Grace Stufkosky

When your client asks to be photographed in a local bar or restaurant, you don't just say yes; you say yes while jumping up & down, and your heart pumps to the beat of your favorite song. Because this client, well...she gets you. Like kindred spirits. BFF's. Long lost sisters. And you know a wonderful collaboration is about to take place.

I liked Grace from the moment she emailed me. We had never met before, despite being fellow photographers (she's the lady behind Grace Stufkosky Photography), but I could tell she was kind and genuine. She knew what she wanted, but also gave me the freedom to create something special for her. And for a photographer, giving up that much control can be really difficult. It's kind of like being a backseat driver in your own car. Being in front of the camera is a vulnerable place to be and we know it; we see our clients be vulnerable with us day in and day out. We know how to be given that vulnerability and handle it with great care, but we're not usually that great at giving our own away. So when we need to update our head shots, it can feel extra daunting to give up the control we're so accustomed to having. But not Grace. She trusted me from the moment she found me on Instagram, and I could not have been more honored by that. She handed over her vulnerability without any hesitation and I held it close the entire shoot. 

Grace is an extremely talented photographer who specializes in food, drinks and interiors, so many of her clients are local bars, restaurants and magazines that feature related topics. While she loved the portraits she had previously, she wanted something new that would easily communicate to her potential clients exactly who she is and what she specializes in. She of course wanted to show her professional side, but she also wanted to give clients a more accurate idea of what she's like to work with, which is casual and easy-going. She needed more of a visual voice to tell her story and attract those ideal clients. She didn't need your basic head shot, she needed an environmental portrait. And I was beyond excited to help!

There were plenty of bars and restaurants that we could have asked to photographed in, but Bitter & Twisted was our number one choice for their killer style and giant windows, flooding us with all the natural light we could possibly need. Seriously, that place is amazing. The first time I met some friends there for happy hour, I felt like I had been transported to New York City. The high industrial ceilings, concrete walls, classy red booths mixed with high-top tables, a gorgeous bar that serves deliciously unique cocktails, and tall neighboring buildings that were visible through the wall-sized windows made me feel like I was in an episode of Sex in the City.  And. I. Loved it. Thankfully, Grace had just recently done a shoot with them, so they welcomed us with open arms during their off-hours and let us have free reign of the entire place. Thank you again to the B&T staff for their generous hospitality! We are incredibly grateful! 

Grace, I know I've already said this a few times now, but seriously, it was such a pleasure and an honor working with you! You have such a kind heart and I'm so excited to now call you my friend! I hope these portraits serve you well and I can't wait to see you again!

To learn more about Negroni Week, click here!

To learn more about Negroni Week, click here!

Fun Fact: The drink featured in this series was part of an annual event called Negroni Week, an international charity campaign where participating venues donate proceeds to the non-profit of their choice. For each Negroni drink purchased, B&T donated a portion of the money to HALO, an awesome local no-kill animal rescue group. Great work, guys!

Isn't Grace a total babe?! :)

Anne & Brian ::: A Tlaquepaque Engagement

"Close your eyes and take a moment to imagine the future...

…the wedding is over. You've started your family. It's just a typical Saturday morning. How many kids do you have? Boys? Girls? How old are they? Where are they and what are they doing? Where is Brian? What is he doing? Where is Anne? What is she doing?...

…now open your eyes. Tell each other what you saw."

Cue all the tears. 

In fact, if you look closely at Anne's chin, you'll see tears streaming down her face. 

This was, hands down, the most emotionally raw portrait session I have ever experienced. It wasn't just about the pretty location or the hair/makeup, or the outfits or the poses, even though it might have started out that way. And it definitely had nothing to do with being Pinterest "worthy". Instead, they opened up. They communicated...and not always with words. It wasn't all tears either - they laughed and danced, made each other feel safe and secure, needed and desired. It was no longer about getting photos just for their "save the dates", or checking off one more thing on their wedding to-do list. It was about connecting. I could have put my camera down and they would have kept going.

That's how real this was. 

To clarify, I'm not a wedding photographer. I'm a portrait photographer. And I whole-heartedly believe that an engagement session should be done with your wedding photographer as a way to build trust and create a relationship that you will absolutely want to have on the day of your wedding. Honestly, it can make a big difference in your images. BUT engagement sessions are still portraits and I love working with couples. So, on occasion, I have been known to do a few engagement sessions, but only as a wedding gift for my closest friends (if they so choose).

And these two most certainly qualify. Anne has been one of my best friends since our Freshman year of college, and I was with her when she and Brian met for the first time in Vegas. Yep, Vegas! That's where their story begins…and I love it! It was as close to love at first sight as you can get...well, for Brian at least. ;) It was so cute to see him completely mesmerized by Anne that entire weekend. Thankfully, he wasn't like a complete stranger that we met on the Vegas strip, haha; we were all there to celebrate the birthdays of some mutual friends. So back in Phoenix after the trip, but before they started dating, he'd always ask me questions about her. And like a little kid with the biggest crush, he wanted to know what she thought of him. It was incredibly sweet. If he could have passed her a note that said check yes or no, he would have. And to this day, he's still mesmerized by her every move. You can easily see how much he adores her just by the way he looks at her. He couldn't hide it then, and he doesn't have to now. 

We always want the best for our friends, especially our best friends. Like family, we tend to be over-protective and wonder if the new guy is the real deal or not. We question his intentions, his character, his heart. But that didn't happen with Brian. I could see his heart from the moment they met.

He's a good man. The right man. The real deal.

I'm so happy you two found each other, took a chance and let love win. When you got engaged, I cried. LIKE A LOT. Haha, but I was just so happy for you both, I couldn't help it. You guys belong together, like the little old couple in Up. No one has ever made Anne as happy as you, Brian. She laughs harder, dances longer and glows from within.  I love you both so very much and wish you nothing but continued happiness! And I cannot WAIT for your wedding!! Is it February yet??

 Maybe these photos will hold us over until then? :)

Shout out to Harley Chapman for doing a gorgeous job with Anne's makeup! Thank you so much, girl! Love working with you! You're the best!

Shout out to the amazing husband and wife team, The Hoskins, who Anne and Brian hired as their wedding photographers, and I'm SUPER PUMPED to party with them at the wedding! If you or someone you know is getting married, I encourage you to check out their work!


5th Annual Short Shorts with Short Leash

May is one of my favorite months for one reason, and one reason only: 


…if you are a family member or friend with a May birthday, you have my deepest apologies.

Design by Metanoia

Design by Metanoia

Not sure what Short Shorts with Short Leash is? Well, it's everyone's favorite summer block party (in my humble opinion) that encourages its attendees to wear the shortest shorts possible.

Like 1970's short. 


…Okay, so actually there's a lot more to it than that.

Short Shorts is in fact a summer block party and it does encourage attendees to wear short shorts, BUT its real purpose is to be a summer film festival that fosters community by bringing everyone together to watch high quality short films from talented local filmmakers on a big outdoor screen in the middle of a parking lot, surrounded by cool local shops and vendors, while devouring the most delicious Short Leash Hot Dogs. And did I mention it's free?

Makes more sense now? Cool, right? 

And when they say short films, they mean it. All of the films accepted are under 15mins. In fact, they average about 5-7mins each….hence the name "Short Shorts", which is what we call it for short.

…please tell me you caught that horribly brilliant pun. ;) Haha. 

Anywayyy, the event (which celebrated it's 5th anniversary this year, congrats!) was created by Theater13, a really rad local production company, who partners with Stinkweeds, a really rad local record store with a really rad parking lot for really rad events. :) Both companies share a passion for supporting local artists and strive to produce events that people really do love to attend. It's a perfect match. And Theater13 does a killer job curating a variety of content that's well-made and quite entertaining for anyone regardless of age or interests. Bonus points for being family-friendly!

So how do I play a part in all of this? Well, not only do I simply love to be an attendee each year (although, I have to admit - I usually forgo the short shorts) - for the last 3 years, I've had the honor of sponsoring and documenting the event. Believe it or not, I'm actually pretty involved in the Phoenix film community. I've always had a huge passion for film & theater, and that passion grew exponentially when I started working on independent films in 2010 as a set photographer (aka unit stills photographer), merging my love of photography with filmmaking. So, when I'm not working with my portrait clients, you can sometimes find me on a film production taking stills and documenting everyone working behind the scenes. I'll do a blog post one day sharing the story of how I got involved and what exactly I do, but for now, if you'd like, you can see some of my work here. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay connected.

Back to Short Shorts…

So this year, rather than just document the event, I decided to do a photo booth for the first time. Because who doesn't love a good photo booth at an event? We had lots of summer-themed props, and a backdrop made of an old-school picnic blanket with short shorts hanging on a clothesline. Everyone got a pretty good kick out of it, and I had so much fun capturing people being goofy!

And as usual, I loved the bands that performed during the first half of the party, and was super impressed by the selection of short films shown once the sun went down. You can check them all out here. I'm always amazed by the talent we have here in Arizona that usually gets overlooked. Our film community is little, but it's like the Little Engine That Could. Everyone keeps pushing to be better. Never in competition with each other, more like in competition with themselves. Those are the filmmakers that grow and continue to tell interesting stories with a voice all their own. It's really exciting to see and easy for me to support. I'm so proud of all the filmmakers in Phoenix, who have razor-sharp focus and are giving it their all.

Major shout out to my fellow sponsors who helped make Short Shorts possible this year: Alone Wolf Pictures, Thunder Grip & Electric, Metanoia, and Hoot & Holler. Definitely check out their work!

And a million thanks to EVERYONE who attended! Without you, we wouldn't have had our biggest turnout yet! We loved seeing all of the chairs, blankets…and couch…filled with familiar faces, along with new ones. I hope you liked what you saw and will join us again next year!

Until then, here are some of my favorite images from the event. Enjoy!

Amy Frances ::: Modern Head Shots

Meet Amy, owner of Amy Frances Photography. This girl and I connected last year over our love of working with individuals and families. Most photographers in our community are wedding photographers, so it was really nice finding a like-minded photographer who could swap stories and share tips over some delicious cocktails. It was an added bonus that she is also doing this #girlboss thing while she's young and single, like myself, so we could not only talk about our businesses, but also our dating life. So refreshing!

And then she moved.

ACROSS THE COUNTRY to Brooklyn, New York. Ugh.

But despite my selfish wish to have had more time to hang out, I honestly could not be more excited for her! Having lived almost a year in Chicago, I love big city life and encourage anyone who has ever even considered the idea to just go for it. You won't know if you love it until you try it. And if you know Amy, then you know NYC is the city for her. It's in her blood. She thrives on finding cute coffee shops and hidden restaurants, loves to meet new people and try new things. Some get overwhelmed in a city that never sleeps, but not Amy. She can hustle her way through with the best of 'em, while always maintaining that infectious smile of hers.

When you relocate as a photographer, you basically have to start from scratch. But Amy planned in advance. She knew she had to rebrand with a fresh logo, website and head shots that would appeal to a New York market. So when she asked me to take her new portraits, I immediately said yes without question. Spending a few hours roaming around downtown Phoenix with this girl (right after it rained, no less) was just as much fun as I imagined it would be!

Before I share a few of my favorites, I just want to thank you, Amy, for thinking of me and for trusting me to capture your inner Carrie Bradshaw and Mary Tyler Moore! I wish you ALL the best as you transition into an official New Yorker and cannot wait to come visit one day soon! Big hugs!! :)

Special thanks to Nomadic Arte for the gorgeous hair and makeup!