Friday, December 18, 2015

Feature Friday with Melissa Maahs Photography!

The talented Melissa Maahs Photography was the winner of last week's 'silly' challenge (with a riduclously funny set of shots of a gorgeous dog - you can see the photo here).  Melissa has graciously agreed to answer our questions and share some more of her beautiful work.

1. Please tell us about yourself...
   My name is Melissa. I’m a photographer from Ontario, Canada. I’m a wife and mother of two wonderful children and the cutest golden retriever.  As long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with photography. As a child and young adult, I really enjoyed browsing through issues of National Geographic Magazine and coffee table books featuring any type of photography, especially landscape and wildlife photography.

2. Can you describe your style in 3 words? Why those words?
   Authenic. Candid, Soulful. Those 3 words come to mind when asked to describe my style. Although I do photograph some posed moments during a session (Grandmas usually want to see smiling faces, looking at the camera so I usually start out with that pose and get it out of the way ;) ), I find that I love my work the most when I’m able to capture the genuine, candid moments between the posed moments. My goal when photographing people is to document the connections between them, and/or the connections with their environment, not the connections between them and my camera. One of the things I say the most when photographing people is “don’t look at me”! Photographing genuine moments between people (and animals) is the work that makes me most happy. Often times my clients are the happiest with those images also. In order to take a meaningful portrait of someone with a loved one, or even just on their own, the moments have to be all of those 3 words I mentioned: authentic, candid and soulful.

 3.  What sparked your passion for photography?
Travelling sparked my interest in photography for sure, but I think what eventually fueled my passion for portrait photography were my children when they were babies. Children grow and change so fast and I wanted to document their little lives and experiences every step of the way. Before my kids started school, photography was a hobby of mine. I wanted to devote as much time as possible to my kids when they were home. When they started to attend school full-time I had more time to devote to my learning and experimenting with photography. Eventually friends and family were asking me to take photos of their families and over time, my business Melissa Maahs Photography was born.

4. What’s in your camera bag right now?
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 35mm 1.4
Canon 135mm 2.0
Canon 50mm 1.2
Canon 430 ex speedlight
Yongnuo 586 speedlight

5. What is your dream shoot or project?
   My dream is to travel and photograph breathtaking landscapes with my family. I would also love to try street photography while travelling to busy cities. Two of my dream destinations to photograph are Death Valley National Park in Las Vegas, Nevada and Iceland. For street photography I think any of the big cities in China would be amazing.

6. What are some of the misconceptions you had about photography and photographers at the beginning of your photography journey? Have they changed, and how?
  I think one of the biggest misconceptions I had about starting a photography career is that I thought 80-90% of my job would be all about having my camera in hand taking photographs. Of course, if this was just a hobby that would be true, but in order to run a photography business I’ve learned that 80-90% of the time spent does NOT involve using my camera! Most of my time is spent behind a computer completing tasks such as emailing/communicating with clients, blogging, editing photos, maintaining backup drives, reading, educating, accounting, marketing/social media, etc. Taking photos is only a small part of running a photography business. In the beginning I had no idea!

Another misconception I had about starting a photography business is that I thought it would be fairly easy to make a considerable profit within the first couple of years. I learned very quickly that this is not the case! Owning, maintaining, and constantly upgrading photography equipment (including computer equipment and software) is extremely expensive! Now that I’ve added a home studio to my business the studio equipment and supplies needed to stay on top seems to be never ending.

7. What advice would you give to newbie photographers? What advice do you wish you'd been given at the very beginning?
 The biggest piece of advice that I would give to a ‘newbie’ photographer is to not start charging until your work is good enough and consistent. Once your work is good and consistent, value it by charging enough in order to sustain a profitable business. I see way too many photographers not charging enough. Know your cost of doing business. Do the math. It’s a boring task, but you must consider every single minute of your time and every single dollar you put into this career. If you call yourself a business, then run a legal business. Register your business. Pay your taxes. Get insured! One last piece of advice I would give to newbies is to find a way to stand out in this business! The photography market is highly saturated. In order to survive you must stand out and be different. Provide a service and amazing experience to your clients. For me this means providing my clients with a FULL photography experience from first contact until delivery of prints and products. Just handing over digital files just does not sit well with me. I know many successful photographers who run a successful business this way, which is fine, as long as you are charging enough for those digital files to sustain your business and to make each shoot profitable. I prefer to provide my clients with printing services. In my heart, I feel like I have done my client a disservice by not helping them to get their photos on a wall or in an album. The best part of this career for me is sitting with my clients when they view their image gallery for the first time. I love witnessing their reactions. I love helping them pick out prints and products that they will cherish for a lifetime and pass down to the generations behind them.

Find more of Melissa's beautiful work here:

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