It’s something you hear a lot from new photographers: “I really want to second shoot, but I can’t find anyone who will let me shoot with them,” or “I really want to get to know that photographer I love, but I don’t have $500-1000 to attend a workshop or conference right now.” I hear you! You just want a chance, one chance, to prove yourself, or to get that experience, or to learn from that photographer you so ardently admire, and all you need is for one person to say “yes.”


From a photographer who’s been in the game for about 5 years now, I’ve learned ways to genuinely ingratiate myself toward other photographers… and ways to seriously turn them off from ever wanting to get to know me. And in an industry of small business owners who seriously benefit from working together and being for one another, turning other photographers OFF is not the right way to go. This industry, like any other, has nuances and subtle social norms that are hard to know without having been in the business for a little while.

So if you’re new, it can be hard to know that something you’re asking for might be considered imprudent, and sometimes even rude. Because you haven’t had a chance to learn otherwise, even though you’re desperate for knowledge. I totally get it! And if this is you, then YOU are exactly who today and tomorrow’s blog posts were written for, dear friend. This post is meant to encourage you, not to condemn!

We’re breaking this down into two parts. Today is Part 1: The nature of the “I want to learn, somebody please help me” dilemma, and the reasons behind why more experienced photographers respond the way they do.

**In an effort to get a bit more insight on the topic, I reached out to a few friends in the industry for their take on the matter- any paragraphs in italic text + quotations are feedback from other talented vendors! **

Annapolis Naval Academy wedding photography- Abby Grace

1. Recognize that there has to be give and take in any healthy business or mentoring relationship. Be mindful that you’re not the one who’s only ever taking, failing to give. In the same way that a pitcher of lemonade can only fill up so many glasses before it runs dry, creative small business owners can only give so much without return before they start to burn out.  If there’s something you can offer a photographer in return for extending you an opportunity, throw it out there! Maybe that’s shooting or assisting for free a couple of times, or helping them out with photos for their blog, or asking what their rates are for coaching.

Also along the lines of give and take, it’s important for you, the person doing the asking, to understand just what it is that you’re asking for :

I think it’s hard when you’re starting out to understand that this is our full-time job! We still have to spend 40 hours (but usually more) working on our business and then when another photographer asks us for something like a coffee date, it just adds to that time that we feel like were working, even if we want to do it! … I once had someone ask to meet me for coffee so I could give them advice on an aspect of their business and it ended up turning into a three hour portfolio review, and in the end I just felt really icky and taken advantage of. It’s so hard because we all want to be able to give back and pour into others! But by that time that meeting was over, it was 8 PM and I was missing out on eating dinner with my husband and having an evening at home with him.”
Annapolis Naval Academy wedding photography- Abby Grace

2. “Remember that the photographers you admire are succeeding because of how much they have poured (and continue to pour) into their own businesses, which leaves limited amounts of time for coffee dates + long lists of questions. And rather than feeling rejected or ignored, find ways to reach out to other photographers in a spirit of community and support. Not a ‘PLEASE HELP ME! I have a list of 20 questions you owe me answers to even though you haven’t had time do your laundry in 2 weeks,’ but rather a ‘How can I help you, you inspire me, keep rocking girlfriend!, love that blog post- here are a couple ideas for future ones because newbies like me are curious!’ sort of way. — That spirit of service that so often stops me in my tracks and has encouraged me to bring so many girls onto my own team!”

3. Don’t gossip. Just don’t. This world of wedding/creative professionals is a lot smaller than you’d think, and if you talk smack about someone behind their back, it’s going get back to them. And the people you’re saying those things to? It’s going to damage your professionalism in their eyes, and no one likes to be associated with gossips in the workplace. Because gossips are the ones who drag you down, the ones who eventually become dead weight that no one else is willing to carry. Don’t become that person- I’ve been her, and she is no fun at all to be or to know.

Also, let’s be honest- aside from the business repercussions, gossip is toxic. It’s toxic to the person you’re talking to, it’s toxic to the person you’re talking about, and it’s toxic to YOU. Gossip poisons you from the inside out, and though you can try to mask the bitterness the gossip stems from, it’s going to come out in one way or another. Again, don’t become that person. I’ve been her, and she sucks. No one wants to work with, for, or around her, and she’s a miserable person!

Annapolis Naval Academy wedding photography- Abby Grace

Hopefully this was helpful for those of you who are still in the early stages of your business! Come back next Friday for Part 2: The Etiquette of Asking!


The winter blues are a real thing, people. And we were feeling them pretty strongly this past winter- it was just so cold all the time, with winds nasty enough to chap your skin until it cracked. Not fun. Not fun at all.

During one especially nasty, wintery period, Matt proposed the idea of going south for a week. He’d always wanted to attend spring training, and I really wanted to go to Disney World with him + see the new extension of Harry Potter world at Universal, so we found a date that worked and booked our travel! We decided to drive the whole way because a) it was a heck of a lot cheaper and simpler than flying + renting a vehicle, and 2) we like spending the time together in the car :).

We went to two Nats games, fulfilling Matt’s spring training dream- it was a blast being so close to the players! I loved watching kids get so excited over autographs, whenever the players had a sec and came over to sign baseballs.

Washington Nationals Spring Training- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington Nationals Spring Training- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington Nationals Spring Training- Abby Grace Photography

and then we visited Universal with my BEST friend Sarah and her husband Dan! Remember these two? Sarah hadn’t been to Harry Potter world yet, and I hadn’t seen the new part of the part that was opened last fall, so we made plans to go together. Sarah’s a closet HP fan, and I guess I never really realized how extensive that fandom is until Universal- we had SO much fun geeking out over the little details throughout the park, things that only dedicated Potterheads would take notice of/realize the significance of. Sarah, I think I love you even more than before.

We started in Hogsmeade…

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace Photography

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace Photography

And then took the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

How freakin cute is my best friend?!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

I loved the subtle touches. Matt & I are standing in front of Number 12, Grimmauld Place- see if you can find the surprise in the photo!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

We met Captain America over on the other side of Islands of Adventure. MURICA.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

The rest of these are iPhone photos, excuse the bad quality!

This is sort of what it was like to walk Sirius before we got the easy walker harness for him.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

Ok, so let me explain this. There’s this thing called Disnebounding, where you dress up like a character without wearing a costume, per se. Cinderella’s always been my favorite because I love her blue dress (because let’s be honest, the original Cinderella has like ZERO personality), so I found a blue dress, made myself a black necklace from a piece of ribbon, snagged a blue headband from the kid’s section at a department store, and boom. Disneybounding version of Cinderella.

Disney bounding- Abby Grace Photography

Chatting with Cinderella re: the pros and cons of mice as personal attendants.

Met some evil stepsisters. They weren’t huge fans of mine.

Disney bounding- Abby Grace PhotographyDisney bounding- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Thursday, friends!

  • Shalese - AHHHHH it’s time for me to schedule my trip to the world of HP! :) I LOVE that you found the perfect Cinderella dress . . . those sleeves are SO Cinderella!ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra {Heart Love Always} - Ahh!! I wanna go! I wanna go! I wanna go!! That is all!! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin Simpson - Ahh! I haven’t been to the new part of Harry Potter World yet! They totally went ALL OUT!! And do I see Mrs. Black in the window above you and Matt?! :DReplyCancel

  • Jeannie Mathews - Now you’ve done it. I’m going to have to read all of the Harry Potter books again. And go to Florida.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - the photos are great. Looks like you and Matt had a fun filled trip! You make a great Cinderella!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - Jose and I have always wanted to go to Spring Training too! Its definitely on our bucket list (but for the NY Mets! lol) and YESSS!! Isn’t the Harry Potter section amazing!?!? When we went through the brick into Diagon Alley, I cried! It was just so perfect and overwhelming. And I just LOVE you posing with the Evil stepsisters and Lady Tremaine! lol Too funny!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Brennan - I LOVE THIS POST!!! I can’t even express how much fun Dan and I had on that trip. It even got Dan enthusiastic about Harry Potter and he’s been all about watching the movies so he can pick out things he saw at the park. You two deserved this trip and your pictures capture it perfectly!! And that Cinderella dress is PERFECT! I love you Abby Squash :)ReplyCancel

Confession: I wasn’t planning to blog today, but I logged onto Facebook and saw the sweetheart Amanda Hedgepeth had blogged about Creative and I realized- holy cow! It’s THIS WEEKEND. I mean, I knew it was this weekend, but it hadn’t really sunk in yet.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Creative @ Heart is a two-day conference for creative small business owners. But it’s not just any conference. It’s not one that’s focused on “the cool kids” or merely those who are good at projecting an image of success, it’s one that sincerely seeks to authentically educate and encourage everyone who attends, no matter WHERE they are in their business. And I love that SO much!

Creative At Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

I also love that part of the heart at the center of the conference is to foster relationships among professionals! Natalie Franke wrote one of the best blogs I’ve ever read two weeks ago entitled Overcoming Comparison, and in that post she talked about the importance of “community over competition.” That notion is a huge part of C@H! Within the wedding industry, there’s a lot of borderline-cutthroat competition. And it’s the kind of thing that leaves you feeling even lonelier than you already did, being a small business of one. So I love that C@H provides an atmosphere that allows attendees to blow past the defensive, secret-keeping nature that so many in the industry feel like they need to maintain, and gets straight to the “how can we grow together?” idea. During Natalie’s talk, she summed it up perfectly with this sentiment:

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

I can’t wait for this weekend! I can’t wait to see old friends, to make new ones, to have authentic, raw conversations with people I’ve just met. Because I think there’s something really powerful in being new to the industry and hearing someone who’s been at it for several years say “it IS a struggle sometimes, and I DON’T have it all together, but the good news is that YOU don’t have to have it all together, either.”

Creative At Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

This round of C@H will be a little different for me, since I’ll be speaking to the group at large as well as serving on a panel. I’m really nervous, but I’m even more excited for the chance to share about concepts that have made such a huge difference in my business and life! If you’ll be there this weekend and I haven’t met you before, PLEASE come say hi- it would be such a joy to hug you!

  • Danielle Blocker - Abby, I’m so excited to meet you too! You are awesome and you’ll be amazing, I just know it! Looking forward to hearing what you have to share with us.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - can’t wait to see you!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field aka Mom - I wish I could be there to see you. I suppose the trip to Florida will do as a replacement. Will they be recording you? I’d love to hear you since I can’t see you!ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - You’re going to be amazing up there, Abby! You gotta report back to us after the conference!!ReplyCancel

  • Kat - yes. yes. yes. I AM SO EXCITED!!!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - I wish I was going – it sounds like an amazing conference! I hope to go one year!! Good luck speaking!! I know you will be great :)ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra {Heart Love Always} - Can’t wait to see you!! <3ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - Can’t wait to hug you!! It’s going to be quite a weekend!!ReplyCancel

Two weeks ago, I blogged about my Top 5 online resources for photographers- if you haven’t read that one, check it out here! Today, I thought it’d be helpful for some of y’all to go over my Top 5 software/programs. Every photographer is different and has a unique set of tools that helps them do their job in a way that only they can do, so here’s a look into my toolbox!

Top 5 Software/Program resources for photography business- Abby Grace

1. LightRoom5- I do all of my editing in LightRoom (LR)! Prior to discovering this wonderful, beautiful, time-saving goddess of a program, I was editing everything in PhotoShop. That means I was opening each individual image, editing it, saving it, closing it, then opening up the next one. Multiply that process by 150-600 images, depending on the event? It was taking me SIX WEEKS to turn around weddings. But when I switched to LR, the simple fact that I could edit one image and then copy + paste those edits to the image next to it? It saved me hours, days, really, of time spent in front of my computer.

2. BlogStomp- this is a great little app to help format images for your blog! I loooove this one! Similar to LR, prior to having BlogStomp, I was formatting all of my images-to-be-blogged within PhotoShop. It took me something like 2 hours the first time I did it. Then I discovered BlogStomp, and it took me a mere 10 minutes to format an entire wedding for the blog. Seriously- if you’re not already using this app, pony up the $49 and get it. It’s going to save you hours! (Read more HERE)

 Top 5 Software/Program resources for photography business- Abby Grace

3. Align- the BEST album design company out there! I needed to outsource my album design in a bad way, and after one trial run with Align I was hooked. Every time I place a new order with them, my decision to switch is reaffirmed. They do a phenomenal job with the design itself, and I love knowing that all the follow-up corrections that my couples request are taken care of by my Align designer Andrea as well. Worth every single penny! (Read more HERE)

4. Pixifi- studio management software that has decluttered my business in a big way. Prior to using Pixifi, I was still having my clients send in signed, paper contracts and signed, paper checks. It was slow, cumbersome, and not at all secure. Switching to Pixifi has made a world of difference in my client experience and allows me to serve my clients even better than before! This is a great one for more than just photographers- anyone who needs to keep track of client details, dates, contracts and payments? Pixifi is a great choice. (Read more HERE)

5. PASS- you guys already know I have a crush on this one. PASS has made it almost stupidly easy for me to get images to my clients. Rather than having to make a trip to the post office every time I finished a wedding, engagement or anniversary, and rather than having my clients wait the few days it takes to get a USB drive or DVD delivered, I can now send my couples their images as soon as they’ve finished uploading. This means I’m able to offer same-day delivery for photographs: the day I finish editing, I begin the upload, and once that upload completes, my couples have their images in hand. PASS has been amazing for simplifying, and has honestly become a point of marketing for me! (Read more HERE and HERE).

Top 5 Software/Program resources for photography business- Abby Grace

And for a bonus #6,

6. White House Custom Colour- I love their ROES system! It makes ordering prints for my anniversary couples super easy, since I can simply highlight an entire batch of images, drop them into the 5″x7″ window, and order a copy of every image with no more than a few clicks of the mouse. All of my portrait proofs are ordered through WHCC!

I’d love to hear about your favorites! What’s the BEST program in your toolkit?

  • Jean - love these photos! You are so talented!ReplyCancel

  • Laura Hernandez - This was a HUGE eye opener for us! We’ve been way behind on office management doing everything ourselves the old school paper way. Just signed up for PixiFi! Can’t wait to go paperless and de-stress waiting for the mailman. I told them you sent us. :)ReplyCancel

  • David Abel - Great post Abby! I love blogstomp, also SmartAlbums is great for album design if you don’t outsource.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Fike - I’m getting ready to try Pixifi myself! Super excited about “decluttering” my business, too. One thing I’ve long wondered about is PASS. I like to send my clients things in the mail, especially my pretty pink flash drives. But honestly, doing mail is so cumbersome…as you mentioned. Sometimes it takes me hours to put packages together…but I continue to do it because I know my clients like it, and I think there’s value in mail. Do you still send your clients something in the mail when their pictures are finished? A flash drive? A thank you note?? Sending them a link to an online gallery after they spend hundreds just doesn’t seem exciting…ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - i love love love this list! One of my fave programs that I started using last year was photo mechanic!! It makes it so much easier for me to cull images before I import them over to Lightroom!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Stephen - You don’t use PhotoMechanic to cull?ReplyCancel

Happy first Monday of Spring, sweet blog readers!! It snowed on the real first day of Spring last week here in Virginia, but then in true Commonwealth spirit, it was 60 degrees and sunny the following day. I myself am praying that the 60-and-sunny stuff sticks around, because as much as I love the beauty of snowfall, I think I’m ready to kiss that stuff goodbye until late November.

Last week was a crazy one! Remember how I promised to post vacation photos, and then didn’t? It’s because I got a super fun bout of the flu on Tuesday night. Did I mention it was SUPER fun? Because it totally was. Nothing but ginger ale, crackers, prescription-strength anti-nausea, and chicken broth for two days- my idea of a great time, amiright? In all honesty, I’m grateful it didn’t last longer. And I’m now seriously considering *thinking about* getting the flu shot next year. For those of you who know how scared I am of needles, this is a big step!

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

  • I get that posting diptychs (a side-by-side pairing of two photographs) on Instagram of the exact same image of yourself is a trendy thing to do with fashion bloggers, but EVERY TIME I see it, I assume it’s one of those “find the 10 differences!” games like you used to see in a Highlights magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. Am I alone in that?
  • The most dangerous area of Target: the office supplies section, and the home decor section. Y’all know I have, like, ZERO skills when it comes to decorating, which is why Target is such a volatile threat- everything’s already pre-coordinated! So I don’t NEED design skills, I just need to decide on approximately how many navy blue + white geometrical accent pillows we need for the living room. It’s becoming a real problem.
  • We finally hung our first photos of US this weekend! We’ve been homeowners for more than seven months now, but this is better than in the past: we were 1.5 years into marriage before I hung our first wedding photo. So I’m getting better!
  • My parents moved into their new home!! For my February APWW girls, they’ll know how exciting this is- my parents just bought a farmhouse that was built in 1870 (Dad calls it their “new old house”), and it’s my favorite house in the whole world. We’ll be shooting the portraits portion of all future A Practical Wedding Workshops dates there, because it’s too perfect NOT to photograph over and over! See what I mean??

A Practical Wedding Workshop for photographers- Abby Grace

Sigh. It looks like Green Gables. And my mom and I spent Saturday night talking away in their new living room, quoting Jane Austen and altogether loving where she and my Dad are in life right now.

You know what could be fun? Starting a weekly round-up of awesome posts from around the web that y’all might like to read! Let’s start off strong with two of my favorite photographers to follow-

  1. HERE is a post from Katelyn James, all about using off-camera flash to shoot in barns! I don’t photograph barn weddings anymore, but there’s a lot of awesome content in this one post alone that absolutely applies to shooting in other types of venues!
  2. And then HERE is a post from J&M announcing their new lighting guide that they’ll be selling! Pretty much everything I learned at the beginning, when it comes to off-camera flash, came at the generous knowledge of J&M. Their Lighting Intensive is such a good workshop, and this ebook is the perfect solution for someone who may not be able to make the in-person day of learning!
  3. Hey look. My work is on Buzzfeed again! Check out THIS article on 25 Harry Potter wedding ideas!

Happy Monday, dearies! Enjoy some floral eye candy :).

A Practical Wedding Workshop for photographers- Abby Grace

  • Sydni Jackson - Ooh, I love your new “Leave a note” button. My in-laws have an 18th century farm house in Richmond, it’s so fun to visit! I hope they still have it by the time we have kids, I would love for my future kids to get to experience it. :) Also, you should totally print those “catch/keeper” signs from the buzzfeed article!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - i am also glad to see Spring appear. Itvseemed like such a long winter. Looking forward to seeing you soon!ReplyCancel

  • Tuesday Mash-Up » Modern International Wedding Photographer - […] all about Creative anyways… sorry about that. But now it’s time for link love! Remember last week how I said I wanted to start sharing posts from around the web that I think y’all might […]ReplyCancel