Friday, May 05, 2017
By Abbie
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Today marks 8 years since I began my journey as a full-time photographer.  On one hand, it feels like yesterday when it all began and on the other hand it feels like I've been doing this my entire life.  This "job" doesn't feel like work.  (I guess that's what happens when you find a career that fills you with so much happiness and joy!)

In May of 2009, I was teaching Kindergarten.  Looking back I can see that I was completely miserable.  But as it goes, being human, you never really know how bad it is until that chapter has passed and you look back.  I loved my students and their families, but I hated the politics that came with teaching.  It was easy to unplug when I was with my students.  I was always happy and fulfilled when I was teaching my babies.  I loved the way their little minds worked and learned.  However, I loathed all the paperwork, documentation, state standards, staffing issues... and let's face it: Dealing with miserable administrators and gossip destroys morale, your soul, and your drive to teach.

I had been searching for a job in another district for over a year, as were many other teachers I knew.  We were all struggling to find open positions. After the holiday break in 2008, I decided that the current school year would be my last.  With the urging of my mom and my best friend Amber, I decided to drum up some photography jobs over the next few months to make sure I had some extra money in the bank in case I didn't get another offer.  I had been photographing friends, family and co-workers for a few years on the side so that I never had to teach summer school.  I had a base of "clients" at the time, but wasn't even remotely aware of what was ahead of me.  (I say "clients" because I had never EVER thought of them this way.)

Through a wild few weeks at the end of April 2009, I found myself without a contract renewal for the next year at the school I had been at for over 6 years.  I also didn't have a job offer anywhere else.  I also had plenty of photography jobs that I had booked and several weddings I had contracted coming up, but that was just to keep me afloat during the summer.  On May 4th, 2009, I found myself in tears realizing that I could become unemployed in a matter of weeks.  I went to bed that night scared of my future and terrified of what was around the corner.

I woke up the next morning feeling calm.  I remember that the sun was shining so brightly that day.  I took a deep breath and remembered I had a photo session booked that afternoon.  I felt excited.  I felt happy.  I felt at peace.  

After the photo shoot that day, I ran home and jumped on my computer.  With $364 to my name, I went online and filed my paperwork with the State of Missouri and registered a fictitious name, filed for an LLC, a business license and a sales tax ID.  I also signed up for my first of many photography workshops.  I didn't look back.  I wasn't scared... I was excited.  I felt alive and happy.  I knew, deep down in my soul, that I had to give this "photography thing" a try.  

Within a matter of weeks, I had established Abbie Takes Pictures.  I had one film camera and a whole lot of spunk.  I also had no social media at my disposal because it wasn't mainstream yet.  It was no easy task.  That first year was terrifying.  I fell on my face more times than I care to mention.  But you know what?  Those moments of fear and doubt made me who I am today.  The entire journey did.  

With all of that being how ATP got started, let's talk about where ATP is today:

As of May 5, 2017:

  • I've photographed 179 weddings and even more engagements, over 275 families, 41 high school seniors, and countless other sessions.
  • I currently have 5 staff members.
  • I travel the country photographing the coolest people... and soon, hopefully the world!
  • I'm on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Chapter of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
  • I'm passionate about teaching other photographers on how to improve their skill sets and have been fortunate to have the opportunities for many speaking engagements.
  • I've now hosted three annual 3-Day Abbie Takes Pictures Photography Workshops!  (4th Annual is coming in 2018!)

I say all of this not to boast.  I say this because I'm proud.  I spend each and every day doing something that I love.  Yes, it's bonkers at times.  Yes, it's more work than I've ever done in my entire life.  But I'm happier than I've ever been.  ATP has led me down a path that has made me proud of who I am.  This is not something I've always felt.  I still have days, moments (heck - even weeks!) where I struggle and don't feel at my best.  I have to remind myself that I'm only human and that things won't always be hard.  There are peaks and valleys in this life, right?

I would be remiss if I didn't take this blog post to mention how I survived the past 8 years of being a business owner.  This path has been full of so many incredible people.  From other photographers who took me under their wings (you know who you are), to wedding vendors that appreciate my art and share it with their prospective brides and grooms.  I've had the honor and privilege to become friends and find a family with the tight network of photographers here in Saint Louis.  I wouldn't have the skill set I do today if it wasn't for their open arms and willingness to share techniques and ideas. 

I learned the power of sharing from these photographers - which led me to want to share the skills I learned over the years.  I developed an intern program that brought me some of the most talented, hard working women I've ever known.  Amber (who was there from the very beginning), Tyler, Cassidy, Bonnie, Elizabeth, Karissa, Danielle, Megan, Sara, Jen, Heather...  I owe a lot of my business' success to these women.  

Most importantly and most significantly, the joy and fulfillment I have comes from photographing the most incredible people on the face of this planet.  The ATP Family is second to none.  You guys are loving, hilarious, laid back, kind, and giving, welcoming people.  The way you tell others about my work, the way you welcome me into your families, the way you love me like family... it's so humbling.  I hope each and every one of you knows how much I appreciate and adore you.  

I'll never know how I got so lucky, but I do know how grateful and proud I am of what Abbie Takes Pictures has become.  Thank you all for your faith in ATP and taking a seat while traveling this journey with me.  My humble gratitude for an amazing 8 years.  Here's to a lifetime of more memories captured together!

Also - here's a photo that I feel truly captures how I feel about the past 8 years. LOL! (Photo taken by Spencer Pablo in San Diego, California.  December 2016.  And yes - this is a truly candid moment less than a second after I had been dive-bombed by a very large bird!)

 
Thursday, March 30, 2017
By Abbie
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Maggie's session was one of my all-time favorite Senior Sessions!!  She is one spunky kiddo and it was so much fun to capture her bright spirit.

I've been photographing Maggie's family for many years and have grown quite close with her momma (Hi. Rita!).  It all began when Rita was referred to me for Maggie's older sister's senior pics a few years back.  (Hey, Josie! LOL!)  I knew when Rita called to schedule Mag's session that this one had to be unique and fun... so I pulled out all the stops!

We started her session at The City Museum where we ended up on the ferris wheel that's on the roof!  Mags neglected to tell me she is afraid of heights until we got to the top of the ride!  I had to photograph her from above my head (and backwards!) to get the shot... and when I looked at the screen and saw her face, all I could do was giggle!  Bless her little heart for being so brave so that we could get the "money shot"!  (It now hangs on the wall in my client meeting space!)

We then continued along to Faust Park where she did a couple of outfit changes.  I'd had this idea for a floral crown in my head and Maggie agreed to try it out it for me.  Kelly Jurotich (owner of The Crimson Petal) created the INCREDIBLE crown for us!!

We ended her session, just after sunset, with a few shots in her favorite piece of clothing... her poncho!  She wears it pretty much every day, so I knew we had to get a few shots of her in it!

 

 
Friday, February 17, 2017
By Abbie
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Brittany & Sam were married on a gorgeous fall day.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect, along with the color on the trees and the clear blue sky that day.  Their bridal party was an absolute hoot to work with all day long and we truly had a fantastic time with them!  Another huge bonus to their dream day was that we got to work at two of our absolute favorite venues in our city.  St. Francis Xavier College Church on Saint Louis University's campus is my favorite church to photograph!  The ceiling alone takes my breath away!  We ended the day at Patty Long's 9th Street Abbey, which feels like home to the ATP Staff.  Everyone had an incredible time while the Downtime Band kept the dance floor packed all night long! 

Florist: Mary Tuttle's 
 
Videographer: Tower Studios 
 
Hair/Makeup: Sarah Johnson 
 
 
Venue and catering: Ninth Street Abbey
 
 
Monday, January 23, 2017
By Abbie
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Hillary & James both attend Washington University.  It's where they have cultivated and grown their relationship, so it made perfect sense to shoot their engagement session on campus.  It was a bit chilly with an overcast sky -- but any good portrait photographer will tell you that we LOVE overcast days!  The light is so soft and bright and those elements bring a gorgeous quality to any imagery taken outside.

It's also worth mentioning that their engagement session was one of the fastest sessions of my career!  I always coach my couples a bit as we begin the session, giving tips and tricks on how to relax in front of the camera.  However, as soon as I started shooting, these two were like professional models!  Their chemistry and level of comfort with each other was off the charts.  Within 30 minutes I had more than enough imagery!  It was so great to watch them have SO MUCH FUN together!

 

 
Monday, January 16, 2017
By Abbie
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Shannon and Kyle were referred to me by Kyle's sister, Jessica.  I photographed Jessica and Doug's wedding a few years ago and Shannon and Kyle were in their bridal party.  Shortly there after, they were engaged and I was elated to get the phone call that they wanted to schedule a consultation with me!  Being able to work with the same family at more then one wedding is one of the best parts of my job.  There's a special sense of closeness there and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the whole world! (Yes, I know I'm a sap! LOL!)

Kyle and Shannon were married on a brisk fall day in October of 2015. (Yes, I'm super behind on blogging... but working on catching up!)  My team and I drove over 2.5 hours that morning to Makanda and Alto Pass, IL where we photographed one of our biggest bridal parties to date!

Giant City State Park was the first place we went with the entire bridal party in tow.  I couldn't get over how stunning this park is!  From rock bluffs to incredible forests... it was so gorgeous!  We ended their photo session at Von Jakob Vineyards where their ceremony and reception were held.  This is where we photographed Shannon and Kyle with Kyle's grandpa's car, and 1939 Ford De Luxe.  I have a fondness for this vehicle because I also photographed Jess & Doug with it.  It's an incredible family heirloom that means so much to the Lickenbrock Family and I'm so honored to have been able to photograph it twice.

When I think back to Shannon & Kyle's big day, I have incredibly fond memories.  This was the day where I saw my staff photographer Sara really blossom and find her feet as a true creative photographer, where we were able to photograph nothing but new locations all day (which is always a HUGE win in my book!) and last but not least - Shannon's dad surprised me that day with my own "ATP" branding iron that he made just for me! He made custom irons to brand all the wooden boxes for the centerpiece on each table and I was out at their house the first time they tried one of them out.  (It was the very first thing I unpacked and placed in my new office when I moved at the end of 2015.)

Thank you, Mr. & Mrs. Lickenbrock, for choosing ATP!!

 

 

Shannon & Kyle's Vendor Team

Planner: Bride

Photography: Abbie Takes Pictures

Ceremony & Reception venue: Von Jakob Vineyards

Catering: Von Jakob Vineyards

Florist: Bride & Friends

Cake: Cristaudos

Ceremony music: Brock Elmore, Edwardsville, IL

Linens: Von Jakob Vineyards/groom's grandmother

Chairs: Von Jakob Vineyard

Transportation: First Student Xtreme Limo Bus

Gown: Maggie SotteroSottero-Midgley

Hair & makeup: Samantha Braeutigam, Studio 3, Edwardsville, IL

Bridesmaid dresses: Belsoie/Jasmine 

Tuxedos: Willard's Taylor Shop, Fairview Heights, IL