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Twice The Focus – Mississippi Wedding & Portrait Photographers

 Melissa Bell & Sarah Berry are Wedding & Portrait Photographers from Mississippi.  When trying to decide what photographers to showcase from the state of Mississippi, it wasn’t hard to figure out that THEY were the right choice.  Once you view their work, I’m sure you’ll agree! 

Twice the Focus

First we can relate, as they are moms & pro photographers as well…so we really know how difficult and how rewarding it is to run a successful business.  But with that aside, ALL of their work is stunning.  I originally was going to choose them to showcase their portraiture but they are amazing, no matter what is in front of their cameras. 

The sweet innocence that they capture of their newborns to the excitement and emotion of their brides.  They have an amazing ability to REALLY capture each moment, no matter what they are photographing.  When you view their galleries, it is evident that they have a true ability for all aspects of photography.  The portraits of little ones have a great light, airy and fun feel to it and with the weddings, a classic..modern TRUE photojournalistic style comes across that just WOWS you!

Twice the Focus

Finding the right words to truly describe Twice The Focus is a little difficult, for I feel as though I cannot do them justice.  But take a look at their website, blog and become a follower on their Facebook page and I assure you, you’ll be just as inspired as I am! 😉

Let’s start with a bio.  Tell us a little about yourself.

Well first let me just say, that because our lives are both so very hectic, I, Melissa, am writing this for both of us.  So I will start with myself.

Melissa:  I’ve always loved art and photography.  I’ve drawn, painted, and had a camera in hand as long as I can remember.  I owned my first SLR in high school, but of course, never took the time to get to know it.  It was given to me by my boyfriend, and I loved the gift so much that I married him.  Kris and I will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary this December.  We have four year old twin girls, Maddie and Gracie, and a new little girl, Lillie Caroline. 

Sarah: Sarah actually started out getting an art degree, but changed her major to Elementary Education.  She is very creative, and she always has been.  And after she changed her degree and got a job teaching first grade, she soon figured out she needed a job that allowed her to be more creative.  She loved the kids, but the structure was a problem, as it is for so many artistic personalities.   She has been married to her husband, Adam for six years.  They have a four year old daughter, Kaylee Jo, and a one year old son, Bo.

Now…how our lives merged…

Our husbands have been best friends since kindergarten, so we met through them.  We knew each other while we were dating them, but we weren’t particularly close.  Then we all got married within months of each other.  We had dinner together a few times, but it wasn’t until Sarah and I were pregnant together that we started to become close friends.  The twins and Kaylee Jo are 9 weeks apart, so they are what we bonded over.  As our kids grew and played together, we got to know each other, and we soon realized that we both had a love for art and photography.  We kinda jokingly said, “what if we started a business.”  And we NEVER thought we’d do it, but we did.  Sarah always jokes that if it weren’t for me being so controlling and such a pusher, that it woulda just stayed a “dream.”  So we started our business, and its grown from there. 

Twice the Focus

What is your background in photography?

Trial and error, ha.  Seriously, like many photographers do, we started out really enjoying photography, but knowing NOTHING.  We thought we were good, and then we discovered ILP, and got knocked off our high horse really fast.  So trial and error, forums, a lot of critique and practice.  That is our background.  J

What do you specialize in?  What made you choose that as your specialty?

So far, we really don’t have a specialty.  We do an equal amount of everything.  I’d love to specialize in weddings or newborns.  And we are trying to do more wedding based marketing this year.

Besides your specialty, what is your favorite thing to photography and why?

Well, I’ll just elaborate on weddings and newborns.  We love weddings because each one is so different.  Its really cool seeing how each couple marries, and being apart of what is one, if not the, biggest days of their life.  And newborns, well we just love babies, period.  It never gets old to me…each new baby is a miracle and getting to photograph them is just heartwarming.  Yes, that’s cheesy, but its true.

Twice the Focus

Name at least one thing that most would be surprised to know about you. 

Hmmm…well for me, Melissa, is that I have VERY few photographs on my wall.  I’m really bad about ordering…I don’t know why, but I’m so busy, that I neglect it.  And all the photographs that I do have in my family room are in black and white.  Not a single color print.

As for Sarah,  this is not photography related, but it still shocks me.  She doesn’t own a hairdryer.  Nope…not at all…she just has naturally perfect hair!

Is there a place you’ve been wanting to go photograph just for fun?  Where would it be?  How about your favorite place that you’ve already been to?

Lets see…Sarah and I both want to do beach sessions with our clients and our family.  We live in a coastal state, but the beach is about six+ hours for us, so it would have to be a vacation, as well.  One day, we will do that! 

As far as a favorite place we’ve already been to, its not a grand place or out of state, but I think one of our favorite sessions to date, was a bridal session at the bride’s grandparents place.  They had a big field with a hill that had nothing but blue skies and puffy clouds behind it.  For some photographers that may not seem so grand, but for us, it was heaven.  Here in Mississippi, we have plenty of fields…all with big, fat, obnoxious tree lines behind them.  Finding one with an open sky was a dream come true.  

In your opinion, what makes you stand out from the rest of the photographers in your area?

There are two of us working together.  That’s a huge bonus for us.  I mean, yes, we are perfectly capable of working solo, and we often do.  But being together makes it so much better.  We work together so well to setup shots…twice the creativity flowing.  Its really awesome.  Also, I think our crazy joking and fun personalities is what keeps people coming back.  We always have fun…that puts our clients at ease.

Twice the Focus

If we could peek inside your camera bag, what would we see?

CANON.  And an unorganized mess.  We’ve got a 40D and a 5D.  Of course a couple of speedlights, etc, but to get to the fun stuff…the glass;  we have a 24-70 2.8L, 70-200 2.8L IS version, 85 1.2L, 100mm 2.8 macro, and a 15mm 2.8 fisheye.  I think that’s all the glass…I feel like I’m forgetting something. 

Is there some type of photography that you haven’t done that you would LOVE to try or gain more experience in? 

Maternity.  We have done a couple of sessions, but not enough to even say we’ve done them.  I’d really LOVE to do more of those.

What is the best advice someone has given you (either pertaining to life itself or photography)? 

When you don’t love what you are doing in anymore, stop.  We love our job.  Right now its doesn’t feel like work, but I think the moment it does begin to feel like a job, then we will cut back or stop altogether.  I don’t foresee that ever happening though.  🙂

Twice the Focus

What is the best advice you would give someone starting or thinking about getting into the photography business?

PORTFOLIO BUILD.  End of story.  We didn’t even know what this was…it was too little, too late by the time we found out.  God has truly blessed us in the fact that it didn’t hurt us more than it did, but we didn’t know what we were doing starting out.   So if you are thinking about starting a business, please get some experience before you dive in. 

Twice the Focus

If you could photograph ANY one person, who would it be?

Wow.  That’s so hard!  I’m going to have to say for me, my late grandparents, especially my Grandmother.  I just don’t have enough photographs of them at all.  I’m not sure who Sarah would pick, but I’m sure it would be someone inspiring!

Twice the Focus

I choose photographers for these interview because their work inspires me.  What inspires you as an artist to create such amazing imagery?

Other amazing photographers, just like you!  🙂  We have our “go to” blogs and togs, ha.  Work that we could stare at for hours.  And our children.  Their sweet little faces are what started this journey for us.

Twice the Focus

What has been your most memorable assignment and why?

For me, Melissa, I very recently photographed preemie twins in the NICU.  That was amazing for me, not only as a mom, but as a mom of twins.  We were very fortunate with my girls, as they came home with us without so much as a day of NICU time, but so many moms I know go through the NICU journey.  It was just amazing seeing such TINY miracles.  They were amazing…I can’t think of any other word! 

I’m going to answer for Sarah.  I think for her it would probably have to be getting to photograph a Military Dad being reunited with his family after almost a year overseas.  One of our regular clients called at the last minute and asked us if we could do this, but we had regular sessions scheduled, so I stayed at the studio, and Sarah went.  I know it was very touching for her to get to be apart of such an awesome reunion.

Twice the Focus

Twice the Focus

Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding or portrait session, and if so, how did you handle it?

We have.  We had a bride’s grandfather die the morning of her wedding.  It was very sad, and they chose to tell her before the wedding, which was devastating to her.  We just had to do our best to keep her happy and smiling during those photographs. 

What is your best kept business secret that you’re willing to share?

Honestly, I’m all about giving back, but I don’t think we do anything out of the norm.  Being one hundred percent honest, our kids are our number one priority right now.  They are all still little, so we try not to let the business run us.  We have many ideas that we’d like to implement when they are older, but for now, we just try our best to take care of our kids and then our clients. I think it helps them knowing that we put family first.  Sure we might leave off a print occasionally or have a little extra background noise, but they know its because we are home having tea parties or digging in the sandbox with our kids, and I think they respect that. 

Twice the Focus

Twice the Focus

What do you think is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings and/or children?

I think being comfortable with the couple goes a long way.  We always have more fun with the couples we’ve had time to sit down and talk with face to face, or done an engagement session with.  there is nothing like building a rapport with people. 

As for children, I mean no one is the same, right?   But I do think candy, silly noises and faces, and an odd patience that comes for other people’s children over your own, are all VERY helpful.  🙂

Twice the Focus


Twice the Focus

If you didn’t become a photographer, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?

Melissa:  Probably staying home with my kids and making jewelry on the side or something. 

Sarah:  I’m going to say she would have eventually gone back to teaching.

Most photographers network with other photographers, well-known or friends with other photography businesses.  Who do you consider great inspirations to you? 

I love Brittany Woodall and Carrie Sandoval aka Baby As Art.  LOVE their newborn work.  And I also love Gabe with PerspectivEye.  His wedding work is amazing!

Twice the Focus

Twice the Focus

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I think for Sarah and I both, I’d have to say God.  Sarah has really been one of the greatest spiritual influences in my life, and we try to glorify Him in all that we do. 

What is your greatest fear(s)? 

Business wise, I’m afraid of fizzling out one day…that we will lose our mojo, ha.  Trying to stay fresh and creative and new…it can be tough.  We have slumps where we feel uninspired, but something always brings us out of that funk and our creativity renews itself.  That permanent rut is what scares me.

Twice the Focus

Do you have a guilty pleasure? 

Um…for both of us, I’d say pigging out.  Our dining expenses can be quite embarrassing…I always hate turning that in to the accountant at the end of  the year!

Name 5 words that your friends and family would use to describe you.

For both of us…

Goofy, Loving, Spacey, Creative (I hope), Driven.

Twice the Focus

What goals have you not yet achieved but hope to in the future?

MORE weddings.  We are doing 15+ a year, and we’d LOVE to get that number up!

Do you remember your very first client session or first wedding that you photographed?  Tell us about how you felt and how it turned out.

HA.  I remember both, vividly.  Our first real session was with four boys.  Please put down any liquids now…I don’t want you to have to windex your computer screen.  We superimposed bubbles on the photo in photoshop…and yes, mom loved it.  She bought a HUGE print, which I must shamefully say, she still has hanging in her house.  Oh, the good ole days, ha.

Tell your funnies, scariest, most bizarre, most touching story from a photoshoot.

Our last wedding was at a historical home, where tours are given, and they ran a morning tour before the wedding.  We were just getting started with pictures of the bride, when a man in a black shirt asked us if we were starting photographs now.  We told him yes, and he said they would wait till we were done.  We were thinking, “wait for what?”  Then as he turned and walked away, the back of his shirt said…wait for it…”Mississippi Paranormal Investigators.”  So they were about to go ghost hunting on her wedding day!  So funny.

Do you have any website(s) you would like me to link to from this interview?

Main website: