Category Archives: Business

My 3 favorite things about photographing weddings – Chicago, Illinois Wedding Photographer

I have a crazy love for photographing weddings. I see your wedding day like a blank book and I love filling the pages with beautiful photos of your story. There are so many things that I absolutely love about being a wedding photographer but these three things definitely stick out in my mind whenever I’m asked about it.

3. The Variety – Weddings are the only type of ‘session’ that I can capture just about everything all in one shoot. Anything from jewelry, venues, table centerpieces, people of all ages, flowers, shoes, clothes, landscapes, and can be indoors and outdoors or on the ground or rooftop deck. I really enjoy the variety and it keeps me challenged creatively all day. I have to say that I love it all – the closeup shots of rings, flowers, jewelry, wedding invitations and all the other tiny but beautiful details of your day, the group portraits of your bridal party and families, the photos of just the two of you, the emotional and candid moments, everyone bustin’ a move on the dance floor, the gorgeous colors you have chosen to complement your day, your bridal party getting ready for the day, your cake, and I honestly love photographing it all!

2. The Atmosphere – As a photographer who is completely in love with candid moments, it doesn’t get much better than a wedding 🙂 I absolutely thrive in weddings because inspiration surrounds me – smiles, laughter, genuine happiness and love. Beautiful moments are happening all around me and I am able to capture them one after another. I even get caught up in the moments myself – smiling at your love and affection, wiping a tear so I can see clearly to capture the emotional moment, and bouncing around to the beat of my favorite song on the dance floor in between snapping photos 🙂

Hotel Baker Wedding, Wedding Photography, Weddings at Hotel Baker

1. The Couple – I may be a little biased when I say this but I seriously have the very best couples! My favorite part of the whole wedding process, hands down, is meeting with the couples in person. I love to sit back, listen to their story, but most of all I love to just watch them. I love seeing their personalities come out as they laugh together and tease each other about how they met or how he/she proposed. It’s fun for me to see their personalities and energy and it gives me a glimpse into how their wedding day will play out. My biggest hope is to walk out of a wedding consultation feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I don’t want them to feel like they have a stranger following them around on their wedding day. I want them to feel like I’m just another friend tagging along, laughing with them, and documenting their day in in the most beautiful and personal way.

Monastero's Wedding, Same Sex Wedding, Chicago Wedding Photographer

I would love to set up a time and place to meet with you and talk about your wedding. I get sooo excited about weddings and I can’t wait to hear from you!

10 qualities that will make you an amazing photographer – Chicago, Illinois – Portrait and Wedding Photography

1. Relate to people well. Being a photographer is such a people centered job. You absolutely have to be able to talk comfortably with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds as you with different life experiences as you. If you aren’t easy to get along with and likeable, you won’t be hired. Simple as that. You have to be outgoing, communicate well, and be a good listener.

2. The desire to learn. I think if I really sat down and counted, I probably learn or come across about 20 things a day that I can apply to my business. It can be a new way to present something on my website, how to force yourself to blog consistently (ahem!), a tutorial on how to take better macro shots, finding a new location for an upcoming session, discovering fun new marketing or branding ideas, researching traditions in a wedding you know nothing about so you can talk intelligently with a bride about her culture, coming up with new fun products for your clients, looking into bridal expos – no matter what it is, you have to constantly want to be on top of things.

3. The ability to bounce back. Failures and missteps are going to happen and you have to not only expect it, but be okay with it. It’s the only way to grow. A lot of this type of business comes from trial and error because you’re a one-person show. Nobody is there to show you the right way and nobody knows what will work for you best except for you. Your success is a direct result of you. Nobody is out there marketing for you, working on your website for you, writing your emails for you. Your passion and people skills will bring you success.

4. Having thick skin. Maybe you were born with thick skin, and that’s awesome, but if you weren’t then you had better grow some quickly. In case you haven’t noticed, there are some rude people in the world who will troll your FB page or website and leave nasty comments for you and the whole world to see. They will leave unsolicited advice and critiques on work that you are proud of and try to tear you down. Why? Who knows. But you better believe it will happen. Another reason you’ll need thick skin is all the disappointments you’ll have. Clients won’t hire you, work that you submit for publication won’t be selected, images that you love will fall short of amazing in other people’s eyes. You just have to believe in yourself and know that someday it will all be worth it.

5. Never settle with yourself. Always improve. There is always something you can add to your arsenal and endless topics to educate yourself on. Never allow yourself to be satisfied with what you create, always strive for improvement. Try to keep yourself ahead of every other photographer out there. I found that the longer I did this, my work evolved into a totally different style than I ever anticipated. It wasn’t even a conscious thing, it was almost like my eye was trained to see what truly beautiful work was and I strived to be able to achieve that.

6. The ability to see your work objectively. This kind of ties in with number 5, but if you don’t take some time every now and then to evaluate your work and your business model, you’ll be stuck in limbo. You won’t get worse, but you won’t get better either. It’s also refreshing sometimes to compare yourself to yourself. Find some images from when you first started out and put them side-by-side with work you just recently shot. Seeing your improvements or your change in style in a tangible way is incredibly powerful.

7. Ask for help. You can always find someone out there who has been doing this longer than you who is willing to take you under their wing. Not every photographer is crazy competitive. There’s plenty of photography groups I have joined with incredible networking opportunities and endless amounts of advice and support. Look around and put yourself out there. You might be surprised how many photographers will be happy to help. For every photographer that won’t help, there’s TONS out there who want to help raise the bar for photography and help educate other photographers. Just don’t think and act like you already know everything there is to know. Nobody likes a know-it-all and it puts you in a bad place because we all need help, nobody knows it all.

8. Being able to create and capture a moment. When I first started out in photography, the technical stuff was awful. I wasn’t artsy at all and I actually shot on auto! But what stood out to me and to my clients about my work was that I could capture a moment. This ties in with my first point, but it is essential that you can interact with your clients in a way to ease out their natural smiles and laughter and have them also interact with each other in a real way. The technical stuff will come in time, but if you can be present enough to anticipate great reactions and emotions, and get people to feel comfortable around you, then you will go a long way in this business.

9. The drive to succeed. You have to be able to visualize your end results. Set goals, re-evaluate them as needed, and then set higher goals. Push yourself to be the best you can be.

10. PASSION! If you’re not passionate about this type of work, you’ll never make it. Simple as that. You have to really truly love creating beautiful images and use that love to fuel you past all the struggles you will come across.

Featured – BP4U Photography Tips & Guides – Chicago, Illinois Wedding Photographer

BP4U Photography Tips & Guides has been such a huge important resource for me ever since starting my career in photography. It is a site dedicated to helping photographers reach their goals by providing tips, tutorials, marketing and editing materials, and more.

Featured Chicago Illinois Wedding Photographer

I was so thrilled to be featured as the Illinois Photographer of the Week, showcasing a beautiful rustic farm wedding from August 2014. You can see my full feature here. Make sure to check out BP4U if you are into photography in any way, professionally or as a hobbyist.

Reflecting back on 2014 – Chicago, Illinois – Maternity, Child, and Family Photographer in the Chicago suburbs

As 2014 comes to an end, I can’t help reflecting back on all the amazing people I’ve met and worked with throughout the year. I am so thankful for all of my clients and fans who support me in every way. 2014 truly was an amazing year for me in so many ways. I’m sad to see it end but so very excited for 2015 to see what’s in store for me! Here is my 2014 in review:

Chicago Illinois photography family photographer kid toddler and children photography in Illinois

Happy New Year to all of you!

The Turning Point in my Photography Business – My One Year Wedding Anniversary – Chicago, Illinois Wedding Photographer

Exactly one year ago on this exact date, I spent the majority of the day completely stressing out. I had committed to photograph my very first wedding on New Years Eve. The bride was a friend from high school who was having a hard time finding a photographer since their wedding would be on a holiday. She asked me a few times and I had politely said no. Weddings had always intimidated me. In my 3 years of business, I always referred weddings out to other photographers in the area. I just didn’t think weddings were for me. I am a very laid back, carefree, go with the flow type of photographer, so I was terrified of the bridezilla. I thought wedding days would be full of drama, unreasonably tight timelines, and crazy demands. I didn’t think I was ready to photograph such a HUGE deal. I was a family and child photographer and basically, I just lacked the confidence in myself as a photographer to take on something as important as a wedding. But Alyssa persisted, insisting it would be a very casual and small courthouse wedding and she just wanted nice photos at the end of the day. She believed in me and my ability to capture her day in a beautiful way. I eventually agreed to do it and it just might be the very best decision I have ever made for my business.

New Years Eve last year was a very chilly 8 degrees and I drove in a small blizzard for over an hour to get to Woodstock, IL where Alyssa was going to marry Phillip. I was freezing (hello polar vortex!!), and as I was sitting in the courthouse waiting for Alyssa and Phillip to arrive I started to worry about letting my first wedding clients down. But when they turned the corner and started walking down the hallway towards me, I saw how absolutely BEAUTIFUL Alyssa looked. I saw the way they looked at each other and felt how the world seemed to stop for the just the two of them. I saw the love between them and that’s when I realized that I was going to fall hard for weddings.

 After we arrived at their luncheon venue, I took them outside for a few super quick photos. Once I started shooting, I knew I was in for the long haul. I knew I would do everything in my power to be able to capture love at any chance I got. True love is so incredibly beautiful and I want to be the one to preserve it in time for as many couples as I can.

As scared as I had been for this day, it turned out to be completely natural to me. I guess I never really thought about the atmosphere of a wedding – completely full of love, laughter, smiles, heartfelt words, and raw emotion surrounding me. It is such a unique and awesome environment to work and be inspired in. It’s all so perfect for a photographer like me who thrives on capturing candid moments since those candid moments are everywhere you look. All of my nerves completely washed away and I learned that I had a natural talent for photographing weddings. The best parts of the day were the things I never expected. I never thought I would be treated just like family, that my cheeks would hurt from smiling so much, that I would find tears in my eyes during emotional speeches, and I certainly never thought I would become completely obsessed with weddings the way I am now.

Chicago Illinois Wedding Photography, Winter Wedding in Woodstock

Illinois wedding photographer Woodstock Illinois

Joanna Smith Photography Chicago Illinois candid wedding photographer

Since then, I have photographed 4 weddings in 2014 and I have 6 more on the books for 2015. I wanted to share some of my favorites from my 2014 weddings.

David & Alicia – March 2014

Spring Wedding, Chicago Wedding Photography

Spring Wedding, Chicago Wedding Photography

Spring Wedding, Chicago Wedding Photography

David & Sharon – July 2014

Saint Charles wedding photography, Chicago area wedding photographerFirst look wedding photos, Chicago Illinois wedding photogrpahyHotel Baker wedding photography, Joanna Smith Photography, Chicago Illinois wedding photography

Erin & Jeff – August 2014

First look wedding photos in Illinois by Joanna Smith Photography

Wedding photography in Chicago, Illinois

Wedding day photos

Amy & Mark – August 2014

Chicago wedding photography

Chicago wedding photos

Rustic wedding, Chicago Illinois wedding

I am so humbled and honored that I have received such an overwhelming response to my wedding photography. My clients are all so incredibly awesome who make me feel like family and I have yet to encounter a bridezilla 🙂 I think I have found my calling with photography and I look forward to photographing many more weddings in my future.