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FAQ – First Looks and their Impact on the Ceremony

When you look at these photos, can you tell what the common thread is? If you look past the fact that they’re outdoor ceremony images all photographed in the Spring, you’ll see that they’re all photos of our past grooms who are thrilled to see their brides walking towards them down the aisle! Their sweet expressions melt my heart!

What I’m betting you CAN’T see when you look at the images is that they’re actually all grooms who also did a first look with their bride earlier in the day! Or, maybe you’re just really on top of things and you did see that one coming?

One of the things I hear pretty frequently from people who are considering doing a first look is that they’re scared it may take away from the special-ness of the walk down the aisle. They don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on that big, special moment that they’ve been dreaming about for years. And you know what, I can totally understand that. I was once a bride planning my own wedding who spent hours and hours envisioning how everything on the day would turn out. I get it!

It turned out on our wedding day that we really did not feel at all let down by the walk down the aisle even though we’d seen each other already. Just because John knew what I had on because we’d already done photos together didn’t make it any less special for him to see me, his bride, walking toward him about to marry him. And it didn’t make it any less special for me to hold my mom’s hand on the way to meet John at the altar either!  From my experiences both as a bride/wife and as a photographer who’s been shooting weddings for almost 6 years, I can honestly say that doing a first look doesn’t make the walk down the aisle any less special. It’s such an iconic, memorable moment that almost nothing can take away from it.

And while doing a first look doesn’t seem to take away from the ceremony, I’ve heard some people say that they feel like it actually enhances their experience at their ceremony! I believe that this is because most often when people do a first look, it helps to calm their nerves a bit to see their future spouse and spend some time together before that big moment. And once they’re a bit less nervous, they’re able to take it in a little more!

At the end of the day, whether or not you do a first look is a personal choice and we’d love to help you figure out what’s right for you!


For Photographers: Overcoming Failure

Ah, failure. A lot of people don’t like to talk about it, but let’s be real….who hasn’t failed in one way or another? We’re all human, and unfortunately, human beings tend to be prone to making mistakes. It’s just in our nature!

You might think that the more established you are as a business owner, the less likely you are to fail, but I think that’s totally a myth. Of course you gain experience the longer you’re in business, but the length of time you’ve been working doesn’t mean that you suddenly become perfect!

Business tips for female entrepreneurs

Here are some things I’ve learned about overcoming failures in my business over the last six years:

1. Make it Right
What can you do to fix your mistake? If it’s something that cannot be fixed, what can you do to make it better? If the mistake involves your clients, it’s best to put yourself in their shoes and act with as much empathy and kindness as you can. In most situations, people want to know that they’re heard and understood and to see that you’re doing the best that you can do. I genuinely care for all of our clients, so if I make a mistake that affects them on some level, I try to do as much as I can to make the situation right.

Consider the kinds of customer service you’ve received in your life. How would you feel if a company left you out to dry after their mistake affected you? How do you feel when a company goes above and beyond to take care of you? I can’t remember exactly who said it, but I always try to remember this quote: “The one thing people remember about you is how you made them feel”. I find that to be such a great business principle because at the end of the day, business (especially my business!) is really all about relationships!

2. Keep perspective
We sometimes feel like our failures are going to ruin us and destroy our businesses. That the mistakes we’ve made are greater than the sum of all of the awesome things we’ve done. The truth is, no one person and no business is defined solely by a mistake that’s been made. We’re defined by a much bigger picture. In the grand scheme of things, your mistake is probably not that big of a deal! It’s something you’ll be able to learn from…and learning = growth. Instead of beating yourself up about it, It’s best to keep perspective in mind. I sometimes ask myself, “Is this something I’ll still be worried about a year from now?” if not, then it’s not worth losing sleep over.

3. Take something away from the experience
In my opinion, the silver lining to almost every epic fail is that there’s something you can learn from it. Maybe you’ll figure out a new way to do things in your business or pick up a new software or system because of it. Or, maybe you’ll learn something valuable about yourself that you can take into your next interactions! To me, the biggest tragedy isn’t the mistake itself, it’s not using the opportunity to learn something and become better because of it. There’s always something to learn from failure, you just have to be willing to look and to do the work to fix it.

It’s important to remember that everyone is flawed and that’s okay. Life is about staying humble and doing our best, not being the best 24/7. Use your failures to help you to succeed in the future and they won’t have been for nothing!


Love your inspiring and very helpful post. Thank you!

FAQ – Getting Ready Detail Checklist

When I was planning my wedding, one thing I’d wish I’d known was how chaotic the “getting ready” portion of the day can be. I envisioned having a totally relaxing morning drinking mimosas with my best friends before slipping into my wedding gown and then leisurely making my way to our first look and ceremony.

That didn’t happen, and it’s kind of a shame because that COULD have been my wedding day reality. It can be yours too!

The key is preparation. Despite having quit Brownies less than a year joining, I’ve adapted the Girl Scouts’ famous motto (“be prepared”) as my own in my adult years. One thing you may not consider when you’re planning everything else out to a tee is that having all of your bridal/getting ready details in one place on your wedding morning will make your life so much easier! No one wants to have to go on a scavenger hunt looking for earrings, bobby pins, and double stick tape the morning of their wedding. TRUST me.

Having everything in one place not only makes your life easier (and your bridesmaids, too!) it also helps your photographer, which in turn, helps you out! I have so much more time to style and photograph your details if you have them prepared for me when I arrive. I also am able to get through styling and photographing all of those things more quickly, which gives me more time for candids and creative portraits! Being organized ahead of time is a win/win.

Here are a few things that I suggest having prepared in one place for your photographer to grab when they arrive:

A fresh copy of your wedding stationery, envelopes included. If you’re having a calligrapher do the addresses on your invitations, be sure to have them do an extra one for photos! Those little details are worth capturing because as I’ve learned since my wedding keeps getting farther and farther in my rearview mirror, those are the ones you forget about first without photo evidence!

Any jewelry you’ll be wearing (earrings, bracelets, necklaces, etc). Also, pro tip: if you have a few options on what you might be wearing, be sure to choose by the morning of the wedding so we can photograph what you’ll actually be wearing and not spend time shooting stuff you don’t want to wear. I would also advise letting us know if you’ve got something special that’s an heirloom so that we can give it special attention.

All three rings (your engagement ring and both wedding bands!). Sometimes people will advise you to give all three rings to the Best Man the night before the wedding, but the best time for us to photograph them (for both lighting and continuity) is at the beginning of the day with the rest of the getting ready details. We can either get the rings back to him if/when John goes to photograph the guys, or at the bridal party photos after the first look, or you can have your maid of honor slip them to him right before the ceremony.

Your bridal shoes. Pro tip: Be sure to wait until after we’ve photographed the shoes to add in any gel insoles or anything like that.

Your something old, new, borrowed, and blue. If you’re having these, definitely include them in your getting ready detail stash!

The bride’s bouquet. Bonus points for having a boutonnière on hand. Have this delivered to wherever you’re getting ready. This will mean we can photograph your flowers with your other things, but it will also mean that you can carry your bouquet to your first look and have it immediately for portraits. If you are really wanting to be on top of things, talk to your florist about leaving behind a few extra loose blooms when they deliver the bouquet. They’re always a bonus for styling detail photographs!

Your wedding gown & veil. This seems SO obvious, right? If you think about it beforehand, make sure to have a hanger that’s something besides the wire or plastic hanger you brought the dress in on. While those are practical for traveling with your gown, they don’t make beautiful photos. A hanger for the gown doesn’t have to be fancy or personalized or anything like that (unless you want it to be!). A plain, simple, wooden hanger from Target will do just fine!

Bridal gown and wedding rings at Barren Ridge Vineyards Wedding

Your bridal clutch or handbag. Not every bride has a handbag or a clutch, but if you’ve got one, by all means, include it with the rest of your details!

Your perfume. Perfume bottles often add a little something pretty to the mix when photographing details. I also love the idea of wearing a new perfume on your wedding day…that way whenever you smell it, it’ll bring back memories of that day!

These are some of the most common items we see during detail time on a wedding day, but if you’ve got other things that are special to you, by all means include them and bring them to our attention! It’s important to us to get whatever’s important to you!

If you’re new here, my husband John and I are Virginia Wedding Photographers and we’d love to chat more with you about your wedding day. Learn more about us here.


For Photogs: Investing in your future with Acorns

Last July, I started my 29th year by writing a list of 30 things I wanted to do in this last year before I turn 30. It’s a pretty lofty list of goals…it’s made me realize more than once that thirty is actually A LOT. The list covers fun things like horseback riding and laser tag and more tedious, adult things like learning to change a tire and starting a 401K. Another one of those “adult” things on this list is investing in the stock market. I’ve been interested in the stock market since we learned about it in third grade, but I never really got around to investing or even learning more about it. Probably because it just always seemed so intimidating!

One thing I’ve learned as an adult is, sometimes life does not have any more room for complicated or confusing things. The stock market always seemed so complicated and confusing and it felt like you were supposed to have some huge sum of money to be able to start a portfolio, which is exactly why I always procrastinated actually figuring out how to invest. At least, it was until I found out about this app called Acorns!

Do you remember how Bank of America used to have their “Keep the Change” program? Maybe they still have it, maybe they don’t. But I remember all of the ads about it when it first started because I thought it was a genius idea. For a second, it even made me think about leaving the credit union I’ve been with since I was 11 years old to join BOA instead! The ONLY other thing that almost made me leave my bank was the Hello Kitty debit card BOA used to have, so that’s saying something!

Anyway, the premise of “Keep the Change” was this: BOA would round up the amount of any purchase you made, say if you paid $5.75 for tacos on Taco Tuesday, they’d round up to $6 and deposit that $.75 into your savings account. It doesn’t sound like much, but over time it would add up to a nice little savings you otherwise wouldn’t have. Acorns’ premise is essentially the same thing. You connect your bank account and then they round up your purchases and turn around and invest that into a portfolio they help you choose! I LOVE the idea of this app because it’s simple and it doesn’t really feel like it’s costing me any money.

I’m sharing this under the category of “For Photographers” because I know that there are so many small business owners like myself who may be killing it in the finance department when it comes to everyday bookkeeping, year-end stuff, etc but are majorly slacking when it comes to preparing for the future. I know that a lot of people who work traditional jobs will often have stock options through work, which is great, but not a perk a lot of us who work for ourselves have. While I may pursue other options as far as investments go in the future, the Acorns app was a great way to get started in just a few minutes! I’d highly suggest the app for anybody who’s interested in starting a little portfolio!

If you’re interested in signing up, use this link to get $5! I’ll get $5 too, so it’s a win/win for both of us!


Katie, this is a super interesting find! I’ve been using Robinhood as part of my investment portfolio (but I’m still new as well, as I just really started dabbing into investing last year). The concept of rounding up on every day purchases is awesome! I usually calculate tips to hit an even dollar amount, so it would be a cool thing to do to even out all purchase amounts in general.

2016 Film Favorites

I started last year wanting to shoot a roll of film every month. Looking back, it was a really ambitious goal for someone who lives in leggings and t-shirts 6 out of the 7 days in a week and rarely sees anywhere besides the gym, my home office, and the aisles of my local Target store. I felt like I didn’t have much to photograph on an everyday basis. Or at least not enough to take up 36 frames of my precious 35mm film! Instead of shooting a whole roll every month, I kept my little AE-1 on the hook by our door where we keep our jackets and grabbed it on the rare occasions I did go out into the world like a normal human who does things besides buy home decor and Cheetos after working out.

I waited until almost the end of the year to send my film out for processing. This was such a wonderful gift to give myself because unlike my digital work, where I can shoot, edit, upload, in a matter of minutes, I had to practice patience. I left my film in my top dresser drawer until right after my October trip to Charleston and then had to wait for it to get to the lab and then wait for them to process it. Downloading and opening the folder of images they’d sent over was almost like opening up an old photo album from years past…the images brought back so many memories from earlier in the year and took me back to different seasons in time. Looking through the images from my year reminded me not only how many great memories we did make, even in a challenging year, but that photos are always so important because they’re the way we’re able to time travel.

Another thing I love about film photos is that since you can’t take nearly as many as you can with digital (I mean, unless you are a bajillionaire…film isn’t a cheap hobby!) is that it forces you to be much more specific about what you take photos of. I have about 3000 photos of Lucy doing the exact same things on my iPhone. Can’t do that with film, so you have to be thoughtful about what you choose to take photos of. This means fewer photos, but less can sometimes be more if you let the number of photos you DO have, speak loudly.

Here are some of the little snapshots I took with my AE-1 last year. They’re all photographed on Kodak Portra 400, my favorite film. Scanned and processed by the FIND Lab, who I highly recommend for both pros and film novices/hobbyists like myself.