New York City anniversary photographers | Justin & Mary

Dear Matt,

Can you believe it was six years ago that we officially became a couple? I’ll never forget sitting in that movie theater with you, surrounded by 20 or so of our fellow Summer Project-ers, waiting for Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince to start at midnight. I’d told you you weren’t allowed to sit next to me, because I didn’t want to be distracted by your presence during the movie. And then our friend Ashley Woolwine (praise the Lord for A-Dub!) asked if we were dating. I looked at you, you looked at me, I cocked my head, and said “Yeah, I think we are!” And that was it.

You pulled me out of the theater on the pretense of getting a bag of popcorn before the movie started to make sure I was serious, and once we’d established we were now boyfriend and girlfriend, you took my hand and smiled that secret, slightly embarrassed grin of yours. I remember thrilling, standing in line in that New Hampshire movie theater, your warm hand holding mine; something was different this time. I’d dated a lot, and I’d been hesitant about dating you because I knew you were different- I didn’t want to mess things up by pushing for something before its time.

But that July 14th, standing in line at 11:15pm with the aroma of popcorn in the air, my hand feeling small in yours, it just felt right; I think it’s because it was the beginning of something far more epic than I think you or I had dared to imagine.

Matt Springmann, it is my joy and privilege to still be dating you after six years together.


perfect image by Justin & Mary

  • Natalie - I love this. Oh, how I love this.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Love your love story. It was fun watching you and then meeting Matt and seeing right away that you two were meant for each other. Love you both.ReplyCancel

  • Dad - I remember ALL the other “boys” and this one was the first one I was truly comfortable with giving up my precious daughter to. It warms my heart to hear that story and continues to confirm that the Lord is the one who builds the house. Thank you Matt, you are the perfect son in law!ReplyCancel

  • Terri Baskin - Oh Abby!!!! This is a new favorite post for me!!! I love it!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Bradshaw - I love this so much more than I can say. xoxoxoxoReplyCancel

  • Karen Field aka Mom - Your father said it best!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - What a beautiful story! :)ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah - I have a somewhat similar story with my husband. When we were in middle school (yes!), he had asked me to the 8th grade dance & I’d said yes (this was after I’d very uncharacteristically told him completely out of the blue that I’d go with him to the dance if we were interested) . . . So we’d started spending more time together in the mornings while we waited for class to start. On one of those mornings, a girl from my gym class walked up to us & asked if we were dating. We turned & looked at each other & just as I was about to say no, he said yes. And I’ve never forgotten how excited I was to hear him say that. And we’ve been together ever since (13 years total now, about to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary in a few weeks)! Crazy, right?!ReplyCancel

Can you believe we’ve been doing Monday Mash-Ups for more than three years now? There’ve been so many occasions when I’ve considered scrapping the series, but something always holds me back. Maybe it’s because it’s a way to keep friends, family and blog readers up to date with what’s going on in our lives, or maybe because it’s an easy post to start the week out with. Either way, I’m glad it’s still around!

This past weekend we headed down to the Peaks of Otter to celebrate my Pawpaw’s 75th birthday- it was a ton of fun! We went hiking, an activity I’ve staunchly refused to participate in since childhood, and I liked it. I think it’s because of the company, but either way, I’ll do my best to keep from completely writing it off in the future. And then we did another “new” thing yesterday- Matt & I played softball! We joined an adult softball league this summer and after 6 weeks of practice, yesterday was the first time I could actually make it. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible. My shoulder’s a bit sore this morning, but after getting over the initial fear of “dear-God-please-don’t-let-them-throw-the-ball-my-way” things went pretty smoothly. For the most part. If nothing else, I’ve watched enough Nationals baseball over the year to make it look like I know what I’m doing.

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

  • Park rangers are huge liars. We saw one on the way up the mountain and, panting, asked how far to the top? “Oh, just a couple hundred yards further!” LIES. It took another 30 minutes to reach the peak.
  • Or maybe we were just really, really slow, and it actually took us 30 minutes to climb 200 yards…
  • I’m pretty sure Lily is just a crotchety old man in a 35-lb Corgi/German Shepherd mix’s body. This weekend we left her with a couple of sweet friends who have a 15-week old lab mix puppy, and their report was that Lily voluntarily spent most of the time in her crate to avoid the puppy energy.
  • If you’re looking to make something summery and refreshing, I’ve been sipping on this over the last week. SO GOOD, and so easy!
  • We’re starting to near the end of the #50daysinParis series over on Insta, and there’s a big announcement coming at the end of it! Make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter, because our newsletter community will be the FIRST to hear what we’ve been working on!

A sweet little preview of my time with these three last week! I can’t tell you what a JOY it is to document your college roommates as mommas!

Virginia anniversary photographer | Abby Grace

  • Jean - It was a wonderful weekend. We loved every minute of it. Thanks to you and Matt for coming and to you for getting us all in line for a photo. You are the best!ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - Monday Mashup is my favorite — don’t ever scrap it!!!ReplyCancel

How to book your first destination shoot | Abby Grace Photography

First, let me start this post off with a disclaimer: I think there’s a tendency among photographers to seek out destination wedding/portrait opportunities because it’s become somewhat of a status symbol, and I can say that because I’ve totally done so. It’s absolutely ok to want to shoot wedding in the Virgin Islands, or in Salzburg, Austria, or wherever it is your heart beats faster just thinking about! But I also think it’s really important to know WHY you want to shoot in that location- wanting your clients to pay for your next vacation, or simply wanting the feather in your cap of calling yourself a destination wedding photographer aren’t solid enough reasons on their own for someone to hire you over someone else. Again, I can say that because I’ve BEEN that photographer, the one who wanted the feather in her cap. (PS, let it be known that I DO think it’s a good idea for folks to bring their own photographer to a destination wedding- I wrote about it here!). A destination wedding or shoot should first be an opportunity to serve your client WELL, and then an opportunity to further your career/portfolio/brand/whatever. Does that make sense?

If your clients are going to consider paying hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on TOP of your normal wedding or session fee, there needs to be a good reason they’re doing so. I’m hoping that for you, it’s because the couple is hopelessly in love with your work and the experience that only YOU can provide your clients, and they can’t imagine anyone else capturing these particular memories in that particular location. For me, that reason is that my work is just plain better when I travel. My destination and travel work is some of the best photography I’ve ever produced, and so my clients know that a travel fee is going to result in even more amazing photographs!

international-destination-wedding-photography_0006Ok, so now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about you guys! Let’s say you really, really want to start shooting outside of your immediate area. Maybe you really want to shoot a wedding in Sequoia National Park, or an anniversary session in Paris, but you have NO connections in either location and don’t know how to get started. I’ve been there! I’m sometimes still there- for example, I really, really want to shoot in the south of France. I would kiiiiill to shoot a wedding in Provence, around the calanques in Cassis, throughout the old port in Marseille. But since I don’t have any friends planning to get married around there, it’s up to me to make it happen.

So you want to photograph around the world? | Abby Grace Photography

Here are my top five tips for finding work in a place you’ve always wanted to photograph!

  1. Book your travel first. I know that sound nuts, but you have to be willing to sacrifice for this dream! I take a yearly Europe trip, during which time I visit and photograph in places I’d love to one day be hired to shoot.
  2. Put the word out THAT you’re going, and where you’re going! Remember this Anniversary Experience in Chianti, Italy with Zach & Lindsay? That session came about because I posted online that I’d be in Rome in April. Zach & Lindsay are huge Italy-lovers, so when she found out I’d be there, they booked travel for Italy as well so that we could do our session in Chianti.
  3. If you have any friends in the places where you’re going, ask to photograph them while you’re there. You need to make sure to ask at least a month in advance, though! A friend of mine who lived in Paris expressed frustration over folks emailing the week, even the day before they’d be in the city to ask if she and her husband could model for them. Make sure you’re being considerate!
  4. Don’t know anyone? Start by searching for vendors online, Instagram or Facebook a few months ahead of time, follow their work, and connect with them over email. See if they might have a couple in mind that would be interested in allowing you to photograph them!
  5. Promote the heck out of those images! Blog them, be strategic in how you title the post and talk about your experience within the body of the post, and tag tag tag with keywords. The Palm Shop has some great posts on metatagging and optimizing for Google, make sure to check those out!

So you want to photograph around the world? | Abby Grace Photography

Having the opportunity to work internationally is amazing, but it’s important to know and expect that traveling for photography work can be  exhausting- it’s often an anxiety-ridden hassle getting your expensive, bulky equipment to your destination. And if you’re in the beginning stages or are looking to book your first destination wedding/shoot, the temptation’s going to be to shoot it for free or close-to-free because you just really want to book that gig! And that is totally your call. There are some photographers out there who will tell you to never ever ever ever discount EVER, but if the opportunity means enough to you? That’s your decision to make!

Just a word to the wise as you’re pursuing new location opportunities, though- destination weddings and shoots are often more time-intensive, you’ll spend more time away from home, and if you’re not making much (if anything) from the wedding itself, definitely take some time to weigh the pros and cons. It may be that shooting this one destination wedding could open you up to more new locations in an area you feel is really cohesive with your brand/aesthetic, and if that’s the kind of life you desire for your business, go for it! But if you have a family at home that needs you, or a partner who’s counting on you to bring home a consistent paycheck, you’ll need to think quite a bit harder about what this opportunity is going to cost you out of pocket.

So you want to photograph around the world? | Abby Grace Photography

For me, the trouble of traveling is so worth it because, like I said above, my work is just plain better when I’m inspired by new surroundings, whether that’s an island off of Puerto Rico, a European city, California’s wilderness, whatever. But you have to make that call for YOU and your individual situation. However you choose to make decisions about traveling for photography, just make sure you’re doing what’s best for you and your loved ones, instead of what you necessarily see other people doing! You never know what someone else’s situation is, so do what’s right for you!

After all that, I would LOVE to hear from you guys- where’s your dream location to shoot? If money were no object, where would you drop everything to go?

  • Shannon Jackson - Thank you for this post!! I have always wanted a job where I could travel and since getting into wedding photography I would ultimately love to become a destination wedding photographer. I would honestly love to shoot a wedding in the British Virgin Islands, especially since I didn’t have my wedding there. I would honestly be happy to shoot almost anywhere!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - Great tips! We just recently shot our first ever destination wedding in Germany and it was a dream come true! My dream locations would be Tuscany, Provence, Paris and Iceland :)ReplyCancel

  • Katelyn James - Thanks for sharing such great tips Abby :) This is great advice! Just reading it really makes me want to travel!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - Oh, this is giving me SUCH wanderlust!! Thanks for your thoughts…amazing as always!! xoReplyCancel

  • Kate - Thanks for sharing! I’ve been working on this myself, so the post was perfect timing :) My dream would be Paris, Lake Como or Ireland.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah G - As a girl who has her passport ready at all times and has a terminal case of wanderlust, I love this post :) Scotland, Switzerland & Iceland are on my radar right now.ReplyCancel

  • Richelle Hunter - Oh you wonderful, generous soul. Love all your tips always – but such insight into (you’re right) something on so many photographer’s hearts! It’s great to step back and make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons and the classy way! Good things come to those who do things honestly and earnestly!

    You’re the best – never stop sharing!ReplyCancel

Anyone who’s ever met the Kampa family knows that they’re about the nicest group of people you’ll ever meet. I was over at the Kampa house a few months ago for a glass of wine and catching up with Courtney, and in swept Mrs. Kampa, greeting me with the warmth and familiarity as though it hadn’t been more than 10 years since I’d last seen her. That’s just the kind of people they are- tender and sweet, wonderful to the core.

I’ve known Courtney since the third grade- we danced together at Reston Conservatory Ballet. She had this effortless sort of grace about her, and watching her move across the studio floor, long limbs and an face turned skyward, it was always inspiring! These days, she resides in Manhattan as she’s chasing her dream of poetry. She’s still dancing, just these days it’s with words across a page, rather than pointe shoes. And she is AMAZING at it- her words have been winning awards and accolades for the last few years now!

Courtney, I can’t thank you enough for making time for photos with me! It was such an inexpressible joy to spend the afternoon with you, hearing your words, listening to the stories that have shaped you into who you are. You’re one of the coolest people I think I’ve ever met, and you don’t even have to try; those Raybans and red lipstick just suit you perfectly :).

New York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace Photography

New York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace Photography

New York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace Photography

See what I mean? LOOK HOW COOL SHE IS.

New York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace PhotographyNew York City Upper West Side lifestyle portraits | Abby Grace Photography

Contax 645, Portra 400, developed & scanned by Richard Photo Lab

Real talk time: it’s been a long time since I’ve had to sacrifice something I really wanted for the sake of my business, and for that I’m grateful. I’ll never forget how painful it was constantly having to turn down time with my brand new husband due to the photos waiting to be edited and the blog posts waiting to be written, because I was still working for a Fortune 500 company at the time. I wouldn’t wish away that experience though, because it taught me a couple of things. First, it taught me that my husband is worth more to me than my work- HE is my number 1 priority. Secondly, it taught me to FIGHT for the things that I love, and that often, the fight requires short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. The short-term sacrifice being time with Matt, the long-term gain being the ability to lead a life we love desperately. (Like taking a full week off to go to Nationals’ spring training, Disney, and Harry Potter world!)

The sacrifice of small business ownership | Abby Grace Photography

This weekend was an example of that sort of sacrifice. I hadn’t prepared enough in the weeks prior, and I didn’t realize until Thursday night that Matt had Friday off, due to the July 4th weekend. Sunday was the day we’d picked out to film the next installment of Secret Project #2, so I’d been planning to work all day Friday. It was kind of a bummer, sitting in my office downstairs plugging away with edits and what have you while my husband scrolled through Netflix the floor above me. A rare day off during the week for him, and I spent it working. And then Saturday, July 4th, I again spent several hours of quality time with my Mac. I missed the annual picnic with our church friends as I prepped for filming the next day. And Sunday, out usual day of rest, was spent filming. And it went really well! But there we go, a three-day weekend, and I worked straight through it.

At first, I felt pretty sorry for myself. “This is JULY 4TH. Aside from Christmas and Thanksgiving, this is one of the most respected holidays in the US, and here I am WORKING. This isn’t fair!”

The sacrifice of small business ownership | Abby Grace Photography

But then I remembered that I chose this. I chose this path when I decided to start a small business, I chose this path when I decided to embark on new exciting projects, I, WE chose this path when Matt & I decided to work toward the goals we’ve come up with together.

So yes, I was disappointed about working through one of the most anticipated weekends of the summer, but like I said above; dreams and goals sometimes require short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. And two months from now, once both of our secret projects have wrapped up and we’ve finished the launch process, you bet I’m taking a full three-day weekend. Maybe even four days!

The sacrifice of small business ownership | Abby Grace Photography

Matt, thank you for understanding that my business needed me this weekend. You always know when to let me work and when to gently pry me away, and I am so dang grateful for you!

  • Jean - So proud of you and the decisions you and Matt make together!ReplyCancel

  • Angie Rushing - I love this, Abby! Can’t wait to see what the secret project is!! :)ReplyCancel

  • depth of feels » Kaitlyn Phipps Photography - […] Abby Grace’s post this morning got me thinking about how thankful I am for my husband. Yes this weekend was fun, but I spent a couple hours late Friday night editing away, all so we could have the rest of the weekend work free. And he was more than happy to move my iMac out to the living room and sit on the couch with me while I worked. […]ReplyCancel

  • Colleen Fallon - Not only do my Matt and I love the pictures and #natitude but we love the message. We wouldn’t be where we are today (in love, living in paradise, etc.) without short terms sacrifice. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to such a beautiful craft. We are just drooling over your photos! You’re just so wonderful Abby!ReplyCancel