2011 Year in Review

What an amazing year 2011 has been! This year has been filled to overflowing with blessings. I shot 15 amazing weddings and have developed some incredible memories and relationships along the way. In this post I am going to share 5 of my favorite "happenings" from 2011 in the order in which they occurred.

1. Prioritizing the Important

This year has been a year of shifting priorities and attempting to gain some balance in my life. At the beginning of the year I did some reflecting and set out to make exercise and spending time with God daily priorities. I haven't done a perfect job of it, but have definitely loved the balance and joy this shift has brought this year. I also made time for some fun hobbies that feed my soul -- gardening and crochet. Click below to read some posts about these changes I made this year. I'm still not the poster-child for balance, but am celebrating this step in the right direction!

Decisions & Prioritizing the Important
My New Workout Partner
Planting Day
Growing a Green Thumb
The Little Things

2. Checking Goals off the List

This year I continued in my endeavor to complete 101 goals in 1001 days. I only checked 15 goals off my list this year but they were some fun ones! Click below to read about each goal completed.

Develop new client kit - completed 2.17.11
Purchase & play with Totally Rad Actions - completed 5.31.11
Stay at a luxury resort and go to the spa - completed 7.26.11
Get Michelle Neese to visit me - completed 12.5.11
Sit and watch a sunrise somewhere cool - completed 8.12.11
Develop sponsorship packet for MJ 2 Day and recruit sponsors - completed 5.26.11
See Taylor Swift in concert - completed 10.26.11
Read or re-read the biography of a faithful Christian - completed 1.22.11
Read 5 books to help my business & do reviews of each on my blog - completed 5.25.11
Learn how to keep flowers and plants alive & have some in my house and yard - completed 6.6.11
Get an elliptical machine for working out at home during the summers - completed 4.28.11
Get a Duo sample album done through Queensberry & start offering them to clients - completed 5.16.11
Decide if I want a Facebook Fan page & start one if so - completed 3.10.11
Create and sell blog collage templates - completed 8.4.11
Revamp website to include associate program & resources for photographers - completed 10.11.11

3. Meeting President George W. Bush

Most surreal and unexpected experience of my year. Click here to read all about it.

4. Walk for Autism

As many of you know, I have two nephews with autism. So the fact that there is no known cause or cure for this epidemic that affects 1 in 110 children (an increase of 600% over the past two decades) is heart-wrenching to me. This year, my team walked for the 5th year in a row to raise money and awareness for autism. Our team was huge -- 82 strong -- and we raised over $6,500!!! Amazing! Click here to see more photos from this year's walk! And thanks again to all of you who donated and walked! Over $100,000 was raised and will go directly to fund a 1-year multi-treatment study for children and adults with autism. I can't wait to see what our efforts will accomplish!

5. Business Growth

This year was a year of tremendous business growth for Melissa Jill Photography. We brought on a full-time office manager, finished our new office space, brought on 3 new associate wedding photographers, developed new resources for photographers, started a senior portrait program, developed new websites and more! I'm SO thrilled, looking back at 2011, at how far we've come! Click below to read more about each area of growth!

New full-time office manager: Meet Sara
Completed Office Space
Facebook Business Page
MJ 2 Day: New website, sponsorship program, addition of a 3rd yearly workshop and new +one program!
Addition of 3 new associate wedding photographers
Development of photographer resources page & new blog collage templates!
Now offering Senior Portraits!

What a great year! So much to celebrate! I can't wait to see what 2012 has in store! Bring it!

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Portrait Faves 2011

2011 is coming to a close and I thought it would be fun to do a couple posts highlighting my favorites photos of the year. Next week I'll be sharing my favorite wedding photos of the year, but today I'm posting my favorite portraits. These include engagement photos, family portraits, newborn shoots and headshots.

The following 30 images (in the order they were taken) resulted from a quick pick on my part, based on how each photo made me feel. These are my personal favorites. But I'd love to know what you think! Leave a comment but more importantly make sure to vote for your faves by clicking on the star icon under the ones you like. To see the results of the vote, click on "portfolio" then "blog favorites" above.































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MJ's Camera Bag


Top 10 of 2011

I hope you all had a great Christmas! Mine included some amazing time worshipping God for the best gift ever, memories made with my family, and some much-needed quality down-time spent with my sofa. It was just perfect!

For some reason I have a hard time seeing past Christmas every year. It seems that everything after Thanksgiving builds towards Christmas and it's all I can do to focus on the next task at hand in preparation for it. So when it passes, I'm never prepared for it to be a new year so soon.

I propose that we add a little extra time in between Christmas and New Year. One week just doesn't seem like enough. I'll work on drafting up a petition so be on the look-out for that. Although one week is insufficient, it IS a great time to look back over 2011 and reflect.

Today I'm going to share my top 10 most commented-on blog posts from 2011. This is something fun I do every year and it's great because if you missed a popular post - this gives you a chance to get caught up!

It's always enlightening for me to look back on a year of blog posts and see what got you guys weighing in. This year's top posts include three weddings, a run-in with a former President, a new guilty pleasure, the start of a popular series for photographers, two posts in which I bare my soul, and new photos of me.

Click on the links below to view each post!

1. Meeting President George W. Bush
2. Anthony & Chrissy
3. I'm Old and I Don't Want a Kindle
4. Flash Series pt. 1: The Basics
5. Totally Rad Actions
6. New Mug Shots
7. Dave & Jessica
8. Tortured Artist
10. James & Gabby

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Album Design Templates


Ian & Katie's Album Design

Ian & Katie were married Monday. They had a day filled with fun and the love of their family and friends, which is all too evident in their album design that we just finished! Click here to see the full design! And keep in mind that the finished album is much larger -- 10 x 14 inches in size.

Note to photographers: If you need help getting YOUR album designs done fast, click here to find out how you can purchase my templates!

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Weddings by MJ

Ian & Katie

Ian and Katie first met playing little league baseball. They were seven. There must have been something about the way she dominated the outfield or how she looked covered in dirt after stealing home plate, because -- even in high school -- Ian had a crush on her. A secret crush. But after high school, as teenagers often do, they went their separate ways. Then one summer when college was done, Katie came back home -- and no one was happier to see her than Ian. What started as running buddies turned into a friendship, and from friendship came the kind of love that only grows with time and mutual adoration.

On the day before Ian's Basic Training graduation, he asked Katie to marry him, and she of course said yes.

If you ask Ian he will tell you - they are like peas and carrots - they just go together. (And selfishly he's pretty stoked that he gets to marry the girl he dreamed about in high school).

Ian and Katie were married on Monday -- which was the first day he was available due to military leave. Their day was full of laughter and close friends. We started with getting ready at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge. Katie carried a bouquet trimmed with her grandmother's locket:

There were toasts all around to start the day off right:

Katie's bridesmaids helped her into her dress:

I love these sweet moments with Katie's mom:

The ceremony was held at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

Katie's parents proudly walked her down the aisle:

Katie and Ian wrote their own vows and their delivery was sweet and emotion-filled.

I love Katie's reaction when they were pronounced husband and wife:

It's so fun capturing all the love after the ceremony:

After the hugs, a spontaneous game of ping-pong broke out. This was a first for me:

The bridal party took a trolley back to the Marriott for the reception:

I love these portraits we got of the newlyweds:


Then, it was on to the reception!

Yes, this did happen:

This may have been the first time I've ever seen a bride do the worm:

What a special day! Click here to watch the slideshow to see even more photos!

And thanks to the fabulous team of vendors who made this day run so smoothly!

Wedding Coordinator: Rachel Troyan with Outstanding Occasions
Ceremony Venue: Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church
Reception Venue: JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Florist: Flora Bella
Make Up: Jennifer Schoon
Hair: Ashley Hyland
DJ: MT Sounds
Transportation: Ollie the Trolley
Invitations: Papercut Invites


Equipment used for this wedding:
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm 1.2 lens
Canon 24mm 1.4 lens
Canon 70-200 2.8 lens
2 Canon Speedlite 580 EXs
Gary Fong Lightsphere
2 Lumedyne HV Tinycycler Battery Packs
2 Pocketwizards
Light Stand with umbrella bracket and cold shoe

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