Today’s photographer interview is with Melissa of Melissa Mercado Photography, based in the stunning Mayan Riviera! Enjoy:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company:
After a little more than 7 years I graduated college never believing that I’d make a living out of taking pictures. I always figured I’d be great at helping others realize their dreams and connecting with their clients would be awesome for me. Having supported myself through school in various customer service jobs, I loved people and my hobby of capturing my friends fulfilled my desires to shoot. But the life happened and I went to a party and made one connection, then I went to a wedding and made another, and through a series of seemingly random events I realized I was pretty good about giving the universe directions and giving it the space to figure out the how. After nearly 4 years of running a wildly successful destination wedding studio I earnestly missed shooting and got the itch to just go. So nearly 4 years ago I jumped feet first into a seemingly empty swimming pool and found just enough water to not drown. I’ve worked hard, played harder and laughed so many brides away from the brink of tears that I couldn’t imagine not having made a living freezing memories. My dog is my balance, my work is my passion and I live in paradise. Life’s alright.
Read the full interview after the cut!
I shot my first wedding nearly 20 years ago. I was fresh in college, living with roommates and they decided to tie the knot. My boyfriend and I took our 3 35mm Canon AE-1s, 40+ rolls of film and so much excitement and gifted the bride and groom our passion. They processed the film to find that my two camera shutters had failed and half of the family from India in their amazing saris had beautiful portraits of dresses, but no heads. Or we had ⅔ of the family, but not the other third. I was mortified and still don’t know I ever completely got over that guilt. I swore I’d never shoot a wedding again in my life and am so glad that I didn’t hold myself to that fear. Through the last 18 years I’ve worked hard to learn, to be prepared, to systemize and to take responsibility for the professionalism I lacked at such a young age. I’ve had amazing mentors along the way and am grateful that I chose to learn, but more grateful that the couple learned how to forgive me and taught me how to forgive myself.
I love it all honestly. I had the opportunity to stay in the town I graduated college in, but would have had to be a jack of all trades as the market wasn’t big enough to really specialize and that bummed me out. So I packed up, headed home to figure out the next path and 10 years later realized I specialize in weddings, but use all of the resources that a shooter who lives in a small market has to rely on – architecture, landscape, still life, portraits, PJ, a beautiful mix of it all culminating in the story of a few hours in a couple’s life. It’s a pretty awesome bag of tricks and tools I utilize daily and I thrive on connecting with my clients and letting my hands and my eyes do the work.
Oh the stories are pretty endless. Getting hit on by drunk attendees and how do you kindly and firmly shut them down. Family members who take offense that they have to take formals (which never take more than 10 minutes with me). Feuds between family members who forget that this isn’t their day and how the couple handle’s the drama. But the one’s I always feel bad for are dress issues. I’ve had brides get lipstick on their dresses before they’ve even walked down the aisle; I’ve had brides get their periods in the middle of shoots; I’ve had dresses get misshapen by poor handling while putting them on – the list goes on and on. I always do the best I can to be helpful and reassuring that there’s a lot I can fix in post, and just try and help them remember that no one is ever going to say anything rude (the people attending should be your nearest and dearest!), most people won’t even notice (we’re always hyper-sensitive to our own goings on), and ultimately it’s up to them to just take it in stride and just enjoy themselves or let it ruin their day – they get to choose their perspective. Things always happen on wedding days: schedules go off the rails, people get hammered and scandalous, rings get dropped and kids make fusses. I find the couples who know how to take the sh*t show in stride, recognize really the most important thing is to say I do and choose to just enjoy themselves – those are the ones that have the most amazing days.
What is your favorite venue and why?
Whichever one I happen to be shooting in. Honestly, I love the challenge of discovering new places in hotel’s I’ve shot a ton in. Because we work in the destination, clients don’t always have a ton of personalized features to a day, so we work hard to make a location unique to their memories and always try and keep fresh eyes. But if you’re forcing me to name drop – twist my arm – I LOVE Grand Velas Riviera Maya. A 5 Diamond All-Inclusive with one of the best spa’s in the world and 20 minute room service from any of their 5 diamond restaurants – no no, please don’t make me sleep in the linen sheets or lounge in the private patio plunge pool with a glass of champagne. It’s just not fair!
Nikon or Canon?
If you could shoot any celebrity wedding (past, present or future), who would be the lucky couple?
Edward Weston + Tina Modotti
What is your dream location to shoot a wedding?
Anywhere that allows my client to just really be present for their day. Bedside with their dying mother, little sandbar in the middle of nowhere Caribbean island, grassy knoll in the Irish countryside, backyard barn where 4 generations of the family have been married – it’s all the same pleasure to me to be present and honored to capture it.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other new wedding photographers just getting started?
For the love of all the is holy, pay others to do what doesn’t interest you, shoot a ton, learn more, analyze your work, get feedback, but more than anything – Manage Expectations. If you promise what you know you can deliver on on your worst day under the most difficult of circumstances, then you always set yourself up for the worst and leave plenty of room to surprise and delight. A client will always love you for proper expectations that you’ve over delivered on.
What tips or advice can you give to couples who are looking to hire a photographer to cover their big day?
The work should speak for itself – ask to see full events to really give you an idea. But what’s more is this is someone who is going to be present for some of the most intimate moments of your life and you’re going to want to be connected to your day, not your photographer. So meet with them, get an idea of their personality, find out how they handle stress and get a feel for the kind of compassion they’ll have when you’re bat-shit crazy because your dress has just gotten your niece’s lipstick on it and you haven’t walked down the aisle yet. Who’s on the other side of the lens in those moments matters. Will they have the wherewith all to work with your girls to keep you connected, reassure you they can edit out the lipstick and encourage you to roll with it?
Gorgeous work Melissa; thanks so much for sharing! For more work about Melissa Mercado Photography, please visit her WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to her website.
Do you have any questions or comments for Melissa? Add them to the comments below!