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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  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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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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On Monday afternoon my sweet friend Kelly and I drove down to Fredericksburg, VA to join 80 other #babybossladies for The Gathering Event with Hope Taylor & Caroline Logan Raush.  They’re both two of my favorite photographers and I was casually fan girling out in the audience, haha!

To say that I was blown away by listening to the two of them speak would be a serious understatement.  Both Caroline & Hope started their businesses at very young ages and the amount that they have accomplished since (in such a relatively short amount of time) is truly amazing.  It was so refreshing to hear them speak directly from their hearts. Nothing that they said was sugar coated — their talks were as real and raw as it could get.  They told us about their journeys as business owners and the glitches that they faced along the way.  I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to have shared the less than ideal moments during their businesses (talk about bravery!), but it certainly helped to put everything back into perspective for me.  It humanized both Hope and Caroline as well as all of the other photographers in the industry that I admire.  I think it’s easy to forget sometimes that all of the trailblazers in our industry are real people.  That sounds so weird to say!  They make mistakes, face challenges, and have the same insecurities from time to time as everyone else does.  There is far more to their story than what we see on their Instagram feeds.

One of my favorite talks during The Gathering Event was about owning up to your mistakes.  Caroline shared some inspiring stories about a couple of mistakes that she had made, and how she chose to respond.  Instead of becoming defensive, putting up walls, or passing the blame onto someone else, she chose to own up and accept responsibility — and doing this benefited her in the long run.  Caroline’s sincere apology and willingness to improve a situation was so much appreciated and it resulted in her booking more clients. How awesome of a lesson is that?!  I love it.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Hope & Caroline.  They are sweet, talented, inspiring and phenomenal business women.  I’m so thankful for the opportunity to have listened to them speak (yet again!).  I left The Gathering Event with a notebook filled to the brim with information that I can’t wait to incorporate into my business and the happiest heart ever.  Hope & Caroline, I can’t say thank you enough!!!

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My workflow has pretty much stayed the same since college.  I’ve made a few tweaks here and there, but for the most part we were given a pretty solid plan of attack!  Ever since upgrading to my Nikon d810, I now shoot with both an SD & CF card (side note, LOVE my CF cards…. they’re so big and I feel like they’re indestructible!).  After a session (and after clicking through the photos on the back of my camera way too many times, haha!), I pop my SD card into my card reader (Lexar USB 3.0) to view them on the big screen…. and this is what happens next:

  1. I create a folder on my desktop with the couples last name and the year.  Within that folder I make three separate folders entitled “RAW” “JPEG” and “FINAL.” I’ve always shot in both RAW and JPEG normal….RAW + JPEGS are set to my SD card and my CF gets all of my backup JPEGS!
  2. I open up Adobe Bridge and load up all of my files and export them straight to my desktop subfolders.  In college I used to cull in Adobe Bridge, but that’s only because back then I refused to use Lightroom (which is where I cull now).  Crazy, right?  I used to pull each individual image into Photoshop. Why?  Couldn’t tell you. Live and learn, haha!
  3. I open up Lightroom and pull all of the images in from my RAW subfolder.  From there I cull through each image by giving the ones that I love a 5 star rating (control 5 on a Mac).  From there, I go to the bottom right hand of the screen where it says “filters off” and drop down to select “rated” so that I only see the images with a 5 star rating.  Then I edit all of those images!
  4. When I’m finished editing, I select all of the images in the “rated” category (control A on a Mac) and export them to the “FINAL” subfolder.
  5. Next, I drag and drop the images in my “FINAL” subfolder and create an online Pass gallery.  If you haven’t used Pass before, check it out!  It’s been a total game changer for me!  Pass lets me create an online gallery of images for my clients to print, download, and share as they please.  No more USB drives — I love it!
  6. My last step is to back up all of my files onto an external hard drive.  I’ll copy and paste both the main and sub folders onto my external hard drive just to be sure that I have everything that I need and that it’s in two different places.  I always do this before I clear my cards!

So I realize that this wasn’t exactly the most exciting blog post in the entire world, but hopefully it was somewhat helpful, haha! Comment below if you have any questions for me 🙂

XOXO

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To be honest, the thought of using on camera flash (and OCF!) used to freak me out!  I was an art/photography major in college, and the one and ONLY time I broke out my flash during my four years of schooling was when we were forced to for an assignment — and I dreaded every moment of it.  I didn’t like the harsh shadows, blown out highlights, and overall unnatural look and feel that it gave my photographs.  Once that assignment was over, I put my flash back into my camera bag and never touched it again until well after I graduated.

Flash forward a couple of years.  A family friend asked me if I would photograph a surprise 50th birthday party for one of her relatives.  It was at night, and I knew the restaurant where the party was at was going to have pretty low lighting.  Ok, no problem.  I popped my flash into my bag just in case and drove over to the restaurant.  When I got there and looked around I found that I was completely surrounded by orange walls.  There wasn’t ONE white wall in the entire restaurant to bounce off of.  Cue ALL of the anxiety.

When I got home that night I realized that something had to change.  I decided to take a whole bunch of courses specifically in flash photography, but nothing helped me the way that Justin & Mary’s Lighting Guide did.  After downloading it, reading through it several times, and practicing their teachings and techniques day in and day out, I finally felt like I had a grasp on something that I avoided like the plague.  I was able to get a natural look & feel from my flash at any point that I wanted during a wedding day and I had confidence in myself to be able to whip out a one light stand set up and photograph professional head shots.

When I saw on Instagram that J&M were having a class up in New Haven, CT, I jumped right on it!  Who doesn’t want to learn in person from the best of the best, am I right?  J&M are such WONDERFUL teachers, and I loved how hands on that they made the workshop. They taught us about the different characteristics of light, how different angles affect your subject, and how to balance ambient light and flash.  Then they broke us into small groups and gave us all different possible lighting situations (high contrast, large light source, 90 degree angle vs. low contrast, small light source, 120 degree angle) and let us photograph different objects to see the changes for each scenario on the backs of our cameras. Towards the end of the night, we learned about photographing reception details, dancing at weddings, as well as different ways to take a portrait all using flash.  I walked away yesterday having no more fear of bright orange walls and feeling more confident than ever using OCF and on camera flash!  If you’ve been thinking about taking one of their lighting workshops, seriously, DO it!  J&M’s next workshop is in Philadelphia on August 9th and they would LOVE to see you there 🙂

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