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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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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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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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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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I believe in strong marriages over beautiful weddings. I hope and pray that all my couples spend the months and years after their wedding day growing closer together.
I want for them to be able to celebrate being with each other in the good times, and the times when it feels like it’s all falling apart.I believe that weddings are inherently beautiful. The act of committing your life to someone is one of the most pure and genuinely exquisite things there is. Everything about a wedding in addition to that covenant is meant to add to the beauty of a wedding day.The last thing that I would ever want my couples to do is plan a wedding filled with dreamy details they found on Pinterest that don’t add a thing to that promise.

So you can imagine how stoked I was to connect withe Rachel and Elijah. They are recently married, and believe so strongly in the concept of meaningful weddings that they started a business dedicated to helping couples create an intentional wedding experience that accurately represents exactly who they are. They’re so obviously in love with each other and being married, and It shows so strongly in these photos. Elijah is an incredible musician, and Rachel is the only yoga teacher that I trust to bend me like a pretzel. So in addition to helping couples with wedding planning, they are bringing their community together through concerts and yoga classes. They’re just really cool people, if you hadn’t noticed.

I was so excited to spend a couple evenings with them in their home and their community.
I like to think that my couples consider me friends after we’ve worked together and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s definitely the case with Rachel & Elijah.

To learn more about Rachel & Elijah’s business, TERRA Ohio City, visit their website.

To all my couples planning weddings – do your best to make it meaningful.
To all the married couples out there – do your best to celebrate your marriage.
I’d love to schedule a solidarity session with you to do just that.

Enjoy some of my favorites from my session with my new friends.

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It was the perfect summer night on the lake. We played some Copeland, walked through the perfectly unkept grass, and smelled the water’s air.

In the woods & on the beach.

Matthew & Amanda.

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I recently had the opportunity to attend a photography workshop hosted by a couple of my favorite local photographers, Mallory + Justin. We spent two days in Cuyahoga Valley National Park enjoying each other’s company and learning so much along the way. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to feel isolated sometimes. I don’t regularly spend time with other photographers, but I soak up every chance I get. These two days away from my routine were just what I needed. We learned so much from each other and we’re all coming out with a few more friends than we started with.

Travis and Stephanie graciously agreed to let us practice our new techniques on them, and they killed it!

Here are a few of my favorite images from our engagement session in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Ps. If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll find a list of all the wonderful vendors who made this event possible.

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A couple weeks ago, my dad gathered some of the most important people in my mom’s life into one balloon filled room and surprised her. It wasn’t her birthday. It wasn’t their anniversary. It was a party just to celebrate how wonderful my mom is every day of the year. (#goals, am I right?) Her friends came from all over the state. There were people who are in her life now, and people who meant so much to her many years ago. But I think she’d agree that the most special guests at the party were the four people in these photos. (ya know, because she gets to see me all the time.) : )

This is my brother and his sweet family. Although we’re not super close in age, we’re so much alike it scares me sometimes. Matthew moved away to Florida seventeen years ago. Since then, he has married his high school sweetheart and had two (as you’ll see) adorable kids who call us Aunt Allison & Uncle Stephen. (or sometimes Aunt Raspberry & Uncle Milk) They drove all the way from Florida to surprise my mom and I’ll never forget her face when she saw them.

They spent about 10 days with us, and every day was packed with all things Cleveland. (If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen a little of our Zoo trip.) We watched fireworks, and toured downtown. We went swimming and shopped a little too much. We had sleepovers and listened to “bacon pancakes” about 40 times too many. But we loved every moment of it.

Visits are always farther apart than we’d like, and they never seem long enough. But I’m so glad for the memories that were made last week.
Here is the Wengerd family.

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“& the way you move, I won’t close my eyes.
Cause it takes a man to live, but it takes a woman to make him compromise.

Be in my eyes
Be in my heart
Be in my eyes
Be in my heart”

A big thanks to my second shooter, Marina. Some of these images are hers.
Venue / Tom’s Country Place
Florist / Stem Floral
Cake / Convivial Confections
DJ / Troy Entertainment
Popcorn provided by Campbell’s Sweets

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“What the water wants is hurricanes,
And sailboats to ride on its back.
What the water wants is sun kiss,
And land to run into and back.

I’ll show you the sky.”

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“Rock-a-bye baby, come and rest.
You’ve been tired lately, lay your head down.
Don’t you think, baby I know best
I’ve been a father for a long time.

No one knows you better than me.”

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I remember as a child when I would visit a friend’s house for the first time, I would always take a second to close my eyes and experience what their house “felt like.” I’d take in all the smells and absorb whatever vibes the room was giving off and from then on, when I’d think about that friend, that feeling would come rushing back to me. When I think about Marlee and Grant’s wedding, the feeling that comes back to me is so comfortable. I remember taking a moment during the reception to take it all in. I looked at their families, and watched their smiling faces, and made a mental note of just how “right” it all felt. It’s like the world had been waiting for this day to happen, like it was all finally coming together exactly the way that it was supposed to. Like Marlee and Grant were created to be with each other. To be married. On this day. From their strikingly similar family backgrounds to their perfectly silly personalities, this was all so right and I knew it from the moment I met them.

Marlee and Grant kicked off my wedding season and they set the bar super high. We started the day at Stylehouse Beauty Bar in the Arcade, and finished at Windows on the River. It was all one big party – from the bridesmaids’ gold sequin Rent the Runway dresses, to their flawless Hamilton duet in the party bus. It was perfect.

Here are a few of my favorite images from that day.

A big thanks to my second shooter, Marina.

Makeup Artist/Hair Stylist: Style House Beauty
Florist: Paradise Flower Market 
Transportation: Platinum Party Bus 
Reception Venue: Windows on the River 
Cake: Wild Flour Bakery 
DJ: DJ Willie Hooper, Drop the Mic Entertainment

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