The winter blues are a real thing, people. And we were feeling them pretty strongly this past winter- it was just so cold all the time, with winds nasty enough to chap your skin until it cracked. Not fun. Not fun at all.

During one especially nasty, wintery period, Matt proposed the idea of going south for a week. He’d always wanted to attend spring training, and I really wanted to go to Disney World with him + see the new extension of Harry Potter world at Universal, so we found a date that worked and booked our travel! We decided to drive the whole way because a) it was a heck of a lot cheaper and simpler than flying + renting a vehicle, and 2) we like spending the time together in the car :).

We went to two Nats games, fulfilling Matt’s spring training dream- it was a blast being so close to the players! I loved watching kids get so excited over autographs, whenever the players had a sec and came over to sign baseballs.

Washington Nationals Spring Training- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington Nationals Spring Training- Abby Grace PhotographyWashington Nationals Spring Training- Abby Grace Photography

and then we visited Universal with my BEST friend Sarah and her husband Dan! Remember these two? Sarah hadn’t been to Harry Potter world yet, and I hadn’t seen the new part of the part that was opened last fall, so we made plans to go together. Sarah’s a closet HP fan, and I guess I never really realized how extensive that fandom is until Universal- we had SO much fun geeking out over the little details throughout the park, things that only dedicated Potterheads would take notice of/realize the significance of. Sarah, I think I love you even more than before.

We started in Hogsmeade…

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace Photography

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace Photography

And then took the Hogwarts Express to Diagon Alley!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

How freakin cute is my best friend?!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

I loved the subtle touches. Matt & I are standing in front of Number 12, Grimmauld Place- see if you can find the surprise in the photo!

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace PhotographyWizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

We met Captain America over on the other side of Islands of Adventure. MURICA.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

The rest of these are iPhone photos, excuse the bad quality!

This is sort of what it was like to walk Sirius before we got the easy walker harness for him.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley - Abby Grace Photography

Ok, so let me explain this. There’s this thing called Disnebounding, where you dress up like a character without wearing a costume, per se. Cinderella’s always been my favorite because I love her blue dress (because let’s be honest, the original Cinderella has like ZERO personality), so I found a blue dress, made myself a black necklace from a piece of ribbon, snagged a blue headband from the kid’s section at a department store, and boom. Disneybounding version of Cinderella.

Disney bounding- Abby Grace Photography

Chatting with Cinderella re: the pros and cons of mice as personal attendants.

Met some evil stepsisters. They weren’t huge fans of mine.

Disney bounding- Abby Grace PhotographyDisney bounding- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Thursday, friends!

  • Shalese - AHHHHH it’s time for me to schedule my trip to the world of HP! :) I LOVE that you found the perfect Cinderella dress . . . those sleeves are SO Cinderella!ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra {Heart Love Always} - Ahh!! I wanna go! I wanna go! I wanna go!! That is all!! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Kaitlin Simpson - Ahh! I haven’t been to the new part of Harry Potter World yet! They totally went ALL OUT!! And do I see Mrs. Black in the window above you and Matt?! :DReplyCancel

  • Jeannie Mathews - Now you’ve done it. I’m going to have to read all of the Harry Potter books again. And go to Florida.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - the photos are great. Looks like you and Matt had a fun filled trip! You make a great Cinderella!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - Jose and I have always wanted to go to Spring Training too! Its definitely on our bucket list (but for the NY Mets! lol) and YESSS!! Isn’t the Harry Potter section amazing!?!? When we went through the brick into Diagon Alley, I cried! It was just so perfect and overwhelming. And I just LOVE you posing with the Evil stepsisters and Lady Tremaine! lol Too funny!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Brennan - I LOVE THIS POST!!! I can’t even express how much fun Dan and I had on that trip. It even got Dan enthusiastic about Harry Potter and he’s been all about watching the movies so he can pick out things he saw at the park. You two deserved this trip and your pictures capture it perfectly!! And that Cinderella dress is PERFECT! I love you Abby Squash :)ReplyCancel

Confession: I wasn’t planning to blog today, but I logged onto Facebook and saw the sweetheart Amanda Hedgepeth had blogged about Creative and I realized- holy cow! It’s THIS WEEKEND. I mean, I knew it was this weekend, but it hadn’t really sunk in yet.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Creative @ Heart is a two-day conference for creative small business owners. But it’s not just any conference. It’s not one that’s focused on “the cool kids” or merely those who are good at projecting an image of success, it’s one that sincerely seeks to authentically educate and encourage everyone who attends, no matter WHERE they are in their business. And I love that SO much!

Creative At Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

I also love that part of the heart at the center of the conference is to foster relationships among professionals! Natalie Franke wrote one of the best blogs I’ve ever read two weeks ago entitled Overcoming Comparison, and in that post she talked about the importance of “community over competition.” That notion is a huge part of C@H! Within the wedding industry, there’s a lot of borderline-cutthroat competition. And it’s the kind of thing that leaves you feeling even lonelier than you already did, being a small business of one. So I love that C@H provides an atmosphere that allows attendees to blow past the defensive, secret-keeping nature that so many in the industry feel like they need to maintain, and gets straight to the “how can we grow together?” idea. During Natalie’s talk, she summed it up perfectly with this sentiment:

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

I can’t wait for this weekend! I can’t wait to see old friends, to make new ones, to have authentic, raw conversations with people I’ve just met. Because I think there’s something really powerful in being new to the industry and hearing someone who’s been at it for several years say “it IS a struggle sometimes, and I DON’T have it all together, but the good news is that YOU don’t have to have it all together, either.”

Creative At Heart conference- Abby Grace Photography

This round of C@H will be a little different for me, since I’ll be speaking to the group at large as well as serving on a panel. I’m really nervous, but I’m even more excited for the chance to share about concepts that have made such a huge difference in my business and life! If you’ll be there this weekend and I haven’t met you before, PLEASE come say hi- it would be such a joy to hug you!

  • Danielle Blocker - Abby, I’m so excited to meet you too! You are awesome and you’ll be amazing, I just know it! Looking forward to hearing what you have to share with us.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - can’t wait to see you!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field aka Mom - I wish I could be there to see you. I suppose the trip to Florida will do as a replacement. Will they be recording you? I’d love to hear you since I can’t see you!ReplyCancel

  • Alicia - You’re going to be amazing up there, Abby! You gotta report back to us after the conference!!ReplyCancel

  • Kat - yes. yes. yes. I AM SO EXCITED!!!ReplyCancel

  • Tina - I wish I was going – it sounds like an amazing conference! I hope to go one year!! Good luck speaking!! I know you will be great :)ReplyCancel

  • Alexandra {Heart Love Always} - Can’t wait to see you!! <3ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - Can’t wait to hug you!! It’s going to be quite a weekend!!ReplyCancel

Two weeks ago, I blogged about my Top 5 online resources for photographers- if you haven’t read that one, check it out here! Today, I thought it’d be helpful for some of y’all to go over my Top 5 software/programs. Every photographer is different and has a unique set of tools that helps them do their job in a way that only they can do, so here’s a look into my toolbox!

Top 5 Software/Program resources for photography business- Abby Grace

1. LightRoom5- I do all of my editing in LightRoom (LR)! Prior to discovering this wonderful, beautiful, time-saving goddess of a program, I was editing everything in PhotoShop. That means I was opening each individual image, editing it, saving it, closing it, then opening up the next one. Multiply that process by 150-600 images, depending on the event? It was taking me SIX WEEKS to turn around weddings. But when I switched to LR, the simple fact that I could edit one image and then copy + paste those edits to the image next to it? It saved me hours, days, really, of time spent in front of my computer.

2. BlogStomp- this is a great little app to help format images for your blog! I loooove this one! Similar to LR, prior to having BlogStomp, I was formatting all of my images-to-be-blogged within PhotoShop. It took me something like 2 hours the first time I did it. Then I discovered BlogStomp, and it took me a mere 10 minutes to format an entire wedding for the blog. Seriously- if you’re not already using this app, pony up the $49 and get it. It’s going to save you hours! (Read more HERE)

 Top 5 Software/Program resources for photography business- Abby Grace

3. Align- the BEST album design company out there! I needed to outsource my album design in a bad way, and after one trial run with Align I was hooked. Every time I place a new order with them, my decision to switch is reaffirmed. They do a phenomenal job with the design itself, and I love knowing that all the follow-up corrections that my couples request are taken care of by my Align designer Andrea as well. Worth every single penny! (Read more HERE)

4. Pixifi- studio management software that has decluttered my business in a big way. Prior to using Pixifi, I was still having my clients send in signed, paper contracts and signed, paper checks. It was slow, cumbersome, and not at all secure. Switching to Pixifi has made a world of difference in my client experience and allows me to serve my clients even better than before! This is a great one for more than just photographers- anyone who needs to keep track of client details, dates, contracts and payments? Pixifi is a great choice. (Read more HERE)

5. PASS- you guys already know I have a crush on this one. PASS has made it almost stupidly easy for me to get images to my clients. Rather than having to make a trip to the post office every time I finished a wedding, engagement or anniversary, and rather than having my clients wait the few days it takes to get a USB drive or DVD delivered, I can now send my couples their images as soon as they’ve finished uploading. This means I’m able to offer same-day delivery for photographs: the day I finish editing, I begin the upload, and once that upload completes, my couples have their images in hand. PASS has been amazing for simplifying, and has honestly become a point of marketing for me! (Read more HERE and HERE).

Top 5 Software/Program resources for photography business- Abby Grace

And for a bonus #6,

6. White House Custom Colour- I love their ROES system! It makes ordering prints for my anniversary couples super easy, since I can simply highlight an entire batch of images, drop them into the 5″x7″ window, and order a copy of every image with no more than a few clicks of the mouse. All of my portrait proofs are ordered through WHCC!

I’d love to hear about your favorites! What’s the BEST program in your toolkit?

  • Jean - love these photos! You are so talented!ReplyCancel

  • Laura Hernandez - This was a HUGE eye opener for us! We’ve been way behind on office management doing everything ourselves the old school paper way. Just signed up for PixiFi! Can’t wait to go paperless and de-stress waiting for the mailman. I told them you sent us. :)ReplyCancel

  • David Abel - Great post Abby! I love blogstomp, also SmartAlbums is great for album design if you don’t outsource.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Fike - I’m getting ready to try Pixifi myself! Super excited about “decluttering” my business, too. One thing I’ve long wondered about is PASS. I like to send my clients things in the mail, especially my pretty pink flash drives. But honestly, doing mail is so cumbersome…as you mentioned. Sometimes it takes me hours to put packages together…but I continue to do it because I know my clients like it, and I think there’s value in mail. Do you still send your clients something in the mail when their pictures are finished? A flash drive? A thank you note?? Sending them a link to an online gallery after they spend hundreds just doesn’t seem exciting…ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - i love love love this list! One of my fave programs that I started using last year was photo mechanic!! It makes it so much easier for me to cull images before I import them over to Lightroom!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Stephen - You don’t use PhotoMechanic to cull?ReplyCancel

Happy first Monday of Spring, sweet blog readers!! It snowed on the real first day of Spring last week here in Virginia, but then in true Commonwealth spirit, it was 60 degrees and sunny the following day. I myself am praying that the 60-and-sunny stuff sticks around, because as much as I love the beauty of snowfall, I think I’m ready to kiss that stuff goodbye until late November.

Last week was a crazy one! Remember how I promised to post vacation photos, and then didn’t? It’s because I got a super fun bout of the flu on Tuesday night. Did I mention it was SUPER fun? Because it totally was. Nothing but ginger ale, crackers, prescription-strength anti-nausea, and chicken broth for two days- my idea of a great time, amiright? In all honesty, I’m grateful it didn’t last longer. And I’m now seriously considering *thinking about* getting the flu shot next year. For those of you who know how scared I am of needles, this is a big step!

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

  • I get that posting diptychs (a side-by-side pairing of two photographs) on Instagram of the exact same image of yourself is a trendy thing to do with fashion bloggers, but EVERY TIME I see it, I assume it’s one of those “find the 10 differences!” games like you used to see in a Highlights magazine in the doctor’s waiting room. Am I alone in that?
  • The most dangerous area of Target: the office supplies section, and the home decor section. Y’all know I have, like, ZERO skills when it comes to decorating, which is why Target is such a volatile threat- everything’s already pre-coordinated! So I don’t NEED design skills, I just need to decide on approximately how many navy blue + white geometrical accent pillows we need for the living room. It’s becoming a real problem.
  • We finally hung our first photos of US this weekend! We’ve been homeowners for more than seven months now, but this is better than in the past: we were 1.5 years into marriage before I hung our first wedding photo. So I’m getting better!
  • My parents moved into their new home!! For my February APWW girls, they’ll know how exciting this is- my parents just bought a farmhouse that was built in 1870 (Dad calls it their “new old house”), and it’s my favorite house in the whole world. We’ll be shooting the portraits portion of all future A Practical Wedding Workshops dates there, because it’s too perfect NOT to photograph over and over! See what I mean??

A Practical Wedding Workshop for photographers- Abby Grace

Sigh. It looks like Green Gables. And my mom and I spent Saturday night talking away in their new living room, quoting Jane Austen and altogether loving where she and my Dad are in life right now.

You know what could be fun? Starting a weekly round-up of awesome posts from around the web that y’all might like to read! Let’s start off strong with two of my favorite photographers to follow-

  1. HERE is a post from Katelyn James, all about using off-camera flash to shoot in barns! I don’t photograph barn weddings anymore, but there’s a lot of awesome content in this one post alone that absolutely applies to shooting in other types of venues!
  2. And then HERE is a post from J&M announcing their new lighting guide that they’ll be selling! Pretty much everything I learned at the beginning, when it comes to off-camera flash, came at the generous knowledge of J&M. Their Lighting Intensive is such a good workshop, and this ebook is the perfect solution for someone who may not be able to make the in-person day of learning!
  3. Hey look. My work is on Buzzfeed again! Check out THIS article on 25 Harry Potter wedding ideas!

Happy Monday, dearies! Enjoy some floral eye candy :).

A Practical Wedding Workshop for photographers- Abby Grace

  • Sydni Jackson - Ooh, I love your new “Leave a note” button. My in-laws have an 18th century farm house in Richmond, it’s so fun to visit! I hope they still have it by the time we have kids, I would love for my future kids to get to experience it. :) Also, you should totally print those “catch/keeper” signs from the buzzfeed article!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - i am also glad to see Spring appear. Itvseemed like such a long winter. Looking forward to seeing you soon!ReplyCancel

  • Tuesday Mash-Up » Modern International Wedding Photographer - […] 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 […]ReplyCancel

I will be the first to admit that I am NOT the best at this sort of thing. Ideas for styled shoots usually start as me dreaming this big huge dream, becoming overly excited and telling someone else about it, getting vendors together, picking a date… and then forgetting about it until the week before. At which point I think kick myself for not getting my crap together earlier, panicking that I’ve asked all these people to donate time and resources to something that may be a total flop, and then end up blubbering about how bad of a business owner I am to Matt with a glass of champagne in hand. It’s not pretty.

Needless to say, I don’t recommend this route. Fortunately, it’s always ended up working out because that last week is spent feverishly planning, shopping, and sometimes DIYing/life-hacking some sort of prop, but still. Not the best route to take if you prefer a stress-free living!

elegant styled shoot- Abby Grace Photography

If you prefer to take the LESS stressful route, then here are some helpful tips to aid you in making the most of a styled shoot!

1. DO come up with a Pinterest board of how you envision things coming together! The more clear details you can provide at the outset, the easier it’ll be for other vendors to say “yes” and get on board.

2. DON’T take on the responsibility of coordinating/designing if your talents don’t lay in that area. Instead, find an amazing wedding designer/coordinator and ask them to get on board, and be very open about how much/little you’re hoping they’ll take on for the shoot.

3. DO aim high! Ask a vendor you’ve been dying to work with to participate!

4. But DON’T be too disappointed if they decline. They may be crazy busy, or perhaps they already have a couple of styled shoots line up that month and don’t think they can handle another. Give grace and chug along!

5. DO test your equipment before showing up to the shoot. I don’t recommend going out and getting a brand new piece of equipment the night before and counting on said equipment for the shoot the next day, without ever having opened the box.

True story: I did this at my last styled shoot with an octabank and flash bracket. Despite me knowing how to use an octa, I sat there for 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get the bracket to fasten onto my light stand, wasting other people’s time. In the end, the limousine owner, Jack, ended up just holding my octabank in the air, which ended up working out pretty well… but yeah, spare yourself the embarrassment and test ALL your equipment before arriving.

6. DON’T forget to adequately thank everyone involved- they’re giving up time with family, or time they could have spent working, and sometimes in addition to money they’ve spent. Floral designers especially- they have to pay out of pocket for those blooms, don’t take that lightly. Make sure every member of the team knows how grateful you are!

7. DO be clear on what everyone will need to bring/do for the shoot! Unclear expectations can lead to things being forgotten or only half-done on the wedding day!

8. DON’T just re-iterate everything else you’ve seen that’s trending in the wedding industry. Try to come up with something new, or come up with a fresh perspective of something that’s already popular!

9. DO make sure to realistically give yourself enough time to plan.

10. DON’T treat the vendors you’re working alongside with anything less than the same respect you’d treat your couples. Deliver and submit the images quickly, and be good about returning emails in a timely manner!

And in the spirit of styled shoots, here are some favorites from the Harry Potter styled wedding shoot I did a few years ago with Bree of Capitol Romance! I went back and re-edited them, because my old editing style was, let’s be honest, atrocious. See the shoot in its entirety on Green Wedding Shoes!

Harry Potter styled wedding inspiration shoot- Abby Grace Photography

Harry Potter styled wedding inspiration shoot- Abby Grace Photography

Harry Potter styled wedding inspiration shoot- Abby Grace Photography

Harry Potter styled wedding inspiration shoot- Abby Grace Photography

Harry Potter styled wedding inspiration shoot- Abby Grace Photography

  • Tatyana - Such great tips – and love the photos!ReplyCancel

  • Leah - Thank you for this post! I so want to do my first styled shoot this year, and keep feeling so overwhelmed and then nothing gets done. Your tips are mighty handy! :-DReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Great tips! And I love that shoot – it’s so darling!ReplyCancel

  • Jaclyn - I’m moving and in the process of thinking of a styled shoot so I definitely needed this today Abby! Question: What do you think is a realistic timeframe to plan a styled shoot? I feel like once I get the idea I just want to do it in like 2 weeks haha and that can’t happen but I feel like a month and a half is good time, what do you think?ReplyCancel