Thinking about Wilmington, North Carolina for your portrait session? You should be! There is a reason my husband and I live here: It's one of our most favorite places in the world! Between the historical downtown waterfront booming with character, the small, close-knit, beach town of Wrightsville beach and the incredibly colorful gardens scattered around the city, you really have everything you could possibly want for beautiful photo shoot scenery. If you just want to cut through all the B.S. of research for your upcoming shoot, check out my top four locations in Wilmington, NC that are indeed FREE to the public. Although some may kindly ask for donations! After all, everything has a cost.
1. Downtown Historical Wilmington, NC
Historical downtown Wilmington, NC gives you a plethora of backdrops. Between the gorgeous bridges, historical buildings, wooden boardwalk, charming mansions, you have a quaint backdrop right out of the Notebook. You can choose to do half of your session walking around the city, then the second half on the boardwalk overlooking the Cape Fear River.
2. Shell Island, the North End Marshes of Wrightsville Beach
Look at all that texture and green! Shell Island is the best place for sunset with a coastal backdrop. If you want to be nestled in with nature, the North end of Wrightsville Beach marsh is the place is for you!
3. The Arboretum
The Arboretum at New Hanover County Garden is a hidden gem just five minutes from Wrightsville Beach that many people prefer if they aren't a sand person or just don't want to deal with that 10mph wind coming off the ocean. This intimate garden features a pond, baby walking bridges, a rose garden and a cute play area for little ones. Want to know the best part? It's FREE! While it is open to the public, you may have some bystanders during your shoot but it has been pretty private almost every shoot I've done there. It may be free, but they kindly ask for donations for park maintenance and care for all the adorable koi fish.
4. South End Beach of Wrightsville Beach, NC
Sunsets, sound, and sea. This is the trifecta that is Wrightsville Beach's South End. You get the blend of the sound and sea and even a bit of marsh textures. Depending on the season, you can even bring your fur babies for easy access and watch all the boaters come in through the inlet.
5.Greenfield Lake Park
Another hidden gem is Greenfield Lake Park. Nestled in the outskirts of downtown Wilmington, this picture-perfect park features a beautiful blue lake with mossy trees, swans, and gazebos. Needless to say, all perfect accents for a photo shoot.
Now that I've shared with you my top five favorite (FREE) locations in Wilmington to do a photoshoot, which speaks to your heart? Let me know what you think and send me an email when you're ready to get your shoot on my calendar!
I get asked what's in my camera bag A LOT! Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered people think I'm knowledgable about tech stuff so I'm happy to offer insight. So I thought today would be a good time as any to do a detailed post about all my gear and what I use for shooting for Day 14 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge.
At the end of the day, it's up to you to do the research and figure out what you are and aren't looking for. The biggest advice I can offer is going to a Best Buy or local camera shop and hold the cameras themselves to see what speaks to you. See how the body is laid out and if it's easy to learn. Figure out what brand you want and stick with it because it's an investment. You'll want to gradually buy more and it's easier to buy within brand line. Keep in mind the value is behind the lens, not the camera itself. Lenses are versatile across camera bodies and are made to last several through generations of technology upgrades. For a big bang for your buck, B&H Camera is a good place to shop but price compare all over online no matter what, to make sure you aren't getting ripped off. Retail value is inevitable in the shopping process but surcharges can be avoided.
Camera Bodies: I currently shoot on the Nikon D810 for all my work and have a second D810 body as an insurance policy in case anything happens to my main camera body. I also like to have one camera with a long lens and another with a short so I don't have to spend time switching lens out. It's important to have two camera bodies on me especially after booking important jobs. You wouldn't want to have to cut a shoot short because of some sort of technical difficulties. The reason for two of the same cameras is so that the quality and color is consistent across the board for the images I produce.
85mm f1.4: The 85mm was the first lens I ever fell in love with and in turn started my obsession with manual shooting a few years ago. When I first purchased it, it didn't come off my camera for months. Even though I have a variety of lenses to choose from, the 85mm is my go-to for portraits because it allows me to not be on top of the person for the up-close look and occasionally for shooting on location when the background is too busy and I need to blur it up a bit to give it that finished look.
35mm f1.2: The 35mm is another great all-rounder lens for me—it's one step away from being a macro lens so it really gets the wide angle look without the price tag. I find that this lens is on my camera the majority of the time. I love shooting with portraits with it (as unconventional as it may be). The 35mm is sharp 95% of the time, even when you shoot with a wide open aperture of 1.4. I only shoot with a wide aperture for personal work, and usually bump up the aperture to 2 or more when shooting for clients.
24-55mm f1.4: This wide angle lens is a compelling wide-angle perspective combined with an ultra-fast f/1.4 aperture that serves the needs of demanding photographers in exacting conditions like weddings where time is of the essence. This is my 3rd most used lens. It also has VR compatibility so I am able to do some video footage if needed.
70-300mm f4-5.6: This telephoto lens is obviously good for situations where you need to zoom in from a stationary spot. Example, churches with strict photography policies and you gotta prop up in the back and get all the action at the front.
55-300mm f4.5-5.6: More flexibility in this telephoto lens with the extra 15 mm compared to the 70-300mm, and it's also good when you don't want to start out with so much zoom while on shoot.
Speedlight SB- 900: First off, I tried to buy the 910 but with it being ~$800 for one flash, the SB-900 is next best thing. This bad boy has so much lighting power that sometimes you could mistaken a dark day with sunshine just from the light this flash provides. I use this flash on body as well as remotely for strong backlight. ~$300
Speedlight SB-700: Great option when you don't need so much power or light, but just enough to avoid unwanted shadows. This flash also provides a great option for remote flash lighting. ~$350
Induro Tripod: as tiny and insignificant as it looks, this guy is actually well over $400 on a good day —these suckers aren't cheap but they are quality and its sturdiness and light weight will outnumber any other competitor tripods out there. I've been in some sketchy terrain situations and this tripod has never let me down. *Knock on wood.*
D12 Multi-power Battery Pack: Batteries have one constant. They will die. So yes, battery packs are a huge plus. Again, this luxury isn't cheap at ~$425 but it can save your neck. It also offers the option to shoot portrait without having to cock your head sideways.
Memory Cards (not pictured): With long days of shooting, comes a lot of pictures, like thousands so it should come as no surprise that you should invest in several memory cards. Most of my CF cards are either 16 GB or 32 GB Rugged (temperature and shock resistant). I keep them small to force myself to change out often for a liability reason. The idea of having all my photos on one card gives me so much anxiety if something were to ever happen to them. Card Corruption is a very real occurrence and has even happened to my second-shooters from weddings. If you have a shoot with less pressure, it's good to have a large SD card to allow you a full day of shooting, come home and download and go back to work and not worry about deleting right away. The provides you the comfort of having the original copies until you have the time to double check and make sure that all the images downloaded correctly.
What I take with me. Now, all this gear is super heavy and not always needed for every single shoot. Depending on what I am set out to work on for the day, I pick and choose the gear I need to take with me for the day. The gear that is always in my camera bag includes: 2 camera bodies, all my camera batters + memory cards and all the little extras such as water and food. The gear that I pick and choose what to take with me include: lenses and speedlights. The majority of the time I only take 2 or sometimes 3 lenses that I might need for a day instead of all them, so I don't strain my body when I have to walk around with my camera bag. With all the equipment, it can easily feel like 50 pounds after 5 minutes. After every wedding with two cameras on my body, I always wonder how I'm going to survive it when old age sets in. Between being on your feet for 8 plus hours and carrying 25-30 pounds on you— It's a very physical job so it's important to drink LOTS of water and get a good night's sleep.
Okay, I know that was a lot of words for a picture world so let me know if you have any questions about gear. There's no silly questions either—you don't know if you don't ask.
I know y'all are happy it's Labor Day Weekend so go enjoy it! I will check back in on Tuesday with Day 15 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge.
The million dollar questions: Is creativity genetic? Did I inherit my creative abilities or is that all a myth? Is creative thirst from from learned behavior? Is creativity a result of nature or nurture? I decided to finally do some research and find the scientific answer to those questions since the opposite of art is science. According to John Paul Garrison, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Georgia, his research pointed to personality traits such as being artistic and creative being tied to genetics. does indeed point to personality traits and variables being tied to genetics. But James T. Arnone, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Biology at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, says pinpointing the actual genes that determine creativity is complex and that creative biology isn’t cut and dry. “Take music creativity and talent, for example,” Arnone says. “Anyone who has played an instrument has heard the old colloquialism, ‘practice makes perfect.’ This is absolutely true.” So take photography for example— practice makes perfect so my skills in photography have naturally gotten better since holding a high-end camera for first time at age fourteen. But that still doesn’t answer the question, did I get it (creativity) from my mama?
My granddad, my mom and my mom’s sister all seem to portray characteristics of the right-brain (intuition, creativity and free-thinking). My granddad, Dr. Fred is a retired doctor of 60+ years turned oil painter, my mom, Sue, is a retired nurse turned restaurant connoisseur and acrylic painter and my aunt, Hope is a real estate agent and interior design fabric expert. So essentially the whole maternal side of my family has got a whole lotta artsy fartsy.
The introduction into the creative world likely began with my granddad. He taught me how to paint at 7 or 8 years old in he and his wife's home in Aulander, NC. One of the first paintings I ever did with him was an abstract watercolor painting of goldfish swimming underwater. Apparently it won some kind of award, but I think the judges were biased because everyone loves Fred and it was obvious he had a strong influence in the painting hah! That painting embarrassingly still sits in my parent's house today with the ribbon perched on it.
My mom and I used to go with my granddad to painting workshops in Beaufort, NC back when I was in middle school (2000's) and we both watched Granddad’s magical acts with his paintbrush and felt inspired to work with an empty canvas. My mom considers herself a dabbler and amateur artist but if you want my (biased) opinion, I have five framed paintings of hers in my husband and I’s house. That’s not amateur, that’s talent! With some help from her interior designer friend and my dad, she managed to also redesign an entire building that used to be a franchise restaurant, Western Sizzlin and turned it into Rooster's Southern Kitchen on the Outer Banks. Let me tell you, it's a whole new world in there.
These black and white photos are from 2004 with one of my first Nikon cameras I worked hard to own after bussing tables all summer! On the left, my Granddad is painting a waterfront scene of Beaufort and on the right, my mom is the long-legged lady with her blank canvas that eventually became a work of art. I genuinely tear up thinking about the power of Icloud today because it has saved these fourteen year old photos that I will treasure forever.
This is my aunt Hope and I on my wedding day and behind us you can see parts of my mother-in-law and parts of the outdoor porch that Hope designed from scratch using the space she and her husband had in their backyard. Even from the little bits of this photo, you can tell she knows what she's doing. (I spy a Carolina blue ceiling)!
My aunt Hope used to work in a custom fabric store helping customers design aspects of their home, whether it be pillows, curtains, bed skirts, headboards, you name it, she knew how to do it. So it should come to no surprise that she helped me design my husband and I’s first headboard and bedskirt about a year ago. It was the most grown-up purchase I had done but I was proud to work with my aunt on it and see her creative genius firsthand.
So is it learned behavior or genetics? I think it’s both. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to be creative and don’t have a inherited bone in your body, then go do something creative anyway. Go get lessons and inspire yourself. Limits only exist if you let them.
In tomorrow’s post, Day 13 of the 30 work-day blogging challenge, I will talk about 13 things that I hate about being creative (or rather the downsides and humor behind having a full-fledged creative gene). And yes I just made a reference to the Julia Styles + Heath Ledger movie 13 Things I Hate about You.
Now stop reading my nonsense and go enjoy this weird Wednesday.
Yesterday I batched wedding photos into two categories, keepers and deleters and then I found this gem that I had to send to the bride while she was still on her honeymoon. This is how I feel every day when I accomplish everything on my to-do list. She's my spirit animal!
After yesterday’s blog post I opened up the floor to what today’s blog post should be about. According to the survey, y'all seem interested in what my typical day is like. Y'all— I'm really not that interesting but this question was asked several times so I'm not going to deprive you of your wishes. Keep in mind, I never have the same day twice so this is a rough timeline:
6:30am | Wake up and hit snooze (once or twice admittedly).🤷
7:00am | Actually wake up, feed Belle, drink coffee, and watch the Today show for news and weather. 📺
7:45-8:15am | Answer e-mails from my photography and graphic design e-mail accounts (Yes, I have separate emails for both to better keep up with my separate clients and I have that many to go through that it takes all of 30 minutes). 💻
8:15-11am | Jam to loud music from Spotify and carefully edit + retouch photos from recent photo sessions or weddings. 🎧
11am-12pm | Graphic design work for small businesses I help on a regular basis. 💭
12pm-12:30pm | As marketing director for Rooster's Southern Kitchen, I'll screen for negative feedback to relay to management and respond to positive reviews on Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp + Facebook. 🐓
12:30pm-2pm | Eat lunch (usually dinner leftovers) and do one thing that helps promote my business, i.e. post an ad, print materials, work on blog, etc.🍴
2pm-5pm | More photo editing (I have to spread it out throughout the day so I don’t drive myself crazy because it can get tedious after several hours. For perspective, an 8-hour wedding takes about 16 hours of editing). 📷 Here's my favorite photo I've edited today so far. The color + vibrance reminds me to stop and smell the flowers, literally and metaphorically.
5pm-5:30pm | Work on blog content or schedule a post on social media for my clients and/or myself.
5:30pm | Orange Theory Fitness class or an evening photoshoot depending on day.🏃♀️
6:30pm | Grocery store run since store is next door to gym🥫
7-8pm | Shower + Cook dinner. Let's be real, Jess is the master chef and I'm the sous chef. Tonight we're having short ribs, sautéed squash zucchini and onion and mushroom risotto. 🚿
8pm-10pm | Eat and watch Parks and Rec with my husband (Don’t judge us. We like having something funny to watch at the end of the day and neither of us had ever seen it so we started the season together).😂
For today’s self-promotion project (that occurs every afternoon), I started on making some more soft-copy portfolio books to give to potential clients with small businesses in Wilmington. This is a culmination of both my photography + graphic design skills. My goal is to bring these books to small boutique clothing businesses looking to gather lifestyle or product content for their websites, blogs, social media posts, and social media advertising. Those of you that have a small business probably know how important it is to stay relevant to your fans online so by having a whole lineup of professional photos on standby takes almost all the work away for you in the social media realm. You just figure out what product(s) you want to promote that day and roll with it. I got about halfway done with this 20 page portfolio. MY goal is to have this sent to printers by labor day weekend. Crossing fingers.🤞 Down younger is a couple of teasers for you:
To sum it all up, I sit in this desk chair for about 8-10 hours a day and my goal is to get up more often to walk and stretch. We all know sedentary lifestyles aren't good for you so why do we continue to do it?
For tomorrow's blog post, I'm going to talk about all (okay most) of my bad habits so you know I am just as human as you are.
Okay, before you assume I’m some kind of nomad here’s a little context for the number I came up with: I chose to go to boarding school with a scholarship at age 15 (and loved every minute of it), so each time I moved at the beginning and end of each year in high school and every time I moved in college for new leases or summer sessions, and every time I moved after college totaled up to 27. So there was 12 years between all of that to make that kind of damage and it’s not even over yet.
In June of 2017, Jess and I were living in Charlotte before we decided to take the leap and move to Wilmington for his job. Not only have we fallen in love with the 28403 zip code, we have gotten our engagement photos here AND got married here. On top of all of that, we have decided to get pre-approved so we can buy our forever home after renting for over a year and a half. There’s no other place we’d rather be. Here are five things we love about where we live:
Tomorrow’s blog will be completely up to you. Submit the subject below and I’ll give you all I’ve got!
30-Day Blogging Challenge | Day 4| How does my Hearing Loss Affect my Job?