Emma McMahan

Emma McMahan

lifestyle + portrait photography

based in hamilton ohio

I love to tell stories. To me, each event I attend and capture, and every individual I have the honor to work with has a story to tell that is worth telling. These stories are better seen than heard, and oftentimes I find the magic moments that otherwise are too fleeting to remember. That is why I fell in love with photography in the beginning and still to this day is what brings me the most joy in my business. Memorializing stories in imagery to last decades.  

Welcome! I'm Emma!

Cincinnati Wedding Photographer and Lifestyle Portraits

Photographing Weddings and Lifestyle Portraits sessions are more than just a job for me! I love telling the stories of the couples, families, businesses and individuals that I work with. Traveling is an added perk, I love exploring new places! One of my favorite things about my business is how I have been able to turn a passion for art into a living where I continually am blessed to meet new faces, reconnect with familiar ones, and see love in news aways with every click of my camera. You will see through the sessions and events on this blog how love grows in unique ways. How people change for the best year after year. And also how I see the world around me. 

I started this journey when I was fresh out of high school. I didn't know how greatly my life would be impacted from capturing weddings and families. It has been such an honor to do so over the last decade. Being able to capture my hometown and surrounding areas has been such a treat for me! I LOVE Cincinnati and I am proud to claim the title of a Cincinnati Wedding Photographer. It is a tight but large community of creatives in this region. I am thrilled to work with the best of the best! You'll find some amazing wedding industry vendors linked in the weddings blogged here. Their work is so important to what I do, it isn't only photographs that matter at the end of the wedding day, although they may last the longest ;) 



Senior portraits

Lifestyle family


business branding

the mcmahans

These Are The Days

I have always been something of a romantic. Since I was young, I dreamt of a prince charming. I played house. I made my barbies get married. I read love stories. Watched the sappy rom coms. I wanted an epic story myself. Never was I the girl who had many love interests. I in fact, have only had a handful of “boyfriends” and met my match when I was fifteen. Yup, a sophomore in high school! It sounds so strange to say that now, but even then I some how had a feeling that this was it.

I first met Aaron a year before that when I was snowed in at my friends house and we went sledding with neighborhood kids. I didn’t pay much attention to him at the time, he was just this boy who kept intentionally causing our sled to crash into a snow pile at the end of the hill haha! We would have never imagined the life that was planned for us together that snow day. Fast forward to the summer of ’09, before my sophomore year and his senior year. We officially met as dance partners in our schools show choir. That was really the end and beginning of everything. 

We competed together, cheered each other on in our respective sports, ate lunch together everyday and went on a lot of group dates! My favorite memory of that first year together was one of the first we made together. We had a dance-a-thon fundraiser for show choir and had to literally dance for hours outside the school in the parking lot. It was silly, and so much fun. We had such an amazing group of young people in that choir, and all of our activities felt like a party. So that is what the night turned into, a bunch of teenagers on a sugar rush from the snacks and sodas, acting ridiculous and dancing the night away. We weren’t a couple then, but I spent the entire evening with Aaron: laughing, twirling and having the time of my life. I never wanted that feeling of being absolutely myself around someone else to end. A few weeks after homecoming that year, we were officially an item. 

Once Aaron graduated in 2010, he went to school in Kentucky, and then the following year enlisted in to the United States Navy. I couldn’t have been more proud of who he was becoming and how brave he was. But my heart was broken. It is terribly hard to miss someone so much knowing you can’t even call them because they are overseas. Two years we spent that way, while I finished high school. Two years of seeing each other once a month while he was at college, to then seeing and maybe even hearing from each other once a season when he was deployed. I wore my “Navy Girlfriend” attire weekly! It was the first time our relationship hadn’t been easy. But yes, it was always still worth it. Every tear, every long distance argument over the phone or email, every break and every “I’m sorry” created a relationship that was founded on friendship and understanding. We were learning how to not take for granted this bond we were still forming. We weren’t always on the same page, especially with our ideas of the future, but we always had each other’s backs. 

The first time I was able to visit the naval base where Aaron was stationed was, not to say life changing, but absolutely put things into a greater perspective for me. The danger he was in when he was deployed became more of a reality for me. His new bachelor lifestyle was more understandable, and meeting his shipmates and Navy family rounded out this new version of the boy I fell in love with. He was a man, capable and strong. Much more than the comic loving, sports playing, jokester and singer that was my bestfriend. He was so much more. My first semester as a freshman in college, he was able to visit home more than he ever had before. All we had endured thus far was fueling us to talk about our life and future together. And one thing was certain, we wanted to spend it all together, even if we were thousands of miles apart. The week after Christmas 2012, Aaron asked for my parent’s permission to marry me, and on New Years Eve he proposed. It was the day I had been waiting for, and the 12 year old in me was over the moon to finally have that sappy movie moment, in the sparking lights of the Twinkle Trail at the Cincinnati Zoo, looking at a beautiful glittering engagement ring and having the “foot pop” moment ( if you were a fan of the Princess Diaries you will know the one I am talking about!) The 18 year old me was excited, and terrified of what our family and friends would say! We were soo young! Ah, but as the saying goes, when you know- you know

Six very short months later (our poor parents!) we were married! We had such a large guest list, and were surrounded by friends, family, congregation and loved ones. It was mostly DIY, our family graciously helped with every little detail to make our day special. I was 19 and Aaron 21. He had been in a terrible accident the week of the wedding while running drills in the ocean for the special forces team he was on while in the Navy. Our concussed sailor wasn’t even sure he would be able to make the rehearsal dinner because of his hospital stay! But God provides, just as he always has for us, and there he was waiting for me to anxiously walk down the aisle that August day. He actually doesn’t remember the day very well because of his injury but what a wonderful day it was! I was thrilled to take his name, be his wife and dance the night away with my husband just like the night four years prior that started it all.

We took the worlds shortest honeymoon to Gatlinburg, and then just like that, he was back to training and I was back to the books at Miami University. His second deployment, he traveled and saw the world. I studied, worked and grew my at the time very young photography business. We kept in touch (as much as two newlyweds living entirely different lives could) via email and those precious phone calls that were so few and far in between.  Finally, after nearly a year apart, it was Homecoming Day! October 31st 2014. The pier was lined with family members and loved ones and children waiting for their parents. There were news crews, tents set up with food vendors, banners everywhere and anxious eyes watching the shore for the first sound of the USS Bataan’s horn to let us know our sailors were about to disembark. It was a beautiful sight to see the flight deck of the ship lined with men and women in uniform, in a perfect stance waiting their orders to see their families. We were shaking with emotion and excitement,  I can only imagine how hard it must have been for them to hold so still with so much relief to be home in their hearts. So in the midst of this happy chaos, I was watching the massive war ship dock what looked like feet in front of me and I hear my name. I look up at the port hole directly above me in time to see this tanned tall handsome man wave and dart away. Was that really Aaron?  I was so excited to see him and suddenly I realized I wasn’t even sure I didn’t just make that up! My husband is on that ship and it is finally not across the world, its in front of me. As I was working out what I thought I saw, I hear his parent’s say “There he is!” in time to turn around to be scooped up into his arms! It was all so surreal. During his deployment, his father underwent his second transplant surgery, and Aaron wasn’t able to get leave to come and be with us for that uncertain time. The second best things to being hugged by my husband was seeing he and his dad together after that long journey of not knowing. It was truly one of the best days of my life. 

One year later, after a lot of ups and downs in our lives, he was coming home for good! That adjustment period is rough to be honest. Military to civilian life is nothing to take lightly, and we fully relied on family and our relationship with God to get us through. Moving in together after being married for two years was a funny thing to try to explain to people! We lived in the apartment I spent my college years in for the shortest time before deciding to move to a location that wasn’t far from home, but could be all ours as we got readjusted to this married life. On a plus side to all the rushed planning of where do we live and what do we do now, he was finally able to witness a milestone of mine since high school- my college graduation day! I was so excited to finally do some married couple things- like decorate our new home together in Loveland and be in our best friend’s bridal party at their destination wedding. It was that piece of the puzzle that had been missing, being together! 

Shortly after our move, we were so blessed to have a perfect, adorable three month old golden doodle to call our “baby”! Harlow was donated to us through a breeder in Pennsylvania that gifts wounded and ptsd veterans with service and therapy animals. Harlow was far from trained, and that was one of the big first tests of our new life- potty training the pup! We fell in love with her instantly. I could write a book on all things Harlow- the good the bad and the hilarious! This dog has pushed our limits and given us life on the darkest days. But more importantly she helped us to learn how to rely on each other to take care of our new found responsibilities. Sometimes in life all you need is a dog to show you what is truly important. And yes that is her little mop of a head in the middle photo!  

Living in Loveland, we worked on becoming a team. While I was nannying for the most wonderful family and working my photography business every moment I could, Aaron was working full time and going to school full time. Balancing all of that is hard! It was so much fun to live in an area where on our free nights we had tons of options for fun date nights. One day we hope to be back closer to the city life! On our third wedding anniversary, Aaron finally agreed to let me hire a photographer that I admired and take some photos together! (Thank you always Morgan Anderson!) We got all dressed up, headed out to our down town Cincy session and had decided we would go out to a celebratory fancy dinner after…that ended up being at a steak-house close to home! Haha we were exhausted from our crazy schedules that we didn’t want to be out too late lol and that is how it was until I went full time with my photography business that fall and we moved back to our home town. 

The 2015-2017 were building years. Building a foundation of our marriage, something we hadn’t had the opportunity to do the following two years. We worked through things that, lets face it, were less than movie worthy. Like learning how to take care of a home instead of taking for granted the perks of apartment living, the hard way. Arguing over how many times I rearranged the house. Literally our bedroom and my office changed locations too often! I have a problem with decorating and then redecorating, especially after I found Fixer Upper and binged watched it! For those two years we were a work in progress, and definitely still are,  but the thing they don’t tell you in life is how much work a marriage really is. It takes choosing that person over and over, everyday, to actively be “in love” with someone. But what they also don’t tell you, is that being chosen everyday is the best feeling in the world. Knowing you have someone that will go out of their way to try to make you happy is both humbling and so up lifting. It stops feeling like work when you do what is better for the other person and let go of what you think is better for you. Because guess what, if they are also doing the same, you will always have what you need. It isn’t always easy, but it is absolutely worth it! 

We hadn’t taken a real vacation together since our honeymoon. We had trips with family and getaways here and there but nothing we planned together. Aarons sister and brother in law live in Alaska and we were thrilled to be finally going on an adventure! Little did they know, we were expecting! We kept our little one secret from social media until we could tell them in person. It was an exciting time! I found out on a wedding day morning Mothers Day weekend 2017. By the grace of God, I kept my emotions together while shooting that day because I was so scatter brained by the news! We had a life plan we created and wanted to abide by, but God had bigger plans and I have found he often laughs when we make our own and shows us the way. So while I was 18 weeks pregnant, we explored over six cities in Alaska, climbed a mountain ( no really! ) saw amazing wild life and had a trip of a life time. Aaron was so supportive of my pregnancy quirks, it was fun to see him become excited about something we hadn’t really ever talked about. I grew up around taking care of babies and children, but this was going to be a big change to his spur of the moment lifestyle created by that military life we had become accustomed to. We didn’t know the gender of the baby, and couldn’t imagine what was to come. But it was a journey we would be on together. 

Just a few weeks after we had some maternity photos taken (by the wonderful Olga Polo Photography!) I ended up needing to be induced due to developing preeclampsia. I was 37 weeks (by a day) and I was terrified. Aaron was at work when I was admitted to the hospital, and rushed to get to me. I was so relieved to see him when he entered that room. After all the birthing classes, baby book reading and drs appointments, nothing could prepare me for a labor and delivery that was high risk and nothing like we planned for. But seeing him, I knew it wouldn’t matter how we met that baby we were going to be welcoming, we would be together. The day was long, the night was longer. And when that tiny little girl entered the world at 6 am December 23rd 2017,  I was astonished. She was here (and she was a she!) and I looked up at my husband who was now a father and I was happier than I had ever been. But that lasted only seconds before I noticed that my sweet bundle of joy was barely breathing. I had a moment to hold her before she was taken to the NICU. Aaron didn’t get to hold her until later that evening, but stayed by her side all day until I was allowed to go join him in the NICU nursery. That day was joyous, but heart-achingly hard. We didn’t know what was wrong with our little one for a day and a half, which to new emotional parents really did feel like a lifetime. I was so numb to everything for a while, because it just wasn’t like I thought it would be. It was suppose to be skin to skin after she was delivered, and the three of us getting to know each other after all that time and work. It was suppose to be friends and family coming into a room with a little pink babe all wrapped up and perfect. It was hard, and still is sometimes to think about what we missed. Oh but she was perfect, and again God’s plan is much greater than mine. Every second we weren’t sleeping, we were singing to our girl, rocking her one at a time with the family we were able to have come into the protected room. It was everything we needed to show us that now, we are her everything and we are more than spouses, we are her protectors. We are her parents. We spent a three days in the hospital and left on Christmas morning. The worst Christmas we had ever had because our gift was still connected to tubes and IV’s and under constant care. Clara spent a week that way, each day growing stronger. Developing her tiny lungs and stealing our hearts. When she was finally able to come home, Aaron and my parents, a few friends and my aunts and grandmother had completely cleaned the house from top to bottom and had gotten her nursery in shape for the new arrival. It was the sweetest gesture of love.

We were smitten. We felt complete. Goodness how we love her.

Our whirlwind romance that once consisted of traveling back and forth from Ohio to Virginia ( subjected to the Navy’s whims) might now seem mundane to some. We had lived a life that was unexpected, full of surprises and anticipation. Now we religiously watch corny TV shows after the baby goes to bed, plan strategically our free days out to get the most of our schedules and we often look back and think, ” Oh those were the days” as mid 20 somethings! Yes, those were the days, but these days! Ah these days are so much more full! Full of forts and tiny giggles, of messy rooms and stepping on toys and laughing at how our child and our dog play together. These are the days of quiet evenings at home and simple snuggles on the couch; all four of us scrunched together and happy to be. We have been so many things since 2009, but this has been our best year yet. Watching each other grow into a mother and a father, and watching this wonderful little girl that is of both of us, love us and want us over anything else, has been an honor.

Over the decade we have spent together we have always found meaning in songs. A few really good ones have stood the test of time as trends came and went. One song that will always stand out to me is Hold On by Michael Bublé. It first appeared in our relationship because I was obsessed ( and totally still am) with Bublé and added it to a mixed CD for Aaron to take on his drive to college. Then he added it to a playlist for me to listen to while he was on deployment. It was a contender for a first dance song at our wedding, and has been played many times to say ‘I love you”, “I am sorry”, and “you are okay”. It actually came on Pandora last night, and Clara was dancing to it in the living room. We weren’t paying much attention to the background noise at first but something about that song just gets us every time and soon we were teary eyed dancing with the baby and feeling so thankful to be were we are today. Our love story is still unfolding, and I pray we have many many more decades to embrace where it takes us. But for right now, I am grateful that it has brought us here. 


Didn’t they always say we were the lucky ones?
I guess that we were once
Babe, we were once
But luck will leave you ’cause
It is a faithless friend
And in the end when life has got you down
You’ve got someone here that you can wrap your arms around
So hold on to me tight
Hold on to me tonight
We are stronger here together
Than we could ever be alone
So hold on to me
Don’t you ever let me go
There’s a thousand ways for things to fall apart
But it’s no one’s fault
No it’s not my fault
Maybe all the plans we made might not work out
But I have no doubt even though it’s hard to see
I’ve got faith in us and I believe in you and me
So hold on to me tight
Hold on, I promise it’ll be alright
‘Cause it’s you and me together
And baby all we’ve got is time
So hold on to me, hold on to me tonight
There’s so many dreams that we have given up
Take a look at all we’ve got
And with this kind of love
What we’ve got here is enough
So hold on to me tight
Hold on, I promise it’ll be alright
‘Cause we are stronger here together
Then we could ever be alone
Just hold on to me
Don’t you ever let me go
Hold on to me, it’s gonna be alright
Hold on to me tonight
They always say we were the lucky ones