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Q&A with Tessa DiLeo: Family photographer and friend

I first discovered Tessa on Instagram through a mutual friend. I was floored by her work. It felt so different than what you typically see and I was instantly attracted. She had a way of showing movement and personality with ease. It was as if the children were performing just for her.

You know when you first meet someone and your guard just drops? You are immediately comfortable just being you. That is how our first session felt. My son was not even 2 and I could not get him to listen to me, but Tessa swooped in and worked her magic and created some pretty powerful images.

Over the years, she has captured my family beautifully and our sessions are splashed across my home page, my walls at home, and my instagram page.

A couple weeks ago, I polled my followers to see what top questions you would want to ask Tessa. Here are the top 9 questions asked and answered:

"I typed all of the answers to these questions and have come to the conclusion I am strongly opinionated and many of my opinions are in opposition to most photographers’ standards and expectations. I want to be about you, not about me or my Instagram feed. Light and airy is beautiful, but seeing your family throwing flour at each other is way better." -Tessa DiLeo, family and lifestyle photographer Your family > a shot list


YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Best tips for snapping pics and video on iphone? (this was asked 4 times!)

Two tips (and so simple!):

  1. Get on eye level with your subject. Baby, lay down. Toddler, sit down.

  2. Move in, don’t zoom in. Zoom is meant for spying on people, end of story.

What are the best things to wear and best way to have hair done? Patterns v. no patterns? Color pallets that are better than others? Best things to wear:

  1. Your favorite outfit. Don’t buy something new unless you’ve been dying for an excuse to buy something you’ve been eyeing.

Best way to get hair done:

  1. Super simple, don’t get your hair done . If you must, a simple blow out to defeat the frizz. Look like yourself. Unless you often where your hair in a headband braid, you’re going to look back in a few years and think why wasn’t looking like myself enough? You are beautiful without.

Patterns are great as long as the colors aren’t “complicated” (reds, black, neons, strong orange tones). Think BIG patterns when possible, intricate florals don’t flatter. I don’t like when my clients dress in black. Black is complicated. It can look faded. It can look dinghy. Just don’t wear all black anything. Monograms and smocked words are not worth the investment for lifestyle photography because your children will be moving. When it comes to color palettes, I vote no color palette? Is that allowed? Is that scary to hear from a professional photographer? I absolutely love seeing children dressed for themselves instead of dressing your family as a colored unit. Let them be in their ERA! Sequins? Bring it on. Cookie Monster costume? That’s good enough for me.

Best ways to organize your photos and best printing service? My iPhone is an ugly mess of photos. Don’t ask me. I use Wolf Photo Design Bar for my personal prints — matte, no borders. They ship, or you can pick your order up if you live nearby!

What stages/ages/milestones do you think are best to capture? Especially when juggling multiple kids Stages/ages/milestones… ahhhhh the prepackaged deals. Those. Can I also vote skip those? Is that allowed too? Newborn, 6 months, a year, then once a year if that’s feasible for your family. Don’t get sold on milestones. All babies progress at different stages and ages and you can’t expect your six month old will be sitting for their “sitting milestone session.” Those are sales pitches.

Any prep we should do before photos so kids show up comfortable and full of personality? If by “show up” you mean you’re driving somewhere, go to some place your kids know and love. I’ve been mentioning the Frosty Caboose to clients a lot lately, but nobody has taken me up on that. WHO doesn’t love a drippy ice cream toddler mess? I actually tell people not to prep their kids if they ask. Tell them your friend is coming over to take photos. I want to play games with them or see their new Buzz Lightyear. This is your children’s time to SHINE, and they will absolutely shine if we all stop telling them what to do. That whole "reframing commands into information" concept works wonders.

I have a camera and want to use for personal use. Any tips for beginners?

Spend time with your camera as much as possible. Photograph every leaf in your yard if that’s where you feel most safe. Dogs next, they don’t talk back and they don’t care what they look like (this is where I started). Remember that if it's for personal use, it's for you, so if you think it looks good, that’s all that matters! Do you have ability to work with kids with special needs?

Do I ever. Welcoming someone into your home and exposing your or your child’s vulnerabilities to someone can be hard for a parent, I know that, but I’m here to be a witness to how you’ve empowered your child and your family to overcome whatever obstacles. My background is in education with years of working with differently abled children. All brains and bodies work differently, and I want to photograph that to show YOU how beautiful your life is, even if it doesn’t look like someone else’s.

How far do you book in advanced for photos?

I’m currently booking up to 7 months out. There are openings in-between now and then, but my schedule is limited.

How do I get my kids to sit still or listen during pictures?

You’ll have a lot more fun and look a lot happier in photos if you let go of this expectation. Everyone wants a perfect Christmas card photo (and I do my best to make it happen), but I wish Christmas cards were more deep than they are pretty. Just food for thought.

Isn't she just refreshing? To inquire about booking a session and pricing, click here.

With all my love,


The Redefined Mamma


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