MIDLOTHIAN — With her scenes of ravishing weddings to love-struck engagements or confident high school seniors, one Midlothian mom reveals a beautiful world of community through the lens of her camera.
“I love photographing the moment. I like to get there and tell a story, documenting the whole day. My favorite part of photography is the actual moment that’s in the photo,” expressed Melissa Shook, owner of Melissa Shook Photography. “When I’m shooting, I’m like a little school girl. If I get the right light and look at the photo for a quick second, I’m like, ‘Eek!’ I get really excited because then it gets my client really excited. Then the whole way home I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to plug them into my computer and download them.’ It’s the moment of shooting that I absolutely love."
With a style that can only be described as “fresh, pretty, and fun,” Shook’s photocompositions reveal an effortless beauty that appeals to all clients.
“I like to keep it simple. I don’t do a lot of heavy editing. I get it right in the camera and bring everything out. I don’t like to do a whole lot of textures or different types of distorted looks – I like to keep it clean and simple,” Shook explained her unique approach.
Founding her business in 2009, Shook discovered her dream career through layers of creativity, espousing the photography world as her own.
“I’ve always been a creative person since I was little. Ever since I got my first art box, I wasn’t much of a drawer, I couldn’t do it hands-on, but I liked to create things, and I was always good with that,” Shook recalled.
After receiving a softball scholarship to Texas A&M University — Corpus Christi, Shook completed her basic art classes, later transferring to the University of Texas where her photography niche took flight.
“I went to college, and I was like, ‘Okay, what am I going to do?’ Okay, great, I like art - let’s do art.’ Originally, I have a Graphic Design background, I was going to school for it. So I took the basic art classes, and I was not good at it because I didn’t have that hands-on eye, but once I took a photography class for fun, just to do it, I fell in love with it,” Shook divulged. “Once I got up to my upper-level classes and got on the computer, that’s where it really came to life. That’s when I realized what I’m supposed to do and I’m kind of good at it."
Going full-time in the career, Shook admitted to feeling a little guilty to have a job she fully enjoys.
“I feel bad because this is a fun job. I work hard at it, and my husband owns his own business, and he’s a professional engineer, so he’s all business, and I’m kind of like, ‘Yeah, I get to do fun stuff,’” She chuckled. “So I feel like I cheat the system a little bit because everybody goes to work and I go to work too, but I get to be fun and creative and do what I love to do."
In light of being a small business owner, Shook acknowledged that she struggled with the learning curve that came with starting her photography business. From filing taxes to scheduling clients, Shook’s favorite and most vital aspect of her industry is networking with others.
“I love meeting and talking with people, because I’m very social, so that’s fun and it just took off after that,” she conveyed with a smile.
Rounding her skills and learning the artistic trade, Shook shot a couple of weddings for close friends to gain repertoire and experience.
“I started shooting weddings of friends for cheap, just to get experience. Then their bridesmaids would book me for their weddings,” Shook explained how she first built her clientele basis. “After the next wedding, I would get booked for another one. So it builds up, and referrals are the power of networking."
Although her photography specifically revolves around weddings, Shook is currently photoing high school seniors from all over the county.
“I’m picking up senior photography – it’s my new thing I’m trying to get started in Midlothian Heritage, Red Oak, and Waxahachie, and get a lot of those high school seniors and do their portraits,” Shook specified.
Quickly getting booked with seniors from Ellis County and the DFW area, Shook prides herself on her acute attention to detail and modern insight — all of which is helping her business to gain popularity.
“I like unique, and I like for people to be different. I try to shoot at different locations that other people aren’t going to,” Shook commented on what sets her apart. “What I look for in a client is somebody who’s willing to say, ‘Hey, let's go on an adventure.’ I’m an adventurer, and photography is not meant to be boring, but fun. I want my clients to experience something different that nobody else can give them, and I want to make a lasting impression on them.
“If I get a call for a senior, I interview them as much as they are interviewing me. What are they looking for? A nature scene, something rustic, do they want urban or modern? So I get a feel for what they want to do, and I will offer my suggestions on location choices, and I’ll give them ideas while seeing what they want to do.
"It’s a combination of them working with me and me working with them. I want to give them what they want, but I also want them to know that they’re calling me for a reason. I know what I’m doing, and I know what looks good. I want to be able to offer that service to them and find something that sets them apart from the rest," she continued.
GROWING THE LOCAL INDUSTRY
Aside from her growing network of senior portraits and wedding events, Shook firmly believes in the power of interacting with other professionals to make small town businesses thrive.
“I’m a part of several Fort Worth wedding professional networks, and I go to happy hours and socials, and we started one here for Ellis County. I started Southern Wedding Professionals, a networking group for our area since Fort Worth or Dallas won’t come here,” she stated.
Southern Wedding Professionals is a group that takes pride in their small town collective, inviting all Ellis County specialists to band together in community, education, and network with other professionals in the area.
“I’m always going to Fort Worth because that’s where most of my weddings are. Since moving to Midlothian, I was like, ‘You know, there’s a lot of wedding venues in Ellis County, Waxahachie, and Midlothian.’ So I talked to people in Fort Worth, and they were like, ‘Midlothian is just too far south for us to go,’ and they don’t want to host anything down here, and it’s the same thing with Dallas. We’re just too far south,” Shook expounded, starting the group in January 2017.
After her conversations with other DFW professionals, Shook befriended the ladies of Willow Creek Wedding Venue in Waxahachie, with ambitions of connecting small businesses with others to give clients the option of choice.
“We’re trying to get everybody in this area to come and meet, it’s always great when a bride refers you, and that’s where I get a lot of my business, but it’s also great when you refer business to business and build those relationships. I want to be able to say, ‘Hey, why not get married here, why go to Fort Worth or Dallas? We have so much here to offer because there’s so much here,’” Shook pointed out.
Encouraging a network designed for wedding photographers, venues, and caterers, the competition mentality is nowhere to be found.
“There’s a lot of brides to go around because I’m not going to get every wedding and I will get booked, but I would like to be able to refer local people that I know,” she added.
While constructing a healthy network in the creative industry, Shook calls attention to the importance of community on small businesses, complementing her city’s inviting atmosphere.
“Community is really important, and it goes along with getting involved. I came from Mansfield, and I didn’t feel there was a sense of community or partnership between businesses and the city. I moved here to Midlothian, got involved with the Chamber, and started doing more with them, realizing that these people could help me. It’s the meeting other business professionals and being involved in a community is something that I look forward to doing more within Midlothian. I really feel that this town has a lot to offer,” Shook complimented.
And for those looking for a brilliantly gifted photographer to snap their special day, Shook is the right lady for the job — just ask her for yourself.
“I am awesome,” Shook teased with a laughed. “I’m good at what I do, and I like to have fun, and I think it’s okay to say that. I’m local, and I like to stay local, because it’s refreshing to see the community come together, and it just makes you feel good to be in your own town with people who value your work and what you do. It’s fun getting out there, meeting people in your community, and I really value it.”
To connect with Melissa Shook Photography, visit shookphoto.com or call (817)-609-3776.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer (469)-517-1450