Night to Shine 2019 | Tim Tebow Foundation

The annual Night to Shine event is one of the most fun things I participate in every year! For the past 2 years I have been the photography coordinator for our Champaign event, and I have to say this one was the best yet! (I also was a volunteer photographer at the first event 3 years ago).

We roll out the red carpet for members of our community with special needs, and these special guests are treated to the works! They get to experience paparazzi as they enter through a twinkle-lit red carpeted hallway, then they can choose to get hair, makeup, and nails done or shoe shines for the guys. There is an official Night to Shine step-n-repeat backdrop where they can have a portrait taken, as well as grab a corsage or boutonniere. Inside the main auditorium, they get to enjoy dinner with their assigned “buddy” and dance the night away with music provided by a DJ (emcees courtesy of WBGL radio). This year there were also two photobooth options for guests to use, complete with lots of fun props and printed photos on the spot! The karaoke room is another fun attraction as well as limo rides, a goodie bag, and cupcakes for dessert. There is a respite room for anyone needing to take a break, a separate room for caregivers to rest and relax, and medical staff on site in case of emergencies.

The very best part of the night is the crowning ceremony, where each guest is announced and crowned as king or queen. Immediately following that, there is a special video message from Tim Tebow that is shown before everyone is dismissed.

This year’s event was amazing, and I’m already looking forward to next year! My friend Jeremiah and his team from ParkLife Films always does the video, and you’ll definitely want to check it out!!

To get involved in next year’s event, follow First Church Church of Champaign on Facebook, or contact the church directly to be put on the volunteer list.

How I keep my sanity during the busy fall season

I’ve been wanting to write this article/listicle for a couple of weeks, and I finally gathered my thoughts enough to do it. And yes, I took the time during the last week of October to write it, because it was important to me, and I made it a priority.

sanity during busy season

Photographers, fear not! The end is in sight! I still have quite a few sessions left for the year, but I do not feel as though I am behind, and I break my work up into manageable chunks so I stay focused and on track. Here’s how I do it!

1) I try not to overbook myself. I book things I want and decline or refer on things I don’t want or really just don’t have time to do. This includes not booking 3 consecutive evening appointments, so my family can have me home for at least 1-2 weeknight meals/games/tv time together.

photographer's busy season

2) I cull as quickly as possible following a session or wedding, usually within 24-48 hours. This helps me avoid procrastinating when it comes time to edit. This has also long been the key to me getting my #weddingwednesday blog posts up following every wedding. The biggest hurdle is culling a wedding down from a couple thousand images to around 100-150 for a blog post. When you look at it like that, it seems much more manageable and much less daunting. (Pro tip: this also helps me edit a wedding faster when it comes time to edit the full gallery.) I use PhotoMechanic to cull which helps me do each wedding and session lightning fast!!

fall family photography busy season

3) I use Honeybook to manage clients, book sessions, take payments, streamline communication, and accept questionnaires. It used to take me an hour to manage a wedding booking from start to finish, and now I can do one in less than 5 minutes. A session booking generally takes less than 2 minutes. You can see the time savings immediately.

honeybook home task screen for client management

4) When I import my images into Lightroom, I apply my own general preset upon import, so a huge chunk of the editing is already done to each image.

5) I am punctual and almost always on time. I know this is a stretch for some people and you may wonder how it keeps me from getting behind in my work/editing, but being on time to my sessions overflows into other parts of my work and life. It also makes my clients trust me and find me dependable. Part of this is mapping out my day and my locations to make sure that I’ve allowed myself enough time to both transport my children to where they need to go and make it to my destination, allowing for traffic and drive time.

Champaign fall family mini sessions

6) I am realistic about my goals — both for the season and each individual day. My youngest child is home with me 3 afternoons a week, so I know that those days will be somewhat chaotic, and I will spend time with her and get sidetracked with housework in addition to needing to get some work done. So I usually give myself a handful of achievable goals, and stick to those, then if I am able to accomplish more, great!

lifestyle family photography images

7) I use a color coding system for my editing, and so I know what is backed up. One thing I make a priority EVERY day and week is backing up my images. Hard drives crash so making sure I have multiple backups on both external hard drives and on cloud storage is super important. The image below is example of how I organize my files and use my color system. I have a different color for each type of session — orange for weddings, purple for seniors, blue for engagements, green for all other types of portraits and commercial work. When I first download my images, they go straight into a folder named by date and then title. I immediately back it up onto external hard drives before any culling or editing is done. Then once the editing is done, I recopy the files to all my backups and make my cloud backup of jpegs. Then I apply the color code and know that all the steps are complete and those files are safe.

color coding for organization

8) Treat yo’ self! Today for instance, I am treating myself to a massage that I booked a few weeks ago in anticipation of the end of October. I get regular pedicures throughout the year, and enjoy a quiet breakfast or lunch by myself on occasion when I can. I like to use these as motivation and to reward myself for meeting my goals. Yesterday for example, I finished ALL of my culling AND designed a wedding album, so today’s treat was a motivator for me.

Treat Yo Self

9) I also keep a “winter list.” This is a longer-term list of things I want to accomplish over my slower winter season which is usually about Dec-Feb. This list is for both personal and business tasks — clearing out my junk drawer, organizing my office, entering receipts, fixing a paint chip in the wall, updating my wedding magazine, tweaking automated emails and processes, etc. You get the idea! This listmaking helps me feel like I’m not procrastinating but I’m just putting off less important tasks to when I have more time.

finding a work-life balance amidst busy season

10) Lastly, and this may sound counterintuitive, but I think it’s important to keep personal projects afloat. My friend Dannie Fountain says that you should have a passion project with a certain amount of time dedicated to it each week. This is key for keeping your creative spirit alive when you’re working yourself so hard. For example, she says that if you work 25 hours a week in your business each week, then divide that by 5 to get 5, and then divide that again by 5 and you get 1. So that means you should be allowing yourself 1 hour each week to devote to a personal project (which for me is my podcast - The Give Back Podcast). Do the math and see what your number is!

So there you have it! What other tips and tricks do you have for managing your work-life balance during busy times?

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Commercial Project | Cabins in Wine Country at Alto Pass, Illinois


I spent about a day and a half last week travelling down to southern Illinois' wine country near Alto Pass.  I visited 5 different properties, plus stopped off at the Alto Vineyards for a glass (and a bottle to take home!) in the late afternoon. Part of my payment was the opportunity to stay in one of the cabins overnight, and it was nice to relax with a bubble bath, my wine, a book, and then a movie before turning in for the night!  I also made the long drive go much quicker by listening to an audiobook and finally starting the Serial podcast.  I'm hooked! For all your commercial property, headshots, or real estate photography needs, email Holly!

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