May 2, 2015

Smarty Mom: Abbe McCracken

Abbe McCracken collage

Abbe McCracken is that person you meet and you are six degrees of separation from everyone around her. When we first sat down over our Panera coffees, it was like two old friends chatting it up. Before I knew it, 1 1/2 hours passed by and we figured out that we had a ton in common. Abbe is laid back, creative, talented and super fun to be around. I decided immediately that we needed to create a special spot for her on Team CSP, and that we did! We now have an official Smarty photographer on staff – she’s here to make our site just a little bit brighter and more creative, through a fun lens.

Abbe’s first project is our Mother’s Day Giveaway that kicks off next Friday – and let me tell ya, Smarties, this one is BIG! Best giveaway we’ve ever done, and this time, the photography is going to be the best part! After that, it’s just a normal photoshoot of 13 Smarty families uptown. We can’t wait to debut her work! You’re going to adore her!

Let’s get cozy with Abbe!

Abbe’s Smarty Mom Stats:

Mom of: Kate (11) and Jay (8)
Years married: 18 years this month
Years in Charlotte: 9
Neighborhood: Arboretum, Matthews
Hometown: Morristown, Tennessee
Occupation: Owner and photographer at Abbe McCracken Photography,

Tell us how you started your photography business.

My photography business was started by friends who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Friends who saw something I didn’t recognize yet. I’ve always loved taking pictures and in hindsight, my untrained eye was pretty good, but I didn’t know it. I just photographed what I loved and that was that. So when my friends started asking me to take pictures of their children, I hesitated. I’d never really considered doing this as a business. My background is in PR and I just assumed I’d keep freelancing while staying home with the kids. Twenty-five excuses, formal training and a school bus later, Abbe McCracken Photography was born. I was confident in my abilities to take great pictures, I just didn’t know if I had time to do it right (see worst behavioral trait below). Sending my youngest off to kindergarten gave me the time I wanted. That was 3 years and over 200 sessions ago.

My teen wants to take up photography. Our camera is obsolete, we journal our family via iPhone. What smart(y) camera would you recommend?

Congrats for journaling with your iPhone! That’s such a Smarty move! My entire Instagram 365 Project (one picture a day, 365 days a year, #abbemccrackenphotography365year2) is shot with my iPhone 5s. Some are just silly snaps but some are truly beautiful iPhone images. Sure I know how to make the most of it, but the iPhone is an amazing little camera. I wrote a blog post last year about Why Your iPhone Rocks. Check it out if you need more convincing. The bottom line: The iPhone is the smallest, most convenient camera most of us have on hand 24/7. Learn how to use it. I’m a huge believer in the best camera being the one you have with you.

Another smart camera I love is the Nikon 1 AW1. It’s pricey at around $800 but so worth it. It’s the world’s first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable lens camera. You may be asking yourself, “Why do I need all that?” Trust me. You do. It’s small. It’s light. It can get wet. It’s supposed to get wet. It works great on Auto. And it has a whole host of other features if you want to get more creative. Best of all, you can take it anywhere and not worry about it. It laughs in the face of sun, sand and surf. Here are a few sample pictures from last summer:

Abbe McCracken - Nikon AW1 collage 2

Yes, one of those is a picture within a picture. It’s an iPhone 5s shot of the Nikon 1 AW1 at work. Told you I loved them both.

You don’t have to like water sports to love this camera. It’s perfect for winter activities and the 11-27.5mm wide-angle lens makes it ideal for travel photography too. So throw it in your carry-on because it fits and photograph your kids in the pool because it makes both you and the camera more fun.

Best photography tip for vacations?

Take lots of pictures, pick your favorites and make a book. Don’t let your vacation photos live on your computer. Here’s an article I wrote for The National Association of Professional Child Photographers about how to easily make vacation albums. It includes tips, tricks, apps and more. For photo albums, I love both Blurb and Picaboo. Picaboo always has weekly coupons, so smarty moms wait for the deal. I print a lot of my Instagram pictures using Artifact Uprising’s Instagram friendly books.

Favorite photo scrapbooking site?

I honestly don’t use many of them anymore because my professional print labs have spoiled me. Shutterfly is still really convenient for sharing pictures with the grandparents. Plus if you need a last-minute print, images on Shutterfly can be sent to Target for printing. The colorist in me can’t believe I just wrote that because as a professional photographer I’m not happy with the color or quality at either. But as a mom, sometimes you just need to quickly print that picture for the soccer banquet. You know?

Best family summer vacay trip to date?

Wild Dunes on Isle of Palms, South Carolina – It’s our comfort place. It’s the vacation we take over and over again without planning. We love exploring new destinations too but there’s something special about family memories at familiar places. We love the beaches, the food and the proximity to Charleston. It’s so nice to be on the beach one day and strolling King Street the next.

What is the last meal you cooked?
Hmmm. My bio says professional photographer, early riser, avid traveler, former clogger and terrible cook. Having now warned you, the last meal I prepared (“cooked” is an overstatement) was Baked Potato Boats. It was one of my favorite meals growing up and we’ve recently added it to the McCracken family weeknight rotation.

Baked Potato Boats
It’s as simple as the name sounds. Bake your potatoes. Cut them open like a boat. Fill your boat with the following goodies (or add others):

-Sour Cream

Serve with a salad and fruit. So easy. My in-laws recently requested this meal. I’m not sure if that means they love it or dislike all the others. Could go either way in my kitchen.

Favorite restaurant?

New South Kitchen & Bar

I have two favorite dishes, the Okra Salad and the Pan Fried Chicken. Both usually come with warm buttermilk biscuits and apple butter. Yum. New South Kitchen & Bar is located in the Arborteum.

What is the last thing you bought for yourself?

Neon yellow Nikes with a hot pink swoosh. They are honestly kind of loud for me but I had the hardest time finding new tennis shoes this season. I’m supposed to be working out in them. If walking the dog counts, I’m good.

Behavioral trait you hope your children don’t inherit from you.

Perfectionism. I wish I had a different answer because perfectionism is often considered both a strength and a weakness. It’s that interview question that also makes you look good, but my family and friends would agree that it’s the honest answer. I so appreciate my attention to detail but often times getting bogged down in the details prevents us from moving forward. It can prevent us from accomplishing even bigger and better things. I don’t want that to be me and I definitely don’t want that to be my kids. I recently heard author Elizabeth Gilbert speak about putting perfectionism to rest. She referenced a creative writing setback that if allowed to fester would have cost her two years of rewrites. She said no rewrites; it’s good enough. It went on to be a New York Times bestseller and she moved on to even more important projects.

The phrase you’ve said to your kids more than any other at home is…

“Be quiet.” I’m chatty. They’re chatty. Even our dog Max “talks” to us from time to time. We all sing … some of us (aka Kate) better than others and quite frankly, it gets loud. Maybe I’m just getting old. I know there will come a day when I miss the noise but right now, I’d like my kids to take a breath in between sentences every now and then.

Funniest thing your kids have ever said to you?

My kids are characters so this is hard. Last month they wanted to rescue a squirrel by carrying a mattress outside. Jay once said, “Mom, I CAN control when I call out. The problem is I just have a mouthful of things to say.” True. Last but certainly not least, when Jay was younger, he retold the story of Jesus and the lepers as Jesus and the leprechauns. Kate promptly corrected him saying it was Jesus and the leopards, you know, like at the zoo. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

I wish someone told me sooner about…

Feedly. It’s the one place – yes, just one place – I go to read all my favorite newspapers, magazines and blogs. Feedly is this awesome news aggregator application that compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources. The New York Times said, “If you’re still starting your morning with a zigzag through a standard set of Web sites, you’re wasting time and energy. Feedly is what you needly.” I can so identify with that statement. Keeping up with all my favorite blogs – including Charlotte Smarty Pants – is so much easier with my Feedly app. Check it out

Abbe is the 2015 Smarty Awards Winner of our very own Charlotte Smarty Pants’ Best Family Photographer. She specializes in joyful newborn, child and family photography for the Charlotte metro area including Matthews, Ballantyne, Weddington and beyond. Smarties – you can follow Abbe McCracken Photography on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+.

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