This year has been so incredible. I’ve photographed 12 weddings, helped 3 other photographers for weddings, done over 30 portrait sessions, graduated college, traveled to my first conference, made incredible friends, gained confidence in myself and my work, and all around grown. The world was pretty murky going into 2017, I wasn’t sure how we’d do this year as a country, and while I’m baffled at the choices made by our leaders, my own community has risen above and provided great support and shown love to each other.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I could do this. I’m not sure what “this” is, but I’ve been so lucky to have such amazing people to work with and making my job easy. It doesn’t feel real. Getting to work with such a diverse group of people is more than I could have asked for. You all have showed up in the best ways and made 2017 one of the best years yet.
While choosing my favorite photos of 2017 is like asking me to pick a favorite child, I’ve compiled a few of the ones that have moved me the most this year. They might not all be technically perfect, but I always aim for emotion over perfection in my work anyway. I hope that you enjoy looking through these images as much as I do and help me in celebrating all of the victories in 2017 and get excited for what’s to come in 2018!
Congrats on your engagement! Chances are you are here for some advice on the daunting task of wedding planning and what your next steps should be. I’ve heard countless couples talking about how knowing where to start is the hardest part so I’ve compiled a list of the first 5 things you should do now that you’re engaged! This list might not give you all the answers but will help answer some questions, and even give you some vendor ideas for the Grand Rapids area!
1: Set a budget!
This sets the tone for the rest of your planning and gives you an idea of what vendors you can work with in your budget! Consider guest count as a factor into that budget as well, but more on that in the next step. Budgets of course can be flexible but knowing a ballpark can ensure you don’t go broke all in the name of love. When thinking of budget it helps to break it down by vendor as well. What is most important to you? Would you like photos but no video? Fake DIY flowers as opposed to real from a florist? These factors can factor into a budget that is comprehensive and an easy reference point when reaching out to possible vendors.
Not all beautiful weddings are high budget! So don’t let a small budget discourage you, tons of couples pay for everything on their own and remember, a strong marriage is far more important than a perfect day! If you’re looking for some helpful advice on budgets consider looking on A Practical Wedding that gives some sample budgets and other great resources.
2: Figure out the size of your special day!
Small elopement sound more like your cup of tea? Maybe 20 guests will be the way to go. Want a party with everyone who helped you get to where you are now? Maybe 300 guests is more your taste. No matter what the guest count it will still be amazing, just remember this is a key part of planning. Venues range from elopement size only to huge oversized spaces. Getting a ballpark for your guest count will make venue hunting so much easier in the long run! You won’t waste time on a small venue if you decide you want 200 people. The guest count also varies on budget, so these two steps go hand in hand!
3: Pick some dates or time of year!
Yes I say dates! Many venues book over a year out and so having a time of year or multiple dates makes it easier to coordinate. If you’re planning a wedding in 6 months or less it might be a bit trickier but don’t let that discourage you! There are tons of great times of year to get married and all have a different feel. Another thing to consider is weather, holidays, and if people will have to travel far. These things can all factor into the perfect wedding date for you!
4: Visit and pick a venue!
Pick 3-4 venues to go and look at. I wouldn’t only see one or two and more than 4 can be hard to pick between. Looking at 3-4 gives you a variety without being overwhelming. Things to consider when visiting are parking, accessibility, limitations on catering or decor, length of rental, and size. These things can all make or break a venue. Also ask if day of coordination is included, if it isn’t that might be another cost to factor in. Try and visit the venues during the season of your future wedding, snow or heat can make or break a location. The venue is one of the key factors in a wedding so this step should be taken very seriously. If you are in the Greater Grand Rapids area here is a small sample of my favorite venues!
5: Pick your photographer!
Ok ok ok, I’ll be honest, I’d loveee for you to pick me as your photographer, but all that aside I know I’m not right for everyone, so let me break it down. Photography is the only thing that lasts after your big day, you do not want to skimp on hiring a professional photographer. Finding a family member or old friend might not be the right choice if they aren’t a professional, do not leave this huge responsibility to someone without experience. Think about your preferred style, do you want posed classic images? Bright and airy? Darker and Moody? Candid and authentic? some combination of all of those? Search on Instagram for local wedding photography hashtags to get a glimpse at some of the talent and an idea for preferred style. If you have an idea of some photographers you love reach out to them to ask about pricing and options. Average cost for a professional in Grand Rapids area is about $2,500. Also think about your venue and maybe find some photographers who have worked there before. If you are going to have a darker reception venue or late night reception make sure to see their work with flash and other lighting. Most photographers will send full wedding galleries if you ask!
Don’t be intimidated or scared! We are really nice and often have a ton of suggestions for the little things you’ve been worried about. If you need help with a timeline or searching for vendors ask your photographer! They will have lots of suggestions to help you put together the perfect day!
All in all wedding planning doesn’t have to be intimidating, follow these simple steps to get on the right track in the beginning and the rest will fall into place for you! Do your research, look on social media, and ask previous couples for advice. Remember that this is a special time and not a time to stress out! Talk with your partner and work together as a team, now is the time to get an idea of what you both are looking for out of the wedding day! So Congratulations again and I hope that this special time goes smoothly for you both! If you need any suggestions or any help feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment and I’ll gladly help any way I can!
The holidays can be a tough time for the LGBTQ community. So this styled shoot celebrates the warmth of love in the midst of darkness! Samantha and Brianna were the perfect models, their relationship is so sweet and Samantha’s sense of humor is perfection. When dreaming up this styled shoot I wanted to layer warm colors with both vintage and modern style influences. The dresses provided by BIANKA Bridal coordinated so perfectly without matching. I loved the layers of softness on Brianna’s gown with the more structured texture of Samantha’s. The tablescape had elements of nature brought in that set off the gold chargers and place settings from West Michigan Rental Company as well as soft hand lettering done by Zoey Devine! We can’t forget the amazing florals from Posh Petals that were even more gorgeous than I could have imagined! To round everything out the small but mighty gold lead semi-naked cake baked with love at The Cakabakery tasted just as luxurious as it looked.
This whole vision came to life so perfectly and I’m immensely proud of all of the vendors and people who helped it come to fruition. The idea that people experience such a hard time finding inclusive vendors in this day and age breaks my heart. We literally have a supreme court case that is deciding whether people can be turned away simply because they are LGBTQ and planning a wedding. If anyone in the area is looking for progressive vendors who embody diversity please hire the vendors used for this shoot! Everyone deserves a beautiful day filled with love ones, no matter who they are.
On the eve of my 22nd birthday I find myself reflecting on all that I’ve learned, accomplished, and failed at so far in life. I figured since I love lists so much I might as well compile one and share it. So here we go, 21 things I’ve learned in 21 years.
1: Age is just a number
It might surprise you, depending on how well you know me, that I’m only turning 22. I’ve often used the “twenty-something” descriptor in order to be taken more seriously and hide the fact that I’m so young. But honestly, screw that! I’ve accomplished a lot in my 21 years and that number doesn’t determine my worth or legitimacy.
2: Find your voice and use it
This year I’ve been very vocal about my shift into being a visibly equality minded business. As a queer woman (see point 6), it’s important to me to use my voice and stand tall for my beliefs. It does no one any good by keeping quiet.
3: Sometimes you still need your mom
My mom and I have had a shift in our relationship as I’ve moved away, and even though we don’t talk constantly (mostly because my life is pretty boring day to day) I still find myself needing her. We took a mother daughter trip this summer (see photo below) and it was such a fun experience! No matter how old I get I know our bond will be special!
4: Taking a day during the week to refocus is key
Wednesdays are generally my days where I don’t look at work stuff. I focus on recharging during the middle of the week and quite honestly it’s what keeps me somewhat sane.
5: It’s ok to let go of toxic relationships
I’ve learned that letting go of relationships that do me more harm than good is the best act of self care. I need to be the best me in order to serve others well and if I find myself worrying over a situation in a relationship for too long I let it go. Not to say I stop talking to friends without reason, but if I feel in my gut that it’s not serving me in any way then it’s ok to move forward.
6: Identities shift and change as we age
When I first came out in middle school I had no idea that my identity would shift and change so much. Essentially I’m back to where I was when I first came out, but I had to remain open to myself and my identity as it changed. There is nothing wrong with growth!
7: It’s ok to have Taco Bell breakfast if you’re having a bad day
8: Even if you don’t like wine now eventually you’ll probably find one you love (St. Ambrose Cellars Secret Beach)
9: Holidays are still the best time of the year
10: Learning your Love Language is life changing
If you haven’t heard of the 5 Love Languages drop everything and google it! My love language is acts of service (I literally asked Maxx to clean the house for my birthday present). It helps me communicate my desires and needs better as well as understand where I might be missing the mark for my partner’s needs.
11: Get a good night of sleep every night
I’m already over the stage of staying up late and sleeping in. I’ve learned I’m most productive in the morning (see next bullet point) so it’s way healthier for me to be going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time every day. I feel refreshed and know exactly how to plan out my day.
12: Have a morning routine and stick to it
My morning begins with the same things each day. It helps me prepare myself for the day and get the most important things out of the way first thing.
13: You will “fail”
14: You will “succeed”
15: No matter what find a lesson in all that you do
16: Sometimes you’ll be scared
If you feel scared to do something, most likely it’s super worth it. Take chances on life and do the things that terrify you. Obviously don’t put yourself in real danger, but my best moments were often the scariest! I have an amazing support system so the scary things become pretty easy. Even if it doesn’t work out perfectly, refer to bullet point 15.
17: Don’t compare your life path with anyone else
I often find myself wondering when I’ll be able to go full time into photography, when I’ll get married, have kids, but I have to remind myself my timeline in life is different than everyone else. The internet makes it nearly impossible to stop the comparison game, I’m getting better, but it’s often a daily struggle.
18: Mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of
As someone with an assortment of mental health “issues” I’ve learned to not be afraid of it and embrace it. Will I always have some sort of level of depression? Maybe. Will I always have anxiety? Most likely. I’ve tried to learn my triggers and combat them. One thing that I struggle with a lot is the changing of seasons. I got a sunlight lamp for my desk and I’ve noticed it helping already!
19: Always say thank you
I’ve gotten further in life by saying thank you than anything else. Sending thank you notes for referrals, treating someone to coffee, sharing photos with vendors, the list goes on. People recognize kindness and gratitude and it will come back to you ten fold.
20: Always say “I love you” at the end of phone calls
In my life I’ve lost a handful of close family members, some very unexpectedly. I always end phone calls with an “I love you” because I don’t know when it will be the last time I say that.
21: Celebrate everything
It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day things, but I try and remember to celebrate victories, no matter how small. This year I graduated college, jumped into my business head first, celebrated 3 years with an amazing partner, made so many new friends. All of these things are celebration worthy! I think that’s why I love birthdays so much, it’s a time when everyone remembers to celebrate!
So if you’ve made it to the bottom of this list kudos to you! I’m thankful for the space to share my thoughts and even more thankful that people read it! It’s been an incredibly exciting year and I have so many fun things planned for my 22nd year of life. I hope that you’ll stick around for the journey and share in all of my celebrations!
So I had a crazy thought back a few months ago. What if I had an intern? I love mentoring and I knew how important it was to get my first few weddings under a well known photographer. I started thinking of students at Kendall, where I just graduated, and Gabby came to mind. She had expressed an interest in learning more about the commercial side of photography and more specifically, weddings. I contacted her and we quickly set up a time to meet. I loved her energy and we clicked instantly. Gabby will be coming with me to 4 weddings, one of which was the amazing wedding in Grand Ledge this last weekend.
I asked her a few questions to introduce her to you and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming her to the team!
I see you out there hustling your butt off just to make that passion project turn a profit. I see you endlessly scrolling on an app that doesn’t think of you as anything but a number. I see you feeling defeated, deflated, and doubtful. I’ve been in your shoes. In fact I’m usually wearing those shoes once a week if not more. But I want you to know that it’s worth it, and I want you to know that you are enough.
When I first thought of what it would be like to be a professional photographer I imagined traveling the country, having tons of clients that I loved, and being able to sleep in every day. If you think being an entrepreneur is going to be easy let’s get that thought right out of your head. It’s not. Do I travel? yep. Do I have lots of clients that I love? Sure do. Do I get to sleep in most days? well kinda. But I’ll be honest, there are more frustrating days than great ones. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and it doesn’t mean that this isn’t what I would choose to do with my life over and over.
If you haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic” stop reading this, go buy a copy, download it on audible, and soak it in. It’s life changing. One of the things that stood out to me most was when she wrote this passage, “‘What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?’ What Manson means is that every single pursuit—no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem—comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects. As Manson writes with profound wisdom: ‘Everything sucks, some of the time.’ You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much ‘What are you passionate about?’ The question is ‘What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?'”. This is what it means to be a creative person.
When you truly love what it is that you do, you will stop at nothing to make it happen. Do you want to have your product in 10 local stores? Go out and knock on 30 doors, chances are at least one of them will love you. Do you want to write a book? Open your laptop or grab a pencil and just write, even if it’s only for a half hour. If you don’t think you can do it, I dare you to prove yourself wrong. Who cares if you only get your product in one store instead of 10? You did what a lot of people don’t ever do. Who cares if you don’t get a New York Times Bestseller spot? You wrote something that you loved. We need to stop making it about doing everything perfectly, and more about doing those few things we are so passionate it keeps us up at night, really really well.
Our talents are given to us for a purpose, even if it is to only make an impact on one person. Even that makes this worth it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to give up. If I gave up I wouldn’t have gotten to capture images of a baby coming into this world, and I wouldn’t have captured a father daughter dance that they didn’t think would ever happen. Just because it might not mean something to the whole world, does not mean it doesn’t mean the world to someone. What you are doing matters. You have to remember that.
I’m not saying every day will get easier, but you can do it. There is power in perseverance and the right mindset. If you do nothing else today I want you to look in the mirror and say out loud “I can do this”. It may seem silly at first and really uncomfortable, but sending that thought into the universe will bring you exponential growth. That pit you feel in your stomach when you dream big is there for a reason. Listen to it and remember that this feeling is there to show you that you are doing something important. You can do big things. You are doing important things. You are enough and you can do it!