Becca, AJ, and their BEAUTIFUL, Fall, November wedding is the winner of the 2018 Wedding Couple Anniversary Contest.
Holy Moly! This year’s competition was INTENSE! Last year’s competition was tight too and the winner won with 285 votes. THIS YEAR…Becca and AJ won with over 1300 votes. HOW is that even possible?! HOLY CRAP! So, a HUGE congrats goes out to them again! Let’s give them a HUGE round of applause! They deserve it! They’ll be receiving an anniversary night out valued at over $250! I’ll be in contact, you two! Their wedding was one for the books so please head on over and relive all that autumn goodness one more time. See it HERE BUT don’t forget to come back because I have a lot more to show you and tell you about!
Also, let’s give their close competition a huge round of applause, as well! Meghan and Nate battled it out all week and I kept giggling as I saw the notifications popping up. It was CLOSE! Jeesh! Meghan and Nate are the runners-up coming in with over 1100 votes! Their wedding is one to relive, as well! Remember that gorgeous Beauty and the Beast wedding? Yep! That was theirs and you can relive it RIGHT HERE!
The end of my 2018 wedding photography season is here. HOW is that even possible?! I remember holding on to that box of 20 USB drives this past spring and thinking, “Well, here goes nothing!”….and here we are…summing it all up! This was only my third full year of business and I still had both my kids with me, at home full time, until just this fall, and I really thought I had lost it booking 20 weddings…but it was even better than I ever imagined! My business took off and went places and I felt like it was dragging me behind…in a great way! Running a small business is hard and that’s why many don’t make it. I see people (especially photographers) posting about how they keep pushing their business and trying and trying and they feel like they can’t get ahead. So, that’s what I meant by it “dragging me” along. I felt like this year my business really took off and kept growing and things kept happening to make it bigger and better and I was all like…..”WAIIIIITTTTTTTTTTT. I can’t keep up! I need more hands! I need more time! WAIT!” So, yea…that’s where I’m at going into 2019 and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve got so many thoughts right now. SO MANY – both from a personal AND business perspective! So, in true Hannah fashion, I’m just going to spew them out in this blog and ramble my big heart out until I feel some extra closure!
MAY THE ODDS BE FOREVER IN YOUR FAVOR MAKING IT TO THE END OF THIS ONE. 😀
Enjoy! Let’s do it! I’m going to break it down into sections! So, here we go!
Holy Moly! I looked at that number this morning and still couldn’t believe it! No wonder my fingers are stiff and my cameras are tired and my lenses are making rattling sounds and my computer is slow! As I mentioned, the 2018 wedding photography season was my busiest year yet…and only my third full year doing this. That’s just nuts to me! When I first started out, I was told not to expect to pull a profit instead of a loss until after my third full year. That makes sense. I remember reading that a business in West Virginia has to pull a profit after the third year in order to maintain the current business license it possesses. So, I’m digitally hugging every single one of you who are reading this. YOU made this happen. It doesn’t matter if you’re a current client, past client, family of a client, friend of a client, friend of mine, family member of mine, or just a loyal blog reader…THANK YOU! Thank you for everything you’ve done to make my business successful and to break that third year “rule”. When I first started all this, I had pretty good intentions of going back to nursing when both my kids were in school full time…which would be the Fall of 2020. By my third year (right now), I have made it to a point where I have matched what I brought in as a nurse which means I can confidently tell you I’ll be doing this for a long, long time! YAY! That’s right people…I have no intentions of going back to nursing now! While I loved my job as a nurse, I love this even more! I used to miss the satisfaction I got from a hard day of work and making people’s days better…I’m getting that through wedding photography…SO THANK YOU! You all had a part in this! I’ll be bringing wedding photography goodness to you all for years and years and years to come now! I can’t even wait!
So, this was literally me at my last 2018 wedding of the year and this is also me now thinking of the future! Hannah Barlow Photography jazz hands, everyone! It was also Kari’s lighting test shot for Lisa and Dan’s wedding (which you can find HERE).
NEXT! I’ve always been about having a life plan and SETTING GOALS.
This past year was all about the bigger and better. During down season this past winter, I logged goals for the year – make my own light, tell a better story, SHOOT STRAIGHTER (that’s the only one I missed…and I paid for it in post processing and editing…I’m a chronic crooked shooter…whomp, whomp), book more weddings, etc. I also looked at my business strategy and really nailed down where I wanted my business to go…what I wanted it to be in the future. Most of you know this – my heart and soul cries for weddings and couples in love. There’s not a day that goes by I don’t find myself watching other wedding photographers make magic. Pinning ideas on Pinterest. Texting Kari about my new ideas. So, as you all know, I decided to cut out all non-couple photography and go full steam ahead with JUST engagements, weddings, and the rare maternity session for returning Hannah Barlow Photography couples. I know there was some groaning from my past clients…and I appreciate all your understanding! It’s funny. It was really scary cutting out those sessions and the resulting income but other photographers told me once you follow your heart and zero in on what you love and what you’re good at…bigger things will come. THEY WERE RIGHT! I’ve had so many new clients email me and tell me they were so happy to find me…a photographer who is “just” a wedding photographer. They appreciated that my #1 goal for my business is to photograph couples. They also raved about my blogs and the stories I tell! YAY!
That brings me to my next topic: THE BLOGS!
At the beginning of 2016, I was two months into business. Like any new business owner, I was looking for ways to draw in new clients having next to nothing to show them (I had one wedding under my belt at that point and that was it for my portfolio). I was told blogging can do many things – boosts Google rankings, keep traffic going to your site, help people find you. So, blogging is what I started doing. However, I was WARNED. I was warned over and over and over again by other successful photographers that I should only blog things that are my very best work where all the perfect elements came together like magic and created an image that can’t be replicated. They said I should only blog sessions, couples, and weddings that are my favorite and weddings that “match my brand”. *tire screeching halt* …Huh?! I mean…WHAT?! Don’t get me wrong, I do understand what they’re talking about. I get it. I actually know some of those photographers whose every wedding meets their mark for personal taste and matches their website perfectly and it’s because of that blogging strategy that got them where they are today. Well, you all know me. I’m not one to go with what’s “in” and to do what I’m told is “correct”. I went with my gut. I took a chance. My gut told me I wanted to showcase ALL the Hannah Barlow Photography clients…and that’s just what I did. I never did and never will turn away weddings because it’s just not my thing or just not my style. I don’t reject weddings just because they aren’t my particular taste AND I’m surely not going to keep them off the blog because it doesn’t match my website. That’s insanity! I take on weddings based on availability and simply because that particular couple wants me there. It’s that plain and simple. The little details are just icing on the cake. If a couple asks me to be their wedding photographer, that’s all the need to know and I’ll book them. That’s all that matters in the end! And you all know I end up LOVING all the Hannah Barlow Photography wedding couples and THAT is the #1 reason why I broke the stupid (yes…I said it)…the stupid “rule” about only blogging the weddings that are perfect to my brand and match my website to a tee. I mean…there is no PERFECT wedding from our end of it. I tell all my couples…something WILL always go wrong and it does…and then I blog about it telling the WHOLE story…not just the perfect and visually pleasing parts! THAT is how Hannah Barlow Photography blogs were born and YOU are the reason they have become so popular! THANK YOU! I actually saw my name pop up in a photography community this summer. Someone asked about blogging and another person asked if she’d read or seen mine. I had a total “moment” right there! WEEEEEE! I then got an email about it because she noticed my blogs weren’t like other photography blogs…YAY! I’m breaking out of the bubble! It feels SO GOOD! OK, NEXT topic!
On a lighter note, here are some FUNNY THOUGHTS AND FACTS I’ve jotted down throughout the year (…yes…because I’m all about my lists).
A PERSONAL NOTE: HEALTH & HAPPINESS
That photo above prompted a personal thought! It makes me realize how far I’ve come personally in the “health” department. I’ve had that grey dress for almost two years now. It’s been VERY good to me for weddings and is so comfortable! It’s a little too big now though. It’s because I made some changes to my personal life this year too. You know, I didn’t make a big deal about it…my close friends know. I didn’t because I’ve always been thin so it seemed silly to “brag”, post before and after photos, and all that jazz you usually see when people decide to make some life changes. I’ve lost a few pounds and it’s not really noticeable to most…so no…I didn’t mention it publicly. I have always been blessed to have amazing metabolism and I can pretty much consume whatever I want without “real” noticeable issues. I’ve never been “fit” , however, and the nurse in me knows that while it may not be noticeable now…not taking care of my body and abusing it simply because I can is NOT a good idea. AND, if I’m being honest, my diet was absolutely horrendous. My husband pointed it out years ago. While he’s a grilled chicken and veggie kind of guy, I was a fried chicken tender, french fries, a can of Coca Cola, and two servings of dessert kind of girl. I’m not even kidding. Friends who have known me for years can confirm. Yes…I’m a small person…but I can eat just as much as a 200+ lb. grown man. NOT good. So, I joined my husband and we really nailed down foods that we love that are low carb (but still tasty and not entirely salads). We’ve got diabetics in our family too and I’m a nurse so I KNOW how to prepare a low carb meal…I just never did. Call me lazy. It’s the honest truth.
I also got myself a coach…a Beachbody coach. While I am not typically a fan of MLM (multi-level marketing), I made an exception…because Jessica Brown is the bomb.com….yes…I said it. She’s been doing this for SO long. When I decided to finally put in the required effort and try to get fit, my husband suggested I reach out to an old friend of his from high school…Jessica (Shaffer) Brown. She practices what she preaches while being realistic and giving us all permission to fail and have that dessert. You know why I really love her though? Because it just feels “normal”…she’s not pushing a no carb, keto like diet, or any extreme diet you have to live on for the rest of your life. She doesn’t push crazy ridiculous workouts and act like life is perfect and everyone should have time for a 60-90 minute workout…every day. Nope. I was always one to make the excuse I was too busy to work out and I’ve always admitted I hate it…I hate working out (still do). I played sports and I always hated conditioning too. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point I love it, but Jess introduced me to workouts that were 20-40 minutes. She keeps me accountable. She offers early morning workouts to log in and workout with her (which I never participate in…whomp whomp..but was worth mentioning). I never feel like she’s badgering me even when she’s pushing me. So, I’ve stuck with it since March…even when I took about 4 weeks off here and there…she has gotten me right back to it AND I feel amazing. It is true that taking care of your body and eating right can change you physically and mentally and I’m even happier than I was before…even though my favorite dress is now too big!
So, if you need a pick me up for the coming year…I’m getting on board with a 20 minute workout plan. You should contact Jessica and do it with us!! I’ve NEVER stuck with any workout more than a couple weeks…but this coming March will be one year! This new workout is six weeks and Kari and I are doing it. Kari and I are actually finishing up the LIIFT 4 program right now. This isn’t a spammy plug either, just to be clear…Jessica didn’t even know I was blogging this but I did ask permission to post about her business on my business blog! You won’t regret it and she’s not an extra cost either…you just pay for the Beachbody programs and necessities like the rest of us…she’s the bonus! Make sure you sign up through her though so you can participate with all of us and we can see and cheer each other on! Alright..alright…enough of the promoting…right?! So, here are some photos of Jess. This is why this is the only workout program and diet I’ve ever stuck to…because she’s real about life. It isn’t about 90 minute workouts without your kids and eating like a darn rabbit for the rest of our lives. It’s about grouping together and supporting each other while our kids climb all over us…interrupt us…and while we sneak the last of their donut from the table. Here is her link! RIGHT HERE! AND here she is…telling us that we can sneak that donut…that we can talk our husbands into working out with us…that our kids most certainly WILL interrupt our workouts…and our pets too! We’re in this together…and I love it!! Heck, Kari often uses her daughter as the weight when she’s fussy (we did three sets of crunches and she held the baby the whole time). Her dogs and my cat often get in our way during lunges….and we’re witnessing this all on our virtual chats in the comforts of our own homes. Nope. I’ve never stuck to a workout or diet. Yes…I’ve fallen off the wagon and taken a month off. Yep. This holiday season I fell off the low carb bandwagon BIG TIME…but this is the first time I keep jumping back on the fitness and healthy eating train. It honestly feels SO GOOD!
If you need a boost, you need Jessica! I needed her and didn’t even know it! So, that was one of the big changes I made personally for 2018!
…and just because you actually read all that rambling…here is a before and after of me. Slight differences…but there IS a difference!! You can see it in my face the most! WHOA! That’s my point…I haven’t crash dieted…it was slow. I’ve had lots of cookies this past week. I didn’t workout every day…like 4 time a week for 20-30 minutes each…it worked! Thanks, Jess!! YOU DA BEST! Left photo is summer 2017…right photo is fall 2018…baby steps!
My family is pretty amazing…I definitely can’t complain!! I’ve forever grateful to every single person who has supported me AND watched my children while I worked the weekends. My heart could burst thinking of all the family and people I’ve met at weddings this year too. This year really stands out to me using that one word: FAMILY. As any Hannah Barlow Photography couple knows, I’ve very careful about getting my family groupings correct ahead of time to be sympathetic to any possible difficult family situations. This year we had it all…united families…divorced families…quirky families…quiet/reserved families…remarried families…estranged families…adopted families…you name it. We ran into it. You can imagine how difficult it might be to come together on a wedding day and put any and all differences aside…and every single family and friend that we photographed did exactly that this year. I saw broken families come together and make their son or daughter’s day amazing. I saw political drama pushed to the side. I saw people power through awkward moments and sad moments and happy moments. It really made me realize this world is not such a bad place. It also made me open my eyes and realize how much social media was clouding my view of all the goodness that’s in our world and all the opportunities we have to make a good situation great and a bad situation good. So, I’m hugging and high fiving all of you for making 2018 an eye opening year and a year that made me realize there are so many great people in this world who will do just about anything for their loved ones despite the circumstances! You’re all gems in my book!
Speaking of family…I want to shout out Kari’s husband, David, Jenna’s husband, Ryan, Kat’s husband, Dave, Lacey’s husband, Matt, AND my husband, John for holding down the fort on Saturdays while we were out shooting weddings. I picked two jobs (nursing and wedding photography) which require me to be away from home on the weekends. My husband, in particular, might not love the idea but has absolutely no issues keeping the house cleaner than I do and keeping the kids alive an happy! We’re all forever thankful for all your support, you guys! I’m particularly thankful because I just couldn’t do this job without these amazing ladies either! At the very last wedding, Kari and I went out to grab a late bite to eat and to grab some drinks to celebrate our second full wedding season together. We sat there thinking how lucky we are to have husbands who don’t care at all if we don’t come straight home. THANK YOU, gentlemen. We appreciate it!
THOSE WIVES – MY ASSISTANTS/SECOND SHOOTERS/LIFE SAVERS
I am forever grateful for the people who help me out! When I first started this, it was “the thing” in the local photography community to do shout outs in local social media forums asking for help and assistance at your next wedding when you needed an assistant or second shooter. Honestly, it stressed me out. You KNOW me by now…I need a plan. I need consistently! I’m a self admitted control freak and crazy person and I like things to move like a well oiled machine. Randomly choosing people out of a social media group, having never met them, having no idea how they’d act…was NOT for me. I know people still do it and it’s accepted…but it stressed me out exponentially! Enter Ashleigh, Kari, Jenna, Kat, and Lacey!
I’m giggling right now. Apparently, Ashleigh works a lot harder than the rest of us because I literally did not have ONE photo of her not working or a photo that was even slightly posed! I’ll get ya next year, girl! THIS is the current Hannah Barlow Photography team for 2018! It was an amazing year. This was the year I stopped getting nervous at weddings…yes, yes, yes…I still get stressed. That’s different than nervous though! We have a solid plan and a solid team and a solid way of doing things. I noticed right off the bat weddings were just “easy” compared to when I was new. This year it didn’t matter how stressful the day actually was because there was a streamlined approach to each and we knew we could do it! We knew our roles. All these ladies above knew how I liked things but weren’t afraid to make suggestions and give me their input. It was toward the end of the year I really knew we had done it…we had created what I had always wanted…that well oiled machine. Without me even having to ask, things were happening. Without me having to put in the extra mind power to remember the little things (like the random stray hair, the uneven grouping of families, etc.), these ladies were stopping me and fixing it for me. I can’t tell you what an amazing thing that is to have…and I think my couples this year felt the benefits more than ever! I just feel like we REALLY had our you-know-what together this year! Yes…I said it…I can’t wait to fine tune it even more next year!
A SPECIAL SHOUTOUT TO KAT!
It’s true. I could NOT have done this year without all those amazing ladies above along with our support people (our hubbies) but I truly would NOT have been able to shoot and photograph Emily and Steph’s wedding (see it HERE) without Kat. If you all remember, I was sick that wedding…REALLY sick. I was so sick I truly didn’t know if I’d be able to get out of bed and do it that morning. From beginning to end, from cheering me on and mentally pumping me up to taking more than half the photos and busting her butt, Kat saved the day and we were able to power through and create AMAZING images for those ladies. Of all my assistants, Kat’s the one with the most technical photography training and experience but the one who has done the least amount of weddings with me…and all with ONE arm. That’s right. You probably never noticed because the girl is wonder woman. From the moment I met her and found out she’s a photographer who shoots with her left arm only and takes AMAZING images on top of it, I was awed…and she’s become one of my closest friends and my book soul mate (we read those dirty romance novels together like a book club). So, I just felt like I needed to give her a special shout out because I only got to shoot one wedding with her this year and it was the one I needed an assistant/second shooter the most (she does my Maryland weddings since she lives in Virginia). We met through a photography class in 2016 and the rest is history! I only mentioned the way she shoots too because it’s made me be a better photographer. Often, when I’m feeling tired or my hand hurts or I just can’t seem to get it done one handed (hanging over balconies while holding a flash in the other hand), I think “If Kat can do it, I can do it.” She’s always with me and she was there in the beginning when my business was BRAND NEW! Although, I still haven’t mastered putting my hair up with on hand!! I’m working on it! HA! Now I’m getting all sappy!
2019 WEDDINGS ARE COMING!
Next year’s lineup had a lot of competition with this year and some big shoes to fill…I have no doubt they’re going to be AMAZING! We’re returning to some old venues and we’re also going to explore some new ones! I haven’t met them all yet, but so far I already have 19 officially booked and a few in the works. It’s just crazy to me that my year is almost entirely booked before it’s even here! So, again…THANK YOU to each and every one of you for making this happen! Here’s another sneak peek of the 2019 couples I have met so far!
WAAAHHHHHHH!!! I’m still not ready to say “Goodbye” to all of you! This was the year of some big turning points for Hannah Barlow Photography. You all had a huge part in it! THANK YOU!
…SPEAKING OF TURNING POINTS!
My studio/office is ALMOST done! SO CLOSE! I can’t even wait to show all of you!! It’s going to have a bright, white, modern feel that just screams WEDDING! It’s got an office area for me and my future secretary (fingers crossed…a new member may be added by April). It’s got a meeting area for potential, current, and past clients (come visit me). It’s going to have a dedicated room JUST for boudoir! It’s also going to have a boutique photography room for mini-sessions. That’s right…UGH! Yes…I’m circling back around JUST for seasonal, ONE DAY mini sessions and yes…you can bring your family :-). Kari’s super excited and has already started brainstorming the possibilities for themes! And yes…it will have its own blog to present its debut and I’m hoping to do a little open house too!
Are you a reviewer? Better yet…are you a review reader?! I sure am! When I buy ANYTHING anymore, I read the reviews first to help make my decision! Well, most of my couples do the same thing when hiring a wedding photographer. So, I am shamelessly asking all of you to leave a quick review on my Facebook page! So, please head on over and drop me a sentence or two and help future couples decide whether or not to hire me! It doesn’t matter if you’re a bride, a groom, a family member, friend, or guest…if you attended a wedding I photographed…let me (and others) hear all about it! It’s easy!
Head on over to my Facebook page HERE and tell everyone about your personal experience! I greatly appreciate it!
I could just keep going and going…because this year A LOT happened…especially behind the scenes. THOSE blogs will be coming the second and third week of January, I promise. I pushed them off this year because December was already blog heavy and I didn’t want them to lose their stoplight since I know people enjoyed them SO much last year! So…wait it out…those favorite, crowd pleasers ARE COMING – Behind the Scenes and Outtakes COMING IN JANUARY! For now…I’ll give you a little sneak peek!
There was A LOT of dress carrying, adjusting, and tossing. People don’t realize how much work goes into getting dresses safely from point A to point B, keeping the dresses safe once you get there, and then making them look pretty! I don’t always make my assistants do it either because I know how exhausting it can be!! We mix it up and take turns but one thing is constant…we are sticklers for making them look good. It’s what makes a good photo GREAT!
There was lots and lots of work with the veils too! The faces on these ones are always hilarious! I miss Kari’s baby belly!
Lighting test, please!
The dresses took a beating this year too. We tried to come to the rescue!
More lighting tests, please! Ben McMillen of McMillen Photography (HERE) even offered to stand for the test!
…and while I don’t share unflattering photos of my clients…I have no issues throwing us all under the bus! HA! DISCLAIMER: We DO wear shorts under our dresses…for this reason and this reason alone!
Are you ready to see more?! Check back in January for the fun Behind the Scenes blog AND the hilarious Outtakes blog! They were fan favorites last year so I hope you all enjoy!
…and before I end this, I want to take a serious moment. I’d love to take a moment to remember all the loved ones we’ve lost this year. This was a HARD year for my couples and their loved ones. Through the power of social media, I learned we lost many grandparents, aunts, and fur babies this year…and ones we got to know and photograph. I also lost my great-grandmother a few weeks ago. I’ve ran into a few people after the weddings who stated the photos I took were the last ones they had of their loved ones before they passed…and while I’m sad over this news, it makes me happy that I could be the one to give them those photos. <3 <3
Well, did you make it through all that randomness?! Did you?! If you did, make sure you raise your hand in the Facebook thread and let me see who the REALLY loyal blog readers are! HA! I had trouble proof reading this thing myself so I really appreciate it if you read it in its entirety! Big things are going to happen in 2019…I just KNOW IT! A special shoutout should also go specifically to my husband, John. He was supportive of this crazy adventure from Day 1 and neither of us thought it would grow to be what it already is today. I remember after getting my business license in November of 2015, he bought me my giant iMac that next month for Christmas. I would have NEVER spent the money on it at the time and looking back…I think a gesture so “small” really pushed me to get where I am today! Thanks, love…for putting up with me…for giving up your Saturdays to stay with the kids…for everything!
Thanks to all of you readers, clients, family and friends…you’re the best! DON’T FORGET ABOUT THOSE REVIEWS! CLICK HERE!