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Black Balsam is by far my favorite location to take couples and even families for engagement photos or a fun family hike.  If I were to give one piece of advice to people who have booked a session or a wedding with Andrew May Photography it would be to just be yourself.  You don’t have to perform or live up to some standard of romance.  Just be you…

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  -Gil Bailie.  Be you.  Don’t be what everyone else wants you to be or what they expect of you.  Why is it some daring or bold notion to be yourself?  When you are fully you, without holding back you allow yourself to be vulnerable, your guard is down.  But, it is also the easiest way to let people into your life and to truly connect with others.  I know it sounds cliche to say, however it is anything but cliche to actually implement.

My biggest encouragement to people on a session is to just be yourselves.  I have no problem directing couples, but I have found that some of the best photos are when I totally don’t give any direction and the couple takes control.  You know what makes each other tick, you know what to say to get the other person laughing.  I have found that the more I am myself, the more it gives people permission to feel like they can be themselves.  Yep, I make dick jokes on my photo sessions sometimes in order to get a chuckle out of a couple.  My job is to focus on the connection between a couple, as well as my connection to them.  I can’t connect with them if I am acting like a stiff, or if they are. 

If you have tattoos, roll your sleeves up and rock those bitches.  Josh had some killer tattoos as he is big into fishing.  I don’t know much about fishing and I get super seasick, but we were able to talk about his interests and who he is.  Most people feel a little self conscious when we start a session.  It takes a few minutes to realize that this is just a fun outing that includes a third wheel who actually happens to be capturing the whole thing.  But, why am I capturing it?  Why did you hire me?  Because it is important to remember.  It is important to remember a time when you didn’t have children, or the young googley eyed love you used to have for one another, or the fact that you are worth fighting for and sharing a life with. 

Be you.  There is only one you, and that is who I want to capture.  I don’t want to capture some tame version of you.  Let lose, throw aside the inhibitions and get intimate with your sweet love.  Maybe your not super kissy, or maybe you just consider yourself awkward.  Well, I can capture that as well.  We can focus on the silly side of your relationship, the serious side, and sometimes even the intimate side.   

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Devin proposed to his love and partner Eddie at the Biltmore Estate.  Biltmore Estate proposals have become a bit of a constant in my life as of this year.  Most people who would actually click on the image of two dudes kissing, don’t actually need to hear this message.  My encouragement is that you share it with someone in your life who is completely averse to the idea of two dudes or two chicks being in love.  It honestly feels weird to be doing a blog post about a gay couple in 2017, as if I have some message I need to get out about civil rights.  This isn’t a political post as much as it is a message to those that are close to me that I love who have no tolerance or understanding of why a man would want to be with another man, or why a woman would choose to be with another woman.  I will give you the quick answer right off the bat…LOVE.  Love is the reason why.  No, it’s not to gross you out, to be rebellious, or to piss God off.  It is because they have no choice in whom they love in the same way you don’t have a choice with whom you love.  The heart wants what it wants.

I will start by saying that I am not gay, but I do love the heck out of the gays.  They are just like you and I, they just want to love and to be loved and to live their lives.  One of my kids could turn out gay and I wouldn’t love them any less for it.  Their lives are not mine to live or to dictate.  Please know that this post is coming from someone who used to be very homophobic.  But, over time I began to soften my heart towards the idea that a man could love another man the way I love my wife.  The problem nowadays is that we live in a time where people with opposing views try to verbally or physically beat the other side into seeing things their way.  We live in the age of outrage culture in which we have a constant need to yell our point and the only way for the other side to hear that view point is to be louder, more obnoxious, and more offensive rather than simply listening to what the other side has to offer.  My only request would be that you read something that opposes the views you’ve come to know.    

The main point I wish to make is that there is so much shame associated with homosexuality and I think it is a travesty.  I don’t want to feel ashamed for loving anyone, nor do I wish to make others feel like they are doing something wrong or that they are somehow infringing upon my rights.  Love is love.  Straight love isn’t more pure, nor is it better, loftier, or holier.  People often think of homosexuality in terms of sexuality rather than romance.  Perhaps we should change the name to homoromance or homolove.  No I am not a social justice warrior getting hung up on etymology, I just want folks to recontextualize how they think about gay people. I am not defined by my sexuality, so why should gay people be defined by their sexuality?  These “gays” are people first and foremost, they are individuals, humans, with rights, thoughts and feelings.

As we have seen from the recent acts of violence in Charlottesville, hate will always be in the world.  Hate is taught and learned, it is not intrinsic.  Hate is easy, fill your heart with enough of it and you leave little room for love, tolerance, and kindness.  To quote the all wise one, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”  -Yoda.  Many people fear what they do not understand, which in turn leads to hatred.  Let’s put some positivity into the world.  Stop putting shame into the world with internet comments, memes, and a general attitude that you are better than someone else.  Let’s stop shaming others and treat everyone with love and respect, because that is what is right to do.  Truest love knows no shame and is a beautiful thing to behold.

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  • Terry

    I’ve read this several times and it brought tears to my eyes. Your words are amazing along with your pictures. I’m proud to call you my friend. If everyone had your view on this the world would be a better place.
    “The heart wants what it wants” That really got to me for some reason. So very true.
    Never stop writing because you are very talented with your words.ReplyCancel

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Katelin and Todd had an amazingly beautiful wedding at Meadowbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast in Suffolk, Virginia.  But what made their wedding day unique to the other millions of weddings that are photographed every year?  They decided that photography was super important to them so they invested not only money, but time into their wedding photography.

What is the most important thing to you as it relates to your wedding day?  Where are you spending your money?  If you are dropping a good bit on the photography, you will want to make sure to build in a good amount of time for what I like to call creative shots.  Creative shots are a time where all the guests, family, and wedding party are cocktailing it up and you get to be alone for a minute with the person you just married.  It’s important on your wedding day to have some time away from everyone else and focus on why it is you actually got married (because you love that person and want to build a life with them).  It’s a time to cuddle and snuggle and get to just be yourselves.  I recommend having a minimum of 30 minutes for creative shots, but preferably 1 hour (we can always cut it shorter the day of if we feel like we have gotten plenty of images).  Allowing plenty of time will ensure that the evening isn’t stressful and that we aren’t just “getting through it.”  The day will be fun, but the timing of everything and the emotion of the day can be quite draining and sometimes stressful.  This isn’t meant to be negative Nancy, it is just real talk as I have been to quite a few weddings and gotten the full day experience.

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Having a full hour to photograph Katelin and Todd allowed me to settle into a nice groove and to get super creative.  It allowed me time to actually look around and see the best light or the best angle for a shot.  It also allowed me time to focus in on their beautiful relationship and to take advantage of the amazing landscape they had rented out for the evening.

If creative shots are not that important to you, let your photographer know.  Based on the amount of time I had with this wonderful couple, I felt that I was really able to create images that they will cherish forever.  Whether we have 10 minutes or a full hour, I will get you some amazing shots, however, I will get you way more amazing shots if we have a full hour built in.  Also, the amount of variety I can get if we have allotted enough time cannot be overstated.  This is something you should make your coordinator aware of if you have one.  If you don’t have a coordinator this is something you will want to keep in mind when coming up with the timeline (which I am glad to help with).  I have done several timelines in my day and have a general idea of how long things take.

The flowers will die, the cake will be devoured, and the guests will go back to their lives.  The best representation you will have to remind you of the amazing experience you had beginning your journey together will be reflected in the images your photographer takes.  If a photographer is given a good amount of time with the two of you, they can create rather than simply capture.  It is much harder to settle into a rhythm if you are being rushed by anyone to get to the reception.

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Venue: Meadowbrook Farm Bed and Breakfast

Event planner/rentals: Chic Unique Vintage Rentals and Events

Flowers: Johnson’s Gardens Inc.

Cake: Parkers Produce

Videographer: Riverdale 24 Productions

DJ: Music Makes You Happy DJ Services

Hair: Annai Claycamp

Makeup: Shelby Bybee

Food: Captain Bob’s BBQ & Seafood

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I will most likely dance at your wedding…

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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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