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Giveaway Winner

Giveaway Winner

Thank you so much to everyone who entered and shared Monday’s giveaway!!! There were so many great questions asked! I loved the pattern that developed of questions about blogging, client relationships, running a small business, and how we got started. All topics I remember having no clue about the first few years in business. I’m excited to start tackling those and helping some of you out in the upcoming weeks & months! I love sharing what I know, but it’s even better when I’m sharing things you actually want to know about : ) So thank you for being honest, showing me your hearts, and honoring me with the privilege of helping you.

I bet you want to know who won, right?! Without further ado, the winner is…Kristen Bailey!! Kristen, if you’ll email me at aj@ajdunlap.com I’ll send you over your gift card : ) Congratulations! Thanks again to everyone who entered!!

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

Are Wedding Coordinators Necessary?

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Wedding Coordinators: should you hire one? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some people will tell you it’s an un-necessary expense. Let a family friend do it, they can follow your timeline just fine. Or your mom can handle it, that’s what she’s there for, right? Why waste the extra money when there has to be someone capable attending your wedding?

Let me tell you my story. My simple, low budget, church wedding story. We got married on April 23, 2005. We were 19 and 21, and had absolutely no idea what we were doing. All we knew was we wanted to get married. So Kyle proposed, I said yes, and then we went to my parents for a budget. I didn’t know what was realistic, so I asked for very little thinking I could do it all. Because of our small budget, we chose not to have a coordinator. First, I asked my sister, the one who runs events for a living, and she nicely explained she’d rather enjoy the wedding than work it. Completely understandable. That’s when we decided to ask a friend who had the personality to run a wedding. She did a great job at what we asked her to do, but seeing as we had no clue on what we were doing we missed asking her to run few important things…like the cake cutting, and every other big reception event. My mom ended up running the reception, making sure things happened on time, pouring Sprite into plastic toasting glasses (which takes FOREVER by the way), and didn’t get to enjoy the reception the way we would have liked for her to. We also ran into a big snafu that our friend “wedding coordinator” didn’t know to handle because she wasn’t trained as a professional wedding. Which was that our minister told us 5 minutes before the ceremony no pictures were allowed. Now I’m not saying a hired professional could have worked magic in that situation, but you never know…she would definitely have had a better chance than someone running their first wedding.

This is why I’m a huge advocate of hiring a wedding coordinator! There are so many things that you can’t plan for on a wedding day. Something is going to go wrong, and who would you rather have dealing with it on your day: your mom, a family friend or a professional? I could tell you story after story of family friends who have been assigned to run a wedding day practically falling apart at the seems when it comes time for them to run things. There was one, and I’ll never forget it, who came into the bridal suite screaming at the bridesmaids for something petty. After a few minutes of berating, I had to nicely ask her to go outside with me and calm down. While I’m glad I was there to intervene on the bride’s behalf so she didn’t have to, I’m also sure there were moments I missed photographing because of it. And if I hadn’t been there, the mom would have most likely been dragged into it too (because it was her friend), and she would have been distracted from celebrating with her daughter.

So before you decide to cut that part out of the budget, consider the alternatives. And if I haven’t convinced you out of fear, how about this…wedding coordinators have connections in the industry. They have florists, linen companies, caterers, cake designers, etc all lining up to work with them. I can’t promise you’ll get discounts in every area, but you’ll probably get more for your money because you’re working with a particular coordinator. I’ve had several tell me that they’ve made up the cost of hiring them in the savings they’ve brought to their brides.

Moral of the story: hire a coordinator! Whether it’s just for day of or the entire event planning process. Take that stress off your shoulder and let someone else handle it. Then go enjoy your dream day!

  • One more day left to enter our giveaway!!!! Click here for details!
  • If you read this, and enjoyed it please click the Facebook like button below!
Jenny Herrera - July 23, 2014 - 1:44 pm

I agree 100%! My DJ didn’t show up until after all of our first dances, and I was mostly clueless because Priscilla Kylee Erwin worked some voodoo magic and turned into a latin music DJ for quite some time :) She also set up, cleaned up, and kept things moving. Totally worth it!

Graceful Wedding Management - July 23, 2014 - 6:30 pm

Great points we stress to our potential clients as well!

Sweet Sarabell - July 24, 2014 - 11:29 am

Great post AJ!!! <3

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

Beach Maternity Portraits Taken By Kyle

There’s still time to enter yesterday’s giveaway! Click here for details!

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One of the first pregnancy things Kyle requested was to take some maternity portraits of me. Of course, I was all in! Once we decided to go to the beach for a few days, I knew I wanted him to take some of me there! I’d planned for him to take them at Pawleys Island in SC since that’s where we spend most of our beach time, but the tropical storm rained us out. Next best thing was Oak Island before he left for work! And it was perfect. We did them on the first day, in case of early labor, and I am so in love with them. He did such an amazing job! We took my younger sister out with us as my style consultant/hair helper/flattering pose monitor, and Kyle handled the rest.

He’s the best husband & future Dad ever : ) I absolutely loved my time in front of his camera. He’s so good at it, but often doesn’t get the recognition he deserves since he’s more of a behind-the-scene type of person. This is all him though! I had no control whatsoever. Kyle, thank you so much for taking these of me and our daughter. She’s going to cherish them, because you took them! I love you more than words can say!

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It’s so weird to say I love photos of myself without it feeling like bragging, but I love this one below! 0022 0031 0041 0043

And because we just happened to dress alike, we made my sister grab some of us together! 0046 0052 0056

 I love you darling! Thank you for taking these of your girls : )

Kristen Hill - July 22, 2014 - 1:22 pm

Gorgeous!! Amazing job Kyle!!!

Sarah May Leech - July 22, 2014 - 1:26 pm

These are all fantastic!! Pregnancy looks good on you! Can’t wait to hear of the arrival of your sweet little girl!!

Alexandra Beauregard - July 22, 2014 - 2:26 pm

So, so pretty!!

Sharon Adams Wright - July 22, 2014 - 2:34 pm

WOW…….You look amazing….He did a great job.

Danielle Blocker - July 22, 2014 - 3:11 pm

Gorgeous AJ!

Jessie VeraCruz - July 22, 2014 - 3:12 pm

So beautiful!! He did a great job and you look incredible!!

Louisa - July 22, 2014 - 7:14 pm

Oh my!!! I love this!
My favorite photo I had of myself and my daughter during the pregnancy was taken by my husband at 29 weeks!
It’s in her nursery hanging above her crib. She’s 1 now and whenever she looks at it, she reaches up and says ‘mama’…. It melts my heart and brings me close to tears everytime! There is no stronger love :)…. Be prepared :).

Kate Dicus - July 22, 2014 - 8:11 pm

Beautiful!

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

A Monday Giveaway!

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As you know, it’s getting into cruise control mode over here while we wait for our baby to arrive. We’re wrapping up all loose ends and making a plan for how we’ll run things once she arrives. My plan is to take a few weeks off from blogging all together once she makes her appearance. Up until then I’ll be blogging daily, and then I’ll be taking a short hiatus to learn how to be a mom! I will make sure to do an introduction post first : ) You have to meet her too, right?! Once I do get back into blogging, I’ll be coming back part time temporarily. I’m planning on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday trend until we begin shooting full time again this fall. Mondays will still be the Giving Back & Ask Us series, Wednesdays will be tips and all things wedding related, and Fridays will be a mix of personal and business posts (probably mostly personal, since we’ll have exciting new things going on around here!). I’m excited about the transition period! It’ll be fun!

But I do need your help! I want to know what you’d like to learn about for these Monday posts! It can be anything big or small…no topic is too trivial. Is there an area you’re struggling with, or would just like more clarification on? Or maybe, there’s a specific image we’ve taken that you’d like broken down to understand how we took it. Or it doesn’t have to be photography related at all, it can be a general business question! I want to hear from you!

And there’s something in it for you as well (besides learning something new)…a $25 Starbucks gift card!!!

So here are the basic rules:

  1. Leave a comment below with a question that you’d like me to answer here on the blog.
  2. Click the Facebook like button at the bottom of the post.
  3. Check back on Thursday to see the winner!

And the fine print:

  • Entry period closes Wednesday, July 23 at 11:59PM.
  • Winner will be drawn randomly from the entry pool.
  • Winner will be announced here on the blog this Thursday, unless I go into labor first. If I go into labor, I will announce the winner as soon as I get back to blogging!
  • Winner must email us within 48 hours to claim his/her gift card.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • Entries only count if left in the comment section on this blog post.
Aislinn - July 21, 2014 - 11:14 am

You’re so close!! Keep strong and have a safe delivery. :)

My question is about perception. I’m starting to get more into doing photography as a full time business(I’ve been in high school and college since I started my business). I’ve had some amazing weddings and some that did not fit my shooting style, but what I’ve run into recently is people still thinking I’m in high school/college and not a professional. I’ve had several brides tell me they thought they would get a discount because we were high school classmates. My question is: how do you change perception when you’re in a place where everyone knows you? Or more generically: How do you change perception as your business grows?

Love and hugs!

Kristen Bailey - July 21, 2014 - 2:38 pm

I’d love to hear about how you all got your business going. What were the struggles of doing that and how did you overcome them. There’s a lot of photographers out there’s, how do you make a small business work with so many other similar small businesses in place.

Marva Gibson - July 21, 2014 - 6:26 pm

How do you manage blogging? Do you do it at the same time every day? Do you do posts in advance? I tried to blog earlier this year, but I have really struggled with it. After moving and having a baby, I dropped it altogether although I hope to start again soon.

Best of luck to you and Kyle,

Marva

Stefanie McDonald - July 21, 2014 - 6:48 pm

I would like to know how you go about publishing your work on other blogs – choosing the right blog, submitting your post, how often you submit vs how often you’re actually published, etc!

Rebecca Rice - July 21, 2014 - 8:03 pm

What made you decied to really take the step to do photography full time? How long did you do it part time till you made the switch ?

Tonya Hurter - July 21, 2014 - 10:59 pm

How did you settle on your editing and branding style for your business?

(And what’s your favorite food and color?) ;-)

Erica Briola - July 22, 2014 - 4:23 pm

Clearly I’m a little late, and I know you do wedding pictures mainly, but I know you do newborn as well, and possibly because I have my own vested interest, lol, but I think it would be cool to have a little info on how to take baby pictures. Any advice, since inure there is a ton, would be wonderful! Also your beach maternity photos are gorgeous and I adore that dress!

Pam Lappegard - July 22, 2014 - 10:40 pm

How do you ask your clients to use their photos on your blog and Facebook? Is it in your contact?

Ginny Smith - July 23, 2014 - 1:39 pm

How do you go about getting a blog started and how do you find an audience for it?

Marcie Gilchrist - July 23, 2014 - 4:38 pm

I love seeing how creative one’s ‘eye’ can be. For me, I don’t seem to be initially wired that way with seeing something that is generally ‘unseen’. In regards to the basics, what would be 1 or 2 things that anyone can do to produce a better photograph when it comes to lighting, equipment, time of day, clothing, props are some things that I think of:) Having a simple DIY tip could mean all the difference for me. Thanks!!

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!

What’s Going Through My Head

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I mentioned in yesterday’s post that my head is still spinning a million miles a minute. It’s just how my brain works. Often, I lay in bed at night thinking about the most random of things. I do find if I make lists, and get it out my head and onto a list, my brain stops spinning a little. But really, that just leaves room for it to think about something else. I wake up in the morning ready to go, which is why I think I let myself sleep in. Because I know as soon as I actually get out of bed, it’s on! That’s what is so hard about resting these days, because all I want to do is tackle that list…and I’M RUNNING OUT OF TIME! This baby could show up any minute, and what if my list isn’t done, ahhhhh! I’m trying to be ok with whatever happens. I’m tackling my biggest things first in case she does arrive early, they’re done. Little things can wait if necessary.

So, let me give you a little glimpse of what’s spinning through my head these days:

  • Is the hospital bag completely packed? Is my last minute grab list ready? What will I need?!
  • What am I going to wear for her newborn pictures?! I want to buy something new, but don’t have a clue what will fit after she arrives.
  • Sterilizing everything!
  • How will I handle emails and running a business for the first few weeks? I’d love to shut everything down and just be with her, but it doesn’t work that way. I have no idea how I’m going to balance things!
  • Returning a few things and picking up a few last minute items.
  • Washing everything. From our clothes to hers.
  • A yard sale! We have had stuff piled in our attic since March with the intention of doing a yard sale tomorrow (since we haven’t had a free Saturday at home since then)! Kyle’s basically running it, but I need to make signs and put an ad on Craigslist!
  • Who’s coming family wise and when once she gets here, and where will they all stay?!
  • Groceries. It’s always a chore, but even more so now that walking around the store is exhausting.
  • How will I know when I’m in labor? Everyone says I will, but since it’s all new to me, how can I be sure?
  • Selling some old photography equipment. This has been on our pre-baby to-do list, and now it’s time to do it!

There’s way more than that, but it at least gives you a look into the brain of A.J. : ) I know it sounds like I’m really stressed out, but don’t worry I’m not! I’m mainly writing this all down to get it out of my head! That helps me more than I can explain. Life is going to chance so much, and I just want to be as prepared as I can. I am beyond excited to meet her! Any day now little girl, any day now!

Marisha Gordon - July 18, 2014 - 1:59 pm

Just breath and relax! It will all be ok. A few thoughts: don’t buy any new outfits because you’re body will be changing and leaking and she’ll be exploding… Just use a simple black shirt or dress

Marisha Gordon - July 18, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Sorry my phone is being funny and wouldn’t let me write more. Get groceries at Harris teeter. Ship online and do curbside pickup. It’s a cheap fee and worth it.

Marisha Gordon - July 18, 2014 - 2:03 pm

Sorry! Last comment!! :) you’ll have more free time then you think the first 6 weeks. Baby should sleep lots. I remember thinking, why did everyone say this would be so hard?! Ha! Enjoy those first few weeks. Get everything done you need to! Then the storm hits! ;) Babywear as much as you can. It’ll help. And trust me, you’ll know when you’re in labor. The contractions will just be getting worse and/or your water will break! That’s how Marti knew! ;) Good luck and can’t wait to see pictures!!!! :)

Rebecca Rice - July 18, 2014 - 2:14 pm

It all just works out some how! Balancing it all will come easy for you I am sure. You are a list maker like me and that’s how I make it everyday!! You will be great. And you have a great man to help you! Like I have said before you guys are going to be GREAT parents :)

Pamela De Vincent' - July 18, 2014 - 2:36 pm

From a veteran mother of 20+ years please take my advice. Leave the dishes for dishwasher, the laundry can wait, the dust always returns . Enjoy, treasure this time, write (the good ole fashion way, ink n paper) a letter, journal to your daughter, begin on the journey to the hospital…

Danielle Blocker - July 18, 2014 - 3:26 pm

Oh my gosh AJ! I’m so glad you expanded on that line you wrote yesterday. I’m EXACTLY the same way. I always have a list in my head + like you said, you just gotta get it out of your head and written down. It really does make you feel better + more able to focus.

It took me a long time to realize that I have to just go with the flow more + Aliya’s helped teach me that. I’m so used to planning everything + all the details, so it’s hard to just let life happen, when you don’t feel completely totally prepared.

I think you’ll find your rhythm to balance everything after a bit of time. You’ll find a few minutes here and there to whip through your emails, or try to find a time that Kyle enjoys being with her to make into your work time for the day, then just let it go and enjoy the rest of the day. I’ve tried to work so hard all the time + I’m only just now really finding the best balance of the time for work and the time to just put it all out of my head. There is so much more to manage when you have your little girl, it’s a full time job in itself. I know you’ll be the best mommy ever + find a way to do it all successfully.

Brenda Frizsell Dunlap - July 18, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Take a deep breath – it will all work out. You will definitely know when you’re in labor!!!

Erica Briola - July 18, 2014 - 3:48 pm

You will know, even though you may doubt it initially you’ll reach a point where you just go, oh, yep! And at that point the list won’t even pop into your head :) enjoy the last little bits, I definitely already miss those little inside kicks, although getting them on the outside is pretty good too!

Annemarie Orlando-Perrin - July 18, 2014 - 4:35 pm

Don’t worry after you take her picture in every cute outfit you will look thru them and one will be your favorite. I will warn you it will be difficult deciding which photos to display around the house. :) You will balance everything by prioritizing what needs to be done on a daily basis. (The small stuff truly won’t matter anymore.) SLEEP when she sleeps!! Sleep will be your biggest challenge but I also think God prepares a woman for this challenge with nine months of pregnancy. (I am sure between bathroom trips and finding a comfortable position, sleeping thru the night in your 9th month is almost impossible anyway.) Curb side pick up for the groceries for sure!! Stock up on food that is easy to prepare. Know there will be a lot of time from the start of labor to her actually being born. You WILL know well before her delivery that you are in labor. :) I remember being overwhelmed the first time because I thought once I made it into the hospital everything would happen quickly. That’s not usually the case. Good luck…can’t wait to see her pics!!

Alison Collins Saunders - July 18, 2014 - 6:20 pm

If I can help with anything please let me know! My suggestion with groceries if you shop at Harris Teeter, is to use their online shopping. You order it online and they call you when it’s ready for pick up, you don’t even have to get out of your car! Don’t stress yourself out trying to get everything done before she gets here, you’ll be just fine!

Like the photos? Click the "like" button above or leave a comment! It's the only way we'll know :)If you're getting married and would like to talk to us about your photography, please click HERE to contact us!