Friday, October 20, 2017
By Abbie
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Being a business owner is no joke.  It takes massive amounts of organization, forethought, courage and a ton of patience.  Running Abbie Takes Pictures is the hardest thing I've ever done in my 37 years, but it's also the most rewarding.
For almost 8 years, I've been at the helm of this company, wearing all the hats.  Photographer, editor, secretary, President, VP of Operations, assistant, janitor... you name it, I've done it.  As ATP has grown I've slowly allowed myself to ask for help with different tasks.  However, it's never been easy to let someone else be in charge of one of the most important things in my life.  In recent years, my staff has really helped me learn the value of trust and teamwork.  ATP wouldn't be what it is today without the hard work and dedication of everyone that's been a part of the ATP Staff.
With that being said, I have been thinking a lot about the future of my business.  Someone recently asked me, "Where do you see your business in five years?  Ten years?  Twenty years?"  That one question really got my wheels spinning.  
Currently, I am single-handedly shooting over 30 weddings a year and have been for several years now.  That means 30 weddings, 30 engagements and over 100,000 images to edit... not to mention all the family sessions, newborns and high school seniors I shoot every year.  After analyzing our numbers (inquiries & workload), I realized just how many potential clients I'm turning away.  You guys come to me because you know you can trust me to consistently capture your adorable families and your special moments and milestones... and it crushes me every time I have to hand one of you to another photography studio because I'm already booked or because I'm too busy.
When that certain someone asked me that important question, a lot began to change for the future of Abbie Takes Pictures.  It has become clear that it's time to expand and change things up a bit.  This announcement today marks a new phase of ATP that I'm incredibly proud of, as it's a huge step towards expanding my dreams and reaching some pretty big goals.
Without further ado, meet Heather:
I met Heather over 2 years ago at a panel discussion I was speaking on.  After the event, she approached me about my Business Coaching program and the rest is history.  She then spent several months with me exploring her future path as a photography business owner, while also working full-time as an ICU nurse.  After she finished my Business Coaching program, I asked her if she wanted to intern for ATP. 2 months after that, I asked her to join ATP as a Staff Photographer.
It was through this journey that I learned a lot about her.  Within the first few minutes of meeting her, I knew we'd be close friends for the rest of our lives.  What I didn't know was just how instrumental we would become in each other's lives.
First, I learned that she is INCREDIBLY funny.  Her sense of humor is second-to-none.  Secondly, it was very clear that her photography skill set was very, very solid.  She has been photographing people (families, kiddos, weddings, etc.) for over 15 years and is incredible with her people skills.
I say all of this because it has become clear to me that I'm ready to add another wedding photographer to the ATP Team and Heather is the perfect fit!  She will begin shooting weddings in 2018 as we move towards the goal of me shooting a little less over the next few years.  (I'm learning that I need to take a day off every now and then!)
Also, a lot of you already know Jen:
She's my right arm, my partner in crime, our ATP Lead Staff Photographer and ATP Office Manager.  She also runs her own photography business that specializes in newborns and families.  After many discussions and a lot of planning, Jen is now taking over the ATP Newborns!  She's been by my side for over 10 newborn sessions the past 6 months and is, quite honestly, doing a better job then I have been with a lot of her innovative ideas with props and posing!  I couldn't be more proud of her skill set, her talent and her work ethic.  As many of you already know, we are SO LUCKY to have her!!
Now I know what a lot of you are thinking: Will they take photos like Abbie?  Can they do Abbie's job?  I can assure you, without a doubt, that these two women are completely and fully capable of producing images with the signature "Abbie Takes Pictures" style.  They've both been by my side for quite some time, not only learning my signature posing  and lighting techniques, but also learning the way I like to capture the essence of our clientele.  Heather and Jen have consistently, time and time again, knocked my socks off with the images they are producing!!!  (GAHHHH!  I'm so excited about this!!)
Sooooooooooooo, yeah!  That's the BIG NEWS!  We've got a lot of new changes and additions ahead at ATP.  I'm so excited and so proud to have an incredible team by my side as we move forward together to capture all of your special memories and milestones!
Monday, June 19, 2017
By Abbie
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Abbie's Summer Bridal Party Tips & Tricks to Beat the Heat!

It seems that we've jumped right into the summer season!  Time has flown by and we're already two-thirds of the way through June!  Around this time of year I always have a very serious conversation with each of my summer-season couples about the heat and how to keep afloat with all the sweating that will inevitably occur on their big day.  I'm not one to mince words and I feel like being as open and honest as possible about the craziness that can happen if you're not prepared is the best way to prepare everyone for the heat!

You have to remember that everyone in the bridal party will be wearing more layers than normal... so when you factor in the extreme heat and a 2-hour outdoor portrait session, things can get pretty awful.  These are things that we've tried and seen work year after year.

I always go over the following information during the final timeline meeting with each couple but recently I realized that many people could benefit from these tips that I've learned about over the past 8+ years of shooting weddings!  Please feel free to share this candid information and let me know if you have any other things to add to the list!!


Here are my ATP Summer Wedding Bridal Party Tips & Tricks:

  • Have plenty of cold water available at all times!  This is truly a lifesaver!  Remember that you can’t regulate body temperature if you’re not well hydrated.  Make sure your bridal party keeps you both hydrated throughout the day and remind them to keep offering you water!  Having a Hydroflask or a Yeti with ice and water on hand is also super helpful.
  • Take several dry washcloths and get them wet.  DO NOT wring them out!  Roll them up and place them each separately into their own Ziplock bag. Then place them all in the freezer. RIGHT BEFORE you depart for the wedding day – or wait as long as you can – take the bags out of the freezer and place them in a cooler full of ice.  Have them for the bus during the portrait session!  These frozen washcloths make such a nice way to cool down when it’s incredibly hot!
  • Make sure to have 1 hand towel for every person in the bridal party on the bus. Everyone will need to be wiping sweat and having a towel is nice for this! 
  • Make sure your deodorant is also an antiperspirant.  Don’t be afraid of getting clinical strength


For our ATP Brides: 

o   Feel free to wear cotton shorts under your dress if it has many layers.  The heat can cause extreme sweating and having cotton shorts to help absorb the sweat can be a game changer.   Your thighs are probably going to rub together – which will cause the dreaded and terribly uncool “chub rub”!  Look for bike shorts, anti-friction bars, Body Glide, or anti-chafing powder gels and creams.

o   Put some baby powder WITH CORNSTARCH (the kind with the BLUE LID from Johnson & Johnson is my favorite!) between your thighs, under your boobs, at the small of your back and even in your shoes!  This will help absorb the sweat.

o   Have deodorant body wipes on hand! (Our FAVORITES are Ban Cooling Deodorant Wipes!)  These are GAME CHANGERS!!  They are perfect for freshening up after being out in the heat.  We use these at every wedding!  Have these for the boys, too!

o   Have 1-2 extra pairs of underwear.  When you get to the reception, you’ll feel gross and disgusting from all the sweating and having some clean undies really helps you feel refreshed!

o   Remember that any kind of liquid makeup will “melt” as you sweat! This goes for foundation, eyeliner, etc.

o   Dry shampoo is nice to have on hand if your hair gets sweaty.

o   Blotting papers are nice to have on hand.


For our ATP Grooms:

o   Bring at least 1 extra white button down to change into throughout the day. You’ll feel refreshed and probably smell a lot better. LOL!

o   With that being said, you should also bring AT LEAST 1-2 extra undershirts. Tell your groomsmen to do the same! 

o   Always have deodorant on hand.

o   It may sound funny, but using the dry shampoo that your bride will have on hand may be nice if your hair gets too sweaty.

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