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2014 Throwback: Kathleen & Alan Engaged | Saint Louis Wedding Photographer

I met Kathleen back in 2006 when she was in my first ever ACT class for the Princeton Review. She was just a high school student at the time, and it’s been fun to follow that first group of kids as they’ve gone off to college and grad school and now are getting married and starting their own families. I was so excited when she contacted me last year to tell me she was engaged to Alan and asked me to shoot their wedding! Last September, we got together and went to Tower Grove Park and Lafayette Square for their engagement pictures. Here are a few of my favorites!

I LOVE this double willow tree at Tower Grove Park. I can’t wait until it fills back up again this summer so I can take more couples back there!

huge willow trees at tower grove park

Ahhh that scrumptious light paired with an adorable couple. It’s what makes being a Saint Louis Wedding Photographer so easy!

photo of backlit couple in lafayette square

photo of flowers in lafayette square

And this pond with the willows is one of my favorite places, too! I love that Alan wore a suit for part of their engagement session.

photo of couple under willow tree at lake in lafayette squarephoto of couple sitting on a bench in lafayette squarering shot at lafayette squaresunset silhouette at lafayette square

I can’t wait to see you two in 24 hours, because you’re GETTING MARRIED TOMORROW!! I’m so excited to see you guys start the beginning of your marriage!

Adam & Heather Married at St. Agatha & the Franklin Room | Saint Louis Wedding Photographer

Heather & Adam’s wedding at St. Agatha & The Franklin Room was my third Heck wedding in the past 12 months! To say that I love this huge family is an understatement! I’m so happy that I was able to be a part of this amazingly beautiful and incredibly fun spring wedding!

photo of engagement ringphoto of yellow and grey clutchphoto of veil with dramatic lighting

I love these bouquets by Always in Bloom!

photo of yellow and grey bouquet with succulentsphoto of bridesmaids cupsblack and white photo of hairsprayphoto of bride getting readyphoto of missouri charm with heart cut out

I loved, loved, loved using the Washington Avenue side of the Renaissance Grand for their first look! We had them each read the letters they wrote to one another once they were in position to really amp up the emotion and get them excited to see each other!

photo of groom reading letterphoto of bride reading letterfirst look at the renaissance grand st louisfirst look at the renaissance grand st louisfirst look at the renaissance grand st louisfirst look at the renaissance grand st louis

Heather & Adam were married at the historic Polish church, St. Agatha. It was such a beautiful ceremony!

photo of groom getting ready at st. agathaphoto of bride walking down aisle from back at st agatha

And then I fulfilled a lifelong dream as a St. Louis Cardinals Fan…I got to go on the field of Busch Stadium for their wedding pictures! We got to go to the retired numbers, in the Cardinals’ dugout, in the green seats…the whole nine. But they didn’t let me run the bases…or step on the grass. Womp womp.photo of wedding party at busch stadiumphoto of bride and groom on field at busch stadiumphoto of groomsmen at busch stadium

see…they were serious about staying off the grass. There was a guy who stood right next to me to make sure that I didn’t even come close. After Busch Stadium, we went over to the IL side for some arch view/skyline wedding portraits!

wedding pictures at the archwedding pictures at the arch

Their reception was held at the historic Franklin Room in Soulard. I love this custom Mr & Mrs sign, and the cake from Lubeley’s was gorgeous and delicious!photo of a custom cake topperwedding pictures at the franklin room

Thank you so much, Heather & Adam for allowing us to be a part of your wedding! And an extra special thanks to the amazing team of vendors!

Photographer: Ashley Fisher Photography
Getting Ready Location: Embassy Suites Downtown
First Look Location: Renaissance Grand Downtown
Ceremony Venue: St. Agatha
Reception Venue: The Franklin Room
Hairstylist: Jill Bayers, Cut, Color & Create
Makeup Artist: Stephanie Cuvar, Studio Five
Bouquets/Bouts: Always in Bloom
Reception Flowers: Becky Brems, B’Rose Pots Gardens and More
Bakery: Lubeley’s
DJ: TKO
Rentals: Weinhart Party Rentals
Chair Covers: The Chair Cover Company

Behind the Scenes| Saint Louis Wedding Photographer

This post will be going behind the scenes of one of my most popular images ever on Facebook. Last week, I shot this image at the end of Candice & Steve’s engagement session out in Union, MO. We had done some night portraits and some sparkler images, and then I looked up and saw how incredibly clear the night sky was since it was so dark without the light pollution of St. Louis. I’m sure they thought I was crazy, but I like to demonstrate that I can be a little crazy, create something amazing, and then they trust me even more for their wedding day when I ask them to do something crazy when they’re all dressed up. Anyway, I had started packing up my gear, and then I stopped and was like go stand over there because I have this wicked awesome idea. They kept mumbling about Taco Bell because they were hungry. Ha!

My D800 with my 24-70 was still on my Manfrotto tripod, and my cable release was still set up. I had very minimal gear on me, so I had to make do. Normally I would have gelled my flash since I wanted the blue/purple sky, but I wanted them to look normal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that, so I just set the camera to 3000K which made them look like smurfs, but it was easily fixable in Adobe Camera Raw.

I had Steve hold a flashlight at their faces (towards their faces so that I could focus in live view) and put them right at the bottom right corner of the frame. I asked him to gently bring her in for a kiss by holding her chin, and asked them to remain very still. My camera settings were ISO 2000, f/2.8, and 13 second shutter speed. I needed the wide aperture, high ISO, and long shutter speed to capture as much ambient light of the stars as I could without them streaking. I also had my Cactus V6 trigger on camera, and I hand held my Cactus RF60 flash on 1/128 power with a Speedbox 60 up to the right of them, pointing down at Candice’s nose. My flash popped right before the shutter closed. The result was this beautiful image (albeit a little blue on their skin). Warming them up in post and adding some contrast was all that was needed to create this amazing photograph. I hope they print it huge and use it as a piece of artwork!

photo of bride and groom with starry sky

Top 10 Productivity Hacks for Photographers

This off season, I’ve spent a lot of time developing systems, finding productivity hacks, and training my assistant so that we can stay on top of the 30+ weddings we have in 2015, plus all of our past clients and 2016 clients, too. Things can easily get out of hand if you don’t have a system in place, so here are my top 10 tips to make your life a little easier!

1. Studio Management Software

Pixifi is like having a full time studio manager, but without having to pay them a full time rate. At only $25 a month for the basic plan (which is all you need), it manages your workflow, your clients and your leads, your income and expenses, your mileage, your contracts, your invoices, your timelines, your questionnaires, your vendors, and so much more! Tim Hussey does an amazing job at listening to us and creating new things to make our lives easier, and he’s always adding exciting new stuff! A few years ago, I wrote a blog post on setting up pixifi. A lot has changed since then, but this combined with the Pixifi Facebook Group, should help you get started. Even if you choose not to use Pixifi and go with one of the other big companies, as a full time photographer, you NEED a Studio Management Software.

pixifi

2. Mile IQ

Every year at tax time, I google map my sessions, meetings, and weddings that I have records of on my calendar. I never can remember anything else, so I miss out on a ton of miles, and this process is tedious to say the least. Then this winter, I found Mile IQ. This handy app runs in the background on your phone, and you simply swipe left for personal or right for business, and then you can also add notes to the app, too. I’ve already logged over 1000 business miles in just the first three months of the year, and that’s BEFORE wedding season even started. The app is free for 40 drives a month, but you’d be wise to pay the annual 59.99 a year, which is also tax deductible. Not only is it easier than google maps, it also will give you a larger deduction on next year’s taxes!

mileIQ

3. IFTTT

I heard about IFTTT (If This Then That) a long time ago, but it just didn’t really make sense to me at the time, and I didn’t have the free time to figure it out. Then I sat down with the app and learned that it was MAGIC. Not only can it do simple things like backing up your iphone photos to dropbox or posting your instagram photos as native twitter posts, but it can also do things like save your receipts to evernote, adjust your nest thermostat when you get close to home, turn your volume on if you lose your phone when it’s on silent, etc. It’s free, too.

ifttt

4. Evernote

Evernote is also a free app. There are professional features, but I don’t personally use them. I have a receipt notebook that IFTTT utilizes when I take a picture of my receipts with my phone. I also have a business notebook that has notes from consultations, pricing guides, brainstorming, blog post ideas, cost of goods, workshop notes, and so much more. I have a personal notebook that has password hints, personal to do lists, grocery lists, budget info, vacation planning, etc. I have a studio assistant manual that has workflow, publication processes, passwords, client information, what to do if something happens to me, etc. The best part about Evernote is that it syncs automatically to all of your devices, so you have everything on the go!

Evernote

5. Coschedule

Coschedule is another new app I recently started using so that I could stick with the blog and make it an integral part of the business, as well as schedule my social media posts in advance. In 2013, when I was blogging 5x a week, I would literally wake up, choose photos, write the blog post, and do all of the SEO and social media posts. It was exhausting. With this app, it syncs with WordPress, creates your post drafts and allows you to drag and drop and schedule out your calendar. Then when you’re ready to write your posts (I write mine on Tuesdays), you just click the post from the calendar, go into wordpress, add your images, do your SEO, schedule the post time, and pre-schedule your social media posts for the day of, the day after, the week after, the month after, and even a custom time (like a first anniversary post). I use it to schedule my business posts on facebook, my twitter posts, and my google plus posts, in addition to managing the blog calendar. It’s amazing! Coschedule starts at $9 a month.

coschedule

6. Wunderlist

Wunderlist is an awesome to do list and collaboration manager. This is what Lanye and I use to manage the current task list, in conjunction with the workflow module in Pixifi. I can assign each of us tasks with to do lists, add reminders, add subtasks, add notes, etc. We can move things from list to list, too. I can also have Siri add tasks on my iphone and it’ll add it to my Wunderlist inbox using IFTTT, and then I can assign it to one of us in the desktop module. This also allows me to make one “big list,” when I brain dump, and then sort out the list into manageable tasks, too, to maximize our productivity. Basic Wunderlist is free, or $49.99 a year per user if you want the pro features, which also allows you to send files, assign tasks, and create unlimited subtasks. If you use it to collaborate, you definitely want to use the pro features!

wunderlist

7. Fundy Album Designer + Proofer

Album design is one of those things that can be tedious and frustrating if you don’t use the right tools. I used to design my albums in photoshop using Fundy, and then they released Album Designer 6. With that update, it went completely stand alone. It’s fast, simple, and SO easy to make your initial proofs and make changes the client requests. You basically select the images you want on the spread, and it auto designs a spread for you, and then you can look through tons of designs and swap images. Seriously fast and easy. Combined with Fundy’s online album proofer, this combo is well worth the money. Now we design albums for every client, even if they don’t pre-purchase an album, and our sales have drastically increased. Fundy Album Designer is $329, and the Online Proofer is $129 a year.

Fundy Album Proofer

8. 30/30

I’m the biggest procrastinator out there unless I have a to do list written out and a timer. 30/30 is a free app that lets you create your to do list for the day, the amount of time required for each task, and keeps you on task so that you’re productive. The days I use this are my most productive days of the week. The days I don’t set this up in the morning, I get sidetracked and am extremely unproductive.

30/30

9. Blogstomp

Blogstomp is a $49 app that allows you easily make blog collages and place your watermark on images. I only use it for blogging, but it makes blogging so much faster! If you’re a blogger, you need this app.

blogstomp

10. TextExpander

TextExpander is by far the best productivity app out there. I used to spend HOURS each week sending the same emails, typing the same information on forms, sending referrals to the same photographers, etc. Then I found this amazing $35 app. It allows me to make little shortcuts like : stl (without the space to say Saint Louis Wedding Photographer. Or : refcatherine (without the space) to send a referral to Catherine for a wedding I’m booked, or to send an inquiry email by just typing : inquiry (without the space) and adding the custom information, or sending final galleries by just saying : pixiewed (without the space), or adding copyright information to Facebook images by typing : fb (without the space). It’s SUCH a timesaver. Totally worth the $35 bucks.

textexpander

And a bonus tip: Outsource.

Outsource when the money you would spend is less than the money you would make in the time it would take you to do the job. For me, that’s editing. I am an extremely slow editor, and my outsourcing rate is far less than the amount of time it would take. So I opt to outsource my editing and use that time on marketing. I always recommend outsourcing things you’re not good at, too. I’m terrible at house cleaning and finances, so I have a housekeeper who comes once a month and an accountant who manages my finances. These things are well worth the money! Think about what you could do with all of that time you spend doing things you hate or are inefficient at. Outsource! You’re not a failure if you outsource. You’re only going to be more successful with more professionals on your team who help take things off of your plate. You can’t do it all (well)!

 

 

April 20, 2015 - 10:50 am

Joel Conner - awesome post!

April 20, 2015 - 10:57 am

Rayan Anastor - What great ideas Ashley! I know I need to look into streamlining and saving time on the business side of things. I have heard about a few of these items, but not all! Thanks so much for sharing and helping….I know have some research to do on my end!

April 20, 2015 - 6:35 pm

Cristal Veronica - I’m going to bookmark this post for future reference! Such good information!!

April 22, 2015 - 8:36 am

Jennifer - Hey Ashley! This is fabulous! I learned some new apps :) I’m curious if you have outsourcing recommendations for editing. I didn’t have very good luck with my first outsourcing experience for editing, so I’ve stubbornly stuck to doing it myself, but I feel like I should maybe give it another try. Any suggestions?

April 22, 2015 - 2:21 pm

ashley - Jennifer – I have tried several companies, and I ended up training an assistant to do all of my weddings and work with her exclusively. I do, however, have a backup of The Image Salon, which does phenomenal work. I’d try them! :)

April 23, 2015 - 9:33 pm

ToddK - Thanks Ashley! I love IFTTT. I want to look into pixifi and 17 hats, I have been using StudioCloud, but it does not tie in email, so to keep track of correspondence, I have to double key everything. I recently found Streak, which integrates with gmail, and has customizable workflows, and email templates at the free level. I’m just getting started with my photography business, so all of the apps you have mentioned, could really help get me off on the right foot.

May 18, 2015 - 8:55 pm

Elizabeth - Love this post Ashley! Thank you for sharing! ;)

May 18, 2015 - 9:00 pm

Megan Kuethen - Such a good reminder! I was already using most of these, but the way you integrate is definitely awesome. Always love your systems, and am sharing this on the Wordsmithery tomorrow!