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Category: Customer Spotlights

Photographer Spotlight: Melanie Taylor | Tips for Beautiful Event Photography

Melanie Taylor is a local photographer from the Chicago, IL area who’s passionate about capturing stories on camera. She specializes primarily in event photography, but her talents and experience also span commercial and residential photography, candid and portrait photography, wedding photography, photojournalism,  styled interior architectural photography, and beyond. We sat down with Melanie to pick her brain about what it takes to be a successful professional photographer. We’re excited to share her tips and tricks learned over her 20+ years of experience with you!

Tell me about your journey to becoming a freelance photographer. 

I started shooting in high school. It was back in the days of wet labs and film. My first camera was a Canon AE1 with a 50mm 1.8. I had a big crush on Georgia O’Keeffe and my early work had a lot of flowers. When I started incorporating people, I loved it. I’ve never been much with a brush and paper, so photography gave me creative freedom. I put in years and years of wedding photography for bigger companies before I was comfortable shooting on my own. I got to mentor under lots of different photographers as a second shooter and with that experience, you start to see how to work on the fly.

Melanie_Taylor_PhotographyWhat’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as a photographer?

It’s as much about the images as it is about how you make someone feel about themselves. I once worked with a wedding photographer who had a really big, over the top personality.  He’d exude positivity and enthusiasm, and knew exactly how to make people feel confident and relaxed. He’d be shooting a bride and groom and he’d say  “OH MY GOD– these look so good, you look so amazing,” and just kept the praise going. He did it so well that they believed it, and they felt more confident all day, without even seeing the shots he’d taken.  Half of it is making someone feel like they look really good, and then they’re going to do better for you during the shoot. I tried to absorb that and it’s definitely one of my stronger aspects.

I’ve photographed a lot of families – and sometimes the men can get weird and awkward.  They do this tense smile, and turtle themselves (rigid shoulders and neck) so it’s really important to help them relax and get them into a more natural pose, with the shoulders out, neck back, and a slight turn of the head.  To help them feel more comfortable, it sometimes helps to touch them gently and give them eye contact, which boosts their confidence. Don’t be afraid to say, “You look so good!” and tell them how beautiful their wife and children are. Bring some jokes into it, softly feel out their interests. 95% of the time it’s the women who are booking the shoot, so it’s helpful to quiz them a little bit. Ask what her husband is into, take note of any special interests, ask about his cars, favorite sports, just to have something to talk about.  “Oh, I hear you have this really big truck,” you say — then you can see when someone cracks and you break past that uncomfortable barrier.

Melanie_Taylor_PhotographyWhat’s your favorite subject matter to photograph and why?

I really enjoy photographing events and the people enjoying them. It’s super rewarding to see people interacting and capture their feelings toward each other and the space where it’s all taking place. My favorite event last year was the 4th of July celebration at Rolling Green Country Club. So many happy people, amazing food, beautiful decor, and a huge firework display!

 

 

What’s the biggest challenge you face as a professional photographer?

It can be a highly competitive field. I’m very fortunate to be part of the Happy Tog group. They are like minded photographers who enjoy sharing knowledge and resources. With wedding photography, the biggest challenge is usually managing the client’s expectations and talking them down from anything that’s unrealistic.

Melanie_Taylor_PhotographyHow do you prepare for a wedding shoot? Any rituals or special techniques to get to know the bride and groom beforehand?

When a couple inquires about a wedding, we always meet for coffee first. I want to get to know who they are and if we are a good match. We usually hang for an hour and talk about their priorities for the day. If they have a Pinterest board already, we look at it together. About a month before the date we spend another hour on the phone talking about the timeline and what are realistic expectations within it. The week before the wedding, we confirm addresses. On the wedding day, we relax and have fun!

Any advice for other photographers just starting out on their entrepreneurial journey?

Find good mentors and DON’T work for free! There’s nothing like tons of experience to make you better. Just putting those hours under your belt will help you learn to work on the fly and adapt to the environment.

Melanie_Taylor_PhotographyCan you tell me about the most fun photo shoot you’ve ever done? 

Last fall I had the opportunity to take pictures for an engagement. We had so many rainy weekends in a row that scheduling had been a problem. Finally, we had a 2-hour window on a Saturday morning. We tromped through the woods to a spot that had some colorful graffiti I had scouted earlier in the year. Well…now there was a raging stream halfway into it due to the rains. It was unexpected and I have to hand it to the guy, he kneeled down right in it and proposed. The water soaked his pants and shoes and made for an amazing image. It was so beautiful, I couldn’t help but let a couple tears flow!

How do you market your photography business? Can you talk about your social media strategy and what works to secure new clients?

I have my website, MelClicks.com and my Facebook business page. I use social media to tag photos of my clients, and request if they post that they also tag me. I also tag the venue in my posts which helps me build great relationships with the facility coordinators and gives the venue some exposure, too. I find that sharing amazing GIF images works really well for high engagement on social media! Posts with just text, not so much. Also, I have redundancy with my Facebook and blog posts. Jimdo is my website provider and it’s been eye-opening watching the flow of traffic and that 99% of the time it’s being viewed on a mobile device. As always, the best advertising is referrals from former clients.

Melanie-Taylor-PhotographyHow do you stay inspired?

I stay creative by being involved with the local photo community. Sometimes it’s a photo shoot that has nothing to do with my genre that gives me a burst of new ideas. Sure it can be tough to walk into an event where you might not know anyone, but the payoff can be a great new contact!

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Studio Style Customer Spotlight: Edward C. Robison III

Studiostyle.com is excited to announce our new monthly customer spotlight! If you are a Studio Style customer and would like to apply for a feature on our blog and social media, please complete the form at the bottom of this post.

Edward C. Robison III

Edward C. Robison IIIThis month, we are excited to introduce Edward C. Robison III, a nature photographer based out of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Edward began his artistic quest as painter. When he found himself drawn towards photography, he brought a painterly vision for color, composition, and scope to his photographic palette. From stark boulder fields to lush waterfalls, Edward’s photographs reflect his deep love of nature and his keen eye, as well as an underlying theme of conservation of natural resources.

Edward C. Robison III PhotographyThe places he photographs are the quiet, the remote, the mystical, the majestic… the sacred places of earth. View his breathtaking landscape photography collection here. Edward’s work can be found in many corporate and private collections including Bass Pro Shops, BKD, Capital One, Prairie Fire – American Museum of Natural History, and the National Arbor Day Foundation, just to name a few. His work is also featured in the Sierra Club Calendars and ten books about the Midwest landscape.

StudioStyle.com Portfolio Sample image

Pictured: Edward uses the 8 x 10 size Black Print Holders from Studio Style as eco-friendly display folios for his prints. He also uses the 11 x 14 folios for his limited edition Augmented Reality prints on rag paper.

Product description: these are durable, photo folio folders for professional photographers to display, present, store & protect their prints & proofs. An inexpensive and effective alternative to photo books & albums, these archival proof folders have a traditional linen weave textured finish and are available in 3 sizes to accommodate 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″, or 11″ x 14″ photographs. An eco-friendly product, these print holders are made of 100% recycled material (80% post-consumer waste). Custom foil imprinting is available for your studio name and logo.

Edward C. Robison III photography

When Edward is not in the field focusing on his personal work, he contracts with Bass Pro Shops creating one of a kind photos for Johnny Morris’ Big Cedar Lodge, Dogwood Canyon, and Top of the Rock golf course. He also specializes in photographing world famous artworks for Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Edward lives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and owns the Sacred Earth Gallery, which exclusively features his large-format landscape photographs. You can view his entire photography collection at www.ECR3.com

Edward C. Robison III photography

Edward recently published a book of his Augmented Reality Photography, titled “Ozark Landscapes – An Augmented Reality Project” which is available for purchase on Amazon. Do you love Edward’s work as much as we do? Connect with him on social media:

About Studiostyle.com

Studiostyle.com is proud to have been a leading source for personalized photo products since 1994.  For celebrations big and small, our personalized photo products help protect and show off your printed event pictures.

We are a family-owned company, and we design and manufacture paper photo folders, cardboard picture frames, and custom photo cards for photographers and event planners as well as photo enthusiasts looking for photo packaging solutions. Our products are manufactured here in the United States, which allows us to guarantee the integrity and quality of our products to our customers.

Need personalized photo packaging or gifts? No problem. We can print or foil stamp your logo and event date to create a one-of-a-kind, branded marketing piece for your studio, party, or event. Choose from a variety of styles and sizes to find the perfect folio, frame, photo folder, or photo card for your giveaway or event. We offer low minimums for personalization, and also offer full-service custom work. By combining custom print runs with our own product runs, we control each step in the manufacturing process from design development through the printing and assembly process.

Studio Style Customer Spotlight Submission form

How do you use Studio Style products in creative ways for your events, photography, or artwork?
Please include links to your social media pages if applicable

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