rochester ny

Tuesdays Together & The Rising Tide Society {How a Spontaneous Leadership Role Changed Me and My Photography Business}

When I moved to Rochester, New York, two years ago, I was at a wild crossroads. My identity was all over the place -- not only with new geographic surroundings and a new place to call home, but also with my still-new photography business that had just crossed state lines and plopped down in an entirely different area. Even my role as a mom was being flipped all over the place with my kiddos entering school and all those hours as Momma coming to an end. 

I wanted my wedding and engagement photography business to not just survive, but thrive. But I didn't know what tools I needed, which people I needed to make it happen. Just months before our move, I had started hearing about a group of creatives called The Rising Tide Society -- a national group of small business owners and entrepreneurs who were networking online and meeting in person during monthly get-togethers called Tuesdays Together to discuss a variety of business-related topics like Pricing, Relationships, Social Media and more. I wanted a place like that to be a part of my new identity. 
 

Over the next few weeks, I put myself out there by semi-stalking and reaching out to some local photographers and one day, in a coffee shop in Victor, three of us sat in a corner enjoying some amazing muffins and sharing our dreams and wishlists. We talked about Tuesdays Together and how we wish we had a chapter in the Rochester area. And in what felt like an out-of-body moment, this very-INFJ, super-shy, sweats-in-the-center-of-attention fish out of water said "I don't mind applying for us and leading if you want me to."

I thought the application and approval process would take months, but, in less than a week I was logged in as admin to a local Facebook group and was joining leaders' email lists and planning our first meeting, held less than one month after that first exciting coffee shop date. 

My first meeting went something like this internal dialogue:
6am: I am SO excited! Oh my gosh, why do I have to wait 12 hours?!
7:15am: I'm canceling it. This was a terrible idea. 
12pm: ::checks RSVP list::
12:02pm: This is going to be amazing. Fresh start! Woot!
12:03pm: ::checks RSVP list::
12:30pm: I should skip it. Maybe they won't notice.                                                                           4pm: OH MY GOSH, TWO HOURS. It's 10 minutes away. Should I leave now?
4:05pm: ::checks RSVP list::                                                                                                                5:30pm: OK, let's go. You got this. You're basically Beyonce. You're Eleanor Roosevelt. You got this.                                                                                                                                                      5:45pm: ::sitting in parking lot, lots of sweat::                                                                                  5:55pm: "Hi, I'm Wendy! I'm so excited you're here! Wow, I'm so glad you're here! Are you so excited?" (very high-pitched, very very quick)
6pm: ::Pathetic nervous fake clearing of throat::

I spent the entire meeting freaking out SO much. I was filled with self-doubt, insane nerves and constant thoughts of "These people are so good and SO talented -- why do you think you can lead them?"

It was somewhere around the 4th or 5th meeting that I had a moment. Nothing specific happened, although I had definitely grown more comfortable (I still got nervous in my 18th meeting!); I had made incredible connections; I had received some really sweet comments and expressions of gratitude. Over time, however, I realized it wasn't about me. I had joined this movement for me, but it became about so much more than my selfish need to feel like I belong. It was about a community, a network. It was about the way certain topics REALLY helped our vendor friends that attended -- the way you saw their businesses take off on social media or the pride we all felt when they shared a success with a difficult client or with their new prices. It was about the friendships we started to see forming, the way we all felt like equals. It became about greater things like giving back to the community last November during our Philanthropy month; it was about the way our Facebook group grew to nearly 300 people who had all needed a home; it was the laughs and tears and dreams and worries we shared around coffee shops and gallery couches. 

Photo by:  Lauren Carnes

Photo by: Lauren Carnes

 



No one believes me at meetings when I tell them I'm painfully shy and timid -- and that new-found courage and comfort is because of The Rising Tide Society and my small role in Tuesdays Together. I carry myself differently now. I believe in myself so much more nowadays.

And my business has taken off in so many ways, and so much of that is because of what I've learned in 18 meetings next to other people who just "get it." They get the long days and late nights alone in your home office; they get the commitment and self-motivation it takes for a small victory and the 15 setbacks along the way. They get the family-work balance and the tricky tightrope that can be. They get being "on call" so much of the time. And they give -- they give encouragement, support, positivity and love. 

 



A new chapter is leading our family away from Rochester, New York. We'll be living in and starting over again in the Frederick, Maryland area and I'm so excited to meet new people and photograph couples across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. 

But with every new and exciting start comes the closing of a door. And it's time for me to pass on the Tuesdays Together Rochester baton. I know it's in good hands with Michelle Crawford and Denise Lazu co-leading it to amazing new heights. But part of me is sad to let go of this group, of this "thing" that has brought so much into my world. I hope to remain a part of The Rising Tide Society and can't wait to attend my first meeting in Frederick. 

I believe in #communityovercompetition.
I believe in Natalie Franke Hayes and her commitment to creating a safe haven for entrepreneurs. 
I believe in networking and gathering in person rather than just hiding behind a computer screen. 
I believe in getting out of your comfort zone now and then. 

And now, I believe in myself. And in my dreams. 


 

Vendor Visions {Wedding Desserts Advice with Shell's Sweets, Rochester Bakery}

Vendor Visions is a new collaboration between Wendy Zook Photography and various vendors from across the Rochester and Buffalo areas. These posts will feature one local vendor and their advice on planning wedding details in their field. 

Our first in this series features Michelle Crawford of Shell's Sweets, a New York State-licensed in-home bakery based out of Henrietta, New York. 

*   *   *   *

At any one time,  Michelle is balancing a 50-pound, four-tier wedding cake (no, literally trying to balance it!), bridal shower desserts and an assortment of birthday cakes and special occasion cookies. 

Her love of sweets became a passion, working desserts as a side job in 2011, which became today's successful Shell's Sweets, established as a full-time job for Michelle in 2014. It's not all fun and ease in the kitchen -- just one tier of an intricate cake can take her up to seven hours to complete. It's all worth it though, as Michelle's desire to meet new people and explore new venues and events comes to fruition with each carefully-prepped and decorated treat. 

"I love the creative aspect," she says. "I love meeting with my customers. It's fun to hear about what they have in mind."

Wedding Dessert Advice

Michelle suggests engaged couples reach out to their baker at least six months before their wedding date, but adds, "less than that may not be impossible."

You should also talk to your baker about your budget and be honest about it. 
"There are ways to have a gorgeous and delicious cake without breaking the bank," she says. "Flexibility and willingness to be open-minded is important."

Other things to keep in mind include coordinating with your venue. A tiny cake, for instance, could get lost in a huge, grand ballroom. There are ways to make it work, with tricks like stacking or using a larger stand to create the illusion of a larger cake. 

Michelle recommends sharing all details of your day with your baker so they can incorporate your overall vision at the dessert table -- recently, Michelle has used multiple tiers with unique looks for each, different-colored cake plates and a window or frame to share flavors and dessert options. 

Also consider the size of your table (a simple cake can look amazing on a smaller table) and the decor on the table (caketoppers, stands, flowers, etc.)

"I love it when they put a picture of their parents on their wedding days or something like that out," Michelle says. "But don't compete with the design of the cake. You don't need a lot, but a little addition is nice."

The background of a cake table is important, too -- just ask any wedding photographer who has cropped out "exit" signs or dealt with reflections and fingerprints on windows. 

In 2017, Michelle is getting the feeling that we'll see a lot less of the rustic looks (less naked cakes, for instance, although we'll still see those beauties, too, etc). It seems like the trends are gearing toward a more sophisticated look, more of an "urban elegance" feel -- gold lace, watercolor, pops of color, brushing with gold, painting buttercream, and more unique ideas. 

Spreads are very popular still -- cakes and cupcakes mixed together with a variety of flavors and even mixes of different types of cakes or pies together for guests to enjoy. A lot of brides are even considering to-go containers for guests to enjoy leftover desserts later that night or even the next day. 

Traditional flavors like vanilla or chocolate are always popular and safe, Michelle says, adding that it's always fun to add another flavor through a kitchen cake or different tiers. 
"Do something fun," she suggests, noting recent requests for Funfetti cake layers and a champagne-flavored cake. "Do what's you."

Michelle's favorite part of the process is watching the cakes and desserts begin to represent a happy, in-love couple and their most special day. 
"Their styles show through," she says. "That's what's so fun about weddings -- you can do what's you."

You can follow Michelle and her delicious desserts here: Website Facebook Instagram

Know a great vendor in the Rochester area? Want to be our next Vendor Visions guest? E-mail wendy@wendyzookphotography.com with the subject "Vendor Visions." 

 

Caroline Logan Workshop Recap -- Headshots & The Future of Wendy Zook Photography

So I've already shared a bit about what I loved most during the Caroline Logan Photography Workshop last month, and now I want to share my beautiful new headshots from Caroline and also what all this learning and daydreaming means for you and for Wendy Zook Photography.

 

There are no gigantic shifts in my business -- I mean, in the last year I've already rebranded and consistently given a fun and personal client experience (not to mention some of my favorite images so far!). Rather, I'll be emphasizing those things that are important to me, thanks to some "aha" moments at the workshop:

 

- Blessing my clients with my business

I don't want to just deliver photos -- I want to deliver an incredible experience from first phone call through consults and e-mails and engagement sessions all the way to their sparkler exit at the end of their special day. I want them to feel that in some way Wendy, and not just WZP, has brought joy and all sorts of good things into their lives.

 

- Consistency, consistency, consistency

I want consistency not just from Corynn and Kevin's wedding in June to Melissa and Patrick's big day in September but from my first wedding in May through my last wedding in 2017. I want consistency in my workflow (I'm slooooooowly moving to all-digital for contracts, invoices and bookkeeping) but also in my editing. I really want to stay true to my style and also make all of my events look like they truly belong to the same person. Will you hold me accountable to this?!
 

- Staying true to me

This is one that I'm getting better at, but, in a field that can be competitive and stressful and overwhelming with talent, I just want to make sure that the reason I take each wedding on is the same as why I chose this path originally -- to observe and capture the greatest moments of unique love stories and to embrace true moments of the day as they happen. I want to always tell romantic stories and fun anecdotes through images that are as natural and authentic as my couples. I want to come home after each long wedding day and say "YES, YES, YES" on repeat. I want to stay friends with my clients and watch their lives explode with beauty and joy and the ups and downs of life. I want to be a capturer of memories.

 

 

It got pretty serious there! Let's take a deep breath and enjoy some pretty photos from someone else, shall we?

Photos are courtesy of Caroline Logan and took place in the beautiful Hingework co-working/studio space in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Camera strap is from Casie Marie Photography's Etsy store.

 


Which headshot is your favorite?

5 Reasons to do a boudoir session

Boudoir sessions are some of my absolute favorites, if for no other reason than the confidence and empowerment I almost always see come through in the ladies in front of my camera.

Boudoir sessions are not just lace and lingerie -- it's a classy, elegant, tasteful way to make you first and foremost fall in love with yourself -- owning every so-called imperfection with pride and realizing the incredible beauty you possess, regardless of your clothing size or curves.

 

Here are five reasons to do a boudoir session:

 

 

1. Do it for him.

Several of my brides have opted to do a boudoir session with me before their wedding. Together, we create a series of images that are a story of everything your fiancé loves about you -- and not just physically. We can incorporate his favorite activities, sports teams and props.

Most of my boudoir clients opt for a small album of final images to present to their significant other for Valentines' Day or the morning of their wedding.

 

2. Celebrate your hard work.

Have you recently completed a weight loss journey? Have you been hitting the gym every day? Do you begin your mornings with Pilates or end them with a walk around the neighborhood? Have you changed your diet to healthier options or are you drinking more water? For these and a thousand other possibilities, we can celebrate the new you and put her on display.

 

 

3. It can be anything you want it to be.

I've never done a boudoir session that was ONLY lingerie. Most of my sessions have multiple outfits. It can be whatever makes you happy. Is it a borrowed T-shirt and cotton panties? That's beautiful, too! Sipping a cup of coffee? Reading a book? Anything is possible!

 

 

4. Build up your confidence.

I have a confession.

I did a boudoir session once.

Yep, other side of the camera. In something other than my yoga pants. Well, a lot less than my yoga pants, haha! When you have talented friends who take fantastic photos, are terrific with natural light and make you feel comfortable, it just sort of happens. Well, wine, too. At the end of the day, though, I was pleasantly surprised. I had intended the final photos to be seen and appreciated by my husband. But you know what, I got so much more out of the experience than he could have from those gorgeous images. My worries about my post-babies body and gray strands of hair and all the other silly things seemed unfounded and I walked out of there with a little bit of Beyoncé swagger.

 

5. Do it for you.

You can do it to celebrate the hard work the gym brought, the love you have for your handsome man and as a nod to being a more confident person. But you can also just do it for you -- for no one else's expectations and for no reason other than you know and think and believe you are beautiful and worth a little time in front of the camera to feel sexy and gorgeous. (Plus, I provide champagne!)

 

 

Some things to keep in mind when it comes to boudoir sessions with Wendy Zook Photography:

- These are private! Your only audience will be my Nikon. 

- My goal is to keep you comfortable at all times. I rarely impose a time limit and I leave several of the creative options up to you, including location, outfits and types of final images.

- I never use your boudoir photos on social media or online (unless you've given me permission). They will never be entered in photo contests or pinned on Pinterest.

- I promise that you will leave feeling sexier, more proud, more comfortable, with your head held a little higher and a smile across your face.

Wedding Photographer Checklist with Sixth Bloom

Over the past several weeks, I collaborated with Erin of Sixth Bloom (a fantastic website with tips for photographers of all genres and skill levels) to create a series of tips for wedding photographers. I'm so proud of what we were able to accomplish and share and I wanted to include it here, too, for all of my photographer and vendor friends to enjoy! Plus, it features some of my favorite images from my amazing Wendy Zook Photography couples in 2015!

 

This was a 10-part series of how to best capture the story of your couple and their wedding day, all the way from engagement sessions to a genuine showing of appreciation.

 

Part One: 6 Tips for a Successful Engagement Session -- An engagement session is included in every one of my wedding packages because it offers a chance to truly get to know my couples, understand their styles and get all of the kinks out in a laidback, non-formal atmosphere.

 

 

Part Two: Creating a Wedding Timeline to Avoid a Disaster -- One of the biggest mistakes I did when I was first photographing weddings was not being more involved in creating a timeline for my couple's day and not speaking up when there was something that could disrupt their wishes for photos. Here are some tips in creating a solid wedding day timeline.

Part Three: Brilliant Ideas for Working with Wedding Vendors -- Some of my best friends and biggest cheerleaders are other wedding day vendors and creatives. Here's how I keep my "co-workers" on wedding days happy.

Part Four: The Great Debate: Tips for a First Look or No First Look -- I never push my couples into choosing a First Look. There's pros and cons to each side of the decision and I share some of those here.

 

 

Part Five: 6 Must-Have Pictures to Get of the Bride -- I loved reminiscing about some of my favorite moments with my brides this year. It can be a stressful day for her, so these tips not only help you capture her on her wedding day, but also keep things smooth and easy for her, too!

 

 

Part Six: 5 Pictures to Capture of the Groom -- The spotlight tends to fall on the beautiful woman wearing a white gown, but some of my favorite moments to photograph involve the groom. This section included ideas on how to capture fantastic and memorable images of the guys on a wedding day.

Part Seven: 6 TIps for Quick and Easy Family Portraits at a Wedding -- You want to honor the loved ones that supported your couple individually and together, but you also need to get a lot of people photographed in a short amount of time, sometimes in less-than-ideal settings. Here's some tips on accomplishing that with family portraits at a wedding.

Part Eight: 6 Tips to Keep Bridal Party Photos Smooth and Fresh -- The best ways to keep your sometimes-large group focused and organized and allowing them to leave before the photos really become annoying for them.

 

 

Part Nine: 68 Details to Capture at a Wedding -- This focused on all of the little things to keep an eye out for on a wedding day. It's not all about the dazzling diamonds (although those are so much fun to photograph)!

 

 

Part Ten: 6 Tips Photographers Need to Put the Final Touch on a Wedding -- this one is all about wrapping up your experience with this couple with kindness and surprises. 
 

9 Things to Ask a Wedding Photographer

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