Mama With Camera

The beauty of being a “MOM” is that it is not a cookie cutter thing! I don’t even want to imagine what that would look like if it were. In honor of Mother’s Day, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all present, and future mamas reading this post! Especially my mom. 

You’re loved.
You’re blessed. 
You’re valuable. 
You’re appreciated. 
You got this.
You can do it.
Take your time.
You’re not alone.
None of us are perfect. 
You’re doing your best.
Take a break.
Get that Starbucks coffee. 
A spa day is okay.
Lose weight when you’re ready.
Don’t compare, be all you can be.
It’s true, we have all bumped our children’s heads at some point.
You don’t have to have it all figured out.
Instagram and Pinterest are just moments captured perfectly.

My mom had 8 of us in total. One pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage and one of my siblings passed away as a toddler. She birthed us all naturally and breastfed each one of us. She stayed home with each one of us until we were well spoken and ready for school. That’s not my story and I can’t relate. Just the thought of 8 children has my head spinning. As a mom myself, I now understand her madness a little bit more. My childhood mom doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. I understand her. As for me and this body, 2 is all we can handle. I am trying to get “flewed-out” to heaven when Jesus crack the sky not popping out more babies! Someone said “flewed out” once and it has been an internet joke. I don’t know this person. I know of the joke and it is hilarious to me. 

Being a mom has positively broadened my perspective on motherhood and life. I’m a better mom than my fears had ever allowed me to believe I would’ve been. My own struggles made me realized moms go through a lot of private struggles, many times alone; postpartum depression, being overwhelmed, finding the right balance, not feeling fulfilled, to work or not to work, the many fears that come along with having little humans we want to protect from it all. The list goes on! I think God I’m able to be home with my babies but it does come with its sacrifices. Well worth it! What are some of your struggles?

I absolutely love being a mom. God blessed me with two amazing little men I get the privilege of pouring into. I get to be an important part of their story and grow with them into adulthood. I get to be the first responder to their needs. Their beginning was not the end of my growth and progress as a woman, wife, daughter, sister, or friend. I refuse to ever view them as a burden. I might have to take them everywhere with me, have more family nights than date nights, miss out on certain events, changes or temporarily give up some things but they really do grow so fast. Before you know it, they’re walking and talking, and telling you “no”. Times loss with them cannot be reclaimed. Certain parts of their lives will only happen once. I know I will but I don’t want to miss a thing.

They have inspired me in ways I never imagined! 
Experiences with them have given me lenses to view the world differently than I had before. 

I love this afro-Latina mama, Cinthia Crook! She’s always on the move, even while she was pregnant. I would tell myself if she can do it, I have no excuse. I had the opportunity to have several different sessions with her. She was always full of energy and accompanied by her tribe. It’s always a pleasure working with her. She’s one example of the many stay-at-home wife/mamas I know that it is hard work and sacrifice. It’s also rewarding. This interview with her was so real and emotional. Thank you, Cinthia for keeping it all the way real. It was therapeutic, to say the least. As a new mama, I was able to relate to so much of her experience. We have so much more in common with the women around us than we may be willing to find out. Relationships are complex, but we can’t be shallow if we truly want to know and connect with those around us. Getting to know someone instead of observing that person like a captured image is rewarding and worth it. For all the mamas out there, this one is especially for you. You’re not alone. Take a look into this mama with a camera’s world! 

What inspired LWTC (Life With The Crooks)? 

Life With The Crooks started with my daughter Amelia. I was taking the church camera home and took some pictures of Amelia. I shared them online and people loved them. My husband said I took great photos and I should start taking more. After 8 months I took more. She walked at 9 months. I always wanted a business when I was younger but wasn’t sure in what. 

Did you always enjoy photography? What sparked your initial interest? 

My daughter sparked my interest. When I was in high school, I was always interested in taking pictures. I was the annoying girlfriend always asking her boyfriend to take her picture. I had an old school camera full of photos. My boyfriend used to tell me he doesn’t think he has taken that many photos in his entire life. 

With 3 under 3, what was that like being a stay at home pursuing your dreams? 

Technically, Amelia is 3. I don’t even know where to start. From 2 to 3 I got the hang of it and thought, how much harder can 1 more be? It has been the hardest thing in my life. I did not adjust quickly. Some days, keeping up with the home, business and everything I was talking to God a lot! God, I need your strength. Some days I would have to decide between answering emails and editing or keeping up my home. I did a lot of crying and telling God I know you know how I feel. It’s crazy but one day at a time. 

Tell us about 1 of your favorite sessions? 

That’s funny because I was just thinking about that yesterday. The Brunson’s. It wasn’t until I uploaded their photos, I was like I enjoyed their friendship. We took photos up until we got to the bridge. Their interaction was so cute! I really loved it. They were so great. I always look at their pictures. 

How have you evolved as a photographer since you started? 

I’ve really taken the time to make sure I pay attention to the couples and ask questions to get to know them. I want to help make the sessions better. Finding out how shy or open someone is in front of the camera is helpful. I’m learning to learn more beforehand to help improve the sessions. I’m learning people and how to guide them better. 

What kind of gear do you use? 

What I am using is a Sony A5000. We were going to take videos. We used to do the “What I like about you” videos. I upgraded to the Sony A6300. The lens I use is 50MM (Millimeters). That’s what I shoot everything with. I also have a 35MM. I take family portraits with the 35. My goal next year is to upgrade and book more weddings. I have 2 Speedlight but I love more natural lighting. I have to dive more into flash photography. 

What do you take with you to your sessions? 

I take my camera and my phone. That’s about it if it’s not a wedding. I also take my Bluetooth stick. I like to play music. 

How do you train yourself to take better pictures? 

I joined a few Facebook photography groups. I like when others share how to use certain lighting. I struggle with harsh lighting, and mid-day. I practice with Amelia and my other children. A lot of it is going out there, shooting and finding out what works and what doesn’t. I also use YouTube. 

Whose work has influenced you most? 

I follow so many photographers. I usually try to find people that do couple and family sessions. Recently, more weddings. I used to compare myself a lot to their work. I realized recently I needed to just step away from doing that. I need to capture couples and families the way they want to be captured. I asked God how to use what he gave me for the kingdom. How do I truly serve this family that invested in our company? 

What is the one thing you wished you knew when you first started taking photos? 

I wish I would’ve known to shoot in manual mode! I didn’t realize how much control you have over the image you were trying to take. It definitely makes a huge difference! 

From your point of view, what makes a good picture? 

Aside from the basic things like lighting and composition, I think what makes a good image is the realness of every moment you’re capturing. For example, those super in love and into each other couples who forget you’re even taking their picture, make for some amazing shots! I hope I’m making sense. 

As a mom of 3, what keeps you motivated? 

As a mama of three small bebes, my motivation comes from wanting them to do and be better than Jamal and I. Like any parent, I want them to be successful. I want them to avoid the mistakes that Jamal and I made and go higher than we ever did. I think in order for them to do that they have to see us put in the hard work now. 

Where do you find balance in all that you do? 

Where do I find the balance? I think I’m still searching for it to be honest. I’m in this season where I’m nurturing babies, trying to make our house a home, and run this business. I feel overwhelmed and anxious more times than I’d like to admit. I want to keep it all together. I find myself crying tears to God like Lord I can’t do it all, please help me. After those good sessions of crying and praying out to God for help, I’ve noticed God restores and strengthens me. I’m able to get everything I need to get done around the house and business. Jesus is the balance! 

What do you enjoy when you have free time? 

These days I don’t get very much free time. I’m always in a state of working; working around the house or with LWTC matters. However, when I do get some time, I enjoy some good retail therapy. I hate spending a lot of money on clothes and things, but I do take advantage of good sales and clearance racks! I actually LOVE thrifting, but because I’m always with the kiddos I don’t do it very much since thrift stores take a little more time and patience to go through. 

My babies are something else. It’s crazy to see each of their personalities showing more and more as they get older. We were intentional about looking up the meaning of each of their names. It’s funny seeing how they act exactly like the meanings of their names. Amelia means hard working and industrious, and if you know Amelia you know she’s always busy doing SOMETHING! Anderson means manly, and Anderson is very independent! Doesn’t like hugging or kissing. He barely likes to cuddle with his mama. He’s very much a manly little man. Lastly, Azariah means YAHWEH has helped. He’s only seven months but God has DEFINITELY been a help to us throughout this season of raising three children. 

I love these photos from some of the sessions I’ve had with Cinthia. 

Learn more about Life With The Crooks at Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.