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Monday Mash-Up

It’s MONDAY again! Funny how that happens every week, isn’t it? Yes.

It was another awesomely busy week at Abby Grace headquarters, aka… my house. I’m just so dang lucky, you guys. This job that I do for a living, it’s the best thing. Life-giving, energizing, and so, SO full of love! I had Scott & Chelsea’s anniversary session last Tuesday morning in DC and I drove away with a tremendous smile on my face- starting my day off with a pair of crazy-in-love newlyweds was such a gift. Back when I was still working my corporate job, I used to dream about the freedom to shoot portrait sessions during the week, rather than scheduling everything on the weekends. So having that perspective, it makes battling the rush hour traffic into the city for an anniversary session much much easier :).

So this next weekend’s going to be a stressful one for a totally different-than-usual reason; it’s the Marine Corps Marathon! My dad and I are running it together for the third time, and I feel pretty good about it. Our training’s been a bit… inconsistent this year, with our buying a house, my parents buying a new house (WAIT til you see the home they’re buying!), and my mom’s health issues, but all we care about is finishing, so it’s all good. Because you know what happens when you finish running 26.2 miles? You get to eat whatever you want without feeling a single ounce of guilt about it. For me, that’ll be an entire Bloomin’ Onion. And some cookie dough ice cream.

And then next Monday I’ll go back to Paleo… probably.

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

  • Some people sleep talk. Apparently, I’m a bit more aggressive- I sleep fight. I woke Matt & I up at 3 am this morning when I punched my nightstand and knocked over my water glass.
  • Up until this past Friday, I’d never seen an episode of Gilmore Girls (I had objections because I’ve ALWAYS loved the named Lorelei, and whenever I’d tell people that’s what I wanted to name a child in the future, they’d say “Oh, like from Gilmore Girls?”). But the entire series is now available on Netflix and Matt convinced me to at least give it a try… and now I think I might be hooked. I’m only on episode six or seven from the first season, but I already hate Paris and love Dean. And I want Lorelei to marry Luke.
  • If any of you people spoil ANY of the Gilmore Girls plot lines  in the comments section, I will never speak to you again. And yes, I realize I’m about 10 years behind.
  • I won a seat to a Three Nails Photography workshop!! AH! If you haven’t discovered Hunter’s work, I suggest doing so now- it’s way different than your usual fare, but what’s why I love it. I can’t wait to learn from him in December!

A preview from Nick & Kathryn’s Leesburg wedding this past weekend with Kat of Dear Sweetheart Events! I had SO much fun working with her and can’t wait for y’all to see more of this wedding day!

Leesburg, Virginia wedding photographer- Abby Grace

Lyn - October 21, 2014 - 10:45 pm

Good luck on the marathon to you and your dad!! YOU HAVEN’T WATCHed GILMORE GIRLS?! That really is a shocker after seeing how much you love quoting things! It’s crazy how they all die in season 2… ;-)

Jean - October 20, 2014 - 3:05 pm

Good luck on the marathon and enjoy your blooming onion. I am so happy that you are able to earn a living doing what you love. Not everyone has that option. I, too, have never watched Gilmore Girls. Maybe that’s something I need to do.

Sarah Bradshaw - October 20, 2014 - 1:35 pm

I’ve never seen Gilmore Girls either, but I’m about ready for a new TV series for my “while I’m editing” background noise. We’re gaining culture education together. :)

Tiffany Heidenthal - October 20, 2014 - 11:44 am

That picture is gorgeous! It needs to be a canvas. And congratulations on rediscovering Gilmore Girls. It’s one of my favorites (might be watching it right now), such a quick, clever show!

Maria - October 20, 2014 - 10:43 am

Love the framing with those trees! And I can’t wait to see Scott & Chelsea’s session :)

Brittany - October 20, 2014 - 10:00 am

Welcome to the addiction that is Gilmore Girls!! I own the entire series on DVD and I still screamed like a little girl when I saw it was going to be streaming on Netflix! And obviously I’m re-watching it for the 22nd time!!! :)

Lessons Learned: What to do when you’re losing light FAST!

Alright, so I love New York City. Like, a LOT. It’s my favorite city in the US, and any time I get an opportunity to shoot there I have to resist the urge to jump up and down squealing! Who am I kidding? I don’t resist that urge- I EMBRACE IT.

Anyways. So while New York is amazing, she also has her infuriating quirks like traffic, which can result in a serious delay in getting from point A to B during a shoot. Chris & Shan’s Anniversary Experience session last week was INCREDIBLE, but due to an unfortunate circumstance of us getting into a cab with a driver who was literally on his FIRST day on the job (AKA he had no idea how to drive in New York), it took 35 minutes to get from Grand Central to Central Park. By the time we arrived, it was 6:15, and sunset was at 6:24. I panicked a bit, being in my favorite location and only having NINE minutes of light left, but having shot in Central Park in the past after sunset, I knew there were a couple of tricks I could pull out in order to capture those romantic portraits I’m known for!

So! Here are a few tips for how to keep shooting even when your light is fading fast!

*Note that I’m shooting on manual mode, so all of these settings are set by me, not my camera. I recommend manual mode in this situation, just because your camera’s auto settings probably aren’t going to be accurate enough to get what you need!*

1) Throw your aperture WIDE open! I shoot portraits exclusively with prime lenses because I love that soft, creamy bokeh produced at 1.2-2.0. Typically, if I’m shooting with my 85mm 1.2 lens, I’ll sit around 2.0, but if it’s getting dark and I need more light, I’ll open my aperture allll the way. My 50mm 1.2 offers the same option! I know some folks favor lenses like the 24-70 or 70-200 for it’s versatility in zoom, but in a low light situation, f/2.8 just isn’t going to be enough for me.

How to shoot in low lighting- Abby Grace Photography

Settings: 1/100, f/1.6, ISO 1250

2) Jack up your ISO. I usually try to shoot with my ISO between 200-800 during normal lighting situations, whatever helps me keep my shutter speed to 1/125 or faster. Why is that important? Because typically, my subjects are moving in one way or another during their session, and in general, 1/125 is as slow as I’ll go in order to avoid motion blur.

When I’m losing light and I need to boost my ISO, I’ll take my shutter speed as slow as I can afford, open up my aperture, and then just keep upping my ISO until it’s where I need it to be. Because of how quickly the light fades after sunset, this means I’m constantly adjusting my settings- everything couple of minutes, I up my ISO again.

How to shoot in low lighting- Abby Grace Photography

Settings: 1/80, f/1.6, ISO 3200

Does this mean my images can sometimes end up a bit grainy? Yep! But I actually LOVE that! Grainy images at dusk are so romantic! But photographers, this means you need a camera body that performs well in low light situations. The 5dmk3 is AWESOME when it comes to higher ISO, but I remember when I was still shooting Nikon that pushing my D300s anywhere past 1600 meant my images were painfully grainy.

3) Use any ambient light you can find. In New York or DC, this often comes in the form of streetlights. (Streeeeetlights! Peeeeeopaaaaaaalle!!! Anyone?) Nighttime portraits using only a streetlamp are some of my all-time favorites- reminding me of James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, that classic city feel. Make sure you’re adjusting your white balance as you go, though- streetlamps tend to run REALLY warm/yellow, so if you’re not careful, your subjects might look like a cat peed on your memory card.

This portrait was shot using ONLY the light from surround street lamps- Central Park is (fortunately) pretty well-lit, and with the cross lighting from lamps on either side of the street, I placed Chris & Shan where the paths of two beams of light came together. Then you have the spotlights on the trees in the background and the windows in the building in the distance adding two more layers of dimension!

How to shoot in low lighting- Abby Grace Photography

Settings: 1/160, f/1.6, ISO 6400

4) If it’s an option, switch to a shorter lens. I couldn’t give you the scientific reasoning as to why, but I do know that my 85 1.2 means my shutter speed needs to slow a little when compared to my 50 1.2 because of the longer focal length. So when it’s starting to get dark, I make sure my 50mm is on my camera instead of my 85. If you favor the 35 1.4, that’s also a great option!

5) If need be, convert to B&W. To clarify, my after-dark B&Ws aren’t mistakes, I’m PLANNING to convert them as I’m shooting the images. But if you have an after-dusk image that you love and the color is super wonky from mixed lighting, converting to B&W can allow you to save the image without losing sleep over strange skin tones. This is a last-resort situation, I definitely don’t promote slapping any poorly-lit image into B&W as an excuse to shoot lazily.

How to shoot in low lighting- Abby Grace Photography

Settings: 1/200, f/1.6, ISO 6400

6) If it’s an option, have an external light with you. If I’m shooting without an assistant, then chances are I won’t exercise this option because it’s a LOT to lug around my camera, Kelly Moore bag, PLUS a light stand + soft box. But if I have Matt with me, it’s much simpler! Last December we did exactly that with Corey + Kelsey’s Anniversary Experience session, and I just loved how the images turned out!

How to shoot in low lighting- Abby Grace Photography

Hopefully that was helpful! Feel free to leave any questions/comments/additional advice in the comment section!

Lindsey LaRue - October 17, 2014 - 11:04 am

Great advice! Streetlamps have saved me on many an occasion that my couples were running late to an engagement session and pushed it into the darker end of sunset!

Karen Field - October 16, 2014 - 8:44 pm

Your grasp of all things photographic amazes me!

Brett - October 16, 2014 - 12:21 pm

Great advice abby!

Shalese - October 16, 2014 - 11:06 am

I LOVE these images!!!! Awesome advice, too. :D

Chris & Shan- New York City Anniversary Experience in Manhattan

He remembered her from high school, despite the fact that they were in different grades. So that first night they formally met, the night she found him sitting on the counter in her parents’ home in Army fatigues, unbeknownst to her? She was no stranger to him. They became best friends before they were anything else, and it wasn’t until Chris told Shan that he was shipping out for Afghanistan that she realized she might just be in love with him. So she wrote to that boy. And he wrote back. ”Not a week went by that I didn’t receive a phone call or a letter,” she recalls. Eventually, they both realized they were better together, and it took a mere three months of dating for Chris to ask Shan to be his wife.

And now here we are, honoring their seventh wedding anniversary! With a sweet four-year-old at home, it’s been a while since they’ve had time for celebrating just the two of them. Time to cuddle up, to press pause on the rest of the world, to flirt, to rejoice in the fact that it began with just the two of them.

Chris & Shan, it was an absolute dream to spend time with you both in such an iconic place. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for affording me such a joy! Getting to know you two and hearing more about your love story left me walking on cloud nine. Happy seventh anniversary! I’m so grateful to have been able to celebrate this with you!

New York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City rooftop lounge anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Central Park anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

And since so many of you have asked for Shan’s outfit details:
Black dotted dress: Eliza J, via Nordstrom
Black tulle skirt: Space 46

Emilia Jane - October 21, 2014 - 11:34 am

So beautiful!!

Rici - October 18, 2014 - 4:27 am

These are really quite wonderful Abby! Live Shan´s outfits!!! <3

Nikki Santerre - October 17, 2014 - 9:25 pm

Incredibly iconic, Abby! These images are amazing!

Deborah Zoe - October 15, 2014 - 6:16 pm

these are simply GORG Abby!! Makes me really excited for my NYC sessions next month:)

Rebekah - October 15, 2014 - 4:54 pm

Ahh, these are so gorgeous! I LOVE your anniversary sessions. To me they’re just as sweet or sweeter than weddings. :)

Urška Majer - October 15, 2014 - 10:53 am

So gorgeous & classic!

Juliann - October 15, 2014 - 10:22 am

Deets on her outfits, please! Love the first dress!

Morgan - October 15, 2014 - 10:00 am

A-MAZ-ZING. They are BEAUTIFUL. The photo’s and the people!

Lauren Swann - October 15, 2014 - 9:49 am

Oh Abby, this is gorgeous, girl! So you!! Xo!

Tuesday Mash-Up

Good moooorning, Neverland! Hook is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’ve been pining to watch it for weeks but we haven’t been able to find it anywhere! Matt finally managed to track down a copy and we settled in on Friday night to watch it, and despite the fact that it’s been 10-15 years since the last time I saw Hook, I still remember all my favorite lines. “Oh THERE you are, Peter!” and “You need a mother very, VERY BADLY!” Let’s just all agree Hook‘s the best iteration of the Peter Pan story, ok?

It’s October, which means wedding season is in full swing. I’ve been running around like a crazy person, but it’s been amazing! Fall tends to be when I travel most for portraits, and with a quick trip up to Manhattan last week for Chris & Shan’s Anniversary Session, I was loving life. New York City is my #1 favorite US destination for portrait sessions, and fortunately for me my couples share the same love of the city! I’m so dang excited to share this particular Anniversary Session with you guys, look for that on the blog this week!

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

  • I always seem to forget that New Yorkers like to keep to themselves/aren’t as friendly as I’m accustomed to. See, on the running trails in northern VA, if you pass someone, you either briefly wave or say “morning/afternoon/evening.” Yeah, that same courtesy doesn’t fly in Central Park- people just look at you like you’re a weirdo.
  • Something else to note when in Central Park: people who are walking their dogs don’t take kindly to you exclaiming “puppy!” every time one walks past. Yes, Abby, it’s a dog. Get over it and let them get on with their walk.
  • To the sure-to-be copyright-infringing characters in Times Square: PUT YOUR FREAKING MASKS/HEADS BACK ON. There’s little more disturbing than seeing a bunch of headless Mickie & Minnies walking around counting out the dollar bills they’ve made from tourists. It felt like I was watching Winnie the Pooh do drugs or something.
  • I had my first Philly Cheesesteak ever last week!…purchased from a Falafel food truck… topped with Greek Tzatziki sauce. Gosh, I love New York.

Previews! One from Chris & Shan’s Anniversary Session in New York…

New York City anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

One from Jacob & Courtney’s wedding this past weekend…

Washington DC wedding photographer

One from a Central Park ballerina session with Georgina…

New York City ballerina photographer- Abby Grace

And one from this morning’s Anniversary Session with Scott & Chelsea! Ahhh, I’m dying over these two!

Washington DC anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

Sydni Jackson - October 15, 2014 - 10:15 pm

Sooo not exactly a Philly cheese steak then, huh? ;) Tip: When in Philly, don’t ever order a “Philly” cheese steak. Made that mistake when I first moved here. #newb. Courtney & Jacob….WOW! Can’t wait to see the rest! And yes, Hook the best!!!

Mary - October 15, 2014 - 9:44 am

this makes me miss living so close to NYC! Also, my husband has been quoting Hook non-stop lately! Haha

Kathryn Grace - October 14, 2014 - 11:33 pm

Ooh! Can’t wait to see more of all of these!

courtney - October 14, 2014 - 2:31 pm

Abby – Hook is available on Netflix I believe – the Kids were just watching it on Roku last weekend : )

Love the photo of Courtney and Jacob – it doesn’t even look like the middle of Arlington!

Nick & Nicole- an Annapolis engagement session on the Bay

This particular engagement session has been seven years in the making. As high school sweethearts, Nick & Nicole have weathered quite a bit- four years of long-distance dating throughout college isn’t for the faint of heart. But you can tell, just by watching them, that the passing years haven’t done anything to dull the sparks- there’s an easiness in the way they interact that suggests a years-long familiarity, but her face still lights up in that “at first blush” kind of way when he looks at her. And his brown eyes still crinkle when he smiles in her direction. Seven years in the making, and they’re absolutely crazy for one another.

Nick & Nicole, I am SO glad that we crossed paths! I sometimes worry that years down the road the sparks of romance inevitably fade, but you both are living proof that that notion simply doesn’t hold water. It was a joy to spend the morning watching and documenting your love! I’m SO excited for next June!

PS- for those of you who think Nicole looks familiar, you’re right! She was a bridesmaid in William & Meg’s wedding in May, and now it’s these two’s turn!

Annapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace PhotographyAnnapolis engagement session on the Chesapeake Bay- Abby Grace Photography

Jean - October 9, 2014 - 10:07 am

beautiful photos, Abby. Love the light and the beautiful colors in the background. Beautiful couple makes it complete.

Nicole - October 9, 2014 - 9:05 am

Abby – you are so amazing!! I can’t begin to tell you how much I am in love with these!! Thank you for everything!