If you’ve been following the blog for a little while, you know I love a good list of goals from time to time. Not only do I give myself yearly goals, I also try and come up with “off season” goals and other random mini goal lists (I even have a goal list for the decor pieces I want in our home!). I like goal lists because I like concrete progress. This is actually a reason that transitioning from marathon training to weight lifting hasn’t been as smooth for me as I thought it would be! Training for a marathon meant every week I would run ten more minutes, or another mile longer. That was very specific, very obvious progress that I could see immediately from week to week. With weight lifting, the progress has come a lot slower, and it’s a lot harder to see results because they aren’t as concrete. Some days I can lift more than others for no apparent reason. It’s something I’m still working on figuring out!

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Anyway, I decided to make this list this week because for whatever reason, I was feeling unsettled. I decided this meant I should work on a list of new goals and projects I’d love to work on! Working on a list of new ideas is a great way to get rid of that antsy feeling. As is wine, but I mean, list making is more productive, right?

Here’s what I came up with:

  • Create more personal projects for myself that reignite my love for my craft. The film photo project that I mentioned at the end of this post is part of this! I’ve been obsessed with the look of film photography for as long as I can remember and just haven’t devoted the time and energy to it. Some of the other projects on my list are just fun things that have absolutely nothing to do with photography at all…like learning to bake and hand letter. The former, I’ve never been really great at, but we’ll see how it goes.
  • Travel. I would say I’ve been really fortunate up to this point to be shooting weddings all along the East Coast. It’s so much fun to get to travel a ton, and we love having an excuse to visit friends and family because of “business”. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in booking destination weddings too! A new goal of mine is positioning myself for opportunities: on the West Coast (I’d love to shoot in Oregon, Washington State, California, Arizona, or in Las Vegas), somewhere (anywhere) tropical, Maine, Boston, Charleston, SC and also, Florida. Specifically St Petersburg/Ft Lauderdale! My sister is moving near there in the Fall, so you may see us adding a package specifically for Florida weddings! I haven’t yet decided what that looks like, but I know I will want to be in Florida with her as much as I can be!
  • Re-examine my client experience. Over the past few years I’ve basically built upon the same foundation for client experience. I’m thinking it’s time to look at each piece of this and figure out why I do it, whether or not it’s really working, and if there’s something I could be doing better instead. I really think it’s good to never really get too complacent or settled in what you do…so this is going to be the perfect time for me to work on this!
  • Create my own bridal guide. I would love to do this either online or in print. I feel like this may be more of an off season goal at this point, but I’m really excited about all the ideas I’ve been jotting down for this one.
  • FINISH MY OFFICE!!! This has nothing to do with stepping up my game. It really has more to do with my overall comfort levels…haha. I am two or three pieces away from completing my re-do of this small room, and I’m just kind of ready to wrap it up already!
  • Come up with some systems to eliminate bottlenecks in my business. I think it’s important to examine the areas where I’m struggling, accept that, and look for ways to streamline. My workflow is great, but there are a few things that I’m struggling with lately, including blogging, which was always one of my strengths before.
  • Redefine my brand. If you asked me to describe what I mean by this, I’m not 100 percent sure. But I feel like branding for a personal business like mine (where I’m the face of the business essentially) branding is something that’s going to constantly evolve. Does that mean I think my website needs to change constantly? Not at all. I consider brand to be so much more than just my website…it’s everything from the gifts that I give, to how I present my images, to what I Instagram.

This was just a quick list I jotted down the other day, but I think it’s worth sharing because I know posting and sharing about the things you want to do is the best way to remain accountable. You can’t quit once it’s on the internet…because the internet is forever…am I right?? Is there anyone else out there that feels like I do about making lists?

 

 

Sunday weddings are very rare, but we love them! Especially when we don’t have a Saturday wedding…because that means we can work that weekend, but enjoy spending time with friends and family on Saturday like the rest of the world does! I like them because it means I have a little bit of extra time to prepare for the wedding. In this case, I was glad to have an extra day of healing for my poor big toe! We also had the opportunity to try a Brazilian style grill on Saturday, which was a FEAT FEAST. I’m not a huge meat eater, so for me the highlight was a fruity drink in a pineapple! Delicious!!

Jen and Nico were married on Sunday in Richmond. Their wedding was such a fun day from start to finish! I can’t believe their wedding was our thirteenth this season! We’re more than halfway through our 2014 weddings. Here’s a sneak peek at yesterday:

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Look for more of these two on the blog very soon!

Two years ago this fall I had the opportunity to meet Elizabeth and Adam (and Elizabeth’s little ones, Zion and Lucy!) and photograph their wedding. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to photograph them two more times, including recently when I finally got to meet the latest edition to the family…baby Noah! It’s been such a treat to see this little family grow and change together. Lucy and Zion were little when I first met them and now they’re active kids with wild imaginations! This session was such a great reminder of how much fun it is to do these little lifestyle sessions from time to time, and how great it is I get to watch couples grow into families!

Enjoy a few of my favorites from our session!

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This last one was kind of silly, but I had to include it! I asked them what they’d do if I fell in the water and they laughed at me! Ha.

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It’s time for another “what’s in my bag” update! I can’t believe I am so late in blogging about this…it’s been half a wedding season already and I never mentioned my new camera except on Instagram! Whoops. Buying this camera was huge for me. When I started the business over three years ago, I shot on a Canon Rebel XT…which was an entry level body that was outdated even back then. I yearned for a day when I’d be able to own the top of the line camera all the pros I looked up to were using and prided myself on being able to take beautiful pictures even with a less than perfect camera. Instead of going into debt for the business, I’ve slowly built my inventory of gear as I could afford it. I rented lenses until they were feasible for me to own, and had the best camera body I could afford for the time being. Last year upgrading to a full frame camera from a prosumer body was so thrilling! I still believe the photographer makes the images, not the camera, but dang it if having an awesome camera doesn’t make making beautiful pictures just a little bit easier. Adding the 5D Mark III to my bag this spring was one of the most exciting days of my life! Okay, maybe not of my LIFE…but definitely one of the most exciting days for KNP! And the fact that I have worked with almost every other camera body under the sun before this made the purchase that much sweeter! It feels good to grow, and it feels even better to have earned it with every bit of blood (yes, blood), sweat, and tears I’ve put into this business that I lovingly refer to as my second baby (my first, obv, is Lucy, my cat).

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Anyway, enough about me! Let’s talk about this camera! Switching from a 50D to the 5D Mark II was pretty seamless. The buttons are all in the exact same places, so it wasn’t really hard to figure out. The Mark III, has different buttons, a ton more menu options, and is slightly more difficult to transition to from a Mark II or other Canon bodies. It also has a WAY more sophisticated focusing system than the Mark II (which was seriously that thing’s downfall) and getting used to actually switching focus points (instead of focusing and recomposing all the time like you have to with the 5D Mark II), has a little bit of a learning curve. I’m still learning a little bit as I go and getting used to that…and I’ve shot 11 weddings and a handful of sessions with it already this season!

The best thing about the camera, is hands down, that focusing system. No more not being able to get sharp pictures at a wide aperture far away from the subject. No more THINKING I nailed focus only to get back to my computer and see that the focus was slightly soft. The Mark III has a bajillion focus points (no, really), but I only actually use the cross type points because I shoot exclusively with prime lenses and almost always shoot below 2.8.

My least favorite thing about this camera is that it’s slightly larger than the Mark II, which was bigger than my 50D and definitely an adjustment for my hands. I have almost CHILD SIZED HANDS, people. The Mark III, with the 35 1.4, a 580 ex II, and a transmitter for OCF weighs almost 6 pounds. And did I mention, I don’t use a camera strap?? That’s six pounds for at least 4 hours during receptions just hanging out in my right hand. No wonder my right hand is so much stronger than the left! I sincerely hope that Canon does NOT make the 5D Mark IV any bigger than the Mark III whenever they put it out. Canon, do you hear me??

All in all, I love this camera more than I ever thought I could love a piece of equipment. It was seriously worth every penny! I also feel that my love for it is even stronger because of how hard I had to work to get to this point in my business. We’re at at time when instant gratification is expected (what, you’ve never quit a workout plan after a week into it because you didn’t see results??), so actually having to work hard, pay my dues (so to speak), and earn something like this means a lot to me. The camera stands for a lot more than just a piece of equipment vital to my business…it’s proof of the journey I’ve taken to get to this point in my business and what hard work and perseverance can achieve! I’m not telling you all of this to pat myself on the back, or give myself props. I’m telling you this to encourage you if you’re not exactly where you want to be right now. You can do it! And when you do, it will be so sweet…like nutella all over ice cream. :)

A little over  a week ago, John and I had the pleasure of photographing Melissa and Billy’s intimate wedding! Most of their friends and family came from out of town to support these two as they were married in the cutest little church downtown.  We love smaller weddings because everyone starts to feel like family and friends! We get to know everyone a little better when it’s just a small group.

I did break my toe at this wedding, but Michelle Amarillo and her assistant Stephanie took such good care of me (and everything else) that I joked if I had to break a toe at a wedding, I was glad it was this one!

Enough talking! Here are a few of my favorite images from their day.

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It finally happened. Something I’ve been worrying about since the start of my business…I hurt myself on a wedding day! I have shot weddings with a bad sinus infection, feeling nauseous (probably from dehydration), with a bad headache, and now I can say I shot a wedding with a broken bone.

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Because no one wants to see a picture of my toe…here’s a behind the scenes shot from another day!

Okay, so it was just my big toe. But you know what? I never realized how much stuff my poor big toe does until I fractured it and putting weight on it became misery. Big toes need way more credit and love, people! I promise to show mine more respect going forward.

In all seriousness, I injured my toe because I’m impatient. I couldn’t wait for John to come to the other side of the car to pull the bag out…I HAD to get inside to start shooting reception details. I HAD to pull the 30-40 pound FULL Pelican case out of the car myself in a space less than a foot wide. Oh, and then I dropped the whole thing from two feet in the air onto JUST my big toe. When it happened, I started screaming and then I got upset because I didn’t want this to affect how I shot the wedding. But, I was surprised to find that it didn’t. I think there’s some kind of wedding day adrenaline that kicks in when you are working and just pushes you. Or maybe that’s just me.

I promise you the point of this post is not for people to feel sorry for me, or for me just to talk about my toe (gross, right? I hate feet). I wanted to share this story with you guys as a reminder to have a contingency plan in place for when accidents happen. It’s not acceptable to leave the couple in the lurch no matter what. In my situation, my foot was hurting pretty badly, but since it was halfway through the day already and I don’t know any photographers who live anywhere near the venue, I made it work. Having John as my second photographer (having a second shooter is so important!!!) and working with one of my favorite wedding planners, Michelle also helped because I knew they would have my back.

What would you do if you broke a bone at a wedding?? Or if you had an accident in the days leading up to one? I work with John at every wedding so there’s another set of hands and eyes there (and feet in this case) so he can pick up the slack for me when I’m struggling because of being sick or hurt. Even having an assistant would be hugely helpful because the person could carry your things or help get you water so you can shoot.

In case of an emergency situation that might prevent me from shooting a wedding (which hopefully will NEVER happen) I  have a contingency plan that includes getting in touch with a list of photographers at least as experienced as me who I would trust to shoot in my place. I also share a Google Calendar with several photog friends who I know would be there for me in a heartbeat. Knowing others you trust and forming relationships with others is important…because you never know when you might need a friend…or when you will have a chance to be one for someone else! This incident will one day be a funny story to tell, but in all seriousness, it was a great reminder to make sure I have a good backup system in place! I hope you guys all look at yours closely…AND pull your camera bags out of your car slowly and carefully:)

 

I haven’t done a giveaway in what feels like forever! I used to do small fun little giveaways once a month, but at some point I got too busy to do them so frequently. But, I miss doing them! I liked sharing things I really love with the people (like you!) who have been nice enough to stop by and read my blog. Since today is my birthday, I thought I’d do a giveaway of a few of my favorite things!

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Since I’m not like Oprah and can’t give away a ton of cars or laptops, I gathered up a few of my favorite things to share with one lucky reader:

1. Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka
I’m not a vodka drinker at all (I like bourbon and WHISKEY!), but I do love Firefly and lemonade. Especially in the summer!

2. Chuao Potato Chip Chocolate Bar
I LOVE potatoes. I’m a potato girl through and through. Potato chips in particular are a weakness of mine. We actually don’t even buy big bags of chips anymore because I’ve been known to eat a family size bag of kettle chips in one sitting. Yikes. Anyway, this bar is making an appearance again this year, because it is absolutely delicious, AND you have to have chocolate on your birthday. It’s like a rule or something.

3. Gold votive
I love DIY, and one of my favorite things to do right now is put gold on everything!

4. Essie Turqouise and Caicos and Chinchilla
These are two of my favorite colors to wear year round!

5. Pomelo Lime scented soy candle
I bought one of these candles recently at Target and I’m obsessed. There’s something so refreshing and uplifting about citrusy scents and right now lime is a bit of an obsession of mine.

6. Notecards
I love stationery, and these gold foil cards (also from Target) just kind of spoke to me!

7. Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm
Last year I discovered red lipstick. This spring I discovered lip stains and matte balms. I love this particular one because the color is super wearable, it glides on super easily, and stays on fairly well. And, I love, LOVE the matte look!

Okay, now that you’ve seen everything and you really want to win it all, here’s how: Leave a comment on this post with your favorite thing from this group of things! You can gain a second entry by sharing this post with your friends on FB and/or following me and sharing on Instagram. Just leave a comment letting me know you did! Winner will be chosen randomly on Wednesday morning and notified by email. If you’re under 21 and you win…well, I’ll just keep the Firefly! :)

Thanks for reading!

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe with you guys, but I thought summer time was the perfect time to share a new one! A week ago, I went blueberry picking with a friend of mine and picked an overabundance of berries. I made muffins and jam (and then, more muffins!) and even ate the berries out of the bag as a mid day snack a few days in a row before deciding to try out a summertime cocktail recipe.

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Mojitos are one of my favorite drinks! Especially when they’re flavored with blueberries or blackberries. The fresh fruit, the mint, and of course, RUM make such a delicious and refreshing treat. I adapted a recipe from a few different ones I found via google…here it is!

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Two ounces of rum
1/2 cup of blueberries
Mint
Lime juice to taste (I used about a tablespoon or so…I like lime!) (not pictured)
Club soda
1 tsp sugar (not pictured)

Add berries, mint, and sugar to the bottom of a cocktail shaker and crush with the back of a spoon to muddle together. Then add rum and lime juice and shake it up! Divide between two glasses, then top glasses off with club soda. Stir with a straw and get your sip on!

Hope you guys enjoyed this recipe! How fun would this be as a wedding signature drink??

07.09
2014

Linen Albums

I love getting mail, but some days there aren’t really many fun things waiting for me in the mailbox. Lately it’s been bills, and more bills with some junk mail thrown in. Not my favorite! Don’t you feel like junk mail is such a waste?? Yesterday was a good mail day, though! A gorgeous new album came in…Amanda and Drew’s linen album! Amanda and Drew are the first of our couples to receive a linen album as opposed to leather, so I was really excited to see this one. We use Madera books for these, and as always, I was incredibly impressed by the quality.

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Here’s a little video I made of this album! Hopefully this gives you an idea of how beautiful this book is!

Linen Albums from Katie Hill on Vimeo.

Since I started taking photography seriously, I’ve gotten questions from friends and family on how they can take better pictures. A lot of people think they key to better pictures lies in a pro quality dslr, but that’s not necessarily true. My interest in photography started out with a $150 Canon point and shoot that was scratched up like crazy. It was John’s favorite thing, but it had seen better days. With that camera I learned some basic things about photography that served me well when I finally upgraded to a DSLR. I thought it would be fun to share a few things anyone can apply to photography of any sort (iPhone, point and shoot, DSLR, etc)!

Make sure there is a lot of light! Preferably natural light. – There are lots of “rules” to lighting, but the main one, is that there should be lots of it! Have you ever taken a picture with your camera or phone and noticed it was blurry? That’s probably because it was too dark and your subjects were moving, or there was camera shake (happens when shooting handheld, especially in low light). It’s always best to have lots of light! When I’m shooting weddings (and I can control the lighting situation at least somewhat) I will open curtains, move items near windows, etc to ensure that I have enough lighting for pictures. Phone pictures are no different! If I really want to Instagram a meal I cooked or take a phone snapshot of a craft project I’m working on, I will use a space near one of our windows and make sure the subject of the photo is evenly lit. Natural light is best because it’s the cleanest source of light there is.

Speaking of natural light…there are better times to photograph outside than others. The BEST time of day? Right near sunrise or sunset before or after the light is incredibly harsh. Most of mid-day, the conditions are NOT favorable for photos. When the sun is high in the sky, it tends to create harsh shadows. In these situations, I look for a way to diffuse the light…either by shooting backlit (which we’ll cover a little bit more below…) or in open shade. Open shade is really just a large patch of shade that’s not completely dark looking. Shade is the BEST light and one you see utilized in my wedding work a ton. It’s flattering and even. Seeing light is a skill you’ll develop over time. But just moving your subject to a shady area if you’re shooting in the daytime will make a huge difference. For phone cameras and other cameras that allow you to chose where the camera meters, make sure you “meter” off of the subjects face. With an iPhone, you simply tap the person’s face and it will meter for them rather than the bright background.

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Utilize Natural Reflectors
Reflectors are tools that professional photographers will sometimes use to direct and diffuse light. I don’t often use a traditional reflector, especially when I’m out shooting photos for fun or taking quick iPhone snapshots…can you imagine how that would look if I busted out a big round reflector before taking an iPhone snapshot in a theme park?? Ha! I do, however, utilize natural reflectors whenever I can, especially when I am shooting backlit (meaning the sun is behind the subjects). What’s a natural reflector? It can really be anything white or light in color that’s going to reflect light back up onto the subject’s face. Sidewalks, sand, and even light colored gravel roads can be great examples of this. Look at these two iPhone snapshots taken at the beach over the weekend…one of the images is a lot darker than the other one. Nothing changed except for the white foamy water around my feet. The white foam acts as a reflector, bouncing light back onto my face. The one without the foam is dark because the ground in front of me is dark and there’s nothing for the sun to bounce off of to light me from the front.

Pay attention to your composition.
When I’m shooting a wedding, I’m constantly thinking about what the best light for the image is going to be, as well as what the most interesting and visually appealing composition might be. I don’t stop thinking about those things when I’m taking snapshots with my iPhone or other “just for fun” camera. One of the biggest things that sets your photos apart and elevates them from plain old snapshot to something special, is composition. Take the time to think about how you want to compose your image before you take it. Is there a trash can in the background? Is there clutter or other visually distracting elements you can move out of the way before snapping the shot? These are all things to consider before taking a photo…and if you think of them before each shot, before long it’ll be second nature!

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Shooting Kids and Fur People
Lots of people who want to take better pictures want to take pictures of their kids or their pets…which are admittedly, two of the most challenging subjects to photograph! Mostly because they are so much less likely to do what you ask them to do, or sit still enough to make getting the shot super easy. For photographing kids, I always suggest making sure they are well fed and not too tired before trying to bring them to a session…that’s also a great rule of thumb for parents who want to photograph their kids! For pets, same thing, but it actually works out better in your favor if they ARE more tired. So if you’re planning a photoshoot of your pet, try tiring them out by playing with them and then stuff them full of food or treats! It’s best to try to shoot kids or pets in very well lit situations when you can, because 1. Your camera is going to have a more difficult time focusing in low light, and focusing on moving targets is already a challenge. and 2. Your camera’s shutter speed will be a lot slower when it’s dark (this applies to any camera…even ones that only shoot in auto mode) and a slower shutter speed means the image may be a lot more blurry.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Edit your pictures
For phone photos, I use the VSCO app. There are tons of great iPhone apps for editing, but I love VSCO. It’s really easy to use, and I like the VSCO filters a lot. I personally don’t really love the Instagram filters…but that’s another story. Within the VSCO app, I can change exposure, contrast, etc and also play with highlights and shadows if an image needs it. For me, I think the brighter an image, the better, so the exposure is what I tweak most often. For simple editing of non phone photos, I suggest Picasa. I actually use Lightroom 5 for all of my editing, but if you’re not a pro and you just want something to make simple edits to your photos (exposure, temperature, zit removal, etc) Picasa is great! I used it before I was a professional and it’s definitely user friendly! And it’s free! The best editing tip I can share, is LESS IS MORE. As an amateur photog, one of my biggest mistakes was thinking splashy edits made my pictures look more “professional”. The truth is, over the top edits take away from images by causing the focus to be on the editing technique and not the photo itself. Definitely something to keep in mind! I also don’t suggest newb photogs run out and buy Photoshop. Photoshop is an incredibly powerful tool if you know what you’re doing with it, but for the most part, you aren’t going to need it for much of what you’d want to do, and it can be somewhat difficult to learn. As a professional photographer, I actually only use Photoshop a few times a month!

Gear
I really believe that it’s the photographer that makes the image and not the camera, but there’s no denying that having better gear makes things easier. I get asked a few times a month what the best starter DSLRs are and what I recommend for people who want to take better pictures, so I created this Amazon list of the things I suggest for anyone who’s interested in getting into photography as their hobby. I’m a Canon girl, through and through, so everything on the list is Canon. If you’re interested in going Nikon, I’m happy to ask a few of my Nikon friends what they’d suggest, so feel free to shoot me an email to ask!

All photos in this post iPhone photos.