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

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photography mentor, mama and guac lover.

Hey, I'm Kelli Avila.

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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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