When I first started following Melody's work two years ago,
I became entranced by her personable demeanor and editing style. She makes the most intimate moments radiate with elegance and emotion. In addition to her wedding photography, she has partnered with Samsung, Google, Overstock, Kamrette Bags, Brooklinen, Schwinn Bikes, and Master + Dynamic. In this interview, she talks about creating opportunities for herself when situations became uninspiring, packing Sudoku puzzles, and the challenges and rewards that come along with shooting photography full-time.
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Melody Joy and I'm a wedding and lifestyle photographer. Although I haven't stopped doing web and graphic design, as that was my first passion/job. I feel like design really helps my style as a photographer. I tend to shoot minimally and symmetrically, just as I do in my design.
As a wedding photographer, what are some of the challenging and rewarding aspects of the job?
I find that the biggest challenge can be the amount of time I take to edit each photo. I hear a lot of photographers using presets and zipping through a wedding in just a couple of hours. I manually edit every image and, while I think it's really therapeutic and I like having full control, the downside of that is it's definitely time-consuming. But I love the learning curve and the process of creating something that is so meaningful to someone. That's the most rewarding part. The responses I get from brides and their families about how much they love the little moments that they didn't even notice. Those are always my favorite images. It's extremely rewarding for me when a wedding collection is finished and genuinely appreciated by the couple.
How often are you out on the road?
I think about half of my weddings are destination and the other half are in Chicago, so quite a bit! One of my favorite parts of running my own business and being my own boss is that I can take time before and after destination weddings to explore the area. I just a had an elopement in Orcas Island a few weeks ago and had never been to Washington before. I actually brought my cousin along so we could adventure before and after the wedding, and we stumbled upon so many beautiful and unforgettable moments!
How do you like to unwind and relax when you're at home?
I love watching Frasier or Friends. Both are light-hearted and both make me laugh out loud. Netflix-watching mainly happens at night, though. During the day I love to walk around my neighborhood or downtown (whether it's in Chicago or Edinburgh) and stroll through the stores, stop by different coffee shops and check out new exhibits at museums. I am a member of The Art Institute of Chicago. I love drawing inspiration from art and design from all over the world.
Tell me about your camera bag. What is currently in your pack?
My camera bag holds my Canon 5D Mark lll, along with my favorite 28mm prime lens. It also carries my laptop and hard drive, so I can stop to edit wherever my daily strolls may take me. I always have a small brush and a travel sized bottle of dry shampoo in my bag, because my hair is usually a mess. I always have an external phone charger and cord. I also always have a pair of Komono sunglasses, my wallet, and a pen. Every time I travel, I also make sure to have a sudoku book or crossword puzzle with me in my bag. For weddings, though, an extra camera, a cleaning cloth, two more lenses, a card-reader, batteries and a flash are added to my bag.
What is your favorite thing about photography?
My favorite part about photography is the people. I love meeting someone new that is excited to get married and shooting their engagement session. I love meeting with a business owner and hearing all about their products while I shoot them. Seeing the passion and joy that someone has when you're shooting them, whether it's for their family or their business, brings me so much joy! I just love seeing people happy and passionate about something. It just reminds me of how grateful I am to also be doing something that I love. That fact somehow brings us closer together and makes for the best long nights of conversations and friendships with people from all over the world.
When did you realize that you could do photography full-time?
I'm incredibly humbled to be able to do this full-time. When I graduated college, I got a job as a graphic designer at a small company in middle Georgia. I met some of my favorite ladies there, but it wasn't exactly the most inspiring place to work. If there had been windows in my office, if it weren't so far from home, or if it didn't have that weird smell and uninspirational interior, I probably wouldn't have tried as hard to start my own website, find my own design clients and, eventually, quit that job. There were ups and downs and a huge learning curve at the start of my entrepreneurial career.
Between working with friends, contracts, miscommunication, taxes and trying to help others with their businesses in my free time, it was hard to make room for my passion. And when you start suppressing how you feel (and letting the Instagram facade be the face of your public life), then you know you are in an unhealthy place. Just so everyone knows, life isn't always easy or perfect and that's okay. If you can grow and learn from it, it can definitely make you stronger. But being persistent in my work ethic, over time I started doing more photo shoots. Once I recognized that something sparked inside of me when I began capturing photos, I realized that I wanted to do that more than my previous graphic design jobs.
Being able to put all of my energy into photography over the last two years has made a huge difference not only to my business but to my self-worth. I've never been into fancy houses or cars and never will be, but I will always value my time and opportunities to travel to new places. Now, I am able to travel whenever I want and focus on creating work that is meaningful and enjoyable to me and the individuals I photograph, and that is so priceless to me.
Describe your editing style.
My editing style some may say is "moody", which can be a good thing if it is capturing an emotional moment or mood. I would say it is more cinematic or natural. I am inspired by films that have darker hues and more monochromatic tones. I love shooting outside; not in the middle of the day, more like sunset or sunrise. I love natural light. Even while indoors, the light streaming in creates lines and dramatic scenes with natural coloring that really draws me in.
What are some favorite applications that you like to use on your phone to create the intimate look in your Instagram stories?
I love using the Snapseed app for photos and the VSCO app for filtering videos. I always desaturate certain colors, sharpen and darken the shadows.
What projects are you most excited about?
I have some exciting trips coming up, like shooting a wedding in San Francisco this year! But I'm also excited about every wedding that I shoot! Truly. I'm also always excited to explore new areas with my sweet boyfriend, Ross, in the states and abroad. I am actually planning to try to not book too many weddings on my next trip overseas, and plan to just shoot for a few companies and business owners that I admire. That is so exciting to me! I will be able to focus more on creating the art in the image to show the passions or the artist in a lifestyle setting, as opposed to capturing the quick movements and embraces of a wedding day. It's a totally different style of shooting and editing and I love both, but it will be nice to focus on something new to stay inspired and refreshed!
You can follow Melody on Instagram and read her blog and check out more her photos here.