2020 YEAR IN REVIEW | YEARLY REFLECTION | DETROIT WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER


Elopement wedding in Mackinac City Michigan at Black Rocks

Wow. To say that 2020 was a crazy year is an understatement, but even though it was an insane year like never before due to the pandemic, it was a spectacular year for personal and business growth, more than any year prior. While there is a lot that I can focus on from the past year, I’m choosing to reflect on all the good that took place. This year had extreme challenges, pandemic aside, with personal illness, racial injustices, and a major job transition. It was a year filled with grief, change, and uncertainty. Yet, this year had overwhelming exciting moments that I want to share. It’s so important, especially in challenging times, to focus on and celebrate those moments.


I’d be lying if I said I made it through this year with successes and celebrations alone. I had the support of my friends and family, especially my loving and undeniably supportive husband. I also had the support of others in my industry, who challenged me and encouraged my growth. But ultimately, my success comes from God and God alone. Seriously, I give God all the glory for my personal and professional growth. He is the one who has given me these strengths and passions. He is the one who gave me a burning desire to help others and provided clarity in uncertainty. He is the one who deserves the shout out, not me. He is the one who deserves the praise.


I know that some of you are reading this thing thinking, “Dang, this girl is one of those crazy Jesus believers who thinks God blesses her life and business. What about your hard work? What about the success of people who don’t believe in God?” Well, I believe every good thing comes from God, and honestly, I don’t know about the rest. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be able to comprehend everything.


What I do know is that I love Jesus; He is my source of joy and comfort. I know that God has turned the challenging circumstances of this year into abundant blessings in disguise. I know that He is in control and this year was filled with glorious surprises and glimpses of hope! So, with that, I’d love to share my 2020 yearly reflection. Yes, only the highlights! Remember, reflecting on the positive thing? It’s not to build a facade that my life is perfect, it’s far from it. But it’s to celebrate what God has done with this mess of a year.


PHOTOGRAPHY | WEDDINGS


Due to Covid, weddings rescheduled, couples planned micro weddings, minimonies, or elopements, and some couples canceled their weddings altogether. It was an extremely challenging year for couples getting married and every vendor in the wedding industry. Yet, while I “lost” over half of my weddings scheduled this year, it was a tremendous year for weddings. I absolutely loved documenting intimate ceremonies and elopements. I had the opportunity to travel in Michigan to Marquette and Mackinac Island for elopements and weddings. After having our travel plans canceled this year, getting out of the city was refreshing!


Presque Isle Park in Marquette Michigan. Photo by Nicole Leanne Photography
Bride holding wedding dress walking on Black Rocks in Marquette Michigan. Photography by Nicole Leanne Photography
Bride and groom holding hands on Black Rocks in Michigan during sunset looking at the lake. Photography by Nicole Leanne Photography

I had the unique opportunity of documenting a wedding virtually and absolutely enjoyed directing the couple through my iPad for photographs. I began a partnership with Basic Invite, to provide quality wedding invitations to my couples. I created resources for couples, like my favorite wedding planning apps guide and my tips for planning your wedding during a pandemic. I also curated two stylized elopements this year. You can see all the beautiful moments captured from my July Eastern Market stylized wedding here. I also partnered with The Borrowed and Blue Project for another stylized elopement in November, which you can view on the blog. I loved the opportunity to partner with talented Detroit vendors. This year, I also had two weddings featured in Metro Detroit Weddings Magazine, which was a huge honor!


Truly, it was surprising that so much good came out of this year. Having more time to focus on God, myself, and my business helped everything flourish!


iPad showing couple on wedding day with masks during 2020 Coronavirus pandemic. Photography by Nicole Leanne Photography
Bride and groom exchanging rings at Eastern Market in Downtown Detroit. Photography by Nicole Leanne Photogtaphy
Bride and groom cutting cake at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan. Wedding photography by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Eastern Market Detroit bride and groom photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride holding flowers looking out window at Eastern Market Detroit.
Couple laughing during wedding celebration at Eastern Market Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple at Eastern Market Detroit for wedding photos. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography
Couple embracing for a kiss during wedding pictures. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom walking through Downtown Detroit during wedding photo shoot. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
A couple holding hands walking in Detroit for wedding photos. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bridal bouquet by Bride and Bloom in Metro Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple sitting on couch with wedding bouquet. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple dancing outside under patio lights with view of Detroit skyline. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Nicole Leanne Photography holding Metro Detroit Wedding magazine which featured her photography in 2020. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

Despite all the changes for weddings and couples, love was not canceled. I am extremely proud of my couples who persisted through all the challenges of wedding planning during a pandemic. I know that their relationship will be stronger after going through this experience. And I continue to pray for all my couples planning their weddings for 2021 and 2022 that they too will overcome each challenge and be drawn closer to their future spouse in the process. As I reflect back on this past year of weddings, it’s hard to choose my favorite photographs, but here are a few of my favorite moments captured this year. Documenting those raw emotions, little whispers, loud laughter, precious memories, and sweet interactions is more valuable than the perfectly composed photograph.


Bride peeking out door to hold groom's hand on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom wipe happy tears as they see each other on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Groom with family members and Michigan intimate wedding. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom cheers with drinks on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Groom with groomsmen in casual attire for backyard wedding celebration. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom with officiant at Metro Detroit park weddiing. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Prayer circle at Metro Detroit park wedding. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Candids of bride and groom laughing on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Family members greeting the groom after the wedding ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Framed black and white photo of bride's great grandparents. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black and white photo of groom seeing bride walk down the aisle. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom joined by family in front of Meridian Historical Village building. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Just married couple walking with family through park on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Groom ironing suit for wedding day for Metro Detroit wedding. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Mackinac City elopement with close friends in forest. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Presque Isle park elopement with bride and groom. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Lake Superior view with bride and groom on Black Rocks in Marquette, Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride with bridesmaids putting on wedding dress. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride walking down aisle with father on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom dancing through bridal party tunnel after wedding ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom visiting horses after wedding ceremony on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and bridesmaids playing yard games during wedding reception. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Maid of honor speech at rustic barn wedding. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Family members dancing at rustic barn wedding. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom dancing with guests. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride reading card from groom before wedding ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Prayer circle with brides and bridesmaids. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom kneeling at altar during traditional Catholic wedding ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Rochester Michigan couple walking through downtown with umbrella on rainy wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom sharing and umbrella on rainy wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom at reception dinner. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride opening champagne on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bridesmaids see bride for first time on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Groom hugging mother on wedding day. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom with wedding party. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom holding hands walking after ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom reading vows. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride dancing with guests. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride and groom under sparkler tunnel leaving ceremony. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

If you're looking for someone to document your love in 2021 or 2022, reach out here!


PHOTOGRAPHY | PROPOSALS & CELEBRATIONS


This year was also filled with great celebration and love! Remember, love wasn’t canceled this year. Couples still getting engaged, celebrated their love, got married. Speaking of proposals, I freaking love capturing them! It’s such an exciting and joyful experience and I’m honored to be there to document it. I had the opportunity to capture three proposals this year! Here are some of the highlights!


Couple get engaged in Michigan park. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Michigan park proposal. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple with golden retriever puppy. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Downtown Detroit Riverwalk proposal. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Wedding proposal at Detroit RIverwalk. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Bride to be showing off engagement photo in Downtown Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Detroit Riverwalk engagement. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Proposal in Downtown Detroit/ Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Detroit Riverwalk proposal. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Detroit Riverwalk proposal. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

I had the joy of photographing a birthday party at Meadow Brook Hall before the pandemic hit the U.S as well. It was a beautiful gathering of family, likely for the last time all together before having to social distance.


Family singing happy birthday to grandma. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Family gathering at Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Family gathering at Meadowbrook Hall in Rochester, Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

I also loved capturing this commitment ceremony at Stony Creek. It was a unique way to celebrate love and honor their original wedding date as they postponed their wedding.


Commitment ceremony with two brides in Metro Detroit. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Michigan summer commitment ceremony in open field. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple hug after exchanging of commitment vows. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Champagne bottle sprays at sunset at Metro Park in Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple enjoys champagne toast at sunset at Metro Park in Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

PHOTOGRAPHY | EDUCATION


When I truly recognized that my value and worth are not connected to anything that I do or create, but rather from God, it gave me the freedom to step out in faith and explore different avenues in my business. The biggest change in my business this year was adding on the additional service of photography education. I started offering mentorships, virtually and in person. I loved the opportunity to meet with new photographers, share my passion, and pour out all my knowledge to them. I created educational resources and shared my secret to confidence, my top 5 favorite photography programs, and my wedding day checklist for photographers! I now offer audits as well to help photographers discover the areas of strength and opportunities on their websites, portfolios, or social media. I aim to encourage photographers and provide constructive feedback to help them succeed.


Coffee shop table with latte, laptop and planner. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Photographer reviewing images at coffee shop. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

If you’d like to find out more about the education that I offer, head over to my website!


PERSONAL


During our first major lockdown, quarantine, whatever you’d like to call it, my husband and I had fun documenting our life at home. I captured the joyful moments, the time that we spent together, enjoying each other's company. Yes, of course, that was not what the entire quarantine looked like, but again, I’m reflecting on the positive.


Home photo session in kitchen with couple enjoying coffee. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black and white photo of dog laying on deck in the sun. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Couple dancing in backyard for photos. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

I decided in late summer to pursue photography full time and leave my job of teaching high school art and photography. It was not easy as it was my passion, but it was the best decision. You can read more about my transition into full-time photography on this blog. Before I transitioned into photography full time, I started offering photography education to other photographers in my industry. I’m still wildly passionate about education and transitioned this into helping other photographers build their businesses. I’ve absolutely loved facilitating mentorship sessions and even launched my first beta photography course! I’m looking forward to offering more educational opportunities in the future.


Nicole Leanne Photography behind the scenes of an Eastern Market Detroit photo session.
Photo album page with various wedding photos. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.

While the racial injustices that occurred this year are not even close to a positive highlight, but rather an extremely dark season that the country is still enduring, there was still progress that occurred. I won’t speak for the progress of others, but rather, what I’ve learned through this. As I took a deeper dive into my own white privilege and what it truly means to be anti-racist I realized that I can be a better advocate. I saw the need to amplify Black voices. I saw the opportunity to sit back and truly learn from the Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) on my social media feed. I also realized that while I’m not an educator for racial injustices, as it’s not my area of expertise, I can educate others in my community and social circle by sharing facts and resources. I also documented my first protest and attending protests this year was more eye-opening than anything on social media or the news. It truly broke my heart but profound change happened. During one of the speeches before the protest march began, Trische’, the Director and Founder of Survivors Speak said, “Once your eyes are open to it, you are accountable with what you do with it… This is a call to action, for us to rise up the right way…to be present, and to love each other…The only thing that is going to cancel this hate is love…The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself… We have to leave our hearts open for racist individuals to be able to conform. We speak truth, we hold people accountable, and what they do with it is on them. We have to show love y’all.” Love. I was reminded that we need more love than hate to invoke change.


Black Lives Matter protest in Michigan. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.
Black Lives Matter protest. Photographed by Nicole Leanne Photography.