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 [Hubspot.com] 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.    

An Intimate Backyard Wedding | Zuni, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

An intimate backyard wedding was the perfect way to finish out my summer wedding season, complete with sweet tea and lemonade, sunshine, blue hydrangeas and red roses, and a front porch ceremony. Debbie and Matt wanted a small and simple wedding. Having their wedding at Debbie’s parents’ home in Zuni, Virginia was the perfect venue for them.

Close friends and family came to their small wedding. Debbie’s brother, a United States Coast Guardsman, officiated their beautiful ceremony in front of her parents’ 1940’s era white farm house, as their bridesmaids and groomsmen stood with them. Their endearing ceremony reflected love and commitment, laughter and joy, and persevering through obstacles together. Debbie and Matt hold these values close to their hearts.

After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a backyard barbecue catered meal with all of the fixin’s. As guests finished eating, several close friends and family members gave speeches, sharing their love for Debbie and Matt. One of the sweetest moments was when Debbie’s teenage daughter stood up and shared about her mom’s happiness and her support for the new marriage. After speeches and toasts, the dancing began, with D.J. Bob filling the air with the best dancing tunes, including “The Git Up” by Blanco Brown. It was such a treat to capture this joy-filled celebration!


Photographer: Belle Eve Photography

Florist: The Main Event by Emily

Cake: The Cake House

DJ: D.J. Bob

Dress: Torrid

Rentals: S & B Tent Rentals

Venue Tour | Mariners’ Museum | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Seated in the heart of Mariners’ Park in Newport News, Virginia sits a beautiful gem- The Mariners’ Museum.  Founded in 1930, The Mariners’ Museum is an incredible local landmark filled with maritime history.  You can read more about the history of the museum here.  The wedding and event aspect of the museum is equally impressive.  As Jennifer Kohms, Rental Sales Coordinator, led me on the tour, I was immediately impressed not only by her knowledge of maritime history but also her passion for both the museum and for helping couples use the facility for their wedding venue.

Options.  So many options!  That is what went through my mind as Jennifer explained the three packages available and what they include as we walked through the museum, inside and outside.  In addition to the three packages offered (The Port Package, The Starboard Package, and The Anchor Package) you may also choose event enhancements to create your very own unique wedding experience.  For example, you can add on the option of having your ceremony at the historic Lions Bridge and / or keeping the Monitor Center or Main Galleries open for your guests, depending on the package you choose. 

A few of my favorite features that were unique were the outdoor spaces in the Courtyard, the Front Lawn, the Main Lobby, as well as the many spaces for bridal portraits.

A Gold and White Warwick Yacht & Country Club Wedding | Newport News, Virginia | Virginia Wedding Photographer

Sheer joy is when two people who love one another unite their lives together. Felisha and Gary’s wedding at Warwick Yacht & Country Club in Newport News, Virginia was definitely a memorable one. I looked forward to their wedding day all summer long! The emphasis on love and family made their day so special. “It’s all about family.”


That sentiment was evident throughout the day, from the time before the ceremony until the end of the reception. Their wedding was most definitely a family affair! Felisha and her sisters created the beautiful bouquets, the boutonnieres, and also designed the lovely reception tablescapes. In addition to the flowers, Felisha also made the invitations and the favors for their guests.

The Beginning

Felisha and Gary’s story began three years ago when Felisha went on a cruise to Mexico. At the time, she wasn’t looking for love. She met Gary on the cruise and over time their friendship and love flourished. They maintained a long distance relationship- Gary lived in New York and Felisha lived in Newport News. They would travel as often as they could to spend time together. As their love grew it became increasingly difficult to remain apart. After praying about it, they began making plans to get married. As a couple they both value loyalty, integrity and communication. They encourage and pray for each other, talk about everything, and listen to each other.


Their gold and white ceremony overlooked the beautiful marina and Deep Creek. Verses for I Corinthians 13 were written in white script on wood and lined the aisle as guests entered and were seated. Although it was very hot outside, that detail faded as the Maid of Honor, Best Man, the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer, and then finally, Felisha. The bride was escorted by her two sons to the main aisle. Her sons then handed her off to her father, who escorted her down the aisle to meet her groom. The ministers spoke of selfless love and commitment as Gary and Felisha beamed. Seeing them recite their vows and exchange rings with big smiles filled my heart with happiness.


Venue: Warwick Yacht & Country Club

Photographer: Joy Mills Belle Eve Photography

Event Rentals: Hampton Roads Event Rentals

DJ: DJ Nene

Cake: Designs by Erinn

Catering: Warwick Yacht & Country Club

Grooms Attire: Macy’s

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