Defining Failure- Personal

On the first page (with writing) of her magazine, Exposed, Jasmine Star gives a list of five things she wishes someone had told her when she first started out.  The very first one she lists really struck home with me.

1. EXPECT THE WORST. It might sound terribly pessimistic, but expect the worst. If you can imagine just how bad things could be–and you’re okay with the outcome–then you know exactly what you’re risking. Knowing the worst, but hoping for the best tempered my emotions when I first started. The worst case scenario (for me) was: failing at photography, going back to law school, and owning a really nice DSLR camera. Once I realized what life looked like if I failed, I was ready to succeed. There are others who might be risking a mortgage, health insurance, and a 401K, so I suspect the transition may be slower in order to safeguard one’s family and assets, but it’s important to really know what’s on the line. 
~Jasmine Star

I think its so easy to be afraid of failure that we forget to think about what failure might actually look like.  For me, giving failure a face, made me wonder why I had been afraid in the first place.  You see, for me, failure looks just like today, and yesterday, and the day before that.  Well, maybe not the day before that, because I spent that day on the couch with a migraine, but you get the picture.  Worst case scenario for this dream of mine means Portraits by Anna fails.  And if it does, then I just continue working at my desk-job, I’ll finish my MBA in August, and I’ll still own a really nice DSLR… and some pretty nice lenses. 

That’s not so scary.  Today wasn’t so bad.  And neither was the day before.  The day before that was kinda crappy but… headaches come and go no matter what career you’re working or dream you’re chasing.  So if this is what failure looks like, I’m okay with that.  And like Jasmine Star, now that I know what life looks like if I fail, I’m ready to give success a solid try.

A few pages further into her magazine, Jasmine quotes her husband, saying “I’d rather see you fail at something you love, than succeed at somthing you hate”. Think of how much happier this world would be if we all put as much effort into succeeding at what we love, rather than working so hard at what we don’t.

Wedding Wednesday | Advice I wish I’d been given

**Disclaimer: this will not apply to every bride, but is something nearly every one of my recently married girl friends, and then I myself, experienced and something I’m sure someone will find helpful. And let’s be real, anything to make wedding planning go more smoothly, even for just one person, is worth putting out there.**

I totally fell into the “I used to be an event planner, planning my wedding will be a breeze” frame of mind. I knew exactly what I wanted and how to make it happen and I had the craziest idea that everyone would stand back and let me handle it. Because of course, I was a former professional!!

Feel free to laugh at my delusion. Roll your eyes at my ignorance. Scoff at my… well you get the gist.

Back to the point of this post…

When you finally get the chance to plan your wedding, you’re so excited that you just want to tell everyone about everything you’ve always dreamed for your big day. All of a sudden, its your chance to wax poetically about everything from favors to fonts.

Here’s the advice I wish someone had told me, that would have made thirteen months of wedding planning go a lot smoother:

Before you share the details of your big dreams, take a moment to step back, let the dust settle, and examine the situation. Your status has just changed in a big way, and not just on facebook. All the people who are most important in your life, and your fiance’s, are now going to see you in a whole new light. And they’re going to become a lot more involved in your life. You’re no longer just the “young dating couple” or the “here today, possibly gone tomorrow girlfriend”. Both you and your fiance, are now “soon-to-be-part-of-this-family”. Taking a moment to get a feel for the new change in the family dynamics will help you to navigate your journey to the altar a lot more successfully than.. jumping right in before looking to see where you’ll land.

And here’s why:

You aren’t the only one who has been envisioning this wedding and some have been at it a lot longer than you have.

When you share your dreams and ideas with someone, the most common response is for that person to then share their ideas with you. Weddings are family events and knowing where everyone stands can be helpful. Plus, its always nice if you can incorporate a little bit of everyone.

The unfortunate side of this, is it also allows the opportunity for people to express their opinions of your ideas.

Our wedding was absolutely perfect and beautiful in every way. It was exactly what my husband and I had wanted, we received many compliments, and were even featured on a couple of wedding blogs. One of the compliments that meant the most to me was echoed by quite a few people who said they could see my hand in every detail of the event. But, I can honestly say, there is not one detail of our wedding that someone didn’t tell me, at one point or another, was a bad idea.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I knew what I was doing, I never expected to be told otherwise. But, I also didn’t take the time to realize that the context in which I was doing the planning had shifted. If I had taken a moment to assess the situation in the beginning of our engagement, I wouldn’t have been so surprised by the reactions I received. I would have been a little more prepared for what was coming, and been a little more careful of the information I provided for judgement. Our wedding day still would have turned out exactly the way it did, neither my husband or I would change a thing, but the journey to the altar might have been a little less tearful.

My ideas weren’t bad ideas, and neither are your plans for your wedding. They just may not be anywhere close to what anyone else had in mind.

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    (Image by Amanda Hedgepeth Photography)

Kaiden | Practice with Movement

One of the most challenging things to photograph, for me, is movement. For some reason, I’m way too conservative with the shutter speed but it wasn’t until the Q&A I mentioned in this post, that I realized just how much I needed to speed things up.

Now that I was clued in, I just needed a subject to practice on, so when Chris came home from golfing with his dad on Father’s Day and asked if I wanted to head over to Beau and Danielle’s I made sure I grabbed my camera. They have the cutest, busiest, little boy and I knew he’d give me lot’s of practice!!






After a few rounds of “catch”, this cute lil slugger’s momma came home with push-pops so we took a little break…




This one is gonna be a heartbreaker!!

Wedding Wednesday | Father of the Bride

Thanks to my indecisive nature, you’re getting a Wedding Wednesday post on Thursday. Sorry for the delay… I hope you’ll forgive me!

I had planned a much different post for this week’s installment but with Father’s Day this past Sunday – and these holidays always have me feeling a little far from home – I thought I’d do a shoutout to a man who means the world to me.

Let me tell you a secret about my dad that most wouldn’t know… the man loves a new pair of shoes. He always has a few pairs tucked away in the closet – still in the box – for when he decides he’s ready for a new pair.

This love for new shoes goes back to his childhood. You see, my grandaddy owned a store in Fredericksburg, VA, and when a pair of shoes came into the store that my daddy thought he would like to have, he would sit on the icehouse step and wear down the bottoms of his current shoes on the concrete so that he would be allowed have that new pair he had his eye on.

When I was a little girl, I promised my dad new pair of shoes if he would walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. (Not that I ever thought he wouldn’t… but he liked to tease us girls about this) And so when it came time to plan our wedding, one of the first things on my list was a pair of shoes for my dad. We just had to decide what he was going to wear…

It turns out this was one area I didn’t have to worry about… Daddy already had an idea. He suggested that he wear the suit that he had worn when he married my mom. He told me it had gotten him 30 years and still going strong… maybe wearing it again would do the same for me.

While everyone expects some sentimental tears from the mommas because “they’re losing their babies” and all that jazz… I think for anyone who takes the time to notice, weddings are hardest for the father of the bride. He’s literally giving away his little girl.

Here’s my dad, on my wedding day, wearing the exact same suit he wore the day he married my mom. And his brand new shoes.

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These images are the creative property of Amanda Hedgepeth Photography.

Here’s another secret, the whole time we were dancing, we were talking about dairy cows. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get a good man through his little girl’s big day.

And I wouldn’t have and it any other way.

Reagan – 6 month session | Virginia Beach, VA

94-degree heat was not exactly what we had in mind when we prayed for no rain for this session… next time we better be a little more specific!!

This little cutie pie and her beautiful parents are such troopers. They were able to rock this session out in 20 minutes – and I’m so glad they were willing to give it that long! We were even able to coax a couple smiles out of this often serious blue-eye beauty. You can tell, she’s just taking it all in and one day, she’s going to blow us all away with all those deep thoughts!!

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What better way could you have started your week, than with all this cuteness?!?

Q&A with Amanda Hedgepeth

Last Sunday, I joined a lovely bunch of ladies in Amanda Hedgepeth’s kitchen for a Q&A session. I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to Amanda’s awesomeness… but really folks, she’s that good. Not only is she wedding-photog-extraordinaire, but she’s also passionate about paying it forward to newbie photogs like myself who are just starting out in this highly competitive and oversaturated industry. There is a lot of competition in the photography field and there are many who would rather discourage new entrants but thankfully there are a few kind souls, like Amanda, to be found among the haters.

This is the third time I’ve been able to participate in these sessions and every time I come away encouraged and uplifted with new ideas for my business that will hopefully smooth out a few of the bumps in the road to success. If you’re interested in photography – whether it be as a mommarazzi, hobbyist, or hopes-to-be-pro like my self – I would definitely recommend signing up for the next Q&A. As an added bonus, you’ll be added to a facebook group of past participants who are the kindest and most encouraging group of ladies – and now one gentleman! – that you’ll meet. They’re all in the same boat, whether established and trying to grow or considering going legit with a license, they’ve got lots of ideas, tips, and what not to do advice that they’re willing to share.

After a couple hours of photography and business chatter, we headed over to the Founders Inn for some group practice. Here are a few pics of the group from Sunday:


Wedding Wednesday | Where to Start

Congratulations – You’re Engaged!

Let’s see that beautiful ring!!

Enjoy your moment, buy some wedding magazines, and bask in the limelight for a few days. 

And please, if you recieve anything less than enthusiastic congratulations:
1.) shame on them and
2.) contact me!! even if we have never ever met, I’m always thrilled to celebrate with the newly engaged – its such an exciting time in your life!

After a few days/few weeks:

Okay… let’s start to formulate a gameplan.  What kind of wedding have you always dreamed of?  And we’re just talking big picture here. 
Cathedral ceremony and grand ballroom reception?  Backyard barbeque?  Beachside romance?  Destination wedding for just the two of you?

And what “feel” do you want to create?
Simple? Elaborate? Ellegant? Casual? Romantic?

I had always dreamed of a backyard barbeque at my parents’ home in Northern Pennsylvania.  I never considered anything else.  But, when I moved to Hampton Roads and fell in love with a Virginia Beach native, that became a little less feasible.  Especially when I called my parents to tell them we were engaged and one of the first things my dad said was, “Please tell me you aren’t bringing all those people up here.” 

Believe me, he meant it with the best of intentions.  You see, when I imagined that backyard wedding, I didn’t anticipate living nearly nine hours from where I grew up.  And I certainly didn’t consider that our guests wouldn’t be local, but would also be traveling those nine or more hours with us.  Several hundred of them.  We would have been setting up a tent-city in one of my dad’s fields!!  I would have had to rent port-a-potties… shower trailers… you name it.  So Daddy was right, dragging everyone to rural Pennsylvania just to get married in my parents’ back yard because that was what I had always imagined… just wasn’t going to work.

But, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have my dream wedding.  I just had to be a little flexible on the venue and location.

So, do you love the idea of a beach wedding but can’t imagine getting sand in your dress? Check out venues like the Lesner Inn or maybe the Hermitage on the Elizabeth River. Do you want a rustic country wedding in a barn? Maybe Back Bay Farms is the venue for you. Or if you want the country garden wedding, take a look at Norfolk Botanical Gardens. There are soooo many options, creativity and flexibility are key!

Once you’ve done some brainstorming, identified what you’re looking for and come up with a list of venues… make some appointments to check them out! Don’t be afraid to contact some wedding professionals in the area for advice or check out resources like and Vow Bride Once you have a venue and a date, then the real planning can begin!!

Rex and Sylvia turn one!! | Doggie Birthday Party – Personal

My sister and I both have puppies from a litter of Mountain Treeing Feists that our dad raised last summer. She had the awesomest idea for a doggie birthday photo session and I knew we just had to do it!! And why not? Two doggie birthdays is just double the fun!

These dogs mean the world to us. Rex is our hundred-mile-an-hour dog until he crashes on the couch and you can’t get him to move after that. Sylvia is a sweetheart with a timid curiosity who loves to get a sniff of everything – she’ll even sneak up behind people on the beach to catch a whiff of their scent!

These two turned one this weekend and we spoiled them with treats and toys and fun!

**Warning, this post is a little picture heavy!!**


Wedding Wednesday | Wedding Gifts & Bouquet Practice

Folks, I want to try something new here on the blog… I want to try a blog series. Specifically a wedding series. And not necessarily all about photography all the time. I figure this way, you can all get to know me a little better and I can share our wedding a little, brag about our awesome wedding photog Amanda a little more, pass along some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned as a former event planner and now former bride, and share my growth as I work toward wedding-photographer-extraordinaire status.

(at this point in my newbie photog career I’m finding a stronger inclination toward weddings and kiddos and while I’m reluctant to declare a specialty and will continue to shoot every aspect of my clients’ lives that they bless me with the opportunity to capture for them… if my crystal ball is working correctly this morning… I see myself headed in that direction)

And so… I give you the first installation of Wedding Wednesdays at Portraits by Anna!!

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. And probably many, many times over. I have the most amazingly wonderful husband! I’ve always known he was pretty awesome but his attention to detail never ceases to surprise me. And this time, he was in cahoots with Ms. Amanda, herself.

Coming up with what I was going to give Chris as a wedding gift had caused me unbelievable amounts of grief. This man has everything. What he doesn’t have, he goes out and buys himself. And what he doesn’t buy himself… well let’s just say he has expensive tastes. I hadn’t given the slightest bit of thought to what he might be getting for me… but I had noticed that lately he seemed to be a little more well versed in the language of photography than he would normally have been… And below you’ll see why!!

(The following images are property of the lovely Amanda Hedgepeth of Amanda Hedgepeth Photography)

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Angie, one of my college girlfriends and rockstar bridesmaids, surprised me while we were getting ready at the hotel with my gift from Chris.

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I was sooooo super excited about this new jo totes camera bag!! I don’t know how he pulled it off but this bag, in this color, had been out of stock for months. And I mean months. I know, because I was stalking their website. For months. It made the gift that much more awesome because I knew he put in a good amount of effort to find exactly the bag I wanted in exactly the color I wanted. Did I mention his attention to detail?

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But wait, there’s more!! I was over-the-moon excited about the new bag and in total shock that there was another gift inside it… exactly the lens I had mentioned to Amanda that I wanted!! (I told you they were in cahoots!)

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I was so excited I had to put the lens on my camera right away! Who needs to get ready for a wedding when there are new photography toys to play with?!?!

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Whew! If you made it through all that, congrats! As your reward, here are some images that are my very own with the new 85mm lens you saw above.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a few small bouquets at Trader Joe’s to do a little practicing on. Wouldn’t you know, that was the weekend we had gale-force winds here in Virginia Beach. All. Weekend. Long. Soooo… these were all taken inside, on a barstool, in the light coming through the window of our back door. Whatever it takes, right??

(I was playing with sellective focus in these, in case you’re wondering)


OH!! And just in case you were wondering, I got Chris a crossbow. He loves it and is not happy I won’t let him sight it in in our back yard. Ummm… townhouse community????

Memorial Day, Corolla, NC – Personal

I used all but 4 hours of my accrued leave at my desk job for our wedding and honeymoon. Unfortunately, this meant we had to miss out on some BIG events in the lives of some of our family and friends. Its rough being so far away from some of the people who mean the very most to us.

Since it felt like we were missing out on all the fun I wanted to make sure we didn’t just sit around the house like bums for three days. (We did way too much of that trying to get everything ready for the wedding!!) I didn’t have anything specific in mind but I knew I wanted to do something – and Chris came to the rescue with the ideas. Not only did we head down to the Pungo Strawberry Festival as you saw in one of last week’s posts, but we took a little day trip down to the 4-wheel drive beach in Corolla!!

We make frequent trips to OBX during surfing season but because the 4-wheel drive was out on the old truck, the only time we had been to Corolla was when friends from Pennsylvania vacationed there. Now that we have the new truck, I’m hoping we can head there a little more often!


I especially love this beach because they welcome dogs all year round! Molly and Rex looooooooooooove the beach!! Miss Molly McGee grew up on the beach in Oceanview and gets excited anytime she starts to catch a whiff of that salty sea air. Now that Rex – who will be a year old this weekend! – had only went to the beach twice but now that he seems to be over the carsickness that plagued him last summer, he’ll be able to join in more often!!


It was a perfectly relaxing day. The tourists all headed out early afternoon so we practically had the beach to ourselves; just the four of us. Our little family. 🙂