I’m going to be painfully and brutally honest: This has not been a good year for me, business-wise. That’s not to say I’m having trouble booking or not making money – quite the contrary. This year I have more weddings on the books than I ever have, and while I am so incredibly thankful to be succeeding, I’m learning that there’s a price for everything. My social life has all but vanished, and virtually every waking moment of my life is consumed with shooting, editing, or working. On almost any given day, from the moment I open my eyes until the moment my head hits the pillows again, I am doing something related to my job. I hired staff to help out this year with grand ideas of having free time to myself, being able to blog and network more, gearing up to be a better wife for my future husband Jason, and possibly even travel a bit. Well, I was a bit delusional, to say the least. The good side to this is that I absolutely LOVE what I do, so even though I have become a full-fledged workaholic, I am loving every second of it. I have so many “I can’t believe this is my life” moments, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. The down side is that working so much so often has left little time to pursue personal projects. Recently, however, a fabulous shoot from a photographer I admire, Jose Villa, put a seed into my brain. The shoot featured an amazing black wedding dress. Normally when you see black wedding dresses, they’re done in a very harsh, goth sort of way. Jose took a different approach, and shot it in a romantic, soft, classy atmosphere. I wear black almost every day of my life (although I am trying to incorporate more color, you just can’t beat a LBD and pearls), and although I will not be donning a black wedding dress for my nuptials, I loved the idea of taking a gorgeous black wedding gown and approaching it from a softer, more sophisticated perspective. A week or so later I saw a photoshoot in Ibiza, Spain which featured Shakira in a massive seven-foot-long hot pink tutu. The amazing silhouettes and texture of that inspired me as well, and in my mind a plan began to form. I went to Joann Fabrics (I come from a long line of sewers – every girl should own a sewing machine! – so this place is like a second home for my mother, sister, and I) and purchased about eighty yards of black tulle. I set aside one night for a personal project – a pretty big sacrifice, for me – and began to sew and stitch and gather and trim. Soon an amazing piece of clothing began to take shape. It obviously wasn’t ready for prime time, but I knew it would look amazing on the right girl in the right setting. But what to do with this beautiful masterpiece?
Last weekend, I traveled to Cooperstown to photograph a wedding for two incredible opera singers, and since my regular second shooter Jena couldn’t make it, I asked friend and fellow wedding photographer Sarah Kate to come join me. I imagined upstate NY to be fairy-tale land of tall trees, rolling hills, and gorgeous old houses. What better place to don a truly massive swarm of black tulle? Luckily, Sarah Kate is absolutely stunningly beautiful, and since I knew we would have the day before the wedding to ourselves, I talked (read: forced) Sarah Kate into modeling my tulle monstrosity for me. As a fellow photographer I knew she would understand my need to push myself and try something different, and luckily she allowed me to dress her up like a doll (a very sexy, vampy doll) and force her to go traipsing through fields of who-knows-what. Here are a few of my favorite images from the session!
I want to preface this by saying that I DO NOT shooting maternity portraits! Despite what you are about to see, I am a wedding-only photographer. After posting Gara and Brandon’s maternity session I got several inquiries for families, newborns, and maternity sessions, and while I’m very honored, weddings and wedding-related portraiture consume my life. If you’re interesting in hiring a photographer to shoot your maternity session, there are several wonderful photographers in the Dallas area who specialize in family portraiture and can do some beautiful work for you! I highly recommend Lidia Boicu or Heather Essian.
That said, once in a blue moon I do make an exception and shoot something non-wedding-related. Brana is a fellow wedding industry professional (she helps keep things at Posh Couture Rentals running smoothly) and an all-around lovely person, so I couldn’t resist getting her and her husband Adam in front of my camera. Unfortunately we didn’t quite get the lovely sunny day we were hoping for, but we decided to take the gloomy weather and make it work!
Between seniors, newborns, and maternity sessions, it seems like I have really been stretching my creative muscle lately! Gara is a good friend who I owed a huge debt to after she referred one of my all-time favorite weddings to me, Jenni and Cade’s gorgeous garden affair, not to mention all of her invaluable legal advice, so naturally I couldn’t turn down the chance to photograph her, her husband Brandon, and their beautiful unborn baby boy Travis (who has now joined us – welcome to the world little T-rav!). Gara loves photography as much as I do, so we had been planning for this session for weeks, and I hope it was everything she dreamed it would be! Here are some of my favorites from the session:
One of the things I pride myself on is being a strictly weddings-only photographer.. Weddings require so much time and attention, and it’s really tough to shoot 25+ weddings a year and do anything else (or at least do it well). That said, every now and then I do something completely out of my comfort zone. Not only does it keep me from being burnt out, but it gives me a chance to think outside the box and push myself as a photographer. When friend, wedding coordinator, and fellow Kappa Delta Kelly Simants of Sweet Pea Events had her little boy Carson, I couldn’t resist getting that cutie and his beautiful parents in front of my camera for a newborn session!
Wow, this session has a lot of backstory to it… Be forewarned, I’m about to get really mushy here.
Brittani and Corey Oliver have a very special place in my heart. Brittani was my college roommate and best friend throughout college. She was always a source of inspiration to me – from her great fashion sense to her amazing design style to her general all-around craftiness, pretty much everything she touches makes me go “That’s SO cute!” So, it’s no surprise that when I saw her photographs in college, it made me want to get into photography. Because of her, I decided to purchase a Canon Rebel (the old school film version, then eventually the digital version, back when it cost like $1500) and take a few photography classes. That, of course, started me on a crazy whirlwind path that changed the course of my life. Luckily, I got to return the favor when I played a part in helping her get to know my friend Corey (a financial genius who has played a huge part in helping me get my finances in order, make major advances towards being debt-free, start saving for retirement, and generally spending smarter), who would eventually become her husband. They were my very first clients for my wedding photography business, and had it not been for their wedding, it’s very VERY unlikely that I ever would have become a wedding photographer.
Given that these two have shared so much of themselves with me, I’m always anxious to find some way to give back to them, so I absolutely jumped at the chance to do a Valentine’s Day portrait session for them. It takes very very little convincing to get me to photograph a beautiful couple, even less so when they’re two of my best friends! These guys were total troopers, battling Britt’s influenza-B and 100+ degree fever and Corey’s allergies to cats and horses (we shot most of the session at a horse ranch), as well as risking an illegal trespassing charge and a missed flight, but it was sooooo worth it in the end. I absolutely LOVE these photos! Okay, enough talk, onto the photos:
I firmly believe everyone should have a great photo of themselves, plus Britt and Corey are entrepreneurs who both own their own small businesses (Corey makes awesome handmade furniture and Britt is a children’s portrait photographer) so I took some time to do some headshots of them. They returned the favor for me, but I’ll post those later!
These two are truly amazing. Separately, they’re two of my favorite people in the world, and have helped me in inumerable ways. Together, they are my inspiration for a good marriage. They openly love each other, they make time for each other, they work together towards common goals, they make sacrifices for the benefit of each other and their marriage, and they really do seem to have a great set of priorities. They have taught me that a relationship, especially a marriage, is not a passive thing that just happens. It requires effort and work and planning, and both people have to be fully invested to make it work. B&C, thanks so much for being the best friends I could ever ask for, I love you guys more than words can say!
Lately I have received a lot of questions about what kind of gear I use, so I figured it was about time for an updated What’s in My Bag post! When I’m shooting, I always carry the same gear on me:
Shootsac or Kelly Moore Bag
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50 f1.2L (stays on my camera the majority of the time)
Canon 100 f2.8 Macro (mostly for detail shots like rings and some portraits)
Canon 35 f2 (great for big sweeping ceremony photos, wedding party photos, large formals, and reception dancing photos)
Canon 45 f2.8 TS-E (good for detail shots and some portraits)
Canon ST-E2 Wireless Transmitter (for firing my flashes)
I like to work light, so this is the only gear I actually carry around with me (plus copious amounts of memory cards and batteries). I also have a second gear bag that holds all my miscellaneous items. This gear serves as my backup kit, as well as supplemental gear for my second shooter, should she need it.
Lowepro Pro Roller 2
Canon 5D (backup camera)
Canon 70-200 2.8L (used during the ceremony for closeups)
Canon 16-35 2.8L
Canon 28 2.8
Canon 85 1.8
Canon 50 1.4
Tamron 28-75 2.8
Canon 580 EX (4)
Canon ST-E2 (backup)
Canon flash sync cord
Lowell ID 100w video light w/ 4-way barndoors + Bescor battery
1 Monopod (to use a light-on-a-stick, as held by my assistant)
Here are a few things I DON’T use (nothing against any of these items, I just don’t find them necessary for my shooting style):
-Pocket Wizards (I own them for emergencies, but rarely use them)
-Flash diffusers (I have a couple but they have been gathering dust since I bought them)
-White balance tools (ExpoDisc, grey card, etc)
-Reflectors (again, I have a couple, but I never use them)
There are a lot of neat gadgets and gizmos and add-ons that the camera industry pimps out, but in my experience most of them are either gimmicky or easily replicated in Photoshop/Lightroom. Gear is useful, but only to an extent. The truth is, if you can’t take a good photo with a Digital Rebel and a kit lens, you’re still not going to take good photos with a 5D and a 50 1.2L. However, if you CAN take a good photo with a Rebel and a kit lens, investing in professional-quality equipment will help you take the quality of your already-good images to the next level.
These two are near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons, especially because I had a part in their first meeting, so I was very excited to be able to be there for them as their wedding photographer. The venue was spectacular, the weather (despite an impending hurricane) was perfect, and the people (many of which were my friends, as well) were typical Texas awesome. You’ll see a lot of black and white images in this post.. Something about this wedding was just so classic and romantic, and I feel that black and white really allows the content and emotion of the image to come out. I think that treatment really suits this set of images well. Here are some of my favorites:
My two former college roommates.. The girl on the right giving the toast, Brittani, was my very first bride!
Allison’s bouquet toss was hilariously eventful – it required three tosses, two of which were caught by her unsuspecting mom! Alli just doesn’t know her own strength ;)
I am pretty sure Alli and Matt do not want to be reminded of the state their poor car was in that night.. Here it is BEFORE most of the destruction.
Alli and Matt, I am so thankful to be able to call you guys friends, and to know that so many strange twists of fate came together to bring all three of us together. Hopefully I can come visit your beautiful new home next time I am in town!