I sort of accidentally ended up in Aix-en-Provence. I’d been planning to stay in Marseille, but after meeting someone in Italy who told me Marseille wasn’t as romantic as I’d dreamed, I opted for an AirBnB in Aix-en-Provence instead. It’s a good thing, too, because I fell absolutely in love with the place. Despite a terrifying drive into the provincial town (I accidentally turned down a few winding alleys that were barely wide enough to fit a car), it ended up being the most restful leg of my trip. I spent one of my days in Provence driving out to Marseille and Cassis, and I’m absolutely planning on going back- I need time to explore the Calanques de Marseille! For now, though, here’s a taste of the south of France.

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This was one of my favorite moments from my trip- I’d set out to wander the streets that morning and ended up stumbling upon a flower market in one of the squares. It was so delightfully unexpected, and just reinforced my love of traveling/wandering sans-guidebook. I never would have found this if I’d stuck to the beaten path!

Aix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

I think this is my favorite image from the entire trip. This, THIS is what I love about the French- they way they enjoy life, an afternoon lunch break on the rocks of Cassis for the simple pleasure of being in the sun out on the Mediterranean? I love it so much.

Aix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby GraceAix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

Aix-en-Provence fine art film photographer- Abby Grace

 

  • Sarah Anne Hayes - Ahh! These photos are incredible, Abby! It just makes me want to visit France (and just travel in general) all the more. It’s been wayyyy too long since I’ve been out of the country!ReplyCancel

  • Becca - WOW, these are all gorgeous and really capture the overall atmosphere and culture!ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - Sooo much to love in this post! I was just outside of Aix-en-Provence but didn’t actually make it there. Next time! Love the flower market!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field aka Zmom - Lovely! I loved the shots of Marseille. The colors popped in all of your shots!ReplyCancel

  • Sabrina - oh goodness… I miss it so much. These are beautiful, Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - These are beautiful photos. Love them all!ReplyCancel

You know those mornings when you get up and you have a well-thought out list of things to do, and then things keep happening that prevent you from getting around to your list until 2pm? That was all of last week for me. And yesterday, hence the fact that Tuesday Mash-Up is actually coming on a Wednesday. Whoops! I’m blaming part of it on the weather- all I want to do these days is sit outside with our puppies. I think we need to look into a nice set of lounge furniture for our deck, because I’d love to be able to work in the sunshine!

Stone Tower Winery wedding- Abby Grace Photography

So we installed our bees in their beehive while I was gone in Europe, and yesterday was the first chance I’d had to visit our hive with Matt. It was SO cool! The good news: they’re making honey! The bad news: the queen is MIA. So I made a trip yesterday afternoon to go pick up a new queen bee to make sure the entire hive doesn’t die off, and it was probably the weirdest trip I’ve ever made. Driving half an hour out to pick up a single insect so that we can install said insect into a nest of 5,000 other insects, all to keep them alive through the summer. Normally when I see a bug, I kill it. But honeybees have my heart :). I’ll bring my camera out with me next time so you all can see what we’ve been up to!

As always, lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week:

  • I got the rest of my #abbygraceineurope film back!! Get ready for an overload of tiny winding streets, window displays, and flowers. Ahh!
  • There are peony bushes all over our neighborhood right now, and as they begin to wither, I’ve started stealing blooms. I KNOW! I’m sorry! But they’re just so beautiful, and I figure if they’re already dying, no one will miss 1-2 blooms, right?
  • Dogs at weddings might be my new favorite thing. Corey & Lyn’s ring bearer was their Wheaten, sweet Wallace, and I about died when Lyn got into her dress and Wallace stared up at her. So precious! I can’t wait to blog their wedding this Thursday!
  • Things I’m absolutely loving this wedding season: cathedral-length veils, soft color palettes, adoring grooms, and working with incredible wedding planners. And PEARLS!
  • OOH! Ladies! I bought the Urban Decay Naked2 eye shadow palette and I LOOOOOVE IT! I’ve watched a few YouTube videos on how to use it, and all I can say is thank the Lord for internet tutorials. I would have no idea how to apply + blend eye shadow without it.
  • I was interviewed for a photo podcast! Rob of Take & Talk Pics sat down with me to chat about everything from failure to best practices, from “aha!” moments to starting over. If you have some time, you can give it a listen over here!

One more from Sunday’s wedding to hold you over until tomorrow’s blog post :).

Stone Tower Winery wedding- Abby Grace Photography

And a frame from Aix-en-Provence to tide you over until… this afternoon! To keep my blogging schedule from falling behind, I’m posting a second blog today!

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5 mistakes small business owners make- Abby Grace Photography

We’ve all heard those scary numbers before on the mortality rates of small business start-ups; according to the Small Business Administration, there’s about a 50% success rate within the first 5 years, and only about 33% of all new business are still operating within the first 10 years. That’s real info, and to me? That’s scary. I don’t want to be one of those 50-67% of business owners who call it quits within the first 5-10 years, and I definitely don’t want you to fall into either one of those categories either!

So in an effort to make us ALL better business operators, let’s talk about a few mistakes almost every new small business owner makes!

5 mistakes small business owners make- Abby Grace Photography

Mistake #1: Trying to do EVERYTHING. You’re a photographer, so people ask you to photograph everything from their children to sporting events to corporate headshots. And pretty soon, you’re exhausted from it all, and because you’re a jack of all trades, you end up being a master of none of them. Rather than half-assing (sorry for the language) two things, I want you to whole-ass ONE thing. Start saying “no” to the jobs that don’t align with what you’re really passionate about! Say you’re a graphic designer, and you really really love corporate branding; maybe that means you need to think about saying “no thank you” to  baby shower invitations and stationery. At least THINK about it!

5 mistakes small business owners make- Abby Grace Photography

Mistake #2: Failing to charge appropriately. This is killer. You’re new, so you don’t want to scare people off with pricing, which means you end up working for too little. Which means you’re either not bringing home enough, or sometimes, you actually end up PAYING to work in the end. Either situation is bad news.

Do some research- what is your job COSTING you to do? How much time does each job take? Subtract your out-of-pocket costs from the price you’re quoting, and then take whatever money is left and divide it by the number of hours you’re working. Now, what’s your hourly rate? The first wedding I ever shot solo I ended up making an average of LESS than $10 an hour, once you factored in mileage, driving time, prep, shooting, editing, shipping, packaging, and wear + tear on equipment. It was ok at the time because I had a corporate 9-5 that was paying my bills, but if you’re trying to make a living off of a business that isn’t charging adequately, you’re going to burn out real fast.

5 mistakes small business owners make- Abby Grace Photography

Mistake #3: Forgetting to treat yourself like a professional. I’ve learned that I need to take myself seriously, or no one else will either. So what does that look like? It means knowing what your time is worth, and NOT offering work for free all the time because “it’s your mom’s hairdresser’s friend and you feel bad charging for them your craft.” Guys, that is not the way to run a profitable or even sustainable business! And profitability + sustainability are what we’re after, right? Right!

To be completely candid, there are only a few people I’ll offer to work with for free, and all of those people are folks who are close enough to me to have been in my wedding. That’s a rule I’ve occasionally broken when I want to, but I never ever ever break that rule for someone who expects me to shoot for free. Does that make sense? (To clarify, I do occasionally seek out opportunities to photograph people/things that inspire me, so I’m not including that kind of thing in the “free shoots” category).

In my experience, if someone approaches me expecting free or reduced-cost photography, to me, that says they’re probably thinking “I don’t really think you’re worth what you say you’re worth.” So I’ve learned that it is OKAY to quote my full rate to people I know personally, and if it doesn’t fit within their budget, to happily refer them to a newer photographer with lower rates. It’s so hard to do when you’re starting out, heck. It’s even hard to do when you’ve been in business for several years. But it’s the smart way to do business! Because in the end, what you’re running is a BUSINESS. And businesses exist to serve people, YOU being one of those people. If your business isn’t making any money, it’s not serving you or your family, which means you’re wasting a lot of time, energy, and resources.

5 mistakes small business owners make- Abby Grace Photography

Mistake #4: Failing to ask for help. Whether that’s in the form of friends, your spouse, mentoring, education, whatever, not asking for help when you need it is a surefire way to fail! Recognize your strengths AND your weaknesses- turn those strengths into selling points, and find someone to help you with those weaknesses.

For me, my main weaknesses are a) finance (keeping track of income/expenses), b) taxes (see item A), and c) organization of materials. Matt’s starting to come on to help me with A and a bit of B, we have a CPA to take care of the rest of B, and C? Well, we’re still working on that one. It’s one of those 27-years-in-the-making process.

5 mistakes small business owners make- Abby Grace Photography

Mistake #5: Letting your job take over your life. There are seasons in every business when you’ll be busier than others, but consistently allowing your work to consume every waking minute of your life is a really good way to burn relationships. Matt & I knew, when I was still doing double duty with AGP + my 9-5 corporate job, that things were going to be nuts for a while. When it got to a point that I was having meltdowns once or twice a week because I was so busy ALL THE TIME, that’s when we decided it was time to start moving toward me leaving my full-time corporate gig. And that was the right decision for us, because I spent the majority of our first 1.5 years of marriage with my face glued to a computer screen. It wasn’t good for my relationship with Matt, but we both knew it was what was necessary to get to a point where I could afford to leave the corporate world.

After I left Northrop Grumman, that balance got a LOT better. But if I’d never left, and I’d continued to allow myself to spend 80-100 hours a week working without an end in sight, my marriage would have suffered big time. My marriage, and relationships with friends + family, those are more important than a paycheck. So pay attention to how much time you’re spending working, and make sure you’re not consistently missing out on LIFE around you. Work to live, not live to work.

Happy Friday!

  • Jean - All great advice!ReplyCancel

  • Laura Hernandez - All of these are SO true! Especially #5 for me right now.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Anne Hayes - Love all of these! I especially have to remember the pricing one right now. It can be such an awkward topic and hard to turn down paying clients, but if you end up effectively paying the client to do your job, you’re right…it really isn’t worth it in the end.ReplyCancel

  • Shalese - Interesssssting timing this post has in my life today!! I needed to read number #3. ;) Whole, I read my the “half-ass, whole-ass” part to my friend because it made me lol. LOVE YOU!ReplyCancel

  • Kimmie - Abby, this advice is so spot on! It’s so important for us all to be reminded of these 5 things. You totally hit the nail on the head with this one!! Thanks so much for sharing.ReplyCancel

One thing that struck me about Natalie was how absolute calm she was in the weeks leading up to their wedding- no stress, no anxiety, she was just excited. It’s like that line from When Harry Met Sally; “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” They’re both just so sure, and the resulting excitement was palpable- their engagement session? Just a taste of how joyful they both were on their wedding day! Nothing could taint it- not a change in venue, not the weather, nothing. They were just so excited to be married!

Ryan, Natalie, you two are a dream together. The way you selflessly love one another, how you serve and want the best for each other, I have a feeling your marriage is going to be the kind that inspires your children and grandchildren to say “I want a love like theirs.” It was such an honor to have spent the day with you and your families, I’m so grateful for the both of you!

Preppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

This next image on the left is one of my favorite kinds of moments- I was photographing Natalie solo, and Ryan was standing just out of the frame, watching, saying “I just can’t get over how incredible she looks.”

Preppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

Preppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

Preppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography
preppy_virginia_wedding_richmond_peonies_photo_0051Preppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace PhotographyPreppy pink + navy Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

The incredible vendor team!

Design + coordination: Dear Sweetheart Events (one of my faves!)
Church: St. Ann’s Catholic Church
Reception: Hanover Tavern
Dress: Watters Wtoo, via Jingles Bridal
Shoes: Kate Spade
Mrs. hanger: BHLDN
Groom: Bella Rosa
Bridesmaids: Joanna August
Florals: Black Creek Flower Shop
Hair + make-up: Charlottesville make-up artist
Cake: Pearls Bakery
Invitation: Digibuddha
Additional reception paper + signage: You’re That Girl Designs
Band: The Bachelor Boys Band

  • Alicia Lacey - I love all her details — And those cupcakes are making me hungry!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kat - Ah I LOVE these, Abby!!!!! I’m so happy we had this wedding together!!! xo!!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - Yay!! Abby weddings!!! Love, love, love every bit of this!! xo!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - LOVE it all! They are so sweet together and their details are so cute – that cake topper though!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Jean - What a gorgeous wedding! Beautiful photos.ReplyCancel

  • Laura Hernandez - The image with the groom admiring his bride… priceless!ReplyCancel

  • Nikki Santerre - I literally live down the street from Hanover Tavern! I wish I would have known you were in town, I would have loved to second shoot for you! xoxo!ReplyCancel

  • Rici - Love their colours! Oh and the dog cake topper ;)
    Abby, how did you pose all the people for the big group picture, where several people sit, stand?
    Very nice!!ReplyCancel

One thing that boggles my mind is how my brides spend hundreds, often thousands of dollars on their stunning wedding gown, only for the bridal salon to deliver on a plastic hanger. The same cheap, clear hangers you see polos and button-ups hanging on at a department store. It makes no sense to me! With every step of my couples’ experience with me, I try my best to make sure what I’m delivering isn’t cheapened or lessened by how I deliver it, so the whole plastic hanger thing just confuses me!

But that’s not what today’s post is about. Today I’m touching on a little change my brides do that makes my job a LOT easier on wedding mornings! And that change, my friends? It’s having a dress hanger with NOTCHES!

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

I know it’s a small thing to write a blog post about, but it definitely makes a difference in photographs! When I show up on a wedding morning, the dress is often still in the garment bag from the bridal salon. And if my bride hasn’t ordered a specialty hanger for her dress, then her gown is usually still on the plastic hanger it came on. So I have two options: 1) Try to scrounge a hanger from the hotel/venue, which sometimes works and sometimes does, or 2) bring my own. I’ve taken to carrying an extra hanger in my car for this very sort of thing, but every once in a while, I forget to replace it and it gets left behind in the bridal suite.

Brides- this is where you come in! If you just make sure to have your MOH snag a nicer hanger from the coat closet before leaving home for the bridal suite, it’ll make a difference in the images of your dress! To be honest, plastic hangers are unattractive and distracting, and my job as the professional is to remove distraction! Hence the nice-hanger-move.

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

The reason you want to make sure to grab a hanger with notches is because those hanger loops that come attached to your dress? They slide RIGHT off a suit hanger, you know, the kind that don’t have notches. And I can jimmy rig it if I have to with fashion tape, but that’s time I have to spend doctoring a hanger instead of shooting, and puts me behind on the schedule. If your dress doesn’t require those hidden hanger loops to stay hung up, then no worries! But if your dress is strapless, or has a delicate lace top that requires extra support from those hanger loops, we’ll need those notches :).

Some of the specialty hangers, like this one below, don’t have notches built into them. But it’s a stunning hanger anyways, so to modify it, Cristina just added some grippy tape to it. You can’t even tell in the photographs!

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

 

And Natalie, who was married this past weekend, had the same hanger (I love my brides), and to make it useable she simply added some clear sticky drops (I have no idea what they’re actually called) to keep the dress on the hanger.

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

A few examples of how switching up what your dress is hanging on makes a huge difference! See how much more polished and chic these images are?

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace PhotographyTips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace PhotographyTips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

Also, God bless Vera Wang, queen of wedding frocks. Her gowns are delivered on elegant custom-branded pine hangers, and I love her for it!

Tips for brides- finding a hanger for your wedding dress- Abby Grace Photography

Photographers- I definitely suggest adding a plain wooden hanger (with notches!) to your bag. I carry mine into the bridal suite with me in the front pocket of my ThinkTank, so it’s right there if I need it!

A couple resources for elegant custom hangers, if you’re in the market-

  • Jean - Who knew a hanger would make so much difference. These are beautiful photos, thanks in part to the hangers, but mostly to the wonderful photographer!ReplyCancel

  • Rici - Such a cool detail! Love the “mint”/gold one!!ReplyCancel