October 2019

Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina Welcomes Memory Lane Portraits

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Memory Lane Portraits

While we as a society are busy snapping selfies and scrolling through hundreds of digital images on our social media feeds each day, photos have become yet another source of instant entertainment—which is all fine and dandy. But if you are a person who wishes to preserve family heritage and relive special memories in a more tangible way, you might consider the value of a portrait. Whether you are planning a family vacation, a reunion, or a wedding, you will want to revisit not only a moment frozen in time, but all the feelings and emotions that image suggests. And that’s what the professional photographers at Memory Lane Portraits strive to do every day: bring those experiences to life in an art form that can be enjoyed again and again for a lifetime and beyond.

“We believe in the value of the printed portrait,” said Caitlin Ryan, photographer and manager of Memory Lane Portraits. “Digital files are just ones and zeros. The technology that we use to view and store them will become obsolete, whereas a family portrait on the wall is tangible. It’s a family heirloom that’s going to be passed down for generations to come. It’s going to remind you of people you love and those who have passed. Children sitting on the living room couch looking at a portrait of themselves shows them that you love them and value them.”

Passion with a purpose
According to Stephen Dey, Certified Master Photographer and founder of Memory Lane Portraits, what makes his work stand out is the philosophy behind it, which is focused on families and is the core value that drove his initial business proposal.

He already had a thriving photography business in Charlotte, N.C. (now celebrating 30 years) but had noticed a slump each summer. It was while vacationing with his family at the beach on the Outer Banks that it dawned on him: everybody was at the beach! A light bulb came on when he realized the need for families to capture those memories, and he began formulating a plan.

While many of his friends and colleagues said he was crazy, he brought the idea to Hilton Head Island. He started Memory Lane Portraits in Sea Pines Resort in 1998, establishing solid relationships and relying on the quality of his work to grow the business over the years.

“I didn’t invent beach portraits, but I did invent this model: being able to photograph a family on the beach, process the images, show them the images while they’re still on the island, and then drop ship the images to the client from our lab was something nobody else had ever done,” Dey said. “Obviously, 19 years later, it has been extremely successful.”

Meanwhile, Dey was also selected as the official photographer for the RBC Heritage golf tournament—a position he has enjoyed for the past 12 years and continues to relish. “It is my second most favorite week of the year, my first being my annual vacation trip with my family,” he said.

Mastery plus artistry
Both Dey and Ryan abide by their tagline: “Live, Love and Laugh with Family,” a personal mantra and way of viewing life that comes into clear focus when you see the body of work they have produced.

At the same time, they continue to grow professionally and stay abreast of new techniques by attending the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) convention each year. “It’s critical to continue to be on the cutting edge of our industry,” Dey said.

Beach photography, in particular, requires a special set of technical skills. “What makes us unique out there is how we balance light with the existing light and utilize off-camera lighting. You will see images that we produce at sunrise or sunset where the sky looks really deep and the colors look really vivid behind the subject matter. That cannot be achieved without this kind of lighting.” Dey explained. “You have to be able to put specific lighting or intensity of lighting on the subject’s face while exposing for the sky. That technique in itself separates us from anyone else on the beach.”

Along with the technical mastery, what sets Memory Lane Portraits apart is the experience they have working with families—all different ages and personalities. “Learning techniques to work with those individuals and get the best out of them is a unique talent that grows with experience. You have to be able to adapt yourself to the situation. A lot of times we become chameleons,” Dey said.

“You have to come up with magic,” Ryan said, recalling an engagement portrait where she waded out into the ocean. “My pants are completely soaked, but with that angle, I can get the full reflection of the water. It makes people larger than life. And I’m watching the horizon line. Sometimes it looks like the ocean is enveloping them. There are so many things that all had to come together to make it absolutely gorgeous. It was probably the best wedding invitation anyone ever sent out.”

Ryan is always willing to go the extra mile for the epic shot—the one that becomes a part of the family’s history. “That’s my favorite thing in the world,” she said, “seeing the work that we’ve done for people and how they cherish it. That’s our legacy.”

“Our other passion is photographing weddings,” Dey said. “We are honored to be a part of such a special moment. A new family is born with a wedding, and the celebration surrounding that is the embodiment of what we value most: family love.”

Dey and Ryan agree that their success lies somewhere between an understanding of technique (light, angles, and composition) and the ability to evoke a feeling. But it all boils down to the why. Ryan recently drilled that down to a simple, yet profound statement: “To preserve family memories with a tangible reminder of a cherished moment in time with those who are loved and missed.”

Renowned photographer Paul Caponigro once said, “It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like; it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.” Stop by Memory Lane Portraits at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina to see and experience that difference. 

Memory Lane Portraits is located at 9 Harbourside Lane, Unit A. For more information, visit www.memorylaneportraits.com or call (843) 363-6600.

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