Moving Fast with Melody Hood
Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Melody Hood has been taking photographs since she was ten. Growing up with two uncles who were professional photographers, one gave her a Nikon FM and plenty of lessons. Soon she was metering and building skills toward her life’s calling of becoming a pro shooter herself.
Although she does commercial photography, Hood is primarily known as a wedding photographer, and those clients have made the bulk of her business. Her first wedding gig came when a friend’s photographer died two days before the ceremony. Hood couldn’t refuse when asked. She shot the entire event with a fully-manual camera.
Now employing six people at her studio, Innamorata, Hood’s fast-paced shooting of weddings keeps the energy moving when every second of the bride’s and groom’s attention is being sought by their friends and loved ones.
Claiming she thrives on high stress, Hood shoots almost everything, and rarely turns work away. “I know people who are asked to do that and they turn those jobs down because they can’t control everything,” she says. “You have to learn to adapt to changing situations. I thrive on that, too.”
All the years of practice have refined her vision of light and her ability to make aperture decisions. “I have a light meter in my head,” she says. “I can just look at a subject. I can just literally stand there, look at it, and tell you what settings to use. I know what I want from that particular scene, in terms of lighting.”
For lighting gear, Hood uses the AlienBee Vagabond II, B400, B800, B1600 strobe heads, and “the world’s cheapest umbrellas,” she explains. “I buy them in bulk because I always break them. Always. They’re $11.99, shipped from China. I went through eleven in a particularly windy month,” she says, laughing.
To trigger her lights, Hood previously used PocketWizard Plus II radios for years. For studio work these days, she has a system of MiniTT1’s, FlexTT5’s, and AC3 ZoneControllers. “I adjust more lights in the studio,” she says. She also employes two AC9 AlienBees Adapters.
“I use the Plus III for wedding work,” Hood says. “It’s so easy. I can turn off and on every light. At a reception, I have an assistant set up three to four lights: two or three on the dance floor, and one on the main table. I can pick which zones I want from the Plus III on my camera. I used to accidentally turn off settings with my face on the Plus II. The Plus III is aimed sideways, so that accident doesn’t happen now.”
With six people working for her, she brings an assistant or two to most weddings. They also shoot part of the time, while Hood is also shooting. “We can all use the same lights at the same time and never move them,” she says. “Shots can look completely different from different cameras. This is ideal! The whole PocketWizard system just works for me. There’s less cables than ever before. It’s fast and easy. You know: plug it in and go.”
Hood shoots a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. Shooting digitally only since 2006, she now feels it complements the speed which she photographs everything from fashion jobs to weddings. She considers her strengths to be improvisation, and the ability to move fast. “Probably my biggest skill is being able to take any location and make it something beautiful,” says Hood. “That’s what I’ve had to do most of the time. I started out just like everybody else did with the weddings that were not so great—the ones in a dark church with a gross-looking reception hall—and you had to be creative. You had to find a way to take good pictures, if it was going outside in a parking lot and lighting it where it didn’t look like a parking lot, or something completely different. I did an entire group of wedding photos in a parking garage a couple of months ago because it was pouring down rain and there was nowhere else to do it.”
Getting multiple looks quickly—all of great quality—is what clients keep returning to Melody Hood for. If you need impressive images of a critical event that will only happen once, it’s good to know Hood and her team travel. They pack light and bring their own umbrellas. Use the links below to follow Melody as she continues to prove impressive imagery can be shot almost anywhere.