Hart & Sol West in Northern & Southern California

I try not to make a big deal of the fact that APW Associate Editor Maddie is also the powerhouse behind Hart & Sol Photography West (in California, and now everywhere)—mostly because Hart & Sol West is 100% Maddie’s project, and I have nothing to do with it. I mean, girlfriend even pays cash money for her APW sponsorship just because Hart & Sol West is a separate thing. But the fact is, Hart & Sol Maddie is still the same Maddie, and this February, Maddie and I spent a week straight traveling around the country together for my book tour, staying in hotel rooms, and talking late into the night. And, the thing is, small business development is one of my number one passions. So if you’re close to me and you have a business, I’ve probably spent some time pretending I was making strategy decisions for your gig, and I probably have some secret ideas. So… Maddie and I would stay up late, she’d start talking about her business, and I’d be too tired to edit my thoughts properly, so I’d tell her I had a COUPLE of ideas. Then…. Whoops! So, Maddie played it cool, went home and thought about things, and then this spring, she made about a million changes to her business, which I’m so phenomenally thrilled to get to tell you about today.

I’m going to let Maddie tell you about her business at length, but first let me give you the greatest hits. Maddie decided to commit to a No Bullshit Pricing Philosophy with Hart & Sol West. She was tired of having to negotiate minute pricing issues with clients (and knew clients hated it too). So she’s now offering two pricing plans: One for All Of California ($2,900, all-inclusive), and one for Everywhere Else in the US ($3,600, all-inclusive). Period. Done. She also decided that she really really was passionate about shooting Plus Sized (and every sized) women and making them feel stunning, so she’s focusing her business on that. Don’t feel like wedding media is representing you or is wanting to make you feel gorgeous? Bring in Maddie. She’s on your team. So enough of me, here is Maddie on what she’s learned from you.

Most of the folks who have been reading APW for a while have probably already heard me yammer on about why this community means so much to me. APW was where I planned my wedding, then where I learned how to define my marriage, then APW made it possible for me to build my business, and now APW is where I make my business thrive and also where I’m growing and sharing my stories.

So rather than make everyone suffer through another of my love letters to readers, I thought I’d take an opportunity to talk a little bit about some of the ways that my business has been built on APW reader philosophies. Because if there’s one thing I love about working with APW readers, it’s that you guys constantly remind me what is actually important on a wedding day and not what the WIC tells me is important.

The first, and probably most obvious (although, really, reading some photography advice out there, maybe isn’t so obvious) is that you. are. enough. So many photographers are incredibly talented at their craft. Their images are perfect. They look like something out of a magazine. But what I’ve slowly realized is that those perfect images are the result of meticulously planned shots, ones that require brides and grooms to take time out of an authentic moment in order to produce an image that is technically more perfect. I don’t do that. Yes, I care about your photos (duh), but not to the extent that I will alter the way you experience your day. As far as I’m concerned, your emotions, your people, and you are what makes an image perfect.

The second thing that APW couples have helped me realize, is that weddings are complicated enough on their own. You don’t need me to show up at our first meeting armed with a thousand different promotional pamphlets explaining my three-tiered pricing system and why you need to get the add-ons. I have two packages. One includes all-day shooting with digital negatives for weddings in California, and the other includes the same coverage but for weddings outside of California. I don’t think that hiring a vendor should require the same amount of prep as the SATs.

Another thing is the beast that has become engagement shoots. When I first started in this industry, I was all about the pretty. My motto was, “Let’s find a field or some cool graffiti and take pictures there!” And while that can be fun, now I’m all about keeping things close to home. So when I do engagement shoots, or anything related to you as a couple, I like for it to be a reflection of who you really are. This means that we usually do engagement sessions at home, where you, ya know, spend your time and actually live and stuff. I’m wildly romantic about the idea of being 8o-years-old and reflecting on the apartment you lived in when you were engaged. And I think that the way you eat breakfast together speaks way more about who you are as a couple than staring deep in to each other’s eyes. (You might remember the photos I took of Meg and David. Well, I also took some pictures of them eating breakfast, but Meg won’t put those online… because as I was saying, eating breakfast together is too damn romantic for the world to see. You can’t say that about photos in front of graffiti.)

The last thing is something that I always knew, but that I’ve realized I need to be talking about more. And that’s the idea that everyone deserves awesome photos. I recently started a side business doing boudoir photography for women that focuses on representing our real bodies (not the hyper-photoshopped Maxim style photos we’re fed everywhere else), and the response I’ve gotten from the few sessions I’ve done has made me realize that the photography industry doesn’t come close to representing the vast diversity of women that exist in the world. And this unfortunate truth extends to weddings as well. (And granted, my portfolio is sometimes guilty of this too, but I’m working on it!)

I am committed to making sure that just because you don’t look like the brides and grooms featured on the popular wedding-porn wedding blogs, that doesn’t mean that you don’t get gorgeous photos too. So plus-sized brides, brides of color, barefoot and pregnant brides, same-sex brides, I want to photograph the sh*t out of your wedding. I really do. And I don’t care if you bought your dress from David’s Bridal or Nordstrom and that you have no details and are getting married at your mom’s house (Just kidding. I do care. I think your wedding sounds awesome.); it’s not my job to judge you or your wedding, and the last thing I expect is perfection anyway. I just want to make you happy and then document your fabulous face.

So, I know you all already adore Maddie, and obviously, I can’t speak highly enough of her. So couples every single place in California, everywhere in the US, and everyone who doesn’t look like the media representation of the Wedding Couple… oh yeah… and the rest of you too? Maddie and Hart & Sol West is your girl. I literally Can Not Wait to see the pictures.

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  • Maddie, your business and philosophy, and the way they continue to evolve, blows me away. You’re really an inspiration to other entrepreneurs, and your images are stunning!

    • Hugs, and thank you. We should really get together when I am in NYC next. Deal? Deal.

  • Maddie is one of the very very few people who I would ever WANT to take my picture. I’m so un-photogenic it’s not even fair, but I know that she would capture an image of me that I would like & that would make me feel sexy, and show ME at the same time, & that is artistry pure in simple. A lot of photographers can create beautiful images, & beautiful images of beautiful people, but it is a very rare thing to find a photographer who can create beautiful images of people who don’t fit the media-beautiful mold, & Maddie is better at doing that than anyone else I’ve ever seen. She must have magical powers.

    Also the tilt shift lens was clearly invented for her, and her alone. The end.

    • This. Will. Happen.

      And did I ever tell you that my tilt shift was *actually* made for me? I wanted one NOW and couldn’t afford it, so I made one. :) Thanks internets, for all your marvelous tutorials.

      • Sam

        I was totally thinking the same thing while looking through these photos (tilt-shift style). Love it, and now I’m inspired to go and find out how to make my own. Thanks, Maddie! (from a photog student)

  • Liz

    I crossed engagement photos off the List because I didn’t feel the need for photos of us in a field of wildflowers staring soulfully into each others eyes, and we’d be really awkward at it.

    Dammit Maddie, now I want photos of us eating breakfast. Too bad California is very very far from Montreal. :(

    • Dammit indeed! Do you know how much I love Montreal? LOTS.

  • 1. Your work is beautiful!
    2. Your website is so badass!
    3. Why did I already hire a photographer? (I think I say this for every APW photographer I see. I like my photographer very much, but I want to hire all the photographers!)

  • YOU GUYS. Thank you thank you thank you. These compliments warm my heart and make me want to keep moving in this direction forever.


  • Claire

    Maddie rocks. That is all.

  • Rachel T.

    Seriously, if I had read this six months ago, I would have booked you in a heart beat (already booked someone else… lousy contracts). I live near Philly, am a plus-sized bride, and feel the same about engagement photos. We took photos walking around the town in which we live and the pond we walk to on a weekly basis because that’s our life; no need for random furniture in the middle of a field in outfits we never actually wear.

    I LOVE all of this, but from the bottom of my heart, I deeply appreciate the sentiment about the plus-sized bride. After our engagement photos were sent to us, I was SO excited. They were beautiful, they were us, and I felt like I deserved to be in them. And then, I waited for our photographer to post them on his blog. He had told us how proud he was of them, how he appreciated that we enjoyed artistic photos and not just the standard, so I was sure he would post them. But he never did. Now, I understand that photographers, especially wedding photographers, probably photograph a LOT of couples and perhaps far too many to blog every single time. But I couldn’t help feel that, after revisiting his blog and looking at all of the WIC-approved beautiful brides he posted previously, that somehow my size was to blame. If I think about it long enough, I can go into full-on panic mode that I will be “fat” on my wedding day; I am a survivor of bulimia, and it’s hard some days to push that illness back into the locked box it’s been put in, especially when it comes to what I will LOOK LIKE on my day. So, deeply and truly, from the depths of my heart and soul that are still wishing to hear those “you are BEAUTIFUL just the way you are” words as often as possible, I really appreciate the sentiment that I am enough and deserve those beautiful wedding photos everyone else gets. I can tell myself that every day, but sometimes when the world screams otherwise, we need to hear it from someone else, on a wedding blog, who takes pictures of beautiful things for a living. Thank you. You are now officially on my recommendation list to engaged friends. <3 <3 Thank you.

    • Rachel, thank you so much for this.

      And please accept my apologies on behalf of photographers everywhere. Because some of us do just forget and lose track of time and don’t have time to post every wedding (or if you’re like me and forget to post ever. At all). But there are some photographers who make a point of featuring only celebrity look-alikes on their blog, and it makes me so mad that the practices of the latter have created a world in which couples have to question why they were never featured.

      You are going to be beautiful on your wedding day, of that I am sure.

  • Marie

    Hi Maddie! Looking at these photos reminds me why I’m super excited that you’ll be photographing our wedding. Once I saw your work on APW, I knew that was exactly what I wanted the photos to look like, and your philosophy is exactly what I want to work with.

    Cheers, Marie

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  • sarahrose

    “And I think that the way you eat breakfast together speaks way more about who you are as a couple than staring deep in to each other’s eyes.”

    I love this. And love your photos.

  • I love your business philosophy. For real. How refreshing! Beautiful photography as well. I can’t wait to see what amazing things you do.

  • Love this, Maddie. And the photos. I feel like it makes me think about the real meaning and value of photography.

  • Kinzie Kangaroo

    Maddie. Where can I find info about your pricing for boudoir sessions? I have secret plans/dreams and I want to see if I can make them happen. So.

    • Kinzie. Can we split the cost of bringing Maddie to Chicago for this? Because I am so in.

    • OMG… I DID a boudoir shoot, (and wrote a blog post about it!) and it was AWESOME–but the awesomeness was all about the photographer. It’s like you read my mind–I was just thinking that Maddie would be the perfect boudoir photographer.

  • And! Maddie is also one of the most knowledge-generous people out there. That is hugely admirable to me, and her photos reflect that generosity of spirit too. So that = girlcrush.

  • Maddie, I love all of this especially you.

  • Oof. Any chance “elsewhere” includes British Columbia?

    • I think it very well could! Heck, BC is already closer than half of the US states. If you want, send me an e-mail and we can figure it out! mads (at) hartandsolphoto (dot) com.

  • Good grief I love that last photo. And this whole post.

    Our photographer also suggested an engagement shoot at home, but due to other circumstances it couldn’t happen (long distance engagement, terrible clutter). I still want to do that at some point, maybe when one of my friends comes to visit. So instead, we went down to the Boston waterfront where he proposed (not an area we ever spent much time around before), and my favorite shot is the one at the very spot where he surprised me with the ring, got down on one knee, etc etc.

  • I’m a little late to the game, but I wanted to say Maddie’s photos are incredibly beautiful. Not only do I respect her as a photographer, but she is a sweet and intelligent person with a great sense of humor. Everything you want in a wedding photographer in my opinion. You should book her.

  • Great shots. Black and whites are always classy. well done.

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