Fri. Mar 21, 2014 by Mary    Life with J&M

What I Wish I'd Known When We Were Getting Started

This past week as we traveled through four cities in Germany, talking to people who are just getting started in their businesses or are at a place where they feel like they are being forced to start over, it took me back to the early days of our business. This Fall will mark eight years of Justin & I being full time in our business, but I can still remember those early days as if it were yesterday. I can remember the struggle. I can remember the hunger. I can remember wanting it so bad I could taste it. I can remember buying that oversized champagne glass from Michael's to fill with Hershey's chocolate at our bridal show booth and thinking it was the most genius idea. Ever.

I remember.

And when I think back on those days, more than a few times I've wished there was someone back then who would've been there to tell me a few things I should know. Things I now WISH I would've known when we were first getting started. If I could go back and talk to the me of the first few years of our business, I would say things like...

*A giant oversized champagne glass of Hershey's chocolates is NEVER a good idea. And while we're at it, there are FAR better ways to find your best clients than a bridal show. The way your clients find you, trains them on how to think about you. And the LAST thing you want them thinking is that a photographer is a photographer is a photographer. So just find the one who is offering the best deal.
*Be sure to keep your first business card. You will go to extraordinary lengths to find it just so you can laugh at it one day.
*Not everyone who acts like your friend actually is. And there will be people who turn their back on you when either things go bad or things go really GREAT. Reach out and be a friend anyway.
*Super glue. I'm just saying friend, carry it with you at ALL times. There was at least one Grandma's brooch that was saved this way without the bride ever knowing.
*While I'm at it, the silver 3M Command hook. We carry it with us to every wedding, so we can hang the dress on something classy when there's nothing else around.
*In this world there are speakers and there are teachers. There are celebrities and there are leaders. Spend your time with the teachers and the leaders, they won't lead you wrong. And if you aren't sure of the difference, just ask your gut. It always has a way of knowing.
*Apples and water are an absolute necessity on a wedding day. The best day of someone else's life is no time to get "hangry" (when you're so hungry you're angry) or "tirrational" (when you're so tired you're irrational).
*This little blog that you started over on Blogger for free and with no one reading, will turn into the driving force of your business. It will have millions of unique visits, thousands of comments, and most importantly, it will bring some of the most amazing people you've ever met into your life and take you to some of the most amazing places you've ever seen because of it. Keep writing. Pour your heart into it. Always be honest. And make it a way to serve others. The rest will work itself out.

*Comparison will steal approximately 11,622 hours of your one wild & precious life as you chase this dream. Just agree to stop doing that right now, ok? Stop comparing your middle of the way to someone else's ending.
*Always, always make room at the table for someone else. There is no cool kids table. And the people who think there should be will eventually find themselves sitting alone.
*Make a sample book and leave it at your favorite venue. That $400 investment has turned into approximately $65,000 in revenue over the past few years. Seriously, what are you waiting for?
*Learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable in this business. The more uncomfortable you are, the closer you are to the next big chapter.
*There might come a time when someone will steal from you, make a ton of money off of it, and then try to run YOUR name through the mud to cover up for it. Just wait patiently. Choose kindness. Definitely choose forgiveness. And keep sharing anyway. Sooner or later, everything in darkness comes to light.
*Open your hand. The BEST things that have happened in your business these past 8 years have not been the things that you cherry picked off the checklist of someone else's dreams & what success is supposed to look like. The BEST things have always been the things that were far too big & amazing for you to even dream of yourself. God loves to surprise you like that & He has far better things in store. But He can't do that if you're clinching your fist too tightly holding on to what you THINK it should look like. Trust me on this one, just open your hand.
*Stop opening every image individually to work on it. That's just craziness. There will come these tools called Photo Mechanic and Lightroom and Blogstomp. Buy them WAY sooner than you think you should. They will give you your life back!
*And while we're at it, go LIVE your life. Sit on the front porch with a glass of white wine, watch more sunsets, take long drives (for fun!) in the car, pet your dog more, chop basil and make homemade soup, decorate a corner of your world, spray the smell of lavender on your sheets, have long breakfasts in bed, sit in a cafe in a strange new corner of the world and watch in wonder, choose adventure, eliminate the word "Can't," write things on bucket lists and watch each and every one of them come true. And every single second of your day never ever could be sitting in an office somewhere right now getting yelled at for using too many exclamation points.

These years ahead will be some of the hardest, but most beautiful, rewarding, fulfilling, adventurous, unlimited, heart-filling years of your life. You are SO lucky that this is the path that laid out in front of you. Push the button friend. And be thankful every time you do. For this camera has opened up the whole world.

Have camera, will travel.

Thu. Mar 20, 2014 by Mary    Pancake Sessions

Pancake Session: Shooting in Tough Locations

Happy Pancake day friends!!

Today we want to talk to you all about some go to strategies for shooting in tough locations! We hear it ALL the time in workshops & mentoring sessions that people will say "well, we don't get weddings that look like yours..." And while it is certainly true that we have been blessed with some absolutely GORGEOUS weddings, we still find ourselves shooting in tough locations ALL the time. That never goes away! We just shoot it in a way where you wouldn't necessarily know it. And that is such an awesome challenge to give yourself (to shoot it in a way where the viewer wouldn't know what it really looked like) for two reasons: 1) it just really sharpens the skill set & keeps you on your become a better photographer when you have to shoot in tough situations, and 2) when you are shooting the weddings you are getting like the weddings you WANT to get, you are much more likely to attract that bride!

We posted this new J&M Editorial Shoot from Hamburg a few days back, and the reaction here and on Facebook & Instagram was absolutely overwhelming! It was one of our most popular posts to date! And I just had to laugh because ohhhhh if you guys had seen the tough situation we were shooting in THAT day!

Basically, all of the tour stops here in Germany have been taking place in ballrooms like the ones you see below. And the turnout has been absolutely AMAZING.....which is SO awesome, but it also means we are shooting in some pretty tight situations. Most of the rooms when we're shooting look like this: tons of people, a big projector screen, and about six feet for us to move around in! There wasn't really room for us to set up any backdrops, so what do you do when you're in a tough situation? Make it work! So we decided to just use the projector screen. And then during the break, Justin would take our models outside for a few more shots. But using our go to strategies, we were still able to get some images that we love!

So let's talk about what those strategies are!

1. Dimensional Light & Simplicity of Background. First & foremost, we guide our decisions by two simple principles that have never steered us wrong: look for spots with directional, dimensional light & simplicity of background. You will be amazed how much prettier, more elegant & more high end an image will appear when it shot with dimensional light and not a lot going on in the background.

2. When in doubt, go closer! Crop out edges, cut out anything in the room that isn't working or is busy or distracting. If you don't show it, people won't know that it was there. Instead, focus in on what's beautiful or emotional about the scene.

3. Use contrast to your advantage. By feathering (shifting away) your light from the background, you can create a darker background. The image you see directly below was still shot on that white projector screen, but by feathering the light away from it while still keeping it on our subject...the background starts to go a darker gray. So you have a lot of options available! You can really put this to use in an ugly hotel room. Bring your subject close to your window light and allow that contrast/fall off of light to the background make everything else go dark so that it hides what the room really looked like. If you really need to keep light off of your background. a soft box will work best because the sides are blacked out & will really help you focus the light!

4. The larger the light source, the softer your light. So a great window or a large umbrella will give you softer, more "painterly" images, while the soft box or bright sun will give you a harder, edgier light. We used both in our brand new editorial shoot from Munich that you see below & you can see the different results and that both can be really nice!

5. Shallow depth of field. If you really need to hide what's not working about a room, using shallow depth of field is a great way to do that. This means not only shooting more wide open (for us we shoot totally wide open at 1.4 for Nikon 85-90% of the takes a lot of practice to always nail your focus that wide open, but it's worth it!), but also moving your subject away from the background and moving your feet to be in closer. Both of which will enhance the fall off of a shallow depth of field.

As always, we hope this helps! If you have any questions, just leave them in the comment box below. If you don't have any questions, just say HI! Comments make our hearts happy AND they let us know if these posts are helping so we know to keep them coming! :) Also, enjoy our latest editorial shoot from Munich!

Happy Pancake Day!

Wed. Mar 19, 2014 by Mary    The Latest

Featured: Southern Weddings

Happy Wednesday friends!

Today we are renting a little BMW (they're just a domestic car over here! :) and driving from Munich to Vienna, making a few stops at castles & churches along the way. We don't have a plan, we don't have a timetable. We're just going to meander. With the windows down and Spring in the air, and soak in all the goodness that surrounds us. I can't wait to drive down the road with some good music on the radio and the Alps in the distance!

In additional news, my German is getting pretty good over here! Therefore we're thinking about changing the name of our lighting workshop to the "J&M Licht und Schatten Intensive"....I think it has a better ring to it, don't you?! :) licht und schatten, licht und schatten, licht und schatten, licht und schatten, licht und schatten

While we were over here, we got the fantastic news that Ashley & Jeremy's wedding has been featured on the Southern Weddings blog! They had SUCH a gorgeous day & Southern Weddings is SUCH a gorgeous it was the perfect fit! :) Here is a little sneak peek of the feature & you can see the whole post by clicking HERE. And I can't wait to blog their full wedding once we get back to the States!

Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!!

Mon. Mar 17, 2014 by Mary    Life with J&M

Life w/ J&M: Nice & The French Riviera

Happy Tuesday friends!

Today we are so excited to share with you Part II of our France trip, this time when we drove along the coast after Provence to hit up the Cote d'Azur of the French Riviera, in particular Nice & Cannes. We started off hanging out on the beaches of Cannes (which are clothing optional by the way....we took the option of keeping them ON! :) And then we drove on up to Nice ("neece") where we watched the sunset and ate dinner by the water. Finally after that, we tried to drive on up the coast to at least drive into the country of Monaco. Funny story about that....yea, the WHOLE country shuts down at 10pm! They just put a little gate down on the road and you can't go in. Thank GOODNESS we didn't get there at 9:45 because I'm not sure if we could have gotten back out! :)


Mon. Mar 17, 2014 by Mary    Life with J&M

Marantz House Project: The Navy Wall

Good morning friends & Happy Monday!

Today we are touring around Stuttgart, hitting up the Porsche museum, and then making our way to Munich for the LAST stop on our tour tomorrow! I can't believe how quickly it's going by. Yesterday's group was absolutely amazing with such a great energy in the room...I seriously can't wait to see what's next for all of them! Big, BIG things are ahead for this market, I just know it!

But this morning while we're off doing all of that, I wanted to share the latest accomplishment in our Marantz House Project that we finished right before we took off for Germany. Ever since we bought the house, I have been DYING to have a navy wall somewhere in it. I can't explain it, but Navy is kind of my signature color. If you follow along on Instagram, you know that I own WAY too many clothes in this color. And if they have stripes, anchors or polka dots....all the better!! Amen!

So I got this idea in my head a while ago that we should do a navy wall at the bottom of the stairs from our third floor bedroom. And since it would be the first thing that we saw every day AND it also lines up with our "travel bookshelf" where we put all the framed pictures of our travels, I decided that it should have a compass on it. So it reminds us to always follow our true north. Or something like that! :)

So we went to work & we (ok, mostly Justin....I seriously have the best husband on the PLANET!) made it happen! And I am SO excited with how it turned out! Here is the before.....

.....and HERE is the after!!! YAY!!


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