Category Archives: Events

Judi’s Birthday Celebration

There are birthday parties… and then there’s Judi’s birthday party. Not even a fair comparison. Not only was this the prettiest birthday party I’ve ever photographed but is probably the nicest birthday I’ve ever stepped foot into. It was amazing. You could really get a sense of the family and friendships in the room. Everyone had one connection- Judi. Enough of me talking, check out the photos.

I hope you enjoy this preview. If you’d like to see the full gallery please click the link at the bottom of this page.
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Click here to see more.

Daniel’s Grace – Shuck Cancer Oyster Roast on the River

Dragon Studio was VERY proud to be a part of the Daniel’s Grace Roast on the River fund raiser held at Steinhilber’s in Virginia Beach. Daniel’s Grace is an amazing charity that helps families all over Hampton Roads with the financial burden that cancer can cause. When they asked us to photograph their event, we were there. If you would like to get more info about Daniel’s Grace please visit their website at www.danielsgrace.org.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as we enjoyed taking them.

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Venders from this event include:
Planning: Antonia Christianson Events and Carolyn Celeste Weddings 
DJ/PhotoBooth/Audio Visuals: Music Makes You Happy
Catering: Sweetwater Cuisine and Steinhilbers Restaurant and Catering Concepts
Bar: Catering Concepts
Beer Tent: Tradition Brewing Company 
Lighting: Stage Right Lighting
VIP Hour Band: Whiskey Rebellion
Stationery/Printing: River City Graphics 
Linen Rentals: Waterford Event Rentals
Event Rentals: Distinctive Event Rentals 
Florals: Isha Foss Design
Valet: Express Valet 
Auctioneer: Atlantic Asset Management 

Crystal Clear

I had the pleasure of attending and also photographing the Crystal Clear event by Waterford Event rentals this year. It’s a really unique event where planners, florists, designers, and caterers go head to head in a table top competition. Everyone brings their ‘A’ game to win the People’s Choice Award.

Here is a little preview from the event. If you want to see the full gallery please click the link at the bottom of the page. If you are a vender and would like to download photos please contact me directly for more information.

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ILEA Hampton Roads Chapter 2017 Gala

The ILEA Gala is always amazing. This year’s theme was “A Night Under the Stars”.

Enjoy this preview of the gala. I’ll have more to say at the end with vender info.

For now, enjoy the photos.

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Vender Info

The Historic Post Office made for an awesome backdrop from this year’s ILEA Hampton Roads gala with their beautiful, blank canvas and tall ceilings. The fantastic black linens on each table (that were arranged in a fun and different way), were from Waterford Event Rentals, along with the gold-rimmed chargers, epic gold cocktail table linens, and napkins.  Chic Unique Vintage Rentals & Events provided vintage china for Sweetwater Cuisine to serve their amazing three-course meal on.  Candie’s Treats made individual naked cakes for each person there – and they were incredible.  Isha Foss Events created some of the most epic foliage centerpieces ever for the center tables – and then beautiful table runners for either side.  One of the coolest details was Jollity’s creation of the program on the tables – they were etched acrylic and super awesome.  They also created a fun paper backdrop for AllStar Photobooth s photo booth, paired with some pretty draping and lighting from Stage Right Lighting and vintage furniture from Mad Hatter Vintage Rentals.  Speaking of Stage Right Lighting  they lit up the Historic Post Office like I’ve never seen before – and made it look like stars were dripping from the ceiling, with epic twinkle lights and beautiful blue uplights.  River City Graphics made the invitations that helped get so many awesome vendors there, and Express Valet handled parking. Astro Entertainment kept the fun going while View It Do It live streamed all the fun and excitement to the world.

 

The gala committee was made up of Misty Prewitt of Misty Saves the Day  Emily Miller from Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront  Rebecca Norfleet and Alyse Conyers of Waterford Event Rentals  Kelsey Leeper of The Historic Post Office  Jennifer Cregar of Sweetwater Cuisine  Courtney Pollard from Stage Right Lighting  and Staci Jelley from Chef by Design.

Admirals Hockey | St. Patrick’s Day | ECHL

I was so pumped to photograph the Norfolk Admirals on St. Patrick’s Day. The ice was green and so were the Admiral’s uniforms. Not many people know how much of a hockey fan I am. I played hockey for almost 8 years when I was younger. My love for the sport is still very much alive. I love to watch the game and see how it’s evolved over the years.

I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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Uniquely Yours 2017

I’ve so fortunate to be asked to photograph the Uniquely Yours Bridal Show for the third consecutive year. It’s one of my favorite shows of the year. I always love meeting all the newly engaged couples as well as seeing the huge fashion show. Here are some of the the photos from the show. Be on the look out for these images to be up on the House of Maya website with more info on the dresses. If you are a vender and would like photos please send me an email at DragonStudio1@mac.com.

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ILEA Gala | ILEA Hampton Roads Chapter

I hope you enjoy this little preview from the 2016 ILEA Gala held at Cypress Point Country Club. It was a fantastic evening filled with so many great things. Read more below.

To see the full gallery of photos click the link at the bottom of the page.

If you are a vender and would like to download the photos, I will be sending out an email to everyone with instructions. If you did not get the email you can email me at DragonStudio1@mac.com

I was honored and humbled to be asked to photograph the ILEA Gala for the second year in a row. ILEA is such a greta organization to be a part of. One that has certainly helped my business growth exponentially.

The ILEA Gala is one of the biggest events our Hampton Roads Chapter has each year. So much is packed into one event. We say thank you to our old board members and welcome in the new board. We award the Charger Awards. Congrats to all the winners Dragon Studio, Monteros Restaurant, The Hermitage Museum, Inspired Events by Kelly, Dave Shwartz, Stage Right Lighting, and the Hilton Hotel.

Or course non of the gorgeousness you see below would be possible without the hard work of SO many people. Our ILEA Chapter puts together a board for every gala. This year the board was Jennifer Cregar, Anne Goessling, Alyse Conyers, Nicole Johnson, and Pari Smith. The subcommittee was Caroline Harrison, Emily Miller, Alisa Cowsert, Rebecca Norfleet, and Misty Prewitt.

This year’s gala was full of SO much. Aside from the awards and the board entrance. There was a real live mermaid. Yes! She had a tail and EVERYTHING. Astro Entertainment was on hand with a green screen and photo booth as well as emcee and playing music all night. All of the floral was done by Botanique Flowers. All the linens were provided by Waterford Event Rentals. All the lighting and draping was provided by Stage Right Lighting. The venue was obviously at Cypress Point Country Club who also made all the food for the night. Maya Couture provided lovely dresses and tuxes for the board members as well.

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My Story- An In Depth Account

I’ve told my story in the past but I’ve never really gone into much detail about how I’ve come to this point in my career. It was one of those things that was never really supposed to happen. I wasn’t a business man who had money to spend on a start up company. Nor was I lucky enough to strike it rich by playing the lottery. I was just a college kid who liked to be creative. With a little luck and a lot of hard work I am here. Looking back on what could have been I am so happy for all the speed bumps and detours along the way. It has been a journey to say the least.

This post will not have any photographs but instead it will have words… many, many words. A lot of words.

High School

I knew at some point in High School that I wanted to become a photographer. During my senior year our BIG project was to write a thesis on what we wanted to do with our lives after graduation. I wanted to be a photographer. Part of the project was to call a professional in the area and interview them. I called Forrest Studio. That was where my senior portraits were taken so it seemed like the natural place for me to do my interview. I was nervous about the call but was pleasantly surprised at how nice they were and how helpful they were. I was SUPER excited and ended up taking the “photography” course offered in my high school. I used quotations because it was a half photography and half screen printing class. Our dark room was a closet that was converted into a lab. The chemicals were so watered down that the prints I made 17 years ago have not finished fixing yet (anyone who worked in a darkroom knows what the fixer does- google it). Also the “cool kids” mainly used it to smoke cigarettes and make out with each other. Which left the few of us that wanted to work knocking on the door for them to hurry up.

Being that photography is not my only creative outlet I somehow took a liking to baking. Throughout the remainder of the year I grew less interested in photography and more interested in becoming a baker. To make this long story short(er) I ended up staying close to home to pursue my new dream of becoming the “Next Great Baker”. Fast forward a few months to graduation and then keep fast forwarding a little further to when I was enrolled in Johnson and Wales… keep fast forwarding through that part since it wasn’t very exciting and you get to the point in my life when I decided that baking wasn’t for me and I made the decision to drop out of college. The drop out conversation with my parents was immediately followed up by “You have to at least go to community college or get a job or move out.” Which wasn’t what I wanted to hear but it was either that or start adulting. So I signed up for classes at Tidewater Community College with absolutely zero direction.

Community College

There is a lot of gray area here. I floated around courses for the better part of a year taking, philosophy (failed), poetry (dropped), marine science (passed but too much school), and then it hit me… I’m going to take Photography 101. My parents bought me my camera and I made the 45 minute trek out to Portsmouth for my classes. After a few weeks I started to get inspired again. I started taking more art classes. I took them all. Except painting. No real reason why I just never made it around to it. I took so many classes I was almost able to double major in graphic design too (but I did’t- two classes short). While working on my photography degree I took a studio lighting class. It was in this class that I met (unknowingly) my future (and first) photography employer. Which looking back is weird that he was in my class… more on that later.

College was tough. I had no idea what I was doing. I also had no idea what I was going to do when I got out. I thought maybe Sports Illustrated would hire me or Victoria Secret or Nike or some newspaper or something big because…. you know… thats what happens in the real world. HA! Not so much. I can vividly remember talking to my priest during some random conversation and out of no where he tells me “I don’t think you’re going to make it as a photographer. I know photographers and you don’t have the right personality. You should just consider finding something that would suit you better.” Seriously? No joke- thats what he said to me. Not to go into too much detail and get all political but I didn’t really like him and didn’t hold his advice to a high standard… or any standard at all. But this was certainly fuel for the fire to drive me to succeed. I went back at it with even more drive and fire to get that degree to prove him wrong. Believe it or not he wasn’t only person who told me I shouldn’t be a photographer. Friends would tell me. Family would tell me- my grandma told me “Photography is just a hobby. You should drop out and learn a trade.” hahahaha grandma. Thanks for the motivation. Plus photography is a trade- to me. So now I had to finish school to not only prove all these people wrong but to also accomplish what I set out to do… which was… what? I had no idea but I was going to get that damn degree!!

My First Photography Job

During my final year in school I had a project for one of my courses that I had to spend a day with a photographer and interview them (sounds familiar right?). At the time I was working for a friend who had a auto detailing and landscaping business (I know- weird combo). He told me one of his clients was a photographer and that I should call him and go hang out with him one day. So I did. And he said yes. So I show up and guess who it is? The same dude that was in my studio lighting class. Except now he was running his own business. He had an employee and lots of cool stuff and he was “big time”. Lets’ fast forward again a few weeks. I was now getting paid like $5 to do grunt work and learn photoshop and basically just hang out. Fast forward again to a few months later and I walk in the door first thing in the morning and my employer was frantic. He was on the phone calling a bunch of people. Turns out his photoshop girl never showed up. She never came back. SO now I had a job! YAY! right? My dream is coming true…

As a young person who didn’t know anything about life or business I had a lot to learn. My job consisted of a 40 hour work week that I would photoshop the hell out of everything I saw. I would also assist on shoots and second shoot from time to time. This is where things get dark. The weird thing for me was all the back stabbing and double crossing that went on. I would hear my employer bashing someone in the office and then act like their best buddy in person. It was super odd to me. This “high end” photographer would literally plagiarize other photographer’s work. No joke. He would literally look through a book from the VPPA before a session and copy the images out of it. He also stole some of my ideas and took credit for all the work I did for him as if I was just there to keep the chair warm. Oh yea- he also tried to convince me that I owed him $2000.00 because I filed my taxes incorrectly… Yea… it wasn’t the best place to get my learning experience from. So I quit cold turkey one day and walked out. So this was my very first experience in the industry. Was this how things are? Was this what I was supposed to act like? Is this how everyone is? All these questions going though my head and I had no one to answer them.

Having gone through this experience and not knowing what to expect as a professional in the industry I had NO idea how I should act or what the moral and ethical laws were. What I did know is that I did not want to be shady or back stabbing. It wasn’t and still isn’t in my nature. So I focused more on creating images I was proud of and creating a business I could be proud of. Ah! Back to the warm and fuzzies.

All By Myself

So I should mention that the entire time I was working for this other person I was also getting my own paying jobs. I was shooting events and weddings and families and kids and things were pretty ‘Ok’. When I quit I had no plans. I had nothing else to do and then a job fell into my lap. It had NOTHING to do with photography but it was going to pay my bills. I was going to be a glazier. What’s that you ask? It’s a person who works with glass. I’m not talking glass plates and cups. I’m talking 6 x 12 feet sheets of glass, 400 lb insulated panels, hanging off the sides of buildings in snow storms, large heavy sheets of metal and lots of things that could kill me. I’m surprised I did not die or get seriously injured. It was a high stress job with a tiny paycheck. All the while still doing photography but the work became more and more rare and it was becoming more of a hobby for me.

By this time I had met a new girl. We’ll call her “my wife” to make things easy. And also since that is what I call her now. I’ll save you all the mushy love story about how we met (on myspace) and fell in love and moved in together and bought a house. My dream of becoming a professional photographer was just that- a dream. I far distant unachievable dream. I had a sit down with my dad, who at the time was doing all my book keeping, and he told me I needed to strongly consider my future as a photographer since I wasn’t making enough money to support myself let alone a family. So now it was do or die time.

Desperation

In a last ditch effort I put out ads on craigslist and started teaching personal photography classes for a whopping $50 per class. It was nothing in terms of overall income but I was getting calls left and right. One came in from a grandmother who wanted a lesson with her grandson. My initial thought was “This is going to be interesting.” So I went and met her and realized she was extremely talented and just needed a few pointers. It was a fantastic lesson and we both had a lot of fun. After the lesson we started chatting about her son’s wedding that was coming up. They ended up hiring me for their day and the wedding couldn’t have gone any smoother. Well it turned out that the bride (Jen) was the manager at Kiln Creek Golf Club and Resort in Newport News. They loved their wedding photos so much they wanted to buy an album. We got to talking about cost of the books. She mentioned the possibility of a trade. I don’t normally like to trade but I was desperate and I would be trading the book for a spot in their bridal show. There were two bridal shows; one in the spring and one in the fall. I was in both.

The Rest is History… or the present… well this is where things got better!

The first show I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect. I showed up with a slideshow on my tv and a small three panel folding frame thingy with 8×10 prints in it. I bought it for $20 on craigslist. (I still have it in my consult room to this day) I printed a few brochures and showed up. I booked 5 weddings that day! FIVE!!! So awesome right? Especially since the year before I had only photographed five weddings total. I got home that night and immediately started googling bridal shows. I found three big ones in this area. Uniquely Yours, VOW and Show Bride. I decided to start off with a couple Show Bride shows. Guess what? Each show I booked weddings. Maybe 2 or 3 on the day and then a couple more in the coming weeks. I went from going out of business to being busier than I ever imagined. That year I ended up with 35 weddings in total. Crazy… one year it was 5 the next was 35. And its been that way ever since.

Standing on the edge and looking down

Now I have these 35 weddings booked and I was rocking and rolling. I was getting more involved in the wedding community and meeting a lot of people. When I would tell them I had been doing this for 6 years (at the time) they would always ask me “Well where have you been?” I was under a rock. If the rock were made of wrongful guidance and insecurity.

So it came time that I was so busy I did not have time to work a full time job anymore. Quite frankly I was at my wit’s end with it and was absolutely miserable. By this time I was engaged and our wedding plans had begun for the early spring. At the start of the year I set a goal to have a certain amount of weddings booked and a certain amount of income by the end of the year. Once I reached that goal I would quit my job and do photography full time. The initial plan was for it to take until December. I reached my goal by April. I ended up quitting my job a week after I was married on June 1. (which was insanely stressful). June 1st will forever be MY independence day.

Now things weren’t all roses and sunshine. I went from a steady pay check to paying myself half of what I was getting at my job. The plan was to be back to paying myself that same amount within a year. It seemed as though my wife and I had a long road of eating spaghetti and peanut butter and jelly in front of us. I ended up hitting my goal and was able to pay myself MORE than what I was making within three months of quitting my job (maybe four months I don’t really remember).

So Now What?

Good question… I’ve been doing this photography thing for about 4 years full time, now going on 5. Regardless it’s been a journey that has spanned over 17 years. Every day I remind myself of what I want to be and what I don’t want to be. It’s so easy to get caught up in drama and negativity and self doubt. I’ve found so much comfort, respect and inspiration from my peers in the industry. It’s important to surround yourself with like minded people. I have so much to thank my family for. Imagine your son telling you he wants to be a photographer and then imagine him telling you he wants you to put him through college for it. It’s kind of amazing that they let it happen. Photography isn’t one of those jobs you are automatically destined for success. Of course my wife gets a lot of credit for kicking me off the ledge and convincing me that if I jumped the fall wouldn’t be too far and I wouldn’t die when I hit the bottom.

Every day I look at what I have. My lovely adorable amazing daughter and a beautiful wife living in a dream home. Business is booming and everything is great. The hustle is still real every day. I work harder than I ever have. I don’t have days off. I take time to spend with my family. I work from home and take care of my daughter during the week while running a full time business.

It’s not easy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The moral of the story

I have no idea what the moral of the story here is. I’m not some sappy dude who’s going to tell you to follow your dreams and stuff because dreams come true. I will say that you should always stand up for the things you believe in. Once you discover what is worth fighting for you should fight to the death for those things. Set goals and then crush them. Make friends and surround yourself with positive like minded people.  Make your enemies love you and fear you at the same time. Don’t be a follower but instead lead by example. Be original and love what you do.

Dragon Studio’s Line of Gorgeous Wedding Albums and Custom USB

Dragon Studio takes a lot of pride in providing our clients with wedding albums and custom usb drives that they can’t get anywhere else. All of our wedding albums are custom designed. We give our client the option to choose all of the photos that are in their wedding album. Enjoy a custom usb drive that will hold all of the photos from the wedding day as well as engagement session, bridal session and retouched photos. Take that usb drive to your family and friends and share and print your photos as much as you want.

Dragon Studio would love to talk to you today about your wedding details.

We are located in Virginia Beach.  Call us at 757-636-9807 or email: DragonStudio1@mac.com

Dragon Studio’s Full Line of Custom Designed Wedding Products

Dragon Studio’s line of custom wedding albums. Our albums come in three different sizes: 12×12- 60 page, 12×12- 30 page and 10×10- 30 page options.

Dragon Studio custom wedding albums with lay flat full page designs

Dragon Studio custom wedding album binding options.

Dragon Studio custom usb is like nothing else. Display this gorgeous usb drive in your home or office.

2016 Uniquely Yours Bridal Showcase

I was absolutely honored and equally excited to be asked to photograph the 2016 Uniquely Yours Bridal Showcase for the second year in a row. This is the biggest show of the year and there is no doubt that if you are planning a wedding you’ll be able to find everything you need at this one show. I hope you did not miss out.

For more information on the Uniquely Yours Bridal Showcase you can follow the link to their website by CLICKING HERE.

If you were a vender of the show and you would like access to download the photos please contact me directly for instructions.

To see the complete gallery click on the link at the bottom of this page.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE.