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I'm Ali Rae and I love building brands.
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I think it’s safe to say that 2020 didn’t go as anyone thought it would. My vision of 2020 was a booming year with a ton of huge weddings, lots of second shooting, a ton of collaboration with other vendors through my Be Your Brand program, among other things. None of those things happened the way quite the way I expected them to; however, I was still able to serve some amazingly deserving couples and work with some talented vendors.
Regardless, 2020 still had its redeeming qualities. Actually, it had some really fun times too! During a time when so many small businesses struggled, ARHP was able to make it. With some support from my couples and a whole lot of saving, we survived and are proud to say we are looking forward to 2021 with bright eyes and full hearts. Thank you to my couples, my clients, my family (especially the grandparents and great grandparents), and friends that have done so much for us this year!
The following 10 images are a representation of all that 2020 has offered to ARHP.
At the end of January, Caleb and I found out we were expecting our second child. It was actually the morning of the first Be Your Brand session that was supposed to serve as a pilot program to assess interest in the idea. I was excited, but also scared. I had a lot planned for 2020 and being pregnant amidst all of it is a blessing (especially considering the fertility issues we experienced when trying to have Huxley), but also a challenge. Little did I know that just a month and a half later the entire world would come to a halt.
Caleb was only allowed to attend two appointments—the first when we heard the heartbeat before COVID picked up and the second at the anatomy scan to see him and all his parts. In September, we gave birth to a healthy, hearty baby boy, Jackson Lee. He was absolutely the highlight of 2020 and has been a great addition to our little family. Seeing Huxley transition into the role of big sister is so sweet. Just the other day, Jackson was crying, so she picked up a bottle, brought it to me, and said, “Jackson hungry.” And he was. She’s that in tune with his needs and it’s just so sweet.
Within nine weeks of his birth, I had shot four weddings, while two others were associate shot for me. It was a whirlwind of a fall, and I am thankful to have some slower days with him this winter and holiday season.
As a small business owner, I can’t ignore Coronavirus and the effects that it had on most, if not all small businesses. While ARHP have been extremely blessed to be able to survive the pandemic thus far, the toll that COVID has taken on so many small businesses is not lost on me. The exceptional year has taught me to save, save, save money in the instance that I need to go months without income. It’s scary, but a good lesson to learn. The ability to pivot and be flexible is also one that I have learned. I dubbed this year, “The Year of White-Out” because my planner had white-out on so many days from reschedules of sessions and weddings. While I know this was difficult for me as a business owner and expectant mother, it was equally as difficult for my couples who had to schedule, reschedule, and compromise on the vision they had for their wedding days.
The federal, state, and local mandates set forth dictated many of the weddings in 2020—from reschedules to reduced guest lists to extra precautions being taken. It was a different environment in the wedding world this year. Despite all the changes, some couples wouldn’t take no for an answer. They were determined to get married in 2020. Those couples all had shorter guest lists than they had planned, but it also brought about a resurgence of small, intimate wedding truly centered on the couple and the love for one another. I have enjoyed being a part of these intimate weddings.
My goal for 2020 was to shoot 10 weddings. I made that goal long before 2020 actually happened….actually I think I made that goal back in 2018 when we moved to Virginia. Despite COVID, I was still able to achieve that goal…in fact, I surpassed it by shooting 11 weddings! To my 2020 couples, thank you for trusting me. I am so excited for you all as you navigate your first year of marriage. Because of all the obstacles you have already overcome, your marriage is built on such a strong foundation because of all that you’ve been through together!
COVID provided me the opportunity to stretch myself by venturing into a new facet of my business that combines my photography knowledge and teaching background. I created The Photography Framework, which is packed full of resources for new and aspiring photographers. It has already gone through a few iterations, but I am so happy with the progress and growth it has seen. Once I return to social media at the onset of the new year, I will clue you all in with more of what’s going on behind the scenes with TPF.
You may be wondering why I have a picture of this beautiful bride as the image associated with this project. This breathtaking woman is one of my brides from this year. She has just started her videography business, Alonzee Marketing, and we are working together to record the full Photography Framework course! It is set to launch in February 2021, and we are both SO excited!
Be Your Brand provides wedding professionals with imagery that is consistent within their brand, while also being current and applicable to the season (both the actual season, as well as the season of business you are in). It cultivates community within the wedding community because these are essentially group branding sessions since multiple are completed in one day, but the vendors have time to network over refreshments while getting their hair and makeup professionally done and touring a local wedding venue!
This was my “big idea” for 2020 prior to COVID. Unfortunately, due to so many closures and restrictions on group sizes, Be Your Brand was put on the back burner this year. I wish that it would have been a raving success, but sometimes the idea is great and the time just isn’t right. Despite that, I plan to continue branding sessions in 2021 with other small business owners who want to create a personal brand!
When my friend Kassie invited me to accompany her to Charleston, I immediately said yes. Not only were plane tickets like $90, but it has been on my bucket list of places to shoot since Caleb and I visited for Valentine’s Day back in 2016. Kassie was speaking at a conference on her vast styled shoot experience. She then put that knowledge and talent into action by finding this beautiful couple, as well as a bride, florist, and hair and makeup artist that was willing to walk around downtown with us so we could add this beautiful location to our portfolios.
We were provided beautiful weather and beautiful fellowship. The bride model was actually a tour guide for Charleston tours and was able to give us some insight into the architecture and history of the city. It was a beautiful experience and we got back just before COVID hit the country hard.
Shooting at the cherry blossoms in DC was also on my bucket list and I was finally able to cross that off this year too! The cherry blossom bloom window is so short every year (like less than two weeks), and this year it was super early because we had such a warm winter. This session took place the DAY before the National Mall and Tidal Basin was totally shut down, so we barely made it happen, but it was so worth it. Gina and Michael’s style was on point and coordinated perfectly with the beautiful blooms in our nation’s Capitol.
Allison and Corbett’s wedding was such a light this year. These two are the epitome of class. They were supposed to be married at the Westin Georgetown and at the last second decided to alter their plans for a backyard wedding at Corbett’s mother’s house. Their timeless style and steadfast love brought this wedding day to the next level. Allison’s bridal gown was tailored perfectly with the perfect balance of classy and sexy. Heirlooms were incorporated throughout their wedding day, like Corbett’s grandfather’s signet ring pictured above. I left their day feeling like a part of their family and so, so fulfilled that my job means something!
Look at that Chicago skyline! This was ARHP’s first destination wedding, and I couldn’t have been more excited or thankful for these two choosing me to document their wedding. The groom is one of Caleb’s college friends. Since many of the groomsmen were military and their leave was revoked due to tightened COVID measures, Caleb actually ended up being in the bridal party and sword arch for their wedding. He had to turn over the camera to the groom’s dad to get a few groomsman shots of him and the groom, but other than that, it was actually a seamless day! The groom’s brother suggested this spot that he knew had the Chicago skyline as the backdrop and I couldn’t be more thankful the rain stopped momentarily to give us this beautiful moment!
This summer we had a non-traditional “vacation.” We visited Lexington, Kentucky to prepare for our move in the coming year. We have some big plans that we haven’t put out to the public yet, but they’re starting to get real…really real. While I was down there, I took a page out of my friend Kassie’s book by recruiting some couples to photograph in order to expand my portfolio for the central Kentucky area. I was able to photograph Hannah and Taylor at Keeneland, then in downtown Lexington. Allison and Chris and I explored the University of Kentucky Botanical Gardens then Gratz Park. It was such a fun little exploratory trip photographing beautiful souls and searching for a new home!
While it was a challenging year, we still managed to plan for our future, bring new life to the world, photograph beautiful couples, and build another business. It is incredible that I sometimes find myself doubting 2020’s accomplishments. It’s easy to focus on the goals that weren’t achieved, rather than realizing that the pivot from the original goals to new goals was equally as successful.
2021 will be just as unprecedented for us as Caleb exits the Marine Corps and we begin our time as civilians, but I am so excited for the unknown! Stay tuned for more updates as our big plans and dreams begin to solidify and become reality!
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