Gooooood Monday morning! The fact that it’s 38 degrees outside has me seriously pumped. It was 12 on Friday, and since I walk the dogs separately each morning, my fingers were painfully numb. Bring on the warmer weather! I’m never one to wish away entire seasons at a time, and I actually do love the winter! It’s just the addition of a new pup has made morning walks mean quite a bit more time outside than previous :).

You know how you know you’re officially out of your college years? When you start bragging about how much sleep you got. Guys, I slept for 14 HOURS on Saturday night, and it was absolutely glorious. I’d only slept for three hours the previous night, due to an anniversary session in Williamsburg that means a 3am wake-up, so when I got back home, I crashed at 5pm and didn’t wake up until the next day. Our TempurPedic bed is probably my favorite place in the house.

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

  • We’re working with a one-on-one trainer for Sirius (check out Dari, she’s awesome!), and she informed us that he’s probably more like 18-20 months, instead of the 2.5 years we’d originally thought. Ooooh, so THAT explains all the roughhousing, crazy amounts of energy, and playfulness! He’s still a puppy!
  • Working from home means you sometimes eat weird meals. Scratch that, it means you OFTEN eat weird meals. Case in point: last week, I had straight avocado for breakfast AND lunch…two days in a row.
  • And I don’t regret it at all, because avocado straight from the shell is delicious. Sprinkle some sea salt on it? NOM.
  • Why did I just say “nom?” I never say that. That’s a term reserved for people who use the hashtag “#foodporn” on Instagram.
  • Do you like Taylor Swift? Are you passably familiar with the House of Tudors from British history? If you answered “Yes” to either or both of those questions, please go read THIS Buzzfeed article. You’re welcome.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for an airtight, lawyer-drafted wedding contract from the Lawtog’s Contract Shop! See that blog post HERE!

Here are a couple of previews from my weekend. First, an Anniversary Experience session with one of my sweet, sweet 2013 couples! Remember these two and their Naval Academy wedding?

Williamsburg anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

And then, just a few hours later, a session with my darling friend Caitlin, her husband Jay, and their precious new daughter. I don’t normally do these kinds of sessions, but whenever I do it’s always such a joy! (PS- you’ve seen Caitlin before! Remember?)

Virginia lifestyle fine art newborn photography

Happy Monday, friends!

  • Jean - love both the photos. The Taylor Swift thing was funny! Come on down where it’s warmer, at least for a few days!ReplyCancel

  • Sami Orndorff - Uhhh, I LOVE that newborn photo!!!! Such gorgeous lighting — can’t wait to see the whole thing!!! :)ReplyCancel

After teaching workshops and sitting with newer photographers during mentoring sessions, I’ve found that contracts are one of those things that people shrug off; “I’ll get one later,” or “I’m not charging enough money to need a contract,” or “I don’t have the money to buy a template right now.” Guys, hear me out: no matter where you are in your business, you need a contract. You need a contract right now, before you agree to do any more work in the future. This post isn’t meant to scare you, per se, but it is meant to stress just how important it is to be operating as a professional business from Day 1!

I actually shudder when I look back at my old wedding photography contracts. The first contract I ever used was given to me by another photographer I knew, so I figured if it was legitimate enough for him, it was legitimate enough for me. The contract outlined what the client was paying for, and it had both of our signatures on it, so I figured I was good.

Abby Grace Photography workshop

But the longer I was in business, the more I realized the need to add things to my contract. A bit about me being the only photographer hired, another bit stipulating that I needed a meal on the wedding day, and then another bit about…. you get the jist. Pretty soon, I’d amassed two pages of stuff I’d cobbled together on my own. I figured I was fine, nothing would ever happen to me.

And by the grace of God, nothing ever did happen to me or my amazing couples. But after a friend came close to needing legal intervention, it scared the pants off of me; I got my act together and hired an attorney to draft an airtight, solid contract.

Abby Grace Photography workshop

If you’re operating with a contract like my old one, by the time you actually NEED your contract to be airtight? It’s too late. And I pray that none of you ever, ever encounter that! But the fact of the matter is that you are running a business, and sometimes in business, things have the potential to get a bit sticky. And your first, most important line of defense is your contract.

See, your contract protects BOTH you and the client: it outlines your responsibilities, and what the client may or may not be entitled to if you fail to perform those duties.

But it also outlines the parameters within which you’ll be working. For example, my contract specifies the steps that are taken if I or my second shooter were ever to experience sexual or physical harassment at a wedding. That’s a really important thing to have written down! Because if I were to be harassed or assaulted at a wedding and were to walk out of the reception, and I DIDN’T have that outlined in my contract? I could be sued for a breach of contract. But because it IS outlined in detail, my second shooter and I are protected from being forced to endure harassment or physical harm on a wedding day. Not that that’s ever happened, but it’s important to know BEFORE you go into any given situation what your options are if there’s an emergency. And it’s important that your client knows, too, so that they’re not surprised along the way if you do have to cite something like a harassment clause.

Abby Grace Photography workshop

If you’re a wedding creative and you’ve been working without an official contract, head right on over to Rachel Brenke’s site- she’s a lawyer who specializes in law for creatives, and she has a whole slew of contract templates to choose from! And we’re lucky enough that Rachel’s GIVING AWAY $150 in credit toward her shop for one lucky winner, which is enough to get you started with your very own, very legit wedding contract!

All you have to do to enter is share the link to this post on Facebook, and then let us know you’ve done it by dropping a note in the comments section! For an extra entry, hit up Twitter and share the post as well- just make sure to tag me (@abbygracephoto) and Rachel (@RachelBrenke). Easy peasy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Questions? Comments for the good of the order? You know what to do- sound off in the comments section!

  • Rachel Word - I just entered to win the credit toward Rachel’s shop.

    https://www.facebook.com/rachel.word.9

    Thank you for hosting this amazing and practical giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Great advice. I know you have probably seen it all when it comes to weddings. Contracts are necessary in today’s business world.ReplyCancel

  • Natasha - I’ve shared on both Facebook and Twitter! Is this a giveaway raffle or does everyone get $150 credit for sharing? The blog wasn’t specific about this.ReplyCancel

  • Lorna - Just entered! PS I am legit so excited for you getting to team up with Rachel Brenke! I’ve been following her for a few months now. :) Yay!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - My contract has gone through so many revisions over the years, you end up adding things you never even thought about! I had to add the No Harassment Clause after a drunk groomsman grabbed my butt at a reception and I was so upset I didn’t know what to do (the clients didn’t care). So now that’s in there, too, along with YOU MUST FEED ME. :)ReplyCancel

  • Sabrina - I feel like this has been one of those things on my to-do list forever but I’ve just never had it done. I’ve posted about this on FB and Twitter so hopefully others will see your blog post and realize how important this is too!ReplyCancel

  • Mindy Moore - Woohoo!!! This. Is. AWESOME!!! Thank you for sharing this!!!ReplyCancel

  • Mindy Moore - Oh, I forgot to mention in my excitement that I shared this awesome info on my Facebook!

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10103823584383722&id=68128051&ref=bookmark

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Bradshaw - I’ve been sexually harassed at a wedding before. It was a lesson that taught me to be prepared!!ReplyCancel

  • Casey - Shared to enter AND because this is oh-so-accurate! Currently on working on updating all of my ‘original’ contracts to Rachel’s templates so I can take them to a lawyer to finalize them!ReplyCancel

  • Brianne - Just shared this post on Facebook! Hoping to win so I can get some of Rachel Brenke’s awesome resources!ReplyCancel

  • Bethanne Arthur - Abby + Rachel,

    Great giveaway! I shared on Facebook and tweeted! Good luck to whomever wins! :)ReplyCancel

  • Holly - Shared!! :DReplyCancel

  • Sami Orndorff - Tweeted & Facebooked!!! #socialmediaverbsFTW :) :)ReplyCancel

  • Rachel McKnew - Shared! Perfect timing for me in my business. Thanks for sharing the info and Rachel’s info as well!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Warren - Great Post! Shared to Facebook. Thanks for the opportunity!ReplyCancel

  • Allie - This would be awesome to win! Thanks for the advice and giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • Clyde Y - Great post!! Absolutely shared and tweeted!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - Shared via facebook! Thanks so much Abby and Rachel!ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - I just shared. I hope Lady Luck is with me.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Herrinton - This is awesome Abby!!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah N. Case - What’s an amazing giveaway. Thank you so much for hosting this!

    I shared this on both my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Hubt - Great advice!!ReplyCancel

  • Nikki Jilek - heck yes! I would love to win such a generous and gracious prize!!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - Yay! I entered! Such a great post!ReplyCancel

  • Kendra - I just shared! would love to win this!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Monday Mash-Up » Modern International Wedding Photographer - […] Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for an airtight, lawyer-drafted wedding contract from the Lawtog’s Contract Shop! See that blog post HERE! […]ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin Simpson - I (think) I shared on Facebook! I may have entered something wrong…but I definitely tweeted! Thank you for this! So awesome!ReplyCancel

I love how she fits perfectly into his arms. That was the first thing I noticed about the way they interact- it was like his arms were created just to pull her in close, and like she grew to the perfect height, just for curling into his chest. He’s so good for her, bringing out that contagious laugh and a joyful spirit! And she has the effect on him that so many girls long for- the ability to coax an eye-crinkling smile when he looks her way, and only when he looks her way. That kind of smile he reserves just for Lexi. Watching it all transpire and capturing those blip-in-time, never-to-happen-again moments, it’s the kind of thing I live for.

TJ & Lexi, where to begin? I remember remembering both of you individually, and I remember making the connection of you two as a pair and thinking “they make absolute sense together.” Your sweet love is edifying and infectious, and I’m so grateful to have witnessed it for a whole afternoon! Thank you, thank you for such an amazing time- despite the bone-chilling cold, your session was blissful!

US Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace PhotographyUS Naval Academy engagement session in Annapolis- Abby Grace Photography

  • Jean - Gorgeous couple, gorgeous photos! Best photographer ever!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Beth Tapanes - Too many favorites to count. Love them all, Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Abbeigh - 1. LOVE them! 2. LOVE these photos!! 3. LOVE you! Your pictures just keep getting better and better!! xoReplyCancel

  • Rici - Love this session Abby. Especially the last images!ReplyCancel

I love the off-season. Now that I’m able to focus more intently on the business-y stuff (as opposed to editing, since sessions are a lot slower this time of year), I’ve spent the last few work days brainstorming and writing blog posts that I’ve been meaning to write for months!

Last year, I wrote a post about six things I wished I’d known when I started out and it was one of my most-read posts all year, so we’re back with another installment! Let’s begin:

7 things no one tells you when starting a photography business- Abby Grace

1. STOP looking at other people’s work so much. I can’t stress this one enough. Should there be other artists/photographers you look up to? Absolutely! But should you spend hours obsessing over their work, to the point that it makes you feel really bad about your own? Nope. Try this: pick 2-3 of your favorite photographers, follow their blogs, and cut yourself off there. That’s enough to keep you inspired, but not so much as to constantly overwhelm you.

2. Also? Stop comparing yourself. Your journey and your business are going to look vastly different than the next photographer’s, so comparing yourself won’t get you anywhere. All it will do is frustrate you, and that’s valuable time you’ll spend worrying that you otherwise could have devoted to taking over the world! I promise, this isn’t some cliché saying that I’m putting up to make you feel better about your business. It’s 100% true.

Kind of like that time I compared my branding to everyone else’s, and decided I needed to rebrand with teal & blush because that seemed trendy and cool. Guys, WHO told me that blush blazer was a good choice??

7 things I wish I

3. Suck it up and spend the money on a lawyer-approved wedding contract. Don’t try to write it yourself, please don’t! An airtight contract protects you, your business, and your clients. A contract you got for free off of Google, or worse, one you’ve written yourself? There’s no guarantee at all that it’ll hold up in court if, heavens forbid, you ever have to go there. (Psst! Rachel Brenke, the Lawtog, sells wedding photography contracts on her site!). More on this particular topic on Friday’s post!

Ask yourself this: would you rather… spend $125 for a contract template now? Or potentially have to spend thousands of dollars in the future to pay for a lawyer? Your choice!

4. Make sure your camera bags fits ALL of your essential equipment. Having to carry a lens separately inevitably means you will leave that lens at home one day. Or in the drawer of a hotel room. Fun story… I’ve done both of those.

5. The bride and groom may have been the ones to sign your contract, but come wedding day, their families are also your clients. Treat them with the same love and respect as you treat your couple, it’s their day to celebrate as well! Serving the parents of my couples on the wedding day has truly become one of my favorite things about my job. I love seeing their joy, and I love being able to encourage that joy through serving them well. There’s a tendency of photographers to view the parents of our clients as “us vs. them,” but don’t fall into that trap! Mothers and fathers of your brides and grooms can be some of your biggest cheerleaders, and having a cheerful attitude about serving them too makes a wedding day better for everyone.

7 things I wish I

6. Seek out opportunities for constructive criticism! No one LIKES hearing they didn’t do the best job on something, but I promise, you will grow so much from the times that someone’s willing you say “you could have done ___ better.” Be careful not to simply brush it off when someone points out a weakness in your business (but also, take into consideration who it is that’s speaking).

And last but not least,

7. Know how to parallel park. :)Especially if you ever plan to shoot in a city, or anywhere with paved roads/civilization in general. Not knowing how to parallel park could mean you spent 20 minutes driving around looking for an open spot, and that’s valuable time you lose with your couple!

Happy Tuesday!

  • Korie - Thank you so much! I needed to hear this today! I have been free lancing for years but just in the last two years got really serious and the compare game has been killing me. I was never self conscious before until I started doing that. Thanks for helping me see my work is unique and my own. I will grow and change and that’s at my pace and is ok.ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - I love this post, Abby! Especially #7… because it’s so, so, true!ReplyCancel

  • Sara - Know how to parallel park! Hahahahaha! my husband was just telling me I needed to learn/practice for life in general- now I have a business reason! I usually make my husband/friends do it for me. I now know how I’m spending my Saturday afternoon ;)ReplyCancel

  • Shalese - SO good! Especially about serving the parents and families well. Your blogging is on pointe! ;) (get it? because you love pointe shoes!)ReplyCancel

  • Janelle C - I love this post! I actually just posted my 2015 goals on my blog yesterday and points 1 & 2 were on my list for this year! Stop comparing myself to others… this will definitely be a work in progress for me. Thanks Abby! :)ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field aka Mom - I absolutely loved this post!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Great advice from a seasoned professional photographer. So proud of my lovely granddaughter!ReplyCancel

  • Kat - Parallel parking – YES!!! Girl. I am the WORST and had to learn in a rush on multiple weddings this past year. EEEE.ReplyCancel

  • Rici - This is great Abby! Love the family tip! So precious!
    Oh and the parking disasters in Germany, historic village & city centers… yes….ReplyCancel

  • Tatyana - The constant comparison is such a huge one!ReplyCancel

  • Lydia - Hahaha @ parallel parking! I actually go out of my way to avoid parallel parking because I hate it so much, but it’s true that sometimes it’s a necessary evil when shooting in the city!ReplyCancel

It’s Monday again! Funny how that happens once a week, isn’t it? This last week was weird, but in a good way. Since I’m less busy with editing right now, I’m finding myself with a lot more time to devote to the back-end of the business, which for me means writing oodles of blog posts! I LOVE writing, but during the crazy season my blog doesn’t get the same kind of TLC that I manage to give it during the slower months. One of my hopes is that by pre-blogging a few weeks in advance, we can prevent that from happening this year. Fingers crossed! I’ve got about 50 posts sitting in my Drafts folder right now, so that’s always a start, right?

It’s FEBRUARY! Which means the next A Practical Wedding Workshop date is just three weeks from today! I’m SO excited for this one. The couple I’ve lined up is amazing, the florals are going to be gorgeous, and I cannot wait to spend the days with 10 new friends. EEK!

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

  • I blow dried my hair TWICE in the last week. Typically, this is a feat I only accomplish 4 or 5ish times a year. And I’m not joking about that number. My hair is long enough that it takes forever, and since I don’t really know how to style as I blow dry, I just forego the thing entirely. But I gotta say, it looks pretty good right now!
  • Also, if you ever want to bring attention to how bad your ends look, definitely do a blow dry. I get my hair trimmed *maybe* twice a year, and you can really, really tell at this particular moment.
  • I updated my phone last week for the first time in a YEAR. This means I now have the ability to furnish conversations with EMJOIS!
  • How on earth are there so many different emoij options?? Like, is there a person at Apple who’s full-time profession is to think of new tiny illustration ideas that could possible enhance everyday conversation? “You know what we’re missing? An emoji of a bowl of dog food. Someone might really need that!” “You’re absolutely right, Johnson- let’s make it happen! The word is WAITING.”
  • Siri likes to occasionally play this game with me. I’ll ask her to do something simple, like “Call Dad.” And she’ll hem and haw for 15 seconds, and then say this: “I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t take any requests right now. Please try again in a few minutes.” Really, Siri? What else could you possibly be doing right now that prevents you from helping me? Literally, your ONLY purpose of existence is to serve me. So put down whatever else you’re doing and hop to it.

AHH! I had my first engagement session of the year last week and it was a total doozy! I met TJ & Lexi almost three years ago at Jamie & Abbeigh’s wedding, and it’s now their turn in front of the camera. I can’t wait to share this one with y’all, you’re going to fall absolutely in love!

US Naval Academy engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Monday, friends!