jo ann manolis photography

Welcome to the blog of Jo Ann Manolis Photography! I’m a wedding, portrait, and fine art photographer based in Santa Cruz, CA. I’ve created this blog as a means of sharing my work and life with my clients, family, and friends. I’ll be updating it regularly with my latest work, thoughts and ideas regarding photography and art, and links to many fabulous artists and vendors. So, take a look around, enjoy, and leave me a message here if you’re inspired. I can also be reached directly by e-mail via my website:, or by phone at: (831)359-7948. Thanks for stopping by!

Why I Love Outtakes

Outtakes, I love ’em.

I usually love them more than the images that make the cut. Much more. This is especially true in regards to family portrait sessions. When I was a kid, we had family portraits taken on a regular basis. We would get all done up, drive to an undisclosed photography studio in our town, and sit in front of a medium gray backdrop with lights shining in our faces for what felt like hours. While my family was by no means wealthy, I remember countless trips to this undisclosed studio during my childhood years accompanied by stacks of wallet-sized prints and a few God-awful canvases in which our eyelashes were painted on. I’m not kidding.

Documentation was important to my parents, and I can completely understand why. My mother battled cancer on and off for years before passing away when I was ten. I’m sure that my parents both felt a fair amount of urgency in regards to this type of memory preservation. To this day, I still attribute my love of photography to my mother’s interrupted life, and I still feel a sense of underlying urgency when I have a camera in my hand. I am terrified that I’ll miss something really important.

Because it’s all really important, isn’t it?

For the most part, the degree of urgency in which I should be living and photographing my life is a complete mystery to me. But I do know this:

I don’t even remember when I last looked at the studio portrait taken of my sister and I with our grandmother. I know that it exists somewhere but I haven’t thought about it in years. However, I can tell you every detail about the little square photograph of her holding a rescued bird in her hands. She was standing in her blooming garden and wearing a white dress and a blue apron around her waist, both of which she sewed herself. Her head is mostly cut off in the photo but I can see her smile. I coddle that photo like nobody’s business.

And the photograph of my family with painted-on eyelashes? It means absolutely nothing to me to this day. Every time I visit my dad, I barely notice the canvas which now sits on a dresser in his guest bedroom. And when I do look at it, I feel like I’m looking at four complete strangers with really bad hair and creepy eyelashes. However, on my dresser at home sits a snapshot of my mother with my sister and I in the mid-70s. She is holding us and looking just slightly away, appearing both overwhelmed and content at the same time. It often catches my eye as I pass, and although I have no memory of the actual moment, I find myself diving back into the picture and into her memory. I stop, notice my cheek pressed up against hers and my arms draped around her neck like a baby monkey… and my heart just about bursts every time.

Ever since last Sunday’s portrait session, this has been on my mind. I photographed four kids between the ages of six months and four years, two sets of parents, one set of grandparents, one dog who occasionally made an appearance and stirred things up a bit, a playground, and a bubble machine. I got so many outtakes, ie: real moments that served as precious reminders of who these children actually are, that I just had to share a few. I guess that you could call this entire photo shoot one big outtake, and I can’t think of anything better….enjoy!

Bailey and I hung out a little bit before everyone showed up.

My buddy Aidan. This is the third time I’ve photographed him and he wanted nothing to do with me whatsoever. He was totally onto me, but I did manage to sneak in a few shots.

Precious. I’d take this image over a frozen smile shot any day.

I adored this child! She was the oldest of the group and quite proud of it!

Not sure why, but I absolutely love this image.

The last time I photographed Oliver, he was barely two weeks old. He has grown so much and has the best personality.

A few group shots..all outtakes, by the way.

In case you were wondering, I did get some of the whole team smiling at the camera…but I just couldn’t pass this one up (call me crazy, but this family doesn’t strike me as the medium-gray background, frozen smile, painted on eyelash type).

Thank you, Laura…I had a such wonderful time with all of you!


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