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Ashley & Ryan – A Ricciardi’s Tree Farm Wedding

2017 was a completely formative year for both me and my business. I began the year excited to meet new people, and create work that inspires me, but I was admittedly exhausted. I was still trying to catch up from a busy autumn season both with weddings and with my day job. I had such high hopes for the new year and the opportunities it would bring. Looking back a whole year later, I can confidently say that 2017 blew me away. Just 4 weeks into the year, Stephen and I fell in love, quite prematurely, with a house for sale. (Can someone point me to a support group for Zillow addiction?) In three short days, our lives went from content little apartment renters, to scared almost home owners. Two months laters, we moved into that house and have fallen more in love with it every day. I spent the summer shooting weddings, and trying to make our house a home, thinking that the biggest life changes for the year were behind us. Little did I know God had other plans. In October, I finally felt it was the right time to make the long awaited jump from a full time job with a photography business on the side to full time photographer. 367 days ago, I didn’t think I’d be blogging at 10am on a Wednesday, but here I am. I’m able to spend so much more time doing just what I love, and I feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be. It’s easy to look back at a year and pick out all the bad things that happened. But for me, it was so much easier to do the opposite. 2017 was great but I have an even better feeling about 2018.

Last year, I shot more weddings than ever before and met some of the most awesome people. Ashley and Ryan were definitely no exception. This is one of those weddings that I looked forward to from the moment they booked me. I couldn’t wait. Their wedding day was one of the first truly cold days of the year. Thanks to some strategically placed hand warmers from my rock star of a second shooter, we made some cold weather magic together. It was truly the perfect way to close out my 2017 wedding season.

Ashley & Ryan, thanks so much for trusting me with your wedding day.

Makeup // Riley Gable
Hair Stylist // Megan Buchwalter
Florist // Wild Fox & Flower
DJ // Drop The Mic
Donuts // Brewnuts
Catering // Village Catering Company
Venue //
Ricciardi’s Tree Farm
Second Shooter // Mikayla Donaldson Some of the images you see are hers.

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Baby Carson – A Rocky River Lifestyle Newborn Session

“Sunshine, won’t you be my mother.
Sunshine, come and help me sing.

The shadow proves the sunshine.”

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Kimi & Tim – A Market Garden Brewery Wedding in Ohio City

When I begin asking most of my couples about the wedding they’re planning, I hear a lot about the colors they’ll use throughout their decor, or the cake they’re so excited to eat. I love wedding details, and I’m always so excited to see their vision come to life. But I often wonder if these picture perfect weddings we’re striving for have caused us to lose sight of the things that matter.

This is why I loved being a part of Kimi & Tim’s wedding so much. When we first began planning, they made it so clear that their wedding was about the two of them, and their sweet boys. They wanted to invite those who mean the most to them, and that’s all that mattered.

Good food. Good friends. Good time. 

Their wedding was so special. I got to watch as fiances became husband and wife, and two boys became brothers. We spent the afternoon together, wandering around Ohio City, and eventually made our way to the spot where they’d say their vows. I’m so honored to have been a part of their day.

You + your loved ones are what matter on your wedding day. I hope you find the prettiest dress and that you book the most beautiful venue, but most of all, I hope that you remember why this is all happening – because you found someone and fell in love.

Bride’s Dress // Radiant Bride
Makeup // Beauty Mark
Hair Stylist // Marco Alexzander
Spray Tan // Glow By Lather

Catering // Pogie’s
Venue // Market Garden Brewery Building

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Cait – A Rocky River Portrait Session

Earlier this year, Stephen and I bought a new house. It’s in a new neighborhood, outside of the city and the apartment that we had grown to love so very much. Our favorite part of that little apartment was the fact that it was a 3 minute drive to the Rocky River. Stephen loves to fish and we spent so many summer evenings on that lake together. He’d patiently wade the river, and I’d sit nearby with a book in my hand.

When Cait contacted me to schedule a session, she knew exactly where she wanted her photos taken – that same spot near the river where Stephen and I spent so many evenings together.

I love photographing other photographers. Cait recently transitioned her business from portrait work to product photography. We spent one of the last warm evenings of the year together taking photos of her for her brand new website. Am I allowed to say that we nailed it? Because we definitely did.

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Sarah & Spencer – An Oaks Lakeside Wedding at Chippewa Lake

“I’ve seen it come back, back, back and forth.
You hit the nail right on top of the head.
I know you’ve seen it all before.
But when it looks you in the eyes, it ain’t nothin’ you could say but that’s love.”

 

Bride’s Dress // La Blanca Bridal Boutique
Makeup // Moliscious
Hair Stylist // Bridal Hair by K
Florist // Precious Petals
Venue // The Oaks Lakeside at Chippewa Lake
Second Shooter // Marina Claire + Co.

 

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Evan & Sarah’s Windows on the River Wedding

“Like a river flows so surely to the sea,
Oh my darling so it goes, some things are meant to be.
So won’t you please just take my hand, and take my whole life too.
‘Cause I can’t help falling in love, in love with you.”

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Hannah & Irwin – A Mapleside Farms Solidarity Session

Photography has given me the chance to cross paths with so many wonderful people who I otherwise never would have met. I value that so very much. But there’s something extra special about being able to photograph old friends.

I’ve known Irwin since we were 13 years old, and Hannah just a few years shy of that. We went to different high schools, went to college a state apart and yet somehow now we find ourselves adults with real jobs and mortgages, living a mere 15 minute car ride away.

It’s funny how life works like that sometimes.

Hannah and Irwin have been married for 4 years now. They have a new home, and new walls to fill with memories together. In the middle of all the chaos that life has brought all of us lately, it was so good to spend an evening watching the sunset and listening to music with the two of them. When I look at these photos, I can’t help but think about how far we’ve all come. What would our 15 year old selves say about the way things are now. Did we ever think that we’d all be back together talking about having families and real, grown-up lives of our own?

I hope that these photos are the beginning of many memories to hang on their new walls – that one day these will be surrounded by photos of babies and school pictures, and that Hannah and Irwin will always remember to take a night to watch the sunset together.

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Bekah & Andrew – A Rocky River Maternity Session

“In open fields of wild flowers, she breathes the air and flies away.
She thanks her Jesus for the daisies and the roses in no simple language.

Someday she’ll understand the meaning of it all.”

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James – A Rocky River High School Senior Session

Can someone please tell me when seniors started looking like this? I don’t think you can find a picture of seventeen year old me where my lip isn’t stuck in my braces. That’s definitely not the case anymore.

So meet James. He’s a science loving, lacrosse playing senior at Rocky River High School. As soon as I met James, I knew our session would be great. He was so friendly and genuinely interested in our session. He asked about my camera and my process, and I got to explain to him how my prism works.

We started our session at the Cleveland Yacht Club. There was certainly no shortage of beautiful backdrops there. Then we finished at one of my favorite spots, Rocky River Park.

Here are some of my favorite images from my Rocky River Senior Portrait session with James.

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Stella & Shay Beauty Bar

I’ve had a long, hard struggle with my beauty routine. Ever since I can remember, it’s gone a little something like this.

Step 1: Get my hair cut at a brand new place my friend told me about.
Step 2: I’m not loving how it’s looking, but she’s not quite done yet so we still have time to save this!
Step 3: She’s done. Oh. no. She’s done.
Step 4: When asked what I think, I say “I love it!” and then I run away.
Fast forward 8 months, and we’re back at Step 1.

That was until I found Stella & Shay.

First of all, the place is GOR-GEOUS. Like can-I-bring-my-sleeping-bag-and-live-here gorgeous. Every detail was so well thought out. From the incredible pedicure bench to the sparkly chandeliers I got to stare out while my hair was getting washed. You know those scenes in all the 90’s Rom Coms where the nerdy girl is whisked away to the fancy salon where she gets a hair cut, takes her glasses off, and suddenly she’s pretty?! Well, those salons wish they were as cool as Stella & Shay.

The space was a dream to photograph, and the girls were all such a pleasure to work with. Now who wants to schedule a mani/pedi with me?

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Eva & Eric – A Greystone Hall Wedding in Akron

Shortly after a couple books me for their wedding, I send out a little questionnaire asking some questions about who they are, how they met, and all the steps that brought them to their engagement. Because Eva & Eric aren’t local to Ohio, their answers were the first things I learned about them. When I began reading and saw this – “It all started with an unfortunately placed cup of coffee, a silly children’s game and a pair of questionably tight jeans.” – I knew I was in for a good time.

Eric fell in love with Eva’s helpful nature. Eva fell in love with Eric’s sense of humor. They belong together. Eva was the most beautiful bride. She was calm, relaxed, and so obviously overjoyed to be marrying her love that nothing was going to bring her down. Eric couldn’t wait to see Eva walk down that aisle towards him. His face says it all. Everything about their wedding day was beautiful. From our bridal party portraits at Horseshoe Pond in Cuyahoga Valley National Park to their incredible reception at Greystone Hall, it all came together as it was meant to.

I’m so honored to have spent the day with these two.

Here are a few of my favorite images from Eva & Eric’s wedding day. A big thanks to my second shooter, Daniel. Some of the images you’ll see here are his.

Bride’s Dress //  Unbridaled
Bridesmaid Dresses // Atom Attire
Rings // Thomason and sons Jewelers
Makeup // Christina Freeman, Love Beautiful Skin
Hair Stylist // Cassie Riley, Love Beautiful Skin
Florist // Judy Hamilton
Venue // Greystone Hall
Caterer // Greystone Hall
Cake // Custom Cakes Creation
Band //  Allen Cruz and the Galaxy
Photobooth // Raise the Roof entertainment

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Nothing is Given, Everything is Earned – A Featured Article

I wrote this article a couple years ago as a guest contributor to a website for young female entrepreneurs,

but I thought it was worth sharing with you too.

I was 19 years old. It was super early in the morning, I was in a place I’d never been and I’d gotten no sleep. I remember how dry my eyes were from staring at the ceiling all night. My stomach was in knots, and part of me wanted to turn around, go home, and pretend like none of this was happening. You see, months ago, in a little cloud of starry-eyed optimism, I had agreed to photograph my very first wedding, and this was wedding day. As I laid in that unfamiliar bed, running through lists of reasons why I was incapable, and considering all the things that could go wrong, I panicked a little. Why was pessimistic Allison being punished for the hasty words of optimistic Allison? But there was nothing I could do about it. I was states away from home and running away seemed a bit irresponsible, so I stayed. I watched a friend walk down the aisle to meet the man of her dreams. I watched as they sang to each other during their ceremony. I watched as they hugged their grandparents tightly, and listened to the advice of the people they loved the most.  That was the day I fell in love with photographing weddings.

Here we are, 5 years and countless weddings later, and I still get those knots and kinda-want-to-run-away feelings, but it’s different now. I know these feelings come & go because I’m right where I’m supposed to be, because 5 years ago, I discovered the thing that drives me to be and do better and nothing, not even those knots can stop me.

It’s easy to make these last few years sound a little like a heroic before & after story with a nice little climax in the middle, but that’s not how it’s worked. So I’m here to talk to you about the reality of the last 5 years of my hustle.

We’ve all got that little dream inside of us. For some, we’ve told all our friends and family about our dream, and if they’re being honest, they’d say they’re a little sick of hearing about it. For others, we’re too scared to even let the words come out of our mouths. Either way, it’s in there somewhere. And now that I knew what mine was, it was time to do something about it.

I saved money, and bought some gear and started to photograph anyone I could. I did that for a long time. I second shot for other photographers, I interned and answered emails for them, and I soaked up every little piece of information they were willing to share with me. So much has changed since those days. I’ve gotten a degree, and a husband. I’ve moved cities and states. I’ve had too many jobs to mention. But this dream hasn’t ever waivered.

This year has, without a doubt, been the biggest year for my business. (I hope this is something I’m able to say every year from now until forever.) But with all of the great things that have come this year, there have been twice as many challenges because they don’t call it a hustle for nothing.

I still work full time, so that means answering emails on my lunch breaks, shooting and editing every night of the week, and giving up nearly all weekends for photo jobs. I’m using my vacation time from my full time job for the out of town weddings I’m booking. My husband and I have shared a single car for nearly two years. We both work full time jobs, with different hours and I somehow make it to all my meetings and shoots on time. (As I’m typing this out, I’m realizing how absolutely insane this is.) I’m exhausted most days. I’ve neglected my friends, I’ve had to turn down countless events and parties to make my dream happen. But never once has this dream waivered.

You’re going to see your friends making their dreams happen seemingly sooner than you are. They’re going to make it look easy, or like luck’s just on their side. You’ll make excuses for yourself. You’re going to compare yourself to others, and you’re most definitely going to want to give up. It’s not going to feel easy, and there will always be a struggle. You’ll struggle to book clients, and sell products. There are going to be things you don’t know about and things you’re too scared to learn. You’re going to feel like you’re in over your head. You’re going to spend a lot of money and you’ll probably lose some, too. You’ll make clients unhappy, and worse, you’re going to disappoint yourself. But don’t ever give up. Because it does get easier. You will book more jobs, and you will sell more product. You’re going to get emails from clients who loved your photos so much they cried. They’ll tell their friends, and write reviews. And one day, you’re going to impress even yourself. One day you’ll look back at where you started, and where you are now, and you’ll pop the champagne and celebrate the work that you’re doing. And all of this is part of the hustle.

In the last 5 years, I’ve discovered what I love most about weddings, and what I could do without. I’ve fallen in love with the sweet little moments that make each wedding its own. I’ve formed opinions on trends and color schemes and made lists of venues in my city that I love & would rather not shoot at again. I’ve learned about myself, my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned how to communicate better and how to not take everything so very personal. And I’ve got a list twice as long of things I’ve yet to learn. But every little moment has been worth it.

As soon as I’m done writing this article, I’m packing up to leave Cleveland and heading out of a state to shoot a wedding. Saturday morning, I’ll wake up with a dry mouth, and knots in my stomach, and I’ll kind of want to run away a little bit. But I won’t. I’ll stay and watch this sweet bride walk down the aisle to meet her new husband at the altar. I’ll watch them share their first dance and hug their grandparents tight. I’ll watch tears & laughs, stolen glances & whispers, and think to myself how lucky I am that this is the dream that’s inside me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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