Popinvasion – Your Pittsburgh Family Photographers – Family Portrait Session Tips

My husband and I own Popinvasion. We started Popinvasion as a media company that provides services to businesses such as photography and videography, but having a growing family, we decided to also use our gear to capture Pittsburgh Family Photos and Weddings, too. With it being family photo season, we figured we’d write a blog about it!

1) What do we wear? It’s tempting to go with fun, colorful prints and patterns when picking outfits for fun family photos, but we promise, your family is already as beautiful and colorful as it is, so we suggest muted colors so that your personalities and beautiful faces pop!

2) When and Where should we go? We usually pick locations that are going to be less crowded, over ones that would be maybe more picturesque. Or, we pick times that we know aren’t going to be as crowded at popular places. Less crowded locations make the session more relaxed for families, especially if the kids aren’t cooperating, and less distracting for the kiddos. We like to leave the location entirely up to your taste, and convenience, but we’ll weigh in if you want suggestions! And as far as the time of day planned, we should absolutely pick the time that you find your kids to be in the best moods.

3) How do we make our kids cooperate? Any parent knows, that even though we plan sessions around naps, make sure the little ones are well fed, and pick a place that’s fun for everyone, sometimes we’re still not catching the best moods. So, we now offer prizes from the prize bags for good behavior. We’ll tell the kiddos that if they listen to mom and dad throughout the session, mom and dad get to decide at the end whether they can pick a prize from our prize bag! It’s usually simple things like costume jewelry, or puzzles, or stickers, or whatever we may think your kiddos are into! And please, know that we have little ones of our own, and totally understand when kids just aren’t into it, so no need at all to stress. If we see the kids just don’t wanna pose, we’ll roll with it and turn the session more into photojournalism and try to catch the action as it happens!

4) Keep everybody involved. After we have the family photo of the whole group, we try to mix and match combinations, by taking pictures of just the kids, just the sisters, just the parents, just a parents with the kids, etc…we try to keep everyone involved the whole time. So, when Family sessions are one of our favorite things to do. We love playing with the kiddos, and trying to make the family portrait experience into a fun family outing, rather than a forced portrait session. Often parents ask us for tips and tricks on making the session as fruitful as possible, and the kiddos as cooperative as possible, so we figured we’d blog about it!

1) What do we wear? It’s tempting to go with fun, colorful prints and patterns when picking outfits for fun family photos, but we promise, your family is already as beautiful and colorful as it is, so we suggest muted colors so that your personalities and beautiful faces pop!

2) When and Where should we go? We usually pick locations that are going to be less crowded, over ones that would be maybe more picturesque. Or, we pick times that we know aren’t going to be as crowded at popular places. Less crowded locations make the session more relaxed for families, especially if the kids aren’t cooperating, and less distracting for the kiddos. We like to leave the location entirely up to your taste, and convenience, but we’ll weigh in if you want suggestions! And as far as the time of day planned, we should absolutely pick the time that you find your kids to be in the best moods.

3) How do we make our kids cooperate? Any parent knows, that even though we plan sessions around naps, make sure the little ones are well fed, and pick a place that’s fun for everyone, sometimes we’re still not catching the best moods. So, we now offer prizes from the prize bags for good behavior. We’ll tell the kiddos that if they listen to mom and dad throughout the session, mom and dad get to decide at the end whether they can pick a prize from our prize bag! It’s usually simple things like costume jewelry, or puzzles, or stickers, or whatever we may think your kiddos are into! And please, know that we have little ones of our own, and totally understand when kids just aren’t into it, so no need at all to stress. If we see the kids just don’t wanna pose, we’ll roll with it and turn the session more into photojournalism and try to catch the action as it happens!

4) Keep everybody involved. After we have the family photo of the whole group, we try to mix and match combinations, by taking pictures of just the kids, just the sisters, just the parents, just a parents with the kids, etc…we try to keep everyone involved the whole time. So, when we take pictures of the just the kids, we enlist the parents to be directly behind our heads when trying to get the kids to look at the lens. Or, if the kids are old enough for us to take a picture of just the parents, we have them be the clowns behind us to make the moms and dads laugh.

5) Do you have props and poses? We started Popinvasion by providing our photography and videography to businesses, which we very much love doing also. But with having three kids, and going through a few nightmare indoor portrait sessions in mall studios with backdrops, feeling on the verge of stress attacks at times, we looked at each other, and realized we had all the gear to offer family portraits as a fun alternative. Therefore, we absolutely will come along with props and pose ideas and suggest them, and the goal is to get those happening, but we always want to remind mom and dad that props are more special if it’s something that is special to you, and that although we do have ample pose and prop ideas, by all means if they do not feel natural to you, or if the kids just don’t want to do them, we will move and groove with whatever actually represents your family. And by all means, if you have prop and pose ideas from your Pinterest boards, count us in!

And now, with all of that said, we do like to remind you that we usually provide family portraits back to you pretty quickly, so you are absolutely still in time for family portraits for your Holiday cards! Now check out some of our favorites. Can you guess which ones were posed, and which ones are candids? ; – )

“Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Catholics.”


I can still hear that twangy country song in my head, which was part of a satirical show presented by college students at a Catholic College where my dad used to teach. I still remember them strumming their guitars, making jokes about all the babies we Catholics produce. We can say that, cuz, you know, we’re Catholic…Cut to 10 years later, and I’ve got a fourth one on the way! Yee-haw!

It’s funny telling people you’re pregnant when the babies are so close together. I actually opted to do an e-mail/Facebook release of a home video this time around. We were SUPER excited about it, and wanted it to be special – but the first question we’ll get from many is – “Congrats! So…was this a surprise?” Nope! We wanted this little baby, and every baby God has blessed us with. Or, when we’d tell people we were thinking about a fourth, some would smile and say: “Woah, reeeeeeeeeeally?” Yep, really! “There’s still some room in the minivan,” I’d joke.

You see, my mama let her baby grow up to be Catholic. To believe that as long as we can provide for our babies, as long as our heart and health and soul can handle it and wish for it, then we shall accept God’s blessings.

As a kid, my parents were told that I wouldn’t be able to conceive due to other complications. Whelp, turns out they were completely wrong! So why wouldn’t we take that as a blessing and take our love for our babies to grow our family?

Saint Alexis Church hit it home when they posted the following quote from Pope Francis: “Today, too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a ‘diagnostic’ sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human.”

As each one of our babies came into our lives, one by one they brought new blessings. Our first was the beginning of our family. On the week our second was born, we moved into our first home. With the birth of our third, we started our own business, which allows us to grow as a family even more. Who know what gifts baby number four will come bearing (Well, for starters a bigger home is in the works ; – ))?

But wait! What about the children! How did our kids feel about it? See for yourself! (Song Credit: “I get to be the One” by JJ Heller)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Twix ice cream bar to go eat – or two- or three…


Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Twix ice cream bar to go eat – or two- or three…

Mommies Are Horrible Friends


That’s right. I said it. We’re freaking terrible. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it’s true. Mommies can be horrible friends. And I get to say this, because I myself am a mommy. I’ve actually been blessed with super duper and helpful non-mommy friends who stuck by my side through thick and thin and served as lovely “aunties” to my kiddos, but I have heard other fellow mommies with the issue of losing touch with friends because they just simply don’t get why mommies just don’t come around anymore.

Before getting married and having kids, I was the best friend one could have. I’d help you move, paint your new apartment, tag along to an awkward dinner party, keep you company while you returned random items at the mall, homemake the most thoughtful presents for your birthday (Which, looking back, were kinda crap – I wasn’t the craftiest person), not to mention actually remembered your birthday, housesat, dog-sat, slept over, drove over an hour just to see a friend, you name it! I was there.

But those days are gone! Why? Because we’ve got our kiddos and houses and husbands that require all of that same stuff, and our cope container is full. And if we don’t put our kids, home and husband first, then who will? And I know that sucks, but now is the time when we absolutely must put the health and happiness, and financial well-being towards our families in order for it to thrive. Our responsibilities to be a good friend have a had to shift to raise a good family, with children who are raised to be kind-hearted, productive members of society.

Do we feel guilty? YES! Do we feel bad? YES! Do we feel left out every time we see Facebook pictures of you drinking margaritas with your other non-kiddoed-up gal pals? Absolutely. But not any guiltier than we’d feel to give up a Saturday afternoon to help you pick out a new pillow sham rather than spending it canoodling with the kiddos and hubby or driving someone to soccer practice, karate, art lessons, doctor’s appointments…and the sickest part is, we LOVE it!

And one day, don’t worry. You’ll have us back. And as luck would have it, as soon as all our kiddos turn old enough to suck their own snot out of their noses, you may have just jumped on the baby wagon, and we’ll be SOL ourselves for a partner in crime! But you know what YOU WILL INDEED
have? Someone who’s been there and done that and happy to bring you over a meatloaf with tons of gravy to help you through it. Until then, friends, please know that our undying love for you will never go away, and that our experiences with being your confidant, your assistant, your shopping buddy, is what helped us build the patience we much needed when we started our family. And also – just know – that we are totally jealous of the act that you can literally take a nap whenever the heck you want! Enjoy it while it lasts!


Inexpensive Valentine’s Day Presents for All



A Valentine’s Day gift isn’t any good unless it’s unique and from the heart…but it’s even better if it is also an inexpensive gift. And to accomplish that, all you have to do is make your Valentine a basket! It’s heartfelt, it’s special, and if you do it right, it won’t cost you too much at all.

The special thing about the gift basket is that it is personalized to the person you are giving it to. All you have to do is listen, and you’ll make them the perfect valentine present.

Where do you get the supplies? Surprisingly, thrift stores like Goodwill have a huge selection of baskets for about a dollar a piece that you can use. Just remember to keep in mind your contents when picking it out. As for the filler and basket bag or shrink wrap, any dollar store should have that for you. Don’t get conned into paying too much at a craft or party supply store!

You could even make your entire super special basket out of one simple trip to the dollar store! Got a candy junkie friend? Just get 15 different candy boxes, and you’re set! Got someone who needs to relax? Go to the bath and body section and pick out a bunch of relaxing scented soaps and body washes – file0001509359493 (2)they don’t need to be from the expensive boutique at the mall! Movie junkie Valentine? Just get them a double feature DVD with popcorn bowls and popcorn, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic movie night theme. The basket is special not because of the price, but because it was truly well-thought out and customized to your Valentine. What about a child who is a lover of crafts? Put crayons, construction paper, pipe cleaners, glitter, glue, scissors, and stickers in a basket, and you’ve probably even saved their mother’s life as well by keeping the craft lover busy and happy.

If you have a whole group in mind to be your Valentine, obviously Costco is your best bet. You could do an Italian-themed array of baskets by buying their bulk pasta, pasta sauce, parmesan, dried salami, pizzelles, biscotti, etc. Most of the stuff there is individually wrapped in bulk anyway. You can make a cheese lover very happy by scouting out the cheese section there, or even at any local grocery store. Or, put together a basket full of individually-wrapped healthy snacks for the whole office for Valentine’s day (That way, you please everybody – many people are still trying to hang on to that New Year’s Resolution of losing weight or getting healthy, or it’s simply their actual life style on a regular basis). Don’t forget about the wine lovers! Partner their favorite bottle with some cheese and crackers, and they are going to have one good night whether they have a Valentine or not!

You see, companies that sell gift baskets as a product either surcharge for the packaging, or they are able to do it at a reasonable price because they can buy bulk. Well, like I already said, you can do that at Costco, or even call in a favor from a friend who maybe works in a business where they are able to get even better bulk pricing for products by a supplier. Either way, the key is to make it personal, and not spend too much on your Valentine’s Day gift if you don’t have to!

Perfect Gift Basket Resources – on a budget!



A gift isn’t is extra special when it’s unique and from the heart…but it’s even better if it is also within your budget. And to accomplish that, all you have to do is make your loved ones a basket yourself! It’s heartfelt, it’s special, and if you do it right, it won’t cost you too much at all.

The special thing about the gift basket is that it is personalized to the person you are giving it to. All you have to do is listen, and you’ll make them the perfect present.

Where do you get the supplies? Surprisingly, thrift stores like Goodwill have a huge selection of baskets for about a dollar a piece that you can use. And a lot of people don’t know this, but thrift stores actually carry a ton of unused, new, originally-packaged items that either stores with a surplus donate, or that people never ever used and donated them because that is simply the easiest thing to do. Just remember to keep in mind your theme when picking items out (I got REALLY carried away last time I went and forgot the logistics of also having my three kids with me to bring back to the car – the Goodwill attendant was very nice to help me carry the awesome brand new items I scored for really cheap). As for the filler and basket bag or shrink wrap, any dollar store should have that for you. Don’t get conned into paying too much at a craft or party supply store!

You could even make your entire super special basket out of one simple trip to the dollar store! Got a candy junkie friend? Just get 15 different candy boxes, and you’re set! Got someone who needs to relax? Go to the bath and body section and pick out a bunch of relaxing scented soaps and body washes – file0001509359493 (2)they don’t need to be from the expensive boutique at the mall! Movie junkie? Just get them a double feature DVD with popcorn bowls and popcorn, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic movie night theme. The basket is special not because of the price, but because it was truly well-thought out and customized to your beloved receiver. What about a child who is a lover of crafts? Put crayons, construction paper, pipe cleaners, glitter, glue, scissors, and stickers in a basket, and you’ve probably even saved their mother’s life as well by keeping the craft lover busy and happy.

If you have a whole group in mind, obviously Costco is your best bet. You could do an Italian-themed array of baskets by buying their bulk pasta, pasta sauce, parmesan, dried salami, pizzelles, biscotti, olives, seasoned artichokes, you name it. Most of the stuff at Costco is individually wrapped in bulk anyway. You can make a cheese lover very happy by scouting out the cheese section there, or even at any local grocery store. Or, put together a basket full of individually-wrapped healthy snacks for the whole office. Don’t forget about the wine lovers! Partner their favorite bottle with some cheese and crackers, and they are going to have one good night! Organizing a benefit and need to put together baskets? Go to Costco, and you can get some of their high-quality name-brand stuff at a great price.

You see, companies that sell gift baskets as a product either surcharge for the packaging, or they are able to do it at a reasonable price because they can buy bulk. Well, like I already said, you can do that at Costco, or even call in a favor from a friend who maybe works in a business where they are able to get even better bulk pricing for products by a supplier. Either way, the key is to make it personal, and not spend too much on your awesome personalized gift basket if you don’t have to!