Happy happy Monday, my friends! It’s getting to that point in winter where I’m starting to become a bit desperate for some warmth. It’s 7 degrees outside this morning, and with yesterday’s windchill, it was -15 when I took the dogs out for their morning walks. It was so cold that my scarf had frost on it where it covered my mouth, from the condensation of my breath. NOT. FUN. Matt and I are fixing the “need-for-warmth” thing by heading to Orlando in a couple of weeks, though, so I shouldn’t have to wait long for some sunshine! I’m SO EXCITED! And what’s more, we’ll be seeing my best friend and her hubs while we there! Win win win!

Only a week til the next A Practical Wedding Workshop! I cannot wait to hug this round of attendees, and I’m so dang stoked to spend the whole day sharing what I’ve learned over the past five years. It’s going to be amazing! This week’ll mostly be spent shoring up all the last-minute details for next Monday, so pardon me while I’m off assembling welcome gifts and catering orders.

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

  • Eating Jelly Belly beans can be a slightly traumatic experience. Here I am, sitting quietly and peacefully on my couch, and I pick up a couple of red what-I-assume-to-be cherry beans. Pop them in your mouth, chew once, twice, and BLARGH! You accidentally picked up a cinnamon one too! And let me tell you, cinnamon and cherry do NOT go well together.
  • Also in re: to Jelly Belly beans: can we all agree that accidentally eating a buttered popcorn one is as bad as getting blood drawn? They’re just that disgusting.
  • Remember that time I said our dogs don’t shed? HA. Sirius proved me waaay wrong on that one. That dude’s fur falls out at such a rate it’s a wonder he has any left at all. The good news it, he loves being brushed with the Furminator, so de-fluffing him isn’t a chore.
  • I’m so conflicted when it comes to Bruno Mars. He comes out with unbelievably good songs like Uptown Funk, but then I there are songs like Locked Out of Heaven, whose chorus lyrics are crude enough that I change the channel whenever it comes on. His voice and style make him the Sam Cooke of the 2010’s, but man. Some of his songs are kinda trashy, aren’t they?

And the award for Best Laugh as Induced By A Valentine’s Day Card goes to Matt Springmann!

Brian Reagan greeting card

If you have no idea what this is referencing, I’ll beg you watch this clip.

Yep, you’re welcome!

P.S. The winner of the $150 credit to the Lawtog Contract Shop is Lindsay Johnson! We’ll shoot you an email, Lindsay!

  • Karen Allen - As soon as I saw “blank inside”, I started laughing. Brian Regan is the best! His facial expressions just kill it. Nicely done Matt!ReplyCancel

  • Leah - You can just save me the buttered popcorn jelly beans … They’re my favorite!!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - sorry you’re feeling blank inside!! Too funny!ReplyCancel

  • Tatyana - Haha love this!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy Byrd - Jelly Beans are so deceptive these days! “No Sympathy Humor”, we must delve into this topic.ReplyCancel

  • Rici - Oh I love this dude!ReplyCancel

I’ll start with a disclaimer- this is what I’ve found works best for me and the couples I serve! There are photographers who do things completely differently than me and it works well for them, and that’s fantastic! But today, I’m delving into what I’ve found is best for my particular business model.

Have you ever had so much on your to-do list that just looking over your tasks makes you want to take a nap? That’s kind of how I feel when I’m presented with too many choices. It’s like when you order from a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant that you’ve never been to before- a menu that’s 12 pages long with literally 100+ entree choices? I’m quickly overwhelmed and end up just looking for whatever sounds most familiar.

Pricing structures for photography businesses- Abby Grace

Because this is how I feel about buying experiences, I tend to think my brides and grooms might feel the same way about searching for a photographer. Something like this-

“Ok, so this photographer offers a PASS gallery, but this one offers a disk that you can purchase separately, and then this other studio says we can only buy the files one at a time. But what about an album? There are like, 47 different types of albums offered by this ONE studio alone! Eff it, let’s go for ice cream.”

Does that sound familiar? It’s not that photographers want our clients to feel that way- we’re just trying to serve a variety of couples in whichever way suits them best by offering multiple buying options. But more options involve making more decisions, and with all the decisions a couple already has to make in the wedding planning process, what we end up doing is petrifying them with too many choices. Present someone with TOO many options, and you’ll run the risk of overwhelming them into inactivity.

I hate feeling like that. To me, simple is best. I prefer to BUY simply, so I also prefer to SELL simply- it’s what I’ve dubbed the Theory of Simplicity! It’s why I only offer two wedding packages, and there’s ONE difference between the two; one includes an album, one does not. That’s it! Everything else that’s included in the package is what I’ve deemed necessary to give my couples the best wedding experience possible, and the only other add-ons they can opt to purchase are “extra stuff” like additional hours of coverage, canvases, etc.

Pricing structures for photography businesses- Abby Grace

And when it comes to the Anniversary Experience? There’s just one package. One. Why? I want to make it easy for my couples to look at what I offer, decide easily whether it’s a good fit for them, and allow them to say either “yes!” or “not yet” without hemming and hawing over collection A, B, C, etc.

There is a beauty to being able to simplify someone’s decisions for them. I think it’s part of why Apple’s been so successful- they’ve simplified the decision-making process for their consumers, making it easier for people to say “yes” to a purchase. Removing the stumbling blocks of excessive, unnecessary choices is a step toward selling someone on YOU and whatever it is you provide, because you’re making it easy for them to say YES.

This Theory of Simplicity extends to so many different corners of my business, but it began with pricing! These days, it extends into bookings, albums, meetings, workshops, you name it. If I can make it simple, I do so. And I’ve never once had a client come back and ask that I provide more decisions for them to make because it wasn’t hard enough the first time through :).

  • Ashley - I couldn’t agree more with this post! I like things simple myself and too many options is too much! Great post!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - YES!!! This is so true! Less is more!ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin - Yes! I’ve been reviewing and planing on what to offer to my clients. Looking over different printing labs I was already overwhelmed by what THAY offered so I thought it would be best to make it simpler for my clients! Thanks for the post!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - great advice from the best photographer I know!ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Totally agree. Throughout the entire planning process I just wanted vendors to tell me what I needed! I was so surprised how few of them were willing to proactively use their experience to advise me vs just presenting options. With any luck I will only ever plan that one wedding… Whereas you see so many in a year. Not only is it simpler, but you’re in a position of expertise and credibility to tell brides what they need!ReplyCancel

  • Tatyana - Love the idea of the one package – you know where you can deliver the best product, and you want the couple to feel the same way!ReplyCancel

That thing we all say we need more of, but can never seem to muster, amIright? One of the speakers at January’s Creative At Heart (heeey, Bonnie!) spoke on this very subject, and I loved every second of her talk! As a small business owner, it’s inevitable that I’m already going to struggle with balance- I do pretty much everything for AGP! Shooting, marketing, editing, shipping, emails, etc., and doing it all from home means that I also struggle with getting distracted by my house (and all that is within it). Throw the adult ADHD into that, and you have yourself a recipe for ZERO balance- a wife who would work until 9pm if her husband didn’t gently insist she close the office doors for the night, a puppy owner who’d forget to take her dogs out until they’re literally scratching grooves in the door (this has happened), and a woman who is unsatisfied with a job that she once loved, all because it’s taken over her life.

Here’s what my days looked like before getting serious about balance:

  1. Wake up whenever Lily started whining at the door to be let out. So, sometimes 7 am, but usually more like 8:30 or 9. Don’t judge me on that.
  2. Throw on yoga pants or sweats, a t-shirt, and take Lily out on a walk.
  3. Make a cup of tea, scarf down a quick breakfast, head directly to my office in order to post my blog at a reasonable hour. (all while wearing yogas or sweats)
  4. Get distracted by a number of things, but usually social media, and end up missing the window of time during which I was planning to post my blog.
  5. Putz around on the computer, answer a few emails, start to edit something and then get distracted
  6. Around 1:30, I’ll remember that I haven’t eaten lunch, so I’ll go upstairs, grab something quick to eat (all while on my phone) and head back down to the office.
  7. Manage to get my blog posted later than planned, advertise it on social media
  8. Repeat #5 until Matt got home, then bemoan the fact that I was so unproductive that day.
  9. Eat dinner with Matt, then grab my laptop and sit down on the couch- “I just have to answer a quick email!” I tell him.
  10. 9:30 pm comes, and my dear husband gently asks if I’ve managed to answer that one email yet. Then I bashfully close my laptop.
  11. Repeat steps 1-10 Monday-Friday.

Clearly, this was NOT a recipe for success. It resulted in a complete lack of productivity, and as a result, a lot of disappointment in myself. The longer I run this business, the more I realize how much I benefit from STRUCTURE, even though I am the absolute worst about proactively implementing it. I want to love my business and run it well, but I also don’t want it to take over my life. I work to live, and not the other way around.

Working from home- Abby Grace Photography

These days, I’ve finally come around to realizing that beginning my day with the same routine throughout the week sets me up for a really productive work day! It’s funny, the catalyst for all this change was actually bringing Sirius home; he gets up a lot earlier than Lily, and if I try to ignore his whines, he jumps onto the bed and literally sits on me until I get up. So yeah…

Here’s a typical “day in the life” these days!

  1. Wake up between 6:45-7:30. Matt leaves around 6:45 am and my alarm is set to go off at 7:30, but often I wake up as he’s heading out the door. I actually love getting up before my alarm- it’s like “yeah! I’ve already won, I woke up five minutes earlier than planned!”
  2. Put on actual clothes. It’s ok if I still wear yogas on occasion, but my rule is that I need to completely change out of pajama-wear. No more sweats in the office.
  3. Make the bed! I never used to do this; the only time the bed was made was if Matt did it. But I really love the feeling of knowing I’ve at least accomplished that in my day before heading out of our room in the morning.
  4. Open the blinds of the main level of our house. I love this step!
  5. Walk the pups.
  6. Feed the dogs, eat something myself, make a hot mug of tea or coffee.
  7. Sit down with my Bible. In the past I’ve never been a person who’s loved getting into the Word, but recently it’s something I’ve fallen in love with. It’s my favorite part of the morning!
  8. Around 8:45-9am, fire up my Mac and start on work. Begin with my blog, if it wasn’t scheduled it go live already. Publish to social media.
  9. Set my Top 3 for the day- determine what 3 things MUST get done that day, if all else fails!
  10. Dig into my inbox. Get it down to 25 or less.
  11. Get to skipping on the Top 3!
  12. Between 12 and 1, take the pups out for a bathroom break, make myself another hot cup of whatever, grab some lunch. Then back to my office.
  13. 4pm- more email.
  14. Between 5:30-6pm, close up shop. Head upstairs to enjoy whatever the evening has in store!

Working from home- Abby Grace Photography

The structure might seem a little type A, especially the fact that I’ve included “opening the blinds” as part of my morning ritual. But starting my day in the same way over and over helps me stay on track! My productivity is higher, my job satisfaction is higher, and I’m wasting less time getting started each day. The mornings are my favorite time of day, but by not having any structure, I was WASTING the most productive portion of each day. Now I’m able to utilize that time wisely, making the most that each morning has to offer.

My schedule’s not perfect- it’s still taking some getting used to, but I’ve noticed a huge difference in the days that I skimp and the days that I stick to the program.

I’d love to hear from y’all! What are your favorite routines that set you up for daily success?

  • Sarah Bradshaw - Getting up WITH Buck has been the most helpful life change I’ve ever made. I’m up between 5:30 and 5:45, which means I have time in the Word, breakfast, and often a workout in before 8am. Holla!!! And I’m trying to grow in focused work, too— turning off my Wifi when editing has been helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Emily Gerald - ummm I LOVE that you have “open the blinds” on your list because it is totally on mine too! If I leave the house dark all day Id be in trouble!!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - you are so organized. I should take a lesson from you!ReplyCancel

  • Bethany - The first thing I do after getting out of bed is starting the coffee pot. That way by the time my bed is made, I’m showered & dressed, my coffee is ready to go while I make the rest of my breakfast :)ReplyCancel

  • Dad - you forgot one step: meet my dad for our 0800 run at 0830!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Mitchell - If you don’t have it, try downloading the “Sleep Cycle” App! It has helped me so much with waking up – it tracks your movements/sleep patterns and wakes you up within a 15minute window of when you set the alarm for – it waits until you are in the lightest phase of sleep during that window and softly wakes you up then instead of jarring you awake with a blaring alarm from a dead sleep – it’s awesome and helps my mornings start off earlier and much more peacefully! I am totally with you on needing structure to my day, ESPECIALLY my mornings – if I can get started on the right foot, the rest of the day feels so productive! :)ReplyCancel

  • Kat - I love this Abby! I’ve been toying with the idea of blogging “a day in the life” now, and then being able to compare in a few months when I’m full time:) but j love this post & the routine you are adding to your schedule!!ReplyCancel

  • Lorin Fairweather - Making the bed = game changer for me, too :)ReplyCancel

  • Jade - I love this post ! I also am trying to implement structure into my very chaotic business and family life. Struggling with ADHD as well does not help . I have been making my bed in the morning .. I like the one too! xReplyCancel

  • Lydia - I’ve been keeping a similar schedule this past week and noticed the same thing! It’s nice to get to Saturday and look back and see how much I was able to accomplish that week and still have flexibility for random things that just came up!ReplyCancel

Gooooood Monday morning! The fact that it’s 38 degrees outside has me seriously pumped. It was 12 on Friday, and since I walk the dogs separately each morning, my fingers were painfully numb. Bring on the warmer weather! I’m never one to wish away entire seasons at a time, and I actually do love the winter! It’s just the addition of a new pup has made morning walks mean quite a bit more time outside than previous :).

You know how you know you’re officially out of your college years? When you start bragging about how much sleep you got. Guys, I slept for 14 HOURS on Saturday night, and it was absolutely glorious. I’d only slept for three hours the previous night, due to an anniversary session in Williamsburg that means a 3am wake-up, so when I got back home, I crashed at 5pm and didn’t wake up until the next day. Our TempurPedic bed is probably my favorite place in the house.

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

  • We’re working with a one-on-one trainer for Sirius (check out Dari, she’s awesome!), and she informed us that he’s probably more like 18-20 months, instead of the 2.5 years we’d originally thought. Ooooh, so THAT explains all the roughhousing, crazy amounts of energy, and playfulness! He’s still a puppy!
  • Working from home means you sometimes eat weird meals. Scratch that, it means you OFTEN eat weird meals. Case in point: last week, I had straight avocado for breakfast AND lunch…two days in a row.
  • And I don’t regret it at all, because avocado straight from the shell is delicious. Sprinkle some sea salt on it? NOM.
  • Why did I just say “nom?” I never say that. That’s a term reserved for people who use the hashtag “#foodporn” on Instagram.
  • Do you like Taylor Swift? Are you passably familiar with the House of Tudors from British history? If you answered “Yes” to either or both of those questions, please go read THIS Buzzfeed article. You’re welcome.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for an airtight, lawyer-drafted wedding contract from the Lawtog’s Contract Shop! See that blog post HERE!

Here are a couple of previews from my weekend. First, an Anniversary Experience session with one of my sweet, sweet 2013 couples! Remember these two and their Naval Academy wedding?

Williamsburg anniversary photographer- Abby Grace

And then, just a few hours later, a session with my darling friend Caitlin, her husband Jay, and their precious new daughter. I don’t normally do these kinds of sessions, but whenever I do it’s always such a joy! (PS- you’ve seen Caitlin before! Remember?)

Virginia lifestyle fine art newborn photography

Happy Monday, friends!

  • Jean - love both the photos. The Taylor Swift thing was funny! Come on down where it’s warmer, at least for a few days!ReplyCancel

  • Sami Orndorff - Uhhh, I LOVE that newborn photo!!!! Such gorgeous lighting — can’t wait to see the whole thing!!! :)ReplyCancel

After teaching workshops and sitting with newer photographers during mentoring sessions, I’ve found that contracts are one of those things that people shrug off; “I’ll get one later,” or “I’m not charging enough money to need a contract,” or “I don’t have the money to buy a template right now.” Guys, hear me out: no matter where you are in your business, you need a contract. You need a contract right now, before you agree to do any more work in the future. This post isn’t meant to scare you, per se, but it is meant to stress just how important it is to be operating as a professional business from Day 1!

I actually shudder when I look back at my old wedding photography contracts. The first contract I ever used was given to me by another photographer I knew, so I figured if it was legitimate enough for him, it was legitimate enough for me. The contract outlined what the client was paying for, and it had both of our signatures on it, so I figured I was good.

Abby Grace Photography workshop

But the longer I was in business, the more I realized the need to add things to my contract. A bit about me being the only photographer hired, another bit stipulating that I needed a meal on the wedding day, and then another bit about…. you get the jist. Pretty soon, I’d amassed two pages of stuff I’d cobbled together on my own. I figured I was fine, nothing would ever happen to me.

And by the grace of God, nothing ever did happen to me or my amazing couples. But after a friend came close to needing legal intervention, it scared the pants off of me; I got my act together and hired an attorney to draft an airtight, solid contract.

Abby Grace Photography workshop

If you’re operating with a contract like my old one, by the time you actually NEED your contract to be airtight? It’s too late. And I pray that none of you ever, ever encounter that! But the fact of the matter is that you are running a business, and sometimes in business, things have the potential to get a bit sticky. And your first, most important line of defense is your contract.

See, your contract protects BOTH you and the client: it outlines your responsibilities, and what the client may or may not be entitled to if you fail to perform those duties.

But it also outlines the parameters within which you’ll be working. For example, my contract specifies the steps that are taken if I or my second shooter were ever to experience sexual or physical harassment at a wedding. That’s a really important thing to have written down! Because if I were to be harassed or assaulted at a wedding and were to walk out of the reception, and I DIDN’T have that outlined in my contract? I could be sued for a breach of contract. But because it IS outlined in detail, my second shooter and I are protected from being forced to endure harassment or physical harm on a wedding day. Not that that’s ever happened, but it’s important to know BEFORE you go into any given situation what your options are if there’s an emergency. And it’s important that your client knows, too, so that they’re not surprised along the way if you do have to cite something like a harassment clause.

Abby Grace Photography workshop

If you’re a wedding creative and you’ve been working without an official contract, head right on over to Rachel Brenke’s site- she’s a lawyer who specializes in law for creatives, and she has a whole slew of contract templates to choose from! And we’re lucky enough that Rachel’s GIVING AWAY $150 in credit toward her shop for one lucky winner, which is enough to get you started with your very own, very legit wedding contract!

All you have to do to enter is share the link to this post on Facebook, and then let us know you’ve done it by dropping a note in the comments section! For an extra entry, hit up Twitter and share the post as well- just make sure to tag me (@abbygracephoto) and Rachel (@RachelBrenke). Easy peasy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Questions? Comments for the good of the order? You know what to do- sound off in the comments section!

  • Rachel Word - I just entered to win the credit toward Rachel’s shop.

    https://www.facebook.com/rachel.word.9

    Thank you for hosting this amazing and practical giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Great advice. I know you have probably seen it all when it comes to weddings. Contracts are necessary in today’s business world.ReplyCancel

  • Natasha - I’ve shared on both Facebook and Twitter! Is this a giveaway raffle or does everyone get $150 credit for sharing? The blog wasn’t specific about this.ReplyCancel

  • Lorna - Just entered! PS I am legit so excited for you getting to team up with Rachel Brenke! I’ve been following her for a few months now. :) Yay!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - My contract has gone through so many revisions over the years, you end up adding things you never even thought about! I had to add the No Harassment Clause after a drunk groomsman grabbed my butt at a reception and I was so upset I didn’t know what to do (the clients didn’t care). So now that’s in there, too, along with YOU MUST FEED ME. :)ReplyCancel

  • Sabrina - I feel like this has been one of those things on my to-do list forever but I’ve just never had it done. I’ve posted about this on FB and Twitter so hopefully others will see your blog post and realize how important this is too!ReplyCancel

  • Mindy Moore - Woohoo!!! This. Is. AWESOME!!! Thank you for sharing this!!!ReplyCancel

  • Mindy Moore - Oh, I forgot to mention in my excitement that I shared this awesome info on my Facebook!

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10103823584383722&id=68128051&ref=bookmark

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Bradshaw - I’ve been sexually harassed at a wedding before. It was a lesson that taught me to be prepared!!ReplyCancel

  • Casey - Shared to enter AND because this is oh-so-accurate! Currently on working on updating all of my ‘original’ contracts to Rachel’s templates so I can take them to a lawyer to finalize them!ReplyCancel

  • Brianne - Just shared this post on Facebook! Hoping to win so I can get some of Rachel Brenke’s awesome resources!ReplyCancel

  • Bethanne Arthur - Abby + Rachel,

    Great giveaway! I shared on Facebook and tweeted! Good luck to whomever wins! :)ReplyCancel

  • Holly - Shared!! :DReplyCancel

  • Sami Orndorff - Tweeted & Facebooked!!! #socialmediaverbsFTW :) :)ReplyCancel

  • Rachel McKnew - Shared! Perfect timing for me in my business. Thanks for sharing the info and Rachel’s info as well!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Warren - Great Post! Shared to Facebook. Thanks for the opportunity!ReplyCancel

  • Allie - This would be awesome to win! Thanks for the advice and giveaway!ReplyCancel

  • Clyde Y - Great post!! Absolutely shared and tweeted!ReplyCancel

  • Brittany - Shared via facebook! Thanks so much Abby and Rachel!ReplyCancel

  • Tammy - I just shared. I hope Lady Luck is with me.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Herrinton - This is awesome Abby!!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah N. Case - What’s an amazing giveaway. Thank you so much for hosting this!

    I shared this on both my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne Hubt - Great advice!!ReplyCancel

  • Nikki Jilek - heck yes! I would love to win such a generous and gracious prize!!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - Yay! I entered! Such a great post!ReplyCancel

  • Kendra - I just shared! would love to win this!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Monday Mash-Up » Modern International Wedding Photographer - […] Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for an airtight, lawyer-drafted wedding contract from the Lawtog’s Contract Shop! See that blog post HERE! […]ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin Simpson - I (think) I shared on Facebook! I may have entered something wrong…but I definitely tweeted! Thank you for this! So awesome!ReplyCancel