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Exploring Life & Business with Shelley Hartman of Michelle Elyse Photography

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelley Hartman.

Shelley, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Wedding photography is something that sort of fell into my lap by fate. I originally moved down to North Carolina from Chicago after graduating college to work as a nurse. Smitten with all the exciting new scenery, I would go for hikes with meetup groups often and take pictures, which could then be posted to the group. One weekend, a girl on one of the trips said that she liked the photos and was wondering if I could photograph her wedding since she hadn’t hired a photographer. I loved this idea and I was so excited to just be able to go to a wedding and have fun. The wedding was at the peak of fall in the Virginia mountains, with the cutest couple, and the photos turned out better than I could have expected. Afterward, I posted the photos on Facebook to just share them like “hey look what I did” and then other nurses and college friends started asking me to photograph their weddings and families. In the very beginning, I also advertised on Craigslist (don’t recommend!) and did a wedding show- and after I did the wedding show, I was able to quit my job as a nurse and go full-time in photography. That was only a few years after I photographed my first wedding. Once things got going, things just really snowballed, and I am still going strong 11 years after that first wedding. 🙂

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I am grateful that it has mainly been smooth for me. I think the fact that I was able to work as a nurse to support myself during the transition really alleviated a lot of the pressure too. It would be very stressful to be starting a business from scratch and have all your eggs in that one basket from the get go.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Michelle Elyse Photography?
I photograph weddings and elopements with a more modern approach. I prefer relaxed candids over stiffly posed pictures, and I am known for how relaxed and natural my subjects look. I am also known for the way I capture people among nature. People often comment on how I am able to capture scenic landscapes but integrate my couples so that they interact naturally with the scenery. To me- great backdrop + great light + relaxed happy people = a great photograph. And so that’s always my goal when photographing. I also stand out for my moodier editing style with rich colors. I love the interaction between light and shadow in a picture, and I’m very inspired by the beautifully rich colors of classical art paintings. I think this overall style of my photography + my editing is what creates my unique look and sets me apart. I’m just proud to be able to get pictures where I think people are genuinely enjoying themselves. I want them to be in awe of themselves and their memories when they look back that them.

In addition to wedding and elopement photography, I do also do engagement sessions, day after sessions, rehearsal dinner coverage. I also do occasional family and newborn sessions when my schedule allows. People particularly seem to love the Day After Sessions because it gives them a chance to dress up in their wedding attire again and do a more extended photo session than their wedding day might have allowed. Usually we do this at a scenic location. I have even met up with people on their honeymoon to capture these!

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
I don’t see any huge changes in the way things are done for wedding photographers, but I do see a huge difference in the way people market. Facebook used to be the big way to get the word out about your business, and then it was Instagram, but that’s going down too. I think that Instagram will no longer be a worthwhile advertising venue in a few years time, so people will have to be searching for the next thing, which they already are. Social media is such a huge thing in our industry because it’s free advertising, and it is used by a lot of new photographers to get their name out and have their photos seen to get bookings.

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Photo credit to Michelle Elyse Photography

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