Bryce M: North Shore Senior Photos

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Bryce M: North Shore Senior Photos

Unlike last year’s incredibly rainy Pittsburgh spring, this year we have had some amazing weather in April! 🎉 Cue the angels!!! And the day of Bryce’s senior session, the weather was perfect. Sun shining, birds chirping, not too hot, not too cold. You can’t ask for much more here in the ‘burgh!

I’ve known Bryce’s family for a few years now (they are awesome!), but hadn’t had the opportunity to meet Bryce until our session - he was so much fun to work with! Bryce is graduating this spring, and is planning on going to the same college both of his parents went to to study accounting. Thank God for the accountants of the world - I don’t think I could ever do what they do, and am so thankful there are so many people that are that passionate about numbers!!

Bryce also brought his dog, Gracie, along, who makes an appearance for a couple of shots! Congratulations on your senior year, Bryce!

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Todd Family: Historic Harmony Family Photos

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Todd Family: Historic Harmony Family Photos

I had the BEST time hanging out with this incredible family in Historic Harmony! Also, general PSA - feeding your children milkshakes before a photo shoot is definitely encouraged! 😉 But seriously - these kiddos had so much energy, which made our time together so much more fun!

When I first started photographing families, I used to struggle with photographing kids who had lots of energy… until I figured out how to use that energy to my advantage! One of my favorite things about photographing kids now is that they’re naturally moving allllll over the place. They want to move, laugh, talk, and giggle, so I love to lean into that with using some fun games and questions to get them laughing and having a good time. The less they feel forced to smile, the more fun they can have, and the more their natural smiles will come out! (But for any moms out there who might be reading this - don’t worry! I always make sure to get a few of everyone looking directly at the camera!)

Thank you for the incredible honor of taking these photos for you, Todd family! You all are such a blessing!

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Amanda + Chris: Allegheny County Courthouse Elopement

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Amanda + Chris: Allegheny County Courthouse Elopement

Amanda and Chris’s elopement was technically my very first wedding of the 2019 season! And let me tell you - the more elopements I photograph, the more I completely fall in love with them! The intimacy and stress-freeness (is that a word? 😉) the couples I work with experience when eloping is like none other!

Their elopement took place on a Friday morning at the Allegheny County Courthouse, on the beautiful Grand Staircase. Integral Weddings officiated the grand occasion, and after their short (but sweet!) ceremony, we took a few photos with family, then spent the next hour and a half walking around Pittsburgh with the new Mr. & Mrs.!

Amanda and Chris, what an honor it was to work with you! It’s easy to see how much you love each other, and that you’re truly the best of friends. Congratulations on your marriage and on this new season of life! 💛

Also, I need to give a huge shoutout to Jill of Jill Gearhart Photography for helping me carry equipment, and for adding some additional photos to Amanda and Chris’s gallery (you’ll see a few photos of hers sprinkled in below!).

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The One Piece of Gear I Can't Live Without

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The One Piece of Gear I Can't Live Without

Well… besides a camera and a few lenses, that is. 😉

My personality lends itself to becoming bit “obsessed” with things – typically, I’ll become obsessed with a certain type of food. For example, my most recent obsession is fried eggs. I literally eat them ALL of the time. For breakfast. For lunch, when I work from home. For dinner, if I can sneak one into the meal somehow (try sneaking a fried egg into an Italian dish – not easy!). But every once in a while, I get obsessed with something that sticks... and the obsession never goes away.

ARTIFICIAL REFLECTORS

When I first started taking portraits of people as a senior in high school (class of 2011, if you can believe it!), I kept looking at my photos, compared them to others, and wondered why mine were falling flat. The skin tone wasn’t creamy – it was flat. The eyes weren’t lit up – they were dark, without light – but no matter what I did with my camera and my subject, I couldn’t create consistency within my portrait work.

 Then, one day, someone told me about a reflector. And it blew. My. Mind. And completely the changed my portrait work for the better! If you’ve never used a reflector, I’d personally equate it to a little slice of heaven, and most definitely one of my longest standing obsessions. You see, a reflector bounces light onto your subject to do things like:

1.     Pop the eyes.

2.     Create creamy, dreamy skin tones.

3.     Fill in unwanted shadows.

4.     And lighten deep set eyes.

MY FAVORITE REFLECTOR

Here’s the reflector that I use. It’s a 5-in-one collapsible piece of amazingness that I kind of have a hard time living without! This lovely piece of equipment has 5 sides and 5 uses:

1.     The White Side softly pops light into the eyes. This side is great to use on a bright day when you want to give your subject’s eyes a little more light!

2.     The Silver Side: in contrast to the white side, the silver side of the reflector has a bit more “pop.” It’s best to use the silver side on a rainy or overcast day for some extra light!

3.     The Gold Side was created to reflect gold light. For example, if you’re shooting portraits during golden hour or sunset, the gold side of the reflector will match the gold light in the sky.

4.     The Black Side of the reflector, in contrast to the rest of the sides, creates shadow and detracts light, or limits any stray and unwanted light.

5.     The Diffuser is what the other sides “zip” over. The diffuser is great for, you guessed it, diffusing light. For example, if I want to put someone outside in an area with harsh, direct light, but want soft light, I just take out my handy dandy diffuser and hold it over them, effectively casting a shadow over my subject, resulting in even light.

DIY REFLECTORS

If you don’t want to wait for your reflector to come in the mail, or if you’re curious to see the affect before you invest, I’d suggest buying a simple piece of white poster-board. In fact, when I first started out… I didn’t even have a real reflector. I just carried around two pieces of poster-board: one white, and one covered in foil (if I needed a stronger reflector!).

NATURAL REFLECTORS

If you don’t have a reflector, or if you find yourself in a situation without one, you can also utilize natural reflectors. But you might be wondering… what exactly is a natural reflector? Didn’t I just tell you to consider buying this other “artificial” reflector from Amazon?

While an artificial reflector can be folded down and carried around with me anywhere, ready to for me to use whenever I need it, natural reflectors are reflective surfaces found on location (and not at every location!). For example, one of my favorite examples of a natural reflector is a cement sidewalk. But why does this make such a great natural reflector? A cement sidewalk is usually a creamy ivory color, which reflects onto the skin, making it luminescent, and making the eyes pop - much like the white side of an artificial reflector. Snow is also an excellent natural reflector (but, of course, is every seasonal...), and pavement can be used as a natural reflector as well, because it is a neutral color.

Using a neutral colored natural reflector is of the utmost importance. If you have your subject standing on, for example, grass, in the mid-day sunlight, that green grass will reflect a green color cast onto your subject… which typically isn’t very flattering. In fact, it usually looks a bit sickly!

Don’t be afraid to get creative about your natural reflectors, too. I once used a whole building painted white as a natural reflector. I used to have a white car that I would use from time to time. And sometimes, in a bridal suite on wedding days when I’m in a pinch, I’ll use a white pillow! It doesn’t matter what you use or how ridiculous you look - as long as the color is neutral and it reflects, it’s fair game!

So if you’re looking for a way to flatter the appearance of your subject and enhance the quality of your work – I would highly suggest either buying a reflector, making your own reflector, or simply scouting out a location in advance to find some natural reflectors that you can utilize! Even if you have to use a car, pillow, or building - it’s worth it!

Happy reflecting!

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My Favorite Photos of Us From a Decade of Dating

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My Favorite Photos of Us From a Decade of Dating

This blog post has been a LONG time in coming. In fact… I meant to get it together for our ten year dating anniversary in August of 2018! 🙈But, nevertheless, today I’d like to take you back a decade to share some of my favorite photos from Nick and I’s relationship throughout the years!

For those of you who might not know our story, Nick and I started dating when he was 16, and when I was 15 (technically, just the day before I turned 16, when I was “officially” allowed to start dating 😂). We were each the first boyfriend/girlfriend that we ever had. After nearly 7 years of dating, in 2015 we tied the knot!

We are both so grateful that we were able to grow with each other mentally, emotionally, physically (i.e., out of bad haircuts and questionable style choices 😉), and spiritually throughout the years. And while I tend to cringe at some of these photos - looking back, I am beyond thankful to have them. And I would love to share a bit of our story - in photo form - with you! And hopefully, some of these photos will remind you (like they did me!) that it’s not about looking “perfect.” It’s about having those moments to hang onto in all of their reality - interesting style choices, weird faces, silly moments, and all.

So, to start, we’ll start at the very beginning. Or, in this case - before the beginning!

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For this very first photo, we’re throwing it back to the first photo Nick and I EVER took together! This was actually before we started dating in the summer of 2008. My friends threw me the sweetest surprise birthday party for my 16th birthday, and little did I know (until I got there!) that they had invited Nick! Who, apparently, had gotten really sunburnt that week 😂

Also, note that this photo was taken on the small digital camera that I kept in my purse! Thank the good Lord for modern technology and not having to carry around ten different electronic devices!

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On this day quite a few years ago, Nick and I decided to go for a walk in the woods near my neighborhood. Shortly after our adventure began, I tried to pull down a giant tree branch that was in our way and a one of it's tiny branches impaled my arm! While I was freaking out, Nick (like the gentleman he is), offered to carry me back to my parents' house (a two mile walk from there). I (not so kindly) informed him that it was not my FEET or my LEGS that had been impaled, but my arm!

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I can safely say that this was one of my LEAST favorite things we've ever done together! Both of our families (who love to hang out together!) decided it would be a wonderful idea for us all to go water tubing - you know, where you hang onto a tube for your LIFE while a boat drags you through deep, churning waters. No big deal! Up until five minutes before this photo was taken, I was insisting that I would never EVER get on one of these tubes just to be thrown off into the depths of the sea. Nick assured me that we would be able to hang on for the whole time if we went together, so VERY reluctantly, I agreed. I should mention that one of my biggest fears in life is drowning, along with large bodies of water (how was I ever a lifeguard for six years?!). So we got on the tube, and literally JUST as the boat started to pull us, our tube submerged under water (I was hanging on too tightly towards the front, apparently) and we were thrown off, as the boat sped away. Meanwhile, I'm FREAKING OUT (screaming, crying, the works) imagining all of the scary darkness and marine life that was swirling below me. Nick (and both of our families) got a GREAT laugh out of that one! Me... not so much! 

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Yes, Nick was literally the Chick-fil-A cow on multiple occasions throughout the area where we live! So of course, I had to visit. Once, I was even the "Mrs" Chick-fil-A cow - only I had walking pneumonia (which I found out later) and could NOT control my coughing. Kids kept trying to hug me while I was in the costume (and coughing), then they would start screaming and crying "What's wrong with the cow! The cow is DYING!"

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Nick's family was gracious enough to bring me along on a few trips to Florida while Nick and I were only dating! During THIS trip in particular, we decided to rent one of these little two person biking things (yes, that's the official name, in case you were wondering!), and after we initially spoke to the rental guy at one of the rental booths, the rental guy left and Nick says to me: "OH MY GOSH. Did you see it?!" Totally unaware as to what he was talking about, I said, "No - see what?" "THE SQUIRREL SITTING ON HIS SHOULDER!!! Look for it when he comes back!" So we waited, and ten minutes later, the rental guy comes back - without a squirrel on his shoulder. Nick was SO confused, and I BURST out laughing. To this day, Nick still believes there was a squirrel sitting on this man's shoulder. I still don't believe it!

One of the coolest things we've done together is go on a mission trip to Kenya! As you can see from our faces - jet lag is the real deal.

Ahhhhh, Halloween. We've gone through quite a few make shift Halloween costumes throughout the year, only to settle on finally investing in some Hogwarts robes (which I think we've worn for the last four years or so! ;) ). Other mentionables include: Bert Macklin & Janet Snakehole (any Parks & Rec fans out there?!), pirates, and Minnie & Mickey!

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When this photo was taken, I had NO idea it would be so important to me so many years later. I was playing "Mrs. Mayor" in my high school's rendition of "Seussical," and Nick came to every single show. Later I found out that at one of the shows, Nick leaned over to his best friend and whispered "I'm going to marry that girl someday." I think it was the yellow suit 😂

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Nick and I met through our youth group (read more about how we met here!) on a trip down to Florida to a camp called "Bigstuf." This photo was taken on our third trip together down there - those are some of my favorite memories!

Tenth grade prom. Need I say more?! We went to SO many dances together, and boy, are some of those photos rough, so I’ll leave you with this one that’s not so bad! 😉

Tenth grade prom. Need I say more?! We went to SO many dances together, and boy, are some of those photos rough, so I’ll leave you with this one that’s not so bad! 😉

Two Disney fans in Universal for the first time together. We decided that it wasn't nearly as interesting as Disney ;) But we did have an amazing time!

Two Disney fans in Universal for the first time together. We decided that it wasn't nearly as interesting as Disney ;) But we did have an amazing time!

THIS was the day Nick asked me to marry him! If you're interested in seeing the video,  click here  ☺️ And yes - I was completely and utterly surprised!! The weirdest thing that happened that day, though, was seeing a naked man sun tanning in a PUBLIC PARK. Ew!

THIS was the day Nick asked me to marry him! If you're interested in seeing the video, click here ☺️ And yes - I was completely and utterly surprised!! The weirdest thing that happened that day, though, was seeing a naked man sun tanning in a PUBLIC PARK. Ew!

I always thought Nick had the best redheaded Justin Bieber hair when we were in high school 😍And this was back in the day when it was cool to take photos via the PhotoBooth on your computer.

I always thought Nick had the best redheaded Justin Bieber hair when we were in high school 😍And this was back in the day when it was cool to take photos via the PhotoBooth on your computer.

This is what most of the photos we take together ACTUALLY look like 😂this was on the same day Nick "saw" the squirrel sitting on a man's shoulder!

This is what most of the photos we take together ACTUALLY look like 😂this was on the same day Nick "saw" the squirrel sitting on a man's shoulder!

This photo has been one of my favorites since it was taken by the talented Michael Williams, mainly because I feel like it really captures exactly who we are together! Against allllll of my previous knowledge about engagement sessions before this day, Nick and I showed up in a bit of mid-fight, but by the end of the shoot, we totally forgot what we had been fighting about. We had so much fun!

This photo has been one of my favorites since it was taken by the talented Michael Williams, mainly because I feel like it really captures exactly who we are together! Against allllll of my previous knowledge about engagement sessions before this day, Nick and I showed up in a bit of mid-fight, but by the end of the shoot, we totally forgot what we had been fighting about. We had so much fun!

I bet you can guess what happened on this day! 😉This was by FAR one of my favorite days. To my surprise, I wasn't nervous at ALL, and slept a full nine and a half hours the night before our wedding! We had been dating for so long that we knew this was exactly what we wanted to do and the man I wanted to spend my life with!

I bet you can guess what happened on this day! 😉This was by FAR one of my favorite days. To my surprise, I wasn't nervous at ALL, and slept a full nine and a half hours the night before our wedding! We had been dating for so long that we knew this was exactly what we wanted to do and the man I wanted to spend my life with!

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I love everything that this photo represents: time together, uninterrupted, in one of our favorite places: Disney’s Boardwalk Resort! This photo was taken during a first year anniversary session by the incredibly talented KT Crabb Photography.

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And here is us… just last year, attending my cousin’s wedding in Virginia! This photo reminds me of allllll of the boundaries we had to keep in place and adhere to - together - just to be able to attend this wedding and spend the weekend with my extended family. At the beginning of our marriage, one of the toughest things we had to work through was making time to align our schedules to be together.

When we were first married, Nick was working as a Youth Director at the church we attended, and I was working a part-time Graphic & Web Design job, while trying to build this business. We had no boundaries, and consequently, we never really saw each other or got to spend time with each other. I am SO thankful that we were both given a call out and were able to pursue a healthy work-life balance. 💛

Thanks for reading, friends!

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This One Thing Can Make or Break Your Wedding Day

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This One Thing Can Make or Break Your Wedding Day

Short answer: your timeline.

 A wedding day timeline might not be the most exciting piece of your wedding day to think about, but is the one thing that can make or break your photography experience! Leaving enough time for photos during each portion of your wedding day is essential for setting yourself (and your photographer) up for success to get all of the wedding images you’ve been dreaming of!

Today, I’d love to share a sample timeline, built from a photography perspective to give enough time for photos for each section of the wedding day (note that this might vary from photographer to photographer – this is just the amount of time I feel I need to serve my clients best!). The timeline below includes a first look (if you’re not sure what that is, click here!), and does not include travel time. Any travel time should be added in addition to the estimated times below!

BRIDAL DETAILS

Time: 30-40 minutes

Every bride loves having those beautiful shots of her bridal details. It’s an important part of the story and I love having some time to shoot the dress, shoes, jewelry, invitations, etc. These shots allow me to get warmed up for the rest of the big day. I normally like to allow at least 30-40 minutes for this part of the day.

BRIDAL PREP

Time: 45 minutes

After the details have been photographed, we will jump straight into bridal prep! After some photos of the bride hanging out with her bridesmaids and final touches of makeup, it’s time for the bride to get into her dress! I usually ask the mother of the bride and all of the bridesmaids to be dressed by the time the bride is ready to get into her dress. After the bride is in her gown, she can put on her jewelry, veil, shoes, etc. and I will shoot a few bridal portraits while hair and makeup are fresh!

 If the groom is getting ready nearby, my second photographer will begin photographing the boys close to 40 minutes before they need to leave their location since it always takes boys less time to get ready!

FIRST LOOK

Time: 15 minutes

This is one of my favorite parts of the wedding day! I will make sure the location is as private and secluded as possible.  I love to give my couples a few minutes alone together after the first look to soak in the excitement!

BRIDE & GROOM PORTRAITS

Time: 40+ minutes

If there is a first look, after, we will jump straight into photos of the Bride & Groom! This is typically the most relaxing part of the day for the couple, where they have a moment just to be present with each other. Remember, the LIGHT determines where we shoot. We will work together to ensure that any locations you are hoping to incorporate into your wedding photos have the right light during the time of day we’ll be taking your portraits! Remember to add extra time in your timeline for locations separate from the ceremony and/or reception space!

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BRIDAL PARTY PORTRAITS

Time: 30 minutes

Now it’s time for Bridal Party shots! During Bridal Party portraits, my second photographer and I will make sure to take some great shots of the guys and girls both separately AND together, as well as a photo of the Bride with each bridesmaid and the Groom with each groomsman.

FAMILY FORMALS:

Time: 30-45 minutes

Family formals normally take place immediately following the ceremony. It’s best to save all of the family formals until after the ceremony because ALL family members will be present at that time. We’ll need about 30 to 45 minutes for family formals (sometimes more, depending on the number of combinations!) and I will send a questionnaire before the wedding where you can list out the shots that you want. I recommend shooting portraits in the ceremony space at the altar directly following the ceremony so that all family members are in one place! However, any outdoor area within short walking distance will also look beautiful!

RECEPTION DETAILS:

Time: 30 minutes

If the ceremony and reception are in different locations, I recommend having a cocktail hour outside of the main reception area if possible so that I can grab some great shots of your reception before the night begins and guests start laying down purses and coats on their seats!

SUNSET OR NIGHT PORTRAITS:

Time: 10-15 minutes

Between 7:00 and 8:00 is the BEST time of day for portraits in the late spring, summer and early fall! This is when the sun is glowy and golden. I love having a few extra minutes with the bride and groom to take a few extra photos during this time frame! Or, if you’re looking for an epic night portrait, we can wait until the sun is completely gone to create more gorgeous images!

As a side note - if your wedding takes place during daylight savings (when the sun sets between 4 and 5PM!), make sure to factor in less daylight the day of your wedding.

BUT WHAT IF I DON’T WANT A FIRST LOOK?

If you are not planning on having a first look, Bride & Groom portraits, as well as bridal party portraits, can take place following the ceremony (after family formals).

Have questions about creating the ideal wedding day timeline? Use the contact tab in the navigation above to reach out - I’d love to help! And in the mean time, happy wedding planning!

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My First Job & How Life Comes Full Circle

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My First Job & How Life Comes Full Circle

This blog post is the crazy story of how life comes full circle. These photos aren’t the “normal” senior, family, engagement, or wedding photos you’ll see on my blog, but there’s a crazy, God-sized story here that I feel is worth sharing. It’s a story you probably know well within your own life from years of living… but, if you’re curious, allow me to add my own version of a “full circle” experience to the blogosphere.

You see, it all began ten years ago, when I was 16 years old. I had just completed a few months at my first job as a lifeguard at our local community pool. But after Labor Day, there was no more need for lifeguards guarding outdoor pools (hello, Pittsburgh!), so I started searching for job #2, which landed me a job as a lifeguard at my local YMCA: the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA, to be exact.

Being a lifeguard was the perfect job for high school Jenna. I’d spend 20 minutes guarding one pool, 20 minutes guarding another pool, and then 20 minutes either cleaning, or doing homework, if there was no cleaning left to be done. For an introverted people-watching achiever, it was the dream!

During these breaks from cleaning and homework, occasionally, my boyfriend would come and visit. We hadn’t been dating for too long at the time, but he would bring me a Starbucks drink (#keeper) and we would put our feet in the hot tub and talk for the remainder of my “break.” We kept this little tradition going for the six years I worked at the YMCA.

As we both grew, we stayed together and started forming deeper connections - talking about our dreams, hopes, and aspirations. I remember one day telling him: “I think I want to be a photographer.” Of course - like the encouraging boyfriend he was (and, spoiler alert: like the encouraging husband he is now!) - he helped me run with that little dream, telling me he would support me however he could. (Ladies, that’s the type of boyfriend you want to have - one that will support you, dream with you, and act on what he says! Words don’t mean very much unless there’s action to back them up, and I’m thankful that Nick was, and continues to be, a man of his word!)

Six years after I had started working at the Y, I decided I needed to resign. I loved the job so much, but I was in school full-time, trying to hold down a part time internship, working another job as a banquet server, and trying to get my little fledgling business off the ground. It was time to resign, so I threw in my whistle and towel and wondered if I would ever come back through the YMCA doors to the community and building I had grown to love.

Fast forward four years after I had quit. That boyfriend who visited me at the Y? Now we’re married. And now we feel God calling us to something new. Something that would require leaving the familiar and comfortable for a new season of unknown. We tried to ignore the stirring in our hearts, but we’ve both learned through this season that we can only ignore what God is pulling us towards and laying on our hearts for so long before we have to act. And that action for us? Nick, looking for a new job, after working in the same place he had poured his heart and soul into for 8 years.

After we came to the conclusion that we had to put action behind what we felt God was calling us to do, Nick started pursuing other employment opportunities. But the hard part? He wasn’t just switching jobs. He had to switch careers, out of the “church world” and into the corporate world.

One day, as we were driving home from getting groceries, we were passing the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA, talking about potential job opportunities. I half-heartedly said: “Hey! You should see if there are any job opportunities at the Y - I loved working there!” Neither of us thought seriously about it until Nick saw a posting for a job as a director online as he was searching for jobs. Soon after, he realized that he had a connection there that might even be able to help him get an interview. And he did get an interview. And against so many odds… he got the job!

Then, a few months into this new career, the Y contacted me to take some photos for them of their facility and members for their new website.

And I can’t help but think back to the teenagers, drinking Starbucks, dipping their feet in the hot tub, dreaming about what the future held. Me - wanting to be a photographer, not realizing that I would have the opportunity to take photos at and for that very YMCA I was employed by a decade later. Nick - thinking his life was, for sure, with 100% certainty, heading in one direction. Little did we know that God was providing a foreshadowing of what was to come… and neither of us knew it at the time.

It totally blows my mind.

God makes a way where there seems to be no way. He puts doors for us to open that we didn’t even believe were a possibility. He puts dreams and desires in our hearts, and in his time, brings them to fruition. And he simply asks us to trust him. To follow him. To pursue him. To love Him, and to love others. In the mean time, he’ll light our path and give us the next step.

And then, years down the road… sometimes he lets us experience that “full circle” moment. And it’s the perfect opportunity to remember his goodness, his faithfulness, his omniscience.

Without further ado, here are a few photos from the Rose E. Schneider Family YMCA photo shoot!

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One Clever & Revealing Question to Ask at Your Vendor Consultations

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One Clever & Revealing Question to Ask at Your Vendor Consultations

Do you ever have one of those moments where you’re just not really sure what to say?

I had a wedding photography consultation with a couple a few years ago (who I absolutely love!) who asked me an AMAZING question. And only a few months ago did I recognize the significance of it!

THE BIG Q

“Who would you hire to photograph your wedding?”

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Whoa. No one had ever asked me that before (at least, not a potential client!). First, I explained that I had in fact already gotten married, and that we had hired an amazing local photographer and absolutely loved our photos. But then they asked me again:

“If you could hire anyone to photograph your wedding, who would it be?”

Well, they got me there.

So many options raced through my head – local photographers, national photographers, international photographers - but a married couple from New England stuck out as the top pair in my head. Not just for their work, but for their incredible heart and connection that leaps out of each and every once of their images!

We moved on from this topic of conversation, and I didn’t think about this question again until months later, at the couple’s engagement session, when they were telling my assistant why they had decided to go with me as their wedding photographer.

They explained that they had asked multiple photographers the same question they had asked me: “Who would you hire to photograph your wedding?” And, believe it or not, one of those photographers said that they would hire me.

I was stunned when I heard this. Completely flabbergasted. Totally in shock! This question – though simple and straightforward – had landed me this booking. I felt kind of bad at first, sort of feeling like it was unfair that I had said someone out of state, and that this photographer had mentioned me. But then I realized: this couple? They were geniuses!

Who better to ask about hiring a wedding photographer than a wedding photographer? They know the industry, see SO much wedding work, and have tons of connections… so, again, who better to ask? And what better question to ask?

BUT WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

I’m writing this blog for a two-fold reason: first, from a bride’s perspective, I wish that I had asked this question to my vendors when I was getting married: to my DJ, to my florist, to my caterer, possibly even to my wedding venue. I really think it is an easy question that reveals so much!

If I don’t believe in my product or service… why would anyone else?

And second, from a wedding photographer perspective: why didn’t I throw my own name into the ring? Part of me wonders why I didn’t think: I wish I could photograph my own wedding! But that thought didn’t even cross my mind. For obvious reasons I couldn’t, but it reminds me that if I don’t believe in my product or service… why would anyone else? That’s a mindset and perspective worth shifting.

To the couple who asked me this thought-provoking question: thank you. So much. You know who you are, and I am so thankful for you!

To the bride who might be reading this: try asking this question at your next vendor meeting. I’m sure it will give you some answers that you’ve been looking for!

And finally, to the business owner: look at your product or service through your client’s shoes. Would you hire yourself to provide the product or service you’re asking your client to pay you for?

Thanks for reading, friends!

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7 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Senior Photographer

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7 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Senior Photographer

Looking for a senior photographer? One size does not fit all when it comes to senior photos – senior photography and photographers vary vastly in style, approach, and experience, among many other things, including packages and availability. So, how are you supposed to figure out the best senior photographer for you with so many options to choose from?!

Below, I’ve compiled a list of seven questions to ask a potential senior photographer before committing. In addition to these questions, don’t forget to check out their website and social media pages, as well as their reviews, before signing on the dotted line!

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 1.     How would you describe your style?

Did you know that there are three general, popular styles of photography? These styles can be broken down into: moody, natural, and light and airy (for a great article explaining and showcasing the differences, click here!) Moody editing showcases deep tones and contrast, giving the work a modern look. Light and airy editing lightens shadows, reduces contrast, and showcases soft color palettes beautifully. Natural editing showcases classic, true-to-life colors and contrast. Knowing which style you prefer and what photographers in your area offer that style is a crucial first step in narrowing down potential candidates for the job!

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2.     How would you describe your approach?

Beyond the actual photos, the experience your photographer provides before, during, and after a session can vary vastly from photographer to photographer, because personalities vary from photographer to photographer. It can be challenging to get an idea of someone’s personality if you haven’t met them before, but a great way to get some insight into a photographer’s personality is to: (1) schedule a call with them to chat, (2) check out their website, and (3) check out their social media. Many photographers used social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook as their brand “voice,” designed to give potential clients a feel for what they can expect from them in real life!

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3.     How long have you been photographing seniors for?

Experience can be a key player when it comes to a senior photography investment, and should be weighed along with a photographer’s portfolio. I would never ever suggest to not hire a photographer just because they haven’t been in the field for a certain number of years – there are some incredibly talented photographers who hit the ground running with awesome work! And, likewise, there are some photographers who have been photographing seniors for years who simply have the experience without the greatest portfolio work. My advice: find someone who has a great portfolio (i.e., ask to see a full gallery from one of their sessions instead of just the highlights from a few different sessions!), and weigh it against their experience.

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4.     What is your availability?

Are you looking to have your photos taken during a certain time of the year? Do you need to have your yearbook photo in by a certain date? Believe it or not, senior session timeslots can fill up fast, and many photographers only offer a certain number of timeslots per season. From personal experience – I am typically fully booked for the fall (all the way through November) by the beginning of September. If you have a photographer in mind, make sure you contact them early to reserve your spot!

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5.     What packages do you offer, and what is included?

Much like style and approach, the packages senior photographers offer can vary widely from photographer to photographer. Before you start looking at senior packages, ask yourself: what do I really want to use these images for? Are you looking for physical print products to hang in your home? Do you want digital files to share on social media or to make your own announcements? Knowing your intentions for your photos will help you decide what senior photographer offers the best product for you!

Some senior photographers will offer only packages that include prints with no digitals. Some senior photographers will offer packages that only include digital images, with no prints. Some will offer packages that include both! The bottom line: make sure you know what you’re paying for before you sign a contract!

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6.     Do I receive digital copies of my photos? 

I know, I know, I kind of talked about this one above, but it’s so important that I feel the need to mention it again: if you want to end up with the digital files from your session, make sure to ask if they are included in your package. Because we live in a digital age, I love including digital files with my senior packages. Plus… I was a senior once. My mom printed images to hang in her home, but what I really wanted were the digital files!

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7.     How long does it take to receive my full gallery of images?

If you are receiving a gallery of images from your senior photographer, make sure you ask how long it will take to edit and process your images! Why is this important? If your senior session is scheduled for October 25th and your yearbook photo is due on October 26th, there’s a very good chance you won’t have your full gallery of images to choose from! Asking your photographer for a general timeframe of when you should expect to receive your images is a great way to make sure you don’t end up without a photo in your senior yearbook!

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The key: know what you want before talking to you potential senior photographers. Hiring someone who is the right fit for you and who can provide the experience and end product you are looking for is worth the time!

 And if you are in the Pittsburgh area and in need of senior photos, feel free to reach out using the contact tab above – I’d love to chat!

PS - if you want to learn a little bit more about me and see a bit more of my personality and approach, check out my Instagram!

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Spring & Summer Senior Outfit Ideas & Inspiration (Girl Edition)

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Spring & Summer Senior Outfit Ideas & Inspiration (Girl Edition)

Spring is right around the corner, which means lots of beautiful, colorful, spring senior sessions! But, let’s be honest, here - one of the best and toughest parts of any senior session is figuring out what to wear. Am I right?? While an upcoming senior session may be a good excuse to head to your favorite local boutique, it can be frustrating not knowing what to wear with so many different options!

Today, I want to share some styling tips specific to spring and summer sessions for senior girls. Below, you’ll find a few ideas to say “yes” to, and a few you might want to consider passing on. Below these two categories, you’ll find a link to my senior spring & summer inspiration board for senior girls (which I update on the regular!), as well as some inspiration from past JHP seniors. But above any of these ideas, make sure you feel comfortable in whatever you choose to wear for your senior session. Confidence in front of the camera can be hampered whenever you’re not fully sold on (or comfortable in) what you’re wearing!

Also, if you’ve never worn the outfit before that you’re thinking about wearing for your senior session, be sure to take it out for a test spin! I’ve had many a senior not realize until after they were 45 minutes away from home that their outfit had a major problem… like a shirt that was a bit too low, or pants that wouldn’t stay up, because they had never worn that particular dress/shirt/jacket before!

And without further ado, here are my top styling tips for senior girls!

SAY YES TO…

  • Bright colors - I LOVE bright colors for spring senior sessions! Whether you choose a bright top or colorful sundress, your brightly colored outfit will most likely compliment the new spring blooms beautifully! 🌷

  • Neutrals - As much as I love bright colors, there’s something sophisticated about some well coordinated neutrals. For example - white dresses are classic and pretty much never go out of style!

  • Floral or Other Patterns - Floral patterns for the spring are always a hit! Whether you go with a top, sundress, or maxi dress (my personal fave!), floral patterns (and even other patterns) work well to make someone “pop” off of the background of an image with a simple background.

  • Maxi Dresses/Skirts - Maxi dresses and skirts are oh-so beautiful in the spring and summer! They’re light and breezy and do a wonderful job of naturally elongating the body in photos! Plus… they’re fun to twirl! 💃

  • White Jeans - White jeans are a great compliment to a brightly colored or patterned top. They’re sleek and give a bit of an upscale look!

  • Summer Accessories - Sunglasses, kimonos, hats, oh my! Throwing in a weather-appropriate accessory or two for a few shots is always fun and adds some more variety!

  • Bare Feet - Not sure what kind of shoes to wear? Bare feet give an earthy, natural feel to your session - so if you’re feeling brave, skip the shoes!

CONSIDER PASSING ON…

  • Fluorescent Colors - Neon colors don’t tend to photograph quite so well, so pass on any colors that are a bit too fluorescent (not to be confused with the aforementioned bright colors - examples below!).

  • Super Short Shorts and Dresses - Shorts and dresses are totally fine (and encouraged!), but sometimes when they get way too short, they’re tough to move around in and aren’t super flattering in photos!

  • Too Many Heavy Layers - There are few things more uncomfortable then being bundled up in 90 degree weather for an hour and a half while getting your photo taken! Wearing too many layers in the summer particularly can result in lots of sweaty portraits - so be careful how many layers you add particularly for really hot days!

A FEW MORE RESOURCES:

If you’re looking for some more help preparing for your senior session, check out the posts below!

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