First a disclaimer: my proclamation of selfies for everyone is not meant to be a substitution for beautiful quality professional photographs of  YOU with your family, on display in your home.  I promote the display of photographs of family as art but it is also know that displaying photos of family at home is known to raise children’s self esteem and increase their feelings of belonging (based on a research poll I read a few years back).  The taking of family photos and individual photos WITH your kids by a professional is not only a memory making experience it is also a bonding experience.  The quality of the phone cameras is NOWHERE near the quality of a professional even in the hands of a skilled pro.  Having said that selfies are a fun tool for self expression and daily documentation of life.

Ok enough pontificating…on to getting your best selfie tips…

Generation Selfie

The word brings out the tween in all of us!  Generation selfie is the time we live in.  Teen and tween girls (and boys) use selfies on the daily.  And sure maybe my Instagram feed is laden with selfie, selfie, selfie, pretty sunset, Starbucks, selfie, selfie with the bestie, selfie, cute boy, selfie I do find it endearing and yes empowering.  Rather than believe that selfies are self serving and narcissistic (which they sort of are) I embrace them from a more artistic point of view.  I feel like the selfie CAN be a tool for self expression and a type of one’s exploration of self: “Who am I?”  “Who do I want to be today?”

So while tweens and teens have adapted technology and incorporated it into their persona, adults seem to be taking the lead albeit a few years behind.  You too can take the best selfie of yourself with just a few simple rules to follow.  I pinky swear!!

Know how to use your smart phone camera

First of all you should know how to properly take a good photo in general.  If you feel you have a good handle on taking decent camera phone images then follow down for a few tips that can help up your selfie game.

If you don’t I suggest looking over this article I wrote a few years ago about taking advantage of your phone’s camera to the best of its’ ability:

How to Take Better Camera Phone Photos


Upping your selfie game

What’s the secret to any great photo?  LIGHT.

Not too bright…

An animated GIF about lighting

Be careful not to over do the light – while bright light washes away skin imperfections it’s possible to blind your audience. Thanks to my fave, Marina (of Marina and the Diamonds) for this amusing moment.


Not too dark…

An animated GIF of too little light

Not too dark (you want to see more than just glowing eyes!)

You literally need to be in the Goldilocks of light…that’s right – you need “just right light”.

Just right light

Just right light is the avoidance of harsh shadows, squinting eyes and accentuation of skin imperfections.  The Goldilocks of light comes when the light is softly diffused.  No glaring, squint worthy light that casts harsh shadows or low lighting from above that highlights skin imperfections, shadows and undereye circles.  During just right light your face illuminates, your eyes light up and your imperfections are minimized.

Just right light can be found easily right inside a north facing window at almost any time of day, ESPECIALLY if it is diffuse light (like through a sheer window covering).  Ideally to stand at just inside the beginning of the shadow inside a south facing window works for south light.  Anytime outside (and even inside by any window) on a cloudy day. Just right light can be found outside right before dusk or in the early morning light.  If you have a skylight you can use that as well if there’s a neutral gray or white reflecting the light back onto you (examples below):

Perfect selfie light is a three part affair: north light, large window, diffusion panels (ie sheer window covering)

What I like to call “ideal” natural light selfie light is this: you have a large light source (window) with sheer curtains to diffuse the light (in a neutral color tone), the light is north light which tends to be softer than any other directional lighting, voila: nice light in the eyes, good skin tones, flattering light IS good light.  The angle of the shot is flattering: extended out by my husband at about a 25º angled down.

Photographers call this “flat light” and it’s not always ideal.  But for selfie purposes and for simple lighting flat light is flattering (see the “flat” in “flattering”?).  It tends to smooth out the skin, fill in undereye circles and wrinkles (which we have plenty of) and is easy to find and work with.


An example of a selfie on an overcast day.

This is a selfie taken on an overcast day facing south. You can see the Chicago skyline behind us. We angled the camera down to us at an about 20-25º angle to create a flattering angle. No touch up or filter present on this out of phone image.

The overcast day allowed us to photograph this without worry midday in the city so we could capture that amazing skyline without worry of harsh skin light & shadows.  I also like the way the light sort of kisses our hair and skin.


Example of a selfie by north facing door.

This selfie was captured outside of our front door (north facing). This teen had the phone at a slightly lower but still flattering angle to create a more whimsical selfie highlighting the partying holiday spirit. Filter by Snapchat.

In the above example she captured this fun photo at a playful angle (ever so slightly below directly extended arms) using beautiful north light provided by our front door. Best selfie candidate!


An example of how to take selfies with sky light light

This image was taken with this particular teen in the morning, no makeup. The power of good light (and fun filter) can be seen in the skin tones. We utilized a sky light – which CAN be tricky light if taken at the wrong angle (immediately UNDER the skylight is usually bad news for shadows and undereye circles).

In the above example the teen snapped the photo using the reflected light from the skylight using the light colored walls and large mirror.  The quality of light is great for improving skin imperfections, illuminating undereye issues, etc.


Angles *are* important.  I made mention on the above photos how the angles affect the mood and tone of the image taken.  A quick overview of rules on angles:

    • take the photo from above with the camera facing ever so slightly downward at about 15-25º downward
    • flattering playful angles include photographing from slightly below (see 3rd image)
    • lying down selfies draw the skin back and when the camera is facing downward works well if you have great light (see below)
South facing selfie light combined with a flattering angle makes for best selfie taking opportunities.

Filling the eyes with light, diffusing the skin naturally and smart use of posing and angles makes for a successful selfie every time. Filter by Snap Chat.


The basics of selfies are THAT SIMPLE!  Yes!  JUST RIGHT LIGHT and ANGLES.  In my opinion everything else is is icing on the cake.

If you master these two concepts posing becomes second nature the fourth part of the equation are post processing filters.  Filters are important tools for editing and as you already know there are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of options out there.  My personal favorites are PicTapGo, VSCO and Snap Chat.  I use all three of these at least several times a week.  There are more in the blog post I mentioned at the beginning of this article if you like choices.


If you play with these tips I’d love to see your results.  Post your best selfie on my Facebook page under the link to this post (you may have to scroll down).  If you post your selfie by 7/30/16 I’ll add you to a drawing for an August 2016 free Simply Marmalade session, drawing for July 31, 2016.  It’s the 6th (secret) way to enter the contest. Facebook link to the Marmalade Photography page here:






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Yes you read that correctly!  An opportunity to win a free southwest suburban Chicago photography session.  Actually there are FIVE opportunities to win.  This is an over $1500 value (no joke!!) 

Details below:
This is for a chance to win a free Chicago Photography session with us session at one of our locations in southwestern suburban Chicago

1) COMMENT in the comments section on THIS blog post “I’d love to win this giveaway with Marmalade Photography”
2) “LIKE” our Facebook page and make sure you FOLLOW us for the newest goings on at our studio – comment on our FB post that you LIKED us (or already do)3) SHARE this giveaway on your Facebook page (& make sure you tell us you did so on the pinned post at the top of our business page)
4) FOLLOW US on Instagram and comment that you did so by leaving us a comment here
5) FOLLOW US on Twitter and drop us a direct message that you did so

That’s it!  Literally a few moments of your time to win big!

Drawing will be held on July 31st for this session that will take place in August 2016.  Winner will be announced on the blog and all social media mentioned.  GOOD LUCK!!





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  • Hillary S - July 5, 2016 - 11:03 am

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From the Madly Wish "In A Twist" underwear shoot, a photo of two young children playing in the forest in their Madly Wish underwear Photo of a boy holding a pretzel balloon wearing Madly Wish underwear

A few post shoot images for your viewing enjoyment from the children’s commercial photography shoot for Madly Wish — including some of the cutest littles in the Chicago area!

It was, again, my pleasure to be chosen as the photographer for this marketing photo shoot for Madly Wish.  We brainstormed before our big day on how to showcase best Madly Wish’s brand new line of kid’s undergarments.  Unisex, non bunching underpants for the kid who views fun as a clothing optional event.  LOL

While this was a departure from my usual photography of families and children in Chicago for personal art it was a comfort zone to work with these children, ages 2 and 5, right in my comfort zone.  We took to the forest where we spent just over an hour shooting various scenes for Madly Wish marketing purposes.  Whitney (of Madly Wish) and I brainstormed pre shoot and enjoyed the idea of flying pretzels and we made it happen (…well with a little work on both our parts!).

Thanks to Maddy and Lauren for kid wrangling and for their assistance at the shoot.  Couldn’t have done it without you both!

Enjoy the rest of the images from this children’s commercial photography shoot:

Photo of two children in the Chicago area playing in the forest surrounded by flying pretzels


Marketing photo for Madly Wish underwear, photo shows a girl holding a pretzel balloon wearing pretzel printed underwear

Photo of a little girl pausing for a moment during our shoot, captured as a bit of art for Madly Wish A photo of our boy model sporting Madly Wish underwear A pause in shooting resulted in this cute capture of our boy model, a little bit of art in our commercial photo shoot

Photo of a young girl during our Madly Wish commercial photography shoot

That’s a wrap for our “In a Twist” underwear shoot for Madly Wish!  Thanks to everyone who participated!!


I so very much enjoy the role of commercial photographer for Madly Wish – we have great fun together and Whitney and I share a similar view of what childhood should be remembered as.  Airy and arty pauses in memory for parents to remember their littles by.  Soft and breathless moments where time briefly stops – art to live with.

While these photos were not created for personal usage at these parent’s homes it most definitely could be.  I am very proud of what we created together.

If you are in need of a commercial children’s photographer or even a family photographer for your very own family…Marmalade Photography travels throughout Chicago and the U.S..  Give us a call: 815-603-8450 and ask for Marianne.





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A couple of months back I dipped my foot back into the Mitzvah pool.  It’s been awhile since I had an opportunity to photograph one but when I had I really enjoyed my short stint as a Mitzvah photographer.  When my friend and fellow photographer Laurie of Soben Studios asked me to photograph her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah I jumped at the opportunity to photograph her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah as I really love the fun & energy of these incredibly special days where Jewish families celebrate the coming of age of their Mitzvah child(ren).

I’m not kidding when I say that there isn’t much that can compare to the energy at a Mitzvah event. The energy level is turned up to 11!  Not only that but the kids themselves are pretty great: funny, fun, outgoing, laughing, having a blast – the vibe of fun is truly contagious and the guests feel it as well.

Typically during these celebrations I’ve found that the lighting CAN be tricky so I highly recommend having a second set of hands (aka an assistant) that can help the photographer with lighting.  S’s Bat Mitzvah was NO EXCEPTION.  This Bat Mitzvah celebration was in the middle of the day but with room darkening curtains throughout and the artificially lit room was filled with (the always fun) black and colored lights – but this lighting can make for some tricky photography opportunities.  With a lighting assistant I was readily able to capture the events of the day without every one looking like Oompa Loompas!  LOL

Anyway a big thank you to Laurie and her family and all of her guests.  Thank you for allowing me to capture this special day for you all.  Much love & MAZEL TOV!!

An example of a photo of a girl in her synagogue for during a North Shore Chicago Bat Mitzvah

A photo of a fun moment during a Chicago area Bat Mitzvah celebration A photo of siblings wishing a Bat Mitzvah well during the Mitzvah celebration in Chicago Photo showcasing a happy moment between a sister and brother during a Mitzvah celebration in Chicagoland Group Mitzvah photo during an event Another Mitzvah group photo of many smiling and happy teens in Chicagoland A photo of celebration and dancing during a Chicago Mitzvah event The Mitzvah expresses her excitement during the Hora dance in the North suburbs of Chicago Another fun expressive image of the Mitzvah during the Hora dance at her celebration in the North Shore of Chicago A photo of a father with his daughter at her Mitzvah celebration.  Mazeltov! An image of a selfie being taken with some of the guest and the Mitzvah at her Chicago event celebration A photo of youth celebrating shadow play and expressing L O V E for the event during a Chicago North Shore Bat Mitzvah celebration A details shot of some of the edibles at this Bat Mitzvah celebration This event image is of guests hula hooping during the event celebration in Highland Park, Illinois An image of this beautiful Mitzvah outside taken during the celebration of her Mitzvah in Chicago land A fun dancing shot of some of the teen girls at this Chicago area Mitzvah celebration The Mitzvah A quick family photo in the Synagogue before rushing off to the party afterward. An image in the bus that transported the children and teens to the party from the Synagogue in Wheeling to the event in Highland Park Another photo with the Mitzvah and her BFFs at the celebration



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I’ve been SO bad.  I’ve been busy over on my Facebook page and neglectful of my blog & honestly I really should be doing it the other way around!  🙂  So I have a bit of catching up to do for sure here on the blog, starting……now!!

A few months back I had the pleasure of meeting this awesome family at their home in the beautiful Chicago South Loop.  We took to the area of the South Loop for family photos of mom, dad, big sis and little brother.  I loved meeting this family and was so excited to see their amazing 30×40 canvas arrive, it was beautiful!!  Thank you to the Y family for welcoming me into their home and showing me around the South Loop neighborhood for the photo session.  I took a few of my favorites to post here on the blog but when I say “a few” I really had to be selective.  There were far too many favorites to choose from and this is but a small selection of this post session showcase.


south loop chicago family pictures

Love this non-traditional but classic family image

girls photography downtown chicago


Marmalade Photography has always sought to document moms with their children.  It’s our passion and our mission to make sure every one of our moms has at least ONE iconic image with each of their children.

Photo_session_home_chicago woman_chinese_photos_chicago



This little guy was playing his urban Lego scene with that amazing scene behind him.  LOVE!


Why yes, Lake Michigan looked like glass that day!!  I love this family pose AND the background behind them.


During every photo session I try to take time out for a couples photo of mom & dad.  Why?  Because I know (from personal experience) that one of you is always behind the camera when taking family photos.  ALWAYS take time to document YOUR relationship.  If not for yourself then to show the significance of it to your beautiful children.  I love this one of Alice & Peter.  Casual and relaxed with that amazing scenery behind them.


Mother and child(ren) images never fail to make me happy.



This image ^^ felt very Jurassic World to me (note the world renown Field Museum in the background of this image)


ONCE AGAIN: the skyline behind them says it all!!  That and the obvious love between father & daughter in this iconic image

chicago-professional-photographer-chicagoThis image says pure Marmalade Photography fun!

I will finish this post with an image that is my personal favorite (of favorites).    Please remember that Chicago photographer Marmalade Photography has been in business for 11 (ELEVEN!) years and saying that this is one of my favorites of favorites says a lot.  I love not only the moment but the scene, Agora is one of Chicago’s most iconic of art pieces.  This family was such a pleasure to work with and this image makes me happy – it says everything about how I’ve been feeling about my own children’s childhood.  It is fleeting.  My children – maybe more accurately the time of my “littles” childhood has sped through the stages.  As if they were running as I stood still. Their “littlehood” was so fleeting.  Their tween years passed by in the blink of an eye.  Their teen years are well under way and I, much like the Agora figures, seem to be moving bulkingly slow as they run through the years.

I know, I know, shut up and show the image.  RUNNING THROUGH AGORA:


THANKS ALICE & PETER!!  Much love.



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  • Alice - June 21, 2016 - 4:15 pm

    Thank you, Marianne! These pictures are amazing and we thoroughly enjoyed our session with you!!