A Matter of Time

I have been very blessed to be so busy lately. When you choose to invest in a small business (and in this case, a mother of three) somebody out there is keeping their lights on, saving for a down-payment on a house, buying groceries, etc. Supporting growing entrepreneurs and supporting art is SO amazing, and most importantly you're keeping this art alive, and encouraging other hopeful folks out there to pick up their cameras. Thank you for that! I know that what I do is a luxury expense, my work is not life-or-death, no one needs a photographer, and there are plenty out there that you could choose from, which is fine because when I take on a wedding client, that means I’ve chosen you, too. And that’s what I want to talk about today.

I guess I feel like I need to address my listed hours of operation, which say I'm available between the hours of Noon and 5pm, Monday through Thursdays. If we're being totally honest here? Having a baby at home that doesn't understand the concept of a schedule translates to "whenever the heck I can" on those days. Listing a general time you’ll have the best luck getting a hold of me is easier than saying, "How much time I spend working each day depends on how long Natalie's two afternoon naps last and how early Nic gets home from work that day.” Because unfortunately, I don’t just edit all day. There’s five-persons-worth of laundry to do, a four-bedroom house to look after, a dog to walk, and shockingly I like to eat, shower, and occasionally I have to leave the house to go buy groceries. And when you have to squeeze the bulk of these things in during naptimes, you have to pick your battles. Sometimes it’s a win for editing, but what you don’t see is that I’m still in yesterday’s yoga pants at 8pm, my house is a disaster, but I’m just happy that everyone got fed and the crawling baby didn’t put something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have while I was buried in my computer. I take what I can get, ya know?

What I can confirm is that my business hours do not list Friday through Sunday because I am definitely not checking emails or answering phone calls on those days, at all. (What do people think I’m doing on those weekends? I could give them a hint: It’s probably the same thing they have also hired me to do for them.) If someone contacts me on a Thursday after I've stepped away from my desk, there is a very big chance I'm not touching my phone or computer anymore, and I am not going to see that message until Monday around noon. If it's a wedding weekend, (which it usually is) then that couple is getting my full attention during that time. If it's not a wedding weekend, my children are getting that attention because I rarely have weekend days free. Outside of those makeshift 'Office Hours' my business phone goes into silent and I slip it into the drawer of my desk. I take it with me to sessions, consultations, and weddings for the purposes of keeping in touch with those individuals I’m working with that day. But otherwise? It stays at that desk. And I like it that way. I will never be the person who’s answering emails or saying “I’ve gotta take this, it’s a client,” during time spent at dinner or family.

In March, I went on a Spring Break getaway with the kids to the most adorable cabin in the woods, and I chose to go unplugged. I took my personal phone for emergencies, use of the GPS, and road-trip music courtesy of Spotify, but service was spotty, so I stayed off of it for the most part. I left my business phone tucked in my desk drawer back at home and put an auto-reply on my email. Yet when I returned home, I had a few calls on the business line, emails, and text messages that were concerning… basically I got called out by an individual for not responding to them in what they felt was an appropriate time frame. I really had to maintain some composure in my responses, and ultimately, we ended up parting ways and I gave them their retainer back, because that whole situation left a bad taste in my mouth and I can’t really do my job well when I don’t feel good about my relationship with a client anymore.

Here’s the truth bomb: I would never permit any person to make demands of my time outside of those contracted obligations or determine for me how soon and with what frequency I should be available to them. I promise to show up, capture great photos with style and quality, and deliver them to you within your contracted turnaround time. I’m sure you might have to shoot me a question or two throughout the process, and I’m happy to answer those at my earliest convenience. You might wait 2-3 days, or even a week while I get my shit together and have a reply on-hand for you. But as I'm pretty sure I'm not answering life or death emails, I promise you that unless your wedding is this weekend, there is nothing that cannot wait a few days for a response.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important as an entrepreneur to be selective about who you are giving your time to and working with. That’s why I meet at least one half of each couple before signing the contract, to make sure we click, and give them the scoop on this chaotic but wonderful life of mine, because laying out expectations is important. This post isn’t for them, because I can confidently say that when I look over my roster of weddings booked between now and 2020, I have an amazing group of people who ‘get it’. I think I’m finally finding my bride tribe. But I have no qualms about admitting that I refund retainers if I start seeing red-flags. This is a ‘chill vibes only’ business, and if not being at your beck-and-call means I’m not the photographer for you, that is totally okay because you are not the client for me either. There are hundreds of photographers in this over-saturated market who will be that person for the sake of keeping the booking.

I won’t delve too deeply into this topic either, but I also think it’s important to clarify that I only post straight-out-of-camera ‘sneak peeks’ to my Instagram story. Otherwise, I don’t share the edited versions until I’ve started working exclusively on that session/wedding and am coming up on having it done in the next few days. I feel like it builds some excitement right before I deliver the gallery. I know amazing photographers who will venture home after a ten hour wedding day and stay up even later to turn out some sneak peeks on their laptop that very night. But I’m definitely the “I’m hitting a drive thru on the way home, dropping my camera bag in the entry way, taking off my bra, and passing out in a french-fry coma,” kind of girl. You could say I've made my peace with that.

You guys get the point. Anyways, Natalie’s been asleep for about half an hour as I’ve written this. I’m hitting publish, and then I’m getting into the shower. If she’s still asleep when I’m done, I’m going to look over my inbox and answer anything immediately pressing, and then I’m going outside to play with my older two kids, who leave for North Carolina next Monday for six whole weeks. I’m going to miss them terribly. I’m spending this evening at a brand new wedding venue capturing some glorious promo shots in collaboration with some other talented vendors, but until then (and for most of this week) I am all theirs.

Catch you later!

Ashley + Family

You ever hear the phrase "Everything happens for a reason"? Of course!
Well I firmly believe that's why Ashley and I ended up in front of each other's cameras.

A few weeks ago, totally out of the blue, a photographer that I had lined up to do our family photos completely flaked out. No explanation, just a "sorry I can't shoot your photos" and that was that. Let's politely overlook the fact that apparently she had us down for the wrong date, but more heavily consider that she cancelled on us with less than two weeks notice. Holy crap, I'm definitely not referring out that person ever again. Yikes.

Anyways, in my distress I posted to Facebook that I was looking for someone to capture our photos on that day. (I'm pretty booked up right now and I left that day open specifically for our family photos.) Bonus points if the right photographer was willing to trade sessions since this was all so last minute. Enter Ashley, my camera-happy savior.

I've followed Ashley's work for a few years now, but never had the pleasure of actually meeting her though, and I was excited about the prospect of having her shoot our photos. So we met up for coffee to talk details... and ended up hanging out for nearly three hours. Haha! It's safe to say we clicked. So on April 28th she shot our photos, and this Mother's Day weekend I got the amazing privilege of returning that favor.

Man, I was so peeved at that photographer! But that whole situation can kick rocks, because these photos (and the photos I received from Ashley) absolutely kicked ass. This definitely worked out for the best!


Heaven + Josh

I feel like I've been waiting for this engagement session forever. Mostly because pretty much no one knew about it! These two had only told their closest friends and family that they were engaged at the time they booked with me back in December '17, and they've been sitting on this secret waiting for their time (and these photos!) to come. I just don't think I could keep my mouth, or my excitement, contained that long. Wow!

We met up for these beautiful golden hour captures at Tappan Lake, which is where Josh proposed. In fact, we set those lanterns a drift in the exact spot where that he popped the question! And then afterwards we stood around by our cars for probably half an hour chatting and telling stories! I seriously love when I finish off a session with a couple like that. There's nothing like feeling like you've just spent time with friends, rather than some simple and polite parting like we just wrapped up a business meeting. If it hadn't been my own wedding anniversary, and we would've had some fishing poles with us, I might've just pulled up a chair and said "Heck it guys, let's see if we can catch something while we're catching up."

Sooo excited for these two, and even more so for their June 2019 wedding!

Maria + Jeremy

I believe our sessions should be an adventure. Let's go on a hike. Tell me all about yourselves, and your journey together. Don't be afraid to get a little dirty. Let's climb some unstable looking rocks. And please promise not to laugh at me when I fall on my ass while going for the shot. Those are usually my favorites, and that's exactly what I got with Maria + Jeremy this weekend.

Mallory + Jason

Mallory and I had probably spent the last week leading up to this session on constant weather alert; texting each other as soon as the radar changed. Honestly, we both were afraid this session was doomed for a rain out. She's crazy busy, and Jason's about as far out scheduled with tattoos as I am with sessions, so finding a backup date that would work was probably going to be a challenge. So I can't tell you enough how happy I am that the rain held off just long enough for us!

We met up in uptown Dover, not far from their home, for a few photos with their puppers, Sweet Pea and Zero. I drive past the location all the time, but never really 'noticed' it, and now I'm really considering using it for Spring mini-sessions later this month! The flowering trees were so pretty!

They ran the furbabies home and then we met up at the NJC to finish the evening out just before sunset. Honestly, I probably shoot at this location more than any other, but it just never gets old when you get images like this.

Hannah + Alex

I booked with Hannah + Alex in the summer of 2016. Process that for a minute.
This wedding has been one crazy year and a half in the works.

Originally, these two were supposed to be married in May of 2017. A few months before that, they called me and said "Gabby, we're pushing it back to New Year's. Are you down?" Now normally, I would say heck no to photographing anything on a holiday. But I had already shot their engagement session, which had been a favorite for 2016 (We ended up soaking wet up to our waists after jumping in a creek, but it was worth it.) and I knew they were a couple I absolutely wanted to continue working with, so I said yes.

Guys, it was EIGHT FREAKING DEGREES out that day.
There were several inches of snow covering the ground.

And basically after that experience, should I ever hear a bride complain about not wanting to take photos outside because they're having a winter wedding and "it's too cold" I might drag them into the snow myself for their pictures because it was totally worth it!

Did we keep our cars running, and go back in forth in between shots from our heated vehicles to the grounds we were photographing so that we didn't die of frostbite? Absolutely.

Would I do it again? For these photos? HECK YES!

But I digress.

What meant so much to me about Hannah + Alex's wedding day is that over the year and a half leading up to this shindig, they became more than clients. Hannah became the bride that I could call or text when faced with a difficult business decision and be like, "Okay, obviously you're a bride. What do you think about..." And being a nurse, who for a while there worked at the same hospital as Nic, there was a lot to bounce off there whenever his job (and nightshift life; yikes!) was making us hate life. She's become a real confidant. And Alex? He's pretty much become my favorite person on twitter. The witty banter is strong with this one.

My time with these two is pretty much how I wish every single wedding I book would go, start to finish, from the time I meet with a couple until long after. It's been three months now since their wedding day, and today we got together for lunch. I totally brought Natalie along so that Hannah could get her baby fix on. A few weeks before her wedding? Hannah came by my house and sat on my couch for two hours while we worked on her Wedding Day Timeline. (And no, we didn't need two hours to do that. We just get very chatty.) On their NYE wedding night? Nic and I fully intended on taking up their invite to stay over after our 'paid time' and ring in the new year with them. (But then Nic got disgustingly vomit-y sick and I had to take him home.) I just truly adore these guys, and they deserve the best of everything in the world because they are about as wholesome and real as it gets.

There are about a dozen brides and grooms who I have such a relationship with and they sincerely mean the world to me. Sometimes my experiences with them are the only thing that keep me going in a business where you're bound to run into a bridezilla (or groomzilla!) here and there. I hope no one takes offense to that because I'm not naming any names here, but they're out there and I won't pretend that in a history of photographing 80+ weddings that I haven't encountered any. (And on a side note: Hannah's mom Nancy wins all the mother-of-the-bride awards because that woman is pretty BA, too.)

Anyways, here's to Hannah and Alex, y'all!
A photographer's dream couple, and an amazing pair of friends.