Maddie Mills is a 21-year-old wedding and lifestyle photographer who is obsessed with The Office, a cat mom to Petunia and says her friends are her life. Born in St. John’s “with a bayman heart,” as she describes it, Mills has a vibrant and very real social media presence.
Her instagram account displays her photography work but also, a very candid expression from Mills about a variety of issues including: bullying, body-image, friendship, responsibilities, self-care and travel. Her stories follow her genuine relationships with her clients and her great appreciation to pursue her dream.
With nearly 2000 followers, her account has become more than just beautiful wedding photos – it’s an inspiration to live your best life.
Between episodes of the Office, travels abroad, supporting her friends and many photo shoots, we got a chance to chat with Mills about all that she does and all that she loves.
Where did you learn how to take pictures ?
I was 12 years-old when I picked up a camera for the first time. I was RVing with my family and started using my mom’s old Sony point-and-shoot to take photos of everything from shoes, rocks, trees, you name it. Since then I took photos anywhere and everywhere I could, grew my skills, self-taught over the years through a lot of resources, practice, and trial and error. Have done online workshops and invested in educational material over the years as well.
Where did you get the confidence to start your own business, take on clients and not just make this a hobby?
I photographed my first paid session when I was in 10th grade for a couple of girls who were graduating from my high school. I already knew I never wanted to do anything else except take photos, but this really sparked a fire in me. After advertising my services on Kijiji back in 2014/15, I booked my first wedding and fell head over heels. I’ve always been a relatively confident person, but honestly what fuelled me the most is my complete unadulterated passion for what I do. I can’t explain it but I knew in my heart I could never do anything else with my life.
How did it feel when you became so in demand that you had to turn people down?
I definitely feel guilty when I have to turn people away, especially since I’m fortunate to be contacted by many wonderful couples. There is that sense of validation when I have a full calendar but I’m such a people person that I’d work with everyone if I could.
How do you get your clients to enjoy the moment? Have you ever had to brighten a bride’s day from stress to joy?
I do have my little tips and tricks for helping clients relax behind the camera, but honestly a lot of enjoying having your photos taken is your connection and trust with your photographer. I am a HUGE advocate for that. It’s a collaboration between them and me. If our personalities gel, if we can laugh together and share our hearts, that goes a long way. On the topic of tips and tricks though, I do tend to turn my Nerd Meter up on bust and crack jokes, have a laugh with people, and allow myself to be totally silly. It helps a lot to get people to relax. I have definitely had to do stress control multiple times throughout the years or offer reassurance, I feel so blessed to be trusted with that position.
How do you incorporate Newfoundland into your pictures?
I’m a super outdoorsy person and it really reflects in my work. My photography is a balance between more close up, intimate feeling portraiture and showing off people amongst our insane landscapes. I am usually always shooting by the ocean, in the woods, on hikes, places like that. We are so lucky to have an immense amount of natural, rugged areas right in the heart of our city.
What is a moment that stands out for you in 2018?
There’s always something that stays with me from every client, but a major moment was the proposal I photographed on the puffin rescue/whale tour boat. It was SO fun planning with Amanda, being really incognito on the boat acting like a tourist so Ginny didn’t see me. It was such a beautiful moment when Amanda finally popped the question, such a moving display of love. We all really connected and had a wonderful afternoon together documenting their story.
See Amanda and Ginny’s pictures here
Read about the proposal’s news coverage on CBC
What are you looking forward to in the upcoming season?
A year of new couples, new adventures, new stories to tell. Being invited into people’s life for such a close look at their world is a huge blessing and something I take really seriously. My whole heart feels on fire when I’m in the zone on a wedding day and connecting with people, getting to know their families, and having fun with my couples. I can’t even begin to explain how passionate I am about that whole process. I’ve also got some exciting collaborations coming up and some things being developed behind the scenes that I can’t wait to share with everyone!
You talk a lot against body shaming and wanting women to feel their best on their special day- why is that important to you?
To be completely candid, it’s because I know the struggle all to well. Not in relation to getting married, but with my own personal journey to health and self love. A couple years ago I hated my body (and had for a long time), counted every calorie, limited myself with the foods I love, was hard on myself, used food as an emotional crutch… it was horrible. I overcame it and am fortunate to now say I have a healthy relationship with food and my body but that wasn’t the case not so long ago. I have a platform and I want to use my voice to uplift, help, and inspire those who I am grateful to have listening. My clients and supporters drive my business every day and by sharing messages of self love, positivity, anti-body shaming. I just hope I can tell someone something they need to hear and remind them they are amazing as they are. The wedding industry, like many others, can be very one-sided and present a certain societal ideal and I will always be outspoken against that. Love is for everyone. Weddings are a celebration of the love. And you have to love yourself, too. It’s hard to do that in today’s world with so much media and negative, shaming messaging. I guess I just have a lot to say and hope I can be a little ray of sunshine for a few people.
You recently covered a very Newfoundland wedding- even with Mustard Pickle jars. What was like covering such a unique theme?
It was the BOMB. My bride Caroline had so many creative ideas and had a lot of amazing vendors to help make it come to life (they are listed below). I am super Newfoundland obsessed and really proud to call myself a Newfoundlander, so seeing a big part of my heart really all over the place at a wedding was amazing. So unique and fun! The best, laid back day.
Who’s your favourite character on the office ? And what about Harry Potter?
Favourite character on The Office is definitely Michael (offensiveness aside, haha). As the show goes on he really grows as a person and changes from this cringey character who says all the wrong things to a beautiful person with a lot of sweet, simple worries and desires on his heart and mind. He said on one episode, “business is about people”- and it really stuck with me because I feel the same way.
Favourite from Harry Potter is a classic one- Hermione. Such an awesome display of woman-power and she shows that a woman doesn’t have to be the sweet/innocent/flaky stereotype presented so often. She’s stubborn, smart, ambitious, brave, a complete badass.
You spoke candidly about financial challenges last year- how come you decided to share that story with everyone ?
That was for two reasons, really. First of all, I wanted people to know that just because I’m an entrepreneur chasing my dream doesn’t mean I have this glamorous life devoid of problems. Social media is everyone’s highlight reel, but like in the way I’m outspoken about body positivity, I’m determined to bring a bit of reality back into Instagram. As well, my hope was by sharing what happened with me, other entrepreneurs wouldn’t fall in the same trap and save themselves some trouble.
You put in so much work for your image- thanking clients, great insta stories, do you find it hard to keep up?
That’s a great question. I honestly LOVE it- because my image is real. It’s just me and it’s as simple as that. I am chatty, I share a lot and with ease, I am not really a private person. My business and my clients are literally my whole life and mean the world to me, so I want to be engaging, grateful, and really create a family we can all be part of and flourish from. That being said, no matter how extroverted I am everyone has limits, so there are of course times when I’m a bit quieter in the insta-stories to take a mental break and recharge.
What do you do on your down time off-season?
I love to devote my off season to travelling. I am obsessed with interior decorating and my place totally looks like IKEA threw up, but I’d consider myself more of an ‘experiences person’ than ‘material person’. I put a lot of value on seeing and experiencing new places and it fills my soul up. I also use it to do more collaborations with other vendors and artists, plan new and exciting things for the upcoming season, and wind down too. Wedding season is such an incredible whirlwind, but the business definitely beats you out by the end, hahahaha.
To get a dose of real life inspiration, with a glimpse of renovations, self-reflection, Petunia the cat, Harry Potter merch, travel pics and wedding & lifestyle photos, check out Maddie Mills Instagram: @maddiemillsphoto
Book a session with Maddie and check out her great work online: Maddie Mills Photo
Vendors form the Newfoundland themed wedding:
The Wilds at Salmonier River Golf Club Nadia Ali – Assistant Sooley Designs – Custom Gown Midnight Tailors – Men’s Tartan Details Gab Sisters – Invites + Coaster Favors The Jam Lady- Newfoundland Artisanal Preserves – Jam Favors St. John’s Bath Bomb Co. – Favors Newfoundland Chocolate Company – Favors My HOME Apparel – Bridemaid’s Scarves Skyreach Media – Videography Bride & Beau – Decor Whink – Bridal Jewellery Twisted Sisters boutik – Bride’s Shoes Kyle Callahan – Photo Booth Art)