Lisa Sinclair

lisa_sinclairIf a museum curator were picking an object to best represent modern suburban life, she would most likely choose The Annual Family Christmas Card Picture. Like the aproned housewife of the 50s, the Christmas card picture demonstrates not just what a family is, but what it hopes to be. For some families, it is a chronicle of time’s passage. For others, it is a staged affair–these families in perfectly crisp white oxford shirts smiling joyously within an idyllic backdrop of the ocean or fall leaves–that provokes either satire or a guilt-ridden imitation. In some cases, these stilted photographs show less of who the subjects are and more of whom they feel they should be.

lisa_sinclair2Lisa Sinclair is not this kind of photographer. Her online gallery brims with movement–laughter, play and first steps. Each picture is proof of something many people think they live without: grace and elegance in everyday life. Rarely is family life white-shirt perfect, and Sinclair appreciates that; she looks for it. She prefers the shots of siblings laughing, parents walking with their wobbly toddlers because here is where the family’s essence shines through. Her work has garnered high praise from clients and a 2012 Home-Based Business Award from the town of Leesburg.

lisa_sinclair3Photography has always interested Lisa, who says she was “always being the girl with the camera” growing up, but it was not a business pursuit until after her kids were born. With an accounting degree from Virginia Tech, she built a career in information technology and, eventually, real estate. Then, the boys came along– three within four years. The Sinclairs not only had three children close in age; two of their boys had special needs.

Her oldest has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and her youngest has hypotonia, or decreased muscle tone, which can cause problems with mobility, posture, breathing and speech. Appointments with doctors and occupational therapists filled her days as she learned how to best care her for three beautiful and energetic boys.

lisa_sinclair4During this time, she got her first digital single-lens reflex camera, a digital version of the old 35mm camera, and found her creative outlet. Sinclair took pictures of her sons and started teaching herself, through books and online forums, about photography. Friends started asking if she would photograph their kids. As her shooting schedule filled up, she became serious about transforming her hobby into a profession; in 2010, Lisa Sinclair Photography was born.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Sinclair has help. She has a supportive husband who hangs out with the boys while she goes on photo shoots. A sitter comes two mornings a week, giving Lisa set time each week to schedule photo shoots or attend to administrative tasks. Staying organized, she finds, is a terrific help to her and her clients, especially since she schedules infant sessions based on the mother’s due date.

lisa_sinclair5Her business background also aids her success. “There are a lot of photographers out there so I feel like providing excellent customer service sets me apart.” Lisa offers a variety of packages, but most clients ask for digital images for online sharing. Through her Facebook page, Lisa updates followers on new products like a custom iPhone case using personal pictures. In response to client requests, Sinclair digitally edits her images; her goal is always to produce the best, most natural-looking image possible. Lisa’s warmth, humor and benevolence and her ability to connect with and elicit those qualities in her clients also set her apart. She refuses to call the kids she photographs “subjects.” Rather, she sees her job as getting people to warm up in front of the camera and then capturing a moment. In her pre-session consultations, she asks parents what their kids are interested in or what shows they watch so she can play to those interests. If a child loves Dora, Sinclair frames the photo shoot as if they are going on an adventure just like Dora. As a result, she is able to catch on camera relaxed moments replete with freely-given charm.

No where is Sinclair’s artistry more evident than in her photographs of kids with special needs. Familiar with the grueling parade of therapy and doctor appointments for kids with health conditions, Sinclair wanted to give something back to the parents she had met in waiting rooms or heard about through her own healthcare providers. This year, she held her first Special Kids Are Beautiful event, a free photo shoot for families with special needs children. Her goal with the event was to create awareness about the conditions these kids face and to give the families a captured moment of their own joy and beauty—qualities that get pushed aside by the physical, emotional and financial demands of their particular situations.

Experience can only teach people what they are willing to take in. It can be easy, in our more stressful moments, to focus on just getting through and moving on; the truly magnanimous take it all in and transform themselves. Lisa says, “It is hard, looking at a child who isn’t upset when they get mulch on their hands and wondering why your own child can’t be that way. But when you start getting to know your child, when you work to understand their experience, you build something real with them.” It is an approach that works well and yields beauty in her life and in her art.

Jessamyh Ayers writes and lives in Loudoun County with her husband and two children. Her perfect day includes some combination of reading, writing, running, working her dogs and baseball. In addition to her fiction writing, she maintains the blog “The Curveball Contingent” (

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