Happy happy Monday, my friends! It’s a GORGEOUS spring day outside- all the trees in northern Virginia are in bloom, and I’m having to exercise serious restraint not to run around singing at the top of my lungs. I mean, I do that pretty much all the time in my own house, but it’s doing so outside that I try to avoid.

So two years ago, I shot down by the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin, and swore I would never ever ever do it again- we were there on the Saturday of the Cherry Blossoms Festival, and as much as I love people, it was completely overwhelming. There must have been 25-50,000 people there, and getting any sort of clear photographs was out of the question. So I said I’d never shoot during the cherry blossoms again, at least not at the Tidal Basin.

Which goes to prove that the most stubborn of us have to eat their words sometimes! The cherry blossoms were at peak bloom this past weekend, and I shot down at the Tidal Basin on both Friday and Saturday mornings. And though it was a bit crazy with all the tourists we had to dodge, it was SO worth it. See what I mean??

DC cherry blossoms engagement session

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

  • Fresh flowers make a house feel more like a home. Seriously- if fresh tulips are available at Whole Foods, I’m going to buy them. They brighten up a room so much!
  • Ballerinas + cherry blossoms = heaven. HEA. VEN. See below :).
  • Know what’s not heaven? DC traffic. I arrived for my ballerina shoot with Jane a full 40 minutes before we were due to meet, and spent 30 minutes circling around Constitution Ave. looking for a spot. I finally gave up, headed to the Tidal Basin, found a spot, and then caught a cab over to meet Jane. Gah! Next time, remind me to just take the metro next time!
  • I think Instagram might be taking over my life, and we may need to take a break for a hot sec. We were at Wegmans this past Saturday and I picked out a pretty little cookie from their bakery, and know how I chose which one I wanted? By color, according to which one would look the most cohesive with my Insta feed. WHO DOES THAT?
  • And then, I saved that cookie until Sunday, because the natural light had already faded by the time we got home on Saturday night. Again, who does that??

cherry blossom ballerina photo- Abby Grace Photography

Oh! And photographer friends: in case you haven’t already purchased Justin & Mary’s Lighting Guide, YOU NEED TO. I was lucky enough to be one of a few who got to read the guide before it went on sale, and it’s so, so good. I’ve learned from J&M more times than I can count and had (foolishly) assumed I probably knew everything they teach about lighting. I was so wrong! The guide is a wealth of information about the metrics, science, and practical application of lighting, from the most simple to the more mature. I can’t wait to put into practice everything I’m learning as I read through the Lighting Guide!

Do yourself a favor and hop over HERE and grab your copy- you will be SO glad you did!

  • Mary Marantz - Ahhhhh LOVE this!! And love you!!! Thank you SOOO much for sharing the guide!!


  • Karen Field aka Mom - Seriously beautiful shots! Perhaps you should do an album of Cherry Blossom photos?ReplyCancel

  • Jean - about the Instagram thing, you are an artist who sees art in the most mundane things. Where you see a beautiful photo, I might see a beautiful quilt in those colors. Don’t fight those urges. That’s what makes you a great photographer? Your cherry blossom photos are gorgeous. Keep up the good work !ReplyCancel

  • Kelley - it’s called DIFTI: did it for the Instagram – I think we’re all guilty of it! :)ReplyCancel

I hate selling. I HATE it. The feeling of trying to convince someone to part with their money, it always leaves me feeling like an oily, used car salesman.

But there’s a difference between “selling” and simply believing in the value of a product, service, etc. enough that other people can’t help but see its value too. It’s not about manipulating, it’s not about coercion, it’s about living honestly. And really, simplifying. Because when my job is to show my clients how much I care, vs. trying to convince them to buy something they don’t believe they need, it makes life a lot more simple.

Which bring me to PASS! I’ve already written about my crush on this software/app here & here, and today we’re back again with one of their newer updates! PASS recently started offering canvases, but because I’d never actually ordered one from them, I wasn’t comfortable recommending that my couples order from them because I couldn’t guarantee the product, never having actually seen a canvas that was ordered from PASS. I’m a firm believer in knowing what it is you’re recommending to other people!

I’m so glad to say that I now 100% recommend these canvases, though! I ordered my first canvas through PASS a few weeks ago and am THRILLED with the result. Seriously, guys- these canvases are gorgeous! Here’s what I love so much about the one I ordered:

Canvas ordering from PASS photo sharing system- Abby Grace Photography

  1. The color is on point. It’s perfect!
  2. The packaging was done really well- the canvas was safe during shipping, protecting from any bumps or drops that may have been incurred by FedEx.
  3. It’s printed on quality material. Buy a canvas from a lower-quality supplier, and you’ll notice the canvas material itself is thin and cheap. But the one I ordered has weight to it- you can just feel that it’s a better product!
  4. I really love that it has those clear little plastic thingies on the back to help keep the corners of the canvas from scratching or peeling due to contact with an abrasive wall!
  5. Not necessarily related to the product itself, but I like that it shipped quickly. It was less than a week from the time I ordered to the time I received my canvas.

Canvases are expensive, which is why clients so often end up turning to cheaper avenues like Groupon deals or *shudder* CVS. But a cheap canvas is going to look cheap, and you’ll just end up throwing it out or replacing it with a more expensive version in a couple of years. So I say, do the thing right from the beginning, so that you can furnish your home with gorgeous pieces that will still be there for your children to enjoy!

Canvas ordering from PASS photo sharing system- Abby Grace Photography

Also? Super easy to hang. I simply put two small nails into the wall, and boom. It’s ready to go!

Photographers- one thing to note, I add my own border stretches in PhotoShop to avoid having the image cropped, since stretched wrapping isn’t an available option. Katie Nesbitt was the one who pointed me to this tutorial!

  • Lisa S. - I have no idea if my beautiful canvases from you are PASS or not, but they’re gorgeous and we get compliments on them CONSTANTLY! So I can definitely endorse your taste in canvas prints :)ReplyCancel

Something you, dear reader, need to know about me: I hate cliché, and I hate “just fluff.” Just Fluff is only good in two scenarios: 1) on a peanut butter sandwich, and 2) stuffed into a down comforter. Just Fluff has no place at a conference or workshop, and I promise to you that if you ever come learn from me? I’ll give you anything but Just Fluff.

Because Just Fluff pumps you full of the hot air of inspiration, which leaves you floating just long enough for you to return home, sit down at your computer, and realize “holy cow, there wasn’t actually anything from that conference that I can sit down and DO right now.” You guys know what I’m talking about; we’ve all heard that super inspirational talk about “follow your dreams! Go where your heart leads you!” Esoteric, vague ideals and catchy quotes that we cling to as gospel, because it makes you FEEL good when someone tells you “you can do anything you set your mind to.” But when all you get is Just Fluff, and there’s no peanut butter served with it to give you protein, something to stick to your ribs? That’s when we have a problem.

Creative at Heart Conference- Natalie Franke Photography

Because “follow your dreams” is all good and well until you realize that following your dreams requires direction, and no one’s even told you which road to start on! I-95 or I-81? Or should I start with 395 inside the Beltway? Inspiration is wonderfully necessary for any creative, but when you don’t have any sort of real-life application or direction, Just Fluff ends up leaving you emptier than before. Like when you devour a spoonful or three of marshmallow fluff, and 20 minutes later? You’re hungry again. But dip that spoon into the Peter Pan PB jar first and comBINE it with marshmallow fluff? Magic!

Creative at Heart Conference

THIS is why I love Creative At Heart. Because it combines the peanut butter AND the marshmallow spread. You get the nitty gritty inspiration along with the broader, more esoteric topics- Krista’s talk on strengthening your SEO is followed by Katelyn’s presentation on how community matters. Bonnie’s talk on building a brand based on your Why takes place in the morning, and then that afternoon we heard from Jessica on finding your niche, complete with a three-page worksheet to walk you through the process. Alexandra gave some seriously amazing advice on conquering your inbox (which many of the attendees went home and implemented right away!), and Mary spoke on crafting an experience for your clients through gifting.

Peanut butter, then marshmallow spread. PB + marshmallow. Over and over.

This was my second time at Creative, and I left even MORE inspired than the first time! I love that this conference has become more than “just a conference”- it’s a movement. It’s bigger than Kat, the founder and #GIRLBOSS, it’s bigger than any of the speakers, it’s bigger than everyone in attendance. I’m so in love with being a part of this movement, because I know that movements result in change. And if last week was any indication, there’s going to be some beautiful change happening in the creative world over the next few years.

Creative At Heart Conference- AManda Hedgepeth Photography

I had the honor of speaking at this most recent round of Creative, and guys, it was INCREDIBLE. Not because I got to stand up at the front of a room and command the undivided attention of nearly 100 creative small business owners, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it was pretty cool. No, it was incredible because I could feel God using me, goofy, tulle skirt-clad me, to affect change in some of these women’s lives. There aren’t words to describe how it felt to be approached by Loren after my talk on vision, tears streaming down her face, and hearing that she finally understood what it was her business was missing. It felt good because I knew that it wasn’t about me- it was about sharing my heart with the hopes that OTHERS can go on to create more meaningful work, form more intimate relationships, and produce art and services that make a difference in the lives of their clients.

Creative At Heart Conference- AManda Hedgepeth Photography

I could go on and on and on, but to sum things up, Creative is amazing. And if you’re a creative small business owner, you need to be there. Here are a few of my favorite highlights from #creativeatheartround2!

  • Seeing those “aha!” moments dawn on everyone. And I mean everyone!
  • Praying with Amanda, Kat & Emily after Day 1. Seriously, that was amazing.
  • Having my Granny & Pawpaw in the room for my talk. I knew that even if everyone else thought my slot was a bore, my grandparents would be there cheering for me!
  • …and seeing how quick the speakers and conference staff were to offer to serve my grandparents. Seriously, friends- you have no idea how much that blessed me!
  • Sitting next to Mary during the pre-conference dinner, and then again at a post-conference dinner, and hearing how God’s been moving in her and Justin’s lives.
  • Brainstorming sessions with Natalie Franke that left my head spinning in the absolute best way possible. There are SO many cool things coming to Abby Grace education, and I’m PUMPED!
  • Sharing goals with Lauren of Elle & Co. This girl is on FIRE with her blog- she’s such a wealth of knowledge!
  • Late Nigh Treat, and having the chance to connect one on one with attendees- I loved hearing what sort of things they’re up to, learning who they are and what their visions for business are!
  • Sitting with Kelsey of Tart & Co. at lunch on Day 2, chatting over the DC wedding industry and how our brides are different than other areas in Virginia.
  • Talking with Annmarie, Natalie, Mary and Ashley at dinner, everything from babies to Riesling to Jesus
  • Cards Against Humanity at midnight with Andrew, J&M, and Jeremy + Ashley. So. much. inappropriate. laughter.
  • Twinning on Day 1 with Anna Bowser, and then again on Day 2 with my adorable roomie Jessica!
  • Having Mary lead me out of the room right before my talk to pray for me. Guys, this was probably one of the coolest part of the entire weekend. Mary, you’ll never know how much that meant to me!

This is my favorite photo from the weekend. It’s my Pawpaw jokingly chastising me for accidentally cussing during my presentation :).

Creative At Heart Conference- AManda Hedgepeth Photography

*iPhone shots by… I can’t remember. I’m sorry. Professional photos above by Amanda Hedgepeth!*


  • Jean - how cool it was to be there for your presentation, and the picture of your pawpaw is priceless. Thanks to the person who captured that moment! What a joy it has been to watch our granddaughter grow into such a fine young woman and see her sharing her gifts with her peers. Abby we are beyond proud of you. Love you!ReplyCancel

  • Mia Bjerring - This post just reaffirmed that I totally want to come to this amazing conference, even though I’m only in the place of my life where photography is my passion and not yet a small business. But everything you said just made me want to go and to learn and to connect with other like-minded people. it truly sounds like such an amazing place to be! And just to have fun and meet you and all the other amazing creatives there!
    So glad you had an amazing time, and I hope your speech went great!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Veronee - Forever thankful for the prayer session! ;) I enjoyed reading this — you describe it wonderfully!! Love you Abby!! xoReplyCancel

  • Ashley Mitchell - I’m SO GLAD Amanda got that shot of your Pawpaw!!! I saw that happen at the back of the room and was hoping she snagged that! :) And Cards Against Humanity was a highlight for me too lady-friend!! So much fun!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - Hahaha, the picture of your grandfather is hilarious!ReplyCancel

Let’s be real, friends. I love Mondays, but this morning? I kind of just wanted to stay in bed and sleep. But when you have an almost-60-lb German Shepherd mix pup sitting on you (seriously- he plops down on my back) and whining for you to get up, sleeping in isn’t really an option anymore. But it’s for the best, because as amazing as our Tempur-Pedic bed is, my office and computer and inbox were calling!

Total aside: I LOVE this photo that the talented Amanda Hedgepeth took at Creative last week! Everyone got a new headshot on Day 2, and I just love how this turned out. Amanda is so talented!

Creative At Heart conference head shots- Amanda Hedgepeth Photography

Working from home means I often eat really strange meals. For example, my breakfast this morning consisted of mini sweet peppers, a glass of apple juice, and coffee. Why? Because I was too lazy to make eggs. Last Friday, I think I ate sauerkraut for breakfast, and I’m not even ashamed of it. That’s probably normal in Germany or something, right?

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

  • Wanna know a really good way to stress yourself out? Wait to book all your travel in Europe until less than two weeks before you leave. Thrill-seeker, right here!
  • In theory, the idea of driving from Marseille to Paris through the Loire Valley is a good idea, but when you take into account the fact that the high-speed train, the TGV, can get you there in less than half the time, without having to navigate yourself? You decide to take the train instead.
  • Can someone please explain to me why it costs more than $1,000 to get to pretty much anywhere in Europe, and yet I only paid $50 (yes, FIFTY) to get from Rome to Marseille? God bless easyJet and Ryan Air!
  • Last week was the best week ever. More on that in a couple day with a full recap of the Creative At Heart Conference!
  • Know what’s dangerous? Giving me a PaperSource gift card for my birthday. My little brother Seth did just that, and I spent foEVA hemming & hawing over this Kate Spade desk accessory or that one. I need all of them!!

Oh hey there, ridiculously attractive couple. Prepare to meet Lee & Danielle later this week- their Blacksburg sunrise engagement session was SO lovely!

Virginia engagement photographer- Blacksburg engagement session at Tech- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Monday!

  • Jean - What no biscuits and gravy! Your trip is going to be amazing!ReplyCancel

If you haven’t seen Part 1 of this two-part series, go back and read that HERE before going any further! It’ll set the stage for what we’re talking about today :).

Last week we talked all about the why behind both sides of the “I really want to learn, someone please help me” dilemma. Today’s post is focused on the nitty gritty part of that sentiment; now that you understand the why, here’s how to move forward in seeking growth/learning opportunities. Let’s dive in!

**Again, anything in italics + quotations is input I was lucky to receive from other industry professionals! **

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

Part 2: The Etiquette of Asking

1. Ask for opportunities to SERVE, not to be served. Requests to second shoot are often turned down because the photographer who’s being asked can sense that the person doing the asking really just wants to come and shoot for themselves. The role of a second shooter is a humble one- typically, you’re hired to help furnish the main photographer’s body of work that they’re providing to the couple, rather than shooting to boost your own portfolio. Your first step in the course of trying to earn learning opportunities? Learn to serve, and serve selflessly.

What does that look like? Rather than emailing a photographer you love with a request like “I’d love to come second shoot for you sometime, I like your work and I need to build my portfolio,” try asking for a chance to SERVE them instead. Something like this: “I’d love to come and assist you at a wedding if you ever have need! Whether that’s carrying bags or rolling film, whatever it is, I’d love to come make your life easier on a wedding day.” That sort of request will be much more likely to receive a positive response, because a photographer won’t have to worry that you have a hidden agenda.

2. Familiarize yourself with a photographer’s work before asking to shoot for them. Make sure you’re a good fit for them and their body of work! Also, I strongly encourage you to wait to ask to shoot for someone you respect until you have full command of your camera. Knowing how to shoot is obviously crucial- having to ask the main photographer what their settings are in the middle of the ceremony isn’t going to go over well, and almost certainly won’t result in you being asked back or referred to their friends.

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

3. When asking a photographer to give you a chance, do so with an attitude of humility. I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but it’s important to recognize that you are not owed anything by anyone in the industry. All of us have had to struggle through the same frustrations you’re currently experiencing, and almost all of us did it alone without a college course to teach us how to run a creative small business. We’ve paid for the workshops, the mentoring, the conferences, we’ve put in the hundreds of hours of work, and we’ve made the mistakes that lead to growth to get to whatever place we’re in today.

Also those struggles, the ones that we’ve all experienced? Those can be made a lot easier by buddying up with another photographer who’s also new to the scene! That’s what Rebekah Hoyt has been to me in the past; we’ve shared joys, griefs, frustrations, and we leaned on each other through all of it. There were days when she’d have the perfect answer to a problem I just couldn’t solve, and days when I could repay the favor by doing the same for her. There was give and take in that relationship, and if you can find someone else to be your Rebekah, it’s going to make this journey a LOT more enjoyable!

4. Before emailing to ask if you can take them to lunch or coffee to “pick their brains,” do a little bit of research first: does that photographer offer mentoring? Do they teach workshops? If so, that’s probably a good indicator that they won’t be up for a coffee date with a new photographer.

The reason behind that isn’t a callous or unfeeling one, it’s just good business sense: these photographers charge other people for their time and knowledge, and it wouldn’t be fair to those who’ve paid for mentoring if the photographer was to sit down with you for three hours without being compensated. Plus, that time a photographer is spending with you is time they’re *not* working on their business, time they’re not spending with family, time they’re not being paid/compensated in any way. So don’t take it personally if you email asking for a coffee date, and they respond with “Sure thing! Here are my rates for mentoring.”

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

5. “I would say that it really means a lot when a photographer recognizes and acknowledges that we are constantly, feeling like we’re drowning in emails, and is so appreciative of our time. I read those emails and think ‘That’s so sweet of her to think of me and my time. I really feel like she’s going to appreciate my help!'” -Katelyn James

This is so true! Reading e-mails with questions from other photographers asking a question, who end the email with “I know you’re busy, so definitely take your time on answering this!” makes me feel a lot better about taking 5-10 minutes to put something well-thought out together.

6. Try not to be offended if they turn down your request- thank them for their response, and reiterate that if they ever have need, you’d love to serve them. You never know their reasons for saying no: maybe they’ve been burned in the past by a second shooter, or maybe they have a full-time assistant so they don’t have need of anyone else. Try not to be hurt if they say no, and don’t let it dampen your spirits.

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

So there you have it! I’d love to hear input from you guys- what were methods that worked well for you?

  • Alicia - I think something that really helped me in the past was knowing boundaries based on what you were looking for. Meaning, something like just asking one question with a pretty straightfoward answer, I would hope would be okay. But if I’m looking for a fully detailed explanation on a process or method, I would absolutely expect to compensate that person for their time. Most photographers seem willing to give, to a fair point, but you don’t want to take advantage of that point and ruin the relationship! Great post, Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - This is so well done, Abby!!! You have a gift of telling it like it is, while being so very sweet, compassionate, and with a heart to benefit and help others!! You are a wonderful leader in this industry, lady!!! xo!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - great blog, as always, Abby. Love the photos!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Beggs - What a great blog post. I LOVE MY WEDDING PHOTOS!! :) I can’t thank you enough Abby. :) You eye for photography is amazing and we are so thankful to have had you as our wedding photographer!ReplyCancel

  • Tatyana - Amazing post! Definitely all great things to consider :)ReplyCancel

  • Kelley - SUCH great insight – glad I read these two posts before “hitting send.” Thanks for offering up your wisdom so freely!ReplyCancel