Hoffmaster State Park Beach Engagement Session on Lake Michigan, July 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

This session is actually from last July.  Colleen contacted me to let me know that she and her fiancée would be back in town to visit with family in early July.  Although the couple currently lives out of state, Colleen grew up in the area.  She had her heart set on an evening engagement session at the beach and I was happy to oblige.

I packed up some lighting so that I could get a bit more of a dramatic look with some of the sunset photos and also to light up the scene a bit more on some of the beach ones.  It was quite a bit cloudier and darker than we'd anticipated so I knew I just needed to be prepared for things to get dark quickly.

What we didn't realize was that the sand flies were out in FULL FORCE that night!  Lesson learned, PACK BUG SPRAY FOR BEACH SESSIONS!  haha!

Overall I had a blast doing this session and these two were great sports about everything!

Shutterfest 2017 Photography Convention - St. Louis, Missouri by Crystal VanAntwerpen

I first attended Shutterfest in 2015 after hearing about it in one of the local photography groups that I'm in.  Although I'd been doing weddings and other types of sessions for a couple of years already, I knew that I still had plenty of things to learn.  Shutterfest, at that time, was only into its second year of being held and there were some bumps and some words said (by me.... and apparently they are still hashtagging them to this day), and I just wasn't sure how much I would even like this conference.  You see, it was kind of a new thing.  Only 500 had attended the year prior and it was small and intimate.  In 2015, 2000 attended, the trade show grew, the classes grew, and there were lots of models that we were able to "rent".  Instructors taught independent groups and there were photoshoots at all hours of the day and night.  It wasn't one of those conferences where you sit in a classroom and study all day... you got to get right out there and take photos with the guidance of instructors or independently... it was entirely up to you.

Now, 2 years later, I'm still attending (and signed up for Shutterfest 2018) and still learning.  I admit that my reasons for going have changed.  When I first started going, I was eager to get all kinds of shots to fill up my portfolio because it was still a bit sparse back then.  I took every chance I had to photograph the models that were all around Union Station, just to get photos into my portfolio.  I'm happy to say that this year, I didn't feel the need to run and gun all around there trying to get photos of random models because this year, my priorities were to fine tune some of the business aspects of photography, learn about new products, and listen to as many speakers as possible.  The beauty of Shutterfest is that you can choose from so many different things to do!  If you want to just photograph models all day long for 2 days, YOU CAN!  If you want to take business classes all day long for 2 days, YOU CAN!

This year, I brought along my friend Sydney (Sydney Marie Photography) and we hit the road Monday morning and arrived in St. Louis in the late afternoon.  Once we'd checked into our hotel room, we noticed lots of people already doing independent photoshoots all around the trains behind union station.  Now, if you're a photographer, you're probably eyerolling so hard about shooting on the tracks (For those of you who are not photogs... shooting on train tracks is not only cliché and overdone, but it's also illegal and very dangerous).  Just an FYI, these train tracks and trains behind Union Station are all inactive.

Anyway... Sydney and I wandered down to the trains and came upon a senior group photo shoot.  We joined in and grabbed a few shots but bear in mind, the models do tend to look all around because there are so many photographers there. 

Next, we headed over to the hotel courtyard to join in on a photoshoot that I'd signed up for a few days prior.  This one was another independently run photoshoot with a girl who had her face painted like a deer and had a beautiful floral headpiece.  I wasn't quite sure how this one would go, and we came a bit late, but it was pretty neat.

Next, we walked through Union Station out to the front of the building where we came upon another instructor teaching a group of photographers how to pose and light couples.

Note the "Kick Ass" sign out front.  Anyone who has been to Shutterfest knows the instructors are not PC when it comes to language.  If you're thinking about attending and you're a little pansy flower that doesn't say such things, you may want to find another conference.  Or you can put on your big kid pants and go there and kick some ass, that is up to you.

Tuesday morning we had some breakfast and headed over to Union Station (we stayed at the Drury next door which is awesome because you get free breakfast and dinner there, but also not awesome because Union Station is where all the action is).  The first speaker of the conference is always Sal Cincotta, because he runs all that s*** (and I hear he owns half of St. Louis, or is working on that, anyway).  Somehow I missed the tee shirt guns, which are always a thing at the opening talk.  Oh well.  What can I say, I like sleeping in and enjoying my breakfast.

The first class I took on Tuesday was a posing 2 brides and 2 grooms class.  I actually already took it last year but I enjoyed the class so thought it would be fun to take it again.  The instructor, Thea Dodds, is very nice and actually co-wrote the book Capturing Love, which is the only wedding photography book on the market that is written specifically about posing and interacting with same-sex couples.

Everywhere we walked outside, we saw random models and groups of photographers out there doing their thing.

Oh, and did I mention there are FOOD TRUCKS during lunch?!  YUMMMMMM!  We are petitioning for an ice cream truck next year because that was the only thing missing.

On the trade show floor, we got to try out various lights and other gear while models posed for us.

There were lots of vendors there, but not like an overwhelming amount.  Most of the most popular ones did attend, which was nice, because they always give discounts and show samples.

These models go all day long just posing for everyone. 

I took a class called Advanced Posing for Wedding Photographers with Michael Anthony and loved it!  He showed us all how to turn basic poses into "epic" poses.  Just the slightest shifts of the body can either make a photo super flattering or make it fall flat.  All in all he was definitely one of my favorite instructors!

These two are a real life couple so they were not awkward at all with posing together.  Between these two and the location, people were scrambling for the best spot to get "the shot."

After that little adventure, I came back inside for my last class of the day, which was all about capturing details with Jeff and Lori Poole.  I'll be honest, it was way too crowded for me to take many photos of the details and my biggest takeaway was listening to the instructors talk privately with other students about their methods of getting higher sales and bringing in clients.  I already have learned quite a bit about doing detail shots from working with other photographers at weddings and have lots of experience with that, so it was nice to hear them talking about business as well.

This is just a quick shot of the inside of Union Station.  I wish I'd had a wide angle lens on me but I was packing light since I didn't want to haul all my gear on my back all day long.

This is a shot of the trade show floor.  It was normally much more crowded than this, but I took this shot while most people were still in their classes.

Wednesday morning I took a class that was about how to pose women properly to take the most flattering boudoir shots.  This class was instructed by Amber Jones.  Again, this class was super crowded and in a small area so I mostly just sat back taking in the information while taking some photojournalistic style shots just for reference.  It was also like 172 degrees in there so I bugged out a bit early.  Ok, it was really like 80 degrees, but I'm from Michigan where its like 55 degrees in the spring.

We hit the trade show floor again and I couldn't resist grabbing another shot of the action. 

My second class on Wednesday was instructed by Sal himself.  This class was about how to create dramatic portraits while thinking on your feet.  At least, that's the best way I can describe it.  We broke off into groups and Sal told us where we had to take our models to create something epic.  These locations were anything BUT epic, but we had to make it work.  All in all, I realized in this class that I already understood how to get these types of photos but didn't quite trust myself with it yet.  After listening to Sal talk for like 5 minutes, everything just clicked.  I mean I won't lie, I still freaking hid behind people when Sal would run over and ask to see what was on the backs of people's screens, simply because I was waiting for him to give some sort of Simon Cowell critique.  Overall, I'd say this class and the other wedding posing ones were hands down my favorites.

That's Sal down there showing us how we are supposed to do it.

This girl was a TROOPER.  By this time of the day, it was like 85 degrees and she'd already been standing in that hot sun in a long sleeved dress for like 40 minutes.  This is just a super quick edit that I did. We all had to share her and get our shots quickly so yes, there is a car in the background.  If this were a paying client, I'd be cloning that out!

My last class of the day was all about business strategy with Ning Wong so there are no photos from that.  I loved the class format though.  There were only about 12 of us in the classroom all sitting around a table learning about what works and what doesn't.  Much of it was open discussion. 

If you are a photographer and looking for a conference to learn how to take better photos or just plain grow your business, seriously consider going to Shutterfest.  The ticket to this is probably the least expensive you can get, while the hands on instruction is probably some of the best out there.  If you can't get into Hilton Union Station or Hilton Ballpark, consider the Drury next door, or the Drury up the road.  These are great hotels that give you a lot of bang for your buck. 

As you can see I had a great time in St. Louis at Shutterfest and will for sure be attending next year!

Erin & Mark's Downtown Market Wedding in Grand Rapids, Michigan - February 11, 2017 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

Erin and Mark chose Grand Rapids' trendy hotspot, Downtown Market, to hold their wedding celebration.  Having their wedding in the greenhouse portion of the market was a great way to get the feel of an outdoor wedding while still staying warm during chilly winter temperatures (although our winter was pretty weird and it wasn't very cold!).  Erin and Mark's wedding included special songs sung by one of their groomsmen and members of Brena Band.  The two of them said their vows while standing among beautiful tropical plants and gleefully shared a delicious dinner of Slows BBQ at the reception afterward.  The night was alive with great music, dancing, and celebration.  I'm honored that I was able to share this day with Erin and Mark as their wedding photographer!

Katelyn & Benjamin's Wedding at St. Bartholemew Catholic Church and Moss Ridge Golf Club - January 21, 2017 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

Katelyn and Benjamin have been separated by distance due to Benjamin's service in the US Marines and they could not wait to be together finally after getting married!  Their rustic winter wedding took place among friends and family here in Michigan before they moved to California.  Michigan's weather didn't fully cooperate as normally there would be lots of snow in January, not 50 degrees and mud puddles!  Katelyn's family had lots of country property for photos, though, and everything turned out beautiful!

We started out the day at La Belle de la Riviere in Newaygo, where Katelyn and her girls were getting ready.  This historic bed and breakfast was a charming place, not only for getting ready, but also for posed photos after the wedding!  The guys hung back at the church, where the ceremony was held.  There were many smiles and tears as Katelyn and Benjamin said their vows in front of their family and friends. 

After taking a trip around the family property for some posed photos, the wedding party ended at Moss Ridge Golf Club where guests anxiously awaited their arrival.  After a filling dinner, everyone danced and there were some cake cutting shenanigans!  I'm so glad to have been Katelyn and Ben's wedding photographer and I wish them many happy adventures in life!

Katie and Travis' Kent Country Club Wedding in Grand Rapids, Michigan - October 22, 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

I first met up with Katie and Travis last spring when I did their orchard engagement session.  The two of them were so easygoing and fun that I knew their wedding would be filled with joy and love.  Katie even had her adorable little dog in the wedding party!  The weather turned out to be sunny, warm, and beautiful, and I'm so glad these two got to have such a wonderful wedding day!  Many thanks to the two of them for having me photograph their wedding!

Steven and Katherine's Wedding at St. Mary's Cathedral in Lansing, Michigan - October 7, 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

Steven and Katherine's classic and elegant wedding took place at St. Mary's Cathedral in Lansing, MI.  Not only was the church within walking distance to the state capital building, but Katherine had access to the inside of the building after hours because she works there!  Talk about a dream location for photos!  I don't know how many of us can say we'd want to have our wedding photos taken at our place of work, but I don't know of many workplaces that ornate marvels of architecture like our state capital building!

I know that Steven and Katherine met while working in a similar field of work, and they knew pretty quickly that they would make great partners in life and love.  I wish them both the best of everything and was honored to be their wedding photographer!


Hairstylist:  The Headroom Salon
Dress:  Fantastic Finds
Florist:  Delta Flowers
DJ:  Turned Up DJs
Transportation:  Dean Transportation
Catering and Cake: Crowne Plaza Hotel

Kaley and CJ's Wedding at Dhaseleer Events Barn in Charlevoix, Michigan - September 30, 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

My associate shooter and I had quite a long drive up to Kaley and CJ's wedding.  Kaley and CJ actually live somewhat near to me but they found this cool and somewhat newer barn venue called Dhaseleer Events Barn, that just happened to be 4 hours away in Charlevoix.  That was fine with me, though, as I love to travel for weddings!  The day shaped up to be mild and perfect for an outdoor wedding ceremony, and we found some absolutely breathtaking areas behind the barn to take photos.  I hope you all enjoy these.  I enjoyed working with Kaley and CJ in such a pretty area.  I wish the two of them many happy adventures in the future!

Erick & Megan's Crystal Garden's Wedding in Howell, Michigan - September 24, 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

This year I have had the opportunity to photograph weddings all over the lower peninsula of Michigan.  Megan and Erick's wedding took place at Crystal Gardens in Howell, MI.  We met up with Erick and the groomsmen first before meeting Megan and the girls at their hotel room.  These two were surroundedfriends and family and it was so wonderful seeing them surrounded by the love and support of so many.  I wish them all of the love and happiness in their marriage!


Venue, Cake, & Catering:  Crystal Gardens Banquet Center

Dress: Sophia Tolli

Florist:  Country Lane Flower Shop

DJ:  TJ Monte

Transportation:  Entertainment Express

Eric and Erica's City Flats Ballroom Wedding - Grand Rapids, Michigan - September 17, 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

Eric and Erica were both so warm and inviting when I met with them to do their engagement and wedding photos.  I'm so glad to have had the honor of photographing their wedding at City Flats Hotel and Ballroom in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Everything about it was just beautiful - the uplighting on the pillars, candles along the sides of the aisle, and beautiful weather.  My husband Christian accompanied me as my second photographer and took some of the stunning side angle shots from above the ballroom, and also stayed with the guys while I stayed with the girls.

I wish Eric and Erica the best of love and luck in the future and am thankful I got to be the one who documented their day!


Danielle & Scott - Rochester Hills, Michigan Wedding - September 10, 2016 by Crystal VanAntwerpen

When Danielle contacted me about 9 months prior to her wedding, she indicated how important good photography was to her and we communicated about the beautiful reception venue she had chosen, the Wyndgate Country Club in Oakland Twp, MI, and how there would be so many amazing places to do photos there.  As the wedding date drew nearer, it became clear that we would be dodging rain and thunderstorms all day.  I knew that the inside of the building would be beautiful and that we could use that, if need be, but somehow we managed to pull off dodging around the golf course to take photos and then darting back inside when the wind would kick up and storms rolled in.  We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and more time on the greens to wrap up the night and overall we were able to get lots of photos of Danielle and Scott outside in this amazing location.  It was a bit of a whirlwind with the crazy weather, but I enjoyed every moment of it and am so honored that I was chosen to be Danielle and Scott's wedding photographer!

We started the day at Embassy Suites in Troy, MI, where the wedding party was getting ready.

Then we were off to University Presbyterian Church in Oakland Township for the wedding ceremony.

How about this gorgeous area right next to the church?  Not only was there this cool building, but also a large lawn behind it.  We were able to pop out when the rain stopped, and pop back in when it started again!

The country club had many gorgeous areas with willow trees, ponds, rivers, and bridges.  Because of the Wyndgate allowing us to use their golf carts to access various areas of the golf course, we were again able to dodge between the storms to capture romantic photos of Danielle and Scott.

Reception Venue:  Wyndgate Country Club
DJ:  Night and Day Productions
Transportation:  Rock City Limos
Cake:  The Home Bakery