Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BEHIND THE LENS: Melissa Papaj, Mountain Green, Utah

Today we visit the great state of Utah and meet with Melissa Papaj.  When I visited her site I was immediately drawn to the amazing and vibrant colors that exude from her images.  Just gorgeous!  And I learned and will use this new term I love of Melissa's - Photoshopographer - as in - don't be a photographer who relies too heavily on photoshop to get it right.  Get it right the first time as you capture it in the camera.  The cool calm she has on the outside belies the nerves she has before every shoot, which must be part of what makes her so great at what she does.  Check out her work, and meet our new friend, Melissa!

Your Name: Melissa Papaj
Your studio/business name: Melissa Papaj Photography
Location: Mountain Green, Utah
Website: http://www.melissapapajphotography.com
Blog: http://www.melissapapajphotography.blogspot.com
Twitter/Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melissa-Papaj-Photography/34435591056

Your Style

In 50 words or less, how would your clients describe your photography?
Candid and fun!

Are you self-taught or classroom trained?
I actually took the course through NYIP but would never recommend it to others. I have learned so much more through my own explorations at much less cost. One of the best websites I have found is Photo.net as a learning tool – but be prepared for brutally honest critique that might sting at first, but helps you leaps and bounds in your skills.

How many years have you been a professional photographer?
5 years

Where do you want to take your photography business in 5 years?
I would love to be to a point where I can shoot weddings exclusively, not all the other portrait stuff that goes with it.

Is there a photographer who inspires your style? 
Who would that be? I have so many but I would have to say my all time favorite is Todd Laffler – he is so creative. I also really like Marcus Bell because of the emotion that he captures.

Favorite location to take photos?
My favorite spots to take photos would have to be the mountains with lots of grassy fields and mountain wildflowers, but the beach comes in second very close.

Favorite vacation spot?
This is a tough one for me. I love the beach anywhere just to be lazy and Mexico was amazing. But so far my very favorite vacation – if you would call it that – was a service mission to Kisumu, Kenya in 1998. I would love to go back there and see all the people again – especially now that I am a photographer.

Your Business

What was the pivotal moment when you decided to become a photographer?
I don’t know that I had an actual moment. I feel that I have a gift of finding beauty in everything and photography allows me to do that.

What’s the best marketing tip that has worked for you?
Definitely word of mouth. Most of my weddings and other portrait work come from people telling others about me.

What’s the most surprising thing a customer has asked you?
Seriously? I can’t think of one thing. Nothing surprises me anymore.

Favorite print lab?
Black River Imaging

Your Gear

Are you Canon or Nikon (or – other):
I shoot with a Nikon D700

If you could only have one lens on a photo shoot, what would it be? Definitely my 24-70mm f/2.8
What brand bag do you carry your camera in?
I use a shootsac J

What gear would we find in your camera bag?
I have 2 Nikon D700’s, a Nikon D80, a 16mm 2.8 fisheye, a 50mm 1.8, a 60mm 2.8 macro, a 24-70mm 2.8, a 70-200mm 2.8, and though it doesn’t fit, I have a VERY EXPENSIVE 300mm 2.8 lens for my wildlife (hobby) , I have 2 SB 800’s and 2 pocket wizards

Are you a natural light fan or strobe fan?
I love natural light and find it to be the most flattering but definitely use flash when necessary or for dramatic lighting.

Are you PC or Mac?

Your Tips and Tricks

What post processing tools do you use?
Lightroom and PS3

Do you shoot in Raw or Jpeg?
Best advice you would give your 20-year old self?
Remember that I fell in love with photography because it helped me realize how beautiful EVERYTHING is and focus more on that then how hard running a business is and how busy it keeps me.

Best advice you would give a new photographer?
Don’t be a photoshopographer but a photographer. Get it right in the camera first.

What site do you use for your photography and why?
I use Tafota for my website, have a large gallery online with photo.net and use Smugmug for my client galleries.

What Else Should We Know?

What was your worst photography experience?
I would have to say this last weekend. I am a complete control freak and had to go to a wedding in Nauvoo, Illinois. We left Salt Lake on Friday - the day before the wedding- and flew to Chicago for a layover where we were supposed to go onto Des Moines then drive to Nauvoo, but after sitting in Chicago airport for 4 hours, we found out our flight to Des Moines had been cancelled due to weather. We went to Hertz to rent a car and they raked us over the coals for a one way rental from Chicago to Des Moines for 3 days for just under $700 and drove all night in pouring rain,  to the wedding the next morning where it rained ALL day long. At least we made it there and it was a beautiful, very unique wedding. But the thought of not making it to someone’s wedding Scares. Me. To. Death.

What would surprise people most about you, whether it is photography related or not?
I still get nervous before every photography job I shoot.

Tell us something else you’d like us to know:
I absolutely love and adore my mother-in-law. She is one of my very best friends and not a lot of people can say that. J

And Just Because we want to know you, kindly fill in the blanks –

Three things I can’t live without….steamed edamame (soy beans), my cell phone and Dr. Pepper.

I wish I had more…..time with the people that I love and are close to me.

The best thing about being a photographer is…working with people, especially people who are in love.

The most important lesson I ever learned was…life is about making mistakes and it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and become a better person because of those mistakes.

My favorite time of day is…early morning at dawn when everything is fresh and new.

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  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)


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