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Prioritizing MOMENTS, not expectations, on your wedding day (from a photographer’s perspective)

Welcome to the first #weddingwednesday of the year! I’m a Louisville-based wedding and portrait photographer, and I can’t wait to share some words of wisdom that will hopefully help those of you planning a 2020 or 2021 wedding to focus on the important things.

The cliché holds true: Your wedding day will inevitably speed by, leaving you and your new spouse misty-eyed and nostalgically wishing you could relive it to remember the little details. One thing you DON’T want to be wishing for is that you had spent LESS time on wedding photography, getting ready, hosting pre-wedding events, or other “must do” traditions that you feel like people expect.

First – it’s important to recognize that this is ONE rare day where the most important people in your lives are physically present to celebrate your love. That knowledge can be overwhelming and lead to meeting other people’s expectations instead of doing what would make you and your partner the most happy on your wedding day. DON’T feel like you have to. 

If you’d like to see some inspiration for an adventurous, low-key wedding at a BEAUTIFUL venue near the Red River Gorge, check out this styled shoot I photographed, published in the KY Bride Blog:

One of my recent brides, Robann, had a beautiful, intimate, low-key wedding and reception (on two different days!). Her advice is this:

My wedding looked nothing like I have ever imagined…nearly everything was different than what I thought it would be, and I’m completely okay with that. I let go of what I thought all weddings are supposed to look like, and I focused on what our wedding was supposed to be for us.

You will disappoint someone with a choice you make…I realized I can’t manage everyone’s expectations of what my wedding should look like. So stand your ground and remember it is YOUR wedding. – Robann W.

Determine your priorities when planning and creating a day-of timeline. Ask yourself which elements of the wedding you’re most likely to remember on your first wedding anniversary. Which will be an integral part of your guests’ memory of the wedding day, and which ones are just fluff? As a wedding photographer, I have seen plenty of weddings where the couple has spent too much time on something that really didn’t add to their enjoyment, and even ended up stressing them out on the day of the wedding. Sometimes, this can include the formal portraits due to lack of preparation or prioritizing.

Read on for some universal truths about weddings and a few suggestions to have a wedding that truly reflects you and your spouse-to-be:

Universal truth #1: You will probably spend more money than you wanted, and you will get EXACTLY what you paid for. 

The bright side: You will recover the money you spent in the future, and you will be able to enjoy it, IF you invest it in quality vendors, focus on the important things, and forget the fluff. There’s a lot of tradition involved with weddings that is really just extra – no one will stop being your friend if you don’t give them a wedding favor, or do a cash bar instead of open bar. If you need to save in certain areas to splurge in others that are more important, DO IT. 

Universal truth #2: The bride will inevitably spend a looooong time getting ready

The silver lining: IT’S WORTH IT. If you haven’t had your hair and makeup done, you probably will for your trial run with your HMUA, and you will realize just how glam it makes you feel!!! Make it fun –  get a good night’s sleep the night before, have your bridal party with you to get ready, ask your MOH to make a great playlist, and send someone on a morning breakfast/coffee run. You’ll miss your bridal makeup and hair the next day, so enjoy every second of it! Also ask your HMUA to bring an assistant (or two, if you have a larger bridal party), to keep the getting-ready time in check.

Universal truth: You will need to carve out some time for wedding photos before and after the ceremony.

Some people love it, some people hate it – but IT MATTERS! Your wedding photographer is one of the MOST important vendors on your wedding day, because of that cliché we talked about: IT WILL GO BY SO QUICKLY! Many brides looking back at the wedding photos say they didn’t even remember a lot of the moments I photographed, especially during the ceremony and reception, because so much was happening during the day.

Strike a balance: You can still get the important wedding photos you want, WITHOUT it taking over as the main event of the day.

A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER will know how to balance the inevitably long schedule with an appropriate amount of formal photos, so that after the ceremony you spend the minimal amount of time with posed family portraits, and allowing you and your spouse to get back to the party and start ENJOYING the evening you paid for!

A GREAT photographer will also know to “read the room” and consider the couple’s feelings if they can see that they are tired and want to wrap up the formal portraits to sit down and relax. I think candid dance-floor photos are more fun, anyways 🙂

My suggestions for making the formal wedding day photos as quick and painless as possible, so you can enjoy the party:

  • Make a “shot list” for your photographer with specific combinations of people for MUST HAVE photos you don’t want them to forget, ESPECIALLY if you’ve got lots of family. This will help your photographer to call relatives over and move through the list quickly (Ex. Bride and groom with bride’s parents, Bride and groom with groom’s parents, Bride and groom with both sets of parents, etc.)
  • Plan to knock out most of your formal pictures BEFORE the ceremony: bridal party, groom party, and both parties together (if doing a first look).  Since immediate family is typically already at the ceremony site early, you can take some of the family portraits pre-ceremony as well. All you’ll be left with after the ceremony is extended family and bride/groom just married portraits
  • Ask your photographer if your package includes a second shooter, or request one, if desired: many photographers do hire a second shooter, and this is a great way to make the wedding photography more efficient. The second photographer can get the groom’s photos while the first gets the bride’s, and it also helps to have a second perspective during the ceremony to capture both people’s reactions. 

Still on the hunt for a wedding photographer who will be flexible and prioritize your time on your wedding day? Send me a message below and I’d be happy to schedule a free consultation via phone, email, or face to face. You can also visit my website, Instagram, or Facebook page for more examples of my work!

Thanks for reading, I’ve got more posts planned with wedding planning advice and healthy recipes coming up!

Johanna Elise | Frames & Letters Photography

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Try these Champagne Jello Shots to kick off the New Year!

Ready for a #millenialNYE?

If you’re hosting a party this NYE, or just tryina pregame, you have GOT to try this recipe for DIY champagne jello shots! You can definitely customize with your own flavors if you’re not a fan of the classic champagne, but either way they are simple to do and so quick to prep for a young, but classy, toast at midnight. If you’re under 21, you can still do this with your favorite soda + fruit juices!

I hope you all have enjoyed alllll the cocktail recipes this year – in honor of the new year and starting fresh, January’s recipes will be healthier (think smoothies, chia puddings, açaí bowls, etc.), which I’m looking forward to and I hope you all will join in and try the recipes, too!

Original recipe from makes around 25 jello shots, perfect for a big party (or for everyone to have a few at a smaller gathering!)


  • 4 unflavored gelatin packets
  • 1 bottle cream soda (or other soda of choice)
  • 3/4 bottle of champagne 
  • 2 c. water
  • Pop rocks, edible glitter or pearls, or anything else fun to top them off
  • Tiny gelatin cups for serving

Quick Preparation

Boil 2 cups of water and remove from heat

Add in 4 packets of gelatin and stir for a few minutes until moderately cool (If you get any weird, hardened clumps, just take them out of the pot)

Add in bottle of cream soda (I would recommend IBC, it’s my favorite! I tried this one from Boylan Bottling Co., but it didn’t have as strong of a flavor as I like for cream soda).

Pop the bubbly and add 1/2 to 3/4 of the bottle!

Mine got pretty bubbly when I added it, which was fun 🙂

That’s it for prep! Now, just pour the jello into the tiny cups and leave to set in the fridge for a few hours (mine only took about 3 hours to set).

When you’re ready to serve, just top it with your decorations and spread the fun! 

Wishing you all a safe and fun New Year’s Eve, get ready because 2020 is going to be a fantastic one, I can tell 🙂


Johanna Elise, Frames & Letters Photography

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Butterbeer Recipe just like Harry Potter used to drink

I can’t think of a better recipe to share before Christmas than a Harry Potter inspired Butterbeer! Anyone else having a movie marathon this year?? So far I’ve only had time for one, but the coming week I hope to watch plenty more!

This recipe is nostalgic and quite magical, and the best part is that you can enjoy it fully whether you are a kid or a kid at heart, because you can make a mocktail or a spiked version! You will also look cool AF drinking it, especially if you’ve got a killer stein, like the ones we made at Maker 13 a while back for a date night, with custom etched designs!

This recipe has a few more steps than my usual drink recipes, but TRUST me, the end result is totally worth it – and it’s surprisingly easy! I followed this recipe from


dark brown sugar, water, butter, salt, cider vinegar, heavy cream, rum extract, cream soda

Add rum of choice for a 21+ version 🙂

Making the butterbeer

Bring the brown sugar and water to a boil

Add in the butter, salt, vinegar, and 1/4 c. of heavy cream, and set aside to cool

After cooling, add the rum extract. If you want cold Butterbeer, it’s best to stick it in the fridge or freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Making the cream:

Combine 2 tbsp. of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of heavy cream, and beat with an electric mixture until it thickens. This cream is INCREDIBLE.

Serving your Butterbeer:

This recipe serves 4, so split the brown sugar mixture into 4 glasses of your choice, stirring in cream soda to mostly fill the glass.

Lastly, top with the cream and enjoy – I hope this recipe is one you can enjoy with your whole family – tag me in pics of your Butterbeer mustaches, I’d love to see them!

Look out for oooone last cocktail recipe of the decade next week!

Johanna Elise

Frames & Letters Photography

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Christmas in a Cup

If Christmas had a cocktail, it would definitely be this one! Best of all, this can be made as a mocktail, too!

Most of you know that I have been on a holiday cocktail making kick, and it’s been really fun! If my kitchen didn’t end up a total disaster in the process, I would have shared a very humorous behind the scenes, which involved me making 4 very strong cocktails at 9 a.m. on a Saturday, and inviting a friend and Marcelo to sample them with a straw, which ended up being a huge failure. The cocktails, however, did not disappoint!

This cocktail was different, because it came from a TRUE craving for something holiday-inspired. I never really liked eggnog, but changed my mind after Marcelo took me to Miracle (NuLu’s hottest pop-up Christmas bar) and I had their eggnog cocktail.

This cocktail (like the others in my blog series!) is EASY to make, EASY to customize, and looks frickin DELICIOUS. Naturally, it tastes amazing, too.

The deets

The concoction: Hot cocoa of choice, eggnog (alcoholic or non), milk of choice, or water

Toppings: cinnamon or nutmeg, a million mini marshmallows, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, crushed candy cane pieces, soft peppermint swirls, and chocolate discs with nonpareils, if we’re getting fancy (which we are, obvi)

Whether you like to boil your hot cocoa or microwave + mix, add your eggnog near the end and top as desired! This is super fun to customize, you could add a gingerbread man, a full candy cane, caramel – now I want to make another one…

One thing I learned while trying to get pictures of this SERIOUSLY DELICIOUS drink is that whipped cream melts SO fast, and I had to redo it several times attempting to get an amazing shot lolllll.

If you make something way more amazing than this, I’d love to know what toppings you add to your Christmas in a Cup!

Stay tuned next week for a MAGICAL, nostalgic concoction that is 9 3/4 of the way finished 😉

Johanna Elise

Frames & Letters Photography

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Drink the Christmas from this glass, grasshopper!

A 5 minute cocktail for those of us who like efficiency and not having to wait to try tasty cocktails!!! If you follow my Insta stories when I reveal my weekly cocktail recipe, I like cocktails that are SIMPLE, so anyone can make them, but also look fancy AF!

I got some really elegant barware from Crate and Barrel a few weeks ago and had to try them out – peep this striped coupe that I’m currently a huge fan of.

This recipe was adapted from, which they called “Drunk Andes” or “Drunk Grasshopper”… be forewarned, it is definitely a strong drink!

Now for the recipe…

Ingredients: Creme de Menthe liqueur, Bailey’s Almondmilk Liqueur (the Delish recipe called for Godiva White Chocolate Liquer, which I did not feel like spending $39 on, but will next time!), vodka, Cool Whip, and chocolate shavings

Step 1. In your favorite cocktail glass, combine your preferred ratio of Creme de Menthe, chilled Almondmilk (or White Chocolate Liqueur), and Vodka (I used a shot of each, then added more almond milk for flavor, and more Creme de Menthe for color!

Step 2. Spoon a dollop of Cool Whip on the side of the glass

Step 3. With a knife or peeler, shave your favorite chocolate (mine is semi-sweet or dark!) onto the whipped cream as generously as you desire – in case you didn’t notice, this recipe lends itself nicely to personalization!

Lastly, ENJOY this sweet, cool, wintry cocktail…or take a dozen pictures of it in front of the Christmas tree first, which is what I did!

Don’t you just want to lick the whipped cream???

If you have an amazing cocktail recipe that I NEED to try, message me at!

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Holiday Hot Toddy

Thanksgiving is in two weeks, and I’m excited to bring back my cocktail recipe series for the holidays! Join me each week as I share a new recipe with you – believe me, you’re going to want to have these for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, and anytime you’re cold and need to warm up this winter.

This Hot Toddy recipe comes to us from Fit Foodie Finds, and I LOVED how easy and fast it was to make! I had always heard of this drink but had never actually tried it – I’m so glad I did! Keep reading for a visual how-to and try the recipe yourself soon!

Ingredients: Apple cider, Fireball, rosemary, cinnamon, oranges, and cranberries

How to make this delicious hot toddy:

Add 4 cups of apple cider to a large pan and add all ingredients except the Fireball.

Bring ingredients to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes

Lastly, pour a shot of Fireball (fun fact – these minis are made locally in New Albany, Indiana!) and add 1 cup of the warmed mix to your glass!

It’s that easy!!!

Next week I’ll be sharing another amazing cocktail recipe that is just as delicious and simple to make – if you try this one, let me know how you like it!

PS – have any recipes you want me to try? Send me an email at and I’d love to add it to a future blog post!

Happy sipping!

Johanna Elise,

Frames & Letters Photography

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Xiaomin & Martin: Romantic Old Louisville Engagement Session

This post is for those of you who want to SMILE until your cheeks hurt, because the love and tenderness that Xiaomin and Marty have for each other just RADIATES through their engagement photos!!! Not to mention we caught ALL the sun flare!

I met Xiaomin a few years ago through a mutual friend, and since then on social media we both have bonded over our love for cats and traveling! She and Marty met while taking a class together at UofL, and since then have enjoyed traveling the world together – they will have a wedding in China, where Xiaomin is from!

The engagement photos

These two said they would need some help posing, but UMMM when you see how naturally they fit together, you will see that they had it in them all along 🙂

Xiaomin and Marty both love the old churches of Louisville, so we went over to the West End Baptist Church near Central Park and let me tell you the lighting was PERFECT! The sun beamed through the historic arches and this might actually be my new favorite spot for photos!

Afterwards, we took a stroll through Central Park and stopped by the visitor center, which is also one of my favorite buildings because of the Spanish colonial style and the large, tinted glass windows, and we ended at St. James Court, which you may recognize from a past shoot 😉

I can’t get enough of this sweet couple!!!

These two were SO adorable, dancing, spinning, embracing, giving each other gentle kisses, and laughing together throughout their session. I put on some music to set the mood and almost started crying because of how sweet Marty is with Xiaomin <3 

It totally melts my heart to see couples that are in love and ready to start their lives together, and the smiles and loving looks you will see in these photos are 100% NOT POSED, and completely organic, raw emotion from two people who love each other.

Know someone recently engaged or getting married soon??? Fill out a contact form below or send them the link! I’d LOVE to meet with them and capture their love story. 

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1 Year in Business, Baby!

Photo by the incomparable Gretchen Bell

In October of 2018, I made a decision. I already enjoyed taking pictures like, a ridiculous amount, and people started asking more and more about my travel pictures. Before you know it, I started taking pictures for friends and family, and then a thought occurred…should I make this official?

Starting a business was something I NEVER ever thought I was capable of! I have a Masters in Spanish and Secondary Education, not Photography or Business. But the Era of the Self-Made Woman is back in style and I am HERE for it! I learned everything I could about my camera, lighting and composition, took some classes, found myself a mentor, and started snapping pictures any chance I got.

Some dear friends of mine got engaged and wanted to do a “photographic tour” of the most important spots to them in Louisville – we went to Holy Grale, Steel City Pops, the Big Four Bridge, and Nowhere Bar 🙂 While we were at Holy Grale, a group of guys asked me to take their picture. I smiled and said, “Okay, that will cost you $5,” thinking they were joking and would let me get back to taking pictures. One of them slammed a five dollar bill on the table and they all got together to pose. I was legitimately shocked someone wanted to pay me just to take a casual picture of them! That inspired and motivated me to continue and to feel like photography could become a full-time career for me if I keep working at it, making connections, and put my business out there.

Since October of last year, I have learned SO MUCH that it’s hard to believe it’s ONLY been a year being officially in business. I went through all the legal hoops, opened a bank account, created business cards AND a website, and somehow in between found time to do all this:

  • 4 styled shoots
  • 13 weddings 
  • 10 Family portraits 
  • 4 Newborns/maternity 
  • 3 engagements 
  • 7 Senior portraits 
  • Restaurant photography for Noche Mexican BBQ 
  • 2 Pet photography sessions 
  • 1 Boudoir session
  • Attended Reset Conference for photographers

I definitely underestimated myself in 2018 (I aimed to shoot 1 wedding – I ended up shooting 13 so far, and am still getting booked for more!), but I have been UNBELIEVABLY humbled and honored that so many friends have encouraged me, supported my business by booking sessions with me or modeling for me, and to hear that others have seen and liked my work! 

As I continue to grow and learn more about business and photography, I continue to enjoy working with other photographers who teach by example, making new friends in the biz, and feeling more confident in what seemed an impossible dream last year.

What comes next?

Here’s a “Bucket List” of things I want to accomplish in the next few years, inspired by fellow Liberty HS grad and inspirational photographer Stephanie Messick!  

Bucket List 2019/2020

  • Reach 1,000 likes on Instagram (help a sister out!)
  • Attend a styled shoot / weekend workshop somewhere out west (send me recommendations!)
  • Double my personal wedding bookings for 2020
  • Partner with more restaurants and other creative business clients (lmk if you know someone interested)
  • Shoot a destination elopement
  • Invest in a mirrorless camera (maybe win the lottery before this)
  • Do charitable photography work
  • Get published!

My personal motto for the past year was “Growth + change = success”. I’ve had to invest a lot of money, give up many weekends, and change my evening habits to be able to accomplish all this, and I also could not have done this without the support of people I love and have followed my journey!

So THANK YOU again to everyone who has helped me to grow, whether by motivating and inspiring me, supporting my business by booking sessions with me, referred friends to me, or just liking my pictures and interacting with my stories! Every one of those things makes such a big impact and I look forward to memories we’ll make together in the coming year.

PS – If you want to help me celebrate, please share a favorite image I’ve taken to your story and tag me so I can relive the good times we had together!

PPS – Leaving a Google Review would also be AMAZING! I’d love to hear what your favorite part about our session was and for you to include your favorite photo(s)!

<3 Johanna Elise, Frames & Letters Photography

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Fall Mini Sessions are Here!

It’s FINALLY FALL! I really waited to post about fall minis because the 90+ degree heat was really making me think we wouldn’t get a fall this year, but don’t worry, it’s still happening! Without further ado, it’s time to book those fall minis!!! In the blink of an eye, it will be that time of year where all the holidays are combined together and you will think, “Oh yeah, I guess we should get our family pictures taken to send out cards.” This year, I’m offering TWO dates and TWO locations, since I work with clients from Southern Indiana and the Louisville area. With either date, you’ll have your photos back in time to send out holiday cards EARLY!

P.s. if you sign up for my email list at the end of this post, you’ll get a little something extra!

What are mini sessions with Frames & Letters Photography like?

FUN. Magical. Adventurous. Unforgettable. Quick and painless, without feeling rushed!

Where and when will the mini sessions be???

10/13 Falls of the Ohio State Park

The Falls of the Ohio is one of my FAVORITE places in Louisville!!! It’s got great greenery, perfect sunset lighting, and the water and bridges for a beautiful backdrop.

Sunday, 10/27: Parklands of Floyd’s Fork

The Parklands of Floyd’s Fork is also one of my favorite places! It’s where Anita and I did our dreamy Indian Bridal Styled Shoot, it has some beautiful tall grass, different wildflowers, and great open spaces.

How are mini sessions different from regular portrait sessions?

Mini Sessions

  • Predetermined date/times/location
  • 15-20 minute session
  • Quick and convenient
  • 15 digital downloads included
  • Full payment required to book
  • Only $75

Full-length Portrait Sessions

  • Client chooses ideal date, time, and location(s)
  • Up to 1 hour session
  • More personalized, intimate session; time to switch outfits and locations
  • All digital downloads included (100-300, on average)
  • Free wall print
  • Complimentary keepsake album included
  • Discounted price on additional photo products
  • In-person or phone consultation prior to session
  • Payment plans available
  • Different price packages available

Whichever session you choose, I can’t wait to meet you and have a blast with your family! Everyone who books a mini session will receive a welcome guide to help plan for our session so you can feel prepared.

How to I reserve my fall mini session?

Sign up for my email list below, and I’ll send you a list of available times for each date! Plus, you’ll receive a BONUS of 15 additional FREE images when you book your session!

For booking questions or other inquiries, email me at or fill out the contact form below!

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Meet the Class of 2020

Senior Portrait Photography

Pep rallies. Football season. College visits. Scholarship applications. Wondering how you’ll find the time to get it all done and everyone asking what you want to do with the rest of your life? Sounds like senior year to me!!!

Thinking back to my own senior year, I sincerely DON’T remember how I had time to “do it all” – but somehow it got done! It’s impressive to see how much today’s seniors take on, even when it can be a lot to handle. The fashion has DEFINITELY improved since I was in high school – although scrunchies and telephone cord bracelets are making a comeback that is giving me some 90s nostalgia!

I’ve had the privilege of photographing some SPECTACULAR senior brand ambassadors this year: these ladies are the creme de la creme: Taking AP and college credit courses, involved in their school community, and role models for underclassmen trying to figure it all out. On top of being ambitious, driven young adults, it’s no surprise that they are also kindhearted, sweet, and naturally BEAUTIFUL on the inside and out!

So it’s time to share a sneak preview of my recent seniors, which I hope will be some #seniorinspo for the rest of you! My favorite thing about these portraits are that the models’ personal passions and beauty just SHINE! If you’re ready to book your own senior portraits and show the world what you’re capable of, message me today at to schedule your session!

Eat your heart out, Class of 2020!

Bella: Soccer star, future PA and newest fan of Louisville Cream 😉

Alanna: Animal lover, future teacher, and the most kind-hearted person I know!

Sophia: She’s got music in her blood and is pretty much always looking cool

Jeanette: Future family or immigration lawyer, soccer and track member, and the best at natural posing!

Special thanks to some of my favorite places in town, Louisville Cream, Mahonia, Nouvelle, Matt Anthony’s Record Shop for letting us come in and take these amazing senior photos in your businesses <3 If you’re a senior, send me an inquiry below and we’ll schedule your unique senior session that will leave everyone SPEECHLESS when they see the end result! You can get in touch with me via the contact form below or DM me on Instagram!

Johanna Elise | Frames & Letters Photography

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Indian Bridal Styled Shoot

Hi everyone!
I’m THRILLED to finally be sharing with you one of my favorite photo sessions to date, an Indian Bridal Styled Shoot – my dear friend Anita is leaving for graduate school soon at IU Bloomington, and she has been working so hard to chase her dreams to become a bilingual speech pathologist that this seemed like a fun reward for all that studying! Ever since I have known her, she has always had such an appreciation of Indian culture – we definitely have to make an India trip at some point, and this shoot was definitely a dream come true!

If you saw my last few blog posts, you have already seen a sneak preview of her incredible henna, courtesy of JessiKay Henna, and stunning makeup by Lindsey Joy Sweeney of Sweet Southern Beauty! These are two truly talented boss babes and this shoot would not have been the same without their artwork.

If you’ve never attended an Indian wedding before, they are SO FUN and unique! Everyone, including the bride, wears vivid colors, and attire will vary from North to South. I have only attended one Indian wedding, and it was by far one of my favorites – there are many beautiful parts to the ceremony, the colors are rich, and the food is SPICY!

Bridal henna covering the hands, palms, and forearms, as well as the feet and ankles, is typical, and can take several hours to apply – this happens at the Mehendi party!

The bridal attire seen here consists of a choli (green blouse) with a lehenga (long skirt) and a drape (duppatta). Of course, you can’t skip the beautiful jewelry, including headpiece and beautiful bangles!

For the styled portraits, first we went to St. James Court, where there is an incredible house with a beautifully adorned front porch that gave me some serious Indian temple vibes!

Anyone else get Virgen de la Guadalupe vibes with this pose?

The water by the fountain made for a magical backdrop!

Next, we headed to the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork, where the blue of Anita’s outfit contrasted beautifully with the rich greens of the tall grass.

As it got closer to sunset, we enjoyed the beautiful pinks of the sunset for a few more stunning shots!

If you’ve kept reading this long, I hope you have enjoyed this gallery as much as I did. I’d love to know which ones were your favorites in the comments, and I can’t wait to share more creative projects with you in the future!

Much love <3 Johanna Elise

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HMUA Spotlight: Lindsey Joy Sweeney of Sweet Southern Beauty

Lindsey Joy Sweeney is a HMUA (hair/make up artist) who will make you look as beautiful and confident as you are on the inside! She stopped by to help out with Anita’s makeup for our Indian Bridal Styled Shoot (keep scrolling for henna pics!) and we were BLOWN AWAY! We requested a bold eye, natural look for the base, and a bold lip to compliment the eyes. 

While we got started, we chatted about Lindsey’s business (Sweet Southern Beauty): first, Lindsey is available for beautiful transformations by appointment, including during the day and weekends for bridal looks. She is fast and skilled at what she does, and I highly recommend her!

Next, we gossiped about some of the viral makeover challenges – one of my recent favorites is the 90s Makeover Tutorial (click here if you want to laugh your a$$ off!). I cringe as I think back to these trends, the “cool phrases” we used to say, but TBH love my decade!

As for now, apparently magnetic eyelashes are a thing, which I had no idea existed! Although we went with a traditional fake lash for this shoot, it’s on Lindsey’s list for things to try. She mostly avoids the viral makeup challenges because they can be a little ridiculous, in her opinion, but she’s definitely got you covered with the latest looks.

Also goals: Lindsey’s makeup stash! If you book with her, rest assured she has got you COVERED when it comes to a variety of products to choose from, although we trusted her judgment for selecting colors since she already knew our concept.

We had a lot of fun with Lindsey and Anita was so shocked when she saw the final look! Enjoy a few snapshots of the finished makeover as well as the Indian Bridal Styled Shoot Anita participated in (coming to a future blog post soon!!!)

Remember that AMAZING henna done by JessiKay?!? Here it is in its full glory
Sneak preview of our styled shoot – blog post next week!

Um, can you say DROP DEAD GORGEOUS?!?!?

For our styled shoot, we were outside (in July) in the early evening and it was HOT AF, and later that night we went out and Anita’s makeup was FLAWLESS, not affected by the sweating or heat several hours after application! This is a MUST for brides who need to look fire for their entire wedding day.

So basically, stop reading this and book your appointment with Sweet Southern Beauty because she is a QUEEN and she will make sure you (and your makeup) are SET and ready to dance, sweat, get married, or just straight up look beautiful for whatever the occasion might be.

Thanks for reading and join me next Thursday with more dreamy photos like the one above from our Indian Bridal Styled Shoot!

Johanna Elise

Frames & Letters Photography

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JessiKay Henna on making her own henna, creating a signature style, and the value of her craft

You see them at festivals, concerts, and maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to attend an Indian wedding and participate in the Mehendi Party: henna artists do incredible artwork that you get to enjoy seeing for up to several weeks, before fading away and revealing a fresh canvas for their next design. But have you ever gotten to actually hang out with a henna artist??

When I was looking to book a henna artist for an upcoming styled shoot (stay tuned!), I quickly found that JessiKay is THE one to know, the Kat Von D of henna, if you will, recommended by just about everyone. She is so down to earth and I learned SO MUCH about this line of work that I never would have known if I just went to Forecastle and got a small design on my hand.

First and foremost, JessiKay is a badass business babe! She’s had help along the way, but what started out as a gifted henna kit from an aunt ended up becoming a full-time career for her, one that allows her the flexibility of choosing which events she wants to do, like traveling to attend and work amazing music festivals, even going to faraway places like Mexico and find out that her art was recognized by some of the big names in the henna art industry. But she wants beginner artists to know that this type of success doesn’t happen overnight – she showed me a side by side of her first year doing henna, compared to each successive year, and the growth was unbelievable! She also invested in herself, attending workshops to learn different techniques, doing a lot of DIY education online, and finding a community of other artists to help her grow in her art. 

Just a few years later, she now makes her own design books that other henna artists can purchase and use for their own events. Another interesting story she told me was about her signature style – to the average Johanna (aka me), traditional henna designs may seem very similar to one another, or at least feature similar patterns. I was so wrong! There are so many distinctive combinations of patterns, shading, symmetry that have to be mastered and applied to create the designs, and each artist has a unique way of doing things.  She has, unfortunately, had the misfortune of having people trying to pass off her designs as their own on social media. It can be so difficult to copyright and protect original ideas now, especially when a picture gets shared and reshared and you lose the original post.

JessiKay’s trademark is her diamond – you’ll see it on all her henna designs, as well as in the books she sells where the designs are all her own. This is how she protects her designs, but she is also happy to let other artists use her designs, as long as they don’t steal her trademark or try to pass it off as their own. She also does lessons and classes for people who want to learn how to do henna!

JessiKay also knows her product. Have you ever bought henna online? I have. Or thought about what’s in the henna being used on you at festivals? I had not. JessiKay told me the risks of purchased henna kits and how, first of all, they contain preservatives that many people could be allergic to, or develop an allergy to over time (so, maybe not the first time you get henna done, but the fourth or fifth time it could). Additionally, the henna could be clumpy if you buy it at a store, leading to frustration and a splotchy design. She encourages people getting henna done to know what is in the product being applied to their skin, and she also advocates for henna artists to make their own product (or buy hers, made fresh to order!). She learned to make her own henna and says it is so smooth, easy to use, and gives her the confidence of knowing that no one will have a reaction to it. 

All natural, fresh henna by JessiKay

The henna circuit in Louisville is not very big, but JessiKay says the other artists usually try not to step on each others’ toes and value #communityovercompetition. She says if one of them is thinking about working Flea Off Market, they will make sure no one else is booked for that week, and others return the favor. There is definitely enough work to go around, and since JessiKay travels often for her work, she sees no need to be cutthroat with anyone. 

Here are some more things you never thought to ask a henna artist, but things I’m sure JessiKay would want you to know:


If you’ve gotten henna at a festival, chances are you’ve gotten a small, quick design that took under 10 minutes and cost maybe $10. Obviously, an artist can’t sit there all day with a line and work on one huge, intricate design for you. But REAL, traditional henna (we’re talking Indian wedding bridal henna) can take up to 4 hours to complete! If you’ve ever seen this type of design, which includes the palms, hands, forearms, feet, and ankles, you will be amazed that it ONLY took 4 hours. JessiKay says the longest continuous time she’s done henna (including bridal + bridal party) is 8 hours, and she has worked events that are 10 hours as well.


JessiKay has been training and practicing her art for many years, so when you inquire for prices, don’t expect it to be a $10 design for a bridal look. If you end up paying less than $75/hr., the quality you get will probably be inferior. If this is a wedding, think about the following things:

  1. Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life
  2. It will be photographed and shared
  3. The henna will also be on your skin for several weeks – do you want a poorly done design on your skin for that long?


This ties in to the previous point, and one that also would be nice for people to consider when working with other self-employed vendors, like photographers, florists, HMUA, planners, etc.: You would never ask a wedding venue for a discount, and it’s literally just a space they’re providing. However, when it comes to other small businesses that involve actual time, service, care for the customer, coordinating, editing, arranging, staying-still-for-4-hours to do your symmetrical and perfect henna without messing up, people expect a discount. If it’s not in your budget, then you may want to reconsider if you really NEED the service; if the answer is yes, then ask if you can set up a payment plan, but please remember that many businesses like these are run by real people who have real bills to pay and this is their livelihood. People asking for discounts is probably due to a lack of knowledge about how much services cost, so it can be helpful to research and see what median prices are for the service in your area to avoid making an awkward impression by asking someone if they can charge next to nothing for several hours of work. 

Whether you see JessiKay at a festival, at a party or wedding, or see her signature diamond online, know you’ve chosen the best and that your hands are in the best hands.

Follow JessiKay’s henna art on Instagram @jessikay1991 and on her Facebook page, JessiKay Henna.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next vendor feature of makeup artist Lindsey Joy Sweeney of Sweet Southern Beauty, and more photos from our styled shoot!

Johanna Elise, Frames & Letters Photography

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5 Recommendations for Destination Elopements in 2020

If you caught *my blog post* or Instagram story last week, you know it was packed full of goodies like a checklist to help plan a destination elopement, some inspiration on different types of landscapes for elopements, and an AMAZING, limited time special for 2020 elopements with Frames & Letters Photography!

Couples who *book* their 2019 or 2020 destination elopement photography package with my by 10/31/19 will have ALL. PHOTOGRAPHER. FEES. WAIVED! That’s right – you basically just cover my travel and Airbnb/accommodation to get to and from the location and no extra cost for the photography part of it!

This could be less than $500 for FULL SERVICE PHOTOGRAPHY!!!

Before you book, I want to share some of my favorite destinations with you, and while some people have already been lusting after a specific landscape, maybe others are not quite decided yet – that’s where I come in! I’ll break it down by destination type and then give you a U.S. and international recommendation! ALL of the international ones are places I’ve been, and I would LOVE to send you my past itineraries because, tbh I’ve got the travel bug and I take at least one international trip a year!


Beach elopements are so classic, and since it’s very easy to associate the beach with relaxation and romance, I can see why they’re popular! Before and after the ceremony, you can literally just plop yourself on the beach, enjoy some coconut water and take in the sunrise or sunset together while the breeze blows through your hair.

In the U.S. (kind of): Vieques, Puerto Rico

A quick flight from Miami and no passport required, you’ll feel like a million bucks on an affordable budget! There are two smaller islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. Culebra is continually ranked one of the best beaches worldwide, but the ferry line for Vieques is much shorter and there is more infrastructure on the island.

Scuba dive with sea turtles, kayak at night over Bioluminescent Bay, awe at the wild horses and moped around the island to find many intimate spots. There are plenty of beaches to choose from, whether on mainland or the smaller islands, and that combined with the sabor (flavor) and rich food and culture make Puerto Rico my pick for a beach elopement in the U.S.

International: Baja California Sur, Mexico

Baja California Sur is infamous for “Cabo”, aka Cabo San Lucas. Marcelo and I went last fall and it was BREATHTAKING! We went in October, which was technically off-season, so we had entire beaches all to ourselves.

Our favorite spot, and one I would recommend for an international beach elopement: Playa Balandra in La Paz. Do a day tour with La Paz Vip Tours, where you will snorkel in crystal clear water with seals, see some blue-footed boobies, and if you’re lucky, swim with whale sharks!!!

Playa Balandra is typically the lunch spot, and we also went back for sunset. The view is so spectacular that we didn’t want to leave, and enjoyed a romantic view with fewer than 10 people with us.


Adventurous couples who love to hike, be secluded and be totally surrounded by giant pines, evergreens, or sequoias are drawn to the lush greens of the forest.

In the U.S.: Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

It’s no secret that the PNW region RULES with its lush forests and smooth waterfalls. Columbia River Gorge is filled with beautiful spots like this, so if you like hiking, being connected with nature, and walking through misty trees, this one’s for you!

Photo credit: Pinterest

BONUS local recommendation!!!

If you live in Kentucky and want the feeling of a destination elopement in the forest, but want to have a “real” wedding with as many guests as you’d like, you HAVE to visit *EVENTS AT HEMLOCK SPRINGS* near the Red River Gorge. It’s got a bridal and groomsmen suite, an apartment loft for the bride and groom, wooded ceremony site and full service reception hall with catering and so much more! I did a *styled shoot *there and the owners are SO friendly and created this place after having their own wedding there. How sweet!

International: Valle del Cocora, Colombia

This nature preserve in Antioquia, Colombia, boasts some of the world’s tallest palm trees that stare down at you like gentle giants. You can hike or ride horseback to take advantage of its views, even rent a lovely cabin and wake up to the sounds of this peaceful, tropical valley around you.


Warm desert colors, cacti, the place where sand meets sky, endless landscape, little chance of rain – what more could you ask for? Modern, hip couples escape to the desert for beautiful ceremonies in the desert.

In the U.S.: White Sands, New Mexico

I didn’t know this place existed until a few years ago, and since then I have been DYING to go! Imagine nothing but beautiful light surrounding you as you exchange vows, walk into the endless desert together, and watch the colorful sunrise and sunset from here. The best part, you can find very cheap flights nearby thanks to airlines like Allegiant and Frontier, and since it’s a national park, entrance is also very affordable!

Any wedding colors would look stunning across this backdrop.

Photo credit: @danitheexplorer

International: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

So, technically salt flats and not a desert, BUT you will find cacti here!!! The Salar de Uyuni tour (which I have done twice) take you by Jeep on a journey through this seemingly desolate, but naturally rich area. While typically dry, if you get there in rainy season, it seems you are standing on a glassy lake with beautiful reflections from the miles of open mountains. Everyone always comes back with cool pictures like this (spot me second from the left!) 🙂


Another favorite of couples who are down for a hike, the mountain is a perfect spot to revel in nature’s majesty and secure a breathtaking backdrop for your vows.

In the U.S.: Yosemite National Park, California

Another destination where dreams come true, this has to be one of my TOP favorite places I see elopement pictures from! This expansive park has endless possibilities when it comes to elopement locations, and I’m more than ready for a long hike if it means you get beautiful images like this one from @thefoxesphotography

International: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

MY FAVORITE PLACE! Torres del Paine has 2 – 4 day hikes and has such a unique landscape, including glaciers, crystal clear glacial lakes, a rock beach, and views snowy peaks. With several camping and “glamping” options available, you will enjoy seeing a rare gem nestled in the south of Chile.


Not for the faint of heart, a wintry destination is a VERY unique place to elope – I’m picturing a (faux) fur wrap or a bright, colorful hood for the bride and some (faux) leather boots for the groom. Plus, if you can time this right at a location that has Northern (or Southern) lights, what a view!

In the U.S.: Alaska

It may seem a world away, but you’re sure to have a unique elopement if you journey here!

I’m thinking a Husky-driven sleigh to the elopement site, beautiful white snow and tall evergreens in the background, and maybe sightings of bears if we get lucky!

Photo credit: Andagies

International: Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Rumored to have inspired the Disney Castle, this stunning work of architectural art looks most magical in the wintertime! This picture is not mine, but when I went they were repairing the bridge that has this vantage point. Wouldn’t this be a dreamy elopement site??? We can enjoy some delicious German pastries and hot glüwein afterwards!

Where to???

Who’s got a serious case of the travel bug now??? I know I do! All in all, no matter what spot you pick for your destination elopement, without a doubt it will be a journey to remember. If you are interested and want to get started with planning your destination elopement, or for booking, send your inquiries to 🙂 Remember, only pay my travel fees and Airbnb if you book your elopement by 10/31/19!

Happy planning! Johanna Elise

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frames & letters photography

Serving louisville & wherever the camera takes me