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Terry & Flo- Virginia fine art anniversary session

One of my favorite things about marriage is watching love stories take different shape as the years pass. As newlyweds, you can’t imagine loving your spouse any more than you do on your wedding day. Then on your first anniversary, you’ve learned so much about each other that you wonder how you ever thought your wedding day was the pinnacle of your affection. We’ve yet to come to this next chapter ourselves, but I imagine discovering that you’re going to be parents would be another tone of those checkpoints- seeing your husband with new eyes, knowing that he’ll no longer be only a husband, but a father as well. Looking at yourself and realizing your arms will soon hold onto two, instead of only circling round the waist of your beloved.

Terry & Flo are at that particular checkpoint- anxiously awaiting the arrival of little miss Elsa, yet  cherishing these last few weeks while it’s just them. This is what I love about Anniversary Sessions- celebrating your love, just as it is, right here and right now. Before two become three in just over a month, a pair of soon-to-be-parents took pause to stop and treasure this time together.

Terry, Flo, we are so thankful for your friendship! It was a privilege to photograph this session, and I’m grateful for the time spent with you both. I know you’re going to be the best of parents, and I hope these images serve as a reminder in the sleepless nights to come that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” [1 Corinthians 13:7-8]

Washington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby GraceWashington, DC anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

[…] Lily for a few hours so that my dog wouldn’t drive attendees bonkers. Fortunately for me, Flo is freaking awesome and said she’d love to have the company of our pup :). Thank goodness for […]

Sarah H - August 6, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Abby- not only are your photos gorgeous, but I love the emotion and beauty you capture with your words!

Jean - August 6, 2014 - 3:29 pm

Beautiful photos. I’m sure these two will cherish these pics. What a great documentation of their love!

Chelsea Anderson - August 6, 2014 - 12:34 pm

Beautiful photographs – so simply and naturally beautiful. Congratulations to the new couple expecting their little one :)

Kathryn Grace - August 6, 2014 - 11:57 am

Beautiful, Abby!

Monday Mash-up

Before we jump into the usual awesomeness of MMU, does anyone have an effective means of removing spray paint from skin? I have “vintage white” all over my hands and it’s coming off on my keyboard as I’m typing! I culled Saturday’s wedding yesterday afternoon after a bout of painting, and my “5″ key had a white fingerprint on it when I was done. It looked like someone was dusting my keyboard for evidence.

Happy Monday! This week is going to be a total whirlwind- we’re closing on our new home on WEDNESDAY! …which means we have a ton of packing to do. One thing I love about moving is that it gives you an excuse to purge- get all the clutter that you don’t need out of your house, so when you move into the new place, you’re left with only things that have a purpose and a place. Or, at least, that’s the theory. I’ve also been slowly purchasing items for the living room in our new house, so we’re moving out with slightly more than what we came in with.

You know what’s magical? Spray paint. I keep forgetting that it exists, and then when I’m reminded that it does, it’s like a whole new world of possibilities are opened up to me. Matt & I had been talking about gutting our bedroom and trying to find new furniture, but we’re also conscious of the fact that we just BOUGHT A HOUSE, so our budget for superfluous projects is lower than usual. Then I remembered that paint comes in spray cans, so we decided to simply paint over our old dressers, nightstands and the headboard/footboard from the spare room. Voila, brand new bedroom set. Super freaking easy! Thank you, IKEA, for making cheap furniture that looks good when painted.

Ok, on to lessons learned/events that transpired over the past week:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: if you haven’t seen it and you like Chris Pratt as an actor, go see it. It’s definitely tends more toward the sci-fi genre than any other Marvel movie I’ve seen, but it was hilarious!
  • Fact: milkshakes at Silver Diner taste better at 10pm, especially when you sit up at the malt bar. Those are my favorite kind of dates with Matt.
  • In case you were wondering, NO, it’s not ok to test spray paint on the FLOOR at Home Depot. Matt uncapped a can and pointed to other blots of color on the ground as evidence that it was ok, and then as he’s spraying, sure enough, a Home Depot employee comes around the corner and says “Sir, I’d prefer you didn’t do that. There’s a sheet of plastic over there where you can test color.” I don’t like say “I told you so,” but… I told you so.
  • Diner coffee is the best kind. We go to a local spot called Virginia Kitchen on the mornings that I shoot weddings, time permitting, and I know it’s crappy coffee in comparison to the gourmet stuff out there, but there’s something about drinking it out of a clunky white ceramic mug amidst the host of regulars also up early on a Saturday morning that’s more satisfying than anything home-brewed.

Jason & Lindsay got married in Georgetown this weekend and it was a stunner. Classic tuxes, elegant bridesmaids, and a vintage Corvette for portraits? Yep. Can’t wait to share this one with you!

Georgetown wedding photographer- Abby Grace

Terri Baskin - August 5, 2014 - 4:41 pm

Congrats on buying a house!!! How exciting!!! ^^ oh and I love how Matt came on to defend himself… lol!!!

Marisa Crider - August 5, 2014 - 9:59 am

Congrats on the house purchase! One of the scariest but best things. The spray paint incident made me laugh! Our Home Depot allows testing on the floor. But I remember slightly geeking out the first time I tried it thinking someone was going to come around the corner and yell at me haha.

Jean - August 4, 2014 - 8:49 pm

Good luck with your move. I know you must be so excited!

Matt - August 4, 2014 - 2:14 pm

To be fair, I went back yesterday and saw someone had tested another spray paint on the spot that I sprayed, so I am justified…

Janine Enold - August 4, 2014 - 12:47 pm

Two things! This picture is gorgeous – I can’t wait to see the rest! Second, any project that involves spray paint – count me in! I am not overly crafty but I do love to reinvent things to reuse in our house. Super cost effective! Happy Monday Abby!

WE’RE BUYING A HOUSE!!

Yeah, all those cryptic Tweets and “I wish I could say what’s going on” hints I’d been dropping? This is what those were about! AHHH! Somebody PLEASE pinch me, because I still feel like I’m dreaming! Please excuse the quality of my iPhone photos in this post- I intentionally left my camera at home for our walkthrough, so this is all I have at the moment :).

A few weeks ago, we drove by my childhood dream house and saw that it was for sale. After an intense 24 hours of crunching numbers and getting my hopes way, way up, we realized it just wasn’t realistic- the house was at the very end of our budget, and because it was a farmhouse built in the 1800′s, there was a ton of work that needed to go into it. So I moped around a bit the next day, frustrated with myself for being foolish enough to invest hope in a pipe dream.

Then Matt & I were surfing RedFin later that afternoon when we both came upon a townhouse in Sterling, only about 15 minutes from where we are now. It looked alright from the images posted by the realtor, and there was an open house currently going on at that very moment. More to distract myself from the wallowing in self-pity I’d been doing, we decided to jump in the car and head over to see this one.

New_house_0001

I’ve staunchly maintained in the past that I didn’t want to buy a townhouse- so many of Reston’s town homes are dark, old, and outright ugly. But as soon as we walked into this one in Sterling, I forgot alllll about that- this was PERFECT. Plenty of room, hardwood floors, and most importantly, TONS of natural light. Ahhh! Matt & I looked at each other as soon as we walked in the ground floor- this was it! And with every room we stepped into, we fell more and more in love. We put in an offer the next day and within three hours, the seller had agreed to our terms :).

That was less than four weeks ago, and yesterday we got the green light that our mortgage went through just fine and we’re good for closing early! For most folks, I know buying a home is just the next natural step in your adult lives. But with the insane housing prices in northern Virginia, it’s always seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle. Pricing was always too high, and seeing how hard my parents had to work to own the home they’re in now, I just thought that we’d never really get there.

New_house_0003

[^This is where the September 8th workshop will be going down! SEE HOW MUCH LIGHT THERE IS??]

We DID get there, though! Throughout this whole process Matt and I have been continuously blown away by God’s graciousness- that the perfect home for us became available just as we were realizing the first one wasn’t going to happen, that it was the right price, that we had an awesome realtor working to negotiate in our favor, even the fact that we’re able to close early. We’re feeling so, so blessed right now. And not in a humble-brag kind of way, but in a “we don’t deserve this at all, yet it was dropped in our laps anyways by a God that loves us and knows what’s best for us” sort of way.

New_house_0004

That dream house of mine from the 1800′s will still be there in 30 years. But you know, right now? This townhouse is my dream home. And I’m feeling so incredibly content. And maybe one day, it’ll be us living in that old farm house, but I’m honestly not worried about anymore. We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.

More photos and house updates in the weeks and months to come. I’m sure I’ll have more than a few tales for y’all to laugh with me over as we learn what it looks like to be homeowners for the first time! But right now, I kinda just feel like popping a bottle of bubbly.

Lydia - August 4, 2014 - 8:59 pm

Congratulations! I can’t wait to see all the blog posts as you have fun decorating your new rooms!

Spring - August 2, 2014 - 7:51 am

Congrats!!!!! So glad you found the perfect fit!!! As a photographer and a realtor I’m double happy for you!! Xoxo

Faye Bernoulli - August 2, 2014 - 2:27 am

Yay, congrats!! I feel ya on the insane cost of housing…it’s not better in the San Francisco area! Still waiting for our dream home to happen in God’s good timing :)

Sarah - August 1, 2014 - 6:22 pm

YAY!!! It’s so gorgeous!!! I’m so so happy for you two. Can’t wait to see it!

Matoli - August 1, 2014 - 11:47 am

HUGE congrats to you both Abby!! :)

Theresa - August 1, 2014 - 10:53 am

Such a cute picture of Mattie! Love that guy!

SO excited for you guys! Can’t wait to see it. XOXO.

Megan - August 1, 2014 - 9:47 am

CONGRATS!! It really is the best feeling and now begins the real fun…. decorating and making it your own! Enjoy every minute :)

Mia Bjerring - August 1, 2014 - 9:15 am

Congratulations to the both of you! It looks amazing and I just love all that natural light. Gorgeous! Hope you are going to love living there!

Mary - August 1, 2014 - 8:54 am

YIPPEEEE!!!!! Soooo excited for you both!! Such an exciting time!!!! (And of course, I can’t wait to see it for the workshop!!! Eeeee!!!!) xoxo

Jean - August 1, 2014 - 8:53 am

We are so happy for you and Matt! Can’t wait to see it. Looks perfect for you two.

Chelsea Anderson - August 1, 2014 - 8:45 am

How exciting!!!! I’m so excited for you to have a new place!! Buying a house is so big, especially for northern virginia! I know how tough it can be to find and lose great homes! A big congratulations, friend!!!

Lelia Marie - August 1, 2014 - 8:42 am

Hooray!!! I’m so excited for you both! That is the best feeling ever :-) I can’t wait to see more!

Jill Powers - August 1, 2014 - 8:35 am

YAY!!! That’s SO exciting, Abby! I’m so happy for you two!! xoxo

Shannon S. - August 1, 2014 - 8:25 am

Ahh yay! Congrats! This is EXACTLY the same situation that we fell into when we bought our first house! I saw my dream house for sale, realized it was WAY out of our budget but seeing that house started the house searching process that led us to our current dream house. God is so gracious to us in that he can use the process to lead us to “immeasurably more”. So thankful.

Shalese - August 1, 2014 - 8:22 am

WOO CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! It looks BEAUTIFUL and bright and ready to be filled with some truly fabulous memories. :)

lindsay - August 1, 2014 - 8:21 am

Yaay!!! CONGRATULATIONS y’all!! Sterling is my home town- you’ll enjoy it!

Lessons Learned: 5 tips for formatting images in a blog post

I’ve learned a lot over the past three + years of blogging. How many photos are “too many,” what dimensions work best, the subtle nuances that can determine whether a blog post is a success or failure. It can be complicated to explain WHY things work the way they do, but I’ll try my best!

One of the factors that can determine your mortality rate (how many people make it to the end before closing out of your page) for a blog post is HOW you’ve paired and formatted your images. Too many images and people will exit the page, but too few images may leave your viewer unfulfilled. I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way to do things, but I will share what works for me both when it comes to my own blog, and what I’ve observed in viewing others’ blog posts.

1) Use BlogStomp. I wrote about this program a while back, but I’ll say it again: if you don’t already have this program and you blog on a somewhat regular basis, GO BUY BLOGSTOMP. Just do it- you’ll save yourself loads of time!

2) Mix up the order of verticals, horizontals, and paired images. You want to give your audience a variety in format, so instead of ordering photos “solo horizontal, solo horizontal, solo horizontal, solo horizontal, solo vertical,” try to mix it up. I don’t have a particular formula, I just try not to do more than two of any particular format in a row.

3) Be careful of pairing too-similar images together in a diptych (two images side-by-side). I know it’s tempting, you love BOTH iterations of that one portrait, but by pairing both together, you’re actually halving the impact of each image by splitting your viewers attention between the two. Instead, choose the BEST photo and allow it to stand alone. Or pair one image with a detail photo, perhaps of the bouquet or something, and then allow the strong portrait to stand alone.

THIS is how I used to pair images- I liked both and couldn’t decide, and ended up diving your attention between the two of them.

Pairing images for the blog- Abby Grace Photography

THIS is how I ended up blogging the image within the context of Billy & Jenny’s post, as a standalone portrait. Much more pleasing to the eye!

Pairing images for the blog- Abby Grace Photography

It also could have gone well with a detail shot like this. The images are different enough that it no longer feels like both are competing for your attention- they’re complementary, rather than competitive. See what I mean?

Pairing images for the blog- Abby Grace Photography

4) Save the BEST images for your blog post. Your audience doesn’t need to see every. single. portrait from an engagement session or wedding- you want to show the BEST of the best. By including less-dynamic photos, you’re taking away from the truly stellar images that deserve the spotlight.

I still struggle with this, but trust me: a blog post with 150+ images is going to lose a lot of viewers before you get to the end of the post, vs. a post with 75ish well-paired images. Given the short attention span of internet users these days, we want to make the absolute most of the time they’re going to spend on your blog post. Too many images and they’ll get bored, and will navigate away from your site.

5) Consider taking off that watermark. I know, you’re worried about people stealing your images. But with the ability to screenshot + the prevalence of PhotoShop, if someone wants to steal your work, a watermark isn’t going to stop them. That watermark is distracting and is taking attention away from your photography. Don’t believe me? Just look at one of my old blog posts. Tell me that watermark isn’t distracting compared to this post from a few weeks ago.

I hope this was helpful! And I’d love to hear any advice y’all might have, too!

Kylie Nicholson - August 6, 2014 - 2:40 pm

Love your work, Abby, and this post!

Janine Enold - July 31, 2014 - 9:43 am

I’ve heard some type of tips for better web impact before but sometimes you just get caught up in the images you love and forget! I need to go back and look at the blog post I’ve been working before I publish it :-)! Thanks Abby for the reminder!

Chelsea Anderson - July 31, 2014 - 9:36 am

Thanks for the suggestions! I actually needed this more than I thought.

Travel dates for Anniversary Sessions!

Hellooooo wonderful friends! You may (or may not) have noticed that the blog’s been empty to far this week- you can thank my dear friend The Summer Cold for that. I’ve been consuming massive amounts of vitamin and several mugs of tea of the past couple of days, and frankly, just didn’t feel up to firing up the old Mac. But all is well now! I haven’t sneezed since I woke up this morning, so that’s always a good sign!

Most of my “I’m available, who wants to shoot?” sort of PSAs are made over on Instagram (follow me at @abbygracephoto!), but I wanted to share over here as well. I’m so excited for a few travel dates on my calendar coming up in the next few months

I’ll be in San Francsico for a wedding next month for a couple of days and would love nothing more than to shoot an Anniversary Experience Session! I have one specially priced session available on August 17th or 18th, so if you’re in the Bay area and any of THIS resonates with you, I would LOVE to hear from you!

Red Rock Canyon anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

Santa Barbara anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

And then, come October, I’ll be in shooting in New York City again, too! It’s my FAVORITE big US city and some of my favorite work was shot in Manhattan- for me, New York is a catalyst for taking my work to bigger and better heights. Again, I have one specially priced Anniversary Experience session available, on either October 8th or 10th- if you’re in need of some sweet time with your spouse and it’s been a while since you’ve been in front of the camera, shoot me an email. I’ll be staying in Manhattan but would also love to shoot in Brooklyn or Williamsburg!

New York City Central Park anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

New York City Central Park anniversary photographer

New York City public library anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

Questions? Feel free to shoot me an email (abby@abbygracephotography.com) or check out the Anniversary Experience website.

Lukas VanDyke - August 1, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Ours is the best! =)