hanna park, elopement, hanna park elopement, elopement in florida, eloping in florida, hanna park weddings, hanna park wedding photographer, hanna park elopement photographer, jen shannon, jen shannon photographyHappy Valentine’s Day Internet! I hope you’ve had a fantastic week and are looking forward to a wonderful Valentine’s Day and weekend! I thought it was be a wonderful celebration of Valentine’s Day and love by posting Kristen and Joe’s Hanna Park elopement to my blog today!

Any big plans for Valentine’s Day? Today is the day that a LOT of you are going to be getting engaged! I hope your nails are polished and ready for a beautiful rock! My nails are polished and I just got my rocks back from having them re-dipped in rhodium so they’re super shiny and look brand new. ;)

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of photographing Kristen and Joe’s Hanna Park Elopement on the beach. It was quite a chilly day, but oh it was so worth it because it was so beautiful. Kristen and Joe came down from Maine to elope in sunny, warm Florida, but unfortunately, Florida didn’t deliver the “sunny” part of that. Regardless, their elopement was beautiful and I had a wonderful time photographing their beautiful elopement.

Joe and Kristen – Thank you so much for the honor of being a part of your elopement. You both looked fabulous, even in goose bumps! Have a GREAT and awesome first Valentine’s Day as a married couple! I enjoyed getting to meet your Jacksonville friends and wish you the best! xoxo

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I don’t typically shoot portrait sessions. On occasion I will, especially if it’s for a photographer friend. I am always honored to do a portrait session for a fellow photographer friend. I’ve known Alison from Life and Love Studio for several years. I’ve also second shot for her many times. Alison and Jay are adding baby #2 to their family in about a month!

I was so happy to be able to shoot this session for them and take part in celebrating their joy together through a maternity session.

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a coolish-warm day, no humidity, BEAUTIFUL sunlight, and gorgeous scenery. Alison just radiated such beauty.

Here is a sneak peek for now. <3

Alison Maternity

Alison Maternity 2 copyAlison Maternity 3 copy

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trevor and katherine-0135Happy Monday! I hope you all had a really nice weekend! The weather was beautiful yesterday! I wish it could be like that for most of the year! Anyway, last night, I came across a couple of articles of questions to ask your potential wedding photographer. While most of them were very good questions, I felt like there were a couple of questions that could really mislead you from making a good decision. Here is my take on the questions that I would like to elaborate on.

1. How many weddings have you shot?

There are some photographers that have only shot 10 weddings and are amazing. There are other photographers who have shot 100 and are not as good as people who may have shot less. This is a situation where quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Clearly, you want to pick a photographer that suits your budget and style, but quantity doesn’t guarantee quality. Be sure to check out their portfolio and online galleries

2. How big is the biggest wedding you shot?

This one is very similar to the first one. Unless you’re having a wedding of 250+ people with a giant bridal party, this question shouldn’t be a determining factor on whether or not a photographer is right for you. In cases where a wedding is very large, typically, having an assistant there would be good to have, but not necessary to do the job and do it very well.

3. What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other photographers?

Chances are, if you’re meeting with a photographer, it’s because you love their work. What does it really matter when choosing to hire a photographer why they feel their work distinguishes them from others? In this day and age, with so many people buying the same Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets, a lot of times, the work can be very similar and hard to distinguish, but the experience that you get with the photographer can really make the difference. Also, I think a more appropriate approach would be for you to look at the photographer work and see if it speaks to you. In a sea where so many people are photographers with beautiful work, what is it that attracts you to one over another? For me, I strive for, and have been told so many times, that people love my work because something about my work captures the true emotion of what’s going on at the time without being overly posey. Do you prefer more posed looks? These are some great questions to ask yourself when researching a photographer, rather than asking a photographer this question.

4. What type of equipment do you use?

Again, does it really matter? If I start spouting off all sorts of photographer lingo, will it really make a difference to you if you’re not familiar with camera gear? Instead, I think the more appropriate question would be “Do you have backup gear should something go wrong with your primary gear?” “Are you equipped to handle different lighting situations?”

5. Have you ever shot at my venue? Do you visit my venue before the wedding day?

I do think this is an appropriate question because you may like to see how they’ve shot at your venue before by viewing an online gallery from a wedding they’ve shot there, however, I don’t think whether or not a photographer has shot at certain venues determines whether or not you should hire them. I also do not think that it is necessary for a photographer to visit a venue prior to the wedding. Most times, I arrive much earlier than my start time so I can scope out the area and get a feel for where I’d like to shoot, however, there have been times I’ve gone to very large venues, such as resorts, prior to the wedding with the bride so we can view the grounds together and come up with a plan.

I hope this article helps to provide some insight from a photographer’s standpoint as to why some lists of questions may not be relevant. Having a list of questions pre made from a wedding planning book are helpful, but can also give you a preconceived notion that if a photographer gives you an answer that the planning book doesn’t see as a positive, that they may be a bad fit for you. I would encourage you to really get to know your potential photographer and get a sense as to whether or not you mesh well with them.

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Carly Rae CookingOne of the things I found hardest as a business owner was trying to figure things out once Carly came, a little over 2 years ago. I wasn’t sure how maternity leave would work, how I would manage my emails, blogging, etc. After Carly came, I sort of lost my way with any form of schedule. The house wasn’t clean, we usually picked up food for dinner because I was too tired or overwhelmed to cook and figure out dinner, but I made a commitment that my business would never fall by the wayside. It’s too important to me.

So here I am, 18 weeks pregnant, due in July, and this time, I have a plan that I’ve been working at for a couple of months and it seems to be working out really well so when #2 comes along, I’ll be better prepared. Some moms send their kids off to school at 2 years old, some have a mother’s helper (which was me for awhile) or a nanny, others try to make it happen by themselves or let things fall by the way side. Any of these things is FINE! You have to do what works for you. There isn’t a “one answer” style for everyone. I wanted to write this blog to help others find better balance between being a stay at home mom, running a business, running the home, and having kids. With that said, here is the schedule I’ve found works for me.

First, let me address maternity leave. When I was pregnant with Carly, I stopped shooting at 36 weeks, but I made sure to stay on top of my emails every day and blog until she came. Once she came, I put on my out of office and responded to emails as quickly as I could. I use ShootQ which makes it SOO easy to be able to respond to new leads, pricing inquiries, bookings, etc. I went back to shooting 8 weeks after she was born. I had a c-section, so that time was very important for not only healing, but adjusting to life with a baby. We made the choice to only breastfeed her unless formula was medically necessary, which thankfully, it never was, but breastfeeding is a huge commitment and can be very trying in the beginning. So again, that 8 weeks was very much necessary for healing, getting into the groove of things, and pumping after feedings so I could have a stock pile of frozen milk for Colby to thaw out and use when I went back to shooting.

I don’t like having every minute of my day planned out. I like flexibility so my “schedule” is based on days of the week and not times of the day. Let’s face it. Some days, you don’t want to get out of bed before 10, other days you may be sick, your child/children may be sick, something may come up, etc. I need that sort of flexibility in my schedule.

Each day, I have a task I work on but I also have things I do daily in between. I’ll start with the days of the week. I don’t have a set time that I wake up, however my goal is 8:30am. I typically don’t meet this goal, but that’s ok. Once this pregnancy fatigue wears off, I’ll be able to better meet that goal. The first thing I do is roll over, grab my phone and read the Bible to have my quiet time before I even get out of bed. This ensures that God gets the first part of my day and that I’m filled with His word before I do anything.

Most of my time is spent with Carly. I always want to be present for her and with her when she’s awake. We’re blessed that she typically sleeps until 10:30 or so and goes down for a 2 hour nap around 2:30. So many times I have about 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon to work on things. That’s not to say if I have a ton to do that I don’t work while she’s awake. I think it’s important for her to understand that mommy works too, but I’ll typically sit her down with an activity that she’ll keep herself entertained with for an hour or in front of Veggietales, which will give me 45 minutes. Many times I’ll come back and work for another hour or so in the evenings while Colby is putting her to bed or I’ll work for longer if he’s out with a friend or is working on something of his own. Ok, so here goes.

  • Mondays: Blog for the week and update financials. I keep a running list of blog articles to write so I don’t sit down without a plan and without focus. Having a plan and a focus make me much more productive. After I blog for the week, usually 3 times a week, I update my article ideas so I’m continually prepared for the weeks to come. I also update my business financial spreadsheets, which includes expenses and mileage. My husband and I also sit down at night for our “budget committee” meetings to go over our family expenses, bills, cash envelopes, etc. Thanks to Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University for helping us to be more organized with our income.
  • Tuesdays: Open. If I have editing to do, I’ll typically edit. I’ll usually try to plan a fun activity with Carly, like going to a play ground, playing at the mall, painting or drawing, etc. I want to start going to the library, so I may try that next week.
  • Wednesday: Work on submissions. One of my goals for 2014 is to get published more. In order to do that, I need to focus every week on submissions. For this, I use Two Bright Lights (TBL) but also visit websites for blogs I want to be published on that don’t use TBL. Typically this takes up a lot of time because every editor has something different they want, from resizing images, to the amount of images and type of images they are looking for. I’ll usually get up extra early to work on that. When I get up early, I mean like 7-ish, I’ll usually throw in a load of laundry when I first wake up so I can have that going while the house is still quiet. Carly LOVES to help with laundry, so if the laundry is piling up, we’ll go upstairs and work on that together. She’s such a great helper!
  • Thursdays: Clean downstairs. Meal plan. The house is too big to clean all in just a day. It used to be my house cleaning days were Fridays but I found I wasn’t accomplishing my list in the few hours I had. So I separated the cleaning into floors over two days. I have a list of chores I keep to keep me on track. This includes vacuuming, mopping, cleaning out the fridge, cleaning the downstairs bathroom which includes scrubbing the toilet if needed, changing out all of the hand towels, wiping down sliding back doors from finger prints and dog noses, and tidying up the living room. I also meal plan for the next week’s lunches and dinners. I have a “go to” list of simple dinners so I don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Fridays: Clean upstairs. This is usually the floor that takes the longest. I clean two bathrooms, including scrubbing the showers/tubs, wiping down mirrors and sinks, cleaning toilets, vacuuming and mopping the floors in the bathrooms, vacuuming all of the other rooms, vacuuming the stairs, doing laundry and putting it away, switching out the bed sheets, washing the comforters/blankets, changing out all of the bath and hand towels, vacuum dusting the fans (if needed), window sills, and nightstands, etc.
  • Saturdays: Either shooting or spending time with family.
  • Sundays: Family day.

A couple of other personal goals that Colby and I made that have really helped stay organized is we made  a commitment to have the kitchen completely clean every night before we go to bed. Having a messy kitchen is so stressful to wake up to, and, for me at least, it sets the tone for the day. If my kitchen is messy, my day will be messy. The other commitment we made was to put laundry away. This is mostly on me because I take charge of doing the laundry while he is at work. We sold our dresser and we hang everything up except socks and underwear. This has significantly cut down on the time it takes to put away the laundry. I went to the dollar store and purchased a TON of hangers when we first moved here (we have a large closet) and surprisingly, I need more hangers…

In between all of these things I do on these days, I edit, answer emails, try my best to return phone calls, try to keep up with social media, take care of the dogs, try to workout, make lunches, cook and do make ahead snack for Carly, take a shower, run errands, do grocery shopping, schedule play dates, etc.

I know that this is a very long article, but I think it helps being in depth to try to give some perspective on what *could* work for you if you’re struggling to try to get it all done. Certainly, I don’t get it all done, but this helps me maintain some level of sanity. My husband is great at helping. He usually cleans the kitchen because I cook, he takes out all of the trash, changes out the diaper pale, gets the mail, etc. My philosophy, which I realize isn’t everyone’s philosophy, is that if my husband is going to work all day and is working hard to earn a consistent pay check, then it’s my duty to keep the home as best I can. Certainly that doesn’t absolve him from responsibilities around the house, but I take on the majority of it as my work since he has blessed me with being a stay at home mom and entrepreneur.

Lastly, it’s so important to keep up the intimacy in your marriage when life is so busy and can be very trying with small children. We are SOOOO incredibly blessed to have my mom happily come over every Tuesday so he and I can go out on a date night. We very much look forward to this. In addition, I’ve found that if you are on the same page with money/finances, it somehow deepens the intimacy in your marriage, so after Carly goes to bed on Friday nights, we have “Friday Night Dave Nights” instead of “Friday Night Date Nights” which used to be when we’d go out. This is where we will watch Dave Ramsey on Financial Peace University.

Anyway, I think that’s about it! lol! I hope this helps even one person who may be struggling with trying to keep it all together. It’s a process. Give yourself time and grace. Happy Wednesday.

 

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