Let’s be real, friends. I love Mondays, but this morning? I kind of just wanted to stay in bed and sleep. But when you have an almost-60-lb German Shepherd mix pup sitting on you (seriously- he plops down on my back) and whining for you to get up, sleeping in isn’t really an option anymore. But it’s for the best, because as amazing as our Tempur-Pedic bed is, my office and computer and inbox were calling!

Total aside: I LOVE this photo that the talented Amanda Hedgepeth took at Creative last week! Everyone got a new headshot on Day 2, and I just love how this turned out. Amanda is so talented!

Creative At Heart conference head shots- Amanda Hedgepeth Photography

Working from home means I often eat really strange meals. For example, my breakfast this morning consisted of mini sweet peppers, a glass of apple juice, and coffee. Why? Because I was too lazy to make eggs. Last Friday, I think I ate sauerkraut for breakfast, and I’m not even ashamed of it. That’s probably normal in Germany or something, right?

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

  • Wanna know a really good way to stress yourself out? Wait to book all your travel in Europe until less than two weeks before you leave. Thrill-seeker, right here!
  • In theory, the idea of driving from Marseille to Paris through the Loire Valley is a good idea, but when you take into account the fact that the high-speed train, the TGV, can get you there in less than half the time, without having to navigate yourself? You decide to take the train instead.
  • Can someone please explain to me why it costs more than $1,000 to get to pretty much anywhere in Europe, and yet I only paid $50 (yes, FIFTY) to get from Rome to Marseille? God bless easyJet and Ryan Air!
  • Last week was the best week ever. More on that in a couple day with a full recap of the Creative At Heart Conference!
  • Know what’s dangerous? Giving me a PaperSource gift card for my birthday. My little brother Seth did just that, and I spent foEVA hemming & hawing over this Kate Spade desk accessory or that one. I need all of them!!

Oh hey there, ridiculously attractive couple. Prepare to meet Lee & Danielle later this week- their Blacksburg sunrise engagement session was SO lovely!

Virginia engagement photographer- Blacksburg engagement session at Tech- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Monday!

  • Jean - What no biscuits and gravy! Your trip is going to be amazing!ReplyCancel

If you haven’t seen Part 1 of this two-part series, go back and read that HERE before going any further! It’ll set the stage for what we’re talking about today :).

Last week we talked all about the why behind both sides of the “I really want to learn, someone please help me” dilemma. Today’s post is focused on the nitty gritty part of that sentiment; now that you understand the why, here’s how to move forward in seeking growth/learning opportunities. Let’s dive in!

**Again, anything in italics + quotations is input I was lucky to receive from other industry professionals! **

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

Part 2: The Etiquette of Asking

1. Ask for opportunities to SERVE, not to be served. Requests to second shoot are often turned down because the photographer who’s being asked can sense that the person doing the asking really just wants to come and shoot for themselves. The role of a second shooter is a humble one- typically, you’re hired to help furnish the main photographer’s body of work that they’re providing to the couple, rather than shooting to boost your own portfolio. Your first step in the course of trying to earn learning opportunities? Learn to serve, and serve selflessly.

What does that look like? Rather than emailing a photographer you love with a request like “I’d love to come second shoot for you sometime, I like your work and I need to build my portfolio,” try asking for a chance to SERVE them instead. Something like this: “I’d love to come and assist you at a wedding if you ever have need! Whether that’s carrying bags or rolling film, whatever it is, I’d love to come make your life easier on a wedding day.” That sort of request will be much more likely to receive a positive response, because a photographer won’t have to worry that you have a hidden agenda.

2. Familiarize yourself with a photographer’s work before asking to shoot for them. Make sure you’re a good fit for them and their body of work! Also, I strongly encourage you to wait to ask to shoot for someone you respect until you have full command of your camera. Knowing how to shoot is obviously crucial- having to ask the main photographer what their settings are in the middle of the ceremony isn’t going to go over well, and almost certainly won’t result in you being asked back or referred to their friends.

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

3. When asking a photographer to give you a chance, do so with an attitude of humility. I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but it’s important to recognize that you are not owed anything by anyone in the industry. All of us have had to struggle through the same frustrations you’re currently experiencing, and almost all of us did it alone without a college course to teach us how to run a creative small business. We’ve paid for the workshops, the mentoring, the conferences, we’ve put in the hundreds of hours of work, and we’ve made the mistakes that lead to growth to get to whatever place we’re in today.

Also those struggles, the ones that we’ve all experienced? Those can be made a lot easier by buddying up with another photographer who’s also new to the scene! That’s what Rebekah Hoyt has been to me in the past; we’ve shared joys, griefs, frustrations, and we leaned on each other through all of it. There were days when she’d have the perfect answer to a problem I just couldn’t solve, and days when I could repay the favor by doing the same for her. There was give and take in that relationship, and if you can find someone else to be your Rebekah, it’s going to make this journey a LOT more enjoyable!

4. Before emailing to ask if you can take them to lunch or coffee to “pick their brains,” do a little bit of research first: does that photographer offer mentoring? Do they teach workshops? If so, that’s probably a good indicator that they won’t be up for a coffee date with a new photographer.

The reason behind that isn’t a callous or unfeeling one, it’s just good business sense: these photographers charge other people for their time and knowledge, and it wouldn’t be fair to those who’ve paid for mentoring if the photographer was to sit down with you for three hours without being compensated. Plus, that time a photographer is spending with you is time they’re *not* working on their business, time they’re not spending with family, time they’re not being paid/compensated in any way. So don’t take it personally if you email asking for a coffee date, and they respond with “Sure thing! Here are my rates for mentoring.”

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

5. “I would say that it really means a lot when a photographer recognizes and acknowledges that we are constantly, feeling like we’re drowning in emails, and is so appreciative of our time. I read those emails and think ‘That’s so sweet of her to think of me and my time. I really feel like she’s going to appreciate my help!'” -Katelyn James

This is so true! Reading e-mails with questions from other photographers asking a question, who end the email with “I know you’re busy, so definitely take your time on answering this!” makes me feel a lot better about taking 5-10 minutes to put something well-thought out together.

6. Try not to be offended if they turn down your request- thank them for their response, and reiterate that if they ever have need, you’d love to serve them. You never know their reasons for saying no: maybe they’ve been burned in the past by a second shooter, or maybe they have a full-time assistant so they don’t have need of anyone else. Try not to be hurt if they say no, and don’t let it dampen your spirits.

Morais Vineyard Virginia wedding- Abby Grace Photography

So there you have it! I’d love to hear input from you guys- what were methods that worked well for you?

  • Alicia - I think something that really helped me in the past was knowing boundaries based on what you were looking for. Meaning, something like just asking one question with a pretty straightfoward answer, I would hope would be okay. But if I’m looking for a fully detailed explanation on a process or method, I would absolutely expect to compensate that person for their time. Most photographers seem willing to give, to a fair point, but you don’t want to take advantage of that point and ruin the relationship! Great post, Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - This is so well done, Abby!!! You have a gift of telling it like it is, while being so very sweet, compassionate, and with a heart to benefit and help others!! You are a wonderful leader in this industry, lady!!! xo!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - great blog, as always, Abby. Love the photos!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren Beggs - What a great blog post. I LOVE MY WEDDING PHOTOS!! :) I can’t thank you enough Abby. :) You eye for photography is amazing and we are so thankful to have had you as our wedding photographer!ReplyCancel

  • Tatyana - Amazing post! Definitely all great things to consider :)ReplyCancel

  • Kelley - SUCH great insight – glad I read these two posts before “hitting send.” Thanks for offering up your wisdom so freely!ReplyCancel

I’m going to start this off by giving credit where it’s due: I was 100% inspired by David & Kristy Abel’s wall of silver IKEA frames! You have to go see theirs, it’s way better than mine. But after you’re done goggling over their living room wall, come back here and we can get on with things.

Are you back yet? Good! Let’s proceed.

This project is not for the faint of heart, unless you’re ok with non-uniformly hung frames. In which case, you’ll be a lot less stressed that I was as I completed our wall. My original goal was to get this completed before my first date of A Practical Wedding Workshop last September, a mere three weeks after we’d moved into our new home. But I didn’t start the project until the night before, so of course, it didn’t work out the way I’d planned! It wasn’t until two days before the NEXT workshop (5 months later) that I finally finished!

The hiccups I faced: I measured, and then measured again, and then broke a frame, and then broke the glass on another frame out of sheer frustration. Fortunately, I’d already ordered my prints, but somehow I managed to lose the first set of 4×6’s that had come with my shipment from Miller’s. Then I didn’t have the proper equipment to hang the last couple frames, so we had to go BACK to IKEA where they told me I had to wait in a 45-minute line to get a freaking spare part.

But finally, it was finished! And every time I look at it too long and think “Hey, is that frame slightly too high/low/left/right?” I shut my eyes and walk away, because DONE is better than “perfect.” So friends, welcome to our living room!

IKEA Ribba silver picture frames in silver- home wall display- Abby Grace Photograpy

I’m not really the sort of person to fill our walls with photos of us, just because… well, I don’t know. Maybe that’ll change one day when we have kids? For now, though, I’ve stocked our frames with my favorite images from my/our Europe travels (see more here, here, and here. Oh, and you can’t miss this one)! And guys, I’m really proud of our living room. Y’all know I have seriously limited skills when it comes to decorating, but I’m so pleased with how everything’s come together!

IKEA Ribba silver picture frames in silver- home wall display- Abby Grace Photograpy

IKEA Ribba silver picture frames in silver- home wall display- Abby Grace Photograpy

This isn’t wall decor. Lily & Sirius are just really cute, and I thought you might want to see his & her adorable faces. I was right, wasn’t I?

IKEA Ribba silver picture frames in silver- home wall display- Abby Grace Photograpy

This wall is my favorite in our home right now! I love that it serves as a reminder of adventure, and that it’s become one of the first things my couples notice when we’re meeting to chat about their wedding! You guys know I shoot a lot of personal work when I travel, and our frame wall is where we put the best of the best!

P.S. In case you were wondering, yes, I do sell prints of my travel work :). Shoot me an email if you’re interested! abby@abbygracephotography.com

  • Katie - Nice!! Love your prints of Europe!! I have something VERY similar in our hallway, but not all of just one place…just random travel photos. Some from New Orleans, CA, etc. So fun to look at them every day!ReplyCancel

  • Matt - My favorite is Lily in the bottom left corner of the first wall picture.ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - Oh, IKEA — I love you and I hate you. I always end up making multiple times for a frame too!! PS — looks amazing in the end!!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - love your living room and that wall is beautiful. Can’t wait to see it in person.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Abbyyy!!! I love this! I wish I had as many beautiful travel photos as you do because those would definitely be on our walls!ReplyCancel

  • ashley mitchell - Just got the best mental image of you hulk smashing a frame out of frustration ;) – this looks SO good. Our living room is an odd shape (I guess they didn’t plan on having TVs in a living room in 1930??) so we don’t have a ton of wall space which makes me sad because I LOVE stuff like this!!ReplyCancel

  • David Abel - This wall looks great! Love the photos in them too! Side note we just put up one of the photos you took on NYE!ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - Love it!!! Looks really good. We are redoing our home office and I finally have some decent wall space to hang up some photos and this is a great piece for inspiration!!ReplyCancel

It’s Tuesday! Which means I’m one day late with a Mash-Up post. But seeing as I was totally consumed with all the incredible conversations and life change that was going on at Creative @ Heart this past weekend, I’m ok with it. As the Emily Ley quote goes, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection!” Trust that there will be a much longer post coming this week to enumerate on exactly why it was such an amazing experience, but for now, let’s get on to the Mash-Uping! (Thanks to The Herrintons for this photo!)

Creative At Heart conference in Roanoke Virginia- Tyler Herrinton Photography

Actually, I’m actually not really sure what to write. Because last week was totally insane, and much of my thought process was devoted to one of two things: either A) “EFF. I need to practice my talk, but I can’t right now because I don’t have the time, but if I don’t practice then I’m going to mess up and I’ll probably just end up self-imploding in front of the entire group!” or B) “What the heck am I going to wear?? Maybe if my outfit is cute enough, it can distract from the hot mess my presentation might end up turning into…”

So we’ll just dive into the lessons learned/events that transpired, shall we?

  • Things I do not recommend: waiting until 20 minutes before you need to leave to pack for a highly-anticipated weekend. This results in high levels of stress for everyone involved, especially when you’re already stressed over the aforementioned two things on my mind.
  • Things you can do to distract yourself from the stress of it all: log onto B&H’s website and order $200 worth of film for your upcoming Europe adventure.
  • Don’t ever go to a conference for creatives, one specifically geared toward women, with any sort of notion of “eating well.” I mean, you’ll eat WELL, but as for watching your sugar content? Yeah, no. I ate TWO mini pies over the course of the conference. Yes, they were single serve, but there’s no excuse. Except for the fact that they were delicious.
  • I regret none of it.
  • There was black & white washi tape in the swag bags!!! If you don’t know why this is relevant enough to deserve a bullet point on MMU, see this photo. It’ll all make sense.
  • My grandparents are the best. They came to hear my talk yesterday, and when I accidentally cussed in front of 100+ women I respect and love, my Pawpaw stood up and pointed at me, like “I see you, Abby! I heard what just came out of your mouth!” And it was awesome.

Creative At Heart conference in Roanoke Virginia

Ok, so this kind of ended up being 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 like? Well, I only have one this week because I honestly didn’t read much last week due to everything going on, but here ya go:

  • This post from my dear friend Natalie Franke. Go read it, and share the crap out of it because it’s one of the best things I’ve ever read.

Aaand happy Tuesday, my friends! It’s WARM outside today!

  • Alicia - Guilty as charged about being a late packer as well!! Glad the speech went okay — can’t wait to hear more!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - Your grandpa sounds like the cutest ever! So sweet that they came to watch! Also, I am the queen of last minute packing. I usually bring way too many of one thing and none of something else (usually more important of course).ReplyCancel

  • Shalese - Ahhhh haha your Pawpaw sounds like a marvelous man! And it’s ok, people curse sometimes!! We’re all humans! I wish I could have heard your talk, but I am certain it was magical!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - So glad we could be there to see/hear your presentation. We received a very warm welcome from your friends at the conference, with offers of food and drink and a good place to sit. What a great group of young professionals you can call friends. It is our pleasure also to have you visit for a few days. So much fun in my sewing room today! Love you.ReplyCancel

  • Stefani Lefler - I loved that your grandparents were there to hear you speak. I loved your presentation and the fact that you obviously love Harry Potter as much as I do. :) I can’t wait to get to know you more. Awesome post!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - You did so well with your talk! And thank you so much for linking to my Overcoming Comparison post… girl, it means the world to me! Love you!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Wells - Thad LOVES my last minute packing antics and having to turn around pretty much every time we go on a trip because I always forget something. Ten times worse with a baby to pack for these days! I so wish I could’ve been there…it sounds like everyone had such an amazing, inspiring weekend!ReplyCancel

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!