Leah O'Connell

families, Featured sessions

Backyard extended family photos in Charlottesville

I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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Many photographers shudder at the thought of extended family photos, but to me, they’re a thrill. There are so many different personalities and so much potential for spontaneity and honest delight. All it takes is the right prep and energy to set the tone. Take these sessions to the backyard of a home where the core family grew up together and it’s even more special.

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Directing extended family sessions can be a unique challenge, but that’s why I go into these with a plan (like I do with all my sessions!). I aim to make quick work of the “must-get” shots, including portraits of family units, breakdowns of kids, cousins, siblings, grandparents, etc., all the while keeping my senses tuned into the real magic – what happens in-between.

The way grandma always has smarties in her pocket to pass around.

Grandpa’s honest laugh.

The tickle fights and side-bar hide and seek games and chicken feeding and holding hands from one place to another.

Both parts are important to the success of extended family photos and they mean the world to clients, especially when they live far away from one another and getting together is sometimes a once a year thing or longer. These connections are a gift to capture with a little bit of wildness and a whole lot of true love shining through.

Featured: A Charlottesville extended family session

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If you’re interested in working with me for extended family photos that feel honest, fun, and true – let’s do it! Reach out here to get the ball rolling. You can see more of my extended family work here.

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.