Late in 2020, the Vriend family inquired about a family portrait session. Like most of my portraiture clients who live in Japan, the Vriends wanted to capture a slice of their actual life, away from the clichés that are easily attached to the Japanese capital. They wanted to be photographed in "their Tokyo."
The Vriends don't live downtown in Minato where the Tokyo Tower stands tall. Nor do they live in Shinjuku City where the bustle and buzz are the defining characteristics. The Vriend's live, as most Tokyoites do, in a suburban enclave where the streets are narrow and the shops are more likely closed than open.
The Vriend's call Chofu home. This area in western Tokyo is known for large green spaces, a tiny airport, and easy family living. The neighborhoods of Chofu, like other suburban clusters, are authentic. They are void of neon glare, throbbing J-Pop, and massive pedestrian crossings. There is a calming current here. Over the years, I have come to appreciate this typical suburb more and more and could understand why the Vriends wanted Chofu to be their portrait session location.
Our goal, of course, was to capture a glimpse into the Vriend's quiet life in the suburbs, to photograph the family in the spots they frequent. In their own words, the Vriend's hoped that the session would produce images that, years from now, would transport them back to the places they grew together as a family in a Tokyo that only locals could recognize.
With neighborhood streets, mom-and-pop store façades, expansive parks, and Shin-Koganei station nearby, our two-hour family portrait session flew by.
Are you interested in booking a family photography session in Tokyo? If so, reach out today via my contact form to book your portrait experience in Japan or beyond
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Spring has finally come to Tokyo. The plum blossoms have come and gone. Now the sakura blooms are having their turn. All around Japan, streets are lined with cherry trees bursting with pink and white fluff. It is a magical time of the year and I am always amazed by the natural beauty on display.
As we all know, this spring has been exceptional due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no massive hanami parties with thousands of Tokyoites downing sake together. Cherry blossom festivals around Japan have been cancelled. You can't even get a sakura flavored latte because Starbucks is closed (as it should be). This year, there isn't frenzy and mass capitalism surrounding the natural spectacle and we are left to enjoy sakura season in its purest form.
With the sakura blooms here, it is the perfect time for family portraiture in Japan. I was delighted to hear from the Confers, a family of four living in the suburbs of Tokyo. The Tama-based foursome decided to book an extended session to celebrate the coming of spring.
Japan is not in a lockdown. Still, I wanted to make sure that the Confer family felt comfortable during their session and that we were being socially responsible by distancing ourselves from others. Considering this, we decided on some locations that would be void of other people.
I was eager to get out of the house and into the fresh spring air with the Confers. To my delight, we started our session surrounded by sakura in a place that I had hoped would be relatively isolated. As I suspected, there were very few people basking under the sakura trees which gave us the space to make some images and to relax under blossoms in full bloom. From there, we hopped on bicycles and meandered along the banks of the Nogawa River. Every now and again we parked, took some portraits, and soaked in the beautiful scenery surrounding the river.
With stunning blue skies, spring flowers, and a ton of laughs, my ninety minutes with the Confer family flew by. Honestly, the spring photography session was just the thing I needed to lift my spirits during this unusual spring and I couldn't have asked for a better day as a portrait photographer in Tokyo.
Are you searching for a family photographer in Tokyo or beyond? If so, reach out today to learn more about my family photography services or to book your portrait session.
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It had been over a year since I had seen Nicola, Alex, and their sweet girl J. I couldn't believe how much J had grown since I last saw her. Her curly hair bounced up and down and she ran down the street to greet me. J is one of those kids who is endearing the moment you see them; you can't help but smile and giggle at the sight of her.
As Alex and Nicola caught up to their toddler, I noticed that the couple was likely expecting a new member of the family. After hugs and greetings, Nicola confirmed my suspicions. Knowing that Nicola was pregnant immediately made our family photography session that much more special. While maternity photography is far from my specialty, I enjoy it. There is something powerful about photographing an expecting family and I was pleasantly surprised that this portrait session was really of a family of four, not three.
The Sergeants and I roamed around Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, a massive green space plopped right next to one of the most congested neighborhoods in all of Asia. The ponds and little bridges, open lawns, and well-manicured gardens are an oasis of tranquility and one of the best places in Tokyo for portrait sessions of this type.
Just like my last session with the Sergeant family, our time together went off without a hitch. For an hour or so, we ran around the park, visited some of the quiet spots in the gardens, and made a ton of great images that will hopefully serve as a reminder of this special time in the Sergeant's life. I couldn't have asked for a better day as a family photographer in Japan or for better clients.
If you are searching for a family photographer in Japan, look no further. Contact me today to begin discuss how I can best photograph your family here in Tokyo or beyond.
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It seems like with each flip of the calendar there is another natural phenomena to look forward to in Japan. During December, I enjoy the yellow blasts of the ginko trees when they fully turn and the warm-colored carpets they make of the streets when the leaves decide to drop. In mid-February, the bright pink plum blooms accent the carefully manicured ume trees in the parks and neighborhoods throughout Tokyo. I look forward to the late summer rains that turn foliage so lush that one would think they were in a sub-tropical paradise. And, like everyone else, I anticipate late March or early April when the majestic sakura season comes.
The arrival of the cherry blossoms means a variety of things. The sakura signal that winter has finally yielded and that the Japanese spring is roaring in with force. The sakura also inspire deeper musings. The sacred blooms relate to the natural cycles of life and remind us how fleeting our existence is. The cherry trees burst open, show their glorious nature, and are quickly gone. So is life.
Last spring I had the opportunity to work with several couples and families under the sakura blooms. One of those clients was the Yung family. Many of my clients elect to have their portrait sessions in packed locations like Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden or along the edges of the Meguro River. But the Yungs wanted to keep things simple and save the majority of their day for touring the Japanese capital with their friends.
I was thrilled to avoid the blossom-crazed crowds. I had the perfect spot in mind, a place in Tokyo's Midtown that was full of sakura trees and façades that would be perfect for family photography. As luck would have it, the spot was also within a short walk from the Yung's accommodation.
The Yungs were a lovely bunch. By the end of our family photography session, we were able to quickly capture a slew images with and without the iconic cherry blooms. In under an hour, the family of four waved goodbye and headed into town to enjoy all that Tokyo has to offer.
Are you searching for a family photographer in Tokyo for the upcoming 2020 sakura season? If so, time is running out. Reach out today to discuss your portrait session and to book your cherry blossom photography date.
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At the close of the year, the portrait season has wrapped up. I typically experience a long break between the autumn rush (when families, couples, and individuals want to capture the Japanese fall in all of its red-orange-yellow glory) and the spring madness (when clients keep their fingers crossed that photographers still have a plum or cherry blossom date left in their schedule). After the beginning of December, it is rare that I receive an inquiry for portraits in January or February. But, to my surprise, I heard from Akane right before I left Tokyo for Christmas holidays. She wrote:
Some of our friends just had a family photography session with you and we loved their results. I'm Japanese but my husband Nathan is from the UK. We have been living here in Tokyo for two years. We will probably go back to London in the future and would like a momento from Japan with our daughter who is now 6 months old.
I'm a journalist and would love some relaxed shots. I would like to give the session to my husband as a Christmas gift and am wondering what session slots you have available. I look forward to hearing from you.
I like receiving referral inquiries. If I have worked with someone's friends in the past, it is highly likely that I will enjoy working with the referred client (as people tend to befriend those that are similar to themselves).
Within a couple of days, Akane and I had worked out all of the details and I delivered a e-gift certificate that she could offer Nathan for his Christmas present. Shortly after the holidays, Akane let me know that Nathan was grateful for the gift and looked forward to our upcoming session. She also let me know that they would be bringing the the family dog along for the ride.
On the day of our mid-January appointment the air was crisp and the wind was whipping. Still, the sky was stunning (partly cloudy) and I knew that the winter light would be perfect for the session as long as the little one was in good spirits and could handle the cold.
I liked Nathan straight away. He was witty and was wearing an outfit that I would have chosen for myself. Akane was sweet and her temperament was immediately endearing. Last but not least, A (now 7 months) was precious and barely made a peep throughout the session. She was as cute as they come.
In the end, I couldn't have asked for a better time with the Beckwiths. Being around the family made me remember what is was like when my own son was just a little bundle in a coat. Throughout our portrait session, I felt nostalgic and tender (not a word that would readily be used to describe me). The session also reminded me why I love family portraiture so much and of the great privilege it is to serve clients in the early stages of their family's journey.
Are you considering a family portrait session in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, I would be delighted to serve you. Contact me today to learn more about my family session offerings or to directly book your appointment.
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At the close of each year, I take some time to reflect on my rotation around the sun and this year is no different. As 2019 comes to a close, I am looking back over the past year in order to take stock before moving into 2020, a new decade and an opportunity for a fresh start.
Part of me feels like a bit of a plonker publicly writing about my year. I ask myself if I would do the same if I was an accountant, barista, or sanitation worker. I think I would. The written reflection itself is a way of taking stock and helps me get my head on straight.
2019 was an amazing year as a photographer in Japan, a year loaded with commercial, travel, editorial, and portrait assignments. For sure, 2019 was my busiest yet. There were many professional highs and, honestly, some pretty low lows.
As the year progressed, I learned a several things about myself as a person and now, reviewing the images I made in 2019, I am learning a thing or two about myself as a photographer.
2019 Year In Review
I said hello to 2019 in Koh Samui, Thailand. While on vacation with my family, I got the chance to make a frame or two without any associated pressure. As in years past, starting the new year off with little stress was a good way to set the tempo for the year (though, the next twelve months didn't turn out as carefree as I had hoped).
Making images without any attached deadline or specific angle always reminds me of why I picked up a camera in the first place. I love making photos and, stripped for all constraints, I was grateful to shoot some photos just for the hell of it.
Returning to Japan, I got straight to work. My first editorial photography assignment of the year came as soon as I returned to Tokyo. Mabuhay Magazine, sent me over to Tsurutokame, an amazing sushi restaurant operated by an all female staff, to make some portraits of the chefs, management, and exquisite sushi on offer.
Up next was a multi-day event for ShipChain, a logistics platform utilizing blockchain to provide increased visibility, traceability, and efficiency. The January conference gave both investors and employees a glimpse at what was in store for the company in 2019 and beyond. In addition to shooting the event, I was also commissioned to photograph a full run of corporate headshots. ShipChain wanted an editorial feel to the imagery and I was happy to oblige.
Another editorial assignment rolled in from SkyLife, Turkish Airlines' publication crafted for first-class passengers. I was tasked to shoot a group of spectacular chefs and the Japanese cuisine they are known for. From piping hot sukiyaki to Michelin Star winning tempura, I was happy to photograph the chefs, the dishes, and to sample some of the finest cuisine in the Japanese capital.
Next was a chilly portrait shoot with Kyoko Matsushita, CEO of Essence’s Asia-Pacific region for Adweek followed immediately by a personal branding session with Melissa, an Australian television presenter making waves here in Tokyo.
Unlike years past, January and February were busy. As the snow fell in February, I hit the road to document some of the tours offered by TripAdvisor Experiences. From the sumo stables of Tokyo to the iconic slopes of Mount Fuji, the commercial project kept me busy for a few weeks and was a great way to close out the shortest month of the year.
March finally came but spring was still a way off. Temperatures remained chilly and luckily my next commissions were indoors. In March I switched to event photography mode and worked with the both the Government of South Australia and the organizers of the Tokyo Marathon.
With the pair of events completed, I packed my bags, hopped on the Shinkansen, and headed south for a commercial photography assignment. In Kyoto, I worked with EPH, a brand new boutique hotel. I collaborated with EPH's management to create a visual identity for the brand that would set a precedent for their future projects that are expected to open in other locations throughout Japan.
My time in Kyoto wasn't just limited to the interiors and exteriors of EPH. To help expose their hotel guests to Kyoto's rich cultural heritage, EPH also commission me to produce an image library for their social media channels. For a few days, I hit some of my favorite spots in Kyoto, Japan's cultural center.
As soon as the Kyoto-based project was completed, I boarded a Seoul-bound flight. It was awesome to be able to return to Seoul, the Korean megalopolis where I once lived for six years.
For this two-week trip I was happy to be shooting again for the fine folks at TripAdvisor Experiences. It was odd being back in Korea as a travel photographer. But, I enjoyed seeing many of the tourist-trail-sights with fresh eyes and with a specific task in mind.
Back in Tokyo, the spring came in with a roar. My first big project of the season was a week-long stint with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The assignment was to capture the ins and outs of MIT's Technology and Innovation Bootcamp where participants from all over the world met to discuss a range of topics. From healthcare innovation to artificial intelligence, participants were offered a series of lectures and were formed into groups to ideate solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems.
With a bit of a break before the inevitable portrait season rush, I had the chance to sit down with Japan Station, a podcast produced by Japankyo to talk about how I ended up working as a photographer in Japan. If you want to hear some extended thought pauses and me say "um" way too many times, you can listen to the episode on itunes here.
The weather began to warm and portrait photography requests began rolling in. For a few weeks, I spent most of my time shooting family portraits, personal branding sessions, pre-wedding portraiture, and proposals in and around Tokyo.
At the end of the spring portrait rush, I popped down to Kobe, Japan for the New York Times. I was tasked with an assignment for the NYT travel section shooting 36 Hours in Kobe, Japan. I have always liked the port city and was happy to spend a couple of days exploring Kobe for one of my favorite publications.
Back in Tokyo I was given the green light from my friends at TripAdvisor Experiences to photography "my Tokyo." It is always a privilege to be given free rein by a client to shoot a subject in my own style. Needless to say, I was thrilled to head out to photograph my adopted home in the way that I see it.
I again made the switch from travel to commercial photographer (though the lines between the two genres are at time blurry) and spent several days with the New Sanno Hotel to help them revamp their food and beverage program imagery. The hotel, run by the US Naval Joint Services, has six brands. It was challenging to develop an imagery plan that would stretch across each of the hotel's restaurants. But I was up for the challenge and was pleased with the content created for the New Sanno.
Next up was another commercial hotel photography project. After a successful first round with the EPH brand, I was commissioned to photograph EPH in Takayama, Japan. EPH Takayama is as amazing as the Kyoto location. More, EPH Takayama is a refreshing alternative for travelers who like new, boutique accommodation.
EPH Takayama is designed to reflect the natural environment found in Gifu Prefecture. Instead of the deep reds used to highlight EPH Kyoto, EPH Takayama uses greens and blues to calm guests. For a week, I worked with management to create advertising imagery that will help propel the hotel's business in Takayama.
After wrapping up my work in Gifu, I returned to Tokyo to tackle back-to-back editorial assignments. My first project was to photograph the reemergence of Japan's kissaten cafes for +852 Magazine and then to capture a slice of the Tokyo bar scene for Conde Nast Traveler.
Then, before the end of May, I had a short string of couples portrait shoots. I had a blast working with pairs from France, America, and Taiwan in some of my favorite locations in Tokyo.
My last project of the spring took me Bangkok, Thailand for TripAdvisor Experiences. I was given a lot of flexibility to shoot the city in any way I saw fit. From Bangkok's street food (which the metropolitan government is attempting to get rid off) to magnificent examples of Thai architecture, I had a blast on the assignment and couldn't have asked for a better way to wrap up the first half of the year.
At the beginning of June, my family and I headed to North America for a much needed break. For two months, we spent lazy days in Asheville, Chicago, and Toronto. But, just as in years past, I had the chance to get the camera out to photograph the people who mean the most to me.
Worked picked up as soon as we landed back in Tokyo in early August. First up was a week-long editorial photography assignment for CAA Magazine. The project had me out in 105 degree heat, inside Michelin Star restaurants, and sipping cocktails in one of Asia's 50 best bars. I was happy to see the issue eventually come to print (Winter 2019) and to have landed the cover/s.
Soon enough, the heat broke and another string of portrait sessions came. I crammed in several family, personal branding, and couples photography sessions and was grateful to have worked with such amazing clients.
After the portrait string, it was time to pop back to Kyoto to photograph the details of the stunning Machiya Shinsen-en. This new property is a machiya-style residence blended with a modern boutique hotel. The two sections of the property are both exquisite and are on the top of my list for chic, affordable accommodation in Kyoto.
From Kyoto, I headed back to Takayama, Japan to shoot the food and beverage program for Hids' Cafe, the restaurant adjacent to EPH Takayama (a property I photographed earlier in the year). Hids' menu is one of the finest in the sleepy town. I was delighted to help the cafe with their commercial food photography and to support the Hids' as they enter the Takayama market.
My last editorial portrait commission of the summer came from GEO Saison Magazine. I was tasked to photograph the world-famous gastronomer Charles Schumann in one of Tokyo's most iconic watering holes.
I met Charles on the 52 floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo at the New York Bar (You'll recall the space from the film Lost In Translation). While Charles and I didn't take the time to mention the film (though I did lounge in THE Bill Murray seat), we did manage to relax a bit, enjoy the views of Tokyo, and make a portrait or two.
Autumn arrived and I was glad to be rid of the heat and humidity that make summer in Tokyo less than desirable. I was ready for my favorite season and eager to be in the final stretch of the year.
My first autumn highlight was photographing Shinji Hattori, CEO of Grand Seiko (GS). Working with the Financial Times and GS, I worked quickly with Hattori-san and was happy to have the chance to drop off my grandfather's old Seiko watch for repair.
Another highlight from autumn was again for The New York Times. I headed out to cover 36 Hours in Yokohama, a piece highlighting Japan's second largest city. While Yokohama doesn't get as much attention as the nearby capital, it is stocked full of amazing experiences. Hopefully the 36 Hours piece will shed some light on the city by the bay.
Next up was a round of corporate portraiture for McKinsey and Company, a worldwide management consulting firm. My subject for the day was Tiffany Kwok, an Expert Associate Partner at the firm.
Still in portrait photography mode, I worked with David Ramis Åhfeldt, a guitar player in The Ocean (which happens to be one of my favorite bands). David needed some content to showcase his guitar, a custom-made axe crafted by Mozer Guitars. It was great to spend some time with David, help him showcase Mozer's impressive work, and chat about the state of heavy metal.
Soon enough the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicked off. While I didn't attend any of the games (I am just not a sports fan), I was invited to photograph a handful of events related to the international sporting event. I worked with Gullivers Sports Travel to capture their RWC Forum events and spent some time with Carters (a New Zealand based tool manufacturer) photographing their All Blacks (New Zealand's national team) event.
In late October I sat down with Megapolis Magazine for an interview about travel photography. I was honored to share some thoughts and images with the Ukrainian based magazine and was, admittedly, shocked to find out that the interview ended up running in six different print magazines on shelves throughout the Ukraine. If you have the interest, you can find the english language version here.
Before October's end I knocked out a quick assignment focused on Shinjuku for American Way, American Airlines' inflight magazine. The small piece highlighted five great spots in Shinjuku, one of Tokyo's most well-known neighborhoods, where one can stuff their face and/or wet their whistle.
At the beginning of November, I made my way back to the Kansai region to highlight a collaboration between tech giant Lenovo and Japanese industrial manufacturer Yanmar. The assignment was one of my favorite in 2019. It was amazing to see the scale of Yanmar's corporate and manufacturing hubs and to make some images of the folks who actually produce the company's equipment.
After returning to Tokyo, I spent five days with a wonderful group of doctors from Takeda. I was commissioned to document the pharma company's President's Club incentive tour to Japan. From Gala dinners to a behind-the-scenes look at Team Lab's (now) famous digital art exhibition, tea ceremonies in Kamakura to tours of Takeda's facilities, the assignment was filled with a variety of photography tasks.
The weather finally turned and it was again sweater weather. The end of the year was coming but I wasn't quite yet finished.
In the beginning of December I accepted one final commercial photography commission from MindValley Productions, an e-learning community based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was tasked to photograph Ken Honda, the bestselling author of Happy Money (and all around nice guy) for a finance course that will soon go live on MindValley.
To end the year, I was honored to see some of my work land on the cover of GEO Special Magazine. The issue, dedicated completely to Japan, was GEO Special's rebranding issue and I couldn't have asked for a better way to close 2019.
Without a doubt, it has been a hell of a year. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to do what I love to do here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, and beyond. But more, I am blessed to have a loving support system. I would like to publicly thank my beautiful wife Laura who has gifted me with her patience and support.
I can't wait to see what 2020 has in store. I am just as eager to share the work created in 2019 that, as of now, I am obliged to keep under wraps. Thanks so taking the time to have a look at my 2019 Year In Review.
I wish you a peaceful holiday season and a joyous transition into 2020.
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I met Carrie and Steve years ago when I was working at an international school in Japan. The Bennetts are a joy to be around. They have a great sense of humor and always seem to be in a good mood. The Bennett kids are spunky and full of life. They are those kinda people that you meet and immediately get along with.
This past spring Carrie reached out to see if the Bennetts could have a last minute family portrait session around Tama, a suburb in western Tokyo. Living in Tama is a good thing. The Bennetts are close enough to get to the city but still are far enough away from the neon glare for it to feel like they don't live in one of the world's largest cities. The Tama suburbs are where the megalopolis stops and Japan really begins. I love shooting in this area as the wabi-sabi nature of Japan comes through and the spaces aren't clogged with people and skyscrapers.
For a couple of hours, the Bennetts and I wandered the streets of Tama and even crossed into Chofu, a nearby ward of Tokyo. Since the Bennetts will soon be leaving Tokyo for other adventures, they wanted to make sure that their session focused on their neighborhood and the spots that they have frequented during their tenure in the Japanese capital.
We spent some time shooting in and around Tama station (where we were given a handslap for parking our bikes outside a local convenience store for too long) and atop the hills overlooking the Chofu airport.
To wrap up our session, we headed to Nogawa park where Tristan and Olivia had spent countless hours on the playground, riding bikes, and skipping across the lawns together as kids. Luckily, one of the Bennett's favorite sakura trees was still in bloom and we managed to capture one last family portrait of the Bennetts in Tokyo together.
I was happy to work with the Bennetts and was grateful to get the chance to photograph them before they leave Japan. In the end, I had a wonderful time with the Bennett family and couldn't have asked for a better day as a Tokyo-based family photographer.
Are you searching for a photographer to capture your family's experience here in Tokyo, throughout Japan, or beyond? If so, reach out today to find out more about my portrait session offerings or to directly book your family portrait session.
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A couple months ago, I heard from the Yokoyama family. As always, it was a pleasure getting an inquiry from a family coming to Japan for their holiday. Dorothy's inquiry gave me plenty of background information about her family, what they wanted from a family portrait session in Tokyo, and why they specifically reached out to me. She wrote:
Hey Andy! We are interested in scheduling a portrait photography session when we are in Japan visiting family this coming August. We are a family of 5 (ranges 2 to 8 yr olds) from Southern California. I am Taiwanese (born in New Mexico) and my husband was born in California. My husband and I met in college, married, and now have 3 crazy, but fun kids- 2 boys (9 yr and 5 yr) and a girl (2 yr).
My husband’s parents live in Machida. We will be coming to Tokyo to visit them and are so excited about being reunited with the good food and culture of Japan.
What drew us to your style of photography was the way you capture shots at very interesting and creative angles. Last year we had a family photo sessions in an open field at sundown. This year, we would like to do something a bit more fun and hip, modern with street scenes, and backdrops.. Just artsy.
My plan is to have my husband's parents join us for a few pictures at the end of the session as our parting gift to them. Could you tell us if you have availability and also what family photography package options you have?
It is always helpful to receive a first communication stocked with details. With a great introduction like Dorothy's, I am able to gain a sense of a client and can immediately begin to tailor a custom session.
Fast forward to August...
As expected, the Yokoyamas were a blast to work with. The kids were full of energy and, despite the oppressive summer heat, were willing participants during our 90-minute vacation photography session in Kichijoji. In the end, I couldn't have asked for better clients and was honored to spend some time with the Yokoyamas during their Japan vacation.
Are you searching for a photographer in Japan to help capture some special moments on your vacation? If so, I would be delighted to hear from you. Contact me today to learn more about my portrait services and family photography rates.
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