Member of the Month: Justin and Mary Marantz

by Nayeli Pagaza

Justin and Mary Marantz

July 01, 2011 — Justin and Mary Marantz don't just talk about love – they exude it every day in their business and personal life. Their real-life love affair is a modern testimony of a couple unafraid to reveal their inner selves and quirks not only with each other but with clients and colleagues who know them. Their Vanity Fair-esque wedding portfolio is as fashionable a statement as their energetic blog is to readers – which already boast more than one million unique visitors.

"I've really enjoyed writing since I was 5 years old and very poor in West Virginia," says Mary. "We try to write once or twice a day." But what keeps the pair's momentum going is the fact that Justin and Mary express how committed they are to each other on an everyday basis. "He's the rock in our marriage," Mary confesses in their blog.

And, the duo says they've been inseparable – never leaving each other's sight for more than two weeks – since meeting in an online dating site and getting married a few years ago. Justin and Mary's romance has been as genuine as the beautiful images they capture. They've become so relatable to their clients that couples truly want to engage with the Connecticut-based photographers.

Their talent lies in being able to capture every raw emotion they see and peculiarity they find. "The message we want people to see in our photos is that the smallest moments make up the whole real life stories," Mary says. "I think what stands us out from other photographers is that we don't just say that we love love. Our clients can see from our blog posts that we're just like them. We are a married couple who love each other and get along really well – even when it comes to dividing household chores, like washing and drying dishes."

In an era where social networking and reality shows vaguely portray real identities, Justin and Mary's subtle humor and positive energy demonstrate they are truly passionate and love those around them. Their Web site section on "Stuff We Love" gives a glimpse into items they love – from food, music or gadgets they like and can't live without, like the iPhone - and their youthful personalities. They say this section alone has been a major hit in attracting potential clients, and has become more and more popular in other photography Web sites as well.  "We had a couple that wanted to hire us because they saw that we love Nivea and they told us they worked for Nivea," says Mary.

They confess, however, that some potential clients don't understand what they are all about. "Some people don't get us, but that's okay because we want clients that understand us and that truly value our work. We need to have chemistry with the couples so we can get the best possible images in their wedding," says Mary.  

They are courageous and never short--change their clients – even if it means ruining thousands of dollars of equipment to get the perfect shot. "We were supposed to shoot this wedding under this giant Bedford Oak tree when it all of a sudden started to pour down rain," says Mary. "The bride however, still wanted to have her ceremony outside, so we kept our cool and our confidence. There was a great camaraderie from the few of us who were brave enough to bear the storm during this beautiful ceremony."

Justin and Mary's artistic style is influenced by the iconic, side-lit portraits in the likes of Grace Kelly during the golden age of film in the 1940s. They dramatize their photos with rich color and invoke a hint of photojournalism in their work.

Some of their favorite photos reveal a timeless energy and sort of nostalgic feeling from the past. A man with a huge grin, smoking a cigar in a black and white photo could have been taken in any period of time. A bride wearing an off shoulder vintage style dress and short veil captivates a traditional yet elegant and classy image. Their images are shot interchangeably during the night and day, which is why they prefer to use a camera that takes photos in any light without flash like the Nikon D700s with 50 mm f/1.4 lens. In order to allow more elements to be contained horizontally, the pair uses 25 mm wide-angle lenses. They also use umbrellas when it is needed.  For fast, high-performance portrait shots, Justin and Mary use 85 mm f/1.4 lenses. And they use Carl Zeiss 25 mm f/2.8 lenses to provide image quality across the frame and close ups for details,. The work they do in Photoshop is skin retouching with TRA Pro Retouch.

For Justin, the thought of becoming a professional photographer was always something he aspired to be, and graduated from the highly-acclaimed Rochester Institute of Technology in 2003. He was also a featured winner of the 2006 PDN Top Knots Photography Contest.

"I was very lucky because I had a very supportive family," Justin said.

But after taking his first job in commercial photography, he found this wasn't the business he ought to be in.
"It was very cutthroat and I realized how unstable it could be – even a well-respected photographer could be fired any day," say Justin. "I started doing weddings because they were a lot happier."

Mary didn't fall in love with photography until she fell in love with Justin – as she was ready to become a lawyer after she graduated from Yale Law School in 2006. "I was more interested in becoming the high-end attorney that would make amazing speeches in a courtroom like Law and Order," she says. "But, I also found that I would most likely just work in a corporate firm and not make much of a difference."

That is when they realized they were stronger – and happier – working together in a photography business. He had the keen eye for creating glamorous pictures, and she was the business-savvy one who would be in charge of marketing and branding.

Now, they are working on co-hosting their Spread the Love Workshops aimed toward helping photographers find balance in their lives and their business. They also cover camera settings, flash and a Photoshop demonstration on color correction. "We started our workshops last year and did a 20 city tour. We have narrowed it down to 10 cities that include Charlotte, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco and Toronto," Justin says.

Justin and Mary believe their business' success lies in the fact they want to push ahead and have continued investing in it. They have also kept their base line the same even during tough economic times. "We tell other photographers to stay on course and to reinvent themselves because if you coast for too long you will not succeed." Mary says. "You also can't freeze on spending because then you will be starving your business."

To see more of Justin and Mary Marantz's work and to read their blog visit www.justinmarantz.com.


Freelance writer Nayeli Pagaza, is a 2006 University of California, San Diego graduate, and co-author of Impacts of Border Enforcement on Mexi-can Migration: The View from Sending Communities. She is an international relations expert, community and media liaison, and recruiter currently based in Huntington Beach, CA.

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