Behind the Scenes

Pittsburgh Makeup artist, Julie Marckisotto, helping women find their glow.

Good morning!  Today, I want to share another profile from my Meet the Artist blog series!  I’ve known Julie Marckisotto of Pittsburgh Makeup for many years.  We met behind the scenes on a wedding day, and I knew right away that she was fabulous.  These days, when I walk into the bride’s getting ready space on the morning of a wedding and see Julie quietly at work, I know it’s going to be a great day.  She brings a calm vibe to every situation and her work is absolutely flawless.  When a bride hires Julie for her wedding day make up, I know she will look just as beautiful at 9:00pm as she did when she got out of Julie’s chair first thing that morning.

Julie’s got an outstanding resume that includes big names like NFL Network, Discovery Channel, American Eagle, Aerie, Rue 21, and UPMC, but those bright lights don’t outshine her passion for helping every day women find their glow.

Even though she’s been in the beauty industry for over twenty years, she’s always got something exciting coming up!  Recently, she moved her studio to a new expanded space so that she could better accommodate larger groups for events and offer spa services!  A few weeks ago, I stopped by to chat and check out her new location!  I even got to hang out with Stewie, Pittsburgh Makeup’s unofficial studio pup <3

 Pittsburgh Make Up

Tell me about your company and how you got started?

I started Pittsburgh Makeup in 2009 specifically because I wanted to work with brides on their wedding days. After many years working at cosmetic counters and salons, I saw a need for that personal one on one attention for brides. That is sometimes difficult to get going to a department store {especially on a Saturday!} or sometimes even at a busy salon. I love that the bride can hire hair, hire makeup and we all come to you — making the day as stress-free as possible. Once I started doing makeup for weddings, my business also shifted into a lot of other beauty and commercial work which creates an ideal balance.

pittsburgh makeup julie

What do you tell clients who aren’t sure they need a make up artist for their wedding day?

I would say that you’re planning out every detail and other aspect from the Photographer to the food and DJ, all to make your wedding day perfect, so don’t skip makeup {or hair}! Your pictures are something that you’re going to look at and cherish forever. Even if you’re already good at your own makeup – professional Makeup Artists know how to make it last all day, make it look good for HD photography, and know how to make it look good for different lighting, etc.   With that being said, just make sure to do your homework. Make sure you hire someone reputable, who has a well written contract, and who has great reviews {Wedding Wire is a good place to start}.  Hire an artist that you LOVE their work/portfolio. And if possible, always do a practice session beforehand to experiment with looks as well!

wedding makeup pittsburgh

What steps do you take to ensure that your clients have an amazing experience when working with Pittsburgh Makeup? What do you think brides worry about the most for their wedding day look and how do you help with that?

I would say brides worry the most about looking like themselves on their wedding day. I hear this so much and I couldn’t agree more…you truly want to look like the best version of YOU, not a made-up version. This is why a practice session can be super helpful. I always start with a thorough consult and really dig into what the bride’s vision is. We look at pictures and Pinterest boards and go from there. I like to start light-handed because you can always add more or bump up the look. It is equally as important to me that they look the most beautiful they have ever felt on this big day!

(Julie’s new studio where she does bridal trials!)

pittsburgh makeup artist

Who is your favorite type of bride and why? What is one of your best memories from working with a bride?

I love all my brides…but I do love when people say…”you’re the professional” and sort of give me a bit of creative freedom with their makeup. As much as I love to meet everyone’s needs I do feel it’s the reason that you are hiring a professional too, so we can give our input as we do this day in and day out as our profession. It’s all a team effort. Not just with makeup but the hair…the dress…the photographer…it all works together to make one amazing wedding day! If someone trusts me, that’s a great start and everything just sorts of flows from there.

pittsburgh makeup artist

What is your WHY?

My WHY is…because I love making women feel beautiful and find their glow! I feel that all women are already beautiful, but adding those right touches can make a big difference to not only enhance their outward features, but boost how they feel on the inside as well. Feeling beautiful can be a true confidence builder…I’ve seen this so many times. I love doing bridal makeup as well as makeup lessons for girls and women of all ages. The excitement and joy on my client’s faces when they see themselves in the mirror in a way that maybe they haven’t ever seen themselves before is a feeling for me that will never get old!

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In addition to wedding day makeup on location and commercial work, Julie also offers makeup lessons, spa services, and her own cosmetics line at her expanded studio space in Greensburg, PA.

pittsburgh makeup studio

Julie with Stewie! <3

Pittsburgh Makeup 0032

Julie Marckisotto

Pittsburgh Makeup website:


instagram: @pghmakeup


Our 2017 Shoot & Share Contest Results!

In parts of the world where the weather gets brutal, photographers have a lot of downtime in the winter months.  One of the things we do to keep ourselves in the zone and gear up for the following year is to enter some of our favorite images into contests like Shoot & Share.  What is the Shoot & Share Contest?  It’s a completely anonymous photo competition hosted online that anyone can enter, and anyone can vote on.  That way no one knows whose photos belong to who when they’re voting and the playing field is level from celebrity photographers to local small business owners.  Submissions opened in January and when voting opened it went on for a month with photos receiving the least votes being eliminated and the ones with the most moving on to the next round!  Throughout the duration of the contest, (12 rounds in all!) over 49 million votes were cast.  Here’s a little video we put together to share some big news!

If you want to check out ALL of the images that we submitted to the Shoot & Share contest this year and last year and see how they ranked, check out our profile here: PhotosbyAW Shoot & Share Profile!  Last year we visited Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, shot 20+ weddings, and over 50 portrait and commercial sessions and the best part was making memories with all of you!  We can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

If you want to get in on the action, Contact Us and get on the schedule!

Imaging USA 2017 – San Antonio!

Every year I run away for a week to a photography convention called Imaging USA. It’s hosted by an organization of which I am a proud (though not loud) member; the Professional Photographer’s of America. It’s hosted in a different city each year that’s easy to get to in the off-season winter months. Recently, we’ve been to Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, and this year San Antonio. What happens at a photography convention? Think of it kind of like Comic Con for people who love making images. We all get together nerd out over new camera gear, new ideas, rehash old problems, make new friends, etc. This year was no exception. The count was estimated to be ten thousand photographers in attendance. That’s a lot of selfies. When we show up and take over a city, it seems like there’s a pop up photo shoot on every corner complete with lighting assistants dragging stands and models working in front of the camera.

   So why go to Imaging USA?

For me, it’s a chance to recharge my batteries. Making a living in a creative field is hard, and being a self-employed small business owner is even harder. Each new year brings a ton of challenges that have to be worked through. Especially for photographers in the north east, just when you think you’re past the halfway point as far as the workload of the year goes, the leaves change. We work as much September to Christmas as we do in all the other months of the year combined. Mother Nature likes to separate the herd by putting on a fall leaf finale that CAN NOT be ignored. Imagine running a marathon and then discovering on mile 22 that they decided to double the course length and from here to the finish line you have to sprint. That’s what it’s like to get through “busy season” at the end of a long year of shooting. Christmas is a finish line usually worthy of a good exhausted collapse. I clean up my house, have my family over for food, open presents, and then hibernate in my Netflix cave for a solid week. On my beanbag. In my Grinch sweatpants.

  After the fireworks on New Years Eve, the sun comes up and it’s game time again. Gotta train. Gotta update, innovate, motivate. The first wedding of the new year will be approaching and it’s like my super bowl. I’d wear war paint if I could. It’s the perfect time to gear up for the next season by going to Imaging USA!   Photographers come from all over the United States and stay at hotels near the convention center of the hosting city. Remember that scene from Goblet of Fire when all the different schools show up for the Triwizard tournament? That’s what the first night of Imaging USA is like. You can tell all the people of the northern states apart because we show up in shorts like we’re visiting a tropical destination. (San Antonio in January was pretty much like Pittsburgh in early June. It even smelled like spring dirt.) We meet up with friends from home as well as friends we usually only get to see online! The conversations are always the same. “What did you do this year? What happened that was CRAZY? Did you see the latest *insert nerdy camera equipment reference here*?”

imaging usa

  Once the convention officially kicks off for the first day, we all rush off to class like we’re back in college. There’s room assignments, lectures, live demonstration lessons. Big topics this year were lighting, posing, sales, albums, and what to do with a drone. Growth. This is always my big motivator. How to outdo myself from last year.

Want to know what’s really bothering all the photographers of the world? Here it is:

  • Why don’t people DO anything with their photos? Why does our work seem to always be condemned to the digital dungeon?

  •  Why are people so afraid of BIG pictures?

  •  How do we get people to stop hating themselves and see that they are all each uniquely worthy of being seen inside a frame?

  •  How do we make enough money to pay the bills when our job is to sell a “luxury item” in these uncertain times?


And you thought it was just clicking a button.  Photographers as a whole are OBSESSED with figuring out what you – our audience/our clients and our friends think. We spend lots of money to go sit in rooms together in big groups and talk through every client discussion we’ve had all year analyzing it’s nuances collectively and trying to figure out what was really going on behind the scenes. We want to know how we could have done better. Trust me, classes are mostly heavy. One I attended this year reminded me of a Martha Stewart recipe, it should have been titled “The 777 easy things you need to be doing immediately or you’re probably a big failure.” Insert laughing/tears emoji here. Classes can be heavy. Sometimes it’s just the kick in the knees you need though to push you through an obstacle. Like this blog post. (Look, Ma! I’m talking about my feelings! )

imaging usa

It’s not all hard work and introspection though. If classes are the motivating buzz kill of the convention, then the trade show is Christmas morning. All the big names come out and show off the best and brightest they have to offer. I get to walk the floor and spend time talking face to face to the vendors we use to make all of our prints and products when we’re back here at home. We talk about what we love, and also about changes we’d like to see in the future. They listen intently because they want to know what WE think too! It’s also a time to say thank you in person to the people whose names I don’t know and whose hard work is rarely recognized who lovingly bind the wedding albums I shipped to clients the week of Christmas. They are the same hands that packed boxes and boxes of prints tied with ribbon that were given as gifts. These are the people who take the photos we pulled out of light and love and thin air and put them physically into the world in a way that people can hold in their hands and make permanent.

Much, much love to our print lab, Millers, in Pittsburg, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri.

imaging usa 2017

      ^^ This dog’s name is Nikon !                                                                                   ^^New album covers from Millers I can’t wait to share!

Here are some cell snaps of the happenings at Imaging USA over the past couple years!






When we come back from Imaging USA, I always feel recharged and ready to take on the next year! Stay tuned in the future for some of our photos we shot in Texas throughout our trip to the hill country! Follow us on instagram at @photosbyaw for photos of cute critters and terrific travels, and at @storiesbyaw to see what’s happening with all of you, our clients!

If you’re a photographer and want to join the community, get in on the action at !

What to wear for family photos

Fall is coming.  The end of the year is coming.  The pressure to make your Christmas cards is coming!  This means that time is running out to schedule your annual family photos.  One of the biggest reasons I hear from people for why they don’t have their family photographed is that it’s too hard to get everyone together and dressed.  Here’s some tips for what to wear for family photos that will help everyone look and feel their best and have you loving your images for years to come.

Remember department store portraits in the 90s?  Everyone wearing the the same color and matching outfits?

A lot of times people worry that if they don’t match their outfits that they won’t look like they “go together”.  That’s not true.  Great family photos are when the relationship shows through the posing which is MY job 😀 😀 After all, baseball teams wear matching outfits and they don’t look like a family.

These days, color themes have totally evolved and aren’t really themes at all anymore.  **Real talk: this is what I used to see all the time: everyone in jeans and white shirts, everyone in jeans and black shirts, everyone in khaki pants and matching shirts.  I have to say my personal pet peeve for photos is when men show up in khaki shorts and a polo shirt of any color.  Because getting men to dress up is hard.  I know!  I married that guy that goes to work every day on a construction crew and wears dirty jeans and neon yellow t-shirt with tar stains on it.  And he USED to think that khaki shorts and any shirt with a collar (polos mostly) was “dressing up”.  And he HATED to dress up because he never liked how he looked and was afraid of looking silly.  That’s because khaki shorts and a polo shirt is pretty much the mom-jeans-and-a-cat-sweatshirt of menswear.  (I warned you there was gonna be Real Talk.) But men don’t usually spend time in the day thinking about these things so they don’t know this is WHY they hate “dressing up”.  The struggle is real for us women who have to dress ourselves, find outfits for the kids, and then get our husbands to wear something nice as well.  Polo shirts are great for a day at kennywood or a trip around the golf course, but not great for family photos.  Rather than trying to get everyone to match, I really think photos with just a little coordination are great.  If everyone kind of wears just whatever they want without communicating, things can get a little out of hand with one branch of the family dressing everyone like it’s summer, and another branch of the family dressing everyone like it’s cold out OR there’s that one person that shows up in a bright loud color or big striped pattern and sticks out like a sore thumb cause they’re the only one.

Here’s some good tips for what to wear to get your group together outfit-wise:

1. Neutrals are always safe.  Grays, browns, charcoal colors, black if you accent with some jewelry or a different colored shirt underneath. Not only do neutrals blend nicely with most scenes, they also blend nicely into the decor of your house so that you can frame and display your photos in any room all year long!

2. Layers are everyone’s friend. Accessorize. Layers and things with collars, buttons, pockets, different colored cuffs, a scarf, a hat, jewelry etc break up the center mass of any human and keep the viewer’s eye moving. (If your man is fighting you on this, explain to them that it’s like camouflage.)  This means when we look at the photos later, we spend more time focusing on our expressions and less time focusing on what we feel our flaws are.  (We’re all human, we all do it.)

3. Dress for the weather of the season and the location.  There’s no point putting kids in tights and patent leather shoes and then standing them in a field.  It would be like showing up at a formal wedding in a tank top and swim trunks – if it looks out of place people will seem uncomfortable.

For September in Pennsylvania, the landscape has a lot of yellow in it as we begin the transition to fall.  Some great colors to work with are Navy Blue, Browns, Greys, Dark Purples, Medium to Dark Greens, etc.  When we get a little later into fall, neutrals and darker jewel tones like burgundy are beautiful.


Here are some photos from one of my favorite fall family sessions.  They nailed it with their outfits, felt comfortable, and had a great time!


Joy did an amazing job dressing her family for their photo session!  She went with jeans, different shades of burgundy, and added a little pattern with Steve’s shirt and G’s boots!




For another look she went with navy, grey, and a nice fall plaid with navy in it.  Even their dogs coordinated!




Don’t be intimidated by dressing your family for photos!  Start with one piece you really love – whether it’s your favorite dress or a shirt that looks great on someone and then build on that.  Don’t let worrying about what to wear stop you from being photographed, it’s worth it!

Surprise proposal revealed!

This story starts with a ring under the Christmas tree in station square on New Years Eve 2015.  Megan had been working as a wedding coordinator for Lingrow Farm, that’s how she and I met, but she met Johnny in Station Square years before that.  They were both attending St. Vincent University and working for the Event and Conference Services Department.  If I remember the story right, Megan was driving the shuttle and saw Johnny waiting to be picked up on the curb.  It wasn’t long before they were back at Station Square on their first date, and three years later I got an email from Johnny that he had a plan.  These two St. Vincent alumni were getting married, Megan just didn’t know it yet.  Johnny explained that he would be home from DC for New Years and was going to take Megan out to dinner in Station Square and pop the question under the big Christmas tree outside the Hard Rock Cafe.  When he asked if I was up for secretly photographing the surprise proposal ninja-style and keeping it a total secret for over a year, I said ABSOLUTELY!

His plan was to surprise Megan on the morning of their wedding with a framed photo from their secretly photographed surprise proposal!

So I had to invent a secret email account so that I could communicate with Johnny in the days leading up to New Years.  Pittsburgh weather was abnormal as usual.  The temperature was about 20 degrees with a windchill near zero and there was no snow on the ground.  In keeping with wedding off season tradition, I had come down with pneumonia a few days prior and felt like I was slowly dying of the plague.  Like all fabulous productions though, the show must go on.  My normal plan of attack when it comes to a surprise proposal is to blend into the crowd of strangers until just the right moment then jump out and start shooting.  It worked great for Chad & Leslie’s proposal at the fountain at the point!  Of course Leslie had never met me before and had no idea what I looked like anyways.  Then there was the time I shot Brad & Kylie’s proposal after dark at the Christmas tree in Saxonburg, but again – Kylie had never met me , it was dark, and the town Christmas parade was going on so I had some cover.  This time would be different because Megan knew my face and there would be no jumping out and yelling surprise – we would have to stay out of sight the whole time and be completely under the radar for a whole year.  We were going to need disguises.

Remember that scene from Jim Carrey’s Fun with Dick and Jane when he goes out to rob the convenience store?  That’s the look I was going for.  I got pretty close, right?


So the day arrives and it was colder than frigid.  Sean offered to drive me to Pittsburgh and sit with me on the stake out since I was so sick.  We parked in the garage, snuck around the side of the building 45 minutes early hoping to scope out the perfect spot to blend into the crowd of holiday shoppers and party-goers.  We rounded the corner and this is what we saw:  AB-SO-LUTELY nothing.  The crowd of people I was supposed to hide in obviously hadn’t gotten the memo or all had better things to do on a -3 degree windchill afternoon than stand in the wind by a freezing river.

pittsburgh station square christmas

Our disguises were good, but they weren’t THAT good.  It was going to be hard not to be recognized when we were the only other human beings in the entire plaza when Megan and johnny showed up.  We needed to take cover.  Luckily, irony provided us with the perfect location – the abandoned photo booth outside of Bar Louie.  It was the only thing to hide behind other than a trash can so that had to be it.  So there we were, squatting inside a run down photo booth in the cold like a homeless James Bond waiting for our targets to show up.

Meanwhile, Johnny had received my text that we were on location ready to go and was trying to nonchalantly convince Megan to go stand around in the cold by the Christmas tree without giving away the fact that he was about to ask her something VERY important.  We saw them enter the plaza from our hiding place.  I was so afraid Megan would spot us and ruin the surprise.  They stood there and talked a minute, took a few selfies, then Johnny took Megan’s hands and I knew he was going for it.  In this moment he was totally running on faith that we were in the right spot and ready and were going to get all of this since he hadn’t seen us and had no idea where we were.  Megan’s eyes widened a little even before he reached into his pocket.  When he dropped down to one knee, her hands covered her face in disbelief.

surprise proposal

At this point, I wish we had the go pro with us because there was only enough room for me to poke one eye and my camera lens through the opening to shoot, so Sean couldn’t see a thing and didn’t get to watch any of it unfold.  Luckily, I can read lips and was narrating for him under my breath.  “Ok he’s going for it, he’s on the knee, she’s covering face, *lip reading* “Is this for real? o my god, o my god, is this really happening?” Ok the ring is on her hand, he’s up, they’re hugging, there’s a lot of crying.”  You have to keep it together when you’re shooting a surprise proposal even though you feel like every hair on your head is standing on end willing you to get the shot.  Did I mention it was -3 degrees out?

secret proposal

proposal photography

Once he had asked and she had enthusiastically said yes, they hung around for quite a while enjoying the moment.  Johnny’s sister, Kathleen, had been standing by to capture the proposal by phone for instant photos and was hiding out inside the hard rock.  She stepped out got some photos of them together and they talked for a while.  By this point I think I had lost feeling in both of my hands and was just gripping my camera with a frozen claw.

secretly photographed proposal

We knew they were headed to dinner afterwards nearby and was afraid of running in to them on the way to the car so we skittered into Bar Louie to warm up a minute.  When we had thawed out, we left and Sean drove me directly to Med Express for antibiotics.  Later that night, Megan called to tell me Johnny had proposed and I had to pretend I had no idea and asked a ton of questions about how it happened.  Megan had no idea we had been there the whole time.

Fast forward now through a whole year – we celebrated their engagement with photos in all four seasons.  We traveled to Washington D.C. where Johnny works and would turn out to be their future home for a sunrise engagement session at the cherry blossom festival.  In summer, we honored Pittsburgh tradition with a night time photos under the lights at Kennywood (they actually got featured around valentine’s day this year for Kennywood love stories!).  When the leaves changed, Johnny was home for the weekend and we all got up early the morning after a wedding double header and hiked a mile into the woods for photos inside a waterfall along the Allegheny river.  The winter photo session was the hardest.  Megan’s plan was to go back to station square in the snow under the Christmas tree, but Mother Nature was uncooperative.  Wedding planning was kicking up a notch, work was busy for Johnny, and it just wouldn’t snow.  Then we postponed because the high temperature for the day was zero degrees. Then postponed again, no snow.  By the time we shot their winter Pittsburgh engagement session at Station Square, the Christmas tree where they had gotten engaged had been taken down for the year.  I knew Megan was a little disappointed, but I also knew she was just a few months away from a great surprise!

So what happened when the surprise was finally revealed?

surprise proposal photos revealed

Megan’s reaction when the surprise proposal photos were finally revealed,  “are you SERIOUS?” followed by joy, followed by happy tears.  It was fantastically rewarding to see a year worth of planning and secret keeping come to fruition.

If you or someone you know is planning a surprise proposal, you don’t have to trust your memories to a dark blurry cell phone photo that can never be blown up.  I’ll hide out in the bushes and capture it all in crystal clear detail so that you can frame it and always look at it and remember 🙂

Behind the scenes | it’s never boring

I know I’ve said this a hundred times, but I love my job.  When people ask me what it’s like to be a photographer, I always say the same thing.  “It’s never boring.”  In the past ten years we’ve shot all across the country in every kind of environment and weather imaginable.  Time constraints, obstacles, crisis – photographers have to learn to eat that stuff for breakfast, because Murphy’s law of photography – you’re going to throw the plan out the window.  Anything that can fall apart, be late, or go wrong – will do just that – and it’s our job to capture the day no matter what.  You have to keep your energy up, keep smiling, be resourceful and get the job done.  If Martha Stewart and MacGyver had a love child – that’s a wedding photographer.

In the field, you’re only as good as your team.  Photo assistants deserve serious street cred (especially when they work with me!).

Actual things I have said to photo assistants:

  • “Bring me a red leaf with orange spots from that tree”   *torrential downpour and the tree was like 200yds away*
  • “Give me your shoes.”
  • “Hold this frog.”
  • “Stand on my shoulders.”
  • “Can you get taller?”
  • “Watch for cops.”


Today we wanted to share a little behind-the-scenes action with you from weddings and photo shoots over the past couple years!

Our unofficial motto when we’re working to get THE shot – “whatever needs to happen”.  Even it if means standing in a lake.



  Overcoming danger -like that time that Dana helped Lauren & Dan climb out onto a slippery waterfall after a rainstorm.


Or when I saved Britta & Andy from the Loch Ness monster.


Or the time that Ashley almost got set on fire – yes – that is a flash strapped to her chest.



Or the time that we were photographing waterfalls and rangers told us we had to evacuate for hurricane Sandy.




When you’re on the job you have a lot of responsibilities, like communicating with challenging subjects.



And wrangling the veil.




Ashley takes protecting the veil extremely seriously.  No one touches the veil.  No one.



You have to pay extreme attention to detail.




Be willing to go the extra mile.



And not be afraid to get dirty!



It really helps if you have no shame.



Seriously.  Shame will only hold you back.



You’ve gotta know your equipment.  There’s no substitute for a well placed reflector.



Or being able to create mass quantities of bubbles without hyperventilating.  (Pro tip – just get the battery operated bubble machines from Target.)



You’ve gotta have good aim with the umbrella gun,





and hold the line with the other pros.


You also have to practice what we call ‘photographer yoga’ – sometimes being able to be your own tripod and lightstand in a tight space, or bending around things you can’t move out of the way.  (Thanks Jen Mcken for these snaps 😉 )


Sometimes you have to know where to turn to find good help 😀


And no matter much your feet hurt, or how many hours it’s been since your last meal, you’ve gotta have fun!


Like that time that Ashley proved she could hula hoop with the camera.


Usually at the end of the day we look like this.  (Thanks Sean for the cell phone snap LOL.)




But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.




Thanks to Ashley, Dana, Megan, Amy, Megan U., Kayla and Nikki for being a great team 😀

Do you have a great story or memory to share from shooting with us?

Please share it in the comments section at the top of this post – we would LOVE to hear from you!