Cynthia Viola Photography

roan mountain

The Tapio Family at Jubilee Gardens

Family PortraitsCynthia Viola2 Comments
What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. Scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.
— Joseph Addison

It's always such a treat so see AnnaMarie and Brian. We have been friends for so long (their first date was actually at our wedding almost 12 years ago). We lived with them for a minute in Banner Elk (and may or may not have caught their oven on fire and flooded their living room with the dishwasher). And just a couple years later they moved to Raleigh and we were roommates again! 

We've had more late night conversations than I can remember, shared road trips, dreams and toothpaste. Getting to witness them follow their dreams with a home in Roan Mountain plus two sweet kiddos has been such a joy.

When a quick family session while I was in the area turned into a sleepover, no one was surprised. It might have even involved bourbon, homemade jerky and having my hair styled by Zoe.  ;) We've all got a few dreams in store for the future and I'm just grateful I know we'll be friends through all of it. 

When they said they knew of an iris field I was sure they meant just a small back yard with a half dozen flowers. I never dreamed his parents actually owned a nursery! It's SO beautiful. Here's a few images from our session at Jubilee Gardens.

Best of 2016 Weddings and Engagements

Engagement Portraits, Wedding PhotographyCynthia Viola2 Comments
What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.
— George Eliot
Engagement photos roan mountain

After racing through the busiest season of my career followed by an intense family roller coaster of love, pain, joy, sorrow, death and new life, I am actually pretty excited to coast into this first week of the new year with little more to do than reflect on what has been good, what needs improvement and dream of all that might be in 2017. 

A.J. and I have had the incredible joy of meeting new couples whose love overflows for each other and makes our own love stronger from witnessing it. It never gets old. This will be my tenth year capturing love and memories for couples, and the lover-of-new-things within me thought I'd be tired of it by now.  But I can say with all the honesty I possess, I cannot get enough. 

When Jon teared up watching his beloved Abbie walk toward him in all her radiance, my heart exploded and I loved them both even more. When Heather and her dad, Bryan, shared a father-daughter first look through tears, light teasing and perfect joy I could barely see through my own tears to even capture the moment. When Alaria and Drew found themselves at the very end of the night surrounded by all their beloved friends whom they rarely got to see due to distance and the trajectory of their future I burst with happiness for them.

Watching our couples revel in each moment and knowing that they trusted us to capture each one for a lifetime of joyful memories brings me more joy than I know how to put properly into words. I'm excited to see who is going to walk into our path this year and to hear all the love stories that will undoubtedly make our own love continue to grow. 

Thank you for an incredible year!

Engagement Photos Beech Mountain
Engagement photos fisher farm park
Engagement photos beech mountain
The Oaks at Salem Wedding

Preparing for Your Engagement Session

Engagement Portraits, Wedding PhotographyCynthia ViolaComment
Love doesn’t make the world go ‘round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile
— Franklin P. Jones

The first thing to remember as you arrive for your engagement session is that this is supposed to be fun! We'll have plenty of pressure from timelines and schedules on the wedding day, no need to be stressed now. These sessions usually take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on how far we walk around and how many outfits you have etc. But if we knock it out in 45 minutes that's totally fine, if we need an extra 30 it's totally fine. Just be prepared to roll with it. 

This is our chance to get to know each other well before the big day so that we're both comfortable when we do have the time crunch. Feel free to ask as many questions as you like and know that I'll do the same. When you learn how I work and the types of poses I'm likely to move you into, it'll make you a pro on the wedding day. It also gives me a chance to see how you two interact together. If you don't enjoy kissing in public, or prefer not to sit on the ground, it's better for me to find out at this session rather than when I ask you to do so on the big day. :)

1. When to plan your session. Time of year is totally up to you, though, if you book your wedding out far enough, a lot of couples like to choose the opposite season of their big day. If you have a fall wedding then a spring engagement etc. Regardless of what month you choose, we will always, only shoot at either sunrise or about 2 hours before sunset. This ensures golden light that will make all your images dreamy and romantic. 

2. Outfits: Most couples choose 2 outfits, one casual to start and one dressier as you get more comfortable with the whole flow of the session. Once you've gotten used to the idea of a camera in your face, you'll warm up to the more romantic poses. That said, if you prefer one outfit or three, I'm perfectly ok with that. You can see my post HERE to see ways to coordinate them.

3. Location. I always recommend choosing a location that is important to you if possible. A family farm offers legacy, the place where you actually got engaged or had your first date can be a great way to capture that memory, or just a place that you find beautiful can ensure beautiful backdrops for when you print them for your home. If you can't think of any places like that, or you're not from the area where we'll be shooting, have no fear, I have a long list of places that are wonderful and I'm happy to check out a spot in advance if I'm unfamiliar with it.

4. Trust me. I certainly do not expect you to be a professional model. I will guide you when you need it and give you the freedom to be yourselves as often as you let me. I have hundreds of posing ideas floating around up there and am perfectly happy guiding you into them, I also really love letting you interact in your way. It always takes about 15-20 minutes to warm up to the idea of making out in a public space so we'll work up to it slowly and have some fun along the way. I'll never make you do something you're uncomfortable with. 

5. Drink ALL the water. Think a gallon a day every day for a week leading up to it. (and then every day after that for the rest of your life) ;) It's not only healthy, but for the purposes of the shoot, it will get rid of dark circles under your eyes. 

6. Prepare your fiance'. Sometimes one person is really excited about the photography portion of the wedding, and the other is well, not so much. They may be planning to show up, smile at the camera standing in 2 or 3 locations and then calling it a day. If they aren't prepared when I tell you to snuggle or nuzzle, they may not know how to respond. I recommend choosing your top 3-5 favorite images on my site or blog and showing your fiance' so you're both on the same page when you arrive. If you're going to err on one side or another, over communication is usually a good bet. (Feel free to use that one as a general marriage tip as well...you're welcome) ;) 

It can also be fun to practice some of the snuggling and flirting in advance... just sayin ;)

7. Ring, Hair and Make Up. Some ladies like to take this opportunity to get their hair and/or make up trial arranged with their stylists so they can see what they'll look like on the big day as well as taking the pressure off of preparations for the engagement session. Certainly not a necessity, but if you're having a trial anyway, this is a good time to do it. (This or the bridal session if you choose to add one). There will definitely be photos of the ring, so it's a good time to get it shined up as well. 

And just for fun, here's a few couples showing off their snuggling and flirting skills both at their engagement and their big day. Have fun!

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.