Cynthia Viola Photography


Love for my LGBTQ Friends

Portraits, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Creativity is born of risk and refined from failure... This is the courage of the artisan - to know ourselves and be true to that knowledge. The artisan rejects all that makes us false and takes the huge risk of being true... There is no riskier way of life than the artisan way. Anything less is just existing
— Erwin McManus
Lesbian Wedding with flower girl

At the beginning of the year, as I was moving to Florida, I posted a blog about things I'd learned living in North Carolina. One of those things was the beauty of the LGBTQ community.

They'd taught me so much through the years and I'd wanted to give back. I vowed to give away a portrait session, or $500 off a booked wedding to one couple every month in 2018. I've posted several of them here already and some I'm sorry to say I was unable to post due to job constraints and some still having to live in fear of persecution. That said, I thought it would be fun to recap as best I could in a final post, to show the love that flows through us all equally. I'm so incredibly grateful for so many new friends. 

And yes I realize there are more than 12 couples here, so sue me ;)

In January, I met up with Joshua and Daniel on a trip back to NC, they met me downtown in the brightest colors I've ever seen and we had an absolute blast. 

Gay Couple Shoot in Downtown Raleigh

In February I attended a Rainbow Wedding Expo in St. Augustine where I was able to meet several new couples, fueling the following months, but I headed back to NC again in the cold and rain to capture Becca and Katie at their home with little Vivi. They made me breakfast and we talked for hours. I adore them. 

Photo shoot with Lesbian couple and daughter

As a bonus, I got to spend some time with them again in the fall after they moved to their new home in Charlotte!

LGBTQ Family of 3

Two different March couples fell through multiple times, so I planned to catch back up with them later in the year. April involved a couple I love and have known for years, we'll call them Steve and Dave; they came to St. Augustine to visit and stayed with us for a night, taking us to dinner and everything, it was so great to catch up. Unfortunately, Steve's job is yet unaware of his orientation and he would likely be let go. Ergo I won't be posting them here. Suffice it to say, that they are both incredible human beings who have done immense good in the world. 

May's shoot actually fell through as well, as Florida went through several torrential downpours, one actually resulting in massive hail damage and a neighbor's house catching fire from a lightening strike! So the May one will show up shortly as well. May did consist of Tiffany and Carlie's 5 year anniversary, that was not actually a part of the giveaway, but you should definitely go see all their cuteness anyway.  

June introduced me to Sam and Jess, who met up with me at the St. Augustine Pier, then afterwards took me to breakfast where we discussed relationships and faith and change. It was beautiful. 

LGBTQ Engagement Session

In June I was also able to make up for one of the earlier reschedules in one of the most fun photo shoots of my life. I had shot Anse and Allie's proposal, engagement and wedding last year and for their anniversary they thought it would be fun to go camping and capture all the fun in that setting. I was SO excited! We met up at a Roan Mountain State Park campsite, and I just captured everything from building the fire to roasting s'mores to snuggling in a hammock. It was glorious. 

Camping photo shoot

In July I drove up to Myrtle Beach, SC to capture the birthday party of an old friend and while there had the pleasure of capturing Sherry and Becky again! I'd shot their courthouse wedding three years ago and it was just a couple weeks shy of their anniversary! 

As and added bonus at the birthday weekend, I got to meet so many new friends and capture their beautiful relationships as well. :) This is Lisa and Jeannie, Tomi and Angie, who were all about adventuring with me on the beach for some portraits.

In August, while I was in Asheville to race the Spartan Super, I met up with Cindy and Marianne, who run the Rainbow Wedding Expo. We were able to get some fun anniversary and family photos in the Botanical Gardens. 

Asheville Botanical Gardens LGBTQ photo shoot

Fun fact: they both planned a secret proposal to each other years earlier on the same day! They knew it was meant to be when they both showed up with a ring! They were on a bridge together and wanted to recreate the moment at the shoot. So fun!

 In September I was busy moving back to NC and Hiking the Appalachian Trail, but I more than made up for it in the fall.

October is wedding month and as such, I was able to shoot Christy and Tina's big day as well as Jeff and Jeff’s. They had a fun-filled days surrounded by so many of their beautiful friends (who I’ve also included, because I can) ;)

LGBTQ farm wedding
LGBTQ wedding
LGBTQ couples

Additionally, while shooting Jessica and Jeff’s wedding this summer, I met and fell in love with the adorable relationship between Ryan and Henry. I loved they way they danced and generally interacted with each other and everyone around them. We caught up on Facebook afterward and I asked if they’d be interested in a shoot. Their 5 year anniversary was coming up so they were all for it. They even took me out for tacos and tequila after! So much fun!

LGBTQ couple downtown raleigh

In November Sandra and Caitlin married in Saint Augustine and I was able to capture them afterwards at Washington Oaks Garden with their little Mari who stole my heart instantly. She loved them both so much and loved helping me find the best spots to pose them.

LGBTQ wedding at washington oaks garden

When April, one of my former students contacted me to say she was interested in a shoot, I was of course, all about it, but when she said she needed to clarify and make sure it was ok that it was an engagement shoot…with another woman, I was simply heartbroken. That she had to clarify with me tells me I have a lot of work to do still, and that she had to clarify at all means we all have a lot of work to do. If people are not free to be themselves 100% of the time the rest of us suffer because of it. The world needs people who think outside the box as well as those comfortable inside it. We need every race, every gender, every background, every experience, every story.

April and Reese were supposed to meet up with me in Asheville this weekend but it didn’t work out, so I’ll have to share their story next year, in the meantime, here’s a few other couples along the way at family gatherings and paid shoots and weddings who I can’t help but thrown into the mix, if for no other reason than to show just how many unique and beautiful people there are in the world and that love knows no bounds.

LGBTQ couple portraits

I received a bit of push back from my own family and former clients who did not approve of this endeavor in the beginning. I lost a few relationships, and a few clients but what I've gained is immeasurable love and acceptance from a community I adore with my whole heart. I wouldn't change the decision for anything in the world. I hope that this small offering can help others take off blinders and see only love.

I am grateful to everyone who has been patient with my own journey through the years and who has helped formed my current world view. May we all continue to grow in love and welcome people different from ourselves into our lives. Allowing our hearts to love bigger, deeper, stronger and wider will never shrink who we are or pull us into darkness. It will serve instead to propel us forward into the light where we all see our mutual flaws and idiosyncrasies and stand united on common ground.

To dare - is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare - is to lose oneself
— Soren Kierkegaard

Gabby and Daniel in Downtown St Augustine

PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was about to begin!
— Winnie the Pooh
Couple photos in St. Augustine

Daniel and Gabby met while jet skiing on the lake near their homes in Mooresville and have been nearly inseparable ever since. Everyone in my family loves to pick on Daniel because he spends so much time with her in Boone, but nothing in the world makes me happier than seeing my brother smile so big every time they're together. 

I have been bouncing up and down for weeks knowing they were coming to visit! Spending the week with them down here in St. Augustine has been so much fun as we've explored, laughed about old stories and created a few new ones (like the cops we *might have dipped out on as they were coming to ask us questions) ;)

We intended to walk around the Old Fort for these photos but there were SO many people in downtown St. Augustine that we couldn't park anywhere near it. We ended up just walking around a parking deck, chasing the light around every corner and trying not to get hit by flying cannons as The Reenactment of Searle's Sack and Encampment happened around us (the apparent reason for so many people).

You guys I couldn't be more excited that you're here, can't wait to see what other adventures we find!

Couple photos in St. Augustine
Couple photos in St. Augustine
Couple photos in St. Augustine
Couple photos in St. Augustine
Couple photos in St. Augustine

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy: When I met my bothers and Beth and Sean's Couple Session

Community Series - Mortgage - Dan Stanton

PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Go as far as you can see. When you get there you’ll be able to see farther.
— J.P. Morgan

As a way to better serve our couples and families, over the next few months I will be highlighting and interviewing a few of our favorite people in the community who directly impact the new life of a young couple or family. I want to ask them why they love what they do, some tips for couples navigating this new territory and pitfalls that can be avoided. 

The next in the community series is Dan the Mortgage Man as he is so affectionally called by his friends and peers. Dan has been writing Mortgage loans for 14 years and is exceptionally great at helping people navigate the processes and paperwork involved in purchasing their first home. Originally in the real estate world, he hadn't planned to go down this road but after some crazy circumstances and a friend taking a chance on him, he accepted the role and hasn't turned back since. He's so passionate about it, he makes sure to handle every client himself and goes above and beyond to make sure his clients get exactly what they need. 

Two weeks ago we talked to Matt Polinchak with Live Raleigh Realty to see what was involved with choosing a home, but once a couple is ready to purchase, what do they need to do first?

The first thing they need to do is to get prequalified by a good reputable loan officer.

There are a lot of terms out there I don't quite understand, what's the difference between a mortgage broker, loan officer and mortgage lender? And which are you? 

I am a Correspondent Lender. This means we have many outlets of final investors including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to sell our mortgages to but all of the underwriting, processing and closing is done with our team right here in the Lake Boone office. We close the loan in our name and sell the loans to final investor or directly to Fannie and Freddie.

A broker can broker loans out to different final investors but with each investor the loan has to be underwritten and closed by their team. So you are subjected to their rules and their team and do not develop a personal relationship with them because you can broker to a ton of lenders with tons of people to work on your loan.

With my company I actually meet with the underwriters face to face to solve problems and develop a relationship with them. I have the same underwriters and closers over and over again.

Do you think it's better for a newly wed couple to purchase a home in their first year or is it better to rent?

It definitely depends on each particular situation but the monthly payment is usually less than it would cost to rent and the interest paid over the year is tax deductible

What are you looking for when you decide whether or not you can write them a loan and for how much? 

Credit score, how much monthly income and debt they have and how much money they have saved up to put down. Now there are also 100% financing, low down payment and down payment assistance options available for qualified borrowers

Is there anything a couple should do to get their credit cleaned up before contacting you?

They should not open up any new accounts that report to the credit reporting agencies 120 days before applying. Any new accounts can hurt the credit score for 120 days after opening it because it is built into the scoring model to make sure they have a good payment history of the account. They should not be late on any payments and they should not cosign for anyone because they are ultimately responsible for the payment

After you've approved them, what do they need to do next? 

After the loan is submitted to processing the next item on their checklist for a purchase is to get an insurance quote and home inspection scheduled

Can you tell me more about refinancing a loan? At what point down the road is this recommended? 

You should refinance if you are saving enough money each month to justify the closing costs of having to do the refinance removing mortgage insurance or lowering the term which increase the amount of principle paid each month and lowers the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.

So what makes you come back to this work everyday? Why do you love helping people get loans for their homes?

I am a people person and enjoy working and getting to know my buyers. For most people a home is the most expensive thing they will ever buy so the whole process can be very stressful. I have been doing this long enough that I can effectively streamline the entire process from start to finish and eliminate most of the stress of the home buying process. I educate them up front of what to expect and communicate exactly what we will need during the process so there are very few surprises along the way. I enjoy delivering the folks to the finish line with an on time closing.  I also enjoy when folks get to the closing table and say  "I have to say I have heard nightmare stories about the home buying experience, this process was not bad at all and you guys made it easy from start to finish, THANKS!”

Dan the Mortgage Man

Love that. Dan is such a great guy. I promise he will take great care of you once you're ready to navigate this next big step in your life adventures! Contact him here even if you just have a few questions, he'll be glad to help. 

Juan Carlos of The Modern Portrait Studio

PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known
— Carl Sagan

I must say, the ultimate complement is when another photographer asks you to take their portraits.

Wake Forest Portrait Photographer

I met Juan Carlos a couple months ago and we became instant friends. He is just one of the greatest guys you'll ever meet. He's overwhelmingly generous in his affirmations of other people, he has a bright outlook on life and an infectious smile. He was born to adventure and dream and take his family on wild expeditions like deep sea diving and swimming with dolphins. When he said he wanted to include paddle boarding as part of the session I knew it would be a perfect fit for his personality. 

He started The Modern Portrait Studio when film was still the primary means of professional photography, and honestly, I cannot even imagine. Not only was he great at film but he quickly adjusted when digital became primary and he had to also learn the computer and photoshop etc. He's quick at adapting to anything new and will forever be great in his field. So glad we were able to connect. Here's a few of my favorites from the day. 

Wake Forest Portrait Photographer
Wake Forest Reservior Photo

Daniel, Downtown Charlotte

PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough
— Ellen Johnson

This one.

When your brother has all the makings of a model, you go out of your way to help make that a reality. Even if you aren't a fashion photographer. Even if you don't know the first thing about modeling. Even if you're terrified. I'm not sure what the exact process looks like, but I know you start with a pretty face and add some head shots. Check. Perhaps someone in my vast network of friends can help with the rest? I'm lookin at you Sam. And Nick. And Lauren... 

Charlotte was the perfect setting of course, full of alleys and decks and bridges to work with and like with everything Daniel does, (literally...everything) he's just a natural. It didn't matter that I cracked up every other minute or so (I mean this is my little brother we're talking about) he was a total rock star, as professional as they come. I cannot wait to see where this adventure lands him.

It didn't hurt that Chris joined us either. The most joyful and fun-loving guy you'll ever meet, he set us both at ease and made the whole adventure so much fun! (of course I had to sneak in a couple head shots with him too).

Daniel, I'm so proud of you for taking a risk and putting yourself out there. No matter where the road leads from here, it's sure to be filled with amazing stories and new friends and experiences that will change you forever. Always in your corner...Sis. :)

Meagan the Herbalist

PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart’s dreams. The truth is, it is difficult to avoid walking through the many doors that will open
— Julia cameron

Time paused for a moment during my long curvy ride through the Tennessee Mountains this weekend. With such breathtaking views and fresh mountain air, it's not hard to see why a couple would choose to raise their kids here, away from all the noise. 

It is here that I met Meagan. And can I just say, Meagan is awesome. She's a registered nurse, family herbalist, mom of 4 boys and a homeschool teacher. In addition to all that she manages a blog about all of these things. I've met a lot of incredible people in my life and that list just got longer this weekend. She had a vision for what she wanted in life and hasn't stopped working hard to make it happen. 

If you ever have any herbal needs or questions, you really should check her out. I learned so many things simply chatting with her as we explored her forest. For example, did you know that jewelweed is a remedy for poison ivy?? That would have been good to know when AJ was hospitalized for it a couple years ago. 

Anyway, thank for you introducing me to your world and beautiful family Meagan! Hope you enjoy seeing it through my eyes. :)

8 Tips on What to Wear for a Portrait Session

Family Portraits, Portraits, Engagement PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment

What do you wear when you want your engagement or family session to represent your personalities but also be beautiful but also comfortable but also.... 

It can be a little daunting trying to choose the outfits that will represent you in your home, on Facebook, in your grandma's living room for feasibly the rest of your life. Seriously my mom keeps these ridiculous 14x16inch glamor shots of me at EIGHT years old, front and center in the living room. Think 90s poof hair with 90s poof shoulder pads and MAGENTA. Omg. 

Nobody wants to end up on the cover of Awkward Family Photos. I am no fashionista, but I'm here to help. I have shot hundreds of family and engagement sessions and I've seen all the things.

1. First and foremost. Don't feel like you have to do any of these things or anything you've seen on Pinterest. I would rather you be YOU 100% of the time because you'll be more comfortable, and that will produce genuine smiles. 

2. Your colors don't have to match (everyone wearing the same thing) in order to look nice together. Variety actually brings out individual personalities and helps everyone feel more comfortable "in their own skin." 

3. I am personally a huge fan of solids because it distracts less from your pretty faces, that said, throwing in a pattern or two is nice to break it up. 

4. If you're going to wear two outfits, one dressy and one casual for example, it's nice to have both sets of outfits coordinate (as if all the outfits were in the same photo at the same time) so that when you make prints and hang them on your wall later they will match. 

5. I wouldn't argue too long with your child if they really want to wear something different or hold their favorite toy in every photo, happy smiles win out over matching outfits every time. 

6. Nothing looks better in a photograph than bold color. While you may want to use mostly neutrals like grey/tan/brown/white, throwing in a colorful accessory or shoes will add life to the image. 

7. Don't over think it! If you want to buy a new outfit for the occasion you are certainly more than welcome to, that can make the session fun. However, I've found simplicity to quite beautiful, relaxed and natural.

8. If you're willing, I may guide you into a seated or laying position on the ground. Depending on how the session is going and if your attire allows for it, so keep this in mind when choosing your outfits if this is a direction you would like for your session.  

Above all else, just plan to have fun. We will play around with different ideas and explore different areas. 98.5% of the people I work with are not professionally trained models with fashion stylists living in their closets, they're just everyday people with a wide range of personalities and stories to tell. Just bring yourself, prepared to live in the moment and I'll worry about the rest.