Elizabeth Messina, Jasmine Star at PhotoPlus Expo

Wedding photographers Elizabeth Messina and Jasmine Star, both based on the West Coast, flew East to PhotoPlus Expo to share the photographic techniques and branding tactics that keep them at the top  of what has, in the past several years, become a very competitive and lucrative genre of  photography.

In Messina’s seminar, “Getting to the Heart of Wedding Photography,” attendees were presented with several slide shows of her work (accompanied by upbeat Lauryn Hill musical tracks), free memo pads  (with an image by Messina on the cover), and giveaways from Big Folio and Graphis Studio.

At the heart of Messina’s seminar was the message that “wedding photography is a team sport and everything you as a photographer are there to capture, someone else had a hand in creating.” She advised photographers to urge subjects to always open up and give more. “Find a way into their space and create lasting memories.”

Messina also stressed to the packed seminar room that it is important to continuously nurture your creativity, and keep advancing your brand, both through personal projects and assignments as well as through blogging. A year ago she created the blog kissthegroom.com, which went on to win design awards as well as nab the attention of paying advertisers (see the article on her successful blogging endeavor in PDN’s November issue.).

“We can’t just be technicians,” she said at the end of the two hour seminar. “We can’t just be a bunch of cows following the herd. We have to keep pushing ourselves and our creativity, and in the end  it’s our job tocapture people’s lives with a little bit of humanity mixed with art.”

As one crowd filed out, another bunch filed into the same room to hear another wedding photographer, Jasmine Star, talk about how she built brand. It was a funny transition, if truth be told,  because where Messina’s personality was all warm and fuzzy and centered on emotion-based images,  Star’s seminar was comparable to a Tony Robbins motivational talk. Star was loud, she talked fast and she was unapologetic. But as she herself would probably say, “It’s all good.” Her talk was  uplifting and energetic as she won over the audience with her personal success story.

Star had a full scholarship to UCLA Law School but then left to pursue photography after having her own wedding photographed by David Jay. “I didn’t know anything about photography,” she told us, “I had never picked up a camera before, but after my wedding and seeing David’s images I knew, ‘this is what I want’ and I went after it.”

In four short years Star has become a branding dynamo while maintaining a business-related blog and raising her prices competitively. “Don’t be afraid to spend money on what’s important: your web site, your logo and your blog,” she stressed. She also advised,  “You is who you is and so be that person to attract the type of client you want to work with and are  compatible with.” By the end of the seminar it  seemed as though we were all silently reciting her second mantra of the day: K-I-R, or Keep It Real.

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