When this mom wanted to find a creative way to document her son’s monthly milestones, she turned to one thing: pizza. Meet Dani Leigh, a Tinybeans mom and the photographer behind these epic pizza portraits of her son, Enzo. We sat down with her to learn more about her family and what kind of advice she has for parents looking to capture their child’s moments. Say cheese!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I have lived in Maryland my whole life, I’m the oldest of 4 kids and currently live in Frederick, MD. I met my husband when we were in 7th grade. Truly, though, I didn’t really like him, he sorta teased me when we were younger and it took until we were going away to college for me to actually like him. We got married right out of college, spent most of our 20s traveling the world while also getting my masters degree and his PharmD. We waited 9 years to have our first child. We now have two little boys – Charlie, 3, and Lorenzo, who just turned one on February 10th. We also have two crazy dogs and a cat named Sushi.
What got you into photography?
I got into photography because I was pretty miserable at my “real” job. I have a masters degree in Thanatology which is the study of death and dying and did work with an organ procurement organization. I picked up photography as a hobby and then started photographing weddings with other photographers I admired, mostly carrying bags at first, but I gained a lot of experience. I have been a full time photographer now for 7 years and I truly love this job so much.
Tell us about Enzo’s monthly photos. How did you come up with this idea?
I knew I wanted to do monthly milestone photos for Enzo. It was just a matter of coming up with a good idea. Luckily, my mom said that I have to do something Italian as an ode to his name. I tossed around a few other ideas, but ultimately decided if we were going to do this right, I wanted to get dinner out of it too. So we landed on pizza. We have a small pizza place across the street from our neighborhood that our family loves. We loved supporting them monthly – they were even so kind to give us extra boxes every few months for the shoot.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your work?
I draw inspiration from many places, but the main thing about my work is I like to have fun. I love laughter, light heartedness, and a more candid atmosphere. I love photographing families in their homes, with all of their favorite things surrounding them. I love capturing real life.
Do you have any advice for parents who want to take better photos of their children?
My biggest piece of advice is to invest in family photography. It’s great taking photos of your own kids. BUT, first hand knowledge, I am frequently in zero photos. Months will go by where I have taken zillions of photos of my children and husband and I am not in a single one.
I waste a lot of time waiting for my children to smile at the camera. I can be found begging them too sometimes because I know it would be the cutest thing ever. But I am finding if I want to remember the moment as it is, forget asking them to smile and look at the camera. Maybe it looks like a nothing photo now, but you could look back on it years from now and think about how tiny and cute they were destroying your kitchen with playdoh, or playing fort with the couch cushion.
In the opposite vain, take the photo and then put. the. camera. down. Play with your kids! Send it to the grandparents when they are napping. You don’t get this time back.
If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your children arrived, what would it be?
I think if there was one thing I could convince my pre child self to do before we had kids, it would have been to learn how to have the most amazing patience ever. I try and try and try and fail over and over again. Being a parent is the hardest job I have ever had. I’m so lucky to have the best teammate, partner, and husband by my side to do this job with.
What’s your favorite moment you’ve captured of your sons and why?
My absolute favorite photo I have captured of the two of them together was in Hawaii this past January. I wanted to recreate a photo I took of Charlie when he was in Hawaii at the same age as Enzo was on this trip. They are both in Hawaiian shirts just sitting in the grass, and they are both just so happy. And yes, their dad was jumping around like a crazy person behind me. But it was still effortless, they smiled so easy and clapped hysterically. It is definitely going on the wall in our home. I am the best version of myself when we are traveling, it is something I truly enjoy, and I think it shows in my kids too. I have so much more patience when we are away, and I get to truly enjoy time with just my family with no interruptions. I’m not glued to my computer answering emails and trying to get edits out to my clients. I am really in the moment.
What upcoming milestones are you excited about?
I’m very excited for Enzo to start walking and talking so his older brother and him can interact more and play. Currently, Charlie just thinks Enzo is a baby and is mad he puts everything in his mouth and is always playing with the toys he wants to play with, coincidentally. And I am excited to take Enzo on some adventures he will start to remember. Charlie has an incredible memory and will recall moments on some of our trips that are just a blur to me. Enzo has been to Mexico, Maine, California, and Hawaii now. I can’t wait to start making memories he will remember.
What’s the best way for people to reach you and follow you?
The best way for people to get in touch with me is definitely through email or my website:
Or through social media:
@danileighphotography on instagram
https://www.facebook.com/danileighphotography/ on facebook