Rachel Brandt || Indianapolis Family Photographer » Indianapolis Family, Child, and Event Photographer

This is the Smith family at home. Their house is tucked into the back corner of a charming El Cajon neighborhood complete with herds of kids playing basketball in the day’s last light. Inside there are book lined walls , more Legos than I’ve seen outside of Legoland and an iPad perpetually reminding us that everything is awesome. There are also two little boys, undeniable brothers separated by four years and a shock of blonde hair. And there are parents who play with their kids and read to their kids. So basically a whole lot of love and this is what that looks like.two brothers hugging on a blanket in the backyardlittle boy posing and snugglingbrothers playing on a blanket in the backyardBoy playing baseball at his home in El Cajonhappy baby drinking a bottle of formula milkinfant baby crying for a bottlefather and son documentary portrait sessionfather and son posing at home photoshootlittle boy playing with legosfather and son playing legos togetherDad and son playing with legosbaby crawling at home on the carpetmom reading to her baby infant son

All Photographs Copyright of San Diego Family Photographer, Rachel Brandt


What happens when you put 30+ professional photographers in a Tennessee cabin and add in a whole lot of snow and ice? The Heavy Hearted Photographers First Annual Retreat is what happens. What does that actually mean? Well, there are impromptu photoshoots and classes about the importance of blogging and search engine optimization. There is Jumanji on ABC family and enough dance parties to put a party bus to shame. Add in moonshine tastings, coonskin caps, and a whole lot of taxidermy and you still wouldn’t be able to truly explain what the heavy-hearted photographers retreat really looked like. Think summer camp with about $100,000 worth of camera gear and none of the heat. Anyway, this is a little peek through my lens. To see a couple other perspectives check out these links : Laura Babb – Babb Photo || Rachel Kaye – Rachel Kaye Photography || Kenon Lamont Thompson


Family photographer San Diego

Baking is a pretty big deal in our house. When I was in grad school, I would stay up late into the night and early into the morning baking dozens upon dozens of cookies in a menagerie of flavors. The scientific nature of it quelled my internal panic. Now, I don’t have so much to panic about but my daughter is older and loves to help in the kitchen. She’s got her own set of knives and we’ve come to a sharing agreement on the measuring spoons.  These were a just a few of the six dozen sugar cookies we made for our annual holiday party. Cookie decorating is pretty much the one and only activity we ever manage to pull off and thus we needed all six dozen of these to keep everyone busy. These days and sessions where I get to sit back and watch people be and enjoy and interact and photograph it all are my chocolate.Family photographer San DiegoFamily photographer San DiegoFamily photographer San DiegoFamily photographer San Diego

All Photographs Copyright of Family Photographer – San Diego Rachel Brandt

  • January 5, 2015 - 6:25 pm

    A Dimple in Time Photography - Love these lifestyle photos of this wonderful family tradition you have shared with your little one!ReplyCancel

  • January 5, 2015 - 9:00 pm

    Jamie Frayser - Love this. I can’t wait until my daughter gets a little older and we can enjoy moments like this together. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2015 - 3:52 am

    Emily - What fun! You’re making such good memories with your daughter. Baking cookies was one of my favorite things as a child…and still is!ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2015 - 4:17 pm

    Erica - These are adorable. What a great way to capture such a normal moment in childhood. The lighting in these is beautiful. These images let us in on your little girl’s personality. I’m sure you’ll cherish these for years to come.ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2015 - 6:55 pm

    Christa - I love that you captured this! You can tell that she is loving it!ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2015 - 7:30 pm

    Megan - These are adorable! I love lifestyle photography – you will cherish these forever 🙂ReplyCancel

  • January 6, 2015 - 10:29 pm

    Kathleen - awwww, what precious moment you share with your daughter! And to have these images to remember them by is priceless!ReplyCancel

  • January 12, 2015 - 6:18 pm

    Susy - What a fun activity! I love baking cookies too.ReplyCancel

What’s your story?
Our story together began in 2001 where we met at the bank Kelly worked at. After several conversations, we realized that our families had very big connections…Gil’s older sister & her husband have been Kelly’s very good friends since the 70’s! As far as we know, our lives never crossed paths as kids…30+ years later they did and we are both so thankful. We initially developed a strong friendship and eventually in 2004 our friendship turned into more. Being older now…we both knew what we wanted in life…we wanted to have a loving marriage (married our best friend) and to have children! We were married in 2005 and began trying to start our family immediately (we weren’t getting any younger!)…And that’s when the real adventures began…The next several years were truly adventures…between an ectopic pregnancy and numerous unsuccessful fertility treatments…our journey took a different direction, a direction that we now know was meant to be…Adoption.

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What makes your family special?
Our family is special in so many ways…where do we start? We were matched with our son Kennedy’s Birthmother in October of 2010, just 3 short months after submitting our profile to the agency. Kennedy’s Birthmother chose Gil and I because we loved to travel, lived exciting lives and she also wanted us to experience parenthood for the first time. At our first meeting, she presented us with a Teddy Bear…The Teddy Bear had a recording or our baby’s heartbeat…our son’s heartbeat. Now, how could you not automatically fall completely in love with this woman??? What an amazingly loving, thoughtful gift! That day was the day that we met one of our best friends for the first time! We also learned that day that our son wasn’t due until April 2011. The next 6 months was an amazing bonding period. Kelly was able to attend every doctor’s appointment and Gil went to all of the BIG appointments; the Birthmother wanted us to experience as much as possible with her on this journey. Our son was born on April 7th 2011 at 10:51pm after a pretty short labor (Birthmother may not agree). The delivery doctor told us that our son would be out in 1 contraction and 3 (max) pushes…The birthmother looked at him like he was nuts…After all this was her 3rd child and the other 2 were not so easy. Thankfully, our son did just that, 1 contraction and only 2 pushes! Kennedy Patrick entered the world with the loudest scream, he wanted to make a grand entrance into this world, and not much has changed.  A little history about how Kennedy Patrick became our son’s name…Kennedy was a name we chose a very long time ago, not knowing whether we would have a boy or a girl, the first name was going to be Kennedy. His middle name has much more meaning to all of our families. Patrick is after 2 of the most amazing women we know. Patricia is the name of Kelly’s mom, as well as the Birthmother’s mom. Both these women battled breast cancer; Kelly’s mom has been cancer free for 5 years. The birthmother’s mom was battling breast cancer for the second time during the pregnancy; she was the biggest support system for our birthmother (and us). Unfortunately, she passed away a couple days after Kennedy was born. We all believe that she waited to make sure that her grandson and her daughter were ok and that he had become a part of our family. We continue to have a very open adoption with Kennedy’s Birthfamily and are so blessed to have such an amazing relationship with both sides, including their extended family (siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.).

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In 2014, we seriously started discussing adopting again after Kennedy started telling everyone that would listen that we were “getting” him a baby sister! Adopting again was always on the table, but when Kennedy started voicing his wish, we called the agency end of February to set up an appointment to discuss the possibility of #2. There were two concerns we were worried about which could lead to possibly a longer wait time A) Our ages, no longer spring chickens and B) We already had a child. Both could possibly be held against us in the process and we really didn’t want to wait years and years, because let’s face it, we weren’t getting any younger. Two days after Kelly made the phone call to the agency to set up a meeting (appointment was set for the following week); they called her to tell her about a “situation”. The Director of the agency had just met with a pregnant couple where they talked to her about the history of the baby, what they were looking for in an adoptive couple, what type of Open Adoption they desired and also to get any questions answered. During their meeting, they voiced that they preferred a couple that were experienced parents (already have a child) and that they wanted an open relationship but wanted examples of what it that could look like. By chance (not remembering that Kelly had just called her 2 days prior to discuss #2), Sarah used our Open Adoption relationship with Kennedy’s Biological family as an example of how awesome it could be…Their eyes lit up…That’s the kind of relationship they wanted… After the couple left her office, the light bulb went off in the Director’s head…she remembered that we had just called about #2…she reflected on the conversation she just had with the couple and all of the similarities with the baby and what they were looking for…She picked up the phone and called us to see how serious we were about adopting again, remember the appointment was just to “talk” about the possibility…We told her of course we were, we just had questions and concerns that we wanted to discuss with her…She said ok…”Well, let me tell you about this situation…”. She began to tell us all about the couple and the baby…it did seem like a perfect match…but wait, we haven’t even signed up with the agency yet! If we were serious about adopting #2 and wanted our family profile to be included in the stack she gave to this couple…our package needed to be in her hands the next morning.

After an all-nighter…Kelly was able to hand over our packet to the agency the next day…This included a 20 page personal questionnaire about our lives, jobs, income, personalities, likes/dislikes, you name it…It also included a 1 page (double sided) Biography (“Our Story”) about our family of 3 and all our adventures…Why we wanted to bring another baby into our family etc…This process is not an easy task, but we miraculously managed to pull it off so that this couple would have us a choice. Two agonizing weeks later, the agency called and simply said over the phone…”I knew it!”…Wait, what did that mean??? What it meant was that couple had selected us to be the parents of their baby…their little girl due in May. Kennedy somehow knew that Mommy and Daddy were going to “get” him a baby sister.

Viola Lanece was born May 13th 2014 a healthy, happy, beautiful baby girl! How her name came to be…Viola was Gil’s Mother’s name that had passed away 15+ years ago. She was a very strong woman that Gil loved, admired and looked up to; traits that we wanted our daughter to have. Lanece was a name the Birthparents chose for her.

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What are your favorite things about your family?
Oh boy, there are so many favorites…Our family is fun, full of adventure, always on the go, outgoing, energetic, colorful, caring, loving…

What are the benefits and challenges of your individual family?
The benefits and the challenges of our individual family kind of go hand in hand…Because of our individual differences, mainly the way we look, we tend to get noticed. A lot of times we don’t notice as much, but occasionally we catch a confused stare. You see, we are a family just like any other family. There is a Daddy, a Mommy, a Brother and a Sister. We don’t see color, we don’t see our differences, this is our life, and this is the only life we know. But to the outside, we realize some may at first only see a Hispanic mix Dad, a White Mom and two African American mix kids…Sometimes when we catch a glimpse of the “looks” and we need to remind ourselves, “oh yeah, we are a little different”. We are very open with our Adoption and really love sharing our story with others, educating people on what adoption is in today’s world, not the world we grew up in where adoption was hush-hush and all a big secret. Our 3 ½ year old son knows where he comes from, he knows his biological family, to him, they are his brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandparents…just as much as our blood family is to him. Our story, his story, is all he knows too. We try to make it as “normal” as possible. Yeah, his story is a little “different” then Johnny’s down the street…but what an amazing story it is for him to tell! At this age, he pretty much leaves it up to us to tell, but he loves to chime in to tell people about all of his brothers and sisters (5 on mom’s side & 6 on dad’s side…which doesn’t include Viola). We plan on handling things similarly with our daughter, unless we learn anything new with experiences with our son.

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Challenges are the inquisitive stares and the sometimes inappropriate questions and comments…The benefits to both of those is that we are given an opportunity,an opportunity that not a lot of people have, to educate them on the “unknown” of the adoption world. That is what drives their curiosity anyways, isn’t it? When we first brought Kennedy home, we were able to educate all of our family and friends about adoption “now” and so everyone around us “just knows”…Now that Kennedy is in school and meeting all kinds of new friends…we have gotten some interesting reactions when all 4 of us show up to a class function together…Parents/kids may have only run into Mom or Dad (separately) at pickups or drop-offs and so not knowing, they automatically assume the “other” parents must be African American. Nope we are one big colorful melting pot of LOVE… We have to remind ourselves to share our story with our new friends. Well, we don’t have to, but we love to. Once you open up about it, it’s amazing how intrigued people get.

What would you like people to know?
When you see a family, maybe like ours, that may look a little different than yours…be thoughtful, courteous, respectful…But ask questions. As long as the questions come in a thoughtful, inquisitive manner, why wouldn’t anyone want to share their story? If the family isn’t willing to share, but they are approached nicely, they should respond respectfully. Never hurts to ask questions if it’s interesting to you.

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Are there any misconceptions you would like address?
There are a lot of misconceptions when it involves adoption. Of course every situation is different, but this is what we have at least found to be true with Open Adoption…

1. Misconception: Adopted Children are placed for adoption because they are “unwanted” or “not loved”
Response: What?!? Those statements couldn’t be further from the truth. Children placed through open adoption are loved so much by their birth parents that they have to make a very hard decision to place them…Maybe their living situation is unsafe, maybe they are too young to support a baby, maybe they love them so much that they know that they can’t provide a life for their baby that they know they deserve and want better for them…These kids have so much love around them, it’s just ridiculous!  The reason the birthparents choose Open Adoption because they want to be a part of the child’s life, they want to be able to explain to them why they made their choice, show them in person how much they love them!

2. Misconception: Birthparents are usually either very young, on drugs, in jail, trouble, unreliable, irresponsible…
Response: This misconception is probably the most aggravating one…Yes, there are those 12 year old birthmothers…But generally they are not that young. Our son’s Birthmom was 26 when she had him. Both our kids birthparents are not druggies, not in jail, definitely not trouble…They have all made a selfless, loving choice to allow their children to experience life the way they wish they could give them, maybe their life circumstances at the time don’t allow them to provide for them the way they wished they could. In our minds, choosing adoption, specifically Open Adoption is probably one of the most responsible, mature, loving decisions that they will make in their lifetimes.

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Why do you think this project is important?
We strongly believe that this project is extremely important to share with not only the younger generations about diversity, but also educate the older generations on all kinds of differences in families in today’s society. We have discovered throughout the years with our own family, that the looks, the whispers and the sometimes inappropriate questions come because others do not know the “world” we live in…How we became the beautiful, colorful family that we are today. The “unknown” is intriguing, but education is the “key” to helping people understand differences are not bad at all and an amazing story may be hidden within them.

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This American Family is a personal project inspired by my desire to show my daughter what modern American families really look like and celebrate diversity and the power of our personal narratives. If you are interested in being a part of this project please use the contact tab or email me at [email protected]  To see other This American Family narratives click HERE.

All photographs copyright of Family Photographer San Diego Rachel Brandt

  • December 31, 2014 - 7:19 am

    Cherlyn Wagner - This is such a great project! I love learning about other families and the stories they have that helped form & support their families. Thank you for sharing and what a lovely way to document & celebrate families, diversity and spreading the power of personal narratives.ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 6:02 pm

    Kristin - What a beautiful family with a beautiful story! And a great project!!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 6:53 pm

    Gloria Hawkins - I’m Kennedy Birth Grandmother reading this puts Joy in my heart. This family is so much a part of us and they allow us to be a part of them. This is my son’s birth son he was hurt and in Acute care this family still take Kennedy to see him.we all always included in the family function. Kennedy sister and brother and cousin and as Grand parents we love GIL and Kelly, they have such big hearts. The world needs more of them and less haters.ReplyCancel

    • December 31, 2014 - 10:27 pm

      Kelly Koury - And this is why open adoption is awesome…It’s because of families like yours, Gloria! My only struggle with writing this article was adding the term “Birth” when speaking about our kids biological families…they are no different then our blood families…They are 100% our family! We are so incredibly blessed everyday that our children’s families have accepted us as their own! These kids are loved by sooooo many people, it’s almost ridiculous (never!)! 🙂 Love you Gloria!!!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 7:15 pm

    Summer - What a beautiful family, and such an amazing story. Gil and Kelly are amazing and I wish them all the best!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 8:26 pm

    Laura Clouse - What a beautiful family. I love this article and truly believe this will help so many understand and prepare for adoption and the love found within.ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 8:37 pm

    Kristi - This is an AMAZING documentation of the Koury’s. I am Kennedy’s birth mom and let me tell you this story only shows 1% of our amazing story. Kennedy and Viola are loved by so many because Gil and Kelly allow us to be a part as much as possible. I love Kennedy so much but knew that I couldn’t offer him the best life but once I met Gil and Kelly I knew that THEY were his parents. Thank you so much for posting this story so that more people can see that open adoption can be amazing!ReplyCancel

    • December 31, 2014 - 10:32 pm

      Kelly Koury - Kristi, you are by far one of the most amazing women I know! Courageous, selfless, loving…those words don’t even describe you the way I want…When we adopted Kennedy, we also adopted you, your kids, your sisters, your parents, everyone! Thank you for opening your heart and your family to not only Kennedy, but us as well! Some of our favorite moments with the kids is when we get to watch them with you, their siblings, aunts, grandparents, etc. The love that surrounds both our kids is unreal…you really have to see it with your own eyes to really get it! Love you Girl!!!!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 8:45 pm

    Emily - What a beautiful family and story! Such a sweet project!ReplyCancel

  • December 31, 2014 - 10:09 pm

    Chris Wojdak - Rachel, this is so sweet! I love the concept of this project, and your execution is flawless. Keep up the great storytelling work!ReplyCancel

  • January 1, 2015 - 1:07 am

    Becky Keller - Love these Rachel – such a sweet story and the bright and colorful photographs are jut gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • January 1, 2015 - 1:14 am

    Laura Carlson - Oh the absolute sweetness! How lovely!ReplyCancel

  • January 1, 2015 - 2:15 am

    Emily - beautiful family and gorgeous photos!ReplyCancel

  • January 1, 2015 - 5:38 pm

    April O'Hare - What a wonderful story with beautiful photos to accompany it. I hope you get a lot of participation in your project:)ReplyCancel

  • January 1, 2015 - 6:17 pm

    kimberly - What beautiful images and stories you tell!!ReplyCancel

  • January 2, 2015 - 4:16 am

    Dannielle - Thank you for sharing your story and your heart. Bless you and your family! Happy New Year!ReplyCancel

  • January 2, 2015 - 5:15 am

    Megan - What a wonderful blog post and story! These images are stunning – such a gorgeous family!ReplyCancel

  • January 2, 2015 - 5:00 pm

    Susie Barca - Kelly has been my friend since birth (I didn’t give away just how many years, Kel! 😉 ). I’m pretty sure when we use to “play house” as kids, that “Kennedy” was always the name of her “made-up child” in our imagination games. 🙂 So Kennedy is a name that has been loved for a very long time! And now the “real” Kennedy and Viola couldn’t be loved more!!!!! Kelly is an absolutely amazing mother; she has always wanted to be a mother! I admire her patience and understanding with her kids. There is nothing she won’t do for those kids. Her love for them is insurmountable! I have been blessed to meet Kristi, Kennedy’s biological mom, as well as all of his extended biological family to include his paternal grandpa, and they are all an amazing group of people. All of our lives have become enmeshed. I am so grateful to the process, the agency, and the birth families for making the loving family dreams of others come true! I love you Koury Family! XOReplyCancel

  • January 3, 2015 - 12:05 am

    Christa - What a beautiful heartfelt family session. I love all of these photos and everyone is going to cherish them for years to come!ReplyCancel

This beautiful lady is San Diego tattoo artist Paula Hathaway and she works at Big Fish Tattoo in Solana Beach, California. I was going to write a long piece about how inspired I am by an artist who literally creates an art piece that will be with someone until the day they die, how every creative aspires to make pieces that speak so personally to the people who commission them but I thought Paula did a much better job telling her own story than I ever could.

“I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, so it was only natural that I would end up in a art driven career like tattooing. In 2002, I started my apprenticeship. Some friends of mine had started tattooing at that time and it had inspired me to give it a try. It was the best thing I ever did.

Being able to create pieces of art for people to wear on their bodies is such an honor. As well as covering or re-working old tattoos or “mistakes”, I have had many women come to me with scars they want covered. Helping these women makes tattooing very fulfilling for me. I am very thankful to have a job where I can be myself, be creative and be able to make beautiful art for people.”

Photographs Copyright of San Diego Headshot Photographer Rachel Brandt

  • December 23, 2014 - 6:57 pm

    Jaimie Krause - Love the portraits of her! Such an awesome shoot!ReplyCancel

  • December 23, 2014 - 7:17 pm

    Melissa M - Gorgeous images of a beautiful woman!ReplyCancel

  • December 23, 2014 - 9:14 pm

    Rachel Kaye - I love these images! What a cool and different session. She looks like someone I would like to hang out with 😀ReplyCancel