You know those times when some sort of contest makes its rounds, and you realize there’s probably no way anyone will even see your entry, much less PICK that entry as a winner, but you enter anyways because “what the heck, why not?” That was somewhere along my line of thought when I sent in my entry to Justin & Mary after they announced “The Big Next” event they’d be hosting in their Connecticut home in December. So I sent in a couple of paragraphs about these dreams that I have, dreams that get me out of bed in the morning, dreams that keep me up at night, dreams that push me out of the shower before I’ve remember to wash out my conditioner. And then I forgot about it, because I realized my odds of having a more captivating reason for needing to be there than somebody else were quite slim. But then something amazing happened. I got an email from Mary a few days later telling me, along with five other crazy awesome photographers, that we’d all won a seat as part of the in-studio audience!! It wasn’t my most attractive moment… reading that email in our little kitchen, I shrieked, air-punched, Jersey fist-pumped, and Irish step-danced my way around for a good 15 minutes afterwards. Alright, let’s not kid ourselves. It was more like three days.

The Big Next began Monday night and is going strong through this evening, and I’ve already filled up 13 more pages in my notebook with cramped notes and ideas scribbled in the margins. Far too many of the pages have stars, underlines and “IMPORTANT”s next to them, but that’s because everything I’m learning IS incredibly valuable! I’m being pushed to justify my reasoning and desires behind my dreams, which makes me realize I want them that much more desperately. We’re all being forced to take a good hard look at how we’re doing things, whether or not they’re working, and how we can make them even better for next year. And one of my favorite parts about these three days is that J&M are sitting down with each attendee to do a mentoring session about where they currently are in their stage of business, where they want to go, WHY they want to go there, and how to make those dreams into something doable. At 2:00ish today, I’ll have a chance to sit in the hot seat and talk one-on-one with Mary for an hour about my business in particular.

You guys, I’m so nervous! With the questions Mary’s already asked me and the questions I’ve been watching her ask Eryn, Kori, Gabrielle, Jen & Ashley over the last two days, I know she’s not going to let me weasel of difficult queries with frilly or vague answers. But I NEED that. I need someone to sit down with me, push all the fluff aside, and give me a realistic outside and more-experienced opinion on what seems to be working, where I’m failing royally, and how I can ratchet things up ten more notches. These past couple of days have been so healthy for my too-big sense of self-importance. Seeing these other amazing women, their hearts for their clients and businesses, and the amazing things they’re doing, it’s so refreshing to my soul.

Today’s session starts back up at 11:00 am with Kori‘s mentoring session, and I STRONGLY encourage tuning in on ShowIt LIVE if you’re looking to take things to the next level. Today’s going to be absolutely jam-packed with crazy amounts of GOLDEN information, and it doesn’t cost a single thing except your time.

Pardon the terrible quality of these iPhone photos. I made myself leave the mk3 in my suitcase :).

Here’s to getting real, REAL vulnerable in front of a lot of people today!

  • Anna K. - Abby I am so excited for you and the ways that your business is going to move forward! Keep asking good questions, it was super helpful :) oh, and your outfit was super cute!ReplyCancel

  • Dad - OMG!!!! I am sooooo excited for you, so have a super awesome fantabulously insightful time in Yankee-land!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - You ‘re doing a great job and I’m sure these sessions are giving you lots of info that you didn’t even know you needed! It is a very exciting time for you. Love you!ReplyCancel

  • Brittani - Abby you are awesome! By putting yourself out there and making yourself so vulnerable, you will be doing BIG things for your business, and helping so many other photographers who are such a similar situation to you. Can’t wait to watch!!! I LOVED yesterday! And PS. you are SO well spoken on camera :)ReplyCancel

  • sharon elizabeth - you’ll do great!!!! we’re all so excited for you <3ReplyCancel

  • Anna Kerns - This workshop wouldn’t be the same without you! I’ve learned so much from listening to everyone’s experiences. I’m excited to hear all the things that Mary encourages you to achieve and reflect on. It’s obvious by now, but this is really going to edify your business and relationships! Enjoy every moment, lovely.ReplyCancel

  • Confessions of a Fashion Fiasco » Modern Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer - […] For me, coordinating outfits takes a lot of thought and planning beforehand. When I was packing for The Big Next, I spent THREE DAYS going through my closet, trying on different outfits and modeling them for […]ReplyCancel

Ermehgersh!! IT’S MONDAY! And I’m on the road up to New Haven, CT to spend three days having my mind completely blown with Justin & Mary and The Big Next series! I’m only a little bit excited. And I spent approximately 94% of my weekend obsessing over what I’ll wear this coming week. I’m in a mad rush to get out the door and on the road (typical) so this will henceforth be the short Monday Mash-Up EVER.

As usual, things I learned/things that transpired over the weekend:

  • I don’t think my older brother will ever let me forget that I used to open my eyes while we were saying grace for dinner to check and make sure everyone else’s eyes were closed. We had a family dinner on Saturday and he spent the entire prayer staring at me because he KNEW I was going to open my eyes.
  • Remember that dress I was wearing in Friday’s blog post? It’s a good thing we immortalized it in photos because I discovered this past weekend that Matt shrunk it. And because we bought it this past summer, it’s no longer in stores. AND it’s the second installment of the dress I’ve owned, since I accidentally shrunk the first one. GAH.
So long, favorite dress. I shall miss you greatly, and the way you paired especially well with my mustard cardigan and gray tights.

Photogs! Don’t forget to tune into ShowItLIVE tomorrow and Wednesday for The Big Next!! IT’S GOING TO BE SO AMAZING!

Happy Monday!

  • Dad - Wellllllll?????? Did you open your eyes?ReplyCancel

  • Jean - Abby must have opened her eyes if she saw her big brother staring at her. P.S. Abby, hang onto that dress. Maybe we could recreate it in a fabric that won’t shrink. Have fun on your adventure this week!ReplyCancel

  • molly - hahahaha i’m with you’re dad… did you open them?? love that dress!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - Watching the Big Next and love the dress. I have done that way too many times.ReplyCancel

My desk is currently awash in tissue paper, foldable paper boxes, gray ribbon, scissors, double stick tape and stationery, so I figured today was as good a day as any to do another one of these posts. I bet y’all had thought I’d run out of ways to talk about myself, didn’tcha? FOOLED. YOU.

1. I will only eat smushed grilled cheese sandwiches. This involves taking a spatula and flattening the sandwich while it’s still in the pan- it makes it more crispy, thus more delicious. And that’s a scientific fact.

2. My family lived in Orlando for 3-4 years when I was little while my parents attended seminary, so when we finally moved back to Virginia, I had no idea what a change of seasons looked like. Therefore, myself and my brothers did the only logical thing we could think of on the first day of Fall: we dressed in heavy outwear [coats, boots, scarves] and tromped outside, expecting frigid temperatures and falling leaves….only to find that it was still 70 degrees out.

3. I get SUPER weepy when Christmas music comes on right after Thanksgiving- I guess I’m just so happy that it’s Christmas time again that I cry? Whatever it is, it’s embarrassing to be driving along and then break out in tears when something cheery like Sleigh Ride comes on.

4. I will NOT write with blue ink pens. I won’t do it! It has to be black ink. Either that or a pencil.

5. I’m not the only one who collected Polly Pockets, right?

6. I’m convinced that the “Lick ‘a ‘stix” included with Fun Dip are really just long, white Tums.

7. My mom and dad never did Santa with us- mom’s thing was that she didn’t want to lie to her children. THANKS FOR RUINING MY CHILDHOOD.

8. If we’re ever fortunate enough to build our own home, mark my words: it WILL have a secret passage. I read a lot of Nancy Drew books in fifth grade.

9. I really and truly enjoy the smell of gasoline. And home garages! My Granny & Pawpaw’s garage smells sooo good.

10. I’m a memories hoarder (which is probably why I’m a photographer). I saved every single corsage from every single school dance and still have all of my old dresses hanging in the closet at my parents’ house. And I’ve saved every letter and Post-It note Matt’s ever given me because “our grandchildren will want to read them! We have to have something for them to cherish when we’re old and wrinkly!”

And because every post is better with a photo, here are those photos from the trip Matt and I took to a corn maze. Those ones I completely forgot to share? Whoops.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Thank you, random stranger who offered to take our photo!

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Holy SOW, that pig it huge.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Matt playing a solitary game of tetherball.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

He’s going to kill me for posting this.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Just in case it wasn’t painfully obvious by the tiny little cow seats that this ride was designed for small children, here are all our fellow passengers!

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

This is Matt’s “Can I go now?” smile. And this is my “WE’RE AT A CORN MAZE!” smile.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Ok, so I’m a believer in NOT CHEATING. The corn maze had paths that were laid out by the maze designers, then there were paths cut by cheating McCheaters. I like to refer to them as “rogue paths.” This is Matt attempting to take a rogue path and me refusing to follow. Because I, unlike SOME, abide by the rules.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyAnd then we saw a peacock?

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Friday!

  • Lindsey - How fun!! These pictures are so cute – you two make the cutest couple :)


  • Rebekah Carter - I loved Nancy Drew books too. I think I have all but one of he original 56 at my parents’ house & I still read one occasionally just for old times’ sake. My parents never really did much Santa stuff w/ us either & I never felt like I missed out. I don’t want to lie to my kids either so I’ve pondered not doing Santa stuff w/ them either when we have kids someday. Maybe that is a bad idea? I don’t know. Even as a kid, I just never saw much point in Santa.ReplyCancel

  • Anna K. - My parents didn’t tell us about Santa either!!! I was that kid that went to school and told everyone he wasn’t real, woopsies!ReplyCancel

  • Lena - No Santa! Ahh so sad, but on a good note, smushed grill chesses are out of this world!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - You and Matt are SO adorable! I love that picture of the two of you! Also, #5 – I am convinced that I have the largest polly pocket collection known to man… or woman… seriously. I’m still proud of it and have kept ALL of them! We should have a playdate sometime. Just sayin’…ReplyCancel

  • Breanna - So I just found your blog last week, and I already feel like we are friends :). I had a whole village of Polly Pockets! I’m sad that they don’t make them so little any more. It’s just not the same. Hope you are enjoying a beautiful holday afternoon!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah B. - I also collected Polly Pockets – in fact, I still have them! :D

    You and I are meant to be friends – I would not cheat at a corn maze either!!

    And also, you are so stinking cute! I love the outfit!!ReplyCancel

If you’ve poked around my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve been playing around with film! It’s been such a trip- I’ve learned way more than I ever knew possible. I’ve learned that Fuji 400H is my favorite film stock, that trying to shoot seriously without a light meter doesn’t really work for me, that medium format is my long lost sister, etc. etc. As I was working to integrate film more and more into my workflow with engagement sessions and weddings, it was causing quite a bit of… well, stress. I LOVED the images I was getting back from RPL, no doubt about it. But because I was editing my digital images immediately after a wedding or session, I was having to wait the additional 2-3 weeks to get my film back before I could deliver those images. And then there was the issue of the fact that my digital images and film images looked NOTHING alike. As it should be- they’re two totally different mediums. So I was either faced with giving my couples two different sets of images, throwing out the film ones, or going back and trying to re-edit the digital images to look more like the film ones.

I started playing around with the VSCO presets, actions for LightRoom that mimic the look of film for your digital images. I think I did alright for a while there, but something one day pulled me up short. I was looking back over my notes from WTAW and saw where I’d scribbled a few words describing my work- “organic, intimate, authentic, classic.” Those words are meant to be a litmus test for any decisions I make for my business- if I’m not sure whether or not to do whatever I’m considering, hold it up to those words. If it matches, I should be ok. If it doesn’t? It’s time to reconsider.

Film itself is organic, authentic, and classic, and my portrait style remains intimate. But me spending countless hours manipulating my digital images in post production to make them look like something else? To me, that’s not organic at all. When I describe my work as “organic,” what I mean is that I do minimal touch-ups to my images- that they’re clean, ready to be viewed without any heavy-handed editing. And as much as I love the look of film, unless I was ready to leave my digital work behind and go 100% film? It wasn’t allowing me to stay true to what I already loved so much about my work. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with editing your images with a little more of a heavy hand- for some people, that really works! But it doesn’t work for ME. I found that I was taking images that were beautiful in and of themselves and felt like I was ruining them with all of the processing I was putting them through. I managed to seriously stress myself out over it. “Matt: do you like this edited version of the photo? Or this one? A… or B? A… or B? One more time, A…” I really felt like I was having an identity crisis when it came to my work.

After months (and hundreds of dollars [and a lot of agonizing over photo edit A or B]), I think I’ve finally decided to keep film as my personal project. Because there’s no doubt about the fact that I absolutely love shooting it- it truly keeps me inspired, and I’ve loved every frame I’ve shot over the past few months! I certainly don’t count any of this time as wasted- I invested a lot of energy into something I grew to fall in love with, eventually came to decide shooting both isn’t the direction I want to take my business, and I truly believe I’ve come out as a better photographer. So while I most definitely won’t be selling my film equipment or giving away the boxes of film in my fridge, I am going to scale back to keeping it for personal work and the occasional inspiration session. Because frankly? I don’t think my clients deserve anything less than my best, and I know that now I’ll really be able to focus on giving that to them.

Happy Thursday!


  • Christine Bonnivier - Thank you for this post!!!! :-)ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Hoyt - Abby, I love that you’ve been so open with your journey through film! It takes a strong person to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, what makes you the best as an artist and also what the best is that you can offer your clients. Thank you for sharing this with all of us! I am looking forward to seeing more personal projects and inspiration shoots on film :)ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Ziegler - I love your work in film! So whenever you get the urge to play around with film I will whip up some flowers and you can bring out your film equipment and BAM you can shoot in film :DReplyCancel

  • Ali w - What a cool process you went through! Adam Barnes shot my wedding and delivered a ton of different looks because he shot so many different kinds of film [and digital] and that is why I hired him. But he is an “artistic” wedding photographer. I expected to come out with pieces of art, not a catalog of images who’s style all matched. I can see why you came to this decision and it’s totally right for you! If you ever want to have a inspirational film shoot let me know – I’d love to play too!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Fike - Thanks for sharing this! I, too, started playing around with film this past summer because I love the idea and look of film. But it’s a lot of work and those images don’t at all match up with my digital images. So I was stuck. Continue with my film journey and try to include it in my business as best as possible? Or just keep it as something “fun” to do for myself and learning purposes? I think it’s clear that I need to go with the second option for very similar reasons that you’re experiencing. Hearing that you’re going through something similar is reassuring to me…so thanks. :)ReplyCancel

  • Faye Bernoulli - I, too, dabbled with the VSCO presets, but after editing an entire engagement session with them, they looked NOTHING like my normal work. I don’t have the guts to jump into film just yet (hopefully in the near future!), but like you, it would be a personal project.ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - Thanks for sharing! I think all your images are stunning :)ReplyCancel

Hooray! Another Wine Wednesday post! And today, since I started out having NO idea where to buy wine, we’re going to chat about my favorite places to shop for the stuff.

First things first: let’s get past the preconceived notion that you have to spend $15 to get a decent bottle of wine. I’ll be totally honest- our budget doesn’t allow for me to buy expensive wines, so almost everything I buy is $8/bottle or less. Are there some incredible wines for $35 a bottle? Definitely! But there are also some really great wines for a lot less than that! Maybe one day when I own my own personal château and have a wine cellar to hold 300+ bottle of vintage cab sauv, things will change, but I’m totally satisfied with the wines I’ve been finding lately. There are a couple of particular wines I’ll splurge on a couple of times a year, but for the most part, the wines I’m buying run between $4-8.

My absolute favorite place to shop for wine is Trader Joe’s! They have an AWESOME selection of wines from all over the world, and their staff are incredibly knowledgable and helpful. If you have no idea where to start, they love offering suggestions for which wines to try and what they pair well with, and I never feel dumb for asking questions. Trader Joe’s is also home to the famous “Two Buck Chuck,” Charles Shaw’s line of wines that cost $3.29 a bottle. Yep, you read that right. $3.29. And it’s decent wine, too! We had a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc a couple of days ago and I really enjoyed it. I have no idea how they manage to price it so low, but it’s awesome.

Wine Wednesday

One of the things I love about Trader Joe’s is that they include little descriptions of each wine, sometimes offering pairing advice (I LOVE helpful hints on pairing!).

Wine WednesdayWine Wednesday

If I’m on short-notice and can’t make it out to Trader Joe’s (the closest one is 25 minutes from us), I’ll hit up Wegmans. Wegman’s has overtaken Harris Teeter as my favorite grocery store and their wine selection has a lot to do with it. There is a LOT to choose from! It can be kind of overwhelming if you’re not sure what you’re looking for which is why I slightly prefer Trader Joe’s, but Wegmans’ wine staff is also super helpful. The last time I was there, I chatted with one of their wine people for 15 minutes about decanters and whether or not they actually make a difference (they do!).

Wine Wednesday

Seeing signs like the one below makes me feel better about walking straight past the $40 bottles of Pinot.

Wine Wednesday

See? Wegmans cares about wine education!

Wine Wednesday

I also love going to local, independently-owned wine shops because a) you’re supporting a small business, and 2) because the people who own and work in those shops LOVE WINE. The selection you’ll find in independent shops will be a bit more expensive that what you may find at places like Trader Joe’s and Wegmans, but independent wine shops don’t sell anything but  GREAT wine. Matt and I will occasionally pop over to the Ashburn Wine Shop if we’re looking for something a little more special and they always take good care of us. Plus, most local wine shops that I’ve encountered offer free wine tastings on the weekends, so you can have a chance to try a selection of wines before making any purchasing selections.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments! Happy Winesday!

  • heather - Trader Joe’s rocks! I love finding new wines there that are under $7 :)ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - We LOVE TJ’s wine selection. So much that we drive to Old town to buy a few cases every few months. One of our favorites is the Blue fin Pinot Noir – and we also love the La Finca Malbec!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan Hochgesang - world market is also a great place for wine! when i worked in chevy chase i hit up the one there all.the.time!ReplyCancel

  • Kerith - Umm… Wegmans is my grocery store LOVE. I am OBSESSED with them.

    Also- I like cheap wine too, but if you have $35 dollars to spend and can get to Wegmans I HIGHLY recommend South African Red- Chocolate Block. SO. Good. It’s my favorite wine ever.ReplyCancel

  • Megan - I also love Trader Joe’s, especially for their wine selection! I always get Francis Coppola’s red blend there and it is sooo good.

    Another new product Trader Joes just came out with is their 75% dark chocolate nonpareils. The best chocolate I’ve ever had! I am afraid it’s just a seasonal item that they will take away!ReplyCancel

  • Becky - Ok so I’m SUPER ignorant about wine (loving these posts!) and I was wondering if you could talk about the main types of wine, what they’re like and what they pair well with. Right now I’m basically choosing between red and white and I have no idea what the differences are between Sauvignon blanc and Pinot grigio, etc.ReplyCancel

  • Megan Lesley - YES! A decanter totally makes a difference. We recently received one as a housewarming gift and it. is. fabulous. xxReplyCancel