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Tatum Photo & Design Blog | Northern Michigan Weddings, Seniors & More bio picture
  • Hello!

    Welcome to the Tatum Photo and Design blog. This is where we feature some of our favorite sessions, notes from our clients and even some photography tips.

    Tatum Photo and Design offers clients modern, editorial-style images and photoshoots. To us, photography is art. And, you're our subject. Our specialty is senior and wedding photography in Northern Michigan (although, we love to travel for destination clients!). After you've browsed, feel free to contact Tatum Photo and Design to book a session!

This post has been due for a short while now. As many of you know, myself (Tatum) and Vanessa Horning of VBH Photography joined forces last year and excitedly had been working towards opening our new studio space downtown Petoskey, MI. The two of use met a couple years ago and we had no idea that meeting would lead to the great friendship and business relationship that it did.

While our styles are different, our mutual respect for each others artistic vision and our passion for learning drew us together as we envisioned expanding our businesses. What better way to expand than to partner with someone you respect as an artist? Both of us excelling in our different specialities, we were able to offer support to the other in areas that we were less invested in. It was going to be fantastic.

We could not have been more excited about this new studio space. It was going to be a beautiful 5000 sqft space RIGHT downtown Petoskey that would accommodate both our natural light needs and our studio lighting needs. The space was going to be customized exactly how we wanted! Working with the architects and interior designers, this was going to be amazing. We spent almost an entire year working out our vision for our new business and making plans for this vision. We couldn’t wait to get started!

But all that glitters is not gold, and before we knew it our June 1 possession date had come and gone and construction had never even started on our space. We were promised August and then again, August came and it went and no construction had started. We were then told November and it was at this time that Vanessa and I decided it was time for us to consider that fact that maybe this wasn’t going to be the dream space we had planned. We ended up terminating our lease at this time. And this meant we were at square one again.

This disappointment came to us hard as we realized our entire season had been lost in this waiting game and it felt very much like the rug had been pulled out from under us. We had to regroup and figure out what this meant for our new partnership.

We spent the next couple of months looking for spaces, realizing there was not much available that would accommodate our vision that wouldn’t cost us and arm and a leg and that would be a reasonable distance for both of us to drive.

Soon the sinking reality set in that we may have to put our plans on the back burner and pursue other opportunities. It was a sad realization for both us as we spent so much time developing our new business and growing closer as friends and colleagues.

There was no falling out between us at all and we both still very much respect each other and plan to continue collaborating on future projects and events.

Vanessa has taken an opportunity to join the Life Roots Family & Birth Collective in their new space, which is a great fit for her since she is part of the collective! We’re very excited for all of them in their new venture together and glad Vanessa has found somewhere to land. It’s going to be a great fit for her and we couldn’t be happier for her.

Myself and Caitlyn will be working out of my home for the time being. We have converted a portion of my home into a studio space which is going to be fantastic for the time being. Very excited to have somewhere to meet with clients and we will even be able to do sessions in the space. We’re really looking forward to finishing the remodel on this space.

All in all, we are disappointed our initial plans were laid aside, but we have faith that everything works out for a reason and we know that our relationships will remain strong as we figure out our next steps.

Thank you everyone for your loving words and inquiries. We really appreciate all the support for this venture we were starting and we both value your continued support as we keep on grinding and doing what we love best: Making amazing images for you and your loved ones.

All the best,

Tatum McWatters & Vanessa Horning
Tatum Photo and Design | VBH Photography

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May is such a bittersweet time. Spring is coming to a close, summer is just around the corner, seniors are graduating, parents are crying…it’s emotional.

But it’s also the most exciting time for Juniors because now, they’re Seniors! HUZZAH! It’s an exhilarating time. You’re nervous, you’re excited, you’re emotional. This is going to be the most amazing year of your LIFE! It’s the moment right before you’re officially an “adult”. There is no going back. Before you know it, you’ll be adulting all over the place. We want to encourage students and parents alike to remember how important this time is to your upcoming Senior…embrace it. Because this time flies by SO fast, and when we look back, all we have are the photos that we took to remember these moments by.

charlevoix michigan beach senior photos

With my oldest having her open house in a couple of weeks and my youngest just finishing her first year of preschool, I know how you feel. So many things to plan. So much money to spend. It’s intense and sometimes we let things slip through the cracks. I encourage you parents, don’t let your Senior’s Senior Photos be one of those things that you just forget about, or don’t plan for.

I’m not saying that just as a photographer (although I’m saying it as one too!) There are few times in our lives and the lives of our children that we are going to want to have professionally captured. Things we want to be able to remember clearly for the rest of our lives; moments we want to tell our grandchildren about. Births, first birthday’s and most birthdays after that, engagements, weddings, families and yes…Seniors.

northern michigan boys senior pictures

There is something so special about Senior photography that is unlike most other genres I photograph. While I believe that all moments in life are important and need to be captured and remembered, working with a Senior is a unique and special opportunity to me. You see, that Senior is 17, maybe 18. They’re facing adulthood. And lets just be real, it’s terrifying for most of them. They’re having to make all these HUGE life choices…Ya know? Like “What will you do with the REST OF YOUR LIFE?” Half of them don’t know what they want to for lunch, let alone what they want to do with their LIVES. It’s hard. They tend to be insecure, and nervous but excited to finally be done with school and have some freedom.

When I meet with these Seniors, I consider myself to have one job: make this Senior feel the most awesome they have ever felt about themselves.

emo boys senior photo

It’s an interesting time. And what I love most about it is I get to work with Seniors and their parents to help capture the essence of who this crazy teenager is at this single moment in time. We do our best to cater our sessions to the Senior’s taste and style (since it is about them ) while making sure we get some of the nice smiling photos mom wants to send to grandma. But I want my Seniors to walk away from these sessions feeling amazing about who they are as a person and what they offer this world. For some reason, these sessions have that power. They have the power to invigorate and empower and that is why I love them so much.

We truly believe that an amazing Senior photo experience is a fantastic spring board into adulthood for our Seniors. They get to put a cap on this last 13 years of their lives. They end this season of their lives with amazing images that captures who they are, makes them feel amazing about themselves and often times gives them the self-esteem boost that most of them need just to make it through the school year.

There are no do overs here. This is a small window of time to capture your teenager as such before they’re adults forever. Don’t take it for granted. Cell phone pictures do not do this phase of life justice. A “nice camera” doesn’t make it a professional experience. And while we know some are on budgets, we offer payment plans on our collections, and for the first time ever we have announced Senior Mini sessions, this June 17/18 and June 24. Time slots are between 3-8PM and are offered in 30 min increments for $150.

We also offer a variety of collections that are jam packed full of fantastic products to help preserve your images for a lifetime. We have some really interesting collections available that really cater to your Senior’s uniqueness including our new “Seasons Collection” which allows you to have your Senior pictures taken multiple times through the year so that you can capture all the amazing seasons Northern Michigan has to offer!

Give your Senior the professional photography experience they deserve and give yourself the professional images that will last a lifetime. You won’t regret it.


PS. For more of our Senior images, visit our portfolio here.



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Things never seem to slow down and lo and behold yet another wedding season has already been under way! We are super excited to share with you this fantastic engagement session from this month. Alexis & Zac have been friends of ours for some time now and we couldn’t have been more thrilled when we were asked to do their wedding. They are from the Grand Blanc, MI area so we invited them North for us to explore all Northern Michigan has to offer.

We hit all the favorites (basically anything near water) and even traveled all the way to the Mighty Mac! This very Pure Michigan engagement sessions is definitely one of our favorites. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!


So excited for the big day! Can’t wait to see these two finally tie the knot! It’s gonna be a great day! Congratulations Alexis & Zac!


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Whew! Still editing, editing, editing. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We have a few more weddings and seniors to shoot this year, but we’ve made it through the summer.

I had to stop and share this senior session. This feels like an end of an era for me. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting The Greene girls for the last few years. I’ve shot their senior sessions, each of them as Charlevoix High School Homecoming Royalty (how crazy is that???) and their graduation ceremonies. Quincy is the youngest of the family, and it was her turn this summer. I was a little sad when it was over, but she was gorgeous in her senior session in Charlevoix. Here are some of my favs.

We started in the gardens at Depot Beach in Charlevoix…

depot beach charlevoix senior photosdepot beach charlevoix senior photosdepot beach charlevoix senior photosContinue reading “Quincy {Class of 2016 Charlevoix Senior Photos}” »

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The First Look. I bring this subject up in all of my bridal consults. Most brides either LOVE the idea or absolutely hate it.

Those that hate the idea are usually trying to embrace the traditional wedding ceremony, and they can’t dream of the groom setting eyes on them before that moment the bride walks down the aisle. And, I don’t blame you!! I’ve caught some of those moments, and they can be amazing.

charlevoix wedding first look

But, a first look can be amazing in a different way…

What is a first look? A first look is when there’s a time set aside before the ceremony where the bride and groom see each other for the first time. We like to stage it to be a cute, intimate photo-op.

In many ways, this eliminates the pressure of everyone watching your reaction during the ceremony. It helps break the ice a bit in what is often a very stressful (but wonderful) day. Most of our couples that opt for this type of first look experience a huge sigh of relief after this moment happens and they’re able to just enjoy being together. Rochelle and Drew (pictured below) couldn’t wait to finally see each other on their wedding day. Rochelle kept saying “I just want to be with Drew. I can’t wait to see him and spend today together.” The first look allows couples to choose an earlier time to see each other and give themselves as much time together as they want before the ceremony takes place.

From a selfish wedding photographer standpoint, it saves us some hassle because we can get many of the bride, groom and bridal party pictures done before the ceremony, saving your attendees some time and patience between the ceremony and start of the reception. We’re able to set the first look time for as early as we need to, which gives us the opportunity to travel to other locations for portraits as well versus sticking to one venue due to tight time constraints. Couples who choose this option generally love the flexibility it brings to their wedding day schedule, and making it to the cocktail hour is a major added bonus!

All of that aside, a first look can be a beautiful, intimate experience between the bride and groom. I LOVE capturing these. Here’s how they usually go..

First, we get our groom in place before the bride arrives. Then, we ask her to walk toward him, with his back to her, while he nervously waits in anticipation.

interlochen mi first look

Then (and this is usually the best part) is the reaction. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves 🙂

interlochen mi first look wedding day

Not gonna lie, the best first looks always have some tears….


Then, we just let the moment happen naturally as we snap away. The best first looks have little to no interference from the photographer. We set up the location and make sure everyone is in place to start, but then we just let the moment happen on its own.



Finally, after the tears and moment has started to calm down, we whisk our bride and groom off to start the day.

Continue reading “The First Look – Is it Right for Your Wedding Day?” »

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