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You’ve spent the money, you’ve made all the plans.  You’ve hired the photographer to capture your wedding, Biltmore Estate proposal, or just your special occasion.  Everything is in place, and all of a sudden the dark clouds roll in and it starts to pour buckets of rain.  Most people are super bummed and sometimes folks let it get the better of them.  My biggest piece of advice to those who experience rain while I am taking your photos is to get all up in that rain and play.  It is so great to see a couple be truly unencumbered and free from any boundaries.  Hell, you can strip down to your birthday suit if you want.  The point is that the rain and the weather are going to do whatever they are going to do.  We have no control over what the weather does or doesn’t do, but what we do have control over is how we respond to it.  Krysta was a super smiley gal anyways, but I felt I got to see her true emotion when the rains came.  It wasn’t something that I could pull out of her on my own.  Those expressions of pure joy were from the rain and from her beloved man dude, Dwight.  Dwight is a state trooper and if any of you have been pulled over by a state trooper before, you know they can be pretty stern fellas.  Dwight totally wasn’t, but what was so great about the rain is that Dwight was up for anything and both him and Krysta seemed to come more alive with the rain coming down. 

Look I get it, let’s say it’s your wedding day and you’ve done hair and make up and it took close to 2 hours.  You don’t want to get that dress that you are only going to wear once in your life dirty.  Understood.  But, I implore your to consider something that will last a lifetime…the photos of you and your loved one being adventurous together and letting the heavens open up on your beautiful faces.  Kids get it.  They love playing in the rain.  Us adults get lost somewhere along the way and lose that fun sense of adventure.

I suggest bringing a backup set of clothes to your session or wedding with me.  This is most often the excuse people have for not indulging in the rain play.  I have towels and umbrellas on hand in my car, but I can’t cover the clothes, that is on you!

Many people think that they are up for getting soaked on their wedding day or during their session, but when it comes down to it, they back out or they let their mind do the thinking.  Think with your soul, not your mind.  It is a much smarter entity.  Now, if there is lightning, I am not willing to risk it for a biscuit.  But, if it is just a little bit of rain, or a whole shit ton of rain, you better get your booty out in it and shake what your mama gave you.  It will be like that scene in the Notebook when Noah and Allie kiss passionately on the dock in the rain.   Please don’t tell anyone that I know this much about The Notebook, but it is a mighty enjoyable flick.  And the best line of the whole move is…  

“Do you think our love could take us away together?”

“I think our love can do anything we want it to.”

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I have somewhat become the Biltmore Estate Proposal Photographer guy as of late.  This is totally fine by me.  The location is amazing and it is super romantic for a proposal.  Today I want to talk about post processing magic, so it’s time for me to get all Dumbledore up in this piece.  I am a photographer.  I am also a magician.  My fat sucking lypo spells are somewhat weak, although I have been known to fix a double chin or two (dubulous reducto).  However, my ability to make people disappear entirely is quite strong.  You could say that I am quite adept at making folks dissaparate entirely from photos.  No misspelling there, if you have read any of the Harry Potter franchise, you will know exactly what I am talking about.  If you have not, please stop reading this post, go read the entire series and report back.  One of my key goals in capturing a proposal is creating that perfect moment for the person proposing.  We meticulously plan out what will happen and how everything will go down.  But, what about the stuff that you can’t plan for?  Like there being a million people in the background on a given day, some of whom decide, “Look there is someone I have never met proposing.  I should definitely take a picture of that unknown couple from 30 yards away with my iPhone and my hot pink case.  Yep, that’s a keeper.  Too bad there is some annoying guy with a camera photo bombing my shot, some people.”  So If things do not go fully according to plan, it is my job as an artist to create a piece of artwork.  I cannot account for the fact that Biltmore does lawn maintenance and that they needed to rework their piping this year.  But, I basically go into Photoshop and make it appear as though none of that was there.

I am not a big proponent of changing the way people look in a photo.  I do not really want to alter the appearance of people as that is not how they really look.  But, I am totally down with shopping out background bystanders, bench sitters, and cell phone taking photo bombers.  The shot above was a particular instance where there was nothing I could do the day of to minimize the number of people in the background.  I do have some post processing techniques to mitigate the damage or irradiate it entirely.  I will not bore you with how I did it, (a simple repairo charm did the trick), but I will show you that this can be done.  I am in your corner and regardless of what happens during your proposal session, I have got your back and I will take the utmost care of you.  You may argue, “Well, that is not the moment as it happened,” and to that I would say, yes it was.  All the pieces were there, all the shots taken within a 30 second period, but I just place them together in the same way that a painter would who is creating a piece of artwork.  That is the beauty of digital art.  Most photos don’t require this level of work, but when we are trying to get one person to a location, who has no idea that their photos are about to be taken, it can create a situation in which some work needs to be done on the back end.  And you know I love work on the back end, if you follow me.  All this ridiculous banter is to let you know that when the pressure is on, I will get the money shot one way or another.  Enjoy…

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If you are preparing for a proposal at the Biltmore Estate, you do not want to be walking around the grounds with any unnatural bulges sticking out, like a giant ring box with a diamond in it.  When guys or gals propose, they have to be very secretive.  There is nothing that will give you away worse than a giant diamond box giving you an insanely unnatural bulge.  This is one of the things guys sweat the most when trying to plan for their proposal.  They don’t want to get caught, and the giant box that is given to you when you purchase the ring is a dead give away.  The alternative is to have the ring hanging loosely in your pocket, which totally scares most guys.  But, there is a solution.  There is something called a slim box.

When purchasing your ring, see if there is the option for a slim box.  They have them on Amazon, but it costs almost $100 for a tiny little box.  If you’ve got the money and want to play it safe, this is a good option.  If you are wanting to do things on the cheap, buy a box of matches, write your name and phone number inside the box, and put it in there.  It is slightly ghetto, but it’s better than your lady calling out your giant man boner only to realize that it is actually a gift for her.  If it is a colder time of the year, you may be able to get away with putting the giant box in your coat pocket, but for the other 3 seasons of the year, you will need to come up with something that will work and not give away the goods.  Do a quick google search and see what you are able to come up with.  Some of the Etsy shops offer wooden boxes that are slim for a lower price.  I would also simply talk to your jeweler and see if they can hook you up with something that will work and not be as obvious.  You are already dropping thousands on a ring, the least they can do is throw in a tiny box so you don’t prematurely give away the goods (we’ve all been there).  The main point is to keep your cool, and plan ahead.  There are options and as with most things in life they will cost you in either time or money.  Sometimes all it will cost you is to simply ask.
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Planning Your Day at Biltmore 

If you are planning a couples session, engagement session, or even a proposal at the Biltmore Estate, there are a couple things you should know.  The grounds are absolutely incredible and there are numerous locations to get beautiful imagery.  With this in mind, my first tip for your Biltmore Estate photography session is to allot a good 90 minutes for the session to access the multiple spots throughout the grounds. Sessions are best done about 90 minutes before sunset to get the best lighting.  You can do the session in an hour, but it may feel rushed.  Take your time and enjoy yourself.  Tip number 2 is to dress like a boss.  Check out the photos of Chad and Girah for inspiration.  Their wardrobe is simple, elegant, sophisticated, and it doesn’t clash with each other.  If you show up in Nike’s and a t-shirt, the images can only go so far.  I am not a miracle worker and this ain’t no sports shoot son.  Tip 3 is to get tickets early.  As with anything in life, the sooner you plan, the better things typically go.  Purchasing your tickets early can save you a good chunk of money. Purchase your tickets at least 7 days early and get $10 off each ticket, then go treat yourself to a bottle of wine at the winery or grab a couple of pints at Cedric’s Tavern.  Tickets range from $40 per person for non-peak value tickets, all the way up to $75 for folks who wait until the last minute at peak times.  You can also purchase an annual pass for $159 per person.  If you visit more than a couple of times a year, it is totally worth it.  Go ahead and get your Biltmore Estate tickets by clicking HERE.  If you want to save even more time, you have the option to print your tickets from home instead of stopping by the ticket center.  I totally recommend you do this as it will just mean more photography time.  Which brings me to tip 4: show up on time.  I schedule sessions about 90 minutes before sunset so we will have the prettiest lighting and the best shots.  The shots you see in this article are not achievable at noon when the sun is super harsh and the facial shadows make you look like you have a Hitler mustache.  Once you enter the very first gate at Biltmore it takes a good 10-15 minutes to get up to the house and get a parking space.  So if you are running late, we will run out of daylight.  Traffic on Friday’s specifically can be a pain in the buns, so arrive a little early.  If you want to get the most out of the experience, make it a day trip, which is tip number 5.  There are countless things to do at the Biltmore Estate.  You can ride a horse drawn carriage, visit the winery, do a segway tour, do a tour of the house, visit Antler Hill Village and grab a beer, visit the flower gardens, and the endless amounts of walking trails.  They have great food and numerous restaurants on the grounds as well.

Dining In Asheville

To check out all the wonderful places to eat on the Biltmore Estate grounds click HERE.  I recommend the Dining Room at the Inn on Biltmore.  The food there is impeccable, and the service is top notch.  Expect to pay around $25 per plate and leave full and satisfied.  I recommend a late reservation at the Dining Room after our session or checking out some of the amazingness that downtown Asheville has to offer.  Curate (pronounced koo-rah-tay) is my current favorite restaurant in Asheville.  It is Spanish style tapas, and is freaking delicious.  All the pork dishes we had were phenomenal.  If you want to try to eat here get a reservation well in advance by clicking HERE.  If you are looking to enjoy some of the best craft beer around Wicked Weed Brewing is my favorite.  Go to the downstairs bar if you really want the local feel of the joint.  The beer menu is also more robust in the downstairs.  The food at Wicked Weed is actually fantastic with amazing burgers, fried chicken and kimchi sandwich, and the best brussel sprouts around.  If you want something more grassroots or salt of the earth, check out Burial Beer.  If you want a great dessert place, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge is incredible.  My perfect evening is to start at Wicked Weed around 4:30pm, have a 5:30 or 6:00pm reservation at Curate, then hit up the French Broad Chocolate Lounge for dessert.  All these suggestions are clickable links, so thumb over any of the suggestions and plan your day/evening out before you get here.  Booking reservations for everything ensures that you don’t miss out.  With the breweries and the chocolate lounge, they don’t take reservations, but anything else you are interested in doing in Asheville, you will want to book out probably 2 weeks in advance.  If you want an amazing lunch place, check out White Duck Taco (it’s the tits).  Go to the one on Biltmore Avenue.  Also, don’t forget to explore Biltmore Village, which has some hidden gems like Well Bred Bakery and Cafe, which is a must visit coffee shop/eatery that has the best damn vegan chip cookie you will ever put in your mouth hole.  It also offers a number of vegetarian options.   Corner Kitchen is also a lovely Biltmore Village joint that is great for breakfast or dinner and has a lot of history to it.  Just check out their website.  Basically, if you come to Asheville, your belly is going to be filled.  For the Vegetarian/Vegan homies, Asheville has got you covered.  Laughing Seed Cafe and Rosetta’s Kitchen are two amazing options.    I hope this helps you on your adventure here, and if you are local, all this stuff applies to you too.  We live in one of the coolest cities in the U.S.  Let’s enjoy what we have.

Here is the quick and dirty for those of you who roll like that.

Tip 1:  Allow for a 90 minute photo session to enjoy each other.  Think of it more as a date, that I am there to capture.

Tip 2: Dress like a boss.

Tip 3: Get Tickets/Reservations Early.

Tip 4: Arrive on time so you don’t feel stressed, and so we can maximize our photo time and your investment.

Tip 5: Explore the Biltmore Estate, make it a day trip, and enjoy our awesome city.

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  • Krysta Kemp

    This is such a dream. My fiancé proposed to me on the rooftop of the Biltmore Estate Mansion on December 6th, 2016. It was so perfect. It is one of our favorite places and we are annual pass holders. He did not know there was photography available, so we did not get great pictures of our engagement that was so special. We would love to do an engagement shoot at the Biltmore.ReplyCancel

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The Farm in Candler is one of my favorite wedding venues in the Asheville area.  The lighting is great and everything is all in one centralized location.  Kristen and Matt’s wedding was super fun to be a part of.  I always like sharing a little bit of life knowledge as we are all figuring this out together.  As a musician, I often draw inspiration from music to share in my blog posts.  So enjoy the words, enjoy the photos, grab a beer and enjoy that too (none of the crappy stuff, treat yourself)…

I have been listening to Hamilton, the broadway musical lately nonstop.  It’s what I do when I edit photos these days.  If you haven’t heard of it, you need to jump over to YouTube or Amazon Music and give it a listen.  There are beautiful themes woven throughout and one of the songs/lines I love best is when Eliza says to Alexander, “That would be enough.”  Alexander is seeking to make a name for himself, to leave a legacy, and to rise in the political ranks.  Amidst his ambition, he somewhat neglects his duty to his family to simply be present mentally and physically.  All Eliza wants is for her husband to spend some time with his kids and with her.  That would be enough.  Alexander believes that being poor will somehow lessen the love his wife has for him, when all she really wants is his time and attention.

Matt and Kristen, I witnessed the wedding ceremony and we all promised to support you in your journey together, so these words are my way of passing along some of the lessons I have learned from being a husband for 10 years and a father for 4.  I’m not a fan of cliche’s or telling you that you were meant for each other.  Marriage is hard and amazing and you will need the support of friends, as well as each other.  If you get nothing else out of this post get this:  YOU ARE ENOUGH.  You are good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, you ARE enough for your partner.  That is why you decided to marry each other.

“We don’t need a legacy, we don’t need money.”

I often think with photography, that I have to make a name for myself, that everyone in Asheville will know the name Andrew May and that AMP will be on the lips of anyone seeking wedding or portrait photography in my area.  Achieving this will not make my wife or my kids love me any more or any less.  I do want to strive to be the best at things, and to set achievable goals, but I don’t want to do it at the cost of time with my family.  Afton was asking me just yesterday to play with her and “be the teacher.”  She loves pretending and playing like she is at school and I am the teacher and she is the special helper.  My first instinct, is to say, “I’ve got to go do some work now sweety.”  It isn’t a full on “no,” but it is my polite way of saying, this work is more important than you.  However, I realized that my little girl is not going to always ask me to be the teacher, or to play with her.  I need to slow down and enjoy her as she is right now.  Work can wait, money can wait.  I am rich because of the love I give and receive from my family.  It is certainly enough.  My hope for every couple I photograph is that they would know that they are certainly enough for the other person.  As flawed as we all are, we all just want to love and to be loved.  I just don’t want to live with the regret that I chased some ambitious dream, only to realize that the dream was actually a 4 year old who wanted her daddy to simply be there for her and engage with her.  Let’s try to live without regret and to carve out quality time with the ones we love the most.

Hair – Lola Salon

Makeup – Blush

Catering/Venue – The Farm In Candler (Catering Mike Ferrari)

Coordinator – Kirin Battaglia

Florist – Occasions by Emily

Cake/Desserts – 50/Fifty

DJ – A Brides DJ

Officiant – Howard Hanger

 
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Many people have never had a photo session with a professional photographer.  Sure, we have all had our photos taken at Sears, Olan Mills, and in an indoor space with a lighting recipe that a monkey could follow.  No offense to this type of photography as it has its place, but if you are truly considering hiring a professional, here are 3 things that are helpful to know going into your session.

  1. Plan Ahead.  Book your session at least 1-2 months in advance.  Do not wait until the last week of Fall, decide you want photos with the beautiful Fall color, because the majority of photographers who are worth their salt are already booked at that point or there are no leaves left on the trees.  Also, photographers want to get to know you a little better before coming out and just snapping shots.  A big part of photography is connecting with the subject or subjects so if there is only one or two weeks of prep, the photog has a very limited amount of time to get to know you.  With that being said, talk to us on the phone.  Email is great, but there is nothing like having a real conversation in which we can discuss the overall vision, any insecurities you may have, and what type of art you would like to put up on your wall when all is said and done.

PIN2.    What to wear to a family session.

1. I highly recommend you coordinate in general, but don’t match exactly. Avoid too much of a single color.  Jeans are always classic, and please fellas, no white socks or tennis shoes.

2. Casual and comfortable works best! Let everyone’s individual personality show. Everyone wearing blue jeans and a solid white shirt doesn’t leave much room for individuality and looks a bit cookie cutter.  Be yourselves and avoid matching each other exactly (unless you are twins, cause that shit is cute as hell and you can definitely get away with that).

3.  I love accessories (scarves, hats, suspenders, and jewelry)!!

4.  Lay out the clothes together a week before the shoot to make sure they look good together.  If you put this off until the day of the shoot you will be in a panic and will get in an argument with your spouse because he simply doesn’t care that much.

5. Try to avoid hot pink or neon, big bold patterns, graphic t-shirts, sweat pants, or flip-flops.

6. Still not sure.  Do a quick Pinterest search and you will get tons of ideas.  Type in Family Photo Session Wardrobe/Clothing

7.  Bring a back up set of clothing!!!!  It’s insurance.

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3.  The Storm Before The Storm

I just want to let you know now that it is going to be a crazy right before the photo session, and at times during the session.  You will most likely get stressed because you have invested a lot into this and you are not sure how they will behave.  Don’t expect perfection out of your children before or during the session.  Kids are humans and humans do what they want (little humans especially).  If your kid needs a break during the session, we can do some shots of just you and your spouse.  I love real moments in photography.  If a kid is picking their nose, boom I want to capture it.  Granted, you probably don’t want this shot on your wall, but it is fun to have.  If they are crying or pitching a fit, comfort them and I will capture it.  I have two kids of my own, so I know that kids are not always angels.  INTERACT WITH YOUR CHILDREN.  Interaction is where the best photos come out.  You aren’t being forced to look at a camera and smile even though you aren’t necessarily happy.  The true joy comes out when you toss your child up in the air or ask them what their favorite word is right now.  Give them hugs, give them love, and just play with them.  My main goal is to capture the relationship between family members.  I can also get that “money shot” of everyone looking at the camera and smiling, so don’t sweat that and just enjoy an evening out with your amazing family.
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