You’re not in any of the photos because of 2 reasons.

1. You’re taking all the photos.

2. You hate to see yourself in a photograph.

I completely understand but I think we need to change our mind. We are raising humans. We grow them, birth them, catch them when they fall, we loose sleep, we worry, we have every curve of their face and every expression they make memorized. We’re the first person they need when they are hurt and they’re the only ones who know what our heart sounds like from the inside. We are the real MVP’s. In all our imperfections and mistakes, we are the most valuable person to our children. We deserve to be remembered with photographs. Beautiful, authentic photographs. It’s part of our legacy.

This is what I do. I do it well. I do it fast. And I do it at a price that is worth your time and effort for the quality you’re getting. I’m a mother of 14 years. I have 4 children here on earth and 3 in heaven. I know so very well the ins and outs of motherhood. I’m a photographer of 10 years. I’ve been documenting families and children for over a decade. I know what I’m doing and I love what I do. I’d love for you to trust me with your littles.

Here’s a gallery of some precious families and children I’ve photographed. From the studio in downtown San Luis Obispo to the beautiful beaches and hills of the Central Coast. Motherhood photography is what I do.


9/22/22

Motherhood | You deserve to be remembered

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

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.

Subscribe to the email list for exclusive availability announcements and a Wardrobe Inspo Guide.

2/02/22

Family Portrait Sessions Made Easy!

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!

This scene just played out in my house… One boy is peeing. Door is open, another boy comes in and spanks peeing boy super hard on his bare bottom. Peeing boy almost falls, Pee is spraying everywhere. Other boy laughs and runs away. Peeing boy goes after him with pants half on, no flushing, no washing of hands, no turning out the light, no cleaning up the pee. End scene. 

My house is riddled with Nerf bullets, legos and hot wheels. My laundry is full of inside out jeans with underwear still in them. I buy them at least a dozen pairs of shoes each year. A fraction of everything they eat stays on their face and shirt. And, they don’t care if I’m going number 1 or 2, they’ll tell me all about some amazing Minecraft/Star Wars/Hot wheels… something or other because I’m sitting there with no where to go, I have to listen to them.

My boys are 8, 5 and almost 2. I absolutely love raising boys. I love my girl for sure, but I think there’s a reason I only have one. You feel me…. My boys think I’m beautiful on my worst day. They have a grace for me and I have a grace for them that is just different than with a girl. 

Sometimes Ari (5) will grab my face and tell me how bootiful I am and how much he wuvs my whip stick. He asks me to marry him daily and does this charming little thing where he snaps his fingers and points at me while saying, “Hey babe.” It’s stupid cute. 

Ren (20 months) has always been obsessed with my hair. He puts his arms around my neck and with both hands, plays with it incessantly. If it’s up, he pulls it down. He also loves to be face on face with me. It’s like he can’t get close enough to me so he just smashes himself against me while wearing this cute little grin showing how happy it makes him to literally suffocate me with his love. 

Sam (8) is the man of the house. He opens my doors, takes out the trash, checks the mail, always asks to help me. If I’m upset, he’s upset. He drinks coffee with me in the early mornings because he likes to sit and have quiet moments with me. (really it’s cream with a side of coffee but whatever, it’s sweet) He feels big and I love his tender heart. 

It’s such an important job raising boys. I know the movement of the hour is for women but we’d have no need for a women’s movement if we raised our boys to be gentlemen. We need to teach our boys to be strong and still tender. Brave and still wise. Respectful and responsible. That’s a more challenging job for some over others. How do you do that when there’s isn’t an example present? I don’t have all the answers but I think I’m doing a few things right…

I tell them how I see them even if they aren’t functioning well in it yet. I tell Ren that he’s a strong boy with big love in his heart. He’s actually not that strong because he’s 2 and when he sticks his finger all the way up my nose just because, there’s not much love in his heart but, I say it anyway. I always call them to their best. When Sam makes his bed and it looks like there’s still a body in it, I ask him if that’s the best he’s got. I wait to enter through a door until they open it for me. I rarely have to wait long because it’s become natural to get the door for other people first. Ari is still learning this but Sammy is setting a great example. I remind my boys often that girls are precious and need to be treated as such regardless of how they act. I also remind them that most girls have a daddy and they’ll have to ask that daddy’s permission before they go near her. That convo was introduced after receiving a text message from Ari’s teacher about him chasing, proposing and kissing girls the first week of school. Dear God…

A very wise friend told me this once: Boys get their worth from their momma while they learn how to be a man from their daddy. Girls get their worth from their daddy while they learn how to be a woman from their momma. I’m so thankful to know this bit of wisdom…. 

One of the most important things I’m learning about parenting is to let them see us as people. People with interests and hobby’s, people who over come hard things, people who are kind to other people. They need to see us being good humans so they can become a good human. We have to live out loud in front of our kids. With our kids. 

That’s all I got. Fingers crossed and a lot of prayer I get this right. 

5/11/21

Raising Boys & Cleaning Up Their Pee…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the scoop on planning outfits for your photo session. With tips, recommended color palettes and wardrobe inspiration, you’ll learn how to style your family with flair. This is how you’ll take the look of your session to another level.

grab your free wardrobe styling kit

exclusive client tips, delivered straight to your inbox!

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.

Site credit