Wedding Planning Advice

Sorry to not be delivering my “a Photo a Day” blog post today as I usually do on Mondays! I am out of town and writing this on my iPad ūüėČ

I got married before I photographed or attended a wedding. Though I had no idea how to plan a wedding, thankfully my mom did because otherwise I would have a lot of items on my “I wish I did this at my wedding” list.

Now, because I do love the value in unique wedding planning, I don’t want to advise extraneously but there are a few items that really are a MUST and I will tell you why.

Give your guests a meal. It has become mildly common to only serve appetizers, desserts, or finger foods at a wedding reception. In their defense, this could work. Say, instead of providing a meal the couple gave suggestions for where everyone could grab some dinner and then they held their nontraditional, but very entertaining reception outdoors and still provided dessert and drinks. The trouble is that not providing a meal feels like a slap in the face. All of your family and friends have not only come from far and wide to celebrate your wedding day but they have bought you an expensive or thoughtful gift as well. To not say “thank you” by at least providing them food during such a long day just isn’t remotely hospitable. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t invite people over to your house all day and not feed them ever would you?

Small gap between ceremony and reception. Again, this is a hospitality recommendation. It never sits well with your guests when their belly’s are left rumbling for hours on end. I also understand that it it your day, but be considerate. Before I became a photographer I assumed that the wedding photographer’s were responsible for keeping the bride and groom from the reception so long. Now I’m not so sure because whenever my bridal party is late it certainly wasn’t on my watch. If a bride and groom asks me how to schedule their day I typically ask for 1.5 hours between the ceremony and reception, 30 minutes for family photos and 1 hour for bridal party and couple pictures – I could do less time if it was easier to rally family members and keep everyone on track. With the providence of a cocktail hour this time goes quickly with the guests. And your photographer should be skilled, timely, and reliable enough to close the gap between ceremony and reception.

Hire a phenomenal DJ. Some couples are very skilled at creating a playlist for their reception. However, a DJ doesn’t just control the music. In fact, I would argue that their most important role of the evening is controlling the flow of events. The weddings that don’t have a DJ, or a skilled DJ, end up suffering in awkward moments and confused silences. I’ve photographed well over 50 weddings and I can’t recall a reception that ran smoothly without an incredible DJ. Your DJ is the most important reception detail, so you should see a fun spirit and sense of organization and responsibility in the DJ you hire.

Don’t pick your wedding budget before you do your vendor research. You only get married once. The most common phrase I hear from clients is “we are on a budget.” Well of course you are. The trouble is, most couples clearly pick their budget before they have looked at the numbers and as a result they hire vendors for cheap and their wedding takes hits because of it. You can get crafty and wiggle around pricey items in a lot of areas but with photography and a DJ I would HIGHLY recommend picking those budgets after significant research. This may sound biased but the most common wedding woe I hear about a bad photography experience. Your photographer is in charge of these most important life memories, make sure you adore and trust them. And, as stated above, your DJ is responsible for the life of your party but they also contribute to the quality of those memories and to the quality of photographing those memories. Your cake, flowers, decorations, and venues are important but your loved ones and moments are more important. I actually had friends buy and put together my wedding flowers, my grandma made our cake, our decorations consisted of things like 5 cent goldfish and goldfish crackers, and we had our ceremony in my parent’s backyard. For just a few ideas ūüôā

Don’t let your best man get drunk before his speech. Enough said.

Do you have any wedding planning advice to share?

What Made You Want to Go Into Photography?

Yesterday one of my blog friends asked me this question and with my Wednesday Words post coming up the next day I new I had my topic.

What made you want to go into photography?

The short answer is that when I was in high school my mom called out my passion for it and told me I had an eye for it. ¬†But the long answer is way better…

When I was a Freshman in High School my family took a trip out west.  They picked me up from summer youth camp in Laramie, WY and we trekked further west in our gargantuan RV.  We called him Moby, like Moby Dick the great white whale.

We took two main stops: ¬†Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton Mountains. ¬†What I remember from that trip I mostly remember through the pictures I took with my little Canon point and shoot and journaling. ¬†I don’t¬†remember specifics other than that it was a little silver camera. ¬†But that little camera and I captured a lot of beauty on that trip. ¬†After I got pictures printed I remember my mom looking at them and telling me I had an eye for photography and that she saw I really enjoyed it. ¬†Leave it to Mom to point out that I carried that camera everywhere and, unlike most kids, was more interested in photographing life from weird angles with intentional framing than photographing with my friends.

A couple of years later I took the best class I have ever taken, Yearbook, with Mr. McCallum. ¬†McCallum, I hope you are reading this because any time I talk about why I do what I do I always say something about how your class was the most influential class I have ever taken. ¬†It ignited a passion in me and taught me all of the most important tools and tips I use in my writing today. ¬†In this class I mostly learned about how to write a good journalistic story. ¬†He taught us all about “Be verbs” and storytelling. ¬†That year I won a state yearbook award for a piece I did about a local haunted house. ¬†That simple award pushed me to the realization that maybe writing wasn’t just something I loved doing but something I could be good at. ¬†I also shot the pictures for that story so when the end of the year rolled in McCallum asked me to be a part of the editing staff as either a section editor or a photo editor. ¬†I had a choice. ¬†At that point I knew I loved designing layouts,¬†writing, and copy editing as a “job” but I didn’t know if I would like photography as a “job.” ¬†So, for adventure’s sake, I chose the position of photography editor.

The next year, my senior year, I hit the school scene with my camera always at my side. ¬†I attended events of all kinds and relished photographing every event I was assigned to. ¬†I specifically remember feeling so honored being on the sidelines at the football games, bantering with the guys and with my fellow ninja photographer, Eli. ¬†Only a few months into taking photography assignments I knew I was home. ¬†So I dumped out my pile of college information and selected only the schools with at least two or three photography classes. ¬†My mom and I took an extended weekend in the fall of 2006 and toured my midwest choices. ¬†Judson University was the last school of that tour and not only was I completely underwhelmed by the other schools, but Judson captivated me. ¬†I remember specifically loving the quaint campus, the prospect of being close to Chicago, the Ugandan study abroad option, our tour guide Jaimee Bartha, and something far less material. ¬†This school wasn’t my ultimate ideal, I did really want a¬†rigorous¬†photography program and Judson could only give me two photography classes, but I felt the Holy Spirit asking me to trust in Him and commit to this school. ¬†By October of 2006 only a few short weeks after my tour, I was fully enrolled for a double major in Visual Communications with an emphasis in photography and Media Studies with an¬†emphasis¬†in writing.

I continued through my senior year at Buffalo High School soaking up every minute behind my camera and was so engaged in my college credit courses.  But the capstone of my whole year came at the end of the basketball season when our guys not only made it to state for the first time in 80 some years but they won it.  Each of their games Eli and I sported special press passes like all the big shots with their expensive cameras and official jobs.  We sat with them on the sidelines of the Metrodome courts like equals.

In the spring of 2007 I hit the books, or, rather, my sketchbook, hard.  For the first time in my life I gave up sports for school as I quickly discovered the art program would demand all of my energy.  And, just like in high school, I quickly became known as the girl with the camera.

At the end of my four years I graduated with a major in General Art and a minor in Writing. ¬†My senior show was a photographic examination of water (CLICK HERE to see that project). ¬†My plans of graduating with a photography major fell away when I fell in love with Joshua. ¬†I even visited other schools intending on transferring but when he asked me to stay I simply couldn’t deny him. ¬†But I’m glad I did, because I finished at Judson I also fell in love with engaging with photography as art. ¬†I learned I love marrying my passion for biology and art together in fine art photography.

My photography business wove itself neatly, but discreetly into my life. ¬†I started booking random sessions with families and seniors the summer after my freshman year of college as a way to make a few extra bucks. ¬†Again, this idea came from my mom. ¬†The last semester of my senior year at Judson I quit my part-time job at Starbucks and launched “a Sunshine Moment” full time. ¬†I shot my first wedding a few months later at Hotel Baker. ¬†And then the¬†dreaminess¬†of the job died. ¬†That wedding met me head on with every technical difficulty and misstep. ¬†And the rest of the summer on the job gave no respite. ¬†Building a business identity and client base is hard and I dreaded every wedding and session until I arrived on location; however, when I arrived at each shoot I bloomed with excitement and creativity.

I approached the next wedding season, last year, full of apprehension.  I was nervous I would dread every shoot again, especially since I was booked for around 25 weddings and ongoing portrait sessions.  There was no turning back at this point.  But, lo and behold, I hit the photo scene full stride and brimming with confidence.

And now, here I am, working from home and supporting my family with my photography. ¬†I thank God so often for providing me with the means to do the work I am so passionate about, especially right out of school. ¬†a Sunshine Moment¬†certainly was a leap of faith; self-employment and owning a business is not for the faint of faith. ¬†Yet I cherish every moment of it because it is so much easier to see God’s provision and faithfulness without the guarantee¬†of a steady paycheck. ¬†I am also so thankful for His gift of some key people. ¬†If it weren’t for my mom calling out a gift in me and encouraging me to run with it, McCallum giving me a chance to grow and test my passion, and Josh’s continued support and encouragement there is no way I would be here. ¬†Parents and teachers play such a vital role; by encouraging your kids and students into their gifts and passions you grant them the greatest treasure, work they love!

Happy 200th Blog Post Giveaway! (CLOSED)

I HAVE A WINNER! Congratulations Micayla Crosby! ¬†Our 200th comment was “John Lennon wrote ‘Good morning, good morning’ after hearing a Corn Flakes commercial.” ¬†I absolutely loved how all of your rallied and really had fun with this! ¬†Loved your creativity! ¬†And of course I loved all the very kind and thoughtful compliments. ¬†You guys certainly know how to make a girl feel good ūüôā ¬†Thanks everyone!!!

February 5th was my 100th blog post. ¬†It’s only May 17th and I’m already at 200! ¬†Crazy! ¬†I guess that’s what committing to Monday-Friday daily posts with the occasional Saturday or Sunday blog post will get ya. ¬†To celebrate I have a few things up my sleeves…

My gift to you:  a GIVEAWAY (more info below) and a few interesting BLOG STATISTICS



My second blog post:  My dog (May 16, 2011)

Top 5 blog posts:  

  1. Simple and Eclectic Studio Boudoir Session (308 views)
  2. Please Pray for my Grandma (279 views)
  3. FACT: Col. Chris Hadfield takes pictures from space (258 views)
  4. Studio Boudoir | Will you be my Valentine? (240 views)
  5. The Makings of a Musical Marriage (234 views)

Post Most Commented On:  100th Blog Post Giveaway (CLOSED) (15 comments)

My 200th Comment was my mom on April 27.  Love you mom!  The Man with the Pretty Garden

THE GIVEAWAY: ¬†200 minutes of photography with me! Yes, that’s 3 1/3 hours!
I recommend using it to book me for a party (birthday, baby shower, costume…) or a series of sessions (maternity, newborn, family…)
The 200 minutes may not, however, be used towards birth or wedding photography… sorry.

Click on the image below to read the giveaway details.


TO ENTER: comment with these details…

  • say hello
  • favorite color
  • photography service/s desired

Here is how to comment… look for this below…

Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 11.09.15 AM

TO WIN:  you have to be the 200th commenter!
Requiring 200 comments is¬†little risky because the most comments I’ve had on any one given post up to this point is 15 so it’s up to you guys to¬†rock this! ¬†Let’s make it happen!


  • You have to comment on this blog post, Facebook comments don’t count
  • You may comment as many times as you like but you have to say something real and different every time
  • contest closes one week from today (May 27 @ 9 am )

I am also running a Senior Portraits deal.  Check it out HERE.

Graphic Design | Welcome Packet

I’ve been collecting various marketing components all year. ¬†I started out with temporary solutions in every category until I could put my efforts into creating something unique and personal.

One of my most important pieces in my branding material is my welcome packet and the items I include in that.  It is important because they are all the answers to any questions my clients usually have about a session.  What should we wear?  What props should we bring?  What else do you need from us?

To my wedding clients I sent out a card with my “Style Tips” and “Photographer’s Checklist” postcards and a basic, handwritten greeting card. ¬†To all of my portrait clients I simply email the “Style Tips” PDF to them after they complete the contract and deposit.

To design these post cards I stuck with my design model: simple, natural, and colorful. ¬†To over complicate design makes it harder to read and messy. ¬†I decided I would stick to my two regular fonts for the little variety I wanted, my logo, and my colors. ¬†My natural component is the handwritten card and the envelope. ¬†My card is a natural brown like my disc packaging¬†and the envelope is a stark white to go with my website (it is also the neutral color in my chosen color palette). ¬†¬†And, since I have had my color palette all sorted out for several months now, choosing colors was easy. ¬†I had six choices to work with: stark white, natural brown, yellow-orange, rust red, leafy green, and sea blue. ¬†I always keep the yellow in the mix because that is my main color and then I chose the green because I liked the way that would pair with the yellow and I didn’t use it in my marketing materials yet.

A full blog post of what the whole Wedding Welcome Packet looks like will be coming soon ūüôā

Style Tips Photographer Checklist

5 Tricks to Productive Self-Employment

Over the past couple of years I have learned so much. ¬†Period. ¬†One of those categories of learning is how to create working habits that inspire my creative and productive juices. ¬†Today I will share those tricks with YOU! ūüėČ

  1. Set office hours. ¬†This is as much for you as it is for your clients. ¬†This is about setting boundaries for you and your clients. ¬†This is for you because workaholics need the¬†accountability¬†and¬†permission¬†to stop¬†working and those with a lazy tendency need the push to¬†start working¬†and to¬†keep at it.¬†My¬†boundaries consist of regular work hours M-F 9am – 5pm (this is mainly for phone, email, and meeting purposes), I take a Sabbath on Sundays, and I have date night with the hubs on Monday nights. ¬†As far as I’m concerned any other evenings and Saturdays are fair game for photo shoots.¬†It’s ok, in fact it’s important to give yourself a break to have dinner with your family, or take a Sunday Sabbath, or have a date night with your spouse. ¬†I have found that my clients like to know I have a life outside of my work and that they can count on me within my office hours because I’ve set those boundaries.
  2. Commit to realistic goals. ¬†Give yourself a daily TO DO list that will fill your work day but will also be completed by the end of it. ¬†For some of us this means giving ourselves more to do – this way you won’t find yourself surfing the web aimlessly, sitting on Facebook, or going back for more snacks repeatedly. ¬†For others of us, like myself, this means giving ourselves less – this way you won’t be working into the wee hours of the night or kicking yourself at the end of the day for not finishing everything you set out to do. ¬†At the end of your day you will feel accomplished.
  3. Take breaks. ¬†During your work day it is best to take anywhere between 2 – 5 breaks. ¬†All of these breaks should involve getting up and walking around a little bit. ¬†Personally, I have found I maximize my productivity if I take my first break for about an hour around 1pm to eat, read, walk the dogs, or do something else fun and then to take a succession of smallish breaks ever couple of hours after that until I’m finished for the day. ¬†Taking breaks gives your mind a moment to wander freely and¬†potentially¬†problem solve in the process, besides a good leg stretch is a wonderful idea and will ease your increasing restlessness.
  4. Accomplish something small.  Ending the day with a sense of accomplishment is ridiculously important.  If all else fails during my work day I have found that by walking the dogs, doing the dishes, or cleaning helps me to at least feel productive.
  5. Take time just to be. ¬†By taking time to simply sit in the quiet and let your mind wander you will allow your mind to free itself from the web of responsibility and stumble into strokes of brilliance. ¬†Haven’t you ever noticed that the best ideas come to you when you are in the shower or driving?

That’s all for now! ¬†Have a blessed Friday and weekend! ¬†Catch you on Monday ūüôā