What's in a name?

March 17, 2016  •  3 Comments

In the iconic story Romeo and Juliet, playwright William Shakespeare penned the phrase “What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” In essence saying that the name by which something is called is irrelevant, or has little meaning. And while I agree with him on some level (for instance whether we call it “cheesecake” or “heaven in my mouth”, it still tastes amazing!), I believe there is more to a name. For we are also told that “A great name is better to be chosen than riches”.


Over the course of a lifetime a person becomes known by their name, for better or for worse. To be known as an honorable, respected person has more value in life than to be a scoundrel and have all the money in the world. Throughout history names have been given with great thought and meaning behind them. I’ve known many an animal that lived up to their name – horses named “Buck” or “Sassy” for instance or a dog named Loki (the Norse god of mischief). Or businesses whose names communicate something deeper and give an insight into their mission and founding principles. And people’s names are no different.


I love it when clients come to me with brand new babies who have beautiful stories behind their names. Some have been named after close relatives and we have been able to incorporate that into sessions, like sweet little Lucy Margaret below. She was named after two of her grandmas.


Multiple generation newborn photo.Lucy MargaretNamed after her grandmothers Lucy and Margaret, her name carries on their legacy.


Others come with a “name verse” or a “life verse” - a piece of scripture from which the meaning of their name is derived and the essence of which is the prayer their parents have for their child’s life.


My most recent newborn had a particularly awesome sounding name – “Gideon Zion”. The name in and of itself is pretty cool, but I was curious about the meaning and the story behind it, so I asked Dad to fill me in. Here is what he had to say:


“Our faith is the cornerstone of our lives and relationship. It was important to us to choose a strong biblical name to have a namesake that transcends time. Gideon is a name of Hebrew origin, meaning mighty warrior. Zion is referred to as the city of Jerusalem, the word itself means fortification.

To us Gideon Zion titles our son as a mighty warrior of the city of God, protector of the kingdom.

When Joshua (Dad) read the story of Gideon in the Bible for the first time he delighted in the uniqueness and it that forever left an imprint. He desired this to be his first born sons name for years, as Gideon was the leader of the "original 300" because he led 300 men up against insurmountable odds. (Side note... much to our surprise, I (Joshua) was reading the story of Gideon and noticed a detail that was quite hilarious. In the bible, his father's name... Joash. Haha)

Neither of us have come across a Gideon in our lives and that just adds to the unique quality that we craved.”

Newborn baby laying on Bible with name verse.Gideon ZionTo us Gideon Zion titles our son as a mighty warrior of the city of God, protector of the kingdom.


And then there is my sweet friend’s baby girl, Arilee Noelle. Her name comes from 1 John 4:9-11 and here is what her mom has to say about it:


Arilee Noelle means "Beloved of Christ's Coming," which comes from 1 John 4.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

We hope Arilee always remembers that she is beloved, and if she ever struggles to believe it, that she will go back to the truth of this verse to be reminded that Christ proved his forever love for her by coming to earth so she can have life in him. And, we hope that assurance motivates her to love others with Christ's love.

Newborn baby girl laying on Bible with name verse. Arilee NoelleArilee Noelle means "Beloved of Christ's Coming," which comes from this verse in 1 John 4:9-11

Not only are they unique and beautiful names, but they are such powerful and thoughtful names that claim purpose and set a firm foundation for an intentional life! Intentionality behind a name brings with it a greater sense of purpose and a life mission. Where there is intentionality, there is direction and focus.


So what’s in a name, really? The answer should be “a LOT!”


Be intentional, friends! Stay focused and live with purpose!


And check back in next time to learn about the meaning behind and process of naming Aspire Images! 

Love your journey!

February 12, 2016  •  1 Comment

Whoa! That was outside of my comfort zone! Last week I began work on one of my 2016 goals for Aspire Images – blogging. Which is tied closely to connecting and being present. I’ve only recently begun to learn the value of blogging when it comes to reaching people. And since I my intention for this year is to build and strengthen relationships, I figured blogging was a natural step in that process. But what I didn’t figure was that it would be something that would push me out of my comfort zone. No joke!


I suppose it’s a bit like photography – it’s a learned skill that incorporates a lot of different elements. I had to determine who I wanted to reach and what message did I want to send. Make it engaging and interesting, informative and light. Ever mindful of tone and always being real so my audience would get to know me. After all, my goal is to build relationships. It all seems easy enough, but bringing all the pieces together into one coherent piece is a little more tricky. One of those instances where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.


It reminded me of when I began my career as a wedding and portrait photographer. I was SCARED.TO.DEATH. of my first camera. Terrified of it actually! It took me nearly two hours of looking at in the box, reaching in and then pulling back before I had the courage to pull it out and attach the lens. I had no idea at that time how much I didn’t know about the career I had just chosen. And when I look back now at how much I’ve learned and how much I didn’t know that I didn’t know, I’m thankful for that naïveté. I’m thankful because had I known how long, how challenging and how frustrating the journey would be at times; if I had known how much I had to learn and all of the mistakes I would make along the way before I began to feel comfortable in my skill set, I may well have never started.


My first paid session - everyone has to start somewhere!This photo was from my very first paid session (thanks Mom and Dad for helping a girl out!). I didn’t know anything about f-stops or shutter speed, lighting or depth of field, light modifiers or Photoshop. I shot in auto mode because that was the only thing I could figure out at the time. And then I met my mentor and business partner, Noah Bryant of Noah Bryant Photography – someone whom I admire a great deal and without whom I would be nowhere near the photographer I am today. And step by he began to teach me the ins and outs of my equipment. He taught me to understand light, how to “see” it and then to manipulate it. He was patient with me and never belittled me or criticized my errors. He just showed me a better way, asked me what I learned and pushed me to be better. I began to learn post-processing skills, aka Photoshop. WOW was that overwhelming! You want to talk about an entire subject in and of itself. That pushed me in a whole new way. (The image to the right is from my very first paid session. Thanks Mom and Dad for helping a girl out! All I can say is, we all start somewhere.)


In the beginning I fumbled my way along, faking it until I could make it. I got frustrated, discouraged, down on myself. I would cry at times because I had a vision in my head but just could not, no matter what I tried, bring that vision to life in my photographs. Wedding photography and newborn photography were two of the hardest subjects for me – no do-overs, no second chances. It was a lot of pressure and I wanted to be the best, but I just wasn’t there and couldn’t bring the images to life. The below image is from one of my first ever newborn sessions (yikes, did I have a long way to go!).

But then somewhere along the way something else started to happen. Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, I began to struggle less. I began to realize my vision more often than I didn’t. As my skills began to grow and I began to build on things I had learned, I began to find my way and my style. Eventually I reached a point where I was comfortable with my equipment (now shooting in full manual mode 100% of the time) and I had to think about the technical components less. Once that happened it opened me up to be able to focus on being creative, on really developing my own look and style.

Some gave all so that we may sleep in peace.I was asked to hang a large canvas of this image at Skyridge Medical Center last spring.

And then people started to love that style. Last spring I was asked to hang a large canvas of the above image in the Skyridge Medical Center's Mom & Baby wing. What an honor that was! This is a process and a journey that I began over five and a half years ago. I cannot say that I have “arrived” at a specific point because I am always learning, always growing. But I can say that every step of the journey has taught me something. And if I hadn’t struggled in those early days, if I hadn’t cried with frustration and forced myself to learn new things and better ways so I could produce what I saw in my mind’s eye, if I hadn’t faced each of those challenges then I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m sure I will continue to have those challenges in different ways as I continue, but the point is this:


In order to enjoy the benefits, you have to embrace the journey!


You don’t just arrive one day at being a pro-athlete. It takes years of commitment and hard work. You don’t just suddenly become fluent in multiple languages, you have to stumble through the mispronounced words and lack of understanding. Its through the journey that you find the skills needed.


We are quickly coming up on the single biggest day for marriage proposals in the United States – Valentine’s Day. We work with a lot of newly engaged couples and love being able to share this special time with them. I will listen to the preacher during ceremonies and hear the advice he gives them for their marriage. Try to out-give and out-serve the other, always put the other’s needs first, and any other number of wise words. And then I hear the couple promise to never let the other down, to always support them and vow to be there through thick and thin. And I think about my early photography career – when I didn’t know how much I didn’t know and I was clueless about how it all worked, I just knew I loved it. When I began my marriage, and when I became a mother, I had no idea how hard it would be – just that I loved them. And the couples we work with are the same way – they don’t know yet how hard (or how rewarding) marriage can be, just that they love each other.


I don’t say that to be negative. Being a wife and a mother are without question the most rewarding relationships in my life. But they bring their challenges. And it is through them that I grow, that we grow together. And so I think about my couples exchanging their vows and a part of me wants to tell them that they will let each other down, hurt each other and have difficult times. But then I remember my own path and struggles and I love that they don’t know those things yet, just that they love each other. And so then I just want to tell them to embrace the journey, and each step of the way to love where they are, to learn from all of the experiences. And to embrace the negative, frustrating, and challenging ones. For it is out of those struggles that we grow. It is through adversity that we learn to persevere. And it is through commitment by choice that we will face the struggles and by not giving up, will make it through to other side to enjoy the benefits.

So make sure when choosing your spouse or your wedding photographer to choose someone who wants to embrace the journey and believes in the value of the struggles. Those qualities in your spouse will ensure someone who won’t give up and a photographer who has embraced and lived that philosophy will ensure you have someone with experience who will deliver beautiful, quality photos to cherish forever! 


To your journey!




Making good on your goals - learning to be present, specific and realistic.

February 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

So it’s February… One month into the year already. Did you make New Year’s resolutions? How are you doing? I think that many of us who started off with one (or several) New Year’s resolutions have either already fallen off the wagon or just aren’t doing as well as we planned. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail. And yet when it comes to those resolutions, I’ve done it many times. In truth, we’ve all probably done it at some point- started off with grand intentions for the year only to disappoint ourselves a few weeks in with failed resolutions. And since I don’t like to fail, I started asking myself some questions about those resolutions when I started looking at what I wanted for myself and my business in 2016.


What is it about “New Year’s Resolutions” that is so appealing, anyway? And why do we (myself included!) so often fall short of our goals? Is it that we really need to start over and start fresh? Perhaps sometimes that’s it, because life happens and things don’t work out. Or maybe we get bored with where we are in life so we decide to take a different direction? Sometimes I think it’s simply because we said or did something where we look back and go “Whoops! That was dumb. Let’s not do that again!” But ultimately it’s about contentment – are we content with the life, the body, the finances, the job, the education, the fill-in-the-blank that we have? And if the answer is no, we look to make changes.


So that’s a good place to start. But why do we fail, fall short, or just give up on those changes? The answer, I discovered, came down to being specific and realistic.


I realized that historically the goals I would set for myself were usually vague and/or too big. I would get overwhelmed with the enormity of what was ahead of me and feeling like it was too much. Add to that a vague goal (I want to get organized, for instance) without distinct steps, and it just turned into an insurmountable “dream”. I wouldn’t know where to start and so it was unattainable and I would stop or give up. I didn’t have a plan. And as the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.


In looking at goals for 2016 I decided that I wanted to make progress and move forward in my life (specifically my business life), but that I couldn’t do it unless I became specific and made my goals attainable.


One of my goals was, in fact, to “get organized”. But what did that mean?


Identifying specific areas that I needed to organize was the first step. For instance, “getting my financial records in order.” Great start! That became the direction I was headed. But to become attainable and to be more than a dream, there had to be specific and measureable steps to get there. What was the end goal? To have all of my financial records catalogued digitally so I could go paperless and be able to easily access the information. Specific. Now what? Find the records! Sort them into folders by year and month. Then scan and create matching electronic folders. Shred hardcopies. Repeat for all years in question. The huge task of “getting my financial records organized” suddenly became doable when I had specific steps to take.  And you know what, it’s done! Goal 1, accomplished!!


Annnnd we’re onto the next thing just like that!


What else was important for Aspire Images in 2016? Well, my clients of course. They are the lifeblood of my business. But I have a confession to make. I haven’t been doing a very good job staying in touch and showing each of my clients how much I appreciate them. So that will change this year. How you ask?


Have you ever chosen a “word or phrase of the year” that is your focus, your vision and what you are striving for?  I’ve done that for the first time this year. And the phrase for 2016 is “BE PRESENT”.


That means my intention for this year is to develop a mindset where I learn to live in the moment by giving those I’m with my full attention, to be aware of my surroundings, how my body and mind feel and to give my attention to each task or moment at hand. By doing so I hope to develop deeper relationships, improve my self-awareness and learn to really live and not just go through the motions. The result will be better, more fulfilling personal and professional relationships and greater enjoyment out of life!


I want to be here for my clients, for you, to create an experience where you feel valued as a person first and foremost. I want Aspire Images to be known as the “relationship photographer” – the one who cares more about the relationship they have with you than how much you invest in your portraiture. Of course high quality photography products and services will always be the what we deliver, but we want that to be the icing on the cake. It has to be about the entire experience and the relationship first. And in order to do that I need to be present and fully engaged with each and every client I interact with. Whether that is during a pre-session consultation, during their photo shoot, the viewing and ordering appointment, phone calls, etc. By being present I can give each client the best I have to offer – the best of me, the best of Aspire Images, and the best photography experience on the Front Range.


This year will be about strengthening client relationships, building the Aspire Images brand as your lifetime photographer, establishing a better online presence through blog posts (you can find more of them here), social media engagement and website content. We are also on Pinterest now and would love for you to follow us there or on Facebook here!


I look forward to connecting and sharing life with you in 2016!


Best wishes,



Michelle Blanchard is a wedding and portrait photographer in Parker, CO and is the owner of Aspire Images. She has been in business since 2010 and provides photography services for weddings, engagement, maternity, newborn, children, families and seniors.



Denver Newborn Photography | Baby Lucciano

April 27, 2015  •  1 Comment

With a name as cool as Lucciano, it's no wonder this handsome little guy's newborn photos turned out so great! And check out that blue and gray blanket! That one was made for him and mom brought it in. As a Denver newborn photographer, I have many props, blankets, baskets and accessories to choose from for newborn portrait sessions. But I love it when clients bring their own! It makes the experience truly unique and custom. And that, my friends, is what it's about - delivering a quality, personalized experience for each and every client.


Know someone expecting a little bundle of their own? Get in touch here to book a maternity and/or newborn session! 


Denver newborn portraits | Littleton Newborn Photographer | Denver Maternity Photographer | Baby Photographer | Family and Children Photographer 

Baby | Baby Sofie | Littleton, Denver Newborn Photographer

April 27, 2015  •  9 Comments

Working with tiny babies is something I truly enjoy. Everything about them is so new and fresh. They are peaceful and pure and completely trusting. All babies are sweet and adorable in their own right, but every once in a while as a Denver newborn photographer I get a teeny one in the studio who is photogenic from every angle and who lets me pose them however I want. Baby Sofie was definitely one of those little ones! From the baskets to the beanbag to mama's embrace, Baby Sofie acted like it was her calling in life to have her picture taken. In fact, I think she set a record for me - in and out in just over an hour! Enjoy these great images from Baby Sofie's newborn portraits!


Know someone expecting a beautiful baby or their own? Get in touch here to schedule a session! 


Denver Newborn Photographer | Littleton Newborn Photographer | Baby | Maternity | Newborn | Family Photographer

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