ONE ON ONE WITH BRITTANY MAHOOD
Today is about being real, putting in the work and getting acquainted with one of the finest wedding + lifestyle photographers I know. Brittany of Brittany Mahood Photography is candidly sharing what inspires her lifestyle, her work and her one on one workshop experience. I long for our coffee, lunch or work dates where I always leave feeling enriched and inspired. I am so thrilled to be sharing Brittany's perspective and these stunning, beautifully styled images from one of her coveted one on one workshops.
You already know I love your work, and I must admit, I am envious of your lifestyle! How do you balance business, working on + sharing your craft, travel and all of life's extra’s? I know I wouldn’t be happy chained to a desk, slaving away 20 hours a day. And while the hours I put in are long, especially in the summer months, they are completely manageable when I have other outlets. For me, that’s travel and outings such as concerts or festivals. I create my best work when I am inspired by things outside of the wedding industry, and also a little stressed to be honest. I have always worked better under pressure and feeling the weight of balancing my personal time with my business always forces me out of my comfort zone. That’s one of my favourite things about this work, it never feels easy. I am still nervous before every wedding. I always say to some of my vendor friends, the day we stop feeling that nervous pressure is the day we should quit. We are there for some of the biggest moments in someone’s life, I don’t want to ever take that for granted. And lastly, I want to put the work in. I think having a voice in this industry is a privilege and I want to have paid my dues.
Tell us something about you that would surprise us.. I started photography because my other life phase had come to an end, hockey. I come from a hockey family and I played into college. Life changes and some injuries made me realize there was more to life than the sport but up until that point, I’m not sure I was aware of that fact. So I needed something to fill that void. I had taken a film photography class in high school and decided to buy a camera on Ebay to play around with. And years later, here we are.
How would you describe your one on one workshop offerings? There's two sides to what we as photographers do, the magic and the money. The magic consists of all the reasons we got into this in the first place; the light during golden hour, the first perfectly composed frame of a bride laughing into the groom's chest, the landscape photos that give the story context. And then the money. How this magic pays our mortgage. My job in these workshops is to marry those two together. My one on one workshop is tailored to meet photographer’s where they’re at. I love delving into: the art of film including metering, client interactions and directing your couples, lighting and locations, post processing and workflow, pricing for your target market, styling and direction, marketing and branding. We tie it all together with a styled editorial, catered to an area or style the photographer would like to invest more into. It’s intimate. The best part of a one on one workshop is just that, it’s one on one.
What tips do you give your workshop clients to prepare? Prior to the workshop, I ask the photographer to give me three areas they’d like to focus on, such as directing/posting, learning to see light, editing, etc. I ask them to bring in photos, both RAW and edited, so we can see where they started and where they’re finishing with a session. With these RAW images, I will edit them myself with them and talk them through why I’m doing each step. And I encourage them to come with questions. I am an open book and I love sharing. I am so passionate about this career and industry, my goal is to light the same fire in them.
What kind of environment can they expect? The ‘teaching’ part of the workshop I hold in my home. It acts as my office, home studio and meeting space with clients, so having another photographer in my home seems natural. Also, unlimited coffee. So, bonus. The shoot portion of the workshop is of course shot at a location that fits the shoot’s aesthetic.
How have your personal experiences affected your work? I had the honour of living with my grandparents until my grandma passed away and my grandpa went into assisted living due to dementia. Those years changed my perspective a lot. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the whimsey and romance of the wedding industry, without really looking for those deeper moments. The past couple of years I have really learned to value things such as family photos, the dad seeing the bride for the first time, grandparents in the pews, etc. Those are the images that make a wedding whole. That is my legacy.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in business? To be proactive. A bride and groom are new to this. They aren’t aware of the best light, timeline woes and logistical issues. You are, so tell them. The more proactive I am with timelines, logistics and the little details, the smoother everything goes.
And stick to your gut. It’s never wrong.
Is there any one experience that stands out as shaping your business into what it is today? Not to quote Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ but to quote Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade,’ she says how she ‘tried to close her mouth more, to be softer. Prettier. Less awake.’ Eluding that these were mistakes she made. And I couldn’t agree more. When I started speaking my mind and taking control, my business started to work for me. It’s easy to sit at home and say ‘yea I could shoot a wedding that way if someone booked me for a wedding like that.’ But those ‘ideal’ weddings don’t just fall into your lap. You have to grind to get there. And that includes styled shoots and vendor collaborations. I started enjoying the outcome a lot more when I started speaking up more. Little things like ‘let’s move the table into better light,’ ‘Is there another way we can tie that ribbon?’ etc. I continually am learning the art of ‘styling’ and pushing myself to see things in new ways, to curate an entire story instead of just one pretty photo for Instagram. It takes a lot of work to own it. But when I do, it comes back ten fold. Show up early, stay late, pay your dues, suck it up, keep pushing and smile. Repeat.
What advice would you give your twenty three year old self on starting a photography business?
Follow less photographers. Go to more art shows. Listen to more music. Write more. The things that are going to pull the best work out of you aren’t living on the interwebs. They’re outside. Music inspires me more than anything else. I want my work to feel like a Volcano Choir album. And of course the receptions to feel a little bit like Drake.
So pay less attention to the ‘noise.’ I was looking back on some of my early work the other day and recognized something in a lot of the sessions, and that was freedom. Big wedding blogs and respected industry peers weren’t following me at that point, so I was blissfully unaware in my attempts for artistry.
I read an interview with Justin Vernon from Bon Iver/Volcano Choir last year where the reporter asked him if he wished he could go back to a place before ‘Skinny Love’ blew up to become this mainstream hit. And of course his response was ‘yes, getting to that place and staying in that place where you aren’t ‘editing’ yourself is hard. Without bending to any of that noise and knowing that is has to be real. It has to be real.’ (paraphrased and minus some profanity). So in essence, be more real. It’s something I’m constantly striving for.