This week we have the pleasure of meeting another of our amazing members – newborn and child photographer, Melissa VanLeeuwen of Simply Said Photography located in Tillonsburg Ontario.
Tell us a little something about yourself? I am a wife of 11 years to my very supportive husband, and mom to 3 beautiful children. We have a 4 month old Bernese Mountain dog named “Fergie”, or as we like to call her “Miss Fergie Ferg”! We live in Tillsonburg, Ontario which is a mid-sized town, about 2 hours South West of Toronto.
How long have you been a photographer? Photography for me began in 2009. I started out shooting part time along side my full time job. After about a year of shooting part time, my business grew quickly and this is when I needed to make a decision. I chose photography as a full time career and am very happy with my decisionJ I love my job!
Describe your area of expertise for us please. I shoot everything from weddings, engagements, children, families, maternity and newborns, I would say that my specialty is working with newborns and children.
How did you come to specialize in newborns & children? When I first began my career as a photographer I noticed that I was naturally drawn to newborns. There is something so magical about photographing newborns and capturing the newness of them. It all too quickly becomes a fleeting moment in time that if not captured will be forgotten. How awesome is it that, that this is part of my job? My background before photography was as an early childhood educator so I am very comfortable around children. I’m just tons of fun to be around and act like a kid myself! That, right there, is my secret. I often wonder what parents think of me after sessions, with all of my shenanigans. It is about me connecting with the children and getting true smiles verses the forced, “look at the camera and say cheese” smiles.
Please share with us your absolute favorite photograph you’ve ever taken and tell us the story behind it, why it speaks to you, etc. Oh sure, really, just one? This is an image I snapped of my son when he was 3. I scooped him up one sunny Summer day for an impromptu photo session, to capture him just before his 4th birthday. His expression in this picture is HIM. Every time I look at this picture I smile.
How would you describe your style? Natural, fun and real.
What is your standby pose (the one that everyone tends to want from you)? I wouldn’t say that I have a standby pose. I haven’t had any clients asking for anything specific. Which, to tell you the truth, I like. My clients are prepped for their shoots in advanced to be themselves. They generally fully trust in me to guide the shoot and that everything will turn out beautifully!
What gear is in your bag? Nikon girl in the house! In my bag you will find my D700, 70-200mm 2.8, 85mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4 and my macro 105mm 2.8
If you could only use one lens what would it be? I love all my lenses for one reason or another. But for newborn purposes my 50mm 1.4 .
Are you considering any new gear purchases this year? No new purchases until 2013, and then I think I will be looking at a new camera body.
What is your go-to camera shop? Henry’s. They price match!
Which album company do you recommend? For my wedding albums I print through Graphistudio. Their albums are well made and customer service is awesome.
How do you stay motivated? I don’t know that anything really motivates me to keep on going other than the fact that my amazing clients are waiting patiently to view their images. ;) This is motivation enough. I stay organized using “teux deux” it helps to remind me of all the things I need “to do”. If you haven’t checked it out, you must!
What makes your job easy? This is easy! When a client shows up for a session and trusts in me to do my job. This helps everything run smoothly and effortlessly.
Do you prefer to work in the studio, on-location, or both and why? Studio for my newborns and definitely outdoors for regular photo sessions.
What sets you and your work apart from other photographers in your area? Every photographer has a style of his or her own. I hope to be recognized by my crisp, clean editing style and by the style of my photography. What I am told, time and time again, from clients and friends, is they know my images when they see them. They know my style, and can tell by the image that it is mine. This speaks volumes to my work and me as a photographer.
Do you use a Mac or PC? Mac.
Tell us about your image processing style and the software you use. I always begin in Lightroom and then off to Photoshop to finish things up. My processing style is clean. Less is more.
Have you attended any workshops that you found to be helpful in your work? My first workshop was with Kelly MacDonald, of Kelly MacDonald Photography. It was focused on shooting in full sun and working with couples. I became much more comfortable working with couples and learned to embrace light. No more hiding under shaded trees! My latest workshop, less than 2 weeks ago, was with Laura Brett of Laura Brett Photography. I learned so much about newborn photography and am so eager to put in place all that I’ve learned. Yipppeee!
Which professional organizations do you belong to? I belong to the National Association of Professional Child Photographers. I’m humbled by the talent among the photographers that belong to this Association and very proud to be a member myself.
Tell us about your long-term goals. My long-term goals are to find a way to run my photography business and still be a good friend, wife, mother and daughter. Sometimes we are all pulled in so many directions it is hard to give your all in any one area of your life. If I could find a way to balance my work life with my personal life I would be one happy lady.
Best advice for new photographers breaking into the business? Never stop learning and striving to be the best. There is a wealth of information out there to help you learn, but there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes incredibly hard work and dedication to run a successful photography business. Take workshops and never stop learning. When you think you know it all…….you don’t. I think this is why I have such a love for photography. I love to learn, of course, about things that interest me and I am forever learning.
If you could choose anyone to do a photoshoot of you and your family, who would your choose? That is seriously a tough question. I think I would choose Julie from Lot 116 Photography. She looks like a lot of fun to work with.
If you were not a photographer, then…I would still be working for the school board as an Educational Assistant.
What does photography mean to you? Photography for me is an expression of myself through my clients. It means being able to bring my energy to a shoot and see it translate through to my clients. It’s capturing a moment in time that can never be recreated and being able to look upon it forever. I love being the “memory” taker!
Magazine must have? People & Oprah.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Mint chocolate chip ice cream, French onion soup and Red Lobster. They all go together perfectly right?!
My weakness is…Starting too many projects at once.
My strength is…I’m a multi-tasker!
What do you do when you first wake up? I brush my teeth.
Finish this quote: When it rains…I know that the dog is going to be a mess after coming in from doing her business.
Who do you love? My Family.
Do you read your horoscope? No. I used to when I had more time to sit and ponder.
Blog addiction…Believe it or not I really don’t follow any blogs. I just don’t have the time. From time to time I will check in on certain photographers I like to see what they are up to. This would include Laura Brett Photography, Pinkletoes Photography and Lot 116 photography.
Tattoos…Yes when I was 17 years old. It’s on my lower back and I wish I gave that more thought!
80’s Music…Wasn’t a fan of the 80’s, I LOVE The Guess Who and some good old classic rock from the 70’s.
What’s on your iPod? I have an iPhone and it is full of game apps for my kids and tons of Instagram photos!
Morning or night? Wish I was a morning person, but really I’m a night owl. Makes those mornings pretty tough!
My friends say…That I should take more time for myself. What thoughtful friends I have.
Travel dreams…I’m definitely pulled towards travelling to countries in need. I’m hoping to some day travel to Africa or to another third world country. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to do this. It is definitely on the list as one of the 100 things to do before I die.
On my day off…I like to leave my house and plan activities with my family that fills the day.
THANK YOU for taking the time to chat with us. It was a pleasure getting to know you better and to see your beautiful images.