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Maggie- an old-world ballerina session in Vicenza, Italy

While planning out my Europe trip over the past few months, I knew I wanted all of my shooting to be personally fulfilling. And since my two favorite forms of personal work are ballerina photography and travel photography, what better way to be fulfilled as an photographer than by capturing a dancer in Italy? I met Maggie through my friend (and Abby Grace bride!) Sarah and had SUCH an amazing time with the two of them last week as we picked our way through Vicenza in quest of the perfect shot. The hundreds-of-years-old architecture and culture that’s so common in Europe had me swooning with romanticism with each turn of the corner!

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I’ll be blogging more from my Europe trip as soon as my film comes back from the lab, so stay tuned!

Deborah Zoe - April 4, 2014 - 6:03 am

Abby, these are amazing!! Your ballerina series is just incredible, so proud of you!!

Sarah H. - April 4, 2014 - 4:59 am

Ahhh! LOVE!

Becca - April 3, 2014 - 7:39 pm

This. This is why I love following your work. Because you are inspired by beauty beyond just producing wedding after wedding. It’s refreshing to see what inspires professionals other than the wedding industry! And could this shoot BE anymore dreamy??

malika luthra - April 3, 2014 - 6:26 pm

I get so excited every time you post another session with a ballerina — the soul and passion you have for capturing their delicate grace and quiet romance is simply stunning! :)

Mary Neumann - April 3, 2014 - 5:22 pm

Ahhhhh-mazing!!! Took my breath away, Abby!!! I am just so in love with your style and love how you seek out to grow and develop yourself through your passions!! So inspiring!!! xoxo!!

Jean - April 3, 2014 - 5:13 pm

These are gorgeous photos. I love them all. Can’t wait to see more of your travels.

Dad - April 3, 2014 - 3:25 pm

Finally, I beat your Granny to say AWESOME!!!

Urška Majer - April 3, 2014 - 2:27 pm

Gorgeous! It looks like you two were the only one walking around the town!

Emilia Jane - April 3, 2014 - 12:47 pm

So beautiful.

Kayla F - April 3, 2014 - 11:59 am

So so so lovely Abby! What a gorgeous location and ballerina!!! Love the softness of the entire shoot! Beautiful!

Melissa - April 3, 2014 - 11:32 am

Gah! These are gorgeous!

Tiffany Heidenthal - April 3, 2014 - 11:14 am

These are incredible! Love the colors and she is just so soft and graceful looking. I can see why you’ve fallen in love with shooting dancers.

Monday Mash-Up

Today is a very extra special Monday: it’s the 100th Monday Mash-Uppost! Who woulda thunk that a series started out of sheer desperation to fill my blogging calendar would turn out to have such longevity? Well, hooray all the same :).

I’m writing this post from Doolin, Ireland, sitting on my bed at a quaint B&B with the most wonderful owner, looking out my window at the stretches of green fields and cows in the distance. So often when I travel I feel this pressure to  GO GO GO all the time, make the most out the trip because you never know when you’ll be back to wherever it is that you’re traveling. But right now, all I want to do is sit in the parlor with a cup of tea and a good book, and wait for the storm that’s been threatening to arrive. I’m in love with Ireland, and I think part of it has to do with the rest that I’m finding here. The countryside offers you permission to sit back and do… well, nothing. I love big cities, I love them so much, but there’s something so indescribably wonderful about a small town with little to “do” all day. It’s perfect.

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

  • I’ve always cherished a secret ambition to sing the one Irish drinking song I know at an Irish pub. Well, last night? That dream came true. IT WAS AWESOME! All of the pubs here in Doolin have live music at night, and I got up and sang the one song I know to the entire pub. My trip was totally made.
  • People in Ireland are so. dang. nice. And chatty! And for someone like me who loves to talk, it’s just the best. My hostess, Maeve, has been such a darling and is up for conversation whenever I see her.
  • Whilst in Paris last week, I decided to buy a baguette in Montmartre and sit down to feed the pigeons. And I think I almost killed one of them on accident- I threw a chunk that was a little too big, and I saw one of the pigeons (or “rats with wings,” as my Pawpaw calls them) attempting to choke it down for a full minute before he managed to swallow it. Whoops…
  • Speaking of pigeons, I also fed the ones in Venice when I was there with my sweet friend Sarah last week. Two observations: 1) pigeons apparently love Lara Bars, and 2) they’re not afraid to come sit on your outstretched arm if it means getting first dibs on food. I’m fairly certain I’ll develop bird flu or something, but it was really fun!
  • Know what’s fun? Shooting film on vacation. Know what’s not fun? Having your entire supply of unexposed film disappear from your bag between Venice and Paris. And know what’s even less fun? Having to buy all new film in Paris, where film is more expensive anyways, AND you’re having to pay in Euros, meaning you pay almost twice what the film is worth back in the US. Ahh, the price of art.
  • Apparently I did an ok job of blending in in Paris- I was stopped twice in one day by people looking for directions (in French). I know it’s not a big deal, but I felt proud for not sticking out like most tourists!
  • I’m a tea lover, no doubt about it. I’ve never been big on espresso drinks, but after my time in Vicenza, I now realize that the problem wasn’t espresso, it was that I’d never had ITALIAN espresso. Toootally different game! I’ll probably be asking Matt for an espresso machine for Christmas this year!

Here’s a small peek into my adventure last night at the Cliffs of Moher- remember Heather? She was in Ireland with her family visiting their hometown of Cork, and we scheduled a shoot out on the cliffs. It was incredibly beautiful, and the view at sunset took my breath away. I cannot WAIT to get my film back from this shoot!

Cliffs of Moher- Doolin, County Clare, Ireland- Abby Grace Photography

Karen Field - March 31, 2014 - 10:16 pm

Wow! The shot above is awesome! I can’t wait to see what you bring back! How was the film lost? Your B & B hostess sounds lovely! Give her your Mom’s greetings and thanks for keeping you so nicely. I saw Matt Saturday briefly and he misses you. Awwww, sweet! Can’t wait until we get to catch up! Mom

Kathryn Grace - March 31, 2014 - 10:10 pm

My goodness! Look at that backdrop!!

Rici - March 31, 2014 - 9:26 am

Oh I love your travel news! And yay for the M.Mash-ups! SO good. I certainly check in for them!! ;)
I´m very sorry to hear about your films disappearing. Man!
But I´m suuuuuuper happy someone is finally on my espresso side of the world! YAY!!
Happy travelling! ENjoy Irland!
Saluti from Germany!

Regan Carter - March 31, 2014 - 9:21 am

My husband and I spent a week in Ireland last May and it was INCREDIBLE. We still miss it every day!! You’re so right about the people! They are the nicest people on the planet. They’ll bend over backwards to help or get to know you – it’s such a change from living here in the States! And omg, the live music in the pubs every night. Every town and city we visited had an amazing music scene! We still watch our iPhone videos and long to relive it all over again! Enjoy every second over there!! :)

Rebekah Carter - March 31, 2014 - 8:58 am

Gorgeous picture! Your trip sounds fabulous!

Shalese - March 31, 2014 - 7:56 am

I’m certain Ireland is amazing all on its own, but the way you write about it makes it sound EXTRA amazing!

Caitlin Gerres - March 31, 2014 - 7:29 am

I’m loving your updates! If your film is anything like your Instagram updates (and I know it is!), it’s going to be incredible! And I’d love to see a “What I Wore In Europe” blog post since you’re doing such a good job blending in!

Urška Majer - March 31, 2014 - 7:26 am

Reading this makes me remember my trip to Ireland two years ago…the countryside is so amazing!

Jean - March 31, 2014 - 7:17 am

Beautiful photo. I cannot wait to see the rest. Sounds like your trip has been wonderful. Love you.

Things I’m loving lately: Pixifi

The first time I’d heard of studio management software, I was barely in my first year of business. The thought of adding another monthly expense was unbearable to me, and besides, I was doing “just fine” with my current process of receiving contracts and checks in the mail. Who needed to complicate things further by adding yet another program for me to learn?

Fast forward to 2.5 years later during my coaching follow-up with the lovely Katelyn and I finally admitted defeat- I needed help. See, the old system of paper checks and USPS envelopes may have been “enough,” but it wasn’t helping my business at all and was, at times, actually holding me back. Here’s what my old process looked like when it came to booking with clients:

  1. Fill out a Word doc with their first names, package information, calculate payments, then save as a PDF.
  2. Send the PDF over email, explain where to sign, and let them know to send it to my address along with their retainer fee.
  3. Wait anywhere from three days to three weeks, assuming our mail guy decided to actually deliver the correct mail to us on any given day.
  4. Occasionally, if the contract and check never showed up after my client sending it due to our silly postman, lather, rinse, repeat.
  5. Once received, I’d file the contract in my file cabinet and make a scan on the check for my records.
  6. Drive to the bank, deposit the check. Which may or may not take me an additional two weeks.

I know that doesn’t seem to be too complicated of a process, but when you’re doing it for 20-25 wedding clients and dozens of anniversary sessions, it becomes really messy and hard to keep track of. I have a workflow board on my wall, but I don’t always keep up with it, so I was sometimes having to rely on memory alone to keep track of who’d send their final retainers, who still owed me contracts, etc. Not very professional, right?

Enter: Pixifi. What is this magical thing, you ask? In short, it’s studio management software that helps manage everything online, from electronic contracts to payments, to client information, to questionnaires, to dozens more features I’ve yet to explore. I’ve only been using it about two months now and my understanding of it is still really basic, but so far, here are a few of my favorite things about Pixifi:

  1. I can now send contracts from any computer, not just my office computers where I have my contract Word doc saved.
  2. I’m now able to accept credit card payments, meaning my clients don’t have to fret over their checks being lost in the mail anymore
  3. Everything is so much FASTER. I can send a contract in the morning and have it signed + received the retainer fee by lunch. My old method always meant at least a week’s delay in processing a booking.
  4. It’s more professional. As a high-end wedding photographer, my couples expect a streamlined, professional experience with me. Asking them to print out their own contract (8 pages long), put it in an envelope and send it themselves, along with a check, just wasn’t as polished as you’d expect from a luxury wedding photographer. The higher the cost of your services, the better an experience your couples are going to expect, and this was one area that was really lacking for me in the past.
  5. All of my clients’ information is backed up online, instead of in my filing cabinet. So, for example, I’m in Paris right now: I’ve booked a few new weddings in the past week, meaning I have a couple of new client gifts to send out. Now, instead of going to my file cabinet to look up my brides’ and grooms’ addresses, I can find their client profile in Pixifi!
  6. No more sending pre-wedding questionnaires in the form of a Word doc, since Pixifi allows you to creates questionnaire templates to send out to clients! Basically, I hate Microsoft Office and never want to use it, if it’s avoidable.
  7. Everything in centrally located! Instead of client info in my filing cabinet, their payment history in my online banking statement, and their pre-wedding questionnaire in my email inbox, EVERYTHING is on Pixifi.

I will say that the program was frustrating to get started. I’d started a free 30-day trial with Pixifi back in the fall but was utterly bamboozled by the program and never finished initial set-up. But then someone pointed me to this super helpful blog post by Ashley Fisher that walks you through, step-by-step, and even though it was time consuming and tedious, I finally got things where I needed them to be! Ashley’s blog post also walks you through how to enter a new client + send a contract and retainer invoice (but make sure you go through the basic set-up instructions first, otherwise the new client set-up won’t make sense and you’ll just end up angry).

Despite the complicated nature of set-up, Pixifi is totally worth the $25/month. I have so much more peace of mind knowing that I’m not at risk of misplacing paper contracts or checks, and much more sanity now that I’m not splitting the information for each of my clients between three different locations. It allows me to correspond with my clients in a more timely manner regarding their contracts and payments, especially when I’m away from my office.

If you’re interested in check out the program, click HERE and use the promo code PIXI2FREE for TWO free months, instead of the standard 30-day trial! If you have a couple of hours today or tomorrow, sign up for an account, enter the promo code, sit down with Ashley Fisher’s start-up blog post, and get yourself set-up. Your clients deserve the best from you, and Pixifi can help you give them just that!

And just to add some pretty to this post, here’s a preview of a ballerina session I photographed in Paris this morning :).


Karen Field - March 28, 2014 - 8:43 pm

Girl!! You are doing so well! I’ve met another photographer who goes to my church who has commented on your blog before. Her name is Rebecca or Rebekka Joy Peterson. I recognized her from Seth and the fact that she is a Jane Austen fan. When you get back, I’ll have you both over for tea! I think she would really love to know about some of your contacts. She’s pretty excited to meet you! I miss you and hope this trip is all that you desire it to be. Mom

Terri Baskin - March 28, 2014 - 2:20 pm

I’ve been debating using a system like this but if something happens to me and I can’t cover a wedding, how would my back up photographers get the clients’ information if I am unable to give it to them? Do you have a system with Matt already in place? I love the ballerinas…keep them coming!!! :)

Lauren Jolly - March 28, 2014 - 11:40 am

Hey Abby! I am actually in the “setup” stages of Pixifi right now so your post came at a great time! It has been a bit of a struggle for me and I even used Ashley Fisher’s post to get started, but I am excited about the possibilities! Thanks for this post and YAAAAYYY on this gorgeous ballerina shoot in freaking Paris! That’s amazing and I can’t wait to see more!!

Tiffany Heidenthal - March 28, 2014 - 8:37 am

Does Pixifi do anything beyond payment and contacts? I think I’m where you were at the start where I’m like ANOTHER MONTHLY expense!? Also I wonder if it is made by the same people who do Pixieset? Cuz I love them and that would be a selling point! :)

Dad - March 28, 2014 - 8:06 am

Tre manifique

Jean - March 28, 2014 - 7:51 am

Your ballerina photos are beautiful! It has been such a pleasure for me to watch you grow as a photographer. I knew you would do great things, but you have more than exceeded those expectations. I love you!

Kathryn Grace - March 28, 2014 - 7:13 am

Sounds like a great program! But I’m really commenting on the BALLERINA SESSION IN PARIS. Could that be more perfect?!

Monday Mash-Up

Gooood morning from Italy! I’ve been here for just over 36 hours and already, I’m in love. My sweet friend Sarah (remember her Kansas City wedding?) is a OST excellent tour guide, and we spent most of yesterday wandering the streets of Vicenza, getting lost for the sake of seeing life happen in this little town. Italy is so incredible, just as I knew it would be- brightly colored buildings, window boxes with flowers spilling out, bicycles, umbrellas, wine, and cheese. Everything I’d dreamed, and then some. I’m in love.

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

  • How are Italians this gorgeous? Seriously! It’s kind of intimidating, being around so many beautiful people all the time.
  • Pizza: so. much. better in Italy.
  • Also: Italian wine? It’s even better than you’ve imagined.
  • Additionally, meal times here are much later. Sarah’s told me most restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 7, with most people choosing to dine around 8/8:30. I love it!
  • I spent a good 30 seconds yesterday looking for a way to activate the water faucet in a restaurant bathroom yesterday before realizing there was a pedal on the floor. I wish there’d been a camera to record it, because I looked like a total idiot.
  • Listening to Italians talk is utterly fascinating. Sarah mentioned yesterday how they never say “si” (“yes) just once- it’s always two, three or more times. And it makes me laugh whenever I hear it now- “si, si, si!”

My digital camera’s stayed put in my suitcase so far (but I’m shooting plenty of film!), so here’s an Instagram, taken from Greg & Sarah’s living room window. We’re headed to Venice for the day, ciao!

Vicenza, Italy

Jean - March 24, 2014 - 6:53 pm

Beautiful photos! Have a wonderful time! Love you!

Dad - March 24, 2014 - 6:29 pm

So glad you are enjoying Italy, Gives a whole new idea to the word “OLD” doesn’t it?

Rici - March 24, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Benvenuto in ITALIA!!!! OMG how great is it that you are THERE?!?!? Oh I love this country sooooo much! Make sure to soak it in to its fullest and not be too distracted by the things which don´t work seamlessly. Oh Vicenza! Che bello! Will you visit a Palladio Villa?
Happiest of times to you!

Everyone Loves A Classic: the iconic tulle skirt

I realized this may not actually be a “classic” by my usual standard, but hey. This is my series, and I do what I want. Plus, the A-line cut of this skirt has been around for decades and was really popular in the 50′s, so there you go.

Tulle skirts came into my life at a very young age- my parents have photos of me prancing around in my pink ballerina tutu from ages 2 to 7. You know that children’s book “I Wear My Tutu Everywhere?” I LIVED that mantra! I had a matching pink leotard, pink tiara, and pink ballet slippers, of course, and they were my favorite dress-up costume to wear. That tutu is still sitting in my old closet at my parent’s house, but unfortunately it’s no longer appropriate for me to prance around in full ballerina get-up.

Fortunately for me, tulle skirts have made a huge return in the fashion world this year! As soon as I stumbled upon Alexandra Grecco’s work, I fell in love and began obsessing over how I could get my hands on one. I ended up purchasing my blush pink mid-length skirt from Space46 Boutique and stalked the postman for the delivery. It’s a former ballerina’s dream come true- tulle for days, flouncy and light! It makes me feel like I’m walking on a cloud. (Thanks to Sarah of Ampersand Photography for the image!)

Classic blush pink tulle skirt- image by Ampersand Photography

And then I got really ambitious and asked my Granny to help me make a shorter version, this time in white. After eight hours in my Granny’s sewing room, I’m pretty sure she’ll never agree to work with tulle again. But holy cow, the result is sheeeer perfection. (Thanks to Natalie Franke for this one!)

Classic white tulle skirt- image by Natalie Franke Photography

The thing I love most about tulle skirts is how versatile they are- you can pair them with a cute tee and flats, or dress it up with a sparkly top and some heels. The skirt’s a show stopper for sure, I love getting stopped and complimented on it!

What do you all think? Is the tulle skirt a classic, or a quickly-fading fad?

Christimathews - April 5, 2014 - 2:48 am

Love all the pictures and the skirt looks very beautiful. The light colored skirt is stunning.

Tina - March 21, 2014 - 9:28 am

You are the luckiest girl ever. Not only do you have TWO tulle skirts but you pull it off perfectly, with such grace too! :) Love this classic!

Shalese - March 21, 2014 - 8:20 am

I hope it sticks around FOREVER! Or at least until I find the perfect occasion to wear one. :)

Jean - March 21, 2014 - 7:12 am

I love your Tulle skirt and I am ready for another one, because we worked out all the bugs on the first one. Have a wonderful trip. Love you.

Rebekah - March 21, 2014 - 7:03 am

These skirts look so gorgeous on you. But they are one of the many styles that I love on other people but hate on myself. Hmm.