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Monday Mash-Up

You guys have seen Frozen, right? You know Olaf’s song about Summer? That’s how I feel right now, just about Spring instead! The weather this weekend was nothing short of heaven-sent, with sunny skies and warm temperatures. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom around Virginia and we had our first of many warm-weather bonfires at my parents’ house last night. I LOVE WARM WEATHER! It’s so peculiar- I feel like every time we enter a new season, whichever one we’re currently in becomes my new favorite. If you’d asked me in October, I’d have told you Fall is the best. But if you polled me again this morning, I’d say spring. The same goes for Winter & Summer- I guess I’m just happy as a lark all year round :).

So! As always, lessons learned/things that transpired over the weekend:

  • Why is it that bugs always seem to hit the windshield on the driver’s side? And the ones that hit on the drivers side are always the kind that won’t come off with windshield wiper fluid, either. So you’re stuck leaning to the side to see clearly until you can stop at a gas station to remove the offending grease mark.
  • I was down in Radford on Friday to contribute to RU’s Comms Week again- it’s so nerve-wracking being up in front of 100+ students PLUS all your old professors. But I love it! And I wore my tulle skirt that my Granny & I made for an extra dose of confidence.
  • I’d forgotten how sinfully delicious the sugar cookies are in RU’s dining hall, Dalton. Kind of makes me want to go back to school.
  • This has been said before on my blog, but I LOVE books on CD for long road trips! I pulled out a couple of selections from the Reston Library on Thursday before getting on the road and right now, I’m listening to “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister,” by the same guy who wrote “Wicked.” Time passes so much more enjoyably!

Oh hey- running trails have their moments. My dad and I’ve passed this meadow dozens of times, and I’ve always thought what a pretty spot it would be for an anniversary session. Yesterday’s run showed me that the buttercups were in bloom all over the floor of the meadow, so after a quick PSA on Facebook our friends from church, Mike & Jen, were all hands in to meet me at dawn this morning for a session! Ahhh! I love these so much and can’t wait to share them with you guys!

Reston, Virginia anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

Jean - April 14, 2014 - 3:43 pm

What a beautiful picture. The setting is fabulous! I also love the four seasons. Would not want to live where it’s warm all the time.

Lauren Swann - April 14, 2014 - 8:23 am

I absolutely love this fun peek!!! The field is gorgeous!!! Can’t wait to see the rest!!!

Rebekah Hoyt - April 14, 2014 - 8:05 am

Gorgeous sneak peek! That field is BEAUTIFUL!!

Sophie- a dramatic ballerina session at the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris, France

God bless Twitter. About six weeks before my most recent trip to France, I Tweeted at Sophie to ask, if I came to Paris, would she be up for shooting again? Within three minutes I had an affirmative response, and within 10 minutes of that, we were on Skype excitedly planning our next shoot.

She became my muse last fall when we shot her first ballerina session with me in DC. As she lives and dances in Paris, I had this audacious dream of one day shooting her in my favorite European city, and words cannot expressed just how thrilled I am that we made this work! Sophie is so beautiful, so graceful, and photographing her is a dance photographer’s dream. Something tells me this won’t be the last time I photograph this gorgeous ballerina, I always have such a wonderful time with her.

Sophie, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for helping me make this session come to life, for being as exquisite lovely as you are, and for being willing to get up at such an un-Parisian hour to oblige my artist’s heart. You’re the BEST!

Paris ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace PhotographyParis ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace Photography

Paris ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace Photography

Paris ballerina session at Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre- Abby Grace Photography

Deborah Zoe - April 15, 2014 - 5:18 pm

These are breathtaking!!

Kate Jones - April 11, 2014 - 6:36 am

You inspire me so much, these are beautiful!
I just set up my first ballerina shoot, being a former dancer, I am super excited!

Beth Hamilton - April 10, 2014 - 12:57 pm

I’ve been thinking about what you said about photographing something for ME and I’ve got some ideas in the works. I’m so glad you had the chance to shoot something you’re so passionate about in a city as beautiful as Paris!

Kathryn Grace - April 10, 2014 - 12:32 pm


Melissa - April 10, 2014 - 9:42 am

seriously, these are so beautiful – you have such a talent!

Urška Majer - April 10, 2014 - 8:29 am

This looks gorgeous!

Jean - April 10, 2014 - 8:21 am

Beautiful photos of a lovely dancer. So glad you had this opportunity to follow your passion. Keep up the good work.

Lessons Learned: adjusting White Balance in-camera to save time on editing

Throughout the past few years, one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is how to get my images as close to perfect as possible in-camera. It used to take me weeks to edit a wedding, which was due in part to my poor understanding of editing, but also to how much work each image needed. I remember the first time I edited an engagement session in one day and I was SO proud of myself (as I should have been, it was a major accomplishment at the time!), and yet these days I can finish an engagement session in roughly 45 minutes, less than that if I turn off the wifi :). A large part of that is owed to how much I’ve done while shooting to get my ideal image, so that there’s less to do when I bring my images into LightRoom for editing.

I shoot with my mk3 on Manual mode, adjusting pretty much everything myself- exposure, ISO, aperture. The only things I leave up to my camera to figure out are Auto Focus and, in the past, white balance (WB from here on out). I figured I had enough to adjust between exposure and such that I could just let my camera do the work for WB, as it was usually “close enough” that it didn’t require too much work later on.

Shooting in Kelvins instead of Auto WB- Abby Grace Photography


But sometimes, auto WB was just plain OFF. Either an image was way too cool (blue) or way too warm (yellow), and even though I was shooting in RAW, it just didn’t look as good after I finished editing when I was having to do substantial overhauls to get my photos close to “natural.” If an image was super blue and I had to drag the temperature slider up by more than 400-500 degrees, it left skin tones looking almost gray. Not pretty.

Then I discovered Kelvins! Well, I mean, I knew it was possible to shoot in Kelvins, but I never bothered with it because as I said, I was “managing” on Auto WB. But now that I know how much time it saves in post-processing if I take five seconds to adjust my white balance manually, I’ll never go back to shooting anything outdoors on Auto WB. Yes, Auto WB can work if it needs to, but one of my main goals is to spend LESS time behind the computer editing, and more time doing what I love: being behind the camera. Auto WB is usually ok for indoor stuff, like family formals and dancing shots, but for outdoor portraits, Kelvins is my jams.

See what I mean? Both of these images are unedited, with the exception of a little straightening (because for some reason, I always tend to shoot a little crookedly). The one on the left was shot on Auto WB, the one on the right was shot using Kelvins.

Shooting in Kelvins instead of Auto WB- Abby Grace Photography


Neither is perfect, but the one on the right is a heck of a lot closer to my final product. The one I shot on Kelvins ended up being a little too warm, so I pulled back the temperature by a few degrees, adjusted my exposure and blacks, and voila. Done-zo!

Shooting in Kelvins instead of Auto WB- Abby Grace Photography

There are a couple of ways to adjust a Canon 5dmk3′s Kelvin temperature settings. The way I originally learned to do it was by pressing the video button (the one at the top right corner of your LCD display), and then WHILE you’re in video mode, press your “WB” button, select “K” for Kelvins, and then adjust the degrees according to how warm or cool you want your settings to be. The Live View mode allows you to see how the changing settings will affect your image will turn out without having to take a test shot, so it’s quick and easy! The other method is by finding “White Balance” under your “Shoot” menu.

Happy Wednesday!

Kyla - April 9, 2014 - 8:09 pm

I’m so glad you posted this…..just what I needed! You’re the best!

Kaitlyn Phipps - April 9, 2014 - 12:47 pm

super super helpful abby! can’t wait to try this!

Abbey - April 9, 2014 - 11:35 am

Girl!!!! I used to cringe when I uploaded my images into lightroom and see those awful blue tones. Kelvin has been a lifesaver for me. I refuse to shoot in auto anymore!

Monday Mash-Up

Ahh, nothing like waking up to a cold and rainy Monday back in Virginia. Honestly, I actually love these sorts of mornings- I’m sitting on the couch with Lily curled up next to me, I started my morning off with the best breakfast ever (see below) and some scripture reading, and the writing mood is in full swing so I’ve just pumped out 4-5 blog posts that are locked and loaded for publishing over the next couple of weeks. Europe was really good to me, but it’s wonderful to be home again.

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

  • While I was still in Paris, I described to Matt over a Skype call just how insanely delicious the Nutella + banana crêpe was that I’d had in the Latin Quarter that afternoon. And then Matt discovered Banana Bread English Muffins at the grocery store, popped them in the toaster and paired them with Nutella: INSTANT hit. Holy cow, it’s phenomenal.
  • During a round of evening music in McDermott’s pub last week, I had the joy of hearing an Irish drinking song… about Facebook. Never thought I’d hear that, but it was hilarious! God bless the Irish.
  • I rented a bike for my time in Doolin- as I pedaled around for the first half of the day, huffing and puffing on a mostly-flat road, I found myself thinking “I don’t remember bicycling being this hard!” And that’s when I realized I was in the completely wrong gear, making my should-be-easy ride into an intense workout. Whoops.
  • Trespassing is one of my favorite things to do in foreign countries. Not in extreme amounts, just the occasional (or frequent) hopping of fences to get closer to those adorable baby sheep. Or the bypassing of cows in order to pick your way across the moor, you know, to reach the castle you saw from the side of the road.
  • Speaking of picking your way across a moor, something I learned: Hunter wellies are GREAT for splashing through water, but not so great for spelunking across rocky terrain. My boots are all kinds of scratched up, but that just means they’re well-loved, right? No better wait to break in some rain boots than by crashing your way through brambles and moors!
  • I thought I’d encountered the creepiest creeps I’d ever meet in college, but nope. I had a 50-something-year-old Irish man (the town drunk, no less) ask me if I’d “like a night of passion before heading back to America?” Um, no thanks.  I’m still not sure if he was joking.

My film is still a couple weeks off from the blog, but here’s a preview of the gorgeous ballerina Sophie that I shot in Paris- the full session will hit the blog later this week!

Paris ballerina session- Abby Grace Photography

Kathryn Grace - April 8, 2014 - 8:07 am

Can’t wait for the rest of this session. Your Italy session was stunning, but there is something about it being Paris… and her black tutu… and… yeah, please post the rest soon. :-)

Rebekah - April 7, 2014 - 2:37 pm

Sounds like an awesome Ireland trip. And the creepy remark at least makes for a great story, haha!

Laurel - April 7, 2014 - 1:07 pm

gorgeous!! It sounds like you had an awesome time exploring Europe!

Jean - April 7, 2014 - 12:27 pm

Beautiful photo. Banana bread English Muffins! Sounds like something I need to try!

Six things nobody tells you when you start out

Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the 2011 version of myself and give myself a mentoring session. Like, “here are all the difficulties you’re going to encounter, but don’t lose heart! Just give it some time, and before you know it, you’ll be so much farther along than you’d ever dreamed.” I was so fortunate to have not one, but TWO incredible mentors during my first year on my own, and then to stumble into the photography community that I’ve come to love so much. Not everyone starts off that way- some have such a rough time during the first two years that they never push through to see the sunshine on the other side. If that sounds like you, read on: this is what I wish I could have told myself three years ago.

This is me in 2011 (courtesy of Terra Dawn)- my friend Doza has informed never to cut my hair this short again.

Six things no one tells you starting out- Abby Grace Photography

1. You’re going to spend a significant amount of time creating subpar work. There’s a quote by Ira Glass that sums it up PERFECTLY-

“…All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this, We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this, And if you are just starting out or are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Holy cow, do I wish I’d seen that quote on day one. I spent 2+ years battling through the desire to create something beautiful, but the inability to make my visions come to life in-camera. It’s only within the past year and a half, really, that I’ve started seeing glimpses of the quality, the very feeling of work that I’ve been so desperately running after, start to show up in my work. If the quote above feels like a description of where you are right now, take heart and PUSH THROUGH IT.

2. You’re likely not going to make a profit within your first two to three years, and that’s OK. You’ll make money, but almost all of that will go straight back into your business. I spent $15K on equipment my first full year- pretty much everything I made from weddings and sessions went straight back to B&H, Adorama, or Penn Camera. After filing our taxes for 2012 and being discouraged at the small margin of profit, our financial guy clapped me on the back and congratulated me- “Most businesses aren’t profitable for the first 3-5 years, and you’re managing to do so within your first two. You should be proud!” Don’t let this kill your ambition- keep on going! It gets better :).

Six things no one tells you starting out- Abby Grace Photography

3. Nobody owes you anything. < I’m saying this because I needed to hear this as well when I first started out. Just in the sense that nobody OWED me a job when I graduated, no photographers OWED me their time, whether that was in-person for a coffee date, or over email in response to questions I may have asked. I went in with an entitled spirit, and instead of assuming I needed to do the legwork to get my questions answered, I figured other people owed me their responses so I didn’t have to do the irritating job of figuring it out for myself.

Paying for education from photographers I admire has made a WORLD of difference! So if you’re in search of knowledge, have a hunger to learn, do yourself a favor and sign up for a workshop or mentoring session with a photographer you admire and respect. It will be absolutely worth your time.

4. There are going to be times when you’re so discouraged, you seriously consider quitting. Don’t do it, though. Discouragement is natural, and during the highs and lows of a year in the life of a wedding photographer, I felt my fair share of discouragement. But I also knew, in my heart of hearts, that this is what I NEED to do, this is what I’m supposed to do. So instead of quitting, I pushed through, because the yucky stuff is worth it for the chance to live a life Matt & I truly love. If it weren’t for pushing through the not-fun/downright-depressing side of my job, I’d never have had the chance to shoot all over the country, photograph around the world, Matt & I would never have been able to take a two week vacation to Europe. So when you get to the point where you’re so tired of sorting receipts and counting expenses that you just want to quit? Push through it. It’ll pass.

Six things no one tells you when you start out- Abby Grace Photography

5. That ideal client you have in mind? They are so worth the wait. I remember the first time I was ever upfront with a couple about me not being the right fit for them and their needs- it was terrifying! But because I sent them on to another photographer (who they LOVED), I was able to book another couple for that same date who WAS a perfect match. And the anxiety I initially felt at sending the first couple on turned to joy when I realized just how right that decision was. The way I look at it is this: if I’m going to work through the groans of owning my own business, I need to really LOVE what I do and who I’m working with. Otherwise, what’s the point?

6. People/things will try to steal your joy- don’t let them. Somewhere along the way, you’ll meet someone who’s got a chip on their shoulder. Someone who had a really hard run when they started out, so they feel it’s on fair that you have just as hard of a time as they did. If you encounter someone like this, someone bound and determined to kill your enthusiasm, shrug it off and then seek the ear of someone you know to be the encouraging sort. Local Shoot & Share groups are a GREAT place to find people like this- those who will lift each other up, who will share knowledge generously because they know that when we’re all growing, it’s raising each and every one of us up instead of pushing others down.

Six things no one tells you when you start out- Abby Grace Photography

This journey, the one of owning and business and digging through to find out who you really are and what you want your work to stand for, it’s a long one. But it’s a WONDERFUL one, and it’s so, so worth it! If I’d known in 2011 that three years in the future, I’d have crossed almost every single one of my “Yeah-That’ll-Never-Happen” goals, I wouldn’t be the same person I am now. The work, the struggle to get there, that’s what makes the victories so much sweeter. Because they’re just that- victories. Wins. Chances to celebrate to say “Hey! I just accomplished something I never thought possible!” You guys, savor those moments! Write them down and remember them during the not-so-victorious moments. It’ll make your desire to push through the less-glamorous moments that much stronger.

Sarah Bradshaw - April 9, 2014 - 3:10 pm

This is such a fantastic post. Thanks, Abby!

Shannon Shaughnessy - April 8, 2014 - 9:49 pm

Oh goodness. #1…sums up EXACTLY how I’m feeling in much better words. Thank you for posting such encouraging words Abby!

Carolyn - April 8, 2014 - 10:55 am

That quote! Literally just warmed my heart and gave me the extra boost I’ve been searching for. Thank you so much for writing this.

-S - April 7, 2014 - 11:13 pm

Yes! This post hit the nail on the head. Thank you for your words—they are indeed inspiring and makes me sit back and relax and know that all the late nights of planning, brainstorming branding and marketing, all the research, discouragement, prayers, and even tears will all be worth it. Thanks for sharing!

LORIN FAIRWEATHER - April 7, 2014 - 10:40 am

Thanks for the Monday pick-me-up, Abby! Awesome encouragement all around :)

Terri Baskin - April 7, 2014 - 9:10 am

So true! This was beautifully written Abby!

Urška Majer - April 7, 2014 - 7:26 am

This is sooo true!

Jean - April 4, 2014 - 1:36 pm

How wonderful that you can give others the benefit of your experience. I am so proud of you.

Kate Jones - April 4, 2014 - 1:24 pm

Thank you so much, I am just starting out and it was such a gift to read this—you are a great inspiration :)

Kate Ann - April 4, 2014 - 11:36 am

I love this post ! Exactly what I needed to hear! Thanks for sharing!!

paulina - April 4, 2014 - 9:40 am

love this, abby! thank you. <3

Jamison Gale - April 4, 2014 - 9:14 am

Awesome article. Thanks for being so vulnerable, because we have all been there. And it’s such a great perspective that you should be proud of your business if it makes ANY profit in the first few years, so good to be reminded of that – thank you!!

Stephanie Messick - April 4, 2014 - 8:29 am

Beautiful post, Abby! And soooo true … Every one of them!

Beth Hamilton - April 4, 2014 - 8:20 am

Thanks for taking the time to write this Abby! It’s so easy to feel discouraged and this is a great reminder that all the hard work and occasional frustration and heartache will be worth it!!

Caroline - April 4, 2014 - 8:09 am

Thank you so much for this!

Hannah Forsberg - April 4, 2014 - 8:06 am

Abby! Thank you for this. I’m still trying to start out, and as a teen, it’s so easy to be discouraged as I look to others and their accomplishments. Thank you for your authenticity and sincere heart. :) I’ve been following you for a few years, and it’s awesome to watch your journey unfold.

Lindsay - April 4, 2014 - 8:02 am

YESSS!!! So true!! It’s been fun watching you really develop your style this past year and a half- all those growing pains paid off girl!

Lauren Swann - April 4, 2014 - 7:54 am

I needed to hear this this morning!! Thanks for sharing sweet friend!! Xoxo!!

Alicia Lacey - April 4, 2014 - 7:52 am

Love this, Abby! You always write from the heart and it shows :)

Mary Neumann - April 4, 2014 - 7:51 am

I soooo needed this today, Abby!!! Love that quote from Ira, so great!! I constantly battle with a vision of what I want to be and feeling I am not quite there. Your words encourage me to preserve and continue to follow the desires that God has given me! xoxo

Rachel Ziegler - April 4, 2014 - 7:50 am

even though I am not a photographer I SO needed to read this today. Thank you!! xoxo

Shalese - April 4, 2014 - 7:46 am

This is good for the soul. :) I’m always reminding myself that I have to struggle through this sometimes very discouraging, difficult season to get where I’m dreaming of getting. Not only does this fire me up to keep going, it makes me even MORE excited to work you!!!!

Leandra Brown - April 4, 2014 - 7:45 am

Thanks so much for this! I really needed it and it’s very encouraging!

Stephen - April 4, 2014 - 7:42 am

I have an addition to the list; 7. You’ll never be as good as Abby!!!

Christine - April 4, 2014 - 7:42 am

Beautifully said Abby! <3