Favorite Vendors

Favorite Vendor Spotlight: Victoria Canada

I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and personable vendors and wedding consultants in the wedding industry. I love to refer my clients to professionals I have worked with who I truly believe will do an amazing job for them. I have a blog post dedicated to my favorite vendors, but I wanted to also occasionally spotlight each of them more in depth.

Today meet Victoria Canada of Victoria Canada Weddings and Events and her team! From L to R: Lauren, Kaytie, Kate, Brennan, Victoria, Brenda & Kailee. Could they BE any cuter? I have been working with these guys for years and they are AMAZING! If you hire this team to plan and coordinate your day, you know no detail will be missed. I'm shooting a wedding that they are coordinating this weekend and I can't wait. The details are going to be over the top and I know everyone will be in good hands.

Here's some Q & A to help us get to know Victoria better. Read her answers below each question:

There are a million and 2 reasons to hire a wedding consultant. If you could only give one to a bride & groom, what would it be?
I think that a good coordinator will be honest with you and will help you avoid common mistakes. We have tons of ways to streamline the planning process. But most importantly in the end it comes down to this -- do you really want to be the one working at your wedding? If you have spent a ton of time with details and have a specific vision, then you need someone to implement it. We can help create your vision if you are "creatively challenged" or if you have a vision, we can take it to the next level.

How long have you been in business?
It has been TEN YEARS! OMG -- I AM NOT 25 ANYMORE! :)

What got you interested in working in the wedding industry?
Back in the day, in college, I worked for an event planner. Then my friends starting getting married and I would help them with organizing. Organizing makes me happy! I moved to Arizona and helped friends here. It snowballed and I realized I could actually do what I love for a job!

What type of clients do you find yourself most working with?
I find myself working with clients that want a well run, well designed event that is unique to their taste and budget. We tend to work with people who realize we truly can deliver the wedding of their dreams. We have worked with everyone from doctors to firefighters to baseball players to rocket scientists! We love a challenge!

What is the #1 quality you possess that makes you uniquely suited for wedding consulting?
Hmmm, well, I think there might be a few but if I would pick the one that I hear over and over, it is that I am pleasant and easy to work with. That is not to say that I am a pushover -- I do have my opinions and a backbone. It does mean that in stressful situations, you are not going to see me running around yelling "the sky is falling!" We find the best solution and do it with a smile and sometimes a joke. :)

Reason #2 is my creativity. I know you only asked for one but...I love to create an event. That seems to be the most "glamorous" part of the job but it is a small portion of what we do. I usually am drawing something out for our clients and I love to create something that is unique and well conceptualized.

What is your favorite part of the wedding planning process?
I love establishing relationships with clients. When I find out what is truly important to them, that helps me with the best part of the job -- including that one little gem that really personalizes their wedding. It does not have to be pricey but with a little effort, organization, and thinking beyond the norm, I am able to come up with some of my best ideas to help make a wedding unique and personal.

What is your favorite part of the wedding day?
Hands down, my favorite part of the day is the Dad's toast to his daughter. I have a daughter, Ella, who will be seven soon and I always think, Scott is going to be a mess when he has to walk her down the aisle. I love listening to the toast from the Dad and I have remembered many of them for years!

How did you get to be so cool that you are now included on Melissa Jill's Favorite Vendor List? (everyone's going to want to know) :)
How lucky am I that I sat next to you at an Association of Bridal Consultants meeting 7 years ago? I still remember your brochure with your red ribbon tied around it. I hope I always live up to your expectations of being "cool". I truly love working with you and respect you and your talent. I also love that you respect our efforts to enable you to do the best possible job for your clients. That is the true "cool" thing -- we work well together. Other things that you like about me and make me "MJ cool" -- I like to eat your cookies, I love to read too and share book recommendations, I know you can't eat cheese even though I still weep for that loss, and finally I think I am funny. Sometimes, I may be the only one, but you still get my humor. Finally -- I love that you shine an amazing spotlight on my passion to do my personal best at what I do -- wife, mother, friend, planner and designer.

Awww...what a great memory Victoria! I feel so blessed that I met YOU 7 years ago -- Has it really been that long!? Thanks for your friendship and for being amazing at what you do!!

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memory lane

Haha! This is one of my favorite old photos I came across recently. That's me picking my nose front and center. And my parents are rocking the 70s/early 80s style. I was probably about six years old here and my sister, Natalie, was four.

This week I've been sharing some old family photos but so far, I haven't posted any with me in them. So I thought you guys might enjoy these. Spending time with these old photos has definitely been a fun walk down memory lane for me.

This first shot is of my cute parents in 1973 when they were just dating. Gotta love the turtle necks and 70s hair. On Wednesday they celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary!

I wanted to include these next two because my mom is looking super-hot! On the left she is with her in-laws, my dad's folks, and on the right she's in the kitchen of the house where we lived when I was two.

Here I am as a baby with my aunt Beth:

And with my mom:

Me and my sister with my great-grandparents:

And bundled up for a bit of a tricycle ride on the driveway of our home in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I'm on the left. Not quite sure how Natalie was able to move enough to ride her bike in that snow suit.

Me with my grandma and great-grandma who immigrated from Yugoslavia when she was one:

I don't have a ton of memories from when I was super-young. But one thing I remember is being asked endlessly if me and my sister were twins. Even though I was clearly taller. But you can kind of see why in this photo:

And one last shot in my grandparent's jacuzzi with dad -- me on the left and Natalie on the right:

So fun! Having the opportunity to walk down memory lane through old photos is priceless. Take out your cameras and have a great weekend everybody!

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For Photographers

Flash series pt 12: Getting Creative

Today I'm going to continue my series on using flash. If you're just tuning in, you may want to start from the beginning and get caught up on the the series to this point. Here are the first eleven parts:

Part 1: The Basics
Part 2: Flash Compensation
Part 3: Dragging your Shutter
Part 4: Using Existing Light Sources
Part 5: Eliminating Grain
Part 6: Off-camera Flash Exposure
Part 7: Off-camera Flash Set-up
Part 8: Off-camera Flash Angles
Part 9: Low-light Focus Trick
Part 10: Shooting Over Head
Part 11: Outdoor Receptions

Up to this point in the series I've talked about mastering the use of on-camera flash and also about how to effectively combine the use of one on-camera and one off-camera flash. Today I'm going to talk about how you can get creative by turning off your on-camera flash and just using one off-camera flash.

I love the dramatic look you can achieve by doing this. The photo above was taken outdoors as the couple left the reception and you can see that the scene was back-lit by my off-camera flash on a light stand. My settings for this image were: ISO 200 f5.0 1/60sec. I definitely could have gone even lower with the shutter speed since there was no other light on the subject other than my flash. But I love the effect that was achieved by back-lighting the bubbles.

Here's another image that was lit from behind by my off-camera flash. It just offers a different feel than if I was also lighting the subject from the front with my on-camera flash.

My settings for this next image were: ISO 250 f5.0 1/30sec. I was moving my camera with the low shutter speed so there is a little bit of motion blur where the flash wasn't reaching but I love how it adds to the feel of the image. I also love the way the shadows act as leading lines to the subject.

For this next image, I noticed that the angle of the off-camera flash was perfect for capturing a shadow of the couple on the wall behind their table. So I turned off my on-camera flash and got creative with the toasts:

This next image was admittedly a happy mistake. My on-camera flash chose not to fire so only the off-camera flash lit up to crowd I was shooting as they reacted to the cake cutting. I love how the parents of the bride are lit up dramatically in the right side of the image. My settings were ISO 400 f5.6 1/50sec.

If you use the set-up I've talked about in this series, with one on-camera and one off-camera flash, it's easy to switch on the fly between using both and using one or the other. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I use both. But sometimes, someone walks up to me at the reception and wants a quick portrait. I might not have time to move them somewhere in relation to my off-camera flash that would make for a flattering portrait. So what I do is switch off the pocket wizard that is screwed into the bottom of my camera and is communicating with my off-camera flash, and I shoot the portrait with just my on-camera flash. Other times, when I'm wanting to create a more dramatic effect using just off-camera flash -- like the images in this post -- I switch off my on-camera flash. The set-up is super-fexible making it easy to get creative!

Next week I'm going to conclude this series on flash by talking about how I occasionally use off-camera flash to shoot reception details and indoor family portraits. Stay tuned!

Click here to read part 13 of the series: Details & Indoor Portraits

To find more info & reviews on my gear and other resources I offer photographers, click here!


Equipment used for above photos:
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 50mm 1.2 lens
Canon 24mm 1.4 lens
Canon Speedlite 580 EX
Lumedyne HV Tinycycler Battery Pack
2 Pocketwizards
Light Stand with umbrella bracket and cold shoe

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For Photographers

Giving away $1,188

That's right -- I'm giving away $1,188.

Not straight cash but a PRIZE valued at $1,188.

And although I'm HAPPILY giving it out, I'm not supplying it. One of the fabulous sponsors for my upcoming MJ 2-Day workshop -- PICTAGE -- is!

There are still spots left in the January MJ 2-Day workshop in Phoenix. And I thought it would be fun to give a MASSIVE prize to the first person who refers someone to take one of those spots.

The winner must be signed up to attend the workshop (either already signed up or someone who signs up now) and must also refer a friend who then signs up. The first person to successfully do this will win....


I'm a pro-member with Pictage and have been since 2003. I use them for all my online proofing & print fulfillment needs in addition to a bunch of other super-valuable business services. The pro-membership costs $99/month so this is an amazingly valuable prize!!! Click here to see what all is included in Pictage's Pro Plan.

Here's some fun math for you:

$1,000 -- cost to attend MJ 2-Day workshop
$1,188 -- Value of prize for being the first person to bring a buddy
Yes, yes, that's right -- you will be MAKING money by attending the MJ 2-Day and bringing a friend.

To get all the details and to register for the January MJ 2-DAY, click here to go to the official workshop site! When this prize is won, I will add a notice at the bottom of this post announcing the winner! So if you don't see one now -- it's still up for grabs!


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a piece of photography history

As you guys know from my last post, I've been recently sucked into a fascination with old family photographs. After mentioning in that post that it would be cool if there was a site where you could track your family tree AND attach photos to different parts of the tree, one kind commenter shared that my dream site in fact, does exist. This weekend I spent some time poking around and I made an amazing discovery that I just had to share with you!

It turns out that I have some avid genealogists on my dad's side of the family who have done a ton of hard work to track our family back into ancient history. After finding out who my 5th great grandfather and grandmother are (my father's father's father's father's father's father's father and his wife) -- John Hester and Margaret Gilbert -- I found this photo attached to their record:

John and Margaret are posing with one of their sons - my great grand uncle Solomon. Cuties, aren't they? :)

I looked up the history of photography -- as I noted, photography was invented in the mid-1800s. It turns out the very first portrait taken of a person was taken in 1839. It was a daguerreotype taken on a glass negative with a long exposure. 1839. Here's the kicker -- my 5th great grandfather, John, died in 1843.

Crazy, huh?? We don't know for sure when the photo was taken, but it was sometime before 1843 and was one of the earliest portraits of human beings ever taken!

I read that, because of the long exposures necessary -- sometimes up to one minute in length -- subjects heads' were often clamped from behind so they wouldn't move. That's probably also why they didn't have much expression -- can you imagine holding a smile for a full minute?

I'm beyond thrilled to have found this piece of photographic history in my family line! So cool!!

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