We had the good fortune of connecting with Melanie McCullough and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melanie, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I have a career background in Human Resources and really enjoy helping people. I became interested in learning more about photography after I had my daughter & wasn’t happy with the images I would take of her. I began reading booking and would also go practice the skills I was learning with friends and family; which lead me to capture my first wedding event back in 2008. It was actually a 20th-anniversary vow renewal for a close friend’s family menber. I had never taken pictures of anything even remotely related to a wedding so I was pretty clueless as to what wedding photography involved. I walked in and just instinctively knew what needed to be done from capturing the bride getting dressed through the send-off; I just went with the flow of the happenings of the day and captured it all. I fell in love with wedding photography that day. Capturing that wedding made me feel a range of emotions and I knew I had found my purpose and what I was meant to do; and the idea to one day open my own wedding photography business was born from me capturing this event!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Melanie L McCullough Photograph was officially & legally established in late 2016 and I have most definitely evolved and rebranded myself several times over the years. I am 43% Irish so I decided to embrace my Irish heritage and use it in my brand. My path in becoming a wedding photographer is winding! I had a career with the Dept of Corrections in Human Resources for almost 18 years. In 2008 when I thought I may want to become a wedding photographer I had no clue how to make it happen. All I knew is I loved helping people and capturing pretty pictures. I sat on the idea for several years and didn’t capture another wedding until 2011, I was given the opportunity to capture 2 weddings that year, and it gave me the confidence I needed to decide I wanted to pursue wedding photography and learn all I could about it. I spent the next several years taking workshops, online courses, watching YouTube videos, and shooting anybody that would let me so I could work on the skills I was learning. Since I am mostly self-taught in photography and had no idea how to start a business I made plenty of mistakes and missteps along the way. I did reach out to several locally established photographers in my area but didn’t get anywhere, but I didn’t let that discourage me. I just kept trying to figure it all out alone. This is why I try to help other photographers so hopefully, I can save them a few of the trials and errors I went through. I’m happy to pass my knowledge forward and help a new business photographer feel supported. In December 2016 I left my career to chase my photography dream full-time. It was terrifying to leave a career with benefits, retirement, and a steady paycheck to chase a dream that may or may not be successful; but I just knew I had to try or I would regret it for the rest of my life. Luckily my husband has a really great career that could support us financially without my income so I could leave my job and chase my dream. I wanted my business to be successful but I didn’t have the financial pressure of my business having to make a certain amount so that let me focal on developing my business into what I wanted it to be. That sounds so easy, but let me tell you it was not! It took me several years of floundering to figure out who was my ideal client, how do I connect with them, how do I get them to book me out of the 1000’s other wedding photographers. What I figured out is to just be yourself in every aspect of your business. Don’t try to speak, act, or do anything that is not authentically you! Your clients want a real connection with you and to know who you are; so if you are not showing the real you in your business then you are not going to make a connection with your potential client and they are not going to book you.
What sets me apart from other wedding photographers is ME! When you hire a photographer, of course, you’re purchasing gorgeous, professional photos. But you’re also buying time with the photographer themself — inviting them into your life, asking them to capture your most special moments, showing them the bits and pieces of your personality not everyone always gets to see. You’re getting a relationship, not just images. If you want that relationship to be serious and businesslike, there are lots of qualified photographers in the Savannah area. But if you’re looking for a relationship that goes deeper — that’s warm and inviting while still professional, inclusive, and accepting of the real you, that’s filled with laughter and heartfelt gestures, with a person who thinks you’re all that and a bag of chips — I’m the photographer you’re looking for.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a HUGE Walkling Dead Fan so The Walking Dead tour would be a must-do!! Also I know it sounds weird but I love the beauty of old cemetery’s Oakland Cemetery would also be a top must-do! Ponce City Market or Little Five Points has all my favorite things in one place shopping, eating, and people watching! I’m a history nerd so The Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta History Center, Margret Mithell House, & Fernbank Museum of Natural History are all on the list, Atlanta Botanical Garden, Georgia Aquarium, High Museum of Art, Skyview Atlanta
Atlanta Must eats; Fox Brother’s Bar-B-Q, Folk Art, Poor Calvin’s, Home Grown, Taqueria del Sol, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, Krog Bar, The Rooftop at Hotel Clermont, Monday Night Brewing, Brewhouse Cafe, Wrecking Bar Brewpub
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have several people I want to give recognition to. First I want to sincerely thank my mentor the fabbo Bobbi Brinkman. Two years ago she decided to take me on as a student and associate shooter and I am forever in her debt for believing in me and giving me guidance, tough love, and unwavering support. Secondly, I want to give thanks to my dear friend Gabrielle for being there to encourage me and challenging me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things and don’t give up until I master them in my photography. Last but certainly not least I want to thank my awesomely incredible husband Robby. Without him believing in me, continuous love, and support I would not be the person or photographer I am today.
Top Left (Red head Bride & Groom in Orchid Display) Models @heatherdenisehd, @brgillard, Gown @laine_london Hair @hairbyconorsea Makeup @beautyandbeyondbybri Venue: Atlanta Botanical Gardens Top Right (guys with Mr & Mr Balloons) Models: @rndmactsofwill, @markaturnipseed Arbor Florals @primavera.blooms Balloons @pop.deux Makeup – will @noriblagg Makeup – mark @beautyandbeyondbybri Venue: Atlanta Botanical Garden 2nd Left (Bride & Groom at Fountain) Models: @brookesimmons24 @elevatewithcody Bridal Gowns: @lvdbridal Groom Suits: @theblacktux HMUA: @entirely_you.beauty Bridal Jewelry: @lovebirdjewelry_collective Florals: @urbanpoppyshop Venue: Forsyth Park, Savannah Georgia 2nd Right (Bride in Glass Door) Model: @kourtneyjthemodel Kourtney Jackson Dresses: Laine London @laine_london Makeup: Bridgit Wilson @beelucia Florals: Neoclassicdesign @Neoclassicdesigns1 Venue: Heartwood Acres @heartwood_acres #3rd left (Bride & Groom by Blue Classic Car) Models: Taylor Gaskin @taylorgaskin, Ian Santiago @iansantiago Dress Designer: Kate McDonald Bridal Accessories: Camellia Bridal @camelliasavannah Classic Car: Callan’s Classic Cars, @callansclassics Venue: HollyOaks on the Marsh @hollyoaks_otm #3rd Right (Bride & Groom Kissing) Cassy Young @cassandrayoung Chad Wood @thechadwood Venue The Swan House at the Atlanta History Center 4th left ( Bride & Bride) Dress; Camellia Bridal @camelliasavannah, Hair/Makeup: Nabia Mohiuddin @nabiabeauty Models @ UGAginny @girlmeetsgirlblog 4th Right ( Bride & Groom running) Venue: Old Edwards Inn @oldedwardsinn Planner/design: Godfreys Weddings @godfreysweddings Florals: Bouquet Atlanta @ bouquetatlanta Dress: Elite Pour La Vie@elitepourlavie Suite: Black Tux@theblacktux Jewelry: Dior @dior Shoes: Bella Belle@bellabelleshoes Models: Christine and William Bonarrigo @Bonarrigofilms