Cynthia Viola Photography


Photo Session Fears

Family Portraits, PersonalCynthia ViolaComment
When the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past two painful to remember learn to pay attention to right now
— Julia Cameron
Raleigh Portrait Photograhy

When thinking about a photo session, what is your biggest fear? 

I often have people say, "I'd love to update our family portraits but... 

Our smiles always seem fake...

I never know how to pose, my hands always fall weird or my shirt bulges and I look huge...

I'm afraid my kids will be crazy and we won't get any good photos making it a waste of money...

I don't want my spouse/kids to have a bad time and hate me for it...

What are we supposed to wear...

Is is really worth the cost? We take iPhone photos all the time..."

Believe me when I say I hear you. 

I'm more than a little ashamed to admit we haven't had a photo session that we didn't shoot ourselves (or with the help from a friend using our camera) since our WEDDING. That's ELEVEN YEARS without professional portraits! And I call myself a photographer. *rolls eyes*

I'm not sure what it is for me. Control maybe? I want to be able to control the outcome. I feel like my smile is weird due to a jaw surgery years ago and it makes me embarrassed to really be myself in front of the camera.

Raleigh Family Photography

I've got smiles for daaaaaays when I'm just living life and finding joy in all the moments...but if I see another camera in the room, I freeze. I become uber aware of how I'm standing, I can't take my eyes off the one with the camera, I'm constantly fidgeting trying to make sure all hairs are in place and I can't enjoy myself until I know they're done. What the heck? 

Given my profession, my fear seems totally irrational. How can I ask others to be themselves in front of my camera if I'm unwilling to do the same in front of someone else's? 

So, that's where I'm at. What about you? I'd love to help you overcome your fears and I promise I'll face my own as well. I'm hoping this year even?? A.J. and I have made it a goal to do just that. Now who to choose?? We know SOOO many great photographers! Wish me luck and feel free to send suggestions!

Let me know what holds you back and we'll see if I can help. 

Trusty Tripod. (I know the neighbors must think we're crazy)

Trusty Tripod. (I know the neighbors must think we're crazy)

The West Family Expecting! Pullen Park

Family Portraits, Maternity PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
We do not remember days, we remember moments
— Cesare Pavese

I have never had so much fun learning the gender of a new baby! Oh my goodness this joyful bunch could not be more surprised to find out that they're about to have a new little lady to brighten their lives even further. 

When Ivy said she wanted to reveal with a big box of balloons I was so happy! I love love love how children interact with balloons so I just knew Porter and Mary Elizabeth would be delighted. 

Mary Elizabeth was convinced they were going to be blue which made the rest of us think they would be too so we were all a little surprised at first then super excited! I can't wait to meet her you guys! You all have such great personalities, I know she'll fit right in and be so so loved and protected.   

Gender reveal pullen park

Heather and Adam - All Saints Chapel Wedding, Raleigh, NC

Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola4 Comments
Could never have dreamed that we’d find enough
On our very first date
— Josh Walker
All Saints Chapel Wedding

Ok, so do you want to hear the sweetest thing ever? Heather and Adam were sharing the story of how they fell in love with Adam's brother-in-law Josh and he joked that there was a song in there somewhere. After all, Adam had pursued her at her job for a long time, and their first date was at a cute little wooden playground where they ended up talking for hours through the night falling in love along the way. Then Josh actually wrote them a song about their first date and then sang it for their first dance. And I die from cuteness overload. 

All Saints Chapel, built in 1875, was just perfect for them. It has this classic and timeless feel to it due to its beauty and having Oakwood Cemetery out the front door adds an element of history that really suits their personalities. I love that not only was Heather "ok" with doing the first look in the graveyard but when I said I could make it not look like a graveyard with my angle she said she really wanted the graveyard in the photos! The coolest bride ever. 

Heather and Adam also share a mutual love of gaming. They even brought their gaming controllers to the engagement shoot which was so fun, and in his first words in his vows Adam talked about having a player number 2 for life - bringing a knowing laugher from everyone in the room and a huge smile to Heather's face. They are just a perfect match. 

I hope you guys enjoy reliving the day as much as I did! Here are a few favorites!

All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding

We all know how much I love first looks. They just make the day so seamless and allow so many emotions to be had in private with only your love. However, I am also quite partial to father-daughter first looks. Especially when they have as sweet a relationship as these two.. Oh my goodness, I was just a pile of mush after this moment. Brian was being his usual self, full of jokes and trying keep it cool, but I think it just made Heather realize she adored him that much more. Bring on the Kleenexes!

All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding
All Saints Chapel Wedding

Photography: Cynthia Viola

Venue/On-site Coordinator: Diane at All Saints Chapel

Dress: David's Bridal

Groom's attire: Men's Warehouse

Rings: Ultimate Concepts by Brad Dingler

Flowers/Coordinator:Jane at The Wedding Woman

DJ: Todd Moody

Cake: Once in a Blue Moon Bakery

Caterer: Empire Eats Catering

Rehearsal Dinner: Gravy 

Hair: Lauren Meyers Stevens

Make Up: Melinda Ewbank

Invitations: Made by groom :)

Honeymoon: Washington D.C.


Sarah Jane and Taylor - Lifepointe Church Wedding, Raleigh, NC

Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Happiness, not in another place, but this place. Not for another hour, but this hour.
— Walt Whitman

Taylor and Sarah Jane met just a couple years ago while attending church together. They both played in the band and kept running into each other at practices. They worked well together in that setting and it wasn't long before they found themselves hanging out longer after practice and later with other friends. Before they knew it, they were in love and the rest is history. 

Raleigh Fall Wedding

As their pastor, Joel, recalled during the ceremony, they had both thought of each other as opposites when they met. He thought she was a little loud and she thought he was a little quite. This was not a problem, Joel pointed out though, because as musicians they could appreciate the dynamic both forces could make in a song. Without the forte' we couldn't understand the quiet moments and without the piano we couldn't realize just how resounding the music could be. 

I love that analogy so much. Especially for them and for their story. They both wanted to incorporate music throughout the day and did so in such moving ways. Rather than a first dance they decided to offer a first song to their guests. As they took the stage the room got quite and their harmonies filled the space with their love for each other. They followed with songs dedicated to each of their parents for all the support and encouragement they've been given and finally they joined a group of their closest band friends to get everyone on their feet.

You guys! I had the best time with you this weekend! (It didn't hurt that practically all your friends are also my friends and three or my former couples were also there celebrating with you, but that's beside the point) ;) I hope the mountains are treating you well and can't wait to see you when you get back! 

Raleigh Fall Wedding
Raleigh Fall Wedding
Raleigh Fall Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding
Fall Raleigh Wedding



Photography: Cynthia Viola

Ceremony and Reception Venue: Lifepointe Church, North Raleigh

Bride's Dress & Bridesmaids' Dresses: David's Bridal 

Groom's and Groomsmens' Attire: Belk

Rings: Johnson's Jeweler's of Raleigh

Coordinator & Florals: Dave Duty

Hair and Makeup: Rebecca Ledbetter

Band: Scott Gratton, Ryan Hughes, Douug Upton, Stephen Wesner, Tad Akers, David White

Officiant: Joel Close

Cake: Joyce Ledbetter

Catering: Milton's Pizza 

Photobooth: Laugh Out Loud Photobooth 

Invitations: David's Bridal

Haley Graduating! Historic Oak View Park

Senior PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Haley is one bright, driven and charming high school senior. I can't believe I'm even saying she's a senior! (I've known her family for a few years now) Haley choose to be homeschooled for high school and due to her intelligence and motivation she'll actually be graduating a semester early! She even has the opportunity to take a CNA program at Wake Tech this fall if she wants to. I am so super impressed. 

Though she may choose something involving children or more in the field of photography, she's got everything she needs to blaze a trail. Proud of you Haley! Hope you enjoy looking through some of my favorites from this morning! 

Baby Hazel Grace, Rex Hospital

Family PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
Our legacy is our love
— Bob Goff

Oh my goodness you guys! I got to meet sweet little Hazel Grace at Rex Hospital today, she is just over 24 hours old and she already has a little personality! Her momma said she's already very direct with what she loves and what she hates and isn't afraid to let you know one way or other. My kinda girl for sure!

She definitely already has her daddy wrapped around her little finger...look at that love. I asked them what they're most excited for and they said they're still just trying to take it all in. Every moment is new and perfect. Love that. 

Eric bought her a ring with her sapphire birth stone which is just perfect. She already loves it you can tell. :)

Amber you are, of course, beaming and beautiful. I'm just so happy for you both! I know you're going to be so great at this! 

Bubbles Open a World of Possibility

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Too much of a good thing can be wonderful
— Mae West

Can I just say how much I love bubbles? On a photo adventure with a child, I can safely say, bubbles make the session better every time. 

There's just something about the dream-like state it puts a child in that opens them up to the possibilities in the space we're in, opens them to laughter, opens their eyes bright toward the sky. If you're ever wondering if you should grab a bottle for your session, you should. :)

Leaves. Leaves are also acceptable flying dream makers. 

And balloons. :)

If only we could easily retain that ability to be moved by dreams as we grow. May your day be filled with beauty and your future with bright dreams. Maybe pop open a bottle of bubbles (or bubbly if you prefer) and see if it helps you see the world a little differently today. :)

Why You Shouldn't Anticipate Their Reaction

Wedding Photography, Engagement PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Love has nothing to do with what you’re expecting to get – only what you’re expecting to give – which is everything
— Katharine Hepburn

It's not uncommon for a mom or perhaps a bridesmaid, even an officiant to pull me aside before the ceremony or first look begins and say, "Now make sure you get his reaction, I just know he is going to lose it!" I, of course, assure them I will do my best and that the moment is just going to be perfect. 

While this sentiment is meant as excitement for the couple, and nerves just make people say things because they've heard others say them; I've found in practice that it sets up both the couple and those who love them for failure or disappointment. 

If you expect your love to cry and they don't, or drop to their knees and they don't, or do a happy dance and they don't, it immediately makes you wonder if maybe you're not dazzling enough. Maybe he doesn't like the dress you chose, or she thinks your hair looks funny. Maybe they're just ready to get this part over with so they can get to the party. Maybe they're getting cold feet. In reality, maybe your love is just not a crier. Maybe instead you've rendered them speechless and all they can do is take you in. 

Might I suggest instead to have no expectations, only love.

Rather than worrying about how they're going to respond to you, focus instead on taking them in, fully. Notice the way her curls fall across her face (her stylist put in a lot of work to make that happen you know), notice that he put on your favorite cologne and breath in deeply, notice the shy look on her face as she twirls (she's a little nervous you won't like her dress), notice how he fidgets with his watch and sways back and forth (he's a nervous too, this feels like a first date after all).

When you commit to just living fully in the moment and allowing your love and your family and friends do the same, I promise the day will be more fulfilling, more surprising, more memorable. You be you and let them be them.

Live in the present and let me capture the memories. 

Annnnnnnnd the same theory applies to the proposal of course... 

And one more...can't resist. :)

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. 

Lucy Anne's First Birthday at Pullen Park

Family PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of Love.
— Mother Teresa

Before offering suggestions of places to capture our photography adventures, I like to ask my couples and families if there is any location that holds value to them that might make the session that much more meaningful. I just love that Pullen Park is dear to the Wetmores because Paul's grandpa took him there to ride the train as a child. (Don't you just love that the park is still a vital and thriving part of our park community??) 

We've now captured their gorgeous little Lucy Anne here while she was in the womb, after her christening, and today for her first birthday. It makes me so happy that she will grow up playing in such a beautiful park. 

It's a little bittersweet to post these images today; it's been so sweet having the privilege to capture her 5 times in the last year and I'm sad to see the year come to an end. Haley and Paul you've done such an amazing job so far. Both of you are never without a smile on your face and that shines through in her little face as well. If she learns nothing else, I believe she'll always know how to find the joy in life. What a beautiful gift. I cannot wait to hear about all the adventures you'll take her on. 

In the meantime, enjoy reliving this precious early sunrise in the park with your little munchkin. :)

When the world gives you a hard time Lucy Anne, you just throw this sass at it, I promise it'll back down. :)

When the world gives you a hard time Lucy Anne, you just throw this sass at it, I promise it'll back down. :)

Dreamy, Adventurous, Joyful

Family Portraits, Wedding Photography, Personal, Bridal PortraitsCynthia ViolaComment
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
— Douglas Adams
Moses Cone , Blowing Rock

Moses Cone, Blowing Rock

I have often been asked how I would describe my photography and honestly, in eight years it has probably evolved more than I have. From the type of sessions I choose to take, to the locations and time of day, to the types of filters (or lack thereof), from Photoshop to Lightroom and back again.

Taking a bird's eye view of my entire collection however, I have noticed a pattern and would like to move forward more intentionally in this way. I would love for all of my images to represent one or all of the following: dreamy, adventurous and joyful. 

Durham, NC

Durham, NC

Dreamy says to me: "I've finally found the one my heart loves and I'm ready to embark on this journey."

Adventurous brings out my inner child. I grew up in the mountains exploring hidden creeks for crawdads, four wheeling as a teen, and mountain biking and snowboarding in college. I'm not sure I could name anything I won't try at least once so I love it when photo sessions take me into new territories. Many of those territories have taught me not to go back (architecture photography for example...see my friend Sterling for that) but failures only take you one step closer to success. Many new territories, like the forest above, are everything I hope for and more.

Joyful says "There is no where else I'd rather be than right here, in this moment, with these people." It says, "For just a moment I forgot about the paper due Monday, or the laundry piling up, or the cancer, and I remembered to live."

May my life's work tell a story that brings out the good in people. A story that reminds us we are all human - the same - living one moment at a time.

Fearrington Inn , Pittsboro, NC

Fearrington Inn, Pittsboro, NC

What do you hope for in your life's work? I'd love to hear your story. 

There's A First Time for Everything!

PersonalCynthia ViolaComment
Those who don’t jump will never fly.
— Leena Ahmad Almashat

I began this year jumping out of a perfectly decent airplane with one of my little brothers and I haven't looked back since! I'm just getting started in this blogging world but it's following a season of new camera equipment, new business ventures with my love, a new pup, and a new healthy minded and active community

I'm a little scared, but I'm ready. New things are usually easy for me. I get really super excited, put a ton of work and passion into them then 4 weeks later the 'new' wears off and I'm ready to move to the next thing. I am committing to you here and now though to be a consistent and encouraging presence in this space. 

Most days I am a hot mess, but I surround myself with people who love me and they collectively hold me together. If I'm honest, my relationship with God is not what it once was, and I'm ok with that, but I'm slowly working to mend that as well, there has to be a happy balance in there somewhere. 

I want this to be a space to share the adventures of those I capture, to highlight favorite vendors I've worked with, and offer advice on how to make the wedding day a little less stressful. Because I'm an ENFP I'll very likely dive into personal struggles and triumphs as well. ;) 

To anyone who might subscribe, share, like, repost, comment or participate in this new blogging adventure in any way, THANK YOU in advance. Thank you for believing in me and for trusting me with your memories. You are the reason I am able to follow my dreams for a living and I do not take that for granted.