the incredible personality and heart. She’s an all ’round babe in every way. Check out her pretty Instagram and notice the Bohme link in her profile where you can snag that ridiculous blue dress!

If you love what I captured with Cambria, I’d love to photograph you as well. Maybe it’s not in a formal dress on the beach. Maybe it’s in my living room with a backdrop and good window light. Maybe it’s Boudoir, maybe it’s a formal headshot, maybe I come to you…. I’d love to photograph you.

8/08/22

Women

I’m alive and well. And so is she. But barely. Holy shit, jr. high is no joke!!!! And jr. high after covid in this backward senselese culture we live in, I just know it’s the reason God made the tough bitch I am! Excuse my language, that’s how I talk.

I first want to say that jr. high has always been a nightmare. For both the parents and the students. But throw the confusion of this liberal state I live in into the mix and you have a complete disaster and the only way to survive as the single parent taking the beatings is wine and Jesus. It’s been over 2 years of this crazy train. There’s been a lot of yelling, crying, long nights, long talks, and a whole lot of love. We had to work through the most difficult of subjects, experiences, feelings, friendships… I didn’t do it all right. I might have done most of it wrong. I don’t know. I actually haven’t asked her but I think I will. I do know that she’s back. I’m not sure where my baby girl went but she’s back. And I cry every time I think about how scared I was that she might not smile and laugh the way she did before.

Her jr. high was very liberal. The state and education system is very liberal. I happen to be conservative and believe in pretty simple concepts like, by design, men are men and women are women and there’s no other options. Crazy, I know. I happen to want full knowledge and responsibility in my daughter’s health and wellness. Considering I still do her laundry and cook her meals, I think that’s reasonable. I actually want health class to teach on health and not hot political topics including but not limited to encouraging secrecy from parents when seeking out abortions. That was actually taught to my daughter in sex ed. It’s more than mean girls and gross boys these days. Excuse my language but, fuck you California. As for me and my house…

I can thankfully say that my daughter graduated 8th grade with most of the values I taught her in tact. She’s still innocent, drug and alcohol free and happy. It was January of this year, halfway through 8th grade, when she started to come back to me. My sweet vivacious daughter was starting to talk to me again, she hung out and held conversation. She wanted to shop and get coffee. We became buddies. Slowly, but by the time school ended, I was so proud of the amazing and infectious smile on her face. Her heart is golden and I absolutely love her!

When we talk about those dark days of her hiding out in her room, hating everyone, feeling angry for no reason, looking on the outside as lost as she was on the inside, she explains that she felt confused. She had so many misunderstandings of who I was and how I felt about her, along with misunderstandings about herself. She thought I hated her. She despised our differences until she finally started to understand them. We still have differences. And we even have confrontation. But it never interrupts relationship and for that I’m so proud. As her heart is changing so are her looks. It’s like her spark is back and she’s more beautiful than ever.

I know it’s normal to go through tough seasons during jr. high. But I just want to encourage parents to hold strong to what you know is right and good. Stay soft toward them but boundaries and clear right and wrongs are so good for them. The world offers too many options and variations of reality. And, the State of California is not more entitled or more capable of parenting your child than you. That’s a fact and do not let them think otherwise. Every teacher, counselor and principal at that school knows my name and knows what I believe to be good and right for my daughter. And when they cross a line, they hear from me. It might not change policy but it definitely matters.

We’re now off to high school. Help me baby Jesus. She’s ready. She’s going to be amazing. She’s going to make mistakes but I’m confident we’ll talk through them and I’ll love her through it all. This job is tough and exhausting. It’s thankless and merciless. But I’m tough as a mother. We’re gonna be ok.

7/19/22

Raising a Daughter in Jr. High | 2021

To the mothers living with loss and holes in their hearts. The mothers who’ve loved and lost so briefly but so significantly. To the mothers who have grieved and still grieve. I too know the pain and the love. I see you. You matter. Your baby matters.

Right now the world is questioning the value of human life. They say that a “fetus” can be murdered and call it health care. I obviously disagree. You might not. But, maybe you too had a mother’s heart upon that first plus sign on a stick or maybe you knew, before you really knew, that you were growing life in your body and that little life mattered. A mother’s love is absolute, It’s undeniable, it’s everything. A mother’s love lives on, even after loss. 

I wrote about my miscarriages a long time ago and I still get emails from women who read it . I love this. I love that there’s this precious club that we are apart of and only we can relate to the pain, the love, the loss. I feel honored that my words and my experience count for more than just the pain I felt. It’s amazing how the most vulnerable story I carry, is significant to other people. 

I’m completely confident and happy to claim my Pro-Life stance. Even with the legitimate grey areas and the exceptions. Over all, I will always lean on the side of life. I know the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion and how each are treated and cared for, or not. I know that our foster care system is terrible and needs a major overhaul. I would never wish that life on anyone. I think our culture also needs a major overhaul and with that might come some conviction and some responsibility for caring for the “widows and the orphans”. There’s a lot to fix. A lot to reconcile. But the answers are not in abortion. I’m sure of that. 

But I digress…

I really just want to acknowledge the mothers out there who have lost. Mother’s who have their rainbow babies and mothers who don’t. Any loss at any time in your pregnancy, is worth how you feel. I know that there’s this weird guilt for feeling sad because your pregnancy was only at 6 weeks, 8 weeks… if you loved that baby at first signs of life and then lost, you are entitled to grieve. Your feelings are valid. You are not being dramatic and you are not insignificant. It’s very real to feel angry, confused, sad, fearful… Even if your feelings aren’t mirrored by your husband. He didn’t lose in the same way you did. Men process it all different because it happens to them different. Let that go. Let yourself heal. Keep your relationship with him priority. Take care of yourself and find ways to create joy. Life keeps moving, you should too. When you’re ready, keep moving, keep laughing, keep working, keep showing up. 

I remember a time many years after my last miscarriage. This specific miscarriage was an ectopic pregnancy, the last of 3, and it was very traumatic. I was getting out of the shower and I couldn’t see my scars from the surgery anymore. I instantly panicked. I didn’t want to forget and I didn’t want to lose the signs of life (and death). For some maternal reason, those scars were precious and I never wanted them to fade. They did though. I can barely see the marks where my fallopian tube thathoused my baby was removed from my body so that I didn’t die. The scar faded, the memory and significance did not. 

I don’t cry or even have the same sting for my losses anymore. I have a sweet vision of this family in heaven that I’ll meet one day. There’s 3 people in heaven that I created. It’s an honor to bring life into the world and into heaven. But, I do cry for others often. I remember how it felt and I can’t help but share in that sadness. I feel it deeply. I am with you.

I hope you’re reading this and you’re finding some resolve or peace. I hope that you feel seen and significant. If you need an ear, I have time. I would love to hear your story. 

Don’t forget that your experience is important. It’s a part of your story. It’s not the only part or the end. It’s a part of your story and it’s precious. Keep that beautiful story going with more experiences and more love.

7/18/22

Mother’s of Miscarriage

She said she’s been waiting for this shoot in this place for years! Her name is Cambria and this is the only place her Senior Portraits should be taken; Cambria CA! I love how well we worked together. She let me do my thing and she brought all her style and incredible energy… My approach to senior portraits is a bit untraditional. I want it to feel like a photoshoot for a magazine. I want you to fee like you’re the influencer and this is your campaign. I want you to see how lovely and lovable you are. You’re in the most exciting time of your life, one that will leave a permanent mark on who you are. I am so glad to have a moment in time with you that you’ll always remember. If you’re interested in booking your own session, here’s a page with info and link to view availability!

5/13/22

Cambria | Class of ’22 Senior Portrait Session

You guys! I 100% know how hard portraits sessions are on moms! My last portrait session left me in tears because everyone was crazy and uninterested in the etherial vision I had in my head! But, I hired a pro and she made magic. I’m not even showing you those photos because it was 3 years ago and I’m ASHAMED of myself for not booking a session since. Seriously. I’m clearly not getting my own memos. But, I mean what I say and regretting not documenting every season of life feels terrible so don’t be me, book the session Mama!

Here’s some ideas to make the planning and session smooth. I’ve collected these ideas from my 10 + years shooting families and from hundreds of mamas I’ve had the privilege of photographing, they absolutely know what they’re talking about at this point…

  1. FEED THE BEASTS! And bring snacks with you. Food is the answer to their heart and attention.
  2. Prizes and bribery, no judgement here! Let them pick out a prize and once they’ve done a great job, they get it! We can even take a photo with said prize, that always makes it special 😉
  3. Get your hair and makeup professionally done. If you don’t love yourself in the photos, you won’t hang them up or even print them and that’s a huge waste of time and money.
  4. Plan the wardrobe around your own! You’re literally the most important person at the session, buy the dress, the hat, the boots…. DO IT ALL!
  5. Decide on a color palette that fits the esthetic of your home so you can hang those portraits like art!
  6. Pay attention to the emails I send you! Once your session is booked, I’ll send you lot’s of info on how to prepare including wardrobe Inspo, color palettes, hair and makeup referrals….
  7. Let me take your photo. Do not shy away from the camera! You deserve to be remembered.
  8. Let go of expectations. Get off Pinterest. LET ME DO MY JOB! If you let the session unfold naturally, the images are much more authentic and beautiful than trying to force a styled agenda with toddlers, teens and especially husbands.
  9. If you have small kiddos, my favorite thing is to let the little boys take off their shirts and get dirty, jump in the puddles, climb the trees, do all the things! Those are even more cherished than any other photos. I have some favorite images of my kids having a mud fight in their diapers. There’s nothing better than that memory in our first home.
  10. Book in advance! I’m a mom too so I’ve got the same duties as you. Sports x 4 kids, homework, house keeping… We do allllll the things. My availability is limited so book early before the good spots are taken and you have time to plan.

I hope that helps! Here’s a link to current availability.

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2/02/22

Family Portrait Sessions Made Easy!

To the ones who feel unseen, unknown, and tired. The laundry folders, dishwashers, knower of all the things that make worlds go ‘round. Hear my words and know you are more, you are needed, you are incredible. 

Motherhood is the most important fulfilling and yet unfulfilling, sacrificing job ever. The state of the world and the goodness of society is dependent on what we do in our home. It’s humbling to think about and also overwhelming. The literal world depends on good mothers. 

I have 4 children and my oldest is 13 so I have a bit of perspective from where I sit now and yet I’m still in the thick of it. Let me tell you what I know to be true for so many of us. 

Our day is filled with the unglamorous important duties that keep life moving in our famiies… Laundry, dishes, cooking, toilets… if you have boys, you’re literally cleaning the shit out of your house. If we don’t do these important and ever so mundane tasks, everything falls apart. But rarely are we thanked for removing the pee stains from the toilet seat or making sure the sheets are clean and beds are made. There’s an unspoken, and sometimes spoken loud and clear in some marriages , expectation of how we are to serve our family. (I’m sure there’s a different post that fathers can write that is equally true and important, I’m not the one to write that post though) Sometimes we go in to marriage and motherhood with eyes wide open knowing exactly what’s expected and what we intend to do. We accept it and with zeal and naivety, we give ourselves to it. Even still, what I’m about to say remains true. 

In all of our care taking, cleaning and making worlds go ‘round, it’s so easy to get lost, to forget who we are and what brings us joy. Of course we love our children and cherish every moment with them, but WE ARE MORE THAN MOTHERS. WE ARE MORE THAN COOKS. WE ARE MORE THAN THE CLEANING CREW. WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS WITH BIG HEARTS, TALENTS, GIFTS, INTERESTS, CALLINGS! Those things didn’t exit our body’s with the after birth on the floor of labor and delivery for the hospital janitor to clean up and throw out. Those things are not just real still today but important for the success of our family and their future.

For me the sacrifice and unseen work came from my father, my mom baled so he did it all. My dad loved baseball. It was religion in our family. Still is. He played on a fast pitch softball team well into his 40’s. We spent so many nights each week on a baseball field and I remember believing that my dad was supposed to be in the MLB because he was the best ballplayer in Bakersfield California. I LOVED watching him at catcher or second base. I chose to play second base in softball because that’s what he did and I wanted to be just as good. I loved it when he was up to bat and I rooted for a dinger over the fence. I was his cheerleader and he was my hero. The love, adoration and respect for him as a human being with a talent was so good for me and my development as a child. He was more than the provider, gardener, cook and housekeeper. He was a bad ass ballplayer and the best I knew. He created memories for me while he was doing what he loved. He cultivated ambition and competition in me the has been important in life as an adult. He didn’t get lost in his household duties that I know he did without hesitation and with pride. He carried on as a human being with a love for a sport that brought life to him and I was so proud watching him do it. 

I believe this is true for mothers as well. You need to thrive for them and for you. If you don’t, there’s a cost and it’s expensive. Depression, resentment, weight gain, marriage issues…… the list is long and the cost is high. Don’t do it. Don’t continue to lose yourself. Don’t deny  yourself. You have to keep growing and thriving as a person for everyone’s sake. What is it for you? Is it a job you used to do well that you want to try again? Is it a hobby? Do you paint, take pictures, garden, teach…. What do you love? What makes you excited? 

When I was 30 years old with toddlers and a day job, I remember saying out loud to my husband, “I don’t even know who I am or what I love! I don’t know what I do or what I’m good at!” I cried and cried and yelled and cried. And then, I picked up a camera. It was the beginning of something really good. Here I am now, with a 6 figure business that lets me be creative, travel and provide for my family. It got me through divorce, it brought be people I cherish and experiences that grew me.

We have to care for our hearts the same way we care for our family. We need to be healthy and happy as an individual so we can be good for the people we love. If you’re drowning in motherhood and its lost the romance it once had before the weight of reality, I see you and I understand. Go find yourself again. It’ll be good, I promise. 

This is a family I adore. One the has been through my motherhood journey with me and cheered me on in my career. I’m so honored to be their photographer and their friend. Here’s a few of my favorites…

1/31/22

Motherhood | The Unseen and the Beautiful

As I was saying in my instagram post…

This shit is too much! Or is it?

I’m pretty strong and I can carry a heavy load. I was made this way. I’ve always been this way since I was a little girl and unfortunately, I needed to be this way, especially as a little girl. Which is why I know that on the darkest days when the load is weighing me down, I’m actually ok. I’m fine. Truly. Shit might be messy and wrong and not how it’s supposed to be. I may feel sad and angry and exhausted but perspective is everything and if I get a little higher above my circumstances, I can see what’s real. I have a home, my family is healthy, there are so many who love me. There’s work on my calendar and money in the bank. I’m good!

I can look back to times when there wasn’t money in the bank and not everyone was healthy. I’ve been through those scary seasons with no hope or idea how to manage. But here I am. I managed. I cried my tears, I said all the 4 letter words, I hit a few things and did what I had to do. And then… I put my boots on and figured it out.

All of this to say, through the fair and the unjust. Through the hard and happy. In the big fucking messes and the beautiful wins… I’m ok. Sometimes more than ok. And if you’re relating to my experience more than you’d like, you are ok too. I’m sure more than ok sometimes. You know what you’re made of. You know how to fight. Get some perspective and then get to work. It’s time to create your own win!

Wishing all the single mamas all the wins and success,

-Kelli

1/20/22

Single Parenting Is Hard!

I’m not going to make this long and I’ll be straight to the point. Those who I’m hoping are reading this won’t have time or patience for anything more. I just wanted to extend some truth and observations about this job of motherhood we do. There’s so much to be said but I’ll leave it at this:

Motherhood is thankless, sacrificial, life changing, emotionally challenging, physically challenging and truly the most important job in the world. I think I can speak for us all when I say that it doesn’t feel any kind of beautiful or graceful most days. Or even any day at all. There’s nothing beautiful about me when I’m cleaning pee of toilets. There’s nothing graceful about loads of laundry and screaming children wondering where lunch is while I answer emails. I definitely do not feel beautiful after a night of terrible sleep with multiple children in my bed trying to get breakfast cooked, kids dressed and to school on time and I’m still in my robe with yesterday’s mascara down my face….

But the thing is, the beauty isn’t in what it looks like through our worldly standards and eyes. The beauty is in how we care for our kids at any cost to our selves. It’s in the late nights and early mornings that no one sees or thanks us for. It’s in the security they feel with out even knowing that we provided that for them with every crust cut pb&j, every tuck in, every I love you, every owie tended to, every question answered, every “what!” when they say our name. The beauty lies in those moments. And the grace, it’s in the hugs they still give us even though we yelled 17 times today over God knows what because we’re tired and stressed. It’s in the songs they sing while playing around the house carelessly because they are so grounded from our love that they can sing with joy freely! It’s in the flowers picked, pictures drawn, and hands held. If there was no grace for our imperfections and mess-ups, those sweet little moments wouldn’t happen. But they do and we need to stop and receive it, believe it, and rest.

There is beauty and grace in what we do. It doesn’t fit into an instagram square but it’s true and it’s ours. Motherhood is beautiful in a way that is literally out of this world. Don’t try to make it of this world, it’s too great to fit into our sometimes shallow culture. Motherhood is the stuff of superheros. If you forget this, just pull out your kid’s elementary school Mother’s Day gifts from the archives. The things they wrote about you and cute little hand print hearts they made. Pay attention to how necessary you are in the day to day, minute to minute. You’re the life source and no one can replace you.

Motherhood is beautiful and full of grace. That’s just the truth.

7/03/21

Motherhood

My sweet friends became parents and I’m sooooo happy for them! Per usual, these two giggled their way through our session adoring that sweet baby who just arrived. Snuggling baby Drake was everything my ovaries needed 😉 Here’s some of my favorites from my time with Lance, Kayla & Baby Drake…”God’s Plan”

6/15/21

Lance + Kayla + Baby Drake | Newborn Home Session

The Long Family is welcoming a son! We enjoyed a little adventure on the beach at sunset to celebrate and capture the bump before he comes. We barely made it out as the tide rose, trapping us in this pretty little cove. It really was an adventure and well worth it as you can see…

6/15/21

Long Family | Central Coast Maternity Session

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photography mentor, mama and guac lover.

Hey, I'm Kelli Avila.

With actionable advice and tailored tips from a photographer who’s been through it all, turn your small business into a flourishing brand.

I’ve been at this business for 10 years. It’s the very thing that lets me provide for my 4 children as a single mom. I know what it’s like to feel inadequate and overwhelmed. Your business should be a boost to your income and your confidence level and yet, at the beginning, that idea can feel like a far-fetched dream. Let me show you the ropes with real talk, perspective and discerning advice. You’ll leave inspired and informed.

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