family at uw arboretum

About the UW Madison Arboretum

The UW Madison Arboretum is located on 1,200 acres of land in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the home of over 200 resident and migratory birds and 25 different specifies of mammels.  The park also has over 20 miles of hiking trails.  My experiences with the UW Arboretum have been absolutely breathtaking.  There is something different and new to explore around every garden.  I have also encountered so many lovely and interesting people there.  It is truly a gem and worthy of taking an afternoon to check out.  Pro Tip:  Bring bugspray, the park bosts many different types of insects- one of them being blood thirsty mosquitoes. You can learn more about the gardens at

Family Photography at the UW Madison Arboretum: Buol Family


This family is one of the first families I have photographed.  I graduated high school with the mother, and its been such a great and amazing gift to see her children grow up.  There are four children, and each of them are so wonderful.  The UW Arboretum worked out great because of the diversity in such a small space.  It was really fun to find little spaces to put the kids and watch them play.


When I am in photographer mode, I am very much involved in whatever the subject may be.  When it comes to families, I like to be right in the middle of them.  Doing a mixture of candids and posed seems to work best. I never force a child to smile or be something they aren’t.  I just encourage them to have fun and enjoy the time they have with their parents and siblings.  In some cases, (not this one) family photo sessions are the only time when everyone is together- so its important to not get to worried about getting ‘the perfect shot.’ There is no such thing,  being together and capturing a moment is perfect enough. To learn more about family photography session, click  here.


black and white image of two girls

About the  Madison Arboretum

The  Madison Arboretum is located on 1,200 acres of land in Madison, Wisconsin. It is the home of over 200 resident and migratory birds and 25 different specifies of mammels.  The park also has over 20 miles of hiking trails.  My experiences with the Madison  Arboretum have been absolutely breathtaking.  There is something different and new to explore around every garden.  I have also encountered so many lovely and interesting people there.  It is truly a gem and worthy of taking an afternoon to check out.  Pro Tip:  Bring bugspray, the park bosts many different types of insects- one of them being blood thirsty mosquitoes. You can learn more about the gardens at


Kroll Family Photography Session

The Kroll family is another one of my first family photography clients.  What I like about Tashina is that she has some really great style.  I know that when she shows up with the rest of her family that they are going to look super fab.


We had decided that an evening  shoot would be best for lighting.  Which, as you can tell- the images turned out exactly how they were supposed to be.  Remember how I mentioned in the above paragraph about the  Madison Arboretum to bring bug spray? Well, this shoot is shoot is the reason I mentioned that.  The mosquitoes were horrible this day.  I actually spent quite a bit of time editing out mosquitoes that were attacking this poor, lovely family!

little girl running in purple dress

So, although this photography session at the  Madison Arboretum was cut a little short because of killer mosquitoes, we still got some really beautiful shots.  I really loved the images of the girls running with their dresses and bare feet.  It is such a vision of  whimsical girlhood. Wouldn’t you love to have photographs like these of your children hanging from your walls?  For more information on family photography, click here

little girls in dresses at uw madison arboretum

family photos in barn

Family Photos: A day on a farm in Portage, Wisconsin

Family photos taken on a farm in the summertime is one of my favorite thing!  This photo session took place about 1/4 mile from where I grew up.  (It’s always a great feeling to photograph family friends!)  The chosen location is called Rowley Creek. When I  first photographed Jade and Brandon and their young family, it was  about a year earlier, when their second son was born.

The following winter, Jade again called me to photograph her family.  We had chosen an indoor and outdoor location in Baraboo, Wisconsin for her family photos.  However, by the time we finished up with the outdoor shoot, it was a little difficult to get the kids settled in to do an indoor session.  These are a few from the outdoor session.

About The Shoot

Because I had a history now with this family, I was delighted when Jade called me up to take family photos of her entire family.  We decided that a morning would work best, and we were on a fairly strict timeline because her sister was moving to California.  Finally, the shoot happened on a muggy morning in between rain showers- the day that her sister left for California.




As you can see, family photos are really important.  You can see how much these kids have grown since i first started photographing them.  Family photos are an important reminder that time moves really swiftly and everything is in constant flux.  Besides having awesome memories to look cherish,  I also hold on to digital files for up to 5 years.  That means that if something happens to your prints, you can call me and I will have the digital copies.

I look forward to taking your next family photos Jade and company!

To see more pictures from this shoot, check out the gallery here.

Best family photos just the kids

Tara’s Family Photos

Tara’s Family photos were anything but boring!  These family photos with Tara and family were really fun and enjoyable.  I really liked the coordination of outfits, and the easy going dynamic between all the family members!

The Shoot

We decided to pick a time when Tara’s sister and parents were all available. This wasn’t easy as Tara’s sister lives in Idaho!  The best part of this shoot was seeing how happy the grandparents were with their grandchildren. The shoot took place at the family estate, near Mirror Lake Wisconsin.


The Grandkids

I wanted to capture each of the kids individually during this shoot.  Because of the distance between family members, I really wanted to make sure that they all had memories of this moment in time.  Who doesn’t like to have pictures of their children, right?  The little boy of the left was not at all intersted in getting his picture taken, you would never guess it though! (He did so good!) I really loved how all the kids had coordinating outfits, I’m sure it wasn’t easy figuring that out from across the U.S!

Do you want to see more images from this shoot?  Check them out in my gallery!

Christmas family photo shoot on a farm

D.I.Y Christmas Family Photo Shoot

You have presents bought and family dinner recipes picked out.  Tree is decorated and there is snow in the forecast.  What more could you ask for, really?  What about asking Santa for a nice Christmas Family Photo Shoot?  (Don’t worry,  there is still time to get your order in!)

Christmas family photo shoot on a farm

Don’t forget to include your pets in some of the pictures

Pros and Cons To your DIY Christmas Family Photo Shoot

You can do your own Christmas Family Photo Shoot!  Setting up a tripod and a self timer on your camera is super easy!  Here are 3 tips for getting the best family photo you can! Want to see more, check out this site:

  • Bring your camera.
  • Make sure your batteries are charged
  • Make sure you have a memory card in your camera.
  • Try and do this during the day, optimal lighting is key for getting a sharp, focused image.
  • Don’t forget to take candids!
Christmas Family Photo Shoot grandpa and his dogs

Don’t forget to take lots of candids


There are definite pros to doing this yourself.  Being prepared is the best tip I can give you.  Here are some pros to doing Christmas family photo shoots  yourself.

Saving money is a big one.  When comparing taking pictures yourself and hiring a professional photographer, you will save lots of bucks by doing it yourself.

Flexibility and Timing.  Finding the right time to schedule your photo shoot this time of year can be a little too much to think about.  By doing it yourself, you are in complete control of getting the family together.

Instant gratification.  You can easily use your smart phone for these pictures, and sharing them instantly with family members in a bonus.


“Home is familiar — and a safer environment to misbehave in,”

Christmas Family Photos family and their dogs

Lighting and Composition is key to a great family photo


It is a fact that we are our best selves when we are out in public.  Home is the place to be relaxed and be ourselves.  When planning for your family picture, keep this in mind.  Your kids and relatives will act like ‘themselves’, and you will want to pull your hair out.  Generally,  kids and family members act a little more civilized when there is a professional behind the lens.  When you ask your college children to smile, they will be on their phones.  When I ask them, they generally will pull it together -at least for a minute.


Lighting can also be an issue when you are shooting.  Making sure that you have enough light is key to a great family photo.  When I go to a family photo session, I bring my own lighting- just in case I can’t find the right amount of light in your home.


If you are taking pictures, it can be difficult to find the right background and put your family accordingly.  Having someone who knows composition and can work quickly and efficiently can be your hero when trying to get that perfect family photo!


On the fence?

Christmas Family Photos young couple

Don’t forget to capture big announcements!

Here’s what I have to offer.  Professional Christmas family photo shoots are done between Dec. 24th and January 1st.  Sessions last about an hour and can be done in your home or a location we decide on together.  The shoot will be a good mix of holiday and winter images for you to cherish year round.  You get 5 – 8×10 prints of your choice to  hang on your wall. I store digital files for up to 5 years!  (You won’t have to worry about loosing them on the cloud!)


I know this can be a busy time, so I have set up time for you!  Last minute bookings are o.k, but its best to get a hold of me sooner then later to book your session. I look forward to hearing from you! (DIY questions are always welcome!)



Check out more of my non winter family photo shoots on my main page.




The Couple

I initially called the Smith family to ask Nadean and Ryan if they would be willing to let me capture them as part of an anniversary project I am working on.  I was privileged to have photographed their wedding a couple of years ago, and was excited that they accepted my offer.


steph shanks photography

collage of wedding pictures

The Family Shoot

Devils Lake was where we decided to shoot.  Because of the icy, wet conditions though, our options were a little limited as to where we can shoot. There isn’t  a bad time of year to shoot out at Devils Lake.  Spring is muddy but inspiring,  summertime means bugs and  lot of people but lots of sun and fun, fall means sub prime weather, lots of people but beautiful colors in every direction.  Winter means icy trails and sometimes cold, but there aren’t very many people.  Which is nice.  We decided on a Sunday morning, and she Nadean also invited her family along to be photographed. We had a lot of fun incorporating the fur babies into our shoot!


Steph Shanks Photography

Family photo collage

Anniversary Shoot

I mentioned earlier that our initial plan was to photograph Nadean and Ryan as part of an anniversary project I’m working on.  There were quite a few ideas of locations floating around in the back of my mind as to where to take them.  However, it was so icy on this day that I really wasn’t comfortable taking anyone without good hiking shoes up on any trails.  However, Wisconsin gave us some really lovely fog to work with, and the temps weren’t too bad either, especially for a winter photography shoot!  Aside from a few ice fisherman, we had the place to ourselves.


Steph Shanks Photography

Devils Lake Photos


Tips for Your Next Winter Weather Photo Shoot

Any photography shoot requires planning.  Location and clothing are two of the most important things to me as a photographer.  Because I like to have an element of adventure in every photo shoot (as long as its safe),  make sure your clothing options are comfortable.  If its cold, bring a coat and scarf.  Wear shoes that don’t make your feet cold.  A photography session doesn’t require a whole new wardrobe full of clothes you will never wear again,  its important to be yourself so that the photographer can capture who you really are.  (That’s where the magic is!)  When planning a location for your photo shoot, its important that everyone feels comfortable and safe. It’s also important to know the ideal time to photograph is.  Sometimes, places like Devils Lake are really  busy, or the sun might be too bright in the sky.


Talk with your photographer about all these things before your next photography session!