3 Reasons You should have a Bridal Portrait Session

Most people think wedding photographers simply take photos, but truthfully, we do much more than that. We actually wear many hats throughout the entire process. One of those is being a trusted advisor. I love helping couples out in the early stages of planning a wedding. Most couples have only been to 3-5 weddings, so they don’t know much about the planning part or what to do. Sometimes I’ll go to 3-5 weddings in a single month. I definitely have more experience with weddings, so I’m here to help. I was talking to bride today, and she asked about bridal sessions. I then went into my advisor mode and talked about all the reasons to do bridal session. She said she had never thought of it like that, and she was very thankful. So, I thought I’d share the same 3 reasons you should have a bridal portrait session with you that I told her.

3 Reasons You should have a Bridal Portrait Session

It’s Another Chance to Wear the Dress

The wedding dress is something that girls dream about all their lives. It’s the thing spend hours looking at and trying on. It’s also one of the few things they keep around after the wedding. If it’s so important, why would you only want to wear it once? See, that seems crazy to me. If I bought a nice outfit, I’d want to wear it several times. The bridal session is another chance to put on the dress, look awesome, and have some fun. One day is just simply not enough.

Bridal Portraits at Magnolia Gardens in Springdale

A Chance to Get Amazing Photos

We always aim to get amazing photos of our bride on the wedding day, but sometimes we are very limited. There might not be enough time, the area isn’t the most attractive, or maybe the weather is bad. Doing a bridal portrait session allows you to really focus on getting amazing photos. You don’t have all the stress and issues that you would have on the wedding day. First, there is no stress from the wedding. You aren’t afraid the groom is going to walk out and see you, and you won’t be stressing about the ceremony. Second, there isn’t a time limit. You can spend as much time as you want. Third, you can do the shoot in a much nicer location. Traveling on the wedding day can be pretty difficult, but this way, you can go to different locations.

Bridal portraits in front of a large brick house

Bridal Sessions are a Test Run for the Wedding Day

Nothing is worse than having something go wrong on the wedding day. There are a ton of things that could happen, but if you do a bridal session, you can figure out and avoid several problems in advance. For a bridal session, you’ll be getting your hair and makeup done and wearing the dress and shoes. If there is going to be a problem, it’s better to see it at the shoot than on the wedding. We’ve had once experience where the bride hated her hair for the bridal shoot, so she ended up changing it and using someone else for the wedding day. Imagine how she would have felt if that had happened on the wedding day!

3 Reasons You should have a Bridal Portrait Session

I personally love shooting a bridal portrait session, and I wish more brides did them. It not only is helpful and fun for the bride, it also gives me the freedom to create beautiful images without the pressures of the wedding day. Hopefully theses 3 Reasons You should have a Bridal Portrait Session have been helpful. Even more, I hope they have convinced you to go out and do one. If anyone has had any other experiences with bridal sessions, I’d love to hear it.


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3 Reasons Why You Need to Specialize in One Type of Photography

I realized yesterday how close I am to my one year anniversary of being a full time photographer. In this year I’ve learned a lot of things, and I’m sure I’ll be posting more about that in the future, but one thing that has stuck out is the need to focus on one or two things. For most of my photography career, I have shot whatever comes my way: weddings, high school seniors, newborns, families, events, etc. Right now I’m actually doing a charity shoot, have an event on Saturday and a wedding. It’s too much. Today I’m sharing 3 Reasons Why You Need to Specialize in One Type of Photography.

3 Reasons Why You Need to Specialize in One Type of Photography

1. Be Amazing, not just average

There’s a fun saying that kind of explains the whole situation: “A jack of all trades is a master of none.” I’ve found this to be very true. When you are spreading yourself out over 5 different types of photography, you don’t have the time to become really good at any of them. Why spend some time practicing newborns and weddings and seniors and events when you could be taking all that practice time and devoting it on one or two areas? You probably are ok at all of them, but who wants to just be ok? I’d much rather do two things, and be an expert. People will start to know you as an expert in that field, and when you’re an expert, you can charge more!

3 Reasons Why You Need to Specialize in One Type of Photography

2. Simplicity Helps you Focus

It’s also rough on your mind. Your mind likes things to be organized, but when you are constantly switching and thinking about all these different things, it’s tough. If you’re just doing weddings, there are only so many things you have to remember and think about it. After awhile, you get use to the workflow and procedures and it becomes very natural. When you’re constantly changing things up, though, you will feel confused and overwhelmed.

3. Photograph what you love

The last big point is all about enjoyment. What do you enjoy photographing? I know I personally don’t like photographing several things, but I also found myself doing it anyway. Stop doing that! Only take sessions that you want to take and focus on the type of photography that you love. This will keep you passionate and it will show in your work.

Photograph what you love- first look at wedding

I know this all is easy to say, but it really is hard to put into practice. I still struggle with this myself. I have a very hard time telling people no, but for the good of my business and myself, I need to. I need to listen to my own advice and the 3 Reasons Why You Need to Specialize in One Type of Photography. Just do it! Take all that energy and time and tackle what matters to you. Don’t just be mediocre at all things photography; become an expert in that one area that you love.

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Big Changes for the 2017 Wedding Season

It’s that time of year again! We’re about to jump headfirst into wedding season, and I’m so excited. After a few months of not doing much, I’m ready to go hang out with some amazing couples and see some amazing moments. This Saturday it starts, and we’re going to be busy until June. It’s here, and here are the big changes for the 2017 wedding season.

Big Changes for the 2017 Wedding Season

2017 is the first wedding season where I’ve been a full time photographer, and I’m so excited. Before I was so stretched thin and so limited by having two jobs. Now I am free to do so, so much more. The biggest change is just how much time I can now spend with my clients. I love my couples, and I want to be around them and get to know them. Now I have the time to do that. I try to sit down and meet with my couples in person at least 3 times. I don’t want to just be the photographer guy that shows up on the wedding day. I want them to know me as well and be excited when I show up. That’s the relationships I’m trying to build.

Big Changes for the 2017 Wedding Season

Print. Print. Print. I’m preaching this hard to all the people I talk to. I’m telling you, you need to get your photos printed. If you just have digitals, you are not going to fully enjoy them. You might post them on Facebook, but then they disappear and you won’t see them again for like 5 years. Prints are physical. They’re there for you to see and touch and experience on a daily basis. This is what people need and I now have the time to meet with my couples, show them the photos, and help them create something that’s meaningful. I’ve already been doing this with a few, and it has made such a difference.

2017 engagement photo at Wilson Park

Lastly, I want to be more of a helper. I want to help people before the wedding, during the wedding, and after. Planning a wedding is tough stuff, and very few people have been to as many weddings as I have, so it makes sense to help them out. I always ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” During the wedding day, I want to be more of a guide. I want to help people know exactly what to do and when, so they don’t have to stress at all. After the wedding, I want to help them create albums and wall art, so there photos actually mean something.

engagement photo spinning girl

I know that was a lot of talking and rambling, but I’m really pumped about the Big Changes for the 2017 Wedding Season. This is my job now, and I’m all in. I want to be hardcore and do everything I can to create a wonderful experience for as many people as I can. 2017 wedding season, here we come!

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Personalized Wedding Websites to Share With Wedding Guests

I’m always looking for new ways to help out my couples or new things to offer. One of the big changes we made in the past few years was including albums and prints for our couples. I have loved being able to give our couples something physical instead of just digital files. In the past few months, I’ve also started creating personalized wedding websites to share with wedding guests. So far I’m loving it.

Personalized Wedding Websites to Share With Wedding Guests

Wedding websites have been around for quite some time. They’re a fun way to share information with wedding guests before and possibly after the wedding. It can have a bunch of useful information to make life easier.  I’m pretty sure The Knot and several other wedding websites provide these free of charge, but there are some issues with them. First of all, the couple has to do all of the work. They have to put in all the information and upload photos and make sure it all works out. For my couples, I do most of the heavy lifting. I put in as much information as I can on my own and upload all the photos. My couples already have enough going on with preparing a wedding; they don’t need anything else to stress them out. The free websites also don’t look that great. There aren’t a ton of options, and most of them will have ads all over them. My websites look professional and are made just for the couple.

Personalized Wedding Websites to Share With Wedding Guests wedding website that ads date to calendar

I love all the options for the sites. There are sections for information on the couple, a wedding timeline, a map to the venue, galleries, and a wedding registry. I really can cover all the important things while still making the site interesting and useful for people. The great thing is I can remove any of those sections if needed.

My plan is to start creating Personalized Wedding Websites to share With Wedding Guests for all of my couples. I believe it’s something that they will enjoy having and it will be something to help out the guests. In the end, that’s what I’m here for. I just want the overall wedding to be a blast for everyone.

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Justin and Cori’s Outdoor Engagement Photos in Fayetteville

I’ve often said how much I love engagement photos, and I really, really do. It’s a great chance to hang out with my couple and to explore and get great photos without the stress of the wedding day. We’ll often go to a few different locations to get some different looks. For Justin and Cori, we did all outdoor engagement photos, but we were able to get several different looks in just two areas.

Justin and Cori’s Outdoor Engagement Photos

This shoot was just so much fun. Justin and Cori are lovely people to be around. They are both laid back, but what stuck out the most to me was how much Cori laughed. She just laughed the whole time, and it just really showed how much she enjoys being with Justin.

Mount Kessler

Justin and Cori suggested going out to Mount Kessler in Fayetteville. I had never been there before so I was game. To my surprise, there were a bunch of ball fields where we met up. I’m guessing there’s a bunch of trails around there, but we used what we had. Around all the ball fields were woods, so we were able to create some really cool stuff just there. We had this rock to sit on, a stream that we were barely able to get across, this big whole in the ground, and then a field with high, golden grass.

Justin and Cori's Outdoor Engagement Photos Engagement photos standing in a creek couple sitting and laughing during engagement engagement photos in a field while picking her up

We really were only about 100 yards from the parking lot, and we didn’t move more than 100 yards in any direction. I was really impressed with what all we could do in that one small area. I know there has to be more to Mount Kessler, so I’m planning on going back and exploring in the future.

Wilson Park

Our second stop was Wilson Park in Fayetteville. I’ve used Wilson Park for countless shoots, but I still always find a way to make something new. Over by the castle is a bridge. I had seen this bridge several times but never done anything with it. I had Justin leaning against one of the walls with Cori hugging into him. After moving around a bit, I noticed that the wall was curved and created this really interesting look. They turned out to be some of my favorites.

engagement photo with silhouette and sun couple together on a bride hugging romantic engagement photo on bridge

These two rocked their outdoor engagement photos! We created some truly original photos that were packed full of emotion and had a good time doing it. I also found a new place to shoot, so that’s always a plus. Justin and Cori will be getting married in October so be on the lookout for more amazing photos of these two!

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Josh and Misha’s Northwest Arkansas Wedding

Each Northwest Arkansas wedding is unique, and one thing I love about being a wedding photographer is that I get to see the different personalities and relationships. Some weddings are very calm and laid back, others are very elaborate and focused on the decor, and others are just big partiers. Josh and Misha had a lovely mixture of all three. Overall they were pretty laid back, the wedding was beautiful, and they threw a great party.

Josh and Misha’s Northwest Arkansas Wedding

I first knew it was going to be an interesting day when I met the girls at the Chancellor Hotel. They were laughing and having a good time, and we did all types of goofy things. One bridesmaid had a mustache tattooed on her finger, so we had some fun mustache photos. Later the girls decided to get on the bed and jump. I think that might have been after they all did a shot together. That would make sense.

having your dog at your wedding the kiss at the Garden Room high angle bridal portrait with window light walking down the aisle with two dads first dance with sunset in background girls pretending to kiss groom Dancing with a dinosaur at a wedding Josh and Misha's Northwest Arkansas WeddingThe guys were just as much fun. We met them at The Garden Room, and they were already dressed and ready to go. Josh has such a kind and calm demeanor, but you can really tell he is listening and cares. It’s hard to explain, but he’s a great guy. His brother was more on the goofy side. He showed that throughout the entire night, but what sticks out to me was when he tried to karate kick Josh in the head during family photos (he succeeded by the way).

There were some other awesome surprises throughout the night. On top of the cake was none other than Ninja Turtles! How cool is that? Then, during speeches, they surprised Josh with a video from one of his military friends that couldn’t be there. They also broke out in a sing along to Lean On Me. If all of this wasn’t cool enough, later in the night when everyone was dancing, a dinosaur joined the party. Yep, one of Josh’s friends got into a dinosaur costume, and it was glorious.

I just met with Josh a week ago to deliver their album, and it was great seeing him again and looking through the photos. The wedding was shot back in October, so it was nice to get to relive all the fun moments from their Northwest Arkansas Wedding. I hope they enjoyed the whole process as much as I did.

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Creating a Free Photography Business Education Website

My head is a constant explosion of thoughts and ideas. The past two nights I’ve had a hard time sleeping because I just had too much to think about. One idea that keeps popping up into my head is about creating a free photography business education website. I know that sounds really confusing, so I’ll try to explain what I mean.

Creating a Free Photography Business Education Website

One struggle I’ve run into over the past 8 years of being in the photography business is that I have no business education. I know plenty about photography, and I can handle myself in all photography situations, but when it comes to running a business, I’m pretty lost. I’ve managed to figure out some things over the years, but it’s mainly been through common sense or just experience. There are so many things I would do differently if I could go back to previous years. With that said, there’s still plenty of things I don’t know and I’m not good at. With pretty much every business, you have people who’s sole job is to focus on marketing or sales or expenses, but I have to do all of those things myself. This website would be a place for me to learn and to help out other photographers as they start up and run their own business.

The website would be a mixture of things. I would blog just like I do on this site and my other blogs, but everything would be focused on the business side of running a photography company. Some of it would be sharing things I’ve learned and some of it would be just my struggles and thought process. My hope is that it would be a place where photographers could come to learn but also share their wisdom. I might even do some videos for it, but who knows?

There are a few things holding me back from creating this site. One, there are already a bunch of educational sites out there. I don’t know if I would be able to even get people’s attention or have anyone visit the site. The one plus on this side is that very few of the sites are dedicated to running a business, so that might help. Two, I’m already really busy, so I don’t know how much time I would have to focus on this. If I do something, I want it to be good. Third, and this one isn’t a big deal, I haven’t thought of a name for the website. I’m sure a lot of the simple ones are taken like “Build Your Photography Business” or “Become a Pro Photographer,” so I’d have to go check on these and see if I can come up with something interesting.

I know I’ve had my struggles along the way in this business, so I’d love to help others out by Creating a Free Photography Business Education Website. I think it would give me an opportunity to give back and also to get rid of that teaching itch I get every now and again. Anyway, this is what I’m thinking about. Hopefully I’ll follow through with it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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Answers to Basic Photography Questions from the Workshop

When you really love doing something, you will want to learn as much about it as possible. I know I am constantly trying to learn things about photography, and I’ve been doing it for about 15 years. Earlier this month, I had a Basic Photography Workshop at Fayetteville High School.  I believe everyone learned a lot at this workshop, but we didn’t have time to cover everything. I had each attendee write down a question (or more), and today I’m going to try to write out Answers to Basic Photography Questions from the Workshop.

Answers to Basic Photography Questions from the Workshop

Alright, so some of these might apply to all of you, and some of them might be just for certain people. Feel free to read as many as you want. Many of them were answered during the workshop, so I’ll be skipping those. If you feel like I didn’t cover your question, let me know.

Questions about Flash Photography

I had two different questions about flash. We didn’t really get into flash because this was a basic photography workshop, but I’ll try to give as much info as needed. I do plan on having a flash workshop in the future, so make sure to sign up for that.

First off, there isn’t a necessary rule of when to use flash or not. Most people will use it when there isn’t enough light, and that of course makes sense, but there are ways to avoid using flash altogether if you really, really want to. On the other hand, I sometimes use flash when there is plenty of light. It all comes down to the situation and what you want the final photo to look like. If you’re just trying to get a well exposed photo and you can’t get your settings where you want them (ex: shutter speed is too slow for sports), then use a flash. I do that all the time. If you’re looking to do something creative, that might be another situation to use flash. Like the photo below. I knew the look I wanted. We were outside in the middle of the day, so I purposely used flash to create this look.

using flash creatively

The other question was about how to control a flash. Another big thing I have to say is I never use the built in flash on a camera. I always use a separate flash unit. There are some really cheap options out there, so don’t think you can’t afford one. As far as controlling it, there are different modes, just like your camera. If you want it to be automatic, use TTL mode. If you want control, turn it to Manual. From there, the power is control in fractions: 1/128th all the way to 1/1.

Questions about Photo Editing

Just like flash, we didn’t cover this, and I will be having a workshop in the future. Editing can be crazy complex or relatively simple. My thought has always been to learn what I needed and ignore the rest. For most people, I would suggest to start very basic and then learn more.

The first question is where to edit the photo. There are some free options out there these days. I haven’t messed with them but that is an option. The most used is Adobe Lightroom. There are also programs that usually come with a camera like Nikon has Nikon Capture NX. Then there’s always Photoshop, but that’s the most complex and expensive option.

When you’re just starting out with editing, there’s only a few things I would mess around with at first: exposure, contrast, highlights, and shadows. These in general will help you get your photo to looking good. Exposure changes the overall lightness or darkness of the image. Highlights and Shadows are similar in this except they only affect either the brightest parts or the darkest points. This allows you to brighten or darken certain parts of the photo without changing the entire photo. Contrast gives your photos that pop, but try not to overdo it.

Basic settings in Lightroom for beginners

I had one other advance question about sharpening files for print and general files. In most cases, I do all of my sharpening when I initially edit a photo. Most of my prints get sent off to a company and I’m not sure what they do on their end. When I’m printing on my own, I usually put a low amount of sharpening in the settings. Print resolution can also affect the way the final print looks. As far as different files go, I use my largest files for print, no matter what size the print is. When I’m doing things for the web, I have to make the files much smaller. You can do this manually in your editing program either when you export the image or in Photoshop under Image-Image Size.

Answers to Basic Photography Questions from the Workshop

Questions about Cameras

Cameras can be so confusing. Each camera is different and they have so many buttons and options. These questions are pretty random, so I’m just going to try to answer them.

Store Camera with Lens: Not sure if it really matters. The biggest thing is just making sure they are stored in a safe/padded place. There can be some issues with putting a lens on and off over again. With all that said, I store mine without a lens on it, but that’s mainly for space reasons.

AE-L and AF-L Buttons: These stand for Autoexposure Lock and Autofocus Lock. Basically, you can use these buttons to either lock the exposure or the focus. You can change what the button does in the menu, so it does one or the other or possibly both. Why would you use these? AE-L is used when you know your camera might screw up the exposure. You aim your camera at something and get a meter reading. Then you can use the AE-L button to lock that exposure. Then you can aim the camera somewhere else and the exposure won’t change. I use AF-L more. This lets me set my focus point and keep it from changing. Sometimes people or things will walk in front of my subject or the camera will try to focus on something else. By using AF-L, I know my focus won’t change.

Built in Mics: Most newer cameras can do video now, so they do have built in mics. I haven’t used them most, but from what I read, they aren’t very good. If that’s you’re only option though, use it.

Questions about Building a Business

For me, these were the most exciting questions to receive. This shows that someone is really interested in photography and growing it. I’ll give some general advice.

The biggest thing for a blooming photographer that wants to turn it into a business is to have knowledge and practice. Learn, learn, learn, and then practice, practice, practice. There’s a ton of free lessons out there. I have plenty on this site, and YouTube is filled with knowledge. For practicing, I’d suggest you talk to friends and family members. Don’t charge at first. Just practice. If you can’t find people, there are cheap mannequin you can use as well.

As you’re doing all of this, you might want to start building a following. Blogs are a good place as well as Instagram. You can get a free blog in lots of places, but I’d suggest WordPress.com. Later, you can pay and get a professional site. Instagram is extremely popular and a great place for photos. You can use it to find models or customers.

Once you feel you have a solid set of skills and have practiced a lot, then you can start pursing paying clients. Start by shooting the same things you have been shooting. Don’t jump into weddings if you’ve never shot a wedding. Focus on things that aren’t high priority and that can be redone if possible. This protects you and makes it less stressful.

Man, that was a super long post but I wanted to make sure I gave Answers to Basic Photography Questions from the Workshop. Again, if I didn’t answer your question, let me know. Also, be on the lookout for the future workshops. Thanks again for attending the workshop and supporting Fayetteville High School.


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Switching a website to Https

I’ve always thought of myself as a tech savvy type of guy. A long time ago I built some websites and messed with coding, and I’m always messing around with new tech. One of the things about owning my own business is that I try to do most things on my own. Just recently I learned that I needed to make a change to my website. There’s a new security protocol and websites are needing to change from http to https. I’m not going to go into all the details about the why or even the how, but switching a website to https is important and can also be a big pain.

Switching a website to Https

I spent a good chunk of my weekend switching two websites over to https. Both have brought about different challenges. This website, my wedding website, is hosted by Creative Motion Design, and they did most of the transition for me. I still found, though, that there were some errors. When you switch to https, it’s like making a new site. That means that all old links using http have to be changed. I had a bunch of images and links on my blog that were no longer working, so I had to go back in and just change the link to https. It’s not really hard, but it did take some time.

The second site, my senior site, was a different issue. I had to do the whole process myself. The first step was getting a SSL certificate to create a https site. Then I had to write some code in a .httaccess file to make sure only my https site showed up. Then the real issue showed up. My site was no longer running the way it was supposed to. The menu and everything were messed up. Lucky for me, Creative Motion Design was willing to help  out. They fixed the computer version, but I’m still having issues with the mobile side.

With all that said, I think switching a website to https is something important to do. It makes your site more secure, and it should help out some with your Google ranking. My suggestion would be to read up on the process before you go jumping in, make a backup of your website, and if you have any doubts, find a professional to do it for you.

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Celebration of Smiles Charity Photo Shoot

One thing I really love about being a full time photographer is the things I can do now that I have more time. Since August, I’ve been reaching out to organizations and trying to find ways to volunteer and give back. I’ve been working with Sheep Dog Impact Assistance for several years and just started helping at the Metsquerade gala last year, and I’ve done some work for Souls Harbor this year. I’m really excited to announce I’ll be doing a Celebration of Smiles charity photo shoot on April 20th!

Celebration of Smiles Charity Photo Shoot

Celebration of Smiles is a nationwide campaign put together by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) to benefit Operation Smiles. Operation Smiles helps children born with a cleft lip by providing them with free corrective surgery. In most cases, the cost to fix a child’s smile through the program is only $240. Imagine that, changing a life for such a little cost.

The charity photo shoot is centered around the idea of an individual’s smile. I will be taking individual portraits and providing a 5×7. The minimum donation for the 5×7 is $24. The cool thing about that is that every 10 people that show up means one child can get the operation! Of course people can always donate a larger amount if they want to and have a bigger impact. This shoot could be beneficial for a lot of people. It could be used for photos of each child, a business headshot, even a high school senior, or just for fun!

Celebration of Smiles Charity Photo Shoot

Celebration of Smiles is on April 20th and there are 15 minute time slots starting at 2 pm and going all the way to 7 pm. I’ve also set up a way to schedule your shoot in advance. I highly suggest you take advantage of this. I’m also really excited to announce that our church, Keypoint, has volunteered to let us use their south campus for the shoot.

I really hope the Celebration of Smiles Charity Photo Shoot is a big success. As a photographer, smiles are extremely important to me, and I want every child to feel confident when he or she smiles. We have a chance to really help with this. Please share this information with as many people as you can. Let me know if you have any questions, and I can’t wait to see a lot of you on April 20th!

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