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Fri. Apr 30, 2010 by Mary    Life with J&M

Ask Julia

Here's a lil' Friday afternoon bonus post for you! To kick off your weekend, Miss Julia is going to be taking over the blog to answer all of your burning questions. And' I'm sure after reading this, you guys are going to love her as much as we do. I mean how could you not....this is the girl who brings in yellow tulips just because she knows we had a rough day. Love you Julia Gulia!!

Hi! It's Julia!

Earlier this week, I got home from work and I signed onto Justin & Mary's blog. I know, a little compulsive, I spend all day with them, then get home and run to the computer to see if Mary has added any new posts since I left their house... an entire half hour ago!! :) What can I say, she's one heck of a writer!! And guess what? I DID see a new post. Ask Justin & Julia. Wait, WHAT?!? I blinked a few times, but the post name didn't change, nor did the post, asking for questions for the two J's. Gulp!

Thank you all, for writing in and asking questions. I did my best to answer them as honestly as I could! Happy Friday!!

ALLISON K Julia: How was it traveling with Justin & Mary? It looks like you had a blast :)

To say I had a blast is probably an understatement!! Touring the country is something I always wanted to do, but never actually thought I would get to do! I feel so blessed that I got to experience it with Justin & Mary, as well as all the fabulous people we met along the way! What an adventure! The next task is figuring out how my husband can join in the fun next time!!

CHRISTA For Julia: How'd you get an awesome gig like this?!?! Working for Justin & Mary :)
JULIE VELEZ For Julia: What's it like working with J & M? Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started with them? I know that's more than one question, so maybe that's cheating, but I'd really like to know!

So, to answer this question, I am going to go way back to my childhood. I grew up (like Justin) in New Jersey- on the Jersey shore to be exact, but no fist pumping for me thank you very much!! And, thankfully, I was a teenager a few years after the disasterous period of mall hair. Shudder! I grew up in a house of amatuer photographers. My dad even used to develop his own film in the basement. I have always loved photography but never felt like it was my thing. It always belonged to someone else. My dad because he had been doing it for so long, my brother because he took classes in high school and then college, my mom because she found a way to make simple things look interesting. And then there was me, walking around with a hand me down camera, a burning desire in my heart to take wonderful pictures... but unable to vocalize that desire because it scared me. I didn't want to do something just because someone else did it (as a third child that happened a lot!), and truthfully, I didn't want to try and fail!

Fastforward ten or twenty years: My desire to take pictures was still there and I was still struggling internally with it.

Mike (my fiance at the time, now my husband), who knows me to my core, surprised me with a Nikon D40 for Christmas. Quite an upgrade from the trusty point and shoot I carried through college with me! So it's 2008, we're engaged and in need of a wedding photographer. After several dissapointing meetings, we found ourselves at the apartment of Justin & Mary Marantz- hoping that these two would be the ones. And boy were they! We explained our plans to them, and instead of giving us the blank stares we were used to seeing, they got excited with us. A vintage pick up truck? Awesome! A gospel choir in a Catholic church? Cool! Yellow shoes on the bride and sneakers on the groom? Killer! We hired them on the spot and never looked back. After we saw our engagement pictures I began to read their blog on a more regular basis (like every day!), and my love of photography kept growing. But it still wasn't mine! I still couldn't vocalize to anyone just how badly I really wanted to understand ISO, and aperture, and shutter speed... and all the other words that meant nothing to me! They were just letters in a camera manual that seemed so foreign and out of reach!

After our wedding we went to Justin & Mary's apartment to view our photos. After a glass of wine (or two), I casually mentioned my job was not making me happy and they casually mentioned that they were hiring. I laughed and brushed it off and that was that. I didn't think they were serious! After a few weeks of the idea sitting in the pit of my stomach, it felt like it was going to burst out of me. So I took a deep breath and wrote them an email. If you were serious about hiring... I would seriously consider finding out more about the job. As it turned out, they didn't just need a secretary (as I had formulated in my mind), they needed a second shooter! It's so hard to describe the mix of emotions that ran through me when I heard that. I'm not gonna lie, the doubt and fear that consumed me when they mentioned the idea of teaching me to shoot almost overpowered the huge swooping feeling of joy that accompanied it. The what ifs that had lived inside me for so long were finally being tested. Fate, as it turns out, knew about my secret desires, and had finally decided to intervene. My husband jumped on board full force and surprised me yet again, with a new camera for Christmas. I think I cried harder upon opening the shiny gold Nikon box than I did when he proposed. His support in my new endeavor was all I needed to push me beyond the edge of doubt and fear. I went to second shoot for them on weekends but still kept working at my day job. This soon became overwhelming for me and J&M needed more help than I could give. I went full time with them a few months later. And that my friends, is the long winded story of how I got started working with Justin and Mary!!

So, what's it like working with Justin & Mary? Just as wonderful as you can imagine. They have tirelessly taught me to shoot from the ground up and continue to offer me support when the doubt and fear creeps back in! Since I'm in full disclosure mode, I still can't believe that some of my images make the blog posts. Seriously, a year ago, I had just started working with them and was all backlit what? Rim light huh? And I can't help but smile from ear to ear when Mary is editing at her computer and I hear her say: Wooo! Someone was on fire this weekend! You did awesome girl! I think it speaks mountains about them that they opened their arms and welcomed me into their company wholeheartedly. From the day I started working there, they made me feel like part of a three person team, instead of a two person team with an extra person tagging along. And that means the world to me!!

As a final note, if I'm being completely honest, on some days, I still pinch myself just to make sure I'm not napping in my old cubicle with J&M's blog open on my work station!! :)

PATTI This question is for any of you... What advise can you give me as the second photographer? What is your flow for the wedding day, when working as a team? Do you have certain shots that the second photographer is responsible for? Any other insight would be fantastic!

As a second shooter, I believe the most important thing you can do, is become a mind reader!! :) No, but seriously, I go into the wedding day, not only focusing on getting good shots but also focused on how to make everyone else's lives easier. I try to be aware of what Justin & Mary are doing so that I can help out as much as possible without being asked. It doesn't always happen that way, but it's the goal! : ) I grew up playing team sports so I take a lot of that along with me. I mean, I know that everyone wants to get THE shot- the banging shot of the first kiss, or the perfect first dance picture. Just like everyone wants that winning goal, but that goal can't happen without the assist. Sometimes THE shot can't happen without a little teamwork!! :) Maybe we're all shooting details but the room is a tad dark and Mary needs some light bounced in to make the shoes pop- I'm there! Or maybe the light stand is in the car and Justin wants to use the umbrella and pocket wizards. Voila! I'm a human light stand! I try to be as flexible as possible and the day just goes that much smoother! I also try to make sure I know what's going on with the bridesmaids or family. Is there a group in the kitchen hanging out? While details are being shot, an image or two of the surrounding action can be fun to add to the story of the day. Sometimes helping to get the shot is simply enabling Justin & Mary to have their hands free! If J&M are carrying a light stand, rolling a Think Tank, and holding a bride's bouquet, then a quiet moment between the couple after portraits might be missed. And to me, it's more important for someone to grab a shot of that moment than to have that someone be me.

As far as shooting goes, I try to keep in mind what lenses Justin & Mary are using as well as to keep tabs on where in the room they are so I can stay out of their shots. For instance, if Justin has a wider lens on, I'll probably pop on my 70-200 so I can stay out of the way. I also look for different locations to grab shots from. Is there a balcony or a doorway I can pop into to grab a different perspective? Is there a photobooth or a veranda that has a lot of guests in or around it. I'll try to slip out and grab some candids in those places a few times throughout the night.

During family pictures, Justin is usually taking the group shots while Mary is directing. If I'm not helping gather family I'll use this time take pictures of individuals. You can get some really good relaxed stuff while people's attention is focused elsewhere. During portraits I also try to find a different perspective. Justin & Mary don't need me three steps behind them grabbing the same picture they are taking!! :) Even though sometimes it really tempting to do just that!!! So I wander around, switch lenses and also pay attention to smaller details like hands, flowers, and positioning of the feet.

That being said, I feel like all three of us do a lot of what I said above- not just me! :) It really is a true three person team. Throughout the day, we do communicate a lot. Mary will often silently motion across a room if there is a poignent moment going on behind me that I might not have noticed. Or if portraits are happening during cocktail hour- I might go cover cocktail hour while J&M are with the bride and groom. Also, before major moments we try to assemble a game plan so we know that all of our basis can be covered with as little interuption to the event as possible. For instance positioning ourselves around the room and what each of us is going to focus on. If it's toasts I might mainly cover reactions from friends and family, Justin might mainly cover the speaker while Mary focuses on the bride and groom. We each do all three, but this ensures that everything is being covered completely.

PEGGY for julia - what is it like working for a "brand" that is a husband and wife team?

I love it!! I really think having a steady second shooter totally vibes with the brand. J&M are all about connecting on a real and personal level with clients and vendors so that continuity allows us to do that even better! When I am designing albums and sending out vendor discs, I know the people I am working with and it makes it feel that much more personal! Also, this year especially, I have noticed that couples have started to expect to see me at their weddings and that feels really good! I think it's important for a couple to feel as comfortable as possible with their photographers- and seeing my face on the blog and hearing stories about the three of us helps to cultivate that comfort level, even if we've never met before! (I go on some engagement shoots but not on all).

I think it 's also important we have similar style, not just shooting style, but in life. We shop at a lot of the same places and like a lot of the same movies and tv shows. So (I think at least) that I gel right into the brand pretty nicely!

We started joking last year that now it's like Justin & Mary.... and Julia too! For some reason, saying this out loud always pulls some dirivative of jazz hands out of me... I know, I know, I'm a total nerd!

DAWN BEIRNES the first advice you would give a person who is very new to photography, but is SOOOOO hoping to become a photographer!

Go for it! I held my desire to be photographer inside for much to long!! Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! And ask as many questions as possible! Keep a notebook about things you learn! My mom gave me this advice when I first started working for J&M and I only half listened. A lot of times, I'll ask something and think I'll remember the answer I get. Then I find myself asking the same question again! This is so frustrating for me! I know the answer is somewhere in my own head but I have to stop what I'm doing to ask J&M for a quick hint. If I had diligently kept the notebook, I could review it and know a lot by memory!


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