Field Trip! Documentary family photos on Plum Island

This shoot is a little personal for me. Mike and I trained together at Kripalu (yoga center in the Berkshires) in 2011. Since then, he and his amazing wife Beth have been running a soul-centered yoga studio in Byfield, MA (soon moving to Newburyport!) called Roots to Wings. Raising a family of four bright, energetic kids while pouring themselves into the studio is no easy task and I have tremendous respect for them.

As you can imagine, they are busy! So we used the shoot as an excuse to put all to-dos away and spend an afternoon at the beach! I met them at home, we picked the boys up from baseball practice, then we swung by the site of the new studio where the kids used the crane as a playground! Then it was time for lacrosse, shell collecting and tickle fights on Plum Island’s Parker River Wildlife Refuge.

Finally, we had lunch at Michael’s in Newburyport where Mike and Beth first met. For this reason I love the picture of them looking at each other at the table—they were recounting who said what to whom those many years ago. And here they are now, with an incredible family and incredible dream for their business and life’s mission.

Take a breath and two minutes to feel their family joy, and visit Roots to Wings yoga studio!

This is only step one! From Field Trip shoots I create customized wall art and a unique family album that will become an heirloom for the kids. Stay tuned—I’ll share photos of how everything comes together.

In the meantime, enjoy the slideshow below and the full family photo shoot! >>

Field Trip: Family photo adventure on Plum Island from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.

collecting shells, natural family photots natural family photo, laughing natural family photo, kids playing together Roots to Wings yoga studio family: Houlihan Family newburyport_family_photos. Mike and Beth Houlihan

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Documentary wedding & family photography: Accompanying an unfolding journey

Family, wedding, and maternity photography on the North Shore, MA

When I look at these photos I see so much than sweet people anticipating parenthood. I feel history unfolding, I feel the love between generations, and cycles of life in action…

natural maternity photos

Emily & Jon visiting Emily’s parents home the weekend of the baby shower. With her nephew in the background!

I have to share what makes this photo (the one on the right in particular) so extra special to me.

First there’s the fact that this is my third shoot with Emily & Jon! I had the honor of doing their engagement shoot and incredible wedding back on 2012.

romantic engagement wedding photo For their engagement shoot I went up to Portland, Maine in the spring and we wandered through their neighborhood park.

romantic natural wedding photography Practicing their first dance away from the crowds at Lynch Park on their wedding day!

colonial hall wedding photos A quiet moment before the party began.

But there’s event more…

That kiddo in the background? He is Emily’s nephew Emmett. I photographed him when he was in his mommy’s belly too!

north shore maternity photography Emily’s sister Julie pregnant with Emmett, at Lynch Park.

And then when he was a baby,

north shore ma family photography Emmett with his mom at 3 months!

and at Emily’s wedding,

documentary wedding photography north shore ma Emily dressed and ready to go on her wedding day! See her nephew in his baby tux!

north shore ma wedding photographer Baby was sleepy at auntie’s wedding reception.

and then when he became a wild have-to-touch-everything two year old,

natural real family photography

and then when he became a know-it-all three year old.

beverly family photos

Now it’s Emily and Jon’s turn and this maternity shoot is just the beginning of their family photography!

It is a gift to me to be invited into a family’s life over and over, and to celebrate their change and growth. Thank you Flowers/Gormleys—each of you so close to me heart!

Truly it is an honor to be documenting family history unfolding… The best is yet to come!

beverly ma home maternity photos

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Lynch Park summer New England wedding

The photos that I love best, and the couple loves best are often not the same. See our differing favorites from this fall North Shore wedding!

north ma shore wedding at lynch parkSometimes simple and sincere is the most striking. There was so much to chose from: affectionate portraits in the Rose Garden, romance by the ocean, party in the thoughtfully decorated carriage house… not to mention the tearful smiles and big hugs! (You can see more in their Facebook gallery) And yet I keep coming back to this image taken right after the ceremony. They are walking away from the party to have a few moments along by the water…


jadenick_708Jade warned me that her Grandma might let loose on the dance floor. She did, and it was epic. All grandparents are VIPs in my opinion!

Now see which photos the bride loved most:

jadenick_418“We love this one because the khata was a gift from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, who is the head of our Buddhist community. Nothing could be more meaningful than to have his blessing, and the khata was a total surprise. Plus Jane looks magnificent, like a deity. Our aspiration is to live from the understanding that every day is sacred, and when I look at this photo I’m reminded that our marriage is surrounded with blessings. This photo captures that quality of ordinary magic.”


jadenick_458“I also love all the ones of us on the beach immediately following the ceremony! They are so intimate–I will always remember that that moment was full of deep, luxurious exhales and a feeling of vast, profound connection with each other and with the elements.”

jadenick_134“You also saw the one of us snugged up on the bench, that I printed many copies of to give our family. We chose that for our “mantle” photo because it just feels like a classic photo–it is elegant but so warm–and it isn’t the standard “bride-and-groom-standing-side-by-side” shot. It’s the kind of photo I would want my great-grandchildren to have.”

Thank you to Lynch Park in Beverly, MA for hosting the beautiful scenery for such a special couple on their wedding day!

See more of their day in their Facebook gallery. >>

Check out more authentic & intimate wedding photography by Maureen Cotton.

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Backyard New Hampshire summer wedding

Everyone sees something different when they look at a photo. So while I always enjoy the work I create for others, I want to know which photos they love. Often, my favorites and the couple’s favorites are not the same.

Weddings are team efforts and I can’t resist sharing this prep moment that occurred before this portrait I love.

Sarah and Aaron got married in Sarah’s parents backyard. The beauty and intimacy of the location set the tone for two people who are authentic, and in love with their families as much as each other.

That’s why I love this photo of Sarah before the ceremony. It’s not just a portrait of Sarah, but a portrait of the place. It’s a moment between getting ready and seeing her groom, and she’s between the house and the ceremony site itself. The lighting is a little dramatic (which I always like) and genuine; her natural smile and the home make it her—Sarah!—not just “a bride.”

This is my other favorite! Their tender connection is the main event of this photo, even though you can see so much else is happening around them…

It was Sarah’s favorite too! Here’s why:

“I feel like it perfectly captured our essence on our wedding day!  Aaron’s vest is undone in the back because his nephew had been playing with it, I have a loose piece of hair, everything feels natural.  We aren’t people who were striving to be a perfected image of a bride and groom on our wedding day, we wanted something real and personal.  This moment is us candidly reaching out for one another, creating an intimate space in front of a crowd, connecting with each other in the midst of everything that was happening around us.  To me, these gestures, especially in context,  are what marriage is all about: subtle but significant reminders that our partner is by our side.”

This one is Aaron’s favorite: “It captured such a beautiful moment. The two of us, happy & calm before the storm in a beautiful setting. It is also a type of moment that I love and appreciate that Sarah & I can have here or there. I’m also a sucker for a good looking black & white photo! – Makes it seem historic in some ways (especially on a historic day). The best part, you captured my wife’s beautiful smile! We were (are) truly happy!”

Sarah couldn’t resist mentioning another photo, “Without even looking through the images, I can say that one of my favorite not entirely wedding-related moments that you captured was our friend’s son balancing on the tent spike.  It perfectly captures that moment between childhood curiosity and complete boredom in the company of so many adults.  The composition of it was truly artful!”

Check out more authentic & intimate wedding photography by Maureen Cotton.

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Manchester Country Club Connecticut summer wedding

When I asked Alicia & Rich to each pick a favorite image from their wedding day, Alicia responded with  “There’s no way we can choose just one… your photos were all just too incredible!” :)

For the first time a bride and I have the same favorite photo!

To be honest when Alicia said she wanted a photo by a Peter Pan statue I was not feeling inspired; generally statues can be hard to incorporate naturally. When I arrived at the scene I realized Peter was in the middle of a hedge maze! When the time came for photos I gave them some space went into photo ninja mode to get the perfect shot.

Alicia said, “My personal favorite is the peeping-from-the-bushes shot of Rich and me kissing under the Peter Pan statue. I love the way we look in this photo, I love the way Peter Pan is captured in it, and I love the secretive, private-moment feel of the shot!”

Rich’s favorite is this funky sweaty letting-loose dance floor moment. “I love it because it captures so many people enjoying themselves, at the peak of exuberance. It makes me remember the absolute joy I felt that day!”

Lastly, the couple both agreed on this image being one of her favorites! They loved it so much, they already ordered a huge canvas print for their home! “I remember when were taking the photo you directed us to a very particular place and I didn’t understand why. After seeing how perfectly you lined us up underneath the arch of the reflection of the trees in the water, we were so impressed. The photo is gorgeous work of art. It has such a magical, fairy-tale feel to it—we adore it!!”

The sunset reflecting in the pond at the Manchester Country Club was the perfect way to start the dance party!

Check out more authentic & intimate wedding photography by Maureen Cotton.

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Favorite Wedding Photos! Willowdale Estate summer New England wedding

When I asked Courtney & Brennan to choose their favorite photo from their beautiful August wedding they picked the same one, which is not that common! These two are so in sync and were grinning ear-to-ear every moment of the day!


They surprised everyone with a cute choreographed first dance. Their expressions, and the surprised and delighted expressions of each person made this such an awesome moment!

BostonWeddingPhotographer02“Our favorite was when we are walking down the hill to the boardwalk.  I like it so much because it is one of those where we aren’t paying attention to what is going on around us and shows how happy we are to be together. Also, it has the estate as a nice backdrop and I think Courtney looks beautiful in the picture! :D  It sums up how I think we both felt with the day.”

Thank you to Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, MA for not only being gorgeous but for a job well done with every aspect of the wedding!

See more of their day in their Facebook gallery. >>

Check out more authentic & intimate wedding photography by Maureen Cotton.

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*Real* family photography, and why it matters

Presenting… my new *real* family photography website!

natural documentary black and white family photo, father and son, writer father



The inspiration behind *real* family photography

A year ago I on was on a plane returning home after one of the best weekends of my life. My sister and brother and I met up in  Savannah just to play and be together. It was an agenda-less type trip us adults don’t often do…

We laughed until our tummies hurts, we wandered through old streets and drank too many fancy coffees. We played monkey in the middle on the beach. We allowed ourselves to get spooked on a Savannah Ghost tour (it’s the most haunted city in America they say). We were as carefree as kids, but as adults we could indulge in as many midnight snacks as we wanted. In fact we refer to that weekend as YOLO! (I must admit I didn’t even know what they meant before the trip!)

One late night we were leaning over the wall at a rooftop bar overlooking the river. Each of us gazed at the water but we were talking to each other. We talked about who could remember what about childhood and we ended up comparing our earliest memories. You know, those ones you have to reach for, in which the slight slant in the driveway is a massive hill. Being staggered in age it was interesting to compare.

My brother told me that his very first memory was me being born. My breath stopped for a moment.




I was so touched. But it was hard to say why exactly. Is that sweet? Is that natural considering it probably disturbed his world a bit?

It also made me wish I could remember what my family was like when I was born. Was that when my dad had the early 80’s mustache? And my mom’s hair permed? My mom said she was excited to have a little girl but I wish I could remember, like my brother did, what it was like and how the family changed. There are some photos of course, and I’m glad to have them. But they are line ups on the couch, or if they are in action they might be dark, distant or blurry. I treasure them, but doing what I do today I know what is possible.



A couple of my favorite couch line ups from when I was little.


I am one of 5 kids and as you can imagine there was an ever-changing network of dynamics between us; I love photos of us looking at each other. In my shoots I get one photo of everyone together with no one even aware of the camera. I’d give anything to have something like this from my childhood.



I create for others what I wish I had: real family photography. Photos of the ever changing dynamics between each person of the family. Photos of us in our home, surrounded by the toys, the furniture and the affection that was commonplace to us then. I want to feel what my parents felt when they held me as an infant. I want to feel the wonder, the gratitude and even the exhaustion of their state of parenthood. I want to be in awe of how young, how beautiful, and maybe even how overwhelmed they were.

As a person running a business I always ensure my parents are over the moon about their photos, but I don’t only have them in mind. I’m thinking about what the kids will want once they are grown. What will they cherish? What images will act as a time machine taking them back to their childhood? What images will show them a time they can’t remember at all?

All this was on my heart on that flight home from my family visit. And that was the moment I decided I needed to make these videos.

Because I just don’t know how else to tell you:
An album of real family photos will become your most cherished possession.
And it will mean *even more* to you a decade from now.
And it will mean *even more* to your kids when they are grown.
And it will mean *even more* to their kids when you are gone.

Do you believe me when I tell you that together, we can create art with infinite meaning? “Priceless” doesn’t even begin to describe it…



Baby’s First Year by Maureen Cotton from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.


Field Trip Family Photo Shoot by Maureen Cotton from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.



And then there were 5… Perhaps the only time all of us were in one frame and in focus.


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The Herb Lyceum: Rustic New England Farm Wedding

Liz Quill, wedding planner behind Elegant Aura had a vision to move beyond the mason jars that have filled Pinterest for the last couple years. She took her love for historic buildings and rustic charm and spiced it up with modern chic decor. To be honest I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but Liz made her vision come true, and I got to capture it all!

Feast your eyes on the most precious New England Mom n’ Pop herb farm, the Herb Lyceum, done over with the help of some truly talented vendors.

My favorite images from the shoot:

herb_lyceum01Here are some images from the awesome vendors that participated!


Liz writes about her vision and shares more photos on Elegant Aura’s blog.

Thank you to Bliss Bakery & Flourish Flower Design for creations that perfectly matched the vision.

Thank you Peterson Party Center for the unique linens, chairs & tableware.

Congrats to the Herb Lyceum who were recently featured on an episode of Top Chef!

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Presenting… The Field Trip — *Real* Family Photography


Ask my wife, my roommates of old, my siblings or my mom—I’m too eager for surprises. As soon as I get a gift for someone I want them to have it (Christmas in October anyone?), and when my wife hints she has a surprise for me the time is now! This is one of her favorite ways to torture me in fact.

You may have heard I’ll be revealing my new family photography website on March 1 but I’m just not able to save aaaaalllll the goodness until then!

So here it is: one of *two* new videos. This is my new vision for how I want to interact with families, and the everlasting gift I want to give them—a photo shoot that feels nothing like a photo shoot and a new family heirloom (aka gorgeous custom-designed exquisitely-made album).

Can you spare 2.5 minutes to play in the leaves and ride the carousel? How about for those small precious moments of affection in between?


The second weekend of every October this family goes to the spot in the Boston Common where Dad proposed to Mom. It’s an annual ritual, and this year I tagged along…


Field Trip Family Photo Shoot by Maureen Cotton from Maureen Cotton Photography on Vimeo.

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Favorite Photos, and a glimpse over 3 years! {Boston family candid creative photography}

I recently asked Bridget and Phil about their favorite photos from our summer session. Their answer also made me realize that I’ve capture Anna in a tree every year of her life so far!

I’ve been photographing the family since I met Bridget at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum a few years back! She worked there, I volunteered, and we hit it off right away!

Bridget & Phil’s favorite photo is of the two girls together on the bed, “It’s just the sweetest ‘sister’ picture ever. We have it framed!” said Bridget, and look at those smiles—you can almost hear the giggles!


Here is the intrepid 1 year old Anna! And again at 3, hear her roar!

Bridget mentioned, “We love the one of Anna in the tree! Mostly because we’ve done similar ones over the years and it’s awesome to see her grow and change, and see her personality shine through!”

And here she was 2 years old, and getting ready to be a big sister!

candid family photography bostonAs for my favorite I simply could not decide between these two special photos of Phil and little Anna—a portrait when they are making surprisingly similar expressions, and tickly kisses!

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