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Meeting Natalie was totally by chance- we bumped into her while shooting at one of my favorite spots in Paris and ended up connecting with her sweet mama Ashley, and I mentioned that if they were still in town once we were back in the city after The Signature Atelier that I’d love to shoot together!

It turned out to be the perfect opportunity, because after a week-long workshop that was amazing in every possible way, I was tired. I’d shot three engagement/anniversary sessions before the workshop, and then once the workshop began, I shot every day! And I loved it! Please don’t think I’m complaining- the workshop was INCREDIBLE. But any educator who’s hosted a workshop, especially a several-days-long workshop in another country, can tell you they really just want a NAP at the end.

So when we got back into Paris after the workshop, I really just wanted to put my camera down for a few days. But after shooting with Natalie on one of our last mornings, I walked away SO glad we pushed through. It was a reminder that personal work FUELS me, fills up my tank when I’m feeling spent. And with a dancer as gorgeous as Natalie, it put a pep back in my step that I’d been missing for a little while!

Natalie & Ashley, thank you so much for making time to shoot with me! I’m so grateful it worked out the way that it did, and I’m crossing my fingers we run into one another again soon :). I wouldn’t be mad if it were in Paris once more! xoxo

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Let me start this off with a disclaimer: I’m not leaving the wedding scene! I’ve been photographing weddings for almost 10 years now, I adore my brides and grooms, and I have no intention of going anywhere. So now that that’s established…

I’d love to introduce you the newest arm of AGP, Abby Grace Branding Portraits!

It began three years ago when my brilliant friend Natalie Franke was working on rebranding with Jen Olmstead– Nat reached out to me to ask if she could hire me to shoot portraits for her website, a full collection of photographs that would capture several different sides of her business. We spent a full day shooting a complete set of new images; head shots, lifestyle photographs, working photos, even portraits with her husband and their pups.

It was a BLAST!

And then a year and a half later, Jasmine Star referred Karen Hall my way when Karen was looking for something similar. And again- it was SO much fun! I loved collaborating with someone outside my immediate industry, and further loved that even now, 1.5 years after our shoot, Karen is still getting SO much social media use out of her photographs.

The more we looked around, the more I began to see other creatives’ needs for a collection of tailored, branded photography. Watching other industry leader friends trying to stitch together an inconsistent body of work, all from different photographers (or, let’s be honest, their iPhone) with different editing styles, it just wasn’t working.

Cue: Abby Grace Branding Portraits.

AG Branding Portraits are for the creative who wishes they could show their audience not just what they do, but HOW they do it, all with a consistent feel and approach.

These are NOT your mama’s studio head shots.

Might your session include head shots? Sure! But they’re also so much more than that! Our branding sessions are tailored to the individual needs of whomever we’re shooting for;  working photos, lifestyle photographs to show your audience what the life behind the business looks like, creative portraits, detail photos, whatever it takes. 

If you’re a creative whose business is at all a mix of business and personal, branding photographs are a chance to capture a slice of your life behind the business.

They’re for the small business owner who’s looking for a more consistent visual presence across all platforms, and who’s be tired of duct-taping it together with photographs from a handful of different sources (all with different edits and artistic styles).

And after meeting with MY amazing graphic designer, Jeffrey Shipley of TONIC, and hearing from him just how much BETTER the result is when their clients hire a photographer for branding portraits (instead of throwing a few jumbled photos together), I knew I was onto something really good.

We’re beginning to book up for this summer, and I cannot WAIT to see the magic we create with the incredible small business owners who are already on my calendar!

Interested in getting more information? Get in touch at info@abbygracephotography.com. 

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When we first began trying for a family, I’d have fun dreaming up exactly how I’d tell Matt, and then how we’d share our good news with our friends! Gosh, I must have come up with a dozen different ideas, from something with Parisian nodes to a Harry Potter-themed announcement to goodness-Abby-put-a-cork-in-it-already. But as the months turned into years, I learned to stop dreaming of that “we’re pregnant” photo- it was too painful when it turned out to be another “no.” I learned to stop saying “when we have children” and to start tempering my expectations with “if we ever have children.”

When we decided to turn the page from seeking infertility treatments to pursuing adoption, hope of motherhood began to rise again. While there’s always the possibility of a fall-through, we began to feel more confidence that this road was less tempered with “ifs” and “maybes.” The road to adoption is fraught with ups and downs, much like a typical pregnancy- but instead of glucose tests and sonograms, you have home study interviews and reference letters.

Whereas a “typical” pregnancy lasts 40 weeks, we have no idea how long this process may last- it could be 3 weeks, 3 months, or 3 years!

But despite the differences in process, the fact remains that we are expecting!

April’s self-portrait is in honor of the fact that we are home study approved, and what the adoption world has dubbed “paper pregnant”- expecting a baby, with joy, full of hope, and so very, very excited to see where God takes us over the next few months and years!

So as we settle in and ready ourselves for what could be a VERY long wait, we’re trusting in Psalm 119:105- “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”

The thing about God’s word being a “lamp to my feet” is that it doesn’t necessarily illuminate the entire path before us. It’s just enough light to show us where to step next, trusting that, when the time comes to take another step, our God will light that one as well.

It’s hard not knowing when we’ll welcome our child home. But we’re waiting, trusting, and savoring this season, praying for our birth mom & dad, whoever and wherever they are, and praising God for his goodness and faithfulness in the in-between.

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Oh I can’t, I’m just super busy.

That was my constant refrain for a few years. Long hours in my office, hustling hard on weekends, turning down social outings because I was working, working, working.

Because there’s something that makes you FEEL successful about putting in an 8-10-hour day, right? “I was VERY busy, therefore today must have productive!” But therein lies a problem for so many small business owners- a misunderstanding of what constitutes good work.

BUSY vs. PRODUCTIVE

Being “busy” sometimes just mean spending a LOT of time at your computer or on your phone… produce low- to no-impact work (i.e. scrolling through a social media feed in the name of “research”). Being productive, however, means you’re doing work that has an actual impact on your business’ success. Productive means doing the hard work of prioritizing, determining where your attention is most needed.

Don’t get me wrong- “busy” is often a necessary part of productivity!

But what I want to make sure we don’t fall into is believing the lie that busy ALWAYS equals productive. Because that’s not necessarily the case.

It’s like how I used to view engaging on social media: it feels like an accomplishment to leave comments and likes on 10-15 different feeds in the name of “engagement,” doesn’t it? But… what is that actually doing for your bottom line? Or how about when you’re feeling bored, do you toggle over to your inbox and clear out a couple of emails, just to feel like you’ve done something? Just to look/feel busy?

Engaging on social media can be important, and keeping up with your inbox is as well. I don’t mean to write either off.

But what I’m saying is that simply checking off numerous items on a to-do list? It doesn’t necessarily indicate GOOD work. It’s like cranking widgets- low-impact work that FEELS productive, without accomplishing DEPTH.

I think so many of us settle for busy-instead-of-productive because it’s easier in the moment. But when we look at the long-term impacts of a business that only ever cranks widgets, while those widgets may keep your business afloat, what have they done to actually move your business forward?

Focus is hard. Especially in a world so intent on 24/7 accessibility. There are THOUSANDS of distractions pulling at your attention throughout the course of a work day: email, Instagram, Facebook, cute dog photos, Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix…. and on and on. That’s not factoring in ANY of your at-home responsibilities that also clamor for your attention!

And furthermore, we live in a world that rewards low-impact busy-ness faster than high-impact productivity! Spend more time engaging on social media? See the follower count grow. Answer five emails? Find six more in your inbox next time you check. Feels good, doesn’t it?

Focus is hard. But FOCUS is where so much of the good stuff can be found.

Focus is where the big ideas reside, where they go from concept to execution to real life results.

It may be hard to get there, but focus is where you’ll find that buzzy, heady sense of purpose, of doing work that has a bigger impact on satisfaction in your work than just being “busy.”

Need help getting focused? Here are my top two recommendations:

  1. Read Deep Work by Cal Newport. This is, hands down, the best business book I’ve ever read. It’s not just about how to focus (and the science behind it), it’s also about how to discern what tasks and efforts TRULY matters in your business… and how to let the rest go.
  2. Check out the Daily Focus Template that just hit the shop! I use this template most days I’m in the office, which allows for greater focus… which results in being productive in all the RIGHT areas of my business. Does that means I never engage on Insta or check my emails? No way! But it does mean that I try my hardest to CHOOSE when to do those things, instead of letting compulsive behaviors rule my work day.

Focus is hard. Really hard. But if you can build daily habits that make more room for focused work and cut OUT the feeling of needing to do everything all at once, you’ll find the work you produce is a better product, and the satisfaction you feel at the end of a work day is more complete!

Photos by my dear and talented friend Sarah Bradshaw!

*This blog post contains an affiliate links which means, at no additional cost to you, we earn a small commission if you choose to click through and make a purchase. Trust that I will only ever recommend products I’ve thoroughly tested and loved, and the resulting commissions make it possible for us to continue turning out great content like this post!

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So let me start off by clarifying that this new personal series is centered around self-portraits, not selfies. The former is taken with a professional camera, requiring forethought and a thorough knowledge of photography, whereas the latter just requires a cell phone from approximately 2005 or later :).

Self-portraits can be such a stretching exercise! I ALWAYS learn from them, even if it’s as simple as a family photo out on the beach. I was looking for a photographic challenge for this year, and in a desire to create more personal work that doesn’t necessarily need to match my existing body of work, the Self-Portrait series was born! One new self-portrait a month for a year.

For January…

We have a tradition in our house of taking a few self-portraits during the first real snow of winter! Our first one was all the way back in 2010, a few weeks after I’d purchased my first “big deal” camera and photographed my first wedding (as a third shooter!). We were still in college, newly engaged, and when Matt happened to be down visiting when a snowstorm hit, he let me persuade him to take a few quick photos in the snow. I still love that photo so much!

This past January when the snow started falling, we ran outside for our traditional photo. But then a couple hours later, when the snow was still coming down, I decided to go out again- this time by myself. We lost my Granny last April after a stage 4 cancer diagnosis, and I was fortunate enough to be able to go down to Roanoke every three weeks or so to be there with her and help my Pawpaw out around the house. I remember sitting with Granny last February in their living room up in the mountains of Virginia when she looked out the window and said “I’d have loved to see snow one more time.” It was a sweet but sober moment- we knew she didn’t have much longer, that as the cancer grew, her time was coming to a close.

But then sure enough, they got not one, but TWO big snows on the mountain- it felt like a kiss from heaven, meant just for my Granny! Just a few weeks after the last flakes melted, she went home to be with Jesus.

I’ve always loved stepping outside in the midst of a snowstorm to simply listen– there’s this soft whisper as the snowflakes hit the ground that brings me so much peace. Our first snow of the year came in mid-January, and for as long as it fell, my thoughts were of her. So I donned my Hunter boots and a warm pair of gloves and took a walk along the trail near our house with my quilt to keep me warm. I just wanted that moment for me, to be out in the snow, to hear the whisper of those falling frozen flakes, to wrap myself in layers of fabric that were lovingly pieced together, painstakingly hand-quilted by her.

For February…

I knew this one would look quite different than the first- we had a trip to Getaway scheduled, and I wanted to shoot my next portrait in the panoramic window of the cabin! Truthfully, this portrait took two attempts- one on our first night, and another on our second night. I really wanted to shoot during “blue hour,” to get the contrasting warm, yellow light inside the cabin with the cooler tones of the fading evening sky.

This photo is so different than my usual body of work, which I am 100% ok with because the very point of this portrait series is to push me to create beyond my go-to comfort zone!

Our time at Getaway was so rich. We did some big dreaming and vision casting for what the next few years will look like for AGP, but then we also took time to rest. Reading, writing, long morning quiet times, dinners made on the fire pit. It was restful and invigorating all at the same time, and I can’t wait to go back!

And one more, just for fun! I felt like this one was a little too easy, which is why it didn’t make the final cut as THE February edition! I can’t get enough of that gorgeous robe by my dear friend Katherine Bignon.

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There are so many reasons I love these two (Katie being a former professional ballerina being one), but I think the BIGGEST reason is because of how much attention they gave towards honoring their families on their wedding day. Their siblings and parents played such active roles in celebrating their union, each part of the day woven with with intention, history, and respectful reverence for the generations that came before them. It was such a joy to document, knowing that with each click of the camera, we were capturing this new couple’s first collection of heirlooms.

Their day began at the adorable Hotel Revival, and I loved that Katie & Ben chose to have their first look in the bridal suite! After photographs down in the square, we moved into the Engineer’s Club for their tisch (when the bride & groom welcome their guests separately), bedeken (when the groom comes for his bride and draws her veil over her face), ceremony, and festive celebration. Katie’s brother, a rabbi, performed the ceremonial parts of the day with so much joy- it was infectious, and there wasn’t a person present at the ceremony without a smile on their face! Their day was full of delight, both in the quiet moments and the more exuberant ones!

Ben & Katie, thank you, thank you for this privilege! It was such an honor to capture these heirlooms for you, and for the generations to come to look upon as a source of inspiration. Your joy at being husband and wife was palpable, and having the opportunity to document it was not something I took for granted. Lots of love to you both!

Details-
Venue: The Engineer’s Club of Baltimore
Gown: Betsy Robinson Bridal via Enaura Bridal Boutique
Shoes: Emmy London 
Groom: Custom suit
Florals: Wicked Willow
Hair: Aimee Decker Beauty
Makeup: JoAnna Popp
Catering: Hoffman & Co.
Paper: Pigment & Parchment
Music: Onyx Band
Coordination: Sharlene Sherman

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I think the word that best characterizes their wedding day is “JOY!” Exclamation point included. These two were so excited to be married!! Meghan was relaxed, more relaxed than most, and just couldn’t wait to get to District Winery so she could see Jason. And it was so worth the wait- Jason was utterly enchanted when he turned around and saw her at their first look! You couldn’t wipe the grins off either of their faces for the rest of the day- their smiles were so sweet to behold, that sort of bliss that only comes with knowing you and your person are exactly where you’re supposed to be. In other words, they made my job easier than I’d ever have the right to expect!!

Jason & Meghan, I cannot tell you how much I LOVED photographing your day! It was such a delight to be there to capture it all, from the big moments to those precious in-betweens. Thank you, thank you for allowing me in on such an important day, and for loving so honestly that it made capturing your joy even more of a pleasure. SO many big hugs to you two and Harper!

Details-
Venue: District Winery
Dress: Ti Adora, via Soliloquy Bridal Couture
Shoes: Kate Spade
Groom: Enzo Custom DC
Bridesmaids: Weddington Way
Florals: J. Morris Flowers
Hair & make-up: Behind The Veil Beauty
Dessert: Livin the Pie Life
Music: Washington Talent Agency

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It’s no secret whatsoever that I love photographing at Stone Tower Winery! At last count, I’ve been lucky enough to photograph out there something like a DOZEN times. We love the venue so much, Matt & I even joined the wine club to have extra excuses to visit for their Tower Cru weekends for wine pick-ups. It’s one of my absolute favorite places to shoot AND visit for pleasure! So for all my current and future STW couples, here are a few of my best insider tips for planning your wedding out at Stone Tower!

1. Keep in mind that sunset is going to be slightly earlier because of the higher ridge line! I always consult sunrisesunset.com when planning timelines with my couples so that we can take advantage of that gorgeous golden light in the evening, but if the forecast is saying sunset will occur at 7:51pm, I’ll plan to shoot sunset portraits a bit earlier than that. Otherwise, you’ll miss out when the sun dips below the hill!

2. Don’t freak out if it rains. Stone Tower’s tank room is a perfect fallback in the event of inclement weather!

3. If you’re planning for an indoor ceremony at sunset in the Vineyard View Ballroom (more of a concern for my late fall/winter/early spring couples), make sure you bring in a simple white pipe & drape for your ceremony! Those gorgeous panoramic windows are to die for, but if your entire ceremony is backlit, your guests will be staring into the sun and your photographs will be super washed out. A simple pipe + drape can fix both issues!

See?

4. Expect a few [read: a LOT of] cheers when you walk through the Tower View tasting room- the winery’s open until 6pm, and their guests LOVE seeing brides & grooms in all their wedding day finery! It’s one of my favorite parts of shooting there :).

5. Pad your timeline with 5-10 minutes here and there. The winery’s property is beautiful AND expansive, so it does take a minute to get from, say, the Tower View tasting room out to the Chardonnay vines (GORGEOUS views at sunset). It’s so worth the trip, and is so much more enjoyable when you’re not pinched for time!

Also, planning for a relaxed timeline allows your photographer to capture the little in-between moments that I love so much!

6. Make sure you rent out the new bridal cottage! I’ve yet to shoot there (it’s that new), but it’s perfectly situated on the property to allow you space to breathe while getting ready, and close enough to the action that you don’t have to stress about running to your First Look. So much more convenient than a hotel nearby!

And a bonus tip #7: if you haven’t already decided to serve their Rosé Cuvée, Blanc de Blanc, or Blanc de Noir at your reception, DO IT. Assuming there’s still some left- they tend to go fast!

See more of my past work at Stone Tower here!

Kristin & Steve’s wedding
Eric & Jessica’s wedding
Corey & Lyn’s wedding
Kristin & Zach’s engagement session

Happy Friday!

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From the first time I spoke with Hillary, she communicated how much she and Scott value people over details. Were they planning for a gorgeous fête? Absolutely. But the photographs they were most excited for were the ones that captured the joy, excitement, and emotions throughout the day. “We’re not ‘sock photo’ people” was how she first phrased it, which resonated so well with me; rather than focusing on creating fun moments for the sake of their photographs, they simply wanted to enjoy celebrating, and hoped their photographs would capture it all as the day raced by.

And celebrate they did! Alongside their best friends and closest family, Hillary & Scott’s danced, laughed, and raised and glass again and again! And one of the things I loved most was that they invited the close family friends they cherish most to be with them as they prepared for the day ahead, like when both Chris and Estela help zip Hillary into her dress. Family, friends, family, friends. So much of both, which are the two most essential ingredients for a day filled with joy.

Hillary & Scott, I can’t express how much I loved capturing your day! An enormous, heartfelt thank you to you both and your families for letting me in to document it all in full. I hope Santa Monica is treating you well- hugs to you both!!

Details
Coordination & design- A. Dominick Events
Venue- Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters
Florals- Sweet Root Village
Hair- Remona Soleimani
Makeup- Amie Decker Beauty
Gown via Love Couture Bridal
Shoes- Stuart Weitzman
Bridesmaids- Joanna August
Catering- Occasions Caterers

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After spending the week with Seth & Amanda during our France workshop (they’re the talented folks who made THIS stunning video!), I could not WAIT to meet up with these two again at the Eiffel Tower for anniversary portraits! These two are so kind, patient, servant-hearted, and full of life that it made photographing them together a complete breeze.

One of my favorite things about anniversary portraits is how comfortable my couples are with each other. Seth & Amanda have known each other since high school, and I loved watching them together- they still tease each other, still flirt, still look at each other with mischief. It was so much fun to witness, and even more of a joy to capturing forever on film.

Seth & Amanda, thank you so much for the opportunity to take these portraits for you, especially in such an iconic location that I know you both enjoyed so much! I hope these portraits will always bring you back to that morning in somewhat chilly Paris when nothing else mattered but being still and soaking in every precious moment together. xoxo

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