How Did I Wind Up Here? | Reflections

My journey to becoming a full fledged, full time photographer was a slow, yet also quick one.  

I got my first DSLR (aka “fancy camera”) when I graduated from UGA in the spring of 2011.  It was fun to play with and took way better pictures than any other camera even on AUTO.  I was the friend that brought it to tailgates and trips and my camera would get passed around so we could document the day’s activities.  This was also during the time when “Facebook Albums” were pretty prevalent and you had to try to come up with witty album names. 

 Shelby Rae Photographs

Shelby Rae Photographs

It wasn’t till maybe a year later when a recently engaged friend suggested that I take their engagement photos.  So I did!  And I have been photographing them ever since :). We could probably have some kind of art exhibit of the Tuttle family and the evolution of Holly Von Lanken Photography… maybe one day. ;)

Anyway, I loved getting to photograph them!  It was so much fun and it made them happy.. which made me happy!

I was at the stage in my life when several friends were starting to get married and I would volunteer to take engagement photos for them for fun/practice/as a wedding present of sorts.  At this point in time, I never would have thought I’d be where I am now - not that I have “made it” by any means, but where I am in that I am my primary provider and I can sit at my computer at home at 11:36am on a Wednesday drafting this blog post.

 Shelby Rae Photographs

Shelby Rae Photographs

So let’s fast forward a little bit..it’s circa 2013 and I’m stalking Kaitie Bryant’s website almost daily and learning as much as I can.  If you know me, you know that when I get interested in something, I will research it till no end.  Around that time, I worked up the courage and asked Kaitie if I could shadow/ follow her around at a wedding just to see what it was like… and she said yes! And it was awesome! At this point though, I still never considered that this could be a job or even a side hustle for me.  It was just a fun hobby.

At the end of that year, I was in my friend’s wedding.  The photographer for that wedding was Chloe Giancola, whose husband was one of the groomsmen.  At the reception we got to talking and I asked to second shoot with her and she said yes! I ended up second shooting with Chloe for the greater part of 2014.  I learned a lot from Chloe and was able to see how the flow of a wedding day went.  I learned to shoot in RAW and in manual that year.  It was an excellent year of growth.  During this time I was also going to workshops and doing more research and toying with the idea that this could be an actual business.  Still I never dreamed it would be a full time gig, but could be a hobby that paid for itself because let’s be real - photo gear is expensive.  I made a really terrible Wordpress website, which hopefully the world will never have to see. I really hope it’s not still alive somewhere in the depths of the internet.   I made some homemade business cards - also pretty embarrassing - and continued to invest in learning this trade.  

 Shelby Rae Photographs

Shelby Rae Photographs

Things turned when I booked my first weddings during the later months of 2014.  I had been told, “If you’re going to shoot weddings, you need to have a business license.” So that’s what I did.  I did more research and learned everything I could about business licenses, taxes, and all that other nasty legal stuff that if you’re going to have a company, you need to know. In October 2014, I officially launched “Holly Von Lanken Photography”.  

Also, can we give a quick shout out to the first weddings - the couples who trusted me the most and decided to take a risk?  Thank you Andersons and Timmons!  The Timmons booked me first, but the Andersons were the first wedding I shot that was “mine” in January 2015.

 Shelby Rae Photographs

Shelby Rae Photographs

From there, things grew.  During all of this, there was a lot of prayer.  I prayed and asked God if this was really something I could or should do.  I prayed that I would do a good job and that the couples would love their photos.  I prayed that God would send me the “right” couples - not the couples who had the most aesthetically pleasing weddings (although that’s always a plus), but those who were excited to get married and weren’t going to sweat the small stuff and who I genuinely liked.   These are prayers I’ve prayed many times and will continue to pray along with many others.  

God kept answering my prayers.  I remember praying to shoot 5 weddings in 2015.  I thought that was a pretty good goal for having shot zero in 2014.  I ended up shooting 12.  

 Shelby Rae Photographs

Shelby Rae Photographs

I may also need to mention that during this time I was also working full time as a teacher, teaching high school Spanish.  I really did enjoy teaching and I loved my students (most of them ;)).  However, it became really difficult to do both full time teaching and photography.  Plus, I was driving about an hour to school and back every day.  More prayers were prayed about what I should do and probably for another year of prayerful consideration and meeting with Shanna Skidmore, a creative business consultant, I decided to make the switch to full time.  I finished out the 2015-2016 school year and then jumped into full time photography life.  

This summer marks the completion of the first full year of full time photography and I’m so thankful for the clients, vendors, and friends I’ve met along the way.  It’s been good to reflect on various things about my life and my career being one of them.  The Lord is ever faithful.

I wanted to share this story for this anniversary of sorts, but also for other creatives because I’ve been there.  I know about the long hours, the considerations, the one million resources out there that everyone tells you that you “need.”  I’ve found some of my most helpful encounters came from being able to sit in front of another human being and just talking.  Don’t get me wrong, there is value in webinars and online courses and there are great ones out there.  They are perfect for reaching the masses, but there’s still nothing like a face to face meeting over a nice warm cup of coffee or working with someone in a hands on environment to learn.  

 Shelby Rae Photographs

Shelby Rae Photographs

If you’ve made it this far, I congratulate you.  

With all that said, I want to give creatives starting out more opportunities for one-on-one, face-to-face meetings.  This is why I decided to start offering mentoring sessions for small creative businesses.  This could be a one hour conversation over coffee to figure out the government side of a start up.  It could be to get clarity or work on action steps to achieving your goals.  It could even look like setting up processes to make your business run smoothly.  I also realized that there are those out there who need some practice with using a DSLR camera whether simply for themselves, to hone their skills, or because they run their own businesses - maybe not even a photography business, but want to know how to take better images of their products.  

If any of this sounds like you, I’d love to chat and help get you where you want to go.  Thanks so much for reading and being along for this crazy ride. 

Word to your mother,

Holly

Creative Conversations | Meet an Atlanta Wedding Planner | Taylor Dawn

I met Taylor when I reached out to a local group of wedding professionals about doing a styled shoot.  She was the perfect person to our Coast Wedding Inspiration shoot with and from then we've gotten to know each other and even work on other projects as well!  I'm so excited to know this lady and you should too, which is why I did a little interview with her!  

atlanta wedding planner

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Taylor and I am a Wedding Planner here in Atlanta! Although most of my time is spent in the city, I also double-time as a coaches’ wife. My sweet husband is a high school football and baseball coach, so many Friday nights after rehearsals are spent on a ball field! I absolutely love my job and am so thankful to be able to work for myself full time! Making brides’ dreams come to fruition is my passion. I love seeing brides enjoy a stress free and beautiful wedding day with the people they love most!

 

How did you get into wedding planning?

I got in to wedding planning from my sweet friend, Molly McKinley! I met Molly while I was in college, and it was such a God thing. His direction in my life came at the most perfect time when I had NO idea what I wanted to “be when I grew up.” After working for Molly, and with my husband’s encouragement, I was able to start my own little business!

atlanta wedding planner
atlanta wedding designer

 

What are your current favorite color combinations or trends?

Well! As I am currently going through rebranding, I have really been stretching myself to include more “color” into my life, and not just sticking to neutrals, which is totally my MO! I’m a neutral gal! I am loving soft mauves and darker pink and blue hues marrying neutrals. SO dreamy. 

 

Any advice for couples getting married?

Of course, my number one planning advice is to have a planner! (Shameless plug!) Really, having a great vendor team and someone to be the point of contact can really create a seamless day. I always tell my brides (and their moms!), you don’t want the caterer calling you while you’re getting your makeup done asking where a table should be placed. Also, and most importantly, remember that at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you are GETTING MARREID! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have a mimosa, kick back, and let your team take care of business!

atlanta wedding planner
 From our most recent shoot -  CLICK HERE  to see more.

From our most recent shoot - CLICK HERE to see more.

 

Any advice for new wedding planners just getting started?

There is no better way to learn than working at weddings! I would say to assist anyone and everyone. I have learned almost all that I know simply from doing weddings! Working with someone who is a bit further in her career than you should not be intimidating, you should soak it in! Learn from them! (Even if they’re doing the exact job you are!) It’s the best way! This business is made up of the best girl bosses!

 

Favorite Atlanta venue(s)?

My favorite venue has got to be Summerour. I absolutely love working with the staff there and it’s simple aesthetic just speaks to me! (Also, it takes me back to Italy, where we spent our honeymoon and I would be more than happy to move to tomorrow! Any takers?!) 

atlanta wedding planner

 

What is something about wedding planners that many people may not know?

My favorite question I get asked, which can probably be echoed by most entrepreneurs, is “So what do you DO all day?” The answer is, my days are all different! However, being a wedding planner is really mixed with equal right and left-brain activities. Everything from making timelines, layouts, reviewing budgets, and catering proposals to meeting with brides, picking out flowers, scourging for the perfect invitation, and visiting venues!

 

What are your hobbies/ non wedding related activities?

As I mentioned before, with my hubby being a high school coach, you can usually find me at a baseball or football field any night of the week being a coach’s wife! I love these moments! Getting to know high schoolers and going through life with them is such a great experience. Also, you can probably find me out to eat with my sister, who is definitely my BFF, as often as possible (probably with a margarita in hand)!  Going out to eat is a hobby, right?!

atlanta wedding stylist

 

After planning your own wedding, was there anything you wish you did differently knowing what you know now as a professional?

Hmm, I would say that just not caring what other people think! The most important thing about getting married is your marriage! I love how truly the Lord’s love for us is displayed in marriage. Maybe also having a rain plan would have been a good idea from a professional point of view (oops, don’t tell my mother!)! 

atlanta wedding planner

10 Days in the Life of a Wedding Photographer

"You’re a photographer, right?  So, like, what do you do all day when you're not shooting?"

I get this question often.  It’s not that people are trying to discredit my profession or think that I just sit at home watching Netflix all day.  They are just genuinely curious.  It’s not a typical 9-5 job.  There is the flexibility that I can do laundry while I’m working or take a personal day if I need to, but many people don’t realize that running a photography business is actually less time shooting and much more time actually running a business.

To show people what I do, I decided to keep a record of everything I did for 10 days.  Each week could look different, but this may give you a good idea as to what a photographer does behind the scenes and what the day-to-day might look like.

DAY 1: Sunday, February 19th

10:30am - Church

12:30-5:00pm - Simply Foxhall Workshop - Hosted by Simply Cater.  I photographed the styled shoot element, shot some behind the scenes of the event, and spoke.

Side Note: I don’t typically work on Sundays, but an opportunity came up for me to speak and photograph at this event.  Last week I was talking on the phone with organizers, emailing, and preparing my talk - “How to draft your perfect photo timeline.”

BTS of Amberly, of Wrennwood Design, lighting the table at the Simply Foxhall Workshop

DAY 2: Monday, February 20th - President’s Day

Some of my friends with 9-5 jobs had this day as a holiday, some didn't.  I decided to go "halfsies".  Also seeing as I worked the day before, I felt no guilt about taking a half day.

AM- uploaded, culled, and began editing photos from Sunday

PM - took off to spend time with friends, rest, and read

DAY 3: Tuesday, February 21st

AM - Did some styled and BTS photos for Maybe to Yes Workshop at 433 Bishop

Then, had to leave for a little bit to go meet my clients for their engagement session in Cabbagetown.

PM - Returned for the afternoon portion of Maybe to Yes for more BTS shots.

At home “after hours” - uploaded engagement photos and day one of maybe to yes and culled images, Sent headshots to a friendor. 

BTS of Taylor, of Taylor Dawn Design, at the Maybe to Yes Workshop

DAY 4: Wednesday, February 22nd

AM + PM - At Maybe to Yes all day - headshots, styled shoot, and BTS photos

"After hours" Started drafting blog post for Brianne McMullan Events

DAY 5: Thursday, February 23rd

AM - uploaded and culled Maybe to Yes workshop and styled shoot photos from day 2, Returned emails, Booked an engagement session, Called ga doe about log in info

Went to the Atlanta Youth Academy (AYA) to hang out with my mentee, Precious.*

*Yes, this is one of the perks to making my own schedule.  I can volunteer in the middle of the day!

Returned groom’s suit from Sunday’s workshop

PM - Finished editing Simply Foxhall Workshop photos, Uploaded to online gallery, Returned more emails

Some goodies from Grice Grove that were at her pop up shop at Simply Foxhall Workshop

DAY 6: Friday, February 24th

AM - Chapel at AYA and 2nd graders were leading. (When I went the day before, Precious and her teacher asked if I was coming and who could say no to that sweet child so I went two days in row.)

Posted blog post and promoted on social media

PM - Uploading the rest of SFW photos to online gallery, Reviewed a portfolio/ website for a newer photographer, Met her for lunch, Sent Simply Foxhall Workshop photos to the organizers of the event, Edited MTY headshots

Our new Tuesdays Together Atlanta leaders and speakers at Maybe to Yes - Kristen Green and Sarah Chancey

DAY 7: Saturday, February 25th

8am - Engagement Session at O4W park - again I don't normally do portrait sessions on Saturdays that I don't have weddings, but she was flying in from Nebraska and thus, I broke my own rule again... must get better at that.

No more work this weekend! 

DAY 8: Sunday, February 26th

Church

Sabbath aka no work or emails for me today!

Taylor taught attendees about styling and they got to play with pretty paper, ribbon and jewelry

DAY 9: Monday, February 27th

AM - Emails - following up with brides, discussing engagement sessions, with my CPA to file my taxes, Submitting shoots to publications, Signed up for webinars, Editing -worked on MTY, finished editing an engagement session, Planning/ dreaming for future fun things like workshops, mentoring sessions and a summer intern. Be on the look out for all these fun things potentially happening in the future!

PM - Exported engagement sesh and uploaded to online gallery, Posting to social media, Blog post planning

DAY 10: Tuesday, February 28th

AM - Respond to emails, Finish blog post, Post blog post, Cull images for styled shoot submission

PM - Went on a run (again with the work perks - I give myself freedom to run in the middle of the day), Submit to publication, Research engagement shoot locations, Listen to Ashlyn Writes Webinar, Start editing MTY Workshop day 2

 

So there ya have it - 10 days in my life and what I did.  Like I said before, every week, every day could look different depending on what is necessary to accomplish that day.  Some days look more exciting with workshops and photo sessions while others tend to be a bit less exciting like doing taxes and talking to people on the phone at various government agencies.  Through it all, I'm happy to get to run my own company for as long as the Lord wills it.

Peace up, A-Town down,

Holly

 

Creative Conversations| Meet an Atlanta Filmmaker - Marc Sugrue | Intro 2 Music Video

I met Marc a few years ago when we both helped out with The Greenroom, a summer camp through Re:imagine ATL.  Since then, it's been fun to catch up with Marc every now and then and see how his filmmaking career grows in Atlanta.  

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of following the guys around on set capturing some behind the scenes moments for a music video Marc was directing. You'll be able to see the completed project at the end of the post and it's a must see! It's so good!

How did you get into filmmaking?

Well, I started off as any creative really. Confused. I loved making things, drawing, and making skits with home made puppets. My mom once said that she wanted to put me in acting school as a child. But due to a family member discouraging me I put off my creative instincts and focused on the academic. The problem with that was my grades never got above an 80 and it was super discouraging. I was trying to find my worth in grades, and I failing. It felt like not only did I put my worth into grades but the public school system only really commemorated for your diligence to academic studies and that never included the arts. Despite this I always pursued art in some way. Whether it was doodling on my notes, taking graphic design classes, photography classes, fine arts and finally in my last year of high school video production. Walking into video production was a breath of fresh air, where anything I created was right as long as it was created. My teacher Mr. Farranto of CNS high school was super encouraging and if it wasn’t for him I certainly wouldn't have found the satisfying career that I have today.  

*Side Note: You can actually read more about this on Marc's Blog - HERE.

What's been your favorite project to date?

The hard thing about art is starting off. I can’t say I have a most favorite video/film to date yet, but I will say I am most pleased with how my most recent personal project, "Intro 2"  that I released recently. That video took me months to create. We were not filming or editing for months but because it was an unofficial video, aka: not paid for by the musical artist/label, we needed to raise money by doing other corporate work and finding time to produce, scout, and film, etc. If anything I appreciate it the most because it took a lot out of me. It was diligent work, but I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

What kind of stories are your favorite to tell

I think to find your style of story to tell, you need to always be learning yourself deeper and deeper. Making films revolving around real characters in real stories means you have to pull from the real things around you. Your experiences - Your feelings are part of the story you're telling. For instance, when growing up I was told I shouldn’t be an artist, I spent years denying myself the pleasure of committing to the artistic side of myself. I denied and rejected apart of me. Through that, other friendship and community rejections I have gained insight on the world of forgiveness, regret, rejection and denial. I can pull from these experiences and feels to hopefully connect with the audience because I have really felt them. So the stories I have really felt and recognized in myself are the stories I want to tell.

What's your favorite role on set?

My favorite role on set is a even split between Director and Director of Photography. However, I would say DP. 

What's your favorite movie? ( I know this is probably a difficult one.)

My favorite movie, at the moment, is the 1980’s Elephant Man by David Lynch staring John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins. This movie shows what society values and what God’s real values are in humans. It's a movie that really focuses on Man vs. Inner man.  It's amazing I could write a whole blog post on it, maybe I will- HA!

Who are some of your favorite people to collaborate with?

There are a lot of talented people I like to work with. But the one person who is always there and is one of the best people I have ever had the privilege to work with is Chris Carey. The man is an amazing producer/AD I can name quite a few sets he alone has saved. 

Any advice for anyone looking into getting into filmmaking?

1. Unsolicited negative advice isn’t critiquing it is discouragement.

2. Find your purpose in why you want to create, not just creation for the sake of creation.

3. Forgive yourself for not liking your own work, it means you have gotten better for making it and you have better taste now.

As my blog is about helping filmmakers find there way through the jungle of the business world and creative aspects of filming and full time artistry in general, I have a lot to say and too little space. 

...and yes we rode in the trunk of this car with the hatch open to get the in motion motorcycle shots...

Music Video Credits:

Producer: Marc Sugrue
Co-Producer: Stefan Bekker

Director: Marc Sugrue
Director of Photography: Marc Sugrue
Assistant Director: Chris Carey

2nd Unit:
Director of Photography/Camera Operator: David Nobles
Assistant Camera: Jonathan Gabriel

3rd Unit:
Camera Operator: Bleu Hayes

Drone Pilot: Joesph Peed

Cast: (In order of appearance)
Adult One: Mark Mellete
Adult Two: Daniel Bass