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’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,


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


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,



New! Albums | Holly Von Lanken Photography | Atlanta Wedding Photographer

Guess what? The time has come and albums are now being offered by Holly Von Lanken Photography!  I've already had many of you asking about these albums so I thought I'd give you a little preview.  

Holly Von Lanken Photography will be offering a variety of products for you to choose from based on your wish lists and budgets.

The first, is a stunning hard back linen cover book with a custom dust cover.  This book is great for bragging about your fabulous wedding and showing off your photos that may not be the ones you put in frames all over your house.  Because, let's be real, you don't need to print every single photo to hang on your walls.  It might make you look a little self absorbed ;)  

However, my favorite albums, are these beautiful heirloom albums made with thick archive quality paper, lay flat pages, and leather bound covers.  There will also be a linen option with these albums.  These albums are sure to stand the test of time and easily wiped clean from spills, and will serve as your first family heirloom to be passed down to your children and grandchildren.  Display them proudly on your coffee table for your guests to oo and ah over every time they visit.

Email or use the CONTACT page to find out more information, schedule a meeting to view books in person, or order your album if you have been or will be photographed by Holly Von Lanken within the past/future calendar year.

The Experience with Holly Von Lanken Photography | Noi Tran Photography

I recently got to spend some time with my friend, Noi, of Noi Tran Photography.  This lady is a super talented film photographer in Atlanta and I'm so thankful I got to spend more time with her.  We met up at Cacao in the Virginia-Highlands, but after a minor mishap we relocated to Noi's home for a simple indoor session.  I love how these photos turned out and I hope you enjoy getting to know a little about me and enjoy watching me get ready to send off Mr. & Mrs. Collin's Wedding.

Thank you again, Noi, for the beautiful photos.  To see this session on Noi's blog, head over to her website HERE.


Things I enjoy: coffee, this outfit, beautiful photos, film, and calligraphy.  It's all right here in these photos.  I believe the experience you get with a wedding photographer shouldn't just be on your wedding day.  It's a culmination of everything from the engagement session, to planning how the flow of the day will go, all the way down to the package that arrives on your doorstep.  One of the things I want to offer my clients, in addition to beautiful images, is that they are delivered just as beautifully and wrapped up in love.  Here are just a few things I include in each set of wedding packaging.

Calligraphy is by my talented friend, Mallory, of Castle Paper Co.

Once all the packaging is together, it gets wrapped up in love and sent with a hand written thank you note.  I believe in thanking my clients.  They could easily have chosen one of the many other talented photographers around and so, each wedding is an honor and a privilege that I get to photograph.  They let me into their lives and their families for a day and it brings me much joy to create something beautiful for them.

Thanks again, Noi!