Leah O'Connell

client tips, families

I won’t ask your kids to smile

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. 

Education and articles for family photographers

TOp categories

FAQ's and guidance for stress-free family and newborn sessions 

Essays, letters, favorites

Highlighted family and newborn photography sessions



Yep, your read that right. You will never here the phrases “smile big!” or “give me your biggest smile!” or “smile for the camera!” or ANY variation of that request.

In fact,  “Say cheese” is on my top 10 list of phrases that make me cringe.

(Right up there with “there’s no more cereal” or “I’ve never seen Parks and Recreation”). 

But here’s the thing. Those phrases are engrained in us – it’s like whenever we see a camera emerge, these words just blurt our of our mouths.

And they NEVER. WORK.

When was the last time you forced your children to stand still and “say cheese,” resulting in a lovely photo that make your heart swell because of how sweet and natural it turned out?


So here’s what I will do.



I want the children in front of my camera to feel like when they are being themselves, it’s worth capturing.

I want them to feel and know that they are beautiful and valued just the way they are, instead of how they “should” be according to some undisclosed standard.

With guard down and quirks in full display. From silly to shy, grumpy to goofy.

Because when they’re comfortable and having fun, we see their true personality.

And when I can see their true personality, I can capture it. 

And when I can capture it, you can savor it, share it, and remember it.

And one day, they will too.

It’s childhood in all it’s emotional roller-coaster glory — isn’t that why you want photos to begin with? To capture all that wonderful wildness of life in this season?

So let’s try this a new way. Do you trust me? No cheese allowed, okay? Now we’re on to something real. 

Reach out to schedule your not-awakward, super natural, fun and stress-free family photo session with me 🙂



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.