A Year in Review: The 20 Best of 2014!

What a year! 2014 was my first full year as a professional photographer. I graduated from my wonderful alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, in May and I spent the remaining months of 2013 learning from incredible wedding photographers in the Cleveland area. In 2014 I developed my style, discovered who I am and who I want to be as a photographer and business owner, and as a person. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs but I’m ready to see what 2015 brings. Thanks to all my wonderful clients, friends, and family for being apart of this crazy year. This blog post features my favorite 20 images from 20-14…see what I did there? Enjoy!!

Jeremy and Heather Valentine's Day Couple Shoot in Cleveland, Ohio on February 2, 2014

I had so much fun with this shoot. I’m a little obsessed with Valentine’s Day so I really wanted to do a Valentine’s Day themed session. My favorite thing about this image is obviously the snow. The best part was that it wasn’t even snowing! We were right under a tree and when the wind picked up I got my snow. It was a completely serendipitous moment and I’ll remember it forever. See more from this session here.

Asher's First Birthday Party on April 26, 2014

One of my favorite parts of my job is creating interesting images out of not so interesting situations. Don’t get me wrong, first birthday parties are full of moments and fun, but I wanted to try something a little different. I absolutely love the way the cake is covering his face and how the “1” is like, BOOM, right in your face. I knew when I created this image that it was something special. Check out the rest of birthday party here.

Hiral & Srinath's Indian Wedding May 23-25, 2014 Croatian Lodge

This image is from my first Indian wedding! What an extravagant affair, filled with a wide array of bright colors and tons of fun. I adore how playful this image is. It’s not everyday you get to photograph a special celebration like this. See the rest of the wedding, here.

Brandy & Jeff's Wedding May 31, 2014 Water's Edge

I loved each of the weddings I shot this season in their own special way. This wedding was early in the season in a small town near Canton. The bride got ready in her childhood home surrounded by her best friends and family. When I first walked in, I was struck by the sheer number of family pictures covering the walls.  I was so inspired by all of the history. I thought it would be a great idea to hang the dress outside on the front porch. It was a way to tie in the warm memories of the home to her big day. See more of this wedding, here.

Yasmeen & Mike's Engagement Session in Rochester, NY on June 2, 2014

This is one of my favorite engagement sessions for a few reasons. First off, I know these two. We all attended school together at Rochester Institute of Technology. Yasmeen and I were in the photojournalism program and Mike studied information technology. When Yasmeen contacted me about shooting her engagement session we talked about doing it in New England where she is living now. But then it was brought up that it would be really neat to do it in Rochester. Not only was Rochester the midpoint between Ohio and New England but the city holds a very special place in both of our hearts. After we did a mini sunset shoot at Lake Ontario, we traveled around Rochester, finally stopping at RIT. It was so cool for me to be able to photograph at my alma mater. It was a full circle moment for me. See more of the session and where Yasmeen & Mike met, here.

A summer wedding on Lake Erie at the Cleveland Yatching Club with Brandi & Bill.

Another wedding that I’m pretty obsessed with is Brandi & Bill’s. Since I was second shooting for Kevin Chuey I spent time with Bill as he prepared for the ceremony. Normally, we only have about an hour to photograph preparations for a wedding. But with Bill, I had 2-3 hours. This gave me ample time to get to know him and his groomsmen. Everyone was so warm and friendly. They really made me feel like I was part of their family. I didn’t meet Brandi until I arrived to the Cleveland Yachting Club. I photographed her finishing touches and I was able to be there when she put her dress on. This is one of my favorite images ever. I love the light coming in through the blinds, the way the dress is laying, the depth of the buttons. It’s just an elegant, intimate image of one of the key moments of the day. Second shooting is great. When I’m second shooting, I don’t have to keep an eye out for everything the primary photographer is shooting. I can find little moments like this that add to the big picture. See more of this amazing wedding, here.

Rob and Denise's Couple Carnival Session in Cleveland, OH on July 2, 2014

One of the first lessons in my photojournalism classes was to take risks, go for the unexpected, and be fearless. My professor told us to go on a ride at a carnival. Don’t stand on the ground taking pictures. Get on that ride. That lesson brings me to this image. I rode the ride. I screamed a little (maybe a lot) and my camera was soldered to my hand but I created this fun picture and we all got out alive. Taking risks pays off. Thanks, William. See the rest of this July 4th themed session, here.

A summer wedding in Cleveland with Jessica and Anthony.

“Maria was a sweetheart. We really enjoyed having her capture our special day. She was very accommodating of our needs. Her photos capturing the scenery, candid shots, and our first look turned out wonderful.”

These two decided to do a first look RIGHT before the ceremony. The day was pretty hectic but I made sure to squeeze in that first look for the bride & groom. I love the way Jess is checking out all of the details on Anthony’s suit. She slowed down and took in everything. I encourage all of you that are getting married soon to try and slow down during your wedding. Remember the little details. Remember your family members who flew across the country to be there for your big day. But most importantly remember your spouse, and how you felt on your special day.

A summer wedding in Cleveland with Jessica and Anthony.

Jess & Anthony’s wedding was filled with so many moments. One of my favorite parts of a wedding is when the bride & groom talk and flirt during the ceremony when they think no one is watching. I am always on the lookout for these moments. It adds a touch of personality to the ceremony photos. Everyone has the standard shots: the vows, the ring exchange and the kiss. But when I see you ignoring the ceremony and just enjoying each others company, I get giddy inside. Even though I didn’t select a ceremony image from this wedding, I did pick my all time favorite groomsmen photo. Edgewater park is amazing for portraits. I’m so glad we went there! See more from this wedding, here.

A summer wedding at the Elyria Country Club with Alyshia and Caleb.

“Maria was the best! She captured my wedding night perfectly, all the pictures were so beautiful. I could not have asked for or imagined another photographer.”

This day could not have gone smoother. Because Alyshia & Caleb wanted to do a first look we had all of the time I could ever want for portraits. Their wedding was relaxed but incredibly fun. The dance floor was always packed and most times overflowing onto the carpet. That’s how you throw a party. Aside from the fun, their day was filled with emotions. Caleb & Alyshia were so happy to be getting married and so excited for their friends and family to share in this big day. There were tears flowing at the ceremony and during the reception for the mother-son dance. I saw those tears and acted quick to capture the scene. Check out the rest of this wedding, here.

A summer wedding at Hawken Upper School in Gates Mills, OH with Becky and Rob.

Becky & Rob got married at the breathtaking Upper Hawken School. Because I was second shooting and because I knew I would never shoot at this “venue” again (Becky’s mom works there) I took every opportunity to capture the incredible beauty of the day and location. The school had tons of interesting nooks and crannies that I could photograph the couple in. I was so inspired and I love the results. See them here.

A House of Blues wedding in Cleveland with Jess & Ryan.

My first House of Blues wedding! When Justin Ketchem asked me to second shoot at the House of Blues, I was so excited. I go to the House of Blues pretty often to see bands so I knew a wedding there would be amazing. I loved incorporating the House of Blues lights and colors into the images. See more from this awesome wedding, here.

A fall Cuyahoga Valley National Park engagement session with Rachel and Matt.

I was looking forward to this engagement session with Rachel & Matt for months. So was Rachel but the weather was out to get us and we kept having to reschedule. When the session finally rolled around these two were READY. Rachel had all of the locations and her outfits perfectly planned. Besides her preparation, she trusted me to capture beautiful images of her and her fiancé.  I love when my clients give me the freedom be creative! See more from this session, here.

A Whiskey Island wedding with Lauren & Ray.

If you haven’t guessed by now, moments inspire me. Which makes perfect sense since I studied photojournalism at RIT. This day started off with so many moments. The preparation was done at ALoft hotel (amazing) and the girls were crying and laughing constantly. This is what makes my job fun. The ceremony took place at the super cool Whiskey Island near Edgewater Park. Since I was still jazzed from the morning I was ready to create crazy, awesome images like this one. See more from the wedding, here.

Cleveland fall maternity session with Tara.

My first maternity session! I had so many ideas to make this session super beautiful. We went to a field right before sunset (golden hour!), played with some cool flowers and made wonderful images. When all of the details add up and work well together, it’s really easy to make great pictures. Check out the rest of this session, here.

A Pine Ridge wedding with Ashley & Victor.

Pine Ridge Country Club is a super unique and beautiful venue. I worked there once before this wedding. I’d love to say that I planned this image but it was totally a happy accident. The moment was perfect and the light hitting them is awesome. I’m really proud of this picture. I hadn’t realized that I had made it until I was looking through my shots. I love surprises like that. See more from Pine Ridge, here.

A Downtown Cleveland portrait session with Susie and Ross.

Susie & Ross had been in a long distance relationship for a while so when they were both finally in Cleveland they decided to celebrate with a portrait session. Personally, I love the idea. Who says photographs are only for milestone? I think photographs are incredibly important. They record the history of our lives. Photographs allow us to remember how we felt at that moment in time. See more from this session, here.

A fall wedding at The Galleria with Suzie and Jack.

“Maria was an EXCELLENT choice as our wedding photographer. From start to finish, she was extremely professional, flexible and knowledgable about the entire wedding process! She was very prepared and organized every time we met including our wedding day! Maria was super easy to get along with and was open to hearing our ideas and integrating what we wanted into how she shot the photos. She had a VERY fast turn-around with the photos – we had them back within 3 weeks! She did an absolutely perfect job of capturing the emotions of the day. We have already received multiple compliments from family and friends on the pictures– we could not be happier!!!!!!”

From the get-go I knew Suzie was my kind of bride. She was bubbly and really excited about her wedding. I felt like I got a really great sense of who she was as a person. I met Suzie a couple more times before her wedding to plan the timeline, do a walk thru of her venue, and scout locations. I honestly felt like Suzie was much more than a client; she was my friend. I love making these connections with my clients. They trust me more on their wedding day and I get a new friend out of the deal. Who wouldn’t want that? When Suzie’s wedding day finally arrived I was ready to document the big day. Suzie & Jack’s wedding could not have been more perfect. From the weather (60s in late October), to the sunset ceremony (drool), to that gorgeous veil!!!! I was in awe of how beautiful every little moment and detail was. It was really hard for me to choose one favorite image from this wedding but I finally decided on this portrait. The wind picked up the veil just enough to make this beautiful, flowing curve. I’m so excited I was able to capture it. It only adds to the emotion on the newlyweds’ faces. See the rest of this crazy amazing wedding, here.

A Quail Hollow State Park engagement session with Chelcie and Ryan.

When I first met Chelcie we discussed her wedding and thoughts she had for her engagement session. She told me she wanted fields and fall color. They live in Canton, a little ways away from Cleveland, so I consulted with other photographers who knew that area to find a great location. I narrowed the list down to about ten locations in the Akron/Canton area and headed there to see these places in person. I found the best three and emailed Chelcie. She settled on Quail Hollow State Park. What a place! We stayed there for the whole two hour session. The park is never ending and has so many possibilities. It was a photographer’s dream! On top of the wonderful environment, I shot some film. All of my photo classes in high school were film and I took a handful of film classes in college. It was great to be able to use film professionally. I plan to add more film options to my sessions and weddings. See more from this fall session, here.

A winter engagement session at the Cleveland Museum of Art with Laura & Fletcher.

The last image of 2014! I shot this image a little bit before Christmas. Laura & Fletcher are both grad students who came home to Mt. Vernon (near Columbus) for the holidays. We decided it would be the best time for the session. Laura recommended using the Cleveland Museum of Art for their engagement session location. It’s an incredible location and I was so excited when she suggested it. It was a perfect choice because Laura & Fletcher met in undergrad when they were studying Chinese Art. I had been dreaming of creating this image for some time, I’m so glad I was able to make it with these two! See more from this session, here.