5 Online Tools to Organize Your Business

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5 Online Tools to Organize Your Business

I like to consider myself an organized person (but don’t look at my office right now – it’s a disaster zone!). Much more than staying physically organized, I love being organized with my processes and information.

When I first started photographing senior sessions, family sessions, and weddings, I would maybe photograph three weddings for the entire year and a portrait session per month. It was easy for me to stay "organized" because, well, I didn’t have too much work. But then, slowly over time, I started getting busier. And busier. And soon enough, I was in wayyyyyyy over my head without any rhyme, reason, or rhythm to my madness and it was driving me INSANE. I was the girl in high school who toted around a planner, calendar, and separate binder for each class (organized by assignment and month), but I wasn’t translating that organization into my business.

Fast forward a few years to today, and I’m photographing 20+ weddings and 50-60 sessions per year (such a blessing!), and I’ve had to force myself to get organized and find systems and processes for marking, booking, creating, culling, editing and sharing the work my clients hire me to do. Today, I wanted to share five of my favorite online tools for staying organized and streamlining my work process in hopes that someone else out there can benefit from these tools that took me way too long to find! So without further ado – here are my five favorite online tools for staying organized within my business:

1.  Wunderlist

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I absolutely love to do lists and Wunderlist allows me to organize, categorize, and set dates/deadlines for all of my tasks. This no-fuss app has quickly become one of my favorites for its power and simplicity. Wunderlist lets you easily create folders with subcategories (for example: “2018 Weddings”), create sub-lists within a folder (for example: “John Smith + Amy Flowers Wedding”) and create tasks within that list category, as well as sub tasks within those tasks (for example: "edit wedding photos)! If you’re an organizational nerd like me, I know you’re going to love it. And bonus: you can even collaborate on lists and invite people to contribute (for example: my husband and I have a “Groceries” list to help us keep track of what we’re running low on - we haven't run out of ketchup since - score!).

While users have the ability to upgrade on Wunderlist, I find the free version to be full of features and highly convenient (considering it syncs between my desktop and phone app so I can add to-dos while I’m out and about). Check out my breakdown below:

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Mile IQ was a newer find for me – actually, I discovered it while filing for my 2016 taxes when my accountant highly suggested that I keep track of my mileage (believe it or not, on location wedding/portrait photographers do a lot of driving between scouting locations, meeting with clients, and photographing sessions!). I absolutely love Mile IQ because it automatically keeps track of my drives. AUTOMATICALLY. Did I mention it was automatic? Like, that I don’t even have to think about it?! Talk about genius! I just leave my location on my phone on, and it tracks my driving and then lets me categorize those drives as “personal” or as “business” (with sub categories – and you know how I feel about sub-lists!!), along with literally showing a map of where you drove to/from. If you track mileage for business, this app is a must have!

I should also mention that the first forty drives while using the app are free – but if you drive more than 40 trips a month, Mile IQ has the option to upgrade for just a small monthly maintenance fee.

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One of my favorite (and most engaging) social media platforms I use to interact with current and potential clients is Instagram. In the past, scheduling posts to automatically publish at a specific time wasn’t a possibility for Instagram… until Grum came along. Grum.co allows users to not only organize content, but also to schedule content to automatically post at a specific time (i.e., when most of your clients are actively online). By now, you might be starting to recognize how much I love automation. I love it because it allows me to create a bunch of content in one sitting, schedule it out, and then not have to think about it again until after it’s posted. Though Grum isn’t free, it’s only roughly $10 per month, or $120 annually – which (to me) is worth every penny!

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Hootsuite is very similar to Grum, except a user can manage and automate all of their social media profiles instead of just Instagram (except Instagram can’t be automated via Hootsuite – it can only remind you to post at a specific time). Hootsuite allows the user to organize and automate both Facebook and Twitter posts – plus track analytics, create campaigns, and organize contacts all from their simply laid out dashboard! There is much more to Hootsuite that I haven’t had a chance (or need) to explore, but if you’re interested in reading about additional features, I highly encourage you to check out their website! Hootsuite is free for to use for the first three social media platforms (with the ability to upgrade).

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Acuity is a newer online tool (for me) that I recently began using for the 2017 photo season. I tend to spend a lot of time communicating back and forth with my clients trying to figure out the best date and time to schedule a session. With Acuity, I’m able to send my clients a link where they can view my calendar of available session time slots and book a specific type of session without any back and forth. I’m all about making things simple for my clients, so deciding to invest in Acuity Scheduling was a no brainer for me! Acuity also allows the business manager to set specific appointment types for specific times, as well as send follow up questionnaires to learn more about the booking client. Acuity has a variety of different paid plans – the free version has a very limited number of features, but it still very intuitive!

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What are you favorite online tools, apps, and tricks for staying organized? Are there any online tools you would add to this list? Drop your favorite organization tool in the comments below, I always love to find new tools to use! But in the mean time, enjoy checking out the online tools listed above!

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One of the Best Decisions I Ever Made for My Business

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One of the Best Decisions I Ever Made for My Business

Upon reading the title of this article, you might’ve thought that one of the best decisions I ever made for my business was something to do with photography. Maybe it was a specific lens, a specific camera, or a specific way of shooting – and while all of those things are important (and were peppered with both good and bad decisions along the way), one of the best decisions I ever made was this: hiring someone to do my taxes.

Sounds simple, right? Maybe too simple to actually make a good blog post?! ;) But there’s so much more to it than just outsourcing your tax return. I realized a couple of years into my business that there are certain things I’m just not as good at doing as others (like filing taxes!), and that I needed to let go of my controlling tendencies. I realized that trying to do everything myself was taking me away from what I loved most: telling people’s stories through my lens!

It only takes one small root of bitterness in any area of your life to suffocate the blessings and goodness in that area...

One of my main goals as a photography business owner is to love on and encourage others through what I do. But who was I encouraging and loving on while doing my taxes (which really only made me angry, frustrated, and upset)? Actually, I was doing anything BUT loving and encouraging others, which could’ve started to bleed into my communication with clients, into my creative ability, and could’ve turned a business I love with a passion into a business I resented. It only takes one small root of bitterness in any area of your life to suffocate the blessings and goodness in that area, and then to slowly start to bleed into other areas. (See Hebrews 12:15 for reference).

So my question is this: what bitter roots do I have growing in my business (or in my life) that have the potential to suffocate my passion, or what I’m being called to do? Are you going to allow that bitter root to keep on growing? Or are you willing to do what it takes to cut it out so you can better do what you were created to do?

As a side note, this blog post in no way, shape, or form is meant to downplay where anyone is in his or her journey. Sometimes, you just have to do difficult things in a particular season in order to grow and learn. But if you have the opportunity – let other people help you. Whether it’s outsourcing your photo editing, hiring someone to do your taxes, or bringing an assistant along to your sessions, don’t be afraid to seek out the help you need in weak areas – your weak areas could be someone else’s strengths, and could give someone else the opportunity to use their passion and strengths.

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Lulu + Ricky: University of Pittsburgh (Oakland) Engagement Session

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Lulu + Ricky: University of Pittsburgh (Oakland) Engagement Session

Lulu and Ricky (or "Lucky" if you were to refer to them by their couple name!) are two of the most successful, yet humble people I have ever had the privilege to photograph! These two met in August of 2011, both as new Economics PhD students at the University of Pittsburgh. Considering Lulu is from a small town in China, and Ricky from Cleveland, their meeting was meant to be (or shall I say - very Lucky! ;) )! After getting to know each other through studying together, in the spring of 2012, Lulu and Ricky officially started dating. Now, they both teach classes at the Pitt and have offices that reside directly beside each other!

There are a few things that stand out to me about this sweet couple, the first of which is their favorite date. To get an idea of who a couple is to photograph them in the most accurate way possible, I sometimes like to email a few questions before our session together. One of my favorite questions to ask is: "What was the BEST date you ever had together?" To which Lulu responded: "There is no one BEST one, but rather a bunch of them. If climbing the Great Wall can be considered as a date, it's definitely one of the great ones." I mean, how cool is that?!

One more thing that stood out about Lulu and Ricky is their love for each other. Another question I love to ask is: "If you could sum up your relationship in three words, what would they be?" To which Lulu replied "Happy, diverse, intellectual. Ricky's answer is 'I love Lulu.'" I mean, seriously?! How sweet is that?

When it comes to photographing these two, they were absolutely amazing and caught on to the whole process so fast! We started off at the Frick Fountain in front of the Henry Clay Frick Fine Arts Building and then worked our way around to the Cathedral of Learning and finished our session at the Mellon Institute with these two in their PhD caps and gowns. Lulu's mom was even in from China and makes a little guest appearance in one of the last frames of this blog post - she was the sweetest! 

I'm so thankful to have meet you two, Lulu and Ricky! Congratulations again on your engagement - we pray all the best for you two!

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Breaking the "Rules" of Creativity

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Breaking the "Rules" of Creativity

Did you know that there is no [natural] blue pigment in plants and flowers? When I was in second grade, I was doing what most second graders do (prior to iPads and cell phones, maybe?): coloring! I used to love drawing, painting, and coloring, and on this particular occasion, I was coloring in a black and white line drawing of a bouquet of flowers, when all of a sudden, one of my classmates came up from behind me, looked over my shoulder and said: "Hey! There are no such things as blue flowers! Those flowers aren't real, they're fake!" To which I immediately took offense, considering the majority of the colored in flowers in my picture were blue (my favorite color at the time).

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Me, being a shy, sensitive second grader, didn't know how to respond. I immediately put down my blue crayon, folded up my drawing, and stuffed it in my backpack - embarrassed that I, Jenna, had created something that didn't fit within the laws and rules of nature (I should mention, I've always been a big rule follower).

Somehow, that seemingly small event put a lock on my creativity. I began believing the lie that creativity has to follow a certain set of rules and guidelines, and even worse, that criticism of my work rendered it useless and unimportant - that critique equates to quitting. Somewhere between that event and today, I allowed those unrealistic rules to penetrate my own creativity, and have found myself creating from a place of fear and rigid rules instead of a place of joy and curiosity. So my goal for this year is simple: to start deconstructing the rules I've made up in my own mind and to create for the joy of creating, to become more curious - and to draw more blue flowers.🌻 What lies have you believed that have kept you from doing what you were called to do?


Gorgeous flowers by: @darlingtonflowerco

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Tips for Making Your Bridal Details Look Amazing in Photos!

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Tips for Making Your Bridal Details Look Amazing in Photos!

You may not realize it, but every wedding photographer has certain parts of the wedding day they favor photographing – and for me, one of my favorite parts of the day is photographing the bridal details! Having time to photograph the bridal details lets me creatively “warm up” for the day, and for me, is just plain fun!

I’m all about meticulously arranging beautiful compositions so brides can remember each and every important detail they incorporated. While it can be easy to lose some of those accessories and trinkets used on the wedding day throughout the years, a photograph (or a few) of your items in your wedding album is sure to remain!

Because I have a passion for creating beautiful imagery from bridal details, I’d love to share three pieces of advice for making your bridal details look amazing:

1. Pre-think and gather what you would like to have photographed.

The bride has a lot of accessories on the wedding day – the dress, veil, shoes, garter, jewelry, wedding rings, perfume, bouquet – just to name a few! I always love to recommend having brides pre-think and gather what they would like to have photographed so nothing is forgotten or unintentionally left out. Pre-thinking what you would like to have photographed means less scrambling on the wedding day looking for misplaced items, and leaves less of a chance that something could be forgotten in the photographs!

Here is a list of what I will typically ask for from brides:

  • Dress
  • Dress belt (if there is one)
  • Veil (if there is one)
  • Shoes
  • Invitation suite (this adds so much to photographs, plus invitation suites typically cost a decent chunk of change, so getting them photographed is a great way to remember them!)
  • Save the date
  • Garter(s)
  • Wedding rings
  • Engagement ring
  • Perfume
  • Purse
  • Headpiece
  • Any jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings)
  • Something old, new, borrowed, and blue
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2. Add in personal elements and heartfelt touches.

I love when brides take this piece of advice and run with it! Last summer, I was doing a venue walk through with a bride who was having her wedding on her parent’s property. While we were walking through her parent’s house, I noticed an antique silver tray, which I later learned belonged to her grandmother. I made a point to incorporate the tray into some of the bride’s bridal detail photos, and not only did it make the perfect backdrop for her invitation suite, but was an extra personal element that she will always have photos of to remember! (See below for how the photo turned out!)

Other personal items might include: a photograph of the bride’s mother or grandmother in her wedding dress, a old photo of the bride as a flower girl, an heirloom vase, an antique picture frame or chair, a handwritten love letter from the groom, a handkerchief – but really, the possibilities are endless!

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3. Ask your florist to provide some flower petals or a few extra flowers to help set the tone of the photos.

At a recent wedding, one of my brides requested extra flowers from her florist for detail photographs, and I thought it was a GENIUS idea (and can’t believe I hadn’t thought of asking the florists I work with sooner!). Sometimes florists have extra rose petals, flowers, and/or leaves leftover after creating the wedding centerpieces, bouquets, and boutonnières – asking them to bring along a few extra items for photos typically is a-okay! Especially if you offer them the opportunity to use your photographs as portfolio pieces in return :)

So there you have it! Whether you're a bride or a photographer, I hope these few little suggestions help get your wheels turning to create some beautiful (and meaningful) photos that will help commemorate bridal details for years to come! 

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How to Choose Outfits for Your Engagement Session

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How to Choose Outfits for Your Engagement Session

You're engaged - congratulations!!! Now comes the next step - engagement photos! One of the most frequently asked questions I receive as a Pittsburgh engagement photographer is: what should I wear for my engagement photos? While there's no cookie-cutter answer (because style varies from couple to couple), here are a couple of suggestions for choosing the best engagement session outfits to represent yours and your husband-to-be's personalities!

1. Choose something you feel comfortable in!

Comfort is key while having your engagement photos taken. Being comfortable in your clothes will translate to comfort in front of the camera!

2. Don’t be afraid to go for something a little upscale!

It’s not often you and your husband-to-be have your photos taken, so dressing up can be a fun way to celebrate the occasion! One of my favorite options to recommend for dressy clothing (without having to buy something to expensive) is Rent the Runway. They have dresses of all styles that can be rented for just a fraction of the purchasing price!

3. Don’t be afraid to accessorize.

For brides – adding a scarf, necklace, or hat can be a great way to add some additional visual interest! For grooms – bowties, ties, watches, and pocket squares can do the same! For the photo below, Becca wore a statement necklace and an adorable pair of red shoes that are complimentary to Dave's bowtie and checkered shirt! Their outfits were some of my favorites to date because of the thoughtfulness they put into using such a variety of accessories and colors!

4. Coordinate colors, but don’t match.

It’s important to balance each other out. In the photo below, Jeff and Trina are wearing similar colors (navy) but have some tans, light blues, and pinks thrown in the mix to balance them out! (The photo above is also a great example of color coordination!)

5. Pick something that represents YOU!

Whatever you wear, don’t forget to throw your own style flare into your photos. This could mean wearing an outfit from your favorite designer, purchasing a dress from your favorite store, or incorporating a hobby/career theme into your session! Trina and Jeff, shown below, incorporated Jeff's long-time love of firefighting into his photos.

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Angela + Ajay: LeMont Restaurant Wedding Photographer

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Angela + Ajay: LeMont Restaurant Wedding Photographer

Angela and Ajay's elegant romantic blush wedding day was full of love, laughter, and true joy! While Angela and Ajay currently reside in New York, they came back to Pittsburgh to celebrate their love of a lifetime, surrounded by friends and family.

Before the ceremony, Angela and Ajay shared an intimate first look in a little city garden that was bursting with color! After, we joined up with the bridal party and did a couple of "traffic stopping" shots (you'll see what I mean ;) ) and celebrated with a champagne toast. At their ceremony, Angela and Ajay read heartfelt vows that hardly left a dry eye in the crowd (including mine!), with the Pittsburgh city skyline as the perfect backdrop. One of my favorite parts of their wedding day was when the crowd clapped as each family and bridal party member made their way down the aisle. If that doesn't give you an idea of how joy-filled and celebratory their day was, I don't know what will! Later, the two danced the night away (and let me tell you, these two love to dance!), incorporating some Italian songs as a nod to Angela's Italian heritage, closing out the night with a sparkler exit. Need I say more?

Angela and Ajay, you two are a joy to be around, and your love for each other (and for those around you) is infectious! Congratulations on tying the knot - here's to many more years of celebration!

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Why Should I Have My Senior Photos Taken?

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Why Should I Have My Senior Photos Taken?

A senior session gives every girl the ability to appreciate who they are and how beautiful they are - inside and out.

If you've followed me for any length of time on Facebook or Instagram (or here, on the blog!), you've probably seen my love for weddings, but something you may not necessarily know about me is my absolute love for photographing high school seniors! I truly believe that every teenage girl (and woman, for that matter!) should have the opportunity to feel comfortable, confident, and beautiful in front of the camera! We live in a world that's overrun by the media telling us who we should be, how we should act, and what we should look like - but a senior session gives every girl the ability to appreciate who they are and how beautiful they are - inside and out. So if you're a senior who wants the opportunity to celebrate who you are and the unique beauty that you have - or if you're a girl who just needs to be reminded of the beauty that already lives inside of you - a senior session is for you! Check out my senior gallery (under "Galleries" in the navigation above) for more samples of my senior work, and use the "Contact" tab above to request more information!

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Shawna W: Hartwood Acres Senior Photographer

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Shawna W: Hartwood Acres Senior Photographer

 I've photographed quite a few seniors at Hartwood Acres Mansion, but the light at Hartwood the evening of Shawna's senior session was quite possibly the most beautiful I've ever seen it! Shawna's outgoing, upbeat, easy-to-talk-to personality made her such a joy to photograph from start to finish. Congratulations on your last year of school, Shawna - you're going to do great things!

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