We are Courtney Michalik and Michael Kent. We live, work, and play from our home in the woods in Traverse City. We have been partners in life for the past eight years and are planning our own wedding for August of 2016. Our business, The Compass Points Here, is focused on documenting weddings in a natural, beautiful, and creative way. We focus on storytelling, and couples can book packages for photography only, videography only, or both.
How did you get into the wedding industry?
When I (Courtney) was a couple years into art school, my mom’s friend asked if I could document her wedding. I was nervous because photographing someone’s wedding is a big responsibility, and I didn’t want to give her an answer until I had some type of experience. I asked a local wedding photographer if I could shadow them free of charge. I loved it. I was actually surprised by how much I loved it. I was drawn to the intimacy of the experience - the importance of documenting the one day when all of a couple’s close friends and family are in the same place. Since that first wedding, I have assisted multiple other photographers, both in Michigan and San Francisco, steadily gaining experience and developing my style and brand. After I started working with clients as a lead photographer, Michael began pursuing videography. He joined the business which allowed us to add videography to our services. He also acts as a second photographer when we are booked for photography only packages, and we absolutely love working together as a team.
How would you describe your style?
We are mainly photojournalistic. We use natural light as much as possible, and try to capture the day as unobtrusively as we can. With that being said, there are certainly times where you need to make adjustments, or direct the situation. We are comfortable directing couples and groups of people, especially when it comes to family and wedding party portraits, because this helps keep the day flowing smoothly. However, we never want to be the photographer that asks a bride to put on her shoes 15 times - ya know? Our goal is to authentically capture a wedding day, focusing on the people and details that make it unique, and deliver a collection of images that will be timeless. We aim for realistic and crisp colors and classic black and whites. There are no weird glossy filters or bizarre instagram color overlays going on over here.
What is your favorite part of a wedding?
The emotion. Pure and simple. Whether it’s tears or laughter, we are constantly looking for those moments of emotional connectivity. Since we are photographers and videographers I can give you some examples.
The way the bride’s dad chokes up during his toast (wait for it, it’s at the 50 second mark).
Or experiencing the sheer joy of a Second Line - the celebratory band that leads the bride and groom plus all of the guests from the ceremony to the reception - at a wedding in New Orleans.
Or that time when all the bride’s friends freaked out when they first saw her in her dress.
Or the peaceful moment in the evening when a couple takes a pause, looks at each other, and realizes they are actually married.
There are a lot of favorite moments.
What are some of your favorite trends from this wedding season?
Just to name a few: Lots of locally grown blooms and extra greenery in floral design, two-piece wedding dresses, and local food truck catering. But honestly, we would rather photograph a wedding full of personality than one that is working too hard to stay on trend. Is your family Mexican? Then have a mariachi band, and put a single red rose in your hair at the reception. Are you just not that into dance music? Then book a jazz quartet. Are you SUPER into dancing? Then have a crazy choreographed dance featuring all of the groomsmen. These are all examples of real things we have witnessed at weddings - and they are the best part of our job.
What advice do you have for couples about choosing a photography/videographer?
First, make sure you like them! Your photographers and videographers will be with you all day so it is important to connect with them. It is also very important to be in love with a photographer or videographer’s style. If you want a photojournalistic style, make sure you are choosing your photographer or videographer based on a portfolio of work that reflects that.
We also highly encourage meetings and/or phone calls so that our clients completely understand our packages and have their questions answered before signing a contract. It is very important to fully understand what you will receive. Some of the key factors to compare might be the number of hours of coverage, number of photographers or videographers, and your usage rights once the photos and videos have been delivered.
How far in advance should a couple look into booking your services?
I would say a year from the date of your wedding is pretty safe, however that can definitely vary. Some dates or months tend to be more popular than others in any given year. It is still very common for us to book 6 months out from a wedding, but the later the inquiry, the more likely we will already be booked. For videography we tend to get more inquiries closer to the 6 month mark. At this point we do not have associate photographers or videographers so when we book a date we are at capacity for that date.
What advice do you have for couples about the planning process?
We have a planning document that we send to our clients right after they sign a contract with us. We also set up a phone call or two throughout the planning process to discuss the scheduling as it relates to photography and videography. The amount of time needed for photo and video can vary wildly from wedding to wedding based on the size of the wedding party, number of family portraits requested, etc. So we like to look at each wedding individually and consult with clients about what will work best for their day. We also highly encourage having a planner or day of coordinator! We are always happy to help, or recommend other vendors if our clients are feeling stressed! I will definitely be referring clients to Simply Blue and recently I have found myself telling lots of brides about A Practical Wedding (both the book and the website).
What do you love about living and working in Northern Michigan?
There is so much to love! We are outdoorsy people - In the summer we are always biking, trail running, spending time on the water, and cooking outside. In the winter we cross country ski and snowboard. The ability to have an active lifestyle all year round was a huge draw for us. Traverse City also has such an amazing community vibe. There is always something going on. The food and arts scenes are continuously growing. We also feel like clients who are choosing to get married in Northern Michigan have the same love of this area and nostalgia for it that we do. It’s an amazing combination when you have a beautiful setting with clients who are making a conscious choice to get married here.