Posts in PERSONAL
I Married a Groomsman from the First Wedding I Photographed
Photo by Nathan Ballash Creative

Photo by Nathan Ballash Creative

Most people secretly hope they will find their soul mate in college if they don’t currently have a high school sweetheart. That wasn’t the case for us. Each year after college, we both wondered when and who our spouse would be, and the saying “you will find them when you least expect it” or “when you aren’t looking” was certainly relevant in our case. I was in a relationship when I first met my husband Brandon, but that didn’t stop my high-school friend Seth from desperately trying to set us up. Call it prophesy (I called it stubbornness), but he would not give up - not for 4 years!

Seth and I knew each other from high school, and when he went away to college at IUP, he met Brandon and was determined to get us together. Seth would invite me up to Indiana to visit him in his dingy college apartment where he roomed with Brandon, then “mysteriously” had urgent errands to run, leaving Brandon and I to kindle our forced relationship over some Guitar Hero. I would be lying, though, if I told you our loved was sparked over rounds of Even Flow on Intermediate. It was still a few years until I grew the confidence and self esteem to end a long-term relationship that wasn’t right for me and give Brandon a chance.

During that time, Seth got engaged and asked if I would photograph his wedding (because I took a shot at engagement photos and didn’t royally screw them up I guess!). With my $500 Rebel in hand, I shot my first wedding and guess who was in the bridal party? My future husband! Spending time together “on-the-job” re-kindled our interest, and a few months later I was once again visiting my newly-wed friend Seth in Indiana. And once again he had urgent matters to attend to with his new wife, leaving Brandon and I to grow our relationship, this time over trips to Walmart!

It was important to both of us that we took this relationship seriously, and I still remember standing on Seth’s porch one night, Brandon and I alone of course, when he said to me, “I want to make sure I want a relationship with YOU, not just a relationship. You deserve the be respected.” PUT A RING ON MY FINGER NOW!! Two months later, lots of trips to Indiana later, lots of sleepy, late-night trips home FROM Indiana (seriously, my dad kept a tow rope in his truck to pull my car out of snow banks when I fell asleep coming home and got stuck), we were FB official. Our first kiss was in front of Seth’s house, a desperate tactic on his part to stop me from driving home after my dad accidentally filled my windshield fluid reservoir with tire shine and my windshield was a greasy mess.

In those early days, it was important to Brandon to teach me about faith, and help me develop and grow a relationship with the Lord as we were growing our relationship with each other. Ministry has always been at the foundation of our relationship, and I started attending and serving in church for the first time because of Brandon’s example. His calling to be a pastor came young, we suspect - as young as elementary school when he was a VBS junkie, begging his mom to take him to all of the programs in town each summer. He turned his sweet, babe-luring guitar skills into something that glorified the Lord, leading worship in college ministry and then later at the contemporary service at our church. My first servanthood experience was on the soundboard after hearing his frustration with being able to hear his strings from the front pews when he played electric guitar. As we pushed the decibels up and grew closer together in faith and love, we started volunteering in the youth ministry, where we were leaders of our current pastor! How times change us all!!

I have fond memories in the church where I really found and grew my relationship with the Lord, where I learned about serving, and where we were eventually married. But as God grows us, there are growing pains as well. Our own made-up path of getting Brandon on staff was not the path God wanted to take us on, which lead us to another church in town in the Indiana Theater. Here we experienced the most amazing, life-giving support through some hard times in our marriage that led us to counseling, leaders that saw the potential in us, pulled the skills out of us and developed our gifts. To Ed and Brian I am forever grateful.

This past weekend, Brandon and I and the young kid we were youth leaders over (with a team of incredible people that are literally closer than family to me), started a church. It’s not just the same thing in a new wrapper - it’s the opportunity that has been waiting for Nick and Brandon for all these years. It’s the opportunity the three of us dreamed about back in those youth group days. It’s the opportunity for my husband to step into his calling, having been prepared so excellently by leaders before us. So proud of this groomsman from my first wedding, this guitar-hero legend, this youth group leader that proposed at a youth group concert, this now associate pastor, this soul mate.

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

Photo by Jessica OH Photography

 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
 @Jill Gearhart Photography | www.jillgearhartphotography.com
Photo by j.jae Photography

Photo by j.jae Photography

Photo by j.jae Photography

Photo by j.jae Photography

Photo by j.jae Photography

Photo by j.jae Photography

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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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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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Photo Dec 18, 11 34 10 AM.jpg

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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Photo Dec 14, 7 39 05 PM.jpg

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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Photo Dec 14, 8 03 56 PM.jpg

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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Photo Dec 14, 7 17 05 PM.jpg


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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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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Photo Dec 01, 5 12 52 PM.jpg
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Creatives and Burn Out: You Are Enough
Adventuring in Lawrenceville with a beloved friend! photo cred: Mary Kuehn (the friend, lol)

Adventuring in Lawrenceville with a beloved friend! photo cred: Mary Kuehn (the friend, lol)

Hi friend! This is a personal blog post, which I love to do every once and a while. Transparency means so much when getting to know your photog! If you want to see more portfolio-like content, click on over here!

When people talk about burn-out, it's generally meant that they feel overwhelmed, over scheduled, stressed out, in a rut, passionless, cynical, "over it", hopeless, on and on. It might seem like someone who's in a creative field - who's constantly CREATING something new, something fresh, something exciting - would find it hard to reach that place, right? Maybe you are a creative reading this, and find yourself comparing your work to others, struggling to find your passion, not looking forward to things you used to? Maybe you haven't blogged in two weeks (ahem) and you are just wanting a break to actually be at your house and spend time there, maybe even clean it? (that always gets pushed to the bottom of the list!)

Burn-out is real, and burn-out is relative. Not everyone can produce the same amount in a day, whether that be photos, social media content, articles, products, whatever whatever whatever! I often have to check my heart to not only stop myself from judging MY performance against others, but others against mine! How terrible does that sound? If you are treating others, and yourself, based on what you/they produce, you need to check that at the door. Give yourself, and others, grace! It's okay to leave a few things unchecked on your to-do list. Nothing is as urgent as taking care of yourself and your soul.

I feel that transparency and self-care, along with ALLOWING yourself to put on the brakes every once and a while is NECESSARY - and definitely something I struggle with a lot. Get coffee with me, and certainly you will hear the phrase "I never feel like I'm doing ENOUGH." And I know a LOT of other people that feel this way too. You set a standard for yourself, and if you don't meet it, you "fail." But I realized recently that standards HAVE to be fluid. Your "enough" is based on a million things that are NOT constant like time, energy, commitments, health, family... so why should your standards be rigid if the rest of your life is not? 

If you a religious person, you may have heard the phrase that "Jesus is enough." That sounds amazing and is probably on a t-shirt somewhere, but what does that actually, tangibly mean and how do I live my life showing that I believe that? I'm sure the answer is different for everyone, but what I've found is that to embrace that God is enough and not rely on yourself means that first you set realistic standards of what you CAN do. Be honest with yourself. Then, you do what you CAN in a day given all the factors against you. At the end of the day when you're looking at all the things you didn't get done but wanted to, you then CHOOSE to not worry, be thankful for what you DID get done, and literally just relax and take time to recharge. Some pastors call that "resting in grace" - and I had to figure out what that tangibly meant. I spend so much time and mental energy thinking about what I HAVE to do, that figuring out what I WANT to do with my free time (that I have to MAKE) was a challenge. But now, I realize that's what "resting in grace" means for me: just rest, and stop freaking out, because God's got you and it's going to be okay.

You may know that almost 3 years ago now I lost my father to a really aggressive cancer. I often think about how he worked so hard as a mechanic his whole life, with the goal of retirement and adventuring with mom, taking trips, and filling his time with memories. Luckily, dad also knew how to enjoy life right where he was, and often took trips and had adventures (not to mention a million hobbies) to enrich the everyday life instead of just grinding away for that "someday." It took me way too long to realize that this is the key to happiness for a "type A" like myself - make time for rest and fun in the here and now.

Before he passed, I inherited his old Canon A1 film camera, and recently committed to learning how to use it and shoot on film. It's a completely different beast than digital, and the thing I've loved most about film is that it FORCES you to go slow, wait for the moment, notice all the details, and value the experience. Digital cameras can rapid-fire off shots like a machine gun, and while that's definitely my go-to for client sessions to ensure I don't miss anything, film has been an amazing antidote for burn-out for me because of all the reasons above. Any time I go on an adventure, the film camera comes along - not so I can "work", but so I can be more present. I'm still not perfect at it, but I'm having a great time with it, and it's a way to keep dad with me in those adventures he loved so much too.

If you are experiencing burn-out, I encourage you to tap into your curiosity. Learn something, pick up a new hobby, inject some "different" into your life. It will give you a distraction, a spark, a reprieve, and you just might discover one more thing that you're awesome at! Hope you enjoy these highlights from a few of my adventures this summer, all shot on film and with dad's A1!

My husband Brandon in the Greenhouse at The Frick in Pittsburgh.

My husband Brandon in the Greenhouse at The Frick in Pittsburgh.

Friends Liz and Adam exploring The Frick with us!

Friends Liz and Adam exploring The Frick with us!

More candids in the greenhouse at The Frick!

More candids in the greenhouse at The Frick!

Brandon waiting to board the Assateague Adventure boat on our trip to Ocean City.

Brandon waiting to board the Assateague Adventure boat on our trip to Ocean City.

Skimming for critters in the bay at Assateague.

Skimming for critters in the bay at Assateague.

Found a lot of minnows!

Found a lot of minnows!

The bay side of Ocean City, Maryland.

The bay side of Ocean City, Maryland.

Fenwick Island lighthouse in Delaware.

Fenwick Island lighthouse in Delaware.

Pier at Ocean City.

Pier at Ocean City.

My best friend's amazing daughter who let me braid her hair in a crown 'cause she's a princess!

My best friend's amazing daughter who let me braid her hair in a crown 'cause she's a princess!

My mom Judi and her grumpy pup Digger.

My mom Judi and her grumpy pup Digger.

Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls in Armaugh.

Eclipse Bridge at Buttermilk Falls in Armaugh.

My gorgeous friend Mary and I (behind lens) being silly creatives together in Lawrenceville!

My gorgeous friend Mary and I (behind lens) being silly creatives together in Lawrenceville!

More gorgeous Mary laying on the ground by ice-cream-esque lines in a cemetery because why not?

More gorgeous Mary laying on the ground by ice-cream-esque lines in a cemetery because why not?

The street art in Lawrenceville is pretty colorful and amazing.

The street art in Lawrenceville is pretty colorful and amazing.

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Is a Tattoo Right for your Wedding?
Hands in pinky promise against a yellow background with wedding ring tattoos of anchors on ring fingers

I'm sure by now you have seen or at least heard of the new trend to skip the wedding bands and get a wedding ring tattoo. While it's certainly a cheaper alternative to shelling out $$$$ for a sparkly stunner, there are definitely some things you want to consider before getting inked. How do I know? I'm in the "ring of black" club myself. (It's not actually a club. I just made that up. I'm lame sometimes.)

Black and white photo of four hands with wedding ring tattoos of diamonds, anchors, and intials

There are actually quite a few of our friends that have wedding ring tattoos. You can see Brian's diamond on the left, Brandon and I have the anchors, and our friend Dom has an "E" for his wife Emily. 

DECIDING ON A TATTOO

So why did we take the plunge? When we got married, Brandon and I were both about 50lbs heavier, and while I could get my beautiful rings (pic below) adjusted as the weight came off, his Tungsten Carbide ring was not able to be resized. (Did you know that TC rings can't be resized?! Because we didn't when we bought it! Don't say I never warned you!) For our 4 year anniversary, I rallied for tattoos instead of a hubby with a naked finger.

 

Tungsten Carbide ring with abalone inlay and moissanite wedding ring set on the beach with seashells

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GET A TATTOO

I am obviously not a tattoo artist, so I preface this with a "Call and ask your tattoo artist first!"

  • What does it cost? I called a LOT of tattoo shops and most told me that finger tattoos would be charged "shop minimum" (to my understanding, it's the baseline fee that covers your needle, the time, etc.). It depends on the shop of course, but ours were $60 each at Ikonic Ink.
  • Did it hurt? Yep. But it's over so fast that it's no big deal. I have tattoos on my wrist and feet, and this one was the worst.
  • How well does it heal? My tattoo artist warned me about this (and some shops won't even do finger tattoos because of this), but finger tattoos often won't stand the test of time. Between hand washing, friction from gloves/rings/etc., and other ways we abuse our hands, finger tats often wear more quickly than other tattoos and will need to be touched up.

WHAT TATTOO SHOULD I GET

Of course that's entirely up to you, but something my artist told me, and I totally see why because of the healing process mentioned above, is to get something simple. We chose anchors to symbolize that we were there for each other to keep our marriage steady through the storms. Everyone say "awwwwww!!" Diamonds, crowns, initials, keys and locks, and anniversary dates are popular too. 
 

engagement ring balanced between pink sparkly high heels worn by a bride on her wedding day

I LOVE SHOWING OFF MY ENGAGEMENT RING!

Cool. Me too. Getting a tat doesn't mean you have to give up your rings. In fact, I still wear mine over top of my tattoo. Plus, it is a precious family heirloom that can be passed on to your children (and rings are REALLY fun to photograph!) 

close up photo of engaged couple holding hands in a fiend of wheat
cushion cut engagement ring on top of a mini pumpkin in the fall with leaves
engagement ring with orange camaro and silhouette of couple in car paint
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The Perfect Font for your Treasured Photo Collages

Are you putting together a collage or scrapbook of your favorite wedding photos? Making a keepsake gift with some family photos? This post explains how to create a font as unique and meaningful as the photos you already love!

Brandon and I were just getting back from our honeymoon when I got a call from my mom with some pretty horrific news. My beautiful wedding gown, AND my mom's lace veil, were both destroyed in a fire. She had taken it to get preserved and the structure went up in a blaze, taking my "something old" and "something new" up with it. 

It's never easy to recover from a tragedy like that. It makes the photos even more important, and my job as a photographer even more meaningful. Here's some shots of my wedding day pretties of past, taken by the lovely Jessica Oh! Photography

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Visuals like these photos have so much impact, so much significance in the process of remembering. I have been very blessed by an amazing husband who probably cried over this more than I did. It sort of set the tone for our marriage, really. Him being so deeply, genuinely caring with his gentle love and willingness to help.

CHOOSING A BUSINESS NAME

We have weathered many storms since the fire, including the death of both of our fathers in 2015 and 2016, just 8 months apart. I get a lot of people ask me why I don't change my business name to my married name, Stiffler. Maybe up until now it was just the laziness of a total overhaul, but now my maiden name, my dad's name, is more special to me than ever.
 

MAKE YOUR OWN CUSTOM FONT

A few weeks ago when I was home visiting mom, cognitive wheels spinning about the new website and branding, I asked her for as many samples of dad's writing as she could find. He had a very unique script. He was an absolutely brilliant man, but sometimes mixed his capital letters and had a tough time spelling. We found lots of samples on old e-bay  printouts, part numbers and product names scrawled on the receipts from whatever engine he was rebuilding that month.
 

With the help of calligraphr.com, I was able to take these samples and trace them onto a template and make a FONT - yes a font! - of my dad's handwriting. The process is super simple. First you create an account (it's free, for this purpose anyway), then you download a template to print out. The template is just a bunch of blocks where you write your characters. Then you scan the template, click "upload" and just like magic, you have a font! You can then download your font (a .ttf file), double click the file, and hit "install." Done.

CREATING A LEGACY

My "Kevin" font about knocked the wind out of me when I saw it for the first time. You may also notice that I have his handwriting tattooed on my wrist as well, paired with a green cancer ribbon.  I never realized how much of an impact a person's handwriting can have on your memories. If there is someone significant in your life, I encourage you to take a few moments and make their handwriting into a font. It's a really powerful memory that can evoke emotions much like a photograph. 

As a lasting legacy to my dad, not only have I decided to stick with Jill Gearhart Photography, I have used his handwriting in my new logo and various places throughout my website. I've provided a download below of my dad's font, if you would like to use it, too :)

The Moving Advice No One Gave You
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It's been a while since I've shared a personal post, so if you are looking to learn a bit about what's been going on in my life, read on! If you are looking for some "regular" blogs showcasing beautiful weddings and other work of mine, click here!

The past month or so, I've been spending every free minute doing something I hardly ever did these past 5+ years after moving out on my own: thinking about, caring about, and working towards having a beautiful home that I love. I am so grateful for the Lord's provision of a nice home with space for my husband and I, but since we both prioritize quality time and memories over material things, most of our extra time and money went into experiences. Trips to Pittsburgh, trying out new restaurants, we rarely had a whole entire weekend at home! And we loved it!

People described my home as "cute" and "cozy" which I have to remind myself isn't a bad thing. But I wanted amazing. Who doesn't?! This new year, my resolution was to, and I quote, "give a crap about my house." Little did I know that an amazing place was right around the corner. Literally. I moved our entire life as a married couple right around the corner. And as with any major life event, I couldn't have gotten through without my amazing church family!

Please enjoy a lighter take on the moving advice no one gave you! I hope it saves you from a few headaches and disasters during your next move! *all photos are from my iphone, as you probably realized. I'm a better photographer than this lol.

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INVITE YOUR FRIENDS WITH KIDS

You may shy away from asking for help from your friends with kids, but it's actually a great opportunity to put young legs to work! We had some help from a nifty hand cart from Harbor Freight, which made moving fun for the kiddos! They actually argued about who could pull it. How's THAT for free labor?! Shout out to Jill and her amazing kiddos. Love you all!

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EVERYTHING IS A STEPSTOOL

You know that feeling at Christmas when you are wrapping a present and you lose the tape? That's how moving is when you need a stepstool. It's always, without fail, in another room, or on another floor. Luckily, if you are reckless like moi, everything can be a stepstool including appliances. As my husband knows all too well, my motto in life is that there's a solution to every problem!!

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MUSCLES + TRUCKS

I honestly thought I could get around this one since we were, after all, moving literally three houses down and around the corner. Even if it's a baby move like mine, you'll always need muscles and a truck in you have furniture. I personally apologize to everyone involved moving that 34234 pound hutch. Love you guys.

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HUMANS > RATCHET STRAPS

Have you ever used a ratchet strap? It is very likely that I am just mechanically challenged save for camera gear (watch me open a lock sometime, haha!), but I cannot for the life of me figure out ratchet straps. Chalk that up to one more thing I should have learned form my dad when I could. But the funny thing is, almost everyone else I've talked to struggles with those buggers too. So, in the same reckless fashion as the stepstool thing, hop up in that truck and use your greatest asset - yourself - to hunker down that hutch. (Please don't actually do this unless you are, again, moving around the corner. I'm pretty sure it's illegal and all that good stuff).

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LOOK UP THE MANUAL

What happens when your new appliances are High Efficiency but your brain is not? The photo above. I know you might be excited to not have to haul your laundry down three flights and into the basement and all you wanna do is take that Whirlpool for a whirl, but please read the manual first. Also, even though the detergent reservoir can hold a lot and the soap disappears as your pour it in, it does NOT, in fact, hold a half bottle of soap to dispense the proper amount on it's own. You still have to do a little bit of thinking to measure your soap, unfortunately.

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KNOW WHERE YOU PACKED THE COFFEE

I think the photo pretty much explains this one. Things that you use all the time and pack last should also be unloaded last, so you know where to find them! I knew where my trusty pink water bottle was at all times. But the connectors to hang the shower curtain? Box of kcups? Silverware? Who knows...

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TAKE TIME TO REMINISCE

I never thought I would miss our old house, the peeling wallpaper, the floors that offered fun sounds as you walked and the occasional splinter. But something weird happened as I mopped each room after cleaning all day, shutting out the light as I finished each. I was just a tiny little bit sad to go. This is where our marriage was built. This house is the first real home Brandon has had since moving out on his own, the house where we hauled all of our wedding stuff as we left for our honeymoon. The house where we got a puppy. The house where we built and grew relationships over dinner and board games. The house where we accomplished great things to set us on the path to achieving our "adult goals." Brandon finished his undergrad here. We were both unemployed here and had summers with fishing and $3 minnow buckets for fun. We had some serious conversations here, we started marriage counseling here. We lost our dads here. We found a church here, and new purpose and passions and dreams. I was sad to go, but it makes it so much better to know that now, in our new home, is where all of our hard work and heartaches are going to bear fruit and we can finally say "we made it."

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The Advice You Wanted Most and All Of Your Favorites of 2017
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2017 was such a great year of learning, both for me and for you! This year was the launch of some big things around here, my favorite being this blog! For the past 40 weeks, we have spent a few minutes together every week, sometimes featuring guest writers, but always showing off the vibrant and genuine heart and soul of my favorite people - YOU! Your love and support is literally everything to me and to the success of this fun little venture. It is my hope that through this special platform, we were able to connect in a way that goes way beyond showcasing my work, but that it was literally time spent creating value for YOU. Whether that be through advice for brides, answers to frequently asked questions, tips, tricks, and ideas, or just through the honest, thoughtful, genuine, voice-filled writing that shows you more of me, my family, and my heart. It is my hope that hanging out here every week has helped you learn, prepare, relax, and trust anything and everything about having photos taken and most of all, memories made.

Mushy stuff aside - remember those superlatives in your high school yearbook? Most likely to succeed? Biggest class clown? Prettiest eyes? Nicest smile? As a year end treat, I've wrapped up all of your favorite blog posts, shoots, and moments of 2017 to romp through all over again, as shown by page views analytics data! This year alone brought almost 10,000 views to my website since May, and I am so looking forward to an even bigger and more vibrant 2018!

MOST VIEWED BLOG - What to do with your wedding dress after your wedding

MOST VIEWED BLOG - What to do with your wedding dress after your wedding

MOST HELPFUL BLOG POST - Make your handwriting a font

MOST HELPFUL BLOG POST - Make your handwriting a font

BEST BLOG FOR SENIORS - Who to bring along on your senior session

BEST BLOG FOR SENIORS - Who to bring along on your senior session

BEST BLOG FOR FAMILIES - Are Your Kids Old Enough For Family Photos?

BEST BLOG FOR FAMILIES - Are Your Kids Old Enough For Family Photos?

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDES - Not Your Average Wedding Tips

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDES - Not Your Average Wedding Tips

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDESMAIDS - 10 Lessons for Bridesmaids

BEST BLOG FOR BRIDESMAIDS - 10 Lessons for Bridesmaids

MOST PUBLISHED WEDDING - Dan + Danielle | Car Themed Wedding at Farm on the Ridge

MOST PUBLISHED WEDDING - Dan + Danielle | Car Themed Wedding at Farm on the Ridge

MOST LIKED WEDDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Wayne + Cortney | Gatsby Themed Wedding at People's Natural Gas Park

MOST LIKED WEDDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA - Wayne + Cortney | Gatsby Themed Wedding at People's Natural Gas Park

MOST READ PERSONAL BLOG - Why You Need Marriage Counseling

MOST READ PERSONAL BLOG - Why You Need Marriage Counseling

MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPERIENCE OF 2017 - Winter Wedding in the Poconos

MOST INFLUENTIAL EXPERIENCE OF 2017 - Winter Wedding in the Poconos

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Are You Watering Your Tree the Right Way? | Fleming's Christmas Tree Farms | Indiana, PA Family Photographer
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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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