Why I Can't Define Myself as a Photographer

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Why I Can't Define Myself as a Photographer

When you first meet someone, what's one of the first questions you ask them? You might ask for their name, and then possibly what they do for a living. I recently started reading a book called "The i-Factor" by Van Moody, and it's completely changed the way I think about my identity.


I've found that so often we forget that we are more than the sum of our parts. I might define myself as a photographer, but I'm not defined by what I do. I'm learning that if I tie what I do too closely to who I am, I lose myself. And if what I do for a living ever changes - I'm in for a MAJOR life crisis. 

I’m not defined by what I do. If I tie what I do too closely to who I am, I lose myself.


I'm learning that I'm not just "Jenna the photographer." I'm Jenna - an encourager, someone who looks for the best in people, and someone who cares deeply about helping others feel loved. Those things won't change, and they can be carried with me into whatever I do.


Now - don't get the wrong idea here, I have absolutely NO intentions of quitting photography. In fact - just the opposite. I recently left my part-time job to pursue this crazy dream full time! But in that decision came fear - fear of losing part of who I was because I was giving up something I love almost as much as photography. But really - knowing who I am and defining myself apart from what I do is one of the first steps towards having the confidence to succeed!


I share this in hope to encourage anyone else who's chasing a dream out there, however big or small, and however far along in the process you are. Whatever you chase, be careful to define yourself by your "who" - then your "what" will fall into place.

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Rachel + Paul: Lingrow Farms Wedding Photography

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Rachel + Paul: Lingrow Farms Wedding Photography

If you follow along with the blog, you might remember Rachel and Paul from their summer engagement photos at Grove City College (if you haven't seen them, check them out here!). Their wedding day was indescribably beautiful, full of love and gorgeous details, and SO focused on their lifelong commitment of marriage. Their laid back attitudes and true love for their friends, family, and each other, radiated throughout their day and truly made us feel like part of the family!

Rachel and Paul's entire wedding day took place at Lingrow Farms in Leechburg, PA on a day that could've been a complete rain out! However - right as the ceremony began, the skies parted and the rain clouds disappeared into a perfect day! And just wait til you see Rachel's dress - it's from the Disney Princess line from Alfred Angelo. (A Disney fan's dream come true!!)

One of my favorite parts of Rachel and Paul's entire day were the toasts. The maid of honor, best man, and father of the bride wrote such heartfelt, funny, sincere words that made me love these two even more, and gave even more of a glimpse into their sincere love for one another. You might even see the best man (the bride's brother) standing on the head table in some of the shots below!

Rachel and Paul - it was a blessing to take these photos for you! Thank you for treating us not just as wedding vendors, but as friends! We love you both and pray all the best for your marriage as you begin your lives together as husband and wife!

Pittsburgh Wedding Vendors: 

Ceremony & Reception Venue: Lingrow Farm

Bride's Dress: Alfred Angelo Bridal  

Catering: Twisted Thistle

Cake: Oakmont Bakery 

Flowers: The Johnston House

Hair: The Salon at Saxonburg

Bridesmaid Dresses: AZAZIE  

Bride's Shoes: Badgley Mischka

Videographer: Robert Stanik

Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer: Jenna Hidinger Photography

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To Bring or to not Bring Your Camera?

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To Bring or to not Bring Your Camera?

Did you know that there is such a thing as a "photo-taking impairment effect?" I recently read some research by Linda Henkle, a psychology professor at Fairfield University, suggesting that taking photos of something can actually impair you from remembering said event - which, as a wedding photographer, really surprised me.

But then, at my next wedding, I paid attention to guests and family members at the wedding and recognized so many people who were essentially living through their camera phones - recording a toast, but watching it through their phone. Ready to take a photo of the first kiss, and watching it through their phone instead of being present and active in the moment they were in. Ever since then, watching a mother of the bride, bridesmaid, grandfather, friend, or whoever else watching a wedding day unfold through their phone has made me rethink the importance of my job. I realized then that as a wedding photographer, I get to help other people actually LIVE in the moment, and STILL get to remember it later - which is such a beautiful way to serve people!

Are you more concerned with taking photos, or are you spending your time making memories and being present in whatever you’re doing?

And of course, this applies to more than just wedding photography. Parents - having photos of your kids is so important, but being there for them and engaged in whatever they're doing, encouraging them along the way, is even MORE important. Kids will remember how present you were... or how distracted you were by your phone.

The same goes for anyone, really - on vacation, are you more concerned with taking photos to remember the trip, or are you spending the majority of your time actually making memories and being present in whatever you're doing?

I recently found myself photographing a beeeeeautiful destination wedding on Mackinac Island in Michigan, and while I was SO excited to take photos of my beautiful couple in such a stunning location, I found myself hesitant to bring my camera with me on my off-day. Typically, if I'm in a new place for the first time, I LOVE to document what I see so I can remember and share it. But my husband said an off -the-cuff comment as we were getting ready to head into town that made me rethink my packing list for the day: "I just want to be present with you today." WHOA. Right then and there, I was reminded of all of the moments I've missed because I was too busy hiding behind my camera. So, hesitantly, I pulled my camera out of my bag and left it sitting on a chair in our hotel room. And let me tell you - that day spent fully present with my husband was one of the BEST gifts I could've given to our marriage. We laughed, we walked, and we soaked in that time together, being fully present with each other and with our surroundings.

I'm no expert (I mean, I'm still a photographer to my core!), but I want to challenge you to do the same.


If you're a guest, friend, bridesmaid, groomsman, or family member at a wedding, my suggestion is to allow yourself to enjoy it - fully - without a phone in hand. Wherever you go, even if you bring your camera or your phone or whatever you use to document our life, be sure to take the time to actually live those moments. Be a part of those memories. Laugh, cry, shout, clap, and take the time to take it all in ❤️

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Kathryn + Chase: Allegheny County Courthouse Wedding

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Kathryn + Chase: Allegheny County Courthouse Wedding

Kathryn and Chase's Allegheny Courthouse wedding in Pittsburgh, PA was EPIC! (I tried to come up with a more eloquent word, but really, epic just describes the day as a whole!). Kathryn and Chase kicked off their day by getting ready at the Renaissance Hotel Pittsburgh with their wedding party and family members. Kathryn's bridal suite was a DREAM, and so many of the details and accessories found in her room matched her bridal accessories, which made for so many interesting and unique detail photos (one of my favorite parts of the day!). Not to mention, the couple's grandmother handmade all of the bouquets, boutonnières, and flower arrangements seen in all of the photos below. Talk about a great connection!

Kathryn and Chase then had a first look in front of the hotel right next to the Roberto Clemente Bridge. From there, we traveled over to the Allegheny Commons Courthouse (Kathryn works in law, which made the venue a perfect choice) where these two had their ceremony and open-sky reception (one of the first wedding receptions ever at the courthouse!). One of my favorite parts of Kathryn and Chase's entire wedding day was how they incorporated their sweet pup and best friend, Cola, throughout the day! Cola had a pink bow collar purchased to match the blush and neutral color scheme, walked in with Chase at the ceremony (and sat quietly throughout the entire service - which completely blew my mind, because my dog would've done the complete opposite!), and even had a BIRTHDAY CAKE that sat right alongside the couple's wedding cake! Seriously one of the most adorable things, ever.

The couple's favors included beverages from Chase's family's company and guests were treated to a snack from the Franktuary Hot Dog Truck while leaving. I am so excited to share the images from Kathryn and Chase's beautiful day (as you might be able to tell from this incredibly lengthy blog post!!). Congratulations on your marriage, Kathryn and Chase!

[A huge thanks to my incredible second shooter for this wedding, Sara Dinwiddie of Sara Lynn Photography!]

Vendors:

Bride's Dress: Maggie Sottero from Exquisite Bride

Bride's Shoes: Tahari

Bridesmaid Dresses: Bill Levkoff

Hair: Metamorphosis

Makeup: Erin Zaborowski

Suits: Tommy Hilfiger

Getting Ready: Renaissance Hotel Pittsburgh

DJ: DJ Colt

Flowers: Springdale Florist

Caterer: Big Burrito

Cake/Dresses: Bella Christie and Lil Z's Sweet Boutique

Food Truck: Franktuary Hot Dog Truck

Photographer: Jenna Hidinger Photography

Second Shooting/Assisting: Sara Lynn Photography (Sara Dinwiddie)

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Tessa's First Birthday: Mellon Park Family Photography

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Tessa's First Birthday: Mellon Park Family Photography

Can anyone believe it's JULY already?! I feel like I blinked and June was over! If there's one thing that gets me excited about summer, it's the beautiful golden light, especially in one of my favorite parks in Pittsburgh - Mellon Park!

I met up with sweet little Tessa and her parents for her first birthday, to celebrate with a photo session! This little lady loves to walk, hug, and hold car keys, and just has the sweetest personality (and the cutest curly hair!). Below are just a few of my favorites from this family session!

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Alexa H: Hartwood Acres Mansion Senior Photos

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Alexa H: Hartwood Acres Mansion Senior Photos

There are few high school seniors you will meet who are as kind, generous, compassionate, and authentic as this girl right here! I've had the privilege of knowing Alexa for a few years through my husband's job (as a middle school youth director). She truly has a heart to serve and encourage those around her, which is why I was SO excited to get her in front of my camera! I've always felt like part of my job is to encourage the heck out of anyone I photograph, and with all of the encouragement and compassion that Alexa gives out, I was beyond excited to give some back her way! Not to mention, she was a complete natural in front of the camera at her Hartwood Acres Mansion senior session!

Alexa plans to attend Robert Morris University (my alma mater!) in the fall for Media Arts, with a concentration in Graphic Design (also the program I went through - too cool!). I'm so excited for you, Alex, and I know that God has so many incredible plans for your future!

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4 Things to Implement to Improve Your Second Shooting (for Weddings)

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4 Things to Implement to Improve Your Second Shooting (for Weddings)

When I first started photographing weddings, I began as a second photographer shooting alongside seasoned professionals. I worked as a secondary photographer for a at least 5 to 6 different photographers for a few years, and I am SO thankful for each one who believed in me enough to allow me to tag along.

While second shooting, I learned a variety of different skills from each photographer that have stayed with me to this day and have impacted the traits and skills I look for in second shooters and assistants. Though there are many skills that make up a superb second shooter (and lots of preferred skills that vary from primary photographer to primary photographer), here are a few of my top tips for being an outstanding second shooter, all of which I have found in my second shooters and assistants:

1.  Have a servant’s heart and mentality towards the wedding couple.

The way to the primary photographer’s heart is through their wedding couple. Primary photographers (typically) want to give their clients THE BEST experience when it comes to their wedding photos, and having a second photographer who is willing to go the extra mile to serve the bride & groom truly stands out (so long as it doesn’t interfere with any work the primary has specifically asked you to do).

2. Have a servant’s heart and mentality towards the primary photographer.

I love photographing weddings, but I’m willing to admit that sometimes they can be a bit stressful. Many times, being a wedding photographer means more than just documenting a wedding day - it means coordinating timelines and keeping the bridal party, wedding couple, and family members ON that timeline, which can be an all encompassing task (on top of trying to make sure everyone looks perfect in photos!). Being a second photographer who goes the extra mile for the primary photographer can go a long way. Asking if the primary needs any food or water, helping with bags, setting up light stands, calling out names during family formals, or simply taking initiative throughout the day helps the primary photographer focus on the day as a whole.

3. Study the primary photographer’s style.

One of my favorite things about being a second photographer at a wedding is the increased ability to be creative! If the wedding day is crunched for time, the primary photographer’s goal is to first get the “safe shot,” and then move on to more creative compositions. But the great thing about being a secondary photographer is the decreased amount of stress to get the “safe shots.” You can take risks and get creative because you can trust that the primary is, at the very least, getting all of the “necessary” shots. But before you shoot with a primary photographer for the first time, be sure to study their work. How do they compose shots? Are they consistent in their use of light, or varied? Do they prefer more posed shots or more candid shots? How does your work compliment theirs? (Or how can you use your style of work to compliment their style?)

4. Ask if there are any specific photos the primary photographer wants you to get at any specific time.

While many primary photographers will let their second photographer know if they need a specific shot (or shots) from them, some photographers prefer to let the second photographer “get what they get,” for lack of better words. As a primary photographer, I always appreciate when a second shooter asks if I’m looking for any specific shots, whether it’s at the beginning of the day or throughout the wedding day. For example, during the ceremony, I’m in the front of the church getting the shot of the bride coming down the aisle. I’m also trying to get the groom’s reaction to his bride. But if I can have my second shooter focusing on getting the shot of the groom’s reaction, I can focus on the bride and her dad – which is always a huge help! A second photographer also is helpful during bridal party shots. While the primary is getting the group shot, the secondary can be snapping little details (bouquets, boutonnières, candids, etc.) to provide a more robust final gallery!

I am so thankful for my second photographers and assistants who help me through wedding days and sessions. They are the ones who have made this blog post possible and the reason why I can share this information – because I see these things so clearly in them! Thank you to my second shooters and assistants for making all of my weddings and sessions 10X better! Without you, this wouldn’t be possible!

Two FANTASTIC people who help make wedding days possible!

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Groom Wedding Day Detail Checklist

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Groom Wedding Day Detail Checklist

We’ve talked about what should be included in your bridal detail wedding day checklist, but what about the groom’s details? Many times, we try to take a few photos of the groom’s wedding day details, since many of them are so thoughtfully planned and executed! Having some photos of the groom’s details also looks great in an album spread! If you’re looking to have photos taken of your groom’s details, you might want to consider including the groom’s:

  • Tie or Bowtie
  • Cufflinks
  • Socks (if they’re a fun pattern!)
  • Watch
  • Shoes
  • Boutonnière (adds a little bit of color!)
  • Belt
  • Pocket Square
  • Glasses
  • Cologne Bottle
  • Any notes or gifts from the bride
  • Any gifts given to the groomsmen

And there you have it! Have your groom start to collect all of his details in a box or bag leading up to the wedding day so your photographer can have easy access to all of his details for a killer detail shot!

Happy planning!

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One GIANT Tip for Spending More Time with Loved Ones on Your Wedding Day

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One GIANT Tip for Spending More Time with Loved Ones on Your Wedding Day

You might’ve read the title of this post and been a little confused (especially if you haven’t experienced a wedding day as a bride or groom first hand): isn’t it a given that you’ll spend the whole wedding day with your friends and family?

Well… yes and no.

Of course, you’ll be spending your wedding day with your family and friends in the same vicinity as you, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be actually spending time with them. And to be honest, sometimes wedding photography takes up a significant portion of a wedding day. And it’s challenging, because as a wedding photographer, I want to get the BEST images possible for my couples – and of course, getting the BEST images possible takes a little bit of time, between bridal party photos, family photos, and photos of the happy couple.

But what if I told you there was one magic way to spend more time with your family and friends on your big day? ONE thing that you can add into your day that will give you that time that you so desperately want?

That “thing” is a first look.

WAIT. Don’t go. Don’t click out of this post yet! A first look can evoke a lot of different emotions in a lot of different people. But before I go into why a first look might be the best thing you could do on your wedding day, let me explain what a first look is:

A first look is where the bride and groom have a private moment together before the ceremony. Yes, you read that correctly. The bride and groom will see each other before the ceremony even starts, but the beautiful thing is – they will get to have that moment together. They can talk together, laugh together, hug each other, kiss, and cry with just the two of them present.

I understand that a first look isn’t for everyone. Heck, my husband and I didn’t even do a first look at our wedding! But a few weekends ago, Nick and I photographed another wedding with a first look, and on our way home, he looked at me and said “I kind of wish we would’ve done a first look. Those two got to spend so much more time with their family and friends and shared in that moment together. I wish I would’ve been able to tell you how beautiful you looked and hugged you when you came down the aisle!”

Bingo! Though Nick and I decided to opt out of a first look for our wedding, looking back on our day – we realized that it might’ve actually been a better decision for us. We took our wedding photos right after our ceremony during cocktail hour (which is a normal time for photos!), so we didn’t get to spend that time with family and friends who had traveled so far to celebrate with us.

BUT – if we had done a first look before our ceremony, before all of the guests had arrived – we could’ve been a part of cocktail hour and would’ve had much more time to talk to our loved ones.

So the moral of the story is: if you want to spend more time with your guests, a first look might be the best option for you. We’ve heard time and time again how much more relaxed and at ease our couples have felt after having a first look on their wedding day, which is the most important thing.

Have a question about a first look? Feel free to email me at jhidingerphotography@gmail.com with any questions!

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Tess & Phil: The Anchor Inn, Maryland Wedding Photography

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Tess & Phil: The Anchor Inn, Maryland Wedding Photography

This wedding was a special one for this Pittsburgh wedding photographer for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it was our first out-of-state wedding. Secondly, it was for our good friends, Tess and Phil (check out their engagement photos here!). And thirdly, this wedding literally had the most redheads I have EVER seen at a wedding (and if you know me, you know I love redheads!! And in case you don't know me, I love them because I married one!)

Phil interned at the church Nick (who's a middle school youth director) works for, and Tess, after moving to the area last year, started attending the Bible study I'm a part of last summer. We have gotten to know these two VERY well, and along with that, we've gotten to know their hearts and intentions around their marriage and their wedding day. There's something so special about a wedding day focused on what truly matters, and what will last long after the dress is put away and the flowers dry up: a lifelong love and commitment.

I started out the wedding day with Tess and her bridesmaids, who were getting ready at Tess's parents house with a beautiful rustic barn (perfect for a dress shot!) and a sunlit boat dock out back! One of my absolute favorite parts about photographing Tess & Phil's wedding in Maryland were all of the docks and the close proximity of everything to the water. It was so calming throughout the day!

After getting ready, we drove over to the ceremony and reception venue, The Anchor Inn, which sits right on the bay. From there, Tess and Phil had an emotional, intimate first look, then jumped straight into portraits with the two of them, then adding in their awesome bridal party! The ceremony took place on a dock looking over the bay (someone pinch me!) with Tess & Phil surrounded by their closest friends and family. Their ceremony was full of love, laughter, and a bullhorn (you'll see what I mean!), and later, the two shared their first dance, laughed until they cried during toasts, and shared the night celebrating with their friends and family.

To Tess & Phil - it was truly and honor to be a part of your day. You'll never know how much it meant to us that we were able to document your love! We love you guys so much!

And without further ado - take a look at Tess and Phil's wedding day!

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