With an impressive 35 of 50 images placing in the top spots, the 2019 Shoot & Share Photo Contest winner won the hearts of voters world wide, and is inspiring photographers from her home state of Iowa and beyond.
The 2019 Shoot & Share Photo Contest winner is none other than Missie Lafrenz; a wedding, maternity, family & senior photographer from Indianola, Iowa. Missie believes that life is all about experiences, and loves getting to know her clients so that every session is a reflection of that.
"I just really like showing people how wonderful they are through a photograph. I feel like we are so judgmental of ourselves, and wish they could just appreciate themselves the way a photographer does. So I'm really inspired by getting to know people; and by making people feel their best and showing them how beautiful they are."
Missie says she's always been inspired by fashion, and photographers who march to the beat of their own drum. She says she doesn't follow a lot of other photographers because she always tries to be authentic in her own work. When she does, it's a photographer whose style is different than her own, so that she can push herself to the limits.
"I am inspired by those artists who are authentic to their vision and craft. Anne Geddes comes to mind because she was doing something so different and changed the game because of it! My mind set is inspired by artists like her- to do MY work unapologetically!"
She also loves working with other creatives and often dreams up entire sessions based on an idea... or an outfit.
"My artistic inspiration comes from fashion and people. I can find a dress and have a whole session planned around that single dress! I am also one of those photographers that sees someone and just wants to run up to them and say "can I take your picture!?" I love photographing people and seeing each individual's beauty!"
That's exactly what happened with one of her favorite top placing images.
"It's the boat with the lily pads, with the couple, and she's in a red sweater. It was one of those images that I envisioned. I had a dream and I obsessed over it, and asked some friends to help me out. Once I took the picture it turned out exactly the way I wanted it to. I feel like, as an artist, when you can execute your vision, it's so satisfying. So that picture to me, when I look at it, it proves that I was able to do exactly what I wanted and it looks exactly like what I wanted, so I love it."
Those visions are often part of a bigger story for Missie. She says she feels like sometimes the audience misses out on the story, because as a photographer, knowing the story behind the image, you have a deeper connection, and you can't necessarily tell the whole story. One of her favorite stories happened during an annual hot air balloon festival in the Hawkeye State.
"There's one of a hot air balloon, and it was a proposal. I had a long lens and a short lens, and it was at a balloon festival with thousands of people; and on my long lens, while he was putting the ring on her finger, his watch said 7:29. When I got back to edit the photos, the time was 7:29, but the the date was 7/29, and it was, that picture stopped time on when she said yes, and it was just really, really cool."
From balloon festivals to the Mississippi river, even without sweeping mountain backdrops and ocean views, this Midwest photographer is right at home making something as simple as a field of corn look stunning.
"I don't rely on backgrounds. I don't rely on bridges or pretty scenery. Pretty scenery is great, but when you can focus on the connection and your clients, I don't think it matters where you are. As long as you have good lighting and connection, it doesn't matter where you are. Sure, mountain pictures are beautiful, but mountain pictures are beautiful without people in them. I'm a people photographer, so I focus on the people. If I can find a cool location, great, that's exciting, but I focus on how I can make these people look good and how I can find good light."
As for this year? Missie is all in again, and can't wait to look back on her growth since last year's contest. Her advice to those entering this year? Just have fun with it!
"Don't overthink it. I literally went through my Instagram and just picked the ones that got the most likes. It's easy to do. Obviously if you have a photo that you're like 'this ones going to win', enter that, but if you're struggling, enter as many as you can, and enter the ones that already people like and you like. That's an easy thing to do. I went through my albums and I made a Shoot & Share album and I just started adding photos to it that were considered and I then narrowed it down to the ones that wanted to add."
Some other fun facts about Missie:
* Favorite Lens: "Hands down. Canon 85mm 1.4. It's so good! I also use my 35 1.4 a lot, but if I took the same pose with both my 35 and 85...I would, 100% of the time, prefer the 85 image."
* Gear (other than camera/lenses) she can't live without? "My ladder. lol I have a tall ladder and a short ladder. I cannot go to any session without my ladder!!! The closer to heaven the better the image!"
* Her favorite surprise session moment: "There is an image of a senior girl hugging a llama. She told me she was bringing her cow, but I did't know about the llama! So when they opened the back of the trailer andI saw the llama, I about fainted! My clients said "we're so sorry we didn't tell you we were bringing the llama!" To which my response was "NEVER apologize for bringing a llama!!!!"