Brought to you by the photographers at SmugMug

Andi Grant, Owner, Andi Grant Photography

Hampton Roads, VA

Weddings, Engagements, Bridals, Boudoir

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From alarms to ardor

Grant was raised in a photo-friendly household, often hanging out in her father’s dark room in their Long Island home. But she never thought she would make her living shooting real-life love stories. During her first career as a 911 dispatcher, she bought her first DSLR. “I was the one at church taking all the family pictures,” she says. “Even when all I had was a point-and-shoot they’d ask, because I always had a good eye. But my business escalated with better equipment.” She apprenticed to a local pro, eventually shooting six weddings under her mentor’s tutelage. A mere year later, she left her emergency job to pursue photography full-time. People told Grant she was crazy to quit her government job during the worst of the economic downturn. She took a chance anyway, initially accepting any work she could find—weddings, engagements, but also corporate gigs. “I started my business during the worst possible time,” she says. “But it didn’t matter because I still had my clients. People were still getting married.”

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Happy wife, happy life

SmugMug’s focus on customer care frees up Grant to do what she does best—keep brides happy. “I can only think of two or three instances where clients had issues with images,” she says, explaining a smudge that wasn’t and a so-so color-to-B/W conversion early in her career. “SmugMug emailed me immediately. They were so quick to react. They even offered to help with the unedited file, which I thought was amazing. At first the lack of a phone number was frustrating, but only once did someone have to call me—and the [hero] called me from his house!” Grant appreciates that SmugMug’s attention to detail matches her own. “I’m a perfectionist. Details are everything,” she insists. SmugMug’s proof delay feature helps Grant maintain her high standards. “I love proof delay because I do very little editing to my proofing galleries -- none for boudoir,” she says. “So when a client orders an image I then have the opportunity to make sure it's perfect. I especially like to be sure their cropping is correct.”

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Powering her through events

Calling SmugMug’s Events feature “a dream come true,” Grant explains that she uses the tool in a number of ways to streamline her business. “Before, after my brides chose their favorite images, I’d have to go in manually and download each file. That was such a pain. Now I go into an event, download all and the client has a separate folder to work with for her event.” Grant uses the separate gallery function for all types of events, from weddings to engagements to boudoir sessions. “It's especially convenient to build the gallery before the wedding to have the link,” she points out. “You can get the link from the event guest gallery, go over to Moo cards, [get] QR codes business cards, and make it super high-tech for your clients’ guests to link to the gallery.” Grant suggests having URL cards available for smartphone-less guests, and saving assets like extra engagement photos to hand out at weddings as stealth promotional material. “It’s a great way to get more people seeing your images.” She also suggests that colleagues who use email marketing take advantage of event-linked mandatory guest login to send newsletters and coupons.

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More features to love

SmugMug archiving is Grant’s saving grace. Citing an example of a bride who emailed Grant the night before her second anniversary with a fatal computer crash in which she lost all her wedding images, Grant explains that she was able to resurrect the bride’s memories in a mere five minutes. “Most photographers would need to dig up the external hard drive and burn them a new disk. Instead, I went into her galleries, used the Download All feature and emailed her the link to her four galleries zipped into an easy-to-open file. I have a deep sense of security knowing my images are nicely organized and stored,” she says. The self-proclaimed perfectionist is also grateful for the seamless design integration between her site and SmugMug’s ordering, sharing and back-up functions. “SmugMug has done a great job over the years making customization very easy,” she says, expressing pleasure that her own storefront and SmugMug site match exactly. “I’m thankful to have my cute look on SmugMug and it was super affordable.”

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It’s a family affair

Admirers have called Grant’s work “traditional,” a label that used to amuse her until she began to grasp the implicit compliment. “It’s interesting because I don’t come from a classical photography background,” she says. “Now I want to be considered timeless. My images are very clear—sharp, well-exposed images that are not over-manipulated. Very organic. People see that and like it. So many wedding photos are worked over to give them that contemporary vibe, but that can take away from the image itself.” Grant is assisted at shoots by her daughter Zoe, a photographer in her own right building a specialty in pets. “It’s wonderful having someone who knows everything I want and need. She’s amazing to work with and she’s my comic relief. When I shoot a wide angle, she gets in nice and close, so we have different images of the same thing.”