As part of our Q&A series, we interviewed Victoria, founder of Victoria Grace Photography located in Asheville, North Carolina to learn more about her photography business.
1. What inspired you to start Victoria Grace Photography?
In my “friends group” I was always the one trying to gather everyone up for a photograph. So when a friend of mine wanted some photos with her son we met up at Biltmore Lake and snapped a few. I tried to edit them a little for her and she jokingly tagged me on Facebook as, “Victoria Grace Photography.” Which led to a lot of our mutual friends wanting to hire me (even though I was NOT a photographer, had no intentions to be, and thought it was hilarious). At that same time in 2011 my little brother (who passed away in 2019) was a toddler suffering from Cystic Fibrosis and we happened to be fundraising, so I offered to do photos in exchange for $20 donations to The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. I got so busy with those that I ended up buying a “better” camera, creating an LLC, and actually diving in. By the time I graduated from WCU I had decided not to pursue teaching and to continue doing photography. That was in 2013. I’ve been doing it ever since!
2. How would you describe your style of photography?
I always have the hardest time answering this but I’ve heard it described by others as bright, colorful, cheerful, and natural. I always tell my clients that while I will absolutely guide them through poses they are also natural poses - and I will crack mom jokes to get genuine smiles and laughs versus being like, “Now laugh.” I am a firm believer that if you choose a light pink dress for your photo shoot that that dress should STILL be light pink when I’m done editing.
3. What photography packages do you offer?
I do everything from realty photos to senior photos to lifestyle newborn sessions to weddings. I do not offer studio style newborn photography but love lifestyle newborn sessions. Weddings are my main source of income but my favorite sessions have always been maternity sessions. I also offer branding sessions/headshot sessions.
4. What are your favorite types of venues or locations to shoot at?
Oh man. This is so hard because there are so many amazing places here. Some of my favorite local weddings have happened at Taylor Ranch, Chestnut Ridge, Honeysuckle Hill, and local churches. I love church weddings. I’ve shot at a venue called Union on The Eighth in Texas and it was a really cool place to be as well as the pavilion in downtown Charleston for weddings. I love coastal colors and blue venues, like The Parker Mill, are almost always my favorite. Around here there are so many great places for photo sessions from downtown to the parkway and everything in between.
5. What do you say to clients who may feel uncomfortable in front of the camera?
Not to worry about feeling awkward because I’m not an awkward person (I’ve never met a stranger) and I talk so much and get YOU to talk so much that you almost forget you’re shooting. I will tell you where to put your hands, whether you need to fix your hair, to take off hair ties, etc. So you don’t have to worry about needing to “guess” what is going to look good… I’m going to tell you. I’ve been told by many, many people who “hate” having their photo taken that before they knew it the session was over and they couldn’t believe 1. The amount of images they got back but 2. How much they loved them. Also, ask me as MANY questions before your shoot as you need to. I’m always happy to look through outfit ideas and give suggestions. I also don’t judge my clients, ever - so if you tell me you’re insecure about a scar on your left hand and want me to avoid it I will keep that in mind. If you don’t like how your feet look I’ll avoid them. If you LOVE your new haircut or got your eyelashes done just for photos, those things will get extra attention.
6. How would you describe your ideal client?
My ideal client values photographs and understands that their session is their session - not a reenactment of photos they found on Pinterest or of someone else’s family pictures that they loved. Yes - absolutely use those things for inspiration, but I’ve had clients put so much pressure on themselves to recreate a session “as theirs” when it isn’t instead of enjoying and embracing the details that make their session or their wedding or their story “theirs.”
7. What is your price range for your photography packages?
My photo sessions (maternity, lifestyle newborns, family sessions) start at $550 (a $200 date retainer included in that price) and including the digital images with print release. My weddings start at $3000 with custom packages for elopements/intimate weddings and out of state weddings as well.
8. What are three things all spouses-to-be should consider when hiring a photographer for their wedding?
1. Keep in mind that you’ll spend more time with your photographer the day of your wedding than literally anyone else. Even each other. So if you LOVE their images but don’t feel comfortable being 100% yourself around them, or if you don’t trust them to handle a crisis for you - maybe go with someone else. I can’t tell you how many “emergency” situations I’ve had to help a couple with. Everything from dress buttons popping off to changing a timeline last minute because of weather or a parent being late because of traffic to florists being late to needing me to do hair because they hair stylist never showed up. You need to like AND trust your photographer.
2. Ask to see an entire gallery of wedding images. NOT a styled shoot, not a bridal session - a real-life wedding. So many vendors showcase styled shoots and pass them off as real weddings when they are not even remotely similar to a wedding day. For starters - everything happening is within the control of the photographer at a styled shoot. There are hours and hours of time to get “that perfect shot.” Whereas at a wedding the photographer is rolling with whatever punches your real life day throws their way and they need to be able to get “that perfect shot” in minutes - not hours. You need to see what a photographer is capable of doing at a venue similar to yours. If you are getting married outside - ask for outside galleries. If you’re getting married at a church with dim lighting - ask to see galleries like that. Anyone can get a couple of great shots at a wedding and anyone can take beautiful photos of models at a styled shoot - but not everyone can serve a couple from the start of the wedding to the end of it.
3. Review contracts - this is so, so important especially in the age of COVID. Ask questions - there’s no such thing as too many questions as you review a contract. Any photographer who doesn’t make you sign a wedding contract is a photographer who can just not show up the day of your wedding. Seriously - sign contracts. They protect you both. Make sure your photographer has back up plans. I, for instance, have a group of photographer friends of equal (or greater) caliber to myself who are all willing to jump in if needed (like the time I was hospitalized while pregnant). Your photographer should have a plan for if they were deathly ill the day of your wedding or if they were quarantined because of COVID (a very real scenario even if not SUPER likely - it is possible and has happened to people) - and it should be one you are comfortable with and that is in writing.