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 - Closing Attorney - Jonathan Anderson

PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment

This week I'm continuing the community series in order to better help our couples navigate their new life together. In case you've missed them, first I spoke with Matt Polinchak about real estate and hurdles to overcome when choosing your first home. Dan Stanton talked about important steps when it comes to your mortgage loan, William Moore advised couples to have financial conversations up front to make sure any expectations are discussed and a plan is put into place to achieve your goals. 

Jonathan Anderson Closing Attorney

Today Jonathan Anderson with City of Oaks Law will be answering a few questions as they pertain to your closing attorney and the legal work involved in purchasing your first home. 

As many of our newlyweds are navigating the world of home ownership, they are discovering just how many steps are involved in the process. So, once they've gotten their home under contract, what's next?

The closing attorney is the next step. Your real estate agent and lender will have recommendations for you. It is your right to choose, so be sure to vet and feel comfortable with the closing attorney that you pick. They are the last line of defense in ensuring the integrity of your transaction.

What exactly does a closing attorney do?

The closing attorney is responsible for searching the title to the property, obtaining title insurance, preparation of closing documents, handling the signatures, recording, and disbursing funds. This list is not comprehensive, but gives you an idea of some of the important tasks that the closing attorney handles for you.

At what point in the process should the couple meet with the attorney?

In some transactions, you may meet the attorney only at the signing ceremony. However, you are welcome to reach out to us at any phase of the transaction for advice on contract negotiations, disputes, and understanding your legal rights and duties.

Some lenders say they will send a notary to the house and that you do not need an attorney, is this true?

This is not a good idea. Only North Carolina attorneys can certify title to North Carolina property. Also, if there is an issue, it may not be discovered until you sell your home, and you want to have an attorney's office that you can rely on to correct the issue. Attorneys' are licensed and insured, and the notary that comes to your house, while convenient, does not have the same skill and care that an attorney will provide.  Additionally, our attorneys are mobile and we do offer in home closings if that is your preference.

Jonathan Anderson Closing Attorney

What other services do you provide?

We do estate planning. Often times when you purchase real estate, major life changes are happening. It is a good time to have your estate planning documents reviewed. We review estate planning documents for homebuyers for a nominal fee. Often no revision is necessary, other times, it makes sense to revise your estate plan at this time.

Why do you love what you do?

I love what I do because I get to work on complex transactions that require extreme diligence, particular skills, and a human touch.

Jon has become a great friend over the past several months and I highly recommend him for all your housing related attorney needs. (He also offers other services of course). He is super friendly and approachable, won't talk over your head about all the legal jargon and will make sure everything you need is taken care of. You can contact him here. 

Jonathan Anderson Closing Attorney

Community Series - Financial Advisor - William Moore

PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
— Carl Bard

A.J. and I are doing pre-marital counseling with one of our couples right now and we just finished our week on finance. When you first get married there are so many things to consider and so many things you can potentially disagree on. There are separate bank accounts that may (or may not) need to be merged. There may be a home to buy, or two homes to merge. There's furniture and pets and vacations and paying off the wedding and student loans and credit card debt and it can all be too much for some couples to cope with at the beginning. Pre-marital counseling is super helpful for this, it gives you a guide to just help you get on the same page, but it is no replacement for a financial advisor. 

Having someone who knows the ins and outs of the system who can guide you toward a budget and a good plan to keep you on track will be invaluable as you figure out this new adventure together. William's 15 years of experience is perfect for this. He doesn't talk over your head, he makes sure he has all the facts, then helps you find a plan that is good for you.

Sometimes it's hard to know what or who to ask tough questions. So, continuing the community series this week, I asked him a few questions to get the conversation started for some of our couples.  

William Moore Financial Advisor

What type of financial pitfalls do newlywed couples come across when they're just starting out?

There are an abundance of pitfalls out there for newlywed couples when it comes to finances but I would say not discussing your individual financial histories would be at the top of the list. Knowing the financial history of someone can tell you a lot about the type of person they are. Differences in finances are the leading reason why married people get divorced so it is important to be on the same page early on in the marriage.

What are some steps they can take to make sure that doesn't happen?

Lay it all on the table early on.  Open communication with your spouse about finances is extremely important.  It is unlikely that you will have the same exact beliefs about your finances as your spouse.  But that is normal.  The important thing to remember here is that you must talk openly about the differences with each other and be ready to compromise.  I’ve seen many happily married couples that had completely different views on how to handle their finances. Understanding and respecting your differences, along with being able to compromise is key.

What is it that a financial advisor can do to help them? 

After you have laid it all on the table and you have a glimpse of everything you have, you look at your spouse and say “Ok, here’s everything. Now what?” Knowing what you have in terms of debt and assets is only the beginning stage. That is usually when the real questions start. What are our financial goals?  Do we pay off this debt or that debt? How much do we need for an emergency fund? How do we establish a budget?  What about retirement? What about kids?

As a financial advisor, I help you ask the questions that you haven’t thought of, and then create an action plan to get you started on the right track.  Once you are on your way I work with my clients to help monitor their progress and adjust the plan as necessary.  

What should a couple prepare before even considering purchasing their first home? 

That’s a great question, and keep in mind that every couple has different backgrounds when it comes to finances.  I would say however that it is important not to over extend yourself.  When you apply for a mortgage they will come up with a number that is your max purchase price.  That number however does not include certain details about your spending habits, or retirement wishes, or bills that you have that do not show up on your credit report.  Before going out and buying the most expense house you can, make sure that you can comfortably afford the payment.

What makes you love what you do and come back to it week after week?

All of my clients are unique.  They all have different histories, and different values that are important to them.  They all have different goals with their lives and are all educated in some field that I am not.  I am constantly learning just as much from them as they are from me. Every client has their own challenges and different obstacles to overcome.  My job is a not a cookie cutter job and love that I get to solve some new problem every day.

Any other words of wisdom for newlyweds?

Yes!  Start saving for retirement early!  The more you can save early on the less you will have to save later.  I know that it may not feel like it now but this is the time in your life when you will have the most flexibility with your finances.  As you grow and mature you will find that in most cases your expenses will go up.  Just ask anyone with kids!


If you have any questions about anything please contact William! He loves what he does and he loves helping people get on the right track!

William Moore Financial Advisor


Disclosures: WM Financial is not affiliated with Cynthia Viola Photography. Third party

posts or comments on this interview do not reflect the views of the firm and have not

been reviewed by the firm.

WM Financial is affiliated with Capital Investment Advisory Services, LLC

Securities offered through Capital Investment Group, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC

100 E Six Forks Rd Ste 200. Raleigh, NC 27609 (919) 831-2370

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. 

Community Series - Real Estate - Matt Polinchak

PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment

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 first in the community series is none other than Matt Polinchak from Live Raleigh Realty. I met Matt almost 2 years ago when I was still baking at BREW Coffee Bar and we became instant friends. I wasn't able to learn about his business without immediately discovering his love for the community and desire to help people who are dealing with life transitions. He told me about how hard it can be for young couples to transition out of their apartments (or parents homes) into a new home with their new spouse and about what he does to ensure a smooth transition. 

Matt really cares for the people he works with and does his best to help them make the best decisions for them. I wish he'd been around when A.J. and I bought our first house at 21 years old, still in undergrad. He would have told us it was a terrible decision and for our lifestyle and uncertain future, renting would have been better. Alas, we made some poor choices due to peer pressure and have since dealt with the consequences, but I know Matt and so many other great friends in the community will be there for us when we're ready to make that decision again. In the meantime, here's a few questions I asked him to help you navigate this part of your journey. 

Matt Polinchak Live Raleigh Realty

Q. Before we get started, what makes you love real estate so much?

A. I just really love helping people. I have been a REALTOR for over 6 years now, but before that, I used to be a 3rd Grade teacher here in Downtown Raleigh.  I try to serve my clients with the heart of a teacher and one who is looking out for my client's best interest, not my own. Buying a home can be stressful and so it's important to educate and break down the buying process for each of my clients, one step at a time. By breaking it down, the process is much easier to digest. They are about to make one of the most important decisions of their life and I get to be part of the process. How awesome is that!?!

Q. Do you suggest a newlywed couple rent or buy their first home? 

 A. That's such a hard question because every couple is different. Each couple has their own personal, financial, and lifestyle goals, as well as determining their current financial situation. Some couples like to find a home first to plant roots and then get engaged or married later. Some prefer to wait until after they are married and start off renting. There really isn't one right answer. The most important thing any couple can do though is communicate and make the time to discuss any thoughts, ideas or questions they may have.

Q. So what discussions and questions should couples have before making the decision to buy or rent?

A. Just like a planning a wedding, I feel that it's so important to communicate financial, personal and lifestyle goals. Purchasing a home is a big decision and you both need to be on the same page. If one person is committed to the process and the other is not, that can be very frustrating and stressful for everyone. Here are just some of the important questions couples should discuss: What do our finances look like? Is it cheaper to rent/buy? How does purchasing a home affect our lifestyle? How important is location to us? What's important to you/us with our 1st home? If you decide to rent, how can we put together a plan to save money and on the flip side, if we decide to purchase, do we have enough money saved for the down payment and other fees involved? How long do we plan on renting or if we decide to buy a home, how long do we anticipate living in that home? There are some who never want to purchase a home and that's okay too.

Q. Once making the decision to move forward and buy, what's the first thing the couple should do to start the process?

A. The first thing I do to help potential clients is sit down with them and provide to them a Buyer Consultation. We talk about their goals: Both financial and lifestyle, to make sure we are all on the same page. We go over their Wants/Needs List for the home they hope to purchase. Then I talk to them about what the process looks like moving forward, including any up front costs involved, when they go under contract on a home. Lastly, we go over expectations we may have for each other. I think that last part gets overlooked the most. Expectations are so important and should be communicated early and often. The buying process is about YOU and YOUR wants and needs. It's not about me.

Q. After meeting with you for the consultation, what do you encourage couples to do next?

A. If they haven't talked to a mortgage lender yet, that is the most important thing to do. In order to purchase a home, a seller is going to want to know if you have been pre-qualified by a lender. Getting pre-qualified is so important because it not only helps you understand the process better, but you can also ask them any questions about different loan programs and what your mortgage payment will be at a certain price point, which is very helpful. You don't want to waste time looking at homes you cannot afford because they can be deflating and at the same time, a lot of people are surprised they can afford more than what they originally thought. 

If they have already been pre-qualified, then comes the fun part- If they are ready, we get to start looking at homes!

Q. What are the biggest hurdles couples come across when looking for a home?

A. I think the initial discussions are the most challenging. You have two people coming together with possibly different views on what's important regarding finances/money, details of a home, location, etc. and so naturally it can be difficult at first. Each person also has a different comfort level when it comes to making important or financial decisions. However, it's better to have those conversations before and throughout the process.

We are also in a very strong real estate market here in the Triangle and it can be competitive. Buyers are having to compete with other buyers over homes. That's why it's so crucial discussing expectations with your real estate agent or when you're interviewing one, to find out what's currently happening and what to expect regarding the real estate market in particular to their wants/needs

As you can see, Matt really cares for this community and wants nothing more than to see the people in it thrive and fall deeply in love with their city. If you're considering buying a home, you should definitely give him a call, he'll be happy to help you work through the process! 

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.