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Mark and Lisa Staff sport an impressive and lengthy resume spanning multiple continents and locales, leading to an exclusive clientele seeking out their unique Edijournalism photography style.
Mark and Lisa Staff have achieved a symmetrical balance in both their personal and professional lives, best illustrated by the approach the couple takes with its wedding, portrait and lifestyle photography.
That balance lies somewhere between photojournalism and fashion. Mark Staff calls it "Photo Edijournalism," and explains that it's the process of coaxing natural, photogenic scenes through suggestion. It's neither posing, nor pure photojournalism.
A sample of Staff Photography's wedding photography and album design, which is one of two albums the studio produced for this wedding.
The Road to Edijournalism
Born from years of success as a sought-after commercial and fashion photographer pair, Mark and Lisa have been able to shift gears from the frequent-flyer, high-pressure life and bring it down to sea level.
About four years ago, the couple moved from Canada to Hilton Head, S.C., to start a new career in photography, one away from the bustling madness, and into a more relaxed, yet still immensely challenging and rewarding career as wedding and portrait photographers.
This image is from a recent photo shoot in Puerto Rico for International Wedding magazine.
More recently, the Staffs have delved into landscape and scenery photography, and are working on a book showcasing the local beauty of Hilton Head and its environs. Still, the couple's focus is on its sought-after brand of wedding and portrait photography.
The aforementioned Photo Edijournalism style the couple pursues in its work has been years in the making. Both Mark and Lisa originally hail from Canada (Waterloo, Ontario), and met and married after finishing college. They opened a super studio in Waterloo and began building their reputations as high-end fashion and corporate photographers.
Mark explains that this professional interlude would prepare them for the unique demands of destination photography on Hilton Head Island and around the world. In Waterloo, the scenery was limited for local shoots, and the weather was not terribly cooperative.
"We became better photographers because the area was not photogenic. We would shoot in gravel pits to make it look like the desert or the beach. We had to be very creative with our lighting, and lens choice, and pay special attention to technical details," Mark says. “We had to push the creative envelope and make the best out of what was there. This prepared us for a higher level of shooting style when the real locations became reality.”
The challenges of building great shots from scratch have paid off handsomely. Plus, Mark and Lisa feed off the pressure of a particularly challenging photo shoot. It's when things aren't going according to plan that the couple shines.
Saving the day: Staff Photography brought out the best under worst-case photo conditions when tropical storm Barry brought rain and knocked out power on Hilton Head during breakout music artist Kristina Beaty's wedding.
Mark relates a recent wedding shoot for a country-western singer on Hilton Head where it appeared that everything that could go wrong from a photography stand point would go wrong. The wedding coincided with tropical storm Barry, which knocked out power on the island and brought non-stop horizontal rain. The conditions were less than ideal, but the final results of the shoot proved why Mark Staff Photography is such a sought after brand.
"We went prepared. We took ten new umbrellas with us, because I was determined to shoot outdoors anyway. There was no electricity for the entire wedding and reception. Everything was done in the dark. I hate to shoot flash on camera, but I had to use it. We mixed it with reflectors and shot at 1200 ISO, and the pictures are amazing," Mark recalls. "The parents were stressed because they were concerned about how everything would turn out. Afterwards they said they could actually see what the wedding was like through the photography. That was pushing our technical expertise to the edge. You can't show that you're worried because you have to relax your subjects. For me, that was a great day, as difficult as the conditions were to work under. That's how people find out about us; we can make any shot fabulous, and we always get the shot."
Mark Staff tried a different approach for his shoot with the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. Drawing on his fashion photography background, he aimed for a "supermodel" look and feel. Staff's photography, printed by Staff at 40 in. x 50 in., is displayed in Ferguson's home in England.
Moreover, Staff Photography makes its clients look and feel like supermodels. That is the essence of the studio's Photo Edijournalism style, which Mark explains as "the photographic style that transcends the genre of fashion editorial styles and photojournalistic photography. Edijournalism is the photographic documentation of the anticipated and expected reaction to directed ideas."
The idea is to put the subject in the right frame of mind so that they're not only following the suggestions of the photographer, but having fun doing it. Mark explains that the process happens quickly, and is designed to be dynamic and fluid, yet purposeful and realistic.
"Sometimes you have to pull it out of them, but they appreciate it afterwards. A lot of times I'm doing the same thing behind the camera I want them to do. You just keep on talking to them the whole time; keeping the camera to your eye and shoot the natural reactions from suggestions, or interaction with the other people on-set," Mark explains. "If you pose people too much, it doesn't look real any more. Plus, if you're posing them too long, they get bored and lose interest and that will be reflected in the final image. In any shoot, it's not supposed to be a long, drawn out process."
They work with natural light and reflectors as much as possible, preferring the ambience that comes with it. The overall effect is like a fashion shoot in a magazine, which is the effect that cements Staff Photography's reputation as the place to go for destination photography. Hilton Head is an obvious destination, but Mark and Lisa also travel extensively to exotic locales to meet the demand for their services.
An example of Staff's Edijournalism style portrayed by Lisa Staff and their youngest daughter. "The Edijournalism style show real moments of interaction between loved ones, instigated by suggestion," says Mark Staff.
This demand commands wedding package prices that range from $6,500 to $24,000; the most common packages run between $8,400 and $14,000. Mark explains that once a client reaches the $14,000 level they get two photographers, extra photo albums, and more intricately designed albums. The typical album is about 50 pages, and the client receives a DVD with high-resolution images once the album is delivered.
Wedding albums are sent for printing and binding to the studio's album source. Larger-size reprints are printed in-house, as are any additional display-size prints a client may want. The studio does its printing on an Epson 7600 with the ImagePrint RIP. Most of the fine art and landscape photography is printed on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, and the wedding/portrait work output on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin.
Nicole Cure, who is Staff Photography's workflow manager and the third member of the team, says she prefers the prints they do in-house, and the control they have over the process.
Staff Photography is also sought for its commercial photography, though the studio has concentrated more on wedding and portrait photography since the move to Hilton Head about four years ago.
As Mark points out to clients who may be tempted to print the files themselves or take it somewhere else, there's no one else more qualified to render a beautiful print every time than the photographer. It's what they're trained to do, and their abilities are strikingly manifest in their album designs.
Mark, Lisa, and Nicole all pitch in for the Photoshop and album design work. It's an effective workflow that's sure to be tested as the Staffs print more large-format work to showcase their fine-art photography.