Vendor Directory Spotlight: Marj Merges Photography in OR & CO

Every so often I have the pleasure of running across an artist just getting started building their business, whose work is crazy good. Confusingly good, actually. I look at it for a while, with my little head-cocking-back-and-forth-kitten-stare, trying to figure it out, and then I say, “Oh, self, she’s just a natural.” And that’s how I feel about Marj Merges Photography, shooting in Oregon and Colorado. (She’s in the middle of a big move! And having a baby! And shooting amazing wedding pictures! It’s all happening!) Marj has, I swear to you, only been working as a professional photographer for a year, and yet her photos tell a totally different story. Why? Because she started shooting professionally after a lifetime of hobby photography that she’d never let herself take seriously. Man, I love stories like that. To celebrate all this, she’s giving away two photoshoots, one to an engaged couple, and one to anyone, both in the Portland area (read on…)

But of course the extra brilliant part of finding a photographer whose building their business and ALSO crazy talented, is that you get to nab some amazing-deal-pricing (if you grab it quickly enough). And right now, Marj’s wedding prices start at just $2,000 for full day wedding coverage, and she’s offering 10% off for APW readers with 2013 weddings. I know, right? Snap that up. (Editors Tip: Marj is one of the APW Vendor Directory photographers we’re getting to feature here this summer, and the APW Vendor Directory is a great place to find these magical just getting started artists.) Marj says, “I like to keep it really simple, so all my packages include unlimited wedding day coverage by myself and Eric (my husband and second shooter!). We also offer a photo booth at an additional (very reasonable) fee.  We know there are companies out there that specialize in photo booths. That’s not us. We developed our photo booth because it’s fun, because wedding guests love them, and to enhance everyone’s experience. It’s not fancy and we won’t mislead you otherwise.” (So also: affordable and fun photo booths. Double score.)

But Marj Merges isn’t just wedding photography with great composition, sense of movement, emotion, and fun. Nope! Marj is also a long time APW reader, and not-so-long-ago Team Practical bride. She particularly loves working with you guys, and gets your weddings and who you are. She told me, “I started reading APW myself back in January of 2010 when I was desperately seeking a wedding blog where someone didn’t claim they’d known since they were a child that they always wanted to have such and such ridiculous detail at their wedding. And where my (admittedly somewhat) crafty self didn’t feel shamed because I wasn’t making my wedding dress, I wasn’t printing my own invitations, I wasn’t doing this or I wasn’t doing that. I didn’t have the energy and what was intended to inspire me just made me depressed and conclude everyone had gone bat-shit crazy. And then I found APW and I never left, and I don’t intend to do so.” So of course, she loves your weddings. She said, “I want to work with and enjoy working with APW readers because it’s such a joy to do so. We get each other. I love them so much that I want to do better than my best work for them.” Which? Awesome you guys.

But here is the crazy part about how she just started her business (something I definitely would never guess from her photos, which is super inspiring). Her story reads like an APW Reclaiming Wife post about evaluating your life, and building something you love to support you. Which is, I suppose, no surprise given that Marj is a long time APW reader. She told me, “After I was married I began thinking about what I wanted the rest of my life to look like (or at least the immediate rest of my life). Marriage gave me the grounding and confidence to contemplate making some pretty big leaps. I wanted to do something that I really enjoyed. I remembered how I’d felt when I did photography for years in middle school, high school, and college. And I finally gave myself permission to make the leap to pursuing it (with my husband’s consent as well of course). In January of 2011 we drove my car across the country so I could do a three-month internship with Leah and Mark (APW Sponsors) in Atlanta. I saw it as an opportunity to really test this dream out and decide if I wanted to go further or if I should abandon it and return to the land of cubicles. I loved it and I’ve continued to pursue it ever since. I shoot both film and digital. I love film and I really enjoy both the process and the finished product. Someday I hope to have a darkroom I can spend hours in. A darkroom where I can teach my own children the magic of photography as I did, in the darkness of the red lights watching their images materialize out of the developer.” Which is both a brilliant story and reinforces my deep-dark theory that photographers who know film and the dark room have a special kind of photographer magic and soul.

And Marj uses that soul (and APW spirit) to make her business tick. She says, “I operate my business using gut instincts to guide me. My goal is always to make the experience the best I can for my clients. Whatever they want, I’ll do it. I’ll put their own experience of the wedding day over my perceived expectation of any particular shot. I want them to look back and remember the feeling of the day, not me. Not the experience of having their photo taken. Because of that, I’ll show up whenever you want me and leave whenever you want me to. I don’t require you to have everything happen in some neat (and highly regimented) six-hour timeframe. I don’t charge you by the hour.  Above all what I want is for you to enjoy your day and always feel like yourselves while I capture and preserve those feelings for you. The memory I treasure from my own wedding is the moment when my husband was reading his vows and started tearing up. I squeezed his hand and for that moment it was just the two of us and I felt his love intensely. That moment centered me and helped me to be truly present. I want to capture that for you.” And that, in sum, is everything I think you should get working with an APW photographer. Well, that, and some totally killer pictures, which Marj clearly has down cold.

And because Marj loves you guys so much, she’s giving away two photo shoots in what will be her brand-new home of Portland, OR. Here is the deal: “I’d like to give away two shoots in the Portland, OR area. One for an engaged couple (with no strings attached… of course I’d love to photograph the wedding but that’s not a prerequisite for the shoot). And one just-because shoot. This could be an anniversary shoot, a we just had a baby shoot, or a my goodness it’s been forever since we had pictures taken and we’d like to celebrate our love shoot, or even a boudoir shoot (I really love doing those and would LOVE more opportunities to do so… hint, hint). These shoots will need to occur after March 1, 2013 but before the end of 2013. To enter just send me an email (with information about yourselves and your shoot) and I’ll pick someone for each shoot on September 17th (it’s my birthday, seems like a good way to celebrate).” So go for it you guys. I can personally tell you how nice it is to have family shoots, so please, please make that happen for yourselves.

So, Portland and Denver, Oregon and Colorado, I really can’t wait to see the photos you make with Marj Merges. I’m excited to see her business and her art continue to grow, you guys to be happy beneficiaries, and the magic to happen. So, go! And do!

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  • Yay Marj! Your work is getting more and more amazing. And you guys, Marj is the nicest person you will ever meet. I swear.

  • Jessica

    Marj is AWESOME!!! I found her on the APW vendor directory last year and it was so great having someone so down to earth and SO NICE to work with. I’m selfishly a little sad that she’s moving away (I imagined her forever doing my family photographs), but I’m so happy for her little family. Marj photographed my wedding and everyone in my family was talking about how great she was… and she has a kicka** photobooth setup.

    • Jessica

      And (I forgot to say) if you are considering a boudoir photo shoot… DO IT! I had so much fun with Marj, but make sure you bring a bottle of champagne! :)

    • I can still be your forever family photographer. :)

  • Love the photo of the bride smooching the little girl. Marj, your photos and your words (and your business philosophy, actually) – so much soul. Inspiring.

  • Carmen Eisinger

    It was Marj who gave me a copy of Meg’s book that completely changed our way of thinking and brought the wedding nightmares into perspective. This was about us. Not a venue, not table arrangements or “the f*ing chairs,”…this was about us, our happiness, love and devotion. A Practical Wedding is now something I give as gifts to newly engaged friends. I couldn’t have said it better myself…Marj has a tremendous eye that captures moments in the most beautiful, breathtaking ways. The moment I saw her pictures I knew we had to have her as our photographer. We feel so blessed to have had her with us this last year taking our engagement, family Christmas and our wedding photos. And I’m incredibly honored that a couple of our pictures have been featured here. Congrats, Marj and Eric…you’ll be missed!

  • RJ

    Not on topic – comment hijack – but I just wanted to share the happy marriage news that New Zealand’s Parliament tonight voted 80 to 40 to pass the first reading of the Marriage Equality bill on a conscience vote. It will now go to Select Committee for public submissions, but the tide has really turned. All the youth wings of the parties were strongly in favour.

    It was expected to be closer – something like 65 in favour – but had a much higher majority than expected after much higher public support than expected (or to be correct, the middle majority had shifted to a “well it doesn’t bother us” position rather than a “mildly opposed” position.

    Some of those who spoke against it took an apologetic tone, and referred to their constituents’ views.

    New Zealand has had Civil Unions for some time, and most Civil Union rights are the same as married rights, but for the younger generation, and as more and more New Zealanders who get to know gay couples as friends and relatives, it’s become something that’s not threatening any more, just a different variation of normal.

    It’s awesome!

  • Anna

    I have GOT to second all the nice things said about Marj. I also found Marj through the APW Vendor Directory and she will be shooting our wedding on September 30th! (That’s me, failing to be dipped by my fiance in the second picture.)

    Her work speaks for itself. Our engagement pics (included in her photography package, btw) turned out INCREDIBLE. They’re almost unreal. But besides her talent, she’s also just a great person. She really tries to get to know you as a couple and goes out of her way to do so (and I mean literally–we live in Wyoming.) She gave me a copy of the APW book too, which of course, I devoured cover to cover.

    Considerate, generous, reasonably priced, and hella talented. What else would you need in a photographer? I almost want my wedding to be over already, just so I can see the pictures! ;)

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