A Lake Michigan Inspired Cookbook - Editorial / Book Photo Assignment

There is so much to love about Michigan, so when Storey Publishing contacted me early this Spring to photograph a Lake Michigan inspired cookbook, I was all in.  The assignment: photograph local farms and businesses, beautiful places, farm to table food, and the lake.  Yes, please.  

First up, Northern Michigan: the Traverse City / Leelanau Peninsula region including Leland, Fishtown, Sutton's Bay, and Pt. Betsie.  

Northern Michigan's unique and varied landscape is beyond beautiful from the vineyards to turquoise blue waters everywhere you turn.  Its people are authentic and passionate, overflowing with talent and committed deeply to local sustainable business practices.  It will go down in my record book as one of my favorite shoot days.. ever. 

Thanks to the following local Traverse City businesses for being a part of this project (in order of appearance):

The Cook's HouseLeelanau Cheese, Carlson's Fishery, and Riverside Inn.

Traveling south, we arrive to the Fennville region with South Haven, Saugatuck, and Douglas towns and beaches a short distance away.

The land is vast and peaceful and its people are artisans, each in their own way, wisely using the bountiful land and pouring passion into their soul's work.  

Fennville is rustic and real.

When I was shooting at Virtue Cider, a man happened to be sitting at the bar with a glass of cider.  He pointed to his farm out the window and proudly exclaimed that he grows the cherries for Virtue's cherry ciders right over there.  

At Salt of the Earth, I observed Chef Matt make fresh pasta by hand with great care.  Their rustic food is entirely made from scratch with ingredients sourced within a 50 mile radius, which results in a unique menu that changes seasonally, if not daily.  Fennville is a true farm to table region built on passion, tireless work, and community.

Thanks to the following local Fennville businesses for being a part of this project (in order of appearance):

Salt of the Earth, Virtue Cider, Kismet Farm Bakery, Seedling Farm, and Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery.

And traveling further south yet, we stumble upon the New Buffalo region in Southwest Michigan, including Lakeside, Berrien Springs, and Three Oaks.

Simply put, this region struck me as genuine and kind.  Southwest Michigan is abundant and diverse in its local businesses offering everything from fresh fish and local pastured meats to eclectic and inventive jarred goods.  

I found the business owners to be incredibly skilled in their craft, deeply caring about quality and sustainability, and so genuinely kind to their patrons.  Customers seemed like old friends and that was a pretty wonderful thing to witness.

Thanks to the following local New Buffalo businesses for being a part of this project (in order of appearance):

Froehlich's, LOCAL, Flagship, New Buffalo Bill's, and Free Run Cellars.

I knew going in this would be a meaningful assignment, but I wasn't quite expecting just how much my appreciation for Michigan would grow. Keep an eye out for The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook written by Amelia Levin: Spring 2018. 

All images Copyright 2017 Teri Genovese Photography and exclusively licensed to Storey Publishing.  Images may not be used in any way for any reason whatsoever.

Best Northern Michigan Vacation Destinations / Published Photograph

If you are anything like me, there's probably a healthy dose of denial wrapped up into realizing we are in mid-late August with September around the corner.  This summer with its mild temps flew by much too fast.  It pains me to admit that I haven't even dipped into Lake Michigan above the knees.  Yet.

I am banking on an Indian Summer and some beach days still to come.  If you are hoping to soak up some last bits of summer, here's 11 Northern Michigan getaways that will make you want to grab your flip flops and hop in the car!

My photograph below was published in the July issue of Traverse Magazine as the full spread feature opener of the article - proud Michigan girl, right here.

Psst.. I'm spilling my best secret to photographing kids..

All of my beach photography sessions lately have got me thinking and pushing my own boundaries.  It occurred to me that I have a legit secret to photographing kids that might help you take pictures of your own kids that will make you swoon.

Here it is, my secret to photographing children, especially on the beach or in the backyard in the summertime or playing in their bedroom any day of the week. 

It’s pretty simple:  Don’t try. 

Say what?!  I know, to all of the overachievers out there (myself included) that sounds like absolute blasphemy.  But I swear to you, when I am not trying to make it all perfect, when I can let go and let my gut lead the way, when I am not preoccupied with capturing the perfect photograph, that’s when the magic happens.

So, this is my one-stop advice column for photographing your kids this summer.

Don’t try so hard.

Observe them.  What are they doing right now that you wish you could bottle right up?  Let them do that.  Try to refrain from interfering.   Be a fly on the wall.  Be patient.  Blend into the background and anticipate those quirky, thoughtful, lovable moments.

And just let it happen.  Let go of perfection: the perfect light, the perfect composition, the perfect smile, the perfect Pinterest boards.  Just shoot pictures from the heart and I promise you, in 15 years, you’ll be so happy you have these photos of your kids being exactly who they are today.

Here's a few favorite photographs from 2 beach sessions this month.  Many break the rules with composition and lighting, but sometimes the moment and the expressions are all that matter.  

Stony Lake / Lake Michigan:

kids bike photograph
lake michigan kids photography
lake michigan kids photography
lake michigan kids photography

Malibu, California:

malibu kids beach photography
malibu kids beach photography
malibu kids beach photography
malibu beach dance photograph

Oh, and the best part is that when kids are in their happy place, sometimes they’ll just look up at you with the best smile or glance and you might still get those perfect beach portraits...

Without even trying.

malibu children's portrait
malibu beach portrait

How to Photograph People while Traveling (meaningfully)

Travel portraits allow us to connect and tell stories about the places we visit.  In our fast-paced, digital age, it is so easy to take a snapshot and upload it to our favorite social media outlets, all while briskly walking by.  If we can make an interesting photograph without actually looking up, what happens when we stop to share a few words, look closer, and make a true connection?


If you have a trip in the books or simply have a love for travel, there's a really good chance you'll snap a shot or two of a stranger now and then.  How does it feel?  I know, it can be a vulnerable experience for both photographer and subject, but it doesn't have to be.  

I hope the following tips might help you not only take more meaningful travel portraits, but also connect and honor the people you meet along the way.  

Photographs tell stories, but the act of making them, whether on an iPhone or Canon 5d Mark III, can add depth to our experience.


1)  Make a Genuine Connection  (Learn the local language and smile.)  :)

While preparing for your trip, take a few extra minutes every day and study the local language.  Learn a few key phrases and local slang.  This delights locals and shows respect.

I will never forget our very first day in Bali when our driver, Gustaaf, was a wee bit late (an hour or two).  When he finally arrived full of apology, I quickly responded with “Sampunang sangsaya!”  (Essentially, “no worries” in the local Baliness dialect.)  He was delightfully surprised and this allowed our first exchange to be one of laughter, smiles, and mutual respect, despite the late start.

Whenever possible, it was my goal to communicate with locals in Indonesian or Baliness.  Their delight and warm smiles in return never grew stale and this connection allowed me to create beautiful portraits, beyond typical travel snapshots.

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Photograph taken in Bali, Indonesia 

Photograph taken in Bali, Indonesia 

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

Portraits taken in Bali, Indonesia

To keep it real:  

It’s not always so easy.  In the small fishing town of Hopkins, Belize, even though there was no language barrier, I found making portraits of the locals much more challenging than in Bali. 

However, the same lessons were revealed.  Approach someone with a smile, compliment them, show respect, and ask politely to take their photograph. Many people in Belize, mostly men, declined.  As a photographer who is visualizing a killer shot, it is hard to walk away, but it is more important to show the upmost respect. 


2)  Zoom with your Feet (Change your vantage point and work quickly!)

Once you’ve made a genuine connection and you have your subject’s permission, “zoom” by moving your feet, rather than just the focal length of your lens.  Think about how it feels when someone points a camera at you – perhaps you are a closet supermodel, but I assume most us get a little sweaty palm action as the self-consciousness creeps in.   

Therefore, for the following series of images, I began by kindly approaching this lovely woman as she washed her dishes.  Realizing I was stepping into a stranger’s personal space, with immense respect, I complimented her on the color of her beautiful home, her adorable kids, and how the light was just perfect. 

When she obliged to my request to take a few photographs, I started by stepping back to document the entire scene with a wide vantage point.  Then, I moved in closer for a full-length photo of her daughter, as I sensed she was open to my camera.  Finally, as I interacted and sensed her comfort, I took a close-up portrait, which fit my original vision.  As a token of gratitude, I showered her with compliments as I showed her the images I had captured.

Know your camera, be quick, and continue to connect with a smile as you shoot.  This intentional approach not only allows your subject to ease into having their portrait taken, but it also gives you a diverse collection of images from a variety of vantage points. 

Photograph taken in Hopkins, Belize

Photograph taken in Hopkins, Belize

Portraits taken in Hopkins, Belize

Portraits taken in Hopkins, Belize

3)  Look Close and Move beyond Portraits (Capture details to tell a story.)

Environmental portraits tell a story about a person by incorporating their surroundings.  When I took these photographs of Caitlin, a local to Hopkins, Belize who is originally from Ohio, I dug deeper by documenting her quaint bakery off the beaten path and the subtle details within.

Caitlin is full of life, inspiration, and spirituality and shares it openly.  She works tirelessly to support her family with her bakery and her devotion to both is apparent through the spark in her eyes and the tiniest details of her environment.  I was intrigued by her story and found the more I photographed, the more I learned, simply by slowing down and looking closely.

Caitlin's Bakery in Hopkins, Belize

Caitlin's Bakery in Hopkins, Belize


(Caitlin also makes a mean chocolate zucchini muffin that I absolutely think you should go out of your way for if you find yourself in Hopkins, Belize.) 

Remember, to travel is to explore what is unfamiliar, and to photograph with openness is to connect unconditionally.  Always show respect, understanding, and gratitude and I promise you’ll make some pretty amazing photographs (and connect with some fascinating people) along the way. 

Refresh your Brand: A simple branding exercise & May photo special for Grand Rapids' small businesses and entrepreneurs

Spring is a natural time for freshening up our lives, our living spaces, our looks.. why not our brands?

As a small business, I know the laundry list of "to-do's" can feel as long as a string wrapped around the Earth (twice), but it's so important to take a step back to take inventory of our brand image now and then.  

Last Spring, I completed a much needed spring-cleaning of my photography business – new look, new copy, new website - to reflect my current values and passions. Every detail was re-imagined and renewed. 

It felt freakin’ fantastic.

This Spring, I’d love to help you.  Your bio picture(s) / headshots alone make up a huge part of your brand image and help your prospective clients get to know you before they even meet you.  

We can create an engaging headshot or a complete photo library to help elevate your perceived value and allow people to better understand your product or service from the second they visit your website.


Take inventory of your brand in 15 minutes:

But, first, what exactly is a "brand"?

Your "brand" is what people feel when they think about your business, product, etc.  Your brand image is everything from your website copy to the photographs that tell the story of who you are and what you have to offer.  It is vital to make sure the feelings and thoughts that are conveyed are true to your current passions, your intentions, and your authentic, unique self.  

Try this simple branding exercise:

Brainstorm a list of 20 words that describe your brand.  Narrow that list down to 10.  Narrow that list down to 3-4.  Sit with the feelings of those words for a few moments.  

Next, visit your website, read your copy, look at your imagery.  You might ask a friend (with a "pretty please") for their opinion, as well.  

Are your top 3-4 brand qualities accurately represented?  What needs to be refreshed to build a more consistent brand?  The goal is to dig deeper, move beyond the typical words that are easily plucked from the surface, and discover your differentiating qualities that will truly allow you to stand out from the crowd.  

To celebrate Spring and this time of renewed energy, let’s DO this. 

For the month of May, I’m offering 100. off Lifestyle Portrait / Branding photography sessions.  If you would like to learn more about how I can help you, let’s chat

p.s. I know what you're thinking.. "I'm SO not photogenic... I'd rather organize my closet than be photographed.."  Even as a photographer, I feel the same way.  Luckily, it doesn't have to be painful.  I hope you'll allow me to take you through my thoughtful process to ensure a completely relaxed and comfortable photo session and your authentic self WILL shine through.  I promise you that :)

3 Reasons to Hire a Vacation / Beach Photographer & Happy Spring!

Spring is here!  Technically speaking, that is.  Somewhere beneath the last few inches of snow (here in the North, anyway) I promise you, Spring is near :) 

By mid-March, my summer dreamin' officially begins, and by dreaming, I also mean planning: up north weekends, beach days, camping under the stars.  Northern Michigan books up quick and you only need to learn that lesson once.  

What are you most looking forward to this spring / summer?   

lake michigan family photographer

3 Reasons to Plan Vacation / Beach Photography Sessions

1)  It's Worry-Free:  You can finally relax at the beach or pool without worrying about capturing your kids having the time of their lives or whether your camera is ingesting water and sand. (Guilty of the latter.) 

2)  YOU (the most important reason):  If YOU are typically your family's everyday photographer and collector of memories, you will actually be in the photographs.  You will not have to explain to your kids in 10 years, as you are looking back at your vacation photographs, that you actually were there.  They will see you with them, living it up, together.

3)  The Digital Aftermath:  Following your beach/pool/hiking/fill in the blank adventures, sitting at the computer, editing hundreds of photos, and creating a tangible masterpiece might sound daunting, or outright dreadful.  Handing the job off to a skilled photographer to create a thoughtfully designed, archival, story-telling keepsake, while you revel in the memories in your lazy-boy, might just sound fabulous.  

grand rapids family photographer
lake michigan lifestyle photographer
lake michigan vacation photography

Just think:  Some of your most carefree and happy moments on this earth will not just be documented, but an artful story will be curated and preserved for years to come.  You just have to show up.  Deal?

lake michigan beach photography
lake michigan beach portraits
lake michigan lifestyle family photography

If you are hoping to plan a relaxed, documentary photography session this summer, please contact me soon.  I'm also down with 'day in the life' sessions or capturing your family's 'vacation days,' from Michigan to California and beyond.  

If it's feeling too early, we can even pencil in a time-frame - leave the details for later.  Just don't miss out - summer will be here before we know it, and my schedule books up quick with photo sessions... and my own lazy beach days.  ;)  

(Things might also be a-changing around here at Teri Genovese Photography and session availability is limited.)

lake michigan beach portraits-2
lake michigan beach portraits -3

Sifting back through photographs from last summer, I realized one year olds at the beach make a pretty spectacular combination.  Hope these made you smile and look forward to the much greener, sunnier days ahead!