The love story behind Don Fields Photography is what Southern fairytales are made of. Thirty years ago, after an especially successful harvest of tobacco, Melissa’s father gave her enough money to buy a camera. At the time, Melissa and Don were dating and would take photos at church. Their business began almost immediately, and now they help other couples capture their own “happily-ever-after.”
We recently had a visit with the photographers to learn more about their business, its longevity during the industry’s changes, and their experiences with Smoky Mountain weddings.
Keeping up with Technology and a Changing Industry
Don and Melissa are Certified Professional Photographers (CPP) through the Professional Photographers of America. Their love for photography and desire for continued education have given them a solid foundation in an ever-changing industry. The association requires its members to keep their certification active by continually testing, submitting images, and attending annual conferences. The Fields have made a commitment to their clients that their skills remain sharp and that they are always up to date on the latest technology.
Photography began going digital after the turn of the millennium. Five years later, many traditional photographers had gone out of business because the industry was moving toward the conveniences of digital photographs. At that time, Don recalled, more amateur photographers emerged and the industry took another blow. As the industry grew and adapted to the wants and needs of its clients, Don Fields Photography rose to the top by offering timeless, unrivaled photography in the Smoky Mountains. Their style is current without bowing to trends; it is also timeless without being outdated.
During their tenure as Smoky Mountain photographers, they raised a daughter and passed down their photography skills to her. Their daughter, Jessica, once worked for the family business. She found so much success that she began her own business after marrying and moving to her husband’s hometown. Now that second-generation duo is following in Don and Melissa’s footsteps.
Don Fields Photography has been a standard for the Smoky Mountain photography industry, especially when it comes to weddings. The couple estimates that together they have photographed over 3,000 weddings. Throughout the decades, the pair have picked up on some valuable wedding tips for those planning a Smoky Mountain destination wedding.
Wedding Planning Advice from Don Fields Photography
The pair were adamant that brides should only consider hiring a professional and experienced photographer to shoot their wedding. Don explained that many amateur photographers practice outdoors but have no experience inside. Shooting inside is more difficult. If your wedding is indoors, or in case of inclement weather, your photographer needs to be experienced with indoor lighting and special techniques that go along with indoor photography. When considering a photographer, be sure that they are experienced in indoor and outdoor photography.
Hiring an experienced and talented photographer is, in their opinion, the most important choice when planning a wedding. Sometimes a wedding budget can constrict options although Melissa implemented a payment plan for brides who need help paying for their wedding photos. This is just one way that Don and Melissa continuously prove their dedication to their clients.
If you are dreaming of a wedding within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you should only hire a photographer who is authorized to shoot inside the park. Don Fields Photography is an authorized photographer for the national park and they are experienced in shooting the unique landscape.
Melissa told stories of brides who have contacted her after receiving poor quality photos from amateur photographers. Some newlyweds will actually recreate their wedding day months later, and hire Don Fields Photography to reshoot it. It is very difficult to get high-quality wedding photos after your wedding day. For the best experience, make the very best selection you can when choosing a wedding photographer.
Don and Melissa have great insight into photography as well as videography. They suggest hiring a videographer, which is a service they offer, for many reasons. Don explained that traditional photos tell a story but with video, you can relive your wedding day.
On numerous occasions, their office has received calls from brides who used a different photographer but had hired Don Fields Photography as their videographer. In the scenarios, the other photographer had either provided low-quality photos, or had even ghosted the newlyweds all together. Don can search his video footage to capture still photos of the wedding day.
With the quality of their cameras, the still photos taken from the video footage were beautiful and the bride was able to have stunning wedding photos after all. This is another example of how Don and Melissa are willing to go above and beyond for their clients
Hair & Make-Up
Melissa highly recommends hiring a professional hair and make-up artist. That way you will look your absolute best in your photos. Also, professionally done hair and makeup can last throughout the entire day, whereas regular make up needs to be touched up more often and hair can fall as the day goes on.
Hiring a professional musician or DJ is a must for wedding receptions. The entertainment professional sets the tone and creates the atmosphere of the reception, which is something difficult for others to do. Don recommends hiring a professional to ensure your reception is not only enjoyable for guests, but embodies the atmosphere you desire.
“We’ve seen people spend thousands of dollars for a reception, and then their guests walk into a dead room,” Don stated. “You can’t manufacture an atmosphere. Even if you don’t want dancing, we can recommend different DJs according to your preference.”
Don and Melissa are happy to recommend wedding entertainment vendors based on the bride’s preferences. The atmosphere and energy created during your reception will show through the photos that are captured after the ceremony.
Cabin weddings are increasing in popularity for destination weddings. Since the Gatlinburg wildfires of 2016, cabins are being built back larger than ever. Many of them can accommodate dozens of overnight guests and have space for events like weddings. Melissa’s greatest advice for those planning a cabin wedding is to lock the cabin in with the rental company, but also have a backup plan in case something changes.
Ownership and rental companies can change from cabin to cabin. Between the booking date and event date, sometimes brides can lose their venue without even realizing it.
If planning a cabin wedding, keep in mind that your photographer should be skilled at indoor cabin photography. The lighting and surfaces can be tricky for a novice photographer. Don and Melissa have a lot of experience with cabin weddings and are happy to give recommendations as you plan your own Smoky Mountain cabin wedding.
Weddings in the National Park
Melissa recommends that those planning a wedding inside the park get all the necessary permits. Ask the park if the venue location will be under maintenance on your wedding day. Also, consider the season; certain times of the year, like October, are very hectic.
Don and Melissa are authorized national park photographers and can make recommendations on various wedding sites in the National Park.
A Unique Reception Idea from Don Fields Photography
Whether you are having a huge destination wedding with lots of guests or you’re eloping, Melissa brought up a fun and unique idea for after the ceremony.
“I tell people to wear their wedding attire and go out to a restaurant… and let people see them. People want to see you dressed up and getting married… So for that day, don’t get changed to go out after you get married.”
“People will wave and toot their horn. That’s one of the things brides are doing now; they write their venmo on their car and people will send them money.” Don added. “We did it for someone the other day; we sent them money.”
Regardless of whether you’ll be having a reception, don’t forget to have a small wedding cake. Melissa shared that having a wedding cake can add so much to wedding photos.
Don Fields Photography shoots weddings of all sizes. They can shoot your ceremony, and then follow you to dinner after your wedding. The team is flexible, and is willing to accommodate weddings of any size or style. Discuss your ideas when building your perfect package with Don Fields Photography.
Trusting Don Fields Photography for your Wedding
With their decades of experience and willingness to share expertise, a partnership with Don and Melissa is one of the best decisions you can make when planning your wedding. View their site for more details and contact them today. They will gladly discuss package options over the phone.
There is an easy and convenient booking engine available on their website. To hold your wedding date, visit their site and pay your retainer via credit card. Don and Melissa can finalize details with you after that. They offer a payment plan so that brides with any budget can invest in quality wedding photos. Have a conversation with Don and Melissa to determine your package and payment plan.
Don Fields Photography is available to shoot vow renewals as well as commercial photos and videos, real estate pictures, senior photos, family reunions, and they even have an indoor studio for small shoots and professional head shots. However, you can most often find them in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and surrounding areas capturing the special days of brides just like you!
“I go out every day and I want to make the best image I possibly can for that person, because I want them to have what I would want, if I had someone doing my pictures,” Melissa noted.
Don added, “We go above and beyond for everybody, because that’s what we want to do.”
Don Fields Photography & The Smoky Mountain Wedding Association
You can trust Don and Melissa to provide timeless, stunning, and heirloom quality photos and video of your wedding. Don Fields Photography is a member of the Smoky Mountain Wedding Association. Our association is comprised of like-minded professional wedding vendors with the common goal of giving brides the perfect Smoky Mountain wedding.
Research our site to find the perfect photographer, venue, caterer, entertainment, and more! The Smoky Mountain area is the wedding capital of the South because of the beauty of our landscape, and because of talented vendors like Don Fields Photography.