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Weddings at The Mansion

Nicki Ann's Wedding Blog

In her blog, Nikki Ann shares with you her insights, thoughts, and feelings on all things women, wedding, marriage, and event-related.

Vendor Spotlight: Jen McKen Photography

April 10th, 2011

I have known Jen McKen for over 17 years. I knew her before she was Jen McKen. I called her Jennifer, Jenny, and Popeye among many others. But most of all I called her my best friend. And I still do. Her mom was “Mama Kenrick” for Pete’s sake. We spent every waking moment together from the time we were in 6th grade until graduation. Even when we decided to go to different colleges, our friendship never faltered. So needless to say, I know her pretty well.

Because I do know her so well, I know it would be a shame if you didn’t. I asked her a few questions that I thought would help you get to know her and her photography style a little better. Let’s see what she had to say:

NAE: Tell me about your ideal client.
JMP: This may sound cheesy but….an optimist. I see a pessimist and I go running in the opposite direction. Life is too short to be negative. I like to surround myself with like-minded people, both in my personal and professional life. When I’m around an optimist, my work glows. I love clients who aren’t afraid to think outside the box, who are successful in their own right and who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves—or at me! LOL

NAE: How long have you been at this and how did you get your start?
JMP: I’ve been doing the “photography gig” since my sophomore year in college. I started working at the school newspaper with NO experience other than I wanted to take awesome photos. My junior year, I traveled to Costa Rica as part of a college summer class and collected life style photographs to start building a portfolio. Soon after I returned I saw an ad in the local newspaper that they were seeking a photographer. I applied with my portfolio in hand and got the job. Now when I look back, I was horrible (hey everyone has to start somewhere!! Haha) I was able to hone my craft while working there for 6 or so years. I decided to quit the paper job when my business and family began to grow.

NAE: Besides weddings and engagements, what other services do you offer?
JMP: I specialize in PEOPLE! Preferably happy people!! LOL I love shooting families and senior portraits on location HOWEVER….I just finished a small-scale boudoir, maternity and newborn studio. This will serve as my space for meeting with wedding/engagement clients but a shooting space for those shoots that require a bit more privacy like boudoir…bow chica wow wow!!

NAE: What advice do you have for the bride and groom in preparation for photos on their big day?
JMP: Meet with your vendors IN PERSON if possible. Not only do you get a sense of their personalities but you can also get a clear understanding of what you can expect for your final product. Pick a photographer that compliments your style, personality, and overall look you’re going for. If you don’t like the images you see on their website, you won’t like the final product or images. Just like each wedding planner, DJ, cater is different-so are photographers. We all have our own style…just because they have a business doesn’t mean they are the right vendor for you.

NAE: What is your favorite moment during a wedding?
JMP: There are soo many! My personal favorite moment is when the father and daughter see each other for the first time, or the moment before the doors open at the back of the church and the anticipation and excitement between a father and daughter. No matter how grown up, successful or independent a woman is, she turns into “daddy’s little girl” again for a brief while. It tears me up every time!

NAE: What is your advice for choosing a wedding photographer?
JMP: Brides, you will be with your photographer longer on your wedding day than the man you’re about to marry. Make sure you “LIKE” your photographer. Hire someone you could see yourself be friends with outside of the “wedding world”. The day goes so much smoother and your photos are so much more personal when you have a photographer that you enjoy being around. Long gone are the days of a grumpy, pushy photographer…….and consider doing a first look. I talk in-depth about it here.

NAE: How do you break the ice and get your clients to relax?
JMP: We laugh and we talk-just like old friends. People typically love to talk about themselves-especially their engagement story. While they are spilling the beans and laughing at each other’s version of the story, I’m getting my shots! Before long, having a camera there is “no big deal”.

NAE: I had a tough time figuring out what to wear for my engagement sessions. What suggestions do you have on this?
JMP: The safest thing: BE YOURSELF!! Often times I see people going out and buying all the trendiest outfits, etc and trust me they look fabulous…..but if you think about it…REALLY think about it, if that’s not how you really dress everyday-why fake it for the photos. On the other hand, if you want to “take it up a notch” there are great resources available such the gals from Wardrobe Wednesday . They do an amazing job at putting together inspiration boards from everything from kids, families, engagements session AND they list coupons for stores periodically. My only other advice is to try not to be “matchy matchy.”

NAE: Where can brides find you?
JMP: Holla at me, tell me a joke or just say hi!
About me:


E-Session Round 2

January 7th, 2011

Well this post is delayed by about 5 months. But to be honest, I completely forgot I hadn’t posted anything yet. We had our engagement photos taken with our wedding photographer, Erica Hilliard. We went to Point State Park, downtown and PPG Place. I wanted to get some shots of the place where it all went down.

I was really excited to interact with Erica because she would be shooting photos of one of the most important days of our lives. I had seen photos from her portfolio she showed us when we first met with her and have been stalking her blog since our session. I love her style because it isn’t only focused on the people but incorporates the background to give it an artsy flair. Here are a few of my favorites.


E Session!!

May 12th, 2010

For those of you following, you know that one of my bestest and bridesmaids is a fabulous photographer, Jen McKendrick aka Jen McKen. I couldn’t have her as my wedding photographer, so I decided to force her to come to Pittsburgh and take some engagement photos for us. It was like pulling teeth *sarcasm* to get her to have fun with us Friday night when she and Greg, her “baby daddy” she so fondly refers to him, came into town. We went to Benihana for dinner and then to The Saloon in Mt. Lebanon for a few cocktails. We didn’t stay out and party the night away like we may have back in our younger years, but we had a really good time. The next morning, I let her sleep in since she never does, and I went to get my hair cut. Now, normally, it isn’t suggested to get a hair cut the day before or even few days before any big day, but my stylist is awesome and knows my hair pretty well now.

We headed out about 11:00am and found the weather to be less than ideal. It was cold, windy and gloomy. The gloominess was perfect for photos, but the wind was not. We didn’t let the weather ruin our day though. We started in the Strip District where we parked the car and just started walking. I know Jen knows what she is doing so I said, “When you see something, just yell stop!” And she did. She found so many unique back drops that I NEVER would have picked out. She really has some talent.

I had the brilliant idea to go to Primanti Bros. for lunch. But after seeing the line out the door and around the corner, we quickly changed our minds and headed to Station Square. We had lunch at Houlihan’s and of course, out of the corner of her eye, Jen spotted good lighting at the bar so we took a few there as well. While Joey and I went to the parking garage to do a costume change, she went in search of some places for photos along the river. She found plenty of options and our photo shoot continued.

As usual, Jen posted a few “teasers” on Facebook. The anticipation for the rest was unbearable!! But only 2 days later (and I am sure it was only this long because Mother’s Day was Sunday), she had created a collage of photos and video recorded during the session in a short clip available for your viewing pleasure here. If you can’t view this for some reason, I have posted the ones she chose as teasers here.

We will be having a photo session later in the summer with our wedding photographer Erica Hilliard. I am really looking forward to getting some more photos with her. I mean, who doesn’t like being the center of attention???



March 26th, 2010

Yes, I quoted Fergie. That is how I am going to feel on my wedding day because I just booked an awesome photographer. Erica Hilliard was a suggestion from my bestest, Jen McKen. Unfortunately, I cannot take advantage of her skills, but I do trust her judgment. I was really impressed with the photos on Erica’s blog. We met on Sunday to go over a few things. She showed us a few more photos while we were there and both of us were blown away. We really loved her work. It is not the usual posey-posey work. It really captured personalities and the moment. Neither one of us thinks we are photogenic – but then again, who does think of themselves that way? She offers a complimentary engagement session with her package, which is a great idea to allow for the couple to become familiar with her style and how she works. We will be completely comfortable for the day of the wedding because we will know her a little better.

Not only are we doing an engagement session with Erica, but we also booked one with Jen. I couldn’t let her get away without taking any photos for us! It is going to be a blast. There are a ton of really great locations where we can do photos. It would take all day to get to all of the cool spots. So we will have one day with Jen in the South Hills and one day with Erica elsewhere. I was thinking of La Casa Narcissi Winery in Gibsonia for a session with Erica and maybe Armstrong Farms in Saxonburg as well. I am going to have to look into this more. I also think Phipps would be awesome, but they charge $350 for a 45 minute session. I think that seems high, but they do put a ton of work into maintaining the facility. I am unsure if the winery or farm charge, but I will definitely research it! There would be some really interesting backdrops for photos in these places.

I am finally able to enjoy the planning aspect because the level of anxiety is VERY low. The date and places are set. Now I just get to work on the details. After all, presentation is everything.