It began in 2009 at a beach shack in Ocean City, MD on an adventure- a very special mission trip called “Summer Project.” Tyler & Ashley lived alongside each other with 30 other college kids from around the US, spending their days working at hamburger shacks and water parks, and their evenings worshipping and serving with one another. That summer didn’t give birth to a romance just yet, but it set the foundations of their friendship that would later yield greater fruit.

It wasn’t until March of 2011 that things took a turn toward something more than friendship. And then, as it were, Ashley was due to leave a short five months later on another great adventure; the World Race, an 11-month journey to 11 different countries to serve those is some of the most desolate of conditions. They could write, email, and occasionally Skype when the internet connection was strong enough, but that was it.

And so he waited for her. But she wasn’t completely gone- before departing, Ashley filled 11 notebooks, one for each month of her absence, with love letters. One letter per day, 335 love notes altogether. And she left the opposite side of each page blank so that he could write back. Notes of well-wishes, notes of laughter, notes of prayer for the other. And as they wrote their love grew, so that by the day she returned last July, even though a mere 1/3 of their relationship had been spent together, they knew that this? This love was it. It was no surprise to anyone, therefore, that Tyler presented Ashley with a sparkly diamond ring and a promise of forever a few months later.

For their engagement session, we took it back to where everything began in Ocean City, Maryland and began at sunrise on the beach…

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Dawn at the beach is my new favorite time and place to shoot.

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography


Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

The 3 Jacks, the house where they stayed during Summer Project! (This particular mission trip has a special place in my heart- Matt & I started dating while on Hampton Beach Summer Project)

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Ashley, you are so, so beautiful in love.

Ocean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland destination engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Tyler & Ashley, it is such an encouragement to watch you two together. The way your love and serve one another is such a reflection of Christ’s love, and I feel lucky to call you both friends. I’m thrilled we got the chance to photograph your session in a place that meant so much to you both. Thank you, a hundred times over, for allowing me into your lives to document your love- I cannot WAIT until June!

Happy Tuesday!

  • Matt - I love the way that they pursued each other during their times away from each other, that’s awesome! Great pictures, they seem so happy together!ReplyCancel

  • Tyler Herrinton - Ahhhh yes Abby! Thanks so much, we love them! And we especially love the way you told our story. Thanks for taking the time to care about us! Can’t wait for June! Less than 2 months away now wooooo!ReplyCancel

  • Urška Majer - Oh my, what an amazing beach session! The light is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Alicia & Germán - Happiness for a lifetime.
    All our heart for you!

  • kaitlyn phipps - wow. this was absolutely adorable. beautifully shot and beautiful people! ps: ashley you are STUNNING!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - Oh, Abby – this session is simply wonderful. Their love is so sweet, and their story is even sweeter. I am so glad you were able to capture them at a place that meant so much to them both, and to even include their journals! It’s couples like this that makes our jobs so amazing. BEAUTIFUL session! :)ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Edwards - YESSS! Ditto to everything Ty said! I love these!Thanks for spending with us and investing in our story! We appreciate you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Stephen - SHUT. THE. FRONT. DOOR. AND. THE. BACK. DOOR. TOO!!!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah Rancourt - It’s such a sweet love story to be sure! They are such a cute couple! Also, the beach at sunrise is AMAZING!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • Tori - Abby, these are stunning!!! It’s so cool to hear Tyler’s love story! And even crazier that Aaron’s “uncle” (long time family friend) is the one who started Adventures In Missions which puts in the World Race – so it’s crazy that Ashley did that! Such a small world. And such a beautiful love story. :)ReplyCancel

  • Nikki Santerre - My favorite e-session of yours ever, Abby! Their story is so incredible!ReplyCancel

  • LISA EDWARDS - Just simply love the pictures. I remember when we visited that house & I said – Ashley who was the guy with the dark hair, the one that was really tan…………..she said, Oh that is Tyler, little did I know years later you 2 would be getting married. So excited, loved the pictures & the journals are very special. To this day, cannot believe all the work that went into those little gems. I love the beach & cannot think of a better scenery than my little girl with her soon to be husband!!!ReplyCancel

  • Julie McElwee - Beautiful pictures that go along with a beautiful story.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Adama - A favorite session for SURE. This couple is so so adorable. And the way you captured them is just perfect!ReplyCancel

  • ashley link - so lovely!!! the ring shot on the seashells is super creative!!! love it!!! these are all so great and they are so smitten!!! love it! :)ReplyCancel

  • Rici - Oh Abby!
    This is such a great Session! These two look absolutely gorg for the sunrise and all!! Love how you in cooperated the notebooks! This is such a great story &session!! Lovely!!!
    ~ Salutiiii.ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - This story is amazing! And the photos are beautiful :-)ReplyCancel

It’s April 1st! My wedding season officially begins this Saturday and I could not be more excited- it’s been two months since my last wedding and it’s just enough time to give me butterflies for this coming weekend. It’s funny how that happens- I’ve shot well over 30 weddings and yet I still get nervous before each one. I hope that never goes away, though :).

Can we talk about how it’s already APRIL?! How have the first three months of the year gone by so quickly? When I was at my corporate job, I remember hearing someone say that time passes too quickly during the work week- they’d sit down at their desk on Monday morning and by the time they spared a glance at the clock, it was Friday afternoon. I never understood the sentiment while I was Northrop Grumman, but now that I work for myself, it rings all too clear.

The only good thing about time passing so quickly is that the days are getting longer and the weather is finally getting warmer! And warmer weather means DRESSES. Dresses and sandals! I’M SO EXCITED! (Can you tell it’s been a long, long winter here in Virginia?)

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

  • Happy Easter! We had an incredible time celebrating at church and spending time with family yesterday and I hope you guys did too!
  • Lily’s favorite spot to sit in our house is right on our bed- it’s close enough to the window (which looks out on the neighborhood) that she can spy on our neighbors/bark at anything that has the audacity to move while she’s on watch. It was after observing her behavior last week that Matt remarked how we should have named her “Petunia” instead of Lily. And this is one of the many reasons that I love him. #HarryPotterNerdsUnite
  • Never ever tell a 4-year-old that you have a birthday present for her but that she’ll have to wait until after dinner to open it. Your resolve will ALWAYS crumble when they smile that sweet little impish grin.
  • Matt & I attended our nephew’s baptism on Saturday night where the presiding pastor was a visiting church officiant. He began the sermon with “it’s always a joy to be back at Truro,” which got Matt and I talking. Wouldn’t it be awesome if church pastors greeted their congregations like rockstars? “WHAT’S UP RESTON?? You guys are the best congregation EVER!”

The Easter Sunday photo booth yesterday was awesome! By an unlucky turn of events, Matt & I didn’t manage to grab a photo together, so Matt surprised me later yesterday afternoon by hanging the backdrop on our living room curtain rod (due to my lack of a backdrop stand) to give us another chance for a photo. And it ended up working out even better, because we got to take out first ever “family” photo with Lily! It only took a 15 months! Please excuse the uneven draping of the backdrop- curtain rods are only so perfect :).

^ This is my new favorite photo. Happy Monday!

  • Rebekah Hoyt - I LOVE this photo!! Your family is so adorable. I hope you all had an amazing Easter :)ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Cutest family photo ever!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - Hahahahaa I LOVE the Petunia comment :-) Also…that picture is fanTAStic.ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Love the photo! Can’t wait to see you!ReplyCancel

  • Lorinda - This photo made my Monday morning.. so cute!!ReplyCancel

  • Katie Wallis - you are too cute :)ReplyCancel

  • Jae - The next time I talk to a visiting pastor prior to service starting, I’m going to recommend the rockstar shout-out. Also, how cute are you three?! Geez. Staaahhhp-ettttt.ReplyCancel

  • Karen Field - The photo is so great! I love it!ReplyCancel

I was going for the triple whammy of alliteration with that title but my creative juices ran out. Sorry I’m not sorry.

I’m in Ocean City, Maryland this morning for Tyler & Ashley’s engagement session- I am SO IN LOVE with sunrise portraits!! It’s been way too long since my last dawn e-session and it feels so good to be back in the swing of things, and it feels even BETTER that I got to do my first early morning e-session of 2013 at the beach :). It reminds me of the sunset light we had back in Santa Barbara. Maybe I should just consider moving to the coast?

This is a brief post because we’re heading out for breakfast and then home, so enjoy these couple of previews until their blog post next Tuesday! LOVE me some Tyler & Ashley!

Ocean City, Maryland engagement session- Abby Grace PhotographyOcean City, Maryland engagement session- Abby Grace Photography

Happy, happy Friday, my friends!

I’m not really sure how to write this blog post, so I’m just going to cut straight to the point: you all are invited to Easter Sunday at my church!

Easter is a day where people who may not have a regular church home feel a desire to attend (that was totally me in college), and my friends, Reston Community Church would love to have YOU. Going to a church you’ve never visited can be awkward, and I felt a nervous anticipation before Matt and I’s first Sunday at RCC. But it was all for naught- I’ve never felt more warmly welcomed than I was at Reston Community Church, and it only took one Sunday for Matt and I to decide we will never leave.

If you’ve been hoping to attend an Easter Sunday service but aren’t sure where to go, this is me personally inviting you to Reston Community Church. I would love nothing more than to save you a seat and give you a friendly face to look for so that you don’t feel like that awkward newcomer who doesn’t know anyone :). And to make things even sweeter, we’ve got a photobooth set-up planned! So if you and your family get dressed to the nines that morning we’d be thrilled to grab a photo to memorialize the occasion. But more than anything, we’d love to have you alongside our church family to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, of the day that death was defeated, to rejoice in the knowledge that we’ve been washed clean by what happened on the cross. And if none of that sounds familiar to you, we’d love to have you so that we can share the good news! Because when something amazing happens, you want to tell everyone you know.

Matt & I count ourselves incredibly blessed to call RCC our home, and we really and truly would love to share our Easter with you all! We meet at Dogwood Elementary School in Reston, Virginia- 12300 Glade Dr  Reston, VA 20191 – feel free to shoot me an email if you need directions or have any questions!

I’m not exaggerating, either- I really will save you a seat if you let me know you’re coming :).

Happy Thursday!

  • Lindsay - This is AWESOME!! LOVE the photo-booth idea!! So many families do get dressed up and it’s a perfect way to serve them with a beautiful memory!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - I love this! So glad you and Matt have a church home that you love – such a blessing!ReplyCancel

  • Wendy {Weswen Design} - I like that your church has an awesome logo. It’s cool in my book!ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea Batey - This is so awesome! Thinking about actually taking you up on your offer :)ReplyCancel

  • Jean - So glad you found a church you like and are enhusiastic about!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Adams - You are the sweetest, Abby! I love this– a church photobooth?!? SO SO awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Tessa - Abby! I love that you’re inviting people to your church! That’s amazing! I also wanted to say that I really really love that you love Jesus! Seriously! I love your photography and it’s amazing knowing that we share something so special! I love the community of photographers that love Jesus! If I lived in the area, I would so come by! Love you!ReplyCancel

  • Abby Flick - I love this: “Easter: the day death was defeated.” Never thought of it in that way. Thanks! Happy Easter!ReplyCancel

Firstly, I recognize that this may be one of the most boring blog posts ever. I’m just REALLY excited about my new organization! Secondly, thanks for excusing the late publishing time. I spent approximately 75 minutes on the Marine Corps Marathon site at noon hitting “refresh” like a crazy person, trying to get my dad and I registered for this year. Good news: we’re in! Bad news: I may have lost three years off of my life due to stress induced by the MCM website crashing over and over again. Anyways- let’s get on with it!

There’s an internal war that wages within me: the desire to be organized, and the inability to get there/keep things in their place. I suppose it’s part of my ADHD, but despite the fact that disorganization gives me anxiety, I can NEVER seem to keep things in their place! I HAVE found in recent years, though, that the more rigid my system of organization, the more likely I am to follow-through. For example, it’s not enough to just say “I need to design John & Jenny’s album this week.” I’ve learned that I have to set aside a particular day, a particular TIME of day, in order to get it done. Something more like “I need to design John & Jenny’s album this week, so I’m going to do it on Tuesday morning after I post my blog.”

I had a sort-of-organized system for storing my client folders/contracts/essential paperwork, which means I had a system that was a terrible mess but I didn’t know how to make it better so I just… left things the way they were. And then I’d need to be able to find my tax ID number while on the phone with my bank and have NO IDEA where it was. I had a handful of Vera Bradley folders that I’d intended to store various paperwork in, but they were so hard to keep organized and I was constantly misplacing them. And then when it came to receipts storage? I just had a drawer in my old desk where I’d stuff all of my receipts, and then at year-end I’d tally them all up. Pretty soon even just opening that drawer gave me anxiety because of messy it was, and I decided that 2013 was going to be my year to get systems in place to help alleviate the frustration.

Here’s my old system: a portable file box and Vera Bradley folders. Not exactly professional.

office organization- Abby Grace Photography

I started looking for cute file cabinets and soon discovered that there aren’t many in existence. Most were either black or beige, and after two years in the corporate world staring at ugly metal filing cabinets, I wanted something that could COMPLEMENT what I already have in my office. I finally came across some less-corporate-looking filing cabinets at the Container Store, and after seeing they were on sale last weekend, I went out and bought one! The original price was $200, but the sale took them down to $130, and THEN I found an imperfect one with a slight ding on the top that had been reduced to $109. SCORE.

Office organization- Abby Grace Photography

I know it’s probably weird to love a filing cabinet, but this thing is awesome. Something I’ve learned about myself over the past couple of years is that if it’s a task I don’t want to do, give myself attractive tools to get it done and it’s no longer such a chore! Case in point: I have strict Monday-Friday work hours- unless I’m shooting a wedding, I don’t work on Saturdays. But I was so excited about this filing cabinet when I got it home last Saturday that I spent two hours in my office rearranging and transferring all of my files. I’m such a nerd!

This is the new set-up: I have all of my current/unresolved wedding clients in their own folder, all in the top drawer. This includes all of my 2013 couples whose weddings I’ve yet to shoot, and then any past clients who still have outstanding album orders and such. I color code them based on year- all of my 2013 clients are in gray folders, and my unresolved 2012 clients are in pink. Rather than buying a new set of folders for 2014, I’ll recycle the pink ones so that I can continue to keep separate years in separately-colored folders.

Office organization- Abby Grace Photography

Once a couple’s wedding folder is resolved (if they haven’t ordered an album, that means delivering their PASS gallery, and if they have ordered an album, it’s once I’ve sent their book in the mail), I use a binder clip to group together EVERything from their folder: their contract, any notes, check scans, etc. Then I take the paperwork to the lower drawer and store it in my “Completed clients” folder for whichever year the wedding took place. I have separate folders for completed weddings and completed portrait sessions, just to make it a little easier to find things.

Office organization- Abby Grace Photography

In the same drawer as my archived/completed clients, I also store important documents: each year’s tax return/filing paperwork gets its own folder, each year’s receipts get their own folder. This is also the drawer where I store important business-related paperwork- things like my LLC certificate, my tax ID number, business checkbooks, etc. Notice that the tax folders are red: it’s because red is the color of anger, and I hate taxes.

Office organization- Abby Grace Photography

Rather than throwing out the old portable filing box, I now use it to organize my negatives! This way I don’t have to go searching through unmarked boxes if I want to find negatives for last year- praise the LORD. That was becoming exhausting!

Office organization- Abby Grace Photography

I still need to figure out a better way to store my receipts until I categorize them each month- any tips from you all? I’d love to hear how you handle that side of things!

Happy Wednesday!

  • Rebekah Hoyt - YAY for pretty office supplies! I’m with you… having pretty tools makes organizing WAY more FUN than it usually is. Great job on getting organized, girl!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Looks like you are doing OK with your filing system. Lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Carter - My husband & I just bought a house so I actually bought a filing cabinet today too, at a thrift store! It is definitely not as pretty as yours b/c it’s that ugly “office beige” but it will serve its purpose which is to store all of our important documents & tax papers. I am so with you on wanting to be organized but really struggling to actually make it happen.ReplyCancel

  • Sharon Elizabeth - a girl from my own heart <3 i'm in the process of -reorganizing my organizing! hahaha!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Love this! I have a similar system – got my filing cabinet at IKEA a couple of years ago and I love it! For receipts – I use one of those accordion files (a large one that holds full sized paper because I print most receipts from my email) that is labeled by month. At the beginning of each month, on my monthly task day, I pull all of the receipts from my wallet and add it to the section for that month! I also reconcile expenses once a month now… so when I’m ready to do that I just pull of the expenses from the section of the accordion and log/verify the amount, etc. Last year I spent about 3 days staring at receipts and an excel sheet and I learned my lesson! Happy organizing!ReplyCancel

  • Rosie - so neat! You can actually paint your file cabinet too. Visit the nearest store (like Home Depot or Lowe’s) and get the proper paint – it will change your whole outlook on ugly file cabinets. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Desiree - I love your organized folders! I need to go back into my files and do a better job!
    I did a Pinterest-inspired makeover to my file cabinet in our office. I painted it a pretty pearly green and made the fronts of the drawers textured brown. Lowe’s & Home Depot have great spray paint options that work great on metal and look amazing! And it definitely takes away the ugly office look!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Faby - I got an accordion file with 12 pockets and labeled by month and stick the receipts in according to month. I have one for deposit receipts (they have a copy of the checks on them) and one for business receipts.ReplyCancel

  • Seana - I absolutely love your work! For receipts you can do two things to make it easier. The first option is more expensive, but is SUPER organized. A system that you can scan your receipts in. This way you can file them by category, date, whatever works for you. Plus, you can then pull them up and organize them by key words! (I’d still save the original as a back up in a monthly file just in case.) They have these things at Staples and places like that. The other, get a few index card file boxes, and put them in there. I like that because you can buy fun tabs and labels.ReplyCancel

  • Matt - You should get one of those receipt scanners and just scan in your receipts and organize the digital files instead.ReplyCancel

  • heather - Great ideas!ReplyCancel

  • Caitlin Gerres - This looks great! This is my year of organizing, so I need to get on this!ReplyCancel

  • Morgan - Helpful post! Makes me want to organize! I have a really lazy system for receipts… I have just a simple envelope and write the month nice and big on the outside, then keep it somewhere OBVIOUS, usually right near where I put my purse, so when I go through to clean out my purse or to switch bags, I simply put the receipts in the envelope. At the end of the month, I take the envelope, file the receipts, throw the envelope away and make a new one. It keeps me accountable and its one of those little tasks that makes me feel productive! :)ReplyCancel

  • Barrie Perrottino - for sorting and storing your receipts each year… buy an accordion file. Label it like your taxes… so I would look at your current year taxes and see how your receipts are broken down. Label accordingly. It may take a year or two to tweak but eventually you will get it the way you want it. Also, sort your receipts once a month… drop them into a box during the month and then at the end of the month, sort them into your accordion file. That way at the end of the year… you won’t have such a huge pile of receipts to deal with.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy - We have one Receipts folder and we paper clip the individual months within it. They’re also arranged by date. I may or may not have OCD with a severe side effect of procrastination. I collect them on an unused portion of desk for the month and fill the folder monthly. LOVE that cabinet. So cute.ReplyCancel

  • Spring - I asked for the neat receipt organizer scanner thingy for christmas and my mom got it for me and it’s still in the box- but I think it’s a good option for keeping receipts organized- it auto populates quickbooks too (or so i’m told).ReplyCancel

  • Spicytee - This is one aspect of my business, have been struggling with. Thanks so much once again Abby. I got some info off Carrie Swell too but haven’t really done much about it. Wow. Have got work to do.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Bulloss - I LOVE this file organization! I’m in the process myself and I have been riding the struggle bus! Thanks for giving some great tips!ReplyCancel

  • Things I’m loving lately: Pixifi » Modern International Wedding Photographer - […] received, I’d file the contract in my file cabinet and make a scan on the check for my […]ReplyCancel

  • Monday Lovin’: Summer Goals Revisited » Sami Renee Photography - […] love to share a few of the posts that helped me out a lot!!  This post by Stephanie Messick and this post & this post by Abby Grace Photographer were big inspirations — I am so thankful for all […]ReplyCancel