Best of 2018 Wedding, Engagement, Family, and Senior Photos
From our incredible time in Waco, Texas shooting my first destination wedding!

From our incredible time in Waco, Texas shooting my first destination wedding!

Here you’ll find all of my favorite images from the 2018 season! There’s no better way to get a good look at the scope of a photographer’s work than by cruising through their top picks for the year! Read on for a snapshot of the people and places that helped shape my year, OR just skip on down to the galleries!!

This year was iconic for me in starting to realize my dream of being a destination wedding photographer! Cody and Faith were so kind to invite us to Waco Texas to shoot their incredible wedding in June, and while nothing else can really beat that, a few venues back here in Pennsylvania came close! 2018 took me to weddings at PNC park, the Renaissance Hotel, Jumonville, a city rooftop, country clubs, beautiful local barn venues, a private horse farm, a sheep farm, a cattle farm (lots of farms this year!), and a romantic outdoor campsite just to name a few! How incredible it is to be a photographer!!

I was so blessed to shoot a total of over 40 family shoots, 8 senior sessions, and 22 weddings, some as a second shooter with amazing local photographers like Karen Plate Photography, j.jae photography, Carolyn Renee Photography, and Sparks Ignite Photography. I got to attend two workshops, one right here in Indiana PA hosted by the awesome Jon Blanchard, and one in New Jersey hosted by the girls of NJ Spark!

This was a big year of knocking out some big personal projects like creating a wedding magazine chock full of advice just for my brides, converting to all digital contracts for the convenience of my clients, a styled shoot in coordination with j.jae.photography, and over original 30 blog posts! While it’s certainly a struggle to keep the momentum going in the off season, the sheer volume of exciting people, experiences, and images that I’ve had this year make me fall in love with photography over and over again! I can’t wait for 2019 and some of the incredible places (Lingrow Farms!! South Carolina!!) that it will take me!!

WEDDINGS

ENGAGEMENTS

FAMILIES

SENIORS

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Renaissance Hotel Wedding | Pittsburgh, PA
Wedding couple on the terrace of the Heaven Suite at the Renaissance Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Renaissance Hotel in Pittsburgh is a gorgeous venue to have your wedding - with a sweeping grand staircase, cozy but elegant reception room, and incredible views of the city from it’s modern suites, it’s everything you could want for your wedding AND after! Not to mention the city’s most iconic yellow bridge, The Roberto Clemente, just steps away from its doors.

This year I was blessed to second shoot for Jackie Anderson of J.Jae Photography, and we worked together for this insanely beautiful wedding at the iconic Renaissance. The happy couple even had reserved one of the private top floor suites, which is where the unreal cityscapes were taken! I hope you enjoy these few highlights from this unforgettable wedding!

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Wedding party celebrating by the Roberto Clemente bridge in Pittsburgh, PA
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You Can Take Better iPhone Photos at Night
 
These photos are not pretty. This post is intended to show you how to use your phone better, and the photos here were taken with my crappy phone. If you want to see pretty photos,  CLICK HERE!!!

These photos are not pretty. This post is intended to show you how to use your phone better, and the photos here were taken with my crappy phone. If you want to see pretty photos, CLICK HERE!!!

 

If you want to up your photography game, but all you have or can use at the time is a cell phone, there are still some basic tips and details to pay attention to that will take your photos from looking like your grandma took them to seeming like you actually know what you are doing! Since we are in the middle of Christmas season, there are TONS of photo opportunities, family events, and fun things to document. Unfortunately most of those things involve darkness, decorative lights, and otherwise less than ideal photo taking scenarios.

On a recent trip to Overly’s Country Christmas in Greensburg with my family, I used my smashed iPhone 6plus covered in packing tape (playing to the lowest common denominator here) to show you some common mistakes that people make when using their phone cameras at night, and the difference just a small adjustment can make to your photos! If you liked this post, please be sure to comment below - I may just do a harsh sunlight version if you think that would be helpful!

COMPOSITION

This is the easiest one to fix, and also the easiest one to miss in the moment! To take better photos, you simply have to pay attention. That’s the biggest trick from cell phone photographers to those of us toting around 5 pound DSLR rigs! In the snowman photo below, notice the symmetry. It’s important to not only pay attention to the things you are photographing, but the spaces between them as well. By moving myself directly in front of the center snowman, rather than standing off to the side like the first shot, I was able to get a much more symmetrical and better looking image. Also, just because what I’m photographing is tall, doesn’t mean it always has to be a vertical image! Look at your subject as a whole and determine if it is wider, or taller, and shoot accordingly.

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COMPOSITION AGAIN… (it’s that important!)

In the photo below, a nice lady offered to take our photo and was kind enough to get us both a landscape photo and a vertical photo (probably because I just did it for her family). Just like in the paragraph above, it’s important to pay attention to EVERYTHING you are capturing in your photo. If you want to get a wide shot, make sure that everyone keeps their hands and feet inside the vehicle (that is, don’t cut limbs off - see the bonus tip below!) Notice the nice PVC pole that’s in the wide photo that’s mysteriously not in the vertical one. If she were to move directly in front of us or have US move (don’t be afraid to make people move!), it would have been a cleaner image.

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ANGLES

“Angles we have heard on high…..” (because, Christmas.) There’s a reason that teenage girls hold their phones way up by their foreheads when they take selfies (remember MySpace?) - its because flattering angles matter!! Never, ever, ever, everrrrrrrr take selfies with the camera down by your chin. Always make sure your lens (NOT the screen where you can see yourself, the LENS) is eye level or a bit higher!

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LIGHTING

Please please don’t ever ever use your phone’s flash. Ever. It’s terrifying, horrible, and will make your photos look like junk. You can learn composition and angles until they become second nature, but something even the best photographer in the world even has to think about, chase after, and outsmart is light. Don’t. Use. The. Flash. Find some great light and stand IN or BEHIND it!

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This goes for selfies too. Grab whoever you are taking a selfie with and twirl them around to face the light! (If it’s sunny, find shade, stand IN it, and face the sun!)

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EXPOSURE

It took me way too long to realize you could adjust exposure on your phone. When you have the camera open, hold your finger down and slide up and down to adjust the brightness (exposure). Now granted, neither of these photos below are ideal, but sometimes you have to pick and choose what’s most important in the photo and make sure it’s not blown out (aka way too bright).

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ZOOMING

Digital zoom is not your friend. The only thing you should be pinching at Christmas is pennies or the cheeks of your adorable kids, cousins, husband, whoever! Don’t pinch to zoom!! Why? Remember Silly Putty? Remember pressing it onto newspaper to get an imprint of the ink, and then you would stretch it out? That’s how digital zoom works. It’s not getting any new information to your camera (just like you aren’t putting any more ink on the putty) to keep it looking clear and sharp. You are literally stretching out what’s already captured until it looks blurry and terrible. So how do you zoom? USE YOUR LEGS! Literally get closer to ensure the best quality photo. In the photo below, I only walked about 15 feet closer. It’s worth it!

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BONUS TIP! CROPPING

Anytime you are taking photos of people, never ever ever do the following thing. I need you to find the nearest bible and place your hand on it. Ready? Read this aloud: “I promise to never cut off body parts near the joints.” Now that the nearest person thinks your Hannibal Lector, let me explain: if you are unable to get a person’s whole body in your photo, if you are way taller or shorter than the person, or if you want to get a close up, you will need to crop, of selectively cut off, your image. Make sure that you are cutting people off in the middle of their joints, meaning halfway between the shoulder and elbow, or halfway between the elbow and wrist, or halfway between the hips and the knee, or halfway between the knee and ankle. If you cut people off any closer to these joints, they look deformed and you look like a rookie!

Cute, but my legs look like stumpy legs!

Cute, but my legs look like stumpy legs!

crop it closer!

crop it closer!

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Andy + Megan | Fall Wedding at The Barn at Rayne Run, Indiana PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Even though this wedding was early in early November, we really got lucky with a gorgeous and vibrant Pennsylvania autumn where the leaves decided to change AFTER Halloween, giving us some of the most stunning and colorful fall wedding portraits!

Andy and Megan were some of the sweetest people I ever had the pleasure of working with! These two met when they were I grade school, and I was thrilled to learn that Andy’s older brother got the very special job of being their chaperone when they were dating!! Andy and Megan also went to college together, and needless to say they are best friends - you can that tell right away when talking to them! In fact, they are so precious together that it was hard for me not to ball behind my camera seeing Andy so emotional over seeing his gorgeous bride for the first time!

The timeline for this one was very unique but made my life sooo much easier as the couple opted for a first look before the evening ceremony! Megan and her mom made really smart decisions about the when and the where for photos, renting photo time at the beautiful Barn at Rayne Run in Marion Center for the first look and family photos before everything got started. Then, the ceremony and reception were at separate locations that fit the size of their crowd and the time of the year! Just wait until you see the vibrant orange trees at the barn!!

These two have a beautiful future ahead of them, all built on a strong foundation of faith. Andy is planning to be a Chaplain in the military, and Megan’s parents both work in the church they were married in! I Megan’s grandpa was also a minister and co-officiated their beautiful ceremony in Clymer!

I hope you love some of the highlights of their day - and as a fun bonus I threw in the snapchat video I took of us as we drove to the ceremony!!

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Driving the bride to her ceremony!

Quinn + Whitney | Windber Country Club Wedding, Johnstown PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Whitney and Quinn had a beautiful fall and winter themed wedding at the Windber Country Club in Salix this past October. With lots of jewels, white pumpkins, pearls, ivory and red, her decor was equal parts Cinderella inspired and charmingly rustic with colorful nods to the upcoming Christmas season! There were also so many special moments with family, including a lovely ceremony officiated by Whitney’s grandpa, and her younger brother Nebraska stole the show on the dance floor all night!

6 years ago I was lucky enough to photograph Whitney for her senior photos where we had lots of fun wading in streams for some unique shots - and she was just as adventurous as a bride! Her 4 inch heels didn’t stop her from walking around the golf course without fear, and when we found a mushy spot, her Prince Charming picked her right up and carried her!

This was also one of the most fun and rowdiest bridal parties I had the pleasure to work with! Everyone was so so kind, and I was happy to be treated as a friend all day. One of the groomsmen even took an interest in photography and was thrilled to practice taking some shots with my backup camera during a few down-time moments during the reception! (most of them were blurry but back-button spot-focus is hard to just pick up!)

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite shots from this fun and unique wedding!

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Setting up a Christmas Tree Siphon | Fleming's Christmas Tree Farm
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There's two schools of thought on Christmas trees: real? or artificial? There's definitely pro's and con's to both (I think my definition of purgatory is fluffing artificial tree branches for eternity), but one of the biggest con's to a live tree (the watering part) can be solved once and for all by reading this awesome "hack." Side note - my husband hates the term "hack". You should text him right now that you're reading about my tree hack. He'll love it. 

Growing up, we always had a live tree. My dad was firmly on #TeamReal, and I remember fondly the sight of his legs sticking out of the tree as he watered it with an empty 2 liter bottle. Brandon and I have carried on this tradition, and how lucky are we that we live in the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, Indiana PA?! Every year we head out to Flemings Christmas Tree Farm and pick out the perfect tree. Three years ago, I got a little tired of the 2-liter method, and went searching for a better way to water the tree that didn't end up soaking me or my carefully curated and wrapped Amazon haul. Behold, the tree siphon. Using things you can find at home and at your nearest hardware store, you too can keep your presents nice and dry and stop army crawling under your festive shrubbery.

I hope you enjoy some sweet and fun photos of our annual trip to the tree farm! Keep scrolling for the how-to details on setting up the tree siphon!

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How To Start A Tree Siphon:

Materials:

  • 3-4 feet plastic hose (1" diameter or less),

  • empty gallon jug with the top cut off. The opening should be big enough to put your fist through.

  • 4 cup glass measuring cup or other container to pour water

  • empty box big enough to hold the gallon jug and container using to pour water, wrapped like a present except for the top (left open)

  • wrapping paper

  • sharpie

  • 6" cut straight section of plastic hanger (optional)

  • zip ties (optional)

Method: 

  1. Place your tree in the stand and secure it, but don't loosen the bailing ropes yet.

  2. Keeping track of how much water you put in, fill the base of the tree stand until its 2" or so inches below the brim of the stand.

  3. Place the gallon jug in the wrapped box.

  4. Pour the same amount of water into the gallon jug as you did the tree stand, and draw a line on the jug with a sharpie where the water stops. This will be your water line so you can see what's in the stand at all times.

  5. Place the pouring container in the box beside your jug of water.

  6. If you are using the hanger piece and zip tie, place the hanger piece along the end of the tubing and zip tie, creating a "splint" at the end of the tube. Place this end (or just AN end if not using the hanger) into the tree stand.

  7. With this of the tubing securely in the stand, place your thumb over the other end of the tube

  8. Move your thumb just slightly back from completely covering the tube, and put the tube and your thumb in your mouth and being sucking the air out.

  9. Yep. You read that right. You WILL get water in your mouth. Sorry if that grosses you out, but it's so worth it not to crawl under the tree. Simply spit the water out, covering the tube with your thumb right away each time. You don't want to let air back in the tube.

  10. Once all air bubbles are out of the tube and it's completely filled with water, cover it with your thumb while it's still in your mouth. Look at the end of the tube where you're holding it. There should be no air in it at all. Keeping your thumb on the tube as you suck out the air helps IMMENSELY with this. Trust me.

  11. Put your entire hand (with the tube) into the gallon jug and submerge it.

  12. Let go of the tube and push it to the bottom of the jug.

  13. You may see little particles flowing through the tube. This is a GOOD SIGN!

  14. Slide the wrapped present box with your jug full of water and pouring container under the tree.

  15. Go brush your teeth.

  16. The next day (and after), re-fill the jug to the water line.

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Karate Twins | Senior Session at Yellowcreek Park
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Sometimes even when it’s gross and rainy out, your senior session can still be amazing, like Josh and Jacob’s shoot at Yellowcreek Park in Indiana, PA. Josh and Jacob are twins (obv!), and definitely have similar interests like karate and their love of the outdoors, but when I finally got their names straight and spent a little time with them, I discovered they are definitely very different! Josh was the goofball of the group, hugging trees and sticking his tongue out - and I was excited to grab a few candid shots showing that side! Jacob was very outgoing and enjoyed making small talk - he plans on being a PA someday, and I think his easygoing personality will benefit him greatly! Josh is thinking about going into the military, and his polite and attentive nature with take him far there, too - not to mention the discipline both of them have learned through years of karate! They are both 2nd degree blackbelts in Tang Soo Do karate, and were very knowledgable. It was fun for me to learn about what “correct” form is and to get the timing right for kicks and punches! (Big shout out to my friend Jackie for letting me rent out her studio for these shots!)

Both boys were very friendly and good sports, not letting the cold, drizzly day before we got to the studio get the best of them. So what happens when you schedule a senior session and the weather is just awful? I know it sounds super “basic”, but base it off of your hair. If you have hair that tends to frizz, and you don’t want that in your photos, then it would be best to reschedule. Literally anything else, like mud, snow, drizzle, light, can be overcome with a creative photographer and a willing subject! Downpours can also be fun - but maybe for the extreme among us! I’m okay under my umbrella if you want to get drenched, we can create something awesome!!

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Anniversary Session at PPG Place, Pittsburgh
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)

You spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on your wedding gown, and hopefully that cash means you feel like a million bucks on your big day, so why should the fate of your gown be a dark and lonely one in a garment bag in the back of your closet? It's becoming more and more popular for couple to schedule anniversary sessions where the gown gets to come out of retirement, and a bride gets to feel just as special as she did on her favorite day.

A few of my friends have done this, and if I still had my gown I totally would (more on that HERE), so when Kelly approached me about doing an anniversary session (I was a bridesmaid for her wedding), I was SUPER excited. We had such fun planning a mini wedding day, Kelly calling on some of the best local vendors in the industry to get her ready for her re-debut as a bride! Her gorgeous, soft up-do was done by Hannah at Cameron's Salon, the stunning makeup was courtesy of BethyMae, and of course, a girl's gotta accessorize! Kelly got a custom necklace made by Rosie at Miss Pie Jewelry!

Kelly and I have been close friends for quite some time, and there's not much she loves more than catching up with friends over a cup of coffee from the Commonplace (except shopping, of course. And LuLaRoe). Luckily her hubby also likes coffee, so it was natural that she and Jamison started off the anniversary session with a waltz into this super cool coffeehouse to share a cup in their Mr. and Mrs. mugs!

We intended to cut into their cake from yester-year, but none of us realized that it was akin to a delicious frosted glacier and would take several days to thaw out. There's your pro-tip: a week before your anniversary, set a reminder on your phone to move your cake from the freezer to the fridge. After the frozen cake and the hot coffee (and a few shocked stares from college students cramming for finals), we headed to Pittsburgh to get some magical photos in front of the Christmas tree at PPG Place.

As you can imagine, we got some crazy looks as we ran around both Indiana and Pittsburgh in the 17 degree weather in full wedding regalia, but I think you'll agree the end results are worth it! My awesome friend Jackie from J.jae Photography let me try out her super cool Mag Mod flash modifier, and when you throw in the gentle snowfall with this dreamy backlight, well, you just gotta see for yourself!

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 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
 @Jill Gearhart Photography (www.jillgearhartphotography.com)
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Senior Session at Point State Park, Pittsburgh
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Cas may live in Indiana, PA, but for her senior photo session she really wanted a more urban, big city feel, which is why we ended up at some of the coolest places in Pittsburgh! If you’re a senior, I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend some time talking to your photographer to let them know your interests, talents, hobbies, and vision for your shoot. We were able to incorporate Cas’s love of color, art, coffee, music, and urban life by having a little bit of knowledge about the area and a whole lot of knowledge about what makes her unique!

We started out at Randyland, a wonderfully fun and quirky (and colorful!!) public art spot in the North Side of Pittsburgh. You can check out more about it here!

As a coffee connoisseur, Cas and I thought it would be appropriate to do a few shots after downing a cappuccino in the city’s best coffee spot. Luckily right down the street from Randyland is Commonplace Coffee in the Mexican War Streets area. We did a few shots in front of the town houses that line Buena Vista street before heading to the coffee shop. The owner was very kind to let us capture some snaps while we enjoyed our lattes.

A shoot in Pittsburgh would also not be complete with some of those iconic yellow Pittsburgh bridges, the Point State Park fountain, and the 3 rivers!! We headed to the fountain right at dusk to get some truly breathtaking and twinkly shots! Also, have you ever seen a bassoon at the Point? Well, you’re about to!

I hope you enjoy what was probably my favorite senior sessions ever (the fact that we ate IronBorn Pizza for dinner and Millie’s Ice Cream for dessert didn’t hurt either!)

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
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Steve + Brianna: Family Farm Wedding in Indiana, PA
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com

Steve and Brianna tied the knot this past weekend at Brianna’s family’s farm in the beautiful Brush Valley, Pennsylvania, just a few miles down the road from Indiana. I was so excited to photograph this beautiful wedding as soon as I spent a half an hour on the family farm riding around in their ATV a few weeks before the big day. Normally a beef farm, the grounds were transformed to be fit for a sweet and romantic wedding - Brianna’s dad even gave up his hay barn and hung chandeliers that he “might just keep up” now that the festivities are over! One of the best parts of the day, however, was seeing the bride ride in to the ceremony on the hay wagon! The ceremony was held at a small country church right up the road from the family farm - the same church Brianna’s parents were married at!

Steve and Brianna met when they attended Penn State, studying agricultural programs, and now live in the eastern part of the state working on a dairy farm. Steve milks the cows and Brianna manages their nutrition. How heckin’ cute is that?! I had no idea how intense dairy farming was until spending some time with these two - which was a rare occurrence since Steve only gets a few days off a year or something crazy like that! He even took a call during photos to answer questions about feeding and started that call with “Sorry I missed you, I was getting married.” For real?!?! He’s so dedicated!!!

The dairy farmer theme really came full circle for me when I saw all the “dairy” touches at the reception: the “BondsSayIMoo” hashtag, the cheesecake wedding cake, cowtail candy favors, the cute cow decor - but all tastefully done. (Let’s talk about that cheesecake for a minute - this angel of a bride gave me a WHOLE one to take home. Yes, I happily accept tips in cheesecake.) I hope you enjoy some of my favorite shots from the time two dairy farmers said “I Moo.” So cheesy. Yay dairy puns.

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com