Annual Blue Santa Event

They really need some adult supervision (the cops, not the kids)

Most of my clients know that along with owning and running my photography business, I am also a police officer in East Texas.  And if you know any officers or any other public servants, you know that this is not something that we just do, it’s who we are.  (Because we dang sure aren’t doing it to get rich)

It’s so nice to see old friends and co-workers and it NOT be for a funeral! (Source: Facebook)


Rarely do my skills in both of my jobs get to come together in any kind of good way but this year I had the absolute privilege of photographing (along with Ryan Jordan from Ryan Jordan Photography) this years Blue Santa Event.

Blue Santa was sponsored by the East Texas Fraternal Order of Police in Tyler lead by Tyler PD Officer Chuck Boyce. With donations and assistance from officers and various businesses in the area, it gives underprivileged children, children that have been victims of crimes or that have lost parents because of crime, the opportunity to go Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart with a police officer.  Children were allowed to spend around $100 and on several occasions this night, I saw officers pulling out their own cards and cash to pay for the children to have extra.  Or in the case of one young man, the officer purchasing him a helmet to go with his new bicycle!

That was probably a good idea officer.


Blue Santa was there taking pictures with the kids and asking them what they wanted for Christmas when they first showed up, then they received a Christmas stocking full of goodies made from old uniforms by Michelle Askew.

The stockings were a big hit!
Santa puts on his blue suit for us! Thank you Cops 4 Cops for sending Santa to us! (Source:Facebook)

Animal Control officers were also on hand to wrangle the stuffed animals that they were handing out to all the children.


There were so many officers (around 80+) who volunteered that Officer Kerry Long called the fire department across the street so I could stand on top of the fire truck to take the group photograph of them! I’ve never been so proud in my life to call these people family.

Officers, Deputies, Animal Control, Game Wardens, State Troopers and MANY MANY MANY departments represented from all over E. Texas as far as Dallas and Marshall!

One officer joked that he didn’t volunteer he showed up for a call and saw all the kids and wanted to shop with them, the call could wait.

The children were awesome!  I got big smiles out of everyone and was even informed by SCSO Sergeant Schultz and  LISD PD Officer Wilson that I was to address their child as princess and princess only.  My bad!!


For a little while, I thought we were going to have to arrest some officers for kidnapping because I didn’t think they were going to give the kids back to their parents!

Deputy McDowell, your husband is right behind you, he says you have to give her back!

For anyone who has never spent much time with an officer, most of us are just kids ourselves at heart.  We were those kids that wore capes and were going to save everyone and the world.

CBS left their mike behind on accident, that provided at least 30 minutes worth of entertainment for Officer Boyce. Thank goodness they didn’t leave a camera!

And you know what, maybe we aren’t still running around with bed sheets tied around our necks (well maybe some of them are, we won’t talk about what they do at home) but on days like this maybe, just maybe we kept a child from going without for Christmas or MAYBE  we even touched a kid’s heart enough that it breeds a whole new generation of cape wearing heroes.


Do me a favor, readers of mine (all 4 of you), please share this. There is so much bad news out there that these stories of love and happiness need to be shared, recognized, and appreciated this holiday season. And if you would like to donate for next year OR sponsor a child please check it out HERE.


Criss can be found floating around on her  Website,   FacebookInstagram, or Twitter accounts when she’s not running around the house in her cape.





The Freeman Family’s Newest Member

Having photographed some of these family members over the summer, I knew I was in for a treat!  When Mom contacted me via her mother, to photograph her newborn baby boy and the family, I think she said something along the lines of “NO STUPID HATS!”  To which I giggled and thought…awe man when will I get to use the SOMBRERO as a prop!

Some of you who have previously had a customized session by me, probably can recall the look of abject horror I had on my face when you showed me a photograph you found on Pinterest with chalkboards, or scrabble letters.   I promise I really don’t make those faces on purpose. They just pop up on my face.  However, inside when someone shows me their inspiration, I’m screaming “OH MY GOD THE CHEESY PROPS!!!!! NOOOOOOO!!!!” So thank you for not calling me out on that, if you noticed. Then I calm down and start planning the “look” for your session and try to find the “look” you are going for by showing me these inspirational photographs. So to start off planning a session with a client who absolutely doesn’t want cheesy props makes me think I have found the absolutely perfect client!  I love you…….(too much?)

I had a reveal session planned for another client an hour away directly after this newborn & family session. Also, remember hurricane Patricia a couple of weeks ago that hit Mexico?  Yea the remnants from that went over the top of us the day of this portrait session.  Mom’s husband was so chivalrous when he braved the howling storm to help me get my gear out of my poor little cram packed Mustang.  And then again when he helped me cram it back.  My car still smells bad from all the wet gear that hung out in it for the rest of the night!

#BTS (behind the scenes) Photograph courtesy of Mrs. Freeman

Poor big brother did not seem to be impressed by my mad photography skills or his new baby brother but come to find out the poor little guy was fighting an ear infection!  He never even cried.  I want to lay down in the floor and scream if I get an ear infection and no way you would get a camera near me!  Such a little trooper.

tyler texas photography

Baby Cooper had the alertness of a two month old.  Which made for some great lifestyle photographs but he really, really did not want to miss anything!  So he didn’t slip off into baby never never land for very long. But that was okay because I’m quick with the camera.

newborn smiling - Tyler TX photographer
Baby Cooper looks like he is up to something!!

For someone who had just had a cesarean five days earlier and no sleep with a toddler and a newborn to care for, Mom was absolutely beautiful and Dad looked so proud of his little family.

Whatever kind of day I have had though, quietly sitting and taking photographs of newborns makes my day.  Especially with clients like these.   Thank you both for working with me to preserve these precious memories!

Tyler Texas Newborn Photographer

Phoenix Rhys Photography can be found floating around on her  Website,   FacebookInstagram, or Twitter accounts when she’s not out having fun with her clients.

How to lose the wattle (How to take photos without having a double chin)

Quick, does anyone remember Ally Mcbeal….. I used to love that show when I was younger and they have re-runs now!

Does anyone remember that guy Fish that had a wattle fetish? You know, the loose skin that’s on a woman’s neck. Guess what, if you have that fetish, no woman is going to appreciate you pointing it out.  In fact, my third most requested thing (after will you make my ass bigger or my waist smaller) is can you remove my double chin?

Actually, that would be a HUGE pain in the petunia to do in Photoshop and I would charge you extra and really I tend to notice it when I’m posing clients before I press the shutter and adjust them.  So let me give you my tricks to banishing the DOUBLE CHIN (there was an echo after that) for when you take selfies or someone else breaks out their cell phone and points it at you! DO AT LEAST ONE OF THESE THREE EASY THINGS.


STOP FACING THE CAMERA HEAD ON AND BEND SOMETHING! I repeat stop turning your body and head towards the camera at the same angle with your hands at your side. If you have a joint (no not that kind) then bend and move it.  I suggest shifting your body because your body facing the camera also causes you to appear wider and lord help you if you’re wearing stripes.

Just to note this is a straight on photo with me doing everything we are going to talk about wrong.
Just to note this is a straight on photo with me doing everything we are going to talk about wrong.

Now in this one I am still slightly canted. In case you’re wondering, I was looking in the mirror at my “wattle” while preparing for a client consultation when inspiration hit for this post.  This time I wasn’t driving when inspiration hit so I didn’t put anyone else in danger!

#2 Head Out, Chin Down

You will hear me tell you this when we begin your session, then you’ll promptly forget and hear me repeating it over and over again.  Why?  BECAUSE this is the #1 thing that banishes the DOUBLE CHIN (echo again).

Head back & relaxed Good bye chin & Jaw!
Head back & relaxed
Head out & chin down PERFECT shadow contouring the chin
Head out & chin down PERFECT shadow contouring the chin
Easy now, don't get too crazy with it....
Easy now, don’t get too crazy with it….

Sticking your head out and putting your chin down feels a little awkward but it’s only until the photo is snapped.


Do you know why women take selfies of themselves with the camera above their head?  (Sometimes not paying attention to what’s behind them)

Because it’s a flattering angle and one of the oldest… me look skinnier in photos…tricks in the book

Let’s talk perspective…..

Corny? Oh hell yes but FUN

I remember this being like the first assignment in photography school.  Perspective…everyone promptly went out and basically created an image like this.  My instructors were not impressed with our lack of creativity. (and this was before GOOGLE!)

Whatever is closest to the camera is going to look bigger and the further away the smaller it appears. Also, being above eye level gives your chin and jaw definition. Thus banishing the double chin. (Perspective is also what caused my tatas to appear ginormous in those last images…. they were the closest thing to the camera)

Also…. ladies….you don’t have to be this high above eye level, slightly above will do

So, when someone whips out a camera and you’re paying attention you turn slightly to the side, tilt your head down and stick your chin out (slightly) and if the camera is higher than your eye level shift your eyes up.

TA DA!!!!
TA DA!!!!

Also, let me repeat my mantra.  A camera takes a 3D moment in time and spits it out in 2D.  It is not magical. You are a moving breathing person.  You don’t have to un-tag yourself from every FB image your friends post of you because when you’re out and about you don’t really look like that one photo makes you look!

Or better yet come see me. I’ll take awesome FB profile images for you. 🙂


What to Paint on your Face (How to apply makeup for your photo session)

As I sit here sipping my Real Sangria (YES it says REAL and it’s $7.00 a bottle and I’m not ashamed to be seen with the bottle because it’s not that pansy ass Arbor Mist stuff), I reminisce about my mother teaching me how to put on makeup.

There has to be some crazy trick to lip paint because I still don't understand how this stuff is supposed to work!
There has to be some crazy trick to lip paint because I still don’t understand how this stuff is supposed to work!

Actually, that was probably a sangria induced hallucination because my mother was and is a tomboy (She taught me how to change the oil on my car not how to curl my hair) Mom’s idea of getting dressed was slapping on a size 00 pair of cut off wrangler jeans, Daisy Duke style (that’s two zeros people, they do make clothes in those sizes in case you’re wondering because I sure as hell never bought a pair in that size) and whatever random t-shirt she could find that came about mid-thigh. (Which is actually in style now?) If she was really in a dressy mood she put on some eyeliner, mascara and a pair of whole wrangler jeans and maybe a dressy button up shirt, oh, and curled her bangs.  There’s nothing wrong with that and my mother is beautiful.  We just have to do some clothing and makeup adjustments before a photo shoot.

This is what my makeup looked like in middle school!
This is what my makeup looked like in middle school

Needless to say my foray into makeup was interesting.  I went from middle school with WAAAYYY too much make up because that’s what you do when you’re 13  to a grown up tomboy myself saying, “Screw it I look great without it.”  And I did but then I turned 30….. It hurt a little to type that….

At 30, this strange thing happens overnight.  All of those days in the sun start to take a toll on your face.  So does the smoking, drinking, late nights doing those two things and the 4 hours of sleep you tell yourself you can live with, while sleeping those 4 hours in your party hard makeup. (This was the only time I put on makeup). You see these little lines appearing around your eyes, and strange dark marks and weird hairs sprout. Also, acne does not go away when you turn 20 or 30, I’m hoping on 40.

This stuff became my new best friend!
This stuff became my new best friend!

Anyway, so GOOGLE….  I had to GOOGLE how to put on eyeliner, curl my hair, what type of face regimen to use etc.  Then I started doing more studio portraits and hello …. I had to hire a makeup artist because yep I didn’t know what to do for my clients.

SO without further ado…here are tips for how to paint that crud on your face for your portrait session…. YES it’s different than every day makeup!


Primer… If you don’t have it, get it.  Primer not only gives you a smooth even complexion but leaves your make up flawless for an extended period of time.  Any primer will work!


Ya’ll know I’m a color kind of gal BUT unless we are doing some type of stylized fashion shoot OR you regularly wear hot pink eyeliner, then DON’T get too crazy about trying something new for your photo-shoot. Even if you look fabulous, if it’s not you, then you may look at your portraits and think “What was I thinking.”


Do you regularly wear shimmery, gold dusted, glittery make up? If you do and you’re over the age of 18, DON’T.  If you don’t, sure as heck don’t start now!  Shimmery make up reflects light and that can make your face appear oily in photographs.  If you’re using these to “highlight” your face see contouring below for a better, more natural appearing option.


Oh how I love contouring!  This right here can totally change your whole face!  I am so going to link you to My Pinterest because yea there’s a good tutorial HERE for contouring but the basics are this.  You have three foundations.  Your regularly tinted foundation, one lighter and one darker. You use a lighter for the highlight areas and a darker for your shadow areas to bring out the angles in your face. I suggest sticking with the same brands OR you can buy a contouring kit or stick.  I like NYX Cosmetics Wonder Stick because it takes the guess work out of what shade you should buy.  Plus, I’m a cheap ass and it’s $11.99 at


Don’t be too light handed with your make up when preparing for your photo-shoot.  Sunlight and a camera flash can wash out the color on your face.  Do your make up and then step out into the sunlight with a hand mirror. Make sure the light is actually on your face when you do this to see how your make up will look in light. Go heavier on the blush and contouring than on the eyes. The eyelids do not wash out as easily because light hits your cheeks first.  DO NOT RIM YOUR WATERLINE IN ALL BLACK!  This makes your eyes appear smaller.  Use a white or nude pencil on your waterline and then use brown (lightly) under that to make your eyes appear larger!

Does anyone else take selfies to see what your makeup looks like? That’s so what I was doing in these! Anyway….purple eyeliner doesn’t make eyes look as small as a all black eyeliner.
Without black waterline...I really need to work on my happy face in my selfies
Without black waterline…I really need to work on my happy face in my selfies
With a all black waterline (See I was trying to hold my eyes open further)
With a all black waterline (See I was trying to hold my eyes open further)

Professional Makeup

If you have your makeup done by a professional prior to your session, be sure to inform them that you are getting it done for a photo session & that they understand that there is a difference.

SO what have we learned today?

FIRST Arbor Mist Sangria is a wussy girly drink.

SECOND you have learned that there is more to learn on my Pinterest board here.

C : Don’t be scared to use your makeup, learn to contour, you’re not 12….get rid of the glitter, and don’t get too adventurous with makeup color.  OH and primer…..just like painting a wall use this before your paint your face.


Fourth- D- whatever:  Cameras are not magical.  It spits out a 2D image of a 3D person.  Even if you don’t wear makeup regularly, wearing it for your photo shoot will enhance your already beautiful face.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR OIL – Go to your Husband/Boyfriend/Friend with Benefits and say, “If I have to change this oil myself then what do I need a man for? I own a vibrator.”  Go back in the house, practice putting on makeup….watch your oil get changed.  For better instructions, ask my mom…..

GUYS…..why are you reading this? You know you don’t care what your face looks like. You just want to know how much you have to spend on this to make your wife/girlfriend happy.  Muahaaaaaa!!

Mr. & Mrs. Aubrey’s wedding video, Mrs.

Mr. & Mrs. Aubrey’s wedding video, Mrs. Aubrey was a dream to work with! #naturaltalent