Dainty Obsessions

DO Extras+ Get to Know: Bethany Melvin Photography

Bethany Buitenbos has the heart of gold. Not only is she going viral (and getting dozens of pets adopted in the process) as the photographer and graphic designer at the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society, but she is passionate about love with her company Bethany Melvin Photography. We talked with her about her rebrand in the last year (she’s formerly B. Photography), her projects like TuesdaysTogether, and how she goes the extra mile with clients.

Tell us about how you got into the wedding business.
When I was in college for graphic design, my design professor handed me a camera and told me to try it out; he thought I might like it. I started taking photos of my friends and trying out my hand at being artsy. While in college a classmate of mine begged me to do her wedding. I had no intention of ever being a professional photographer or be crazy enough to shoot weddings, so I told her no. I told her no about four more times before she finally convinced me. It was a very laid-back, backyard wedding and went pretty well. Then another girl asked, and another and another. After shooting two or three, I really just fell in love with the ebb and flow of the day and hearing all the stories that go with a wedding and a love story to each and every couple. Now I’m hooked!

How would you describe your style?

My style is very much bright, happy and natural. My favorite photos are the ones that happen in between the poses; the nose-wrinkling laughs, the stealing of a kiss, a loving gaze. I am very involved with posing my couples and making them feel comfortable and no moments of “I don’t know what to do with my hands, awkward turtle!”

You recently went through a name change. What made you decide to change it and the inspiration behind your new name/brand?

When I became an official business I chose B. Photography because of my name being Bethany Bakker… no one could say my maiden name, so it was just better to stick with the B! After I got married and my last name changed to Buitenbos, I soon realized no one can pronounce that either. I went off in search of a name that was less generic and had more meaning to me. That’s when I settled on Bethany Melvin. Melvin is my grandfather’s name, and he is my favorite person in the entire world. He taught me to be kind and gracious and he is one of the most selfless people I have ever met. Of course, when I told him that I had done this he said, “Now why would you do a silly thing like that?” and he proudly held my new business card in his hand before tucking it into his billfold and wiping away a tear.

What are your favorite parts of a wedding and why?

Oh boy, I don’t know if I can choose just one! I love first looks because you can feel the tension just dissipate as soon as the see each other. It is just a moment of pure joy. The other moments are during sunset sessions. People don’t realize how loud the entire day has been until it is just the bride and groom (and of course me) outside the reception, in the golden light of the sunset on the happiest day and holding each other. It is such a beautiful, calm moment where I help the bride and groom get a moment to soak in the day and slow down for one second.

Where does your love of teal come from and how intense is the obsession?
It’s pretty intense. My husband has to remind me that I don’t have to buy everything teal or gold that I see. My logo has special meaning to me, as well as the colors.There are gems in my logo that are teal because my grandfather wears bolo ties to fancy events, and the one I remember most was a teal stone in the center. The gemstones are my twist on his bolo tie. That is where the teal comes from and why it means so much!

It seems like you have a nice network of photographer/wedding industry friends. How did that come to be and why do you think it’s important?

We have something special here in Sioux Falls. There is a lot of ridiculously talented photographers, but here we are more of a community than competition. I was invited to an online group with a lot of area photographers, and I started networking and found my tribe of crazy, zany photographer friends. We have meetups every couple of months to de-stress, catch up, swap stories and experiences and learn from one another. Most of us in this area have the mindset that helping each other helps us all, which I am oh so thankful for. Some of my very best friends are some of the best photographers I know and I am lucky to learn from them and work side-by-side with them each and every day!

Speaking of, tell us about your friends and your wedding day!
There was a bit of an entourage on my wedding day. I apologize to any other bride that got married that day, because I feel like I cornered the market on talent that day. I had the fabulous Platinum Imagination do my hair and makeup, and she follows us around until the ceremony keeping me picture perfect in every shot. I also had two photographers, another photographer friend who documented the day via a Polaroid camera and then gifted me the photos and a Polaroid camera of my own at the end of the day, two videographers, and an assistant. That doesn’t mention the three bridesmaids of mine who are photographers and two other guests who are photographers as well. Like I said… I cornered the market that day!

Tell us about TuesdaysTogether and your role in that.
TuesdaysTogether is a part of the Rising Tide Society. I am head of the Sioux Falls chapter that we recently launched. The group is based online at the moment and we are working on getting up on our feet and having meetups. This is a group for not only photographers, but other small business owners as well. This can be in any industry! It is still in it’s infancy stages at the moment but we are working expanding!

Where do you like to meet up with clients, and what is your type of client?
My favorite places to have meeting with my clients are in local businesses. My favorite is Half Baked in downtown Sioux Falls. Cupcakes, ice cream and amazing coffee… where can you go wrong? My type of client must love at least one of these three things; kidding… mostly. I love couples that aren’t afraid to laugh, have some fun and just be themselves. I like photos to feel as comfortable as possible, like we are just hanging out and I happen to have a camera. My sessions include lots of bad dad jokes, not being afraid to be a little silly, and relaxing.

Is there one moment that really stands out or a favorite memory from working with weddings?

There isn’t a particular moment, but I have made some of the best friends by working with weddings. Between other photographers, vendors and my couples I have such a great network of friends. I have developed life-long connections with some. I have a wonderful couple, Aly & Nick who trusted me to shoot their wedding when I was just starting out. Fast forward to a month ago, when I did photos of their second child in their home. I have done all their family photos from then until now and it is such an honor to be able to grow with a family and watch them adapt and change to all the things life hands them. And they aren’t the only ones; there are so many who I have great connections with. That has been the greatest gift from working with weddings.

Tell us your involvement with the pet shelter and how you’ve thought of creative ways to promote the animals.

I work full-time at the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society as their photographer, graphic designer, and odds and ends of website management and marketing. We are constantly thinking of new ways to show people the positive side of animal shelters and that it isn’t always a sad place. One photo is all it takes to make someone fall in love with a pet and enough to where they come and meet them and make room in their home. Recently a lightbulb moment of mine came in the form of a kitten version of the eclipse. It went viral so quickly and I never expected it to! We had over 4.3 million views on the original video and were contacted by places who wanted to share it across the world!

What do you love to do when you’re not working?

I am working most the time, but when I do find a weekend or evening off from working and editing I love to spend time with my husband Christopher and our dog, Murphy and cat, Riley. Topher and I are big fans of movies, and I rock at almost any movie challenge set out before me. We also like to travel and spend weekends away in Omaha or the Twin Cities. Our favorite thing to do when we go somewhere new is try to find a great, obscure restaurant. You’ll also often find me at Target, possibly with cart full of random items that I had no previous intention of buying because…Target.

What advice do you have for the day, and can you briefly talk about the magazine you created?

Research your vendors, meet with them, talk with them. Finding the perfect vendors for your wedding day can feel a bit like speed dating, but take the time to find the right ones. When you have vendors you click with, your wedding day will be exponentially better. Also, trust the vendors you have hired; they won’t steer you wrong! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and have honest conversations. I try to layout everything ahead of time for my brides and answer FAQs in my bridal magazine. When my brides book, they get a copy of my bridal guide which answers questions from beginning of booking through the delivery of photos. It answers every question from what happens with engagement session scheduling and outfits, wedding day timeline samples and explanations, all about first looks and more!

Anything to add?
I’m obsessed with love stories, ice cream, giraffes, and speaking in movie quotes. I also mostly respond to text messages with gifs. There is some random knowledge about me for you!

Follow Bethany on her websiteInstagram, Facebook, Twitter, or on her vendor profile!


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