Chatting it up with incredible photographer Michelle Lawlor, owner of Lucky 17 Photography
How long have you been interested in photography and taking photos? What made you get into it? Just for fun?
I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. I have my grandparents to thank for that. I spent a lot of my formative early years with my grandparents, and would often fall asleep looking at the old-time portraits of them hanging on their wall. My grandparents were also very big into swap meets and yard sales, and I started to collect antique and often non-working cameras thanks to my travels with them. I loved (and still love) the way old cameras looked and felt. When I could actually put film in them and make pictures, it was like no other joy I’d ever known. Going on into high school and college I was constantly taking photos everywhere I went and filled my room with photos of friends and family. My first long-term job was at a busy portrait studio in the mall, and I put myself through college working full-time making pictures there. At times it was incredibly stressful, but I look back at that time in my life as a valuable learning experience, because I learned to think on my feet and adapt quickly to get the shots I was after. You have to move fast with little kids – their attention span is very short so every second counts. J So while my “career” did start just for fun, it still continues to be a huge source of joy in my life today.
When did you start your company Lucky 17 photography? What has been your proudest moment since its inception?
I started Lucky 17 Photography initially as Lucky 17 Consulting about 6 years ago. At the time, I couldn’t decide which profession I loved more: Graphic Design or Photography. Back then, I was doing more graphic design work than photography (logos, business cards, flyers, etc), and that was what I focused on initially. However as time passed I started to do more photo work and used my design skills to help me design complimentary products using my photography. Finally, it felt like I’d found my calling and things really started to click. I still maintain both halves of my business today, but a larger portion of my business comes from photography. I design all of my clients’ greeting cards, books, and albums, and so the graphic design skill set constantly comes in handy. I can give my clients unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, and that means a lot to them.
My proudest moment? Wow. That’s a tough one. There have been a lot of milestones along the way. I think I would have to say that my proudest moment was delivering my first wedding album to my very first bride. She was so thrilled with her album she literally carried around everywhere she went for a whole week. And that was no small feat because the book was 11”x14” and weighed about 12 pounds. That meant a lot.
Tell me about the type of photography you do.
Without trying to sound cliché, my photography blends a photojournalistic approach with traditional portraiture to get a complete observatory perspective on my clients’ events. Let’s be honest, many of us have a particular vision in mind when we say we want photos of something. I know that with a formal event like a wedding, for example, 99.9% of brides I encounter envision the pictures they’ve seen in bridal magazines. They see celebrity weddings and say “OH, that’s what I want!” They want to be the gorgeous, laughing bride with the debonair, handsome groom, and they want the romantic candid shots. And I LOVE that. I find that when you ignore the camera and truly just live in the moment – that’s when the real “you” comes out, and that’s what I love to capture. However, that’s only one half of the event. In my humble opinion, there is still a need for formal photos, like the ones taken of your parents and grandparents. There is something to be said about tradition. You still want the grand portrait from your wedding that you can hang proudly on your wall. I can keep them ultra-traditional, or we can mix it up a bit and give your portraits a modern edge. I strive to give my clients both styles of photography with my event coverage.
Katie & Nick DeVito Wedding
When I saw some of the wedding photos you took for various couples, I knew you had to be our wedding photographer. Besides weddings, what other types of people/things do you shoot? Tell me about some of the bands you’ve shot and celebrities.
Katie! That’s so sweet. Thanks so much. Your wedding was a blast to shoot and I’m so glad to have been a part of that amazing day. Aside from weddings, I also do general portraiture, which includes families, teens, seniors, children, maternity, pets, and live music and promotional shoots. I also do some music journalism, freelancing for various publications, and that’s really a lot of fun. Music’s a huge part of my life and I get a real kick out of shooting bands.
I work with a lot of great local bands but also occasionally get to shoot major acts too. I’ve had the great pleasure of covering performances from bands like the Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Green Day, Foo Fighters, Phantom Planet, OK Go, Van Halen… the list goes on and on. My boyfriend is currently in the band Honah Lee, and I do a lot of their publicity and live coverage, as well as when they go on tour. It’s a whole lot of fun!
What services do you offer? What do you think separates you from the rest of the photographers out there? Everyone thinks they’re a photographer nowadays with the easy access of special cameras and PhotoShop.
Aside from photography and graphic design, I can also do photo restoration, scanning, archiving, and some light retouching. If you have some old family photos you’d like digitized to either enlarge or share on Facebook/Myspace and don’t have a clue where to start, get in touch. I adore old photos and just love breathing new life into faded, cracked, ripped and stained old prints.
The age of digital photography has brought a lot of new photographers to the field. Modern cameras make it easier and easier to take a good picture. It’s incredible what you can do now even with your small pocket camera. My pocket camera is pretty souped-up and any advanced amateur can make great images with it with only minimal practice.
However I believe what sets me apart from the pack is my training, my knowledge of the history of photography, my ability to pose and address difficult lighting situations quickly and effectively, my experience with digital processing, archiving, and color correction, and most importantly, my passion for each event or assignment I undertake. Photography is my art, my outlet for my creative energy. I pour a little bit of my soul into each and every shoot, and I strive to make it fun for everyone involved. Believe it or not, I hate being in front of a lens as a subject. I 100% know how it feels to dislike being photographed, and keep my shoots lighthearted and fun. It’s a very personal experience to be photographed by someone you don’t know, and so I immediately work on establishing trust between my clients and I. I’m not going to take unflattering photos of you and then smatter them all over the internet. I want you to look your best and I’ll do whatever it takes to get the best pictures I can create.
I really, truly care about each of my clients and take my work very, very seriously. I’m not one of those photographers that will spend half of your wedding reception outside smoking cigarettes, missing the little moments that make a wedding day so special. I work very hard for each of my clients and treat each special event as if it were my own. I throw my heart into it. My ideal clients are those that value photography as much as I do. When I connect with those people, the possibilities are endless.
If you could shoot one celebrity who would it be and why? Place you would most like to visit to shoot?
One celebrity? Hmm. That’s a tough one. I think it’d have to be Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. I’ve taken pictures of him playing live but I’d really like to take a crack at doing a portrait session with him while his band is on the road, sort of a tour documentary style thing. He’s been called “the nicest guy in rock and roll,” and though he seems to be a private individual, I’d love to get behind the scenes and really try to capture his personality through photography. So Dave if you’re out there, give me a call. LOL.
As far as a place to visit and shoot, I’ve always wanted to go to Ireland. My ancestors were from there and someday I hope to travel to the town that my family’s from and document the rolling countryside and my family’s history. Oh, and I’d love to stop off at the Guinness factory for a pint as well. People tell me there’s nothing like a Guinness poured in Ireland. I’d like to find out for myself.
I love to travel as well, and am available for travel around the world. Have camera, will travel.
What is your favorite photo someone has taken of you? Why?
This one’s easy. Last June I was hired to photograph the wedding of two of my very close friends. I brought my lovely and talented second shooter Heather with me to cover the reception because the bride and groom wanted me to be a guest when it came to be party time. We split the day in half and I shot all of the early day’s events and then handed the reigns over to Heather when we hit the reception. My boyfriend was also a guest at this wedding and so he and I had the rare opportunity to dance together. Of course Heather was on her game and snapped some photos of him and me laughing and dancing. It was really “us” – having a great time and enjoying the night. There’s one in particular where I’m in a mid-laugh in his arms and I just love it. We’re not “cheezing it” for the camera, just enjoying the moment.
How can people contact you? Why should someone hire you?
Contacting me is a piece of cake. You can visit my website at http://www.Lucky17Photography.com, email me at Michelle@Lucky17Photography.com or call me at 609-610-2953. I’d love to hear from you!
Choosing a photographer for a special event or portrait session is an important decision. A client should take into consideration a few things when deciding on hiring a photographer:
- Does his or her style fit what I’m looking for? Am I looking more for a candid approach or formal portraiture or both?
- What’s my budget? Does this photographer fit into my price range?
- After our initial consult/email/phone call or meeting, do you feel that we get along on a personal level? Do you feel comfortable around him or her?
I pour my heart into each session, shoot, event and assignment. A potential client should hire me because I truly care about the art of photography and the customer experience. I’m not a photo factory and I only take on a limited amount of assignments per year, in order to ensure a level of customer service and personal availability that you won’t get with a larger studio. When you meet with me regarding booking an event, you’ll be seeing my smiling face behind the camera at the event, not some stranger you’ve never met. When you have questions or need help, I’m the one there to assist. In an era of automated everything, I find that a personal touch makes all the difference.
Filed under: fashion, happiness, marriage, NJ, Princeton, Uncategorized, wedding | Tagged: Central Jersey, Central Jersey Event Photography, Dave Grohl, Foo FIghters, graphic design, Green Day, Honah Lee, Lucky 17, Michelle Lawlor, photo restoration, photography, photojournalism, photos, portraits, Van Halen, wedding | Leave a comment »