EVERYDAY VALENTINES: A LOVE NOTE TO OUR MODERN MARRIAGE

Confession: My husband and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day.   I have to warn you, this is about to get personal.  But I feel like this little glimpse into our lives as entrepreneurs, as husband and wife, and as parents intersect in ways that are inescapable.

Some people may find that weird that we don't make a big deal out of the big "V-Day", but it's not because we are against commercial holidays or lack any sentimentality.  Our lives are crazy busy the vast majority of the time.  Photography doesn't always happen during the 9am-5pm window and February is a particularly deadline-heavy period for us.  We always get each other a card, always say "Happy Valentine's Day", but going out usually isn't an option for us during this time of year.  I am simply thankful for the little things that we can do for each other each day - our everyday valentines.

My husband David is the master of making someone feel special.  He has an uncanny memory when it comes to the accomplishments of others, he celebrates your successes even if you barely know him, he is genuinely interested in what you have to say - regardless of how trivial.  This tendency doesn't end with our clients.  If you have ever been to our home or even been in my office at the studio, there is one thing that you will always see:  love notes. 

David has always been a prolific note writer.  Our schedules often do not line up. He leaves earlier than me, works later than I do.  We are constantly crossing paths during the day or hardly see each other at all.  He is out and about for 70-80 hours over 6 (sometimes 7) days a week.  He jokes that he spends more time with the families of others more than his own.  He takes on that role so that I can be home with our son as much as our work schedule can allow. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am and how selfless he is. 

Our ebb and flow results in me waking up to little notes on the kitchen counter, finding post-it notes on my desk when I arrive at work, coming home to a note along with flowers or my favorite candy (or both).  I ask myself constantly what I do that makes me so lucky to have him as my partner in life.

More often than not, the notes he leaves for me at work are words of encouragement.  Words to lift me up when I am feeling overwhelmed or I am having a rough day.  Like so many creative professionals, I have moments where I doubt myself and my abilities.  Doubt my relevance.  Doubt whether the work I am doing means anything to anyone but me.  David knows about my inner monologue, as he is one of the few that has seen me at my worst.  And when I put up a wall of strength in the presence of others, I can show what is going on inside to David.  He knows how to get me back on track when I need an extra push.

All blubbering aside, couples that work together know how hard it can be.  It is hard to separate the business from the personal.  But I am thankful that we share everything in real time with each other.  We are together for each victory and hardship - we are going through it at the same time!  He is my favorite collaborator, my honest critic, my sounding board, my therapist, my work husband AND home husband.  He is the best partner in every scenario.

So basically, I don't feel like I am missing anything by not doing the whole Valentine's Day schtick.  I get Valentine's Day every day because of my forever Valentine.  I love you, David McGregor.  I am so thankful for you.  

I'm not crying.  You're crying,  ;)

BEST OF 2017

1039 portrait sessions, 9 weddings, and over 400 events.  I think that we all can agree that 2017 was a year like no other.  When looking back the mountain of work that we did over those 12 months, it so hard to select such a small portion to highlight.  What isn't hard is the amount of gratitude that we feel that we are able to make a living doing what we love and be a part of such close-knit communities.  Big things are coming in 2018 and we are excited to share them with you!

Here are the stories behind each of our selections for our Best of 2017.  We hope you enjoy the details as much as we do!

We are HUGE sports fans, and sports photography is one of the hallmarks of our business.  Even though we typically are photographing high school sports, we had the opportunity to photograph Georgia vs. Appalachian State.  This would be a special experience for any photographer, but for us it was more than just the game.  Several people we photographed were part of the game - cheerleaders, players, and even a member of the Georgia coaching staff.  Being able to get a photograph of Nick Chubb's signature celebration was icing on the cake.

We are HUGE sports fans, and sports photography is one of the hallmarks of our business.  Even though we typically are photographing high school sports, we had the opportunity to photograph Georgia vs. Appalachian State.  This would be a special experience for any photographer, but for us it was more than just the game.  Several people we photographed were part of the game - cheerleaders, players, and even a member of the Georgia coaching staff.  Being able to get a photograph of Nick Chubb's signature celebration was icing on the cake.

The fall season is an extremely popular time to have your family photographed, and we look forward to this season every year.  However, when the fabulous Pagel family came for their annual family portrait, something was different.  Their session was first thing in the morning.  The air was cool, and there was still some fog lingering from the rain the night before.  The result was a dreamy, almost painterly effect on the whole scene.

The fall season is an extremely popular time to have your family photographed, and we look forward to this season every year.  However, when the fabulous Pagel family came for their annual family portrait, something was different.  Their session was first thing in the morning.  The air was cool, and there was still some fog lingering from the rain the night before.  The result was a dreamy, almost painterly effect on the whole scene.

The caption on this is simple: Game-winning shot at the buzzer during state playoffs.  What an unforgettable moment.

The caption on this is simple: Game-winning shot at the buzzer during state playoffs.  What an unforgettable moment.

This portrait was unlike any bridal portrait we had taken during 2017.  Liz (the bride) encompassed both modern and classic glamour all in one image.  The shadows provide the perfect about of drama and accentuate each curve and line. 

This portrait was unlike any bridal portrait we had taken during 2017.  Liz (the bride) encompassed both modern and classic glamour all in one image.  The shadows provide the perfect about of drama and accentuate each curve and line. 

Senior portraits is something in which we specialize.  When things come together as perfectly as they did in this shoot, we have to admire it.  Anthony's athleticism, drive, and steely eyes make this a once-in-a-lifetime senior portrait.

Senior portraits is something in which we specialize.  When things come together as perfectly as they did in this shoot, we have to admire it.  Anthony's athleticism, drive, and steely eyes make this a once-in-a-lifetime senior portrait.

One of the things that makes wrestling such a unique sport is that it is all up to you.  It is just you and your opponent on the mat.  You live and die by your choices.  This environment can be a pressure cooker of emotion, particularly when you get to the state championship level.  However, when the hard work pays off, you see raw, unbridled jubilation - just like Mason showed us at the GHSA State Duals.

One of the things that makes wrestling such a unique sport is that it is all up to you.  It is just you and your opponent on the mat.  You live and die by your choices.  This environment can be a pressure cooker of emotion, particularly when you get to the state championship level.  However, when the hard work pays off, you see raw, unbridled jubilation - just like Mason showed us at the GHSA State Duals.

The fact that we can build lasting relationships with families is so special to us.  We have been photographing the Portmann family for several years now, and seeing their daughters grow up has been awesome.  The lines in this portrait just draw you into this sweet family.  They always just relax and blossom in front of our lens.  Such a pleasure to work with them.

The fact that we can build lasting relationships with families is so special to us.  We have been photographing the Portmann family for several years now, and seeing their daughters grow up has been awesome.  The lines in this portrait just draw you into this sweet family.  They always just relax and blossom in front of our lens.  Such a pleasure to work with them.

Lauryn was one of our senior portrait models of the Class of 2018.  We photographed her session in the spring of 2017, selecting Little Five Points as our backdrop.  Lauryn has such a calm, kind, relaxed demeanor and she couples that with a clever sense of feminine style.  We loved how she just popped against the colorful murals behind her.

Lauryn was one of our senior portrait models of the Class of 2018.  We photographed her session in the spring of 2017, selecting Little Five Points as our backdrop.  Lauryn has such a calm, kind, relaxed demeanor and she couples that with a clever sense of feminine style.  We loved how she just popped against the colorful murals behind her.

Everyone should want their wedding to be like Don and Linda's.  This couple is crazy about each other - you can see it in their smiles.  When we say that they danced all night, they really did.  Love this portrait of them.

Everyone should want their wedding to be like Don and Linda's.  This couple is crazy about each other - you can see it in their smiles.  When we say that they danced all night, they really did.  Love this portrait of them.

One of my secret passions in food photography, which is why our relationship with Private Chefs of Atlanta is so great..  I typically do not eat while I am working at a shoot, but the chef insisted and he made a portion of each course for me.  Each dish was beautiful and delicious, as you can see from this garnishing shot of his pork dish.

One of my secret passions in food photography, which is why our relationship with Private Chefs of Atlanta is so great..  I typically do not eat while I am working at a shoot, but the chef insisted and he made a portion of each course for me.  Each dish was beautiful and delicious, as you can see from this garnishing shot of his pork dish.

Swimming is an intense sport.  Swimmers push their bodies to the limit and they are highly competitive people.  Jack is no exception.  This celebration was after one of his many victories at the 2017 GHSA State Championships.  And he is now being coached by Michael Phelps, as if he needed any more accolades to add to his resume.

Swimming is an intense sport.  Swimmers push their bodies to the limit and they are highly competitive people.  Jack is no exception.  This celebration was after one of his many victories at the 2017 GHSA State Championships.  And he is now being coached by Michael Phelps, as if he needed any more accolades to add to his resume.

There is something about a bride and groom that is open to any suggestion that you make during their wedding portraits.  Lourie and Royal were madly in love and they were all about having their portraits taken together.  Their enthusiasm made this portrait come out exactly how I saw it in my head - something that is not as easy as it sounds.

There is something about a bride and groom that is open to any suggestion that you make during their wedding portraits.  Lourie and Royal were madly in love and they were all about having their portraits taken together.  Their enthusiasm made this portrait come out exactly how I saw it in my head - something that is not as easy as it sounds.

You look at this portrait and you think, "Wow, she looks really at home in that water."  Guess again.  In order to get an epic portrait, sometimes you have to be a little uncomfortable.  Bella loves the water, so we opted to visit Lake Lanier  for her senior portrait session.  At the end, I suggested that she step into the water.  She immediately exclaimed "It is so cold!  Hurry up!"  You would never know how cold she was by the smile on her face.

You look at this portrait and you think, "Wow, she looks really at home in that water."  Guess again.  In order to get an epic portrait, sometimes you have to be a little uncomfortable.  Bella loves the water, so we opted to visit Lake Lanier  for her senior portrait session.  At the end, I suggested that she step into the water.  She immediately exclaimed "It is so cold!  Hurry up!"  You would never know how cold she was by the smile on her face.

In a typical family portrait session, we will photograph both posed and candid portraits.  When it comes to photographing children, sometimes the best moments are when kids are just being kids.  We let these girls run through a Christmas tree farm in November and the result is a beautiful representation of sisterhood.

In a typical family portrait session, we will photograph both posed and candid portraits.  When it comes to photographing children, sometimes the best moments are when kids are just being kids.  We let these girls run through a Christmas tree farm in November and the result is a beautiful representation of sisterhood.

Environmental portraits are a keystone in our business.  We love going to a location and finding beautiful spots in which to immerse our clients.  Jasmin looked like a goddess during her senior portrait session.  We went to Lenox Park in Atlanta to take in the old trees, water, bridges, and urban architecture.  No matter where we put Jasmin, she was the light in every portrait.  In this one,  the golden afternoon light was gleaming through the trees and Jasmin was simply glowing.

Environmental portraits are a keystone in our business.  We love going to a location and finding beautiful spots in which to immerse our clients.  Jasmin looked like a goddess during her senior portrait session.  We went to Lenox Park in Atlanta to take in the old trees, water, bridges, and urban architecture.  No matter where we put Jasmin, she was the light in every portrait.  In this one,  the golden afternoon light was gleaming through the trees and Jasmin was simply glowing.

If I am being honest, bride and groom portraits are one of my favorite parts of photographing weddings.  The quiet, intimate moments between two people that are in love and committing their lives to each other.  The Starlings are a memorable couple, not just because their wedding was elegant.  This portrait was taken following their ceremony, and it shows the care and admiration that they have for each other.  The kind of love that lasts forever.

If I am being honest, bride and groom portraits are one of my favorite parts of photographing weddings.  The quiet, intimate moments between two people that are in love and committing their lives to each other.  The Starlings are a memorable couple, not just because their wedding was elegant.  This portrait was taken following their ceremony, and it shows the care and admiration that they have for each other.  The kind of love that lasts forever.

This celebration was following the state semi-final match.  Even though the finals didn't go as planned, the happiness and comradery show here is exactly why we love sports.  Teams are families, winning and losing together.  In fact, when we posted this picture on Instagram as part of our series, the team members were still building each other up.

This celebration was following the state semi-final match.  Even though the finals didn't go as planned, the happiness and comradery show here is exactly why we love sports.  Teams are families, winning and losing together.  In fact, when we posted this picture on Instagram as part of our series, the team members were still building each other up.

2018 CFP NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: A STORY OF ASPIRATIONS

About 18 years ago, I set myself some career goals while I was in college. I never told anyone what they were. Slowly over time, I have been able to cross off some of these goals.

Something that a lot of people do not know about me is that I did not go to college to pursue portrait photography.  I wanted to be a sports photographer, shooting at the college and professional level.  I can remember vividly after failing another photojournalism assignment, my professor (who was a professional sports photographer) asked me "What is your number one goal?"  I said “To do what you do.”  A brief silence followed by a smirk that I will never forget.

Over the course of my career of seventeen years, I have covered thousands (yes, thousands) of sporting events involving a wide range of skill levels. I was lucky enough to sprinkle some college and professional sporting events, but mostly you can find me photographing high school sports five to six nights a week. Everything changed on January 2nd. I received word that I would be able to photograph the National Championship Game on behalf of Forsyth County News. If I was alone, I could have cried.

Fast forward to January 8th, my close friend of around fifteen years Morgan Lee (Sports Editor for Access North Georgia)  and I left my house in the morning for the trek through rain and traffic to downtown Atlanta to cover the game. We arrived at the stadium nine hours before game time and were met with Secret Service, security, and more security. It's kind of surreal to see Secret Service members in body armor and huge German Shepherds everywhere. For some reason, it freaked me out. Nonetheless, we got in and spend the next hours walking all levels of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, soaking in the scene and eventually making our way into the crowds.

As game time closed in, the photographers (more that I have ever seen) had a meeting with a few big wigs explaining what we could and could not do, as well as say up against the walls once the “Special VIP” walked out on to the field unless we wanted to meet the Secret Service up close. Then it really hit me, I am going to photograph the President of the United States too. Regardless of your political views, that's pretty awesome.

Time flew and before I knew it, it was game time.  I was in the "work-mode".  No more thinking "Oh my goodness, what I am doing here?” My thoughts turned into “Get in the right spot, idiot.” and “You better not miss the next play."  The game flowed so smoothly. My thoughts were running wild with each play:  "Alabama is driving late to win the game."  "Even though I am a Georgia fan,  I know this guy is going to miss this kick."  "Georgia is going to find a way to win.  I just know it."

Well, as we all know that didn’t happen. I didn’t allow myself to be in “fan-mode” until the end of the game as Devonta Smith crossed the goal line.  I was disappointed - but not sad. I had just done the same thing I do everyday.  The only difference was there were a few more people in the stands and the players were a bit older than who I was normally photographing.  As I jumped in my truck, I thought to myself: “This was amazing. This was fun and I got some amazing photo, but why was this my original goal as a professional photographer?”.

My conclusion is that I have everything I need to be fulfilled as a professional. I love the communities we service and I am thankful to make a difference with my trade.  Over the years, I have been able to watch children grow into awesome adults, achieve their dreams, build families.  Capturing the milestones in the lives of people in a personal way is a powerful thing.  And I am thankful.

- David

QUINN + HAYDEN - A DAHLONEGA ENGAGMENT PREVIEW

Holiday engagements are some of the most beautiful and memorable sessions to photograph, especially when you factor in the golden light and a small town decorated in lots of twinkling lights!  We loved using Historic Downtown Dahlonega as a backdrop for photographing this new chapter in Quinn and Hayden's life together.  Looking forward to photographing this sweet couple's wedding in November!

LAURA + TODD

Happy New Year, friends!  We closed out 2017 with the sweetest wedding and we are excited to share it with you!  Winter weddings provide a completely different aesthetic and feel from any other season, one that is full of holiday cheer, classic color palettes, light-filled decoration, and enhanced familial bond.  Trust me, you will see why Laura and Todd's intimate wedding was easily one of our favorites of the year.

Even before we met Laura in person, she had a way of making us feel like she already knew us.  She is gregarious, witty, and she calls everyone by a lot of pet names (it's a southern thing).  This sort of kindred sensibility was matched by both families present for the wedding - everyone was just so nice and welcoming.  They spoke to me as if I had been a part of the crew for years, joking and teasing and asking if I needed assistance.  Things got comfortable very quick.

Laura and Todd's wedding was full of both classic and unique elements.  It featured the traditional reds and greens of the holiday season with the accompanying decorative elements.  However, sprinkled throughout were little stamps of detail that made this day stand out.  For example, Laura's dress was decorated with Todd's family tartan and embroidered with the wedding dates of important family members down the back of the train.  She also wore her grandmother's fur stole, which added a touch of vintage glamour to her ensemble - even though had not originally planned on wearing it!

The importance of family echoed throughout.  We took portraits at Todd's family home, with the afternoon light shining.  Laura's mother created her bouquet of gorgeous red roses and thistles.  Family members were so gracious and fun.  Happiness.

The ceremony was simple and elegant.  Golden afternoon light shined through shutters, candles lined the seating and walkway, an absolutely stunning arbor of branches centered the space.  I found out later that the arbor was crafted the night before and was a group effort among family members.  A sign saved a place for Todd's mother.   Laura was walked down the aisle by her parents and her two sons.  Again, family taking center.

The vows were soft-spoken, meaningful, and symbolized with both rings and a binding ceremony.  The first kiss was one of the most beautiful I had photographed in some time.  The smiles as they walked down the aisle together said everything.

This couple is special.  Even in a time where people are less and less genuine, and focus on insignificant minutia and pettiness, Laura and Todd found the kind of love that lasts forever.  You can see just see it in the way they look at each other, the way they care of each other, the way they show love to others.  Congratulations Laura and Todd!