Now booking 2021 weddings and elopements! ask about the launch session special offer!
Melissa Durham Photography | Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer

On Being A Wedding Photographer | Ocean + Ridge

5 Comments on On Being A Wedding Photographer | Ocean + Ridge

Sometimes things happen that forever change you. Things that take you down a path you never thought you’d be taking. Like becoming a wedding photographer, when all of your education says that this was never in the “plan”…

…like falling in love with a sweet Southern country boy that changed it all for you…

…or being in a major accident that became a reminder to slow down and be present…

or stepping out onto the sand where it all began, freeing you from a persistent internal struggle to find your voice.

But, my voice has been there all along though, guys, even when I didn’t even realize it. In an industry of girl bosses and hustle, coffee by the pots, and perfectly curated, eye-catching social media platforms, I’ve somehow quieted my heart that has been screaming to break free and embrace what I truly connect to. I’ve felt the pressure to cohesively edit my images to look the same for every wedding, every engagement, and every anniversary. Light and airy OR dark and moody. Pick one. I’ve been beckoned to “do as I do” by the industry’s biggest names. Edit like me. Pose like me. Market like me. 

But that’s never felt right.

This is far more than just photography for me. Yes, of course, anyone can pick up a digital camera! But not everyone gets it. What I put into this work of mine is much more than picking up a camera and taking pictures. It’s not that simple for me. It’s more than trying to be as big as someone else. It’s more than trying to nail a pristine Instagram feed. It’s joy. It’s telling someone’s story. It’s turning someone’s legacy into tangible pieces of art. It’s something I can do for someone else, and I’ve known that from the very beginning.

I want to be that wedding photographer that creates photographs that do for my couples and their families what finding heirloom, handwritten love letters do for their souls.

What I want for them is timelessness. 

I don’t want to be a wedding photographer who follows a trend. I don’t want to produce photographs that look the same for every one of you.

My work reflects who you are and where you are in the moment that you’re in.

Honestly, I have to tell you…I tried, you guys. I tried to follow along and take the advice of the big names.

But I found that my heart is stronger and speaks louder than that.

This is, however, more than just about how I edit my work. It’s about the couples I connect with and the environments I feel drawn to. I think every one of us can agree that hiring a wedding photographer shouldn’t just be about choosing someone who’s within a specific budget. It’s about connection. I’ve been lucky enough to have felt a connection with nearly every couple I’ve met and photographed, and often times that winds up in me capturing first homes, babies, and anniversaries. You know…life’s great love stories. It’s cheesy, but it’s true! Guys, it’s all about connection, and it’s about trusting that your photographer gets you. It’s about trusting that your wedding photographer knows your style and what matters most to you. It’s about trusting that your wedding photographer will know how to capture you and the beauty of where you’ve chosen to begin this journey together.

Over the last year, I’ve found that it’s not only about the connection I have with a couple, but it’s also about the connection I have with my surroundings. Where I know I’m in my element. We are often asked, “who’s your ideal client?” and “what’s your style?” I’ve always known who my ideal clients are.

They’re the couples who pour every ounce of their hearts into their vows…

The Lodge at Mount Ida Wedding | Winter Wedding |  Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer | Melissa Durham Photography

…the couples who value each other and their families…

Belmont Manor Wedding | Bride and Flower Girl Under the Veil |  Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer | Melissa Durham Photography

…the couples who are CRAZY in love…

Smith Mountain Lake Engagement Session | Adventure Engagement Session | Engagement Session in the Water |  Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer | Melissa Durham Photography

…the couples who love life together and would have every second of it captured if they could…

Blue Ridge Mountain Anniversary Session |  Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer | Melissa Durham Photography

the couples who slip away to dance at sunset and just can’t keep their eyes off each other…

Early Mountain Vineyards Wedding | Bride & Groom Dancing at Sunset | Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer | Melissa Durham Photography

the couples who are proud of who they’re marrying

Bluemont Vineyard Wedding | Virginia + Destination Wedding Photographer | Melissa Durham Photography

the couples who are beyond excited to do life together…

Destination Wedding in Virginia | Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia Wedding | Floyd County, Virginia | Melissa Durham Photography

the couples who are ready for an adventure…

Falling Spring Waterfall | Waterfall Elopement | Virginia Waterfall Elopement | Melissa Durham Photography

the couples who put the Lord at the center of their marriage…

Plantation on Sunnybrook Wedding | Virginia Wedding | Bride & Groom Praying Together | Melissa Durham Photography

…the couples who love each other with tenderness and respect…

University of Virginia Engagement Session | Military Engagement Session | Melissa Durham Photography

and the couples who are ready to get lost in the woods and take their time.

New Hampshire Wedding | White Mountains Wedding | Camp Independence | Melissa Durham Photography

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love every one of my couples for so many reasons! And what I love just as much is where we’ve gone together.

Hidden away in the middle of gorgeous grapevines at a winery overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the base of a gorgeous waterfall. Deep in the middle of the woods in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On beautiful coastlines at sunset.

A week or so ago, while on vacation in the Keys, I found myself at home and inspired. This was where my life began for me, and I felt the pull to come back. A strong pull. And I realized that my heart belongs to our breathtaking mountains and to our coastlines that can free your soul. I can’t choose…and I don’t have to! Life can bring me back to both.

These are the places I want to be and where I feel my work comes alive. Where I feel free to produce a bright, radiant photograph that embraces the light at a wedding on the coast or to create a rich, emotional photograph for a couple wrapped up in each other in the middle of the mountains. Give me the sand or fields of wildflowers. Give me those rocky ledges and massive pines. Let’s take on those views that stretch for miles. Trust that I’ll do my best to do it justice in my work.

After this trip, I went through a very emotional train of thought. I confided in my husband and my momma and my amazing photographer friends. Would it be too much to not put a label on my style? Would that confuse my couples? I’m not always light and airy and I’m not always dark and moody. But I did want to put emphasis on what made my work come naturally.

Connection. Authenticity. Emotion. 

Bright and airy. Rich and firey. 

Adventure. Our world. Salty ocean breezes and majestic ridgelines. 

Ocean + Ridge.

And that’s where it clicked.


There’s no big rebrand here because, despite the fact that I’ve been internalizing what feels true to me and my art, I’ve been slowly and naturally moving in that direction. Feeling at home on the sand and being deeply rooted in the mountains made me realize that I’ve been allowing my work to reflect this already. I’ve watched my work consistently balance the romantic, bright and airy style with that of its intimate, moodier opposite. I’ve dabbled in film and love how different film stocks produce different images. I LOVE that versatility, and I bring that to my digital work.

I’ve found myself on location in places that connect me to earth and to my couples. That’s when I do my best work.

I just finally know how to put it into words. I finally know what calls to me and my couples. Having a clear image of what connects me to my art and what I want to give to others means everything to me.


So, what does this mean for MDP couples?

It means we’ll keep adventuring together. I’ll continue producing work that reflects YOU rather than just me. That if you have a vision, I want to hear it and I want to produce it.

It means more elopements. More traveling and experiencing.

It means capturing people and our connection to the earth. More emotion, intimacy, and connection.

Most of all, it means telling stories.


If you’re my husband, my family, or my friends reading this, thank you so much for your support and your advice to stay true to me and my art.

If you’re one of my couples, thank you SO much for your confidence in my work. I cannot begin to tell you how honored I am to capture your lives and your love. You’re incredible, and man I love telling your stories!!

And if you’re a couple seeking an elopement or destination wedding photographer and this calls to you, let me know. Let’s go to the places that feel like home to you. I’ve got surprises up my sleeve. <3


posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Herrick says:

    I love this post sweetheart. You are definitely the perfect balance of oceans and mountains. This is you, and you are incredible. Let your heart keep guiding you. I know you will. You’re an amazing artist, not only with your beautiful photography, but with words. I love you!

  2. shaye says:

    This is the you that I came to know and love! Exactly why you are the wedding photographer I will always refer to as the best. The connection and your commitment to dig in and know your couple makes your photography real. I am beyond thankful for your talent and friendship.

  3. Sara Simpkins says:

    wow so proud! i love your words & your freedom to be yourself – it’s a precious gift to each couple. xoxo

  4. Spring says:

    I’m so impressed by the person that you are; thank you for being a part of my life and sharing your gift. You aren’t like anyone else. They best part of you is that you are you!

  5. Karolyn stober says:

    I love you, my little conch! Stay true to you always and you will be the best you can be. Keep your romantic soul happy.

We do not share your email and don't worry, you can unsubscribe at any time :)

Posts from Ocean + Ridge straight to your inbox! Join the newsletter to receive freebies, tips, and blog entries delivered monthly!

get on the list

You're officially on the list and in like Flynn! See you on the inside!