Engaged: Kaitlyn + Scott

I was so excited to be able to shoot this engagement session for Kaitlyn and Scott. They are such a sweet couple who are completely committed to each other! They are such naturals in front of the camera! They made my job easy with all of their great cuteness (I don’t even know if that’s a word!) They are an incredible couple as you will see by their images! I am beyond excited to be shooting their wedding in June! Enjoy my favorites! (Ok, I think I end with that phrase every time, but I never know how to transition!) Gorge!!!! You will be a beautiful bride, Kaitlyn! :)This NEEDS to be a canvas! Please? Ok! :)Favorite!!! :)Love these next few!!!!Kaitlyn and Scott want to be missionaries… so this globe is perfect!!!!! :)Love this book! I saw this and thought it was perfect for their love of the world! :)

Canvases | Products

I LOVE canvases! I honestly think that pictures should never hide behind a computer screen and sit on your hard drive for forever. I think they need to be SHOWN OFF! Canvases are one of the best ways to do that! I realize that I never blog about products, so I wanted to show off a recent canvas I ordered! I get all my canvases from Simply Canvas. They have amazing customer service and offer super high quality products! Check out a canvas from Ciara + Joseph’s engagement session!

Finding My Niche: My Journey into Photography

Ok, here is the deal. I have been thinking about blogging story about my journey into the photography world for quite a while now, but have always thought that I needed to be a world renowned wedding photographer before I could do that! However, one thing changed my mind today. The incredible Katelyn James (you will hear more about her later in the post!) is giving away a FREE seat to one of her coveted workshops. To enter, you need to blog about your story. So you see, this is what finally convinced me, that even though I still have more to learn, need to grow, still have goals that I am trying to accomplish (and I hope it will always be that way!), I wanted to go ahead and share with you, where I have come from, and where I hope to go! This workshop would be an AMAZING experience to be a part of! To be able to hear all of the wisdom that Katelyn will share for 8 wonderful hours, to be able to learn how to take the next step, to see more areas where I can improve and what I can change to make better; all of that is just a small part of what can happen! I want to take my business to the next level, I want to learn and grow and improve! I have so many goals and dreams for my business, I know that this workshop can help make them happen! I want to learn how I can give my clients the BEST experience, I want to learn more about branding and shooting techniques; but I also just want to learn from someone who has been there, someone who has made it and someone who inspired me and continues to inspire me! So now… keep reading below for all of the goodness I just mentioned about my story… :)


My dad is a professional photographer. He is also a videographer, graphic designer and a professor. Growing up, my dad gave us free and sometimes unwanted lessons regarding all things “artistic.” If we had a quick question, he would always answer with a two page definition and lots of personal examples. Of course, there were the times when we hadn’t asked a question, and we were in the movie theater, at church or in a restaurant where he would be sure to tell us that those colors weren’t complimentary, that camera angle wasn’t the best choice, the lighting was wrong, the font was too big or our neighbor’s new family photo was overexposed. If there was a project my dad needed help with, he would assign us the busy work and offer us $50 – which as a kid or teenager, that was a fortune!

As fun as it is to joke about my dad “teaching,” he is one of the people I have to thank for where I am today. The summer before my Junior year in high school, he took me on a mission trip with him to Germany. He let me borrow his Canon Rebel for the two weeks we were there. I took 305 pictures, which to me at the time, was a TON! I remember thinking that I had captured some of the most artistic images of all time! Something to rival National Geographic of course. However, that is where I first fell in love with photography.

Over the next few years, whenever something scenic (family trip to Charleston) or exciting was going to happen (my little sister’s 16th birthday party), I always asked my dad if I could borrow his camera. Generously, he always let me use it. Every time I pulled it out, I thought I was capturing the best images of all time, even though I never took it off of Auto mode.

Fast forward a few years into college. I had been attending Liberty University (in good old tiny Lynchburg, Virginia) for a couple of years. I had been a theater major my first two years, but had ended up changing to Intercultural Studies, even though I had loved theater. I loved doing something creative, I loved doing something with people and I loved doing something artistic. However, I knew theater wasn’t my “thing,” it wasn’t my niche. I knew that I could never do a desk job for the rest of my life, I couldn’t work an 8-5, but I wasn’t sure where to put my artistic abilities to good use.

I could have been content shooting pictures of flowers, old doors and broken sidewalks for forever, and never discovered my niche or the artistic “thing” that I was supposed to do, if it wasn’t for Katelyn James (See? I told you that she would come back up!)

I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding June 2010. I was so excited because I had never been in a wedding before. I loved weddings! I loved the joy, excitement and hope that are part of a wedding day. Having only ever been a guest, I felt like I had never seen the “behind-the-scenes” part of the wedding day I had always wanted to see! So that day in June was my chance! Little did I know that God had orchestrated that day to be so much more than I ever thought! That day as my wonderful best friend got married to her high school sweetheart and to the love of her life, I found a new passion. As I watched her wedding photographer capture a mom’s face as her first daughter put her wedding dress on, as I watched a groom tear up as his bride and wife came down the isle toward him, as I watched the first kiss that was the beginning of a new life, as I watched a bride and groom run away through sparklers to forever; I knew that that was what I had to do for the rest of my life. Katelyn James was my best friend’s wedding photographer. She was the one who inspired me to stop taking pictures of weeds in sidewalks, and start taking pictures of a dad giving his daughter away.

In the next few weeks, Jessica Mae Photography was born. I only had my dad’s old Canon 10d and 18-135mm Sigma lens, but I was eager to learn! I second shot a couple weddings that Fall to get some experience and started reading every wedding blog I could find. I started asking engaged friends if I could offer a free engagement session to them, just so I could get some experience and build my portfolio. Soon I started charging $50 for an engagement session and I thought I had hit the big time. I was so nervous before my first real engagement session and I was afraid that they would ask for a refund! Here is an actual image from that shoot! Ok, this is definitely me being vulnerable here, please don’t judge! It was my first one!

I booked my first wedding that October.  I remember walking away from the Barnes and Noble on cloud 9, and I called my dad in the car on the way home. I shot 6 weddings and 30 portrait sessions my first year. This year, I have already booked 12 weddings for the summer alone. My goals for the future with my business include everything from shooting a destination wedding in Italy to booking 25 weddings every year. I want to give each and every client the BEST wedding experience that they can have! I want to make friends and not just clients with every wedding I shoot!

It is crazy to look back and see where God has brought me, the opportunities I have been given, the amazing people I have been able to work with and all the opportunities that I have this year and in the future.  I am so thankful that I found my niche. I am so thankful that I don’t have an 8-5 job behind a desk. I am so thankful that I get to do something artistic, creative and with people.

So thank you. Thank you Dad for your teaching, help and support. Thank you God for giving me creativity and a desire to do something with it, and thank you Katelyn James for inspiring me to do the perfect thing for me even when I didn’t even know it!