They’ve known each other for a long, long time- first memories include walking to math class together in sixth grade and awkward, stilted conversation. You know, that stage when guys and girls first start actually interacting instead of just pushing each other over on the playground? It didn’t take very long to take a liking to one another, and as much as you can date when you’re in sixth grade, they dated. There was a break-up at one point, but they eventually came back together- “I love him, and I’m going to marry him,” she remembers telling a friend on the way to soccer practice, when she was only 16 or 17!

They eventually parted ways in high school, choosing to pursue different adventures on their own, but two months into freshman year are Virginia Tech, sparks flew again. And this time, it was for real- “I guess maybe it’s weird to tell someone, an hour into dating, that you love them.” But when your history starts as far back as 6th grade math class? I don’t think there’s anything weird about it at all. When you know, you justknow!

Lee & Danielle, I had so much fun with you both in Blacksburg! Having the chance to capture you all on the campus where you finally realized you were made for one another, it was perfect. I’m so grateful to be the one photographing your Fairfax, Virginia wedding next year- it’s going to be a STUNNER!

*In case you think Danielle looks familiar, you’re right! Her sister Lindsay was one of my 2014 brides, and I met Danielle at Lindsay & Jason‘s black tie Georgetown wedding last summer! Sigh. I love my couples so dang much.*

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If you’ve been hanging around the blog for a while, you might remember THIS post from spring of 2013! Well, today’s post is a follow-up to that one. After spending this past week shooting in DC during one of the most crowded times the city sees all year, I realized there’s a trick I employ during almost every session that I’ve never mentioned before on the blog!

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

Being a city-lover means I’m used to crowds. With shooting in New York + DC as often as I do, you just have to be comfortable with large groups of people! My palms used to sweat, literally sweat, at the thought of photographing a couple in a location that’s frequently clogged with traffic, but it doesn’t phase me much anymore. Over the past five years I’ve learned a few tricks to take the heat off when my couple wants a location that could be congested with pedestrians. Make sure you check out Part 1 first, since this is a follow-up!

So, here are my secrets to getting those tourist-free shots:

1) Wait. Seriously- that’s the biggest component. Have your camera settings ready, and go ahead and direct your couple where/how to stand, but let them know you’re waiting for tourists to pass so they’re not standing in an intimate embrace for an unspecified amount of time. As soon as the background clears, tell your couple “it’s go time!” and shoot, shoot, shoot!

2) Compose your shot so that the couple’s bodies are blocking tourists/photobombers. Super simple, and all it requires is a bit of shuffling your feet!

This is what it looked like at 6:45am at the Tidal Basin this past weekend. The view from where I stood…

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

And what was coming and going behind my back.

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

But THIS was the final product. You’d never know by looking at this image how crowded it was that morning!

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

Another example of strategic composition. I use this trick all the time in New York!

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

3) Rise early. If you’re shooting in a location that’s busy 24/7 (like Time Square), it’s not really going to matter what time you get there- it’s perpetually insane over there. But if it’s a place that might be less crazy at sunrise, then shoot at sunrise. That my one condition for cherry blossom shoots- my couple has to be willing to shoot at dawn. I try to schedule my New York City shoots early in the morning as well, but when that’s not possible, I follow steps 1 & 2!

And if all that fails, as Tim Gunn says,

4) Make it work. Make those tourists a part of your story! Sometimes crowds are inevitable, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! Like this :).

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

How to photograph in a crowded place- Abby Grace Photography

I hope that was helpful! And if you guys have any additional tricks up your sleeve, I want to hear about them!

  • Janelle C - You are AWESOME Abby! Great post!ReplyCancel

  • jean - wow, you have really mastered this technique . Bravo! Love you! And these photos are beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Erin Schrad - I recognize those cuties under the blossoms! Looking good, Hoyts!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Mitchell - Totally agree on sunrise shoots! We shot on the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise during a weekend shoot and had the ENTIRE BRIDGE to ourselves – it was awesome! And my favorite thing about the cherry blossoms is the runners who get annoyed with all of the people walking around- like HELLO maybe you should choose a different path for a couple of weeks LOL.ReplyCancel

Happy happy Monday, my friends! It’s a GORGEOUS spring day outside- all the trees in northern Virginia are in bloom, and I’m having to exercise serious restraint not to run around singing at the top of my lungs. I mean, I do that pretty much all the time in my own house, but it’s doing so outside that I try to avoid.

So two years ago, I shot down by the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin, and swore I would never ever ever do it again- we were there on the Saturday of the Cherry Blossoms Festival, and as much as I love people, it was completely overwhelming. There must have been 25-50,000 people there, and getting any sort of clear photographs was out of the question. So I said I’d never shoot during the cherry blossoms again, at least not at the Tidal Basin.

Which goes to prove that the most stubborn of us have to eat their words sometimes! The cherry blossoms were at peak bloom this past weekend, and I shot down at the Tidal Basin on both Friday and Saturday mornings. And though it was a bit crazy with all the tourists we had to dodge, it was SO worth it. See what I mean??

DC cherry blossoms engagement session

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

  • Fresh flowers make a house feel more like a home. Seriously- if fresh tulips are available at Whole Foods, I’m going to buy them. They brighten up a room so much!
  • Ballerinas + cherry blossoms = heaven. HEA. VEN. See below :).
  • Know what’s not heaven? DC traffic. I arrived for my ballerina shoot with Jane a full 40 minutes before we were due to meet, and spent 30 minutes circling around Constitution Ave. looking for a spot. I finally gave up, headed to the Tidal Basin, found a spot, and then caught a cab over to meet Jane. Gah! Next time, remind me to just take the metro next time!
  • I think Instagram might be taking over my life, and we may need to take a break for a hot sec. We were at Wegmans this past Saturday and I picked out a pretty little cookie from their bakery, and know how I chose which one I wanted? By color, according to which one would look the most cohesive with my Insta feed. WHO DOES THAT?
  • And then, I saved that cookie until Sunday, because the natural light had already faded by the time we got home on Saturday night. Again, who does that??

cherry blossom ballerina photo- Abby Grace Photography

Oh! And photographer friends: in case you haven’t already purchased Justin & Mary’s Lighting Guide, YOU NEED TO. I was lucky enough to be one of a few who got to read the guide before it went on sale, and it’s so, so good. I’ve learned from J&M more times than I can count and had (foolishly) assumed I probably knew everything they teach about lighting. I was so wrong! The guide is a wealth of information about the metrics, science, and practical application of lighting, from the most simple to the more mature. I can’t wait to put into practice everything I’m learning as I read through the Lighting Guide!

Do yourself a favor and hop over HERE and grab your copy- you will be SO glad you did!

  • Mary Marantz - Ahhhhh LOVE this!! And love you!!! Thank you SOOO much for sharing the guide!!


  • Karen Field aka Mom - Seriously beautiful shots! Perhaps you should do an album of Cherry Blossom photos?ReplyCancel

  • Jean - about the Instagram thing, you are an artist who sees art in the most mundane things. Where you see a beautiful photo, I might see a beautiful quilt in those colors. Don’t fight those urges. That’s what makes you a great photographer? Your cherry blossom photos are gorgeous. Keep up the good work !ReplyCancel

  • Kelley - it’s called DIFTI: did it for the Instagram – I think we’re all guilty of it! :)ReplyCancel

I hate selling. I HATE it. The feeling of trying to convince someone to part with their money, it always leaves me feeling like an oily, used car salesman.

But there’s a difference between “selling” and simply believing in the value of a product, service, etc. enough that other people can’t help but see its value too. It’s not about manipulating, it’s not about coercion, it’s about living honestly. And really, simplifying. Because when my job is to show my clients how much I care, vs. trying to convince them to buy something they don’t believe they need, it makes life a lot more simple.

Which bring me to PASS! I’ve already written about my crush on this software/app here & here, and today we’re back again with one of their newer updates! PASS recently started offering canvases, but because I’d never actually ordered one from them, I wasn’t comfortable recommending that my couples order from them because I couldn’t guarantee the product, never having actually seen a canvas that was ordered from PASS. I’m a firm believer in knowing what it is you’re recommending to other people!

I’m so glad to say that I now 100% recommend these canvases, though! I ordered my first canvas through PASS a few weeks ago and am THRILLED with the result. Seriously, guys- these canvases are gorgeous! Here’s what I love so much about the one I ordered:

Canvas ordering from PASS photo sharing system- Abby Grace Photography

  1. The color is on point. It’s perfect!
  2. The packaging was done really well- the canvas was safe during shipping, protecting from any bumps or drops that may have been incurred by FedEx.
  3. It’s printed on quality material. Buy a canvas from a lower-quality supplier, and you’ll notice the canvas material itself is thin and cheap. But the one I ordered has weight to it- you can just feel that it’s a better product!
  4. I really love that it has those clear little plastic thingies on the back to help keep the corners of the canvas from scratching or peeling due to contact with an abrasive wall!
  5. Not necessarily related to the product itself, but I like that it shipped quickly. It was less than a week from the time I ordered to the time I received my canvas.

Canvases are expensive, which is why clients so often end up turning to cheaper avenues like Groupon deals or *shudder* CVS. But a cheap canvas is going to look cheap, and you’ll just end up throwing it out or replacing it with a more expensive version in a couple of years. So I say, do the thing right from the beginning, so that you can furnish your home with gorgeous pieces that will still be there for your children to enjoy!

Canvas ordering from PASS photo sharing system- Abby Grace Photography

Also? Super easy to hang. I simply put two small nails into the wall, and boom. It’s ready to go!

Photographers- one thing to note, I add my own border stretches in PhotoShop to avoid having the image cropped, since stretched wrapping isn’t an available option. Katie Nesbitt was the one who pointed me to this tutorial!

  • Lisa S. - I have no idea if my beautiful canvases from you are PASS or not, but they’re gorgeous and we get compliments on them CONSTANTLY! So I can definitely endorse your taste in canvas prints :)ReplyCancel

Something you, dear reader, need to know about me: I hate cliché, and I hate “just fluff.” Just Fluff is only good in two scenarios: 1) on a peanut butter sandwich, and 2) stuffed into a down comforter. Just Fluff has no place at a conference or workshop, and I promise to you that if you ever come learn from me? I’ll give you anything but Just Fluff.

Because Just Fluff pumps you full of the hot air of inspiration, which leaves you floating just long enough for you to return home, sit down at your computer, and realize “holy cow, there wasn’t actually anything from that conference that I can sit down and DO right now.” You guys know what I’m talking about; we’ve all heard that super inspirational talk about “follow your dreams! Go where your heart leads you!” Esoteric, vague ideals and catchy quotes that we cling to as gospel, because it makes you FEEL good when someone tells you “you can do anything you set your mind to.” But when all you get is Just Fluff, and there’s no peanut butter served with it to give you protein, something to stick to your ribs? That’s when we have a problem.

Creative at Heart Conference- Natalie Franke Photography

Because “follow your dreams” is all good and well until you realize that following your dreams requires direction, and no one’s even told you which road to start on! I-95 or I-81? Or should I start with 395 inside the Beltway? Inspiration is wonderfully necessary for any creative, but when you don’t have any sort of real-life application or direction, Just Fluff ends up leaving you emptier than before. Like when you devour a spoonful or three of marshmallow fluff, and 20 minutes later? You’re hungry again. But dip that spoon into the Peter Pan PB jar first and comBINE it with marshmallow fluff? Magic!

Creative at Heart Conference

THIS is why I love Creative At Heart. Because it combines the peanut butter AND the marshmallow spread. You get the nitty gritty inspiration along with the broader, more esoteric topics- Krista’s talk on strengthening your SEO is followed by Katelyn’s presentation on how community matters. Bonnie’s talk on building a brand based on your Why takes place in the morning, and then that afternoon we heard from Jessica on finding your niche, complete with a three-page worksheet to walk you through the process. Alexandra gave some seriously amazing advice on conquering your inbox (which many of the attendees went home and implemented right away!), and Mary spoke on crafting an experience for your clients through gifting.

Peanut butter, then marshmallow spread. PB + marshmallow. Over and over.

This was my second time at Creative, and I left even MORE inspired than the first time! I love that this conference has become more than “just a conference”- it’s a movement. It’s bigger than Kat, the founder and #GIRLBOSS, it’s bigger than any of the speakers, it’s bigger than everyone in attendance. I’m so in love with being a part of this movement, because I know that movements result in change. And if last week was any indication, there’s going to be some beautiful change happening in the creative world over the next few years.

Creative At Heart Conference- AManda Hedgepeth Photography

I had the honor of speaking at this most recent round of Creative, and guys, it was INCREDIBLE. Not because I got to stand up at the front of a room and command the undivided attention of nearly 100 creative small business owners, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it was pretty cool. No, it was incredible because I could feel God using me, goofy, tulle skirt-clad me, to affect change in some of these women’s lives. There aren’t words to describe how it felt to be approached by Loren after my talk on vision, tears streaming down her face, and hearing that she finally understood what it was her business was missing. It felt good because I knew that it wasn’t about me- it was about sharing my heart with the hopes that OTHERS can go on to create more meaningful work, form more intimate relationships, and produce art and services that make a difference in the lives of their clients.

Creative At Heart Conference- AManda Hedgepeth Photography

I could go on and on and on, but to sum things up, Creative is amazing. And if you’re a creative small business owner, you need to be there. Here are a few of my favorite highlights from #creativeatheartround2!

  • Seeing those “aha!” moments dawn on everyone. And I mean everyone!
  • Praying with Amanda, Kat & Emily after Day 1. Seriously, that was amazing.
  • Having my Granny & Pawpaw in the room for my talk. I knew that even if everyone else thought my slot was a bore, my grandparents would be there cheering for me!
  • …and seeing how quick the speakers and conference staff were to offer to serve my grandparents. Seriously, friends- you have no idea how much that blessed me!
  • Sitting next to Mary during the pre-conference dinner, and then again at a post-conference dinner, and hearing how God’s been moving in her and Justin’s lives.
  • Brainstorming sessions with Natalie Franke that left my head spinning in the absolute best way possible. There are SO many cool things coming to Abby Grace education, and I’m PUMPED!
  • Sharing goals with Lauren of Elle & Co. This girl is on FIRE with her blog- she’s such a wealth of knowledge!
  • Late Nigh Treat, and having the chance to connect one on one with attendees- I loved hearing what sort of things they’re up to, learning who they are and what their visions for business are!
  • Sitting with Kelsey of Tart & Co. at lunch on Day 2, chatting over the DC wedding industry and how our brides are different than other areas in Virginia.
  • Talking with Annmarie, Natalie, Mary and Ashley at dinner, everything from babies to Riesling to Jesus
  • Cards Against Humanity at midnight with Andrew, J&M, and Jeremy + Ashley. So. much. inappropriate. laughter.
  • Twinning on Day 1 with Anna Bowser, and then again on Day 2 with my adorable roomie Jessica!
  • Having Mary lead me out of the room right before my talk to pray for me. Guys, this was probably one of the coolest part of the entire weekend. Mary, you’ll never know how much that meant to me!

This is my favorite photo from the weekend. It’s my Pawpaw jokingly chastising me for accidentally cussing during my presentation :).

Creative At Heart Conference- AManda Hedgepeth Photography

*iPhone shots by… I can’t remember. I’m sorry. Professional photos above by Amanda Hedgepeth!*


  • Jean - how cool it was to be there for your presentation, and the picture of your pawpaw is priceless. Thanks to the person who captured that moment! What a joy it has been to watch our granddaughter grow into such a fine young woman and see her sharing her gifts with her peers. Abby we are beyond proud of you. Love you!ReplyCancel

  • Mia Bjerring - This post just reaffirmed that I totally want to come to this amazing conference, even though I’m only in the place of my life where photography is my passion and not yet a small business. But everything you said just made me want to go and to learn and to connect with other like-minded people. it truly sounds like such an amazing place to be! And just to have fun and meet you and all the other amazing creatives there!
    So glad you had an amazing time, and I hope your speech went great!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Veronee - Forever thankful for the prayer session! ;) I enjoyed reading this — you describe it wonderfully!! Love you Abby!! xoReplyCancel

  • Ashley Mitchell - I’m SO GLAD Amanda got that shot of your Pawpaw!!! I saw that happen at the back of the room and was hoping she snagged that! :) And Cards Against Humanity was a highlight for me too lady-friend!! So much fun!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - Hahaha, the picture of your grandfather is hilarious!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Wells - I’m dying to attend! I would love the chance to connect with all my favorite photogs!ReplyCancel