Category Archives: Personal

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.

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How to Successfully Photograph your Christmas Tree – Joanna Smith Photography – Chicago, Illinois Photographer

It’s that time of year again where days are shorter and colder, snow starts falling, and it begins to look a lot like Christmas. With the holidays upon us, everyone wants great photos of their Christmas tree and their loved ones in front of it. Here’s how to capture a bit of the magic:

1. If possible, turn down the lights – You can photograph your tree almost any time of day, but if you’re taking pictures at night, make sure to turn off almost all the lights in the room that the tree is in so the lights on the tree can be the focus. If you’re using daylight, be aware of windows as they may cause backlighting and adjust your settings accordingly.

Christmas Tree Pictures

Photographing Christmas Morning

2. Use a tripod – You might need to use a tripod to keep your camera very still while you photograph your tree because you’ll be using a slow shutter speed. If the sun has already set, you will need the shutter speeds to be so slow that it’s pretty much impossible to hand hold your camera without getting blurry pictures. If you don’t have a tripod, consider bracing your arms/hands on a table, chair, countertop, etc.

3. Use manual mode – Bump up your ISO, around 500-900 depending on available light, since you will probably be shooting in low light. Whenever you’re dealing with ISO, the lower the number, the better. If your ISO is too high you will get some grain in your images. My favorite settings for Christmas tree photos at night are f/1.4 with a shutter speed of 1/200 and ISO of 800. Play around with your settings, there are many variables involved including what lens you’re using, the time of day/available light, and the effect you’re tying to achieve.

4. Photograph your ornaments – Everyone has special ornaments, whether they were passed down through the generations or just have special meaning to you. Or find some of the more beautifully decorated ornaments and photograph them. Be creative and capture different angles. Photographing ornaments is a different way of drawing the eye away from the tree as a whole, as it is traditionaly photographed, and focusing on the small but important parts that make up the tree.

Beautiful Christmas Ornaments

5. Get a little artsy – For a beautiful and festive bokeh effect, make sure your camera is set to manual focus. Focus on something right in front of you, then keep that focus and point your camera at the tree. Or, slowly bring your tree out of focus until you see circles of lights on the tree in the size that you want. If you are a bokeh lover like I am, the result is a little bit magical.

Photographing Christmas Tree Bokeh

Another little tip – if you have small children, it’s best to give them a task. Maybe you could hand them an ornament and tell them to find the perfect place to hang it. Or ask them to pick out their favorite ornament and show you. That way, they are involved in decorating the tree and are an important part of the story you’re capturing in your photo.

The holidays are a beautiful and festive time of year. Take out your camera and take advantage of the beautiful decorations on your tree. Play around with your settings, be a little artistic, and have fun photographing this magical time of year!

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How Being A Photographer Is Like Walking Around Naked

I clearly remember the day I created my Facebook page and ‘became a Photographer’ almost 4 years ago. I had just photographed a family session and edited all the photos in Picasa (don’t judge!) and was sooo super excited to share my BEAUTIFUL work with the world. But when it came time to post my images, something weird happened. My heart started pounding, my palms got sweaty, and I started to get overwhelmingly nervous after I pushed the Post button. But why? I was so proud of my photos and the moments I captured in them. What was going on?? It was then that I learned how being a Photographer made me feel so vulnerable. It made me feel completely exposed, like I was putting my heart and soul out there for the world to view and criticize or love. But I really was, especially as I get further along in my photography career.

Mostly I was just scared. Plain and simple. I was afraid that people wouldn’t think I had any business taking pictures, that they would tell me I didn’t have the talent to be successful, or they wouldn’t think the emotion I captured was as special as I thought it was. It’s about putting my vision out there in the form of artwork, something I worked hard on and found pride in. Not everyone puts their passion out into the world. Some people keep it private because it’s so special to them that they don’t want to share it with the world for a lot of the reasons I’m sharing in this post.

I think something that people don’t realize or think about is that the photos that we put out there are an end result of so much more than just pressing the shutter. Each image represents so much of ME – countless hours of learning everything I can about perfecting my craft so I can get better at what I love doing, it’s about wanting people to love and find value in what I create, it’s about wanting to feel validated in the reasons I do this – that the hours of family time I give up are worth something to someone and the love and careful attention to detail is noticed and appreciated by my clients. I want you to like what I do. I want to know that the hours of sleep I pass up to edit sessions, or work on my next blog post, or design another album, or update photos on my website, or learn what the heck widgets are for my website, are important and that I’m not doing it for nothing.

Having your own business sucks. A lot. Especially in your first couple years when you’re struggling to find yourself in your style and brand all the while trying to stay afloat with the awful and constant pressure of turning a profit. It’s HARD. You’re subjected to everyone’s opinion, comments, and criticisms of your photos whether it is welcome or not. You’re haunted by the ghost emails of potential clients who contact you but never hear from again. You constantly question your pricing and ask yourself if you’re worth it, if what you do is valuable to people, if people will pay you to do what you love. It makes you sensitive and vulnerable and exposed to the world. It brings you pride, terrifies you, throws you to the fire, gives you a sense of accomplishment, pisses you off, allows you to learn new things every single day, swallows you in self-doubt, brings you to tears, frustrates you like nothing else. It is absolutely an emotional roller coaster that you might ride multiple times a day.

Being a photographer really is a lot like walking around naked – putting yourself out there, exposed for the world to see. I find that the longer I do this, the tougher my skin gets. I have become so much more confident in my work and my abilities and I know that I have come a long way. Photography has become so much more to me than just taking pictures. I have learned so much about myself, pushed myself to extremes, found amazing friendships in my clients, and found that my base of support that has grown over the years has become my life support and I am so incredibly indebted to those who encourage my dreams, help me through the rough patches, and celebrate with me in my successes. The support that I receive helps me feel more covered up, helping me feel less vulnerable and more secure in myself, as I learn that others stand by my side and are along for the ride with me.

My passion has brought me so far and I’m looking forward to see where the next 4 years brings me.

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