The Craziest Card of the Season and How We Pulled it Off – Katy Houston Photographer

The Craziest Card of the Season and How We Pulled it Off – Katy Houston Photographer

When it comes to holidays, they say that if you do something twice it becomes a tradition. Well, this is the third year running that we have created a fun story-telling Christmas card for the Wallace Family and these cards have been ANYTHING but traditional. This year we staged an all out down and dirty food fight. Festivus to the Extreme!

Festivus to the Extreme

Back in 2017 we created a kitchen disaster complete with fire, footballs, and flying flour and then 2018 brought the living room legacy of the falling Christmas tree, broken and falling ornaments, and a live electrical shock.

For a look back at the first two years of our project, just click on this link.

While I had played around with some composite work before, I knew that I needed to step up my game so our first year I turned to my friend and photography instructor Dan McClanahan for pointers. I had participated in Dan’s Hawaiian Photography Retreat and Workshop that summer and was blown away by his skills and talent, including his now famous work Friday Night Food Fight. You may see a few similarities here, and I will admit that his piece provided a good bit of inspiration for us this year. Anyway, Dan most graciously provided critiques and tips to help us out.

This year when the Wallaces requested a food fight, I was excited but also concerned about doing anything that would copy Dan’s image too closely and I was hesitant to even ask him for help this time. SO first so we set up some ground rules of our own No copying of his poses or pranks. This meant no spaghetti on the chandelier, and especially no skewered chicken or the ultimate pie pan landing like a hat. In the end I did send him our image and he still helped me improve it a bit. This is one thing I absolutely love about having talented friends and mentors in this industry, people who share knowledge and help each other expand skills.

The first image we created was a very formal beautifully set table which would become the front cover of our card. I’m sure recipients who now look forward to receiving this family’s card every year were confused. Brinkley, the dog seated at the table was the only thing even remotely unusual at first glance. — Oh — and the artwork on the wall — and maybe the mischevious grins on every face. They had to actually OPEN the card to reveal the big surprise.

This project is actually a composite of several images with each person being photographed separately to capture the best action from everyone. We shot in the very brave clients’ own dining room so that we could incorporate their own light fixture and furniture. Our first task was to block out the back window with a painters drop cloth so that we could replace it with a solid wall that would include our two earlier projects.

Once we had that formal image down we messed up the table and the fun began. We knew we were on a roll when we nailed our very first shot, Brinkley catching his favorite treat, a marshmallow, midair. Then we began dripping food onto dress clothes one person at a time, careful to make sure the cranberry sauce didn’t look too much like a gunshot wound. Somewhere along the line the carving knife ended up in the ice tea pitcher so we left it there as we photographed each family member individually.

SAFETY NOTICE: The wood floors became SUPER slippery , so when Braden tipped his chair back, we had older brother, Joshua, securing the feet to keep it from slipping out from under him. A word of warning — repeated for anyone who wants to try this at home — the wood floor became VERY slippery with spilled gravy, potatoes, and jello.

No humans or dogs, however, were injured in the making of this image.

After cleanup in the house, behind-the scenes-magic began. First I created clipping masks of each person and then dropped them all into a shot of the table.

This created a flat cartoonish looking image that became our starting point. I could tell right away that Brinkley didn’t have enough personal space in his original position, so we flipped him around and moved him to the other side of the table. We also needed a little more food in the air so I purchased a bag of frozen veggies, sprinkled them onto a foam board in an arching shape where I photographed them in my studio.

Next it was time to add the artwork to the walls, re-construct the actual floor and baseboards without the sideboard buffets, and to burn in some shadows for depth. Voila!

In the true spirit of Christmas, the Wallace family says it’s always better to give than to receive. And they were still laughing and smiling as we finished and cleaned up. Yes — Dad DID get to smack his youngest son with a cherry pie. Oh MY!

We are already working up plans for 2020 and I can hardly wait. In the meantime, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

I would LOVE to tell YOUR family story in a fun and unique way too.
If you would like a personalized story-telling family portrait or Christmas card of your own, reach out to me at now. These things take time to dream up and create. Let’s start now.

In the meantime, May your Days be Messy and Bright.

Mother Daughter Portraits Last a Lifetime-Katy Houston Photographer

Hair and Makeup by Rachael Elise Walker — Elise Artistry

Some people are simply so  full of life and adventure that you never know what’s going to happen when they get creative, but you know that it’s going to be fun.  Originally we had planned to only photograph Mary, the mom in this series. BUT — as we worked through our consultation, we realized that we would all be missing out if we didn’t bring her daughter into the session as well — and I am so glad we did.

This is something I believe EVERY mother and daughter should do tpgether. Not only did they get to spend an afternoon laughing and playing “dress-up”  together, they both looked AMAZING when they left the studio for dinner..

I secretly wished I could have tagged along just to watch people’s reaction as they walked by.  Stay with me, and you’ll see why!

AND _ to top it off, they’ll have fabulous heirloom images of each other to treasure for ever.


 R is a gorgeous young teen.  She is sweet, quiet and soft-spoken … UNTIL she unleashes her inner goth. It may seem like an oxymoron, but  when she turns on her dark side,  THAT is  when she really lights up.

We started out our session with a nice casual feel,  and with the help of  our in-studio makeup artist and stylist, Rachael Walker, we  worked our way up from there.

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Mary took a more formal route . . .


Isn’t she lovely?


But she was a great sport about letting R play out her inner rock goddess complete with blue hair extensions and super-dramatic makeup.


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Because  Mike Chetty  and I raised five sons, we have a collection of old band instruments in our closets.

Most are in better shape than this old French Horn that had been previously destined to the trash heap, but  I love how well it played into our theme.   We didn’t  have to worry about damaging it, and I am super glad it found its way into my prop closet!

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This was by FAR one of my favorite sessions in a long time.  I can’t wait to do another concept escalation based on creativity and dreams.  There’s one in the planning stages now, and I would  love to create one for YOU as well.

He Proposed, She Said Yes — Houston Katy Engagement Photographer

Days around our house have been busy and exciting lately.  You see, we’re especially looking forward to a very important wedding in January.  At this wedding, I will not be allowed to have a camera because the groom is my first-born son.   (Don’t tell anyone, but  I’m seriously looking for a pretty evening bag that will accommodate our Canon C-9 Point and Shoot, just in case I start going into photography withdrawal tremors)

I DID, however, get to spend a little very special time earlier this fall with Ian and his lovely fiance’, Lisa, to create some memorable engagement images and a Save the Date card.    Here’s what we came up with!

This is the front of our 5x7 Save the Date Card

And this is the inside spread.

And this is the back of our little card.

So as you can tell, I’m getting a beautiful new Daughter-in Love — and of course Grand-dog Jäger adds laughter, tail wags and slobber to the scene.

In posting these photos, I’m a little gushy and proud today.    I can’t help but share our music video as well as  some of my favorite picks from our outing.

Naturally, I’m a bit biased, but I think you’ll agree that we’ve got one heck of an adorable and so-in-love couple.

Ian and Lisa . . . I love you both BUNCHES and thank you for allowing your dopey mom to follow you around one afternoon with her camera.

For more engagement fun, here’s a video I created with all of the proofs from our session.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy young love and One Big Dog!

A Walk in the Park – Katy West Houston Engagement Photographer

Just yesterday I photographed the super scrumptious, gorgeous, and oh-so-fun wedding for Aubrey and Michael.  Getting to know them over the last few months has been a wonderful treat, as I’ve come to absolutely adore their quirky dry sense of humor and the special love language that they share with each other.

After their engagement session earlier this year, they chose to make their  album into a guest registry book  to collect signatures and sentiments from the guests at their wedding.

Just as we rarely,  if ever, share bridal portraits before the wedding, I didn’t want to spoil any surprises they might have in store by posting the album before they shared it with their guests.

So today, here is the engagement album and guest book for the brand new Mr. and Mrs. Skinner!

For their engagement photographs, Aubrey and Michael participated in a Beloved Experience Session.  Beloved, developed by Canadian photographer Jesh De Rox, utilizes a collection of exercises that Jesh calls experiential invitations. These invitations lead the couple through a variety of emotions, feelings, and expressions.  During a Beloved photography session, we play games, sing and dance, tell secrets and stories, share hopes and dreams.    When I get to host one of these amazing events, I feel very privileged to document such precious and heartfelt moments and to create images that will serve as a love- legacy for years and years to come.

This particular album needed lots of open space for writing, so we left wide margins and open space on several of the pages.

Congratulations and best wishes to you Aubrey and Michael.  I look forward to seeing you again very soon to relive your wedding .

Michi and I started sorting through the images today, and all I can say is WOW — WOW — WOW!

Kelly and Andrew – My First Beloved Couple

A couple of months ago when I attended the WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) convention in Las Vegas, I attended the most heart-string-pulling class ever.  The instructor, Jesh deRox, is a hotshot young Canadian photographer with vision, passion, and a dream. This dream is to give photographers a tool that raises  the art of photography to an entirely new level.

The Beloved concept for photography allows a couple — whether they are newly engaged or married for 50 years — to reach inside their souls and genuinely express the love they share.  Imagine — if your grandparents had left you a trunk full of their most intimate love letters, wouldn’t that be a very special treasure?  Well, this is a comparable  legacy that we can create  in the 21st century for our descendants.

When I explained  Beloved to Kelly and Andrew, they were not only open to experimenting with me, they seemed downright excited about trying something new.   They arrived at our chosen location , and Kelly got out of the car wearing this adorable hot pink strapless sundress with . . . COWBOY BOOTS!   At that very  moment I knew that our session would be a huge success.  She is just too too cute.

Andrew had selected a beautiful open grassy field with trees, wildflowers and MOSQUITOS!  I’m so glad that I threw a can of  Off into the picnic basket that I had picked up earlier in the day to use as a prop.  Once we had ourselves properly sprayed, we plopped a quilt onto  the ground to use as home base, and I explained  that I wanted them to think of our time together  not as a photo shoot, but rather as a celebration of their love. I just happened to have the privilege of being present with my camera.

We spent about two hours playing silly games, imagining different scenarios, remembering, and dreaming.  At one point  I even sat down in a fire ant bed.  That’s something I think I’ll try to avoid next time.

On any given day,  Andrew fixes things, builds things, and refurbishes or remodels homes for people.  Kelly heals people who have been injured. They both have a huge heart for Christ and for each other, and they plan to take their dreams  and their skills into the mission fields of Africa where they will live and work and love and share.

These two are absolutely beautiful . . . they are totally beloved . . . and their lives will bring blessings to many.  I just feel it.

I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.  His banner over me is love. — Song of Solomon 6:3

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