Shelby + Brett | Seattle, WA Engagement Session

"We are best friends and just the best team together."
Sounds like a two people who are meant to be together if you ask me! Shelby and Brett are high-school sweethearts who fell in love and decided to move from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest together after college. After planting roots in their home, starting new jobs and planning a wedding - they couldn't be more ready to tie the knot in the beautiful state of WA in just under a month. "We are so excited to get married because we feel like we have been talking about being married for years now and we can't believe it's finally happening."

I met them at Discovery Park in Seattle for their engagement session, where we laughed, danced, played and soaked in a setting sun. The best part is, they get to do it again as husband and wife in less than a month! Can't wait to celebrate with you two! Congrats!

For a small peek into their little love story, keep on scrollin'! 

Abbey + Jacob | Upper MI Engagement

Abbey and Jacob met in Nebraska years ago. Jacob fell for Abbey immediately, telling her he was going to marry her someday. Abbey just laughed at him, not knowing that soon she would be dating him and falling head over heels in love with him. She didn't know yet that she'd say yes to his proposal and plan a wedding with him. When Abbey first met Jacob, she didn't know that she was going to be his forever person and that he would be hers. Love is full of wonderful surprises, am-i-right? 

Can't wait for your wedding you two! Now scroll on to see more from their U.P. Mich engagement session: 

Nik & Kendra | Battle Ground, WA Private Estate Wedding

After many months of long distance, Nik and Kendra officially were back in the same state just in time to exchange vows at a private estate in Battle Ground, WA. Family and friends traveled from MI and NC and beyond just to celebrate with the happy couple. With rustic wood signs, gold accents and bouquets of blush colored florals, the beautiful estate grounds were ready to host an outdoor ceremony and reception. Nik and Kendra opted to have a first look so they could get all of their photos taken care of before the ceremony and go straight into dinner. Rightfully so because the taco bar was ahhhhmazing. Also they wanted to spend most of their wedding day together instead of waiting until the evening when she finally walked down the aisle. Under the beaming hot sun, the newlyweds ate, prayed, danced, laughed and were wed. Marital bliss.

A huge congrats to Nik & Kendra - thanks for letting me be a part of your beautiful day!
A special shout out to Lana Aho for second-shooting and the wonderful coordination/styling from Kelsey.

Tipsy Tuesday | What Family Photos Do I Need At My Wedding?

Today's Tipsy Tuesday post is brought to you with the hopes of helping you plan out a simple family shot list at your wedding and sample cup of Viognier at the farmers market. 

Family formal photos at a wedding can get pretty chaotic. Especially with big families. Elderly grandparents. Crying babies. Stressed mamas. You name it. Everyone seems to want a photo with the newlyweds, but the bride and groom can only hold those smiles for so long before those happy cheeks need a break. As the photographer, I ask each couple to provide me their family shot list of who is the most important for them to have photos with. The responses are different with each couple. For few, it's important that they get their entire extended families all together in a photo with them. Others, would rather keep it short and sweet and have maybe 4 photos total.

When asked for tips on how to plan a good family shot list, I try to keep it simple and easily flowing to keep everyone from being burnt out from too many photos and recommend the couples to choose only the photo combinations that will probably be printed and framed or ones they can't live without. While every cousin, aunt and old classmate may want a photo with you, I suggest keeping family photo time for your closest family members and getting the rest of the photos with your other guests during the cocktail hour or reception. Despite contrary belief, there are no rules to what you do or don't have to do when it comes to family photos.

Below are the 10 most common photos I typically try to aim for during family formals in 30 minutes or less. If you have more time, you could break these down further (i.e. Bride + her Mom or Groom and his siblings) and if you have less time, you can combine some of the combos to make sure everyone gets in who needs to. Because the day is about the Bride and Groom marrying into each other's families, I like to take a majority of the family photos with both of them together unless they've made different requests.

1. Bride with Bride's Parents

2. Bride and Groom with Bride's Parents

3. Bride and Groom with Bride's Entire Immediate Family*

4. Bride and Groom with Bride's Entire Immediate Family* + Grandparents

5. Bride and Groom with Bride's Grandparents

6. Groom with Groom's Parents

7. Bride and Groom with Groom's Parents

8. Bride and Groom with Groom's Entire Immediate Family*

9. Bride and Groom with Groom's Entire Immediate Family* + Grandparents

10. Bride and Groom with Groom's Grandparents

*= immediate family indicates a bride or groom's parents, siblings, spouses and children

Maybe you're wondering what to do if you have bad blood with someone in your family who will be at the wedding. I would never force a bride or groom to take photos with anyone they don't want to, but I highly encourage having at least one photo with immediate family members you may not be close with if they show up to your wedding. Someday, it may be important to you to have a photo of them and you don't want to end up with regrets over any short term family issues. If you're extremely uncomfortable, don't worry about it. You only have to take the photos you truly want

To sum it up, keep it simple. Don't schedule yourself to smile in the same spot for an hour (I assure you'll get annoyed/bored/tired). Don't plan for super lengthy shot lists just to please each guest. Remember, you still have to take photos with your wedding party so don't burn out your beautiful smile in one sitting. It's your day, celebrate it how you want!

Cheers!

June Travel Dates

Those photos on your wall right now... when were they taken? 
If you're struggling to remember just how long ago it was, it's probably time to update them! 
Don't worry my upper MI friends, I'm coming your way this week!

I'll be heading to the U.P. on June 6, 2017 and added a couple extra spots in my calendar for YOU! Whether it's engagement, bridal, anniversary or lifestyle photos, I'd love to capture those for you!
Just go right here and tell me which of your photos need updating. 
See you soon friends!
 

Tipsy Tuesday | You're Engaged! Now what?!

Yay! He just popped the question and your new name is ENGAGED! There's so much excitement and you're swept off your feet and hovering above cloud 9. Enjoy it, then head on down back to earth because you've got some planning to do sister!

Congrats lovebirds!

Let planning begin, but don't forget to actually enjoy the engagement. Remember to go on dates from time to time with zero wedding talk. Marriage > Wedding. 

After you've said yes, you need to make sure you share the news with everyone and anyone, but family first! Everyone is going to want to know when the big day is. You don't have to decide on a date immediately, just let them know you'll be sending a save-the-date as soon as you decide and ask them to send you their current address. This way you don't have to make a spur of the moment date decision while you're riding that cloud 9. 

Once you've soaked it all in and made the announcement, then it's time to start deciding on dates. Consider max number of guests you'd like, whether you want an indoor or outdoor wedding, what season will work for that and a date that will work for each of your schedules. Take as much time as you think you'll need to save up and plan the big day on top of your regular schedules. Always pick a few dates, just in case your priority vendors are unavailable on the first date you choose.

You'll probably want to make an estimated budget next. There are no rules, minimum or maximum for this. It can be helpful to break this down into your top 10 categories based on vendor priority to you. Who and what are the most important for you to have as part of your wedding day? Have a little flexibility in your budget; it's much easier to go over budget than you think. Write out the numbers 1-10 and list each vendor involved in your day in the order of importance to you.
1. Wedding Venue
2. Professional Photography
3. DJ/Band/Music
4. Food/Caterer
5. Videographer
6. Dress/Attire
7. Florals
8. Cake
9. Invitation Suite
10. Other (rings, hair and makeup, officiant, honeymoon, decorations, tents, chairs, gifts, transportation, etc)

Once you decide on a rough budget, set up a meeting with a wedding planner/coordinator if you'll be working with one. These talented professionals can save you tons of stress and dirty work. If you'll be planning the day fully on your own, you'll need to get started searching out each of the major vendor categories listed above, starting with whatever vendor is a highest priority for you. This will be different from one person to the next. For me, our photographer was a top priority and we actually changed our wedding date when I found out she was already booked for our original date. Know that your major vendors (reception venues, photographers, videographers and DJs) will already be booking 1-2 years in advance so don't take your time once you know what you want. 

Trust will be everything here, so follow your gut instincts when you meet with your vendors. Find professionals you have the best connection with, who you know will leave you with nothing to stress about. Someone you know you can trust. Read reviews, ask questions and meet face-to-face whenever you can. Professionals will always have a contract for you; read through before signing and never hire someone who doesn't have a written agreement to do the work you're hiring them for. 

You may find your vendor priorities change throughout this process of narrowing down vendors as you find certain artists and designers you can't live without. This is normal. Just remember to adjust your budget accordingly.

Once you get the major vendors dialed in, you can start thinking about your wedding party and who you'd like to ask to stand in as your bridesmaids and groomsmen. I can't tell you who to choose, but I will say be sure to select a crew who you can trust to lift you up, help when needed and are 100% in support of you. These are your go-to guys and gals on the big day and you want friends & family you can lean on. Take them with you to go start collecting ideas and trying on dresses and florals!

Time to make the guest list and collect addresses! Start with family and work your way down through your closest friends and co-workers. Don't feel obliged to invite everyone you know! Do you want children or no children to attend? If your venue has a limit and you have an enormous guest list, you'll have to either cut back or change your venue. Do what is most important to both of you. If everyone can't fit at the ceremony, but the reception venue is larger, it's okay to invite some guests only to the reception.

Next, you'll want to book your engagement session. I highly recommend booking this with your wedding photographer as a way to get to know each other before the big day. You can use these photos in your newspaper announcements, save-the-dates and later on display at any engagement parties or showers. 

Send out your save-the-dates as soon as you have your date set in stone, followed by the formal invitation & RSVPs at least two months before the wedding (even sooner for destination weddings). To save on paper, you can send a link to your guests to RSVP electronically on websites (like this one here).

There you have it: the first big things to help you get started with wedding planning. Narrowing down the little details can be tedious and sometimes annoying, but don't lose sight of what all the planning is for. Ask your family and wedding party for help whenever you need it! 
Happy Wedding Planning!

Our 2nd Wedding Anniversary Trip | Orcas Island Pt. 2

The next morning, we took our time getting ready. Beau had breakfast planned, cinnamon rolls and mimosas! We ended up eating cheddar brats (something I eat like once a year normally) too because we didn't know when we'd get lunch since we were heading out on a whale tour that afternoon. 

Beau and I went for a hike to Obstruction Pass again, but it was more like a jog because we had to get all the way across the island for our tour and I was reminded how out of shape I am.

We took the Orcas Express and while we didn't see any super cool killer whales, we saw a couple of gray humpback whales named Heather and Big Mama who have supposedly been around for many years.

We had a few hours to kill after and found our way to the Island Hopping Brewery. We killed time playing the cardgame Speed and sampling good craft beers before heading over to Pizza Portofino. I'm craving their garlic butter focaccia again just thinking about it. 

The ferry ride back involved more (failed) attempts at finishing puzzles laid out on the tables, gorgeous sunset colors and an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what a beautiful life we have.
 

I'm so ready to photograph another couple on the islands now. Please just get me a Leanto next to you so we can hang by the fire after. Who wants in?

Our 2nd Wedding Anniversary Trip | Orcas Island Pt.1

Our second wedding anniversary was Sunday May 14th. Beau told me not to make any plans for Saturday or Sunday, to pack a bag with camping and hiking gear and to plan to be up by before 3am. That was all I knew. I love how much he loves to surprise me. He always has. I'm not great at surprises because I typically clue in to little details easily, but we've both gotten better the longer we've been together.

Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 2:30am. Beau made us coffee and hustled me out the door in all of my groggy splendor. The coffee, we agreed, was terrible because he thought he'd run the same K-cup in the Keurig twice to make one big coffee (don't waste your coffee this way my friends). We stayed awake out of excitement for the rest of drive though, the Serial podcast holding our attention. By the time we reached Anacortes, I figured out we were taking the ferry over to the San Juan Islands.

On the ferry, Beau clued me in that we were going to Orcas Island and he had a list of awesome places for us to check out when we got there. The ferry wasn't packed and we walked around, watching the sun slowly coming up and fighting buying the delicious smelling tator tots because he promised there would be a cafe on the island I would love more.

We arrived at the island around 6am and the sleepy island town was still asleep so we drove around the entire west side of the island and walked along the beach, stepping on squishy kelp and looking for crabs. Once the Brown Bear Cafe opened, we were some of the first in line to enjoy a delicious Vanilla Peach croissant, JamBon (ham) croissant and a large vanilla americano. 

We headed over to hike Obstruction Pass on a mission to find the starfish we read about. The screaming seagulls wanted to eat them so it took a little time to discover how well they were burrowed under crevices of rocks. It did not disappoint, they were beautiful and bright. We hate seagulls (yes, I've been pooped on on my head) so we made sure to hide them just as we found them to keep the birds guessing. 

During the afternoon, we checked out Constitution point and watched two baby deer prancing around. One was albino and if you look close enough in my photos there, you can see him in the distance.

Afterwards, we stopped locally for some fresh caught mussels and then sampled vino at the Orcas Island Winery. Interestingly enough, they don't grow their own grapes on the island. The climate isn't right for growing, but they love the place enough to open a winery there. I don't mind; the merlot was delicious and bold with raspberry taste!

We stayed in a Leanto and it was much cooler than I thought a glamping experience would be! I love camping, but throw in a tent big enough to stand in, a luxury bed, camping chairs, tables, umbrellas, firepit, water jug, coffee and lanterns and all the stress of packing goes out the window. Beau surprised me with a cheeseboard, my favorite snack/meal ever. We sat by the fire all night, reminiscing our favorite wedding memories.

It was very cold outside, but they provided us a hot water bottle heat pack and wool blankets so we stayed cozy in bed. After Beau killed a large spider, I slept like a baby (which is rare for the light sleeper I am). 

Enough words, more photos... Keep scrollin'

Part 2, coming right up!

Tipsy Tuesday | Wedding Detail Shots

Today's Tipsy Tuesday post is brought to you with a glass of merlot and on the subject of being prepared to have your wedding details photographed. These details may include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Wedding rings
  • Wedding dress and groom suit
  • Garter
  • Something old, new, borrowed and/or blue if you're going traditional
  • Any special jewelry, hair pieces, clips, brooches, veil or heirloom pieces
  • Paper Suite (Save the Date, Invites, Envelopes)
  • Florals (bouquets, boutonnières and any extra pieces your florist may leave for styling photos) 

When I arrive at your getting ready venue, I like to photograph the details immediately so everything is ready for you when you need it. I especially love when everything is grouped together in one area of the room, out of bags and with the tags already off.

If you'd like your wedding gown or groom's tux photographed, please have them hanging (with the tags) on the hanger you'd like them photographed on. Wooden photographs much better than plastic. If you would like bridesmaids dresses photographed as well, be sure to have them all hanging in the closet, on a curtain rod or anywhere they can neatly fit together. Many couples want their wedding attire photographed in full so please keep your shoes, ties, cuff links and veil nearby if you'd like them all captured. Keeping all of your getting ready items in one spot will keep my shooting and styling flowing efficiently and help you to not lose track of anything at the last minute.

If you'd like your invitation suite photographed, I can find just about anywhere to do this, but it's a total bonus to the photo if they can include bits of wedding details in the shot. This may include a couple scrap flowers from your florist, extra fabric from your gown or wedding favors you'll be sharing with guests later in the night. Anything small that ties in to your day.

It's always a good idea to get your rings polished before the big day as I'll be getting nice and close detail shots of them. It also helps to have both the bride and groom's wedding bands, plus the engagement ring in the same room so I can photograph them all together.

There you have it! A few simple tips to being prepared for your photographer to show up the morning of your wedding.
Cheers!

Karen | Branding Portraits at UW

When I first moved to WA, I only knew about 6 people in my area. Hallelujah for the gods of cyberspace because I just so happened to connect with Karen in a Facebook Rising Tide group. We immediately bonded at a coffee shop, discovering we are both photographers who share a passion for capturing as much realness as possible. Every week since we've met, Karen and I have met up to catch up on life, talk business, encourage each other to keep rocking the girl boss status and study new camera/lighting techniques. She's an awesome soul with a generous heart, an open mind and creative eye. You should seriously head over to Kirsch Photography to check out the latest yoga studio sessions she's been photographing... ahhhmazing!

Being a WA local, Karen has introduced me to one of the best coffee shops (and now I'm craving a Herkimer americano) and toured me around the area, pointing out history and sweet photo spots. Including the cherry blossoms at the UW campus, which ended up being the perfect place for me to photograph her for the first time. As always, that Seattle rain showed its familiar face and we chose to break out umbrellas and dance in the rain because that's how it's done with photographers like us. Ladies and gents, say hello to Karen!

Tipsy Tuesday | Where Should I Get Ready For My Wedding?

True story, I've had a bride get dressed outside before. Now before you freak out at what a weirdo photographer I must be, you've got to understand that we were at a venue only the bride and her 'maids were to be at. We were surrounded only by trees. The indoor light was brutal and the bride cared more about her photos than the thought of a bird flying through the sky seeing her. So I asked and she said yes. The fresh air + space to move was so appreciated and her prep photos turned out so stunning!

Hey guys! Today's Tipsy Tuesday post is to help all of you future bride and grooms to choose the best room to get ready in! Now, this may not be something that has even crossed your mind. You've probably figured you'd throw your dress on in the teeny church basement. Or in the chapel's nursery, because it's bigger. Or you and all the guys would get ready in your childhood bedroom at home. And you've asked your photographer to be there for the getting ready portion of the day, to capture all of the details and little moments. You've seen the beautiful photos of the best friend lacing up the dress and the mother helping her daughter put on her pearl necklace. The sweet moments as everyone huddles around the bride and prays with her. The groomsmen helping each other put on their ties. Beautiful happy moments that us as photographers love to capture for you. But let me caution you in advance, we aren't magicians and can't turn a Motel 6 bathroom into a Four Seasons Penthouse.

Next, can the space comfortably you and your wedding party inside? Your makeup artist, hair stylists, photographers, videographers, your mothers and grandmothers? Think of everyone who needs to be in the room (with all of their bags, equipment and accessories) and be sure you've chosen somewhere with enough space. If you're someone who gets claustrophobic easily, be sure to find somewhere with extra space so you feel comfortable to breathe and move around.

Now let me tell you about the importance of getting ready in a place with great natural light. While I can bring in extra gear like lighting stands and speed-lights and umbrellas to create lovely light everywhere I go, a wedding day doesn't always allow the time or space for all of this. My goal is to be capturing all of the little moments and details are they are happening, not focusing on dialing in settings on my gear or trying to move my light stand out of everyone's way as they're busily moving around. Keeping my gear as low-key as I can manage and relying on natural light, I can better turn my attention to the emotions and moods around me. So to get the best possible photos in your getting ready room, pay attention to the lighting in there. Is there just one florescent lightbulb to light up the entire room or big windows with nothing outside of them blocking the light from coming in? Are there light neutral colored walls or will the blue lightbulb be bouncing off of red walls on to your skin? If you're not sure, look in a mirror or take a good ol' selfie, noting if the light is flattering on you or not. It doesn't have to be perfect, I've got skills for that. You just have to like what you're seeing and be prepared for your photos to kind of match the feel of the room.

janelle elaine photography-landmark inn-marquette-mi-wedding-169-X3.jpg

Maybe you're thinking, I have nowhere to get ready with good lighting and my pictures are going to suck! Before you give up, consider renting a spacious hotel suite or conference room, getting ready in a family friend's home, getting dressed before you get to the church or putting the final touches on out on the deck/sunroom. If you have no other options, don't worry! Honestly you can make the best out of the space you have. Clean it up, take out the trash, hang everyone's attire neatly on a rack, ask everyone to put their bags away when they're done getting dressed, close any closet doors and take down any decor you don't want to see in your photos. (P.S. Please always clean up a little regardless of what your room looks like; I'll be capturing the day as I see it). A professional is always ready to tackle whatever lighting situation we walk into so don't stress if you don't think your getting ready room is ideal. If you have the option to choose somewhere better than what you planned on using though, go for it!

Cheers!

My Dream Last Night & a Note on Kindness

I woke up this morning, covered in sweat and feeling defeated. I had a very vivid dream last night that shook me up and pissed me off. Have you had a dream (or nightmare) like that before? I can recall most of it and even feel the physical sensations occurring. In my dream, some boys from my high school were bullying me. This was strange because outside of the occasional middle-school teasing accusations of being anorexic or bulimic due to my small frame and the time in 6th grade when one classmate paid another to chuck a basketball at my head, I wasn't bullied. But in my short dream, I felt the despair of a bullied victim for what felt like eternity.

The boys in my dream were coming at me with a vicious, snarling dog. They were laughing at me as I ran to my car and tried to jump in. As I was closing the door, one of the boys caught it and held it open. I was pulling the door shut with all of my strength, but it wasn't enough. The dog fit his face in the crack and was biting me, tearing my clothes to shreds. I was screaming HELP, over and over, yet nobody was listening. The boys laughed even more, reminding me that nobody was coming to save me. My voice eventually dissolved into a dry whisper as I started to lose my voice. The tears came and I kept tugging at the door until it fell off, leaving me to defend myself with a heavy door.

Help, help please! I was crying out and the people in the distance would look at me and keep walking. Why weren't they doing something about it? How can they just watch me?

My throat felt raw and I knew I wasn't being heard anymore. At this point, I woke up, my back wet in sweat. I was furious still, at the fact that nobody cared enough to come save me in my dream. That people could be so cruel, laughing while watching another human in pain and despair.

While none of this crazy dream is a reflection on anybody I actually know (myself included), my heart goes out today to those who have been bullied and abused. Who feel forgotten and alone. Those of you who feel like you're being pushed underwater, each time you try to come up to catch a breath. Who feel the pain of being mocked and laughed at for a cruel joke that isn't funny. Those of you hurt emotionally or physically. I want you to know that you are not alone. Keep getting back up, don't let anyone's actions define you. You are worthy of everything you want. I'm sorry for the bullying you've endured and I am here for you when you need someone to have your back. My mother taught me at a very young age that I was to be kind to everyone and to stick up for anyone being bullied, which has stuck with me my entire life.

Let's all practice compassion and kindness today and everyday. You never know who is fighting a vicious, snarling dog in their life. 

xo
J