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Exploring Life & Business with Melissa Newman of M Newman Designs

Photo by Jon Corun

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Newman.

Hi Melissa, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Initially, I found some inspiration through my older cousin when I was still in middle school. She had gotten a really cool digital camera (when digital was just becoming widely accessible to retail consumers). She had a good eye for photos and I thought her pictures were cool.

Then when I started high school, we had choices of elective courses to take. I chose to take a film photography course, the course included an entire darkroom for developing our prints. I enjoyed my photography class and felt I did pretty well with framing things creatively. During this same period of time, while shooting on a film SLR, I also obtained my first point-and-shoot digital camera. At this point, I was experimenting with both my SLR and my point-and-shoot while out with friends, or wherever I ended up. I took photos of everything I did, always practicing and having fun with it.

Once I graduated high school, I invested in my first digital SLR! This was a game-changer for me. Owning a DSLR was when I really started experimenting more in-depth with all sorts of shooting styles. Digital content is infinite, no worries about running out of film or paying to have things developed. I could take as many photos as I wanted and start to learn about different lenses etc. I would set my camera up at home and take long-exposure self-portraits and try various methods of movement or use lights for trails.

There was no limit to my experimenting, especially having so much free time as a young college student, I could devote a ton of time to messing with photography techniques. Later on, in my college career, I took an Adobe Photoshop course which was the foundation for my ability to edit images on my computer. The Adobe course was the next major step forward for my photography work, I excelled in the course and learned a lot of editing techniques.

Eventually, I got to a point where I did not know what to choose as a major in college so I took some time off of school for a few years. During these years out of college, I developed my small photography business and booked one of my first real paid gigs as a “professional” photographer. Eventually, I realized I liked running my businesses, so I decided to go back to college and finish up a degree in Business Administration with a focus in marketing. I felt a business degree was the perfect complement to my creative business endeavors.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Motivation can be one of the biggest challenges. I think all humans experience waves of feeling motivated to chase their dreams, then becoming complacent, then back to motivated, and so on. There are moments in my career where I have pushed forward with every bit of effort I can muster and it pays off. But then there are downward lulls where I feel stuck like I am not learning enough for progressing my work enough.

This happens on and off throughout the last ten years of my shooting. It honestly only seems to get that much harder with age because I gain so many other responsibilities in my life, I have to remember to chunk out time to practice my photography techniques. I miss the old days of just practicing advanced techniques in my living room day in and day out to learn studio lighting and reflection among other things. Another challenge is financial. Photography is an incredibly expensive endeavor the further you get. I remember when I was first starting out as a college student, it took everything I had just to be able to afford one lens, a camera bag, maybe a used flash. It takes years and thousands upon thousands of dollars to build your professional photography kit and it never seems to end!

Another challenge that can be sort of related to the financial struggle, is the fact that I find it difficult to stick to just one or two categories of photography. The more types of photography services you offer, the more gear it seems you need. I find myself torn between photographing architecture, photographing a wedding, portrait work, conferences, performers, and more.

All of these things require ever so slightly different skills or gear. My photography kit for shooting architecture is entirely different than the kit I would use at a wedding… and all of these items cost a lot of money! But that’s ok for now I suppose. Maybe I’ll be able to narrow down my offerings someday!

We’ve been impressed with M Newman Designs, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My business is a sole proprietorship. It is me, myself, and I! I handle all aspects of my business from marketing/promotions, client coordination, finances, website design and updates, client relationships. Currently, I am specializing in architectural photography and wedding photography.

These are the two areas that I shoot the most and spend the most time coordinating. I think currently what sets me apart from others, especially when it comes to architectural shooting, is that I am alone. I am not saying that is a good or bad thing really, but it just shows my determination to learn what I need and to get the job done. I have captured some really beautiful architectural images without the help of lighting assistants, interior designers, people helping to move furniture around and place items perfectly in the shot.

I show up and lug around heavy gear, set it all up, tear it all down, move furniture and decorations as needed, remote shoot while I move around rooms and shine lights on various places, put everything back where I found it when a space is completed. This all takes an enormous amount of effort on my part and I do it with no help at all. But that is just what it is in the beginning when you first start doing architecture. It’s honestly a labor of love for me right now and I do hope to someday have some assistance on set! Because architecture is my newest passion over the last couple of years, I would say that is becoming one of the proudest areas of my brand.

I cannot believe that I started shooting architecture in 2018 because of sheer coincidence and now I have architectural images featured on the websites of the architects that designed those spaces! Architects are extremely critical about the images they choose to show off their finished work, so it is a huge honor when they decide that my images meet their standards for their websites or other marketing materials. I have poured so much time, money, and passion into learning the art of architectural photography and it is starting to pay off and that is always a proud moment.

I would like readers to know that I am a jack of all trades in my life and also in my photography. I am always down to try out projects or new ideas with clients, lets get creative and maybe weird too! I am a people person, and I think that’s an important trait in an industry like mine, I like to talk to people and work with people. I love making people feel comfortable and confident when they are in front of my camera. I want clients to know that their ideas or concerns are heard for whichever type of photo service they are interested in. Let’s get to know each other!

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
The photography industry is always going to be here, there will always be work in all the various avenues of photography services. I do see a shift taking a lot of artists toward the use of drones. Drones are incredibly helpful for weddings and architecture. They simply offer you a vantage point that would otherwise feel impossible to capture without one.

Drones have also started to become much more affordable for retail consumers, creating more accessibility. Maybe I’ll delve into that area when the time permits! I do also wonder if mirrorless cameras will become the next industry standard, but I do not possess enough information on that yet.

They are neat though!

Pricing:

  • Engagement shoots start at $400
  • Weddings start at $1800
  • Architecture is TBD!
  • I’d love to donate my services to non-profit/charity-type events. Please contact me!

Contact Info:

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