Photography Created for Those with Autism

by: Tera Girardin on

The "Faces of Autism" book has been out since April and it's been so well received. One of the comments I hear is "Will you do another book? And how can my child be a part of it?"  My answer to the first question is, "I don't know! This book is so new I'm still trying to see straight!" But the second question got me pondering. 

My purpose in life is to reveal beauty. And I happen to be lucky enough to really "get" children, especially those with special needs. So I love love love being able to reveal their beauty through my camera lens. 

To be photographed goes beyond the images created. It's an experience of being seen, heard, and validated. Oftentimes that is something a person with autism doesn't often experience. I want to change that! I want every child with autism to feel that way. To feel like a superstar of their own photo shoot! 

Thus the Faces of Autism Portrait Experience is born. This is a way to have the same experience the children in the book had. A portrait session where the child is the star. And it includes some awesome tangible products to treasure and share including a 12x12 framed print that has your child's photo, the "one word" to describe your child and my heartfelt narrative of who your child is and why I admire them. 

This is what one mom wrote after receiving her portrait package:  

"You are an amazingly gifted photographer. Besides your superior technical skills, your people skills truly set you apart. Your kind, gentle energy helped us relax and enjoy ourselves, and you caught some candid, special moments. We are also so grateful for your respectful and genuine connection with Amanda."

So my answer to that original question is I'm not working on another book at this time, but you can have that same experience for your child right now!  Learn more about the Faces of Autism Portrait Experience and book your session. 

- Tera

Time to Share

by: Tera Girardin on

Time to Share

I have to tell you a cool story. So bear with me as I seem to ramble on here. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a while ago? Well, I got nominated to do it like so many of us did. And I really really didn't want to get wet and cold and I really really don't like being on camera so this whole thing wasn't cool with me. Plus I thought maybe I could make a difference in a different way and use my photography skills instead. I offered to do a full session for a family affected by ALS. I know when a loved one is facing terminal illness sometimes the last thing families are thinking about is photos but when their loved one is gone, the first thing they do is cling to photos. 

So I put out the call on my Facebook page and got in touch with the family of Bruce Kramer. I had the honor of photographing his entire extended family in October 2014. Several family members had flown in from out of town and it was a reunion of sorts. A lovely but heartbreaking reunion. At this point, Bruce was confined to a wheel-chair, on a breathing apparatus, had limited mobility in his hands, easily tired, but had a huge bright spirit and I instantly felt his grace. It was an amazing session. With the star of the show -- his only granddaughter who was a year old and delightful. 

I was able to capture this set of images of them together. Honestly I've not really shared these before because it was such a poignant moment. And such a sacred moment that I didn't share them all over as I often do with images I'm super proud of. Well, obviously I gave them all to the family and they've enjoyed and shared them as they've wished. But I've not felt right about sharing it publicly much.

I didn't know who Bruce was before I met him. And I only met him once, for about 90 minutes. I was in photog mode during the shoot and didn't get emotional myself even though there were emotions flowing all over. Laughter, tears, love, longing, nerves, gratitude...all witnessed. But as soon as I stepped into the elevator as I left their home, the realization of what I had done hit me. I realized I would likely never meet him again as his journey was near the end. The emotions I had been setting aside during the session hit me and a sobbed all the way to the car and then some. It was an honor to be a part of his journey.

I wasn't the only one who was touched by Bruce. Turns out he was sort of a local big deal. :) He was a dean and professor at St. Thomas and well loved there. He was also working with MPR's Cathy Wurzer who interviewed him for a series on his ALS diagnosis called "Living While Dying." I didn't know any of this until well after I photographed him. And that was just fine with me. I wouldn't have changed the way I did the session. It didn't surprise me he was such an impactful man to so many because in the very short time I spent with him, I was touched too. He passed away a few months after I met him.

Are you still with me? Well fast forward to this week and Cathy Murzer sent me an e-mail. (Not often I get an email from MPR!). She and Bruce co-authored a book based on the interview series. It was published just a couple of weeks after he passed away in March of 2015. She is now doing a TEDx Talk this weekend at her alma mater UW-River Falls to discuss her time with Bruce and his story. She emailed to ask to use the image below to share with her audience. I of course said YES!

I couldn't be prouder to have one of my images on a TEDx stage. I'm honored to have captured that moment in time. The emotions that cross his face in these three images speak volumes. 

And it's time I share it with you.


Bruce's St. Thomas obituary

The book "We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying"

Living While Dying Podcasts

Bruce's Blog: Dis Ease Diary

Cathy Wurzer on MPR

TEDx Talk Details

December Reflections Day 3: Best Day of 2015

by: Tera Girardin on

Dec Reflections Day 3: Best Day of 2015

This is a hard one my friends. I always have a tough time with picking "my favorite" or the "best" because I find joy in a lot of things. And the pressure to name one thing always is difficult for me no matter the topic. (I'm pretty sure this stems from my recovering perfectionism).

I scrolled through my many pics on my phone. Is that weird that my preferred method of capturing life's daily events and details is my phone when I'm a photographer? I know. But the best camera is the one with you! I could write a whole article about that and why I don't use my professional camera more often for personal use. Mostly it's that I feel compelled to "create" when I use my big camera. Which means start to finish I'm envisioning the end product in my mind. The process includes taking lots of angles, culling down to the right ones, and editing in Photoshop. Which is time consuming. When I use my phone, I let go of that and know it's good enough as is. It's sort of like baking a cake from scratch vs buying one at the store. Both equally satisfying in different ways.

But I digress... Best Day of 2015... so hard to pick! So I'll just give you ONE of the best days of this year. This is the day my boys and I all left for Boy Scout camp. The older two spent a week at the campground for Boy Scouts and my youngest and I did a shorter stint at the same camp but different area for the Webelos. We also were able to spend one night all together after the Webelos camp was done. Pretty eventful night too as there was a peanut butter loving bear that wandered into camp that night and sniffed our tent!! Funny thing was, both my son and I slept right through it! We found out the next day the Scoutmaster chased him off. Only harm done was a broken mess kit and a few tense moments. What a story to tell though!

Why was this one of my favorite days? I love doing stuff with my boys, particularly outdoors (I actually enjoy camping!). First of all, they make me laugh! And I love seeing them try new things and see them grown into their own. I'm so proud of all of them that week. Getting out of their comfort zone, surviving difficult situations and learning to lead. This photo is right before we got into our car that was chock full of gear. And full of anticipation. 

When I scrolled through all my photos, I noticed my favorite moments were all ones of experiences with my favorite people. I'm going to remember that for 2016 and make sure I have more of those!


by: Tera Girardin on

Now available for purchase! 

"Love Notes"

Set of 8 notecards (4" x 5.5"). Flat premium matte notecards with image on one side and blank on the other, includes white envelopes. Yellow tulip with splash of red in the shape of a heart. Found walking along the MN Landscape Arboretum in a sea of yellow flowers, this one was unique. Delightful surprise!

Only $12 / set  (plus shipping)

Limited quantity. To order, use the button below to checkout. Notecards will be mailed via USPS First Class mail.  Enjoy!

Fall Family Sale

by: Tera Girardin on

Fall is the best time of the year for family portraits. The crisp sunny days and beautiful colors of fall makes for classic portraits. Be sure to book your date early and take advantage of the best deal I run all year... 50% off your Custom Session fee if you reserve a fall date by Labor Day. 

Custom Sessions only. Available dates (these will book quickly!)

Sept 12, 13, 25, 26, 27
Oct 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 30, 31
Nov 1, 7

Basics of Photography Class

by: Tera Girardin on

So you have a great camera but all the buttons and functions seem intimidating. And maybe even with this expensive piece of equipment, you still aren't quite getting the shots you want. Let's change that! Come hang out with me at the studio and I'll teach you the basics of exposure and how to make that camera work for you! We will go over the 3 things that go into making a good exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO). We'll talk about composition a little, we'll talk about what types of shots are frustrating you, we'll actually take photos and we'll turn that little dial off of AUTO (gasp!). Yes, that's right, we'll learn how to use your camera in manual mode. You can do it! I promise not to talk over your head or get too technical. This is me guiding you to get comfortable with your camera. We'll use some still life to practice on and then we will have a model come in so you can practice on a real live person. (Speaking of which I'm looking for a volunteer -- ideally a child between 5-12 - to hang out with us for about an hour). Who should attend? You should have a DSLR camera and a lens or two. This is a very basic class so if you've never taken the lens off or turned the dial off of auto, this is the class for you. More advanced users I welcome too, but understand my goal is to get everyone shooting on manual by the end of class. The studio is a fun place to practice so come on in! Bring your camera, any lenses, the manual and a notebook. What's included? The three hour class will be very hands on from the start. It includes a copy of the book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson so you aren't lost after the class. As mentioned we'll be practicing our new skills with a model. And there will be light snacks and refreshments. The class size is limited to 10 people (minimum of 3 people to hold the class). The class is only $75 which is a great value. Previous students have commented they have gotten so much out of the hands on shooting part of the class. It clicks! I've been photographing children and their families for almost 10 years. I mainly use natural light and I always shoot on manual. I am not the kind of photographer that gets caught up in the technical aspects but more so focuses on the subject and the connection. I know what I like and I know how to achieve the results I want. I can teach you how too! Sign up by filling in the form below "I'm in!" And bring a friend - life is always more fun with a friend. :) See you soon!

Sign up by emailing Tera and reserve your spot! Only 10 students max. 

Tips for Better Kid Pics

by: Tera Girardin on

Photographing your own kids is hard! But if you plan ahead a little and have the right attitude, you can create beautiful portraits of your children.   Look for the light Unless you have professional studio lighting, your best bet is to get your kids outside and in natural light. Take a look around and see how the light plays off your subject’s face. If your kids are young, you might want to enlist the help of a grownup to do some location scouting first! Look to find the right spot. Are there harsh shadows? Is your subject backlit (so their face is dark and behind them is light)?  Is the sunlight too bright, making their eyes squinty?   Your best bet for soft flattering light can be found in open shade. Think of the edge of a porch with your subject in the soft shade. The sun can be just in front of them but not falling on them. This is the easiest type of lighting.

Many photographers love the sweet light just before dusk and it is truly beautiful. However, I find with young kids that timing the sunset isn’t always convenient. So give it a try with your older kids but better to photograph your littles earlier in the day.   Advanced Technique:  If you are indoors (since it is winter right now!), try placing your subject near a big picture window -- right up next to it. It can give a bit of shadows to the face if they are sitting with the window light to the side of their face. Classic and pretty portrait.
Take a bit of time to find the right light. It will make a huge difference in your photos.   Watch the background Before you click the shutter, take a quick scan of what’s behind your subject. Do you have a random sibling photobomber? Or something weird coming from someone’s head? Or maybe the background is just busy. Take the time to adjust your angle to correct for the background.   Advanced Technique: Utilize your camera’s depth of field and blur that background out.   
All about the angles Speaking of angles, most of the time it’s best to photograph a subject at about eye level. With little ones, that means getting low. Really low sometimes. Or moving the subject up higher so you are level.
Or get high! One way to correct an overly busy background is to have your kids sitting on the ground. Photograph them from a standing position slightly over them. Your background will be all ground and they will be peering lovingly up at you. It really is a sweet innocent look to photograph someone from above and offers a different perspective. 

OR get really low! With older kids it can show off how big they are if you lay on the ground and let them tower over you. Again, a fun perspective to try.   Contain Them Young children tend to wiggle and move and not stay still. So after you’ve found your sweet lighting spot, how do you get them to stay put?! You will need to find a way to anchor them. You can try a blanket and some books or favorite toy. No? That won’t keep your child still? Try a small stool that they can climb on themselves. Most toddlers love to play on a small sturdy stool. No? That won’t work either? Try a regular sized chair that’s hard for them to climb off of. No? You say your child is a monkey? How about a container -- basket, metal tub, wooden crate. Sitting inside something can be novel just long enough to snap a few. Or even try a small tent to play peekaboo with. As a last resort you can try a small snack like goldfish or Cheerios to keep them coming back to the place you want but you are likely going to get crumbs and fat cheeks.
  And if that doesn’t work...I suggest waiting until they are asleep and photographing them then! 
 Avoid “Mean Mom” So, sadly I have to admit, even I turn into Mean Mom when I photograph my own kids. I’m a professional! I’ve had clients call me the Child Whisperer because I get their kiddos to cooperate and create great portraits for them. And it’s still hard for me to get my own kids to do so. Here’s a few things I’ve learned after almost 10 years in business.   First, know your subject... pick the time of day that they are their best. Probably not when they are hungry, tired or over stimulated. Almost everyone is better in the morning.   Avoid bribes -- they almost always backfire. Kids are counting down to the bribe. And then not engaged with you and the camera. Reward afterwards but don’t promise, bribe, threaten or trick. Kids are too smart and it will backfire. If you cave in then you’ll have a lollipop in every shot. How do you engage your subject? Ask silly questions, get them talking, sing a song, have them tell you a secret, blow bubbles, have them count to 3 (the word “three” is a more natural smile inducing word than cheese). Go with the flow! Maybe your child insists on having their doll photographed -- go for it! Your child will be more likely to cooperate if you cooperate with them.  Do your best to shift your own mentality to “Loving Photographer Mom” because kids FEED off your attitude. Even in my own client sessions I can tell when tension is in the air. When mom is stressed, kids are stressed. Bad photos are the result. So shift your mindset and embrace whatever comes your way.   And finally if the kids are not into it...bail on it and try again another day. You can tell when a kiddo is tired of taking photos. Camera fatigue is a real thing! Advance Technique:  Hire a professional! :) Like I said, it’s hard for us professionals to get our own kids to cooperate so splurge and hire someone to do your photos once in a while. That way YOU get in the photo too!   

Know Your Camera
And lastly, it’s helpful to know the ins and outs of your camera. Today’s cameras are amazing and there are so many automatic settings that are really really good. But I still think it’s really valuable to know how to override your camera’s settings and shoot in manual mode. At the very least, you’ll have an understanding of what is going on with your auto settings. Don’t be afraid! Turn that dial and see what happens!   Read the manual, take a class, learn online, ask questions, practice and make mistakes and try again. Feel free to shoot me your questions about your own photos!

Sweet Cheeks | Twin Cities Baby Photography

by: Tera Girardin on

No words needed! I LOVE 6 month olds!   What age is best to photograph your baby? I generally recommend that first year you bring a baby to a professional at newborn, 6 month and 1 year. Why do I not recommend more often?  First, I'm pretty sure you have a camera or two and I'm pretty sure you are photographing that sweet baby of yours nearly every single day! So it's not as critical to document each and every month since you are already doing that. I do think it's best to use a professional at major milestones. This can be at exact ages (6, 12, 18 months...) or even at developmental milestones if you want to be less precise (sitting, crawling, standing, walking -- and even later when they are missing their front teeth, getting braces on or off, or yikes! learning to drive!). It's a perfect time to schedule your baby's portrait. I have openings for February if you are ready to schedule a studio session! Contact me at

My FUN faves from 2014

by: Tera Girardin on

Often at the beginning of the year I'll cull through all my sessions and pick out my favorites to create a slideshow out of and to use in my marketing and portfolio. Which I did this year. But this year's slideshow I took a different approach... I only used black and white photos and only the ones that made me laugh and were FUN! And boy did we have FUN this year! There are often silly grins, funny faces, goofing off and hardy laughter going on during a session. Those are my favorites! So here's the ones that made ME smile this year. Enjoy! - Tera

Happy Fall

by: Tera Girardin on

Just a very quick post because I'm up to my eyeballs in sessions and editing and posting and slideshows and... well, let's put it this way. October is to photographers what April is to accountants. :)  But I love it and we've had amazing weather for sessions like this... Happy Fall everyone!