June 13, 2013 § 3 Comments
It is an intense and exciting and risky-as-hell season.
I’m about 99.84% okay with it.
There hasn’t been a lot of time for blogging because, well, there hasn’t been a lot of time for sleeping. I haven’t attended a service at my church in over two months and, apparently, the Lumineers are playing in Raleigh tonight. Who knew?
Right out the gate, as per usual, let’s get real.
I miss you.
I miss long conversations about nothing and laughing ’til I cry and bourbon on my front porch. I live inside social media because I want to know how you are and where you are and my arms really want to hug you.
But, flying this big beast of a plane with my name on the tail is not easy.
I’m not complaining, really. Sincerely.
It is incredible to be at the point where we are mostly off the ground and I’m in the pilot’s seat going “Dear baby Jesus, if you could please send a co-pilot via fancy transporter beam that would be GREAT”.
Four years ago, this was barely a blip on my radar. I was three (or four, I’m not sure) semesters into my degree at NC State University & I had taken a total of two photography classes. All of my gear could fit in my purse and cost less than $1500. Total. I had sold my car a few years earlier, was working at a high-end restaurant part-time, and just getting to the grocery store was a struggle. There was a LOT of mac and cheese (sometimes just the mac – cheese is expensive, yo!), I walked everywhere, and was just coming out of a very long relationship that broke my heart more than I was willing to give it credit at the time. By all accounts, I was your typical struggling college student. Except I was 27.
Some really good friends approached me.
“We are kind of broke. We’d really like engagement photos. Would you take them?”
Of course I did.
And then, would I capture their wedding?
Of course I did.
Jerod Johnson + Daniela Gillikin got married on an incredibly hot July day in eastern North Carolina and me and my primitive gear were there for the whole weekend. Her Italian family captured a few of my heartstrings for the rest of our lives and the Johnson’s have a special place in the house that is my heart. At the end of it all, I was sweaty, exhausted, and HOOKED.
But, I had no idea how to jump in to such a thing. There is no formal training program for a wedding photographer. Where do I even get started? I considered transferring to schools in New York City and Toronto and San Francisco. Something, though, just kept saying “Stay”. So, I stayed.
Later that same year, some friends of the Johnson’s asked for engagement photos. And then, her bridals. And then, their wedding. And on another incredibly hot July day, David Mobley + Lauren Ward were married in a gorgeous chapel in Charlotte, NC. I took another shooter for the first time. We hit some serious speed bumps and I was so green I couldn’t even wrap my head around it. At the end, the families were radiant. ”THANK YOU!” was their overwhelming response.
Until recently, I have not advertised. It has strictly been word of mouth. People tell people who tell people. Every new email blows my mind.
Granted, I am not perfect.
I definitely have had other speed bumps.
However, at the end of the day, my goal is to treat people with as much kindness and consideration as I can and to learn from every single mistake.
I strive to make weddings different and I rarely shoot the same pose twice. While my turn around time has improved by 50% (or more) and my processing time has been cut in half, when I give a client images it’s still a bit nerve wracking.
If you hear very little else, know this:
When a photographer captures your image and spends hours with it, it’s like we know you. We watch your facial expressions and laugh as we remember moments from the day. Creating art and gifting it to you is like walking up to your front porch with a piece of us in a box. It’s wrapped in brown paper and a pretty ribbon. We leave it on your porch, ring the doorbell, and go hide around the corner. We hold our breath. We pray you love it as much as we love it. And, if you don’t, we want to make it right. Even though money is exchanged, it is still a gift and no one wants to give terrible gifts.
Four years later and over 100,000 shutter clicks and here we are. I never did transfer and Raleigh is still the home base. There never was any sort of formal training. Like a lot of my life, I stood on the cliff, prayed over my parachute, and jumped. Maybe I got pushed.
This fall, I’ll be traveling to Milan, Italy for my first international wedding to capture the day of Fabrizio + Alice. My second shooter will fly in from London (yeah, Faith!) and I am fairly certain that Italy, like Daniela’s family, will capture a few of my heartstrings for the rest of our lives.
It has been a long and crazy and winding road these past four years.
I wouldn’t trade it for the whole wide world.
Thank you for joining on this journey.
Your support and encouragement and feedback means everything.
All my Love,
June 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
To my friends who live outside of Turkey:
I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because at the time of my writing most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.
April 25, 2013 § 2 Comments
Let me just say, if you are not interested in wedding photography, this post might not be for you.
You probably don’t know, but I am part of a supportive (& amazing!) online community for professional photographers and more than a few of them started hitting me up when I mentioned to one member that I could send her my tips for the job. The response was pretty incredible and another suggested making a blog post. ”Brilliant”, I thought. ”Save the emails!”
So, here we are. You’ll get an inside look to how I run a wedding. And, maybe, a little bit into how my life values shape how I do things and why I do them that way. Even if you’re not interested in being behind the lens ever, I’m confident you’ll find something in here that resonates with you.
Here we go.
Right out the gate, there’s a lot of info here. And please don’t think that I am some sort of end all, be all authority. This is how I do things, most of the time. Each wedding is unique and each photographer is unique. Figure out what works for *you*, but don’t be afraid to step out of the comfort box! It might be best to take notes. Ha, no, seriously. I’m not kidding. Feel free to ask questions in the comments and I will respond asap. You have the right to stop and come back to this. I want it to be helpful, not overwhelming.
Also, as I don’t know what your level of experience is with photography, I am assuming you know less than you probably actually know. Don’t hate me.
Weddings are FUN. It’s a celebration! Remember that it’s all about Love at the end of the day. Above all other things, remember to breathe. When things get chaotic, take a step back, take the camera away from your face, and focus entirely on breathing. Make it as discreet as you can. It helps everything.
That word up there will be the name of the game on ceremony day. Discreet. Make it your goal. The only time I’d encourage you to not make this your goal is during family photos. You run that shit. Otherwise, it will take all day and it will be the most unpleasant thing ever for everyone involved. Do everything you can to make sure the elders feel considered and respected. Make sure you do all children under 7 first and quickly. Keep smiling.
SMIIIIIIIILE! It will be your biggest asset. Lots and lots of folks take their cue from the photographer because you’ve done this, you know this, you got this. If you appear stressed and anxious, they will become stressed and anxious. Realize that you set the tone in the room, not someone else. Relax, smile, and breathe. It will help the dynamic significantly.
My primary rule is that if it was purchased, it gets captured. Down at the bottom, I’ve listed an example of my flow for ceremony day that I’ve found works the best. Walk through the flow in your head, with the details you know, and see if it sounds like something that might work. At that point, you have two options. Either use what you already know about the day to figure out a flow OR send your flow to the bride to see if it would work with the schedule.
What I mean by “if it was purchased”, dress, shoes, rings, flowers, tuxes, cake, whatever they got you name it. Getaway car, etc. In the end, details shouldn’t consume all of your shots, but should be a healthy mix of everything. Again, I walk through the flow at the bottom. I think that might help give you a better idea of this.
Remember that your camera gives you rights others don’t possess. It gives you the right to ask people questions, even if you don’t know them. It gives you the right to walk halfway down the middle aisle (it does NOT give you the right to walk across the front). It gives you the right to see the bride before the wedding. It gives you the right to ask for some space. Folks, when asked kindly, will be happy to give you some room. This goes back to being discrete. If there’s tears involved, tread carefully. Ask quietly. Be kind. Let grace exude from your fingertips.
On the day of a ceremony, have someone be your right hand man. Let them be the go between, get you water, trade out gear, answer questions by the families. It’s amazing to have a teammate there, if only to give you someone to run ideas by and be silly with. It helps corralling the families much easier, too, when someone else can do all the yelling. This is an extra expense, yes, but it helps your morale and the day so much, it’s worth it. Big props if you can find someone who will do this regularly and you can learn how you function as a team.
If you can afford it, bring a team. Over 130 guests and there are three of us-first shooter, 2nd shooter, assistant (who gets a camera sometimes, too). Over 250 and now there are four. They want a photo booth set up? Five. Having a team to work with adds to-do items, sure. But, being able to sit in the middle of the ceremony because you’ve got coverage from every angle? That, ladies and gentleman, is AWESOME.
*Note: You’ll notice we’re wearing neutrals, but not all black. This is not a funeral, it’s a celebration! Ok, carry on.
In one of your chats ahead of time, walk through the schedule of the day with the couple. My best wedding days are ones where I became part planner and the schedule revolves around the photographs. Dedicate just fifteen minutes of just you and the newlyweds. They’ll love love love the quiet and it will give you some alone time to breathe and them to breathe and some gorgeous to be captured. Don’t skip it. And don’t let them skip it. Even if it’s just on the other side of the church, it’ll be great.
Yes, they have a reception to get to and guests to respect. However, this day happens once. There are ways of creating win-win situations for everyone involved and respecting both the guests who have traveled far as well as the individuals who just exchanged vows.
It will help all chaos if all immediately involved in the day can receive even a rough schedule a day or two out from the ceremony. It eliminates a lot of back and forth because folks know where they are supposed to be! My personal solution to this is to finalize details with the bride two weeks out from the ceremony date and ask for the last five minutes of rehearsal time. Create a schedule and print 20-40 copies. Bring it with you to rehearsal and take notes while everyone walks through their motions. When they’re done, bring them up front, sit everyone down, and pass out that schedule. Introduce your (smiling!) self, your team members, and walk through that schedule. If there’s been a major last minute change, this is your chance to know it. The parents feel involved. The bridal party can’t say they didn’t know. It gets you some face time. Everyone wins.
That being said, everyone involved in every single wedding (literally, ALL) I have ever participated in has their claws-in-the-ceiling pre-ceremony. Especially the bride and the mother of the bride. STRESSED. Tensions sometimes get high, even if it’s just one person. One of your many hats is to be reassuring.
“After you walk down that aisle, the joy overtakes the stress. Let’s get you married!”
Make the verbage your own, but if things get tense, it’ll help. Women need. to. hear. things. If you take nothing else away from this, it’s that. Write that down.
(I’m waiting while you go write that down.)
Do not make the mistake of saying either of the following things:
“This is just a small wedding.”
“I’m not that experienced. I won’t ask questions or get in anyone’s way.”A wedding day is just that. The uniting of two souls into one flesh and it is both sacred and beautiful. They’ve trusted you with capturing it and no matter if there are five people there, it’s incredibly important to them. Give it the dedication and leg work it deserves.
Lastly, as a result of my personal beliefs, I never take a photo during prayer. This is up to you and, if you want to, you should talk about it with the bride first.
You know this, but creativity takes time. And, with any kind of event, it takes planning.
Let me know if I can help with anything else at all.
My actual flow from an August wedding (I’ve removed all notes about my other shooters-we had a team of six on this one and it’s just extra fluff for you):
Confirm charge on all batteries; Make sure all needed batteries have a home for the next day in bags; Confirm all memory cards are formatted and working properly; Ensure all necessary cables, lights, lens hoods, accessories, etc. are packed and ready to go; Clean all glass; Bags packed. (Don’t put them in the car!)
April 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As I reread a lot of the blog from the past year, I sure do talk a lot about boys.
Nearly every word has been out of the on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again-what-the-frickity-frick-are-we-doing I have with one, in particular. But, today is not about boys! Because they are exhausting. There’s one hanging out there on the peripheral that might be a bit promising.
Overall, I don’t talk a whole lot about one of the biggest drives in my life. Creating beautiful imagery is this cacophony of dynamics that leaves my everything just…happy. Just this weekend, I went from moody to completely stress-free in the amount of time it took to capture the joy of a baby.
Well, of course I’m going to introduce the baby.
World, meet Fletcher Matthew.
He’s this adorable in real life, too. Promise.
The folks I work with are some of the best parts of any of my days. Second shooters, assistants, clients, happy babies, the list goes on. Forgive me for not sharing them with you more. I really am incredibly thankful that I get to be such an integral part of stories. Walking into a home with my work framed on the wall or strewn all over the desk at a Dad’s office or printed on a two foot by three foot canvas never fails to startle me. These images that I spend hours with on a computer screen get put onto paper and receive an entirely new life of their own. It’s magical.
And then, for the first time ever, my work graces a page. Almost accidentally, some of my work from Prague got submitted to the NC State Design School for selection in their annual magazine. In the Amaris Hames Game that is my life (like the Kevin Bacon Game, but it’s six degrees of Amaris Hames), my friend Brent sent me a text saying my images had come across his printing press. Sunday night was the reception for all who had been selected to grace the pages of this year’s edition.
My out-of-the-box Still Life with Egg & Bread.
It is such a sweet season right now. You cannot see my heart that overflows with gratitude and joy. I hope my smiles and embraces convey at least half of it. Thank you for being on this path with me and believing in me and supporting me. It sincerely means so much. To quote an old friend, I am reminded daily that I am not the answer. But, I hope to faithfully play my part.
Eight years since I picked up a camera. Five years since I picked up a digital. Four months since I started doing photography as the only job.
Just getting started.
This image is available as a print through my (new & exciting!) Etsy shop.
Peruse and order here.
March 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Writing late night is usually a bad idea.
Virtually anything requiring the processing of emotions after oh, say, 9pm is probably not the best idea. But, tonight, I pull an Olivia and say eff the police because if I don’t get it out of me, I just might lose my mind.
And, since it’s 1214am EST, who’s awake and sober? Uhhhh, no one. Except maybe my Momma. Ha, let’s get real.
You have to get it out of you when the devil comes in and dances on your head about how terribly alone you are, you the 30+ something who still lives in a house full of girls that are not your own. He beats you with a sledgehammer branded with the word “Loneliness” and you take a beating. The tears flow as you struggle to stand up and the beatings continue. They flow over the children you’ve only dreamed about and the husband that doesn’t exist who thinks your laughter is infectious and loves the way you make scrambled eggs. That rotten devil jerkface uses every little thing as illustrations in his sermon on how much you are less than. The empty seat next to you at dinner becomes the size of the hollow empty room in your heart.
And sometimes, you know sometimes, it sucks.
We don’t talk about it. How it’s okay to suck. It’s okay to be frustrated beyond belief at the lack of gumption in others and the lack of intentionality in yourself. Sometimes, the journey has days where the rain of your wailing sloppy tears soaks your everything as your mascara creates streams of sadness down your face.
I sincerely believe we weren’t created to be alone this long.
And, at virtually all times, I manage to keep the lies at bay. I manage to throw all my weight into Love and stand up. I kick the lies out of my house and strive to use the fighting to relate to other beautiful women.
Some nights, though, I can’t stand up.
Then, in His goodness, I’m reminded that He couldn’t either on this day two millenia ago.
And because of it, I am made new.
March 27, 2013 § 1 Comment
Yesterday, I changed my Facebook status to the following:
My wandering heart says “Maybe we should go. You know you wanna go. Pack up the car and go? Make new friends and find a new coffee shop and ooh could it be near the OCEAN?! We could salsa dance & you could work at a real studio with big windows!”
And my older spirit says “For crying out loud, just stay put.”
Sigh. Will it always be like this?
After changing the status, I climbed into my gift of a vehicle and turned on tunes via Spotify Radio. The first song to play? One of my favorite hymns: Come Thou Fount
The irony was not lost on me.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love
For, oh sweet Lord, do I have a wanderer’s heart. This November will mark seven years in Raleigh and I keep looking to what I should be doing next. Life in Raleigh is sweet, for certain, and Carolina will run through my veins ’til I die. With nothing “tying me down”, the status I posted yesterday is how I feel a lot of hours of a lot of days. And then, as I worked through a lot of this on the phone with one of my heartstrings, I got called out big time.
“You’re asking the wrong questions”, he said. ”The question is not to go or stay put. The more important thing to ask is God, examine my heart and motivations.”
“You need to learn to shut up.”
Ouch. That one stung. And I laughed out of both nervousness and amusement. Because it was completely and totally true. Don’t lie, you’re laughing, too.
In all my rambling, I had become like a child, asking the questions I already knew the answers to. I just wanted the official approval to do what I wanted to do. And God, in His goodness, said “You heard me the first time.” Through the words of others, He reminds me of Jonah. You know Jonah. The crazy fool who thought he could outrun the Father of Lights and do whatever he wanted. And then a giant ass whale swallowed him. God always knew Jonah would wind up in Nineveh. Jonah fought it, for sure. But, God wound up putting Jonah where he was supposed to be anyways.
That’s what sovereignty means. That God knows the decisions you are going to make and pursues you anyways. He works things together for good, no matter what.
I had taken something good and beautiful and cranked the perspective three degrees to the right. Not terribly off track, but enough to throw me totally off track. My priority had become figuring out what route to take in this sometimes-swamp-sometimes-gorgeous-beach we call Adulthood and my top priority was no longer Love. At the end of the day, I want Love to be my everything. And, if I’m in Carolina or halfway around the world, my heart will forever long for Love. Let that be my motivation. Let that be the crown upon my head.
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above
Raleigh, looks like I’ll be with you for awhile longer yet. Don’t think I won’t be taking a road trip or ten, though.
Who’s down for swimming in the ocean with dolphins or stingrays or both?
That’s next on the bucket list.
February 4, 2013 § 2 Comments
I wanted to have a candid conversation with you about boys, but Taylor Swift has already penned all the best to be said on the subject. Currently, I sit at my dining-room-table-desk, listening to the words of “White Horse” and nodding along in agreement. Last night, at the going away party for a Korean Australian wants-to-be-American, I belted along with everyone else and the bourbon to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” And, in the middle, I looked at Ed and went “Are you ready? Are you ready? This is my favorite part!”
“And he called and was like Istilluvyew….and I was just like…this. This is EXHAUSTING.”
And every girl under the big long roof laughed in agreement.
I think every single one of us has muttered that exact phrase at some point in our romantic careers. Yes, the term career is intentional. Maybe I should use the word marathon. It’s actually more like a marathon. You start out all excited and by mile 4.2, you’re like “We’re just gettin’ started!” and you take silly pictures and are grinning like an idiot. By the time you reach mile 17, you’re just like “Seriously….where’s the pizza? And the beer. They promised me beer.
I might have a cramp.”
Relationships with the opposite sex are things we ladies do not take lightly. We analyze and talk and talk and have a coffee while talking and we run with a buddy while we talk about what he did that was lovely and how hot he is and how you laughed for hours and oh. em. gee. he actually paid attention to you and didn’t try to climb in your bed after dinner! Then, when things go wrong, we do it all over again. We do it in the middle, too. Sometimes, we try to be all nonchalant and not talk about anything with this air of “just taking it one day at a time”. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. The we’re-taking-things-slow, who-knows-what-will-happen?, he-doesn’t-want-to-push-it’s.
And the rest of us silently judge you.
Or have pity on you.
But, none of us believe you.
And here’s where it gets absolutely nuts. We believe ourselves! For days/weeks/phases of the moon, we believe the pile of lies resting on the tips of our tongues. When, I’d say 95.2% of the time, we’ve actually fallen prey to McDreamy Syndrome*.
*Let the record show that Dallas Blue coined the phrase McDreamy Syndrome.
The symptoms are easy to spot: anxiety, roller coaster emotions, sacrificing personal time for Mr. Wannabe McDreamy, flawed rationalizations, consumptions of entire tubes of cookie dough, etc. These guys do what they want because they have us captivated, motivated, we’re hearing voices! They call and you flat. out. run. to pick up the phone. They want to come over and you clear the rest of your entire damn day. (You know, just in case they want to hang out longer.) The level of attention we devote to the McDreamy’s of this world is ridiculous. Women are givers, especially if we’re being considered, and McDreamy’s take advantage. The big problem being you can’t immediately tell a McDreamy from a McWonderful. You have to walk through it before the lights turn on and you realize that they’ve been inconsiderate and now, somehow, wait for it, you’re being made the bad guy.
All of a sudden, it’s like someone stopped the record on Soul Train. House lights come up and you’re staring at Wannabe McDreamy in flat out shock as you realize he was wearing a mask the whole time. You weren’t crazy. You were smitten.
The good ones, the rare & stand-up men behind the mask, will realize you see them for what they really are, take the mask off, and admit their depravity. You, oh beautiful one, have the opportunity in that moment to choose. Choose to forgive, choose to trust, choose to learn who the man behind the mask is with the lights on. Alternatively, you have the choice to leave and forget the whole thing. The right answer is different for every woman. Whatever you choose, I thank God for the female race and telephones and Long Island Iced Teas. We’ll talk and talk and talk and go running or drinking or dancing around our shoes to get you through it.
That is what the McDreamy’s don’t seem to understand. Women are brilliant. We piece together all of the lies and bullshit and soon figure out that we’re being duped. If we don’t acknowledge it, it’s only because we’re in denial. And, denial or not, we have an entire camp of women for support. They buy our drinks and push us into health and high five us when we ignore your phone calls. McDreamy’s also don’t seem to grasp the idea of how absolutely beautiful a woman becomes when loved well.
Hear me well, here at the end.
People are broken. They will screw up and that includes us in the female camp. My momma has a plaque in her bathroom that has hung there since before I was born, I think. It says “A healthy relationship is the union of two very good forgivers.” I will believe that is true ’til my last day on this giant rock.
I refuse to believe that every man on earth is a McDreamy. Sometimes, a little kindness and patience and giggling goes a long way with a man.
But, if you’re the only one doing the forgiving and the schedule-clearing and the talking about hard things….lovey, I think it might be time to hit the house lights.