With wedding season fast approaching, I’m finding my calendar full of e-sessions. HOORAY! I la-la-love having this time with my couples before their wedding day. Because beautiful weather is just around the corner, I’ve been receiving more and more emails with requests from couples looking for JUST as engagement session- maybe because their wedding is still a year away and don’t want to decide on their photographer yet, maybe because they don’t have a wedding date yet, etc. Whatever the reason may be, my answer for JUST an engagement session is always a gentle “no.”

Engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

It’s not because I’m being a snob- it’s for THEIR benefit, and I always make sure to explain it as such! I’ve found that the best wedding photography experiences come when my couples and I have the chance to get to know each other prior to their wedding- we learn more about each other as people, I learn how they feel in front of my lens, and they get a feel for my shooting/posing style. I really treasure that time with my brides and grooms- it’s part of what helps foster the friendships that I LOVE having with my couples. And having that relaxed, non-rushed time together makes it so that when the wedding day portraits come around, my couples are already pros. Why is that important? Because if the timeline gets crunched, as it sometimes does, and instead of the glorious hour we schedule for bride & groom portraits I somehow find myself with 8 minutes? My bride and groom already know what to expect, I know which poses work best for them, and we can jump right in.

Engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

I always tell my brides and grooms at the beginning of any e-session that the first 20 minutes are going to be awkward, and that it’s totally fine! That they’re just getting used to me, I’m getting my settings adjusted, and as they’re not professional models, I don’t expect them to know what to do without a bit of direction from me. Now imagine if we skipped an engagement session, or a bride & groom did an e-session with someone else, and then their wedding portraits are crunched to a 25 minutes? The first 15-20 would be spent “warming up,” and just when the couple is hitting their stride, we have to stop. Cue: Darth Vader-esque “NOOOOOOO!”

In the same way that I really value that time with my clients, I don’t want to take away the engagement experience from another photographer. If a couple emails me for an e-session but has already booked their wedding photographer, I strongly encourage them to schedule engagement photos with the photographer they’re entrusting their wedding images with. Having that experience with whomever is shooting your wedding is important!

Engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

What about you all? If you did an engagement session with your photographer, did you feel like doing so made for better wedding day portraits?

  • kathy - Cue: Darth Vader-esque “NOOOOOOO!” – TOO funny! :) Great post and I love, love, LOVE that last image! :)ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - I completely agree!! When I get to know my clients through their e-sesh, not only do they have beautiful casual images but their wedding images are so much more THEM. They know the poses and they remember how good they looked in their engagement pictures so they’re confident to rock it again! LOVE your work Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - I couldn’t agree more. This is a definite. Abby makes you feel like a model and gives you great tips for the day of your wedding! My favorite is when she does her movie quotes/impressions throughout the shoot!! Makes for more care-free fun.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Adams - Abby!! thank you thank you for this post! I sooo admire your honesty and ability to express it so wonderfully! I may just use this blog post for some of my clients who ask the same question! I totally agree!!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - I love this and I am right there with ya! It’s always disappointing to tell someone “no” – they are contacting you because they want YOU and you are turning down potential income… but it’s so much more than that and being able to say “no” really shows that you care about the needs of the couples who contact you above your own. I wish everyone could see that it really is a selfless act, both by providing those couples with great advice and also providing your own couples with the BEST version of yourself. Great post, Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field - My experience was almost 33 years ago so I will not comment on that question. I did want to mention that the last couple, with both being blonde and wearing blue shirts, was a gorgeous shot. I hope they treasure that one!ReplyCancel

  • Planning for your e-session! » Modern Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer - […] week I posted a little bit behind why engagement sessions are awesome (they really, really are!) and why I only shoot them with my wedding couples. My brides & […]ReplyCancel

I’m so sorry this blog post is coming so late today! I was up and out of the house early for a portrait session, hence the tardiness, but enough excuses. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty (Nacho Libre, anyone?)

So even though I decided this past fall to stop trying to make film work for my weddings and engagements, I still LOVE my Contax 645! I blogged last week about how important personal work is, and so having my film camera with me in Santa Barbara at UNITED was the perfect opportunity to shoot more just for ME. I’ve always wanted to shoot on the West Coast, and after getting my scans back from RPL, there’s no doubt in my mind that California light was MADE for film. I can’t wait to get some of these images enlarged to hang throughout our home. As much as I love the East Coast, we can have pretty dreary days from time to time- I think a dose of California sunset light is all I’ll need to keep my chin up when the skies are gray :).

Santa Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace Photography

My new friends Melissa and Sarah!

Santa Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace Photography

The Four Season Biltmore resort was the PERFECT location for UNITED. It was relaxing to walk through and the architecture was so beautiful!

Santa Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace Photography

I heart this tree.

Santa Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace Photography

Kenny Kim: Ukelele-ist extraordinaire.

Santa Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace Photography

Another new friend, the beautiful Tasha Prescott!

Santa Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace PhotographySanta Barbara, California on film- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Wednesday!

  • Emilia Jane - WHY is film so much more forgiving in bright light!? So so pretty.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Adams - Abby!!!! These are so so so gorgeous. The light in these pictures just brightens my day. Your beach shots are some of my faves….and that tree!!! Oh my goodness! Amazing pictures as always :)ReplyCancel

  • Christina Blanarovich - Gorgeous!!! You should use your Contax for more than personal work! Wow! Girl you rocked it!ReplyCancel

  • Erica - Oh my GOSH ABBY! These are stunning! So peaceful and the lighting is gorgeous. And you are right, i heart that tree too!ReplyCancel

  • Megan Chase - holy cow! these are SO dreamy! thank you for brightening my day! VERY pretty!ReplyCancel

  • Sabrina - These are beautiful!!! And once again, I’m wishing ourselves back in SB ;-) I also wish I’d spent more time photographing where we were staying! It’s just so darn beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Regan - Okay. These are stunning. They are making the seriously gray day outside a little less dreary! Love the surfers workin’ it in that last photo! Amazing and beautiful all around!!ReplyCancel

  • molly stillman - these are AMAZINGGGGGGGReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Abby – you are amazing with film. There truly is something special about shooting in that medium. Absolutly stunning!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - These are AWESOME Abby! I especially love that surfer shot at the end – so cool!ReplyCancel

  • Rhema Peterson - These are fantastic!! Love them!ReplyCancel

  • Terri Baskin - Beautiful work, Abby!!ReplyCancel

  • Blythe K - Beautiful!! such pretty glowy light!!ReplyCancel

  • Tasha Prescott-Wilson - Awww I love film!ReplyCancel

  • Laura Yang - I think you just proved that Santa Barbara should be shot on film. . . .ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Messick - AHHH! I wanted to go SO bad! Guess I’ll just have to wait :) Love the film photos!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Stott - Abby I love these SO SO Much! ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! I SOOO enjoyed getting to chat with you! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Christy Tyler - These are stunning hon!! Especially love that last shot of the surfer guys – so editorial! :)ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea Batey - Abby… I am seriously freaking out about film right now, it’s breathtaking. It’s definitely my new favorite photography type out there – it’s so much more raw, real and classic. Extraordinary. I would LOVE to see film become more and more of a thing you do – it’s a huge strength! And… if I can save up enough I might be interested in film bridals sometime in the future :)ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Wells - These are amazing! Your film work is so beautiful! :)ReplyCancel

  • Brittani Croft - GAH! Just GAH! These are SO gorgeous and I just wish I could transport riiiiiiiiiight through the screen to that beach. Gorgeous film work, Abby!ReplyCancel

  • Faye Bernoulli - GAHHH this makes me miss Southern California so much! Next time you visit, go down to my hometown, San Diego! ;)ReplyCancel

The idea for this entire shebang came as a result of a push. A push from where? you may ask. A push from the greatest and most heartfelt of pushers, Mary Marantz. We first talked about it at dinner after Matt and I’d anniversary shoot in New York City, and then she pushed me (along with 100+ other people) at the What’s Next tour to ASK for opportunities. To stop waiting for things you want to magically happen upon you, to make them happen yourself.

You all already know that I eventually want to teach one day- there’s something about sharing what I’ve learned and seeing it transform other people that really lights a fire within me. I LOVE pouring into others! But I’d been waiting for someone to tell me “hey, you should really think about teaching” to have the courage to set something up, and if I’m always going to wait for someone to tell me to take a risk, I’ll be waiting a LONG time.

I was on the phone with Rebekah a few weeks ago, talking about something completely unrelated, when I interrupted her (sorry, girl!) and abruptly asked “Hey, would you want to host a Q&A night with me? You know, for other photographers?” Being the awesome friend that she is, Rebekah was on board and within 5 minutes we’d picked a date and decided to get together the following afternoon for a couple of promo photos.

This past Friday night came and Rebekah and I found ourselves with our husbands scrambling around my town house at 6:45 hastily arranging finger foods and napkins, wine glasses and soda bottles, and when the first doorbell ring came, I was so glad we were in this together. Because at least if we failed, I’d have someone to laugh about it with!

It’s crazy how faithful God is when you think you’ve planned something impossible. When we originally opened up 12 spots for this Q&A night idea, we were just hoping we’d manage to fill half or so of them by the time March 8th rolled around. And then, within 45 minutes, all 12 spots were gone, and even more requests for spots trickled in throughout the day. So then I started to figure something HAD to go wrong, and that even though people RSVP’d, that they’d probably all email us the day of to say they could no longer come. But that didn’t happen. So THEN I figured, since something needed to go wrong, that even though they RSVP’d and even though they didn’t email us to cancel, that non of them would really show up.

But they did. And sure enough, by 7:30 on Friday night, we had 12 photographers sitting in my living room, chatting with each other, laughing with each other, and learning from each other. It was an amazing evening- I was thoroughly flabbergasted by the end of the night. The original blog post said “7-9 pm,” but we didn’t technically break until 9:30. And when we did officially end, we encouraged people to stay if they still had more questions, that we weren’t in any hurry to clean up. So stay they did, and the last person didn’t depart until 11:30. IT WAS AWESOME. (PS- all photo credit goes to Matt Hoyt!)


I look like I’m trying to fight someone. I wasn’t, for the record.


Rebekah: thank you so much for being my partner in crime in this! If you hadn’t agreed to do this with me, I never would have had the courage to do it alone. So, so thankful to have you as a friend! And to our Matts, thanks for being the support systems we needed to make this a reality. Thank you for being willing to stand because there weren’t any chairs left, thank you to my hubs for encouraging me and praying for us, thank you to Matt Hoyt for the beautiful images, and thanks to you both for being willing to sit down at midnight to chat about what we did well and what could be better for next time.

Happy Tuesday!

  • Stephanie Judd - Beside learning SO much from you both in such a short time, your husbands’ being there, helping out, and chiming in was my FAVORITE! It made me wish I brought my fiance! :) There needs to be a photog husbands support group! The way you described your first two years of business is exactly what we’re going through right now, and I’m sure he would have enjoyed hearing that it does get better. :)ReplyCancel

  • Rici - So cool Abby!!!!
    looks really fun and relaxed in your living room! Proud of you going for it and not waiting for something to come your way!!

    ~ Saluti.ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea Batey - Abby! This is so beautiful to hear your heart behind teaching and wanting to pour back into others. I’m so excited that you have this mentality and it’s cool to see you live the things that you learned at United about blessing others. You really have blessed all 12 of us and we couldn’t be more thankful. I look forward to seeing how teaching ends up working for you… you better believe I will be following closely to jump on an opportunity as soon as it rises :) So excited for you and the community you’re helping create.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Hedgepeth - YAYYYY I am so glad you enjoyed your first Q+A experience!!!!!!! I remember reading about someone saying you shouldn’t go through with it (RIDICULOUS) and look how it ended up, I have no doubt you two rocked it out and helped others! That’s seriously the best best best feeling ever and I LOVE the emails I get afterwards with people making things happen!!!!!!!! REWARDING :) XOXOXOXOReplyCancel

  • ashley link - so completely awesome!!! i hope y’all do another one soon!!! i really wanna hang out with you awesome photographers!!! :) y’all are so kind! keep up the great work! :)ReplyCancel

  • Joey - It was such a great night and I learned a lot! Both you and Rebekah are gifted teachers! Thanks so much for having all of us over and it was wonderful to meet both you and Matt! :)ReplyCancel

  • Megan - I think you should do a blog post to give us all a tour of your new home… just sayin’ ;)ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - SO thankful to have experienced this with you!! I’m so overjoyed right now :)ReplyCancel

  • Judie - I knew it would be a great evening, I am just sad I missed it :-( I do hope that you and Rebekah will have another one. You ladies rock!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Adams - You two are SUCH a blessing. Thank you thank you for sharing your gifts, wisdom, and gorgeous home with the 12 of us!! What an inspiration that night was :) :) So wonderful meeting you!!!ReplyCancel

  • Aimee - Not only does it look like you’re trying to fight but you seem to be asking, “who wants to fight?” Rebekah in the back is saying “she’ll whoop all you.” Oh and I’m glad your Q & A night went well :)ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - GO YOU for making things happen! What a great idea that was made a reality :)ReplyCancel

  • Megan Chase - Thank you for opening your home and heart to us on Friday evening! I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to learn from you. Your passion and faith drives me to dream bigger! Don’t forget… This is just the begining for you!ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field - Hmmmm, that teaching thing, wonder where that might have come from? So proud of you for not only choosing this risky journey of photography (a your father and I chewed our nails down to their edges) but for really going after it and then choosing to give the gift that only a few could or WOULD do, that is sharing from what you’ve learned with others. It is selfless to do this. Kudos on finding a partner in crime in Rebekah. “Many hands make light work.” That goes for encouragement when trying something new. Many thanks go to the two Matts who chose to support the two of you in this endeavor! I’m so utterly proud of you!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy {Weswen Design} - You are SUCH a rockstar. I love your go get ‘em attitude! I’m sure you helped so many photogs that night. Makes me want to host a seminar on small business branding!ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie Messick - AH! I totally want to do something similar to this … well, just get a bunch of photographers together at least and talk :) I feel like with our passions, we can all talk FOR HOURSSSSS! Haha! If you do this again, I would LOVE to join ya’ll :) I might be trying to get a group together in NOVA soon before the busy season officially begins!ReplyCancel

Hooray! Today marks Monday Mash-Up post #52, meaning we’ve kept this series going strong for an entire year. As someone who tends to start strong then let things fall to the way side (*cough*Wine Wednesday*cough*), I’m pretty proud of myself.

This past weekend was awesome! Friday evening played host to Rebekah & I’s first Q&A night and it went SO well (more tomorrow:)). On Saturday, I got to meet up with a bunch of my college girlfriends for some good, old fashioned and much-needed girl time. Matt’s sister Becky got married on Saturday as well in a short, sweet ceremony, so I got to throw in a bit of family time. And then yesterday, even though Matt wasn’t feeling well, he still managed to put together our new entertainment center so that we could finally get rid of the banged up coffee table we’d been using as a tv stand. Ten points for Matt!

As always, lessons learned/things that transpired over the weekend:

  • I saw Pitch Perfect on Saturday night- HOW did I miss this before?? I’d thought it was going to be a combination of “Hairspray” and “Glee” so I guess I’d passed it over before, but holy cow. I was so wrong. It’s hilarious, and you need to see it immediately. It’s even at Rebox to make your life easier!
  • On Saturday night my girlfriends and I headed into Falls Church to Clare & Don’s Beach Shack for dinner. DELICIOUS. Whoever decided that beer battered chicken fingers was a good idea deserve a prize, because they were amazing.
  • It’s not girls weekend until you do something illegal. Like shoving six full-grown people into a small sedan. Yesss.
  • I saw an advertisement over the weekend for “Bring It On: The Musical” over the weekend. Let it die, folks- let it die. Kirsten Dunst did it best, and everything afterwards has been a grasp at straws. It’s turned into the “Land Before Time” series- weren’t there like 16 of those?
  • I finished my first “by myself” sewing project- I made PILLOWS! We needed a few extra seats for Friday night’s Q&A session so I made floor cushions using the mad skills my Granny taught me… and then Rebekah brought over a couple of folding chairs so nobody ended up needing them. But they looked GOOD sitting out on the floor.
  • Can someone please tell me how we have heavy snow on Wednesday and then 68 degree loveliness on Sunday? That makes no sense to me. But bring on the sun dress weather- I’m ready!

This week marks the end of my slow season- I have my first e-session of the year on Thursday! So fear not, my friends- we’ll no longer be frantically searching for photos to accompany Monday Mash-Ups anymore. But for today, here’s one of my first images taken during my photo class in college. Radford during a snow storm is pretty tough to beat in the “awe-inspiring beauty” department.

Radford Universty

Happy Monday!

  • Mary Neumann - Ahhh! I LOVE snow pics. So fun to see one of your first images! And to the endless “Bring it On” Series…eye rolllll. :)ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Love your Monday Mash-Ups. Sounds like you had a fun filled weekend! Your pillows looked awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Regan - Isn’t “Pitch Perfect” the greatest movie?? I passed over it at first as well and may or may not have watched it 3x in the same week after giving in! Stinkin’ hilarious! Sounds like a great weekend! :)ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea Batey - I loved this… and AMEN to the Kirsten Dunsnt Bring it On!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - I’ve been wanting to see Pitch Perfect!! But I also love Hairspray and Glee, so does that mean I’m not going to like it? :)ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Adams - Totally going to rent Pitch Perfect this week. Rebel Wilson is HILARIOUS. Also- so impressed by your homemade pillows! Can’t wait for your post tomorrow! Yay!ReplyCancel

  • Nikki Santerre - Yay for a new entertainment center! I thought my Matt and I were the only ones using an old coffee table until we could save for a better one ;)ReplyCancel

  • Sarah B. - I just saw Pitch Perfect a few weeks ago, and yes, it is HILARIOUS!! I’ve now watched it twice… and would totally watch it again! :DReplyCancel

I’m not quite sure where to begin this one because Allie is SUCH a dynamic person, and trying to describe her in one paragraph is hard to do. But we’ll try, shall we? I’ve known Allie since we were 13- we were best friends in 8th grade. It was the four of us- myself, Allie, Katie F and Katie F. BEST friends. I think it began in science class because we share tables, and I’m honestly not sure how I managed to learn anything that year with all the gabbing and laughing we did. Allie had a knack for creating “the next THING,” whether that was a particularly awesome pencil case that everyone coveted, a cute outfit, or a cool word (I think she called people “krod” for like TWO YEARS before anyone realized it was “dork” spelled backwards). With her uncanny ability to make anyone around her laugh and her knack for inventing trends that people follow, she’s an “it girl” for sure.

About a year ago, I started seeing some amazing fashion images of Allie pop up on Facebook- it turns out she’s also an incredible model! So when I ran into her at the community center a few weeks ago, I knew I had to shoot her. And then God gave us the perfect opportunity on Wednesday when it was snowing like crazy, so Allie and I headed out for a completely spur of the moment photo shoot. It also happened to be on the same day I blogged about personal work- how fitting :).

Bloggettes, meet my GORGEOUS friend Allie!

fashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photography

Shut. UP. Allie you are ridiculously beautiful!!

fashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photography

This needs to be an Anthropologie advertisement.

fashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photography

fashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photographyfashion model Allie Babiarz - Abby Grace Photography

Allie Allie Allie, thank you so much for giving me a chance to photograph you. It was just the kind of pick-me-up I needed! I can’t WAIT to do it again soon!

  • Christian Ward - Great work…I particularly like the indoor shots- especially the B&W ones.ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - WOW SOOOO gorgeous Abby!!! I love these!!! They’re all so natural and beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Ethan - Holy cow. It’s so strange to see people I went to high school with all grown up. She was a pretty young girl back then, and she’s absolutely gorgeous now.

    Phenomenal pictures, Abby.ReplyCancel

  • molly stillman - HOLYCRAP she is gorgeous.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - These are just gorgeous Abby! Doesn’t hurt that you had a beautiful model as well. Love the one where she is doe eyed in purple and the one laughing on the couch. Stunning!ReplyCancel

  • Stephen - She’s an attractive version of Kristen Stewart! Holy Toma-lee!ReplyCancel