The Gridleys

Four months ago, I decided to invest in my business by finding a workshop I really loved. No matter the cost, I’d lean in and commit to something that could bring incredible value to my portfolio. The biggest payoff for me would be a styled shoot- all workshops have them. They’ll hire a few models, get a bouquet and wedding attire, and then take everyone up to a place like half dome in Yosemite for fake wedding photos. Then photographers can post and say ‘look! I shot an elopement in Yosemite, hire me for yours’.

As I shopped around for the right workshop, I got a really weird feeling in my stomach. I was accepted to one and was asked to send money through PayPal, transfer USD to Hong Kong Dollars, and select ‘friends and family’ rather than ‘payment for services’ so the organization could avoid fees. Uhhhh, red flag.

Not to mention, I’d be taking photos of a fake wedding, and creating the illusion that these two models actually love each other. It hurt my heart! I am so intentional with the clients that hire me, making sure they’re head-over-heels in love and I can’t work any other way. Why should a workshop be an exception?

The cost was crazy— $2700. After a lot of thought I decided the money would be better spent on a vacation to Europe… and possibly a wedding there. I did a TON of research and found 3 Italian wedding photographers that had really great work. I emailed all of them with an honest message- I want photos for my portfolio and if you have a wedding in May, I’ll work as a second shooter for free.

Qualcosa di Blu (Something Blue) Wedding Photography replied the next day. Enrico said it sounded like a fun idea and he’d love to Skype interview me. When I told him I’d be 100% committed to work my butt off and pay for all my travel expenses, he checked with his wedding planner and couple to see if they’d allow another shooter. I was cleared by everyone and booked my flight that week.

Christina and Adam were the perfect bride and groom. They were from England, so their intimate Tuscan destination wedding was only attended by their closest friends and family. They were incredibly kind and completely in love. Each moment of the wedding, I had to pinch myself. HOW was I so blessed with this day?!

They started the day getting ready at Tenuta di Papena, about 45 minutes outside of Siena in the Tuscan hillside. The italian villa was as authentic as they come, and surrounded by 360 degrees of views. It was breathtaking. We all headed over to San Galgano Abbey, an 800 year old church. While the stone walls still stand, the roof is completely gone. After their ceremony we went back to Tenuta di Papena where a live band played Frank Sinatra songs and guests snacked on hors d'oeuvres. Their long dinner tables were set up, and a 5 course dinner was served under a setting sun.

I still haven’t found words to express my gratefulness for this opportunity. I’d like to take a minute to thank Enrico for his willingness to help. It’s not often you find people in the photography community that put kindness over competition. I could not ask for a better mentor, and I’ll always remember his willingness to help out someone less experienced. You can check out his work here: and if you’re planning on getting married in Italy, Danila is your dream wedding planner! ->

Ann Mark