Natalie Gibbs – Virginia Wedding Photographer » Modern documentary-style wedding and family photography for Roanoke, Charlottesville, Blacksburg, and the New River Valley

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Ah, wedding food.

I’ve eaten a lot of it. And most of it is… well… kind of ordinary. Many meals tend to be cold by the time they get to me, or the vegetables are soggy, or the flavors aren’t exactly inspired. So when I tasted the food at Kara and Joe’s wedding last fall, I knew I wanted to give their caterer a major shout out on my blog.


The Element, formerly known as Mikie’s 7th, is a catering boutique based in Newport, just outside of Blacksburg, Virginia. It’s a husband and wife team, and they are both super friendly and contagiously good natured. Mikie and her husband are serious about their work, care about their clients, and are genuinely excited about the food the make. Just hearing them talk about their jobs made me want to work harder at mine!

The element features a huge menu of exciting, flavorful, modern dishes in all meal formats: buffet, stations, traditional plated dinners, and family-style. But the best part about this business? They are not a one-size-fits-all caterer. You’ll find no “pick two meats and three veggies” here. Instead, they are completely, 100% custom orders. Mikie meets with every couple in-person and designs a menu tailored to fit their unique tastes as well as their budget and nutritional concerns. Bonus: they also use locally sourced meat and produce as much as possible, and I can tell you from experience that their food is DELICIOUS.


If you’re looking for a caterer for your wedding or event, give The Element a call.


First of all, I want to begin this post by saying an official farewell to “Mondays with Mamas.”  It’s been fun, but I feel really bad about excluding — albeit virtually — anyone who isn’t a “mama.”  That’s just not how I want to roll here.  Particularly at a time when I think being accepting to all different types of families is so important.  I want this portion of my blog to be for any family, and so I’m renaming it “Family Fridays” and moving it too… well… Fridays.

And honestly, it sounds better anyway, right?

And now, on with the show.

Can we talk about bathing suits?


I’ve been trying to buy Caroline a new bathing suit for this summer.  We got two years out of her previous ones, which is incredible considering how much she grew in that time.  But she’s just turned four, and I think we’re ready for an upgrade.

The problem is, I’m find very, very little that I like in the stores.  Here are my rules:

1. Not neon.

No one looks good in neon, including my daughter.  (Okay, maybe Beyonce does… but that’s it.)  Caroline wants a green bathing suit, but what little green I see is OBNOXIOUS and unflattering.  And this is not to mention that neon totally throws my camera off its game.  It really photographs terribly.  Can someone please just make a nice emerald green bathing suit that doesn’t look like it will glow in the dark?

2. No characters.

I’m all for Elsa being on Caroline’s shirts and blankets and bags, but I just don’t think the snow queen belongs on an article of clothing intended for frolicking in the sunshine.  (Anna, maybe, but she’s rarely pictured alone.)  Caroline isn’t into many of the other princesses and her favorite TV show characters aren’t printed on girls’ suits at all (The Neverland Pirates and Octonauts are big right now).  I keep having to look past Hello Kitty, Tinkerbell, Ariel, and a slew of other characters, and all I really want is a solid color or a pretty pattern.

3. One piece.

I don’t care what other mothers put on their children.  But for my little girl, I just really want an old-school one-piece swimsuit.  Something that looks unquestionably childlike and that will stay put while she’s jumping around in the water.  I see so many two-piece suits and bikinis for toddlers right now, and while I don’t want to get into a discussion of what’s considered appropriate for girls to wear, I just don’t think it’s what I visualize for Caroline at this point in her life.  Plus, her bottoms would never stay up.  And the new rash guard trend… It speaks to me as an adult who wants to hide some skin, but I would really miss seeing Caroline’s little shoulders, and she’s not a super sporty girl anyway.

4. Not a costume.

We do not need a bathing suit that looks like a ballet leotard with an attached tutu.  We already have a ballet leotard and several tutus.  We also do not need a bathing suit that looks like a mermaid’s scales, a princess dress, or any other costume.  We just want a bathing suit that looks like a bathing suit.

5. Ruffles, please!

This isn’t a hard rule, but I give bonus points to any swimsuit with ruffles on it.



I don’t like to get too overtly political on this site, but I do want to state very clearly that I SUPPORT marriage equality.  I am thrilled that Virginia has legalized same-sex marriage and I’m looking forward to working with engaged LGBT couples and their families.  I haven’t had a ton of LGBT inquiries, and I’m anxious to build my portfolio in that area, so if you’re looking for an LGBT-friendly wedding photographer in Virginia, give me a call.

Also, there’s been some talk about weddings with pizza in the news lately, and I just want to say that YES, weddings can have pizza, and it’s a very good idea.  Dogtown Roadhouse in Floyd even brings a brick oven to your wedding and fires the pizza in their truck there.  It’s impressive, fun, and delicious.



Spring has sprung, and you know what that means: family portrait season is just around the corner.  I’m going to use the next few posts to give you, dear readers, some tips on making the most of your family photo session.  First up: beautiful, squishy, perfect babies.

I’ve decided to rename my “Mondays for Mamas” post series “Family Fridays.”  It’s way better, right?  I’ve just been thinking about how not every family has a mama at all, or perhaps they do but she’s not the one planning the photos, and I just want to be inclusive.  So, here we go.

IsaacBlog-11. Plan for a longer shoot.

Mini sessions are extremely popular because they’re inexpensive, but they are also only 20 minutes long and are scheduled back-to-back with very little flexibility.  If your baby decides they are hungry, or tired, or flat out uninterested during that 20 minutes, you’re out of luck.  This is why for newborns and babies, I recommend booking a full regular photo session.  Most baby shoots take at least an hour, sometimes up to 3 or 4 for newborns.  It’s worth it to take our time, make your baby comfortable, and allow time for feeding, dozing, and playing as needed.  (Once you pass 12 months, definitely go for the mini.)

2. It’s okay if your newborn sleeps.

Most of the adorable, curled-up newborn photos you see online right now have one thing in common: the baby isn’t even awake.  Newborns sleep a lot, and we want to capture that lovely sleepy period in the photos.   While your baby is asleep, the photographer may gently arrange him/her into a specific pose.

3. You DO need to be in the photos.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard parents say, “No photos of us, please.”  Um, NO WAY!  The parents need to be in at least one photo with their children.  You are a part of their life and a part of their memories.  It’s okay if you don’t look perfect; just get in there.  For newborns in particular, I actually prefer that parents be in a majority of the photos, just cuddling and nuzzling and playing with their babies.


4. Don’t overdress.

Newborns and babies are adorable in just their own skin, or perhaps a simple white onesie.  I find that doing multiple outfit changes aggravates them, and bulky clothes tend to hide the simple beauty underneath.  It honestly takes a few months before babies look really good in clothes… until they can sit up on their own, they just kind of look squashy and wrinkled.  Until that point, go minimal.  Let’s see those squishy thigh rolls and cute diaper covers.  For mom and dad, plan a simple, solid colored shirt to wear while you hold the baby.  (Actually, let’s be real: plan for 3, because he/she is going to spit up on you at some point.)  Matching — or even coordinating — outfits are not required.  I think it’s much more important for everyone to look like themselves.


5. Be aware of the magic ages/stages.

There are a lot of family portrait photographers who want to sell a set of portraits every 3 months, no matter what.  After living through two kids of my own and failing to book that many sessions (and seriously, I couldn’t afford that many photos even if I wanted to), I no longer think this is the way to go.  There are a few “magic” ages/stages that make photography work best, and that show enough change in your child to really justify the expense of a new shoot.  I recommend doing a portrait session when your baby is a newborn, when they’re sitting up on their own (around 6 months), around a year or when they start walking (but before they start running away), and then around age 3… when they’re old enough to follow directions and respond to extrinsic motivators (a.k.a. bribes).  You might notice I left out a whole 2-ish years there… yep.  From 18-months to about age 3, kids are extremely cute, and also extremely unpredictable.  If you want professional photos of the toddler period, go for a documentary approach or a mini-session instead of a full regular portrait shoot.


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