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Sparkler Exit Alternatives

One of the really cool things about planning your own wedding is being able to personalize it however you’d like. This sometimes means taking existing trends and adapting them to make them your own! After shooting over 125 weddings I’ve seen tons of really neat ideas that couples have used to put their own stamp on their wedding day and today I wanted to share some ideas for turning the popular sparkler exit on it’s head!

Reasons you might consider an alternative to a sparkler exit:

  • Your venue doesn’t allow sparklers
  • Sparklers are actually illegal in your county (this is true…some counties consider sparklers to be fireworks and have laws against them)
  • You don’t want to stop the party or have a set end time to your reception
  • A lot of your guests probably won’t stay until the very end, when the sparklers happen
  • A lot of your guests may or may not be pretty inebriated by the end of the night
  • You love the look of photos taken with natural light
  • Your photography coverage doesn’t include enough time to fit a sparkler exit
  • Your wedding is ending earlier in the day

An epic ceremony recessional
I love it when our couples plan an epic ceremony recessional because it means that we get to take advantage of the beautiful available natural light! Photos from the ceremony recessional are some of my all time favorite images because there’s nothing like the joy you feel when you’ve finally just been pronounced a newly married couple and everyone you love is standing around you cheering! There’s just a really electric energy in the air! This is already such a great moment, but adding a little something (petals, birdseed, confetti, bubbles, ribbon wands, sprinkles, lavender, etc) is such an awesome way to add a little something extra to the photos and create an extra special memory.

A church exit
If you’re getting married at a church, there’s nothing more classic than the church exit. Think about all of the wedding movies you’ve seen…I’ll bet half of them feature a grand exit where the couple runs out of the church through their cheering guests! The pros to a church exit are similar to the pros of the ceremony recessional, however, if you are getting married at a church, you can still take advantage of the natural outdoor light by doing an exit right out of the church. (This works best when you plan to do portraits at another location since you can just leave immediately. If you don’t plan to leave immediately, we can always coordinate a place for you to sneak off too while guests depart after your “exit”)

A sparkler (or other) reception entrance
I have actually only seen this implemented once…at a wedding I helped my friend Jen photograph in North Carolina last year! It was such a genius idea that I thought it was worth sharing again…especially because it was so unique!! Right after portraits and cocktail hour ended, the coordinator and bridal party helped line up all the guests in a line outside of the entrance of the venue in a similar manner to the way they’d line up for an exit and the bride and groom entered into the reception through a crowd of excited guests! It was the PERFECT way to get the party started and meant that they could literally party all night long without interruption if they wanted to!

A parade
When John and I got married, our wedding venues were close enough together to not have to drive between the two. In fact, the parking situation really made it to where it would have been more trouble to get in the car, move, and re-park. Instead of a traditional ceremony exit, we had a parade instead! Our guests were given kazoos and ribbon wands and we led a parade to the reception venue! One of those photos became one of my all time favorites because it really captures the spirit of how much fun the entire day was!

Photo by Jodi & Kurt

Whatever type of exit (or entrance) you choose to do, here are a couple tips to help to make them go smoothly:

  1. Let your guests know what’s happening. Whether that’s a note in the programs, a sign that you set up somewhere, or an announcement that’s made, be sure that they know that there will be an exit outside of the church following the ceremony or that they should toss the petals or blow the bubbles right after you say I do! Often guests haven’t been to or planned a wedding in some time (or ever) so they don’t always know what’s expected of them without prompting.
  2. Designate someone to organize it. Whether or not you have a planner, you’ll need someone to be in charge of organizing the masses and handling the logistics of your exit! Especially if transportation is involved!

Whether you can’t have a sparkler exit because your venue doesn’t allow it or you’d just like to do something different to spice things up, these are some great alternatives. Happy wedding planning!!

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For photographers: Truths about being “Established”

Think you've "made it" after a few years in business as a wedding photographer? The truth is, the hustle never ends!

One of the most sobering statistics out there about small businesses is the fact that many of them don’t last for five years. And even more of them won’t make it to the ten year mark! I’m inching closer and closer to the 6 year mark and I have realized a few truths about being a business owner that I thought I’d share today:

Business card in a pineapple

The hustle doesn’t stop
I think there is a common misconception out there that at some point you will have “made it” and at that point you can sit back and relax and enjoy the efforts of all your hard work. That would be NOT TRUE. I’ve realized that there won’t be a time when I don’t need to hustle for my business to grow and be successful. There won’t be a time when I’ve got everything figured out or have all of the answers. There will never be a day when I completely stop making mistakes.

You’ve got to learn to evolve
The truth is, times change, trends change. The industry changes and new photographers join it every single day. In order to stay relevant and continue to be successful, you’ve got to evolve. You’ve got to be adaptable! When I first started my business, Facebook was where many business connections were made. Instagram wasn’t really a thing then and it would become a few years before it was anything besides somewhere to post a terribly filtered edit of a photo of your dog. These days, Instagram is a thriving community that is SO important to be a part of if you’re a photographer or a creative business owner. If I refused to evolve and grow with the times, I’d have been left behind as Facebook made it’s algorithms so difficult for business owners to succeed. This is just one example of how the industry has changed in the last few years! I’ve learned that this industry is very fast moving and you have to evolve and adapt quickly to succeed.

Sometimes you have to pivot
The other day when we were moving our things out of the 1910’s home we were renting, John and my Dad reached a point where our box spring was completely stuck in the tight stairwell. It wouldn’t budge from beneath the lower ceiling at the bottom of the stairs, so they were forced to swing it this way and that way and shimmy it up and down in order to get it out. The entire time I watched them work on this, I kept hearing Ross from Friends yelling “PIVOT” in my head and while I tried my best not to yell it out myself in a misguided attempt to be funny (so not the right time for that) I realized that in business sometimes the pivot is the key. This is actually one of the things I love best about owning my own business! If something isn’t working out…a project isn’t coming together the way you wanted it to, or you need more income for a certain month? You can pivot to something else. There are all sorts of ways of doing this, you just have to be creative!

You have to run your business like a business…not a hobby
This is tricky for a lot of creative entrepreneurs because business can be somewhat like a foreign language to folks who are more right-brained. But one thing I’ve learned is that you must run your business with the mindset of a business person and not of that of a photographer. When I’m behind my camera or I’m editing, my photographer hat is on. When I’m working on other things, my business owner hat is on. Decide for yourself what’s right for your business as far as systems and don’t worry about what’s trendy or popular.

You have to define your own version of success
There’s no real one size fits all version of what all a successful business should entail. I think as long as your financials are solid, you’re in a good place business-wise. The other things are all things that you have to determine for yourself! Do you want to shoot 35 weddings a year? Do you want to shoot a lower volume and focus on accepting only those perfect clients? Do you want to educate others? Maybe you want to do something else with your business! Maybe you work 30 hours a week…maybe you work 50. It’s up to you to determine what your vision of success looks like. Do you, BOOBOO (Kevin Hart fans should get this joke!)

The main thing I have learned over the past few years is that hard work is worth it. I love what I do and the life that it allows me to live! So putting in hard work to make it happen is something I feel blessed to be able to do. Hard work is never going to go out of style or become obsolete because you’ll find that it always pays off.

Hope this post was helpful! If you’ve got other topics you’d like to see me write about in the future, leave a comment or shoot me an email!


Portraits – Shell & Chuck

When I look back at last year, one thing I notice is that it was a little bit different than some of the years past. Prior years I found myself consumed by my business and what was going on solely in that area of my life. Something changed last year though and I found my world growing bigger and bigger! More time spent focusing on my life outside of the business gave me a bit of a mental break from the vacuum that working for yourself can be sometimes. Doing that made me a stronger business owner and a better person. And it’s made me more well rounded, that’s for sure 🙂 One thing that’s especially helped has been focusing on the relationships outside of the wedding and photography industries…my industry friends are wonderful, but my “outside world” friends are a breath of fresh air that give me perspective when I find myself wrapped up in the small world that is the wedding industry!

Last year I became really close to my friend Shell, who I met through our gym. She and I are different in just as many ways as we are alike, and often she challenges what I think about things, but that’s one of the things I love about her! I love that she’s the kind of person who follows her own compass and doesn’t let others deter her from that. Shell and I became good friends fairly quickly, so I was so sad when she and her boyfriend, Chuck, moved last Fall to adventure across country!

Before they left, we went and took some photos near the water so that she and her boyfriend would have something to remember their time here. I loved photographing them and their dogs! It’s always so much fun to share my photography with friends…especially those who don’t get to see me in my “element” on a regular basis.

Enjoy a few of my favorites!


Your Photos are great inspiration!

For Photographers: When Clients Request Privacy

What do you do when your photography clients request their images not be shared online? How to handle this tricky situation.

It’s somewhat rare that this happens, but every once in a while you’ll work with a couple who would rather that their images not be shared online. This could be for any number of reasons, but the key (like with everything else) is how you handle it! Here are some of my thoughts on how to do so with grace:

Weigh the benefits/negatives before deciding on your policy
Whether or not you are able to accommodate their request depends on a couple of things…do you really need work to show for your portfolio OR do you need business from a couple that’s bound to tell others about how much they loved the experience working for you? For me, at this point in my business, though I really love creating new work to show off for my portfolio, I also don’t necessarily need it if the couple is a really good fit. The benefits of working with them can outweigh the potential benefits of securing a few new portfolio images! I take these situations on a case by case basis and it usually depends on the couple and how well I think we will work together!

Agree on a set of boundaries
It could be that they’d be fine with you sharing photos as long as you use only their first initials rather than their names, or if you share the images using pseudonyms. Or they may be okay with you sharing detail images but nothing showing their faces. Would they be okay with you sharing some of their images with potential clients who are getting married at their venue? What about how you handle sharing with vendors that you normally work with? I think it’s important to discuss and agree on mutually beneficial terms and work them into your contract if you find that they’re a good fit for you!

At the end of the day, what people remember about us is how we treat them and how we make them feel. It’s important to take our ego and our feelings as artists out of the equation (we all really love sharing gorgeous images don’t we??) when clients come to us with requests for privacy and determine what makes the most sense for us as business owners. Put yourself in the mindset of a kind business owner instead of that of an artist and think about things from your clients’ perspective!


Monthly Meeting – March 2017

It’s a new month and I’m ready to try out something new…namely a new series here on the blog! Over the years I’ve had a few different blog series, but it’s been a while since I’ve started a new one. My hope for this new series is that I’ll be able to keep myself accountable and on track through the rest of the year (and possibly beyond). What I’ve found though other experiences (like running my marathon a few years ago) is that publicly stating them helps with getting them done.

The idea behind “monthly meetings” is sitting down once a month the same way any other type of company to take stock of how I’m doing and what I’d like to do in the future. I’m hoping this will be a good tool for me going forward and I’m excited to have you guys follow along!

With that being said, I am excited about this month because things are starting to get busier for me again, and I LOVE being busy. We’ve got a fun trip planned at the end of the month, we’re MOVING (!!!), and engagement session season is ramping up as well. I’ve missed shooting, so I am especially happy about the last one. Keep your fingers crossed that the weather continues to be beautiful!

Here are a few business goals I’ve got for myself this month:

– Blog 3 times a week
– Finish submitting the remainder of my 2016 work
– Finish reading “Everybody Writes” and blog about it
– Finalize tax preparation for 2016 taxes
– Work on putting together a list of bigger goals for the business
– Take some stock photos for future use in blog posts and on social media

Some personal goals:

PR my deadlifts. I’m getting SOOO close to my goal of 230 by July (I previously set a goal to be able to deadlift 2x my body weight by my next birthday). I’m not going to put pressure on myself to hit 230 next month, but I do want to surpass my last PR of 210!
Have the new place unpacked within two weeks of moving in. One of the big reasons we are moving this month is because moving last year during wedding season was really stressful. I’d like to get settled before things start getting busy again!
Eat at home 3-4 nights a week. We’ll see how this goes. I haven’t been cooking much, and with moving it might be a bit difficult, but I’m going to set it as my intention to eat at home a bit more and hopefully it will happen!

This month I am excited for:
– Our trip to Charleston at the end of the month
– Moving into our new apartment!
– Engagement session season beginning again
– Warmer weather (fingers crossed)

As we move into March (and hopefully the official start of Spring) I am hoping for a really productive, exciting month! It’s already shaping up to be packed full of good things, and I’m so excited about that. Hope you all have a great March as well!