What do you remember the most from your days spent as a kid in elementary school? The parts that stand out to me are assemblies, field trips, science experiments, and moments when my teachers would talk about something unrelated to school — like their family vacations, pets, or something silly that their own children had done the night before. I used to love it when my teachers briefly digressed from their lessons plans. Not only would this help to humanize them, but their stories would captivate the students by giving them an otherwise unseen glimpse into their lives.

Storytelling in content marketing has a similar impact on consumers. Before stories were able to be physically recorded, people either shared them verbally with one another or used drawings to communicate their messages. That’s because stories provided (and continue to provide) a format that was memorable, entertaining, engaging, and could be shared throughout the generations.

Entrepreneurs, listen up! The nature of storytelling has never changed. Once you craft an authentic brand story, you’ll begin to reach and build connections with your target audience. Every brand has a unique story unlike that of their competitors. Although competing brands might have similar motivations, core values, solutions to problems, etc., no one else’s brand story will be identical to your own. This gives your brand a competitive advantage by delivering a one of a kind perspective and reaching ideal clients who resonate with your message — and your message alone.

Can I let you in on a little secret? My most popular blog posts over the past few years have had nothing to do with photography. I was so surprised by the stats after I hit publish on my “10 Things You Might Not Know About Me” blog post a couple of months ago. People are naturally curious and want to know about the person behind the brands that they love and support.

What are their values?

What do they like to do in their free time?

What motivates them to pursue their chosen career?

What causes are important to them?

How and why did they get started?

What did they think that they could improve upon in the marketplace?

Gone are the days of solely listing products/services on a website or in an ad and expecting to make a sale. I’m yawning. Sure, you might make a few sales, but without incorporating storytelling, you probably won’t reach the type of clients who you want to serve. And the few consumers who actually do convert might not even think to refer your brand to a friend because because they haven’t established a connection with it.

Why do I publish posts that have nothing to with photography from time to time? It builds trust with my readers, makes me a human, and allows me to share about the things that get me fired up. It also helps me connect with future clients who might be scrolling through my blog posts and think, “hey, I’m a huge fan of chocolate milkshakes too!” 🙂

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Ryan and I first met over SIX (!!) years ago as juniors in college during a small party our mutual friends were having to kick off the start of the new school year. To give a little backstory, Ryan and I went to different colleges, but I used to go down to his college all the time to visit a couple of my friends from back home!
Now, I have to admit that I knew who Ryan was about a year before we officially met (I promise I’m not creepy!). Since we had mutual friends, pictures of him would pop up on Facebook from time to time and I always thought he was adorable. So, imagine my surprise when he walked in the door that September night! I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but I know that we sat next to each other until the early hours of the morning. He was so sweet and made me laugh (real laughs, too, not just nervous ones!) and I knew that I wanted to know more about him. We swapped numbers that night and decided we’d get breakfast sometime soon.

Flash forward to early October when we all met up at the same dorm room once again, but this time to watch That 70’s Show. Before Ryan left, he asked if I wanted to get breakfast the following morning. I was going to be spending the night with friends and I realized that I didn’t bring a change of clothes with me for the next day. I was planning on driving back home the next morning in my pajamas — which consisted of leggings and a sweatshirt. As much as that realization made me cringe, I said yes anyway. He picked me up and the two of us head over to iHop and ordered two enormous breakfasts. I remember eating about two bites, and he never once questioned my “outfit.” 🙂

After a few more dates, Ryan and I become officially official on a freezing night in the beginning of November while standing in my driveway around 3am. And it didn’t take me too long after that night to realize that there’s no one else I’d rather do life with!

Thank you, Jen Larsen for the amazing photos!

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I met up with Angie & Dennis a couple of weeks ago for their engagement session in New York City! While we were planning for their session, Angie sent me pictures of a rooftop deck near Columbus Circle with incredible views of Central Park. I’m almost positive that I was grinning from ear to ear while looking at her photos (yes, I’m serious!). I always love photographing my couples in unique locations that are significant to them, and since Angie lived in New York City and had previously worked in the building with the rooftop deck, I knew that it would be the perfect location!

After soaking in the views, we made our way through Central Park and over to Bethesda Terrace. I had never been to Bethesda Terrace before, but I’ve always been drawn to the grand architecture. I was so thrilled when Angie & Dennis decided to take my suggestion for their second location! And I think it’s safe to say that this location DEFINITELY didn’t disappoint! 🙂

Congratulations, Angie & Dennis! You are both such a joy to work with. I can’t wait for your wedding at Waterloo Village this fall!

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Whenever I’m chatting with my couples during their initial consultation, I find that they’re either on the fence about sharing a first look or completely against it. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph both traditional weddings and weddings where the couple chose to do a first look. While I would never expect all of my couples to go with the untraditional route, I DO think there are some benefits worth sharing!

Smooth Flow

With a traditional timeline, after the ceremony ends, we’ll have a two hour time block scheduled for family formals, bridal party portraits, and bride and groom photos. If the ceremony location is different than the reception location, guests will likely have to wait it out until cocktail hour begins. This can make the timeline start to feel a little choppy.

Ideally, with a first look, we would schedule:

  • 45 minutes of bride and groom portrait time
  • 45 minutes for bridal party portrait time
  • 30 minutes for family formal portrait time

 

With a first look timeline, we’re able to prioritize bride and groom portraits. Since they’re scheduled first, we can minimize of any feelings of being rushed or under pressure. With a traditional timeline, bride and groom portraits are always scheduled last. If the family formals and bridal party photos take longer than expected, I may not be able to deliver as many bride and groom photos as you had hoped, simply because the venue timeline might not allow for it.

On a related side note, you’ll look your best because I’ll be photographing you shortly after you’re done getting ready rather than after the ceremony & family formals!

More Portrait Time

As I mentioned above, first looks can take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. Think about ALL of the beautiful portraits that you can decorate your new home with! Usually, bride and groom portraits feel a bit like a race against the clock with a traditional timeline – literally and figuratively. We usually have only 20-30 minutes to take portraits before a) the sun sets and/or b) we need to get ready for grand entrances.

They Ease Nerves

Real talk: you’re going to be nervous for the sole reason that you’re getting married! Now, add in the fact that you’ll have 200+ pairs of eyes on you and your groom who are anxiously waiting to see your reactions. Cue all of the nerves! Doing a first look beforehand gets most of those jitters out of the way. They give you a chance to breathe, soak in the moment, and relax. Also, they’re the closest thing that you’re going to get to “alone time” on a wedding day.

One concern that I hear from my brides that are considering a first look is that they’re worried their groom won’t have a reaction when they walk down the aisle. I can say from experience that the grooms reaction is usually even MORE priceless when the ceremony starts. I think that’s because everything starts to become very real at that moment!

You Get to Enjoy Cocktail Hour

Doing a first look allows you to go and enjoy cocktail hour with all of your guests. You’ll be all done with taking photos after the ceremony is over. But that’s not including 5 minutes of sunset portraits during your reception, of course 🙂 Family and friends have travelled from all over the map to come see and celebrate alongside of you. You probably haven’t seen many of these people in while, and I’m sure you’d rather be enjoying their company instead of taking photos. Plus, cocktail hour food? Enough said.

So there you have it! With all of this said, you should decide whether or not to do a first look based on what feels right for you as a couple. It’s part of my job to give you all of the information I’ve learned from my experiences so that you can make the best possible decision for yourself on your wedding day. I hope this helps!

Click here to see photos from Krysti & Taylor’s first look!

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  1. Have the details ready

    During our last “checking in” phone chat before the wedding, I’ll ask my brides to set aside all of their important details into a small box (shoes, jewelry, invites, perfume, family heirlooms, etc.) for me to photograph first thing when I arrive. This is a great way for my brides to ensure that everything is accounted for beforehand and that nothing important will be missing! Plus, it saves time when all of the details are already gathered in one place.

  2. Check for distractions

    Be on the look out for hair ties on wrists (the biggest offenders!), wall outlets, air/heating vents, TV screens, and those unfortunate hotel paintings.  These are all difficult to get rid of during post production and will cost hours of your time.  Try to fix the problem right then and there by removing the distraction, switching up your perspective or changing location entirely if possible. It’s so much quicker and easier to deal with the distraction right then and there than to fix it later in Photoshop. Been there, done that!

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask people to move

    Anyone ever had an Uncle Bob set his tripod in the center of the aisle during the wedding ceremony? I would always cringe whenever I’d see this happening, but I never used to say anything. Kindly ask Uncle Bob if he could 1. move his tripod out of the aisle and closer to where he is sitting or 2. hold off on setting up his tripod until after the bridal party processes to ensure distraction free, clean photographs. Most of the time guests are very understanding and realize that you were hired to do a specific job – and that you want to do it well!

  4. Expect the unexpected

    This tip might go without saying, but I’ve been thrown a photography curveball at nearly every wedding I’ve photographed for the past 4 years. I would say that 99% of these curveballs are related to lighting and bad weather. Simply put, not every venue is going to have huge windows and light colored rooms. And (unfortunately!) not every wedding day is going to have perfect weather. I’ve worked with dark venues that didn’t permit off camera flash, and I’ve also photographed weddings where it down-poured the entire day. The most important thing is to be prepared to adapt to any curveball you’re given. Pack lots of clear umbrellas for bridal party portraits, know your flashes inside and out, and always have a one light set up on standby just in case. Also, pack a wedding day emergency kit – mine has helped me more times than I can count (click HERE to see what’s in my bag).

  5. Always bring a second shooter

    Having a second shooter with you during a wedding day is a great way to be able to cover more ground, be in two places at once, and see an entirely new perspective of the same day. Plus, it’s so helpful to have another person hold a reflector, grab a lens, and check off family formal combinations as they’re taken.

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#1 I went to an all girls high school.

We wore a uniform everyday (which I admit, I really didn’t mind!) complete with the most unfortunate black Oxford sneakers. They were so unfortunate that the majority of students left them in their lockers and switched into normal shoes before leaving the building after school. I’m laughing right now just thinking about them! We were allowed to change the shoe laces to whatever colors we wanted, and every year around Christmas time I made mine green & red. I have to admit that that was kind of fun. Kind of.

#2 Architecture and historic preservation are my jam.

The fascination began my freshman year of college while wandering through the architecture building on campus. I loved looking at the house models and detailed drawings scattered around the students tables. Since then, I’ve visited some beautiful places with houses that are rich with history (Savannah and Charleston, I’m looking at you!). If you happen to be heading down that way this summer, make sure to stop here. And if you want to follow an incredible architect on Instagram, click here. Oh, and if you want to see the amazing renovation that an Australian family is working on in France, then you’ll definitely want to check this out. Ok, I’m done geeking out… for now.

#3 I wrote an article on Buzzfeed that went viral last year.

But if you search my name, you won’t find it – and that’s on purpose! I can’t talk about why I was writing an article on Buzzfeed in the first place just yet, but I can definitely clue you in next month.

#4 Schitt’s Creek is my favorite TV show.

That’s right! After years of only watching HGTV (not kidding), my friend made me watch the first episode of Schitt’s Creek with her earlier this summer and I’ve been hooked ever since. We’re counting down the days until the holiday episode airs on December 19th!

#5 I was an Irish Dancer.

I know my last name says otherwise, but I’m actually half Irish! I took lessons for years and used to compete all over the state until shin splints got the best of me in high school.

#6 My full name is Victoria, but I’ve always been called Tori.

This surprises more people than you would think. I was (and still am) always so used to being called “Tori” that I was guilty of not responding whenever professors would call my name for attendance during the first day of classes!

#7 I rarely listen to music unless I’m in the car.

And even then, sometimes I like to just roll the windows down and listen to the wind, especially after a wedding day. Music has always distracted me whenever I have something to do where I need to concentrate. I can’t even listen to it while I’m editing! When I am listening to music though, 9 times out of 10, it’s country. I love Keith Urban and Florida Georgia Line.

#8 Beach vacations are my least favorite type of vacation.

I should probably preface this by saying that I love the beach. But the idea of spending a week or more staring out at the waves doesn’t get me excited. I love hiking, visiting museums, and going on as many tours as possible. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t enjoy “relaxing” vacations!

#9 I would describe my overall style as very eclectic.

Everything from clothes, to furniture, to house types, I’ve always been a fan of a wide range of different styles. All of the furniture in my bedroom is actually mid-century modern (thanks to West Elm!). Maybe I’ll give you a tour of it one day!

#10 My favorite book is 1984.

Go read it, it’s a great one.

Photo Credit: Kelly Pullman

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When I received my clients wedding album in the mail earlier today, I couldn’t wait to unwrap it. It feels a little bit like Christmas morning every time they’re delivered to my doorstep! As I opened the box and unwrapped the packaging I found a beautiful, hand-stitched album with thick matte pages inside of a linen wrap for safekeeping. It’s a work of art in and of itself — and I swear I’m not being dramatic. Below are the 5 main reasons why you should consider investing in a wedding album:

1. High Quality

I’m what is known as a shoot and share photographer, meaning that I deliver all of the edited images that I take to my clients. Their images are uploaded into an online gallery and are accessible for 10 years. They can download the images as much as they’d like without any additional cost. I also give my clients a print release. Could my clients technically create their own wedding albums? Sure. But I wouldn’t advise it! Over time, an inexpensive album will begin to deteriorate, become discolored, and fall apart. Furthermore, the image quality could print pixelated or otherwise distorted.

2. Tangible 

There’s something about being able to see photographs in print and physically flip through them that feels so different than clicking around and opening up JPEGS on a laptop screen. Maybe that’s because we live in such a digital age.

I might be biased, but I believe that photography is one of the most important investments on your wedding day! After the vows have been exchanged and the toasts have been given, all we have left are the photographs. On average, people will spend $2,000+ on a wedding photographer.  That’s a large chunk of change, and that’s not even taking into account all of the other wedding day expenses.  Saving money and forgoing the professional wedding album sounds like a great way to cut additional costs. Trust me, I get it! But is this something you’ll regret 10 or 20 years down the line? The additional one time expense may be well worth it when you think about a wedding album in terms of being a tangible keepsake showcasing your marriage.

3. Reliable

Technology is unreliable. I’m only in my 20’s and I’ve already seen the evolution from tapes, to CD’s, to iPods. Just when you think that technology is as advanced as its ever going to be, something new comes along and takes us all by surprise. CD’s get scratched, online galleries eventually expire, and USB’s easily get lost. Albums are forever.

4. Enduring

Albums will stay with you and your husband for the next 60 years, and will remain in your family for generations.  It’s hard to think about your children, grandchildren & even great grandchildren as someone who’s probably only in their 20’s or early 30’s, but think about how exciting it would be to find photographs of your great grandmother and to be able to piece together her story.  Your children and grandchildren will want to snuggle on your living room couch, flip through the photos, and hear stories about how you and your husband met — and I’m sure you’d love to tell them and be able to relive it!

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The getting ready portion of the wedding day has always been one of my favorites to photograph! It’s usually the first time that I get to see my bride and groom since their engagement session, and I love to capture all of the excitement happening around me! Choosing the perfect getting ready room might not seem that important during the wedding planning process, BUT, it actually plays a major role. This is especially true when it comes to having beautiful photographs of you and your girls getting ready that match the overall vibe of your wedding day! Below are four of my favorite tips to help you choose the perfect getting ready room for your wedding day.

Lighting is Everything | Choose a spacious getting ready room with large windows and plenty of natural light. Lighting is the most essential element to creating those soft, airy, and beautiful portraits. Natural light will ensure that you and your girls look your absolute best in all of the getting ready photographs. Plus, your makeup artist will thank you for the window light as well!

Size | Choose a getting ready location with enough space to spread out. Photographers, videographers, hair + makeup artists, bridesmaids, and family members will all be in the getting ready room at some point on the morning of your wedding day. A suite will give you and your girls plenty of getting ready + storage space (YES to clutter free portraits!), and the professionals a little extra elbow room.

Distance | The distance to your ceremony location from the getting ready venue shouldn’t exceed 15-20 minutes. Cutting down on travel time will help to decrease stress! If at all possible, consider getting ready in the bridal suite at the venue location itself. This will help to create a relaxed atmosphere through out the entire wedding day since travel is no longer a factor.

Overall Aesthetic | The getting ready venue should reflect the overall look and feel of your wedding day. For instance, getting ready in a hotel suite might not match the vibe of a rustic chic wedding. As I mentioned before, if possible, choose a getting ready location at the venue itself. Many venues have a bridal suite that will likely match the aesthetic of your wedding day. This will allow me as the photographer to tell the story of your wedding day seamlessly — especially when it comes to album design!

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After photographing my first few weddings during the start of my business, I quickly came to realize that I needed to be prepared for anything and everything – and not just from a photography standpoint! I like to consider myself as an honorary bridesmaid on wedding days, and as such, I’ve been bringing an emergency kit with me to every wedding that I’ve photographed for the past 4 years. By far, the top three most used items in my bag (I’ll use at least one of these at EVERY wedding) are:

  1. Scissors
  2. Tide-to-Go pens
  3. Safety Pins

Other helpful items that I always have on hand in my kit (just in case!) include:

  • A mini sewing kit
  • Bobby pins
  • Tissues
  • Clear nail polish
  • Lint roller
  • Super glue
  • Extra pens
  • Bandaids
  • Tape

Whether a groomsman’s tie was too small and had to be safety pinned on, or a bride found a fresh dark stain on her dress (and, yes, both have actually happened!), my e-kit has helped me on wedding days more times than I can count.

What items do you always bring with you on wedding days?

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There’s a reason why I include an engagement session in every one of my wedding photography packages, and it’s because I believe that they’re an essential part to your overall experience! Engagement sessions give us a chance to get to know each other and work together before the big day. When I know my couples, I can serve them well and tell their love story through my photographs in a genuine and authentic way.

After 4 years of business, I’ve learned that most of my clients are nervous to be in front of my camera during their engagement session. Having your photo taken can feel uncomfortable and awkward, especially if you’ve never been in front of a camera before. It’s my job to reassure my clients, teach them my posing style, and, ultimately, allow them to feel comfortable and have fun during their session. When my clients receive their final gallery of images, I want them to be relieved of any doubt they may have had about looking awkward in their photographs. Instead, I want them to be excited about their engagement gallery and feel equipped to take their future wedding photos!

When I don’t have a chance to work with couples before the big day, photographing their bride and groom portraits can feel a bit like starting from square one because they:

  • Haven’t worked with me before
  • Haven’t learned my posing style
  • Aren’t sure what to expect (missing that trust factor!)

 

This can be a little difficult when the timeline is running behind (which happens more often than not!) and I need to take bride and groom portraits in a shorter amount of time than originally planned. When this happens and my couples have had an engagement session with me, they’re already posing pros and know exactly what to do / expect because they’ve gone through it all before!

Having an engagement session helps me learn about you and who you are together as a couple. By the time your wedding day is finally here, we’ll be comfortable with each other and feel like old friends. Your wedding day should be as A. seamless, B. stress free, and C. as fun as possible – and having an engagement session beforehand help to ensure that your time spent taking photos with me is all of the above!

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