An Open Letter To All Small Business Owners

Straight out of college I thought I would be set. I had a commercial photography degree and a business minor. I was ready to take on the world, start my own business, work when and where I wanted to, never have to wake up early, basically it was going to be vacation every single day! Boy was I wrong. I had absolutely no idea how hard it was going to be to not only start, but run a legitimate business. There is no check list of all the things you need to do your first year in business (trust me, I've checked.) Also, I have this irrational fear that I'm filing my quarterly sales taxes incorrectly and I'm going to get audited by the IRS, and then I remind myself I'm probably not making enough money for them to care.

Here's the thing, sure, I could be like every other so-called photographer and start a facebook page, slap some pictures up and start taking paid gigs for next to nothing. But there's a catch. I'm not like every other person with a DSLR. I went to school for four years and paid to get a degree in photography. So right off the bat I have overhead costs that are much higher than most people's, but along with that debt, come's experience. I actually know what I'm doing. So yeah, you can hire your friend and they can show up to your wedding with a decent camera and get some okay photos but what if something goes wrong? I have the knowledge, the skills, and the ability to overcome the unknown and you'll be able to tell a difference in our photos. So yes, the market may be saturated, but you get what you pay for. 

I don't have to set an alarm and wake up at 6 a.m. every day, thankfully, because I am NOT a morning person. But some days I wish I had the luxury of a set schedule. I don't go in to work at 8 and get off at 5. If I get an email or a Facebook message at 11pm, people expect me to respond immediately. I always have to worry that if I don't respond quickly enough, a potential client will move right on past me to the next possible photographer. It's frustrating but it's the way of the world. I am always on social media trying to keep up with wedding trends, answer client's questions, and posting on Instagram daily (do you know how hard it is to come up with something interesting to say EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I promise my life isn't that interesting, y'all!) 

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job. Meeting new people and connecting with old friends is what makes this so much fun. I love that I get to be with people on the happiest days of their lives and I wouldn't trade it for anything. However, you always have to remember that life isn't always as easy or as much fun as it appears on social media, we all struggle sometimes. 

3 Tips For Choosing The Best Photographer For YOU!

I spend a lot of my time on social media, just like most of you, scrolling through friends' posts on Facebook and liking cute photos on Instagram. However, I also use social media to keep up with current wedding trends, to find new clients, and to try to help brides who are desperately trying to navigate their way through Pinterest and plan their own dream wedding. 

I do my best to stay active in wedding groups on Facebook, not to promote myself, but to lend a helping hand whenever possible. One of the most frequently asked questions is something along the lines of, "HELP! There are so many wonderful photographers in my area and I don't know how to chose the right one!" So, yes, I would love to say "ooh, ooh, pick me! pick me!" to every bride across the globe, but let's be honest for a second, that's simply not going to happen. So here are my three tips for picking a wedding photographer!

1. Before we move on, let's start by talking about money. This really should be the first step in looking at anything during your wedding planning process. You have a budget and you unfortunately have to stick to it. Of course we would all love these elaborate shindigs, but someone has to pay for it. If you can't afford a particular photographer (or really any vendor!), no matter how much you love their work, at the end of the day you simply can't hire them. I will always encourage you to evaluate what you're spending money on and make sure that it's allocated in a way you're happy with, but you only have so much. Just like any other business, we can't discount our packages just because you can't afford it, we have expenses too. 

2. Of course it is important to make sure that you actually like the photographers work. Check out their website and instagram page. Are you absolutely in love with their photos? Something I always recommend is to think about looking at these photos 10 and 20 years from now. Does this photographer have a style that might look dated? Is there a chance that you'll look back on your wedding photos and think "Oh my gosh, that is SO 2019, I can't believe we thought that looked good.." You want your photos to be timeless. But I guess in the 80's they probably thought shoulder pads and big hair looked good so who knows!

3. So you had a list of photographers in your area, I'm sure the budget issue knocked some of them off, some of them you didn't like their style, but now you have it narrowed down to a handful and you're stuck! Now comes the most important factor - personality. The thing that you may not think about is the fact that you will be spending practically your entire wedding day with your photographer by your side. Think about that for a minute, you are going to be spending 8-12 hours on the most important day of your life with this person! You want to make sure that they are someone you can count on if something goes wrong (because something almost always does) and you want them to feel like a friend. Because by the end of your wedding day they will have probably seen you laugh, seen you cry, and possibly even cried along with you. 

The Five Love Languages

One of my all time favorite things to learn about and discuss is the five love languages. Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a book in 1995 about how people both perceive and show love in different ways. He categorized these 5 ways as: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. In order to be able to connect with your partner on a deeper level, it is important to not only know what the love languages are, but which ones are important to you and your partner. There are tests you can take online to figure out your love language but I just want to take a little time to break each one down for you in layman's terms so you can start applying them to your daily life! 

Receiving Gifts - Personally, this is one of my love languages, it's one of the ways I show affection. I do it with my friends and family as well as my clients. I will always stop and buy little trinkets on vacation or even at the grocery store just to show "I'm thinking of you." At Christmas, I LOVE to give presents. I send all of my brides customized wedding boxes and I love picking things out for them. However, I'm not all about getting presents. If you want to show me you care, I don't want elaborate gifts, there are other things I'd rather you do or say that mean more to me. 

Quality Time - This is how I'd prefer you show me that you care. My biggest pet peeve is when someone is on their phone when we're spending time together. I want you to be present and in the moment with me. Once again, it doesn't have to be anything elaborate, snuggled up on the couch watching a movie is just fine. To me, this is all about the time spent together more so than what we're actually doing. 

Words of Affirmation - This one is pretty straightforward. Sometimes it is just nice to hear how much someone appreciates you. A simple "thanks for doing the dishes tonight" can really go a long way. Also, flirting tends to get lost in relationships after a while. Tell your partner they look good!

Acts of Service - How many of you would absolutely love it if you came home to a clean house? Or maybe dinner being made? These actions rather than words are another way to show that you love and appreciate one another and want to help each other out.

Physical Touch - Although this one may seem very simple, you have to keep in mind that physical displays of affection also fall into this category. Are you all for kissing in public and holding hands every chance you get? What if your partner is uncomfortable with that?  

At the end of the day, everything always comes down to communication. Without talking to your partner, you will never have a successful relationship. Maybe sit down with them tonight and talk to them about which love languages they think they use to show love and which ones they use to perceive love (hint: they aren't always the same ones!) If you are always trying to show love through physical touch and they perceive love more through something like words of affirmation, try to consider that and make it a point to tell them how much they mean to you every once in a while!

Raleigh Senior Spokesmodel Search | Class of 2018

Calling all Class of 2018 Seniors! I need your help! Are you currently a high school senior in the Raleigh-Durham area? I am a photographer brand new to the area and I'm trying to meet some new faces!

I am so excited to launch this year's senior spokesmodel program! If you are a high school senior, I'm sure you know that a huge part of graduating is taking senior pictures. It's your chance to get all dressed to the nine's pick a photographer, go around to some of the coolest spots, and strike your best model poses. Of course, the best part is then posting them ALL over social media and watching the likes and comments pour in! So this year, I'm going to build a team of high school seniors to represent my brand, get my photos out there into the world of social media, and give you the opportunity to make some money just by sharing your photos and referring your friends. 

I am looking for outgoing, high school seniors to work alongside in a referral program. You will receive tons of perks along the way including high resolution digital files for social media, print credits, highly discounted sessions, and a few surprise goodies along the way. Take a look at my website, feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and head over to when you're ready to apply!

Raleigh, North Carolina Sibling Portrait Session | JC Raulston Arboretum

Cody and I had the pleasure of meeting these sweet siblings and taking their portraits this weekend. Cooper, Sydney, and JD were so sweet together and we had so much fun exploring the arboretum in Raleigh with them. 

This cactus garden is one of my absolute favorite places to take photographs in Raleigh, I love the colors here and it's so much fun to be able to swing the little ones down the steps! 

JD's smile is the absolute sweetest, he was definitely the center of attention for part of our portrait session. But can you blame me? Look at that face, I could have taken a million photos of him! 

Sydney was such a natural, she made my job so easy. I love the way her portraits came out because they really seem to capture her easy going spirit.

Cooper is graduating high school this year so we took his senior portraits and by the end of our portrait session he had the posing down to a science! 

As you can imagine, Sydney and Cooper are like all teenage siblings, they get along just as much as they fight but at the end of the day we got them to cooperate and at least pretend that they liked each other. We had a blast photographing them. If you'd like to see more photos from their session head on over to the full gallery