Valentine's Styled Session // Peoria IL

“I love you, and that’s the beginning and end of everything”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald


I’m so in love with how this shoot came turned out. I wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day, but didn’t want it to be the typical “red and pink with roses” theme. Instead, I chose burgundy, black and gold as my colors and was SO happy with the end result! Elegant & romantic, with the perfect hint Valentine’s Day without being over the top.

This shoot could not have happened without some incredible vendors. I can’t thank them enough for the roles they played in bringing my vision to life! Special thanks to:

Pollen and Pastry for creating the most incredible french macarons and cake. I love how they were so elegant without being over the top. Candice also created the most gorgeous floral pieces. I love how she chose so many unique flowers, mixing and matching textures & hues.

Brittany from Spruce Rentals let me use her new warehouse space for the shoot as well as some incredible furniture pieces. I can’t get over how absolutely perfect her burgundy couch was! The minute I saw it I knew it had to be included.

Adore Bridals allowed me to use one of their stunning bridal gowns. Guys, I’m so in love with this dress! I love the lace detail and how it’s so modern yet elegant. Adore also provided a beautiful pair of earrings & the tux.

Leiana (@mualeiana) and Cynthia (@cynthianicolehair) did a beautful job on my model’s hair & makeup! They are both so talented!!

My models, Amy and Ross Mulder of Amy Mulder Photography were SO amazing! They were both so comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera and ready to do whatever I asked. Extra points to them as well for braving the cold, unheated building! Oh, the things we do for the perfect shoot, right??

Ok, enough talking! I hope you love looking at these photos; please make sure to visit each of the vendors’ pages and show them some love!

IMG_1492-2.jpg
IMG_1471.jpg
IMG_1468-2.jpg
IMG_1665.jpg
IMG_1631.jpg
IMG_1568.jpg
IMG_1415.jpg
IMG_1627.jpg
IMG_1521.jpg
IMG_1560.jpg
IMG_1452.jpg
IMG_1696.jpg
IMG_1524.jpg
IMG_1401.jpg
IMG_1588.jpg
IMG_1440.jpg
IMG_1609.jpg
IMG_1421.jpg
IMG_1721.jpg
IMG_1483.jpg
IMG_1738.jpg
IMG_1373.jpg
IMG_1385.jpg
IMG_1376.jpg
IMG_1410.jpg
IMG_1378.jpg
IMG_1511.jpg

Caleb + Jenna // Peoria IL Engagement Session

I am slowly catching up on posts from last year! Today’s post is from an engagement session I did in December. Sitting here in the -2 degree weather I am realizing just how blessed we were during this shoot. If I remember correctly I think it was in the 40’s and we were cold, haha!

I had so much fun photographing this couple. Caleb + Jenna are so sweet and easy to photograph. They are naturals in front of the camera! I love the beautiful, diverse landscape of Donovan Park in Peoria, so when Caleb & Jenna mentioned that they like nature I knew it would be the perfect setting for their session.

Hope you enjoy!

IMG_7551.jpg
IMG_7579.jpg
IMG_7606.jpg
IMG_7642.jpg
IMG_7699.jpg
IMG_7656.jpg
IMG_7666.jpg
IMG_7682-2.jpg
IMG_7768.jpg
IMG_7757.jpg
IMG_7821.jpg
IMG_7957.jpg
IMG_8138.jpg
IMG_7982.jpg
IMG_8008.jpg
IMG_8128.jpg
IMG_8026.jpg
IMG_8155.jpg

Randy & Teresa // Eureka IL Wedding

Randy & Teresa’s intimate evening wedding proved that big doesn’t mean better when it comes to celebrations! Surrounded by only their closest family members, these two pledged their love to each other in the sweetest little ceremony. The decor was simple, but beautiful. The gathering was small, but the love was big. I was so honored to be the photographer for this special day. I hope you enjoy looking through these highlights of their day.

P.S. Teresa’s son & Randy had the best first look reactions I have ever photographed! (take note, grooms!)

venue // The Cannery, Eureka IL

florals // Le Fleur Floral Design

Looking Ahead // 2019

IMG_9747.jpg

Happy New Year, everyone! I absolutely love the energy and excitement I feel on January 1. A whole year stands before me untouched, ready to be tackled.

I love making lists for the New Year. I don’t always get everything done, but that’s ok! Having goals just helps me to stay a bit more focused and keep me headed in a straight line, instead of bouncing from thing to thing, which is very easy for me to do. It helps me keep the big picture in mind and helps me focus on what I hope to accomplish. Below are a few goals for my business. Having these goals definitely helps me move forward and not grow stagnant in my business. Sometimes it’s easy for me to lose steam or not push myself to accomplish big or hard things. Hopefully I’ll be able to stay focused this year and accomplish most, if not all, of these goals!

Business Goals:

  • Book 7 weddings & second shoot as much as possible for other photogs

  • Grow my editing business

  • Purchase another camera + lens (definitely eyeing the Canon 35mm!)

  • Travel to at least two new states & book a shoot(s) during my visit

I definitely hope to travel to several new places this year! Last year I went to Nebraska & Michigan, but I didn’t book or plan any shoots. This year I hope to book at least one shoot and/or organize a styled shoot while I’m traveling! Right now I’m eyeing a few places out west. Two years ago I went to New Mexico and the mountains definitely captured my heart. I hope to go back this year.

  • Use social media for good

    I definitely feel like this is a goal I set every year, and guys, it’s definitely a hard one to keep! There’s definitely pressure sometimes to post x amount of times a week, in an effort to stay relevant and in front of potential clients. However, I don’t want to just take up space on social media. I want to share things on social media that are redeeming, authentic, and encouraging. It’s definitely an ongoing goal, but I hope to stay a little more focused on it this year.

  • Continue meeting creatives. I met several super sweet photogs/creatives this year and I hope to continue building my relationships with them as well as meet some new faces.

  • Push myself creatively

  • Blog more consistently

  • Stay organized

    Tip for staying organized!! I just started using Dubsado and I can already tell it’s going to radically change how I run my business this year. Dubsado helps keep track of income & expenses and I can also create forms, invoices, contracts, etc. So, so helpful. If you don’t already use Dubsado feel free to email me for a special discount code.

How about you? What does this year look like for you? I would love to hear about some of your goals!

a look at 2018

Another year is wrapped up in a whirlwind of activity and every day life. Each year seems to pass more quickly then the one before and each year I start January 1 with a determination to live more fully in the present, to focus less on the past and its mistakes, and truly enjoy this moment instead of always looking ahead. Do I succeed? To be honest, rarely. This thing or that thing comes up and I’m caught up in stress or anxiety or anticipation of a future event. I truly want to learn to love today for what it is, not wish away the mundane or slow, but instead to realize that every hour of every day is what makes up my story and my life.

I guess the over-arching goal of each year is to just be present. To make goals and dream, but to also learn to rest in the life as it is right now.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of my goals for 2019, but for today, the last day of 2018, I want to share a few things about this year, a few highlights, things I learned, and hopefully some encouragement for those possibly struggling with a rough year. Shout out to my friend Lenna (@lennachapa) for sharing these thought-provoking questions on her Instagram. I love how these questions push me to think about the highs and lows of my year.

26025845_931642753652906_8127251835385579601_o.jpg

What’s one thing you did that you’re proud of? This year I quit the “dead end” job I had been at for three years. Don’t get me wrong; this was a great job that at the beginning pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me some great life skills (any job that involves working with the public is sure to test even a patient person!). However, this job was not in a field I was passionate about and didn’t offer any advancement (that I wanted), so I made the decision in October to leave. I left that job and started part-time with an event rental place in my hometown as well as started my own photo editing business on top of my wedding & portrait photography business. Guys, I totally feel like I was made for the self-employed life! It’s not easy, it’s stressful, and sometimes I do consider getting another job to supplement the slow months. However, time and again, God brings opportunities and people into my life that remind me that this is right where I’m suppose to be right now.

What’s one mistake you made and the lesson you learned?

One mistake that I definitely fell prey to since starting my business around 3 years ago was the mistake of believing that success would just come to me overnight. Not really sure where I got that idea, thought I think it partially came from looking at other entrepreneurs who appeared to be extremely successful in the matter of months. I thought that all I had to do was post pretty pictures and use the right hashtags and *boom*, people would be asking me for my photography services.

Want to know what I quickly realized?

That my field is suuuuuper saturated. That there is a lot of talent. That there are a lot of people who have been at this for much longer than I have and who have a loyal following. That success does NOT happen overnight, no matter what it looks like.

The lesson I learned? To not give up. To actually start WORKING for what I want. That I need to stop looking at other people and start thinking about what I can do to love, serve, and care for MY clients. Guys, honesty moment. I started about three years ago and it wasn’t until the last 6 months or so that I actually started making an income as a self-employed person. THREE YEARS. I know that doesn’t seem long in the whole scheme of things, but it felt so long to me. It was three years of really questioning what I was doing, where I was at, what I should be doing. However, I’m entering 2019 with a renewed energy to keep pursuing my dream of being self-employed. The opportunities that came my way in 2018 have given me that extra push to keep going and work harder then ever.


What’s on limiting story you’re ready to let go of before the New Year?

I want to let go of my mindset of thinking that I can’t achieve success doing what I love. Now, I will put out this disclaimer: Sometimes we will have to work jobs that we don’t necessarily love. Even if we do find our dream job it will be filled with stress and hardship. That’s just life. However, it also is possible to make a living doing what you love! Possibly more then ever before, pursuing your own business is become a more viable + accepted option. I’m excited to see where my business will go in this New Year as I lay aside my insecurities and fully embrace the path I’m currently on. Things may change or look different as the years go by, but as of right now I fully believe I am on the path God has for me and I am excited to see where He leads in this New Year.

Final thoughts…

I want to start enjoying the journey instead of always just pushing for the perfect “moment” when I reach this or that goal. It’s something I try to keep in mind when setting goals each January 1. What truly matters in this life, no matter what goals I make, is my relationship with God. Am I growing in my walk with Him? Am I spending time with Him, learning more about Him? Am I seeking His glory or my own? Am I taking hold of the grace He offers me every single day or am I trying to live on my own strength?

Today’s devotional from New Morning Mercies (highly recommend this devotional!) gave me the perfect perspective as I enter a new year. Read these words and let them soak in…

God’s work in you is a process, not an event. It progresses not in three or four huge moments, but in ten thousand little moments of change. The little moments in life are profoundly important precisely because they are the little moments that we live in and that form us. The character that is formed in those little moments shapes how we respond to the big moments of life. What make all of this character change possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. So we wake up each day committed to live in the small moments of our daily lives with open eyes and humble, expectant hearts.

“For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” John 1:16


Happy New Year, friends!

Kasey & Will // Peoria IL Weddings

You are loved. You are loved more than you know. I hereby pledge all of my days to prove it so. // Sleeping at Last, “Light”

This October wedding is close to my heart because it was the wedding day of one of my dear friends! I was so honored when she asked me to photograph her & Will’s big day. Photographing a wedding is such a huge responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I go into each day determined to capture every moment, big and small, so that my sweet couples have beautiful documentation of their amazing day.

Some heavy rain threatened to keep all of the portraits inside, but it completely stopped in time for ALL of the outdoor photos! So, so thankful! God definitely hear my many prayers. I hope you enjoy looking through these lovely reminders of a gorgeous autumn wedding.

IMG_9322.jpg

Candler Family // Peoria IL Mini Session

This mini session was so much fun. I’ve been friends with the Candler’s for several years now and was excited when they asked me to do their family photos! This family is literally the most photogenic family, so I knew my job would be super easy (I was right). I also love the outfits + colors they chose. Such gorgeous colors for this time of year; makes me think of a dream winter wonderland. Too bad there wasn’t any snow!

Enjoy!

Kenny & Sandi // Eureka IL Mini Session

The fall colors were so vibrant this year! I’m thankful I was able to get in a couple mini sessions while the trees were at their peak!

My first session was with Kenny & Sandi. These two were so sweet and easy to work with! I typically have young couples that come to me for photos, so it was a treat to be able to photograph these two. I highly recommend couples of all ages book a session! You will treasure those photos, I promise! Anniversaries are the perfect time to book a session. Whether you’re celebrating 10 years or 65, it’s a milestone that should be treasured and documented.

IMG_9218.jpg
IMG_9226.jpg
IMG_9272.jpg
IMG_9249.jpg

Boho Styled Shoot // Donovan Park, Peoria, IL

“all that you are is all I will ever need…”

-Ed Sheeran

This styled shoot was several month in the making, and while so many things about it changed last minute, I could not be more thrilled with the final result. From the beautiful florals, boho/rustic props, and amazing layer cake to the sweetest models, everything about this shoot came together in the most perfect way, even though it looked so different than my original vision.

A huge thank you to Le Fleur for the gorgeous (and huge!) floral bouquet and boutonniere, Spruce Wedding Rentals for so many perfect props, Trudy Blunier for the tastiest pumpkin cake + beautiful, gold brushed macarons, Leiana Hilton for doing KaraLea’s makeup (it was so perfect) and East to West Studio for the lovely hand-lettered quote.

Also a huge thank-you to Michel and KaraLea for being the sweetest couple ever, not only being willing to pose for almost two hours (and killing it at the same time!) but buying dinner for the photographers afterwards. Still so blessed by that evening and your generosity!

Vendors: East to West Studio // Le Fleur // Spruce Wedding Rentals // @trudz83 // @mualeiana

IMG_7138.jpg
IMG_7124.jpg
IMG_7118.jpg
IMG_7384.jpg
IMG_7237.jpg
IMG_7276.jpg
IMG_7300.jpg
IMG_7307.jpg
IMG_7292 (1).jpg
IMG_7353.jpg
IMG_7322 (1).jpg
IMG_7409.jpg
IMG_7410 (1).jpg
IMG_7426.jpg
IMG_7471 (1).jpg
IMG_7482.jpg
IMG_7525.jpg
IMG_7506.jpg
IMG_7541 (1).jpg
IMG_7551.jpg
IMG_7398.jpg
IMG_7596.jpg

find your why

Last week I sat with a group of women and listened as they shared their “why”. Why they chose to start their own business, quit their full time job, pursue their dream. I don’t think I had a why when I started photography three years ago, other than that I just wanted to take pretty pictures. As times has gone by, though, my “why” has developed and grown. I think that’s pretty typical. As we grow, learn, and mature, our reasons for doing things change. Maybe something started out as a hobby, and then other people loved it and started buying your product or service, and then you realized YOU really loved doing this one thing and you decided to take the leap and make it into a legit business. Whatever it is, I’m sure you have a why behind it. That why is what keeps you going through the discouragement, slow seasons, and long hours.

What is your why?

I’m sharing mine below with the hope that they inspire you to sit down and think about why you’ve started your business. Maybe that business is still in the dream stage; that’s ok! Take time to think over reasons why you may want to pursue this idea or hobby. Put it on paper. Think through it. Pray through it. Then see where your why takes you.

Ok, enough uses of the word “why”, let’s dive in. I started my business because I wanted…

Freedom. Freedom to set my own hours. Freedom to dream. Freedom to try. Having my own business means I can choose to work like crazy one day so I can take another day off to spend with family & friends. Having my own business means I have the freedom to actually try some of my ideas. Sometimes they’ve worked, sometimes not, but at least I knew that I tried. I love having that freedom!

Growth. Think about it. When you’re at a job you may be given opportunities to “work you way up” or you might not. Things might look promising one day and then the next you’re being told “sorry, we don’t need you anymore.” When you’re your own boss the sky is the limit. You call the shots, you decide how much growth is possible for you & your stage of life, etc. You have so much room to grow & dream big without fear of being fired or let go.

Flexibility. I don’t know what the next 5-10 years will look like. Maybe I’ll be married. Maybe I’ll have kids. Maybe I’ll still be single. There are a lot of unknowns. The path I have chosen is so flexible, which I love. If I’m single I can work crazy hours, travel, work remotely, etc. If I’m married I can work around my husband’s & kid’s schedule, working as much or as little as I choose & around that works well for them. I knew that whatever career I had I wanted it to be able to grow with me. Being a photographer & editor is literally the perfect fit for me.

Those are a few of my whys. Do you identify with any of them? I would love to hear the story behind why you started your business!

Kasey + Will // Morton, IL Engagement Session

“As she held out her hand, their eyes met and all doubt was swept away in a glad certainty. They belonged to each other; and, no matter what life might hold for them, it could never alter that. Their happiness was in each other's keeping and both were unafraid." --Anne's House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery

I’m so excited to be sharing these photos with you today! I met Kasey a few years ago through mutual friends, but our friendship didn’t really take off until we started working at the same place. I am so blessed to work somewhere where I am actually friends (or at least get along with!) every single person. Kasey was extra special, though, because we shared so many things in common and were able to connect on so many different topics & life experiences.

When Kasey told me that she wanted me to be her photographer for her & Will’s wedding I was so excited. It’s such a huge responsibility to capture someone’s special day, but also such an honor. I am thrilled that she trusted me enough to give me this task! She is marrying the love of her life in 20 days, so I thought I better hurry up and blog her & Will’s session before their wedding! Enjoy!

IMG_2884.jpg
IMG_2935.jpg
IMG_2923.jpg
IMG_2937.jpg

Chris & Madeleine // Peoria, IL Couple Session

Madeleine and Chris are such a fun couple! I met Madeleine a few years ago through a Facebook group for Christian artists & creatives and was able to meet up for coffee with her when she was in my area. Fast forward a couple years and Madeleine is now married to Chris and they make such a cute couple. They compliment each other so well and were absolutely a blast to photograph. 

Shout out to 3030 Coffee Shop in Peoria for fueling our session with yummy coffee & tea!

Ben & Maddie // Eureka, IL Mentor Session

About a month ago I had the opportunity to have a mentoring session with Abby of Abby Jo Photography , which included a  really fun couple session with Ben and Maddie. It was so much fun getting to watch and earn alongside Abby as she walked me through this session.

Fun fact:

Maddie runs her own clothing boutique, Hello Beautiful Boutique , and wore a few clothing pieces & jewelry in her photos. Make sure to go check out her website when you're done here!

a HUGE thank you to Abby Jo for setting up this session! I learned so much and am already seeing improvements in my work after my time with her. I can not recommend mentor sessions highly enough! I promise that you'll come away feeling so refreshed and excited to delve deeper into your business.

Four Ways to be more Present

This blog post came about from some recent thoughts I had while being away for a few days on vacation. The weather was hot, and I'm pretty sure I got dehydrated more than once, so I partially blame the circumstances/dehydration of my brain cells (excuses, I know).  I found myself really struggling to be present and "all in" while I was away. After some reflection, I realized that often times I have expectations for how things are going to go, get too focused on getting the perfect shot (#photographerproblems), or have such a desire to stick to a plan that I don't just stop and enjoy the moment, even if it's messy or unscripted. I realized that life is too short and too precious to not be all in and present, so here I am, sharing a few ideas I brainstormed that will hopefully help me (and you, if you have this problem) to slow down and find the beauty in everyday life.

1. Decide to be present.  Being present takes self-control. It's not something you suddenly do, especially if you're used to a crazy busy schedule. You need to decide to be present, and then continually remind yourself to be fully invested in whatever moment is right in front of you. If you've become used to rushing through life you'll be surprised at how hard it is to slow down and be all there in the present moment. Believe me, I've been there/am there.

 2. Put the phone down. Anyone remember the glory days of their youth before smartphones were a thing? I remember endless hours of just being outside, doing work in the yard, drawing with chalk, or making tents and forts in the backyard. I was rarely on the computer, instead, my imagination, friends or siblings were my entertainment. I'm older now, with more demands on my life, like a job, trying to grow a business, cultivate friendships, etc. My photography job requires a lot of time online, and between watching Youtube videos and online photography classes, blogging, using social media, and editing, a lot of my time is taken up in front of a screen. The other day I had a friend over and we were walking around outside and it just dawned on me that I hadn't taken time to be outside at sunset in a really long time. What used to be the norm was now a rare treat. I had spent so many evenings coming home to from my day job, eating dinner, then instantly getting on my laptop to work, that I hardly ever went outside in the evening just to enjoy the coolness and beauty of twilight.  Once I realized that I decided that I wanted to be more intentional about setting aside a little time once in awhile to just soak in the beauty of the evening, even it was just taking a moment or two to really enjoy the sunset. 

IMG_2401.jpg

3. Focus on the surroundings. When was the last time you just closed your eyes and took a moment to focus on what was around you? Feel the cool breeze play with your hair, let the warm sun soak into your skin. Touch the flowers, the grass, the icy water. So many memories are connected to how we feel, and taking time to really get fully immersed in your surroundings helps to calm you and keep you focused. 

4. Schedule regular days to relax & unplug.  If possible set aside at least an evening, if not an entire day, to keep your phone turned off. Set aside this day to catch up on your reading, go out for coffee with a friend, or spend time outside. I have yet to devote a full day to unplugging, but recently have been turning my phone completely off around 9 pm and not turning it on again until after my devotions in the morning. This helps me wind down for bedtime, and then in the morning, instead of checking Instagram or my email first, I spend time with Jesus. Only after I do that do I turn my phone on and tackle the day. This has worked pretty well for me, even though I'm not always the most consistent. #confession

 

Life will always be busy. You will always have hundreds of things vying for your time. I think the key to being present is just realizing that your time on earth is short. How do you want to spend the precious hours, days, and months of your life? How you spend your days is how you spend your life. Commit to living your life well. Fill it with rich experiences and relationships with people. At the end of the day that is what matters, not the likes, followers, or comments on social media, not the latest video or computer game, or tv show. People are what matters. Put them first. Commit to be present in your relationships and life.

xoxo,

Samantha

 

 

Andrew + Elizabeth // Eureka, IL Engagement Session

I'm so excited to be sharing these photos with you today! When Elizabeth asked me to take her engagement photos I knew I was in for a treat. I had taken Elizabeth's senior photos way back when I first started photography and already knew she was photogenic. As expected, she was still just as photogenic and she and Andrew made the cutest couple ever. Despite them saying otherwise, they were total naturals in front of the camera.