The Watermen’s Museum | Yorktown, Virginia Wedding Venue | Virginia Wedding Photographer

I am thrilled to feature another one of the Yorktown, Virginia wedding venues on my blog!  A few months ago I had the honor of touring The Watermen’s Museum, a small museum that explains the role of Chesapeake Bay watermen from pre-colonial to modern times in our history.  Nestled in next to the York River and just northwest of the Coleman Bridge stands this charming and rustic location for weddings.  This venue offers many options for couples depending on the size of your guest list and your specific needs. 

If you love the idea of having water views with the sound of the water lapping the shore, these options could work for you.  The Watermen’s Museum owns a large stretch of private beachfront along the York River that you can use for your ceremony.  The colorful sunset view there is absolutely breathtaking.   You can also opt to have your ceremony on the pergola covered balcony at the Carriage House, which also overlooks the lovely York River.  The Carriage House may be used for smaller gatherings of about 50 people indoors. 

While some couples love having the view of the York River during their ceremony or reception, others may desire to have their ceremony on the greenspace in front of the Windmill.  Additionally, you may choose to use the 30’ x 50’ event tent on site next to the Carriage House for your ceremony and/or reception.  For more information about The Watermen’s Museum, click here. 

Finding the Perfect Wedding Venue | Featuring The Commanding General’s Residence & Garden at Fort Monroe | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Finding a wedding venue can be one of the most exciting moments during your engagement and also really overwhelming.  If you are newly engaged, you are likely thinking and dreaming about the place where you’ll say your “I do’s”.  How do you even begin?  Most couples have a lot of questions about how to get started, so my hope is that after you read today’s blog you’ll feel more confident about finding the wedding venue of your dreams! 

First things first.  Decide on several possible dates along with the general location where you want to get married, such as Hampton, Virginia for example.  Once you have that decided, move on to your wedding venue budget.  Your wedding venue budget should help you to determine the number of guests that you will invite to your wedding.  This step is important because you’ll need this information to determine how much space you’ll need to accommodate your guests comfortably.  Different venues accommodate a sometimes wide range of guest lists.

Next, you need to decide what your priorities are.  Do you want a beach wedding?  A rustic wedding?  A marina wedding?  Or a historic site wedding?   Do you want your ceremony indoors or outdoors?  Is there a rain plan in the event of inclement weather for outdoor weddings?  Does the venue provide in house catering?  Does the venue provide tables and chairs for guests, or do you need to rent them?  List your ideas and consider questions you may have for the venue.

After you determine your priorities for your wedding venue, create a list of venue options that are located in or near your target area.  Find 3-5 venues that meet your needs by researching them online.  Helpful hint: The Knot and Wedding Wire have venues listed along with really helpful information, such as how many guests they accommodate and a description of their amenities.  Use this information as a guide for which venues you’ll reach out to.

I know that you are just dying to visit those gorgeous locations that you just researched!  But, before you do that, reach out to the venues on your list and ask them some basic questions.  Are they available on your chosen date(s)?  Can they accommodate your number of guests?  Be sure to ask if they offer the “top priorities” you and your fiancé decided upon.  Ask about the pricing to confirm and find out what all is included.   After they reply to your email or phone call, set up your venue visit.

This is the best part!  Visit the locations you’ve chosen based on your research and their availability.  Visiting a wedding venue is not only exciting, it is also very important.  The venue likely has gorgeous images of their location on their website, but you need to see the layout of the space to see if it is a good fit for your needs.  This will also allow you an opportunity to get acquainted with the venue coordinator (the person who manages and books weddings for the venue) and ask any questions that you may not have considered before your visit.  After you decide on the venue where you’ll book your wedding, you should be offered an agreement and will likely be required to pay a deposit to book your specific date. 

Let’s look at this amazing location as an example.  The Commanding General’s Residence at Historic Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.  Up until 2011, Fort Monroe was an active United States Army Base.  Now it offers beach space, historic landmarks, and the original fort which was constructed in part by Robert E. Lee when he was stationed there as a first lieutenant and engineer in the U.S. Army.  Last summer I had the chance to visit this wedding venue.  Because of the military and historic significance, I was all kinds of excited. The commanding generals of Fort Monroe did, in fact, used to reside here on base. 

Jenn Stokes from the Fort Monroe Authority showed me around this gem, and I had the opportunity to learn how this space could help my future couples.  The Commanding General’s Residence, built in 1907, is a strikingly beautiful estate and boasts of impressive details. 

The estate can hold up to 150 guests and has “customized packages that suit a variety of styles and budgets”.  The pricing ranges from $2000 to $4500, depending on the time of year, weekday or weekend, and your number of guests.  You can hold your wedding in the residence only, or you can include the formal garden.  Included in the rental of the Commanding General’s Residence is some available equipment which can be used indoors, such as banquet tables, for example.  If you are having an outdoor wedding, they will provide up to 100 white folding chairs.  You also have the option of adding on the use of upstairs rooms and the use of the bandstand across the street in Continental Park (for an additional fee).  I was really impressed with Jenn’s kind hospitality and enthusiasm about this amazing place. 

Personal Branding Photography | Virginia Entrepreneurs | Belle Eve Photography

I absolutely love capturing weddings, families, and high school Seniors.  They all are so much fun and bring me a lot of joy!  From gorgeous brides and beautiful bridal details to Seniors who are full of personality, it never gets old.  Each new couple, family, or Senior touches my heart in a unique way.  I also just adore helping other small business owners with their branding imagery.  The preparation process gives me a chance to really get to know them and their “why” so that I can serve them in a way that best suits their needs. 

If you are a small business owner, you may be thinking, “why is branding imagery important to my business?” 

Having a clear and consistent brand is vital to building a successful business, whether you run a small business or a really large one.  First, let’s define “brand” and “personal brand”.  Brand is essentially the “feeling” consumers get when they use your product (s) / encounter your business online or in person.  If you think about your favorite athletic shoe brand, for example, the brand might represent traits such as athleticism, performance, and strength to you.  When you see the logo for that company, you automatically feel and think of these traits because of how the company presents its product.  In short, you trust the company with your purchase of the shoes because the company has built a reliable presence and a good product.

 Personal branding is similar, but also slightly different.  It relates to how consumers view “you”.  YOU are your brand, which is often true for small businesses.  Personal branding is marketing “you”, and describes the feeling consumers have about you as they encounter your business (you) in person, online or on social media.  This is important for a few reasons. 

Personal branding is tied to your “why”.  The reason why you run your business and share your gifts with your community should drive how consumers view you online.  If you are a cake artist and bake cakes for weddings because you value serving clients in an excellent and positive way with your artistic talent, your imagery may show you working on the intricacies of your art along with the details of the various processes you may use.  Your headshots should support your why as well by illustrating your positivity and confidence. 

Additionally, connection matters.  Consumers often want to be able to relate to the people who own the business before they choose to hire them or purchase from them, especially when it is service related.  Consumers do research.  Therefore it is important show up online in a positive and consistent manner they are less likely to trust you.   Consistent usage of engaging and authentic branding imagery on social media and on your website can help to build connection.  Connection online often has to happen before a client will be comfortable with idea of meeting with you or using your services.

If you would like to discuss how Belle Eve Photography can help with your branding and headshot imagery, contact us at

Hello 2020 | Virginia Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Well 2019, you and I did lots of things this past year.  We had lots of adventures and accomplished things that had previously been dreams and ideas. And now?  Wow! I can’t believe that another year is complete!  I feel so very grateful for all of the opportunities I had in 2019, and am approaching 2020 with a sense of anticipation and excitement!  Whew!

I used Powersheets (by Lara Casey) from Cultivate What Matters in 2019 for the first time, which made such a huge difference in my personal life and in my business.   This is a tool that leads you through three steps to help you uncover goals that really matter to your life.  But, it doesn’t just stop there.  After you complete the prep work, which includes a word of the year, you write your goals down and create action plans for each of them.   At the end of each month, you go through a reflection process and complete a “tending list” for the next month.   Ultimately, Powersheets helps you focus on progress, not perfection, as you accomplish your goals little by little.  It isn’t magic.  But, after how much progress I made, I can definitely say that it is an amazingly effective tool that I highly recommend!  Lara Casey, the developer of Powersheets, also has an amazing podcast that you can go to by clicking on this link and you can check out Powersheets here. 

Using Powersheets, I worked on both personal and business goals.  I improved at exercising more consistently, spending intentional with time with my husband, becoming more consistent with my devotions and letting go of some personal struggles.  As I worked on the prep work, the theme of fear and anxiety kept popping up.  That just didn’t used to be me, and I hadn’t realized how much it had begun weaving its way into multiple aspects of my life.  Therefore, seeking help to work through the reasons for the fear and anxiety (which were based on past trauma) was necessary.  I chose the word “release” as my word of the year and it was definitely a year of “releasing” a lot of junk.  I feel a whole lot lighter now.  🙂 

My business goals were very specific and necessary to accomplish, which led me to making a huge decision at the end of the 2018-19 school year that has changed my life.  And, spoiler alert….I crushed them.  With the support of my hubby and strength from the Lord while I was teaching full time, I met my business goals. (Doing my happy dance now!) 

I believe very strongly that continuing education is vital to continued professionalism.  With that said, one of my 2019 goals was to complete several business and photography courses to promote growth.  I completed the courses and was able to implement the new information in my business and as I worked with clients during weddings and portrait sessions. 

Another goal was to create improved business processes, which directly effect client experience.  Since client experience is a priority, I worked on the processes from the first inquiry up to delivery.  I researched this area, and sought the wisdom of several business mentors as I evaluated the system I had been using.  Included in the process was using a new client management system that helps me to take care of clients each step of the way, creating new materials to give to clients after booking, and having new branding shots done for my business to use in communication, social media, and my website.   

My last business goal was to improve marketing so that bookings will increase.  Again, with some coaching from my mentor, and consistent hard work, my bookings more than doubled.  Ultimately, I love working with people.  Seriously, so much! And, of course, working with more clients and providing them with a great experience led to our decision for me to leave my elementary school teaching position in Newport News, Virginia and work my photography business full time.  (Again, doing my happy dance!) 

Thank you for sharing about my business, using my services for your wedding, portraits, branding imagery, or commercial imagery in 2019.  I am so grateful for you! 2020 is going to be incredible!

Hornsby House Inn | Yorktown Wedding Venue | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Standing proudly along Main Street in Historic Yorktown is the Hornsby House Inn. One of the most unique features of this house is the fact that the owner, David, grew up in the house. As an adult, he and his bride were married there in the main living room 40 years ago. As David took me through the Inn, there was a strong sense of family legacy and pride, heard in the story of the house and seen on the walls with wedding pictures of several generations of family members. There is even a family cookbook, “The Hornsby House Cookbook” which is “an extraordinary collection of southern cooking from three generations of Hornsby/Bowditch clans, (340 pages, hand written) by Marian Hornsby Bowditch” that you can browse through and purchase.

The house was built in 1933 and served as a family home for the Hornsby and Bowditch families. In 2011, Dave and Philip Bowditch transformed the historic family home to a Bed and Breakfast with the vision of continuing their family tradition of southern hospitality and having a conversation around the breakfast table. Sharing the legacy of sharing stories and conversing over a southern home cooked meal has proven successful for this beautiful venue. Legacy. Family. Entertaining guests at the dinner table.

Most recently, the owners added on to their beautiful space by constructing an outdoor pavilion. It is an open, but covered permanent space with the option of lowering tent walls and adding heat during chilly or rainy days. Beautiful chandeliers adorn this flexible space that also boasts of a catering kitchen.

Since it is a bed and breakfast, they have wedding packages with overnight accommodations in the Day Package or Weekend Package. You can have your wedding on the front lawn with views of the Yorktown Monument on Historic Main Street. Additionally, you can have your reception in the beautiful new Pavilion which is elegantly lighted. There are also bistro lights strung across the lawn, perfect placed for cocktail hour.

More Than a Wedding | Virginia Wedding Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Can you picture being married for 50 years? What will your future be like with your spouse? Traveling, celebrating holidays together, building a family, creating your own traditions, having and raising children, and eventually growing gray together… I remember one day when I was in college and I was at my grandparents’ house, chatting with my Mamaw at her kitchen table. At one point, my Papaw walked up to her and jokingly jabbed her in the arm with his hand and had a big grin on his face. They just “got each other”. When he walked away I asked her, “How do you succeed in a marriage relationship?” By this time, they had been married a little more than 50 years. Her response? “Keep God first” and “always talk about everything together”. Then she followed up with this: “God made Eve from the rib of Adam because He wanted them to walk side by side.” And they truly lived all of this out. They were life partners and took care of one another. Love was always evident in their home, and their faith and marriage relationship still inspire me today.

When Debbie contacted me about capturing their 50th wedding anniversary, I was thrilled to document such a precious occasion. Bill and Debbie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in November 2019, and when I worked with them at the Williamsburg Winery in Williamsburg, Virginia, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. The love they have for one another was obvious in their smiles and sweet glances. Such tenderness.

When I see newly engaged couples I think of couples like Bill and Debbie who have worked hard together to grow in their marriage. What an incredible example they are to those who dream of one day in the future celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

As you prepare to pop the question and get married, it is important to consider your “forever commitment” with the love of your life. Your wedding will take a great deal of time to plan for so that it will always be a memorable event in your life. Weddings exude so much beauty and romance. It is so important though, to consider the commitment to love and build a strong foundation for your relationship. Your marriage is more than gorgeous flowers, elegant bridal gowns, dapper tuxedos and amazing venues. A good marriage takes a lot of work. I think it’s because is isn’t always easy to put your spouse’s needs ahead of your own. It is a constant process of communicating and yielding to one another as you grow more into one each and every day. It is a partnership in which two people work at loving each other well, and results in a beautiful expression of selfless love.

An Historic Yorktown Anniversary Session | Sibert Family | Virginia Family Photographer

I had the opportunity to spend time with this wonderful family in Historic Yorktown, Virginia for their Fall Anniversary Session.  It was such a joy to be around their energetic kids who were so much fun to capture.  Crystal did a fantastic job at planning their session attire.  They looked great!  I especially loved how they just “rolled with it” during their session. 

Kids, no matter if they are really little or late elementary school aged, need to be able to act like kids. While that may sound obvious, it is important to expect what is reasonable for their particular age and maturity level.  Stephen and Crystal were so gentle, affirming, and completely incredible with their kids.  The best part about their anniversary session was how fun their kids were.  Their younger two children were so full of silly giggles!  The oldest son had the “preteen vibes” going on, which made my heart smile because it reminded me of my own kids.  I am one of those people who loves teenagers, and even used to teach middle school English…and I survived.  😉  Through being silly and a little help from a stuffed Spiderman (and two really awesome parents), we were able to capture lots of silly giggles and even a few snuggles.

We started out next to On the Hill Gallery, then headed down Main Street to the historic Nelson House.  We spent time there while the golden light was gleaming through the trees, spilling over into the garden next to the house.  The Nelson House is beautiful and is a significant part of Yorktown history.  (source )

This early Georgian architectural structure was originally the home of William Nelson, a prosperous merchant, who built it in 1730.   William Nelson’s son, Thomas Nelson, Jr. inherited the home from his father.  Thomas Nelson was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  In addition to this honor, he served in the Continental Congress, the state legislature, and as the governor of Virginia for a brief period of time in 1781.  He served as a brigadier general and commanded the Virginia militia at the Siege of Yorktown during the Revolutionary War. 

After he passed away, his wife continued to live there for the following 30 years.  During the Civil War, it served as a hospital for the Confederate Army, and then eventually for the Union Army as well.  You can find images captured of the Nelson House in the 1860s from the Civil War in various books and on historical websites such as this one

I always consider it an honor to capture families and couples in Historic Yorktown, an area rich with our nation’s history. 

Holiday Party Planning | Virginia Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Belle Eve Photography

Hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove fill the air as you begin lighting your favorite autumn candles, diffuse fall themed essential oils and bake treats for family and friends.  You take out all of your favorite fall décor and carefully place each piece in its rightful place for the season.  No matter what color your décor usually boasts, it is now accompanied by a harvest of gourds, pumpkins, cinnamon brooms and hay stalks.  We prepare our homes for special seasons so that we can experience the holiday vibe, and to make our homes a place to welcome people we love. 

Whether you are an experienced party host or not, it is important to know how to plan and host a great party.  Even if you’re currently thinking “I will NEVER host a party or large gathering at my house,” these tips from Katie Blackman, a professional wedding and event planner, will still be helpful.  You never know when it will be “your turn” in the future! 

Let’s get right to it!  First, know who you are going to invite and plan on “plus one” for each guest.  Decide how you will invite your guests:  will you send a formal invitation or a digital one via Facebook?  Your invitation should require some type of RSVP, such as a text message or verbal response, depending on how formal the occasion.  It is better to know and plan accordingly than be surprised by too many or not enough guests.

Next, it may seem boring, but clean!  Katie suggests getting your home “HGTV ready” for guests.  Make sure you stock up on cute candles and make sure that your bathroom has plenty of toilet paper.  Get a helpful house cleaning checklist from Molly Maid here

Think about the décor.  If you don’t want to break the budget, look for seasonal clearance from stores such as Home Goods or Target.  Have fun with it!   Depending on the season you are shopping for, find items such as flowers for Spring and pumpkins for Fall that aren’t too “themey”  As you decorate, play music to inspire you! 

Now, it’s time to plan for the food your guests will enjoy!  If you plan to have your event catered, order enough in advance so that your preferred caterer will be available.  During the holiday season, caterers often book pretty quickly.  If you want to save time and money, go the potluck direction.  Have everyone bring a dish and a bottle of their favorite beverage to share.  You provide the main course or dessert.  Many people enjoy sharing favorite dishes.  Be sure to communicate on the invitation what you would like people to bring (or in a group chat if it’s a smaller gathering with friends).  Make sure that you have dedicated space to place the food along with plenty of plates and silverware for everyone.

Last, plan to have fun!  If you prepare in advance you will have less to worry about during your party.  It helps to have someone else to help out before and during the event to make sure everyone is taken care of throughout the evening.  Usually, as long as there is food, wine, and music, people will usually have a good time.  However, it is also a good idea to plan for (and communicate ahead of time) some type of entertainment such as a gift exchange or a game. 

Happy party planning!

Branding Head Shots | Virginia Portrait Photographer

M & M Flowers Virginia

In a day where visual imagery makes up 93% of all human communication [] combined with a growing number of small businesses with an online presence, it is essential to have images of your face along with images that describe your mission statement and process.   They should also illustrate the values that represent your business.  This is important because your online presence- your website and social media – is the prologue to your client’s experience.  Overall, consumers want to see who they are working with.  Are they friendly?  Are they good at their craft?  Will I have a good experience? 

I Do Weddings With Love

Branding headshots convey your professionalism and your brand by giving a potential client an idea of your demeanor and personality.  A smile, for example, communicates warmth and approachability.   Since potential clients want to see and know who they will choose to work with, your images help to develop trust in you and your brand.  Connectivity is a natural human desire and can be supported through the use of imagery before you meet face to face. 

Magical Vacation Planner

How do you get the most of your branding headshots?  We have a four tips to get you started. 

1.  Choose 3 words that describe how you want potential clients to feel when they connect with your business online.  These words should be connected to your mission statement.  Work with your photographer to find ways to illustrate these words in your imagery. 

2. Choose professional and casual outfits that reinforce your message.  Think of your imagery as a “job interview” and dress for the clients that you are wanting to hire you.  

3.  Have your hair and make-up professionally done.  This is important because YOU are essentially your storefront.  While it’s fine to be transparent on social media and show up without makeup in “real life”, the images that officially represent your brand should represent your brand as “the job interview” version of you.

4.  Light or dark?  Consider and choose backgrounds that “match” your brand.  If you want your online images to be overall light, for example, then work with your photographer to find a background that is overall light in color. 

Anniversary Session Tips | Outfits and Kids | Virginia Portrait Photographer

Have you ever had one of those moments when you were preparing for your family’s anniversary session? You had the perfect outfits chosen for your entire family, including yourself and your spouse, of course.  After all, you did your research.  You pored over Pinterest and chose the perfect color palette for your family.  They were the perfect clothing pieces for your family to wear and you styled them to the smallest detail.  And, you just KNEW that everyone would be happy about their outfits, right?  If your life is anything like mine, you know that what you dream of your kids looking like for an anniversary session and the reality of their opinions of those adorable outfits can be polar opposites.  But you are the mom or dad, so you *MAKE* them wear those perfect outfits.   What do they do?  Thank you for how amazing they look?  Nope.  They cry. Scream. Pout. Scream and cry some more.  Now, you have a headache.  You are stressed, because you have to be at your session in 30 minutes.  Everyone is freaking out.  You finally get there and you are pretty much on time, but your kids just aren’t as cooperative as usual.  They are grumpy. Their faces are still a little red.  They are not smiling and won’t respond to others who speak to them because they are still mad.  The extra irritability in them is making it difficult to enjoy the session, and you keep bugging them to smile, or ELSE.  You and your spouse are working hard to keep your “church faces” on.  After the emotional escalation resulting from the power struggle with your kids, no one is feeling like being photographed.  In fact, it is going to take a while for them to calm down and find their laughter and smiles.  If this has ever happened with your kids, you are not alone.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

Before going full time with my photography business, I was a public school teacher.  I taught Kindergarten mostly, but also served for a while as a middle school English teacher and briefly taught high school Spanish and ESL.  I have worked with a wide range of kids, from well behaved to students with behavior disorders and other challenges.  They all have something in common.  They all want some type of “control” with the ability to make their own choices.  As adults, we know that kids, with their lack of experience and maturity are not always good decision makers.  Their unique “fashion sense” might be influenced by this fact. 

What works?  I have found that when you give kids a choice, it reduces the likelihood of a power struggle.  The key, though, is to provide a limited range of choices that will work for your color palette and style.  Be flexible.  Start with your color palette.  Choose 2-3 outfit options that include not only colors from the palette, but also items they enjoy wearing such as a favorite shirt, shoes, dress, necklace, etc.  “What if my child begs to wear something like a super hero shirt or a Halloween costume and it doesn’t fit the style we are going for?”  Turn it into a reward.  For example, you could suggest that your child can wear it for the last couple of pictures during the session.  “If you choose one of these options over here, then we will bring your _______ so that you can wear it in a few of the photos.”  Using it as a reward will encourage your child to earn the privilege as opposed to telling them no in this situation, especially if you feel that it will trigger an emotional power struggle.  If you communicate with me that your child is bringing their super hero shirt, I can also remind them that they will get to wear their special shirt in “just a little while”.

What colors and clothing choices are best?  The image below of colors that work well together is a great place to start.  Consider using items that you already have to create your style for your anniversary session.  Perfection isn’t required!  Everyone should feel comfortable in their outfits and they should feel that they look great!  The old adage “if you look good, you will feel good” is true here.  Make sure that everyone has comfortable shoes (or comfortable shoes to wear as we walk to various locations) and well fitted clothes.  Limit patterns in clothing so that the patterns will enhance your image instead of distract from the real subject of the images: your family.    

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