Interview: Mike and Kate Duval

Meet Inspire Boston 2011 speakers Mike and Kate Duval, the married couple behind MKD Photography. They are teaching a workshop called You're Smarter Than Your Camera-- designed to empower you to make choices that you would otherwise leave to your camera. Website: MKD Photography / http://www.mkdphotography.com

What do you love most about your job? Oh, man, where to start?  There are so many things I love about what we do...I get to work with Mike, whom I love, adore, and admire...and together we're doing something that we we love, capturing images!  The added bonus is that we get to be a part of some of the most important days in peoples lives...we get to see them laugh and cry and fall in love all over again while they're in the best dress they'll ever own, with their makeup and hair done surrounded by their friends and family for a big huge party.  And the most amazing thing about being a photographer?  We're not just there making them happy for the day...we're making these memories that they're going to be looking at for years and years to come!

What do you hate most about your job? Hate...that's a strong word...but I think the thing I hate most is being hired by clients who don't really appreciate who we are and what we do.  I find myself at the weddings of photo-apathetic couples every now and then and Mike and I talk about how we find ourselves creatively stifled and sad that we aren't working with a client who loves photography as much as we do.  This season we're really working on only booking couples who obviously love each other, love us, AND love photography!

Where do you find inspiration? The amazing thing about working together is that we have a healthy competition going on between us...we're often chimping on the back of each others camera showing off the "most amazing picture" of the day and are left with a "beat that" feeling.  But we also are always checking our Google reader to see what our fellow photographers are up to...and not really because we're ever hoping to reproduce what someone else has done, but to constantly see more angles, more uses of light, more poses and positions...and then hopefully when you're out there with your couple inspiration strikes from your big deep well of everything you've seen and done so far.

What was your first experience in photography? Mike and I met in college and he has been into photography for a long time and it didn't take much effort to pull me in.  He had a pretty sweet Nikon F5 Anniversary camera and it was Spring Weekend...so he just kept giving me roll after roll of film and I went a little crazy shooting cherry blossoms to Reel Big Fish who were performing...and $150 of processing later I was hooked.

Aside from photography, do you have other creative outlets? We're venturing into some event film making...and we both were always in the studio in college.  We both took drawing classes and some sculpture classes...and now that we have two little kids we absolutely love to show them all of the fun arts and crafts they can sink their little hands into.  Someday I'll pick up my saxophone again....

What advice do you wish you had received (or followed) when you were starting your business? I wish that someone had come in with some studio software that helped us to manage our books, numbers, facts, figures...Mike and I both LOVE photography, and people...but we both tend to hate numbers and organizing and all of the stuff that you really need in place to have a organized office...so I wish someone had either told us to hire an awesome book keeper and office assistant who could keep things running...or had told us to take a class!

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a doctor and Mike wanted to be a dentist...then one chemistry class (kicked both of our butts) turned us in different directions!  We both already knew we loved art and took all of the classes that Wheaton offered in photography and some other arts.  When we were in college we joked that being wedding photographers would be honestly the worst job we could ever imagine.  Then we got married and had the time of our lives in May of 2005...three months later we were shooting our first wedding and have been hooked ever since!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I would love to be able to be in two places at once...I wish we could go to more workshops and activities for photographers.  I wish we could stay out and shoot an engagement session for 5-6 hours.  I wish that we could tell people that we would be at their wedding from the moment they wake up to the last dance...but in all reality we have two little kids at home who need us to so we have to limit our time and find a balance between work and home that feels good for all of us.

What do you think of the current state of the wedding industry? I think the wedding industry will always have new comers...people who start out with bottom of the barrel prices and shoot a season and wind up exhausted, broke, and wondering why they ever started this in the first place.  And then there are among that crowd a few people that truly are bit by the bug and they book more and more weddings and realize that they aren't going to survive with their prices where they are and jump up into a place where they are comfortable and can continue shooting.  When we're aiming to shoot 20-25 weddings a year I just look around and realize there are plenty of weddings to go around as long as you love what you do, are good at what you do, and have good people skills--when a photography business is lacking in any of those three areas I don't think they're going to be around in 5 years and in all honesty they'll probably be relieved when they figure that out for themselves and continue on the adventure to find what really makes them happy!

Last song you listened to? "Life is a Highway," because I have a 2 year old "Cars" fanatic in the house!