Category Archives: my life

Instagram is a free app for all smartphones. You may have heard of it (a while ago Facebook bought it for a billion dollars, that makes the news), but you probably aren’t using it. And you should! Here’s why:

Most people have a lot of photos on your phone. Maybe most of your child’s major life events even ( in which case PLEASE call me for a series of proper photographs). But also undoubtedly, cute every day moments that make up the majority of life. Is your phone backed up? Do you ever plug it into your computer? Download the images? Or (gasp) print any of the photos? Most of you are hiding your head in shame right now–keep reading. Instagram can solve your problems (and you don’t have to belong to Facebook to use it).

First step is downloading Instagram and picking a user name. Easy-peasy. Mine is @portraitsbylisa if you want to check out my feed. Then you can choose if you want your pictures to be public or private. You can change your mind later too. Share your handle with friends, your mom, whomever, or don’t. You can follow others, which is super fun. I personally follow tons of photographers, friends, florists, over-the-top event planners, and chefs (my other passion).

The first thing that you need to know is that Instagram’s default picture shape is square. I’ll teach you a work around for this, but if you take photos using Instagram’s built in camera, thepictures will be square. But, I highly recommend NEVER taking photos in Instagram, just use your regular camera app. You can easily import things from your camera roll into Instagram.

But, here’s the absolute beauty in using Instagram: you can post and share photos without texting your entire clan, you can back up without trying (Instagram saves your pictures), you can build galleries that combine your photos through time or from a variety of users, and, if you want to, you can easily share with Facebook. And here’s the very best part–you can print the photos! Books of pictures for your kids, just like you used to have, with almost no effort. Imagine other people album building for you. All you need is a tiny bit of forethought and organization.

How you ask? It’s pretty easy, let me give you an example:

Last year my sister had a baby. First grandchild. Long anticipated (read: begged for). She had about 9,743 photos of her taken in the first year of life. I wish I was exaggerating. Anyway, these photos were spread across many phones and folks. BUT early on we chose a hashtag for her photos. This means that anytime we put a photo on Instagram we wrote in the comments #sweetsylvieg. If you search Instagram for that tag, photos from many sources (but all of Sylvie) appear. But you don’t just have to do this for a person–you can uniquely hashtag an event (#jayneandjongethitchedMA–wedding hashtags are super common now) or a vacation (#theseidelstakemanhattan) and easily see them all together. And, when you uses hashtag enough, Instagram just lists it for you to insert.  What could be easier? Pro tip: choose a unique, not super obvious hashtag and search it first to make sure it’s not in use. Our first hashtag for Sylvie was #sweetsylvie and someone stole it (started using it too) when she was a few months old. Re-hashtagging to keep your photos separate is not fun. 

When you post a photo to Instagram, the app asks you if you want to share on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. If you have a flickr account (or want to open one), and always choose to export to flickr in addition to Instagram, then your photos will automatically be double backed up. Instagram will have a copy and so will Flickr. Then if your phone ends up in the toilet, you’ll still have access to the photos you shared on Instagram. Hooray!

And now that work around for the square crop in Instagram–the easiest thing to do, in my opinion is buy the app Pic-Tap-Go. It’s not expensive. It’s an easy editing app that accesses your photo roll and allows you to export to Instagram. One of the options for upload is full crop,showing the entire rectangle. At this time there is no way to avoid using a third party app for full frame photos in Instagram, but this might change in the future. (If you want to be really slick, you can take your photos with the regular camera on the square setting.  Viola, no cropping in Instagram.

And now for my absolute favorite part, printing. I firmly believe that a photo doesn’t really exist until it’s printed! As much as your kids love scrolling through your phone to look at photos, it won’t compare to curling up and thumbing through a book. There are several different options. The easiest one is, another one that’s very pretty is Artifact Uprising, but even Snapfish, etc have square options now for just this reason. You can ask them to send you a your entire feed–and you can subscribe and get a new book every month or quarter. Imagine this: you go on vacation, take lots of photos on your phone (as does your spouse and mother in law–although I concede that teaching them to use Instagram might be a time consuming process, but grandchildren’s photos are great motivators!).  Lots of photo takers, but the photos all have the same hashtag. Send that tag to Past Book and BOOM–instant vacation album! How’s that for technology workin’ for you?

Here are a few of my favorite Instagram photos from my own feed.



I don’t think that I’ve ever mentioned this, but I do some volunteer work that is close to my heart, especially today.   For about a decade I have volunteered with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (NILMDTS).  I am part of a group of photographers in the Boston area, on-call to take professional photographs for parents who have children who will not live long after their birth or are stillborn.  It sounds a little gruesome to some people, an unimaginable emotionally-charged situation to others, but this is how I think about it: but imagine only having a few minutes, hours, or days with your baby, immediately postpartum (in your exhausted, hormonal fog). And then never seeing that face again.  The anxiety of not remembering every detail of that sweet little person.  It is too much to bear.  No one should have to face that circumstance.  

NILMDTS speaks to the reason that I actually take photos–because we need to remember one another, we need to see love, connection, resemblance, relationship reflected back at us in images.  It isn’t a privilege, it’s something primal; it’s key to our collective public health.  We all need to be seen.  And so I want to stop on this day when we are celebrating moms and remember the scores of mothers I’ve worked with through NILMDTS who were denied a celebration with their child on this day.  They are mothers in every sense of the word.

But I won’t leave you with just a tissue and some tears.  

I want to tell you about one family I met via NILMDTS and how they will be celebrating today.  Most NILMDTS families I never hear from again.  And I’m 100% cool with that.  It’s the worst day of your life, I can imagine never wanting to see me again. But this one dad wrote me about 1.5 years after I took photos of their daughter, a baby who lived only a handful of hours after she was born.  It was one of the best emails I ever received:

Hi Lisa, My wife and I are interested in having you photograph our twins.  A boy and a girl, C & M.  They are currently 5 months old.  I’m not sure if you remember but you also photographed our daughter “C” through Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep in July, 2009.  I can’t tell you how much those pictures mean to us.  By now I must have stared at every picture you took thousands of times – and continue to do so.  There is one in particular that I still carry around with me in my pocket everyday.  Now we would love for you to photograph our twins – and, believe it or not, are thrilled that we will be paying you for your services!   I look forward to hearing from you. B

I literally cried tears of joy (I tear up writing this now, years later).  And I went to that shoot with eager anticipation and a heart bursting with happiness.  For real (you can see that shoot here).  

When we were finished with the order, I got another email from Dad:

Hi Lisa, I know that I mentioned this in the last email but I wanted to reiterate how much L and I appreciate everything you did for us.  C passed away on a Friday over two years ago and, since then, I make time on every Friday to spend some time celebrating her life – with the twins it’s been getting later and later (hence this late email).  Anyway, I was just looking over all of your photos and they are all beautiful.  They make me cry and they make me smile.  Thank you for everything.  I hope that you stay with NILMDTS. B

p.s. Full disclosure, at the time I was completely against contacting you to take pictures of C. My wife and the (wonderful) nurses talked me into it.  I just wanted to protect C and felt like having a photographer take her picture would be putting her “on a stage.”  I’ve never been more wrong.  I can’t imagine not having your pictures.  They mean a tremendous amount. You’re much, much more than a photographer – you’ve helped us memorialize the beauty of our daughter.  I just thought, on this Friday, it would be nice to remind you of that.  Thank you.

BUT this post is not about me–but how important photos are… I honestly think of this family all the time.  Sometimes when the NILMDTS calls come in fast and furious, when I am in the deep end with editing, or shoots are needed at times that are just terrible for me, I have been inspired to just go by the thoughts of these guys and the knowledge of what the pictures had meant to their family.  And, in keeping with the lovely people that they are, they gave a donation to the organization in my honor this winter.  I emailed to thank them.  I asked for a photo of the now 3+ year old twins and inquired how things were going.  Well imagine my surprise when I got this response:

Hi Lisa,
Great to hear from you. L and I are doing well. The twins are a little over three years old. They will be three and a half this summer. And we have more on the way. Believe it or not, we are expecting triplets in March. A set of identical twins and a third. Quite a surprise to us as you can expect. Once we get settled we will certainly call on your services to help preserve more memories of our family.
Also, it is Friday afternoon and every Friday afternoon I make time to look at all the pictures you took of C. They continue to be as beautiful and moving as the time we first saw them. We can never thank you enough and a donation to NILMDTS is the very least we can do.
Thank you once again and continue to do the great work that you do.
OMG!!  Three more little ones.  From a first birth ending in devastation, these guys still welcomed the large family they always dreamed about (maybe even a little larger than they dreamed!).  I am in awe of the courage they have shown in moving forward through the next pregnancies and births after that first agony. And to have the joy of a family of 7!  I immediately asked to take photos.  Dad let me know the day that the three GIRLS arrived and I waited until they were all released before racing over to see what life is like with toddler twins and three infants.  It’s chaotic and awesome.  And they handle it with grace and gratitude and a lot of helping hands.  We joked about how they are not leaving the house as a family for 5 years and about how amazing it was telling people that there were triplets on the way.  And we gazed at those baby parts and marveled about how recently those six hands and feet–all those knees and elbows–had been inside their mama.  
And I asked if I could share their story with all of you and they quickly agreed.  If their journey could help one person they wanted it out there for everyone.  It’s my honor to introduce you to the triplets and their big brother and sister.  We’ll be seeing more of them as they grow this year.  I can hardly wait.  This is why I take photos. This is why you need photos.  These pictures are for these five babies, so that the triplets can see how the twins smiled at them, could not keep their hands off them.  So Mom can remember anything about their infancy in her haze of keeping it all running smoothly.  So that there is a record. 

I cannot believe that this month is over!  I have so many more favorites to share.  I will have to do this again soon to get those out there.

This photo says so much about being a toddler, about being a parent, about size and scale and being small.  Don’t you just want to hug him?

This family has been seeing me for three years–as with many families there are so many I could choose from, but I do love this one.  I think that it’s the twinkle in her eye.


A new baby sister.  Lots of adoration.  The kind of image I imagine this little girl holding dear decades from now.  And probably the older brother too.


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