Embracing the new year!

2014!  Six years ago, Jason and I started our small business venture with big dreams and goals, each year chipping away at yet another milestone for ourselves and MMP.  I still find it humbling to look back from where we started to where we are now and those continued big dreams and goals we continue to strive for.  This past year was filled with such amazing clients that shared in moments of laughter and warmed our hearts with each event.  With each of our clients over the years being unique, I still find it a blessing to remember each event (and the couples names which shocks people at bridal shows when we talk about images) and be able to share details with new couples joining the MMP client family. 

Also for 2013 we took a leap of faith in a few forms… one being an actual living, breathing office space to make our own and meet with clients rather than trying to fit three sample albums and a laptop on one of those tiny coffee shop tables.. sorry 2009-12.. you know what we’re talking about here:)  We’re blessed to have such amazing vendor relationships and friends to help support our business and aspirations! 

The other major “breathe-into-a-paper-bag” moment was saying sayonara to my full time day job and working in the business full time.  Working for yourself is a dream so many have and also one of my greatest challenges to turn off during a typical work day.   In two job territory times I would work the full time job then come home and edit all night or head straight to back to back client meetings or to a photo session then pretty much right to bed around midnight.  Its hard to say okay.. 5pm.. quitting time when you’re self employed but I’m learning.. until an email comes in and I’m all over it at 9pm at night:)

For 2014 we’re striving to continue to provide top notch service to our client family, continue to grow and evolve our styles, and develop educational practices for not only our immediate team but for other photographers.  We’re hoping to showcase and network with other amazing local wedding vendors to expand our knowledge to assist our clients in booking the absolute best vendor for their needs.  Lastly, we’re expanding our own personal education by continuing course work from top national photographers and attending specialized seminars.

In closing, we’re eternally grateful for our clients, vendor friends, and supporters.  Without you guys, we wouldn’t be where we are today and where we’re hoping to be tomorrow!

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Making the Most of your Engagement Session

Often we get asked by clients and fans alike how to figure out the best location for engagement pictures.  What we’ve found over the years is it’s more about what you choose rather than where you choose when it comes down to getting the best possible images.  Here are some tips- both common and offbeat- to satisfy the masses:)

Absolute hands down #1- BE COMFORTABLE!  We’re not talking fuzzy bunny slippers and yoga pants, although comfy and enjoyable, definitely doesn’t have the classy look you may be going for.  Be comfortable in your skin, in what you choose to wear, and so very much, comfortable with each other.  Many times we ask clients to be themselves- sit, talk, relax, while we set up the shot.  Hidden MMP secret… getting set up on our end for some images actually means we want to capture YOU.. in your natural element.  Nothing is more magical on film (okay digital) than a couple who is in love, talking to each other, stealing kisses and taking in each others presence and enjoyment of the session.  Cheesy as it may sound, you absolutely cannot pose love or emotion, and thankfully all of our clients have zero issues with the giddiness that is, the love for each other.

#2 Location, location, location- Location is a hot topic when it comes to engagement sessions.  Focusing on the where rather than the feel of how you want your images to appear can sometimes be overwhelming.  When deciding on a location it’s best to ask yourselves, do we want architectural elements or something incorporating greenery, urban or rural?  When it comes down to it, a park is a park and most won’t be able to tell the difference between the tree at Fort Hunter versus a tree at the Masonic Gardens.  Architectural- desiring a known location in your town or something off the beaten path?  Still stressing on a location- Ask!  We love helping our couples choose the best location based on your preferences!

#3 Spice it up! Natural beauty is the best and being confident is key, however we’ve noticed that ladies who primp and prep with professional hair or makeup applications for their engagement session have an innate sass in their imagery!  Nails, hair, makeup, all regardless of for an event or just for beautification fun, can make a girl feel even more gorgeous and confident!  Money saving tips- go DIY style or schedule your hair/makeup trials on the same date as your engagement session!

#4 What the hell should I wear!?  Also another popular question from our couples is the attire.  Most commonly, couples opt for two outfits, one being a casual, kicked back style and another being more formal/business casual.  Guys, be prepared.. your lovely bride may change at least 3-5 times until grabbing the perfect outfit, not speaking from any experience on that subject or anything:)  Ideas for a spring/late summer evening session might include a cute sundress with embellished sandals for a cool casual look, and your best date night dress with killer pumps for the formal attire.  Guys maybe opt for a complimentary casual button down with jeans and a pair of kicks, and a classy formal look of a suit minus the tie, potentially adding a pop of color in the dress shirt or belt.  Ultimately being confident and comfortable (see the theme yet) in what you’re wearing is key.  What not to wear- another popular request- nothing to matchy-matchy (Both wearing white shirts and khakis), if going for a more green/natural location avoid the vibrant reds, pinks, and oranges, and shoes are noticeable in images, although those new bright pearly white sneakers look great at the gym, they don’t so much in your engagement images.  Ladies also remember heels and rock-climbing/farms don’t always mix well:)

#5 Think outside of the box! We ADORE when couples take the road less traveled for both their engagements and weddings!  Some awesome trends we’ve seen are theme/stylized engagement sessions! Love the Mad Men era?  Why not grab some vintage inspired threads, work with us to secure a location that will match your feel, and don’t forget the red lipstick!  Not ready for an all out theme?  No worries.. grab a few rental pieces from local vintage rentals like Swoon or Maggpie Vintage Rentals for a truly unique setting for some of your images!  Maybe try to incorporate props in for your save the date cards?  We’ve seen a TON of awesome and creative ways to announce your upcoming nuptials from cool places like Etsy!

Overall, just have fun!  We love working with unique and dynamic couples who wear their personalities on their sleeve so give in, relax and have fun!epler_124_mmp

Post 100- Be Inspirational

With this being our 100th post since 2009 when we broke open this blog, I thought it’d be entertaining to look back personally on our first few blog entries.  I saw our first portrait sessions and the comments I wrote up to our first wedding and smiled thinking about how far our little business has come since we photographed Tina and Ben’s wedding back in May of 2009.  I still check in with and follow (thank you Facebook)  a large majority of our couples, even Ben and Tina who now have a gorgeous daughter, Nevaeh.  I love seeing that almost all of our couples are still as happy and in love with each other as they were the day we photographed them at their very best.  I also get all warm and fuzzy knowing that we’ve touched other people’s lives, hopefully inspiring them in some fashion.

The latest inspiring story was from a Maid of Honor at one of our weddings we captured in the fall of 2012.  She sent me a message which beyond warmed my heart with the following words “I just want to thank you. I have had this love and passion for photography for so long… You and Jason really fueled my fire and gave me such inspiration to really start my journey!  I really just wanted to thank you for giving me the extra push, without even realizing you did…”.  Words cannot express how much I appreciated her taking time out of her day to email me.  Starting our journey with this business has been hard but rewarding, time consuming but so worth it, and inspires Jason and Myself to be better people and better spouses to each other.  We started to venture into weddings because our very own wedding photographer, Mary Steinbacher, inspired our creativity, so to help others along their journey is one of the most rewarding measures we can do.  Each of our couples inspire me in different measures and truly one of the reasons we have all 90+ couples hanging on our office wall.  Regardless if it’s photography, the love you share with your significant other, a hobby or profession- realize that you can inspire others! 5507_4948183355288_129106882_n

“Kickstart” your wedding!

I’m jealous!  With so many new and interesting sites out there I wish we would’ve had these tools 4 (almost 5) years ago when J and I were in the midst of our planning!  Aside from the more common planning sites, such as Wedding Wire (AWESOME) and Offbeat Bride (EVEN MORE AWESOME), I’ve been finding inspiration in other off-the-beaten-path sites that are blooming in popularity as of lately.

The latest is Kickstarter (est. 2009.. what rock have I been under?), which J first introduced me to.  To be honest.. he told me about a “project” he helped to fund and the typical former banker in me starts to Google scams, spams, and any other wife research for that “Uh.. yeah, we gotta talk” moment.  Upon checking out the site, I was smitten!  It’s actually a cool program where artists and creatives of all walks can post their “project” up and request funding to complete said project with perks for the funding individual, ranging from promotional items to large quantities of the actual product sponsored.  Think high school Economics and the Stock Market Game but much more fun.   Some projects and creatives that I’m following range from up-cycled bowties (perfect for your grooms, ladies) to cork wallets and iphone cases to my personal favorite find, alcohol infused marshmallows and brittle (Jenna is seriously awesome to work with!).

My recommended way to use this site, because it can be challenging weeding out projects you might not be interested in such as super indie films or under the radar musicians (there are a lot on here), is to check out the Staff Picks and narrow down categories to what you’re interested in- highly recommend the fashion section.  I also prefer to hit up the websites directly that link to these particular vendors to get exactly what I’m looking for or to see about special ordering.  Have you checked out Kickstarter or are following any special creatives you’d like to share?

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A home away from home…

Don’t be shocked.. I’m blogging and hopefully over the next few weeks I can:

1. Get caught up on the blogging I wanted to/ should have/ really procrastinated with from the past year showcasing images from our 2012 wedding and the amazing couples in our MMP client family.

2. Revamp the blog appearance.  Nuff’ said.

3. Provide great tid-bits of advice on wedding planning from Venues you won’t want to miss to the best entertainers and designers in the area.. but let’s do one thing at a time here:)

So for this post.. my actual point of reference is we’ve got a space!  As of February 2013 we’ve partnered our office meeting space with the fabulous premier DJ’s at Klock Entertainment.  Today was our giddy milestone of having our name applied to the door.. yes.. we’re geeking out over here but it’s big stuff in McClain world.. that and getting Kooper and Rhiley to take medication hidden in peanut butter without issue- also a milestone today!  As of right now with wedding season vamping up we’re in the office by appointment, but mid-summer/late fall we’ll have posted office drop in hours every week/two weeks depending on the need.  Thanks to all of our amazing clients who without your love and support, we wouldn’t be where we are today.. giddy (not to be mistaken for giggiddy)!  Image

 

Top 5 Questions Wedding Sites Forgot to Mention

I absolutely LOVE when couples we meet with come prepared with questions about booking a wedding photographer:). To me it shows they’re not only looking for the right fit but they’re thinking through an investment that they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives. Usually in January most wedding sites start to roll out the top questions you must ask a photographer, DJ, florist, etc. Given these are all great questions and ones we hear the most, I wanted to touch on a few we rarely hear but are just as important. Even though these are geared towards photography, some are great to ask your DJ or DOC (day of coordinator).

1. Ask to see 3 full galleries or events from your prospective photographer. Why 3? Ever hear of the saying even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once and a while, well some photographers can be categorized the same. By having the option of looking at three different wedding portfolios you can compare consistencies, poses, lighting, and content. Do you really have to look through each image in the galleries, No, but take note if the gallery contains elements that you want to see in your portfolio? Besides some of those super creative couples might have an idea or two that might spark your interest!

2. Do you provide a sample timeline for our event? You want to make sure that a plan is in action for your event so that each moment is captured and time that you’re paying for isn’t wasted on 200 images of your shoes (even though they’re sure to be awesome). Timelines are meant to be flexible, especially on your wedding day so be sure to go into more detail on how it may be followed by your photography team. No one wants a controlling, watch beating photographer, or any vendor on their wedding day, especially if flukes happen, however they should be able to help guide the natural flow of a wedding day.

3. Do you educate yourself on photography techniques or upcoming wedding trends? Photography as a whole is an innovative and ever changing creature. Gone (thank heavens) are the days of stiflingly posed photography which made way to my personal favorite: highly creative, fresh photography. If you’re a fan of editorial and fashion inspired images, you want to be sure the photographer you’re about to hire knows a thing or two about telling a story and capturing the emotion of a wedding day with various lighting techniques and poses like you might see in Vogue or Vanity Fair. Don’t mistake education of techniques and trends to a collegiate degree- even some of the absolute best photographers out there have degrees in other areas of study, or none at all.

4. How do you determine the best way to pose us? Imagine this, you open your album to a friend or a co-worker and she says ‘Wow we did the exact same pose… all of them..” Okay she might not say that or even notice, but posing isn’t a one size fits all technique. Posing should feel natural but different than standing around the water cooler at work. Some couples have more outward emotion to one another and look great in a snuggly pose, where other couples might feel uncomfortable kissing on camera. The photographer you choose should talk with you on what you’re comfortable doing on camera as a couple and be respectful of wishes… not too racy, oh my mom would love this pose, I hate looking at the camera, etc.

5. Have you ever turned down a wedding or event? Okay, yes it was odd for me to write this down on my post-it note as well. Here’s my thought with this question. I believe you should look for a photographer who knows what a good fit is and what isn’t. I personally wouldn’t want to book a client who is looking for very traditional, on camera flash photography, because that’s not us. I also want to make sure that our personalities mesh well because you’re hiring us for one of the most important days of your lives and we’re with you for 8 hours or more. Your consultation with a photographer, and almost any vendor, is an interview on both sides of the table. 100% comfortable is the goal for any vendor you book for your wedding day!

Bonus points: Where do you draw your inspiration from? Creative! We’re in a creative business and inspiration is all around. Some photographers find this through education and learning, some through paging through wedding magazines or blogs for trends, and some by networking with other photographers. My best example of personal inspiration is being outdoors, watching the light patterns and textures, and educating myself with great sites and courses for photographers in our field.

Sure this isn’t the end all, be all of questions you should ask your photographer or any other vendor for your wedding, but these are the offbeat questions that may help in narrowing down choices.

Happy Planning!

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Making the Cut!

Booking the best wedding vendors to suit your needs is a challenge and can be down right stressful for most considering many people only plan such an elaborate event once in their lifetime.   As we do share our preferred vendor list with each of our potential clients during our meeting, we also wanted to compile those who made the MMP cut online for those who may need some additional information.  These vendors are the best of the best that we have interacted with and those that we trust will perform a fantastic job for every client and every occasion.  Be sure to check back often, as we try to highlight those spectacular colleagues in the industry often!

Melissa McClain Photography Favorites!