My sweet friend Natalie Franke wrote an awesome post a couple of weeks ago about her three favorite lenses, and I liked it so much I decided to do one of my own! Natalie is one the most well-known blogtographers (the name I just made up for photographers who blog) in this area of the country, and though I’d consider our work somewhat similar in terms of aesthetic, it’s fun to see how different our lists of favorite equipment is. It just goes to show you that a lens is only what YOU make of it- one of my least favorite lenses in my bag is the 70-200, whereas that’s on Natalie’s list of top three pieces of glass! Let’s dive into my top picks- if I could only shoot a wedding with three lenses, these are the ones I’d pick:

1) the 50mm f/1.2. If I could adopt a lens as a little sister, this would be the one. My 50 is on my camera for 75% of a wedding day- it’s easily the most versatile piece of glass in my camera bag. I use it for everything from bridal details to family portraits to the sparkler exit. Because of how wide the aperture can go, it’s a FAST lens, so it’s my go-to in any low-lit situation. It’s with me at every wedding, engagement session, anniversary session, anything. And if I were traveling and couple only bring one lens, this one would be it! Here are a few images all shot with the 50:

Top 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace Photography

2) the 85mm f/1.2, I have a crush on my 85. It’s a bit heavier than the 50, but it’s well worth the haul- the backgrounds are softer, the skin tones are creamier, the bokeh is UNBELIEVABLE. It’s a great lens for shooting in big cities with tons of people in the background- stopping it down to 2.0 or less blurs out all those unwanted photobombers in the background :). Here are a few images all shot with the 85:

Top 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace Photography

3) the 35mm f/1.4.  This lens isn’t my favorite, but it’s necessary. Having a wide angle lens is crucial for wedding photographers, since part of being a professional means having the ability to shoot in any scenario, no matter how tight the space. The 35 is my go-to when a bridal suite it a little small or cramped- I love that it stops down to 35 1.4, and though it doesn’t have the same bokeh as the 50 or 85, I consider it a better option than the 24-70 2.8 for the sake of a consistent work throughout all my images. Here are a few images all shot with the 35:

Top 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace PhotographyTop 3 lens picks for wedding photographers | Abby Grace Photography

So there you have it! If you’re a photographer, what do you think? Would your list be similar or completely different?

  • lily - Thank you for sharing.
    Love that you shared so many sample images and from the same wedding too :)ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Love all the photos and your explanations of the lenses. You are so talented!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Braswell - Great post and gooooorgeous work! Do you use all primes for weddings then? I’m just getting started as a wedding photographer and I feel like I carry a small arsenal with me, haha!ReplyCancel

  • Amy Cherry - These are my 3 most-used lenses too! Except, I haven’t upgraded to the 85 1.2 just yet since I’m simply obsessed with the 50. Thinking I need to rent it and try it out soon!ReplyCancel

What an absolute whirlwind the last 48 hours have been! I landed in Paris on Tuesday afternoon at 1pm and by 5:15, was on my way to my first shoot of the week. Then 12 hours later, I was up and at ‘em at 5am for another shoot, and then 12 hours after THAT, I was at a cafe passing the time until Matt & Betty’s Anniversary Experience session last night.

And now? Now I’m on a train to Amsterdam for an Anniversary Experience session with Josh & Lauren, and it’s going to be epic. I’ve never been to Amsterdam before, and I’ll only be in the city for 18 hours, so I’m going to do my best to both a) not pass out from lack of sleep [kidding {mostly}], and 2) make the most of it. Don’t worry, Mom- I promise to stay away from the red light district.

Internet connection on the train is poor at best, so we’ll keep this brief. Here are a couple of previews from the last 48 hours! And obviously, I have a penchant for portraits. I’m working on the whole “take more landscape-oriented photos thing.

A styled shoot with A Day in Provence…

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A peek at Katherine Elizabeth’s new line of bridal fashion… [could this image be any more perfectly Abby Grace? I mean seriously- the colors, the tulle skirt, the aesthetic, and Paris. The only thing that could make it even more AGP would be a glass of champagne]

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…and a preview from Matt & Betty’s Anniversary Experience session! We began in heart of Paris and made our way up to Montmartre, and I departed from these two better off than before. Matt & Betty are good for the soul, you guys.

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Happy Thursday, dear friends!

Happy Monday, friends! We’ll make this post short & sweet- I have about 37 things to do before my flight leaves this afternoon, so I need to hop to it! Katherine Elizabeth dropped off 2 bridal gowns and 4 tulle skirts for me to shoot while in Paris, and holy cow you guys. These pieces are EXQUISITE!! I can’t wait for you to see what we come up with!!

Paris, France fine art film photographer

Ok, so if you’re thinking about seeing Ant Man, do it! We went to see it on Thursday night (I’m sure you guys know by now that Matt’s a huge Marvel fan) and I wasn’t expecting to like it, but it was really funny! Paul Rudd is hilarious and it was the perfect movie for him. If you’re not typically an action movie fan, go see it on a Saturday morning at a theater that offers $5 morning tickets- I promise it’s worth it!

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

  • If you want to avoid looked like a total n00b at the batting cages, just study an MLB game- take a couple of practice swings in between pitches, no one will guess that you have no idea what you’re doing.
  • I’m on a podcast! The awesome Sam Stroud has started doing coffee talk-style interviews with other photographers and I was so lucky to be one of the people he sat down with- if you want to check it out, go here and give it a listen! It’s getting some great feedback so far :).
  • I bought a new suitcase. I realize that’s not at all interesting to you guys, but it was pretty exciting t0 me because it’s one of those hardshell suitcase with FOUR wheels, so it just glides along next to you. No more exhausted pulling through the streets of Paris, because gliding is for winners.
  • Know what’s fun? Accidentally booking a non-refundable hotel room in Amsterdam at a spot that’s an HOUR away from the train station/city center/where you’ll be shooting an Anniversary Session. I blame the Dutch for giving all their Amsterdam-based train stations eerily similar names.
  • Matt is the best husband ever. I asked him to run to the Four Seasons in Georgetown to pick up something I left there after a wedding, and not only does he come back with the item I needed, he ALSO came bearing Baked & Wired cupcakes. And yes, Baked & Wired IS better than Georgetown Cupcake. That’s a scientific fact.

Paris, France fine art film photographer

PS- there are still a few seats left for the August 3rd workshop, which is only two weeks away! If you’re looking to up your game for the rest of your weddings this year, this is the way to do it. Find more information here!

  • Urška Majer - Have a great time in Amsterdam :)ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Have a wonderful trip! Prayers for safe travels! Love you.ReplyCancel

  • Karen - Lessons learned from mistakes. You are not the sum of your mistakes. You are loved by so many! Including me! Prayers as you navigate a challenging trip!ReplyCancel

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs | Learning to ask the hard questions | Abby Grace Photography

Have you ever heard of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs? It’s a pyramid that describes the theory of human needs and motivations, and the order in which they need to be met. Here’s what it looks like:

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs | Photog Friday- Abby Grace Photography

Maslow’s theory postulates that the most basic of physiological needs, like food, water, and shelter, must be met before we can move on to the more advanced needs, like love, self-actualization, creativity. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If I were starving and unable to obtain food, I’m probably only thinking about finding a way to feed myself, rather than pondering the meaning of life. Make sense?

Here’s how I’ve found it applies to photographers, and creatives in general: As a new photographer, there are a few basic things everyone struggles with at the beginning. Here are just a few of those struggles:

  • Mastering your camera settings
  • Purchasing necessary equipment
  • Finding new clients
  • Establishing a legitimate web presence

All of those items would belong in tiers one or two of the pyramid, either physiological or safety needs. When you’re new, you’re so wrapped up in just trying to tread water that the concept of searching for the meaning of why you’re doing this in the first place? It doesn’t typically occur to you to ask that question. And if you DO ask that question of yourself, you probably settle for an easy answer like I did for the longest time- “I just love love.” Yes, doesn’t everyone? I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t enjoy the concept of love. That was an easy answer, a copout- I didn’t want to push any more than that because it required a lot of soul-searching, and I was being lazy.

Photog Friday | Asking the right questions from the beginning | Abby Grace Photography

Here’s the thing, though. As creatives, it’s part of our very nature to desire to create something that isn’t just visually pleasing, but that is emotionally, relationally significant. At first it might seem like enough to just produce pretty work, but the longer you do this, the more you’ll realize that “pretty” isn’t enough to satisfy you anymore. You want to create something significant. And in order to create significant work, I fully believe you must have a significant reason as to why you do what you do.

And here’s where things come full circle: stick around for a while and you’ll see so many photographers call it quits after just a few years. Why? Because they’re so tired of struggling with the aforementioned tier one and two issues that they never have a chance to break through the tier of self-actualization, creating significant work! So how can we avoid that same level of burnout? By learning to ask the right questions from the beginning. Here’s what I want you, dear creative, to think about:

  • Why do I do what I do?
  • No really, why? Don’t settle for an easy answer; that’s a copout, and you’re better than that.
  • What really, truly inspires you? And think: does that thing actually inspire YOU? Or have you just seen other people be inspired by it, and you think it’s supposed to be what drives you as well?

Photog Friday | Asking the right questions from the beginning | Abby Grace Photography

One filter I’ve found especially helpful over the last few years is asking “Do I really want [fill in the blank]? Or do I just think I’m SUPPOSED to want it?” For example, the bubble necklace from JCrew that was so popular a couple of years ago. Remember that? There were several points in time where I was on the verge of buying one of those necklaces because I’d seen everyone else wearing them, but then I stopped myself and realized I didn’t actually even like the necklace in the first place!

How often do we do this with our work? We purchase a camera or lens we don’t actually need because we’re seeing other people do the same. We pose our clients in ways that don’t mean anything to use because we’re seeing other people do the same. We brand ourselves in disingenuous ways, we purchase things we don’t need, we write blogs about things that don’t actually matter to us because we see others doing the same. 

Photog Friday | Asking the right questions from the beginning | Abby Grace Photography

Do yourself a huge favor: stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Focus on honing your craft, learning to master tiers one and two, and never stop pushing on those questions above. Push for tier five from day one, and you will never have to settle for “just pretty” again.

PS- if you found this post insightful, give a listen to THIS podcast interview I just did with Sam Stroud- it goes hand-in-hand with what this blog post was all about!

  • Sami Orndorff - Great comparison!!! I never really thought about how a little Maslow theory applies to photography…but that’s genius! Also, I LOVE the last image on this post! Beautiful AND significant!!!ReplyCancel

  • Shalese - This is why I love you! A very motivational read for the morning. :)ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlyn Phipps - Yes! This is why you’re such a valuable contribution to this crazy industry! Just listened to you chat with Sam Stroud about this on his podcast, and I just love that it’s something you’re passionate about and not willing to settle on.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - It’s like you’re in my head… So good Abby, thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - I love that you are so wise and that you do love what you do.ReplyCancel

  • candi - I heard your podcast this morning and it changed me. Totally changed me. Even though I have known my WHY for a while, I dug deeper. And I made connections about myself that make total sense for my business. SO THANK YOU!!ReplyCancel

New York City anniversary photographers | Justin & Mary

Dear Matt,

Can you believe it was six years ago that we officially became a couple? I’ll never forget sitting in that movie theater with you, surrounded by 20 or so of our fellow Summer Project-ers, waiting for Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince to start at midnight. I’d told you you weren’t allowed to sit next to me, because I didn’t want to be distracted by your presence during the movie. And then our friend Ashley Woolwine (praise the Lord for A-Dub!) asked if we were dating. I looked at you, you looked at me, I cocked my head, and said “Yeah, I think we are!” And that was it.

You pulled me out of the theater on the pretense of getting a bag of popcorn before the movie started to make sure I was serious, and once we’d established we were now boyfriend and girlfriend, you took my hand and smiled that secret, slightly embarrassed grin of yours. I remember thrilling, standing in line in that New Hampshire movie theater, your warm hand holding mine; something was different this time. I’d dated a lot, and I’d been hesitant about dating you because I knew you were different- I didn’t want to mess things up by pushing for something before its time.

But that July 14th, standing in line at 11:15pm with the aroma of popcorn in the air, my hand feeling small in yours, it just felt right; I think it’s because it was the beginning of something far more epic than I think you or I had dared to imagine.

Matt Springmann, it is my joy and privilege to still be dating you after six years together.

Love,
Abby

perfect image by Justin & Mary

  • Natalie - I love this. Oh, how I love this.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Love your love story. It was fun watching you and then meeting Matt and seeing right away that you two were meant for each other. Love you both.ReplyCancel

  • Dad - I remember ALL the other “boys” and this one was the first one I was truly comfortable with giving up my precious daughter to. It warms my heart to hear that story and continues to confirm that the Lord is the one who builds the house. Thank you Matt, you are the perfect son in law!ReplyCancel

  • Terri Baskin - Oh Abby!!!! This is a new favorite post for me!!! I love it!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Bradshaw - I love this so much more than I can say. xoxoxoxoReplyCancel

  • Karen Field aka Mom - Your father said it best!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - What a beautiful story! :)ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - I have a somewhat similar story with my husband. When we were in middle school (yes!), he had asked me to the 8th grade dance & I’d said yes (this was after I’d very uncharacteristically told him completely out of the blue that I’d go with him to the dance if we were interested) . . . So we’d started spending more time together in the mornings while we waited for class to start. On one of those mornings, a girl from my gym class walked up to us & asked if we were dating. We turned & looked at each other & just as I was about to say no, he said yes. And I’ve never forgotten how excited I was to hear him say that. And we’ve been together ever since (13 years total now, about to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary in a few weeks)! Crazy, right?!ReplyCancel