Making the Memories Mom Will Cherish (Story Contributed by Tamron)

Teal Garcia uses the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 VC lens to capture authentic family moments.
By Jenn Gidman of Tamron
Images By Teal Garcia

When Teal Garcia’s daughter was born, her military husband was deployed overseas, so she picked up a camera to document their new baby’s adventures and milestones for him. “That’s how I initially got into photography,” she says. “Then I started taking portraits and found my way into boudoir photography after sitting in on a session with my friend who did that kind of work. There’s just something about making a woman feel amazing about herself and documenting that that appeals to me.”

These days, the Arizona native and current Oklahoma resident—soon making the move to Hawaii to her husband’s next military installation—is making her mark with child and family photography, especially with “Mommy and Me” sessions. Her lens of choice for these shoots: the Tamron SP 35mm F/1.8 VC prime. “I really appreciate that I can get up-close and personal with it, but also capture those important detail shots, almost like a macro lens would,” she says. “Plus it allows me to get much of my subjects’ surroundings for more environmental portraits. We have lots of mountains out here in Oklahoma, so I love being able to incorporate them into my images. The skin tones from that lens are nice and smooth, the F/1.8 maximum aperture is ideal for blurring out my backgrounds, and the fact that the lens is weather sealed doesn’t hurt when I’m shooting outdoors.”

Teal strives for natural-looking photos during the evening’s golden hour that don’t feature too much posing. “I tell my subjects all the time: Just love each other,” she says. “Just pretend I’m not here: Hug each other, interact, do whatever you normally do as a family. I do take what I call the Christmas card photos, because everyone seems to want them, but I usually do those first to loosen everyone up and get them out of the way, and then the real fun starts.”

Although some clients have their own specific ideas on what they want to wear, Teal also has a client closet filled with wardrobe choices and accessories. “I especially use options from this closet for my ‘Mommy and Me’ sessions,” she says. “I even started a shop to sell the dresses I like to photograph. I sell to other photographers to help them build their own client wardrobes.”

When photographing kids by themselves, Teal taps into her box of tricks to get them to relax. “I don’t like to take pictures of kids just staring into my camera,” she says. “It often looks unnatural, stiff, and sometimes weird. I prefer to get them to do an activity they like instead. My own daughter, for instance, will only agree to take pictures if she gets to put on a pretty dress and dance. You can also instruct your young subjects to pick flowers, have their parents stand behind you and make funny faces to make them laugh, or even tell a joke. Fart jokes work really well with kids.”

Her own daughter’s twirls helped Teal win first place in the kids category in the Shoot & Share photo contest. “I’m still overwhelmed by that,” she says. “It was my last fall in Oklahoma, so I wanted to capture a photo of my daughter in a cotton field so we had that memory. She was wearing overalls when we got to the field, but I had this dress, which was two sizes too small, in the back of my car. She didn’t care it was tiny—she wanted to wear it and dance around the field. I love the fast focusing ability of that 35mm lens and how it was able to capture her hair swirling as she spun.”

When more family members are incorporated into the shot, more directing—and creativity—may be necessary. “Men, for example, tend to like to sit with their legs spread wide open, so I’ll often have to place a child there or have them hold one of the younger kids, or I’ll make them turn their legs to the side. Playing games helps, too. For example, I’ll ask the kids what color Mom’s eyes are (but they’re not allowed to look). Or ask who the worst singer in the house is and then make that person sing a song. Tickle fights also ease the tension.”

© Teal Garcia
F/2, 1/2500th sec., ISO 250
Sometimes that means taking the kids’ lead. “We hiked up into the mountains one evening for this family shoot,” Teal says. “It was so cute—the mom and daughter both came dressed in matching outfits. All the 2-year-old wanted to do, though, was climb the rocks. After a while, we stopped fighting her and just let her do her thing. That’s when she and her mom decided to smooch and I captured this photo.”

© Teal Garcia
F/2.5, 1/2500th sec., ISO 400
With younger kids, an impromptu dance can do the trick. “My friend’s toddler was not having it the evening I photographed them,” Teal says. “Kids usually don’t love having cameras in their faces and he was feeling the pressure here. So his mom just started swaying with him in her arms and it worked like a charm. Who can be unhappy while dancing with their mom?”

© Teal Garcia
F/2, 1/2000th sec., ISO 500
The sun was almost gone when Teal photographed a family of four on Mount Scott. “It was quite a hike to get to where we wanted to be at this overlook, and the kids were done by the time we got there,” she says. “That’s when the dancing came in handy again. The kids were instantly happier, and it also got the dad to loosen up—my adult male subjects often prove the most difficult to relax.”

© Teal Garcia
F/2, 1/800th sec., ISO 640:
Calming kids down can prove challenging in these types of sessions—and can sometimes result in the most unexpected pictures. “This little girl in the purple dress was particularly active,” Teal says. “This was during a ‘Mommy and Me’ shoot, and there was honestly no magic tip I can offer to explain how this image happened. I just kept taking pictures, and she happened to have this one moment of quiet sweetness. Her mom couldn’t believe I captured this.”

© Teal Garcia
F/2.2, 1/2500th sec., ISO 200
For another active little girl, Teal and the girl’s parents had to get creative. “It was an insanely windy day, and we’d had to drive an hour or so to get to this cotton field,” she says. “By the time we got there, my subject was ready to run. We finally figured out what tamed her: Her dad throwing her up in the air. Once we hit on that, that was it. I captured about 15 to 20 photos of her being hurled up that way. That series of images speaks once again to the fast focusing ability of the 35mm lens.”

Choosing to create a photo in black and white is a conscious, deliberate decision for Teal, and not one she offers to every image. “I’ll go black and white when an image is a bit more moody—but it has to be made for black and white,” she explains. “Some photographers will give their clients all of their photos in color and in black and white; I don’t do that. I only edit some photos in black and white, or take some photos knowing from the start they’re going to end up as a black and white. And if I choose to offer it as a black and white, I only give it to my client as a black and white. Some photos are just meant to be that way. Trying to force it onto everything else doesn’t work for me.”

© Teal Garcia
F/2, 1/2500th sec., ISO 400
A pensive mood is what Teal was going for in her image of a little girl standing in a field, the Oklahoma breeze blowing through her hair. “This photo was part of what I call a dress session,” Teal explains. “To build my client wardrobe for little girls, I’ll have the moms buy a dress for my closet: I’ll take their daughter’s picture in that dress, then they leave me the dress as payment. What I like about this photo is it leaves a little to the imagination. She was looking for a flower to pick for her mom, which kept her interest while I took her picture.”

© Teal Garcia
F/2, 1/640th sec., ISO 640
Sometimes a black-and-white photo can capture the essence of everything Teal is trying to achieve. “This photo with the mom and her two little girls features the same little girl in the purple dress,” she says. “They’re sitting by a lake, mud on their feet, hanging all over their mother. This picture, to me, is motherhood in a nutshell.”

To see more of Teal Garcia’s work, go to

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