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Hope- a sunrise fashion portrait shoot in Reston

We met on the first day of the spring semester in a digital photography + communication class. I can’t remember what was said, just that I liked her hair and her sharp personality. Hope is a firecracker, a go-getter, charismatic to the core, one of those people that make you wonder how you hadn’t met before. Her sense of style is impeccable and refreshing, and it was absolutely no surprise at all to me when I learned that she’s now an independent stylist in New York City. When Hope emailed me about images for her new website, I jumped a the chance to spend the morning with her! And sure enough, after an hour of shooting, we then proceeded to spend an hour and a half catching up over coffee, and I’m fairly certain I spent most of that time laughing.

Not to go all Alicia Keyes on you guys, but this girl is on FIRE. Friends, meet Hope C. White; fashionista, stylist, and all-around BA mammer jammer.

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Jean - March 4, 2014 - 7:25 pm

Beautiful lady, beautiful photos! Great job!

Rebekah Carter - March 4, 2014 - 4:22 pm

I’m with you: I love her hair & her gorgeous smile! Also that black dress & the earrings she’s wearing w/ that are just fabulous.

Michael & Katelyn- a Santa Barbara, California anniversary session

You’ve heard the saying “a cobbler’s children never have shoes,” right? The same can be said for photographers. How often is it that we spend our days photographing other people’s love stories, but completely forget to document our own? See, it’s not just the photos that we need- it’s that uninterrupted, unadulterated time together, holding onto your husband or wife, falling in love all over again. I want, when you look back on these images, to not only admire the photograph for being a beautiful image, but to be taken back to how you felt during that moment in time.

In case you’re not familiar with them, Michael & Katelyn are the husband and wife team behind Katelyn James Photography. After having the chance to get to know both of them over the past couple of years, I’ve come to love them both as friends just as much as I respect them for their work! Fortunately for me, they had space in their calendar during UNITED to slip out onto the Santa Barbara beach for portraits. And despite the chill in the air and the rain coming down, we managed to capture their love just as it is: warm, inviting, and steadfast.

Michael & Katelyn, thank you for being the incredible people that you are. I love you both, and I’m so, so honored to call you friends!

Santa Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

Santa Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

Santa Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography

Santa Barbara anniversary session- Abby Grace Photography


[…] the opportunity to photograph an anniversary session with THIS gorgeous […]

Kathryn Grace - March 11, 2014 - 4:15 pm

Fabulous! I love Katelyn and her work, and it’s so fun to see her on the other side of the lens. Beautiful shots!!

Rici - March 9, 2014 - 3:27 pm

These are soooo beautiful! How great to see these two in front of your lens and through your eyes! Love them all! Great posing on the life-guard steps!
~ Saluti.

ashley barnett - March 6, 2014 - 10:35 am

You did SUCH an incredible job on these Abby! I love how quiet and peaceful they are – I feel like I always see Katelyn and Michael so bubbly and smiling and I love that these are a little quieter. So so awesome – (and for real, please come take our picture sometime…I want these hahaha!)

Shalese - March 3, 2014 - 3:25 pm

You gave these cobbler’s kids some REALLY pretty shoes. :)

Kristen Duffy - March 1, 2014 - 11:31 pm

Abby these are beautiful! And I’m impressed that you found a lifeguard stand to match both of them :-)

Deborah Zoe - March 1, 2014 - 8:52 am

Love these Abby:)! Hope you had an amazing time in Cali!!

rosa - March 1, 2014 - 2:10 am

Speachless… these are MORE than beautiful!!! Seriously, if you are ever in SF we better get in front of your lens :)

katelyn james - March 1, 2014 - 1:21 am

Abby!!! We love these!! Thank you for taking the time to do these for us!! You’re a sweetheart and we love ya!!!

Tiffany Heidenthal - February 28, 2014 - 7:42 pm

Abby! Your style is so lovely. Soft, quiet moments. So sweet and perfect.

Sarah Bradshaw - February 28, 2014 - 4:09 pm

You’ve captured Michael & Katelyn in truer fashion than I’ve ever seen them. They are such a solid, steadfast couple, and their warmth just radiates from these pictures. I adore them, not just because they’re good photos, but because you’ve captured their true essence. Well done.

Emilia Jane - February 28, 2014 - 3:51 pm

So beautiful!

Liz and Ryan - February 28, 2014 - 3:24 pm

These are BEAUTIFUL Abby!! ;) You are so talented! ;) Sending you big hugs!

ashley link - February 28, 2014 - 1:48 pm

ummm these are amazing! so classic and beautiful! they will love these forever! and i love how they are always matching their brand! haha. too cool! great job, abby! :)

jamie - February 28, 2014 - 1:41 pm

Abby…this was so kind of you to think to ask them to photograph them. you did a lovely job capturing them and their love! beautiful work!

Elizabeth - February 28, 2014 - 1:30 pm

Oh my word, these pictures are amazing!!! Katelyn and Michael are such an adorable couple, and these pictures are just stunning!

Terri Baskin - February 28, 2014 - 1:22 pm

Breathtaking!!! So romantic, so classy, so beautiful!

Faith - February 28, 2014 - 12:49 pm

Ohhhh these are amazing! The colors are perfect! :)

Laura - February 28, 2014 - 12:39 pm

These are amazing!! I love your work!!!!! :)

Mary - February 28, 2014 - 12:34 pm

BEAUTIFUL! I l-o-v-e love Katelyn’s shirt!

shelley Hohe - February 28, 2014 - 12:27 pm

These photos are stunning. That’s it I hope I can hire you next year to take my family photos here. These colors would match the greens and blues in my business perfectly…and I really need a new family photo for my about me page :)

Annetta - February 28, 2014 - 12:11 pm

Great job Abby!! Your photos are gorgeous. Helps that Katelyn and Michael are too. You both look fabulous!

Lauren Swann - February 28, 2014 - 11:57 am

Oh Abby!! These are so good!!! Good work, friend!!! Katelyn and Michael, y’all look awesome!!

Anna K. - February 28, 2014 - 11:54 am

These are BEAUTIFUL!!!

Valerie Duvick - February 28, 2014 - 11:46 am

What beautiful images of a truly beautiful couple inside and out! So glad you gave them such a gift, they deserve it! :)

Kat - February 28, 2014 - 11:37 am


Callie - February 28, 2014 - 11:30 am

LOVE!!!!!! So amazing :)

Claire McA - February 28, 2014 - 11:25 am

Stunning Abby! Katelyn & Michael look gorgeous! The colours are perfect!

Lindsay - February 28, 2014 - 11:20 am

Gorgeous Abby!!! As always!!

Sunshine, sand, and sweet relaxation.

It’s been pretty quiet over here on the blog so far this week, and that’s been intentional. This California sunshine, the incredible community of photographers, and the chance to learn from some of the BEST in the industry is so delightful that I’m spending every possible moment soaking it all in, and as little time as possible behind my computer this week.  I’ve only picked up my camera twice this time around, vs. last year when I spent the week with my mk3 attached to my hand and it’s been so fulfilling! It’s similar to last week’s post about vacation photos- experiencing UNITED for what it is, instead of viewing it through the filter of “what can I shoot for my next blog post?”

Yesterday I stepped out of a session to grab something from my room when I spied miss Emily modeling for a few photographers. Emily was a source of inspiration for me last year so I immediately grabbed my camera and asked to join in on the fun. I fought the urge to swoon, she looked so beautiful in that blush pink wedding gown.

Santa Barbara wedding photographer

Dangit, California. The light here is so beautiful all of the time!

Susanne Ashby - February 27, 2014 - 3:49 pm

This is gorgeous! It was fun meeting you this week! When I walked into the lobby on Sunday, I was feeling pretty intimidated (scared!!) and you were the first person to introduce yourself and give me a hug. Thank you for being so friendly!!

Jean - February 26, 2014 - 2:13 pm

Gorgeous photo, Abby!

Tiffany Heidenthal - February 26, 2014 - 1:24 pm

Beautiful! Wish I was there with you guys :)

Peace out, Reston!

I apologize in advance for this super hurried post- I’m running around with my hair on fire today, trying to get everything ready for my trip to Santa Barbara tomorrow. UNITED 2014 starts on Sunday and I’m SO excited to be overwhelmed again. Hugs, smiles, a lot of laughs, and a ton of learning. It’s going to be amazing.

Also, I just found out yesterday that I’ll be going to WPPI this year, too! So if you’ll be at either UNITED or WPPI, please make sure to say hi- I’d love to see you! Now, I’m off for a Connection Mentoring session, one last stop at the JCrew outlet, and then back home to pack like a mad woman. This year, in an effort to MINIMIZE, I made the commitment to limiting any air travel to ONE carry-on and a personal item- no checked bags for me in 2014. That’ll be really interesting when I pack for a nearly two-week stint in Europe next month, but I’m sure I can make it work!

To the rest of you who are gearing up for either Santa Barbara or Vegas, happy packing! I cannot WAIT to see you all!!


Jessica - February 21, 2014 - 12:03 pm

Yea Abby! See you soon friend…just posted a photo from this shoot on my blog today too, was such a great trip!!

paulina - February 21, 2014 - 10:51 am

yay!! have fun at united abby! and maybe we’ll run into each other at WPPI! it’s my first year and i’m so excited =). safe travels!!

Jean - February 21, 2014 - 9:19 am

Good luck with the packing! Have a great trip and enjoy.

Emilia Jane - February 21, 2014 - 8:54 am

See you in the sunshine!!! <3

Lessons Learned: how to photograph your next vacation

We’ve all done it: you go on an incredible getaway, you want to capture EVERY LITTLE DETAIL of every single thing you see and every person you meet along the way. And then you get home and find yourself uploading 1,000+ images to your computer, and you’re so overwhelmed that you never even get around to choosing a batch of favorites to print and frame or immortalize in an album. Am I correct? You’ve done this? I thought so. Because that’s exactly how I used to shoot.

What I learned from years of over-shooting, and thus NEVER printing my work, is this: I was actually doing myself a disservice by taking as many photos as I did. There’s a difference between REMEMBERING a vacation, recalling how you felt, things you saw, conversations you had, and just reliving through your photos. Photos are meant to help us remember, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes, we get so caught up in taking photos that we forget to LIVE through an experience! It’s the same mentality that’s behind the unplugged wedding movement- we’re so focused on our technology that we’re missing out on life. I don’t want this to happen ever, but especially on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, so here my favorite points when it comes to taking great travel photos:

Photographing your next vacation- Abby Grace Photography

1) Take your camera OFF of multi-shot mode. Professional photographers, I’m looking at you. How many times have you gone to take a photo of something beautiful, and instead of taking 1-2 frames, you fire off 5-7? It makes culling (sorting through) those images later on that much more of a bother, and creates another stumbling block between your photos and getting them printed!

2) Don’t take photographs of every single thing you see. The first time I visited London, I was so enamored with the variety of pub names that I thought it would be fun to take a photo of every pub we passed by. If you’ve never been to London, you should know that there are likely to be at least three pubs on any given street, meaning I spent the entire first day wandering through with a camera stuck to my face and I totally missed the EXPERIENCE of just being in London that day. And did I ever do anything with those pub photos? Nope.

3) Delete duds and outtakes as you go. This makes for fewer images to sort through when you finally get home, which will hopefully make it less of a daunting task and more of a joy!

Photographing your next vacation- Abby Grace Photography

4) Don’t be afraid to use your iPhone! There were plenty of sights in London during our most recent trip that I wanted to share with friends but didn’t necessarily want to spend a frame of film on. So I took a few shots on my iPhone and published them to Instagram, and that was that. There are companies like Artifact Uprising that do a superb job of getting Instagrams into albums, so it’s not like you’ll never be able those photos in print.

5) Get some sort of non-touristy, non-obvious camera bag. I typically bring one of my Kelly Moore bags with me so that if I want to stash my camera away, it just looks like an ordinary purse. Anything that says “Canon,’ “Nikon,” “Sony,” etc. is just making you a target to pickpockets and thieves, which can be a bigger problem when you’re in a foreign country and are up against a language barrier as well.

Photographing your next vacation- Abby Grace Photography

6) Consider shooting film instead :). I know that’s not an option for everyone (I’m not suggesting you ditch your Nikon D700 for a 27-shot disposable Kodak), but if you have a film DSLR and know how to use it, consider taking that along. I know that when I’m in a beautiful location and have my 5dmk3, there’s a large portion of my brain that says “I can’t WAIT to show these off on my blog!” While there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t want to shoot for my blog. I want to shoot for ME, for Matt, and for the stories we’ll one day tell our kids. Switching to film for all of my travel work has been so refreshing- I absolutely treasure our images from our trip last summer, and it’s because I wasn’t shooting for anything other than the joy of capturing something beautiful or interesting.

Shooting film also means I end up with substantially fewer images, with each of those images being intentional (since every click of my shutter costs about $2.00 with film costs and lab fees), so I’m much less tempted to take a photo of something that isn’t significant or truly incredible. Just to put things in perspective: I’ve been married for three years and haven’t made my wedding album yet from the 700+ images we received, but within 3 weeks of arriving home from Europe, I’d designed and ordered an album from the 250ish film scans I received back from the lab.

7) Don’t forget to ask someone to take your picture! Matt and I have four iPhone self-portraits, one photo taken in a road reflective mirror thing, and three images taken by our dear friend Angie. The ones from Angie are my favorites!

8) Make sure to print those puppies. I don’t care if that’s in the form of MPix, ShutterFly, or even (shudder) Target- just get those photos off your computer and into your hands.

Photographing your next vacation- Abby Grace Photography


Sher - March 26, 2014 - 3:09 pm

travel photography is my absolute favorite. i love how easy artifact uprising makes it to share iphone photos!

Morgan Leigh - March 4, 2014 - 10:11 am

Thank you so much for your advice! Ever since I started my blog, I haven’t taken a snapshot. Almost every image that has been taken has been “for my blog.” This post really helped me change my perspective on that! Thank you so much!! (Also, love all the images, and the cute sheep!!!)

Urška Majer - February 20, 2014 - 2:56 am

I so know what you mean! We took our film dslr last year on our roadtrip and it was amazing :)

Bethany - February 19, 2014 - 11:58 am

I love this post though I’m on the opposite end because I rarely take pictures on vacation. I’m usually too caught up in whatever is going on that my camera never makes it out of my bag :-/

Jean - February 19, 2014 - 11:16 am

I love these photos and you have some great advice! Makes me want to travel with you.

Becca B - February 19, 2014 - 10:45 am

I so needed to read this! I have spent the past month wading through images from my husband and I’s anniversary trip… the task feels more daunting than enjoyable and that’s totally not how remembering a vacation should be. I need to focus on capturing memories, not documenting every. single. moment. Hah! Thanks for the tips!

Allison Mannella - February 19, 2014 - 10:36 am

Thank you so much for sharing such great advice and reminders! I am taking a trip soon and debating between film and digital, so this was perfectly timed! How did you find going through airport security with film?

Susan - February 19, 2014 - 9:55 am

You’re pictures are absolutely stunning! You are so gifted!! I loved all of these tips as well.

Lindsay - February 19, 2014 - 9:28 am

LOVE this Abby!!! I completely agree… oh, and I’m swooning over those images!