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Boston MA Children’s Photographer – an incredible afternoon at the Cradles to Crayons’ 2016 Un-Gala

What a wonderful afternoon I got to have yesterday! There was giving, there was helping, there were volunteering children… there were smiles and there was so much joy. In past years I’ve loved donating my time on international Help-Portrait Day (more info is here), but I couldn’t find a local event in Boston, so when this opportunity presented itself, I was thrilled to be able to donate my time for such an extraordinary event.

I spent the afternoon as one of the volunteer photographers at the Cradles to Crayons 2016 Un-Gala, where over 400 people came, volunteered their time, and made a difference. (And I think the number might have been as much as twice that, since there was a whole 2nd shift of people who came in the morning!)

I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves. My job was to shadow the incredible founder of Cradles to Crayons, Lynn Margherio, and I was honored to spend the day watching her do her thing with her fantastic assistant Patrick by her side.

I have almost 100 photos from the day, though! If anyone would like to look through them or download them, you’re more than welcome to do so — you can find them on my client galleries page.



Thanks for letting me be part of an incredible day. What a great event! - February 19, 2017 - 10:31 am

Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the
same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a
wonderful job!

My iPhone is in the wayback

I need to interrupt this regularly scheduled photography blog for a personal note.

So the real truth is I’ve been challenged by trying not to look at my phone while I’m in the car for years. I’ve taken pledges, I’ve downloaded apps to try to force me to not use my phone… and honestly, nothing has worked. The pull of the chance to just get one or two things accomplished at stoplights would win every time.

But then my incredibly disciplined husband (he’s always been better about this than I’ve been) texted me a link to this video a couple of weeks ago. His message said, “I wish everyone who drives would watch this video.”

So I watched it. It’s long, over 3 minutes. But it got me thinking. I would love it if you would take 3 minutes to watch it. Just trust me, it’s not gross or anything, it’ll just make you think.

So I said to him, YES. This video sings my song. The guy in the video parks his car before he calls his wife back. He doesn’t text in the car when the kids are there. But the buzzing draws his eye.

I knew I needed help with the technical side of my problem. The stupid buzzing. I didn’t want my phone to buzz at me in the car, but my big technical problem is that I use my phone as a GPS. I mount it on my dashboard for a huge percentage of the time that I’m in the car – so I see the buzzing. I have a really hard time not looking at it. (The app I downloaded couldn’t lock out iMessages, so it really ended up not being that helpful.)

But guys, I finally figured it out. I have a plan now, and I feel really good about it.

So now, when I’m starting the car, no matter whether I have kids in the car or not, I go through these steps to set my iPhone to “Do Not Disturb”. This means texts don’t get through, no matter what! Hallelujah! And the best part? I can still use my GPS to get to my photoshoots. Phewf.


And the second part of my new plan is the part I’m liking the best. See, my older daughter is 10, about to be 11. My little one is 7. They see what I do. I am constantly driving them places, and driving their friends around, too. I know in the blink of an eye they’ll be taking the car and I honestly don’t trust that the technology is going to fix the problem of texting and driving before they and their friends get behind the wheel. I know the behavior needs to be modeled now so it’s ingrained.

So now I first set the phone to “Do Not Disturb” (so my Apple Watch won’t buzz on my wrist) but then I hand it back to the kids and I ask them to drop it behind them into the wayback of the car. They pass it from one to the other, and each time we talk about how distracting the phone is. How we don’t need to be distracted. How “annoying” the phone is in the car. How hard it is for me to have it near me up in the front seat of the car. And we talk this way in front of friends when I’m driving carpool. We make fun of mama and how this is the only way she can avoid distraction.

Please please please let this mean that in five short years when I have sixteen year old driver in my house that she will NEVER ever consider having a phone anywhere near the front seat of the car. And “Do Not Disturb” will be her norm every time she turns the keys in the ignition.

Todd Robbins - September 27, 2016 - 12:54 pm

That is my son Finn in that spot. We are so proud that his is part of something so powerful with such an important message.

Completely off topic…

OK, I know this is my work blog, and I use it to show you adorable babies and their chubby wrist rolls and holiday card recommendations and announce minishoots (yes, that’s a link for you enterprising types who are ready to think about my April Public Garden minis – I just announced the date this morning and haven’t sent the email out yet…) But normally this blog is all biz, all the time…

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.22.04 PMBut I just need to take a break from all that work stuff (it is a snow day, after all) and tell you what we did this year to our living room. Because I’m bursting about it. It’s so super duper insanely fabulous now that I just want to shout it from the rooftops and tell anyone and everyone they must MUST hire Meghann Van Dorn to help them with their interior design.

I love beautiful spaces, I really do. I see my clients’ gorgeous homes all the time and I salivate, loving all the beautiful design choices they make. And when we did our kitchen renovation a couple of years ago, the incredible Dennis and Matthew DeMello of D. J. DeMello Custom Building and Woodworking did incredible work and I somehow managed to get through that process only asking Meghann for help a handful of times with some critical decisions along the way (quartz surface for the counters, TYVM). Somehow hard surfaces and kitchen/bathroom design decisions felt manageable. But once we decided our living room needed help last year, I felt completely overwhelmed. For some reason matching fabrics and thinking about upholstery and curtains made my palms sweat. I just didn’t feel like I could trust myself with it.

See, we live in Milton, in a cozy little house on an incredible street, but it’s tiny. We’re only four people, though, and though my smaller people get bigger every day, we really don’t need any more house than we have. We know we’re not moving because we love our street and our neighbors so much, but we are always looking for ways to make our small house even more right for us.

For me, I needed to bring more light into the living room. We had these IKEA shelving units along one wall that were super dark:


And we needed good seating options for the living room space, so we crowded it a bit with a loveseat that totally didn’t fit and a long rectangular coffee table that I thought fit the space because we loved to play mexican train on it… (even though it made for a good game surface, that didn’t mean it fit the space). The couch was also dark purple from Jordan’s (to hide the inevitable small child mess) and I was reluctant to upgrade it even though Meghann told me it would change everything. Again with the failed before photos, but this should give you a sense of what it looked like:


Basically it was crowded and had big comfortable pieces of furniture in it that worked for our lives but didn’t look great.

So when we were able to go ahead with the built-ins Dennis and Matt had proposed (insanely talented amazing contractors/builders, amazing workmanship all around), we also got in touch with Meghann and said – OK, let’s do this thing. Let’s take this space seriously.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 12.15.11 PMShe started by coming in and taking measurements. We knew we had to keep the piano where it is, and we knew where our built-ins/TV would be, but the rest of the space was up for grabs. We knew we needed the seating to double as a conversation area but also function as TV watching spots.

So she came back to us with a layout – which was amazing because I’d never thought of a circle coffee table in the space, and the idea of adding another chair blew me away. If they were swivels, we realized, they could work in either direction – pointed at the coffee table and couch to talk, or swiveling to watch TV. Brilliant!

Where Meghann excels is this next stage of things. I’ll admit I guffawed at the idea of buying all this new furniture – it seemed crazy, especially after I put some numbers in an excel spreadsheet and thought about what the entire room’s redo would mean. But Meghann took this project on and became what I felt like was my personal Craigslist savant. She convinced me we didn’t need to buy everything new. We just needed to be patient. She was sending me links at all times of the day and night. “How about these light fixtures?” “OK, hop in your car RIGHT NOW and go get this coffee table for $40, it is perfect!” (note: I do love it – it’s great. Might someday upgrade it but for now it’s fabulous.) “If you recover this chair it will be amazing. Look at the lines!” (note: it is, and after her incredible upholsterer guy recovered it with fabric Meghann helped me choose at an insanely cool fabric store, it is one of my favorite pieces of furniture ever) And I’d get texts with photos from her as she wandered TJ Maxx – “Jess, this rug is $100, and it’s soft and thick like you said you wanted. I think you should get over here and feel it in person. I think it might be perfect.” (note: it was) “What about this side table?” (nope) “This one?” (nope) “OK, how about these four I found online?” (YES!!!)

She just took on the project with such zeal – and it was such fun to work with her. I loved that she had strong opinions for me and told me why – I’m easy to convince if someone has good reasons. (For example, we knew we needed more light, and the Grey Owl paint Meghann had recommended for the rest of the space downstairs seemed like a good starting point for brightening things up in there. It’s so much brighter now.)

So I guess I’ll end this and feed my kids some lunch – it’s time for the big reveal. First, I’ll start with Dennis & Matt’s gorgeous perfect built-ins:


Don’t you just die? So in love with them.

And then here’s the full picture of the whole room. Thank you thank you thank you, Meghann.

It’s perfect, it’s finished, and I couldn’t have done it with you guys. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And now to finish today’s edit!! #yayforsnowdays

Mmm warmth! Time for another smartphone-free summer…

sticker,375x360Weather’s warming up, kiddos are finishing school – methinks it’s time to do my summer thang – delete Facebook and email from my phone until Labor Day. Anybody else up for it? I know it’s not for everyone, but if you can do something like it, I highly recommend it. Even for a week when you’re on vacation or something. I swear it is the most refreshing thing in the world. Eventually my phone doesn’t even interest me anymore. (Then September 1st rolls around and the old habits come rushing back, of course.)

(This is that thing that’s gotten me some press over the years… The New York Times‘ Motherlode blog two summers ago and then that interview with WCVB Channel 5 last summer…)

I’ll be checking email pretty much every other day, but if you need more more quickly, don’t hesitate to call or text me on my cellphone: 617-501-6078.

THIS is who I spent the day with

Mondays I have my 4 year old at home, and I am lucky enough to also have snagged my niece for Mondays too. So I just wanted to brag that THIS is who I spent the day with, and THIS is what she loves to do. Because she’s five months old. Because she rocks. Because she’s amazing, and perfect, and … one fantastic toe-sucker.

Wish I had time to blog many more of this gorgeous girl, but it’s bedtime for me – it’s exhausting spending the day with a 5 month old!

Rebecca - September 17, 2013 - 11:22 am

Lucky you! 5 months is a great age- alert but still willing to be held.

Yup, that was me on the news last night…

If you had the local Channel 5 (WCVB) news on last night around 6pm, you might have seen me on TV. You can click on the image below to go to watch the segment. I’m such a big fat nerd. But it’s pretty cool that it’s getting some publicity – maybe more parents will consider doing something like it.  That’d be cool.

10 years ago today…


Ten years ago today was my first photoshoot as a professional photographer.

I can’t believe how fast the years have flown. I’m so lucky to have this job, and know I have all of you to thank for it. And don’t worry (I know you were worried) — this isn’t the last you’re going to hear about BBP’s 10 year anniversary. This summer on my Facebook page, to celebrate 10 years in business, we’ll be having 10 summer contests that’ll run 10 weeks of the summer.  At the end of it all, someone will win a free in-home photoshoot plus all the digital files! “Like” the Facebook page to be sure you’ll hear about all the fun happenings this summer.  I’m also printing 100 photos that’ll be hanging in the gallery space at the Milton Public Library for the month of August.  Plan to stop by on Tuesday, August 6th from 4-6pm with your children for the gallery opening (I’ll have juice and cookies), or just come by anytime the library is open that month so you can see the show.

October blogging break

It’s that time of the year again – when I start shooting sooo much that there’s no time for sleep or much else.  So blogging is on hiatus, guys – I’ll pop up once in a while with a post in the next eight weeks, but it’s nose to the grindstone time.

More blogging to come when everything lightens up in 2013!

Keri - October 2, 2012 - 6:48 am

Great pictures!!!!

A Mommy blog, just for a minute

Annie, my now 6 1/2 year old, when she was just two. Shot this with a real camera, not my iPhone :)

Forgive me while I hijack my usually totally photo-centered blog and use it for a personal post for a minute.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my iPhone use recently.  I’ve read a number of articles friends have posted on Facebook about how we all use our phones too much, that we’re taking our kids to the park, but we’re not really with them if we’re pushing the swing with the iPhone in hand, reading an article a friend recommended, finding a recipe for dinner, replying to client emails, texting a friend… and that our kids are suffering for it.

Unfortunately I know I’m at fault – I do all these things. It’s such an addiction, especially for those of us who work from home. It’s the new water cooler conversation from the old days when we worked in offices.  I’m hungry to connect with other adults, to just touch base a few (dozen) times a day with other people out there slogging through the parenting trenches with me.  But I know my kids notice it.

“Put down your PHONE, mom.”

So I suggested something timidly to Annie (my six and a half year old) the other day.  I kind of knew that I was signing my name in blood to the plan when it popped out of my mouth, but I took the risk and went for it.  “Do you think I should do something new this summer?  Do you think I should make a promise not to use my phone when I’m hanging out with you and your sister?”  I almost wanted to grab the words and stuff them back inside my mouth as they hung there, heavy with promise.  But her face LIT up.  She smiled a huge smile, and said, without hesitation,”Yes!”

So it’s out there.  And it’s been said, so it’s on the books.  And summer is looming.  Here’s my plan.

June 1st – August 31st:

-Deleting the Facebook app from my phone.

-Deleting the Twitter app from my phone.

-Turning off email on my phone.

And that’s the plan.  Hoping my clients will understand that I’ll take a bit longer to read and reply to emails over the summer.  Hoping Facebook can survive without me trolling the feed three or four times a day.  And hoping my kids can swing higher when I push with both hands.

Anybody wanna try something like this with me?  I could use all the help I can get…

Leslie - May 21, 2012 - 2:04 am

YES! I did this over April break for similar reasons (and the fact that I was without International service:) and my family was much happier for it. I’m with you! It may become a permanent policy….

Stacy - May 21, 2012 - 4:57 am

That’s huge, Jess! I don’t know if I’m ready to join you just yet on removing apps from my phone, but I’ve definitely noticed that my iPhone already “comes between” me and Gus…like when I’m breastfeeding him yet holding the phone up in front of my face to either enter the feeding info into my Baby Connect app, or reading emails, or the news, or whatever. I’m sure this interferes with the mother-infant bonding process so thanks for giving me additional encouragement to put the phone away more often. :)

SerahRose - May 21, 2012 - 9:15 am

Although I haven’t outright made the promise, when my kiddo and I have hangout time together….gardening, museums, parks, etc…I leave the phone behind, literally. I leave it in my car, or in the kitchen, somewhere I can’t hear it ring. But I know it’s there if I need to call 911.

I can’t delete the aps because of my work…but my time with my kid is my time with my kid. My friends, colleagues, and family can wait while I’m busy living. They’re gotten used to my lack of answering the phone :) They just call back later!

Brandy - May 21, 2012 - 9:51 am

Nicely done, Jess! Great idea to do it just for the summer too. Then you’ve got a defined period to see how it goes, and you can always decide to extend it or not in the fall :-) This is the best line: “And hoping my kids can swing higher when I push with both hands.”

Screen-Free Week - May 22, 2012 - 11:33 am

We posted this on our Screen-Free Week FB page and people are impressed!

Mary Beth - May 22, 2012 - 11:43 am

I love that I just came across this! I recently did the same in light of the recent articles! Although I am new to a “smart phone” and miss my old APP-less flip phone, I deleted all APP’S (maily FB) and email to really be WITH my kids. As a photographer that also works from home, I know my clients will understand if I do my “business” after hours when the kids are tucked in. Yay you and all the Mamas that follow your lead!

Paige - May 22, 2012 - 1:28 pm

I’ve thought about this a lot lately…our kids have limits on their screen time…why shoudn’t we?

Anna - May 22, 2012 - 6:18 pm

Great idea, however, in our case it will be a mutual ban on phone/computer/DS gaming during our vacation. Thinking of maybe switching over the SiM card we use in Europe to a regular phone without internet. Then we will all be happier together! But the twitter withdrawl symptoms will be rough at first…

marissa - May 22, 2012 - 6:20 pm

I saw your post link up on the Screeen Free week FB page. I will jump on board with you, in fact, starting today. I am continually plagued with guilt and disgusted that my kiddo often sees me with my nose up to my smartphone. I don’t want this to be his image of me, nor do I want to model this behavior as appropriate or healthy for my curious and impressionable toddler. Thanks for the inspiration, you have made a positive impact in this family. *with tears of gratefullness

Teri Rees-Momeyer - May 22, 2012 - 6:40 pm

Wow! My phone is a work issued phone so I am obligated to answer work emails, but the rest of it…I think I am going to do it. I know my daughter notices that I am not always present and if I want her to pay attention to me, then I need to pay better attention to her. Thanks for the challenge.

DawnV - May 22, 2012 - 9:07 pm

At the beginning of the year, I started a dedicated 30 min “no phone, no computer” concentrated one-on-one time each day with my daughter… it has been huge in our relationship. I love the idea of increasing that for the summer!

Hands Free Mama - May 22, 2012 - 9:16 pm

Jessica, I LOVE this!! Thank for both your honesty and your willingness to make a commitment to being more present with your kids. This is truly inspiring. I cannot wait to hear about all the wonderful moments that you grasp this summer while going “Hands Free”! Thank you so much for coming to “The Hands Free Revolution” and pointing me to your beautiful post!

Gayletrini - May 22, 2012 - 10:32 pm

great idea! I dont have facebook or email on my phone for that same reason… I just need to kick the twitter addiction. But I am in too deep LOL
Good luck. I know you would have lots of fun.

Kit - May 23, 2012 - 1:15 pm

I have a 6 month old at home, and have made it a point when I get home from work the phone goes down unless I absolutely need to communicate something to someone until after he goes to bed. Then if I want I can pick it up check text message, facebook, email, yada yada yada. But when I’m home with him my phone is put away. It’s the best decision I’ve made!! Even at 6 months I think he notices he has my full attention now instead of half of it.

[…] does Jessica McDaniel, a Boston-based photographer. But this past weekend, Ms. McDaniel proposed to her daughter that she might just … stop. I suggested something timidly to Annie (my 6-and-a-half year old) the other day. I kind of knew […]

[…] does Jessica McDaniel, a Boston-based photographer. But this past weekend, Ms. McDaniel proposed to her daughter that she might just … stop. I suggested something timidly to Annie (my 6-and-a-half year old) the other day. I kind of knew […]

Hank - May 25, 2012 - 3:19 pm

Jess – well done! I gave up the f-book last winter and haven’t looked back. Don’t know about cutting the cord completely but you’ve got me thinking about setting up some boundaries now…. maybe instituting a “NO PHONE ZONE” in the house?

again – congrats on being such a trend setter….

yer pal,


[…] does Jessica McDaniel, a Boston-based photographer. But this past weekend, Ms. McDaniel proposed to her daughter that she might just … stop. I suggested something timidly to Annie (my 6-and-a-half year old) the other day. I kind of knew […]

Eliza/betsy - May 27, 2012 - 7:38 am

This is fantastic, Jess. And congrats on the New York Times publicity! Hopefully you’ll start a movement that’s great for all the kids, working parents, and families out there…..:)

[…] Boston based photographer Jessica McDaniel recently blogged about spending too much time on her iPhone while she is with her daughters. […]

Halloween at Music Together

Music class is always awesome, and when Halloween coincided with our weekly Monday music class at Old Colony Music Together, I knew it made sense to bring the camera.

Hilarious.  (Mine’s the kitty with her back to us here.)

They’re free to participate however they like.  Either with instruments:

Or in a more relaxed way… (this cracks me up)

This princess wins the prize for best expression of the day:

My kitty, tongue (literally) in cheek:

Great fun, every week, but especially so when they’re costumed ;)

My girls for Halloween

In a few hours I’ll be back to your regularly scheduled programming – cute clients all the time – but this morning I took a few minutes with my own little halloween goblins outside (in the SNOW).  In past years I’ve invited the whole neighborhood over, but with the weather the way it was this weekend, it was too hard to organize the timing of that, so I just forced my own children to don their costumes one day early and get wet and cold for a few minutes.  C’mon guys, it’s for ART!!  For posterity!  You’ll thank me later… right? Right??

Eventually they warmed up a bit and showed off the Wonder Woman-i-tude:

And the Kitty style: (But don’t ask how many bribes I had to go through to get her into this cat costume.  I kid you not – 30 minutes of begging, lollipops, everything.  She is sooooo two.)

Brrrrr is it time to go inside yet??

sara sun - October 30, 2011 - 2:32 pm

Aww LOVE these!!! They are totally rocking them! Love the Wonder woman costume. I used to have wonder woman underoos…oh man I loved them so :-) Have fun tomorrow.

Lantern Walk 2011

I had such grand visions of tonight’s elementary school candlelit “Lantern Walk” around our local pond, from a photographer’s perspective.  Turns out it was pitch black and I didn’t have any luck taking pictures on the walk around the pond.

Annie, on the other hand, got to walk home afterwards hand-in-hand with my sister (the person she thinks hung the moon).  So it was a success, after all.

Lauren - October 23, 2011 - 7:21 pm

Lovely photo!

2 year old Sadie got “gwasses”

Every once in a while I post personal stuff up here on the blog, because I just can’t contain myself. You guys, my clients, have become such friends over the years that I feel like I need to share momentous family news with you as it happens. So this week we had a huge change – our little Sadie, now 2 years 4 months old, got her new glasses this past Tuesday. She’s had them for three days now, and it’s really pretty amazing all the changes we’re seeing.

First of all, I can happily report they haven’t impacted the cuteness level one bit:

And she did a day at her daycare yesterday where Christine told us she had a fantastic day.  Tons less whining (so sad to imagine she’s been super whiny the last few months because she’s been having eyesight-related headaches), talking a lot, running around, just really enjoying herself.  As I sat here editing some pictures she sat on my lap for a minute and called out, “Mum! There’s a bug!” She pointed to the cursor on the screen.  How many times has she sat in my lap and looked at this screen – but been unable to see the cursor?  Careful, I’m going to start crying soon.

Friends have asked how we figured out she needed them, but it was nothing epic – her eye seemed to turn in a smidge when she was tired, so I called Children’s Hospital and got an appointment with a pediatric opthamologist there (by the way – what an AMAZING specialty — they are such experts at getting a two year old to talk about what she can and can’t see on cards across the room… they’ve just thought of everything (obviously, I guess) – but so impressive).

She’s having such fun discovering her world again.  The details on the side of the pencil she’s using…

Hugging and kissing on her favorite babies…


Amazed by the beautiful pictures she can draw…

She takes them off once in a while and puts them down, but I’ve been wearing mine more and talking about how they help me to see, and so it’s pretty easy to put them back on her a few minutes later. She really doesn’t seem to mind them.

And haven’t slowed her down a bit.

Next week I’ll tell you the other reason I’m emotional, though – Annie heads off to kindergarten this coming Tuesday. Eek.

David McDaniel - September 2, 2011 - 12:19 pm

You’re right! No cuteness impact at all! Actually, maybe even cuter!

Maybe next time, she’ll not think I’m some scary/blurry over-sized daddy….

Shirley - September 2, 2011 - 12:41 pm

I think the only cuteness impact is that she’s even cuter – who could think that would be possible? just illegal cute now! Yummo. Thanks for sharing these.

Erica - September 2, 2011 - 1:55 pm

Oh my gosh! So adorable!! As a small kid who got glasses, it is so fun to see how much joy she’s taking in it. Thanks for sharing it!

Donna McDaniel - September 2, 2011 - 2:16 pm

Who knew a kid could look even cuter with glasses? And, oh, how much she’s looking like Annie these days (the one without glasses)!

Adelaide - September 2, 2011 - 3:56 pm

Sadie looks SO adorable that glasses seem just a fashion accessory. And—wow!—amazing parental insight to notice something awry with a child’s eyesight.

Kimsoo - September 3, 2011 - 9:34 pm

Thanks for sharing Jess. I’m touched by the process and the whole new world she will discover. Awesome! Love, Kimsoo