Justin and Mary Marantz are the couple in the story. They are the couple that speak eloquently, exude passion for their job and treat their clients (whether they are actual wedding couples or photographers) like their best friends. They want you to succeed just as they have. They want to tell your love story perfectly. They are Justin and Mary Marantz.
I have been lucky enough to sit in their class at WPPI and I have experienced their unique brand of help through mentoring. They light fires under you, they tell you that you CAN do it, and they give you the push you need as a photographer. I have not had the experience of them as my wedding photographers, but I can tell you that I would expect the exact same passion. And from that passion, amazing photographs that tell the story of a wedding day.
Below is an interview with Justin and Mary. I was beyond honored to interview them and I am so glad to call them friends. Please be sure to check out their work on their amazing blog here. And the video that expresses their love story here. Thanks Justin and Mary!!
Tell me about yourselves…where are you from? How did you meet?
Justin – I’m originally from New Jersey, but went to school in Rochester, NY. After school, I took a job with a photographer in Connecticut.
Mary – I’m from West Virginia and I went to law school in Connecticut.
The summer after my first year in law school, I stayed in town for my summer internship. All my friends had moved away for the summer for their internships so I was looking for people to hang out with. I signed up for Match.com just to look for people to be friends with and Justin happened to sign up around the same time. We were actually the very first people that either one of us met on match.com. I joined for just the three-day free membership and by day two Justin “winked” at me! By day three we agreed to meet for coffee. I got a little nervous about meeting a guy I had talked to online, so I googled him and saw all his photography work and it was beautiful. I rationalized that a serial killer probably doesn’t do anything that beautiful so I went ahead and met him. We were pretty much inseparable from then on!
How did you begin your journey into photography? Justin – I got interested in it in High School. Then I went to Rochester Institute of Technology and studied advertising photography. After school, I got a job assisting Jody Dole, who is a really good advertising photographer. I did weddings on the side and that sort of started keeping me busy and eventually that took over.
Mary – Shortly after we met, Justin showed me his work and I was blown away! I started out helping him with marketing and the business side of things, while I finished law school. After I graduated, I started learning the photography side of things from Justin and started shooting with him. I joke that I was the first to graduate from the Justin School of Photography! He is a great teacher!
What do you primarily photograph? Weddings and couples, love stories
How would you describe your photography style? We like to use the acronym AEIOU – Authentic, Evocative & Enduring, Intimate, Organic and Universal. We really want our images to be Timeless. We want to give our couples those images that they want to frame and those images that can stay in those frames for years to come.
What inspires you as a photographer? We love what Annie Leibovitz does with portraiture…she takes it to another level that really highlights the very best parts, the lighting, the poses, etc – she really does everything she can to make each of those things the best it can be to create a portrait.
You guys are a husband and wife team. Tell me how it is to work with each other. Justin and I really do enjoy spending 23-1/2 hours a day together so that is the first thing. We have loved spending time together ever since we first started dating. We love to bounce ideas off of each other. We definitely have moments when we clash but in the end we know that what we can come up with together is going to be much better than what we could do separately.
How do you determine who does what or to paraphrase your tag line…”who washes and who dries?” We each have our list of things to do, our strengths. We have worked on that and adjusted it through the years. We used to have a lot of back and forth like I would cull then send images to him to do raw adjustments then back to me, etc. But we have streamlined the system and I have certain things I do and he has certain things he does. We also each have our own office spaces now so that is good. I like my space pretty and decorated and I can have that in my office and Justin keeps his things a little more messy so he can close the door at the end of the day and I don’t have to see it. I think it is definitely important for each of us to have certain things we are in charge of and we each know what the other is going to be doing.
Since weddings are so emotional, do you feel the fact that you guys are a husband and wife team allows you to connect even further with your couples? I think the way we connect with our couples is based on us, not simply because we are a husband and wife team. We definitely get couples that are similar to us so that helps. We find couples that are the right fit for us and that helps grow the bond. But we also feel that our customer experience and everything we do with and for our couples helps create a bond with them that they may not be able to get with another photographer. The dynamic of two and two works great but I think there is more to it than just being husband and wife.
How do you suggest photographers find the right fit for them? Filter from the beginning. Figure out what type of couple you want and write down the specifics. Create a client profile. We tend to get the couples that are in some sort of creative field and that are paying for the wedding themselves and have the means to do that. They tend to be very involved with the process, both the bride and the groom, and are really into the details of the day. They really appreciate photography…they may even be amateur photographers themselves.
How do you suggest other photographers balance their work and life while making their business successful? Oh man, do I wish I had the answer to this!! I've always been just the teeniest bit of a workaholic and an overachiever rolled into one, and for the most part I'm ok with that. Like the rest of the world, I've been reading a lot about Steve Jobs recently and he once said something in an article that really struck a chord with me. It was something to the effect of: "Don't be afraid of a little hard work...and don't be ashamed of it either." Which I think was just his way of saying that if your work is something that you truly love, then it's ok to throw yourself into it body & soul. But that's not to say that there shouldn't be some point where you have some balance as well. So while Justin & I do work crazy long hours building our business & our brand together, we do also make sure to put in most of those hours by starting early and working pretty diligently throughout the day. That way we can shut off at the end of the night, and leave work in the office guilt free. We also have weekly date nights, and if things are ever getting too tense around the studio we have an unspoken rule to drop everything we're doing and take Cooper on a walk. A good walk can fix anything. Well, that....and chocolate.
What has been your most successful marketing technique? We think the Blog is the hub and there are many spokes that feed into the blog and that the blog feeds back. Things such as our client experience, vendor relationships, features on wedding blogs and facebook, all feed into the blog and vice versa.
You guys talk a lot about the importance of Branding. What is your advice to new photographers when it comes to creating and cultivating their brands? Have Patience!! Creating a brand does not necessarily happen right away. Take your time and allow yourself to really figure out what you want your brand to be. You can spend a lot of money having someone create a brand for you and in a few years figure out that wasn’t what you wanted at all. Then you have to redo everything. Or you can be patient and really figure out who you are and what you want your clients to feel and what emotions are triggered when they view your site and your work. Once you do that, you can spend the money and have it done right and it will be an investment that you can use for a while.
Through your mentoring, workshops and speaking engagements, how do you help motivate other photographers to build their business and find their own way? From the beginning we felt like we wanted to teach and if we were going to do that then we wanted to teach the truth. We want to share our experiences and mistakes and show others that we have once been where they are. We want to show others that you can come from being new and not having much in the beginning and work hard and make things happen. We did it and so can others. We hope to share the things we learned or overcame and help you skip that part. We hope to help others learn from the things we did.
What is the most rewarding part for you about helping and teaching other photographers? Seeing them have that light bulb moment is priceless. Knowing they are getting it and can actually put to use what we discuss is rewarding. We have seen people struggle with lighting or something and they may have heard how to do it before but something in them finally clicks and you can see it in their face. That makes it all worth it!
Tell me what photographers can expect to learn and experience from your Walk through a Wedding workshops? Walk Through a Wedding with J&M is a two-day workshop that is pretty much just like what it sounds: we literally walk through an entire wedding day with everything from the getting ready in a dark church to posing the couple to shooting the reception complete with killer details. On Day 1, we start bright & early at our suite at 9:30 am talking about the "Why" and the day typically goes until at least 10pm, where we wind back up in our suite for some wine & night shooting. Throughout the day we cover all of those trouble spots like posing an unruly bridal party, organizing the family shots, off-camera lighting at the church & reception, what to do if you only have 10 minutes for the portraits, and how to have a game plan to shoot the reception details before the get destroyed. We have everything set up to be just like a real wedding, so this is literally a one-stop shop for all those things you struggle with. On Day 2, we'll meet back up for the business side of things where we will show everything (the good, the bad & the ugly) that they shot the day before. Then we walk you through our workflow, post-processing, and our unique take on business & marketing to show you how to create a business with real brand power.
What is in your camera bag? First let me tell you about the bag itself…it is the Think Tank Airport International and it is awesome! We have two Nikon D700’s, 50mm 1.4, 85mm 1.4, 70-200mm 2.8, Carl Zeiss 25mm 2.8 Distagon, Nikon SB900, Pocket wizard Plus II, Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 for Nikon, 13’ Light Stands, Basic Umbrella Bracket for 2 flashes, Super Clamp, 43” White Umbrellas, and Gitzo Reporter Tripod. For Fun, we also have a Olympus E-P3 micro four thirds camera with 17mm 2.8 pancake lens, Olympus 45mm 1.8 lens and Olympus VF-3 viewfinder. All of this equipment can be found on Adorama.com.
What are your favorite lenses? Justin – 85mm 1.4 and Mary – 50mm 1.4
What is your favorite “Savvy” indulgence? Justin - technology! Mary – J Crew
Both – a good meal!
What’s happening next for Justin & Mary? We are sleeping for the next two months! ☺ After that, we will be announcing the dates on Black Friday for the Walk through a Wedding Workshops. We also are speaking at WPPI again this year with an all-new presentation called The Big Think. Come see us Wednesday, February 22 at 2:30!
Interview by Leslie Kerrigan.