Susan Dixon Photography » Jacksonville wedding & portrait photographer

As Callie’s first birthday approached,

I knew that her one year session had to be absolutely amazing!

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My great-niece, Callie, turned one year old yesterday. It’s kind of funny because it seems like she was just born a few months ago. Time flies so quickly these days! Even though Hurricane Irma will be here in less than 24 hours, we were still able to celebrate at her birthday party this morning! Fortunately, I was able to photograph this session for her earlier this week.

the planning

When Callie’s mom and I first discussed her one year photo session, we both knew it had to be: (1) something really special AND (2) unmistakably girly. When her mom mentioned the idea of a tepee, our plans took off from there.

After shopping around on both Etsy and Amazon, we settled on this model. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)

We also were able to incorporate several other items we already had: a special blanket Callie received at her birth, a vintage handmade blanket with yellow flowers, framed letters that spell her name from Callie’s shower, several banners and garland pieces from my stock, and an adorable bear from Boston Avenue Babies on Etsy.  (Again, NOT an affiliate link.)

Another thing I loved about this session is that we did it early in the morning…..almost right after sunrise. Callie gets up early in the day, anyway. Plus, we were able to beat the heat and the rain. Since we live in Jacksonville, Florida, we’ve gotten a TON of rain this summer. As I predicted, there was dew on the ground. However, I planned ahead by bringing plastic tablecloths to act as liners underneath the tepee and blankets.

We chose to do the session in an empty field that’s just a couple of minutes from Callie’s house. That’s proof that you don’t need a fancy park…or the beach…to have a beautiful session.

And the flower patch……..That was a complete surprise to all of us! At first, Callie wasn’t sure about it, but she quickly came around to the idea of being in the middle of it. She really enjoyed being close-up to the gorgeous blooms. They ended up being just the right height for her!

It all came together!

In case you can’t tell from the images, Callie is just as sweet on the inside as she is cute on the outside. She is almost always happy and content. I’m so blessed to be able to document the milestone of her turning one year old!

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A small flower patch can have a big impact!

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As a Jacksonville photographer, I spend most of my time photographing portraits and weddings. However, I also LOVE to document trips. And my recent mission trip to Nicaragua was no exception. My church (Normandy Park Baptist) has participated in several Nicaragua mission trips over the past few years. Personally, this was my fourth mission trip to Nicaragua.

My whole family (husband, two sons, and daughter) were able to go this time! My daughter is only eleven years old, and this was her third mission trip. (It was her first time going to Nicaragua, though.)

A lot of mission trips center around passing out food/supplies and/or construction. However, we always focus more on sharing the Gospel with people. We work with a set of local missionaries at Word of Life Nicaragua. Although our church has been to this beautiful country several times, each trip is different.

This year, we flew into Managua but traveled to Juigalpa. We actually partnered with a church in a small town (Santo Domingo) for the week. Santo Domingo is about an hour away from where we stayed, so we enjoyed a scenic mountainous drive to and from Iglesia Filadelfia each day.

Some of the activities we did included hosting a marriage conference, our pastors preaching to the church members, hosting two separate VBS events, hosting a youth conference on purity and discipleship, hosting a local soccer tournament for the city of Santo Domingo, and sharing the Gospel with people in individual houses.

The people of Santo Domingo were so welcoming! We went there to minister, and several people accepted Christ. But we were also blessed! We were encouraged by the work God is doing through Iglesia Filadelfia!

It rained almost every day of our trip, and the clay soil was very slippery. Despite the weather, we still had a wonderful, productive trip.

Our last full day in Nicaragua was a “tourism” day. We were able to visit a local volcano (Masaya), a pottery shop, a local market, and a restaurant on the shore of an extinct, water-filled volcano.

I’m so grateful for this mission trip. I’m also so glad that all three of my children got to go this time. I think it’s very important to teach kids to give of themselves and be unselfish. It was great for them to experience another culture. Most of all, it was wonderful for them to share their faith and help others at the same time.

I’m excited to see what God has in store for our next trip!

Nicaragua Mission Trip

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Nicaragua Tourism Day

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One of the highlights of my recent trip to New York City was photographing actress/dancer/singer/model Kelly P. Williams! I’ve shot in NYC multiple times, but I was intrigued when Kelly suggested Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a photographer’s paradise!

For starters, there’s the iconic view of the Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan as the backdrop. It’s absolutely stunning! There’s also a glass-enclosed carousel, modern museum entrance, and an intriguing garden that’s been crafted inside an old building. I think I could shoot there all day, any day, because there are so many options!

Kelly and I chose to meet early in the morning. We encountered a few dog walkers and runners, but there were no tourists to edit out of the images. In addition, the weather was much cooler in the morning than it would have been at the traditional golden hour. This park is understandably busy, and it gets crowded FAST! This strategy works with almost any “touristy” spot in any area.

Kelly discovered me on social media. Her parents live in my area, close to Jacksonville, Florida. We originally intended to collaborate on a project here in Florida last year. However, our schedules didn’t cooperate. When I took a family trip to NYC this summer, we made THIS happen!

Kelly’s list of accomplishments seem endless, and she is crazy-talented! One of my favorite things about the session is that I got to interview her about her lifestyle while I shot. She has multiple agents; one for each major area (acting, dancing, etc.) She has to keep a meticulous calendar, yet be flexible as things can change quickly. The thought of working on different projects all the time sounds both exciting and rewarding!

model: Kelly P. Williams

dress: New York & Company | Eva Mendes Collection | Alonza one-shoulder maxi dress in tickled green

shoes: | Unlisted

bracelet & earrings: family heirlooms


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As a Jacksonville photographer, I feel like we are very blessed to have SO MANY options in our area when it comes to choosing a location for a photography session.

Whether you’re a professional OR you’re  just wanting to take pictures of your friends/family, the location you choose makes a HUGE difference in the outcome of your images.

And whether you’re in the Jacksonville area or not, here are three questions to help you select a stunning location for your next photography session!

(1) What will the lighting look like at the time of my session?

Since the best light for outdoor sessions happens in the golden hour–one hour before sunset, you really need to know where and how the light will shine at the time of your session. Sometimes you know because you drive by the area frequently. You may need to make a special trip to check out the lighting. If you love back-lit images, you need to be sure that there’s a fairly open area in the west so that you can get enough of that gorgeous, warm light.

If you need to do the session at a time other than the golden hour, think about finding some open shade or other ways to get good light.

Try to avoid dappled light (often produced as sunlight shines through leaves), which leads to hot spots in your photos. In addition, avoid placing your subjects facing into the sun. Everyone will be squinting.


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(2) What mood do you want these pictures to convey?

Take a few moments and think about the story you will tell with these images…..and what type of location will add to the mood you wish to achieve?

The two engagement photos below were taken in very different settings.

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The one on the left has a definite city/modern/sophisticated vibe. On the other hand, the pic on the right has a dreamy/romantic/natural quality. They are both beautiful… just depends on the direction you want to go. It’s your story, and your location should enhance that story–not detract.

Don’t just pick a place because you think it’s pretty. Decide on the tone you want your images to have, and go from there.

One of my recent families specifically asked for a beach session. They know they will only be here for a few years because of the husband’s military career. And the beach fits them perfectly, because reads as fun and casual….just like them. It helps them tell their story of their time in Florida.

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{A side note about shooting on the beach–>ALWAYS check to see when low tide is. High tide makes your session more difficult and/or impossible–depending on the beach.}

We also have a lot of awesome buildings here in Jacksonville, Florida. One of my favorites is a warehouse that is covered with art! Images photographed at a place like this will read as modern/young/edgy.

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There are SOOO many more examples that I could give……but the last option I’m going to mention here is being photographed on your own property. I’ve done several sessions with clients on their own land, and it something extra special to the images. Here are a couple of my favorites:

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(3) What location works best for all of the people involved?

If you hire a professional photographer, please defer to him/her for the final say in the location. Photographers LOVE suggestions from clients! But trust his/her experience as to whether or not a specific location will work. Also, make sure that everyone can get there ON TIME–> ready to go.

The closer your location and more familiar everyone is with the directions, the more likely you are to experience success.

Location is very important! It creates the framework for the story you are telling with your images. Be thoughtful when selecting a setting….you will be so glad that you did!

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Engagement photographers in Jacksonville are very fortunate because there are SO many locations in this area for portraits! When many people think of a Florida session, the first thing the think of is the beach. And, of course, beach pictures are great!

However, there are so many fabulous options. We have urban areas in downtown, Riverside, and San Marco. In addition, we have grassy fields, marshes, parks, flower gardens, and [one of my personal favorites] FORESTS.

Carrie and Chris are getting married in September, and I am thrilled to be their wedding photographer. They knew from the beginning that they wanted their engagement pictures taken in the woods. That totally fits them! Chris is on the management staff at a local sporting goods store, so it makes sense that he feels at home in the forest.

In fact, it was through their jobs that Carrie and Chris met. While Chris worked at a sporting goods store, Carrie worked at a cosmetics store that was right NEXT to Chris’ place of employment. Somehow, Chris never managed to venture into Carrie’s shop. :) However, Carrie enjoyed browsing next door while on break. Once she discovered Chris, I’m pretty sure that Carrie found reasons to go there more often. I think that Chris is very glad that she did! The two soon started dating.

Chris proposed to Carrie during the Florida/Georgia game this past fall. He planned it all out. The best thing about that is that they were surrounded by family and friends. It’s a bit complicated because Chris is a fan of the Florida Gators, and Carrie pulls for the Georgia Bulldogs. But they are making their relationship work!

Both Carrie and Chris are very friendly, and I love how relaxed they are together. Their wedding is coming up in just a few months, but they are not the type to over-stress about it. They have chosen Bowing Oaks Plantation as their venue, and it totally fits their vibe. Bowing Oaks is known for being both rustic and elegant, which I absolutely love! I believe that a couple’s venue sets the tone for their whole wedding, and Carrie and Chris have made a wonderful choice!

Please click to here see other engagement sessions. It’s amazing how unique and different they are…based on the couple and location.

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